The French Yellow Book

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No. 78 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, March 18, 1939.

As the Minister for Foreign Affairs is not in Berlin, I saw the State Secretary this morning and carried out the instructions which had been given me.

Before acquainting himself with the contents of the French Government's note, Herr von Weizsäcker asked me to give him its tenor. When I had communicated the substance of it to him, the State Secretary declared that he refused to accept a protest from the French Government concerning Czechoslovakia. He requested me to ask Your Excellency to reconsider the question. I replied that the French Government had carefully weighed its decision and that it was utterly useless to ask them to change it. As Herr von Weizsäcker still refused to accept the Note, I recalled diplomatic usage and the right of my country to express its opinion of recent events. The State Secretary's attitude surprised me all the more because the object of discussion was a solemn act, signed by the heads of the French Government and the Government of the Reich. What had Germany made of the Munich Agreement? Herr von Weizsäcker, without making a direct answer, referred to verbal assurances alleged to have been given to Herr von Ribbentrop by Your Excellency in Paris after the signature of the declaration of December 6, according to which Czechoslovakia was in future not to be the subject of "an exchange of views." He added that if the German Government had supposed that it might be otherwise, they would not have signed the pact.

I replied to Herr von Weizsäcker that no trace could be found of any such assurance, either in the declaration of December 6 nor in the broadcast statements which had accompanied it, and that the French authors of this agreement could never have meant it to constitute a possible recognition of the suppression of Czechoslovakia however liberally its spirit were to be interpreted:

The declaration, on the contrary, provided that the two Governments would consult each other on matters which concerned them both and which in their development might threaten to cause international difficulties.

Changing his ground, Herr von Weizsäcker then expressed astonishment that the French Government could protest against a state of affairs resulting from a treaty between the heads of the German and the Czech State.

I pointed out to him that he was now going to the root of the matter and that I could answer that we had the strongest reasons for thinking that the Czech negotiators had not found themselves in a position to express their will freely. Herr von Weizsäcker finally said he would take the Note as if it had been sent to him by post, but that he feared the French Government might regret this step.

I replied that one could never regret having done one's duty, and with these words took leave of the State Secretary.

The frown on Herr von Weizsäcker's face and the first gesture he made on seeing the document which I gave him warned me at the outset that he knew the purpose of my visit and had been instructed to persuade me to withdraw the Note. It was obviously impossible for me to yield to that wish.


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