Just prior to Germany invading Poland in 1939...

…Hitler read an order that blamed the invasion on Poland. Said that Poland had “appealed to weapons.” Referred to “border violations” and Germans that were “driven from house and home,” by the Poles. Was any of that true? Or was the order simply a pretense for his ambitions? What was happening between Poland and Germany that Hitler used to justify that invasion? (Jeez, I wish I knew more history).

Poland included a lot of areas that were part of the German empire before WWI and had a large ethnic German population. Here’s a map of people speaking German, I presume as their main language, according to the 1932 Polish census:


Presumably the order you read referred to the Gleiwitz incident. In August 1939, a German radio tower on the border between Germany and Poland was attacked and used to broadcast an anti-German message. Germany claimed that Poland was behind the attack, and used this as the pretext for invading Poland. Much later, at the Nuremberg trials, an SS officer testified that he was behind the attack, which was organized by the Gestapo as a false flag operation.

The main thing to understand is that Poland hadn’t provoked Germany on a scale that could justify all out war and invasion. Hitler wanted the land for his master plan and he was going to take it by force. He would have taken it without force like in Czechoslovakia if possible. It wasn’t possible.

The justifications Hitler gave for invasion was in hope that France and Britain would not react and declare war on Germany. Maybe a hope the League of Nations wouldn’t condemn the invasion. And another part was for his propaganda machine to tell the German people that the Germans were righteous good guys and the Poles were the bad guys.

It’s worth noting that even in the areas with the largest German population, there was a Polish speaking majority. The only place that had a German majority was Danzig itself, which was not part of Poland.

The Germans were all lined up and ready before the false flag dropped. It’s one of those obscure bits of history, the massed tanks were spotted by Claire Hollingworth, a journalist over from England.

For some time in 1939, the Soviets and Germany were negotiating several treaties. Of interest here is the “secret protocol” section of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. It specified different Soviet and German spheres of “influence”. This including partitioning Poland.

Negotiations took quite a while, but one week after the pact was signed the Germans invaded Poland. A few weeks after that so did the Soviets.

This was a long planned out attack. Any sort of “provocation” given is pure propaganda.

I think what a lot of students of history of this era struggle with is there was a time when it was 100% acceptable for a country to make up some phony baloney excuse to invade, occupy and incorporate another country as its own, as long as they could get away with it. Hitler did this over and over and over again.

This seemingly ended in 1991 when Iraq tried it with Kuwait and got the finger from the world community with devastating consequences.

Wasn’t until 25 years later that Russia did the same trick with Crimea (as well as other bits and pieces from Caucasus republics), except they only annexed a small part of the Ukraine, using a proxy paramilitary group of guys that strangely looked like Russian soldiers. But even there, with all its might Russia has not had the balls to overrun, take over and incorporate an entire country under its flag.
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Could get away with it [for a time] != “perfectly acceptable,” or even universally recognized as such.

Well, I’m not sure there’s that big a distinction between 'incorporate an entire country under its flag" and “replace the country’s government with one wholly favorable to and dependent on the invading country”. If you see these as pretty much the same, then 2003 seems like a relevant date.

It’s been back and forth on this.

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I remember a speech I attended by a fairly well known Canadian international law expert. He said basically - WWI redrew the map of Europe to punish the losers. WWII resulted from some of those losers (notably Germany) wanting to get even. The United Nations was formed with the number one rule being - borders are sacred. Nobody gets to redraw boundaries by force or coercion, because that is a slippery slope. And, in general, this is the way it has remained. Palestine is a matter of much debate because of this; but Kuwait was the most obvious blatant violation of this rule, which is why the US had no problem organizing a coalition for the first Gulf War. Similarly, the sanctions against Russia were a large and widespread after they annexed Crimea.

WWII started with Hitler annexing Austria, then parts of (all of) Czechoslovakia and finally Poland, where he totally exhausted Allied patience. In each case, the excuse was that there were significant ethnic German populations, so therefore it logically belonged to Germany. So that is under UN standards, no longer a valid excuse to violate borders.

A fairly recent book that goes into detail on the immediate lead-up to war, particularly the intense shuttle diplomacy that was taking place in the month or so beforehand is Richard Overy’s 1939: Countdown to war.

I’d highly recommend this book. It is based closely on official accounts, diaries and memoirs from many of the key players in this period, so you get a real sense of being in the room when the hard discussions were being had in mid-late 1939.