Poland and Germany
The Peace Settlement in the German-Polish Borderlands. By Ian F. D. Morrow, assisted by L. M. Sieveking. (Oxford University Press. 25s.)
THE dispute over Danzig (the most sensitive danger spot in Europe) has recently been before the eyes of the newspaper reading public. It is probable that it will be brought even more forcibly to their notice during the coming winter when, as some say, preparations will be made for the long-expected German movement eastward in the spring. While these prepara- tions are being made many articles and even books may hastily be written on the subject of Danzig and the so-called Polish Corridor. If the writings of the last few years are any prece- dent there will be a great deal of nonsense contained in this output by writers who have only heard the extremes of right and wrong in this complicated and infinitely subtle affair. Anyone who wishes to write reasonably about it, and be guarded against the more obvious errors of fact, cannot do better than to use as a reference book for all he writes this most painstaking and thorough book—the product of years of research, travel and personal investigation by Mr. Morrow and his assistant.
The book confines itself to a study of the really important German-Polish borderlands, that is to say the pre-War Prussian provinces of East and West Prussia, and does not deal with the lesser difficulties of the Southern frontier line. Those difficulties are largely new ones, the product of the War and the peace. Upon the shores of the Baltic, however, and on the Eastern Marches the Germans and the Poles have been fighting for a thousand years for the possession of that desolate and sour country. It is precisely this huge fact, this age of the struggle which is what most writers on the East Prussian and Polish " corridor " problem forget to mention. It is precisely in his understanding and his explana- tion of the historical background (that is so important in the whole affair) that Mr. Morrow is at his best.
In general the Poles make a mistake by referring too much to ancient history to support them : the Germans too easily sweep aside history by saying that in the nineteenth century they changed all that—though it is certainly true that there have not been wanting German professors who have endlessly disputed with Polish pedants the alleged Teutonic or Slavonic race of the original settlers on the Marches in pre-Christian times ! In fact the present arrangement, as Mr. Morrow implies, might not work too badly economically and legally. Both sides are inflamed by history, the Poles by ancient, the Germans by modern. The Germans have made a mistake by insisting too much upon the impracticability of the Polish " corridor," upon the hardships which it inflicts upon the German people. By now, however, the machinery of the arrangement is working not badly. The transit of the corridor between East Prussia and the rest of Germany is easy, rapid, and adequate nearly always for the amount of travellers. The economic difficulties the farms and great estates of East Prussia have suffered recently cannot, as German writers claim, be ascribed to the " corridor." Those difficulties had begun well before the War. In fact, as Mr. Morrow says, " The coming of the World War and Germany's defeat hastened an economic process in East Prussia that had been in operation for generations."
The real danger of the German-Polish disagreement in the Eastern, Marches is not in economics but in national and racial psychology. The real resentment the Germans feel (and in all fairness it is one which an Imperial-minded people like the English should understand) is not one about money and transport difficulties. Their pride is profoundly humiliated by having to approach the very home of Prussianism by way of a land once owned by them but now held by a people whom they once conquered and whom they despise in the same way as an EnglishTory colonel whohad settled in Ireland for shooting and fishing might despise the Irish peasantry at the end of the nineteenth century. The English, a much more com- placent and tolerant people than the Germans, have been able largely to put Ireland out of their minds since it was lost to them. Even they, however, would feel it an irritating and humiliating reminder of their loss if they had to travel through Ireland to an important and essentially English province, and in travelling have to be treated as foreigners. Such a parallel is the true one to the Polish " corridor." The usual one which the German apologists produce of a wedge driven, let us say, by Holland between North and South England is quite false. Such a wedge would be on English ground inhabited by English people. The " corridor " was not, as so many people in this country seem to imagine, just a clumsy drive through Germany to give Poland access to the sea. Even before the War the German census of 1910 showed that the piece of land now known as the " corridor " was predominantly inhabited by Poles. Recent censuses have shown that Over 90 per cent. of the present population are Polish.
All this is discussed at length and most fairly by Mr. Morrow ; and the " corridor " problem takes up the centre and larger part of his large book. He has many chapters dealing not. only with the " corridor " itself but with the land on either side of it. There is also an exhaustive historical and present-day survey of East Prussia.
The position of Danzig is, of course, quite a different one from Pomorze, or the " corridor." Danzig is almost 95 per cent. German. But it must be remembered that those Germans
are the descendants of citizens who little more than a hundred years ago were the inhabitants of a Free City, who indeed
in 1815 voted on the Polish side of the plebiscite. There is a strong historical justification for the present position of Danzig. But once again the intervening years of the nine- teenth century have helped to wipe the historical slate clean.
Once again there is little economic or legal reason why the arrangement between the Free City and Poland should not have worked well. The cause of 90 per cent. of the trouble has again been racial and psychological. The trade of the Danzigers leapt up after the War as the result of their becoming the mouth of Poland. Danzig ought to have been able to act as Poland's port for nearly all her sea-going trade. Countless disputes over petty troubles have, however, exacerbated the feelings of the two parties to the agreement, until today, with the growing power of the Nazi State in Germany, the Eastward ambitions of that State and the feverish excitement of the Danzigers themselves, the stage is set for God knows what upheaval.
Mr. Morrow again very exhaustively goes into the story of the fifteen years of agreement and disagreement. He deals also at some length with the problem of Memel, and reviews the whole position—of the " corridor," of Danzig, Memel and East Prussia in the light of events since the Third Reich. He brings his long book to a conclusion in which he does not offer a solution, but is content to have