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I HAVE just received a visit from the German Ambassador, whom I had asked to see me this morning.
It was all the more desirable to see him in that M. Coulondre had informed me that a rumour was current in Berlin to the effect that in the course of his recent stay in Berlin, Herr von Ribbentrop had instructed the Ambassador to inform me that Germany had decided to seize Danzig.
I therefore began by listening attentively to Count von Welczeck, who spoke to me to the following effect:
"It is only three days since I returned to Paris. In the course of my recent stay in Germany, I saw Herr von Ribbentrop in his country house, for he is unwell. We had a talk together about Polish intentions. Herr von Ribbentrop made serious complaints about the ill-treatment to which Germans are subjected in Poland. He considers that there are two parties in Poland. One, the more reasonable, realises that a war between Poland and Germany would very rapidly end in the defeat of Poland. To be sure, the Poles may entertain the hope that a subsequent victory of France and Great Britain, after the latter have come to their aid, would re-establish them in their rights; but meanwhile they would have suffered the devastation of war and they would have had enemy soldiers quartered among them for months or years, which is never very pleasant. Side by side with this reasonable party, however, there is the party of hot-heads, who are often in the pay of foreign agents. Above everything else they want, for ideological reasons, to overthrow the National-Socialist regime. They are ready for any rash action, they ill-treat the Germans, and they have war always in view."
The Ambassador does not think, however, that things will take a tragic turn. He proposes to stay in Paris for the next three months, and then go deer-stalking in Hungary. Nevertheless, Herr von Ribbentrop considers that incidents may lead to war between Poland and Germany at any momerit. Such a war would be extremely popular in Germany."We in Germany," he said, "have an unrequited love for France. On the other hand, the German people have no love for the Poles, and, in a war against Poland, the Führer would have the whole of his people behind him."
Count von Welczeck added, on his own account, that it was regrettable that the question of Danzig had not been submitted to France and Great Britain before the Czechoslovak question; for, he said, this is really the last claim of the Reich, though nobody can believe it.
Finally, the German Ambassador expressed regret over the refusal to understand that Germany was entitled to a zone of inlfluence in the East, which was perfectly legitimate owing to Germany's geographical situation.
After listening to Count von Welczeck, I replied:
"On the morrow of the Munich Agreement, while France contemplated large-scale economic collaboration with Germany, she also accepted the idea that certain countries of Central Europe, by reason of their geographical situation, might have more extensive economic relations with Germany than with France. But at no time could France have dreamed for a moment of giving Germany authority to violate the frontiers of all her neighbours and establish herself in Bucharest, Budapest or Warsaw."
The Ambassador smiled and informed me that such a project had never been in the minds of the rulers of the Reich.
I added that, in the course of the conversation which I had had with Herr von Ribbentrop, in Count von Welczeck's presence, I had made formal reservations respecting our relations with Poland and with the U.S.S.R., just as he himself had made reservations respecting his relations with Italy. I had even pointed out to him that we had an alliance with Poland, and Herr von Ribbentrop had said to me in reply that he was aware of the fact, and that it was a matter of indifference to him, since relations between Germany and Poland were excellent.
Count von Welczeck recognised that this was accurate, and added that Germany's relations with Poland were, in fact, excellent at that time. The Poles had repeatedly come and asked the Germans to give them Teschen, Oderberg, part of Slovakia, and a common frontier with Hungary. They had been granted all this. Count von Welczeck was convinced that if, at that time, the Government of the Reich had said to Colonel Beck: "Very well, we will give you all this, but we must come to terms over Danzig and the Corridor," the matter would have been instantly settled with the Poles.
I then touched on the question of German-Polish relations, and insisted to Count von Welczeck that there was by no means any danger of war, provided that Germany was firmly resolved to maintain peace. The keys of peace or war were not in the hands of Poland, but in those of Germany. Count von Welczeck was wrong in believing that counsels of violence might be given to the Poles by the British Government. I could assure him that it was not so. But I was justifiably anxious about the situation which had been created in Danzig. What was the meaning of the arms which had been smuggled in there?-and of the S.S. men ? These did not suggest very peaceful intentions.
Count von Welczeck replied that the Danzigers were entitled to consider their own defence, in view of the fact that they could see before their eyes a large number of mobilised Polish troops; but he repeated that there was no aggressive intention on Germany's part.
I then told Count von Welczeck that he should entertain no illusions about what the French attitude would be in such an eventuality. France had definite commitments to Poland; these commitments had been still further increased as a result of recent events, and in consequence France would stand side by side with Poland immediately, I from the very moment Poland itself took up arms.
I then read to Count von Welczeck the note which had been drafted by the Political Department, and which covered every case which might arise, including even the case, which had been considered as possible, of a kind of internal Putsch in Danzig.
After reading this note, I told Count von Welczeck that I was I handing it to him, and that I requested him to reproduce it in extenso in the telegram which he would be dispatching to Herr von Ribbentrop. It was precisely because I had met Herr von Ribbentrop in Paris and because I had signed the Franco-German declaration that I did not want to leave room for the slightest misunderstanding between the French Government and the German Government with regard to France's attitude. If war should one day break out, I did not want the Government of the Reich to be in a position to say: "We were not warned. The explanations of the Minister for Foreign Affairs or of the French Government were not clear. We did not know exactly what would be the reaction of the French Government." As it was, there could be no doubt. It was for this reason that I had made a point, as an exceptional measure, of putting my views into writing.
In reply, Count von Welczeck told me that, in all his reports, he had not failed to inform his Government of the precise nature of the French attitude, and that he had repeatedly warned the Führer that France would stand side by side with Poland in the event of war. "But," he continued, "I find it difficult to convince him, for we cannot manage to understand how Great Britain and France should commit the mad act of embarking upon war over Danzig, when leading French statesmen, for the past fifteen years and even on the morrow of the Treaty of Versailles, have recognised that the statute of the Free City of Danzig could not last." A war, moreover, would be a world catastrophe, the Ambassador concluded, for the French could not break through the Siegfried Line any more than the Germans could break through the Maginot Line. Cities would be destroyed from the air, but the war would not be ended in that way. Nevertheless, we should be mistaken in believing that Germany could not stand a long war, for she has supplies which would enable her to do so.
When the Ambassador once more repeated that the Danzig question was the last in which Germany was interested, I told him in reply that the Government of the Reich already had behind it the Anschluss, the Munich Agreement, and the declaration of a protectorate over Bohemia on March 15, and that therefore nobody could believe that this was really a final claim, for we should not fail to be presented with others.
Finally, I told the Ambassador that he could observe the unanimity with which the French nation had rallied to the support of the Government. Elections would be suspended; public meetings would be stopped; attempts at foreign propaganda of whatever kind would be suppressed; and the Communists would be brought to book. The discipline and the spirit of sacrifice of the French people could not be called in question by anybody.
Count von Welczeck informed me that, on this point, all his reports made mention of the present admirable attitude of the French people. He promised me that he would most faithfully repeat to his Government the conversation we had had together, the importance of which he fully realised.
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