Today few people how important was the role of Poland in 1930. In retrospect it is known that the Soviet Union had thirty million men in uniform against twenty two million uniformed Germans. Proportionally Poland had the potential to put in uniform some seven million soldiers and therefore Hitler tried for several years to persuade Poland to join his Anti-Comintern Pact. Thus, when Poland refused on January 26, 1939, to join Hitler, Stalin turned to Hitler on March 10, 1939 to suggest the fourth partition of Poland for their mutual aggrandizement. The following chronology is from Józef Lipski’s book “Diplomat in Berlin 1933-1939:”
Aug. 5, 1935, Hitler declared that Polish-German relations are of primary importance. German proposals included: military cooperation, alliance against Russia, an air pact, etc. Aug. 31, 1936, German gold payment to Poland for transit through Pomerania for traffic between Germany and East Prussia paid and declared by Hitler as a financial and not a political matter. Nov. 25, 1936, the Anti-Comintern Pact signed by Germany and Japan in order to face Russia in a two-front war. Aug. 13, 1937, German-Japanese consultation on their pressure on Poland to join the Anti-Comintern Pact (their analysis of Polish politics), Japanese Gen. Sawada suggested a carrot and stick approach. The Nazis were to order ethnic Germans in Poland to cease hostilities and concentrate the German Army on Poland’s border and occupy Kłaipeda-Memel in Lithuania (the latter happened in March 1939). Herman Goering used his “hunting trips to Poland trying to persuade the Poles to joint the Anti-Comintern Pact. Nov. 6, 1937, Italy joined the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact and discussed the need of Poland’s participation in the pact stressed. Nov. 9, 1937…Minister Beck comments evasively on the participation of Poland in the Pact. Nov. 10, 1937, German and Polish Ambassadors to the Quirinal [Italian government] discuss the pact. (The Vatican considers the USSR more dangerous than Hitler’s Germany.) Jan. 12, 1938, Italian proposal of membership in the Anti-Comintern Pact by Poland, Spain, and Brasil. Feb. 4, 1938, Minister von Ribbentrop’s intensified campaign to get Poland into Anti-Comintern Pact. March 31, 1938 German pressure on Poland to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact during a direct conference. Sept. 27, 1938, during Czech crisis Germany again asked about Poland’s attitude towards the pact. Oct. 24, 1938, Germany offered a general settlement of Polish-German problems within the pact. Jan. 26, 1939, Minister Ribbentrop told in Warsaw that Poland will not join the Anti-Comintern Pact.
March 10, 1939,Stalin’s speech at 18th Convention of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow, broadcast on radio invited Hitler’s cooperation, which led to their joint attack and partition of Poland. July 25, 1939, Poland gave France and Britain the complete solution of German secret code “Enigma.” Aug. 11, 1939, Hitler told the High Commissioner of the League of Nations that: “All my actions are directed against Russia, if the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this, I shall be compelled to came to an agreement with the Russians, defeat the West and then after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine, so they can’t starve me out as happened in the last war.” (Roy Dennan: „Missed Chances.” London 1993). Aug. 22, 1939, Hitler issued an order to the German Army to take vengeance on Polish civilians. Aug. 23, 1939, The signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in Moscow. Japanese protest in Berlin. German betrayal of the German-Japanese Pact of Nov. 25, 1936. Stalin avoiding a two front war – Hitler soon in a hopeless two front war. Aug. 25, 1939, The signing of Common Defense Pact by Poland and Gr. Britain. Sept. 1, 1939, German invasion of Poland. Sept, 3, 1939, Declaration of war on Germany by Gr. Britain, France, Australia and New Zeeland. Sept, 15 1939, Cease-fire signed between USSR and Japan. Sept, 16 1939, Implementation of the Cease-Fire Pact on the Japanese front. Sept, 17 1939, Soviet invasion of Poland. Nov. 27 1939, Soviet invasion of Finland
The Poles followed the advice of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, who wrote in his last will and testament, that in order to preserve not only the independence of Poland, but in fact Poland’s very existence, the government of Poland had “to veer between Germany and Russia as long as possible and then bring the rest of the world into the conflict, rather than subordinating Poland to either one of its two neighbors.” Piłsudski was fully aware of the fact, that Poland formed a barrier between two main protagonists and most powerful contenders on the European continent.
Stalin, fearful of a two front war by Germany and Japan decided to stop the Japanese Kwantung Army by Soviet attack in August 1939, a few days before the Ribbentrop-Mołotow Pact was to be signed in Moscow. The signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in Moscow occurred despite a Japanese protest in Berlin. German betrayal of the German-Japanese Pact of Nov. 25, 1936 gave Stalin
a chance to avoid a two front war and soon involve Hitler in a hopeless two front war. The Soviet-Japanese battle on Khalka River at Khak Khim Gol at Nomonhan was recently described in the U.S.
"NOMONHAN, 1939. The Red Army's Victory That Shaped World War II " Stuart D. Goldman The Naval Institute Press, April 2012 ISBN: 978-1-59114-329-1 "Stuart Goldman convincingly argues that a little-known, but intense Soviet-Japanese conflict along the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier at Nomonhan influenced the outbreak of World War II and shaped the course of the war. The author draws on Japanese, Soviet, and western sources to put the seemingly obscure conflict - actually a small undeclared war- into its proper global geo-strategic perspective.
The book describes how the Soviets, in response to a border conflict provoked by Japan, launched an offensive in August 1939 that wiped out the Japanese forces at Nomonhan.
At the same time, Stalin signed the German-Soviet Nonagression Pact, allowing Hitler to invade Poland. The timing of these military and diplomatic strikes was not coincidental, according to the author. In forming an alliance with Hitler, that left Tokyo diplomatically isolated, Stalin succeeded in avoiding a two-front war.
He saw the pact with the Nazis as a way to pit Germany against Britain and France allied to Poland, leaving the Soviet Union on the sidelines to eventually pick up the spoils from the European conflict, while at the same time giving Stalin a free hand to smash the Japanese at Nomonhan. Goldman not only demonstrates the linkage between the Nomonhan conflict, the German-Soviet Nonagression Pact, and the outbreak of World War II, but also shows how Nomonhan influenced Japan's decision to go to war with the United States and thus change the course of history.
The book details Gen. Georgy Zhukov's brilliant victory at Nomonhan that led to his command of the Red Army in 1941 and his success in stopping the Germans at Moscow with reinforcements from the Soviet Far East. Such strategy was possible, the author contends, only because of Japan's decision not to attack the Soviet Far East but to seize the oil-rich Dutch East Indies and attack Pearl Harbor instead. Goldman credits Tsuji Masanobu, an influential Japanese officer who instigated the Nomonhan conflict and survived the debacle, with urging his superiors not to take on the Soviets again in 1941, but instead go to war with the United States."
Stuard D.Goldman is a scholar in residence at the National Council for Eurasian and east European Research in Washington,D.C. From 1979-2009 , he was the senior specialist in Russian and Eurasian political and military affairs at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. He holds a PhD from Georgetown University.
According to The Oxford Companion to World War II (Oxford University Press, 1995) Soviet general Grigory Zhukov was the first in history to use the blitz-krieg tactics. These tactics were developed jointly by Germans and Russians on Soviet polygons after the Treaty of Rapallo of April 16, 1922.
From May 28, 1938 on, the largest air battles in history up to that time, were fought in Asia and involved 140 to 200 Soviet and Japanese aircraft (A. Stella, Khalkhin-Gol, "The Forgotten War", Journal of Contemporary History, 1, 8, 1983). Heavy Japanese loses and betrayal by Germany, were to bring an end to Japanese-Soviet war. Zhukov organized a surprise offensive using 35 infantry battalions, 20 cavalry squadrons, 500 aircraft and 500 of the new and powerful tanks. This force locally outnumbered the forces of the advancing Kwantung Army.
On August 20, 1939 Zhukov launched a surprise attack and in ten days inflicted massive casualties on the Japanese. "Zhukov's essential achievement lay in combining tanks, artillery, aircraft and men in an integrated offensive for the first time in modern war. By 31 August, the Russians have completed what they described as the most impeccable encirclement of the enemy army since Hannibal beat the Romans at Cannae. The 23rd Division of the Kwantung Army was virtually wiped out, and at least 18,000 Japanese were killed." (P. Snow "Nomonhan -the Unknown Victory", History Today, July 1990.)
Poles, threatened by Hitler with complete eradication of the Polish state in the historic Polish lands, knew that Stalin threatened Poland with terror and enslavement. However, Nazi Germany then was the worse of the two evils. Poles made a rational decision and refused to help Germany to defeat Russia. Poland’s refusal to attack Russia saved the Soviet Union from destruction considering the fact that during WWII Russia had in uniform some 30 million soldiers while Germany had 22 million and Poland proportionally could mobilize seven million soldiers as I have mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Hitler talked about Russia being “German Africa” and Russians as “negroes” to be used by the superior German race. Hitler’s plan to create “Greater Germany” populated by “racial Germans from the River Rhine to the Dnepr River in the Ukraine,” was known to marshal Piłsudski, who understood that Hitler planned eventual eviction and mass murder of Poles and Ukrainians in their historical lands. Earlier, on March 3, 1918, in Brest Litovsk, a town occupied by Germans, Lenin’s government signed a humiliating capitulation, which yielded to German dictate and practically agreed to make Russia a vassal state of Germany. Berlin planned to treat Russia like Britain treated India and make a colonial empire ruled by Germany from the Rhine River to Vladivostok. In 1939 the territory of Poland blocked Germany from the direct access to the Ukraine and to Russia.
As mentioned above already on August 5, 1935 Hitler started pressing the government of Poland to sign a pact with Germany against Russia. This is is described in detail above quoting Józef Lipski, the ambassador of Poland to Germany, during the years 1933-39. Stalin’s government was aware of Hitler’s plans and of the pact between Germany and Japan against Russia signed in 1936. Stalin feared a two front war, Japanese attack from the east and German attack from the west. When Poland refused to join Germany on January 26, 1939 Stalin had a chance to entangle Germany in a long lasting war on the western front, as had happened during WWI.
For all practical purposes Stalin offered to divide Poland between Germany and Russia by inviting the German-Soviet cooperation on March 10, 1939 in a speech broadcast by radio and addressed to the 18th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow. Eventually the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was signed in Moscow and dated August 23, 1939. The news of German-Soviet pact and German betrayal, came to Japanese in the middle of a military disaster, which lead to a cease fire and an the end of hostilities between Japan and the Soviet Union on September 16, 1939 after Japan lodged a formal protest in Berlin against the “Ribbentrop – Molotov Pact.”
Hitler furious with the resistance of the Poles decided to dynamite the Royal Castle of Warsaw in November 1939, a plan executed on September 28, 1944 within sight of the Red Army, which was on the eastern shores of the Vistula River, after Stalin issued orders to stop the front and to let the Nazis quell the Warsaw Uprising. Hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians were killed in Warsaw, as well as some 16000 members of the Polish Home Army.
The Poles signed the Polish-British Common Defense Pact against German aggression on August 25, 1939. The signing of the Polish-British Pact occurred after Poland, on July 25, 1939. gave to Britain and France each, a copy of a the linguistic deciphering electro-mechanical device named Enigma for the German secret military code system. American code expert David A. Hatch of the Center of Criptic History, NSA, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, wrote that “the breaking of the Enigma by Poland was one of the cornerstones of Allied victory over Germany.”
The Soviet-Japanese war ended with the cease-fire signed on September 15, 1939, it was put in force the next day, on Sept. 16th and on September 17th 1939, the Red Army, freed of the hostilities against Japan, joined the Germans in the invasion of Poland, which was in progress since September 1, 1939. German records show, that the German Army used twice as much
ammunition in Poland in September 1939, as was later used by Germans against the French and the British in 1940.
In 1939 during the battle of Poland, the Poles destroyed one third of the German armor used against Poland and one fourth of the German airplanes. During the war heroic deeds were performed by Polish pilots, who later were among the 17,000 Poles in the Polish Air Force in England and had decisive role in defeating the German Air Force in the Battle of Britain. Polish sailors, helped to spot and sink the battleship Bismarck, among others feats. The Polish Second Corp won the battle of Monte Cassino and opened up the road to Rome for the Allies. In August 1944 the Polish First Armored Division played a decisive role in the battle for France where it defeated the Hermann Goering Pantzer Division in the decisive battle of Fallaise in Normandy. On the Western Front Polish armed forces constituted the third largest allied force after the USA and Gr. Britain.
Russia was most likely saved from defeat by Poland’s refusal to join Nazi Germany in the attack the on Soviet Union in 1939. When Hitler had joined the Soviets to defeat Poland, Hitler betrayed the treaty he had with Japan. The Japanese signed the ceasefire with Russia and stopped hostilities against the Siberian Army, the same army that took part in the battle of Moscow and caused the unexpected sudden worsening of the situation of the German Army on the eastern front. In the Battle of Moscow, arguably the largest battle in history in which seven million men
were involved some 700,000 German soldiers perished.
"On 1 December,  Army Group Center made a last all-out attack to take Moscow, but the balance of forces favored the defender. ... At dawn of 3 December, Zhukov's Siberian divisions [100,000 men with 300 tanks and 2000 artillery pieces] crushed through the extended flanks of the [German] Army Group Center." (Stephen Badsey, "World War II Battle Plans" 2000, p. 98).
The German General Staff estimated that if the Germans had some 45-50 divisions more, they would not have lost the battle of Moscow. Ironically this is the number of divisions with which Poland defended itself in 1939.
In 1940, after Hitler was victorious in France, he was in euphoria and he ordered Adolf Eichmann to prepare a “four year plan” to evacuate all European Jews under German occupation and deport them, using the French and the British navy, to a super ghetto, to be supervised by Hermann Goering, on the island of Madagascar (this plan is available on the Internet). It is possible that after Hitler lost the crucial battle of Moscow he realized that Germany may lose the war. He decided then to commit the genocide of the Jews, announced on January 20, 1942 as a preventive measure, so that the Jews would not benefit and exploit defeated Germany. Similar Nazi logic was used in 1945, during the mass murder of prisoners evacuated from concentration camps.
Hitler took his own life on April 30, 1945, when the news came that the powerful German army group “Mitte,” under the command of field marshal Ferdinand Schoerner (1882-1973) was destroyed south of Berlin. Earlier on April 4, 1945 Hitler promoted Schoerner to Field Marshal and nominated him as the new Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres). Hitler ordered Schoerner to establish in Bavaria in the Alps a fortress in Obersdorf on the summit of Obersaltzberg mountain. Schoerner was favorite of Goebbels, who praised him highly in his diary entries from March and April 1945.
The First Polish Army organized by the Soviets was the only non-Soviet force to capture Berlin, after it broke through the fortifications of “Die Pommernstellung” or “Wał Pomorski.” Second Polish Army fought the battle of Bautzen against the Berlin rescue Army “Mitte” which included the rebuilt Hermann Goering Pantzer Division, the GrossDeutchlandCorps and other famous German formations. Both Polish Armies had traditional Polish uniforms, except for the fact that Polish white eagle on their banners and caps did not have the traditional royal crown.
Despite horrible losses inflicted on Poland and the tragic loss of over six million people or some 20% of the population, Poland survived the war, after having been betrayed by Roosevelt and Churchill in Teheran in 1943 and in Yalta and Potsdam in 1945.
The Poles still would have to fight despair during the years of post-war terror of Jakub Berman and other communist collaborators who had no love for Polish culture, history, or chivalric values, and were Stalin’s willing toadies.
The realistic defensive doctrine of Józef Piłsudski may have helped to save the Polish nation, the only one in Europe to have fought both Hitler and Stalin. Against all odds and at a critical junction of history Poland defended itself against Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Poland formed an underground state under German occupation and had an effective government in exile during the war.
It is arguable that no European nation of western culture suffered more. Nevertheless, Poland was able to emerge from its crucible as a free country with about the same borders, which it had already one thousand years ago. Among Poland’s 38 million people, there is the smallest number of ethnic minorities among European countries. Poland has even been lucky enough to remain
outside the euro zone and thus avoid recent monetary crisis in Europe, which has no foreseeable solution.