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Sir N. Henderson to Viscount Halifax (received 8:30 p. m.).
(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 24, 1939.
I HAVE hitherto not made particular reference to the underlined portion in Herr Hitler's reply* to the Prime Minister in regard to German general mobilisation as a counter to British and French mobilisations.
2. When Herr Hitler gave me his reply, readjusted, I asked him what exactly was intended by this sentence, as I would, I said, regard a general German mobilisation as the equivalent to war. The answer I got was confused, as was the actual German text. But the gist was that if the French and British mobilisations convinced Herr Hitler that the Western Powers meant to attack him he would mobilise in self-defence. I pointed out that any British military mobilisation would in any case fall far short of what already existed in Germany. Herr Hitler's reply was that this sentence was more particularly intended as a warning to France, and that, as I gathered, the French Government was being or would be so informed.
3. I feel that the main objects of inserting this underlined passage in his letter was (a) to indicate that Germany could not be intimidated; and (b) to serve as an excuse for general mobilisation if and when Herr Hitler decides on it.