- Removed from the European map in 1795, Poland was resurrected after World War I at the expense of Russia, the Habsburg Empire, and Germany. The provinces of West Prussia* and Posen, portions of East Prussia and Upper Silesia,* and the city of Danzig* (a free city protected by the League of Nations) were lost to Germany through the Versailles Treaty* (plebiscites were held in July 1920 in areas of East Prussia and in March 1921 in areas of Upper Silesia to determine the national disposition of the regions). Germany resented these changes, and border revision became a persistent goal of the Foreign Office throughout the Weimar era; indeed, it may have been the only objective upon which all major political parties agreed. Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann* claimed just before his death in 1929 that whereas no German was prepared to go to war for Alsace-Lorraine,* no German—from the ex-Kaiser to the poorest Communist—was prepared to recognize the eastern borders. German irredentism and Polish de-Germanization so clouded German-Polish relations that a state of "cold war" persisted throughout the years 1919 to 1933.To provide access to East Prussia, the Corridor Transit Treaty was negotiated in 1921; Poland honored the accord until the beginning of World War II. Before the Locarno Treaties* of 1925, Germany avoided a nonaggression pact with the Poles; according to Foreign Office State Secretary Carl von Schubert,* to con-tract such a pact would be nothing other than a form of recognizing the bor-ders." Similarly, Ulrich Rauscher,* Ambassador to Warsaw, opposed any compact that appeared to recognize the status quo; such a treaty, it was argued, would demoralize the Germans in the lost territories. After Locarno, Poland stood firmly by the League of Nations while embracing its treaty with France; it was among the first states to sign the 1927 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing aggressive war. Germany's Foreign Office, meanwhile, privately discounted the likelihood of Polish aggression while publicly underscoring Polish troop move-ments and every instance of Polish chauvinism and racial hatred." Stresemann hoped that Poland's languishing economy might lead to territorial concessions for the sake of loans and improved economic relations. Conversely, Schubert and Rauscher argued that frontier revision was unlikely without the use of force, and Rauscher even pressed for economic concessions to improve the treatment of Poland's German minority. Although Stresemann pondered an end to a tariff war initiated in mid-1925, a commercial treaty was not negotiated until March 1930. By the late 1920s the Foreign Office was examining the possibility of bringing pressure for border revision through alignment with states (Lithuania, the USSR, and Czechoslovakia) harboring compatible goals.Ironically, rejecting the concept of treaty revision in the East, Hitler* nego-tiated a Nonaggression Pact with Poland in 1934 and thereby eased fourteen years of German-Polish tension—ominously subverting Poland's alliance with France. By thus ensuring peace, Hitler was free to consolidate his domestic position while avoiding a comprehensive eastern settlement deemed too conser-vative.REFERENCES:Blanke, Orphans of Versailles; Doss, Zwischen Weimar und Warschau; Kimmich, Free City; Korbel, Poland; Von Riekhoff, German-Polish Relations.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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