THE POLISH ULTIMATUM TO LITHUANIA IN MARCH 1938; INTERNATIONAL ASPECTS OF PRE-WAR EUROPE'S FORGOTTEN CRISIS
At the end of 1938, an international crisis, which is even now eclipsed by political echoes of Nazi 'Anschluss', occurred in North-East Europe. The Polish governmental circles took advantage of the fact that European attention was focused on Central European matters and forced the Lithuanian government to restore diplomatic relations. From 1920, there were no official relations between Warsaw and Kaunas, because the Lithuanian government had refused to recognize annexation of the Vilnius region by the Rzeczypospolita. As a result of killing a Polish border guard, the Warsaw government demanded in an ultimatum that the Kaunas government should recognise a Polish diplomat (and send a diplomat to Poland), thus effectively acknowledge the status quo. The Lithuanian anti-Polish nationalistic regime hesitated, fathoming the great powers' and the Baltic Treaty allies' reaction to an eventual Polish scheme. Most parties recommended accepting the Polish requirements. The Czech Foreign Minister gave the Lithuanian ambassador the same advice. The post-war research of captured German documents revealed that Hitler intended to use a potential Polish-Lithuanian military clash for the annexation of Klajpeda (Memel), i.e. a step, which Germany took one year later, in March 1939.
J. Dejmek, Historicky ustav AV CR, v. v. i., Prosecka 76, 190 00 Praha 9, Czech Republic
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