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History Club
Military history and past events only. Rants or inflamitory comments will be removed.
Hosted by Frank Amato
Poland Sep. 1939
Washington, United States
Joined: August 17, 2004
KitMaker: 301 posts
AeroScale: 26 posts
Posted: Monday, November 16, 2009 - 05:14 AM UTC
O.k. since most who visit this site know what happened militarily during the invasions of Poland, this discussion is geared more towards the politics. So with that in mind, why in the very public Polish-British Common Defense act was the term "European Power" used when referencing an invading power but in the secret protocal the term "European Power" was to be "Germany"? There fore when the Soviet Union "invaded" Poland Sep. 17, Poland was told by the U.K. that due to the secret protocal's reference to "European Power as being Germany only" the U.K. had no obligation to declare war on the Soviet Union. The Polish-British Common Defense act was signed two days "after" the Nazi-Soviet pact. Did the U.K. know that the Soviet Union was planning to invade Poland? Was it this knowledge that had them insert the secret protocal referencing Germany only, not wanting to mess with the Soviets for what ever reason? Also, why didn't Poland declare war on the Soviet Union and why were Polish troops told not to confront Soviet forces except when directly engaged? Just a few questions for discussion.

Colorado, United States
Joined: February 01, 2003
KitMaker: 5,221 posts
AeroScale: 36 posts
Posted: Monday, November 16, 2009 - 06:36 AM UTC
I have often heard it asked why Britain and France did not declare war on the Soviet Union after they invaded Poland, but this is the first I've heard that there was a secret protocol explaining this. I can only honestly say that Britain and France would have been fools indeed to declare war on the Soviets and Germany at the same time. I would also hazard a guess that the Poles were told not to confront the Soviets because Poland might have thought the Soviets were coming to their, the Poles, rescue.

Another matter that is also interesting to me is how badly Britain and France blew it by not courting the Soviets prior to the German/Soviet non aggression pact. If Britain and France had concluded some kind of agreement with the Soviets and Germany knew that they would automatically be entering into a two front war with any aggression the whole course of world history might have been changed.

Hamilton, New Zealand
Joined: February 07, 2009
KitMaker: 795 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009 - 07:07 AM UTC
It's been a long time ( 20+ years ) since I studied the origins of WWII so some of this may be a little off base as the memory is fuzzy.

Chamberlain declared war on Germany ( and dragged France in against their wishes ) because he was forced to make a show of strength against German "aggression" by opposition strengths within the British government, not least of which was Churchill.

England had a strong communist party at the time, a strong pro-soviet movement and they had till then been allies with the Russia being seen as the guarantee against Germany ( previously the Austro-Hungarian empire ) as at the time the thinking was still 18th century warfare and it was believed that the safest way for things to be was to have an ally on each of Germany's borders, France on one side and Russia on the other.

After Germany defeated Russia in 1917 she was no longer seen as a european power ( especially after the revolution ) so they turned to Poland which was specifically created after WWI to give France an ally on the other side of Germany. Poland in 1930s was seen as a strong power with a strong military ( keep in mind so was France and England at the time despite the fact they each knew the truth was that they had no miltary strength to speak of ).

Britain entered into the alliance with Poland under the belief that it would never be used and signed up France without consulting them first. Britain believed that Germany's claim to the Danzig corridor was fair and just and wanted Poland to concede but at the same time everyone was posturing to put forward a show of force and deterence against Germany continuing to regain its lost territories. Ironically Britain believed they had at least another week and a half to convince Poland to give in before Germany attacked as they believed Hitler wouldn't do anything until after a rally scheduled for the 10th of September ( can't remember the name of the rally but it was a big "state-of-nation" type one where they believed he would announce his intent and give them a deadline ).

Britain and France had basically delivered up Checoslovakia on a platter ( as with the Danzig corridor the western powers believed that Germany had a just claim to repatriation of the Sudatenland ) and would happily have done the same with Poland except the Polish leader ( forget his name sorry ) wouldn't play ball so when Germany invaded Poland Britain had the choice of just letting it go and thereby breaking the agreement they had with Poland to come to their aid ( effectively losing face ) or declaring war, they did the latter as Chamberlain believed his government wouldn't survive yet another failure to show strength after Austria and Checoslovakia ( and the faked but incedibly important Romanian incident ).

They made the agreement with regards to the Soviet Union ostensibly so that Russia could also "come to the aid of Poland" as Russia had said that they could not attack Germany without going through Poland and Poland had said they would consider that an act of aggression against them but I do suspect it was also because Britain didn't actually give a toss about what happened to Poland but was rather once again courting Russia as they had once again emerged as a European power now that they had dealt with their internal problems and as France had been courting them before the surprise of the German-Russian non-aggression pact both Britain and France saw them as important to be bought over to their side as they were scared of what a combined German-Russian alliance would mean to the balance of power in Europe.

So I suspect that the initial lack of opposition to the Russian "invasion" was that they didn't think it was an invasion but rather Russia coming to their aid as they had been led to believe by Britain. Sort of like the way initially Stalin didn't believe reports that Germany had invaded him, that few days of confusion is sufficient to allow the invader to penetrate too deep to easily stop.

When considering all this one needs to always keep in mind the political mentality of european powers in the first part of the 20th century was not what it is now, everyone existed in a constant state of fear of war from a neighbouring country, countries vied for recognition as a power based on their empire and their military strength ( one would really need to be aware of the feelings of imminent war that existed between the USSR and USA in the very early 1980s to be able to compare in a small way the way things were ).

It all concludes in the question - if Britain had not declared war on Germany would there have been a second world war ? Or would Germany as promised have been happy to make no further claims westward and instead followed the plan to move eastward in '43.

And even though Britain did declare war, due to Germany's continued efforts to reconstruct peace with Britain after September 1939 ( the so called Phoney War period ) would the war in europe ( the invasion of the resource rich areas of Russia were always on the cards ) have ended there had Britain not attacked Germany in Norway ? In other words would there have been a declaration, a rattling of swords till a decent time had passed to allow a peace to be reached without feeling like someone backed down.