The French Yellow Book

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No. 161 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, July 11, 1939.

A PERSON of high standing in National-Socialist circles has made the following declarations to one of my colleagues:

"Herr von Ribbentrop no longer enjoys the Führer's absolute confidence. The Führer has given expression to a certain number of grievances against his Minister. In particular, he reproaches Herr von Ribbentrop with having wilfully concealed from him several items of information proving the high war-potential of Great Britain. Moreover, he accuses his Minister of having committed him, in connection with Danzig, to a difficult undertaking which runs the risk of compromising Germany's prestige if a satisfactory solution is not soon found.

"It must be borne in mind that the raising of the Danzig question is Herr von Ribbentrop's personal doing. However, when he undertook the campaign for restoring this territory to the Reich, he did not realise that he would meet with firm resistance on the part of the Western Powers.

"It seems that the Poles might still make proposals which our Government would agree to consider. Of course, Warsaw would have to make substantial concessions to us, but it is not yet too late to contemplate an agreement satisfactory to the two parties.

"Moreover, the Poles would have everything to gain by deciding to negotiate. For a conflict, whatever its issue might be, would in any case be fatal to them.

"In fact either Poland would be defeated, and she would then fall entirely under our domination; or else (a highly improbable eventuality, for that matter), with the help of Russia, she would emerge victorious from the war. In this case, the Russians would never reconcile themselves to leaving the country, and that would be the end of Poland.

"Have you not been struck recently by the somewhat changed tone of our Press towards Poland? You no longer find accounts of Polish-German incidents. Nevertheless, according to our information, the people of Poland continue, on the most trivial grounds, to molest our nationals living in the country. Our Minister wants to hold out a hand to the Warsaw Government for one last time.

"The Government, and especially those in control at the Wilhelmstrasse, view the future with some anxiety. They realise that the feeling of hatred for Germany grows daily. Only yesterday, this hatred, this indignation, were peculiar to the rulers of certain States. Today, it looks as if the masses had been won over to these feelings. This development is especially noticeable in the case of Great Britain."

The foregoing information must, of course, be accepted with reservations. It is, however, noteworthy, because of the standing of my informant, who certainly seems to be in the confidence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Moreover, it does as a whole tally closely enough with the impression which emerges from a study of the German newspapers, and also with information which I have gathered elsewhere.

The Press campaign against Poland, which in any case never attained the violence of the attacks directed last year against Czechoslovakia, has recently become more circumspect. Aggressive headlines and polemical articles are reserved for Great Britain. Incidents between Germany and Poland are related without comment and are not given prominence. Several papers have declared that Danzig is not a casus belli, and the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung even seems to invite negotiation, when it writes that a reasonable solution is entirely within the bounds of possibility. A similar note is to be heard in Government circles, where it is given to be understood that there would be no refusal to negotiate if Poland were to put forward proposals.

In fact, Berlin has been surprised by the firmness of Franco-Polish resistance in the matter of Danzig, and some embarrassment is felt about it.

While noting this result, one should at the same time guard against concluding from it that the Third Reich is ready to renounce Danzig. Not only is there no retreat on this point, but there is not even, properly speaking, any "marking time," since the militarisation of the Free City is being carried on, while in Germany reservists continue to be called to the colours in numbers which, by the end of the month of August, in the opinion of our Military Attache, will reach one million men.

On the contrary, Germany pretends that all that is claimed is Danzig, which represents the Reich's very last demand. In order to know what to think about the sincerity of this assertion, one need only question Germans other than those whose business it is to present the official point of view. There is not one of them who does not smile at such a question. What Germany wants in Poland, obviously, is the restoration of the frontiers of 1914. But Danzig is the point of least resistance, and at this point Germany is trying to repeat the manauvre of infiltration which proved so successful with Sudetenland. It hopes, by taking Danzig, to secure possession of the key which will open for it the gate to Poland.

It is for this reason, since intimidation no longer seems likely to work, that an attempt is made to add persuasion to it in order to shake the attitude of the Western Powers. With Danzig, Germany puts a full-stop to her demands; Europe can at last breathe. I should not be surprised if, in using the words reported above, Herr von Ribbentrop's associate had not been more or less wittingly a party to this manoeuvre.

Accordingly, it seems to me essential that the Allied Governments, who see the trap, should strive to do everything in their power to open the eyes of public opinion in their respective countries. In order to avoid playing the German game, it is important not to deal with the problem of Danzig separately, but to keep in mind the Czechoslovak precedent and the Reich's real ambitions. Why give up Danzig, when we know that Germany wants infinitely more? And, even if there were a chance that the Reich would be satisfied with it, why run the risk of weakening Poland's morale, since it is quite obvious that, if the Reich does not want more, it will not undertake a universal war for so restricted an objective?

Although well aware of the facts, French and British public opinion must realise that any pressure upon Warsaw in order to bring it to yield to the German demands could only lead to the worst catastrophes, and that it rests with Poland, of its own free will, and confident of Franco-British support, to determine how far it can go to reach an agreed settlement without jeopardising its vital interests. Whether Germany proceeds by trickery or by threat, the means which it employs should not make us forget the fact that we are involved in a test of strength the issue of which may decide the fate of Europe; in this respect, the wavering attitude of the Reich as it takes the measure of our reaction can only cause us to persevere in a policy of firmness.


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