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September Document of the Month

These documents focus on the outbreak of the Second World War at diplomatic and political level. They show Germany preparing to attack Poland, the mood on the streets of Berlin as reported by Irish diplomat William Warnock and the poignant formal note from the Polish Consul General in Dublin to the Department of External Affairs, stating that Poland was now at war with Germany.

Ireland now prepared for war, hoping that its neutrality would be respected. An invasion was a real possibility and plans were made for this eventuality. The draft Cabinet agenda shown would only become operative after Ireland was invaded. A testimony to the course of the war is that it remains unused in its file. There was no guarantee that Ireland could preserve its neutrality in any future conflict and the experience of what became known as the ‘Emergency’ became the basis for a ‘War Book’ drawn up after 1945 to guide the government and administration in the event of a Third World War.

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NAI/DFA/241/89/1, Telegram announcing the impending German invasion of Poland, 1 September 1939

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NAI/DFA/219/4, Letter describing the atmosphere in Berlin on the eve of hostilities, 2 September 1939

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NAI/DFA/241/89/2, Letter formally confirming Germany’s invasion of Poland, 11 September 1939

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NAI/TSCH/3/S11445/1A, Agenda detailing action to be taken by the Irish government in the event of an invasion, undated, possibly 1941

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NAI/TSCH/3/S11445/8, Extract from Cabinet minutes recording the decision to prepare a book detailing the steps to be taken by the government to secure the safety of the State in the event of a future world crisis, 22 September 1944

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