Thursday June 16, 2022
Ladies and gentlemen, we face a grave danger. The leader of a major European power wants to make territorial revisions. He is surrounded by hostile powers who threaten him. He does not seek war with other countries but if the hostile powers continue to encircle him, he will fight. A European war looms.
You probably think I’m talking about the current crisis between Russia and the Ukraine, but I’m not. I’m talking about Europe just before World War II began in September 1939. At that time, Hitler wanted small territorial revisions with its Polish neighbor. East Prussia was cut off from the rest of Poland by a band of territory called the Polish Corridor.
As the great British historian A.J. P. Taylor explains, “The losses of territory to Poland were, for most Germans, the indelible grievance against Versailles. Hitler undertook a daring operation over this grievance when he planned co-operation with Poland. But there was a way out. The actual Germans under Polish rule might be forgotten—or withdrawn; what could not be forgiven was the ‘Polish corridor’ which divided East Prussia from the Reich. Here, too, there was a possible compromise. Germany might be satisfied with a corridor across the corridor—a complicated idea for which there were however many precedents in German history. German feeling could be appeased by the recovery of Danzig. This seemed easy.