Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

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Steve
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Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Steve » 12 Sep 2016 03:37

On January 5 1939 Beck the Polish Foreign Minister met Hitler at Berchtesgarden. Hitler talked about the return of Danzig to the Reich and the desirability of an overland connection between Germany and East Prussia across the Polish Corridor. In return he offered to guarantee Polish rights in Danzig and guarantee Poland’s western border. Polish German military co-operation against Russia and future gains in the Ukraine was also mentioned. Hitler was well behaved and assured Beck that there would be no faits accomplis in Danzig. Beck replied that he did not see anything in the Chancellors proposals “equivalent” to Danzig and that Polish public opinion was very sensitive over the issue.

On Beck’s return to Warsaw a meeting was convened at the royal castle. Present were Beck, Marshall Smigly-Rydz, the Polish President and the Prime minister. After the meeting Beck told his Chef de Cabinet Lubienski to find some way of compromising with Germany over Danzig. Lubienski met the German ambassador Moltke and put forward a project for agreement. Its main points were that the League of Nations mandate over the free city of Danzig would be abolished and replaced by a joint German Polish condominium. Poland’s economic rights and privileges would be guaranteed. Danzig’s inhabitants could decide whether they wanted to live under German or Polish rule.

The condominium would have directed the administration of the city thus ensuring Poland’s interests were protected. As the city was certain to decide on German rule Hitler would be able to keep his promise of returning Danzig to the Reich, more or less.

A second meeting was held at the castle two days after the first. Beck now instructed Lubienski to drop the project. It had been decided that if Germany pursued her demands they were to be interpreted as pretexts for a conflict. Poland would adopt a firm line and any hesitation could have serious consequences for its independence. Moltke tried to raise the matter with Lubienski but there was no further discussion. Was Hitler informed on what had been talked about?

After the port of Gdynia was built Danzig lost a good deal of its importance and by 1939 was mostly handling bulk cargoes. Danzig probably needed Polish trade more than Poland needed the port. From an economic point of view if the city had been returned to Germany it was not the end of the world for Poland.

It seems that Hitler was at this time trying to solve the problem without resorting to war. If this Polish concession had been put forward it may have avoided war in 1939 and perhaps later a compromise could have been found over an extraterritorial link across the corridor. For how long Hitler was prepared to negotiate is a guess. He may have thought that France would not interfere (and he was right) so eventually Poland would give way rather than fight a war it could not win.

The British guarantee changed everything causing Hitler to break off negotiations. Refusing to make meaningfull concessions when Germany was militarily in a different class was possibly not the right course of action. Accepting a guarantee from Britain when it could do almost nothing to help militarily was also perhaps not a good decision. To believe that the French army would leave the Maginot Line and advance into Germany (it could not go through Belgium) after a couple of weeks of war was optimistic.

Source: - Poland and the Western Powers 1938 – 1939 p.190/191 by A. Cienciala

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Michael Kenny » 12 Sep 2016 04:09

Given that Hitler never kept to a single treaty or promise then all it would have done is delay that start of the eventual war. You can not negotiate with a lunatic.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Stiltzkin » 12 Sep 2016 07:05

Yes, it does not matter, dictators always want more, they are rarely saturated. Chamberlain made the same mistake.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 12 Sep 2016 10:09

It's hard not to notice that no source is given for all of this, and the author seems to conflate earlier and later events together.

That in two days all these happened:
- a meeting was convened at the royal castle,
- Beck told his Chef de Cabinet Lubienski to find some way of compromising with Germany over Danzig,
- Lubienski met the German ambassador Moltke and put forward a project for agreement,
- A second meeting was held at the castle two days after the first.
is simply nonsense. Diplomacy never happens so fast. It this case It wouldn't be diplomacy, but surrender.

Especially that:
8 January. Record of the conversation between the Under Secretary of State and the Ambassador in Berlin about Minister Beck's meeting with Chancellor Hitler at Berchtesgaden on 5 January.
Warsaw, 8 January 1939
Record of Count Szembek's conversation with Mr. Lipski
[...]
The Chancellor further declared that he was interested in the Ukraine from the economic viewpoint, but he had no interest in it politically.
The Chancellor then discussed the Danzig question, and emphasized that, as it was a German city, sooner or later it must return to the Reich. He stated that, in his opinion, by way of mutual agreement it would be possible to find some way out and achieve a form of guarantee to the legitimate interests of both Poland and Germany. If an agreement was reached on this question, all difficulties between the two States could quite definitely be settled and cleared out of the way. He emphasized that he was ready in that case to give an assurance, similar to that which he had given France with respect to Alsace and Lorraine, and to Italy with respect to the Brenner. Finally, he drew attention, without stressing the matter, to the necessity for greater freedom of communication between Germany and East Prussia.

M. Beck replied that the Danzig question was a very difficult problem. He added [very strongly - bardzo mocno] that in the Chancellor's suggestion he did not see any equivalent for Poland, and that the whole of Polish opinion, and not only people thinking politically but the widest spheres of Polish society, were particularly sensitive on this matter.

In answer to this the Chancellor stated that to solve this problem it would be necessary to try to find something quite new, some new form, for which he used the term Körperschaft , which on the one hand would safeguard the interests of the German population, and on the other the Polish interests. In addition, the Chancellor declared that the Minister could be quite at ease, there would be no faits accomplis in Danzig and nothing would be done to render difficult the situation of the Polish Government.
10 January. Circular of the Minister of Foreign Affairs about Hitler's policy
Warsaw, 10 January 1939
Cipher cable No. 2.
The discussions in Berchtesgaden and Munich were useful in checking the German political line after the Czechoslovak crisis. They showed Germany's unchanged intention to continue the policy of good neighbourly relations with Poland.

Moreover, I noted that the rumours about Hitler's intentions in Eastern Europe, where Hitler favours a policy of economic exchange of goods, exaggerated. Otherwise, his Eastern policy continues to be marked by a sharp anti-Russian attitude.

Colonial matters have moved to the forefront of the Chancellor's interests.

About France the Chancellor spoke with relative kindness.

Beck
from: Polish Documents on Foreign Policy. The Polish Institute of International Affairs.

So it seems the leading Polish diplomats didn't notice anything unusual at that point of time, and for them, and for Mr. Beck it was still business as usual. The
"Hitler talked about the return of Danzig to the Reich and the desirability of an overland connection between Germany and East Prussia across the Polish Corridor. In return he offered to guarantee Polish rights in Danzig and guarantee Poland’s western border. Polish German military co-operation against Russia and future gains in the Ukraine was also mentioned."
wasn't mentioned at all at that time - at all.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by henryk » 12 Sep 2016 19:23

A German Danziger view:
http://www.danzigfreestate.org/history. ... ]September 1939 - March 1945

The Free State of Danzig under the Dictatorship of the Third Reich

Immediately, being occupied by Germany, Danzig citizenry found themselves being put under strict martial law and German dictatorship!
Freedom of speech and assembly was suspended.
Immediately, the male population was pressed into War service
Dissent or resistance was useless, also made no sense to fight one's own blood relations with bare hands. The few whow did, like this writer's father and uncle, became the target of the Gestapo and finished up in Concentration camps to be re-educated, and later drafted into the Army.
On the whole however, German troops were welcomed with open arms as Liberators from Polish oppression and tyranny!
And what a Polish tyranny, and dirty trick oppression it had been, an outside tyranny imposed on our people that had lasted far too long, from the word go, from 1918!

Immediately also, Germany suspended (unlawfully) the Danzig constitution, made it null and void, on paper, not in reality or in law, as Hitler did not even bother to recover from the Danzig population a plebiscite as he should have done.
And would have got in all probability! But it did not happen, and that makes all the difference!

A Plebiscite that was required under provision of a "peculiar German Law", to allow for lawful incorporation into the German Reich.
Strange as it seems, Hitler did not bother do it. For him it was a fait d' accompli.
Legally then, under strict German Law, Hitler's action to incorporate Danzig into the Third Reich was null and void as there is no legal basis under which Danzig was incorporated into the Reich!

Legally therefore, under International Law, the City State of Danzig still does exist, to this very day!

Immediately, at Day of occupation, Danzig was robbed of her Gold reserves, and the Danzig Gulden, based on the currency of Gold, was confiscated.

Germany introduced the Reichsmark as legal currency, and everyone had to exchange the Danzig Gulden, i. e. all the coinage was in Gold, Sterling Silver, or Copper, whereas the German Reichs- Mark was just Paper money! A very bad exchange therefore.

Every thing else of worth was also confiscated, like all State property, rolling stock, ships etc., all and every other facility was turned into War material.
[/quote]

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Steve » 13 Sep 2016 00:18

When wm says no source is quoted does he means the source at the bottom of the page is not a source? The sources Cienciala used in her book are Michael Lubienski, ‘Ostatnie Negocjaje w Sprawie Gdanska’ (Last Negotiations on Danzig), Dziennik Polski i Dziennik Zolnierza, London 3 December 1953, and the Czembek Journal for January 10 1939 pp, 407-408. Surely these men are impeccable sources.

There can be little doubt that Hitler in 1939 was looking for a resolution of his problems with Poland without using force. The famous historian Ian Kershaw in his book Hitler 1936-1945 gives this analysis of Hitler’s thoughts. Hitler expected pressure on the Poles to work as it had with Czechoslovakia. Eventually the Poles would see sense and give him what he wanted over Danzig and the corridor. Afterwards Poland would become a German satellite and join in attacking the Soviet Union. He was determined to keep Poland out of Britain’s clutches.

Hitler did not definitely decide on solving the problem by force until Poland accepted the British guarantee. This was given for reasons that had nothing to do with Danzig and the Corridor. If Poland had made the concession in 1939 that it considered at the castle meeting it may well have strung the matter out till 1940 or beyond. The Polish leadership probably thought that Hitler would never be satisfied and therefore they would make no meaningful concessions at all.

When this policy was decided on in January Poland could not count on the UK and France would do nothing without the UK so it was a very dangerous policy. Without the threat of a general European war to consider Hitler could take what he wanted whenever he wanted and the Poles could not stop him. Hitler never considered the Polish army a serious opponent.

I would guess that Beck was for the concession but Rydz-Smigly and the others were against. The Polish approach to negotiating with Hitler could perhaps be called Kamikaze diplomacy or death before dishonour.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 13 Sep 2016 02:10

Steve wrote:When wm says no source is quoted does he means the source at the bottom of the page is not a source? The sources Cienciala used in her book are Michael Lubienski, ‘Ostatnie Negocjaje w Sprawie Gdanska’ (Last Negotiations on Danzig), Dziennik Polski i Dziennik Zolnierza, London 3 December 1953, and the Czembek Journal for January 10 1939 pp, 407-408. Surely these men are impeccable sources.
These are good sources but we don't know if they support what that woman wrote. Most likely they don't.

It was impossible that such a project for an agreement could be created, and put forward to Moltke in one day.
It was impossible that a minor figure like Lubieński would be given such a task, and discussed it with another minor figure - Moltke. Especially that both of them weren't in the loop, and didn't take any part in the earlier meetings.
Such a critical for Poland issue would be negotiated by Beck personally and with Hitler or Ribbentrop. Nobody else would do.
No diplomat would so hastily surrender to demands, it would be a grave negotiation error.

Even more, Beck himself in his book Final Report doesn't mention this development at all. He merely says that the January Hitler's
demands weren't serious, that after his retort he dropped them.
That he believed Hitler wasn't certain it was worthy to pursue them any further.

It's true that during the meeting at the royal castle he said a war was possible but it was with a big "if" attached - if the Germans pursue this matter any further. He personally believed they wouldn't.
The documents produced by him and his ministry at that time fully support this fact.

As Hitler didn't seriously ask for any concessions there was no need to make them.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Steve » 13 Sep 2016 13:58

Cieciala was born in Gdansk and spent most of her working life as a Professor at Kansas University. She probably forgot what the lot of us know. The only fault I would find with her is that she is rather to ready to give the benefit of the doubt to the Polish side. Unfortunately she only wrote 2 books though some of her lectures are available online.

The Poles were only exploring German reaction to a possible concession they were not making one so there was no need for ministerial discussion. It is highly unlikely that the Chef de Cabinet to Beck would lie. Unfortunately I have not been able to get hold of a copy of Beck’s memoirs. Often the writer of memoirs will suffer from a defective memory and Churchill is a fine example of this. There is a film on YouTube I was watching a few weeks ago that compares Beck’s version of something with other accounts and Beck’s version was wrong.

What I find odd about the 1939 negotiations is that both Beck and Smigly-Rydz said when in Rumania that they had expected Poland to lose if it came to war. Surely if you think you will lose a war you do almost anything to avoid it. In February 1938 Horthy of Hungary paid a state visit to Poland, during the visit he advised the Poles that they should give up the corridor and Danzig. Horthy decided not to oppose what Hitler wanted and his country emerged from WW2 in better shape than Poland.

I am now leaving rain swept politically correct Britain to go on holiday for a week.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 13 Sep 2016 18:09

I don't believe Beck ever said he expected the defeat. It's usually alleged he seriously underestimated the German Army's capabilities.

It was Śmigły who wrote at the end of 1939 he expected to lose the battle (for Poland) but win the war. Or rather that the war would be won by the Allies anyway. And that the Polish sacrifice would give the Allies the time and opportunities for their victory. That Poland would emerge from the war politically stronger than before.
There is some evidence he considered this eventuality before the war too.

As to the meeting at the castle, Olgierd Terlecki who have written the most detailed Beck's biography so far says exactly the same. There weren't any political trial balloons. Hitler was uncertain in his demands - or rather requests. Beck didn't treat them seriously, was annoyed by them, and suspect it was Ribbentrop not Hitler behind them.
Actually he says Beck was blind to the threat, and finally saw the light in March. And he cities extensively Łubieński and Szembek, not merely says they wrote this or that.


It should be mentioned too that Danzig wasn't Polish, it was a free, self governing territory. The Poles had some commercial rights there, not threatening the rights the Danzingers enjoyed.
A condominium, a power-sharing arrangement between sovereign powers would give the Poles substantially more rights. Poland would be, jointly with Germany, the rulers of that territory, and the Danzigers would become their subjects.
It can't be regarded as a concession by any stretch of imagination.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Steve » 25 Sep 2016 10:43

Beck met the Polish writer Wankowicz in Rumania and was asked whether he had seriously considered a German attack. Apparently Wankowicz did not receive a straight answer. It was Smigly who said that he had expected to lose.

Why anyone would think that Hitler was unsure about what he wanted is a mystery. He wanted Danzig and an extraterritorial road and rail link across the corridor. Apparently he was vague in his proposals about co-operating in an attack on the USSR. Immediately Beck returned from meeting Hitler in early January a meeting of the Polish leadership was held which suggests they were taking what Hitler said very seriously. It was at this meeting and one held a couple of days later that decisions about how to treat German demands were made.

Ribbentrop visited Warsaw in late January 1939 and on the 25th made a speech at a banquet given in his honour which can probably be found online. It would appear from the speech and the wording of a telegram he sent Beck when leaving Poland that he was trying for a peaceful settlement on German terms. After January matters started to go downhill and chances for a negotiated settlement ended with the British guarantee. Hitler then ordered that all matters concerning the Polish question were in his hands.

Though talks between Count Lubienski Beck’s Chef de Cabinet and the German ambassador in January were quickly stopped the ideas put forward were later revived. Anna Cienciala whose book I am using communicated with Lubienski in April 1959 by letter. Lubienski said that in May 1939 he flew to Berlin hoping to meet Goring who had declared peaceful intentions. Goring did not like Ribbentrop and could have been used to counter his pressure for war. The proposal he was going to put to Goering was the same as in January. That is ending the role of the League of Nations in Danzig affairs and for Poland and Germany to run the city through a commission. Danzig would join the Reich but Germany would not have full military and political control as the commission would make sure Polish rights were respected. Goring would not meet Lubienski who only spoke to his secretary.

On May 20 Jan Gawronski the former Polish ambassador to Vienna was asked by Beck to travel to Berlin for a meeting with Von Papen the Chancellor before Hitler. The reason was to try and re-establish contacts with important men in the Reich because after the announcement of the British guarantee there were no longer any discussions. Gawronski and Von Papen were told it was too late. Gawronski wrote about this in an article titled Polityka Palacu Bruhla Wiziana od Loursa published January 12 1958 in Kierunki, Warsaw.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 25 Sep 2016 16:00

Wankowicz received his answer, Beck said he expected the Germans would be preoccupied with the Southern Europe, which was actually happening at the end of 1938. He didn't understand it.
Wankowicz with his shallow understanding of international affairs wasn't even capable to engage in a serious discussion with Beck. He wanted to do a hack job on both Beck/Śmigły and did it, and never even bothered to explain what they did wrong.

I've checked the index in the series Polish Diplomatic Documents to see what was Lubienski's role in this, and it seems he was, at least concerning Polish-German relations, a nobody. He debriefed some diplomats, signed some documents when Beck wasn't available, explained things to others, and nothing more.
This is why I'm quite sure it's not true that Beck: " told his Chef de Cabinet Lubienski to find some way of compromising with Germany over Danzig. Lubienski met the German ambassador Moltke and put forward a project for agreement".

Such important question wouldn't be given to anybody, especially the "find some way" part. Beck would do it himself.
This question was one of the most important questions in Poland, for politicians, and for the Polish people. It wouldn't be handled in such a careless way.
Really, Lubienski more and more looks like a secretary that takes a seat in his boss chair and thinks he runs the business.

Another problem: how it was possible that the "find some way", "put forward a project for agreement", and the meeting with the German ambassador happened in one day ("a second meeting was held at the castle two days after the first").

Why it was done with such haste, if in fact Hitler didn't demand anything, only wanted to discuss the question and find an amicable Körperschaft.

Why the answer to Hitler's invitation to further discussion was delivered to the ambassador, no to Hitler. It was a serious diplomatic offense. And why there were no more diplomatic talks, but basically a capitulation to Hitler's non-existing demands.

How on Earth that Danzig deal was going to be sell to the Polish people.
Newspapers were full of claims that Sudetenland couldn't have happened to Poland, that the Czechs were cowards but we were not.
The Poles were proud that Danzig was at least partially theirs. Claims Vistula was the backbone of Poland, Danzig was the gate were repeated frequently. In my opinion it wasn't possible. The then Polish leaders would pay dearly for this. Opposition would have their field day - it would be a total defeat of the ruling party.

And as I said condominium, it was more than the Poles had. Much more. It could be possibly regarded as an amicable Körperschaft.

This story about Lubienski the Saviour really doesn't make sense at all.
Especially the Lubienski's doomed flight to Berlin, strangely mirroring Hess's doomed flight to Britain.

And really if "Lubienski met the German ambassador Moltke and put forward a project for agreement" why it was never mentioned by the Germans during the next meetings with the Poles. It would be an excellent argument to soften their resolve - such an early and quick capitulation.
Why three weeks later Beck proposed this and Ribbentrop agreed without protest - didn't they tell him the Poles had given away much more earlier:
First draft from the report the discussion between Minister Beck and Minister von Ribbentrop during the latter's visit to Warsaw on 26 January 1939

As to Danzig, any day now the League will play a joke on us and will depart along with its High Commissioner.
Poland will then have to demand material guarantees from the Senate of the Free City. I see no reason for haste in settling this matter, but in such a case we could easily find ourselves at once in an open conflict.
Ribbentrop agreed that both sides have to come to an understanding without delay in order to avoid this.
Minister Beck then suggested the following formula: Should the League of Nations change its position or the nature of its role in Danzig, both governments should (within 24 hours?) come to an understanding and announce a declaration to the effect that der bestehende Zustand in Danzig nicht geändert wird.
These formulas were agreed on and reiterated during the discussions on 26 and 27 January.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by Steve » 28 Sep 2016 15:50

A Chef de Cabinet to the minister of foreign affairs is not a nobody. When putting out feelers over how Germany would react to a possible concession by Poland you would not expect Beck to be doing it. Lubienski would talk unofficially to Moltke who would pass it on up the food chain then word would come down and be passed back unofficially to Lubienski. If word of this leaked out it could all be denied as perhaps the drunken rambling of Lubienski. Only when there was no chance of a German snub would Beck make an offer of talks based on this idea. I would have expected a meeting with Moltke but it could have been a telephone call as all Cienciala says is that a conversation took place. If Lubienski before his death said it happened I see no reason for him to lie. What Beck and Ribbentrop agreed on January 26 was very sensible but clearly if the League pulled out the long term future of Danzig would have to be talked about.

Hitler during his meeting with Beck in January raised the possibility of creating a “Korperschaft” or corporation to safeguard Polish and German interests in Danzig. This would in all probability have ended the role of the League in running Danzig affairs. What Lubienski offered Moltke regarding Danzig would seem on this point to have given Hitler what he wanted. It would have been a starting point for negotiations though what Poland could have conceded over road and rail links is hard to see.

Very likely Beck wanted to take a pragmatic approach to the problem. Moltke reported to Berlin on May 24 that Beck was unhappy about giving up his policy of good relations with Germany. Beck was under pressure from public opinion and military circles but he still wanted to reach a compromise with Germany not a capitulation. Moltke was told this by Deputy Foreign Minister Arciszewski.

The British and the Poles completely misinterpreted Hitler’s likely reaction to the guarantee, which is understandable. Hitler decided that talking was over and he would settle the matter by wiping out Poland. Clearly Beck needed to find a way of talking to the Reich leadership if war was to be avoided hence his unofficial attempts. What else could he do even the head of the Polish army expected to lose.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 28 Sep 2016 22:05

As far as I know the follow-up meeting Beck-Ribbentrop in Warsaw (three weeks later) was agreed the day after the Beck-Hitler meeting, so any earlier initiatives would be spurious, unprofessional and really offensive. After all if you are talking to the boss you shouldn't play games with his minion.

Additionally the German requests had been known for two months already, the meeting with Hitler only confirmed that they were somewhat real and not Ribbentrop's own game. So there was no reasons for any haste. It wasn't like he had heard this from Hitler and panicked. Actually well before the Beck-Hitler meeting internal consultations were carried out as to viability of the "extraterritorial road" (on November 1938) - see here.
The narration that panicked Beck returned from the meeting, and the very next day clumsily tried to offer concessions is simply ridiculous.

Anyway a negotiator should never show haste anyway, its a sign of weakness.
Plausible deniability had nothing to do with it, because the other side knew and would exploit any weakness if shown.
Beck was professional politician (better that Ribbentrop and Hitler), and skilled negotiator (called supposedly Mephistopheles for this), he wouldn't make such a mistake.
It is well known he never offered anything himself. Always waited for the other side's move. It was his favorite negotiating tactic.

It's known he believed the Germans had too many problems at hand (internal and external) to be able to demand anything from the Poles in any serious manner. And it is known he believed this till March. So there were no reasons for haste.
Even more the Danzig and Korperschaft were just one of several (totally unrelated) problems discussed, and actually were discussed at the end. Hitler clearly didn't want force the issue, he viewed the situation from the perspective of centuries.
During the meeting three weeks later again it was the last (seventh) point discussed. And Ribbentrop actually admits he's not well prepared for this topic:
7. Danzig. Minister Beck finally said that while the Ukrainian question causes much bad blood in Poland in surface, the most important threat to Polish-German relations is Danzig.

Ribbentrop expressed satisfaction regarding his visit to Warsaw and understanding that perhaps the question had not been sufficiently prepared, given that his visit had been brought forward. He fears that the Chancellor might not have been well understood by Minister Beck.
The Chancellor views the situation from the perspective of centuries (von einer hohen Warte). Germany has in many places undone the Versailles Treaty. The Chancellor, however, is ready to give up territorial claims against Poland, but is encountering much internal opposition on this point. He is ready, however, to push for it for the price of the extraterritorial road and the possibility of the Danzig population to realize the slogan Zuruck zum Reich. The Polish nation should understand how painful losing that territory was for the Germans.

Minister Beck replied that already in Berchtesgaden and Munich he had warned that this was a difficult and dangerous question. As far as communications are concerned, his advice is to forget the term 'extraterritorial road', because Poland is not the Czech state. Many things come to pass in politics and for this reason one has to hold on to certain fundamental notions, such as sovereignty, borders and territory. Poland is not a country governed by parliament, but changes to the state territory are constitutionally reserved for parliament and Minister Beck sees no possibility for himself to present this issue to parliament. The Polish Government, however, is ready to consider most favorably the matter of transit facilitation, even for passenger cars. Transport facilitation could be the subject of negotiations.

Minister Beck further asked how Mr. von Ribbentrop imagines that Polish interests in Danzig may be satisfied. Maritime interests are very important for Poland. Pulling back the Polish customs cordon reduces Danzig to the role of a miserable town. Mr. von Ribbentrop has most probably not studied this question in detail. Ribbentrop admits that, indeed, he has not, and asks how the Berchtesgaden discussion was received in Poland.
And again, Beck's own instruction for his own diplomats, issued a few days after meeting with Hitler, clearly confirms he didn't see any danger, any reason for concern:
The discussions in Berchtesgaden and Munich were useful in checking the German political line after the Czechoslovak crisis. They showed Germany's unchanged intention to continue the policy of good neighbourly relations with Poland.

Moreover, I noted that the rumours about Hitler's intentions in Eastern Europe, where Hitler favours a policy of economic exchange of goods, exaggerated.
As to the "expected to lose" there are some indications he didn't know that. Power in Poland was partitioned among several people, including Beck - real kings of their own hills. And communication between those hills was rather weak and sometimes nonexistent.

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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 29 Sep 2016 21:01

This one is interesting:
Mr. von Ribbentrop has most probably not studied this question in detail. Ribbentrop admits that, indeed, he has not, and asks how the Berchtesgaden discussion was received in Poland.

Minister Beck: Couldn't be worse. It is difficult to find a justification for presenting the matter on such terms, as it is difficult to find a resolution. It is even more difficult to understand in Poland, as Poland has not done anything to limit the free internal development of Danzig's German population. The Chancellor himself stressed the importance of access to the sea for Poland. This access is narrow and each metre of the coastline is valuable to us. Perhaps Mr. von Ribbentrop has some idea. In any event, technicalities aside, it would seem that the mood in Poland is such that it is considered here that the Germans have had it so easy elsewhere that they are now trying their hand in Poland. The Chancellor talked of arrangements beneficial for both sides, whereas German proposals represent a unilateral change of the existing state for the sole benefit of Germany. The German guarantee is highly valuable, but who can say that some future German government won't revise its stand on this issue?
In general—if we were to go ahead with the German suggestions—Poles will be asking their government why this is done. Where is the Gegenleistung? Mr. von Ribbentrop remembers the days when Danzig belonged to Germany. Poles remember the days when it belonged to Poland.
Minister Beck then said that since Mr. von Ribbentrop speaks of the matter openly, he also prefers to treat it entirely openly, because it is preferable to speak frankly than to engage in false courtesy. When Ribbentrop attempted to suggest compensation in the Ukraine, Minister Beck replied that what he was proposing was not an object of compensation, as Minister Beck wouldn't even know what to do with such an object. If Germany were to propose a truly balanced arrangement, Minister Beck would not fear to present it to the public opinion in Poland.
The following day, i.e., on 27 January, Ribbentrop asked once again for precision on this point, to which Minister Beck observed that he thought he had no right to make unilateral concessions and he advised Ribbentrop not to present the matter to the Chancellor in too optimistic a fashion.
The proper answer to this would be "but you've just done this, three weeks ago". But Ribbentrop says nothing. I think this proves that "Lubienski met the German ambassador Moltke and put forward a project for agreement" is not true.

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wm
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Re: Poland came close to making a concession over Danzig

Post by wm » 29 Sep 2016 21:56

All Polish refusals in reverse order, to show how consistent the Polish position was, it's not from some book written years after - it's from secret official Polish reports:

Minister Arciszewski to Himmler, 18 February 1939:
On this point, Poland's public opinion is at all times ready for a clash.
Count Szembek conversation with the German Ambassador, von Moltke, 6 February 1939:
At this point I told the Ambassador that there was yet one more factor which Germany should always remember: The Poles are a nation ready for anything and no reflection could hold them back, they immediately reach for radical measures. I recalled that during 1938, Poland issued an ultimatum twice.
I told the Ambassador that they were probably incited to raise demands of extraterritoriality by their successes with the Czechs. I must state, however, that in the case of the Poles, the matter presented itself completely differently, as the Poles were not Czechs.
Beck and von Ribbentrop, 26 January 1939:
Minister Beck replied that already in Berchtesgaden and Munich he had warned that this was a difficult and dangerous question. As far as communications are concerned, his advice is to forget the term 'extraterritorial road', because Poland is not the Czech state.
Many things come to pass in politics and for this reason one has to hold on to certain fundamental notions, such as sovereignty, borders and territory.
Beck and Hitler, 8 January 1939:
M. Beck replied that the Danzig question was a very difficult problem. He added [very strongly - bardzo mocno] that in the Chancellor's suggestion he did not see any equivalent for Poland, and that the whole of Polish opinion, and not only people thinking politically but the widest spheres of Polish society, were particularly sensitive on this matter.
Ambassador Lipski and Ribbentrop, 15 December 1938:
At one phase of the conversation, when Ribbentrop was speaking of his positive attitude toward Polish problems, he gave way to some sort of regret that his intentions in the conversation at Berchtesgaden might possibly have been misunderstood to some extent - hence our strong reaction to it.
Here I made a reply of a general character, saying that he could be assured that our leading authorities understand his intentions, while I pointed out that local authorities, for instance in Danzig, are jeopardizing an accord by their activities. At the end of the conversation von Ribbentrop remarked that, if we are led by the principles drawn up by Marshal Pilsudski and Hitler in 1933, then we will undoubtedly reach agreement. However, he added that here it would be essential for the Polish side to understand certain principles of German policy.
Beck and von Moltke, 22 November 1938:
Ambassador von Moltke, in turn, declares that he had always warned von Ribbentrop that Danzig is an issue on which Poland's position is resolute and that Poland will never agree to its radical settlement.
Ambassador von Moltke is glad that, following the discussion with Lipski, his Minister has understood this adequately. Minister Beck stated that given the agitation that this issue is again giving rise to, offene Aussprache was the only path that was why Lipski had spoken so openly.
Lipski and Ribbentrop, 19 November 1938:
I noticed that he was impressed by my statement that any tendency to incorporate the Free City into the Reich must inevitably lead to a conflict, not of a local character only, but one also jeopardizing Polish-German relations in their entirety. I concluded my exposition by quoting Marshal Pilsudski's opinion that the Danzig question would constitute a criterion for evaluating Germany's relations to Poland, adding a number of other explanations of a general nature.
In his reply Herr von Ribbentrop stated that the Reich desired to maintain the best possible relations with Poland, just as it did with Italy, and assured me that all his emphasis was in this direction. In a very friendly tone he stated that it was his desire to hold conversations with Poland, not in a diplomatic manner, but entirely as between friends, frankly and openly.
Beck's instruction to the Ambassador in Berlin Lipski, position of the Polish government regarding German demands, 31 October 1938:
Taking all the foregoing factors into consideration, and desiring to achieve the stabilization of relations by way of a friendly understanding with the Government of the German Reich, the Polish Government proposes the replacement of the League of Nations guarantee and its prerogatives by a bi-lateral Polish-German Agreement. This Agreement should guarantee the existence of the Free City of Danzig so as to assure freedom of national and cultural life to its German majority, and also should guarantee all Polish rights.
Notwithstanding the complications involved in such a system, the Polish Government must state that any other solution, and in particular any attempt to incorporate the Free City into the Reich, must inevitably lead to a conflict. This would not only take the form of local difficulties, but also would suspend all possibility of Polish-German understanding in all its aspects. Even in 1933, after the conversations had been opened which led to the conclusion of the 1934 Declaration, Marshal Pilsudski raised the Danzig question as a sure criterion for estimating the German Reich's intentions towards Poland. This was made known both through diplomatic channels and also, so far as I remember, in a conversation between Marshal Pilsudski and Dr. Goebbels.' I expressly consider that this point of view is binding upon Poland.
Lipski and Ribbentrop, 24 October 1938:
In his reply, Ambassador Lipski referred to the Chancellor's declaration on the Danzig question made to him on 5 November 1937, and repeated to Minister Beck in Berlin on 14 January 1938. The Ambassador also pointed to the importance of Danzig as a port for Poland, and repeated the Polish government's principle of non-interference in the internal life of the German population in the Free City, where complete self-government is established. Finally, the Ambassador stated that he would like to warn von Ribbentrop that he could see no possibility of an agreement involving the reunion of the Free City with the Reich. He concluded by promising to communicate the substance of this conversation to Minister Beck.

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