Study Guide

The Poles in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

By William L. Shirer

The Poles

Colonel Józef Beck

Colonel Beck was Poland's Foreign Minister from 1932 until the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

Before Nazi Germany turned on his country, Beck collaborated in Hitler's seizure of Czechoslovakian territories in 1938, seizing roughly 650 square miles for Poland as the victors divvied up the spoils. Shirer describes Beck as having cast "covetous eyes" on Czechoslovakia, and as having exhibited a "fatal short-sightedness, so widely shared in Europe that summer, which in the end would prove more disastrous than he could possibly imagine" (3.12.103).

Shirer describes Beck as having felt "a warm sympathy" for "the Nazi dictatorship […] from the beginning," and writes that since his appointment as Foreign Minister in 1932, "he had striven to bring his country closer to the Third Reich and to weaken its traditional ties with France" (3.14.18). For these reasons, Beck doesn't get much warm sympathy from Shirer, even after the point when the Nazis turned on him.

Although Shirer does seem to have some grudging respect for Beck's stolid resistance to Hitler's intimidations once the tables had turned, he also takes him to task for refusing Russian assistance in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of war. Ultimately, Shirer seems to feel that Beck—like so many others—made a number of disastrous wrong moves in his dealings with Hitler.

Józef Lipski

Józef Lipski was the Polish ambassador to Germany in the lead-up to the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. Shirer draws from his records in order to give us some of the details of Poland's ongoing negotiations with Germany in the months leading up to the outbreak of war, but he doesn't give us a very detailed characterization of Lipski himself. For the most part, Lipski exists as one of the many peripheral figures in TRFTR who are known mostly by their names instead of their personalities.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...