Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After

By R. J. Crampton | Go to book overview

12

THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN EASTERN EUROPE

The Nazi territorial restructuring of eastern Europe

Munich meant the end of the Versailles settlement in central and eastern Europe. The little entente had been virtually destroyed and its main prop, France, shown to be enfeebled and ineffective. The road lay open for revisionism and the Poles were the first to tread it. With as little compunction as the Czechs had shown in 1920 they seized Teschen, parrying western criticism with the question as to who Britain and France would prefer to see in control of the area: Poland or Germany? In November 1938 southern Slovakia and southern Ruthenia were handed to Hungary in what became known as the first Vienna award; Czechoslovakia had lost 29 per cent of its territory, 34 per cent of its population, 40 per cent of its national income, and a major proportion of its industrial capacity.

Even greater changes came in 1939. Hitler’s seizure of Bohemia and Moravia in March showed that his ambitions were not to be limited to territory inhabited predominantly by Germans. In the same month, by seizing Memel and renouncing the German-Polish non-aggression pact of 1934, he signalled clearly that his next thrust would be to the north east. In the meantime Hungary used the March 1939 emergency to take northern Ruthenia, whilst in April Mussolini celebrated Good Friday by launching his conquest of Albania. Furthermore, the British and French guarantees to Romania and Poland, which had been intended to restrain Hitler, encouraged him to seek a pact with Moscow to deter Britain from going to war for the sake of Poland.

The Nazi-Soviet pact of 25 August sealed the fate of eastern Europe. The German invasion of Poland began on 1 September and on 17 September the Red Army moved into eastern Poland, with Lithuania being given Vilnius and its surrounding area. Eastern Poland, with its important reserves of timber, oil, gas, and potash, as well as its cultural value as the homeland of Kościuszko and Mickiewicz, was absorbed into the Soviet Union. The Germans’ original intention had been to establish a satellite Polish state after the western powers had agreed peace terms, but this plan had been foiled both by the unwillingness of the west to negotiate with Hitler and by the failure of the Germans to find any Pole willing to collaborate with them as head of such a state. German-occupied

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Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Maps and Tables vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Preface to the Second Edition xiii
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • 1 - Before the Twentieth Century 1
  • Part I - The Inter-War Period 29
  • 2 - The Inter-War Years 31
  • 3 - Poland, 1918-39 39
  • 4 - Czechoslovakia, 1918-38 57
  • 5 - Hungary, 1918-41 78
  • 6 - The Baltic States, 1918-40 95
  • 7 - Romania, 1918-41 107
  • 8 - Bulgaria, 1918-41 119
  • 9 - Yugoslavia, 1918-41 130
  • 10 - Albania, 1918-39 144
  • 11 - Ideological Currents in the Inter-War Period 152
  • Part II - Totalitarianism 177
  • 12 - The Second World War in Eastern Europe 179
  • 13 - The Communist Takeovers 211
  • 14 - The Communist System 240
  • 15 - East European Stalinism, 1948-53 255
  • 16 - The Retreat from Stalinism, 1953-6 275
  • Part III - Revisionism 305
  • 17 - Eastern Europe, 1956-68 307
  • 18 - Czechoslovakia, 1968-9 326
  • Part IV - The Decline of Socialism 343
  • 19 - Eastern Europe, 1969-80 345
  • 20 - The Solidarity Crisis, Poland 1980-1 367
  • Part V - The Death of Socialism 377
  • 21 - Eastern Europe, 1980-9 379
  • 22 - The Revolutions of 1989-91 391
  • Part VI - After the Twentieth Century—and after Eastern Europe? 417
  • 23 - Separate Roads to Democracy—and Elsewhere 419
  • Notes 459
  • Bibliography 469
  • Index 499
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