Western betrayal

From Academic Kids

Western betrayal is a popular term in several Central European nations (including Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) which refers to the foreign policy of several Western countries during the period from the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 through World War II and to the Cold War. It is rooted in the perception that the western Allies — despite glorifying democracy and self-determination in public statements, and despite having signed numerous international pacts and military alliances with the countries in question — nonetheless betrayed their Central European allies by not fulfilling the signed alliances, and by doing nothing to prevent them from becoming communist puppet states of the Soviet Union.

The concept is disputed by some, who argue that Churchill and Roosevelt had no option but to accept Stalin's demands in Tehran and later in Yalta. President George W. Bush in a speech in Latvia on May 7, 2005, accepted this concept, describing Yalta as an "attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability" where "when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable."


Diplomacy & Eastern Europe Between the Wars

Starting in 1919, it was the policy of France to contruct a cordon sanitaire (security cordon) in Eastern Europe that was designed to keep both the Germans and Soviets out. The crushing of Bela Kun's Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 by the combined forces of Romania, Czechoslovakia, and France was an early example of cordon sanitaire in action. In 1921, France signed a defensive alliance with Poland committing both states to come to each other's aid in the event of one of the powers being attacked by another European power. In 1924, the French signed a similar defensive alliance with Czechoslovakia, in 1926 with Romania and in 1927 with Yugoslavia.

In 1925, the French signed new treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, which tightened the levels of military co-operation between the signatory states. In addition, the French tried to turn the Little Entente of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia which been set up as a anti-Hungarian alliance in 1921 into a anti-German alliance. In 1921, Poland and Romania signed a defensive alliance. This was as close as Poland come to joining the Little Entente. The French would have preferred to see Poland as member of the Little Entente, but antagonism between Czechoslovakia and Poland doomed the idea.

Beyond the Covenant of the League of Nations, Britain had no defence commitments in Eastern Europe in the 1920s and made clear that they wanted to keep it that way. In 1925, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain had stated in public that the Polish Corridor was not worth the bones of a single British Grenadier.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s a complicated set of alliances was established amongst the nations of Europe, in the hope of preventing future wars (either with Germany or Soviet Russia). In 1932 and again in 1934, Poland signed a 10 year non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. Also in 1932, the Soviets signed 10-year non-aggression pacts with Finland, Estonia and Latvia. In January, 1934 a 10-year non-aggression pact was signed between Germany and Poland. In 1935, the Soviets signed treaties of alliance with France and Czechoslovakia. The Soviet-Czechoslovak treaty committed the Soviets to come to aid of Czechoslovkia if she were attacked by a neighbor provided France did first.

In November 1933, there were rumours in Paris that a "preventive war" option against Germany was being considered by the French, Belgian and Polish governments. The British historian Lewis Bernstein Namier claimed later that the Poles had proposed a preventive war to the French at this time, but the French declined the offer. However, there is no evidence in the French, Belgian or Polish archives that a "preventive war" was considered in 1933.


First World War aftermath

After the First World War, Poland regained independence after 123 years of partitions. While the victorious Western allies supported the idea of independent Poland, their main reason for it was to weaken Germany and Russia. Therefore their support was limited; for example, many French and British politicians considered that the industrial region of Silesia should remain with Germany, so that Germany would have an easier time paying off the war debts and contributions to France and its allies. Thus the Entente, especially Britain did not support Poland during the Silesian Uprisings. However, the French military in Silesia generally took a pro-Polish stance during the 1921 Polish uprising.

During the Polish-Soviet War (1918-1921) there was a debate among western politicians which side they should support: the White Russians, representing the former Imperial Russia loyalists, the new Bolsheviks revolutionaries or newly independent countries trying to carve out their borders from the powers that lost the First World War. Eventually France and Britain decided to support White Russians and Poland; however, their support to Poland was limited to the few hundred soldiers of the French military mission. Western public opinion was strongly pro-Bolshevik, and when in early 1920 Poland looked likely to lose the war (which did not happen), Western diplomats encouraged Poland to surrender and settle for large territorial losses (the Curzon line).

In July 1920, Britain announced it would send huge quantities of World War One surplus military supplies to Poland, but a threatened general strike by the TUC who objected to British support of "White Poland" ensured that none of the weapons that were supposed to go to Poland went any further then British ports. The British Prime David Lloyd George had never been enthusiastic about supporting the Poles, and had been pressured by his more right-wing Cabinet members such as Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill into offering the supplies. The threatened general strike was for Lloyd George a convenient excuse for backing out of his commitments. The French were hampered in their efforts to supply Poland by the refusal of Danzig dockworkers to unload supplies for Poland, by refusal of Czechoslovakia and Germany, both which had border disputes with Poland to allow arms for Poland to cross their frontiers.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s a complicated set of alliances was established amongst the nations of Europe, in the hope of preventing future wars (either with Germany or Soviet Russia). With the rise of Nazism in Germany this system of alliances was strengthened by the signing of a series of "mutual assistance" alliances between France, Britain, and Poland (Franco-Polish Alliance and Anglo-Polish Alliance). This agreement stated that in the event of war the other allies were to fully mobilize and carry out a "ground intervention within two weeks" in support of the ally being attacked.

Up to 1939


In the years following the end of World War I and the Polish-Soviet War, Poland had signed alliances with many European powers. The most important were the military alliance with France signed on February 19, 1921, and the defensive alliance with Romania of March 3, 1921. The alliance with France was a major factor in Polish inter-war foreign relations, and was seen as the main warrant of peace in Central Europe; Poland's military doctrine was heavily influenced by this alliance as well.

As World War II was nearing, both governments started to look for a renewal of the bilateral promises. This was accomplished in May 1939, when general Tadeusz Kasprzycki signed a secret protocol (later ratified by both governments) to the Franco-Polish Military Alliance with general Maurice Gamelin. It was agreed that France would grant her eastern ally a military credit as soon as possible. In case of war with Germany, France promised to start minor land and air military operations at once, and to start a major offensive (with the majority of its forces) not later than 15 days after the declaration of war.

On March 30, 1939, the government of the United Kingdom pledged to defend Poland, in the event of a German attack, and Romania in case of other threats. The British “guarantee” of Poland was only of Polish independence, and pointly excluded Polish territorial integrity. The basic goal of British foreign policy between 1919-1939 was to prevent another world war by a mixture of “carrot and stick”. The “stick” in this case was the “guarantee” of March 1939, which was intended to prevent Germany from attacking either Poland or Romania. At the same time, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax hoped to offer a “carrot” to Hitler in the form of another Munich type deal that would see the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor returned to Germany in exchange for a promise by Hitler to leave the rest of Poland alone.

This declaration was further amended in April, when Poland's minister of foreign affairs Colonel Józef Beck met with Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax. In the aftermath of the talks a mutual assistance treaty was signed. On August 25 the Polish-British Common Defence Pact was signed as an annex to Polish-French alliance. Like the “guarantee” of March 30, the Anglo-Polish alliance committed Britain only to the defence of Polish independence. It was clearly aimed against German aggression. In case of war United Kingdom was to start hostilities as soon as possible; initially helping Poland with air raids against the German war industry, and joining the struggle on land as soon as the British Expeditionary Corps arrives to France. In addition, a military credit was granted and armament was to reach Polish or Romanian ports in early autumn.

However, both British and French governments had other plans than fulfilling the treaties with Poland. On May 4, 1939, a meeting was held in Paris, at which it was decided that the fate of Poland depends on the final outcome of the war, which will depend on our ability to defeat Germany rather than to aid Poland at the beginning. Poland's government was not notified of this decision, and the Polish–British talks in London were continued. A full military alliance treaty was ready to be signed on August 22, but His Majesty's government postponed the signing until August 25, 1939.

At the same time secret German-Soviet talks were held in Moscow which resulted in signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 22. The full text of the treaty, including the secret protocol assuming a partition of Poland and Soviet military help to Germany in case of war, was known to the British government thanks to Hans von Herwarth, an American agent in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yet, Poland's government was not informed of this fact either.

The Phony War

Main article: Phony War

Main article: Polish September Campaign

After the war started on September 1, 1939, the Allied governments declared war on Germany on September 3. However, all other items of the March 30 guarantee pledge were violated; most notably the failure to respond militarily to the German aggression on Poland and to the September 17, 1939 Soviet invasion (the pledge would have dictated France and Great Britain to declare war on the Soviet Union much the same way they had on Germany).

According to the Franco-Polish military convention, the French Army was to start preparations for the major offensive three days after the mobilisation starts. The French forces were to effectively gain control over the area between the French border and the German lines and were to probe the German defences. On the 15th day of the mobilisation (that is on September 16), the French Army was to start a full scale assault on Germany. The pre-emptive mobilisation was started in France on August 26 and on September 1 the full mobilisation was declared. A French offensive in the Rhine river valley area (Saar Offensive) started on September 7. Eleven French divisions (out of 102 being mobilized) advanced along a 32 km line near Saarbrücken with negligible German opposition. However, the half-hearted offensive was halted after France seized the Warndt Forest, three square miles of heavily-mined German territory. At the same time Great Britain, who promised to start air-raids on German industry as soon as possible, prepared only one air attack against the German Kriegsmarine. After that, several actions took place in which British Wellingtons dropped propaganda leaflets on German cities. British losses during the air offensive against Germany were relatively light: seven bombers were lost in the air raid and two Spitfires were lost due to friendly fire. On September 11 the leaflet raids are halted.

Both the pre-war reports of the Polish intelligence and the post-war testimonies of German generals (most notably of Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl) reported that there was an equivalent of less than 20 divisions facing France in 1939, as compared to roughly 90 French divisions. Eleven of them were under-manned infantry divisions, mostly stripped of all heavy equipment, while the rest was composed mainly of second-line troops, march battalions and border guards. similarly, most of Luftwaffe and all armoured units were in Poland at that time while the Siegfried Line was severely under-manned and far from being finished. Knowing all of the above, the Allied commanders expected that the French offensive would quickly break the German lines and force the OKW to withdraw a large part of its forces fighting on Polish soil back to German western frontier. This would force Germany to fight a costly two-front war.

The French assault was to be carried out by roughly 40 divisions, including one armoured division, three mechanized divisions, 78 artillery regiments and 40 tank battalions. All the necessary forces were mobilised in the first week of September. On September 12, the Anglo-French Supreme War Council gathered for the first time at Abbeville in France. It was decided that all offensive actions were to be halted immediately. By then the French divisions have advanced approximately eight kilometres into Germany on a 24 kilometres long strip of the frontier in the Saarland area. Maurice Gamelin ordered his troops to stop not closer than 1 kilometre from the German positions along the Siegfried Line. Poland was not notified of this decision. Instead, Gamelin informed marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły that half of his divisions are in contact with the enemy, and that French advances have forced the Wehrmacht to withdraw at least 6 divisions from Poland. The following day the commander of the French Military Mission to Poland General Louis Faury informed the Polish chief of staff, general Wacław Stachiewicz, that the planned major offensive on the western front had to be postponed from September 17 to September 20. At the same time, French divisions were ordered to retreat to their barracks along the Maginot Line. The Phony war started.

Although Poland held out for 5 weeks, three weeks longer than was planned, no military aid was ever given. The agreed upon "two week ground response" never materialized, and Poland fell to the Nazis and the Soviets as a result.


German propaganda poster, says in Polish: "England! Look what you've done!"
German propaganda poster, says in Polish: "England! Look what you've done!"

After the hostilities ended, German propaganda tried to win Poles and ensure collaboration by underlining that Poland was abandoned by her allies, and that the only world order that could ensure peaceful and prosperous life for the Poles was the German Reich. These claims were even strengthened by the French cease-fire signed in 1940 which was a clear violation of the alliance (both parties agreed not to sign any unilateral agreements with Germany).

Similar slogans were expressed by the Soviet Union propaganda until 1989. The official propaganda in all Eastern Bloc countries stated that Poland was betrayed and the only ally Poland can rely on is the Kremlin.


The Allied attitude towards Poland in 1939 is a subject of an ongoing dispute among historians ever since. Some historians argue that if only France had pursued the offensive agreed on in the treaties, it would have definitely been able to break through the unfinished Siegfried Line and force Germany to fight a costly two-front war that it was in no position to win. At the same time, others argue that France and Britain had promised more than they could deliver (especially when confronted with the option to declare war on the Soviet Union for violating Poland's territory on September 17, 1939), and that the French army was superior to the Wehrmacht in numbers only. It lacked the offensive doctrines, mobilization schemes, and offensive spirit necessary to attack Germany.

The problem with Polish expectations is that they greatly exaggerate the capabilities of the Western Allies. Although France promptly declared war, the French mobilization was not complete until early October, by which time Poland had fallen. In Britain where mobilization was more rapid, only 1 in 40 men were mobilized (compared to 1 in 10 in France, and 1 in 20 in Poland), thus providing only a token force against Germany's forces of several million. The presumption that "something could have been done" but wasn't, overlooks the basic fact that the West, just like Poland, was ill equipped to fight the full force of Nazi Germany.


Atlantic Charter

Soon after the Third Reich had invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, the Polish government in exile signed a pact with Joseph Stalin. It declared all pacts the USSR had signed with the Nazis null and void, allowed the creation of the Polish Army in the East, and release all Polish citizens from the Soviet labor camps. Despite the difficulties the Soviet government made, many Poles were released from their confinement and could join the Polish Army formed formally on August 12, 1941. However, after the troops were withdrawn to the Middle East in March 1942, in June–July, 1942, Stalin revoked the amnesty and arrested all Polish diplomats in the USSR.

Meanwhile, on September 24, 1941, Poland and the USSR had signed the Atlantic Charter. It underlined that no territorial changes should be made that would not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned. It was viewed by the Polish government as a warrant of Poland's borders, although it became apparent that some concessions would have to be made.

In December, 1941, a Conference was held in Moscow between the USSR and Great Britain. Stalin proposed to base post-war Polish western borders on the Oder-Neisse Line and demanded that the United Kingdom accept the pre-war western borders of the Soviet Union. Anthony Eden accepted the demand as he assumed that the border in question was the 1939 line. However, Stalin apparently meant the 1941 border with Germany. It was soon discovered, but British government decided not to change the document. On March 11, 1942 Winston Churchill notified prime minister Sikorski that the borders of the Baltic States and Romania were guaranteed, and that no decision was made regarding the borders of Poland.

Katyn and the Soviet pressure

The government of Poland from the very beginning of Polish-Soviet talks in 1941 was searching for approximately 20.000 Polish officers missing in Russia. Stalin always replied that they either must have fled to Mongolia or are somewhere in Russia, which is a big country and it's easy to get lost here. In April 1943 German news agencies reported of finding mass graves of Polish soldiers in Katyn. Polish government asked the government of the Soviet Union to examine the case and at the same time asked the International Red Cross for help in verifying the German reports.

On April 24, 1943, Sikorski met with Eden and demanded Allied help in releasing the Poles from GULag and Soviet prisons and declined the Soviet demand of withdrawal the plea for the Red Cross. Anthony Eden declined and on the following day the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Poland arguing that the Polish government was collaborating with Nazi Germany. Despite Polish pleas for help, USA and the United Kingdom decided not to put pressure on USSR.

After the Soviets stopped the German advance on the Eastern Front, Poland lost its significance as the main Eastern ally. After the German defeat at Stalingrad it became obvious. Between 12 and 19 of March 1943 Anthony Eden agreed with Franklin Delano Roosevelt upon the Curzon Line as the basis of the Polish Eastern border.


In October 1943 the Big Three met at the Tehran Conference. Both Roosevelt and Churchill officially agreed that the eastern borders of Poland will roughly follow the Curzon Line. The Polish government was not notified of this decision and the only information given was the press release claiming that We await the day, when all nations of the world will live peacefully, free of tyranny, according to their national needs and conscience. The resulting loss of the "eastern territories," approximately 48% of Poland's pre-war territory, to the Soviet Union is seen by Poles as another "betrayal" by their Western Allies.

According to many historians, Churchill and Roosevelt promised Stalin to settle the issue with the Poles, however they never sincerely informed the Polish side. When the Polish Prime Minister visited Moscow, he was convinced he was coming to dicuss borders that were still disputed, while Stalin believed everything had already been settled. This was the principal reason for the failure of Polish Prime Minister's mission to Moscow.

Warsaw Uprising

See: Lack of outside support in the Warsaw Uprising for more info on the Allied policy towards Poland during the Uprising.

Since the establishment of the Polish government in exile in Paris and then in London, the military commanders of the Polish army were focusing most of their efforts on preparation of a future all-national uprising against Germany. Finally the plans for Operation Tempest were prepared and on August 1, 1944 the Warsaw Uprising started. The Uprising was an armed struggle by the Polish Home Army to liberate Warsaw from German occupation and Nazi rule.

While from 4 August Polish and later RAF planes flew missions over Warsaw dropping supplies, the USAF planes did not join the operation. The Allies specific request for the use of Red Army airfields near Warsaw made on 20 August was denied by Stalin on 22 August (he referred to the insurgents as 'a handful of criminals'). After Stalin's objections to support for the uprising, Churchill telegrammed Roosevelt on 25 August and proposed sending planes in defiance of Stalin and to 'see what happens'. Roosevelt replied on 26 August that I do not consider it advantageous to the long-range general war prospect for me to join you in the proposed message to Uncle Joe ([1] (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/presents/shows/warsaw.rising/interactive/timeline.warsaw/frameset.exclude.html)).

Various scholars (including Norman Davies in his recently published Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw) argue that during the Warsaw Uprising both the governments of United Kingdom and the United States did little to help the Poland insurgents in their struggle. Also, it is often argued that the Allies put little pressure on Joseph Stalin to help the Polish struggle.


See also: Yalta conference.

In 1945, Poland's borders were redrawn, following the decision taken at the Tehran Conference of 1943 at the insistence of the Soviet Union. Polish government was not invited to the talks and was to be notified of their outcome. The eastern territories which the Soviet Union had occupied in 1939 (with the exception of the Bialystok area) were permanently annexed, and most of their Polish inhabitants expelled: today these territories are part of Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania. The factual basis of this decision was the result of a forged referendum from November 1939 in which the "huge majority" of voters accepted the incorporation of these lands into Western Belarus and Western Ukraine. In compensation, Poland was given former German territory (the so-called Regained Territories): the southern half of East Prussia and all of Pomerania and Silesia, up to the Oder-Neisse Line. These territories were repopulated with Poles expelled from the eastern regions. Polish resistance fighters were incarcerated or deported to gulags in Siberia by Stalin, in line with decisions made by Churchill and Roosevelt.

The fact that Western leaders tried to force Polish leaders to accept the conditions of Stalin is a matter of continuing resentment for some Poles even today. Some view it as a 'betrayal' of Poland by its Western allies (which can be seen as part of a larger 'betrayal' to allow it to fall entirely into the Soviet sphere of influence). Moreover, it was used by ruling communists to underline anti-Western sentiments. It was easy to argue that Poland was not too important to the West, since its leaders sacrificed Polish borders, legal government and free elections. On this background even Stalin looked as a better friend of Poland, since he had strong interests in Poland. Defenders of the actions taken by the Western allies maintain that Realpolitik made it impossible to do anything else, and that they were in no shape to start a war with the Soviet Union over the subjugation of Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries immediately after the end of World War II. Some argue that the actions of the Secretary of State were a result of ignorance rather than Realpolitik.

What the Western allies sacrificed is also disputed. Some argue that Poland's borders had been re-drawn many times in history, the country had not had free elections since 1926 and throughout the 1930s it had endured increasing political repression under an authoritarian Sanacja government. On the other hand, the Polish government in exile was composed entirely of the pre-war democratic opposition and all political parties of the Polish Secret State underlined the need to follow the democratic traditions of March 1921 constitution, rather than autocratic April constitution of Poland of 1935.

In May 2005 US President George W. Bush admitted that the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II was "one of the greatest wrongs of history" and acknowledged that the United States played a significant role in the division of the continent and that the Yalta conference "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. (...) Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable."


Władysław Sikorski, Prime Minister of Polish Government in Exile, was killed in an air crash over Gibraltar in July 1943. As he was the most prestigious leader of the Polish exiles, his death was a severe setback to the Polish cause, and was certainly highly convenient for Stalin. It was in some ways also convenient for the western Allies, who were finding the Polish issue a stumbling-block in their efforts to preserve good relations with Stalin.

This has given rise to persistent suggestions that Sikorski's death was not accidental. Many historians speculate that his death might have been effect of Soviet, British or even Polish conspiracy. This has never been proved, and the fact that the principal exponents of this theory in the west have been the revisionist historians David Irving and Rolf Hochhuth has not encouraged many western historians to take it seriously.

On the other hand by 2000 only a small part of the British Intelligence documents related to Sikorski's death had been unclassified and made available to Polish historians. The majority of the files will be classified for another "50 to 100 years."

In November 1944, despite his mistrust of the Soviets, Sikorski's successor, Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk resigned to return to Poland and take office in the new government established under the auspices of the Soviet occupation authorities. Many of the Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a facade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland, a view that was later proved correct; after losing an election which was later shown to have been fraudulent, Mikolajczyk left Poland again in 1947.

Meanwhile the government in exile had maintained its existence, but the United States and the United Kingdom withdrew their recognition on July 6, 1945. The Polish armed forces in exile were disbanded in 1945 and most of their members, unable to return to Communist Poland, settled in other countries. The London Poles had to leave the embassy on Portland Place and were left only with the president's private residence at 43 Eaton Place. The government in exile then became largely symbolic, serving mainly to symbolise the continued resistance to foreign occupation of Poland, and retaining control of some important archives from pre-war Poland. Ireland and Spain were the last countries to recognize the government in exile.

No representatives of Polish military, 4th largest in the Second World War, veterans of Battle of Britain and Monte Cassino, were invited to the London Victory Parade of 1946 - Poles were supposed to attend the Moscow Victory Parade instead.

At the war's end many of these feelings of resentment were capitalized on by the occupying Soviets, who used them to reinforce anti-Western sentiments within Poland. Propaganda was produced by Communists to show Russia as the Great Liberator, and the West as the Great Traitor. Capitalism was shown as being inherently bad, because capitalists only cared for "their own skin," while communism was portrayed as the great "uniter and protector."


Soviet actions made it clear that nothing short of another war would force them out of Poland. Records of the time show that considerable diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on the Soviet Union by both Britain and the United States to persuade her to permit democratic elections in Poland, and in fact the Soviet Union promised exactly that. It seems however that somewhere along the way Stalin changed his mind .


See also: History of Czechoslovakia#Before WWII (1938 – 1939) and later sections

Unlike many of its neighbours, Czechoslovakia formed a stable republic after World War I and remained the only truly democratic state in Central Europe. However, territorial disputes with Germany, Poland and Hungary made the international situation of the state critical in the late thirties.

The League of Nations was seen as the main guarantor of peace. To protect against possible threats, Czechoslovakia signed numerous international treaties including military alliances with France, Yugoslavia, and Romania. Additional pacts were signed with the Soviet Union.

Munich Conference

However when the German nationalist minority, led by Konrad Henlein and vehemently backed by Hitler, demanded the cession of the Sudetenland, Bohemian, Moravian and Silesian borderlands, the German territorial claims were met with what the Czechoslovaks regarded as apparent no opposition from Czechoslovak allies. Ever since March 1938 when the Anschluss with Austria occured, there had been increased agitation in the Sudetenland for a union with Germany. At the same time, the German media started to denounce what the Germans claimed to be savage persection of the ethnic German minority. It is true that the treatment of the ethnic Germans was not as ideal as many Czechoslovaks liked to pretend, but many of the German stories such as reports of massacres of Sudetenlanders were clearly false. In addition, the Germans denounced the Czechoslovak alliance with Moscow, and accused Czechoslovakia of being a Soviet “aircraft carrier” in Central Europe. More ominously, German troops started to mass on the Czechoslovak border.

In the Hossbach Memorandum of November 1937, Hitler announced that the period of German rearmament was over, and the time for wars had come. In the near future, Hitler planned a series of swift lighting regional wars against such states like Czechoslovakia. Hitler did not place a precise timetable for when the wars were to begin. In May 1938, municipal elections were scheduled to take place in Czechoslovkia. In the run-up to the elections, rurmors started to circulate that Germany was going to attack Czechoslovkia the weekend of the elections. Just before the elections, tensions were increased by the killing of two ethnic German farmers by the Czechoslovak police.

On Friday, May 19, 1938, a routine German troop movement was mistooken for the preliminary for a invasion. The Czechoslovak President Benes announced his country was under imminent danger and began a partial mobilization of the Czechoslovak military. Both the British and French governments were taken in by the false alarm and informed Berlin that if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, they would go to war with Germany. France had a treaty obligation to Czechoslovakia, but beyond the Covenant of the League of Nations, Britain did not. However, the British goverment was determined to prevent another world war, and felt it best to warn Germany against aggression. The Germans denied being on the verge of aggression that weekend, but the German foreign minister was quite happy to make threats against Prague, Paris and London. By Sunday, the crisis had passed when it was clear that no German invasion was imminent. Many abroad felt that a invasion had planned for that weekend, but that the Czechoslovak mobilization and the Anglo-French warnings had forced Adolf Hitler to back down. Hitler was furious with this perception, regarding it as a personal humiliation. After the May Crisis, Hitler ordered a invasion of Czechoslovakia to begin no later then October 1, 1938.

Hitler's plan was to use the Sudetenland issue as pretext for war. In private, Hitler cared little for the Sudetenlanders. What Hitler wanted above all was a war to use his own words that would "Smash Czechoslovakia". Hitler planned to ask for the Sudetenland to transferred to Germany under the grounds of self-determination. Hitler neither expected nor wanted this demand to be granted. Once this request had refused, Hitler would use this rejection to justify a war of aggression.

All through the summer of 1938, the level of propaganda abuse of Czechoslovakia in the German media increased dramatically. With it went every increasing German troop build-up on the Czechoslovak border. France in 1938 was suffering from a serious financial crisis. In May 1938, there been a run on the franc, and only a bail-out from the Bank of England had prevented the franc's total collapse. Moreover, French industrial production in the military sphere was slumping owing to the ill-throught moves of the Popular Front government. In March 1938, French aircraft production was arould 60 plans compared to 300 plans made the same month in Germany. If France were to fight war, something would have done to increase French industrial productivity. The government of Edouard Daladier terminated the generous contacts made with French unions by the Popular Front government and broke a major wild-cat strike in October-November 1938 that called to protest the move.

The French Premier Edouard Daladier was prepared to fight if the Germans attacked Czechoslovakia, but knowing his country's weakness, he was determined to do whatever it took to prevent a war from breaking out in 1938. Daladier felt France needed more time to get itself ready for war with Nazi Germany that Daladier believed to be inevitable. In Daladier's view, if statement could be reached that prevented a war, then any almost price was worth paying.

The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain believed that it was possible to reach a settlement with Adolf Hitler that would applease Germany and so prevent another war. In December 1937, Chamberlain privately drew up his plans for a "Grand Settlement" with Germany. The "Grand Settlement" called for the return of pre-1914 German colonial empire in Africa and the Pacific, Anschluss with Austria, the cession of Sudetenland, and the return of the Memelland, Free City of Danzig, Upper Silesia and the Polish Corridor to Germany. To sweeten the offer, Chamberlain was prepared to pressure Portugal to hand part of it's African empire to Germany and to offer privileged access to the economic zone created by the Ottawa Agreements of 1932. In return, Chamberlain wanted a cast-iron promise from Hitler that he would guarantee the borders of his all neighbors, especially those in Eastern and Central Europe, renounce war as method of resolving disputes, rejoin the League of Nations, and sign a series of agreements limiting military spending in the air and on the ground along the lines of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. Chamberlain hoped in a best case scenario this "Grand Settlement" may prevent a another war and in a worse case scenario, may give Britain may time to re-arm. All through the summer of 1938, the British had been attempting to serve as what they regarded as "Honest broker" role that would preserve the peace. Chamberlain's plan was simple. On one hand, he warned Berlin that Britain would to war if Germany attacked Czechoslovkia, and on the other hand, he pressured Prague to agree to handing-over the Sudetenland. Beyond that, Chamberlain had the so-called "Plan Z", which was to fly to Germany, meet Hitler and see if a arrangement could be worked out.

On September 15, 1938, at the Nuremberg Party Congress, Hitler formally laid claim to the Sudetenland, and announced if Benes refused his demand to surrender it, he would to go to war in the very near future. To do with the mounting crisis, Chamberlain flew to Germany twice and met with Hitler. At the first meeting, Chamberlain informed Hitler that if he argeed to put aside his deadline of October 1, 1938, then Britain and France would give their word of honour that they would would pressure Benes into handing over the Sudetenland within six months. If Hitler insisted on attacking Czechoslovkia by October 1, then Chamberlain told Hitler that he would be at war with not only Czechoslovkia, but Britain and France as while. Hitler very reluctantly accepted Chamberlain's offer. Hitler was furious with Chamberalain for accepting his public demands as it deprived him of his excuse to have the war he wanted.

As soon as Chamberlain returned to London, Hitler upped the ante, and announced that the Sudetenland had to be handed over no later then October, or else war would begin. Chamberlain once again flew to Germany to meet, and once again he accepted Hitler's demand. Once again, Hitler was enraged as he was deprived of his pretext for war. Upon Chamberlain's return to the United Kingdom, Hitler again increased his demands, saying the timetable for the hand-over of the Sudetenland had to speeded up. This time, Chamberlain refused Hitler's' demand, and the world appeared to be on the verge of war. At the end of September, Benito Mussolini announced that Hitler was willing to meet with Chamberlain and Daladier in Munich for a last meeting to prevent a war.

In September of 1938 France and the UK decided to compromise the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference. On September 29, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain. The Munich Agreement stipulated that Czechoslovakia must cede Sudeten territory to Germany. The government of Czechoslovakia was not invited to the meeting.

Through Hitler achived what he claimed to want at the Munich Conference, in private he regarded the Conference as terrible diplomatic defeat that had "cheated" out of the war he wanted so desperately to start against Czechoslovkia. It is not clear why Hitler accepted the offer made at the Munich Conference when all the evidence suggests that he really wanted was a war against Czechoslovakia.

The most probable explanation is that Hitler realized Chamberlain was serious in his threats that if Germany refused his offers and went to war with Prague, then Britain would go to war with Germany. Germany had little in the way of oil, and relied almost totally upon imports to fulfill her needs. 80% of the oil used in Germany in the 1930s came from the United States, Mexico, and Venezuela. Should a Anglo-German war break out, then given the relative strenghts of the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine, the British would almost certainlly imposed a blockade on Germany that would have cut her off from oil imports from the Americas. The Germans had only stockpiled enough oil for a war against Czechoslovkia. And moreover, the two major centers of oil production in Europe were the Soviet Union and Romania, both allies of Czechoslovkia. Had an war broken out in October 1938, it seems likely Germany would have conquered Czechoslovkia, and then been rapidly defeated by France and Britain owing to her lack of oil. Panzers did not go far on empty tanks. The principle difference between September 1938 and September 1939 is that under the terms of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939, the Soviets committed themselves to sign a Economic treaty to supply the Germans with oil.

The term Munich betrayal (Mnichovska zrada in Czech) is frequently used to denote the Munich Agreement. During the crisis that led to the Munich Agreement, the Soviets repeatedly offered to come to Czechoslovakia's aid if she was attacked by Germany. However, since the Soviet-Czechoslovak alliance only came into effect if the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance came into effect first, and France wanted to avoid war almost at costs, there was little chance of Franco-Czechoslovak alliance being activated. As the crisis deepened over the summer and fall of 1938, the Soviets proclaimed that there would come to Czechoslovakia's defence even if France did not. There has been considerable debate amongst historians over how serious Stalin was in making these offers. The analysis done by the American historian Igor Lukes in his essay "Stalin and Czechoslovakia in 1938-39: An Autopsy of a Myth" from the book The Munich crisis, 1938 suggests that Stalin was not serious. But regardless whatever these were sincere offers of help or just mere posturing, the Soviet offers made a considerable impression on the Czechoslovak people and much of the pro-Soviet feelings of the 1940s can be traced to 1938.

In early November 1938, under the Vienna Award, which was a result of the Munich agreement, Czechoslovakia (and later Slovakia) was forced by Germany and Italy to cede southern Slovakia (1/3 of Slovak territory) to Hungary, and Poland obtained small territorial cessions shortly thereafter. In late November 1938, the truncated state, renamed Czecho-Slovakia [the so-called Second Republic], was reconstituted in three autonomous units - Czechia (i.e. Bohemia and Moravia), Slovakia, and Ruthenia. On 14 March 1939, Slovakia gained nominal independence as a satellite state under Jozef Tiso. One day later, Hitler forced the president of Czecho-Slovakia, Emil Hácha, to surrender remaining Czechia to German control and made it into the German protectorate "Bohemia and Moravia". On the same day (March 15), the Carpatho-Ukraine (Subcarpathian Ruthenia) declared its independence and was immediately invaded and annexed by Hungary. Finally, on March 23 Hungary invaded and occupied from the Carpatho-Ukraine some further parts of Slovakia (eastern Slovakia).

Second World War Ally

During the Second World War, former president Edvard Benes and other Czechoslovak exiles in London organized a Czechoslovak government-in-exile and negotiated to obtain international recognition for the government and a renunciation of the Munich Agreement and its consequences. In the summer of 1941, the Allies recognized the exiled government. Czechoslovak military units fought alongside the Allied forces.

On 8th May 1944, Benes signed an agreement with Soviet leaders stipulating that Czechoslovak territory liberated by Soviet armies would be placed under Czechoslovak civilian control. During the war, it was understood in the western capitals that a restored Czechoslovakia would be democratic, but within the Soviet sphere of influence. In the light of the fact that Benes felt precisly the same way, it is hard to argue that this was a "betrayal" by the West. Benes who always been somthing of a "Fellow traveller" felt deeply betrayed by the Munich Agreement, and came to the conclusion that the West could never be regarded upon to defend Czechoslovakia. Instead, Benes decided that the Soviets were Czechoslovakia's only true friends. Benes belived that a democratic but pro-Soviet Czechoslovakia would be a bridge between the Soviet and Western worlds.

The so-called Third Republic came into being in April 1945 and at first included representatives from the Benes government-in exile. The Third Republic was proclaimed at Kosice and comprised a National Front (also known as the People's Front) that comprised representatives of every non-collaborating Czech and Slovak political party. Most of Czechoslovakia had been "liberated" by the Red Army and in May 1945, the Red Army was received rapturously in Prague. The fact that Soviets were perceived as being Czechoslovakia's only friends during the dark days of 1938, the leading role played in the resistance by Czechoslovak Communist Party (which usually won about 10% of the vote before 1938), and the role of the Red Army in "liberating" Czechoslovakia did much to increase the prestige of Communism to Czechoslovak people. There was much pro-Communist feeling that in December 1945, the Red Army was pulled out. Stalin felt the Red Army's presence was not necessary to secure a pro-Soviet orientation in Czechoslovakia.

In the May 1946 elections, where were completely free and fair, the Communists won a sweeping triumph with 38% of the vote. The Communist leader, Klement Gottwald became the Premier of a coalition government. Even when Communist did not occupy a portfolio, there was always a Communist as deputy minister. The Soviet-backed communist parties grew in power and in 1947 the communist-controlled Ministry of Interior deployed police regiments to sensitive areas and equipped a workers' militia. On 25 February, Benes, perhaps fearing Soviet intervention, capitulated. He accepted the resignations of the dissident ministers and received a new cabinet list, thus completing the communist takeover. In February 1948, when the Communists definitively took power in what was known as the "Victorious February", Czechoslovakia was declared a "people's democracy".


Contrary to many countries reborn after the World War I, Finland remained neutral and did not enter direct military alliances. The League of Nations and the international community were seen as warrants of peace, but the main warrant lied in posing no danger to the USSR. The governments of Finland saw. In March-April 1938, Joseph Stalin decided that the next target of German expansion following Austria would be Finland, and placed intense pressure on the Finnish government to allow the Soviet Union extra-territorial rights in and territorial concessions from Finland. The Finns rejected the Soviet demands. However, when it became clear that the next German target was Czechoslovakia, the Soviet pressure was eased.

Under the terms of the Soviet-German non-aggression Pact of August 1939, Finland was recognized as being within the Soviet sphere of influence. In the autumn of 1939, there were new Soviet-Finnish talks in Moscow where the Soviets made demands similar to those of 1938 to the Finns. The Finns argeed to accept most of the Soviet demands. On November 30, 1939, Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union following a trumped-up border incident. The League of Nations voted to expel the Soviets for their actions, but did not choose to invoke military sanctions on the Soviets.

During the Winter War of 1939-40, the British and French governments both discussed plans for coming to Finland's aid, but the time Finland was forced to surrender in March, 1940, both the British and French general staffs plans for expedition to Finland were still stuck in the planning stage. Owning to the fact that the Baltic Sea was regarded as too dangerous to send a naval expedition through due to the danger of German U-boats, aircraft, minefields, E-boats, and the surface fleet in such a narrow and shallow body of water, the only way a Anglo-French force could reach Finland was through Norway and Sweden. Both the Norwegian and Swedish governments refused the Allies transit rights, and warned London and Paris they would resist a violation of their neutrality. The Allies for their part envisioned the occupation of northern Norway and Sweden as being similar to the Allied occupation of the neutral Greek port of Salonika during World War One.

Besides for aiding Finland, the Allied plan was to deprive Germany of Swedish iron ore. Germany possesed little in the way of high-grade iron, and relied on Swedish iron imports to make steel. In the summer, Swedish iron was carried to Germany in ships across the Baltic. In the winter, when the Baltic froze up, Swedish iron was send via rail to the Norwegian port city of Narvik where it was loaded onto ships bound for Hamburg.

The Allied plan was land a expeditionary force at Narvik, and then use the rail lines to travel over Sweden to Finland. In order to secure their lines of communication to Finland, the Allies would have had to occupy northern Sweden, where all of the major iron mines happened to located. In this way, both the Finns would be aided and the Germans deprived of high grade iron. Given that the Germans did little to stockpile supplies of iron in the 1930s, the loss of Swedish mines would have been catastrophic to German steel production.

It should be noted that beyond the League of Nations commitments contained in the League's Covenant, neither Britain or France had any commitment to defend Finland.




At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, a decision was made by the Allies to cease their support of the Royalist Chetniks, and switch allegiances to Josip Broz Tito's communist Yugoslav National Liberation Army.

While the West (primarily the UK) had supported the Yugoslav monarchy (allowing the exiled King to settle in London and providing assistance to the Chetniks via RAF and SOE) prior to 1943, the people of Yugoslavia had by and large already abandoned it, given how the kingdom deteriorated after the death of King Aleksandar and especially how it crumbled in the March and April of 1941 when the Axis Powers invaded it. Therefore it would be difficult to speak of a Western betrayal of Yugoslavia in the context of 1940s and later decades.

After the breakup of the second Yugoslavia, Chetnik supporters in Serbia were no longer banned from public speaking and they could voice their opposite—if minority—opinion. With the rise in popularity of the Serbian Radical Party, opinions of a Western betrayal may have entered the Serbian mainstream public opinion, although they still remain in minority.

The public opinion in other former Yugoslav republics (at least Slovenia, Croatia and most of Bosnia and Herzegovina) was also somewhat altered after the fall of Yugoslavia, but it mostly remains unchanged on the fairly negative stance towards the pre-war Yugoslav kingdom.




  • Andrzej Ajnenkiel, Polsko-francuski sojusz wojskowy. Akademia Obrony Narodowej, Warsaw, 2000.
  • Nicholas Bethell, The War Hitler Won: The Fall of Poland, September 1939, New York, 1972.
  • Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski The history of Poland Westport, Conn. ; London : Greenwood Press, 2000.
  • Russell D. Buhite Decisions at Yalta : an appraisal of summit diplomacy, Wilmington, Del. : Scholarly Resources Inc, 1986.
  • Anna M. Cienciala "Poland in British and French policy in 1939: determination to fight-or avoid war?" pages 413-433 from The Origins of The Second World War edited by Patrick Finney, Arnold, London, 1997.
  • Anna M. Cienciala and Titus Komarnicki From Versailles to Locarno : keys to Polish foreign policy, 1919-25, Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, 1984.
  • Jan Ciałowicz, Polsko-francuski sojusz wojskowy, 1921-1939; PWN, Warsaw, 1971.
  • Richard Crampton Eastern Europe in the twentieth century--and after London ; New York : Routledge, 1997.
  • Norman Davies, Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw. Viking Books, 2004. ISBN 0670032840.
  • Norman Davies, God's Playground ISBN 0231053533 and ISBN 0231053517 (two tomes).
  • David Dutton Neville Chamberlain, London : Arnold ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Sean Greenwood "The Phantom Crisis: Danzig, 1939" pages 247-272 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered A.J.P. Taylor and the Historians edited by Gordon Martel Routledge Inc, London, United Kingdom, 1999.
  • Robert Kee Munich : the eleventh hour , London : Hamilton, 1988.
  • Arthur Bliss Lane, I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American Ambassador Reports to the American People. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1948. ISBN 1125475501.
  • Igor Lukes & Erik Goldstein (editors) The Munich crisis, 1938 : prelude to World War II, London ; Portland, OR : Frank Cass Inc, 1999.
  • Margaret Olwen Macmillan Paris 1919 : six months that changed the world New York : Random House, 2003, 2002, 2001.
  • David Martin, Ally Betrayed. Prentice-Hall, New York, 1946.
  • David Martin, Patriot or Traitor: The Case of General Mihailovich. Hoover Institution, Stanford, 1978. ISBN 081796911X.
  • David Martin, The Web of Disinformation: Churchill's Yugoslav Blunder. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, San Diego & New York, 1990. ISBN 015180743.
  • Lynne Olson, Stanley Cloud, A Question of Honor : The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II (http://www.questionofhonor.com/). Knopf, 2003. ISBN 0375411976.
  • Anita Prażmowska, Poland: the Betrayed Ally. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995. ISBN 0521483859.
  • Count Edward Raczyński, The British-Polish Alliance; Its Origin and Meaning. The Mellville Press, London, 1948.
  • Edward Rozek, Allied Wartime Diplomacy: A Pattern in Poland, New York, 1958, reprint Boulder, CO, 1989.
  • Henry L. Roberts "The Diplomacy of Colonel Beck" pages 579-614 from The Diplomats 1919-1939 edited by Gordon A. Craig & Felix Gilbert, Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America, 1953.
  • Template:Book reference
  • Robert Young France and the origins of the Second World War, New York : St. Martin's Press, 1996.
  • Piotr Stefan Wandycz The twilight of French eastern alliances, 1926-1936 : French-Czechoslovak-Polish relations from Locarno to the remilitarization of the Rhineland, Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Piotr Wandycz France and her eastern allies, 1919-1925 : French-Czechoslovak-Polish relations from the Paris Peace Conference to Locarno, Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1962.
  • Gerhard Weinberg A world at arms : a global history of World War II , Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • Paul E. Zinner "Czechoslovakia: The Diplomacy of Eduard Benes" pages 100-122 from The Diplomats 1919-1939 edited by Gordon A. Craig & Felix Gilbert, Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America, 1953.
  • Republic of Poland, The Polish White Book: Official Documents concerning Polish-German and Polish-Soviet Relations 1933-1939; Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, New York, 1940.

Essays and articles


  • Betrayal (http://wiktionary.org/wiki/Betrayal) - Wiktionary
  • Betrayal (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=7154&dict=CALD) - Cambridge Dictionary
  • Betrayal (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=betrayal) - Dictionary.com

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