January-August 1939

Aug

31

1939

The Gleiwitz incident: the ‘first man to die’ in the War

If there’s the slightest provocation, I shall shatter Poland without warning into so many pieces that there will be nothing left to pick up. – I will give propagandistic cause for the release of the war, whether convincing or not. The winner is not asked later whether he said the truth or not.

Aug

30

1939

Lingering hopes for peace

The artist and diarist Keith Vaughan records the general mood in England: We wait still; war or peace. The governments have locked themselves in and continue exchanging letters; only we no longer know what they are saying. Tension has relaxed, simply because it was impossible to remain at that pitch of anxious fever for long. […]

Aug

29

1939

Hitler vents his frustration on Major Engel

Major Gerhard Engel was Hitlers Army Adjutant. He gives us an idea of Hitler’s state of mind on the brink of war: F. is as never before on edge, irritable, sharp with everybody. Thus Schmundt and I had to receive a heap of abuse against the Army after it had been all quiet on that […]

Aug

23

1939

Germany and Russia sign Non-Aggression Pact

Hitler and Stalin surprised the world when they announced a pact between themselves. The arrangement allowed Hitler to launch his forces against Poland knowing that he would not suffer from Russian interference. Furthermore he would be free to turn to West without worrying about his Eastern front in due. The clause dividing Poland with Russia […]

Aug

14

1939

The Italians expect war

The Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano anticipates the attack on Poland I meet the Polish ambassador at the beach. I speak with him in vague terms and advise moderation. Our counsellor at Warsaw tells us that Poland will fight to the last man. The churches are filled. The people pray and sing a hymn, ‘O […]

May

22

1939

Germany and Italy sign the "Pact of Steel"

I thought Hitler was in excellent shape, quite serene, less aggressive. A little older. His eyes are more deeply wrinkled. He sleeps very little. Always less. And he spends most of the night surrounded by collaborators and friends. Frau Goebbels, who is a regular participant in these gatherings and who feels quite honored by them, was describing them to me without being able to conceal a vague feeling of boredom because of their monotony. It is always Hitler who talks!

Apr

20

1939

Hitler’s Birthday Parade

‘I’m now 50 years old,’ he told his entourage in August, ‘still in full possession of my strength. The problems must be solved by me, and I can wait no longer. In a few years I will be physically and perhaps mentally no longer up to it.’