History of the Second World War, Volume 1

uiojsnn Europe March/September 1939 house inside the boundary of Danzig. The dead man subsequently turned out to have been a member of the Danzig SA the killer was the chauffeur of the Polish Acting Com­missioner in Danzig. On June 3 the President of the Senate of Danzig com­plained of the increasing number of Polish customs officials (31 had been added since May 20 to the existing total of 75) and ordered Danzig officials to accept no further instructions from them. A week later the Poles replied by refusing to restrict the activities of their customs inspectors and even threatened to increase their number still further. This retort provoked a rush of German propaganda attacks on Poland especially during the visit of Dr Goebbels then Nazi Minister of Propaganda in mid-June the attacks were so violent that by the end of June there was anew 'week-end scare with widespread rumours that the Germans were going to stage a coup in Danzig. These rumours became more worrisome when it became known that the Danzig Senate had allowed the formation of a volunteer defence corps and had imported arms from East Prussia. Comment in the Polish press gained in intensity and on June 29 Lord Halifax felt impelled to give a strong public warning. made in a speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London that Britain would resist any new act of aggres­sion in Europe. On July 19 the Poles com­plained again of the difficulties placed in the way of the Polish customs officials in Danzig and announced economic reprisals against a Danzig margarine factory and against the import of Danzig herrings into Poland. At the end of July their complaints were rebutted by the Danzig authorities. During all this turmoil preparations con­tinued in Danzig for a German take-over at Hitlers command and the German press continued its propaganda barrage against Poland and Britain. It was under these circumstances that elements in the British government made a singularly ill-advised attempt to bring to a culmination the policy of appeasement embarked upon two years before. The motive behind this policy had been to convince Hitler that Britain would block any attempt to obtain his byway force but would not stand in the way of peaceful change in Europe. The policy thus depended on the belief that Hitler would respond to a judi­cious combination of the stick and carrot. The aim of British policy since March 31,1939 had been to convince Hitler that any further aggression would run into the combined opposition of all the other powers in Europe. By June some people felt that perhaps he should be given another sight of the carrot. Contact was therefore made, not with Ribbentrop who was believed to bean out-and-out war-monger but with Goring. A bait for Goring The bait held out was participation in a grandiose scheme for joint Anglo-German exploitation of the wealth and markets of Africa and other under-developed areas of the world. Behind this offer lay the notion that the world was divided into ’have’ and 'have-not powers and that it was this division with Germany among the latter which was threatening peace— a naive misconstruction of Nazi ideas which had found wide acceptance in the world in the late 1930s. News of the talks held in London between Dr W ohltat (Giiring representative)s Sir Horace Wilson head of the Treasury and Chamberlains personal adviser and Mr Hudson President of the Board of Trade leaked out at the end of July and led to bitter attacks on the British government both at home and in the German and Italian press. This then was the situation in the last week of July when the German plans for A in the inflamed sector of Tientsin, White Russian soldiers and Chinese demonstrated against Great Britain —‘enemy of the new Asian order' A D anzig was the real powder-keg and during the last few months before war broke out Germany laid down a heavy barrage of propaganda: this funeral was for two German soldiers said to have been shot by the Poles on the Danzig frontier The result of their discussions was announced on August 231939 when an amazed world learned that Russia and Germany sworn enemies had signed a ten-year non-aggression pact. Molotov signs while Ribbentrop and Stalin watch Ullstoin
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