5 / WAR, 1 9 3 9

DANZIG

The German occupation of Czechoslovakia meant that Poland was surrounded by Germany on three frontiers; and, with vital areas open to attack, Polish security was endangered. Any help from the West would have to come by sea; but, in a war involving Germany, the Baltic would literally become a German lake. In these circumstances, safety for Poland would seem to lie in seeking external protection against Germany. However, the person who was to guide Polish foreign policy through this period chose to follow other policies.

Jozef Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, had for too long been cool to the German threat although he was not inexperienced in foreign affairs. He had been Pilsudski’s chef de cabinet, then undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry, before finally becoming Foreign Minister in 1932. Those who had to deal with him found him sinister, inclined to be devious, and given to backstairs intrigue. He cared little for the League of Nations because it concerned itself with matters that Beck considered strictly internal concerns. The League’s preoccupation with minorities, of which Poland had its share, was particularly vexing to Beck; he considered the League’s supervision of Danzig as a free city an insult to Poland. He had never cared for the alliance with France—perhaps because, earlier in his career, he had been expelled from France for trying to sell French military secrets.

Beck longed for Poland to play the role of a big power, so he exaggerated Polish strength to the outside world. However, geography had played a trick on Poland; situated between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, a policy of independence—even of independence from France—would be difficult, if not impossible. The prospect of Germany and Soviet Russia coming to terms seemed impossible to Beck because of the great ideological

-128-

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The Origins of World War II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The European History Series *
  • The Origins of World War II *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface - To the Third Edition ix
  • 1: Peace, 1918–1933 1
  • 2: The Uneasy Peace, 1933–1935 25
  • 3: Years of Crisis, 1935–1938 47
  • 4: The Road to War, 1938 80
  • 5: War, 1939 128
  • Bibliographical Essay 175
  • Index 191
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