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

Discussions on all aspects of Poland during the Second Polish Republic and the Second World War. Hosted by Piotr Kapuscinski.
User avatar
Steve
Member
Posts: 946
Joined: 03 Aug 2002 01:58
Location: United Kingdom

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

Post by Steve » 15 May 2022 13:50

“Unfortunately, I couldn't find pessimism there either.
This is in the document:”

Presumably wm you are referring to the January 5 meeting between Beck and Hitler which on both sides was conducted in a polite restrained manner. It was at the January 6 meeting with Ribbentrop where the conversation was more forthright and Beck said he was “in a pessimistic mood”.

Beck returned to Warsaw and a meeting was immediately held at the royal palace attended by Beck, President Mościcki, Rydz-Smigly, Prime Minister Skladkowski and Treasury Minister Kwiatkowski. At the meeting the possibility of war with Germany was considered. This I would suggest indicates that Beck had now gone from pessimistic to very pessimistic.

If we believe the diplomatic circular Beck put out regarding his meeting with Hitler “Germany demonstrated an unwavering will to continue the good neighbour policy with Poland” then presumably the onus for the two neighbours falling out rests on Poland.

On the surface Ribbentrop’s January visit to Warsaw went very smoothly but he left without securing any meaningful concessions from the Poles.

DavidFrankenberg
Member
Posts: 1186
Joined: 11 May 2016 01:09
Location: Earth

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

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 15 May 2022 17:33

Hitler welcoming Beck the 5th january meeting :
1939 01 05 - 12 - yocYZwjD.jpeg

You can see Hitler clearly dominating the relationship, Beck shaking hand in a total submissive position.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 7463
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

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

Post by wm » 15 May 2022 22:16

Nonsense, it's like claiming that the Japanese bow demonstrates their submissive nature.
Top hats and such bows (of military origin I suppose) were mainstream at that time; it's sufficient to watch a few contemporary Polish movies to see that.

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 7463
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

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

Post by wm » 15 May 2022 22:56

Steve wrote:
15 May 2022 13:50
This I would suggest indicates that Beck had now gone from pessimistic to very pessimistic.
Beck was only pessimistic about reaching an understanding in this particular case - i.e., Danzig and nothing else. After all, he didn't say that the good neighbor relations between both countries were at risk.

Yes, they say a war was discussed during that meeting - but evidence for that is basically non-existent.

The hard fact is the Poles would start planning for war with Germany (and the plan didn't even exist earlier) two months later (and then ran out of time - the plan wasn't ever finished).
"Very pessimistic" people don't wait so long.

The second meeting with Ribbentrop actually ended up on a positive note when Beck and Ribbentrop agreed to cooperate in Danzig:
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 geandert wird.
These formulas were agreed on and reiterated during the discussions on 26 and 27 January.

DavidFrankenberg
Member
Posts: 1186
Joined: 11 May 2016 01:09
Location: Earth

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

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 16 May 2022 01:49

wm wrote:
15 May 2022 22:16
Nonsense, it's like claiming that the Japanese bow demonstrates their submissive nature.
Top hats and such bows (of military origin I suppose) were mainstream at that time; it's sufficient to watch a few contemporary Polish movies to see that.
I dont see Hitler bowing to Beck, do you ?

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 7463
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

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

Post by wm » 16 May 2022 09:05

The Nazis had their own, mandated code of behavior. And German customs were probably different anyway.
Polish savoir-vivre required the guest to greet the present first and noted that you could never be too polite.
Nothing like judging others by appearance while being ignorant of their customs.

gebhk
Member
Posts: 2136
Joined: 25 Feb 2013 20:23

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

Post by gebhk » 16 May 2022 10:16

I dont see Hitler bowing to Beck, do you ?
And why do you think that is? Perhaps because Hitler was the head of a state while Beck was not? If we can now move away from comparative etiquette studies with special emphasis on depth of bowing and similar nonsense, I think Steve's final comment is the crucial one. Platitudes aside, Ribbentrop got no meaningful concessions out of Poland and neither did Hitler for that matter.

What the whole 'preventive war' business had shown the Poles - and certainly Pilsudski had grasped this fact, was that France would not help in a meaningful way if Poland attacked Germany or even if the Germans attacked Poland. This constatation seems to have somewhat coloured his final year and Beck reports that Pilsudski's 'testament' to him had three basic mantras:
- The most important problem of Polish policy is our relationship to our neighbours
- Policy should be rigidly subrodinated to our realistic capabilities
- To enter the approaching war as near to last as possible
Much as I am not a fan of Pilsudski, it is difficult to find fault with these basic precepts. Unfortunately, without getting into absurd blame games based on pretences of godlike ability to read dead men's minds, measuring the depth of bows ets, objectively Beck failed to follow/achieve these very sensible directives. That is indisputable, as is the fact that it was beyond Poland's means to shape the basic political landcape that was being formed.

I think it not unreasonable to assume that whatever Poland did, she was going to experience war and lose her independence. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the name of the game is how to avoid as much destruction and loss of life in the process. Broadly there were three possible alternatives in the 30s.
1) To maintain strict political independence from its two strongest neighbours and rigidly refuse any concessions, especially territorial ones. The policy that was in fact followed.
2) To submit to the Soviet Union
3) To submit to Germany
The likely outcome of these 3 courses can only, of course, be gauged by considering the outcomes for nighbouring countries that followed these various courses. That, in my opinion, is a useful debate. Speculation whether Beck was 'pro-German' is not - especially when that speculation is based on the depth of his bows on one photograph (entirely in line with customary etiquette) and (incorrect as it happens) location of detrainment of French and German diplomats, rather than on the outcome of his diplomacy. One thing I am certain of is that Beck was above all else pro-Polish. As an aside, he also seemed to have been oddly in awe of Britain and the British.
Last edited by gebhk on 16 May 2022 21:09, edited 1 time in total.

DavidFrankenberg
Member
Posts: 1186
Joined: 11 May 2016 01:09
Location: Earth

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

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 16 May 2022 12:34

wm wrote:
16 May 2022 09:05
The Nazis had their own, mandated code of behavior. And German customs were probably different anyway.
Polish savoir-vivre required the guest to greet the present first and noted that you could never be too polite.
Nothing like judging others by appearance while being ignorant of their customs.
On the photo you can see Beck bowing his back and his head to Adolf Hitler.
Do you have any photo of Beck bowing to Stalin, Laval, Benes or Barthou ?

DavidFrankenberg
Member
Posts: 1186
Joined: 11 May 2016 01:09
Location: Earth

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

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 16 May 2022 12:46

gebhk wrote:
16 May 2022 10:16
What the whole 'preventive war' business had shown the Poles - and certainly Pilsudski had grasped this fact, was that France would not help in a meaningful way if Poland attacked Germany or even if the Germans attacked Poland.
You are assuming that the "1934 preventive war plan" existed. But so far we have no proof and everything leads to deny it. This is the very matter of the topic here.

User avatar
Steve
Member
Posts: 946
Joined: 03 Aug 2002 01:58
Location: United Kingdom

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

Post by Steve » 16 May 2022 16:52

Madame Pilsudski in her memoir page 341 remembered her husband as saying the following about Polish German relations.

The first incident she referrers to took place in 1933, troops were mobilised and the Westerplatte garrison reinforced. Hitler had sent a conciliatory note regretting the unfortunate misunderstanding and that he had no designs on Poland etc. Pilsudski was not deceived saying “It will give us longer to prepare our defences ………” he said to me afterwards ……… “But it is only a question of putting off the evil day. While Germany looks towards the corridor and Russia has her eyes on the west there can be no lasting security for us ……. “

After the signing of the non aggression pact in 1934 he was jubilant “I suppose that means that for ten years we shall not have war …… “I said. He shook his head ……… “No, no it only means that Hitler has postponed it. Poland is not so weak as all that, nor is Germany as strong and united as he will wish to make her before he takes upon himself the risk of war. The respite will give us time to organise our lives, but after that we must be ready to defend ourselves. We have no other alternative …… “

As Beck was a disciple of Pilsudski you would not have expected him to be surprised when Hitler raised the issue of Danzig and the corridor. Pilsudski had said the 1934 pact was only a respite and now the respite was over. But Beck was surprised and wanted to meet Hitler to check that Ribbentrop had got it right. After talking to Hitler an emergency meeting was held in Warsaw. Since the signing of the pact there had been no problems of any note between them. The Polish ambassador to Germany had better access to the top Nazis than any other diplomat in Berlin; the two countries collaborated during the Cz crisis. Poland and Germany gave the impression they were friends and the French certainly thought they were. After Munich Beck apparently thought relations with Germany were hunky-dory.

After much burning of the midnight oil, agonising and wearing the carpet out with my pacing up and down I could think of no reason to disagree with gebhk that Poland only had three options. They should have chosen option 3 “to submit to Germany” the reason being that I don’t think it was quite as stark a choice as that.

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 7463
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

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

Post by wm » 16 May 2022 17:56

"Only means that Hitler has postponed it" is absurd as in 1934 (and for at least the next three years) Germany was no match, and wouldn't be able to attack Poland. So what was postponed?
Even military conscription didn't exist in Germany at that time.
And it was five years to the war, not ten.

And only in the last two years Germany was a credible military threat so the pact at best bought Poland two years of respite.
Two pointless years because post-1938 the Poles wouldn't be able to defend themselves against Germany ever.
And "It will give us longer to prepare our defenses" was absurd too. No amount of preparation could have averted the defeat.

His wife's anecdotes are more or less worthless, she mostly tried to prove his genius after the (claimed) failure of his politics.
She wrote her hagiography in 1940 when the government, Beck, the entire created by Piłsudski movement was massively pilloried and its members threatened to be court-martialed for the defeat of 1939.

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 7463
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

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

Post by wm » 16 May 2022 19:14

Unfortunately, the idea that Beck was surprised has no support in facts.
He responded after a week (!) and, in his instruction to the ambassador in Berlin, he basically embraced the proposed idea of "gesamtlösung" - but in a modified by him form.

It should be remembered the meeting Ribbentrop-Lipski was primarily dedicated to other (primarily international) problems - "gesamtlösung" was only a small part of it.
And the highway wasn't anything new; it had been mentioned by Hitler and Goering many times since 1934.

"wanted to meet Hitler to check that Ribbentrop had got it right" actually has no support in facts either.
He writes in his book Hitler initiated the meeting, not him.

gebhk
Member
Posts: 2136
Joined: 25 Feb 2013 20:23

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

Post by gebhk » 16 May 2022 20:15

You are assuming that the "1934 preventive war plan" existed. But so far we have no proof and everything leads to deny it. This is the very matter of the topic here.
Nope, I am assuming that Morstin asked the questions that he asked and got the replies that he did. And it was you after all who produced the citation to that effect :thumbsup:

Mind you, Pilsudski is supposed to have said to Barthou in 1934 "France has money but doesn't want to fight. Poland has no money but wants to fight. So give us money and we will fight for you". I wonder what Barthou's' response was?
Last edited by gebhk on 16 May 2022 20:29, edited 1 time in total.

gebhk
Member
Posts: 2136
Joined: 25 Feb 2013 20:23

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

Post by gebhk » 16 May 2022 20:22

Hi Steve
They should have chosen option 3 “to submit to Germany” the reason being that I don’t think it was quite as stark a choice as that.
On balance, based on the very consistent outcomes for neighbours, I tend to agree.

gebhk
Member
Posts: 2136
Joined: 25 Feb 2013 20:23

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

Post by gebhk » 16 May 2022 21:58

Do you have any photo of Beck bowing to Stalin, Laval, Benes or Barthou ?
With respect, it is you that is pushing the theory that Beck bowed lower to Hitler than other heads of state, so it is up to you to provide the evidence :D As I said before, I don't have much time for or expertise in, comparative etiquette studies or the spinning of fanciful theories based upon them.
That being said, did Beck ever meet Stalin and/or Benes? If not it would be a bit of a toughie finding photos of such a meeting! Barthou and Laval were also foreign minsters, not heads of state and therefore Beck's equals; so the depth of mutual bowing is not a useful comparator - not that I have ever seen pictures of their first 'pressing of the flesh'.

Return to “Poland 1919-1945”