I hereby grant full power to negotiate, in the name of the German Reich, with authorized representatives of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, regarding a non-aggression treaty, as well as all related questions, and if occasion arises, to sign both the non-aggression treaty and other agreements resulting from the negotiations, with the proviso that this treaty and these agreements shall enter into force as soon as they are signed.
August 22, 1939 -10: Memorandum by the State Secretary in the German Foreign Office (Weizsäcker):
The ideas of (Japanese Ambassador) Oshima were, as was to be expected, along two lines:
1) If Russia were relieved of anxiety in Europe, she would strengthen her East Asiatic front and put new life into the Chinese war.
2) The jurists in Tokyo (and there were a great many of them) would debate the consistency of our present proceedings with certain earlier German-Japanese conversations. Oshima added that there was no use in trying to interfere with accomplished facts. He did, however, look for a certain shock in Japan, and he would like to abate this by making a telegraphic report tonight. My discussion was along lines somewhat as follows:
1) We were doing nothing which would put in question our friendly relationship with Japan. On the contrary, we would continue to maintain that, and we esteemed the personalities, like Oshima, who had acted and would act most vigorously to that end.
2) The present proceedings were not a cause for surprise inasmuch as the Reich Foreign Minister had informed the Ambassador some months previously that a normalization of German-Russian relations was worth attempting.
3) Such an arrangement would also put us in a position to take steps to bring about a period of quiet in Japanese-Russian relations and to insure its continuance for a considerable period of time. That Japan was at the moment not seeking a Japanese-Russian conflict was certain. I had even received from the Russian side the impression that a Moscow-Tokyo agreement would be welcomed there...
August 22, 1939 -10: From M. Garreau, French Consul-General in Hamburg, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I learn on good authority that the German Government hopes, by a lightning attack, to dispose of Poland before the end of the month. The Reich seems to be convinced that Great Britain and France, equally disconcerted by the Russian attitude, will not move. The Reich believes that Moscow is preparing a great political upheaval which would tend to bring the ideologies of the two totalitarian regimes into harmony. The rumour that the offensive against Poland would be launched on August 22 has been circulating in Hamburg for several days. A great number of railway employees have been ordered to report in various Polish towns, notably in Warsaw, Ibrun and Poznan, on a date which would be notified towards the end of the month. From this it would seem that the occupation of these centres by the German Army was expected very soon. Many motor-cars have been requisitioned in Hamburg. They are at once given military numbers and repainted grey (Usually an acceptable automotive painting job would take several days to complete). The departure of the 20th Mechanized Division for the Polish frontier has taken place within the last 48 hours; these troops left Hamburg partly by train and partly in three motor convoys...
August 22, 1939 -10: Neville Chamberlain writes a letter to Hitler, warning him the German-Soviet Agreement will not alter Britain's obligation to come to the aid of Poland. Note: Hitler will remain convinced that Chamberlain is bluffing, as he will also misjudge Neville's successor.
Your Excellency will have already heard of certain measures taken by His Majesty's Government, and announced in the press and on the wireless this evening. These steps have, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, been rendered necessary by the military movements which have been reported from Germany, and by the fact that apparently the announcement of a German-Soviet Agreement is taken in some quarters in Berlin to indicate that intervention by Great Britain on behalf of Poland is no longer a contingency that need be reckoned with. No greater mistake could be made..."
August 22, 1939 -10: Sir William Seeds, British Ambassador in Moscow, accuses Molotov of negotiating in bad faith.
August 22, 1939 -10: Meeting in Obersalzburg, Hitler tells his generals that the destruction of Poland "starts on Saturday morning" (26 August), the aim of this war is the wholesale destruction of Poland. Hitler proclaims to the commanders of the armed services:
Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees him only as a great state builder . . . . Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my "Death's Head Units" with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?
August 23, 1939 -09: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: The German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact is signed in Moscow. Sometimes called the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement of Non-aggression (or simply the 'Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact'), it sets up plans for a 10-year collaboration between Germany and Soviet Russia.
The Government of the German Reich and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics desirous of strengthening the cause of peace between Germany and the USSR and proceeding from the fundamental provisions of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in April 1926 between Germany and the USSR, have reached the following agreement:
Article I: Both High Contracting Parties obligate, themselves to desist from any act of violence, any aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other powers.
Article II: Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third power.
Article III: The Governments of the two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to exchange information on problems affecting their common interests.
Article IV: Neither of the two High Contracting Parties shall participate in any grouping of powers whatsoever that is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party.
Article V: Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.
Article VI: The present treaty is concluded for a period of ten years, with the provision that, in so far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not denounce it one year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years.
Article VII: The present treaty shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The agreement shall enter into force as soon as it is signed."
August 23, 1939 -09: Secret Additional Protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact:
On the occasion of the signature of the Nonaggression Pact between the German Reich and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics the undersigned plenipotentiaries of each of the two parties discussed in strictly confidential conversations the question of the boundary of their respective spheres of influence in Eastern Europe. These conversations led to the following conclusions:
1. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and the USSR. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.
2. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state the spheres of influence of Germany and the USSR shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narew, Vistula, and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish state and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments. In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.
3. With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares; its complete political disinterestedness in these areas. This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.
August 23, 1939 -09: Hitler is delighted with the pact, and believes Stalin has just handed him the perfect opportunity to restore the Reich's "rightful possessions" without having to fight a war on two fronts. He is certain that this new treaty with the Russians will allow him to safely reclaim Danzig and take back the Polish Corridor; so certain that he tells his staff that Britain and France, without other major allies, will not go to war in such a situation... "especially over what everyone knows are, by all rights, German territories anyway."
August 23, 1939 -09: Hitler sets the date for the invasion of Poland: Saturday, August 26, at 4:30am. Colonel-General Alfred Jodl is appointed Chief of staff of the armed forces supreme command (OKW).
August 23, 1939 -09: German Jews are ordered to turn in all radios or have them confiscated.
August 23, 1939 -09: The British and French Special Military Mission leaves Moscow. From a Conversation between Stalin, Ribbentrop, and Molotov:
Herr Stalin and Molotov commented adversely on the British Military Mission in Moscow, which had never told the Soviet Government what it really wanted. The Reich Foreign Minister stated in this connection that England had always been trying and was still trying to disrupt the development of good relations between Germany and the Soviet Union. England was weak and wanted to let others fight for its presumptuous claim to world domination. Herr Stalin eagerly concurred and observed as follows: the British Army was weak; the British Navy no longer deserved its previous reputation. England's air arm was being increased, to be sure, but there was a lack of pilots. If England dominates the world in spite of this, this was due to the stupidity of the other countries that always let themselves be bluffed. It was ridiculous, for example, that a few hundred British should dominate India. The Reich Foreign Minister concurred and informed Herr Stalin confidentially that England had recently put out a new feeler which was connected with certain allusions to 1914. It was a matter of a typically English, stupid maneuver. The Reich Foreign Minister had proposed to the Führer to inform the British that every hostile British act, in case of a German-Polish conflict, would be answered by a bombing attack on London...
August 23, 1939 -09: Sir Percy Lorain, British Ambassador to Rome, informs his government that he is confident the Italians will not fight. Mussolini declares himself ready to mediate. President Roosevelt writes to King Victor Emmanuel of Italy:
We in America having welded a homogeneous nation out of many nationalities, often find it difficult to visualize the animosities which so often have created crises among nations of Europe which are smaller than ours in population and in territory, but we accept the fact that these nations have an absolute right to maintain their national independence if they so desire...
August 23, 1939 -09: French citizens are advised to leave Paris. Churchill leaves France and returns to London. Daladier asks the Permanent Committee for National Defense whether they can stand by and watch the disappearance of Poland and Rumania; they agree that they cannot.
August 23, 1939 -09: Hitler writes back to Neville Chamberlain:
Germany was prepared to settle the questions of Danzig and of the Corridor by the method of negotiations on the basis of a truly unparalleled magnanimity, but the allegations put forth by England regarding a German mobilization against Poland, the assertion of aggressive designs toward Romania, Hungary, etc. as well as the so-called Guarantee Declarations which were subsequently given had dispelled any Polish inclination to negotiate on a basis which would have also been tolerable for Germany... The German Reich government has received information to the effect that the British government has the intention to carry out measures of mobilization which, according to the statements contained in your own letter, are clearly directed against Germany alone... I therefore inform your Excellency that in the event of these military announcements being carried into effect, I shall order the immediate mobilization of the German armed forces.
August 23, 1939 -09: Foreign Minister Beck agrees, rather late in the game, to allow passage of Soviet troops through Poland to help defend against a supposed attack by Germany.
August 23, 1939 -09: Belgium proclaims its neutrality and mobilizes its army for defense. From the Broadcast Appeal by His Majesty the king of the Belgians in the name of the Heads of States of the Oslo Group of Powers:
War psychosis is invading every home, and although conscious of the unimaginable catastrophe which a conflagration would mean for all mankind, public opinion abandons itself more and more to the idea that we are inevitably to be dragged into it. It is important to react against so fatal a spirit of resignation. There is no people-we assert it with confidence-which would wish to send its children to death in order to take away from other nations that right to existence which it claims for itself. It is true that all States do not have the same interests, but are there any interests which cannot be infinitely better reconciled before than after a war...
August 24, 1939 -08: Poland and Great Britain formally sign a treaty of mutual assistance. The British Parliament reconvenes and passes the Emergency Powers Act. Royal Assent is given on the same day and the Royal Navy is ordered to war stations. Soon afterward a general mobilization begins. Hitler predicts the Chamberlain government will fall. American President Roosevelt telegrams the President of Poland:
It is, I think, well known to you that, speaking on behalf of the United States, I have exerted, and will continue to exert, every influence on behalf of peace. The rank and file of the population of every nation-large and small-want peace. They do not seek military conquest. They recognise that disputes, claims and counter-claims will always arise from time to time between nations, but that all such controversies, without exception, can be solved by a peaceful procedure, if the will on both sides exists so to do...
August 24, 1939 -08: Speech by the Brirish Prime Minister in the House of Commons:
The measures that we have taken up to now are of a precautionary and defensive character, and to give effect to our determination to put this country in a state of preparedness to meet any emergency, but I wish emphatically to repudiate any suggestion, if such a suggestion should be made, that these measures imply an act of menace. Nothing that we have done or that we propose to do menaces the legitimate interests of Germany. It is not an act of menace to prepare to help friends to defend themselves against force. If neighbors wishing to live together peacefully in friendly relations find that one of them is contemplating apparently an aggressive act of force against another of them, and is making open preparations for action, it is not a menace for the others to announce their intention of aiding the one who is the subject of this threat...
August 24, 1939 -08: Birger Dahlerus, a Swedish businessman and amateur statesman sanctioned by no government, meets with Goering, who proposes that Dahlerus should act as a go-between with Great Britain. Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs informs me that Polish Ambassador in Berlin had an interview with Field-Marshal Goering this afternoon. The interview was most cordial and he told me the Marshal expressed his regret that his policy of maintaining friendly relations with Poland should have come to nought and admitted that he no longer had influence to do much in the matter. The Marshal had, however, no concrete suggestion to make beyond what had struck M. Beck as a most significant remark which he requested me to convey to you most confidentially. The Marshal stated that the question of Danzig and so forth were relatively small matters, but the main obstacle to any diminution of the tension between the two countries was Poland's alliance with Great Britain.
August 24, 1939 -08: President Roosevelt appeals for settlement of the Danzig crisis by mediation in a telegram to Hitler:
The people of the United States are as one in their opposition to policies of military conquest and domination. They are as one in rejecting the thesis that any ruler, or any people, possess the right (to) achieve their ends or objectives through the taking of action which will plunge countless millions of people into war and which will bring distress and suffering to every nation of the world, belligerent and neutral, when such ends and objectives, so far as they are just and reasonable, can be satisfied through processes of peaceful negotiation or by resort to judicial arbitration. I appeal to you in the name of the people of the United States, and I believe in the name of peace-loving men and women everywhere, to agree to the solution of the controversies existing between your Government and that of Poland...
August 24, 1939 -08: Nazi Gauleiter Albert Foerster becomes head of state in Danzig.
Following Poland's defeat, while Greiser became Gauleiter of the region of north-western Poland annexed to Germany after 1939, the Warthegau, Forster became the Gauleiter and Reichstatthalter (governor) of the province Danzig-West Prussia from 1939-1945, thereby concentrating both the State and Nazi Party power in his hands. Adolf Hitler instructed the Gauleiters, namely Forster and his rival Arthur Greiser, in the Warthegau to "Germanize" the area, promising that "There would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanization" was to be accomplished...
August 24, 1939 -08: Pope Pius XII appeals for peace:
The danger is imminent, but there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace; all can be lost with war. Let men return to mutual understanding! Let them begin negotiations anew, conferring with good will...
August 25, 1939 -07: Hermann Goering's friend, Swiss businessman Birger Dahlerus, lands in Croyden, England, in Goering's private plane. Dahlerus personally gives copies of Hitler's proposals for a peaceful settlement of the Danzig problem to Lord Halifax.
At 8 o'clock in the evening I tried to reach him on the telephone, but only after I had obtained help from the Foreign Office was I able to establish the connection. Goering revealed to me then that the situation had become extremely serious and asked me to do everything in my power to arrange a conference between representatives of England and Germany...
August 25, 1939 -07: The number of incidents along the Polish-German border increase. In Makeszowa, near Katowice, German soldiers take over the court house and railway station. Poles break into and wreck the offices of a German newspaper. More Polish reservists are called up and cars and horses are requisitioned. An Agreement of Mutual Assistance is signed between the United Kingdom and Poland:
Should one of the Contracting Parties become engaged in hostilities with a European Power in consequence of aggression by the latter against that Contracting Party, the other Contracting Party will at once give the Contracting Party engaged in hostilities all the support and assistance in its power...
August 25, 1939 -07: President Moscicki replies to President Roosevelt's appeals for peace:
Although I clearly wish to avoid even the appearance of desiring to profit by this occasion to raise points of litigation, I deem it my duty, nevertheless, to make clear that in the present crisis it is not Poland which is formulating demands and demanding concessions of any other State. It is, therefore, perfectly natural that Poland should hold aloof from any action of this kind, direct or indirect...
August 25, 1939 -07: Hitler confers with British Ambassador Henderson, telling him that "Poland's provocation's have become intolerable." Hitler then makes several new proposals to Britain, whose friendship, Hitler says, he has "always sought." In conclusion, Hitler strongly urges Henderson to leave for London that same day with these new proposals. Telegram from Henderson to Viscount Halifax:
Conversation lasted an hour, my attitude being that Russian Pact in no way altered standpoint of His Majesty's Government, and that I must tell him quite honestly that Britain could not go back on her word to Poland and that I knew his offer would not be considered unless it meant a negotiated settlement of the Polish question. Herr Hitler refused to guarantee this on grounds that Polish provocation might at any moment render German intervention to protect German nationals inevitable. I again and again returned to this point but always got the same answer...
August 25, 1939 -07: Hitler writes to Mussolini, informing him of his intent to fall upon Poland and requesting his assistance:
I have not kept you informed in detail, Duce, since I did not have an idea of the possible extent of these (German-Russian) conversations, or any assurance of the possibility of their success. The readiness on the part of the Kremlin to arrive at a reorientation of its relations with Germany, which became apparent after the departure of Litvinov, has become ever stronger in the last few weeks and has made it possible for me, after successful preparation, to send my Foreign Minister to Moscow for the conclusion of a treaty which is the most extensive non-aggression pact in existence and whose text will be made public. The pact is unconditional and includes also the obligation for consultation about all questions affecting Russia and Germany. I may tell you, Duce, that through these arrangements the favorable attitude of Russia in case of any conflict is assured, and that the possibility of the entry of Rumania into such a conflict no longer exists...: After reading the following answering letter from Mussolini, Hitler cancels his invasion of Poland scheduled for 4:30 AM the following morning:
Concerning the agreement with Russia, I approve of that completely...As for the practical position of Italy, in case of a military collision, my point of view is as follows: If Germany attacks Poland and the conflict remains localized, Italy will afford Germany every form of political and economic assistance which is requested. If Germany attacks, and Poland's allies open a counterattack against Germany, I want to let you know in advance that it would be better if I did not take the initiative in military activities in view of the present situation of Italian war preparations, which we have repeatedly previously explained to you, Führer, and to Herr von Ribbentrop. Our intervention can, therefore, take place at once if Germany delivers to us immediately the military supplies and the raw materials to resist the attack which the French and English especially would direct against us. At our meetings the war was envisaged for after 1942 and at such time I would have been ready on land, on sea, and in the air according to the plans which had been arranged. I am also of the opinion that the purely military preparations which have already been undertaken and the others which will be entered upon in Europe and Africa will serve to immobilize important French and British forces. I consider it my implicit duty as a true friend to tell you the whole truth and inform you about the actual situation in advance. Not to do so might have unpleasant consequences for us all. This is my point of view and since within a short time I must summon the highest governmental bodies of the realm, I ask you to let me know yours as well...
August 25, 1939 -07: President Roosevelt once again appeals to Hitler for peace.
Countless human lives can yet be saved and hope may still be restored that the nations of the modern world may even now construct the foundation for a peaceful and happier relationship, if you and the Government of the German Reich will agree to the pacific means of settlement accepted by the Government of Poland. All the world prays that Germany, too, will accept...
August 26, 1939 -06: The British Chiefs of Staff advise the cabinet that the earliest possible date for any ultimatum to Germany is September 1. Dahlerus meets with Halifax again, flies back to Berlin with a letter for Goering and returns to London later that afternoon.
Attempts made by Goering to effect the isolation of Poland by persuading Great Britain not to stand by her pledged word, through the services of one Birger Dahlerus, a Swede. Dahlerus...had a considerable knowledge of England and of things English, and in July, 1939, was anxious to bring about a better understanding between England and Germany, in the hope of preventing a war between the two countries. He got into contact with Goering as well as with official circles in London, and during the latter part of August, Goering used him as an unofficial intermediary to try and deter the British Government from their opposition to Germany's intentions towards Poland. Dahlerus, of course, had no knowledge at the time of the decision which Hitler had secretly announced on the 22nd August, nor of the German military directives for the attack on Poland which were already in existance...
August 26, 1939 -06: French Ambassador Robert Coulondre sees Hitler and appeals to him as one soldier to another. When Coulondre cites the probable fate of women and children in any war, Hitler hesitates, but good ole Ribbentrop does his part to strengthen his Furhrer's resolve.
August 26, 1939 -06: The Polish government in Warsaw increases the pace of its military mobilization. Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax:
Polish patrol met party Germans 1 kilometre from East Prussian frontier near Pelta. Germans opened fire. Polish patrol replied, killing leader, whose body is being returned. 3. German bands also crossed Silesian frontier near Szczyglo, twice near Rybnik and twice elsewhere, firing shots and attacking blockhouses and customs posts with machine guns and hand grenades. Poles have protested...
August 26, 1939 -06: From a memorandum by the US Secretary of State regarding a conversation with the Japanese Ambassador (Horinouchi):
The Ambassador then said that, speaking personally, he might say his Government on yesterday had decided to abandon any further negotiations with Germany and Italy relative to closer relations under the anti-Comintern Pact to which they have been parties for some time. He added that the change in affairs in Europe made this course manifest, and, furthermore, it was plain that his Government would find it important to adopt new foreign policy...
August 27, 1939 -05: The British Cabinet learns from Lord Halifax of "Mr D" (Birger Dahlerus) and his efforts on the Nazis behalf. Dahlerus arrives back in Berlin about midnight. Dahlerus:
It was obvious that by that time the British Government had become highly mistrustful, and rather inclined to assume that whatever efforts they might make nothing would now prevent Hitler from declaring war on Poland. The British Government had made the greatest effort. They had expressed the wish through their ambassador in Warsaw that the Polish Government should exert the greatest effort to avoid any border incidents. They explained to me at the same time that it was hardly fair to expect the Polish Government to send delegates to Berlin to negotiate, when it was known what experience other countries had had in in past years...
August 27, 1939 -05: Italian Foreign Minister Ciano recommends British acceptance of Hitler's latest offer.
August 27, 1939 -05: Polish Foreign Minister Beck agrees to consider an exchange of population between predominantly German and predominantly Polish areas. From Sir H. Kennard in Warsaw to Viscount Halifax in London:
So far as I can judge, German allegations of mass ill-treatment of German minority by Polish authorities are gross exaggerations, if not complete falsifications. 2. There is no sign of any loss of control of situation by Polish civil authorities. Warsaw (and so far as I can ascertain the rest of Poland) is still completely calm. 3. Such allegations are reminiscent of Nazi propaganda methods regarding Czecho-Slovakia last year. 4. In any case it is purely and simply deliberate German provocation in accordance with fixed policy that has since March exacerbated feeling between the two nationalities. I suppose this has been done with object of (a) creating war spirit in Germany, (b) impressing public opinion abroad, (c) provoking either defeatism or apparent aggression in Poland. 5. It has signally failed to achieve either of the two latter objects...
August 28, 1939 -04: Amateur peace envoy Birger Dahlerus continues his shuttle diplomacy. Dahlerus has an early morning meeting with Goering and Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes, Counselor of the British Embassy, before breakfasting again with Goering. Goering:
It must have been clear from the entire action that this was a nonofficial negotiation which only at one or two points touched the official negotiations, or overlapped them. For instance, the phase where Ambassador Henderson, instead of returning immediately to Berlin, remained 1 or 2 days in London in order, first of all, through the unofficial negotiator, Dahlerus, to explain to the British Government the basis of these intentions, or for the negotiations, or to explain the note, as I shall call it; and when that had been done, the preparation for entering into these conferences was thereby considerably improved. And that not I alone was of the honest conviction on that day that a considerable step had been taken in the direction of a peaceful solution at that time—I believe it was the 28th—is demonstrated by the fact that the same view was held at the British Embassy at that moment...
>August 28, 1939 -04: Reply of the British Government to Hitler's August 23 and 25 messages:
A just settlement of these questions between Germany and Poland may open the way to world peace. Failure to reach it would ruin the hopes of better understanding between Germany and Great Britain, would bring the two countries into conflict, and might well plunge the whole world into war. Such an outcome would be a calamity without parallel in history.
August 28, 1939 -04: From a Henderson telegram to Viscount Halifax in Berlin:
Herr Hitler replied that he would be willing to negotiate, if there was a Polish Government which was prepared to be reasonable and which really controlled the country. He expatiated on misdoings of the Poles, referred to his generous offer of March last, said that it could not be repeated and asserted that nothing else than the return of Danzig and the whole of the Corridor would satisfy him, together with a rectification in Silesia, where 90 per cent. of the population had voted for Germany at the post-war plebiscite but where, as a result of Haller-Korfanti coup, what the Plebiscite Commission had allotted had nevertheless been grabbed by Poland. 6. I told Herr Hitler that he must choose between England and Poland. If he put forward immoderate demands there was no hope of a peaceful solution. Corridor was inhabited almost entirely by Poles. Herr Hitler interrupted me here by observing that this was only true because a million Germans had been driven out of that district since the war. I again said the choice lay with him..."
August 28, 1939 -04: Polish Foreign Minister Beck refuses to go to Berlin. Beck says he accepts the principle of direct negotiations, but towards midnight tells British Ambassador Kennard that Polish mobilization is proceeding.
August 28, 1939 -04: Chamberlain requests information concerning Hitler's intentions towards Poland. Ambassador Henderson returns to Berlin from London.
August 28, 1939 -04: Slovak Premier Father Josef Tiso invites the Germany army to occupy Slovakia.
August 28, 1939 -04: The Netherland (Holland) orders a general military mobilization.
August 29, 1939 -03: Chaim Weizmann informs England that Palestine Jews will fight in World War II.
August 29, 1939 -03: German Foreign Office Memorandum:
The German-Soviet Trade Agreement...which has come into being after extraordinary difficulties, will undoubtedly give a decided impetus to German-Russian trade. We must try to build anew on this foundation and, above all, try to settle a number of questions which could not heretofore be settled, because of the low ebb which had been reached in our trade relations. The framework now set up represents a minimum. Since the political climate is favorable, it may well be expected that it will be exceeded considerably in both directions...Apart from the economic import of the treaty, its significance lies in the fact that the negotiations also served to renew political contacts with Russia and that the credit agreement was considered by both sides as the first decisive step in the reshaping of political relations...
August 29, 1939 -03: Switzerland orders full mobilization of its frontier forces.
August 29, 1939 -03: Unofficial peace envoy Birger Dahlerus continues his shuttle diplomacy:
Dahlerus: I was in my hotel, late in the evening, about 10:30. Forbes called me up and said he had to see me at once. He came to my hotel and said that Henderson and Hitler had had a meeting on Tuesday evening which had taken a very unsatisfactory course. They had parted after a big quarrel. He asked me what I could suggest under these circumstances. During our conversation I was called on the phone by Goering, and he asked me to come to his house immediately. He told me the same story and seemed very upset at the development. He showed me the German reply to the British note and went through it point by point. He tried to explain to me the reasons for the contents of this note. Finally he told me I should go back to London again immediately and make every effort to explain this unfortunate incident to the British Government. He concluded then by saying that Hitler was busy, and that he was working out a proposal for Poland which should probably be ready the next day...
August 29, 1939 -03: Chamberlain makes a firm uncompromising speech in the House of Commons, saying "The catastrophe is not yet upon us, but I cannot say that the danger of it has in any way receded." He warns the press to exercise restraint, and apologizes for not being able to give more than an outline of his communications with Hitler:
The British people are said sometimes to be slow to make up their minds, but, having made them up, they do not readily let go. The issue of peace or war is still undecided, and we still will hope, and still will work, for peace; but we will abate no jot of our resolution to hold fast to the line which we have laid down for ourselves...
August 29, 1939 -03: Hitler meets with Henderson. After the meeting, he telegrams Viscount Halifax:
In reply to two British proposals, namely, for direct German-Polish negotiations and international guarantee of any settlement, German Government declares:-
(1) That, in spite of its scepticism as to the prospect of their success, it accepts direct negotiation solely out of desire to ensure lasting friendship with Britain, and
(2) In the case of any modifications of territory German Government cannot undertake or participate in any guarantees without consulting the USSR.
(3) Note observes that German proposals have never had for their object any diminution of Polish vital interests, and declares that German Government accepts mediation of Great Britain with a view to visit to Berlin of some Polish plenipotentiary. German Government, note adds, counts on arrival of such plenipotentiary tomorrow, Wednesday, 30th August.
(4) I remarked that this phrase sounded like an ultimatum, but after some heated remarks both Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop assured me that it was only intended to stress urgency of the moment when the two fully mobilized armies were standing face to face...
August 29, 1939 -03: Hitler hands his reply to the British note of August 28 to Ambassador Henderson at 7:15 PM:
While the British Government may still believe that these grave differences can be resolved by way of direct negotiations, the German Government unfortunately can no longer share this view as a matter of course. For they have made the attempt to embark on such peaceful negotiations, but, instead of receiving any support from the Polish Government, they were rebuffed by the sudden introduction of measures of a military character...
August 29, 1939 -03: German troops enter Slovakia on Poland's southern frontier, but Ambassadors Kennard and Nokl persuade Beck to postpone any further Polish mobilization.
August 29, 1939 -03: Ernst von Weizsäcker, State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry learns of a secret annex to the 1933 Concordat with the Vatican. It stipulates that in the event Germany introduces universal military training, students studying for the priesthood are declared exempt except in the case of general mobilization. In that event most of the diocesan clergy are to be exempt from reporting for service, while all others are to be inducted for pastoral work with the troops or into the medical corps.
August 30, 1939 -02: The British Foreign Office sends a message at 5:30 PM to Berlin after it receives reports of German sabotage in Poland. It says in part, "Germany must exercise complete restraint if Poland is to do so as well." Beck tells Ambassador Kennard that Polish mobilization will resume at midnight. By 4.30 PM. all Polish towns are covered with posters summoning all men up to the age of 40 to report for enlistment.
August 30, 1939 -02: Ambassador Henderson (above, right) is advised by the Home Office that Hitler's demand for the arrival of a Polish plenipotentiary that day is unreasonable. Henderson and Ribbentrop meet again, and this time come close to blows. Ribbentrop goes over Hitler's latest proposals, but Henderson claims Ribbentrop refuses to give him a copy of the text.
August 30, 1939 -02: Unofficial peace envoy Birger Dahlerus continues his shuttle diplomacy:
I met Goering shortly after midnight on Wednesday, and he told me the nature of the proposals made to Poland. He showed me the note. I called up Forbes to give him this information. He then told me that Ribbentrop had refused to give him the note, after he had read it through very quickly. I went to Goering immediately and told him it was impossible to treat the ambassador of an empire like Great Britain in this way...
August 30, 1939 -02: The great evacuation of children from British cities begins.
All you could hear was the feet of the children and a kind of murmur, because the children were too afraid to talk. Mothers weren't allowed with us, but they came along behind. When we got to the station the train was ready. We hadn't the slightest idea where we were going and we put the children on the train and the gates closed behind us. The mothers pressed against the iron gates...
August 30, 1939 -02: Hitler agrees to Britain's request for a 24-hour extension to permit a Polish negotiator to meet with von Ribbentrop. From the official reply of the British Government to Hitler's letter of August 29, handed by Ambassador Henderson to von Ribbentrop at midnight:
His Majesty's Government repeat that they reciprocate the German Government's desire for improved relations, but it will be recognized that they could not sacrifice the interests of other friends in order to obtain that improvement. They fully understand that the German Government cannot sacrifice Germany's vital interests, but the Polish Government are in the same position and His Majesty's Government believe that the vital interests of the two countries are not incompatible...
August 31, 1939 -01: The British Ambassador in Germany, Henderson, instead of informing the Poles of Hitler's proposals and the granting of an extension, tries to dissuades Lipski from meeting with von Ribbentrop at all. Henderson, in his Final Report, writes
I suggested that he (Lipski) recommend to his government an interview between Marshal Smigly-Rydz and Goering. I felt obliged to add that I could not conceive of the success of any negotiations if they were conducted by Ribbentrop." A telegram from Sir Howard Kennard, British Ambassador in Warsaw to Lord Halifax states that Polish Foreign Minister Beck has informed him that Lipski has been forbidden to receive any documents from von Ribbentrop. Lipski telegrams Beck that French Ambassador Coulondre has told him that Henderson has been informed of Germany's intention to wait until midnight August 31st. Lipski writes: "Coulondre advises me to inform the German government, only after midnight, that the Polish Embassy was always at its reach.
August 31, 1939 -02: Unofficial peace envoy Birger Dahlerus continues his shuttle diplomacy. Goering, at Nuremberg:
The British Government was informed what demands Germany would make on Poland. This proposal was not entirely understood, and was then unofficially—but de facto—made known not only to the British Government but also, to the Polish Ambassador, exactly and precisely, in the unofficial way that Dahlerus has described. It came to naught because the Polish Government did not agree to discuss this proposal. First there was a prolongation for a plenipotentiary to be appointed -- I believe until the 30th or the 31st; but nevertheless we waited even longer for a plenipotentiary. On the intimation that the Polish Ambassador might be this plenipotentiary, circumstances permitting, we waited for a conference with him; when he declared that he was not authorized to accept any terms, the Fuehrer decided on invasion the next day...
August 31, 1939 -01: At half past noon, Hitler issues a Directive for the conduct of the war:
1. Now that all the political possibilities of disposing by peaceful means of a situation which is intolerable for Germany are exhausted, I have determined on a solution by force. 2. The attack on Poland is to be carried out. Date of attack: September 1, 1939. Time of attack: 4:45 AM.
August 31, 1939 -01: Polish Ambassador Lipski meets with Ribbentrop at 6:15 PM. A telegram to Beck from Lipski informs the Foreign Minister that "I have met with von Ribbentrop. I have obeyed instructions received and told him that I was not empowered to negotiate. Mr. von Ribbentrop repeated that he believed I had such powers. He told me that he would report my visit to the Chancellor." Kennard, the British Ambassador in Poland, telegrams Halifax in London:
I asked M. Beck what steps he proposed to take in order to establish contact with the German Government. He said he would now instruct M. Lipski to seek an interview either with the Minister for Foreign Affairs or State Secretary in order to say Poland had accepted British proposals. I urged him to do this without delay...
August 31, 1939 -01: At 8.20 PM Ciano is informed by the telephone central office that London has cut its communications with Italy.
The situation existing between the German Reich and Poland is at the moment of such a kind that any further incident can lead to an explosion on the part of the military forces which have taken up their position on both sides. Any peaceful solution must be framed in such a way as to ensure that the events which lie at the root of this situation cannot be repeated on the next occasion offered, and that thus not only the East of Europe, but also other territories shall not be brought into such a state of tension. The causes of this development lie in: (1) the impossible delineation of frontiers, as fixed by the Versailles dictate; (2) the impossible treatment of the minority in the ceded territories. In making these proposals, the Reich Government are, therefore, actuated by the idea of finding a lasting solution...
August 31, 1939 -01: At 9 PM all radio stations in Germany interrupt their schedules to broadcast Hitler's 16 point plan for Poland. It includes provisions for: the annexation of Danzig by Germany; a corridor across the Danzig Corridor; a plebiscite to be held in the Corridor area in 12 months time, and a later exchange of populations. The port of Gdynia is to be recognized as Polish, thus leaving Poland with access to the sea. It will not be delivered to the Polish ambassador until September 1.
August 31, 1939 -01: The Supreme Soviet ratifies the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. A huge banquet is held in Ribbentrop's honor at the Kremlin in Moscow. Ribbentrop, Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Mikoyan and Beria are all seated at the head table. Stalin toasts Hitler's health. Ribbentrop will later drive some of his peers to distraction when he repeatedly relates how he was treated as 'an old party comrade' by the communists. The party ends at 3:00 AM, and most of the participants are sleeping it off as the momentous events their 'diplomacy' change the world forever.
August 31, 1939 -01: SS Sturmbannfuehrer Alfred Helmut Naujocks receives the code words "Grandmama dead," thus ending a 14 day wait at the German radio station at Gleiwitz, where he and Gestapo head Heinrich Mueller are to carry out a mock attack. The "canned goods:" a dozen "condemned criminals" dressed in Polish military uniforms and given fatal injections before being shot. Note: See Alfred Naujocks, sworn affidavit, Nuremberg, November 20, 1945.
August 31, 1939 -01: At 8 PM the German radio station at Gleiwitz near the Polish border announces it is under attack. All serious contemporary historians believe Hitler staged this attack as an excuse to invade Poland. (See August 10, 15, 17) "...By nightfall on Thursday, a million and a half German soldiers were moving into final position for the invasion of Poland. Operation Himmler was put into effect at 8 PM as SS men dressed in Polish Army uniforms staged a series of fake border attacks, including the one at Gleiwitz where they seized the radio microphone and shouted out in Polish, "People of Poland, the time has come for war between Poland and Germany!" Hitler now had his propaganda excuse for launching the war...
September 1, 1939 WW2: Hitler's Proclamation to the German Army:
The Polish State has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and has appealed to arms. Germans in Poland are persecuted with bloody terror and driven from their houses. A series of violations of the frontier, intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer willing to respect the frontier of the Reich. In order to put an end to this lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet force with force from now on. The German Army will fight the battle for the honor and the vital rights of reborn Germany with hard determination. I expect that every soldier, mindful of the great traditions of eternal German soldiery, will ever remain conscious that he is a representative of the National-Socialist Greater Germany. Long live our people and our Reich!
September 1, 1939 WW2: World War Two begins as the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein on a "good will visit to Gdansk" opens fire on the Polish fort at Westerplatte. An hour later German forces pour across the 1,500-mile Polish-German border.
The German Air Force commenced hostilities at 0440 by bombing Polish air bases at widely separated points throughout the country. A few minutes later the Schleswig-Holstein commenced shelling the Polish fortress of Westerplatte in Danzig Harbor at a range of only several hundred yards. The brief but heavy bombardment was followed by the landing of a small German force, which was immediately driven off by the Poles. The Polish destroyer Wicker was sunk defending the port of Gdynia against air attack and bombardment by light German naval units. All five Polish submarines were at sea; three escaped to internment in Sweden, while the Orzel and Wilk managed to reach safety in Britain. In the waters offshore, German surface, submarine, and air forces quickly established a tight blockade of the Polish port areas...
September 1, 1939 WW2: At 4:45 a.m Lieutenant Wladyslaw Gnys of 2 Krakow Air Regiment shoots down two Dornier 17 Bombers—the first air kills of the war.
The German air attack hit so quickly that most of Poland's air force was destroyed while still on the ground. To hinder Polish mobilization, the Germans bombed bridges and roads. Groups of marching soldiers were machine-gunned from the air. But the Germans did not just aim for soldiers, they also shot at civilians. Groups of fleeing civilians often found themselves under attack. The more confusion and chaos the Germans could create, the slower Poland could mobilize its forces...
September 1, 1939 WW2: Invasion of Poland:
4:45 AM, German troops cross the Polish frontier. The German military machine strikes in what is known as a Blitzkrieg (lightning war). High-speed panzer (tank) units blast holes in the Polish lines. Luftwaffe (air force) bombers destroy the Polish air force on the ground, damage communications lines, and prevent the Poles from moving reinforcements, supplies, and ammunition to the front, while German motorized units and footsoldiers quickly move forward to capture and hold the conquered ground. In all, 53 German divisions take part in the attack.
September 1, 1939 WW2: Mussolini proposes a suspension of hostilities and the immediate convening of a Conference of the Big Powers, Poland included, to discuss terms for a peaceful settlement. Germany, France and Poland immediately accept Mussolini's proposals. Britain categorically rejects any negotiations and demands withdrawal of German troops from all occupied Polish territory (30 kilometers deep). Note: Britain does not consult with Warsaw before making its decision.
September 1, 1939 WW2: Hitler speaks before the Reichstag:
This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our own territory. Since 5:45 AM we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met with bombs. Whoever fights with poison gas will be fought with poison gas. Whoever departs from the rules of humane warfare can only expect that we shall do the same. I will continue this struggle, no matter against whom, until the safety of the Reich and its rights are secured...
September 1, 1939 WW2: Chamberlain speaks before the House of Commons: "...It now only remains for us to set our teeth and to enter upon this struggle, which we ourselves earnestly endeavored to avoid, with determination to see it through to the end. We shall enter it with a clear conscience, with the support of the Dominions and the British Empire, and the moral approval of the greater part of the world. We have no quarrel with the German people, except that they allow themselves to be governed by a Nazi Government...
September 1, 1939 WW2: Gauleiter Albrecht Foerster proclaims an anschluss (union) of Danzig with Greater Germany.
The hour for which you have been longing for twenty years has come. This day Danzig has returned to the great German Reich. Our Führer, Adolf Hitler, has freed us. "The Swastika flag, the flag of the German Reich, is flying to-day for the first time from the public buildings of Danzig. It also flies from the former Polish buildings, and everywhere in the harbor, the towers of the ancient town hall and St. Mary's Church. The bells ring in Danzig's hour of liberation. "We thank our God that He gave the Führer the power and the opportunity of freeing us from the evil of the Versailles Diktat. We Danzigers are happy to be able to become now citizens of the Reich...
September 1, 1939 WW2: An 8 PM curfew is established for all German Jews.
September 1, 1939 WW2: Britain bans television for the duration of the coming conflict. The ban will not be lifted until 7 years have passed. Note: At this time there are only a mere 2,000 TV sets in GB.
September 1, 1939 WW2: The Wound Badge for Wehrmacht, SS, Kriegsmarine, and Luftwaffe soldiers is instituted. The final version of the Iron Cross is also instituted on this date.
September 1, 1939 Church and Reich: British Ambassador at the Vatican, Osborne, reports to Lord Halifax that he had suggested to Papal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione that publication of the last-minute unsuccessful peace appeal of Pope Pius XII be accompanied by an expression of regret that the German government, despite the Papal appeal, has plunged the world into war. Maglione, he says, has turned down this request as too specific an intervention into international politics.
September 1, 1939 WW2: The Euthanasia Decree, which will not actually be written until October, is predated to go into effect on this date in Greater Germany. This decree orders that all Germans with incurable diseases are to be killed in order to free up needed hospital space and eliminate "useless eaters."
Originally one has taken into consideration to kill the single incurable persons ... by injections or overdosed sleeping pills. But this consideration ... has been called impracticable from the technical point of view ..., by the majority of the consulted doctors. Therefore it was proposed ... to kill the persons being eligible simultaneously in a bigger crowd somehow. After many consultations ... hearing the chemist of the Reichskriminalpolizeiamt too, one decided to install a room in a number of conveniently located sanatoriums...