35

It is not widely known now, but before 1939, Poland and Nazi Germany were neighbours with very good relations:

Did Poland ever apologize for such aggressive politics, implicitly helping Nazi Germany?

  • 2
    It is interesting that they apologized, but we should not judge actions of the past with moral standards of today. The treaty of Versailles was not very clear with regards to the borders of the new states in the east. Thus, states like Poland or Czechoslovakia sometimes had to fight their new neighbours, you also listed some of these wars in your question. The Polish-German border was also not fixed at Versailles, thus it makes sense for Poland to enter a non-aggression deal with Germany. – Dohn Joe Apr 29 at 8:58
  • 3
    @DohnJoe For the Polish-German border the Locarno treaties (1925) were perhaps even more important. Or better said the lack of treatment of the said border in them. The Polish-Czechoslovakia border was supposed to be solved by a plebiscite but in the end a war broke out and was viewed as unjust in Poland. Even after WWII there was some tension on this border which included expulsion of some Czech-speaking minority from a small newly-conquered area of Germany. A memorial of gen. Šnejdárek made some tensions even as late as 2012. – Vladimir F Apr 29 at 16:05
  • 2
    I would very much like to know what alliance are we talking about. As far as I'm aware, a non-agression pact is not yet an alliance. The annexations in Czechoslovakia are probably the closest thing here, however, correct me if I'm wrong, it still falls short of an alliance unless the annexation was agreed upon with Nazi Germany. (If two hounds attack and devour one deer this does not yet mean both hounds are friends of each other - they may still be enemies of each other). – gaazkam Apr 30 at 14:07
  • I am willing to accept that Poland acted as an ally of Germany in Czechoslovakia (rather than as an opportunistic aggressor), but please substantiate this. – gaazkam Apr 30 at 14:08
  • 1
    Wait - maybe I'm putting too strong requirements for an alliance. I would not consider a non-agression pact as an alliance, but apparently, Wikipedia says otherwise: Military alliances can be classified into defense pacts, non-aggression pacts, and ententes. So if a non-agression pack is indeed already an alliance, then perhaps there was an alliance indeed.... – gaazkam Apr 30 at 14:15
52

Yes, in September 2009, at an occasion to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, then-President Lech Kaczyński gave the following speech:

Two generations have passed but the Second World War still requires reflection; Poland’s participation in the reduction of territory of Czechoslovakia was not only a mistake – it was a sin, and Poland can admit as much. I am as certain of this statement as I am of the fact that the order established by the Treaty of Versailles was the first attempt at maintaining peace both in Europe and in the world, even if it did not last.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed after the First World War confirmed the independence of Poland and countries such as Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, also acknowledging the independence of nations and the rights of minorities.

The order established by the Treaty proved to be impermanent for numerous complex reasons. The first reason was the emergence of totalitarian political systems and, most importantly, the rise of the Third Reich which propagated an aggressive and vengeful ideology, opposing the achievements of European civilisation with its Nazism.

Poland proposed, as early as in autumn 1933, that a preventive war be started but this was to no avail. The situation being as it was, we concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany and then also with the USSR.

A policy of concession eventually led to the Anschluss and then to the Munich Agreement.

Winston Churchill was right in saying that a choice was made in Munich between war and dishonour; dishonour was chosen but there was war anyway. A question of the role of our country appears here. We were not present in Munich but the Agreement resulted in the violation of the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia – and such a thing is always evil.

Totalitarianism is not the problem here – the problem lies in all imperialistic and neo-imperialistic tendencies. We have learnt that last year.

Taking part in the partition of Czechoslovakia, in reducing its territory, was not only a mistake – it was a sin. We, Poles, can admit that and we seek no excuses to justify it, even if there were any such excuses to be found. We must not yield to imperialism.

As well as this, however, Kaczyński also drew attention to events such as the Katyń massacre, a series of mass executions of Poles carried out by the Soviet Union:

The war which started in 1939, in his opinion, was disastrous for our country. “Five and a half million Polish and Jewish people, even up to 5 million 800 thousand, perished in the war,” Lech Kaczyński reminded, drawing the attention of the audience to the Holocaust. He remarked that the citizens of Poland who perished were only a part of the 50 million victims of the war worldwide.

“But,” he emphasised, “there were also ‘other crimes’ committed before the war between Russia and Germany began. We must devote a moment’s reflection to Katyń – not only because of the facts, with which we are familiar today, but also because of the causes. Why did several thousands of Polish policemen, soldiers and border guards suffer such fate?” the President asked.

In his opinion, it was because of revenge. “This was a revenge for the year 1920, for the fact that Poland managed to repulse the aggression then,” he said. In his opinion, it was “not communism but chauvinism,” which, at that time, “was a characteristic feature of this political system.”

| improve this answer | |
11

Czechoslovakia was occupied by both Nazi Germany and Poland.

Wrong. Actually this little area has been occupied by Czechoslovakia since 1920 as they needed a railroad placed there. During the 1920-21 Polish-Soviet war, Czechoslovakia even actively collaborated with Soviet Union in order to make Poland weaker and catch an opportunity to conquer this land while the Poles were too busy to defend their country.

Poland was the first european country to make a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.

Because Poland was a potential first victim of German aggression. Non-aggression pacts stand for securing the peace of your country, not for war cooperation. Poland had also similar pact with the Soviet Union signed in 1932.

Why potential first victim? Germany had their biggest territorial losses due to Poland's independence in 1918. Areas such as Wielkopolska (Greater Poland), Pomerania and parts of Silesia, despite the fact that they were populated mainly by Poles were still considered by many Germans as a stolen parts of their once collapsed empire. Hitler and other promiment nazis very frequently described Poland as a bastard of versailles treaty, which clearly entails their intentions. Also pre-WW2 Poland was a home of the world's largest Jewish population, that is over 3.1 million people. And made this country a primary target for such an anti semitic dictatorship. Quite difficult base to build a potential alliance, isn't it?

It is also worth to emphasize that Polish government first came up with the idea to attack Germany in order to dethrone the Nazis and to prevent a possible next world war, as soon as in 1933-34. They asked France and the United Kingdom to perform this attack with them from both sides of the German border but they rejected it. We all know how their lack of action ended up.

Hitler even was at a ceremonial funeral of Pilsudski in Berlin.

Irrelevant. Acts of honor for foreign leaders has nothing to do with real political intentions.

Poland also had an aggressive foreign policy, for example the Polish-Ukrainian War and the Polish-Lithuanian War.

Both wars happend 20 years before the second world war and 13-14 years before Hitler even came to power. How could those events be related to each other?

Churchill described Poland as having a "hyena appetite".

He also described Hitler as a very patriotic figure and that Britain would need someone like him after the crisis in order to restore power and national courage. Does that mean he also collaborated with Nazis?

I find your post an extension of long lasted anti-Polish propaganda of false accusations for collaboration with Nazi Germany. Spread mostly as a part of Soviet/Russia info-war. While in fact Poland was a first european country that openly stood up to the German's hunger for power. While countries such as France, UK and USA were submissive to Hitler's acts. And countries such as Italy and Soviet Russia actively collaborated with him, helping him to grow even stronger and in official alliances.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    Justifying Polish agression? Calling Soviet Union "collaborating"? Just -1. Maybe you also deny Polish help to Germany during Holocaust? – user2501323 Apr 30 at 12:22
  • 9
    Soviet Union was not only collaborating. They were in oficial aliance with nazi Germany and till 1941 they were in very good relations. Hint: ribbentrop-molotov pact. – andrzej541 Apr 30 at 12:27
  • 4
    The bias is strong with this one. -1. – user1936752 May 1 at 0:04
  • 4
    @user2501323 while the answer does seem to have a Polish bias, USSR was definitely collaborating with Germany early on in the war. I'm also curious about your statement "Polish help to Germany during Holocaust". While I would never argue there were no collaborators, I'm not aware of any help Poland as a state has provided in the Holocaust. Can you elaborate? – user622505 May 1 at 1:41
  • 1
    @user622505 No, there was no cooperation in the Holocaust, that comment is a case of a Russian anti-Polish nationalism. – Vladimir F May 2 at 22:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .