"Poland wants war with Germany and Germany will not be able to avoid it, even if it wants to."
This is one of the most widely quoted quotes that can be found attributed to an alleged statement by Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish armed forces. Naturally any quote from him would be of much importance as far as the question of Poland's share of the war guilt goes. This quote however, has been dismissed just as quickly by detractors of the idea of shared guilt for WW2, as it has been adopted by well intentioned but misguided people who seek a more nuanced, less anti-German perspective on the war guilt question. I myself have dismissed this quote as fake in the past without doing my usual due diligence. Now I'm seeking to correct this error, and provide a source(s) for this quote.
Looking online this quote is never accompanied by a source, which is why people simply dismiss it. I've never seen an English book use this quote, but I was able to find it used quite frequently in German literature.
Cutting to the chase, I've been able to locate and check what is, right now, the origin of the quote according to my research. I still have some publications to check and when I do will post an update if this turns out to not be the case.
Of general interest is also the statement made by Mr. Ernst Wagner, now of Lüneburg, formerly of Rothebude Kr. Goldap/Ostpr. He shared it with the author of this publication and emphasized that he was ready to swear to it before a German or international court at any time. They read as follows: Mr. Lutz Mauve, whose father owned a large forest estate near Kielce in Poland, was a Polish citizen and as such a Polish ensign sergeant, i.e. officer candidate, in 1939. In June or July of 1939, a meeting of Polish officers, reserve officers and officer candidates attended by him took place in the area between Krakow and Katowice. There the Polish Marshal Rydz-Śmigły delivered an address in the following spirit:
"Poland wants war with Germany and Germany will not be able to avoid it even if she wanted to." („Polen will den Krieg mit Deutschland und Deutschland wird ihn nicht vermeiden können, selbst wenn es das wollte.“)
Mr. Lutz Mauve belonged to the circle of acquaintances of Mr. E. Wagner, was a guest of the latter and reported the incident to him. Lutz Mauve was later killed in action in the Second World War. Bolko Frhr. v. Richthofen, Kriegsschuld 1939-1941: Der Schuldanteil der anderen (Kiel: Arndt-Verlag, 1981), Pp. 52.
This raises questions of course. If any such address could be verified to have taken place at this date that would be helpful. If any of the men named could be identified, and any records checked that would be of help also. Obviously the author Herr Richthofen, if he's alive, would be useful too.
I still don't feel comfortable claiming the quote is completely authentic, but now there's a claim and a source to help support its validity. The sentiment of the quote also doesn't seem to be at all out of character for Rydz-Śmigły, who on July 20th, 1939 declared that in March the first Polish mobilization against Germany was not intended as a demonstration, it was seriously intended for war, and that he would not give up Danzig (Walendy, Who Started World War II? p. 187)
. He reiterated this in Krakow on August 6, when he stated that Danzig was Poland's "lung", also stating that Poland would "oppose" (with force) "every attempt at transgressing upon her interests, directly or indirectly." (Walendy, p. 210)
On April 3rd 1939, upon the Polish Prime Minister Beck's arrival in England, the British encouraged Poland to hold on to Danzig and not make any concessions to the Germans whatsoever:
How little the British cared about Danzig and the allegedly endangered Polish independence is also shown by the following brief prepared for Colonel Beck's visit of April 3 . The brief states:
"Danzig is an artificial structure, the maintenance of which is a bad casus belli. But it is unlikely that the Germans would accept less than a total solution of the Danzig question except for a substantial quid pro quo which could hardly be less than a guarantee of Poland's neutrality."
But such a deal would be a bad bargain for England.
"It would shake Polish morale, increase their vulnerability to German penetration and so defeat the policy of forming a bloc against German expansion. It should not therefore be to our interest to suggest that the Poles abandon their rights in Danzig on the ground that they are not defensible."
So there we have it clearly stated: in the own British interest, the matter of Danzig must not be solved and peace preserved. The British guarantee to Poland, however, had reinforced the Polish in their stubbornness and made them completely obdurate where any solution to the Danzig question was concerned.Max Klüver, Es war nicht Hitlers Krieg: Neues aus dem britischen Staatsarchiv (Essen: Heitz & Höffkes, 1993), Pp. 162-163.
That this is the case is reinforced by the British themselves who visited Warsaw around this same time and reported on the Polish attitude, which was eager for a war with Germany:
After the guarantee of 31 March, Strang, head of the Central European Department, and Jebb, a staff member of the same department, undertook a visit to Warsaw to reconnoitre the Polish attitude. Jebb's report indicates that the war intentions of the Poles were to drive the Germans out of the areas to be conquered as far as the Oder River. Jebb also states that without the British guarantee, the Poles "would seriously revise their present attitude toward Germany"
Helmut Schröcke, Der Jahrhundertkrieg 1939-1945: Vorgeschichte, Kriegsschuld, Folgen (Stegen am Ammersee: Druffel & Vowinckel-Verlag, 2005), Pp. 142.
That the British encouraged this reckless attitude can only be understood by the fact that in January both the Poles and the British had been explicitly promised by Roosevelts administration military aid from the United States if no concessions were made to Germany. I've quoted from this document already in this thread. We can also assume that Hitler himself was privy to these assurances and acted in Germany's interests accordingly:
The Research Office was already constantly monitoring all lines between Warsaw and London, where the Prime Minister had overzealously issued a guarantee to Poland in the event of a German attack on Poland. The Research Office recorded numerous explosive conversations between the Polish Foreign Minister, Colonel Josef Beck, and Count Edward Raczynski, his ambassador in London. For Hitler's assessment of whether the British and French would keep their promises, it was repeatedly these intercepted messages that "proved extremely useful," said a Research Office official.
David Irving, Das Reich hört mit: Görings “Forschungsamt” Der geheimste Nachrichtendienst des Dritten Reiches (Kiel: Arndt-Verlag, 1989), Pp. 55.
Rydz-Śmigły's alleged quote is not alone. There are others who stated very similar things in-regards to an inevitable war with Germany on the British side.
For one was Winston Churchill, the darling of the anti-appeasers who was nothing more than a war-monger that represented the British war party. These men were opposed to peace and a just settlement. This is what they're known for, and why they're beloved for being promoters of war. Ironic. The Germans at this time weren't eager for war, and were keeping their options open:
Churchill said at this time [around May 1939] to his friend B. Baruch, "War is coming very soon now. We will get into it and so will they (the U.S.). You (Baruch) will take care of matters over there, but I will be careful over here."
Quite in contrast to this was the Reich government, which was set on negotiations with Poland. As early as the beginning of June, Göring explained to Henderson Hitler's view that Danzig and the corridor were not urgent matters. This German view was known in the British cabinet meetings of 19 July and 26 July.
Schröcke, op cit., p. 143.
Goebbels in his diary confirms that in July Hitler was not overly concerned with Poland at that time, and that he had "no definite plans":
Reich Chancellery at noon. The Führer has work to do. I discuss the foreign policy situation with the A.A.: at the moment England should probably act. But who knows what the situation will be in an emergency. The Führer has not yet made any definite plans. He is only intensifying the crisis of nerves. The Poles are not so important at the moment.
Goebbels diary entry, July 5, 1939. Elke Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil I: Band 7 (München: K.G. Saur Verlag, 1998), Pp. 33.
This fact flies in the face of the disingenuous narrative weaved by historians like Ian Kershaw who claimed that Hitler had already decided on war with Poland and was "bent on destroying" her. This entry, like many others, didn't find its way into the so-called 'objective' histories.
Along with Churchill was Sir Robert Vansittart, an anti-appeaser, anti-German British diplomat who was quite open about his desire for a war with Germany and made remarks similar to that of Rydz-Śmigły:
When Chamberlain flew to Berchtesgaden to visit Hitler in 1938, he deliberately refrained from being accompanied by Robert Vansittart because the latter would have sabotaged a peaceful settlement of the Sudeten crisis out of his conviction that war with Germany was inevitable and would have to be brought about at the appropriate opportunity. As early as 1935, Vansittart had told the German embassy attaché& Fritz Hesse: "But my dear Mr. Hesse, you will not be able to prevent the war between Germany and England. You see, Herr Hitler wants to make Germany the first power in Europe... You see, we will not be able to allow that..."
Hans Meiser, Gescheiterte FriedensInitiativen 1939-1945 (Tübingen: Grabert Verlag, 2004), Pp. 10, note 2.
These comments by all sides of the Allied coalition against Germany show just a bit of the war-like intentions of the supposed "peaceful" victors of WW2.