History of the Second World War, Volume 1

The five months separating Britains guarantee to Poland from Germanys onslaught on that country were hectic ones. Throughout that long summer the diplomats bluffed blandished threatened, parleyed bargained the stakes were high the tension enormous. At first it looked as if Hitler might be contained then came the diplomatic shock which paralysed the West the volte-face of Soviet Russia. Finally when it became too late for negotiations smaller nations found themselves the pawns of greater powers —and the major powers seemed themselves to bethe pawns of fate On March 151939 German troops invaded Czechoslovakia and occupied Prague. Two days later Chamberlain in a public speech at Birmingham accused Hitler of breaking his word. On March 22 German troops occupied the old German city of Memel in Lithuania forcing that state to sign a treaty conceding Memels return to Germany. Recognising a parallel between Memel and the old German port of Danzig in Poland the Poles announced on March 28 that any German attempt to alter Danzig s status without Polish consent would lead to war. On March 31 Britain extended to Poland a unilateral guarantee against German aggression. Diplomatic talks began between the West and the Soviet Union. THE LAST SIX MONTHS OF PEACE April 7: Italy invades the Balkan state of Albania. April 17: Diplomatic talks begin between Germany and the Soviet Union. April 28: Hitler cancels the Anglo-German naval agreement of 1935 and the German-Polish non-aggression agreement of 1934. May 4: Molotov replaces Litvinov as Soviet Foreign Minister. May 22: Ribbentrop and Ciano sign the Pact of Steel' to weld together Europes strongest Fascist dictatorships Japan is asked to join the alliance. June 3: Nazi-controlled Danzig complains of too many Polish customs officials. Poland's caustic reply meets with anew barrage of Nazi propaganda and rumours of an impending Nazi coup sweep the country. July 24: Britain France and Russia agree to offer mutual assistance should any of the three be attacked. But the pact is not to come into operation until corresponding military agreements are reached. August 23: Ribbentrop and Molotov sign a non-aggression pact between Berlin and Moscow. The pact includes a secret annex that divides eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. August 25: Hitler schedules the attack on Poland for the next day but revokes the orders when Mussolini informs him that Italy is not prepared for war. August 31: Hitler again orders the attack on Poland. September 1: At 0445 hours without declaring war Germany launches its attack on Poland. September 2: Chamberlain sends his ultimatum to Hitler: if Germany does not withdraw her troops immediately she must consider herself at war with Britain. September 3: Hitler receives the ultimatum and ignores it. Britain is at war with Germany.
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