German White Book on the Last Phase of the German-Polish Crisis

Archibald Maule Ramsay

The Nameless War

From the:



Concerning the Last Phase

of the

German-Polish Crisis



Note on the German White Book (pp 3-6)

The German White Book, presented herewith, is a collection of official documents and speeches, not a collection of uncontrollable conversations. It does not pretend to cover the entire field of German-Polish relations but, as the title implies, concerns itself solely with the last phase of the German-Polish crisis, from August 4th to September 3rd, 1939.

the Polish-german controversy concerning the Corridor, Upper Silesia and Danzig, began in 1919; it has never, since the signing of the Versailles Treaty, ceased to agitate europe. For many years intelligent commentators and statesmen of all nations, including Great Britain, agreed that the separation of East Prussia from the Reich and, indeed, the whole Polish settlement, was unjust and fraught with danger.

Germany, again and again, made attempts to solve the differences between the two countries in a friendly spirit. It was only when all negotiations proved vain and Poland joined the encirclement front against Germany, that chancellor Hitler cut the Gordian knot with the sword. It was England that forced the sword into his hand.

Great Britain asserts in her Blue Book and elsewhere that she was compelled to "guaranty" Poland against "aggression" for reason of international morality. Unfortunately the British Government subsequently admitted (Under-Secretary of State Butler, House of Commons, October 19, 1939) that the "guaranty" was aimed solely against Germany.

It was not valid in case of conflicts with other powers. In other words, the British "guaranty" was merely a link in the British encirclement chain. The Polish crisis was deliberately manufactured by Great Britain with the connivance of Poland: it was the fuse designed to set off the explosion!

Great Britain naturally attempts to becloud this fact. Official British statements on the outbreak of the war place great emphasis on the allegation that England did not give a formal "guaranty" to Poland until March 31, 193, whereas the German demand on Poland, which Poland rejected, was made on march 21st. Britain contends that the British "guaranty" was merely the consequence of the German demand of March 21st.

Britain denies that her "guaranty" stiffened Polish resistance. She insists that Germany took advantage of a moment of highly strained international tension by springing upon Poland her demand for an extra-territorial road through the Corridor between the Reich and East Prussia.

The British ignore a vital fact in this connection. The existence of the "guaranty", not its formal announcement, was the decisive factor. The future may reveal when the British promise was first dangled before Poland. In any event, Poland was assured of British aid before March 21st.

Chamberlain's speech of march 17, 1939, and the statement by Lord Halifax of March 20th, (both reprinted in the British Blue Book) leave no doubt on that question. The British "guaranty" was in the nature of a blank check. Poland did not know when she marched to her doom, that the check would not be honored.

The allegations that the Poles were surprised or overwhelmed by the German proposals, does not hold water. Poland was fully informed of the German demands. When as Herr von Ribbentrop points out in his Danzig speech (October 24, 1939) chancellor Hitler in 1934 concluded a Friendship and Non-Aggression Pact with Marshal Pilsudski, it was clearly understood that the problem of Danzig and the Corridor must be solved sooner or later. Chancellor Hitler hoped that it would be solved within the framework of that instrument.

Poland callously disregarded her obligations under the German-Polish Pact, after the death of Marshal Pilsudski. The persecution of German minorities in Poland, Poland's measures to strangle Danzig economically, the insolent manner the Polish Government chose to adopt with the British blank check in its pocket and the Polish mobilization frustrated chancellor Hitler's desire to settle Polish-German differences by peaceful negotiation, as he had solved every other problem arising from the bankruptcy of statesmanship at Versailles.

No one can affirm that the National Socialist Government did not attempt with extraordinary patience to impress upon Poland the desirability of a prompt and peaceful solution. The Polish Government was familiar with the specific solution proposed by Chancellor Hitler since October 24, 1938. The nature of the German proposals was discussed at least four times between the two governments before March 21, 1939.

On October 24, 1938, von Ribbentrop, the German foreign Minister, proposed to the Polish Ambassador, Lipski, four steps to rectify the injustice of Versailles and to eliminate all sources of friction between the two countries.

1). The return of the Free City of Danzig to the Reich, without severance of its economic ties to the Polish State. (The arrangement vouchsafed to Poland free port privileges and extra-territorial access to the harbor.)

2.) An exterritorial [sic] route of communication through the Corridor by rail and motor to reunite Germany and East Prussia.

3.) Mutual recognition by the two States of their frontiers as final and, if necessary, a mutual guaranty of their territories.

4.) The extension of the German-Polish Pact of 1934 from ten to twenty-five years.

On January 5, 1939, Poland's Foreign Minister, Josef Beck, conferred with the German chancellor on the problems involved. At this time Chancellor Hitler offered Beck a clear and definite guaranty covering the Corridor, on the basis of the four points outlined by von Ribbentrop. The following day, January 6th, at Munich, the German Foreign Minister once more confirmed Germany's willingness to guaranty, not only the Corridor, but all Polish territory.

The generous offer for a settlement along these line, liquidating all friction between the two countries, was reiterated when Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop paid a state visit to Warsaw (January 23rd to 17th, 1939). On that occasion von Ribbentrop again offered a guaranty of the Polish-German boundaries and a final all-inclusive settlement of German-Polish relations.

Under the circumstances it is absurd to allege that Poland was "surprised" by the German proposal of March 21st, and subsequent developments. It is possible that Poland may have concealed Germany's friendly and conciliatory offers from Paris and London. With or without British promptings, Poland prepared the stage for a melodramatic scene, in which the German villain brutally threatened her sovereignty and her independence.

In spite of Polish intransigence, culminating in threats of war, Chancellor Hitler made one more desperate attempt to prevent the conflict. He called for a Polish plenipotentiary to discuss the solution presented in Document 15 of the German White book. This solution envisaged the return of Danzig to the Reich, the protection of Polish and German minorities, a plebiscite in the Corridor under neutral auspices, safeguarding, irrespective of the result, Poland's unimpeded exterritorial access to the sea.

The British are please to describe this reasonable document as an "ultimatum". This is a complete distortion of the facts. The German government, it is true, had set a time-limit (August 30th) for the acceptance of its proposal, but it waited twenty-four hours after its expiration before concluding that the possibilities of diplomatic negotiations had been exhausted. There was ample opportunity for England and Poland to act within those twenty-four hours.

The British take the position that Germany's demands were not known either in Warsaw or London. That pretense is demolished by the British Blue Book itself, for we find here a dispatch from Sir Nevile Henderson, the British Ambassador to Berlin, which leaves no doubt that he relayed the German proposal to London after his midnight conference with von Ribbentrop on August 30th, and that he understood the essential points of the German proposal. Henderson even transmitted to the British Government Chancellor Hitler's assurance that the Polish negotiator would be received as a matter of course on terms of complete equality with the courtesy and consideration due to the emissary of a sovereign state.

Henderson sent his night message not only to Downing Street, but also to the British Embassy in Warsaw. There is evidence, which has recently come into the possession of the German Foreign Office that, in spite of all its protestations of ignorance and helplessness, the British Cabinet communicated the substance of Henderson's midnight conversation with the German Foreign Minister directly to the Polish Government. The London Daily Telegraph, in a late edition of August 31st, printed the following statement:

"At the Cabinet Meeting yesterday, at which the terms of the British Note were approved, it was decided to send a massage to Warsaw, indicating the extent of the latest demands from Berlin for the annexation of territory".

This item appeared only in a few issues. It was suppressed in later editions.

Germany's demands were so reasonable that no sane Polish Government would have dared to reject them. They certainly would have been accepted if England had advised moderation. There was one more chance to preserve peace on September 2nd. It was offered by a message from Premier Mussolini (Document 20). The Italian suggestion was acceptable to Germany and France (Document 21). but was rejected by Great Britain (Document 22).



of the German-Polish Crisis


Appended to this are printed the documents which were exchanged during the last days before the beginning of the German defensive action against Poland and the intervention of the western Powers, or which in any other respect refer to these events. These documents, when shortly recapitulated, give the following general survey:

1). At the beginning of August the Reich Government was informed of an exchange of notes between the representative of Poland in Danzig and the Senate of the Free City (Danzig), according to which the Polish Government in the form of a short-term ultimatum and under threat of retaliatory measures had demanded the withdrawal of an alleged order of the Senate — an order which, in fact, had never been issued — concerning the activities of Polish customs inspectors (Documents 1 to 3).

This caused the Reich Government to inform the Polish Government, on August 9th, that a repetition of such demands in the form of an ultimatum would lead to an aggravation of the relations between Germany and Poland, for the consequences of which the Polish government would alone be responsible.

At the same time, the attention of the Polish Government was drawn to the fact that the maintenance of the economic measures adopted by Poland against Danzig would force the Free City to seek other export and import possibilities (Document 4).

The Polish government answered this communication from the Reich Government with an aide-Memoire of August 10th, handed to the German Embassy in Warsaw, which culminated in the statement that Poland would interpret every intervention of the Reich Government in Danzig matters, which might endanger Polish rights and interests there, as an aggressive action (Document 5).

2). On August 22nd, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, acting under the impression of announcements of the impending conclusion of a Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and the U.S.S.R., sent a personal letter to the Fuhrer. Here he expressed on the one hand the firm determination of the British Government to fulfill its pledged obligations to Poland, on the other hand, the view that it was most advisable in the first instance to restore an atmosphere of confidence and then to solve the German-Polish problems through negotiations terminating in a settlement which should be internationally guaranteed (Document 6).

The Fuhrer, in his reply of August 23rd, set forth the real causes of the German-Polish crisis.

He referred in particular to the generous proposal made by him in March of this year and stated that the false reports spread by England at that time regarding a German mobilization against Poland, the equally incorrect assertions about Germany's aggressive intentions towards Hungary and Roumania and, finally, the guarantee given by England and France to the Polish Government had encouraged the Polish Government not only to decline the German offer but to let loose a wave of terror against the Germans domiciled in Poland and to strangle Danzig economically. At the same time, the Fuhrer declared that Germany would not let herself be kept back from protecting her vital rights by any methods of intimidation whatsoever (Document 7).

3). Although the above-mentioned letter from the British Prime Minister of August 22nd, as well as speeches made on the subsequent day by British statesmen, showed a complete lack of understanding for the German standpoint, the Fuhrer nevertheless resolved to make a fresh attempt to arrive at an understanding with England.

On August 25th, he received the British Ambassador, once more with complete frankness explained to him his conception of the situation, and communicated to him the main principles of comprehensive and far-sighted agreement between Germany and England which he would offer to the British Government once the problem of Danzig and the Polish Corridor was settled (Document 8).

4). while the British government were discussing the preceding declaration from the Fuhrer, and exchange of letters took place between the French President, M. Daladier, and the Fuhrer. In his answer the Fuhrer again submitted his reasons for Germany's standpoint in the German Polish question and once more repeated his firm decision to regard the present Franco-German frontier as final (Documents 9 and 10).

5). In their answer to the step taken by the Fuhrer on August 25th, which was handed over on the evening of August 28th, the British Government declared themselves prepared to consider the proposal for a revision of Anglo-German relationships. They further stated that a they had received a definite assurance from the Polish Government that they were prepared to enter into direct discussions with The Reich Government on German-Polish questions.

At the same time they repeated that in their opinions a German-Polish settlement must be safeguarded by international guarantees (Document 11).

Despite grave misgivings arising from the whole of Poland's previous attitude and despite justifiable doubts in a sincere willingness on the part of the Polish Government for a direct settlement, the Fuhrer, in his answer handed to the British Ambassador on the afternoon of August 29th, accepted the British proposal and declared that the Reich Government awaited the arrival of a Polish representative invested with plenipotentiary powers on August 30th. At the same time the Fuhrer announced that the Reich Government would immediately draft proposals for a solution acceptable to them and would, if possible, have these ready for the British Government before the Polish negotiator arrived (Document 12).

6). In the course of August 30th, neither a Polish negotiator with plenipotentiary powers nor any communication from the British Government about steps undertaken by them reached Berlin. On the contrary, it was on this day that the Reich Government were informed of the ordering of a general Polish mobilization (document 13).

Only at midnight did the British Ambassador hand over a new memorandum which, however, failed to disclose any practical progress in the treatment of Polish-German questions and confined itself to a statement that the Fuhrer's answer of the preceding day was to be communicated to the Polish Government and that the British Government considered it impracticable to establish a German-Polish contact so early as on August 30th (Document 14).

7). Although the non-appearance of the Polish negotiator had done away with the conditions under which the British government were to be informed of the Reich government's conception of the basis on which negotiations might be possible, the proposals since formulated by the Reich were none the less communicated and explained in detail to the British Ambassador when he handed over the above-mentioned memorandum.

The Reich Government expected that now at any rate, subsequently to this, a Polish plenipotentiary would be appointed. Instead, the Polish Ambassador in Berlin made a verbal declaration to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs on the afternoon of August 31st, to the effect that the Polish Government had been informed in the preceding night by the British government that there was a possibility of direct negotiations between the Reich Government and the Polish Government, and that the Polish Government were favorably considering the British proposal.

When expressly asked by the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he had the authority to negotiate on the German proposals, the Ambassador stated that he was not entitled to do so, but had merely been instructed to make the foregoing verbal declaration. A further question from the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he could enter into an objective discussion on the matter was expressly denied by the Ambassador.

8). The Reich Government thus were confronted with the fact that they had spent two days waiting in vain for a Polish plenipotentiary. On the evening of August 31st, they published the German proposals with a short account of the events leading up to them (Document 15).

These proposals were described as unacceptable by Polish broadcast (Document 16).

9). Now that every possibility for a peaceful settlement of the Polish-German crisis was thus exhausted, the Fuhrer saw himself compelled to resist by force the force which the Poles had long employed against Danzig, against the Germans in Poland, and finally, by innumerable violations of the frontier, against Germany.

10). On the evening of September 1st, the Ambassadors of Great Britain and France handed to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs two notes couched in the same terms in which they demanded that Germany should withdraw her troops from Polish territory, and declared that if this demand were not conceded, their respective Governments would fulfill their obligations to Poland without further delay (Documents 18 and 19).

11). In order to banish the menace of war, which had come dangerously close in consequence of these two notes, the Duce made a proposal for an armistice and a subsequent conference for the settlement of the German-Polish conflict (Document 20).

The Germans and the French Government replied in the affirmative to this proposal whilst the British Government refused to accept it (Documents 21 and 11).

That this was so was already apparent in the speeches made by the British Prime Minister and the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the afternoon of September 2nd in the British Houses of Parliament, and a communication to that effect was made to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs by the Italian Ambassador on the evening of September 2nd. Thus also in the opinion of the Italian Government the initiative of the Duce had been wrecked by England.

12). On September 3rd, at 9 a.m., the British Ambassador arrived at the German Foreign Office and handed over a note in which the British Government, fixing a time limit of two hours, repeated their demand for a withdrawal of the German troops and, in the event of a refusal, declared themselves to be at war with Germany after this time limit had expired (Document 23).

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on September 3rd, 1939, at 11:15 a. m. delivered a note to the German Charge d'Affairs in London in which he informed him that a state of war existed between the two countries as from 11 a. m. on September 3rd (Document 24).

On the same day, at 11:30 a. m. the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs handed to the British Ambassador in Berlin a memorandum from the Reich Government in which the Reich rejected the demands expressed by the British Government in the form of an ultimatum and in which it was proved that the responsibility for the outbreak of war rested solely with the British Government (Document 25).

On the afternoon of September 3rd, the French Ambassador in Berlin called on the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs and inquired whether the Reich government were in a position to give a satisfactory answer to the question directed to them by the French government in their note of September 1st. The Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Ambassador that after the English and French Notes of September had been handed to him, the Head of the Italian Government had made a new intermediary proposal, to which the Duce had added, the French Government had agreed.

The Reich Government had informed the Duce on the preceding day that they were also prepared to accept the proposal.

The Duce however had informed them later on in the day that his proposal had been wrecked by the intransigent attitude of the British Government.

The British Government several hours previously had presented German with an ultimatum which had been rejected on the German side by a memorandum which he, the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, would hand over to the French Ambassador for his information.

Should the attitude of France towards Germany be determined by the same considerations as that of the British Government, the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs could only regret this fact. Germany had always sought understanding with France. Should the French Government, despite this fact adopt a hostile attitude towards Germany on account of their obligations towards Poland, the German people would regard this as a totally unjustifiable aggressive war on the part of France against the Reich.

The French Ambassador replied that he understood from the remarks of the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs that the Reich Government were not in a position to give a satisfactory answer to the French Note of September 1st. Under these circumstances he had the unpleasant task of informing the Reich Government that the French Government were forced to fulfill the obligations which they had entered into towards Poland, from September 3rd at 5 p.m. onwards.

The French Ambassador at the same time handed over a corresponding written communication (CF, Document 26).

The Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs thereupon declared in conclusion the the French Government would bear the full responsibility for the suffering which the nations would have to bear if France attacked Germany.

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