Anyone read Richard Overy's latest, "1939: Countdown to War" (Danzig, Buchanan)

I need to bend Doper historians’ ears once again. I read this review by Pat Buchanan (of all people) on, a blog I read regularly. Anyway, it certainly piqued my interest particularly this bit I was never taught high school, sadly the end of my formal history studies as my university work was mostly math and engineering. (I prefer the certitude of mathematics to history which is so opinionated and subjective.)

First, the issue: The Polish-German quarrel was over a city, Danzig, most British leaders believed had been unjustly taken from Germany at the end of World War I and ought to be returned.


In short, the Germans wanted their city back, and the Danzigers wanted to go home to Germany. And most British had no objection.

It seems to me that even if the German gripe over Danzig was warranted, the rest of the world of the world would still have been faced with the ethnic cleansing. Or would the rest of the world have even known? Or cared?

Anyway, is this author worth reading? Has anyone read this book?

The fact that a lot of Germans were left outside of Germany after WWI has some merit as a reason why Hitler wasn’t stopped earlier. However, part of the background is that earlier he had gained Sudetenland in a treaty and then despite of this, taken Czech republic too.

Taking just Danzig might have been ok (and wouldn’t have needed much ethnic cleansing beyond encouraging slavs to seek for a visa to Poland), but everybody assumed that he won’t stop there. Seems everybody was right. You can fool everybody some time and some people all the time, but you can’t fool everybody all the time.

I’ve read some of Overy’s past books but I haven’t read 1939 yet. I don’t ever recall Overy writing anything that was outright false although he is opinionated.

As for the specific issue the OP raised, the Germans did have a decent claim to Danzig. It had historically been a German city, the population was mostly ethnic Germans, and the majority of people in Danzig wanted to be reunited with Germany. So Germany could make a good argument that they should have Danzig.

The problem was that they didn’t want just Danzig. They also wanted a whole bunch of land around Danzig that was considerably larger that the city - the “Polish corridor”. And they really had no legitimate claim to this territory. This territory was not politically connected to Danzig. And the majority of the population in this territory was Polish not German and they wanted to remain part of Poland.

This was seen as a replay of the Czech situation. Germany had made what were arguable legitimate claims to the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia and the western powers had supported those claims. Then Germany followed this with the occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia, for which Germany had no legitimate claims.

Buchanan seems to be making the argument that Germany only wanted what it was reasonably entitled to. That is not correct. Germany wanted what it was reasonable entitled to and also wanted a great deal it had no reasonable claim to.

That is my understanding as well. Thanks.

IMO Buchanan is a hack blinded by his desire to champion his beloved isolationism. I’ve found his vision of WWII to be deviously warped.

Yes. I’m re-reading “Why the Allies Won” and it’s a very good book.