Sean Lester, a Belfast Protestant and Irish Nationalist, became one of Ireland’s first truly international diplomats when he took up the post of High Commissioner of the League of Nations in the Free City of Danzig in 1936. Finding himself in a cauldron of intrigue, Lester made strenuous efforts to frustrate the Danzig Nazi Party’s attempts to gain complete control of the city for the German Reich. By mid-1936, having become the only obstacle left in the way of Nazi conquest of Danzig, the Irishman soon became the focus of a very aggressive campaign by Hitler and the Nazi movement to have him forced out of the Free City.
Extensively based on material regarding Lester from the Polish state archives, this book examines the circumstances surrounding the Irishman’s tenure in the Free City where he became one of the first western European diplomats to see the Nazi mask slip. Primary sources include the National Archives, London, the League of Nations Archives in Geneva, Sean Lester’s diary and papers and German foreign ministry archives. The failure of European governments to heed Lester’s warnings and to subsequently allow his ‘removal’ from Danzig turned out to be a missed opportunity to stop Hitler in his tracks three years before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Table of Contents
2. Danzig: From Hanseatic Port to Free City, 997-1920
3. ‘The British Period’ and the Fallout from Locarno, 1920-1929
4. The Rise of the NSDAP in Danzig and the Growth of Gdynia, 1930-1934
5. British and Polish Appeasement – an Overview, 1925-1938
6. Lester’s Appointment as High Commissioner
7. Lester’s Arrival in Danzig and the Realignment of Polish Foreign Policy
8. Election Fever in the Free City
9. The Political Fallout from the 1935 Elections
10. Financial Crisis in Danzig, Political Crisis in Geneva
12. The Calm Before the Storm
13. The Leipzig Incident
14. Poland as League Mediator
15. Diplomatic Efforts Intensify
16. The Political Fallout from Lester’s ‘Resignation’
17. The Final Humiliation of the League of Danzig
About the Author
Paul McNamara has been a teacher of English Language at two secondary language schools in Lebork, Poland, since 2002. Previous to this, he taught at various language schools in Poland and Dublin. He has a BA in History and Archaeology (1994) and MLitt in History (2007), both from NUI Galway.