Putin veers away from neo-Stalinism at WW2 commemoration

It’s a relief to read that Vladimir Putin is backing away from a neo-Stalinist line for the commemoration of the outbreak of the Second World War at Westerplatte near Gdansk, the former Danzig. By describing as “immoral” the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which paved the way to the immediate Nazi-Soviet carve-up of Poland and made war inevitable, and repeating Gorbachev’s admission of Soviet responsibility for the Katyn massacre, he moderates the threat of rougher relations with the former members of the Warsaw Pact, as former minister Denis McShane hopes ( born Denis Matyjascek, the son of a Polish war veteran). The Russians though cling to a shred of blame- sharing with the Poles who acquired a sliver of Czech territory, the Polish speaking Tesin area under the climax of appeasment, the Munich Agreement of 1938. Official Russian historians (yes, they still have such creatures) are arguing that Britain’s appeasement was actually designed to support Germany ( and by implication to squeeze the Soviet Union) and so the UK should share the blame for starting the war. The Poles under Pilsudski had waged war against the Bolsheviks in 1920s, so revenge was never far away. Their terrible victimhood in the war is uncontestable. The best account of today’s historical wrangles I’ve read is by Norman Davies, historian of Europe and Poland, in the last Saturday’s Independent.

  • OC

    Not only Czechoslovakia, but parts of Lithuania were constantly being seized by Poland in the post-WWI period, even in the face of League of Nations demands to withdraw.

    From one perspective, Germany wasn’t actually acting any differently than Poland when they invaded in 1939.

    The casus foederis used by UK and France to start WWII can been seen as mere cynical anti-German prejudice, especially as the USSR was allowed to occupy and then control Poland in the aftermath of WWII.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    OC: “Not only Czechoslovakia, but parts of Lithuania were constantly being seized by Poland in the post-WWI period, even in the face of League of Nations demands to withdraw.”

    The difference between the League of Nations and a plastic Jesus on the dashboard on a car is a matter of cost. You might have faith, but actual results are a matter of belief.

    OC: “From one perspective, Germany wasn’t actually acting any differently than Poland when they invaded in 1939.”

    Sure… if you gloss over the Einsatztruppen, the execution of potential resistance, the forced movement of Poles as industrial labor in Germany, the movement of Germans to establish communities / colonies in Poland under Himmler’s agrarian paradise fantasies, the force adoption of Aryan-looking Polish children into German families, etc.

    OC: “The casus foederis used by UK and France to start WWII can been seen as mere cynical anti-German prejudice, especially as the USSR was allowed to occupy and then control Poland in the aftermath of WWII. ”

    It was the proverbial “last straw.” Having guaranteed Czechoslovakia’s security prior to selling them down the river, a repetition was to be avoided. The Germany’s first bite of Czech territory was a tragedy, the absorption of the rest farce.

    The really unfortunate aspect is that by appeasing over Czechoslovakia, the UK and France lost the chance for an ugly small war, exchanging it for a war spanning the European theatre.

  • OC

    DC: Poland also had a policy of “polonisation” in captured territory.

    Germanisation was relatively mild, for Poles, in the Nazi-occupied Polish region called Warthegau.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    OC: “Germanisation was relatively mild, for Poles, in the Nazi-occupied Polish region called Warthegau. ”

    Sure, so long as you weren’t particularly educated, in political office or otherwise deemed “unacceptable” to the new regime.

  • OC

    DC: Much like North Vietnamese treatment of similiar civilians at Huế in ’68. Which side did/do you support?

    I’m not trying to rehabilitate Nazism, just pointing out the hypocrisy of some of Nazi Germany’s enemies.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    OC: “Much like North Vietnamese treatment of similiar civilians at Huế in ‘68. Which side did/do you support?”

    Immaterial to the question at hand. You’re soft-peddling Nazi policies by trying to present the Poles as being “just as bad” which is patently false on its face. The Poles may have nationalistic and opportunistic bastards, but, lacking such quaint devices as Einsatztruppen and concentration camps, they are readily several orders of magnitude less than the Germans.

    OC: “I’m not trying to rehabilitate Nazism, just pointing out the hypocrisy of some of Nazi Germany’s enemies. ”

    Sorta like when the plaintiff in a lawsuit tells you its not about the money…

    France was obligated by treaty to stand by the Poles — one failure re: Czechoslovakia by France could be seen as the result of negotiations, but once you have two data points, you officially have the start of a trend.

    Taking your point of view and extrapolating, what do you think happens? Poland falls, a new Russo German border is established whilst the West grumbles and goes back to sleep. The Winter War in Finland will still happen, as will the invasion of the Baltic states by the Russians. Not sure about Denmark and Norwary and the Lowlands, although with France’s serial abandonment of allies, you may get a more Germano-centric Europe as a consequence — better to come to an understanding with the Germans than risk invasion. Germany and Italy and Russia all get more time to arm… France and England, like as not, will maintain the status quo — France will continue to rely upon the Maginot line and England on her Navy.

    I don’t think the UK and France went to war over Poland, per se — their utter lack of effort to actually do anything would be a good example of that, despite the weakness of the German western frontier. I think they went to war out of twin concerns — German appetite for lebensraum was greater than the West’s tolerance of appeasement as a political solution and the recognition that war was, given the first, an inevitability.