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IN the course of the negotiations which took place yesterday in Berlin between the Government of the Reich and the Slovak delegation headed by Mgr. Tiso, Herr von Ribbentrop, referring to the relations between Poland and Germany, made the following declaration to the head of the Bratislava Government, reported almost word for word as follows:
"The Führer does not want war. He will resort to it only with reluctance. But the decision in favour of war or peace does not rest with him. It rests with Poland. On certain questions of vital interest to the Reich, Poland must give way and accede to demands which we cannot renounce. If Poland refuses, it is upon her that the responsibility for a conflict will fall and not upon Germany."
These words, which I must insist were quoted to me in a strictly confidential manner, seem to me to sum up fairly well the present state of the German-Polish tension.
Although, bearing in mind the Chancellor's unfathomable pride, his state of irritation and his boundless faith in his star, one cannot rule out a priori the possibility of an angry gesture and an imminent and brutal seizure of Danzig, I consider that, in the present state of things, this is not the most likely contingency. I am more inclined to believe that before resorting to extreme measures, the Government of the Reich will attempt once more the method of negotiating with Poland as understood by Hitlerian Germany, that is to say, by pressure and blackmail, accompanied by the threat of force.
As I have already stated, Berlin has not yet lost all hope that Poland will give way on the question of the return of the City of Danzig to the Reich and the construction of an extra-territorial motor road across the Corridor. This hope is all the stronger since, in spite of the very clear way in which the English guarantee was drawn up. they persist in thinking in Berlin that the British promise of assistance does not include the Danzig problem.
On the other hand, as far as I can see, it seems that on the Polish side it is thought that after the return of Colonel Beck there will be a resumption of the diplomatic conversations begun last week with Germany, which have so far failed. It goes without saying that Germany will use the time during which these conversations may continue for military preparations directed against Poland.
There is no doubt in my mind about one thing: the Chancellor is resolutely determined to settle the Danzig question "one way or another." On this subject Herr von Ribbentrop's remarks reported above are typical and are confirmed by other reliable sources.
But, however exasperated the Führer may be by the Anglo-Polish negotiations and the threat of encirclement, however great his haste to proclaim the return of Danzig to the Reich and to restore direct communications between East Prussia and Pomerania, he cannot but know that if this result is not obtained in an amicable way, it would not be merely a matter of a military parade for the German army marching across Polish territory. This time he would have to face a conflict necessitating very extensive preparations.
According to convergent and reliable reports, it would seem that in the Chancellor's opinion the amicable solution suggested last week to Poland was to constitute only a stage. If this is passed in consequence of a refusal on the part of Poland, the Reich will try to obtain a solution of the whole problem of German-Polish relations, a problem which has been artificially relegated to the background since 1934. Poland will have to face the question: "To be or not to be?"
From another source it is pointed out that in the meantime the leaders of the Reich have not lost all hope of weakening the resolution of England and France by trying to divide opinion in both countries on the question of eventual military aid for Poland. We must expect the Reich to display activity in this direction, and in particular to try to obtain the publication in certain newspapers of articles intended to spread confusion. As far as France is concerned, the journey of Herr Abetz to Paris is doubtless not foreign to this purpose. The fact that until now the German Press has affected to discriminate between England and France, directing all its fury against the former and merely attacking the latter in a perfunctory manner, is in itself significant. German propaganda will doubtless try to convince certain sections of French opinion that by fighting England's battles on the Continent, their country is playing a dupe's part. Nazi agents will not fail to maintain that the Third Reich has the best intentions towards us. Already, when Austria was invaded, Field-Marshal Goering repeatedly gave his word of honour to M. Mastny that Germany was animated by the very best intentions towards Czechoslovakia. We know today what such assurances are worth.
We must therefore, during the coming weeks, expect a violent offensive against the moral structure of France and of England.
The German-Polish dispute has, in fact, degenerated into a tension between the Reich and the Western Democracies.
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