Danzig: Western Fears and Nazi Reality
From London and Paris the Danzig issue had appeared more ugly as the summer wore on. Whether the Germans in the Free City were acting on their own initiative or were receiving orders as well as encouragement from Berlin, it seemed increasingly unlikely that an explosion could be avoided before the year was out. Hitler’s birthday on 20 April had been the occasion of new displays of armed might in Berlin, and Forster had conferred the freedom of Danzig on the Fuehrer. Eight days later, in a brilliantly malicious speech which sneered at Roosevelt’s appeal for assurances as to German intentions towards the rest of Europe, Hitler denounced the 1934 pact with Poland and the Anglo-German naval agreement. The Anglo-Polish agreement had abrogated the former, he declared, while the latter was meaningless since the British Government were now encircling the Reich and were ‘governed by the opinion that England…must always take up an attitude hostile to Germany’.3 Many were relieved that the speech had contained no ultimatum, but some also noticed what Phipps called its ‘uncanny silence’ concerning Russia. And if Hitler had hoped that a Polish climb-down might follow he was disappointed; Beck’s address in reply, though conciliatory, was firm over the sovereignty of Danzig and transit facilities across the Corridor.*
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