Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

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DavidFrankenberg
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Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 23 Apr 2022 21:11

Hi,

I think that everyone has already heard about that : General Pilsudski, dictator of Poland, is supposed to have prepared an invasion of nazi Germany as soon as 1934, but unfortunately the cowardice of France and England made him failed.

I wonder what are the proofs for such a claim ?
Looks like a desperate try to rehabilitate Pilsudski, the polish leader who signed a pact of non-agression with Hitler in... 1934.

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by gebhk » 25 Apr 2022 13:53

A somewhat odd question and commentary.

(1) Pilsudski was never a General. His rank in the Austrian Army was Military Official Grade VI. His rank in the Polish army was First Marshal of Poland.
(2) Self evidently no such invasion was ever prepared, thus there cannot be any 'proofs' of such preparations. AFAIK you are the first to claim there might have been.
(3) I cannot for the life of me see how, even if it were true, this could be used to 'rehabilitated' Pilsudski, desperately or otherwise. Rehabilitated from what? How?

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 25 Apr 2022 15:55

gebhk wrote:
25 Apr 2022 13:53
A somewhat odd question and commentary.

(1) Pilsudski was never a General. His rank in the Austrian Army was Military Official Grade VI. His rank in the Polish army was First Marshal of Poland.
(2) Self evidently no such invasion was ever prepared, thus there cannot be any 'proofs' of such preparations. AFAIK you are the first to claim there might have been.
(3) I cannot for the life of me see how, even if it were true, this could be used to 'rehabilitated' Pilsudski, desperately or otherwise. Rehabilitated from what? How?
Let me quote wiki.en :
After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in January 1933, Piłsudski is rumored to have proposed to France a preventive war against Germany.[159]
Lack of French enthusiasm may have been a reason for Poland signing the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact in 1934.[47][148][160][161] Little evidence has, however, been found in French or Polish diplomatic archives that such a proposal for preventive war was ever actually advanced.[162] Critics of Poland's pact with Germany accused Piłsudski of underestimating Hitler's aggressiveness,[163]
159 = Urbankowski, Bohdan (1997). Józef Piłsudski: Marzyciel i strateg [Józef Piłsudski: Dreamer and Strategist] (in Polish). Vol. 1–2. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo ALFA. ISBN 978-83-7001-914-3. p.317-326

But also this french historian (of polish origin), Alexandra Viatteau :
https://www.diploweb.com/forum/pilsduski.htm
Ce fut sa quatrième grande idée, qui ne put être réalisée, de « guerre préventive » contre Hitler et le parti nazi à leur avènement au pouvoir à Berlin. Si Paris avait suivi Varsovie, cela aurait-il épargné la tragédie de la guerre, et donc de la Shoah.

Lorsque Paris et Londres firent la sourde oreille, alors seulement Pilsudski décida de mettre la Pologne à l’abri en concluant des accords de non-agression avec l’URSS et l’Allemagne.
Which can be translated this way :
This was his fourth great idea, which could not be realized, of a "preventive war" against Hitler and the Nazi Party upon their coming to power in Berlin. If Paris had followed Warsaw, would it have spared the tragedy of war, and therefore of the Holocaust.

When Paris and London turned a deaf ear, only then did Pilsudski decide to shield Poland by concluding non-aggression agreements with the USSR and Germany.

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by gebhk » 25 Apr 2022 17:16

Hi DavidFrankenbeg

I am not sure how the above citations address the questions I have raised. I do not question that Pilsudski may or may not have proposed to the French a preventive war against Germany. Indeed a vast stream of literature has been dedicated to speculation on whether a proposal had or had not been made and if it had, whether it was genuine proposal or a bluff. However contemplating, suggesting or even planning a war is not the same as preparing one. I have never come across any evidence that Pilsudski or the Polish armed forces prepared a war.

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by wm » 25 Apr 2022 17:44

DavidFrankenberg wrote:
23 Apr 2022 21:11
Looks like a desperate try to rehabilitate Pilsudski, the polish leader who signed a pact of non-agression with Hitler in... 1934.
What's wrong with non-aggression pacts? Don't you like peace?

The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact (and more) with Germany in 1926 (the Treaty of Berlin).
The Allies in 1925 (the Locarno Treaties).
Actually, Poland was very late to the game.

It wasn't really a preventive war (if the Allies had been willing why not, but it was known they weren't) but a diplomatic offensive, a threat intended to make Germany more pliable, more agreeable towards Poland.
Last edited by wm on 25 Apr 2022 18:16, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by wm » 25 Apr 2022 18:04

1933:
Hitler handed the memorandum back to me.
"All in order. Everybody knows that we can never renounce our claims in the East. Poland has just as little right to existence as Czechoslovakia.”
“Well and good-but Poland is the ally of France. Perhaps we’re disposed to be a little less noisy about Poland?”
“Aeh, diese dreckigen Polacken - mit denen werden wir schon Schlitten fahren!"
“So Hitler was planning to take the ‘dirty Polacks’ for a sleigh ride." ...

And yet, when the Fuehrer was Chancellor, under pressure from Pilsudski he made a pact with Poland renouncing vital German territory in the East and recognizing the Polish Corridor - a humiliating blow to German pride, and a renunciation which would have thrown Hitler himself into fits of the most violent and hysterical flagellation if it had been authored by anybody else.
Ludecke, Kurt I Knew Hitler

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 25 Apr 2022 18:44

gebhk wrote:
25 Apr 2022 17:16
Hi DavidFrankenbeg

I am not sure how the above citations address the questions I have raised. I do not question that Pilsudski may or may not have proposed to the French a preventive war against Germany.
Indeed a vast stream of literature has been dedicated to speculation on whether a proposal had or had not been made and if it had, whether it was genuine proposal or a bluff. However contemplating, suggesting or even planning a war is not the same as preparing one. I have never come across any evidence that Pilsudski or the Polish armed forces prepared a war.
Do any official documents of the time confirm such propositions were ever made by Pilsudski ?

"Marshal's last war", https://www.wprost.pl/tygodnik/70406/os ... zalka.html :
On October 14, 1933, predictably, the Germans left the League of Nations and withdrew from the disarmament conference. On October 21, at 2.00 a.m., Marshal Piłsudski called a secret meeting. It was attended by two representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and four high officers. The marshal once again decided to return to the plan of preventive warfare. This time the mission in France was entrusted to Ludwik Morstin, who was close friends with General Weygand. The marshal ordered him to ask the French government two simple questions, to which he expects an answer "yes" or "no". First, if Poland is attacked by Germany on any section of its border, France will respond with a general mobilization of all its armed forces. Secondly, whether in this case it will deploy all available armed forces on the border of Germany. The seriousness of these questions is demonstrated by the fact that on October 25, Hitler ordered General Blomberg to immediately develop a strategic plan in the event of preventive warfare.
Defensive war
The French government, led by President Lebrun, has convened twice over the war. After stormy discussions, it was decided: France will not announce mobilization and will not deploy forces on the border. However, they were promised to help the Poles with staff works, weapons and ammunition. But Piłsudski did not ask about this anymore, but sent emissaries to Berlin.
On January 26, 1934, the Polish-German non-aggression pact was signed. Five years later, the bloodiest war in the history of the world began and the dispute continues to this day as to whether it could have been avoided.
Where are the official documents proving theses claims ?

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by Steve » 26 Apr 2022 01:37

Jan Karski in his 1985 book The Great Powers and Poland 1919 – 1945 delves into the matter at some length. All of the following is taken from chapter V111 and does not contain even one original thought from me.

Relations with Germany in early 1933 were bad. Hitler on February 12 was reported as saying that the Polish Corridor was a “hideous mistake” and three days later the Danzig senate announced that the special harbour police would be replaced by its own forces. On March 4 Hitler flew to Danzig over the corridor. On March 6 Pilsudski reinforced the military garrison at Westerplatte, mobilised the border division and ordered a large military parade to be held in Wilna on April 21. Anti German sentiment seems to have been running high and Karski gives several examples. It later became know that Pilsudski had prepared a draft of a decree entitled “In Case of War with Germany” countersigned by the President of the republic.

The German minister in Warsaw wrote a memorandum saying that he suspected the Polish government either wanted to pressure the new German regime into a public renunciation of the territorial claims or aimed at producing pretexts for military action. Hitler was warned on April 7 at a cabinet meeting that Poland was “playing with the idea of a preventative war”. On April 25 the subject was discussed at an emergency cabinet meeting. General von Blomberg was ordered on October 25 to make special secret preparations for war. In 1947 former chancellor Bruening wrote “According to our military and diplomatic information, Pilsudski made steps to see if France was ready to exercise military pressure on Germany”…….. “Our information from Paris indicated that France hesitated to accept Pilsudski’s proposal.”

Sir Robert Vansittart, the then permanent under secretary in the British Foreign Office was informed by the British ambassador in Berlin Rumbold that Poland was being held back by France, but would invade Germany in the case of preventative war.

In the Soviet History of Diplomacy edited by A.M. Pankratov it is mentioned that in March 1933 Pilsudski briefed the French government on German rearmament plans and preparations for revenge. The Polish army would march if France rendered support. The French reacted negatively and a month later again turned down proposals for a “preventative war”.

General Weygand said in 1953 that “he never heard of such an initiative by Pilsudski”. Foreign minister Paul-Boncour, Prime Minister Daladier and general d’Arbonneau military attaché in Warsaw also stated years later that they were unaware of any such plan. The denial by Paul-Boncour arouses some doubt. According to Tytus Komarnicki the Polish representative at the League of Nations Paul-Boncour told him in Geneva in 1935 that the Polish proposals for preventative action had been discussed in a secret meeting of the French parliamentary commission and were rejected almost unanimously.

Karsky wrote “The search for documentary evidence has so far failed to produce conclusive results. So the matter is still far from certain.”

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by gebhk » 26 Apr 2022 09:40

Hi Steve

Many thanks for the above excellent summary. AFAIK the final conclusion remains valid today. There seems to be no evidence that an emissary was ever sent to France let alone that the question was asked. Indeed, it is not at all certain that the whole idea came from Poland! One explanation of the few known facts (and the fact that the bulk of these facts emanate from Germany supports this view) is that Mussolini, keen to have the 'Pact of Four' signed, to chivvy along the vaccilating Hitler, told him France and Poland were about to invade Germany. Initially as surprised as Hitler that he was going to war, Pilsudski, seeing immediately the political advantages, went with the flow.

Be that as it may, Pilsudski may have had 3 or more possible motivations:
1) A genuine idea to invade Germany
2) A bluff to sound out France and/or Germany
3) To soften up Germany before squeezing concessions out of her (indeed a number of contemporary Polish diplomats held the view that 'war' in this context, meant a war of nerves. A diplomatic not a shooting war).
Or any combination of the above. Given that Pilsudski notoriously kept his own counsel and had a conspirator's aversion to committing anything to paper, we shall probably never know.

Hi David Frankenberg
Do any official documents of the time confirm such propositions were ever made by Pilsudski
As per the above - no and given that the mission, if it took place at all, would have been secret and informal, it is highly unlikely that there would be. The nearest, I think, is Paul-Boncour's written denial that any such discussion took place, in response to an enquiry post-war by Piotr Wandycz.
Where are the official documents proving theses claims ?
I'm afraid I can't answer this, however, I am not sure what Morstin's questions have to do with the matter in hand as they related to a German attack on Poland and not the other way around. However, the fact that France was not prepared to support Poland effectively in a defensive, let alone a preventive war, would have answered a lot of questions for Pilsudski and indicated the necessity for seeking a modus vivendi with Germany.

I remain curious, however, how/why it
Looks like a desperate try to rehabilitate Pilsudski, the polish leader who signed a pact of non-agression with Hitler in... 1934
?

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 28 Apr 2022 18:58

gebhk wrote:
26 Apr 2022 09:40
I remain curious, however, how/why it
Looks like a desperate try to rehabilitate Pilsudski, the polish leader who signed a pact of non-agression with Hitler in... 1934
?
Dont you find odd that Pilsudski is supposed to have wanted a war against Hitler whereas some weeks later he signed a pact of non-aggression with the same Hitler ?
If nothing supports the claim of the "preventive war", the preventive war becomes a fairy tale. Who invented this myth and why ?

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 28 Apr 2022 20:24

Steve wrote:
26 Apr 2022 01:37
Sir Robert Vansittart, the then permanent under secretary in the British Foreign Office was informed by the British ambassador in Berlin Rumbold that Poland was being held back by France, but would invade Germany in the case of preventative war.
Do any british source confirm this claim ?
Karsky wrote “The search for documentary evidence has so far failed to produce conclusive results. So the matter is still far from certain.”
So, Karski himself dismiss the "preventive war" myth. Interesting.

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by gebhk » 28 Apr 2022 23:40

Dont you find odd that Pilsudski is supposed to have wanted a war against Hitler whereas some weeks later he signed a pact of non-aggression with the same Hitler ?
Given that France was not prepared to support Poland effectively even if Germany invaded her, I do not find that at all odd. I am surprised you seem to do.
If nothing supports the claim of the "preventive war", the preventive war becomes a fairy tale.
It becomes nothing. It is what it always has been - and all of this has been explained to you above.
Who invented this myth and why ?
I may well not be a myth and if so no one invented it.
So, Karski himself dismiss the "preventive war" myth. Interesting.
He does nothing of the sort. He wrote “The search for documentary evidence has so far failed to produce conclusive results. So the matter is still far from certain.”

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by Steve » 29 Apr 2022 08:15

Karski gives his source as Vansittard’s autobiography The Mist Procession published 1958, pp 468 -69, DBFP, second series, V, 28 respectively.

DBFP stands for Documents on British Foreign Policy.

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 29 Apr 2022 11:17

Steve wrote:
29 Apr 2022 08:15
Karski gives his source as Vansittard’s autobiography The Mist Procession published 1958, pp 468 -69, DBFP, second series, V, 28 respectively.

DBFP stands for Documents on British Foreign Policy.
Anyone could check this archive ? :D

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Re: Pilsudski's preventive war against Hitler in 1934 : fake or not ?

Post by wm » 29 Apr 2022 19:14

Why bother. It is just a Chinese whisper that proves nothing.
The British ambassador in Berlin couldn't possibly know anything about (highly secret) events in Paris or Warsaw.

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