Tag Archives: Poland

The Big Four at the Paris Peace Conference

The terms and effects of the Treaty of Versailles

This GCSE and IGCSE History revision podcast focuses on the terms and effects of the Treaty of Versailles.  You may also wish to look through the Paris Peace Conference PowerPoint. In this IGCSE and GCSE History revision podcast, the mnemonic GARGLE is used to outline the terms of the Treaty of Versailles:

  • Guilt
  • Arms
  • Reparations
  • German Territory
  • League of Nations

This is followed by an assessment of Germany’s reaction, and presents a number of specific examples that could be used to explain why Germany was unhappy with the terms. The final part of the podcast looks at how to approach an exam question about ‘how fair’ the Treaty of Versailles really was.  This is done by presenting evidence for and against the Treaty that could be used in an answer.

     

Yalta Conference

Brief introduction to the Yalta Conference

On the 4th February 1945 the Yalta Conference began. Attended by the “Big Three” Allied leaders, the conference saw United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin meet to discuss the government of post-war Europe.

The three leaders had previously met at the Tehran Conference in 1943 where they set out a unified military strategy, but at Yalta the focus was exclusively on the end of the war and its aftermath. It was clear that the war in Europe was in its final stages, so they agreed to demand Germany’s unconditional surrender after which the country – and Berlin – would be split into four zones of occupation. Germany was to undergo a process of demilitarization and denazification, and Nazi war criminals were to be hunted down and brought to justice.

Furthermore, the three allies considered the fate of Eastern European countries that had been under Nazi occupation. Poland was the focus of much of the discussion, but the agreement reached was intended to apply to every country. The Protocol of Proceedings stated that the allies would assist the liberated countries to form “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.”

The terms of the agreement, when they were made public, were met with harsh criticism in Britain and the United States. Some of these criticisms came to be justified when, at the end of the war, the Soviet Union installed communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.

The origins of the Cold War: Yalta and Potsdam

This video presents an explanation of the start of the Cold War. The end of WW2 presented the Allies with the problem of what would happen to liberated Nazi territory. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met at Yalta in 1945 to discuss these issues. At Potsdam later that year the leaders of the USA (which was now led by Truman), Britain (under Atlee) and the USSR met again.

Khrushchev's Secret Speech

Khruschev’s criticism of Stalin in his ‘secret speech’

Shortly after midnight on the 25th February 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered his ‘secret speech’, officially called “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”, in a four hour “closed session” at the end of the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Laying the foundation for his wide-reaching de-Stalinisation campaign, the speech was a vehement denunciation of Stalin’s abuses of power and his creation of a personality cult.

Khrushchev’s speech signalled a dramatic reversal of Soviet policy, which he said had come about due to Stalin’s misinterpretation or misrepresentation of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. The ‘secret speech’ allowed Khrushchev to distance himself from the worst crimes of the Stalin’s rule, even though he himself had been responsible for thousands of deaths during his rule.  Additionally, and of great significance for the West, Khrushchev also advocated a policy of “peaceful coexistence” rather than continue Stalin’s policy of preparing for an inevitable war.

Although the full details of the speech were only supposed to reach the public gradually, rumours of its contents spread quickly. Israeli intelligence officers finally obtained a full copy of the speech, and passed it to the United States government, who leaked it to the press at the start of June. Although Khrushchev had, by this point, begun to implement de-Stalinisation the printing of the speech in the New York Times on the 5th June dictated demands for a faster pace of change in Eastern Europe. Large-scale change was, however, still slow. Poland’s government granted some concessions in October, but the situation in Hungary ended very differently.

Solidarity in Poland

Solidarity

Solidarity and the fall of communism in Poland

A detailed explanation of why Poland was the first country in which the communist government fell.  Includes an interview with former Polish president Lech Walesa.  Taken from Curriculum Bites.

Losing Soviet control over eastern Europe

These three videos present the events that led to the end of communism in the Eastern Bloc.

PART 1 – Gorbachev, the attitude of Honecker, Hungary 1989, Poland 1989, Warsaw Pact Summit 1989, the economic and political situation in East Germany, the crossing of East Germans through Hungary

PART 2 – East Germany’s 40th anniversay demonstration, fall of Honecker, fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia

PART 3 – Uprising in Romania leading to the end of Ceausescu

Why did Britain and France appease Hitler?

“This documentary called ‘Did we have to Fight?’ (first broadcast 1999) explores Britain’s options in the run-up to the Second World War. It will be particularly useful for students of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain, and of the wider conflict.”

Nazi invasion of Poland

The Nazi invasion of Poland

On the 1st September 1939, German forces invaded Poland in a move that was to trigger the Second World War.

Germany had already removed the threat that the USSR might respond aggressively by signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact a week earlier. Furthermore, the Nazis manufactured a situation in Poland to claim that their military response was an acting of self-defence.

During the night of the 31st August, Nazi SS troops dressed in Polish uniforms and staged an attack on the Gleiwitz radio tower in Upper Silesia. This ‘false flag’ operation was part of a wider series of staged attacks by Germans and German property called Operation Himmler that was designed to make it appear that Poland was exercising aggression against Germany.

Just hours after the Gleiwitz incident, at 4.45am on the 1st September, the first of approximately 1.5million German troops launched their attack on Poland. The effective encirclement of Polish forces by launching the coordinated attack at the same time from the north, south and west. The attack from the south came across the border with Slovakia, which had declared its independence in March under pressure from Hitler.

Known as the Battle of the Border, the three-pronged ground attack was supported by air raids that targeted Polish cities. It took just 5 days for troops on the ground to force the Polish army to retreat to their secondary defensive lines. The USSR joined launched its own invasion from east on the 17th September, and this crushed Polish hopes of victory.

The Polish government refused to surrender to Germany and instead evacuated the country and regrouped in Allied countries.

WW2

The start of the Second World War

On the 3rd September 1939, the Second World War officially began when France and the United Kingdom – together with Australia and New Zealand – declared war on Germany.

Nazi forces had invaded Poland two days earlier, claiming to be acting in self-defence. Although both France and Britain had each signed Pacts with Poland regarding mutual assistance in case of invasion, no significant military action was taken for eight months against Germany. As a result, this period became known as the Phoney War.

However, to call the war ‘phoney’ ignores some key elements of this period. The French, for example, launched an attack across the German border known as the Saar Offensive but the troops were pulled back to their defensive Maginot Line on the 17th October after it became clear that a full-scale assault would not be successful.

Further action took place at sea, where both the British and French navies both began a blockade of Germany’s ports the day after the declaration of war. The previous evening the British passenger ship SS Athenia was hit by torpedoes fired from a Nazi U-boat off the coast of the Hebrides. 128 civilian passengers and crew were killed as a result of the attack, and it is seen by some as marking the start of the Battle of the Atlantic.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill, on Chamberlain’s own suggestion, on the 10th May 1940. This coincided to the day with Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries using the tactic of blitzkrieg and effectively marked the end of the Phoney War.