There's an interesting photo here which seems to be taken from a secret british file, or folder regarding peace offers:
It mentions, as you can see that Hitler's peace offers were occurring during
the German-Polish war, and of course through 1940 and 1941. The fact that the Germans were seeking peace with Britain in September 1939 should be an astonishing blow to the orthodox narrative. Yet it's ignored entirely. Or if it's mentioned, it's brushed aside with a comment about how these offers cannot be trusted, or they're to drive a wedge between some country or another. Very lame excuses that are based on nothing but presumptions about Hitler's motives, which, when you look at the documentary evidence is quite clear. Peace with the west was Hitler's intention.
What you come to understand is that Hitler's attack against Poland was never the impetus for the beginning of a general war, let alone a world war.
At first glance Adam Tooze seems to conveniently do away with the idea that Hitler was out for peace and to avoid war in 1939. His omissions and distortions are perhaps convincing.
If the huge rearmament drive of the 1930s and the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia were not enough to give Germany a substantial material advantage over its enemies, if their immediate effect was to drive Britain and France into abandoning their pacifism in favour of an aggressive strategy of containment and to force both Washington and Moscow to reconsider their positions in Europe, why did Hitler go to war in September 1939?
Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction (Penguin Books, 2008), Pp. 662
It's nice to see Tooze admit that the Allies were in fact waging their own aggressive strategies to stem the growing power of Germany, for why else would they feel threatened over Germany's re-acquiring of lost territory?
Tooze does ask a good question, why did Hitler go to war in 1939? I have my own answer to this, and it's a lot less speculative than Tooze's. Mine also isn't drenched in the preconceived idea that Hitler is guilty, as is Tooze, because to err from this holy writ is to become a heretic.
Tooze answers this question over pages 662-665, so I cannot quote it in full here, but I do implore everyone reading this to read these pages in full. I will only be quoting sections and outlining what his argument is.
Tooze rejects the idea as:
some historians choose to argue that Hitler simply miscalculated. He did not intend to precipitate a general European war, they insist. After his experience at Munich in 1938 he expected Britain and France to stand aside in Eastern Europe. It was not Hitler, but the Western powers who chose to turn Poland into a casus belli
By "some historians" he means Richard Overy, perhaps others too.
However, when you read the subsequent pages, you don't see him refute this stance, he only constructs a new one based on the presumption that Hitler indeed was thinking about all these events in the same way as Tooze did. There is of course no indication that Hitler at any point held the view Tooze attributes to him.
In August 1939, as in September 1938, Hitler was confronted with the near certainty that Britain and France would declare war. On the former occasion he had pulled back. In 1939 he chose not to. Why he plunged forward rather than pulling back is explain in this book through a novel synthesis of three distinct elements.
His 3 points are rather hard to discern. But his argument runs like this:
In 1939 Hitler was faced with a "persistent problem of the balance of payments"(p. 662) but that this wasn't, as has been stated before by the likes of Tim Mason the reason Hitler went to war in 1939, Mason described Hitler's decision for a world war being based on economic inevitability, a narrative which is discarded now. Tooze also discards it when he states that there was a problem with the payments but "this is not to say that the Third Reich was facing an economic crisis"(p.662-3), quite the opposite, that the economic controls Germany had put in place during the 1930s actually prevented an economic crisis which nearly occured in 1934, but due to this success in the domestic sphere the acceleration of armaments couldn't continue(p. 663) thus, those opposed to Germany, Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to continue their massive rearmament effort while Germany effectively couldn't produce more than had already been, and was being produced. According to Tooze "Hitler found himself facing a sharp deterioration in the balance of forces at a date far earlier than he had expected"(Ibid.), so Hitler took action. He got the Soviets on his side which allowed Germany to avoid a potential two front war, and it also ensure that the West couldn't blockade Germany as they had done in the previous war(Ibid.). Due to this, Tooze says that:
One can therefore construct a compelling economic-strategic rationale for Hitler's decision to go to war in September 1939. Given Germany's deteriorating economic position and the unexpectedly favourable shift in the diplomatic balance, Hitler had nothing to gain by waiting.
He goes on to state that Hitler believed that "war with the Western powers was inevitable" and goes on to prove this by "invoking ideology"(Ibid.), making the claim from pages 664-5 that Hitler shielded from the East, directed his gaze at the Jewish establishment in the west, behind Roosevelt, behind Churchill etc. whom he felt were encircling Germany. As tooze puts it:
it was obvious that it was Jewish elements in Washington, London and Paris, bent implacably on the destruction of Nazi Germany, that were tightening the international encirclement. And it was this paranoid sense of menace that precipitated Hitler's decision to launch his strike against Poland and then against the Western coalition that continued to stand obstinately in his way.
And for this reason Hitler believed that war with the West was inevitable because he would need to attack all of world Jewry of whatever. I can see the point he's making, but I feel as if he fails to make it. The connection is just weak because there's no indication that implies he thought it was inevitable, as his peace offers show.
I think Tooze is right in what he describes although he leaves out a bunch of stuff in this summary of his, and I just flat out think his conclusion is wrong.
Let me explain.
If the reasons he uses does explain why Hitler went to war, then it was based ultimately on the actions of the Allies who were encircling Hitler, as Tooze actually admits by saying:
Whilst Roosevelt led the rhetorical assault against Hitler and encouraged Britain, France and Poland in their resistance to Nazi expansionism
Hitler therefore probably wouldn't have sought a war in the West under the impression that it was "inevitable" as Tooze states, if the West simply weren't aggressively opposing Hitler's revisionism in Eastern Europe and potential expansion against the Soviet Union. A war in the west could've been avoided by allying with Germany, or simply not getting involved. This becomes very clear because Tooze admits Hitler's intention was to ally with Britain:
in light of the fact that Hitler was departing so flagrantly from the programme outlined in Mein Kampf. In that book, dictated in a prison cell in Landsberg fifteen years earlier, Hitler had called for an Anglo-German alliance against the Judaeo-Bolshevik threat. In 1939 he went to war with fronts reversed: in alliance with Stalin against Britain.
Ibid. Pp. 663-64
It was fundamental to his strategic conception in the 1920s and early 1930s that he would be able to secure a dominant position for Germany in Europe without coming into conflict with Britain. Indeed, reversing Stresemann's logic, Hitler believed that Britain would come to view Germany as an ally in the competition that it was bound to face from the United States.
Ibid. Pp. 9
So what reason, in hindsight could the West have had for denying Hitler's peace offers? None. They simply just didn't want to accept them because they were resolved on war, and eventually Hitler had to resolve on war as well. This flies in the face when you take into account the peace offers, the idea that Hitler wanted a war in the west or even a general war.
Consider Hitler's plan for the invasion of Poland "Case White", which specifically was directed at avoiding conflict with the west and isolating the war to Poland:
Although Germany would continue trying to avoid a conflict with Poland, the preamble to "Operation White" stated that Poland would be destroyed if she changed her policy. Military preparations had to be complete and plans ready for action by September 1st, 1939. The task of diplomacy was to isolate Poland.
Sidney Aster, ‘1939’ The Making of the Second World War (Andre Deutsch, 1974), Pp. 194
It is to be emphasised that he had still not issued any actual instruction for war. This new OKW directive on ‘White’, issued on April 3, merely outlined a political situation which might make an attack on Poland necessary on or after September 1. Meanwhile, the OKW ruled, friction with Poland was to be avoided, a difficult injunction since the Poles had certainly not behaved kindly toward their own ethnic German minority.
David Irving, Hitler's War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002), Pp. 166
Hitler was even more explicit about avoiding a general war, especially with the West:
Hitler stated once again that Danzig was not his ultimate objective – that would be to secure Lebensraum in the east to feed Germany’s eighty million inhabitants. ‘If fate forces us to fight in the west,’ Hitler told them, ‘it will be just as well if first we possess more in the east.’ This was why he had decided to ‘take on Poland at the first suitable opportunity.’
His immediate purpose now, he explained, would be to isolate Poland. ‘It is of crucial importance that we succeed in isolating her.
The only surviving note is one by Colonel Schmundt, but it lists as present officers – including Göring and Warlimont – who were not there and contains various anachronisms. Halder, questioned in mid-1945, well remembered Hitler’s assurances that he would keep the western powers out of ‘White’: ‘I would have to be a complete idiot to slither into a world war – like the nincompoops of 1914 – over the wretched Polish Corridor.’
Ibid. Pp. 176-77
and on another occasion on March 13th 1939 while embroiled in discussion with Ribbentrop and Goebbels over the position of Britain on the issue of Prague, Hitler was in strict disagreement with Ribbentrop on the idea that conflict with England was inevitable, Goebbels in his diary stated that Hitler "does not consider it unavoidable" (Rudolf von Ribbentrop, My Father Joachim von Ribbentrop: Hitler's Foreign Minister Experiences and Memoirs (Pen & Sword Military, 2019), Pp. 173.)
So to summarize my view, I think Tooze was right when he said that Hitler had nothing to gain by waiting. He couldn't afford to wait, no matter if he had 5 months or 5 years, in the end Poland and the West could always afford to wait much longer than Hitler. To start a war with Poland in 1939, which was justified due to the nature of Germany's grievance and her upper hand in her moral claims to take back land that belonged to Germany and incorporate people whom wanted to be annexed into the Reich, while also defending yourself from any possible attacks from the west, in the hopes of not actually having to fight them, but sue for peace, was Hitler's best option. The responsibility falls onto the West because they didn't accept Hitler's hand freely given to them.
For Tooze to state that Hitler must come into conflict with the west because he saw them as run by Jews I think oversteps the mark, for one thing it's totally true that Jews were heavily involved. One need only to look at the names of the men surrounding Roosevelt to know that they were Jewish. It's been established.
You'll notice that Tooze is careful with his words, saying that Hitler was "risking" war with the West, which is of course accurate, as he would have preferred to avoid it. But it was a risk worth taking, rather than not taking it at all and being encircled by powers whom are stronger than you, effectively rendering Germany subservient to all the large powers surrounding her. It doesn't seem fair that Germany should have to deal with such circumstances when they could easily be avoided by securing herself from the east.
The point is that Hitler attacked Poland not expecting a general war, but thinking he could actually avoid one.
This is clear too, by Hitler's reaction to the declaration of war issued by Britain and France, which also backs up what Tooze stated about Hitler's writings in Mein Kampf:
Of all mornings, this was the one that Schmidt, in bed only a few hours, overslept. Rushing by taxi to the Foreign Office, he saw Henderson enter the building and himself raced into a side entrance. He was standing, somewhat breathless, in Ribbentrop’s office as the hour of nine struck and Henderson was announced. The ambassador shook hands but declined Schmidt’s invitation to sit down. “I regret that on the instructions of my government,” he said with deep emotion, “I have to hand you an ultimatum for the German government.” He read out the statement, which called for war unless Germany gave assurances that all troops would be withdrawn from Poland by eleven o’clock, British Summer Time.
Henderson extended the document. “I am sincerely sorry,” he said, “that I must hand such a document to you in particular as you have always been most anxious to help.” While Henderson would not be remembered for astuteness, retaining as he did a naïve conception of the Führer to the end, he had succeeded in outshouting him and staring down Ribbentrop on successive evenings, feats worthy of some applause.
In a few minutes Schmidt was at the chancellery. He made his way with some difficulty through the crowd gathered outside of the Führer’s office. To anxious questions on his mission, he said cryptically, “Classroom dismissed.” Hitler was at his desk; Ribbentrop stood by the window. Both turned expectantly as Schmidt entered. He slowly translated the British ultimatum. At last Hitler turned to Ribbentrop and abruptly said, “What now?” “I assume,” said Ribbentrop quietly, “that the French will hand in a similar ultimatum within the hour.”
Schmidt was engulfed in the anteroom by eager questions but once he revealed that England was declaring war in two hours there was complete silence. Finally Göring said, “If we lose this war, then God have mercy on us!” Everywhere Schmidt saw grave faces. Even the usually ebullient Goebbels stood in a corner, downcast and self-absorbed.
Hitler was already preparing to leave the chancellery with his entourage to board a special train bound for the fighting front. Nine minutes before it left Berlin, the Führer sent off a message to the ally who had failed to support him in his greatest crisis. Unlike the telegram to Moscow, this one to Mussolini was sent in the clear and was replete with dramatic phrases. He was aware, said Hitler, that this was “a struggle of life and death” but he had chosen to wage war with “deliberation,” and his faith remained as “firm as a rock.” As the Führer’s train pulled out of the station at exactly 9 P.M. he did not show the confidence of this letter. One secretary, Gerda Daranowsky, noticed he was very quiet, pale and thoughtful; never before had she seen him like that. And another, Christa Schröder, overheard him say to Hess: “Now, all my work crumbles. I wrote my book for nothing.”
John Toland, Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, (Anchor Books, paperback edition, 1992), pp. 575-576
Hitler's reaction, and that of all his colleagues to the British and French declaration of war are not the reactions of people who got what they wanted. This very obvious fact is ignored constantly, and it cannot be squared with this idea that in 1939 Hitler achieved the conflict with the west that he somehow desired. No. It proves that he wanted to avoid that conflict, that he only risked war in 1939 because he didn't believe that Britain or France would do anything. This is something Overy, Irving, Watt, Hitchens and Rudolf von Ribbentrop all point out. Hitler was of the belief that he could attack Poland and avoid Britain declaring war. In fact, he only attacked Poland because
that's what he thought, because he had nothing to gain by waiting (in the worst scenario) but primarily because he didn't expect a general war, let alone world war at all whatsoever.
Goebbels on September 1st 1939 wrote in his diary:
Coulondre und Henderson suchen Lipski zu bewegen, auf eigene Faust zum Führer zu gehen. Aber er ist stundenweise unauffindbar. Polen will also offenbar die Sache hinzie hen. Mittags gibt der Führer Befehl zum Angriff in der Nacht gegen 5th. Es scheint, daß damit die Würfel endgültig gefallen sind. Göring ist noch skeptisch. Der Führer glaubt noch nicht daran, daß England eingreifen wird.
Coulondre and Henderson try to get Lipski to go to the guide on his own. But he's untraceable by the hour. So it looks like Poland is going to drag this thing out. At noon the Führer gives the order to attack at night around 5am. It seems that the die is finally cast. Goering is still skeptical. The Fuhrer does not yet believe that England will intervene.
Joseph Goebbels, Tagebücher 1924 -1945, Pp. 1322-1323
Confirming that as late as September 1st, the day Germany attacked Poland, Hitler still thought Britain wouldn't do anything. Even going so far as to point out that Poland was probably trying to avoid sending anyone to Berlin, yet still claiming to want to see the German proposals (if you read the entire entry, Goebbels says Lipski "wanted to see the German proposals" yet didn't show up, on purpose presumably).
We can conclude with some evidence that Hitler thought that even if he attacked Poland it would be okay because the British had been consistent until that point, and they wouldn't want to fight a war and they would conclude peace. Hitler, more than anything thought that it was totally insane for the British to care about Poland, something he felt laid so far outside their sphere of interest that it was nothing more than an attempt to force Germany to back down (see: Manvell & Fraenkel, Hess, pp. 80-81)
This only makes Hitler's attempt at offering peace even more sincere, as Toland expounds upon the peace offer shortly after September 1st 1939:
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.”
Ibid. Pp. 573
For further details, I would recommend reading the letters sent by the German General Nikolaus von Vormann to his wife in 1939, in which he confirms many inconvenient facts: http://www.fpp.co.uk/Hitler/Vormann/letters_1939.html
Although I cannot find it, I do recall Tooze, or someone else making the claim that Hitler's apprehension to go ahead with the attack on Poland by delaying the Wehrmacht was done, not because Hitler wanted to make peace via buying more time to negotiate, or because he thought he could avoid war with Poland, but to "drive a wedge between the British and the French". This claim, which i've seen, is untrue. When historians refer to Hitler's delayed mobilisations they usually (from my reading) never tell you how many times Hitler actually suspended the armed forces from marching, they will say he did it once, perhaps twice, the truth is that Hitler suspended the order to invade 3 times.
David Irving dispels the myth of wedge driving:
for the first two weeks of October 1939, Hitler unquestionably wavered between continuing the fight and making peace with the remaining belligerents on the best terms he could get. The fact that he had ordered the Wehrmacht to get ready for ‘Operation Yellow’ (Fall Gelb, the attack on France and the Low Countries) in no way detracts from the reality of his peace offensive. Germany would have needed at least fifty years to digest the new territories and carry out the enforced settlement programmes planned by Heinrich Himmler to fortify the German blood in the east.
Thus Hitler’s peace feelers toward London were sincere – not just a ploy to drive a wedge between Britain and France. Weizsäcker wrote early in October: ‘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.’ Early in September Göring had hinted to the British through Birger Dahlerus that Germany would be willing to restore sovereignty to a Poland shorn of the old German provinces excised from the Fatherland at the end of the Great War; there would also be a reduction in German armaments. The British response had been a cautious readiness to listen to the detailed German proposals. Hitler told Dahlerus in Berlin late on September 26 that if the British still wanted to salvage anything of Poland, they would have to make haste, and now he could do nothing without consulting his Russian friends. Dahlerus left for London at once.
David Irving, Hitler's War and the War Path (Focal Point Publications, 2002), Pp. 240-241
Having said this, it also seriously calls into question Tooze's idea that Hitler was driving to war in 1939 to come into conflict with the West sooner rather than later.
On Hitler's orders to suspend the order to invade Poland 3 times, you can read this in Toland's book. I will refrain from posting about it right now as this post is very long. There's more that could be said, but in truth I am, now at 4 in the morning losing my ability to think and string together anything worthwhile.
Lastly of all, see this new find regarding peace offers and war guilt:
At the very beginning of his book, Richard Lamb outright blames Poland for the war in 1939:
Britain only declared war on Germany in September 1939 because Chamberlain's hands were tied by his ill-considered guarantee to Poland the previous March. The Poles, not the British, called Hitler's bluff, and triggered off the war by refusing to sent at the eleventh hour a plenipotentiary to Berlin to negotiate the immediate surrender of Danzig and the Polish Corridor to Hitler. Then Goering established contact with Downing Street and made strenuous efforts to preserve peace. Even after Hitler invaded Poland, Chamberlain and the Foreign Secretary, Halifax, were anxious to make terms with Hitler provided the remainder of Poland was left intact; but the Commons overruled them.
After Dunkirk, with Churchill firmly in the saddle, there was no chance of a negotiated peace with Hitler; the Prime Minister issued the edict that there was to be 'absolute silence' and no parley through neutral countries even with well-known bona fide anti-Nazis. He was later equally rigid about 'unconditional surrender'.
Richard Lamb, The Ghosts of Peace 1935-1945 (Michael Russell Ltd, 1987), Pp. ix-x