Hitler Faces The Dagger


This article was originally going to be a small section in my article ‘Some Notes on Hitler, Hacha and the Czechs‘ but ended up spiralling into its own piece. The information in this article isn’t comprehensive, I wanted to give light to some interesting facts and discussion, which was intended to be more of an outlet for me than it was an article.


Hitler’s approach to Czechoslovakia changed dramatically in a matter of ten days, from May 20th to May 30th 1938. On May 21st Czech President Edvard Beneš was mobilising 200,000 troops falsely claiming that Germany had mobilised her army to the Czech border[1]. Beneš wanted to solicit support from Britain and France, at the same time giving himself an excuse to impose Martial Law in the Sudetenland in case the Sudeten Germans rose up against their Czech oppressors[2]. Resulting from this provocation by the Czechs, Hitler was subsequently insulted by the foreign press, gloating that Hitler had been forced to “back down” in the face of Czech superiority[3]; Lord Halifax, the British foreign secretary, even had the gall to tell Hitler “not to make the situation worse” as if any of this was Hitlers fault to begin with[4]. Hitler then realised what the game was here, and who was being played.

This event is known as “The May Crisis”, which lead to the deconstruction of Czechoslovakia by way of the German annexation of the Sudetenland as a result of the Munich conference which was the last effort in 1938 to avert war in Europe. To the dismay of many it wasn’t Hitler who initiated the crisis or the end of Czechoslovakia, it was the Czechs themselves with help from the British quite apart from anything relating to Hitler[5].

Joachim von Ribbentrop

The treatment of the British and the actions of the Czechs assured Hitler that no longer were the British impartial towards Germany, they took the side of the Czechs without a second thought. Hitler became convinced that whatever he did, he’d be forced into a war sooner or later[6]. The German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop remarked in a way that seems prescient now:

“They (Britain) were only looking for an excuse, and, if the Austrian question will not serve as an excuse, the Sudeten German question will, or the Polish, or any other.”

Fritz Hesse, Hitler and the English (ALLAN WINGATE, 1954), Pp. 49

This assessment would only cement itself as more and more accurate over the coming year or so.

During the Godesberg conference while Hitler was negotiating the return of the Sudetenland, Lord Halifax on September 22nd was pushing the British delegation to advise the Czechs to mobilise, and again on September 23rd urging that “It is our suggestion to permit the Czech mobilisation as of 3.00 p.m.”. The French Prime Minister Daladier echoed the same talking point as Halifax that “the Czech mobilisation must no longer be postponed.”[7]. All of this business being conducted behind the scenes flew in the face of Hitler’s peaceful intentions. While this deception was going on, Hitler told Neville Chamberlain that he would not be issuing marching orders against the Czechs while he was negotiating[8]. The conference ended up being ruined by this British treachery, the Foreign Office in London ended up giving the go ahead to the Czechs, and they mobilised 1.5 million of their soldiers, cutting off railway traffic to the Reich and denying Hitler’s mediation program[9]. In the end Hitler again was blamed by the foreign press for the negotiations having fallen through[10]. The Soviets too had a part to play, they assured the Czechs that if they denied Hitler’s programme and went to war, they would back them up in the armed conflict to follow even if the French didn’t fight[11]. Only at the last moment was a war prevented by the actions of Mussolini proposing a joint conference which we now call “The Munich Conference”. Some will argue that by this time Hitler had nothing but aggression in mind, that he wanted to smash the Czechs. This is partially true, and I would be lying if I said Hitler probably didn’t want this. However it would also be a lie to say that Hitler had nothing but aggression in mind to deal with the Czech problem facing Germany, the Czechs themselves forced Hitler to take this aggressive stance, which I will address later. The point is that he didn’t get the ball rolling on this issue and in the end he chose the peaceful route.

When the Polish conflict came around the British did the exact same thing. They lied, they sent secret messages, they ignored Polish mobilisations[12] and overall did everything in their power to secure war with Germany on the side of Poland. Most astounding of all on September 2nd 1939, Ribbentrop telephoned the Reich press councillor of the German Embassy in London, Fritz Hesse, about a compromised peace to settle the Danzig/Polish question[13]:

“The Führer is prepared to withdraw from Poland and to offer compensation for damage done thus far, on the condition that we get Danzig and the road through the Corridor, provided Britain takes on the role of mediator in the German-Polish conflict. You are authorised by the Führer to submit this proposal to the British Cabinet and to take up negotiations on this immediately.”

Udo Walendy, Who Started the Second World War? (Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014), Pp. 430

Hitler’s peace feelers were sincere, Ernst von Weizsäcker, the State Secretary at the German Foreign Office confirmed as much, writing in early October 1939:

‘The attempt to wind up the war now is for real. I myself put the chances at twenty percent, [Hitler] at fifty percent; his desire is 100 percent. If he obtained peace . . . it would eliminate the awkward decision as to how to reduce Britain by military means.’

David Irving, Hitler’s War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002), Pp. 240

Hermann Göring in September reiterated the German peace feelers toward Britain via Birger Dahlerus, Germany would be willing to restore Polish sovereignty but would not give up the old German provinces[14]. Hitler told Dahlerus on September 26th that if the British wanted to salvage Poland in any way they would have to make peace hastefully[15].

However, all of this was for naught. Sir Horace Wilson, Chamberlain’s closest collaborator in reply to the offer of Hesse that came through Ribbentrop on September 2nd proclaimed that “England is resolved upon war, and is no longer keen on a compromise”[16]. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The British and later Americans as well, constantly demanded all or nothing from Germany; whether it was “unconditional surrender”[17] or ultimatums demanding Germany should retreat from Poland, including the former German territories. The only outcome Germany could expect in accepting such an ultimatum would’ve been total capitulation. If the British weren’t going to negotiate seeing as they didn’t force Poland to negotiate before either, they certainly weren’t going to now after they declared war.

That’s the big problem here that exposes British intransigence. These “counter-offers” for peace on the part of Britain boiled down to a ridiculous demand: ‘withdraw from everything you took, none of which I have a chance in Hell to evict you from myself, and then we’ll talk about it’. This downright preposterous position held by the British was ill thought out if you want to pretend they had peace at heart. The only real conclusion is that peace was never an option to begin with, they held absolutely no cards that would justify such demands, nor could they honestly expect the Germans to accept them. The British threats and ultimatums cannot even be CONSIDERED attempts at a “negotiation”, because to negotiate you actually need to compromise and talk with your opponent, not just demand EVERYTHING from them and then say you’ll “negotiate” afterwards when the prerequisite for such a thing was getting everything you were going to demand in the first place! It’s insanity and only shows that the British position was one of war to begin with.

Think about it.

It was mighty convenient for the British to give a blank check to Poland and never encourage mediation. Not only did this move ensure Polish resistance to genuine German attempts at a compromise, but it also made the Germans more desperate and willing to use force, which of course they ended up using. This move against the Germans in itself had a propagandistic advantage for the British for multiple reasons. For one they could then claim that none of the negotiations were genuiny undertaken in good faith.

Because of the blank check the Brits could stand in the background and proclaim that “oh it’s not our fault we just want to protect Poland” – the first lie and move to incriminate Germany by framing the European scene in a way that doesn’t require the British to force their hand UNTIL Germany is inevitably forced to make a move; this would cast the shadow of aggressor over Germany, victim over Poland and “arbiter of peace” over Britain. The Next step was using the Polish show of force as a “defence” against Germany. You’ll see many people today claiming that the multiple Polish mobilisations (that constituted a declaration of war by the way) was simply because of the Polish need to defend themselves in case of an invasion from “big bad Germany”. So when the Germans finally had no options left and invaded Poland, the British and Poles could continue to deny any mediation attempts by using the traps previously set up (getting Germany to invade) to claim that they weren’t trustworthy and wouldn’t ever actually adhere to peace. I will discuss more of this later[28].

Hitler, even though he understood that Britain was driving Germany to war still seemed to think that they valued peace. This seems apparent to me because when he invaded Poland he offered them peace publicly and privately through his emissaries Ribbentrop and Dahlerus as we’ve already seen. Hitler spoke constantly about how he thought the British would perhaps only posture, feigning war, seeing as they actually couldn’t come to the aid of Poland but that peace could be attained later through those offers of peace he made. Evidently they didn’t want peace and unfortunately for the world, for our European Race this wasn’t the case.

The ‘Case Green’ Order

(from left to right)
Adolf Hitler, Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel

On May 20-21 1938 Hitler was given draft orders for Case Green[18], preparations for a potential military conflict with Czechoslovakia. These draft orders were the result of a meeting between Hitler and Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel on April 21st[19]. The opening line of these draft orders contained the sentence attributed to Hitler: “It is not my intention to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the immediate future . . . etc.”[20] However, after the Weekend Crisis this opening line was changed to “It is my unshakeable resolve to smash Czechoslovakia by means of a military operation.” in the Final Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) directive and signed by Hitler on May 30th. It was changed due to the Czech mobilisation and their false claim that Hitler had mobilised and moved German units to the Czech border. David Irving confirms this change of wording[21]. As does Hitler’s Chief of Operation Staff, Alfred Jodl[22][23]:

After annexation of Austria, the Fuhrer mentions that there is no hurry to solve the Czech question because Austria has to be digested first. Nevertheless preparations for Case Green will have to be carried out energetically; they will have to be newly prepared on the basis of the changed strategic position because of the annexation of Austria. State of preparations (see memorandum L Ia of 19 April) reported to the Fuhrer on 21 April. The intention of the Fuhrer not to touch the Czech problem as yet is changed because of the Czech strategic troop concentration of 21 May which occurs without any German threat and without the slightest cause for it. Because of Germany’s self-restraint, its consequences lead to a loss of prestige of the Fuhrer which he is not willing to take once more. Therefore the new order is issued for Green, on 30 May . . .’

Alfred Jodl diary entry, Quoted in, D.C. Watt, Hitler’s Visit to Rome and the May Weekend Crisis, Pp. 24-25

Keitel in his memoirs also confirms the change of wording:

On 20th May, Czechoslovakia for no reason at all and quite out of the blue announced the temporary mobilisation of her army, which could only be intended for Germanyís edification. Hitler returned to Berlin full of new plans and decisions. He announced he had no intention of accepting this renewed provocation from Czechoslovakia lying down or of letting them get away with it. He demanded we put ourselves on a war footing as quickly as possible – a demand which found tangible expression in his alteration of the directive’s opening sentence to read:

“It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future.”

Keitel Memoirs, Pp. 72

The Jodl diary and the Keitel memoir both confirm the fact that Hitler had nothing but positive and peaceful restorative intentions toward Czechoslovakia before the aggressive actions of Edvard Beneš.

However, the “historian”, Donald Cameron Watt I think wrongly dismisses this diary entry when he says “it is undated and therefore ex post and not evidence”[24]. The burden of proof is certainly on him to prove that the diary entry isn’t valid, he provides no proof. If you want to date the diary entry you need only juxtapose the contents of the entry and where in the diary it was written. Watt notes that the entry was placed after an entry on March 11th but before an entry on May 23rd[25], as we saw, Jodl mentions the Czech mobilisation of May 21st meaning the entry could only have been placed on May 22nd. The tense in which he refers to May 21 isn’t really discernible but it doesn’t matter considering those events would’ve had to already transpired thus were past tense. Even if it was dated what substantial difference could be discerned forcing it to be declared illegitimate and “ex post”? Or is it the simple lack of any date? This does not seem like enough evidence to throw out the entry. It’s worth pointing out that the same logic isn’t applied consistently to other “key” documents that supposedly prove Hitler’s wickedness[26]. There are 6 documents, all of which have either been discredited, misinterpreted, are incomplete, flawed in some way ultimately lacking any real credibility as to be rendered useless to anyone except desperate conformist historians that need to paint Hitler as guilty of “starting” the Second World War[27]. That claim alone, even if these documents were legitimate doesn’t even stand up to basic contemplation as I will show in a coming article[28].

But why am I talking about this? Because this little schism about the May Crisis and Hitler’s actions show us how Hitler went about developing his attitudes to foreign policy, and in this case, towards Czechoslovakia. The debate is controversial between who D.C. Watt calls the “Indeterminists” and the “determinists”. The Determinists are those “historians” who claim that Hitler followed some kind of long term program. The Indeterminists are those historians like A.J.P. Taylor who didn’t blindly follow the Nuremberg line like the post-war court Historians who believed in the “Nazi conspiracy and aggression” charges. This was a real conspiracy theory that conveniently tied all the blame into a nice little bow for Germany to wear. Nobody could complain of course, the Allies made a good job of making sure the entire world hated the National Socialists.

Watt evidently didn’t think the diary entry was enough to prove the “Indeterminist” position correct, what they really needed he said was “a reason for Hitler’s indecision before the week-end crisis, if the draft of 20 May is to be taken as evidence of this indecision. The aim of this paper is to argue that just such a reason exists – in the unsuccessful outcome of Hitler’s visit to Rome in May 1938.”[29] Watt successfully does this, my only critique of his otherwise excellent paper was simply on the diary entry. Even now I don’t rightly know why the change of phrase is significantly important. Hitler had it changed according to David Irving, I haven’t seen it alleged that Hitler disagreed with the initial opening phrasing, or that he didn’t even see it. After all, Watt in his paper mentions that “the draft orders of 20 May were sent to Hitler by Keitel and cannot therefore be taken as representing Hitler’s intentions in May, since on the evidence of Keitel’s covering letter they were drawn up on the basis of a conference held between Keitel and Hitler in April” the keyword being May, and of course, that was Hitler’s prior decision before signing off on the more aggressive directive. Bear in mind there was no date for attack on any of the drafts, even the one Hitler did sign on May 30th[30]. So the fact that Hitler held the position from the initial draft of May 20 isn’t really in dispute.

References

[1] David Irving, Hitler’s War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002), Pp. 91 also see Norman Stone, Hitler (Little, Brown and Company, 1980), Pp. 80

[2] Ibid., Stone, Pp. 80

[3] Irving, Pp. 92

[4] Ibid.

[5] A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, Pp. 8. Also, Stone, Pp. 80

[6] Fritz Hesse, Hitler and the English (ALLAN WINGATE, 1954), Pp. 49

[7] Udo Walendy, Who Started the Second World War? (Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014), Pp. 111

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. 400, 429

[13] “The Führer is prepared to move out of Poland and to offer reparation damages provided that we receive Danzig and a road through the Corridor, if England will act as mediator in the German-Polish conflict. You are empowered by the Führer to submit this proposal to the British cabinet and initiate negotiations immediately.” Hesse was flabbergasted. Had a specter of things to come finally dawned on the Führer at the last moment? Or was it just a charade to see how far the British would compromise with the sword of war dangling overhead? Hesse asked Ribbentrop to repeat the offer. He did, adding, “So there will be no misunderstanding, point out again that you are acting on the express instructions of Hitler and that this is no private action of mine.” – John Toland, Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, (Anchor Books, Paperback Edition, 1992), Pp. 573

[14] David Irving, Hitler’s War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002), Pp. 240

[15] Ibid.

[16] Udo Walendy, Who Started the Second World War? (Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014), Pp. 430

[17] Hitler’s Peace Offers Vs Unconditional Surrender

[18] D.C. Watt (see below) says Hitler received the orders on May 20th, while David Irving (also see below) says Hitler received them on May 21st.

[19] David Irving, Hitler’s War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002), Pp. 86 and Donald C. Watt, Hitler’s Visit to Rome and the May Weekend Crisis: A Study in Hitler’s Response to External Stimuli, Pp. 25 in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan., 1974), Pp. 23-32

[20] Ibid., Irving, Pp. 91, Ibid., D.C. Watt, Pp. 24, Stone, Hitler, Pp. 80 and In The Service of The Reich: The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Keitel (Focal Point Publications, 2003), Translated by David Irving, Introduced and Edited by Walter Görlitz, Pp. 70

[21] David Irving records the initial interim order phrase being “It is not my intention to destroy Czechoslovakia in the immediate future by military action unless provoked . . . or unless political events in Europe create a particularly favourable and perhaps unrepeatable climate for doing so” on Page 91 and ” “It is my unshakeable resolve to smash Czechoslovakia by means of a military operation.” on Page 94 in Hitler’s War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002)

[22] Ibid. In The Service of The Reich, Pp. 70

[23] D.C. Watt, Pp. 24-25

[24] Ibid., Pp. 25

[25] Ibid., Pp. 24

[26] Walendy, Pp. 445-466, also see Gerd Schultze Rhonhof, 1939: The War That Had Many Fathers (LuLu Publishing, English Edition, 2011), Pp. 361-415

[27] Ibid. – Walendy notes that “On all of the IMT’s “key documents” dealing with Hitler’s non-public addresses, their origin, authenticity, contents and date are so very controversial that every objective expert from the outset – i.e. immediately after their “discovery” in the year 1945 – should have rejected “these documents” as forgeries and falsifications, which in part has happened already, albeit couched in diplomatically guarded form, before the Nuremberg Tribunal.” (Walendy, Pp. 448)

[28] Ibid. – My Coming Article has a lot of its body already written (as of writing this footnote, March 21st 2020), but i’m yet to decide what direction it will go and whether to what extent I will cover some of the documents. Although I can’t help but feel it isn’t too important. I’ve already included in this article a tiny bit of my thoughts that I want to include in the forthcoming one, so it might get a bit repetitive at one point or another.

[29] D.C. Watt, Pp. 25

[30] Irving, Pp. 94


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