When did Hitler invade Poland?

Warmongers looking for reasons

Gleiwitz on August 31, 1939. Towards evening a group of armed men penetrated the radio station in the German town directly on the border with Poland. The employees are tied up. Then an alleged message from Polish insurgents is read out over the transmitter. Then the attackers withdraw again. On the station's premises, they leave the corpse of a German who lived in Poland for a long time and who is politically sympathetic to the country. The dead man should prove that the station was actually attacked by Poles. In fact, SS men had penetrated there. They had left the body, too, on the orders of Adolf Hitler. He needed a justification for the war against Poland.

His men delivered them to him. And so Hitler had his media report on the alleged Polish attack that same night. Also that night he had German planes attack the Polish city of WielĂșn - 1200 people died. And on the following day he gave the speech that started World War II: "Poland fired for the first time on our own territory with regular soldiers last night. Fire back has been taking place since 5.45 am. And from now on, bombs will be rewarded with bombs . "

Refugees with horse-drawn carts and their cattle

Hitler's speech shows that even the most nefarious politician needs an excuse to invoke an attack. An attack on another state requires justification - even Hitler cannot go behind this most noble principle of international law, at least not in his propaganda. Inwardly, in the circle of confidants, it looks quite different. A good week before the attack on Poland, Hitler had explained his planned approach to the highest military commanders: "The conflict will be triggered by appropriate propaganda. Credibility is irrelevant, victory is the right one."

One blow with the fan

Nevertheless, for the first moment a reason has to be found, something that at least gives the appearance of legitimation. Because groundless aggression is still outlawed today. Even the most brutal butcher of today, the fighters of the terrorist organization "Islamic State", give reasons for their thousands of murders - in this case a highly arbitrary reading of the Koran.

Recent history knows numerous examples of arbitrarily justified wars. During the French Revolution, France obtained wheat from Algeria. Payments were repeatedly postponed and the total debt increased. Decades later, in 1827, a heated debate broke out between the Algerian ruler Hussein and the French consul Pierre Deval. During the discussion, Hussein hit the consul on the cheek with a fan. The French King Charles X took this as an opportunity to invade Algeria in 1830. The country remained under French colonial rule for over 130 years.

The conflict could have been resolved. But France did not want to settle it. The pretext, poor as it was, was intended to legitimize the invasion. Nobody took him seriously. But Charles X had what he needed so badly: a motive.

"Tidy up, hang up, bang down"

Lothar von Trotha

As a colonial power, Germany too used questionable motives to declare war on others, or at least to attack them. Since 1884, today's Namibia was initially a "protected area", then a colony of the German Empire. German settlers continued to expand, which led the original inhabitants of the area, the Hereros, to rise up against the occupiers in 1904. Under their commanding officer Lothar von Trotha, they took this as an opportunity to destroy the Hereros as completely as possible. So they drove her into the scorching hot and waterless Omaheke desert. According to a contemporary witness, the desert was supposed to continue "what the German weapons had begun: the annihilation of the Herero people." The Germans claimed the area for themselves. They proceeded accordingly. One must "clean up, hang up, bang down to the last man, no pardon (give)", recommended a German missionary.

Advance war reasons of the present

Preceding war reasons still play a major role today. The Soviet Union justified the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 with the call for help from the Communist Party there - irrelevant as it may have been.

The US has been preparing the war against the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein since 2003. They too used pretended reasons. They accused Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction. The claim turned out to be unfounded after the invasion.

The then George W. Bush administration prepared for war in spite of the increasingly blatant baselessness of the arguments put forward. In February 2003, the then Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated the charge of weapons of mass destruction before the United Nations Security Council.

To date, it remains unclear to what extent members of the Bush administration believed their claims. After the war, then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told journalist Bob Woodward that he had repeatedly doubted the allegations. But, continues Rumsfeld: "Over time, I gained confidence and was convinced that the information was correct. I think everyone was like that."

Wars need justifications. They may be arbitrary, baseless, cynical. But they are needed. So that if not the world community, then at least the aggressor can believe that he is right.