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Posts Tagged ‘Danzig’

Poland.
That stubborn country that refuses to do what I want.
Poland.
The country with the backwards military, to whom “blitzkrieg” means “saddle up those horses and ride like mad”.  Where airplanes still have two wings and shoot bullets through the propellers.
Poland.
The puzzle piece that sits right between the much more important pieces of Germany and East Prussia.
Poland.

I can’t prove that Adolf Hitler thought all these things, but I’ll wager that thoughts very similar to those (and many others less pleasant) went through his mind.  The German dictator had been working overtime to gain back the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor as a way to unite “east and west”, but to this point had been stymied as the Poles simply refused to cooperate.

So rather than work with the Polish government, he decided to simply work around it.  In May of 1939, Germany joined the Pact of Steel with Italy.  A pact of mutual cooperation and mutual defense, the treaty was designed to provide “flanking” protection to Germany against a French and/or British military response to German aggression.

But still, Hitler worried about overrunning Poland without bringing trouble from the Soviet Union upon himself.  And that’s where the Nazi-Soviet Pact came into play.  Though signed in the early morning of August 24th, it was dated August 23, 1939, and it goes by numerous names…the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the MolotovRibbontrop Pact (named for the Russian & German foreign ministers who put it together), and the German-Soviet-Non-Aggression Pact, among others.

Regardless of the exact name, the Pact gave Hitler similar protection in the east to what the Pact of Steel gave him in the west.  It also secretly provided for the disappearance of Poland (into Germany and the Soviet Union) as well as giving the Soviet Union a free hand with Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Reactions were similar, though for very different reasons.  Elements in both Soviet Russia and Germany were aghast that Bolshevism and National Socialism, two sworn enemies, were now operating in partnership.  France and Britain were aghast, as they had also been working on negotiations with Stalin and the Pact was a stunning turn of events.  And Poles were aghast because they knew that Hitler’s dream of, once again, joining Germany and Prussia was about to become a reality…at their expense.

Recommended Reading: The Deadly Embrace – Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-1941

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