The French Yellow Book

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No. 138 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 20, 1939.

ALTHOUGH the two speeches of Dr. Goebbels at Danzig have not introduced any new factor into the Polish-German problem, they were, if one can follow the intentions of the German propaganda, intended to mark a date, and an epoch in its evolution. After the warning shot of April 28, we have, as it were, the beginning of the heavy artillery preparation designed to intimidate the enemy and disorganize his countermeasures. The circumstances, the violence of their tone, the obvious wish to work up chauvinistic passions in the Free City to their maximum, all give added significance to the words of the Minister of Propaganda.

From this point of view last Saturday's is the more interesting of the two speeches. The speaker, it is reported, spoke extempore. The warm welcome of the crowd seems to have made him improvise declarations thrilling with enthusiasm from the dress-circle in the theatre from which he had just watched a gala performance. But it is, in point of fact, sufficient to read the text of the speech to see that its terms had been most carefully weighed.

Without discussing the speech as a whole, four essential points may be singled out as essential:

(1) Dr. Goebbels reasserted the German character of the Free City, which no one attempts to deny. The visit of the Führer's representative to Danzig is in itself proof that the population is perfectly at liberty to proclaim its attachment to the German "Volkstum."

(2) With regard to the international aspects of the problem the speaker claimed that its present development could in no way be ascribed to the people of Danzig, who had only one desire, namely to belong to the Greater German Reich. This wish was "understandable, clear, definite and unshakable." "It is your misfortune," he added "that your lovely German city should be situated at the mouth of the Vistula. According to the theories of Warsaw, cities at the mouths of rivers always belong to the country through whose territory the rivers flow. Rotterdam, therefore, belongs to Germany since this port is at the mouth of the Rhine and the Rhine is a German river."

(3) The Minister of Propaganda made a violent attack on Polish and British policies.

"The Polish bullies," he said, "are now claiming East Prussia and German Silesia. According to them the west Polish frontier should be the Oder. Why not claim the Elbe or the Rhine? There they would meet their new allies the English, whose frontier, as we all know, is the Rhine." The Polish chauvinists are often speaking of a great battle that will take place outside Berlin. These boastings are the result of the fact that Polish policy is now passing through its "age of puberty." We must wait until this disorder disappears of itself.

As to England, Dr. Goebbels cannot reconcile the statement made by Lord Halifax before the House of Lords that he wished to see a peaceful settlement of the Danzig question, and the fact that the British Government had "drawn a blank cheque in favour of Warsaw." Great Britain was endeavouring to encircle Germany and Italy and so "reviving her 1914 policy." But National-Socialist Germany was far from being the feeble bourgeois Germany of former times.

"Therefore," said Dr. Goebbels, "we consider the oratory of Warsaw and London as so much bluster intended to hide under its volume of words, its deficiencies in strength and determination."

(4) At the end of his speech the Head of the Nazi Propaganda let fall a more definite threat. Yet this threat was scarcely more open than that made by the Chancellor himself on April 28.

"Our wish in the Reich," he cried out, "is as clear as your own, wish; the Führer made this quite plain in his last speech to the Reichstag when he said 'Danzig is a German city and wishes once more to be part of Germany.' The world must have understood these words. It should realise too, from past experiences, that the Führer's words are not platonic. It will, in any case, be making a grave error if it imagines that Adolf Hitler withdraws before menaces, or gives in to blackmail. There can be no question of it."

From the political point of view, Sunday's speech, which was almost entirely devoted to a eulogy of National-Socialist culture, was not so interesting. Dr. Goebbels was content with saying "political" frontiers were of limited duration, but that frontiers traced by language, race and blood were unchangeable and eternal.

So this strange "cultural" week will have served to underline the will of the Reich to regain Danzig. The German Press proclaims it. The Montag writes that "the plebiscite has been held," Danzig has spoken. Danzig has made its choice. And the Volkischer Beobachter says that the word of the Führer, given two months ago, will be kept. "Today," it writes, "the people of Danzig know that, in no circumstances will they be left alone and that they will come into their own, come what may. Such is the historic significance of June 17, 1939."

Under what form and when will the Führer attempt to carry out his project? No one knows, and he himself is in all probability waiting for the opportune moment. But it would seem that, for the time being, the Nazi authorities do not contemplate immediate action. That is, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the conclusion to be gathered from the words of Herr von Weizsäcker, which confirm those of his conversation with Herr Burckhardt.

As far as one can gather, in Herr Hitler's eyes the affair is not yet ripe. He wishes to await, before acting, the development in one way or the other, of the Anglo-Franco-Russian negotiations (for in Berlin there is still the hope that these negotiations may break down). He also wants to await the evolution of the Anglo-Japanese conflict. During this respite that he has given himself and which will last, from what I can gather, for about two or three months, he will redouble his efforts in the sphere of propaganda supporting them probably with intimidatory measures of a military nature. It is apparently with the latter object in view that work is being intensified on the fortification of the German-Polish frontier in Slovakia, and on the Siegfried Line. It goes without saying that in this juncture the "bunkers" in the East will not play a purely defensive role.

One cannot fail to notice-and I have confirmation of the fact from various quarters-that the radical elements of the regime seem, for the moment, to have increased their influence on the mind of the Chancellor. The delay in the Moscow conversations, the Tientsin incident which confronts Great Britain with a formidable dilemma, perhaps certain statements made in London which have been interpreted as a sign of hesitation, have encouraged them and increased their confidence. Under their influence German policy is on the watch for any possible developments and is taking soundings in all directions, even as far off as Arabia and at the court of Ibn Saud.

However, pending further information, nothing justifies the belief that the Führer will risk a general war for the sake of Danzig. Danzig has no doubt great strategic value for the development of the policy of the Third Reich. But the Nazi authorities will exhaust all means of turning the position before contemplating a frontal attack, that is to say starting a war with Poland, which would mean, in turn, a European war. I have been told that several of Herr Hitler's advisers keep on repeating that, even in the event of a general conflict, Germany will win. Herr Hitler is said to be not so sure, and quite apart from his horror of war which one can take as genuine, he has never up till now undertaken any move which was not certain of success.

Things would be different if some particularly favourable circumstance presented itself. In Berlin in such a case prudence would be thrown to the wind in order to stake all on the last throw of the dice, "come what may," as the Volkischer Beobachter has put it.


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