The French Yellow Book

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No. 66 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, March 14, 1939.

IN a previous letter I have set forth the origin and growth of the crisis which must lead to the division and perhaps to the partition of Czechoslovakia. I will therefore confine myself now to summing up the political situation as it appears in Berlin at the present moment. The most important point is the proclamation in Bratislava this morning of the independence of Slovakia, which has now severed its ties with Prague and thus broken up the framework of the Czechoslovak Federal State. One may wonder whether the internal Czechoslovak crisis has not, by the rapidity of its growth, surprised even the leaders of the Reich, but one can hardly doubt that at the last moment the proclamation of Slovak independence was the outcome of pressure, if not of a direct order, from Berlin. It was, as a matter of fact, during the course of the visit paid yesterday by Mgr. Tiso to the capital of the Reich that the decision was taken to convoke this morning the Slovak Diet whose meeting, originally fixed for today, had been postponed till the 28th.

From indications which I have been able to gather concerning the interviews Mgr. Tiso had in Berlin, it would seem that the Reich leaders and the Führer himself had shown clearly their determination that a completely free Slovakia should be created. It is only upon this condition that the friendship and protection of the Nazi leaders, indispensable to the new State, will be granted. Slovakia, therefore, must be regarded as a vassal of the Reich.

Events in Slovakia have had an immediate repercussion in Sub-Carpathian Russia; Mgr. Volosin has also proclaimed the independence of his country, whose position now appears most intricate. Indeed, as the result of dashes with the Czech forces, Hungarian troops have already entered Ruthenian territory, while the Government of Budapest has addressed an ultimatum to Prague demanding the immediate withdrawal of Czech troops from Sub-Carpathian Russia. Mgr. Volosin, on his part, has asked by telegram for help and protection from the Reich and from Italy. It is unlikely that these two countries will accede to this request.

Now after the Slovak proclamation of independence which has cut the Federal Republic into three sections, Sub-Carpathian Russia, hitherto supported by subsidies from Prague, can no longer survive. Its existence appears very ephemeral. In all probability it will be absorbed by Hungary. This at least is the point of view expressed in those German newspapers which are mouthpieces of official circles. Thus would be established the common frontier, so ardently desired by Warsaw and Budapest, which since the verdict of Vienna has been the subject of such bitter controversy. Finally the future of what remains of the Czechoslovak Republic, that is of Bohemia and Moravia, is itself under discussion.

The Reich is again bringing great political pressure to bear on the Prague Government accompanied by the threats of military action.

Following upon the quarrels between Czechs and Slovaks one can notice since last Sunday a sudden revival, in its most virulent form, of the campaign which the German Press launched last September against Czechoslovakia. The Czechs are once more accused of using violence not only against the Slovaks but also against others, and especially against members of the German minority and citizens of the Reich. The newspapers are proclaiming that the lives of these Germans are in danger, that the situation is intolerable, and that it is necessary to smother as quickly as possible the focus of trouble which Prague has become in the heart of Europe. They have even gone to the length of asserting that the Czech Government is mobilizing.

This morning officials of the Reich press-service, in discussing the subject with the representatives of foreign news agencies, declared that the situation was "unbearable," and let it be understood that grave developments must be expected.

In the meantime the German High Command has concentrated around Bohemia and Moravia (that is to say, in Silesia, in Saxony, in Bavaria and in Austria) considerable numbers of troops, consisting for the most part of mechanized units, which are now awaiting the order to cross the frontier. The general impression is that this order will be given some time to-morrow. It is even stated that Pilsen will be occupied by German troops. They are said already to have crossed the frontier in the region of Morawska-Ostrawa.

It seems that after a moment of confusion Prague has pulled itself together and a last effort is being made to avoid a rupture with the Reich. The President of the Republic and the President of the Council of Ministers are now on their way to Berlin.

Will they succeed in averting the military menace once more hanging over their country? It seems very doubtful. The German-Czech crisis has in a few days reached a stage as acute as in the darkest days of September. The use of force against Prague appears imminent. It would doubtless be accompanied by parallel measures in Slovakia, whither the Czechs have sent important reinforcements during the last few days.

What are the designs of the Reich leaders with regard to this State, which for some time they have been referring to as "Czechia"?

Before and during the September crisis the Nazi leaders made no secret of their clear determination to wipe Czechoslovakia off the map. During last January the Führer himself told one of my colleagues that if Czechoslovakia did not "run straight," he would release a lightning attack against it. Quite recently one of the Chancellor's intimates spoke of this very dissolution of Czechoslovakia which the Reich press is gloatingly proclaiming tonight.

If the fate of Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Russia now appears obvious it is more difficult to perceive the Führer's intentions towards "Czechia."

According to my information, the Nazi extremists are calling for nothing less than the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia by the Reich, which would in return grant these provinces some form of administrative and cultural autonomy. Others advise the setting up in Prague of an authoritarian Government whose head would be General Gajda, Dr. Beneš's relentless enemy. Such a Government in matters of both internal and foreign policy would have to conform absolutely to the views of Germany.

It is said that at present the Chancellor, having been disappointed over the results of the Munich Agreement, inclines towards the extremist plan as he is seeking this time a radical solution.

In any case the Reich Government would demand the complete disarmament of "Czechia."

Such appears to be the situation at the present moment when M. Hacha and M. Beran are about to arrive in Berlin, where they will be received as representatives of the State of Bohemia and Moravia.


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