Illusion and Necessity: The Diplomacy of Global War, 1939-1945

By John L. Snell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
Design, Blunder, Blitzkrieg, 1939

Dawn, September 1, 1939. No Pole who has rubbed sleep from his eyes thinks the thunder in the west marks the passage of a late summer storm. The weather this morning is beautifully clear; it is diplomacy that recently has been turbulent. The flashes can mean only one thing: lightning war, Blitzkrieg, has struck across the wide plains of Poland. Under Adolf Hitler, Germany is on the march after a twenty-year truce. Two days later Great Britain and France hesitantly make their declarations. Europe is again at war. How has it happened?


1. THE AMBIGUOUS LEGACY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

The Second World War grew out of the ruins, by-products, and frustrated ideals of the world conflict of 1914-1918, which took the lives of nine million Europeans.

Since the sixteenth century one Great Power after another had upset a never stable "balance of power" in Europe in attempts to establish its own system of security and order through hegemony over the Continent. Spain, Austria, and France had all made the gamble and in the end had suffered from it. After war came in 1914 German leaders took their turn. As before, Great Britain pursued her own unique self-interest, throwing her weight on the side of the weaker and anti-hegemonial states, but in World War I Britain's weight was insufficient. The armed might of

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