Origins of War in Europe 1939

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 24 Jun 2005 15:14

tonyh wrote:
I am locking this thread so that we do not have two parallel discussions on the same topic going on. The other thread showed far more documentary evidence and is therefore the place where the discussion should be continued.

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 60&start=0

Thank you.

Andreas
Why did you lock the other thread?????????? The extremely bad form Andreas.
As I explained, you are free to continue the discussion here. Both threads are dealing with the same topic - the reasons behind the start of war between Germany and Britain, and it is extremely confusing and wasteful to have two parallel discussions on the same topic, where the same arguments are rehearsed. The locking of the other thread is meant to keep this discussion focussed.
So you admit that your previous statement was wrong.
tonyh wrote:And NO I did NOT "admit" my previous statement was wrong at all. My statement that Britain's declaration of war started the shooting war in the West still stands.

Tony

Yes you did, implicitly, since my remark was not referring to that statement by you.
tonyh wrote:The ultimatum wasn't strong enough or were the public statements, until Germany had invaded Poland.
tonyh wrote:Im aware of the PM's letter, but it still doesn't change the fact that Hitler believed that Chamberlain was bluffing. The crucial point is that the British had done nothing during the Czech crisis, when the time was right and Britain, France and Russia was are there strongest point for intervention.
So you were aware of the very strong language in the letter. What Hitler believed is immaterial - he was given strong warning in the letter. That he chose not to believe it is his fault, not the British fault.

All the best

Andreas

tonyh
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Post by tonyh » 24 Jun 2005 15:24

Then perhaps you shouldn't have split my original post from its original thread Andreas where it sat in with the topic it was written into.
Yes you did, implicitly, since my remark was not referring to that statement by you.
I DID NOT IMPLY ANYTHING.

Britain started the shooting war in the West when she declared war on Germany. Without that declaration, there is no conflict in the West.

I must say, I am disapointed with your moderation of this particular section of the site and I have never said that about any part of the site before. I hope its just a hiccup.

Perhaps, in future you should let a thread develop a little bit before splitting them up.

Tony

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 24 Jun 2005 15:32

tonyh wrote:Then perhaps you shouldn't have split my original post from its original thread Andreas where it sat in with the topic it was written into.
I did not split the original thread. This was a hiccup due to two threads in two different sections going off-topic at the same time, into the same topic. One of these new threads was split out from the Economy forum and had a lot of documentary evidence posted into it which would make the situation a lot clearer, and covered a lot of ground that was not covered in the other. It was therefore preferable to keep that one. That other posters saw this parallel situation is shown by Molobo's post about the Schmundt notes, which appears in both threads.

I understand that locking a thread is not a good solution. Unfortunately however it appears to be impossible with the software at hand to merge posts from one thread into another. Otherwise I would have done that, to create a thread covering all the posts on the topic.

Your original post was an off-topic remark to an off-topic comment in that other thread which was dealing with the German proposal to establish unhindered pilot rescue.

I hope the reasoning behind my decision is clearer now.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Andreas » 24 Jun 2005 15:33

tonyh wrote:I DID NOT IMPLY ANYTHING.
You did say that the British did not deliver a strong enough warning, despite being aware of their very strong warning to Hitler on the 22nd August. When I pointed this out you said that it was not the letter that was a problem, but Hitler's perception.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by tonyh » 24 Jun 2005 15:48

Ok, you are mistaken. Let me be very clear to you now. No "implications".

Britain's declaration of war on the 3rd of September initiated the shooting war in the West of Europe.

The PM's letter even if YOU consider it a strong enough stance changes nothing at all. At that point, after the previous inaction, it is useless. Hitler's mind is already made up at that point and Chamberlain's sympathy over the Danzig issue only galvinised his opinion that Britain was going through the motions and was not really serious in her intent.

The strongest words from the PM came only after Germany had invaded Poland and Hitler was not going to back down at that point.

Either way, there is no war in Western Europe, until Britain decares war on the 3rd and there would have been no war in Western Europe without it.

Tony

PS this is my last post on this thread as it has become bastardised by the splitting of other threads and I don't want to confuse the issue in this thread even further. You should have left my original post where it was, in the thread about Neutral Countries.

Obviously it wasn't my last post :)
Last edited by tonyh on 25 Jun 2005 17:12, edited 2 times in total.

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 24 Jun 2005 15:52

tonyh wrote:The PM's letter even if YOU consider it a strong enough stance changes nothing at all. At that point, after the previous inaction, it is useless.
I remind you it was your claim that the letter was not strong enough. Can you tell us then what you think they should have said over and above "If the case should arise, they [The British Government] are resolved, and prepared, to employ without delay all the forces at their command [...]".

What else were they supposed to say that would be clearer?

All the best

Andreas

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Post by tonyh » 24 Jun 2005 15:59

"employ without delay all the forces at their command..." still does not mean war will be definitely declared and I suspect the letter was worded like this was so Britain wouldn't lose face if in fact she did nothing if Germany did indeed invade Poland.

Strong wording would have been "Britain will declare an active state of war upon Germany if the later takes offensive action against Poland" or some such example.

Tony

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Post by Andreas » 24 Jun 2005 16:14

From the British unilateral guarantee 31st March:

"I now have to inform the House that during that period, in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence, and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist with their national forces, His Majesty's Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish Government all support in their power. "

The Ultimatum from 1st September:

"[...]unless the German Government are prepared to give His Majesty's Government satisfactory assurances that the German Government have suspended all aggressive action against Poland and are prepared promptly to withdraw their forces from Polish territory, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will without hesitation fulfil their obligations to Poland.[...]"

The Anglo-Polish agreement of 25th August:

"ARTICLE I.
Should one of the Contracting Parties become engaged in hostilities with a European Power in consequence of aggression by the latter against that Contracting Party, the other Contracting Party will at once give the Contracting Party engaged in hostilities all the support and assistance in its power.

ARTICLE 4.
The methods of applying the undertakings of mutual assistance provided for by the present Agreement are established between the competent naval, military and air authorities of the Contracting Parties."

I can not find any lack of clarity in this. It says 'all support' in the unilateral guarantee, not 'some support', 'maybe all support'. There is no qualification. If the German government had had any doubt, they could have clarified that. They did not have such doubt.

That the war with Britain started because of the British declaration of war is not in doubt, and immaterial to the question who started the war, because Britain was put into a situation where this was her only choice. If I pull a gun on someone and ask him to hand me US$20, telling the police that it is not a crime because 'they gave me the money' is not going to keep me out of jail.

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Post by tonyh » 24 Jun 2005 16:31

We are not going to agree with this Andreas.

The sections of the above are classic double talk, designed to achieve face saving measures in any event. They do not at any juncture mention that Britain will DECLARE WAR.

Support could mean a number of things, even military support in the form of military aid. The US leant military support to Britain in the form of lend lease, but still fell short of actually declaring war on Germany.

The above documents are worded like that so Britain, if in the case of inaction, could suggest that they were willing to support the "Contracting Party", ie the Poles with military aid and moral support. But were unable to go to an actual war footing with Germany.

Again........nowhere does the above state in very clear terms that Britain would actively declare war with Germany if the latter invaded Poland.
That the war with Britain started because of the British declaration of war is not in doubt, and immaterial to the question who started the war, because Britain was put into a situation where this was her only choice. If I pull a gun on someone and ask him to hand me US$20, telling the police that it is not a crime because 'they gave me the money' is not going to keep me out of jail.
Britain put herself in that particular position, nobody else. Her faulty declaration served only to escalate a war between two Countries (and later Russia) into a new European war, dragging into it numerous European Countries that would never had have to endure war on their soil.

Tony

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Post by Andreas » 24 Jun 2005 16:46

tonyh wrote:Support could mean a number of things, even military support in the form of military aid. The US leant military support to Britain in the form of lend lease, but still fell short of actually declaring war on Germany.
The US did not give 'all support' that they could have given to Britain. The guarantee however does not limit the offer of support. While 'support' can mean a number of things, 'all support' is much clearer.

Regardless of how you understand it however, it is very clear how Hitler saw the ultimatum - below the relevant section of the memo handed to the British ambassador in response to the ultimatum 20 minutes after the ultimatum expired:

"5. The German Government, therefore, reject the attempts to force Germany, by means of a demand having the character of an ultimatum, to recall its forces which are lined up for the defence of the Reich, and thereby to accept the old unrest and the old injustice. The threat that, failing this, they will fight Germany in the war, corresponds to the intention proclaimed for years past by numerous British politicians. "

Therefore your attempts to somehow re-interpret history are very clearly false, and written without due regard to the facts. The fact is that the German government clearly understood the nature of the threat, but for whatever reason saw it as a bluff. It is not a fact that the German government could somehow be mistaken about the British intentions because of a lack of clarity in the language used by the British government, as you continue to maintain.

Finally, I would like to compare your final statement with one from a well known figure in history:
tonyh wrote:Britain put herself in that particular position, nobody else. Her faulty declaration served only to escalate a war between two Countries (and later Russia) into a new European war, dragging into it numerous European Countries that would never had have to endure war on their soil.
"In spite of the fact that Germany has no demands to make on any other State to the West of the Reich; in spite of the fact that Germany claims no territorial revision in this territory; and in spite of the fact that Germany has made, above all to Great Britain just as to France, the offer of a cordial understanding, indeed of friendship. The British Government, driven on by those warmongers whom we knew in the last War, have resolved to let fall their mask and to proclaim war on a threadbare pretext. "

Yes indeed - if only the evil British government had not declared war, western Europe could have lived in peace happily ever after 1st September 1939. I somehow do not find this scenario particularly convincing.

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Post by tonyh » 24 Jun 2005 17:17

No, "support" does not mean war and neither does "all support" Andreas, no matter how much you wish it to be. "Support" is a deliberately ambiguous term. Britain could easilly have stopped short of declaring actual war in September, while still lending military aid (even active command structure in advisory roles) to the Poles in their struggle against Germany. And she would not be held accountable either, as her statements up until September do not specifically mention war.

Do the statements above come from the German reply to the September ultimatum, issued AFTER Hitler had already attacked Poland. By this stage the game was already on between the two Countries & it doesn't mean anything. By that stage its too late. War should have been threaten in EXACT terms long before Germany had invaded Poland. Even if this German reply came in August after the PM's letter you mentioned earlier, ITS STILL TOO LATE.

Even Germany's terms of answer still do not absolve Britain's corrospondence of being deliberately vague.

The time for strong wording and positive action was long before Germany and Poland crossed swords. Previous inaction spurned Hitler into his decisions, when action would have forced him to back down (as the threat of action did during the Czech crisis). If Hitler truely believed that britain would declare war, he would not have left his Western flank exposed as he did in September, this alone speaks volumes of Hitler's opinion on a British declaration of war.

Also, I am NOT re-interpreting history at all in any form as you claim. The historical record speaks clearly itself and its clear that there would be no war in Western Euorpe but for Britain's efforts.
Yes indeed - if only the evil British government had not declared war
I have mentioned nothing about evil or peace........these are your words.

Tony

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Post by Michael Emrys » 24 Jun 2005 23:32

A question Tony: if you had been in a position to do so, what course would you have urged on Chamberlain on 1 Sept. 1939 in light of the previous commitments the British had made to support Poland's independence?

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Post by Andreas » 25 Jun 2005 09:24

tony - we are obviously not going to agree on this. Readers do however now have the text in front of them, and links as to where the documentary evidence from the British perspective can be found, and will be able to make up their own minds.

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Post by tonyh » 25 Jun 2005 17:01

Grease_Spot wrote:A question Tony: if you had been in a position to do so, what course would you have urged on Chamberlain on 1 Sept. 1939 in light of the previous commitments the British had made to support Poland's independence?
Hi Grease, an extremely difficult question to answer and one I have asked myself from time to time. Actually its rather impossible to answer, as I know the course of the war as it played out.

But trying to put myself in the shoes of a cabinet member, I probably would have tried to broker some sort of meeting between Hitler and the Polish Government over the issues that Hitler was persuing. Danzig and a connecting "corridor" for access. What I certainly would not do would to support Chamberlains ridiculous about face regarding Poland, as that would certainly guarantee a conflict situation between the two Countries.

Bare in mind, though, that I am of the opinion that even if such a course of action had been brokered, Hitler would probably have had to a. either invade anyway or b. come to some sort of pact with Poland. Unfortunately for Poland, she Geograhically lay in the way of Hitler's goal...Russia. Hitler did actually contemplate approaching the Poles with an aggreement of some sorts, as he was well aware that the Poles shared the same fear/hatered of the Soviet Union. But this is beside the point as would have not been aware of such a situation in 1939.

Also, even if Germany invaded Poland, I would have urged the PM not to declare war. In situations like ths one in 1939, Countries can either do nothing, play and indirect part, minimise a situation or escalate a situation. Britain's action in 1939 only escalated the war and in the end involved a large number of Countries than would have been originally involved. But whats truely dispicable about Britain's precipitation of the war in the West was that it was done for purely selfish reasons..........not to stand up for what was right...not to defend Poland....and not to fight for democracy. Britain declared war because she feared a shifting balance of her power on the European continent.

Unfortunately for Europe, a disaster of some kind was on the cards. With two incredibly opposite ideologies facing each other, some sort of confrontation was almost inevitable. Germany and Russia would come to a head. Now...if Britain had held her tounge in 1939 and not worried about her "top dog" position within European affairs, the war would have been confined to Eastern Europe, with a big showdown between Germany and Russia. With the initiation of Britain's war on Germany in the West, the war was expanded far beyond its projected scope. Both outcomes are a disaster, don't get me wrong. But one is less a disaster than the other.


What SHOULD have been done before 1938 and well before 1939, was to express in the straightest terms possible that any expansion of Hitler's reich would not only mean condemnation from Britain, but threatened active war, between the two Nations. That should have been made known to Hitler after the Anschluss, which was after agreed upon by the majority of both Nations, so it remained none of Britain's business anyway. The pussyfooting attitude of both Eden and Chamberlain was of no use at all and served only to foster a certain impression in the German government.

Instead, Britain gave every encouragement they could have to Hitler and the smiles and nodding set the scene for the coming disaster in the West and the catastrophic about face from Chamberlain was the worst possible action by 1939.

As Basil Liddel Hart wrote..

"The answer is to be found not merely, nor most, in Hitler's aggressiveness, but in the encouragement he had long received from the complaisant attitude of the Western powers coupled with the their sudden turn about in the Spring of 1939. That reversal was so abrupt and unexpected as to make war inevitable".

Both Eden and Chamberlain let Hitler away with far too much for too long and in the case of Poland actively encouraged Hitler to a certain degree regarding Danzig. All of Britain's actions gave Hitler a green light. In 1938 Neville Henderson met with Hitler (after the Hitler meeting with Halifax) and aggreed with Hitler's desire for "changes in Europe" to Germany's benefit.

After this Hitler's opinion was fixed. Britain would not go to war and would probably resort to simple posturing regarding Germany, as she had done for several generations ever since 1870. It was too late to suddenly change ones mind in mid 39 and say to Hitler that you actually didn't agree with his plans after all.

Liddel Hart also states...

"If you allow anyone to stoke up a boiler until the steam-pressure rises beyond danger-point, the real responsibility will lie with you. That truth of physical science applies equally to political science - especially in the conduct of International affairs".

Tony

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Post by tonyh » 25 Jun 2005 17:06

Andreas wrote:tony - we are obviously not going to agree on this. Readers do however now have the text in front of them, and links as to where the documentary evidence from the British perspective can be found, and will be able to make up their own minds.
Agreed...But let me finish with this. My view on this matter is not just dreamt up in the last few days, but built over many years of study in the area. I know that you don't agree with my take on the situation and thats more than fair enough...but I cannot go along with the propagada image of poor put upon innocent Britain dragged into WWII by Germany.

It doesn't wash.

Britain has her part to play in the making of WWII, as much as Germany does. That doesn't aabsolve either party of guilt however.

Tony

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