Wikimedia Commons German cavalry and motorized units entering Poland from East Prussia in 1939.

The Origins of This War: a German View

BY now there is some degree of agreement among historians as to the sequence of events leading up to the World War of 1914-18. This agreement has been made possible by the vast compilations of diplomatic documents published by the various Powers since the close of that war. Concerning the origins of the present war, however, the belligerent governments have not yet been able to publish such extensive documentary collections. They have, however, issued books of various "colors," in which they seek to present their respective cases by making public the texts of documents taken from their archives.[i] This article attempts to weigh and interpret these documents, with particular attention to the German case.


On November 5, 1916, in the midst of the First World War, Poland was made an autonomous state by Germany and Austria-Hungary. After the collapse of the German Empire in November 1918, Poland became independent and at Versailles received new boundaries which included a considerable amount of formerly German territory. By cutting off East Prussia from the rest of the Reich and by setting up the Free City of Danzig as an independent political organism, a source of conflict was created which, together with the minorities question, eventually made German-Polish relations intolerable and helped cause this war.

The Versailles Treaty also sought to assure just treatment for the German minorities in Poland; but the Poles did not live up to these obligations. Complaints by the German Government, which began in November 1921 and were continually repeated, led to no improvement in the conditions under which the German communities lived. Arbitrary arrests were frequent; Germans were assassinated and the culprits often left unpunished; and German-owned lands were expropriated. As a result of all this there was a large German emigration. But the Weimar Republic, deprived of military force by the Versailles Treaty, was unable to defend German rights against Polish arrogance.


At the beginning of May 1933, the new National

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