Why did the tanks roll? Because Poland refused to negotiate over Danzig, a Baltic port of 350,000 that was 95 percent German and had been taken from Germany at the Paris peace conference of 1919, in violation of Wilson’s 14 Points and his principle of self-determination.
Hitler had not wanted war with Poland. He had wanted an alliance with Poland in his anti-Comintern pact against Joseph Stalin.
But the Poles refused to negotiate. Why? Because they were a proud, defiant, heroic people and because Neville Chamberlain had insanely given an unsolicited war guarantee to Poland. If Hitler invaded, Chamberlain told the Poles, Britain would declare war on Germany.
From March to August 1939, Hitler tried to negotiate Danzig. But the Poles, confident in their British war guarantee, refused. So, Hitler cut his deal with Stalin, and the two invaded and divided Poland.
The cost of the war that came of a refusal to negotiate Danzig was millions of Polish dead, the Katyn massacre, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz, the annihilation of the Home Army in the Warsaw uprising of 1944, and 50 years of Nazi and Stalinist occupation, barbarism and terror.
Buchanan seems to be saying that there would have been no Second World War, if only the Poles had negotiated away Danzig. (The Poles actually did negotiate over Danzig, but I guess not early enough or earnestly enough to suit Adolf Hitler or Pat Buchanan.) Danzig would have been Hitler’s last conquest — we are to believe — and with it achieved he would have set aside his lifelong dreams of lebensraum. But poor, poor Hitler; those unreasonable Poles refused to hand it over.
It truly takes a special sort of person to argue that appeasement would have worked with Hitler, if only we had done a little bit more of it. Bravo, Pat Buchanan.
(POSTSCRIPT: If the President’s speech achieved nothing else, it sure has turned out the idiots.)