The conflict between Warsaw and Berlin became the pretext in 1939 for the implementation of the antiquated English balance of power policy. This produced a senseless war of destruction against Germany. As it turned out, each Allied soldier of the West was fighting unwittingly for the expansion of Bolshevism, and he was simultaneously undermining the security of every Western nation. Never were so many sacrifices made for a cause so ignoble.
— David Hoggan, The Forced War
The best litmus tests for today’s Dissident Right should include only one question: did the right side win the Second World War in Europe?
If you answer yes, most likely you’re not a dissident. If you answer no, most likely you are. In this case, degrees don’t matter—neither does intent. One can profess the saint-like innocence of the Nazis in the face of their genocidal enemies, or one can cop to all the atrocities ascribed to the Nazis and support them anyway. Dissident. On the other hand, one can carefully weigh the actions of both sides and conclude that the Nazis were slightly more in the right than the Allies. Doesn’t matter. Dissident.
To be sure, similar questions about similar wars can become similar litmus tests. Soviet citizens who believed the Whites should have beaten the Reds in the Russian Civil War were one example. Present-day Southern Nationalists who believed the wrong side won the American Civil War are another. But the most meaningful question involves the Second World War because that conflict was the most destructive, affected the most people, and has had the profoundest impact on Western Civilization.
Thus, to be a dissident one most likely needs a level of historical understanding that goes far deeper (although not necessarily broader) than that of the average educated person. David Hoggan’s 1961 work The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed provides this historical understanding so comprehensively that it should be nearly impossible for anyone to subscribe to his thesis and not wind up a dissident.
The Forced War effectively offers the German point of view during the lead up to the Second World War. More specifically, it demonstrates the paucity of good reasons (and indeed the plethora of bad reasons) why England and Poland in particular resisted Adolf Hitler’s dogged attempts to peacefully revise the map of central Europe. Hitler’s purpose was to right the wrongs of the Treaty of Versailles, and in so doing serve the legitimate interests of the German people. The Forced War concerns itself only with the events culminating in Germany’s invasion of Poland, which can be seen as a conflict separate from the worldwide conflagration which followed.
The story amounts to a series of decisions and actions made by men in Berlin, London, and Warsaw, with Rome, Washington, Moscow, Prague, and Paris acting more or less from the sidelines. One action impacts another and another, and so on. In a sense, The Forced War is a broader and deeper version of A.J.P. Taylor’s landmark 1961 volume The Origins of the Second World War, which Hoggan references often. Both these works refuse to demonize Adolf Hitler and the Nazis (or psychoanalyze them into insanity). Instead they show them as rational, ethnonationalist fascists who, to be sure, made mistakes, but more often than not got things right and had justice on their side. Much is made in both works of Hitler’s peaceful revision of central Europe during the 1930s.
While Taylor reserves some space for moral criticisms of Hitler, Hoggan offers nearly none. Instead, he focuses on the one person whom he believes was most to blame in unnecessarily bringing about the most destructive war in history: British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax. Described by Hoggan as “one of the most self-assured, ruthless, clever, and sanctimoniously self-righteous diplomats the world has ever seen,” Halifax emerges from the pages of The Forced War as the villain par excellence of the twentieth century and beyond. As the dominant personality in Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government, he seemed to have harbored a malignant hatred for Germans and for Germany. He was also dead set upon war as soon as Hitler began expanding his nation’s borders and influence on the continent, starting with the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938. War, Halifax felt, was inevitable, which justified every underhanded tactic he employed to goad Germany and Poland into it. Indeed, if Hoggan’s analysis is even partially correct, it is nothing less than a travesty that Halifax is not being vilified the way Hitler continues to be 80 years after the war.
Of course, one man’s hatred would not have amounted to much had the European map not been muddled by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The treaty violated everything we know about nationalism and rearranged borders to make them both ethnically inorganic and ultimately unworkable. The sorest point, of course, turned out to be the majority-German Free City of Danzig, which was now surrounded by Polish territory and under the tenuous control of the League of Nations. Hitler dearly wanted to reincorporate it into the Reich:
The ultimate treaty terms gave Poland much more than she deserved, and much more than she should have requested. Most of West Prussia, which had a German majority at the last census, was surrendered to Poland without plebiscite, and later the richest industrial section of Upper Silesia was given to Poland despite the fact that the Poles lost the plebiscite there. The creation of a League protectorate for the national German community of Danzig was a disastrous move; a free harbor for Poland in a Danzig under German rule would have been far more equitable. The chief errors of the treaty included the creation of the Corridor, the creation of the so-called Free City of Danzig, and the cession of part of Upper Silesia to Poland. These errors were made for the benefit of Poland and to the disadvantage of Germany, but they were detrimental to both Germany and Poland. An enduring peace in the German-Polish borderlands was impossible to achieve within the context of these terms.
Sadly, Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck seemed to take these gifts a little too much to heart. According to Hoggan, Beck was swayed by the false notion that the regions the Versailles Treaty had grafted onto Poland had always belonged to Poland—despite their German majorities and centuries-long German presence. This led him to defend these acquisitions at all costs, despite Hitler’s generous offers and attempts at peaceful revision. Of course, it would have been suicidal for Beck to do this alone, since by the time Germany had re-armed in 1935, Poland had approximately half of Germany’s population, was less industrialized, and would have stood no chance against her in a war. It was only due to promises of military support from Halifax in the event of a German invasion that Beck felt brazen enough to defy Hitler.
Polish defiance of Hitler on the Danzig question did not occur until the British leaders had launched a vigorous encirclement policy designed to throttle the German Reich. It is very unlikely that the Polish leaders would have defied Hitler had they not expected British support. The Polish leaders had received assurances ever since September 1938 that the British leaders would support them against Hitler at Danzig.
Another, albeit secondary, element of the story is how US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his warmongering half-Jewish ambassador William Bullitt lurked in the background, constantly making the political atmosphere favorable for war against Germany—but as discreetly as possible since the American public had no appetite for a second forceful intervention in Europe. As early as November 7, 1937 FDR had declared to the French Chargé d’Affaires Jules Henry that he was interested in overthrowing Hitler.
A year later, the Polish diplomat in Washington Jerzy Potocki reported that Bullitt had informed him that
. . . President Roosevelt was determined to bring America into the next European war. Bullitt explained to Potocki at great length that he enjoyed the special confidence of President Roosevelt. Bullitt predicted that a long war would soon break out in Europe, and “of Germany and her Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, he spoke with extreme vehemence and with bitter hatred.” He suggested that the war might last six years, and he advocated that it should be fought to a point where Germany could never recover.
Potocki did not share the enthusiasm of Bullitt and Roosevelt for war and destruction. He asked how such a war might arise, since it seemed exceedingly unlikely that Germany would attack Great Britain or France. Bullitt suggested that a war might break out between Germany and some other Power, and that the Western Powers would intervene in such a war. Bullitt considered an eventual Soviet-German war inevitable, and he predicted that Germany, after an enervating war in Russia, would capitulate to the Western Powers. He assured Potocki that the United States would participate in this war, if Great Britain and France made the first move.
As would be expected, The Forced War dives into a great many diplomatic and political details of the late 1930s. Not every tit in the book leads to a tat, but most do, demonstrating the veritable gym floor of diplomatic dominoes which was in place at the time. Hoggan thankfully keeps historical encounters and correspondence as brief, punchy, and to-the-point as possible, and with very few tangents. This allows him to pack his book with enough day-by-day and down-to-the-minute detail to make it a real page turner. Two-thirds of the way through this 320,000 word history (that’s nearly Don Quixote length, by the way), Hoggan is still discussing the events from mid-August, 1939. This means he dedicated about one-third of his magnum opus to the final two weeks before the German invasion of Poland.
This is an eventful book, to say the least. And it’s good stuff too—the scheming, the backstabbing, the heroics, the cold feet, and the histrionics are all there. So are all the lies and blunders. Some of this amounts to fallible human beings practicing politics as usual (such as Italy’s dithering support for Germany in August 1939), but much amounts to what Hoggan ascribes to foul play. And the prime perpetrator was the Halifax-Beck-Roosevelt tripartite, which forced the war upon an comparatively innocent Nazi Germany.
What follows in parts 2 and 3 of this review is less an evaluation of the entirety of The Forced War than a presentation of the evidence which supports Hoggan’s thesis—evidence which will prove invaluable to the dissident case today. This evidence falls into three categories:
- Lord Halifax deviously manipulated both Poland and Germany into war.
- Poland deserved to be invaded by refusing to negotiate over Danzig and by abusing her German minority.
- Hitler wanted peace and sincerely cared about the German people.