The French Yellow Book

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No. 132 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 1, 1939.

FROM a reliable intermediary, I have received the following indications, given by a senior official of the Wilhelmstrasse, on the manner in which the higher authorities envisage the settlement of the Danzig problem.

I give as "reliable" the information which the official from whom it was obtained says he checked himself.

"Three possibilities are at present contemplated: withdrawal on the part of Poland; war; and withdrawal on the part of Germany.

"(1) The first solution is naturally preferred: it is one which is reckoned on and which is already being arrived at. That is the reason why a state of crisis is kept up in Poland, in order to oblige her to remain mobilized, and to exhaust progressively her nervous resistance and her financial resources. It is anticipated that the action undertaken will produce results in about two months.

"Reliable-German diplomatic representatives abroad have been instructed to spread the report that France and England will not fight for the sake of Danzig. I have, myself, noted a revival of this campaign amongst the members of the diplomatic corps in Berlin.

"Reliable-Herr Hitler has no illusions on this subject, for he has in his hands the reports of the competent Embassies in which it is declared that France and England will fight without any doubt in support of Poland.

"(2) The higher authorities know, therefore, that if war broke out with Poland over the question of Danzig, a general war would result.

"The Führer has asked General Keitel, chief of the General Staff, and General von Brauchitsch, C.-in-C. of the Army, whether in their opinion, under existing conditions, an armed conflict would turn in favour of Germany. Both replied that much depended on whether Russia remained neutral or not. In the first case General Keitel replied 'Yes' and General von Brauchitsch (whose opinion has greater value) replied 'probably.' Both declared that, if Germany had to fight against Russia, she would not have much chance of winning. Both generals attached considerable importance to the intervention of Turkey, their opinion being that Turkey was likely to act in favour of the Western Powers only if Russia herself join in.

"The prevalent opinion at the Wilhelmstrasse is that, if Poland does not yield, Herr Hitler's decision will depend upon the signature of the Anglo-Russian pact. It is believed that he will risk war if he does not have to fight Russia, but that if, on the contrary, he knows that he will have to fight Russia as well, he will give way rather than expose his country, his party and himself to ruin and defeat.

"Should the Anglo-Russian negotiations be protracted the possibility of a lightning seizure of Danzig within the next few weeks is not excluded.

"(3) They are convinced at the Wilhelmstrasse that, in the mind of the Führer, Danzig is a means, but not an end. They stress the fact that, in his speech of April 28, Herr Hitler mentioned Alsace with a certain reticence."

The above statements fit in as a whole with the information that I have already sent to Your Excellency. They underline at the same time the primary importance that is attached here to the Anglo-Russian talks and the extreme urgency of their being brought to a speedy conclusion. They indicate the middle of August as the culminating point of the crisis, but they also make clear the very great danger of the period which will elapse before the present negotiations have been concluded.

My British colleague, who considers as I do, that this information is very serious, informs me that he has communicated it to London urging that the conclusion of an Anglo-Franco-Russian pact be pushed forward as quickly as possible. I told him that for our part we would leave no stone unturned to bring about this result with the least possible delay.


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