The French Yellow Book

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No. 153 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, July 4, 1939.

As I have reported to Your Excellency, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs asked me to call upon him last Friday, June 30. Since it may be supposed that he did not summon me solely in order to convey to me Herr von Ribbentrop's regrets that he was unable to receive me owing to his state of health, I wondered what might be the real reason which had led him to arrange this interview.

In substance, Herr von Weizsäcker declared to me:

(1) That, in his opinion, there was no ground for anticipating a coup in Danzig from the German side.

(2) That he believed in our determination to support Poland, but was less convinced of the firmness of the British attitude.

(3) That certain slight indications led him to think that M. Beck desired to seek a basis for a friendly solution.

What is happening in Danzig which is arming in preparation for a siege, scarcely permits one to accept the reassuring statements made by the State Secretary at their face value. The Free City would have no more reason today than it had yesterday to put itself on a war footing to resist a Polish attack, if it were not preparing itself, on the orders of Berlin, for action likely to provoke intervention by Warsaw.

The most favourable explanation of the remarks referred to under heading (1) above appears to me, therefore, to be that, while pursuing preparations for action in Danzig from within, Herr Hitler has not yet made up his mind, and is consequently assuming towards the Powers concerned a position which would enable him to procrastinate and possibly even to cover at least a provisional retreat. The fact that he decided not to make a speech at the launching of the cruiser Lützow seems to lend support to this hypothesis. On his side, my British colleague, who is leaving today for London for a few weeks, tells me that the impression which he has formed from his conversations in Government circles is that the Führer has not yet made up his mind. The conversations I have had myself with various responsible persons in the Chancellor's entourage leave me with the impression that they do not know whether he would go so far as to risk a general war in order to settle the Polish affair. This may mean either that he has not yet reached his decision, or that these persons are unaware what decision he has made.

The reassurances which, according to all appearances, Herr von Weizsäcker was instructed to convey to me, may also have another object; to lull the vigilance of the Western Powers, in the hope that, when suddenly confronted with the fait accompli, they will confine themselves to verbal protests. The precedent of Bohemia is unfortunately quite recent. Sir Nevile Henderson received from Herr von Weizsäcker, on the eve of the occupation of Prague, an assurance that the Reich "would behave in a proper way."

As for the indications referred to in paragraphs (2) and (3) above, one may wonder whether they are not both alike intended to sap French resistance. I must at the same time remark that the opinion that Great Britain will not hold to her position is unfortunately still very general in German Government circles, and that moreover the indication that M. Beck was seeking the basis of a solution was reported in the same terms to one of my colleagues by the Italian Ambassador, which would seem to show that it is not without foundation.

Furthermore, whatever may be the precise significance of Herr von Weizsäcker's declarations, they seem to me, in any case, to throw into relief the importance which the German Government attaches to the attitude of the Powers concerned in the determination of its line of conduct in the Danzig affair. In this respect, the communication made by Your Excellency to Count von Welczeck on July 1 should enable the Chancellor to measure the risks of a fresh adventure.


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