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- Highlights of P. J. Buchanan's Political History of the Origins of the First World War
- Highlights of P. J. Buchanan's Political History of Events during Second World War

Highlights of P. J. Buchanan's Political History of the Prelude to Second World War

Introduction - The Second World War was a consequence of Versailles - The Allies lose the United States - The Allies lose Japan - The Locarno Pact - The Stresa Front - The Allies lose Italy - Germany Militarizes the Rhineland - Anschluss with Austria - The Munich Settlement - The Danzig Crises - The War - Links and Litterature -

Introduction

Patrick J. Buchanan's book "Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War - How Britain lost its empire and the West lost the World" from 2008 is about the political events of the First and especially the Second World War. It is different from most other reports of the wars, which essentially tell about the military events. This article will focus on the political issues of the prelude to and the outbreak of World War II, mainly based on Buchanan's book.

Neville Chamberlain in BBC Broadcasting on September 3, 1939
The famous BBC broadcast on September 3, 1939, at 11 am, in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tells the nation that now England has declared war on Germany for the second time in this century. Foto BBC.

The term "unnecessary" war refers to the fact that neither England nor France - and certainly not the United States - were forced into war because they were attacked by an evil enemy who would conquer the countries and make the inhabitants into slaves. Nor was it the case that England and France were forced to defend vital national interests in Poland or Danzig - For example, when they in 1956 in vain defended their national interests in the Suez Canal against Nasser's nationalization - They had no vital interests in Poland. The term "unnecessary" war comes paradoxically enough from Winston Churchill.

In marketing, one speaks of after-sales rationalization. For example, a man wants to buy a new car. He reads page up and down on the pros and cons of different car brands, and the more he reads, the greater his confusion. In desperation, he eventually buys a car by random, for example. a Hyundai. After a while, the buyer realizes that he has made just the right choice, Hyundai is just him. This is called after-sales rationalization.

Warsaw in 1945 after the war
Warsaw in 1945 after the war. Taylor wrote: "Czechoslovakia was betrayed. I 1939 Poland was saved. Less than a hundred thousand Czechs died during the war. Six and a half million Poles perished, which was better - being a betrayed Czech or a saved Pole?" Foto Wikipedia - M.Swierczynski - Wydawnictwo Interpress.

Similarly - as the years pass by since the disastrous war - its causes and motives for declaring and waging war have been rationalized. Only World War II cost about 72 million. deaths, presumably at least twice as many injured and disabled, and immense destruction of production equipment and entire cities. With such great losses and devastation, it is unbearable not to believe that the war was necessary and inevitable, and it was waged for a great and noble cause on behalf of humanism and all mankind against a cruel, strong and aggressive enemy.

Buchanan has the courage to go against the stream and tell a more sober truth. In fact, if it had not been because of British politicians' in particular - with Winston Churchill and Chamberlain in the lead - monumental political failures, the horrors of two world wars could have been avoided and the British Empire would not have collapsed so suddenly. The iron blanket down Europe and half a century of suppression of scores of millions of Eastern Europeans and Russians would not have taken place, and Europe's central political role in the world could have been preserved for many generations.

Soldiers graves in Normandy
The bone house in Douaumont near Verdun is the resting place of 130,000 soldiers and in front of it are the graves of 14,000 soldiers. Photo Thomas Schneiders.

We usually imagine that World War II ended with a dearly won victory over the prince of evil, but - to anticipate one of Buchanan's conclusions - it can hardly be called a victory.

England and France allegedly declared war on Germany to save Poland from being engulfed and destroyed by an evil and aggressive empire - Nazi Germany. But the war ended with that not only Poland but also Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Yugoslavia and parts of Germany were engulfed by an even larger and yet more evil empire, namely the Soviet Union. One can hardly call it a victory.

Franz von Papen was the last German chancellor before Hitler. He urged the Allies, in view of Germany's economic crisis during the Great Depression, to wipe the board clean of war reparations. But the new British finance minister, Neville Chamberlain, refused and demanded another four billion mark. In negotiations, however, he contented himself with three - to Parliament's applause. When the German negotiators came home, they were "met at the railway station by a shower of rotten eggs and apples". Papa warned the Allies that if German Democrats "were not awarded a single diplomatic success, he would become the last democratic chancellor."

In 1937, British Lord Halifax visited Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden, where he conveyed the message from Chamberlain that all Germany's complaints about Versailles in Central Europe - including an Anschluss with Austria, a transfer of the Sudetenland to Germany and a return of Danzig - could be resolved to Germany's advantage provided it took place in a proper and peaceful manner.

This message from Halifax emphasizes an important condition in between-war history: Hitler's agenda was no surprise or shock to the European Statesmen. Everyone knew that any German nationalist would demand the same adjustments to the borders decided in Versailles. The demands made by Hitler were known in advance and widely accepted by Europe's elites as a prerequisite for peace.

Halifax visits Hitler in Berchtesgaden
Halifax visits Hitler in Berchtesgaden in November 1937. Photo Pinterest.

But when the leading men of the Allies nourished this attitude, how could the same politicians only two years after Halifax's visit to Berchtesgaden declare war on Germany for the second time in the century? The answer is that they were democratic politicians, who were very sensitive to the mood swings of the voters. All families in England and France had lost a son, a father, a brother or uncle in the war against Germany; The voters were easy to excite for a tough course against the Germans.

In 1939, Stalin's Soviet Union was in crisis. His socialist system could not deliver, and his power was only sustained by terror. He had ordered most of the Russian officer corps, most of his old party comrades from 1917 and millions of others executed. How little the popular support for his politics was can be seen from the fact that when the Germans attacked in 1941, the Russian soldiers surrendered in the hundreds of thousands without a fight. That the Germans afterward let them starve to death is another matter.

Stalin was rescued on the edge of the abyss. When the Soviet Union's worst enemies, Germany, England and France went for the throat of each other with the English-French war declarations against Germany in September 1939, there must have been a big party in the Kremlin with caviar and champagne.

The Second World War was a consequence of Versailles

Buchanan writes: "With the treaties of Versailles, St. Germain, Trianon and Neuilly, the Allied at Paris had made a dog's breakfast of Europe. For America, they had stripped the Great War of any morality. When Wilson came home with a peace that denied the defeated their right of self-determination, made a mockery of his fourteen points, honoured the secret treaties he denounced and enlarged the British, French and Italien Empires by a million square miles and tens of millions of subjects, America concluded that their 116.000 sons died for nothing."

Political satire over the Treaty of Versailles
Political satire over the Treaty of Versailles in Daily Herald 17. May 1919. Drawing Will Dyson.

Lloyd George sensed the tragedy the Allies were setting in train - He retired to Fontainebleau on the last weekend of March and wrote one of the more prophetic documents of the century: "You may strip Germany of her colonies, reduce her armaments to a mere police force and her navy to that of fifth-rate power; all the same in the end she feels that she had been unjustly treated in the peace of 1919. She will find means of exacting retribution from her conquerors - injustice, arrogance, displayed in the hour of triumph will never be forgotten or forgiven - I cannot conceive any greater cause of future war than that of the German people, who have certainly proved themselves one of the most vigorous and powerful races in the world, should be surrounded by a number of small states, many of them consisting of peoples, who have never previously set up a stable government for themselves, but each of them containing large masses of Germans clamoring for reunion with their native land."

Georges Benjamin Clemenceau
Georges Benjamin Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France, also known as "The Tiger" - the most influential and consistent hardliner at the Versailles negotiations. Foto Pinterest

Buchanan tells further: About the Polish corridor, cutting Germany in two, Lloyd George warned: "The proposal of the Polish Commission that we should place 2,1 million Germans under the control of a people, which is of different religion and which has never proved the capacity for stable self-government throughout its history, must, in my judgment, sooner or later lead to a new war in the east of Europe."

John Maynard Keynes left the Versailles conference prematurely and returned home and wrote: "The Economic Consequences of the Peace" which became a best-seller in the whole world. He wrote that Germany at the armistice had been promised a peace on the basis of President Wilson's fourteen points, and the Allies had failed this promise in favor of a Versailles Treaty, which condemned the Germans as guilty of the war and sent them a monster fine for this. By this, the Allies themselves had laid the foundations for a new future war.

The book's main messages are: Firstly, that Europe could not prosper financially without a fair, efficient and integrated financial system, which was not possible to establish in the framework of the Versailles Treaty's economic preconditions. Secondly, the Allies had failed the promises they made in the ceasefire agreement on compensation, territorial adjustments and uniformity of economic affairs, which were substantially changed to the Allies' advantage in the final Versailles Treaty.

The Economic Consequences of the Peace
"The Economic Consequences of the Peace" by John Maynard Keynes. Photo internet archive.

Keynes made a grim prophecy: "If we aim at the impoverishment of Central Europe, I dare say that revenge will not let us wait for long. Nothing can then for a very long time, delay the forces of the reaction and the desperate convulsions of the revolution, for which the horrors of the last German war will fade to nothing and which will destroy civilization and progress of our generation, no matter who wins."

Furthermore, he suggested that Europeans should instead stand together to solve the Russian problem: "The Treaty does not provide for the economic rehabilitation of Europe - nothing to make the defeated central powers good neighbors, nothing to stabilize the new states of Europe, nothing to regain Russia; nor does it in any way promote solid solidarity between the Allies themselves."

Buchanan wrote: "When you attack a king, you must kill him, said Emerson. In Paris, the Allies had whipped Germany and deprived the nation of territory, industry, colonies, money - and honour, by forcing it to sign the "war-guilt lie". But they had not killed it, it was alive, united, more populous and potentially more powerful than France, and that population was now obsessed with a burning sense of being cheated."

Lloyd George, Keynes, Foch, Smuts, Lansing and Mussolini
Prominent personalities, who criticized the Treaty of Versailles.
Top left to right: David Lloyd George, English Prime Minister - John Maynard Keynes, English Economist - Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch, Commander of the Allies at the Western Front 1917-18.
Below left to right: Jan Christiaan Smuts, Field Marshal and South African politician - Robert Lansing, American Secretary of State - Benito Mussolini, Italian politician. Photos Wikipedia.

Not only Lloyd George and Keynes, but several others, could already see during the actual peace negotiations, what would come: "Foch: "This is not peace, it is a truce of twenty years", and Smuts: "This treaty has a poisonous atmosphere of revenge that can still burn the beautiful face - not of a corner of France, but of Europe." The Secretary of State, Lansing, said of the peace that he and Wilson brought home: "The Treaty of Versailles threatens the existence of civilization." In Italy, the wounded war veteran and fascist leader Benito Mussolini warned: "The dilemma is this; treaty revision or a new war".

The Allies lose the United States

In 1917-18, the United States showed up before the World as a strong military force, perhaps the world's strongest. "From three hundred thousand men under arms in 1917, it had raised an army of 4 million and transported two million soldiers to France" - A formidable technical, logistical and organizational achievement.

American troops in Paris
US troops march through Place de Jena and down Avenue du President Wilson in Paris on July 4, 1918. The US had planned to send 4 million. soldiers, who were supposed to be in place in the summer of 2019. However, the Germans threw the towel into the ring already, when about 2 million had arrived. Photo The Atlantic.

Germany concluded peace with the new Soviet Union in March 1918 and transferred quickly most of the troops from the Eastern to the Western Front. But the German supremacy was soon more than offset by the influx of American troops to this front. In the summer of 2018, between 250,000 and 300,000 US soldiers arrived each month. A total of 2.1 million Americans were deployed before the war ended. It was this fast growing and a seemingly endless influx of Americans, who took the courage from the Germans and led them to seek a ceasefire. If the Americans hadn't come, the Germans could well have won the war.

But after the war, the United States withdrew from Europe and refused to participate in the new League of Nations and take part and responsibility for the enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles. It was left to the Europeans themselves to keep Germany in place in the Versailles system.

American supply depot at Montoir in France in 1918
American supply depot at Montoir in France in 1918. 18 million tons of supplies were shipped from America or purchased in Europe by the US SOS (Service of Supply). SOS benefitted from the experience of building the Panama Canal, which was also a very challenging logistics project. Many engineers and planners were transferred more or less directly from the Panama project to the project of supply the war in France. Photo St. Mihiel Trip-wire.

During and immediately after World War I, America's European Allies borrowed $ 10,350 billion ($ 184,334 billion in 2002 dollars) from the US Treasury. These funds were mainly used to buy ammunition, food, cotton and other war-related items in the United States. The Allies were totally dependent on American supplies.

The extensive US supplies represented support for the weaker part in the European Civil War. It was a very similar policy that Britain had pursued for centuries in relation to the European continent, only waged by financial means. The net effect of the big American loans was that the war was kept going for a longer time than it would otherwise have done, and Europe was pulled even deeper down into the morass. At the same time, the United States avoided being implicated in the fierce battles until the summer of 1918.

American built port at Nantes built by SOS - Supply of Service
American built port at Nantes built by SOS (Supply of Service) in France in 1918. 18 million tons of supplies were transported from America or purchased in Europe by the American SOS, which also built four complete ports with 23 dockside places and more than 16,000 workshops, barracks and department stores including 200 hospitals. Photo St. Mihiel Trip-wire.

President Wilson returned from Paris and personally presented the Versailles Treaty to the Senate in July 1919 for ratification. Wilson, a Democrat, appealed to the Republican-controlled Senate to endorse the Pact: "It has come about by no plan of our conceiving but by the hand of God. We cannot turn back." he insisted. "Dare we reject it?" he asked the senators, "and break the heart of the world?"

The leader of the Senate majority, Henry Cabot Lodge, opposed the treaty, in particular the section of League of Nations: "Once and for all, we will abandon and lose the great policy of "no interference in alliances" that this Republic's strength has been based on for a hundred and fifty years." Which reminds us of "the Splendid Isolation", which the British had enforced for hundreds of years related to the rest of Europe.

American Political Satire from 1919
American Political Satire from 1919. "If we were in the League of Nations"Uncle Sam stands at the gangway and watches wounded, disabled and dead soldiers disembarking. John Bull shouts from the deck: "Hey Sam! Send me over a new army!" Photo Library of Congress. Drawing Winsor McCay.

But Wilson did not get the two-thirds majority, which was necessary for the adoption of the treaty. Publicly, most Democrats were in favor of Wilson, but privately many were more skeptical. Republicans were generally opposed to the treaty.

The Senate's decision, or lack of decision, reflected the attitudes of the US voters. As an American, Buchanan recalls the political moods of his youth: "Maybe its (Great Britain's) biggest loss was its reputation and credibility with the American people. The British propaganda had convinced us that the Germans were beasts and we had to join the good war for a new world, where Prussian militarism could never again threaten humanity. But after the Versailles (Treaty) had enlarged the British Empire by 950,000 square kilometers, and the Allies failed their war debts while mocking Uncle Sam and calling him "Uncle Shylock", Americans came to believe that they had been deceived and fooled."

Assembling of an American locomotive in France in 1918
Assembling of an American locomotive in France in 1918. The United States supplied 1,500 locomotives, 18,000 vehicles and 1,600 km. railroad tracks to the war in France. Photo St. Mihiel Trip-wire.

Even Americans generally speak English, it does not mean that they all felt sympathy with Britain and its allies. German Americans felt their fatherland was being treated too harshly. Italian Americans felt more territory should have been awarded to Italy. Irish Americans criticized the treaty for failing to address the issue of Irish independence. Diehard American isolationists worried about a permanent global involvement.

After the American escape, the Allies no longer had the same industrial and political power over the defeated nations that they had at the ceasefire in November 1918.

The Allies lose Japan

Buchanan writes: "In 1921, Britain was still the first great power on Earth, but its strategic situation had deteriorated, Germany had been defeated, disarmed and impoverished, but Russia, Britain's ally in the Great War, was gone. America, whose food, ammunition and loan had enabled the Allied war effort until two million Yankees arrived in France, had rejected Versailles, refused to join the League, disarmed and had returned to neutrality."

The two Kobo class destroyers Ume and Kusunoki at the quayside in Marseilles
Two Japanese Kobo class destroyers, Ume and Kusunoki, at the quayside in Marseilles perhaps in 1917. They were part of a squadron of Japanese escort ships in the Mediterranean that aimed to support the Allied convoy efforts. At its peak, it included 17 ships under Admiral Kozo Sato on the flagship cruiser Akashi. It departed from Singapore on March 11, 1917. Photo The Wellington Trust. The image is digitally colorized.

"However, Britain still had the most powerful nation in Asia as an ally, and the Anglo-Japanese alliance had proved its worth in war. Japan had rolled up Germany's possessions in China and the Pacific. Its warships had escorted the Anzac troops to the European battlefields. Its dominance at sea in the Far East freed British warships to operate in domestic waters to defend against the German High Sea Fleet."

The Imperial Japanese Navy took care of escorting convoys on its way to Europe from Australia, India and New Zealand during the First World War. It was effectively entrusted with the primary responsibility of the Pacific and the Far East, while most of the Royal Navy was engaged elsewhere. The Japanese Navy even helped maintain British rule in Singapore by assisting in defeating a mass mutiny of Indian Sikh soldiers in this city in February 1915 after responding to an emergency call over the radio from the garrison commander.

In 1921, Lloyd George hosted the Imperial Conference in London. The big question was whether the British Empire should renew the alliance with Japan. It was complicated by the fact that the great creditor of the empire, the United States, had made the ultimate demand that it must be canceled. The US did not offer any alliance or other promises in return.

British troops going ashore to assist Japanese troops to capture Qingdao
British troops going ashore to assist Japanese troops to capture the German colony Qingdao in China in 1914.
The terms of the Anglo-Japanese alliance did not commit Japan to go to war. Such a move was necessary only if Britain's Asian colonies were attacked. But Tokyo saw a chance. Within hours of the British Declaration of War on August 4, 1914, the Japanese Foreign Minister, Kato Takaaki, offered to join the war in support of Britain, provided that Japan was allowed to take the German Asian-Pacific territory for itself.
The Japanese attack on Qingdao was supported by the Royal Navy and a brigade of the British army, which included the 2. Battalion of South Wales Borderers and 36. Sikh. Photo Illustrated War News.

The Assembly knew quite well the difference between Japanese and Englishmen. Buchanan quotes Lord Curzon: "They are restless and aggressive" - "like the Germans in the mentality" - "Japan is not an altruistic power at all" and Lloyd George: "They may not have a conscience"

But the benefits of the alliance were obvious. With the Bolsheviks in power in Russia, Britain had an ally and brother in arms in the defense of India, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore, the largest naval power in the Western Pacific. Moreover, the Japanese had been zealously faithful and fulfilled all agreements to the smallest detail.

Winston Churchill, the delegates from Canada and Prime Minister Smuts of South Africa insisted that the US should be pleased; but Lloyd George and the Pacific nations, Australia and New Zealand, who had something at stake, wanted the alliance to be renewed. "Without the Japanese alliance Britain would be a third-rate power in Asia, and if Japan were to turn against the empire that had rejected them, America would do nothing to save it."

The Kaba class destroyer Katsura in Brindisi harbour in Italy perhaps in 1917
The Kaba class destroyer Katsura in Brindisi harbour in Italy perhaps in 1917. The Japanese squadron included the Akashi cruiser and eight Kaba class destroyers. Designed and built in Japan, these ships had a top speed of 30 knots and were specially designed for overseas deployment and long-distance escort.
The Japanese squadron took the war with the most deadly seriousness. At the end of the war, it was calculated that the Japanese warships had spent 72% of their total time in the Mediterranean at sea. In contrast, the French and Royal Italian marine were registered as having spent only 45% of the time at sea. However, it turned out that the Japanese had also spent more time at sea than even the British navy, which came in second place by 60%. Photo Wellington Trust. The image is digitally colorized.

Buchanan cites Correlli Barnett: "Not to renew the alliance - led to the likelihood of a shift in the Japanese attitude towards the British Empire from cordiality to hostility. The British ambassador in Tokyo actually warned that Japan would be so violated and humiliated by a British refusal to renew the treaty that it would create an "attitude of anger and a policy aiming at vengeance."

Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes said: "Now, if Japan is excluded from the family of the great Western nations - and note that turning our back on the treaty, is definitely to exclude Japan - it will be isolated, its national pride will be hurt in its tenderest place." - "What is the real alternative to renewing the treaty?" - "The answer is that there is none. If Australia were asked whether it would favour America rather than Japan as an ally, it would choose America, but we have not been offered that choice."

Led by Winston Churchill, the son of an English father and an American mother, the majority decided to cancel the treaty. Like many of the British elites, he nurtured a romantic idea of the Anglo-Saxon community across the Atlantic. It was a sad love that was not returned by the American voters and politicians.

Japanese soldiers use Indian POWs as targets
Japanese soldiers use captured Indian Sikh soldiers as targets. They are blind-folded. Most likely from 1942. Photo Wikipedia from Imperial War Museum.

When British Admiralty demanded more warships in 1924, Chancellor Winston Churchill was vehemently opposed: "A war with Japan! But why should there be a war with Japan? I don't think there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime. "-" Japan is at the other end of the world."

But it should turn out that a war with Japan was possible. In 1931, Japan took into possession the Chinese province of Manchuria with all its mines and raw materials. In December 1941, the Japanese took Hong Kong, and in February 1942, a numerically inferior Japanese force captured Malaya and Singapore and led more than 50,000 Britons, Australians and Indians to death or miserable captivity.

The Locarno Pact

The Locarno Pact was thought out by the German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann. It was a set of agreements between France, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, in which was agreed that France, Belgium and Germany mutually guaranteed their mutual borders as determined by the Treaty of Versailles, which included the Rhineland as a demilitarized area and Germany's acceptance of Alsace-Lorraine as part of France, and the UK and Italy promised to defend any of the treaty states that might be attacked by another treaty nation.

Gustav Stresemann, Austen Chamberlain and Aristide Briand in Locarno
Gustav Stresemann, Austen Chamberlain and Aristide Briand in Locarno in December 1925 - Photo Bundesarchiv - Wikipedia.

The pact was signed in the Swiss city of Locarno in 1925. It was regarded as the beginning of a new and better security policy system in Europe, and it paved the way for Germany's admission to the League of Nations in 1926 and for the withdrawal of British and French troops from the Rhineland. Gustav Stresemann, Austen Chamberlain and the French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand, received a shared Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 for their work with the Locarno Pact.

The Locarno Treaty was important because it represented a voluntary German acceptance of the borders imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. However, Locarno only worked with Germany's borders to the west. The German borders to the east were still subject to considerable bitterness. Buchanan writes: "For no German politician could accept, in perpetuity the loss of Memel, Danzig, the corridor and the Sudetenland to Lithuania, Poland and Czechoslovakia and survive."

Hitler speaks to the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House
Hitler speaks to the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House. Following the Reichstag fire, the Reichstag held its meetings in the Opera House. Photo World War Two Daily.

As Germany refused to guarantee its eastern frontiers France sought to give Poland and Czechoslovakia the security they required by signing treaties with them, which 14 years later was to cost France dearly.

Already in 1934, France opened negotiations with the Soviet Union on a defense treaty that was approved by the French National Assembly in 1936. Adolf Hitler, who had come to power in Germany two years before, held a fiery speech in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, in which he condemned the French-Soviet agreement as a threat to Germany and as a breach of the Locarno Pact. On the same day, he sent German troops into the Rhineland.

Hitler said: "Germany therefore no longer considers itself bound by this dissolved (Locarno) covenant - Justified by a people's primitive rights to the security of the borders and safeguarding its defense capabilities, the German Reich's government has today restored the full and unlimited sovereignty of the Reich in the Rhineland's demilitarized zone."

The Stresa Front

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Mussolini - realizing that the Nazis might attempt a violent overthrow of Versailles, imperiling the peace of Europe - proposed a four-power Pact. It was among the bolder and more visionary ideas of the era. Britain, France, Italy and Germany would meet as equals to rectify the injustices of Versailles to avert another war. Buchanan cites Villari: "Il Duce threw all his energy and enthusiasm into perfection of such a pact in 1933. but it was rejected by France, Britain and the pro-French Little Entente" of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania.

Among the statesmen pouring cold water on Ill Duce's plan to create a new concert of Europa was Winston Churchill, who vigorously attacked Mussolini's proposal in the House of Commons.

Greatly concerned about the failed Nazi coup attempt in Austria in 1934, during which Chancellor Dollfuss was murdered, Mussolini tried once again to create an European cooperation that could prevent a new war. This time he had a little more luck. According to Buchanan, the Stresa Front was the most important attempt to stop Adolf Hitler before World War II.

Austrian Nazi coup against Dollfuss 1934
New York Times: Austrian Nazi coup against Dollfuss 1934. Photo Pinterest.

Buchanan tells of the failed Nazi coup July 15: "150 Austrian Nazis stormed the chancery in Vienna. Most of the cabinet, warned in advance, had fled. But the gritty little Dollfuss refused to run. From six inches away he was shot in the throat. As the celebrating nazis went on national radio to announce his resignation, Dollfuss, ignored by his killers, bled to death, the only European leader to die a martyr's death resisting Nazism."

"Late that night, at the home of Wagner's widow, Cosima, (in Bayreuth) who had died in 1930, Hitler appeared nervous. He phoned Berlin, only to be told the German ambassador in Vienna was negotiating for safe passage for the Nazi assassins out of Austria. Hitler shouted that the ambassador had no such instructions. Nearly incoherent with rage he countermanded Berlin's orders, fired his ambassadors in Vienna, and demanded that Frans von Papen, under house arrest, since he had narrowly escaped Nazi death squads in the Roehm purge, be flown to Munich. Papen had befriended Dollfuss and warned Hitler about the Austrian Nazis.

Papen found Hitler in a "state of hysterical agitation denouncing feverishly the rashness and stupidity of the Austrian Nazi Party for having involved him in such an appealing situation"

"We are faced with a new Sarajevo" Hitler shouted.

Adolf Hitler meets Winifred Wagner, widow of Richard Wagner's son Sigfried, arriving at the opening at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival
Adolf Hitler meets Winifred Wagner, widow of Richard Wagner's son Sigfried, arriving at the opening at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival. Photo Daily Mail.

Hitler was right to be nervous. Mussolini, who had been hosting Dollfuss' family and had to break the news of his assassination to his wife, was enraged and ordered four divisions to the Brenner. Il Duce sent word to Vienna: "If Germany invades, Italy will go to war."

While Italy had mobilized troops, Britain and France had done nothing.

Mussolini saw the immediate future quite clearly: "Hitler will arm the Germans and make war - perhaps even in two or three years. I cannot stand up to him alone - I cannot be the one to march to the Brenner. Others must show some interest in Austria and the Danube Basin - we must do something, we must do something quickly."

On March 9. 1935 Herman Goering informed a correspondent of the London Daily that the Luftwaffe would become an official branch of the armed forces. The next Sunday the Nazis announced that Germany was reimposing conscription and calling up 300.000 men to create an army of 36 divisions. This was the first formal breach of Versailles.

Italian troops at Brenner in 1934
Italian troops at Brenner in 1934. Photo Dossie Cultura.

Britain and France now began to believe Mussolini might be right. With German rearmament underway, the murder of Dollfuss and the failed Austrian coup in mind the British Prime minister Ramsay MacDonald and French prime minister Pierre Flandin and foreign minister Pierre Laval agreed to meet with Mussolini in Stresa at Lake Maggiore in Schweiz on April 11-14 1935.

Buchanan writes: Passed over by many historians, this was a crucial meeting in the interwar period. For in 1935, as Oxford's R.B.McCallum has written, "Italy, with her military force and strong and virile Government held the balance of power in Europe." At the end of the Stresa conference, a communique was issued denouncing German rearmament as a violation of Versailles and affirming the three nations' commitment to the principles of Locarno.

But there was a worm in the apple of the accord. The British were double-dealing, they had other plans. When Flandin declared at Stresa that if Hitler committed one more violation of Versailles, France would mobilize, Mussolini called for even stronger joint action. The Englishmen, MacDonald and Simon, refused to make any commitment.

Pierre Laval, Mussolini, Ramsay MacDonald and premier Pierre Flandin in Stresa April 11. 1935
Pierre Laval, Benito Mussolini, Ramsay MacDonald and premier Pierre Flandin in Stresa April 11. 1935. Photo herodote.net.

They revealed their minds a few months after the Stresa meeting. On June 18, Germany and the United Kingdom signed a naval agreement that allowed Germany to build a fleet of 35% of the Royal Navy and a submarine force similar to that of Britain. This was contrary to Stresa as well as Locarno and Versailles.

Hitler became elated. A navy agreement meant that an alliance was possible. Ever since he fought the "Tommies" on the Western Front, he had dreamed of an Anglo-German alliance.

But Benito Mussolini was furious when he heard this news, and unfortunately for Italy, he convinced himself that Hitler could not be stopped anymore, and therefore he had to ride the wave.

The Allies lose Italy

Italian territorial gain according to the London Treaty of 1915
At the London conference in 1915, Italy was promised South Tyrol, Istria, Trieste, Northern Dalmatia and most of the Dalmatian islands after an Allied victory in World War I. South Tyrol is not shown on this map. Wikipedia.

The relationship between Rome and London was strained right from the start. After deserting the Triple Alliance and declaring neutrality in 1934, Rome had been bribed into the war on the Allied side by the British, who offered Rome more than Berlin could. In the secret 1915 treaty of London, Italy had been promised South Tyrol, Istria, Trieste, northern Dalmatia, most of the Dalmatian Islands, soverreignty over the Dodecanes Islands and a protectorate over Albania. These lands were to be confiscated from the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires after an expected allied victory.

The Dodecanese island group
In the Italian-Turkish War of 1911-1912, Italy deprived the Ottoman Empire of Libya and the Dodecanese, an island group in the Aegean consisting of 12 islands with Rhodos as the largest. Photo: Storia.

Italy's loss in the war had been about 460,000 military combat deaths. But they had come home from Versailles with only South Tyrol, Trieste and Istria, believing they had been denied the Dalmatian coast and the port city of Fiume. Italy felt cheated.

In 1933, the Allies rejected a Mussolini proposal to revise the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles to avoid a new war. Later, in April 1935, however, they helped to form the Stresa Front against German armament together with Italy; but already after a few months, the British failed to follow the decisions of the Front, even without consulting in advance - or simply informing - their Stresa partners.

For Mussolini, the English-German Navy Agreement of June 1935 meant that Britain was not a reliable ally. The vicious Albion could easily make a deal with Hitler behind his back, he may have thought.

Official photo of Mussolini
Official photo of Mussolini. He led Italy for 21 years from 1922 to 1943. Foto Vituzzu Wikipedia.

It became the crisis of Ethiopia in 1936, which provoked the final break between Italy and the other Allies and pushed Mussolini into the arms of Adolf Hitler.

The root of the Ethiopian crisis must be sought in the late 1800s, where The Berlin Conference 1884-85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa. All the more advantageous parts of Africa were already taken by the Atlantic nations Spain, Portugal, England and France, while the newly created kingdom, Italy, had to settle for Libya, Somalia and Eritrea.

When the Italians tried to seize one of the last independent states in Africa, Ethiopia, they got a bloodshot. At Adowa in 1896, Ethiopian tribal warriors defeated 4000 Italian soldiers and committed unspeakable atrocities to the prisoners they took.

When the victorious powers of Versailles in 1919 distributed the Ottoman Empire and the German colonies among themselves, they did not allow Italy to come in for a share, despite the fact that the Italians had lost 460,000 men for the Allies' cause, mainly in the fierce fighting in the Alps. Italy and Mussolini felt a deep sense of being unfairly treated.

In December 1934, an opportunity to rebuild and expand the empire showed up. A numerically superior Ethiopian force attacked without notice and apparently without reason an Italian outpost at Wal-Wal. The attack was narrowly rejected. Now Mussolini had his Casus Belli, and most of Europe believed that Italy would invade Ethiopia.

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and his queen Menen
Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and his queen Menen at his coronation November 2, 1930. The name Haile Selassie means "The Holy Trinity Force". He was originally born as Tafari Makonnen on July 23 1892, in the province of Harrar as the son of Ras Makonnen and his wife Yashimabet.
Ethiopia adopted Christianity around the year 324, only Armenia became Christian earlier. The kings regarded themselves as descendants after the Queen of Saba. Photo Largeup.com

The authority of the League of Nations was already weakened. When Japan in 1931 occupied Chinese Manchuria it was condemned by the League of Nations, but no sanctions were made, also not when the nation in protest against the condemnation left the League.

The British government led by Baldwin faced a dilemma. For British ideals now clashed with British interests. Should Britain avert its gaze from Ethiopia to keep Italy as a Stresa front partner against Germany, or lead the league in branding Italy as an aggressor, impose sanctions and lose Italy?

There was the problem that Ethiopia was a member of the League of Nations, and that was precisely the idea in this organization to avoid war among the member states themselves.

Haile Selassie, King of Kings and Judah Lion
Haile Selassie, King of Kings and Judah Lion, during the coronation ceremony with crown, scepter and orb. Photo Largeup.com.

The French were in no doubt. Already in January 1935, French Foreign Minister Laval visited Italy and was close to assuring Mussolini that France would not oppose his planned conquest. In return, Italy should abandon all claims on Tunisia and accept French supremacy there.

The British tried to escape their dilemma with a compromise, the so-called Hoare-Laval plan. It meant that Italy should have the fertile Ogaden plain, while Haile Selassie could keep his kingdom in the mountains. The British would surrender a part of British Somaliland to Ethiopia to allow the country access to the sea.

Mussolini was ready to accept the plan, and the only thing left was to tell Haile Selassie, King of the Kings and Judah Lion that he should give half his kingdom away. But then somebody leaked the plan to the press. A shit-storm of the century arose because the statesmen wanted to reward aggression in violation of the principles of the League of Nations. The British and French governments had to shelve the plan, and the respective ministers of Foreign Affairs, Hoare and Laval, had to resign. Buchanan quotes Taylor: "The only result of this play was that the emperor of Ethiopia the whole of his kingdom instead of only half as Mussolini originally intended."

The Italian attack on Ethiopia
The Italian attack on Ethiopia. Foto WW2 Needham.

The British and French press turned against Mussolini mocking and assaulting him as the world's worst dictator. British socialists, liberals, all joined in heaping abuse on the Italian ruler. Rome - London relations went rapidly downhill and in Geneva, the League led by Britain threated with sanction if the invasion of Ethiopia went ahead.

In the course of history, the colonial powers of Britain, France, Portugal and Spain had acquired their colonies by methods similar to those used by Mussolini, so it would seem hypocritical for aspiring colonial powers, such as Italy and Japan, that these original colonial powers opposed Italy's annexation of Ethiopia for moral reasons.

When a French woman accosted Churchill to argue that Italy was only doing in Ethiopia what British Imperialism had done for centuries, Churchill replied: "Ah, but you see, all that belongs to the unregenerate past, it is locked away in the limbo of the old, the wicked days. The world progresses."

Isolated Mussolini decided to act quickly. On October 3. 1935 Italy sent into battle against African Tribesmen a large army equipped with all the weaponry of modern warfare, including bombers carrying poison gas. It was a slaughter. "Moral indignation was almost universal", writes historian John Toland.

Mussolini attacks Ethiopia
Mussolini attacks Ethiopia. Daily News.

Six months later, when Britain and France sought out Mussolini to stand with them in the Rhineland crisis the sanctions on Italy were still in effect. By assuming the moral high ground to condemn a land-grab in Africa, not unlike those Britain had been conducting for centuries, Britain lost Italy. Her diplomacy had created yet another enemy. And this one sat astride the Mediterranean sea-lanes critical to the defense of Britain's far East Empire against another enemy it had created themselves, namely Japan.

Hitler's ambassador to Rome, von Hassel, reported in January 1936 that Mussolini considered Stresa as "dead and buried" and wanted to improve relations: "If Austria as a formally independent state - in practice would become a German satellite, he would have no objections."

In Milano 1. November 1936, Mussolini proclaimed the Rome-Berlin Axis.

Germany Militarizes the Rhineland

Following the Versailles Treaty, German troops, armaments or fortifications were forbidden in the Rhineland. This was to give France time and space to meet any attack inside Germany rather than in Alsace. A demilitarized Rhineland meant that, at the outbreak of war, a French army could march in and occupy the Ruhr, the industrial heartland of Germany. The Rhineland was to France what the Channel was to England.

The Rhineland
Rhineland according to the Versailles Treaty. At the ceasefire, Germany accepted that the Allied troops occupied all German territory west of the Rhine and four right-bank "bridgeheads" with 30 kilometers radius around Cologne, Koblenz, Mainz and 10 kilometers radius around Kehl. Furthermore, the left bank of the Rhine and a 50 kilometers wide strip east of the Rhine was declared a demilitarized zone (for German military). The Treaty of Versailles repeated these provisions but limited the presence of Allied troops until the year 1934.
In 1936, the area was still demilitarized, but without occupation troops.
Photo "Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War" by Buchanan.

The issue that triggered Hitlers boldest assault on the terms of Versailles was a vote in the French chamber of deputies to approve an anti-German pact between France and Bolshevik Russia, Germany's mortal enemy. Rising in the Kroll Opera House that fateful Saturday March 7. 1936, Hitler declared that if France and Stalin's Russia were ganging up on Germany, he had a sworn duty to act in defense of the Fatherland.

He declared: "Germany considers itself no longer bound by this dissolved (Locarno) pact - Legitimated by a people's primitive right to border security and the security of its defense capability the German Reich Government has therefore restored the Reich's full and unlimited sovereignty in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland."

Re-militarization of the Rhineland
Re-militarization of the Rhineland. Lightly armed German troops march over a bridge across the Rhine accompanied by music. Photo Coup de gurle de la rentree

Hitler stated that any Franco-Soviet security pact implied a French commitment to attack Germany, should Germany go to war with Stalin. And any French attack must come through the Rhineland.

He sent only three lightly armed batalions accompanied by military orchestras into the Rhineland, where they everywhere received the crowd's cheers. They had strict orders to withdraw immediately if they encountered resistance.

Buchanan asks rhetorically: "Looking back, Western men profess astonishment the allies did not strike and crush Hitler here and now. Why did they not eliminate the menace of Hitlers Reich when the cost of lives would have been minuscule, compared with the tens of millions Hitler's war would later consume?"

He continues: "America ignored Hitler's move because she had turned her back to European power politic. Americans had concluded they had been lied to and swindled when they enlisted in the Allied cause in 1917. The Americans had a depression to worry about. But why did Britain and France do nothing?"

French fort in the Maginot line
French fort in the Maginot line. Photo: Military History Now Wikipedia.

The British had concluded that Keynes and the other savage critics of Versailles had been right in accusing of imposing a Carthaginian peace on Germany in violation of the terms of the armistice. Britain was now led by decent men with dreadful memories and troubled consciences, who were afflicted with guilt over what had been done.

No one wanted another European war. The horrors of the Western front had been described in the poems and memoirs of those who had survived the trenches. - And what had the all been for? Churchill wrote: "The most complete victory ever gained in arms had failed to solve the European problem or to remove the dangers which produce the war".

Lloyd George not only opposed any British-French action in the Rhineland, but he also called his colleagues to try to see the world from Germany's point of view. Even before this latest pact between Paris and Moscow, Germany was encircled by French alliances that included Belgium, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Now Germany faced a Stresa Front of Italy, France and Britain and a new Franco-Soviet alliance that imperiled the most important industrial area of Germany, the undefended Ruhr. Lloyd Georges implored parliament to see Germany's dilemma and forcefully argued Hitler's case in the House of Commons: "France had built the most gigantic fortifications ever seen in any land, where, almost a hundred feet underground you can keep an army of over 100.000 and where you have guns that can fire straight into Germany. Yet, the Germans are supposed to remain without even a garrison, without even a trench - If Herr Hitler had allowed this to go on without protecting his country, he would have been a traitor to the fatherland."
Cross section of a fort in the Maginot line
Cross section of a fort in the Maginot line. Drawing from Military History Now.

Nor did Britains elite seem concerned by Germany's reoccupation of the Rhineland. Lord Lothian famously quipped, "The Germans, after all, are only going into their own back-garden".

It is France's conduct that is inexplicable. Why was France paralyzed? Its importance to French security had been recognized in Versailles by Foch and Poincare, who wanted to annex it, and by Clemenceau, who wanted to convert it into a buffer state. - If the Wehrmacht was in the Rhineland it was not America or Britain face to face with a Germany of seventy million led by a vengeful Adolf Hitler. It was France.
German soldiers march into the Rhineland
German soldiers march into the Rhineland. Photo Suddeutche Zeitung.

"What was called for on that crucial Saturday of March 7. 1936," writes William Shirer, "was a police action by the French to chase out a few German troops who were parading into the Rhineland - this was clear even to a correspondent in Berlin that Week-end."

Why writes Buchanan, when Hitler had sent in only three lightly armed batalions, with orders to withdraw immediately if they met resistance, did France, with the most powerful army in the World, not march in, send the Germans scurrying back over the Rhine bridges and restation French troops at the river? Decisive action warranted by Versailles and Locarno to which Britain was a signatory and which she would have to back up, might have prevented World War II. The Poles and the Czechs had indicated that, if France acted, they would be with her. Even Austria supported her. Why did France not act?

Isac Rosenberg
One of the poets of the trenches was Isac Rosenberg. He wrote:

Three lives hath one life -
Iron, honey, gold.
The gold, the honey gone -
Left is the hard and cold.


There were others who described the trenches on verses, including Rupert Broke, Hedd Wynn, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, all in the Allied trenches, but the novelist Erich Maria Remarque's "No News from the Western Front" must not be forgotten.

The French recalled 1923 when they had marched into Ruhr to force Germany to pay the war reparations imposed by Versailles, on which the Germans were defaulting. The French move so disgusted the United States that the Americans pulled out their own occupation troops and brought them home. Most of the world had denounced France.

"As the French government debated the military crises, it called in the army commander in chief. General Maurice Gamelin asked the ministers if they were aware that Hitler had a million men under arms and 300,000 already in the Rhineland and that any move to retake the territory would require general mobilization. This was an absurd exaggeration of Nazi strength." - "As it was only six weeks before a general election, the cabinet reacted with shock and horror."

"The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-cracking in my life," Hitler later said. "If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with the tails between our legs."

Shirer adds: "It could have - and had it - would have been the end of Hitler, after which history might have taken quite a different and brighter turn than it did, for the dictator could never have survived such a fiasco. Hitler himself added as much: "A retreat on our part," he conceded later "would have spelled collapse".

Anschluss with Austria

At the conference in Versailles, an amputated Austria of 6.5 million, without access to the sea, had requested the Allies to enter into a free trade zone with a starving Germany. The request was denied. In 1931, Germany, hard hit by inflation, again asked for permission to form an Austrian-German customs union. But President Eduard Benes from Czechoslovakia and Britain, France and Italy vetoed.

Lord Halifax on a hunting trip with Herman Goering
Lord Halifax on a hunting excursion with Herman Goering at Schorfheide November 1937 - "We should be on good terms with Germany" said Halifax in the House of Commons. It was probably what most responsible English politicians thought, perhaps except Churchill. But they were democratic politicians who were very sensitive to their voters' attitudes and whims. And voters do not think so far. They all had lost sons, fathers and uncles in the Great War against Germany only 19 years ago, and they have probably felt that the hated Germans should not get away so easily. Photo Pinterest.

In 1937, Herman Goering invited British Lord Halifax, who was close to the new prime minister Neville Chamberlain, for a hunt in Germany. On this occasion, he also had to meet Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden. Buchanan quotes Taylor: "During this meeting, Halifax sent a message on behalf of Chamberlain. Halifax told Hitler that, for Austria, Czechoslovakia and Danzig, all Germany's complaints about Versailles in Central Europe could be resolved to Germany's advantage if "far-reaching disturbances" could be avoided"

Halifax told Hitler what he hoped to hear. Britain would not go to war to prevent an Anschluss with Austria, transferring the Sudetenland to Germany or a return of Danzig if this was done in a peaceful and proper manner.

"Why did Halifax come up with such a message? Chamberlin had come to believe that by tearing people and provinces away from Germany with a gun in their back, the Allies in 1919 had made historic and terrible stupidities." Buchanan writes. "And the new prime minister was ready to rectify these injustices."

Buchanan explains: "The message Halifax conveyed at the Berghof underscores a critical point in the history of this era. Hitler's agenda was no surprise or shock to European statesmen. All of them knew that any German nationalist would demand the same rectifications and adjustments of the frontiers laid down at Versailles. The claims Hitler made were known in advance and largely assented to by the elites of Europa as a precondition for peace"

Kurt von Schuschnigg
Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, at this time 40 years old. After the war, he emigrated to the United States and became a professor of political science at Saint Louis University. Foto Katana 17.

After the murder of Dollfuss, Kurt von Schuschnigg had become Austrian Chancellor. He took care that the Nazis who had been involved in the coup attempt against Dollfuss were arrested and two of those who were the actual killers were hanged.

Taylor explains the evolution of the Austrian crisis:

In July 1936, the two countries concluded a so-called "gentleman agreement" - negotiated by von Papen. Hitler recognized Austria's full sovereignty. Schuschnigg, on the other hand, acknowledged that Austria was "a German state" and agreed to incorporate members of the so-called "national opposition" into its government.

Hitler assumed that the Austrian Nazis would gradually take over the government and transform Austria into a Nazi state. He was satisfied that this should happen gradually and imperceptibly without a dramatic crisis.

However, in January 1938, the Austrian police searched the Nazi headquarter and found detailed plans for an armed rebellion. Hitler knew nothing about these plans, which were prepared despite his orders. So far Schuschnigg was right: the Austrian Nazis acted without authorization. But if Hitler would apologize for his over-enthusiastic followers, was another issue.

Schuschnigg discussed the matter with von Papen, who was a German ambassador in Vienna. He immediately agreed to bring the case directly to Hitler. In February, Papen was back in Vienna with an invitation. Schuschnigg did not hesitate to travel.

Kurt von Schuschnigg and Adolf Hitler
Kurt von Schuschnigg and Adolf Hitler most likely in Berchtesgaden. Photo Sammlung Kurios.

On February 12, he arrived at Berchtesgaden. But the meeting did not work out as he had imagined. Hitler always believed that attack was the best form of defense; and he got his blow in first. Schuschnigg, on arrival, was at once overwhelmed with accusations that the whole of Austria's history was a large line of treason and that he had failed to comply with the "gentleman agreement". It shook him and gave Hitler the initiative, and he demanded that Schuschnigg should make Seyss-Inquart, a presumably respectable nationalist, to interior minister and give him control of the police and that Austria should coordinate its economic and foreign policy with Germany. Schuschnigg raised constitutional objections: he could not make binding promises without the consent of the Austrian Government and President. He was bullied by Hitler, German generals waiting outside, were dramatically called in. However, although these methods were reprehensible, Schuschnigg got most of what he wanted. His constitutional scruples were respected. Seyss-Inquart was no worse than other German nationalists who were already in the government, and was actually a childhood friend of Schuschnigg. Hitler noted in his diary: "This Schuschnigg was a harder bone than I first thought".

Cheering women celebrate Anschluss
Anschluss was covered by both the international and the German press. Countless photographs show large numbers of cheering Austrians - apparently most women, but also many children. This can not have been staged. On these photos, there is no doubt that Austrians wanted to be part of the new German Empire. The uniformed men are Austrian police. Photo Hanns Hubmann - Children in History.

In a puzzled, hesitant way, Schuschnigg built up a resentment against the treatment he had received at Berchtesgaden, and he decided to use Hitler's own method and arrange a referendum and ask the Austrian people whether it wanted to remain independent - "ja oder nein". On March 8. he told the Austrian ministers about his plan; On March 9. he announced it to the world. The referendum was to be held three days later on 12. March. Schuschnigg had not prepared for the referendum; he had not considered how to do it in practice. His only thought was to hurry it through before Hitler could react. The whole world knew this was open defiance of Hitler.

Hitler responded as if someone had stepped on his corn. It was clear to him that "the evolutionary solution" was dead. He either had to act or be humiliated. The military leaders were quickly summoned to Berlin. The German army was not yet equipped for any serious campaign, but orders were issued that forces located near Austria should be ready to cross the border on March 12.

A letter was prepared for Mussolini that explained Hitler's attempt to reach an agreement with Schuschnigg and concluded with the insurance: "I have drawn a final limit - between Italy and us. It is Brenner".

Young girls welcome Adolf Hitler to Austria
Enthusiastic young girls welcome Adolf Hitler to Austria. Photo "The history of the Sound of Music".

Mussolini was promised that Italy could keep South Tyrol forever if he would accept Anschluss. He returned by sending his best regards: Austria did not interest him at all.

Schuschnigg was abandoned and alone. In the early afternoon of 11. March he agreed to postpone the plebiscite, but this was no longer enough. Goering told Seyss-Inquart over the telephone that the Germans had lost confidence in Schuschnigg: he must resign, and Seyss-Inquart take his place. Schuschnigg duly resigned. Seyss-Inquart then appointed himself as Chancellor. He then - again by phone - was asked to request German help to restore law and order.

The German army invaded Austria or rather marched into the country accompanied by general cheers from an enthusiastic population. Hitler also entered Austria on the morning of March 12. In Linz, where he had gone to school, he addressed the cheering crowd. When he stepped out onto the balcony of Linz Town Hall, he made a sudden, unexpected decision: instead of setting up a tame government in Vienna, he would incorporate Austria in the German Reich. Seyss-Inquart, Chancellor for a day, was told to issue a law, ordering himself and Austria out of existence. He did so on 13 March. The Anschluss was submitted for approval to the people of Greater Germany. On 10 April 99.08% voted in its favour, a genuine reflection of German feelings.

Young Austrian girls greet a German soldier with an enthusiastic sieg heil
Young Austrian girls greet a German soldier with an enthusiastic sieg heil. Photo Interrogating Ellie.

The remaining Allies, England and France, were paralyzed over this clear breach of Versailles, which they never the less themselves more or less had approved in advance. The newly united Germany had almost the same population and industrial production as England and France combined - with a slight overweight to Germany. And how could they wage war to again split Germany and Austria when more than 90% of the peoples of both countries passionately wanted to be united? But many, who had supported Hitler's struggle against the unfair Versailles Treaty, did not like to see lines of military vehicles entering a small neighboring country, while Hitler made passionate speeches for the cheering crowd.

The Munich Settlement

The Munich settlement was an agreement between Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy in 1938, which allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. This area was inhabited by about 3.5 million inhabitants of German origin who had a keen desire to become part of Germany. From the Western powers, the Munich agreement was an attempt to avoid war by reversing the unfair decisions made in Versailles nineteen years before. Throughout the eighty years that have passed since the meeting in Munich, the settlement has been widely condemned as cowardly appeasement of Hitler.

ěstrig, Sudetenland and Danzig
The German complaints about the Versailles peace included - besides the Rhineland - especially Austria, Sudetenland, Danzig and Memel.
Austria was the German-speaking nation that remained of the Austrian-Hungarian empire after Versailles had cut away everything else.
Sudetenland included 3.5 million German speakers who before the First World War belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They lived especially in the mountains around Bohemia-Moravia. The area is shown on the map with light-purple.
Danzig was an old German Hanseatic city, which, following the Treaty of Versailles, was governed by the League of Nations and administered by Poland. Today the city is called Gdansk.
Memel was also an old German Hanseatic city, which was handed over to Lithuania at Versailles. It was returned to Germany without complications in 1939. Today the city is called Klaipeda.

At the peace of Versailles, the victors constructed a completely new nation that had never existed before, namely Czechoslovakia, which was a multi-ethnic state home to Czechs, Slovakians, Hungarians, Poles, Ukrainians and also 3.5 million Germans.
The Czechs lived in Bohemia-Moravia around the capital Prague.
The Slovakians lived naturally enough in Slovakia with the capital Bratislava.
The southern part of Slovakia was home to a large Hungarian minority.
In the Techen lived a Polish minority.
The indigenous people of Ruthenia were an eastern Slavic tribe related to Ukrainians.
German was the international language of Central Europe before the World Wars and there lived German-speaking groups everywhere, in Czechoslovakia they lived - as mentioned above - especially in the Sudetenland, but also in ohter places.
After the Munich settlement in 1938 Czechoslovakia so to speak fall apart into its components. Sudetenland went to Germany, Bohemia-Moravia quickly became the German "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" and Slovakia became a German satellite state. Ruthenia declared itself independent, but with Hitler's blessing, it was quickly taken over by Hungary. Poland also took part in the party in the wake of the Munich settlement by taking over the coal-rich Techen. Southern Slovakia - shown with green on the map - was also taken over by Hungary. Foto Pinterest.

It was in the cards that after the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, Hitler would turn his attention to the Sudetenland. Already March 28, a few weeks after Anschluss, he received Sudeten German representatives and appointed Henlein, their leader, to his "viceroy". They had to negotiate with the Czechoslovakian government; and with Henlein's own words "we must always demand so much that we can never be satisfied". The movement should remain legal and orderly; The Czechs should have no excuse to crush it with power. Apparently, Hitler had no concrete plans but wanted to wait and take advantage of the opportunities offered. Perhaps the Czechs would do something stupid; Perhaps their allies, France, would lose patience with them.

But a few months later, he turned on a plate and adopted a threatening aggressive policy towards Czechoslovakia. Buchanan asks rhetorically: "What caused Hitler to turn with sudden ferocity on the Czechs and president Eduard Benes, and risk war with Britain and France so soon after his triumph in Austria?"
Conference in Munich
The meeting in Munich. From left to right: English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Daladier, German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Italian Head of State Benito Mussolini, Italian Foreign Minister Ciano. Photo Bundesarchieve.

"The triggering event occurred two months after Anschluss, while Hitler was still celebrating. Rumours began to fly of an imminent German invasion of Czechoslovakia. The rumours were false, and there is reason to believe the Czech had planted them with the knowledge of Benes, who ordered mobilization. As the rumours ricocheted around in Europe, London warned Berlin that Britain would not sit still for an invasion. Paris and Moscow renewed their commitment to Prague. Hitler was suddenly in a major crisis not at all of his own making." answers Buchanan.

Confronted by a united Europe, Hitler was forced to renounce any intention to invade Czechoslovakia. German officers escorted British military advisers along the Czech border to prove there were no preparations for war. When no attack came, the Czechs bragged and brayed about how they had forced Hitler to back down, showing the world how to face down the bully

Adolf Hitler enters the Sudetenland
Adolf Hitler is being hailed as he in a convoy is driving through the Sudetenland, which became part of the Third Reich after the Munich settlement on Oct. 1, 1938. Photo bundesarchieve.

"It was apparant to Hitler that Benes had precipitated the crisis to humiliate Germany". wrote Tansill. "To be falsely accused by Czech officials was to Hitler the supreme insult."

Buchanan cites Henderson, who "believed the Czech provocation and exploitation of the crisis in May, and the ridicule that was poured over Hitler for having withdrawn for the Czechs, led directly to Munich."

Der Fuhrer was now seized by "a fierce, furious desire to deal with Czechoslovakia and, in particular, President Benes, whom he thought had deliberately humiliated him". He summoned his generals and shouted: "It is my irrevocable will that Czechoslovakia must be removed from the map."

At a mass meeting in Nuremberg on September 12. Hitler delivered an impassioned speech. He recounted the Sudeten-Germans' grievances; insisted that the Czechoslovak government must remedy them. He condemned Czechoslovakia as a French client state that oppressed the national minorities, especially the Sudeten-Germans. He accused Benes of being belligerent and having a threatening behaviour towards Germany.

Czech border fort in the Sudetenland
Czech border fort in the Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia had built very strong border forts in the Sudeten Mountains, which the German General Staff had great respect for. They were all abandoned without a fight by the Munich settlement in 1938. Photo Reddit.

Czechoslovakia's political support crumbled. The Polish ambassador to France told the French Foreign Minister, Georges Bonnet, that if France moved against Germany in defense of Czechoslovakia: "We shall not move". US President Roosevelt said: "Those who count on the aid of the United States in case of war in Europe are totally mistaken."

Chamberlain traveled to Germany three times. The first time was a few days after Hitler's speech in Nuremberg. He approached Hitler and asked for a meeting to find a solution to avoid war. They met in Berchtesgaden. Hitler insisted that the Sudeten-Germans should have the right to national self-determination and to be able to transfer the Sudetenland to Germany. The Allies then met in London, where the discussions ended with a final British-French plan. The United Kingdom and France demanded Czechoslovakia to transfer all areas of the Sudetenland, where the German population represented over fifty percent of the total population, to Germany.

Children of Jewish descent from Czechoslovakia on their way to England
Already then, many saw what was coming. Children of Jewish descent were allowed to leave the country and family and travel to Britain with Kindertransport; which was a train with destination Britain. These children ranged in age from infants to 17 years and were placed in families in the UK. Many never saw their parents again. Sir Nicholas Winton helped to save 669 children from Czechoslovakia. Photo filminspector.

The second time Chamberlain traveled to Germany was to Bad Godesberg on September 22. to present the Allies' plan for Hitler, where he found that Hitler now wanted the entire Czechoslovak state to dissolve, which Chamberlain rejected. Later that evening, Hitler grew worried that he had gone too far in pressuring Chamberlain, and telephoned Chamberlain's hotel suite, saying that he would accept annexing only the Sudetenland, with no designs on other territories. Hitler went on to say that upon annexing the Sudetenland, Germany would hold no further territorial claims upon Czechoslovakia and would enter into a collective agreement to guarantee the borders of Germany and Czechoslovakia.

The third time Chamberlain traveled to Germany was for the final meeting in Munich. Hitler had sent an ultimatum to Czechoslovakia to hand over the Sudetenland, if not Germany would attack. At Mussolini's intervention, he agreed to postpone the attack and attend a summit in Munich, where the final conditions should be set. It was the famous and infamous Munich settlement.

Long before he flew to Munich for his final meeting, Chamberlain had come to believe that keeping the Sudeten-Germans under a Czech rule they despised was not worth a war. And even should Britain go to war, she could not prevent German annexation of the Sudetenland. So to make a virtue of necessity, he would fly to Munich and effect a peaceful transfer.

Sudeten-German Freikorps marches through a city
Sudeten-German Freikorps marches through a city. Photo Howlingpixels.

"The brutal truth was that the Sudeten Germans wanted to be reunited with their kinsmen and could not forever be denied. And as Britain now believed the decision to deliver them to Prague had been a blunder. Why fight a war to perpetuate a blunder? Neither the British nation nor empire" wrote Henderson, "would have supported the war on Germany to deny Germans the right of the self-determination that the Allies had so loudly preached at Paris."

Buchanan cites Taylor: "Historians do a bad day's work when they write the appeasers off as stupid cowards." - "They recognized that an independent and powerful Germany had somehow to be fitted into Europe. Later experience suggests that they were right."

It would probably have been a disaster for both Europe and the Allies to go to war to preserve the Sudetenland for Czechoslovakia, and in this respect, the decision in Munchen was a wise decision. But the idea was also to reconcile with Hitler by giving him some of the things he wanted and thereby removing the causes of possible future wars, and it is at this point that the Munich settlement has been criticized, even condemned.

German women welcome German troops in the Sudetenland on October 1. 1938.
German women welcome German troops in the Sudetenland on October 1. 1938. Photo bundesarchive.

The case was that a reconciliation policy could have been successful in relation to the democratic German governments before Hitler. Buchanan cites Alistair Horne: Shortly before his death, "exhausted and disillusioned", Gustav Streesemann, the widely respected German foreign minister, summed up his dealings with the Allies: "I gave and I gave and I gave until my followers turned against me - if they could have granted me just one concession, I would have won my people - but they gave nothing - that is my tragedy and their crime." But in 1938 it was too late to achieve real reconciliation. Hitler systematically staged the Allies' concessions as if they were giving in to fear.

At the time of the Munich settlement, the number of Hitler's victims still counted hundreds, while Stalin had killed millions. Chamberlain and the other supporters of the reconciliation policy feared that a German defeat in a future war would create a political vacancy in Central Europe that would be filled by the Soviet Union. And that was what happened.

Buchanan writes: "Chamberlain was right in believing that the Sudetenland was not worth a war. He was wrong in believing that by surrendering it to Hitler he had bought anything but time, which he should have used to rally Britain." - "Instead of returning home and reporting that, while war had been averted, Britain must prepare for the worst, Chamberlain came home boasting that he had brought back "peace for our time"

Neville Chamberlain showing the Anglo-German Declaration to a crowd at Heston Aerodrome at his homecoming from Munich 30. September 1938
Peace of our time. Neville Chamberlain showing the Anglo-German Declaration to a crowd at Heston Aerodrome at his homecoming from Munich 30. September 1938. He spoke to the crowd: "The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you:" - "We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again."

"As Sire Harold Nicolson mused: "it is difficult to say: "This is the greatest diplomatic achievement in history, therefore we must redouble our armament in order never again to be exposed to such humiliation."

The whole of Czechoslovakia's defense had been based on a line of strong forts in the mountainous Sudetenland, a kind of Czech Maginot line that was abandoned by the area's transfer to Germany. Then the rest of the Czech Republic was in practice impossible to defend. To compensate for this, Hitler promised that he would enter into a collective treaty that guaranteed the borders of Germany and remaining Czechoslovakia. Moreover, in Bad Godesberg, Hitler had promised Chamberlain that once he had been given the Sudetenland, he would not make any further territorial claims. None of these promises he kept and this humiliation of the Allied leaders was one of the causes of the wave of aversion to Germany and Hitler, which arose among voters in the West in 1938-39.

President Hacha of Czechoslovakia meets Adolf Hitler
President Hacha of Czechoslovakia meets Adolf Hitler. Photo Pinterest.

Buchanan cites Michael Bloch: "Hitlers plan was to provoke a civil war in Czechoslovakia by secretly encouraging secessionists in Slovakia and Ruthenia: German troops would then intervene to "restore order".

But there arose another option: In March 1939, the Czechoslovak President Hacha, Benes' successor, dismissed the Slovak prime minister Father Tiso. Czech troops moved into Bratislava and established a new Slovak government, loyal to the Prague government. Father Tiso asked for help from Hitler and was told that if he did not declare Slovakia's independence, Hitler would not oppose Hungary's annexation of all of Slovakia. Then Slovakia declared itself independent and was quickly followed by Rutenia, thus dissolving the last remnant of the Versailles Treaty's Czechoslovakia. Then Hitler gave the Hungarians green light to annex Ruthenia, but they had to stay away from Slovakia.

Buchanan writes: "President Hacha asked to see Hitler. Elderly and sick, he was invited to Berlin accompanied by his daughter." - "After 1 AM, Hacha was ushered in to see the Fuehrer, who bullied him for three hours telling him the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were preparing to strike his country. After Hacha suffered an apparent heart attack, German doctors revived him. Just before 4, AM Hacha signed a statement by which he "confidently placed the fate of the Czech people and country in the hands of the Fuhrer of the German Reich."

Adolf Hitler at Prague Castle
Adolf Hitler at Prague Castle. Foto Wikimedia Commons.

On March 15, 1939, the German Wehrmacht moved into the rest of Czechoslovakia, and from Prague Castle, Hitler proclaimed the protectorate "Bohemia and Moravia". In this way, Germany could now have to its disposal the famous Skoda Works, which had been the late Austria-Hungary's most important weapon manufacturer. Skoda manufactured many different tanks and guns of high quality.

Thus the Munich agreement, the altarpiece of Chamberlain's career, pillar of his European policy, lay in ruin.

The Danzig Crises

A November day in 1938, seventeen-year-old Herschel Grynszpan entered the German Embassy in Paris and shot third secretary Ernst von Rath. The young man's family had been deprived of all their property and interned from Hamburg to Poland in railway freight wagons along with some thousands of other Polish Jews who lived in Germany. A British woman who worked for the Red Cross tells: "I found thousands crammed in pigsties. The old, the sick, and the kids crammed under the most inhumane conditions." Warsaw threatened to cancel their passports, which would make them stateless and thus also lawless and deprived of any rights. Herschel Grynszpan's aunt sent him a letter telling her what had happened. He then bought a gun and entered the German embassy in Paris and declared that he had an important document for the ambassador. The receptionist summoned Ernst von Rath, and Herchel pulled the gun from his briefcase and shot him.

Jewish owned shoe store the morning after the Crystal Night
Jewish owned shoe store the morning after the Crystal Night. Photo Bundesarchiv Wikimedia Commons.

When von Rath died two days later, hell broke loose in Germany.

On the night of November 9-10, Nazi storm troopers went on a rampage, smashing windows, looting Jewish shops, burning synagogues, beating and lynching Jews. Scores perished. Hundreds were assaulted in what would be known Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, the greatest progrom in Germany since the Middle Ages.

Kristallnacht was a shameful crime and a historic blunder. Much of the goodwill garnered by the 1936 Berlin Olympic and Munich, which the democracies still believed had averted war, was washed away. The United States called its ambassador home. "Nazi treatment of the Jews," wrote Taylor, "did more than anything else to turn English moral feeling against Germany, and this moral feeling, in turn, made English people less reluctant to go to war."

Naturally, in terms of terror and killing, Hitler did not at all match Stalin in 1939, but the Germans were England's traditional enemy, that's the way it was.

As one might expect - after his success in Czechoslovakia - Hitler now turned his eyes to Danzig. Danzig was 95% German. Before Versailles, the city had never belonged to Poland. Germany was deprived of Danzig in Paris and it was declared a free city to be administered by a High Commissioner appointed by the League of Nations to give Poland a port towards the Baltic. When the Poles now built their own port, Gdynia, and could continue to use Danzig, Warsaw no longer needed to rule Danzig. In addition, the 350,000 Danzig citizens agitated for a return to Germany.

Danzig and Gdynia
The free City of Danzig and the new Polish port city of Gdynia. Photo Pinterest

Taylor says: "Danzig was the most justified of German grievances: a city of an exclusively German population which manifestly wished to return to the Reich and which Hitler himself restrained only with difficulty. The solution too seemed peculiarly easy. Halifax never wearied of suggesting that Danzig should return to German sovereignty, with safeguards for Polish trade."

Chamberlain also believed Danzig was to be returned. Taylor wrote: "The British did not count Danzig for any major problem or, if they did, they sympathized with the German case." - "Lord Halifax considered Danzig and the corridor as "an absurdity".

24. October 1938 foreign minister Ribbentrop made a surprise offer to the Polish ambassador Jozef Lipski: If Warsaw would permit "the reunion of Danzig with the Reich" and consent to Germany's building of "an extra-territorial motor road and railway line across the corridor", Berlin would leave Warsaw in control of the economic and railway facilities in Danzig and guarantee Polish frontiers. With the issues of Danzig and the corridor resolved, Ribbentrop told Lipski, a "joint policy towards Russia on the basis of the Anti-Comintern pact" could be adopted. Ribbentrop was offering the Poles a Berlin-Warsaw alliance against Russia.

5. January 1939 Hitler invited Jozef Beck to Berchtesgaden and with a patience that Schussnigg would not have been able to recognize, he explained his proposal and ended with: "The connection with the East Prussia is an equally crucial issue for Germany, as the connection to the sea is for Poland" - "For Hitler, it was a remarkably moderate demand" writes British historian Basil Lidell Hart. But Beck declined to negotiate and gave no concessions at all.

Danzig in the 1930's
Danzig in the 1930's. Photo Pinterest.

26. January 1939 Joachim von Ribbentrop met with Polish President Ignacy Moscicki and Foreign Minister Jozef Beck in Warsaw. He was received in Warsaw with the most exquisite courtesy. Guest and hosts surpassed each other in their assurances of willingness to maintain peaceful relationships. But when Ribbentrop returned to the German proposal, in practice he achieved nothing.

18. February 1939 Heinrich Himmler came to Warsaw. After meeting Deputy Prime Minister Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski and Jozef Beck, he left again at night.

22. March 1939 Polish political key people met at the Warsaw Castle. Present were President Ignacy Moscicki, Army Commander Edward Rydz-Smigly, Foreign Minister Jozef Beck and Deputy President Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski. Everyone agreed that Poland would not accept the German proposal for extra-territorial rail and road link between East Prussia and the rest of Germany. This underlines that it was not only Jozef Beck who refused to negotiate with Germany, but he was probably supported by most of the Polish political elite.

Taylor writes: "With blind faith in their own strength and contempt for the Czech softness, they were determined not to give an inch; they thought this was the only safe way to negotiate with Hitler. Moreover, there was a point that Hitler never understood - even if they did not want to cooperate with Soviet Russia against Germany, they were almost just as decided not to cooperate with Germany against Soviet Russia. They considered themselves to be an independent great power and forgot that they had only achieved their independence in 1918 because both Russia and Germany had been defeated. Now they had to choose between Germany and Russia. They chose none of them. Only Danzig prevented cooperation between Germany and Poland. For that reason, Hitler wanted to get the problem out of the way. For the very same reason, Beck held it in the way. He did not realize that this could cause a fatal development."

Adolf Hitler and Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck
Adolf Hitler and Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck. Poland, under foreign policy leadership of Jozef Beck, wanted neither to ally with Germany or Russia. Unlike the Presidents Schussnigg of Austria and later Hacha of Czechoslovakia, he did move an inch, regardless of whether Hitler lured or threatened, and it should cost Poland dearly.

26. March 1939 After the final dissolution of the Czechoslovakian state and the establishment of the Bohemia and Moravia protectorate, Ribbentrop made a final attempt to convince the Poles - The answer was delivered by Ambassador Lipski on behalf of Beck and left no possibility of misunderstandings. "The Poles want to remain our enemies" Der Fuhrer's words were noted by Goebbels.

However, due to some unfounded rumours, Halifax and Chamberlain believed Beck was entering into an agreement with Germany. "Poland must be guaranteed," Chamberlain wrote to his sister.

30. March 1939 An astonished Colonel Beck received the British Ambassador who asked if Warsaw would object if Britain gave an unconditional guarantee of Poland's independence in the event of attacks by Germany - Beck accepted.

31. Marts 1939 Chamberlain announced in the "House of Commons" the guarantee of Polish independence, stating that Britain would go to war with Germany if an attempt was made to end Polish independence.

This decision was the fatal political stupidity that led directly to the outbreak of World War II. Duff Cooper, who had resigned as first Lord in protest against Munich, wrote in his diary: "Never before in our history, we have left the decision as to whether Britain must go to war or not in the hands of one of the smaller powers."

France followed Britain's example and guaranteed Polish independence. But the Western powers had no means of bringing sufficient military forces to Poland. "The thing is, we cannot save these Eastern nations." wrote Sir Maurice Hankey, retired secretary of the Empire Defense.

But, unfortunately, when Warsaw had been given its war guarantee from the two major Western democracies, any Polish concessions were out of the question. They even declined more decisively any negotiation with Germany.

Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII called for peace, but also for negotiation. Foto Countdown To WW2.

3. April 1939 Taylor reports that Jozef Beck visited London. Chamberlain and Halifax realized what they had done and tried to bring him to reason, but in vain. Beck had stood up to Hitler without flinching; he was not likely to be moved by gentle promptings from Chamberlain and Halifax. With his usual "great Power" arrogance, he was prepared to turn the one-sided British Guarantee into a pact of mutual assistance - "the only basis that any self-respecting country would respect". Otherwise, he was steadily obstinate. He "had not noticed any signs of dangerous military action on the part of Germany", "no negotiations were proceeding" over Danzig"; "The German Government had not questioned the Polish rights in Danzig, and they have recently confirmed them." Thus, he as good as implied that Poland was conferring a favour on Great Britain by agreeing to an alliance. But the alliance, he insisted, must be exclusive between the two; the "peace front" and collective security vanished from the scene. Extending the agreement to Rumania would be very dangerous. This would drive Hungary into the arms of Germany; and "in case of a conflict Poland and Germany, the help that Poland could expect from Rumania would be rather negligible". Beck was even firmer against any association with Soviet Russia. "There were two things which it was impossible for Poland to do, namely to make her policy dependent upon either Berlin or upon Moscow.

13. April 1939 Chamberlain had lost touch with reality. He began distributing war guarantees to the whole of Europe. He informed a frightened House of Commons that his Majesty's government had decided to guarantee the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey and Romania.

Two-thirds of a century later, these war guarantees still evoke the words Lloyd George used, "madness" and "demented", Buchanan writes. In 1939, the Allies did not have the strength to save these countries. From 1914 to 1918, the Allies were hardly able to keep the Germans out of Paris. Since then, the Allied camp had lost Russia, the United States, Japan, Italy and Czechoslovakia, while Germany had increased its strength with the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia and was now an ally with Italy, Slovakia and Hungary. Two million American soldiers had been needed in 1918 to make the Germans give up.

24. April 1939 Hitler announced his denunciation of the Anglo-German naval agreement and - more alarmingly - his non-aggression pact with Poland.

In confidence in Britain and France, the Poles had defied Hitler and refused to negotiate. Had they known the truth - that Britain and France would let them down - the Poles could have accepted Danzig's transfer to the Germans, whose city it had always been, and a terrible war could have been averted.

28. April 1939 Hitler still kept the door open. He made an offer to Poland, reiterating his earlier proposals carefully omitting the German invitation for them to participate in a block aimed at Russia.

Polish President Ignacy Moscicki
Polish President Ignacy Moscicki. In response to a call for peace by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he explained on August 25 why Poland did not want to negotiate: "Although I clearly want to avoid giving the appearance of wanting to win on this occasion by presenting relevant facts, I nevertheless consider it my duty to make clear that in the current crisis, Poland is not formulating requirements and require concessions from any other state. It is therefore quite natural that Poland should refrain from any action of this kind." Foto Wikipedia

5. May 1939 Beck rejected the offer in a speech in the Polish Parliament. But the Germans were still convinced that the British would pressure the Poles to negotiate over Danzig as they believed the Allies might have realized that "Danzig is not worth a European war". But nothing happened, no one talked.

It is easy to see that was needed was that Britain and France should twist the arms of their Polish allies and pressure them to be more reasonable. But the problem was that they before had twisted the arms of the Czechs making them give concessions to Germany, and because of this their voters had become very angry and branded it as cowardly appeasement of Hitler. The Western politicians feared that if they tried to pressure the Poles to make concessions over Danzig, they would not be re-elected.

12. May 1939 An agreement on mutual assistance between France and Poland was signed in Paris by Polish Ambassador Juliusz Lukasiewicz and French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet.

13. May 1939 Italian Foreign Minister Ciano informed Jozef Beck that in the event of future Polish-German conflicts, Italy would support Germany.

The German-Soviet pact is signed
The German-Soviet pact is signed in Moscow August 1939. Molotov is signing, behind him to the left stands Ribbentrop and to the right Stalin. Photo Wikipedia.

12. August 1939 Both parties courted the Soviet Union. In Moscow, negotiations between military delegations from France, Britain and the Soviet Union started. But they made only small progress because all Eastern European countries unanimously refused to allow Soviet troops to enter their territory for fear that they would never leave again.

23. August 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed the German-Soviet Pact. The deal had two parts. An economic agreement, according to which Germany was to exchange finished goods with Soviet raw materials. The second part was a ten-year non-assault pact, where each signatory promised not to attack the other. The Non-Attack Pact contained a secret protocol defining the division of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe into Soviet and German areas of interest.

"Stalin would have been a fool if he did not accept Hitler's offer, " writes Buchanan," His covenant with Hitler allowed him to occupy and "bolshevism" six Christian nations and gave the Red Army two years to prepare on the upcoming war with Germany."

24. August 1939 Pope Pius XII called for peace, but also for negotiations: "The danger is imminent, but there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace; everything can be lost with war. Let men return to mutual understanding! Let them begin negotiations again with good will - "

25. August 1939 In Moscow, the Soviet-French-British negotiations were concluded without success. A Polish-British mutual aid pact was signed in London, further complicating Poland's relationship with Germany.

Also this day, the British ambassador in Berlin, Henderson, had a conversation with Adolf Hitler. In his report, he very aptly described the British point of view: "The conversation lasted one hour, as it was my attitude that the Russian Pact in no way changed the view of His Majesty's government, and that I could honestly tell him that Britain could not go back to its word to Poland and that I knew his offer would not be taken into consideration unless it included a negotiated solution to the Polish question."

Henderson very well describes the two conditions that brought the war to Europe. Namely, that the British had failed their promise to the Czechs at the Munich settlement, and the British voters would not tolerate their politicians also betray the promise that they so improvidently had given to the Poles. Moreover, the Poles kept Europe's steady course against the abyss by forcefully rejecting any negotiation with Germany on Danzig - in confidence in the Allies' promises.

26. August 1939 Adolf Hitler changed his order, and the attack on Poland was postponed until 1. September.

Birger Dahlerus
Goering's friend, the Swedish businessman Birger Dahlerus, flew many times between London, Berlin and Warsaw in a last desperate attempt to ward off the war. But all attempts glanced of on the Polish rejection of any negotiation with Germany. When the war was a fact, he expressed his disappointment: "The Poles sabotaged everything". He said he had "evidence that they never intended to negotiate". Foto Countdown To WW2.

31. August 1939 Joachim von Ribbentrop for the last time sees the Polish Ambassador in Berlin, Jozef Lipski. But without success. At 12:40 Adolf Hitler ordered the attack on Poland the next morning.

1. September 1939 at 4.45 in the morning, Germany launched an attack on Poland.

3. September 1939 Britain responded with an ultimatum to Germany to stop military operations, and when it expired, a declaration of war followed.

Buchanan writes: "It was the war guarantee - that guaranteed the war."

When the British declaration of war became known in Berlin, Goering commented to his interpreter Schmidt: "If we lose this war, may God have mercy with us". Albert Speer commented: "From my observations, I concluded that this start of real war was not what Hitler had planned."

The War

General Gamelin had assured the Poles that within fifteen days after a German attack, forty divisions "most of the French army" would be directed to attack Germany. But no French offensive ever came.

Battle of Westerplatte in Danzig
The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein bombards the Polish army depot at the Westerplatte peninsula in Danzig harbor on 1. September 1939. The Poles held out for seven days. Photo AP Wikipedia.

Chamberlain had known all along that his war guarantee was worthless. He confided to the US Ambassador, Joe Kennedy, who wrote in his diary: "Chamberlain says that everything is in vain, it is terrible fact is that they can not save the Poles, they can only wage a war of revenge that will mean the destruction of Europe." But it was day-dreaming; In 1939, the United Kingdom had only 4-5 divisions to send to war, which is to be compared with the French and German armies, each of which numbered more than a hundred divisions.

"The British standpoint in 1939 was undoubtedly heroic," wrote Taylor, "but it was heroism mainly at the expense of others."

Buchanan writes: "Stalin had seen Hitler annex Austria, cut the Sudetenland out of Czechoslovakia, transform Bohemia and Moravia into a protectorate, Slovakia into an ally, retake Memel and start taking action against Poland - without not even a shot being fired. Stalin knew: After Poland, it would be his turn. That would mean a Nazi-Bolshevik war, where he had to face the German Wehrmacht alone" - "On March 31 relief came to him. The United Kingdom and France declared that they would fight for Poland, the buffer state between Russia and Germany. British Tories had become guarantors of Bolshevism. Moscow had been given for free, for what Stalin would have paid a czar's ransom."
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"Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War - How Britain lost its empire and the West lost the World" by Patrick J. Buchanan. - Three River Press New York.

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