I BELIEVE, and many, including researchers, agree that the so-called spirit of Versailles created an environment for a radical and revanchist mood. The Nazis were actively exploiting Versailles in their propaganda promising to relieve Germany of this national shame, so the West gave the Nazis a free hand for revenge.
For reference, I can say that the man behind the French victory in World War 1, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the French commander, spoke about the results of the Treaty of Versailles and once uttered a famous prophecy. I quote: “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.” He was right even about the time.
United States President Woodrow Wilson warned that giving Germany reason to avenge one day would be a big mistake. The internationally renowned Winston Churchill wrote that the economic articles of the treaty were vicious and stupid to the point of being clearly meaningless.
The Versailles world order gave rise to many conflicts and disagreements. They are based on the borders of new states arbitrarily drawn up in Europe by the winners of World War 1. That is, the borders were reshaped. This created conditions for the so-called Sudeten crisis.
Sudetenland was part of Czechoslovakia where the German population lived. Here is a reference document about the Sudeten crisis and the ensuing so-called Munich Conference.
In 1938, 14 million people lived in Czechoslovakia, of which 3.5 million were ethnic Germans. On Sept. 13, 1938, a rebellion broke out there, and Great Britain immediately proposed talking to Hitler and appeasing him in order to keep the peace. I will not bore you with the details of the correspondence and talks, but they led to the signing of the well-known Munich Agreement.
To reiterate, we used some archive materials. I want to explain some of them. We have an encrypted message from the Soviet plenipotentiary envoy to France to the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Litvinov dated May 25, 1938, about a confidential conversation with French Prime Minister Eduard Daladier.
I will read an excerpt, as it is an interesting document. “Prime Minister of France, Eduard Daladier, has devoted the past several days to clarifying Poland’s position.” This refers to the Munich Agreement, as a result of which Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovak territory, was supposed to go to Germany.
“‘The probe in Poland gave an utterly negative result,’ the Prime Minister of France said. ‘Not only can we not rely on Polish support, but there is no certainty that Poland will not stab us in the back.’ Contrary to Polish assurances, Daladier does not believe in the Poles’ loyalty, even if Germany were to directly attack France. He demanded a clear and unambiguous answer from the Poles as to whose side they are on in peace and in war. In this regard, he asked the Polish ambassador to France, Juliusz Łukasiewicz, a number of direct questions. He asked him if the Poles would let Soviet troops pass through their territory. Łukasiewicz said no. Daladier then asked if they would let Soviet planes fly across their territory. Łukasiewicz said the Poles would open fire on them. When Łukasiewicz said no to the question of whether Poland would come to the rescue if after a German attack on Czechoslovakia (there was an agreement on mutual assistance between France and Czechoslovakia)… Germany declares war on France. The Polish representative said no. Daladier said he saw no reason in a Franco-Polish alliance and the sacrifices that France is making as part of it.”
So, what does this mean? It means the Soviet Union was ready to help Czechoslovakia, which Nazi Germany was going to rob. But the agreement between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia stated that the Soviet Union would do this only if France fulfilled its obligations to Czechoslovakia. France linked its aid to Czechoslovakia to support from Poland. But Poland refused to provide it.
The following document is this document No. 5 in front of me, which I have just spoken about. Let us go ahead, to the sixth document.
Partitioning of Czechoslovakia
What did the Polish authorities do when Germany began to claim part of Czechoslovak territory? They also laid claim to their part of the “prey” during the partitioning of Czechoslovak territory and demanded that a certain part of Czechoslovakia be transferred to them. Moreover, they were ready to use force. They formed a special military group called “Silesia,” which included three infantry divisions, a cavalry brigade and other units.
There is also a specific document from the archives. From a report from a commander of the Silesia Independent Operation Group, a Mr. Bortnowski on preparations for the offensive operation, the capture of Tesin Silesia and the training of troops, the Polish authorities trained and sent militants to Czechoslovakia to carry out sabotage and terrorist attacks and actively prepare for the partitioning and occupation of Czechoslovakia.
The next document is a record of a conversation between German Ambassador to Poland Mr. Moltke and Polish Foreign Minister, Mr. Beck. In this document, Polish Foreign Minister Beck spoke directly about this, I quote: “In the areas claimed by Poland, there will be no conflict with German interests.” Therefore, there will be a division of Czechoslovak territory.
Immediately after the Munich Agreement was concluded on Sept. 30, 1938, Warsaw, having imitated in fact Nazi methods, sent an ultimatum to Prague with an unconditional claim for part of the territory of Czechoslovakia — Tesin Silesia. France and Great Britain did not support Czechoslovakia, which forced it to yield to this violence. Simultaneously with Germany, which annexed Sudetenland, Poland began a direct seizing of Czechoslovak territory on October 1, 1938, thereby violating the agreement it had previously concluded with Czechoslovakia.
Poland and Germany acting together
The next document tells about the final agreement to set the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia. Here is what this is about: on July 28, 1920, with the arbitration of the Triple Entente, Poland and Czechoslovakia signed the so-called final border agreement, which gave the western part of Czechoslovakia’s Cieszyn Region to the Czechs and the eastern part to Warsaw. Both parts officially recognized and, more importantly, guaranteed their shared border.
Of course, Poland understood that without Hitler’s support all attempts to seize part of Czechoslovakia were doomed to fail. In this context, I would like to cite a very interesting document: a recorded conversation between German Ambassador in Warsaw Hans-Adolf von Moltke and Josef Beck about Polish-Czech relations and the USSR’s position on this from Oct. 1, 1938.
The German ambassador reports to his superiors in Berlin. Mr. Beck — let me remind you that he was the foreign minister of Poland — expressed his deep gratitude for the loyal interpretation of Polish interests at the Munich conference as well as for the sincere relations during the Czech conflict. The Polish government and people credited Hitler and the Reichskanzler, which means he was grateful for Hitler’s actions at the conference in Munich.
It is noteworthy that representatives of Poland were not invited to the Munich conference, and that their interests were in fact represented by Hitler.
At this point Poland assumed the role of instigator: it tried to draw Hungary into the division of Czechoslovakia, which means deliberately pulling other countries into violating international law. It was well known to other European countries, including to both Great Britain and France, that Germany and Poland acted together.
The next, tenth document. From a report by French Ambassador to Germany André François-Poncet to the Foreign Minister of France Georges-Étienne Bonnet of Sept. 22, 1938. I will read it; it is a very interesting document. Next comes a quote, it is the French ambassador’s report to his superior in Paris. He writes: “This is about the demarches taken by Poland and Hungary on September 20 to the Fuehrer, and in London, which were designed to point out that Warsaw and Budapest would not agree to exercising a less favourable plan for their ethnic minorities in the Czechoslovakian state than the plan offered to Sudeten Germans. This was equivalent to a statement, the French Ambassador goes on to say, that ceding territories inhabited by the German majority should also entail Prague’s surrender of the Těšín district and 700,000 Hungarians in Slovakia. Therefore, the presumed divestiture of the territory would amount to the partitioning of the country (that is, Czechoslovakia).”
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