The French Yellow Book

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No. 127 : M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, May 22, 1939.

FROM a reliable source I have received certain indications of Herr von Ribbentrop's present attitude to the International problems of the moment, which it appears to me advisable to pass on to your department.

The Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs considers it absolutely unbelievable that Poland should have rejected the Führer's proposals. These were Herr Hitler's personal suggestions. Herr von Ribbentrop himself would never have approved them. In his opinion, they were quite incomprehensible in "their clemency and their generosity." It was unthinkable that Herr Hitler should have revealed, at the same time such modesty in his demands, and such generosity in his offers. Furthermore, last January, M. Beck had accepted these advantageous proposals. It was because of the internal situation in Poland that he had been unable to keep his word. The Warsaw government had therefore missed a most unlooked-for chance of securing the continued existence of Poland for twenty-five years. But nothing would be lost by waiting.

The possibility that Poland might accept the German point of view, and enter into her orbit, although it seemed highly remote at the moment, had not been altogether set aside by Herr von Ribbentrop.

But what, in fact, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Reich thinks, is that the Polish State cannot last very long. Sooner or later it would be bound to disappear, once more partitioned between Germany and Russia. In Herr von Ribbentrop's mind the idea of such a partition was closely linked with that of a rapprochement between Berlin and Moscow. To him such a reconciliation seemed, in the long run, both indispensable and inevitable. It would be in accordance with reality, and with a tradition still very much alive in Germany and would be the only way of bringing about a permanent settlement of the German-Polish dispute, that is, according to the methods already applied in the case of Czechoslovakia, the deletion of Poland from the map.

But above all it would give the rulers of the Reich the means of destroying the power of Great Britain. That was the chief objective which Herr von Ribbentrop had set himself, the idée fixe, which, with fanatical determination, he was unceasingly striving to achieve.

The hope, that a Russo-German cooperation would one day give the Reich a chance of striking a mortal blow at the world power of the British Empire, had been strengthened latterly in Herr von Ribbentrop's mind by the difficulties which were met with in the Anglo-Soviet negotiations. It was true that the Führer was still opposed to the political designs of the Minister for Foreign Affairs with regard to Soviet Russia. Herr Hitler considered that, for ideological reasons, it would be extremely difficult to bring about such a re-orientation of German policy. However, Herr von Ribbentrop had his backers, notably amongst the Higher Command and the more important industrialists. The Chancellor himself had, to a certain extent, already taken account of these tendencies of his Foreign Minister by making no attack against Soviet Russia in his speeches during the past few months, and by allowing the German Press for the time being to lower the tone of its anti-Bolshevik tirades.

One of the immediate objects that the advocates of a reconciliation with the U.S.S.R. hoped to gain, appeared to be the possibility of persuading Russia to play the same role in an eventual dismemberment of Poland that the latter country had played with regard to Czechoslovakia. The ultimate object appeared to be to make use of the material resources and man-power of the U.S.S.R. as a means to destroy the British Empire.

It is possible that up to the present the Führer has resisted these appeals or at any rate hesitated to commit himself to such a policy, for ideological reasons. But, even admitting that such is his present attitude, there is nothing to indicate that he will not change his mind.

In any case, the ease and rapidity with which rumours of a Russo-German reconciliation found credence in Germany at the time of M. Litvinov's resignation were enough to allay any fears that Herr Hitler might have had as to the effect on public opinion. One cannot eliminate the possibility that it was to enlighten the Chancellor on this point that the advocates of Russo-German reconciliation put about these rumours.

At this moment, when the Anglo-Franco-Russian negotiations seem to have entered upon a decisive phase, we should keep clearly conscious of this situation and bear in mind that the Reich would do its best to take advantage, to the detriment of France and Great Britain, of any failure, howsoever veiled, in the conversations now taking place with Moscow.


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