The French Yellow Book

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No. 148 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 30, 1939.

THE State Secretary was good enough to ask me to call upon him today, in order to convey to me an expression of regret on the part of Herr von Ribbentrop, whom I had asked for an interview and who is at the moment unwell, and his hope that he will be able to see me next week.

When I drew Herr von Weizsäcker's attention to the pessimism of the Diplomatic Corps, he once more told me that he found it difficult to understand the reason for it. To be sure the negotiations of France and Great Britain with Russia, and the agreement with Turkey, gave no great pleasure to Berlin, and in his opinion did not make it any easier to reach peaceful solutions; without underrating the difficulties of the situation he could see no ground for being particularly anxious.

I then spoke to him about Danzig and Poland, and emphasized the disquiet which I felt over information pointing to an increase of military activity in the Free City. "I recollect," I added, "that sometimes people still say in Germany that we are not going to fight for the sake of Danzig. I hope that your Government will be under no misapprehension in this respect. Danzig is a matter between Poland and you; but, whether it has to do with Danzig or not, we shall stand beside Poland if a conflict breaks out."

The State Secretary's reply was, in substance, as follows: "The question whether such a conflict should break out in connection with Danzig is, I fully recognize, a secondary one. We have no doubts about your alliance coming into play. France has long had alliances in the East. But we find it hard to understand that Great Britain should have delegated to a Continental country the responsibility of deciding whether she should go to war. It must have been the pressure of the Left-Wing Opposition which caused Mr. Chamberlain to give way.

"So far as Danzig is concerned, plenty of fantastic rumours are in circulation. It is even said that the Führer is to be solemnly granted the freedom of the city on July 15. The police of the city, it is true, have recently been reinforced. The population are in the state of excitement that might be expected in the people of a town upon which the spotlights of the whole world are concentrated. Still, I do not see that any startling coup is to be feared. There is obviously a state of tension which could not continue over a period of years; but at present I still think that only incidents could provoke a conflict. They would need, for that matter, to be more serious than those about which we have so far had occasion to complain. The Polish provincial authorities continue to display frequent symptoms of great excitability. Recently, after Mass, a general made a speech in which he advocated an extension of Poland's sphere on the Baltic. But I am bound to recognise that the Central Government show more calm and greater moderation. I have even fancied that I could discern some indications of a desire on the part of M. Beck to seek a basis for a solution of our difficulties."

I observed to Herr von Weizsäcker that I was much interested by this last remark of his, and asked him whether he would authorize me to make use of it. He replied in the affirmative, at the same time desiring me to emphasize the fact that as yet it was a question only of very slight indications, and that this was his personal opinion.

Needless to say, I stressed the absolute solidarity between France and Great Britain in case of a conflict. It is nevertheless important to note that, in a more or less covert form, people here still attempt with regard to a Polish-German conflict, to draw a distinction between Great Britain's attitude and our own.


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