‘I can’t see Hitler starting a world war for Danzig. ’ 1
After the First World War, Poland superseded France as the state most despised by Germany’s governing and military elites and by its population at large. While Germany’s relations with France, its Erb- und Erzfeind (hereditary and arch-enemy), gradually improved after the depths reached during the Ruhr occupation, the territorial humiliation suffered by Germany at the hands of the newly restored Polish state—including, in particular, the division of Upper Silesia in 1921—continued to impede any attempt at rapprochement.
Although usually expressed in private, some of the comments made by leading politicians of the Weimar Republic were unambiguous. A typical example was provided by Reich Chancellor Joseph Wirth in 1922. Following the conclusion of the Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union, Wirth considered ‘finishing off Poland as one his major policy objectives. 2 Gustav Stresemann, Weimar’s greatest statesman 3 and a keen pursuer of improved relations with France, was similarly hostile to Germany’s eastern neighbour. In 1925, Stresemann, Germany’s Foreign Minister since 1923, described as ‘one of the great tasks of German foreign policy… “the readjustment of our Eastern frontiers; the recovery of Danzig, the Polish Corridor, and a correction of the frontier in Upper Silesia”’. 4
While the German government concluded agreements with the Soviet regime containing an obvious anti-Polish slant and refused to sign an ‘Eastern Locarno’, the Reichswehr leadership focussed much of its military planning on a potential conflict with Poland. Already in 1920, General Hans von Seeckt, from 1920 to 1926 the influential head of the Army command, planned for a ‘war of national liberation’ fought jointly with the Soviet Union against Poland’s ‘intolerable’ existence. 5 As Seeckt