JF Ptak Science Book--expansion of Post 230 (September 2008)
This is one of those times when a pamphlet has posed an idea that had never before occurred to me. This anonymous work produced by the German propaganda machine in May 1939 presents the incredible assertion that Poland did indeed have plans to continue to break the back of Germany over the never-to-be-forgotten Treaty of Versailles, and to also physically attack south-eastern Germany sometime in 1940.
Again, the idea that Germany was defending itself against an imminent attack by Poland was completely novel to me. There's always a reason for these sorts of beginnings of wars (Gulf of Tonkin, WMD), but this one really is exceptionally removed. Poland had just decided to defend its borders against the Germans following their conquest of Czechoslovakia the previous year--until then the Polish military's biggest threat was the Soviet Union. The German attack, the blitzkrieg (Fall Weiss) which would begin on 1 September 1939 involved 1.5 million German soldiers attacking two principal points in Poland. It was ostensibly launched in response to a small Polish attack on the German border town of Gliwce. In the attack, the Germans unleashed 11 tank divisions versus Poland's 1; sent in 1250 bombers and fighters to Poland's (mainly obsolete) 360; rolled 4 motorized divisions against Poland's, um, that's right, they didn't have any. And of course the Germans had a modern and vastly superior navy, compared with Poland's 4 destroyers, five subs, and assorted smaller numbers of smaller and less-significant vessels.
The British and the French issued an ultimatum to Germany to cease and desist; Hitler had no intentions in stopping, throwing the five armies of von Rundstedt and von Block deeper into the country in a fast and (according to many German generals) breakneck manner. The British and French declared war on the 3rd, by which time the war in eastern Poland was already almost over. The Germans did respond to the ultimatum (see this in continued reading, below) in which it outlines some of their needs and Polish-inspired dears.
By 24 September the Germans had reached the formerly important geographic boundary of the Vistula and swarmed past. Warsaw was bombed by some 1150 aircraft, and by the 27th, the fighting was almost entirely over. (Some divisions held out to 6 October, the invasion completed in 36 days).
It is sometimes forgotten in the quickness of this defeat that Poland inflicted some heavy losses on the German military machine: 8000 soldiers killed with 27,000 wounded and 5,000 MIA; 217 tanks were destroyed. The Luftwaffe lost over 500 planes, either entirely destroyed or damaged to the point of uselessness. Polish losses were far greater.
It was at this time that the first of my grandmother's brothers, Raymond Dymek of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, would cross the border into Canada and volunteer, becoming a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He would fly against the Nazis with the CRAF, then joined the RAF, until finally, when the U.S. joined the European war 27 months later, would fly for the U.S. Army Air Force. He had a very long career and made it through. His five brothers would also enlist in the U.S. armed forces; all six brothers would return home. Fatherland and all that. I know the vocabuarly for their response to the idea that Germany was responding to a Polish threat of invasion didn't exist to them--it barely does for me.
Communication from the German Government to the British Government, Handed by Joachim von Ribbentrop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the British Ambassador (Sir Neville Henderson) at 11:20 A.M., September 3, 1939
The German Government have received the British Government's ultimatum of the 3rd September, 1939. They have the honour to reply as follows:
#2. On our eastern frontier there has for many months already reigned a condition of war. Since the time when the Versailles Treaty first tore Germany to pieces, all and every peaceful settlement was refused to all German Governments. The National Socialist Government also has since the year 1933 tried again and again to remove by peaceful negotiations the worst rapes and breaches of justice of this treaty…. Without the intervention of the British Government …a reasonable solution doing justice to both sides would certainly have been found between Germany and Poland. For Germany did not have the intention nor had she raised the demands of annihilating Poland. The Reich demanded only the revision of those articles of the Versailles Treaty which already at the time of the formulation of that Dictate had been described by understanding statesmen of all nations as being in the long run unbearable, and therefore impossible for a great nation and also for the entire political and economic interests of Eastern Europe…
#4: After all efforts at finding and concluding a peaceful solution had been rendered impossible by the intransigence of the Polish Government covered as they were by England, after the conditions resembling civil war, which had existed already for months at the eastern frontier of the Reich, had gradually developed into open attacks on German territory, without the British Government raising any objections, the German Government determined to put an end to this continual threat, unbearable for a great Power, to the external and finally also to the internal peace of the German people, and to end it by those means which, since the Democratic Governments had in effect sabotaged all other possibilities of revision, alone remained at their disposal for the defence of the peace, security and honour of the Germans. The last attack of the Poles threatening Reich territory they answered with similar measures. The German Government do not intend, on account of any sort of British intentions or obligations in the East, to tolerate conditions which are identical with those conditions which we observe in Palestine, which is under British protection. The German people, however, above all do not intend to allow themselves to be ill-treated by Poles.