On Wikipedia, it is stated that:

Earlier, Hitler's foreign policy worked to weaken ties between Poland and France, and attempted to manoeuvre Poland into the Anti-Comintern Pact, forming a cooperative front against the Soviet Union.

Poland would be granted territory to its northeast in Ukraine and Belarus if it agreed to wage war against the Soviet Union, but the concessions the Poles were expected to make meant that their homeland would become largely dependent on Germany, functioning as little more than a client state.

The Poles feared that their independence would eventually be threatened altogether.

But I can't find the exact demands the Nazis had during this period. I am assuming that the demands were return of the City of Danzig and East-Prussian territories? This would have effectively turned Poland into a landlocked country and dependent on Germany for naval passage and transit port. (Unless the Poles succeeded in getting the Germans to carve them a corridor through Ukraine all the way to the Black Sea).

But that doesn't explain why Poland thought it would threaten their independence. There are many landlocked countries who are independent. If Poles didn't trust Germans with transit pact, they could have made a similar one with Lithuania or Latvia (Poland tried to restore ties with Lithuania but Soviet Union had warned the Baltic States to not to get too friendly with Poland), both of whom had naval access and shared borders with Poland. Occupation of Baltic states by Soviet Union hadn't occurred at that time. Or could it be that they were concerned that without a maritime access to the Baltic sea, in event of a German invasion, French and British expeditionary forces would face troubles in landing to relieve Poland? (Although I doubt Allies would have done that, they could always open a Western front on French-German border which eventually they did).

Are the exact demands known?


As of 24 October 1938 the demands were annexation of Free City of Danzig by Germany and extraterritorial roadway+railway from East Prussia to mainland Germany through the Polish Corridor (so a "corridor across a corridor") [Eagle Unbowed p. 42].

Danzig was a strategic port, well connected to Poland's industrialized regions (central and western Poland). In 1920s most Polish export/import passed through Danzig; inland trade was scarce. The gist of the issue was less on being somehow connected or unconnected, and more about the total throughput and its scalability and its security. The country's economy could be simply strangled by abruptly stopping foreign trade or it could stagnate when the transport couldn't grow too fast.

All Danzig, Gdynia, Klaipeda (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) put together were already insufficient at the time, the business could have more investments and did seek best return on investments in all these routes.

Gdynia and associated coal trunk railway, the new independent all-Polish export/import route built at a huge cost, in 1938 slightly overtook Danzig in terms of tonnage transferred. But its railway was a weak spot, strategically, and also already a bottleneck (rough terrain between Kościerzyna and Gdynia enforced sharp turns and high slopes).

For Lithuania or Latvia the routes were poor and connected to the similarly poorly industrialized eastern Poland. Their existing ports had entirely insufficient throughput. For example Latvian ports would need to grow at least fivefold, while the train route there would need to be basically re-done. Entire Latvian network used the wider Russian gauge and train conversion was done in Dyneburg. Politically, it would require a long process to prepare such international investment and associated guarantees.

Militarily, the Latvia-Lithuania option was worse than Gdynia: not only under German but also under Soviet threat.

The Lithuania diplomatic standing was fragile: the Polish-Lithuanian relations were terrible over earlier Polish annexation of Vilnius, and also the German-Lithuanian and Soviet-Lithuanian relations were quite strained. In fact, not using the main Lithuanian port of Klaipeda turned out to be an excellent decision. It got "danziged" by Germany as soon as March 1939, when Germany occupied Klaipeda and promised Lithuania it could continue to use it only as a Free Port.

Now to the main point, the German propostion. It was shameless even for Hitler's standards: we'll annex some land, so we could control and tax a large part of your foreign trade, and then you can go and maybe conquer by yourself some Soviet land over there.

Germany and Soviet Union had no common border at the time. Obviously letting German land forces enter Poland and "help" was out of question, for it would instantly turn Poland into a satellite state. (My own speculation, only partially supported by Lyons pp. 56-57 and Leslie, p. 205). In these times letting foreign forces in was only appropriate for very very close allies, such as UK and France. Otherwise it was a huge diplomatic no-no.

Further considering scenario of a Soviet-Polish war, Poland had no illusions whether Germans could or would stop themselves before "securing the rights of German minority in the failing Polish state much troubled by the current war" as was customary at the time. Even if Poland entered that scenario as an independent state, the predicted outcome would be it would end as either German or Soviet satellite.

Additional fact was that the Hitler's proposition was soon mirrored. Stalin proposed to send troops to "help" against Germany. This was similarly rejected, as it would lead to Poland becoming a Soviet satellite state (again Lyons).

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    Reading the reference, it appears that it was not the demand for Danzig itself which worried the Poles, it was what they anticipated would come next i.e. demand of the whole Polish corridor. They had example of Czechoslovakia right in front of them how appeasing the Nazis ended up in Hacha signing away the whole country. +1. Even though this is the correct answer, I'll wait for another 24 hours to see if we can attract something better (Hope you don't mind) – NSNoob Jun 22 '17 at 10:02
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    Sure. Also doing research myself on possibility of a pact with Lithuania, I have found that Soviet Union had warned Lithuanians to not get too close with the Poles (And also, as you mentioned, they resented the loss of Wilno). I'll be back in an hour or two, hope you will be done by then. Goodluck and thanks – NSNoob Jun 22 '17 at 10:06
  • @NSNoob and kubanczyk Yeah, I think the only thing you would need to add would be some evidence one way or the other about whether Hitler's demands were just a pretext or not, while Ribbentrop and Molotov were hammering things out. Demand an impossibility and claim the other side is being unreasonable. – Spencer Jun 22 '17 at 11:14
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    @Spencer I doubt that Ribbentrop-Molotov pact had any effect on his demands being a pretext. The German rapprochement predates that pact. In fact, Poles and Germans had signed a non-aggression pact in 1934 when Germany was trying to get Poland in an alliance against Soviets. Demands were definitely a pretext as Hitler himself said that Danzig was not of much concern to him, his ultimate goal was Lebensraum, therefore ultimate annexation of Poland to secure food supplies and raw materials. – NSNoob Jun 22 '17 at 12:26
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    @NSBoob Also doing research myself on possibility of a pact with Lithuania - counting events of 1938 Polish government had very strange notion of building relations with their neighbors. – seven-phases-max May 4 '18 at 21:33

There is an explanation for a second question: Why Poland thought it would threaten their independence?

As foreign minister Józef Beck said 5 may 1939:

„My w Polsce nie znamy pojęcia pokoju za wszelka cenę. Jest jedna rzecz w życiu narodów i państw, która jest bezcenna: ta rzeczą jest honor"

Roughly translated:

In Poland, we ignore the idea of "peace at all cost". There is one thing in the lives of nations and countries which is priceless; That thing is honor.

Or as the field marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz said:

Jeśli ktoś w kraju liczy na jakieś chwile słabości, to jeszcze raz nieudolnie się przeliczył. A jeśli ktoś z zewnątrz na taką okazję kalkuluje, to niech wie, że my po cudze rąk nie wyciągamy, ale swego nie damy. Nie tylko nie damy całej sukni, ale nawet guzika nie damy od niej. I niech wie, że to jest decyzja całego narodu

That would be:

If anyone in Poland counts on our weakness, he is sorely mistaken. And if anyone abroad plans for such an opportunity, let him know that we don't reach for what doesn't belong to us, but we won't hand over what is ours. We not only won't hand over a gown, but even not even a single button. And let him know that's the decision of the whole nation.

To sum up: Giving anything to Germany was not an option for polish diplomats at this time. They were not afraid to fight, and they even expected to win. For their miscalculations, Poland paid dearly.

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    Good answer; it would be a great answer if the quotes were cited. – MCW Jun 22 '17 at 12:20
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    Thanks! That is very interesting. One of the most serious miscalculations by the Poles could be that they thought Western Allies would respond quickly when in fact, without telling the Poles, Brits and French were planning on a trench warfare, WW1 style. – NSNoob Jun 22 '17 at 12:21
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    @MarkC.Wallace I have added the references to the quotes, can't verify the translation. – NSNoob Jun 22 '17 at 12:23
  • Transformed to a great answer and upvoted! – MCW Jun 22 '17 at 12:27
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    Translation is somewhat free. The originals are certainly not suggesting that Poland expected to win their fight (alone or not). The sentence about the uniform and its buttons has an almost apologetic other half stressing that Poland is not trying to grab anything that belongs to Germany. I'm not sure that the quotes support the summary either. If Poland had any other options to take, it can be seen on Czechoslovakia what they really were. – Jirka Hanika Jun 22 '17 at 13:27

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