The French Yellow Book

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No. 163 :
Personal letter addressed by Herr von Ribbentrop, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, to M. Georges Bonnet, French Minister for Foreign Affairs. Fuschl, near Salzburg, July 13, 1939.


ON July 1 you handed to Count von Welczeck a note personally intended for me, which obliges me now to make known to you, clearly and in a manner free from any misunderstanding, the attitude of the German Government with regard to Franco-German relations in general, and the question of Danzig in particular.

On December 6, 1938, the French and German Governments signed a declaration in accordance with which they solemnly recognised the existing frontiers between France and Germany as finally fixed, and according to which also they desired to use all their efforts for the establishment of peaceful and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

On the side of the Government of the Reich, this declaration was the logical sequel to the policy of understanding with France continually followed ever since that Government came into power; a policy which, in principle, it would still wish to maintain.

As to your remark about the reservation recorded in Article 3 of the Franco-German declaration concerning the special relations France and of Germany with regard to third Powers, it is unquestionably not correct to say that this reservation implies a recognition of France's special relations with Poland. In the conversations which took place in Berlin and Paris at the time of the preliminary negotiations on the subject of the declaration, and on the occasion of the signature, it was on the contrary perfectly clear that the reservation referred to the special relations of friendship of France towards Great Britain and of Germany towards Italy. We were in agreement, in particular, at the time of our conversations in Paris on December 6, 1938, in considering that respect for vital reciprocal interests must be the prior condition and the principle of the future development of good Franco-German relations.

On that occasion, I expressly pointed out that Eastern Europe constituted a sphere of German interests, and, contrary to what is stated in your note, you then stressed on your part, that, in France's attitude with regard to the problems of Eastern Europe, a radical change had taken place since the Munich conference.

In direct contradiction to this attitude established by us at the beginning of December stands the fact that France has taken advantage of the Führer's generous proposal to Poland for the settlement of the question of Danzig and of Poland's somewhat peculiar reaction, in order to contract with that country fresh commitments, strengthened and aimed at Germany. At the end of your note, these commitments are defined in such a way that any military intervention by Poland, on the occasion of any departure from the status quo in Danzig, would lead France to give immediate military assistance to Poland.

With regard to this policy of the French Government, I have the following comments to make:

(1) Germany, just as it has never interfered in France's vital interests, must reject, once for all and categorically, any interference by France in its spheres of vital interest. Germany's relations with its Eastern neighbours, whatever form they assume, in no way affect French interests; they are a matter which only concerns German policy. Accordingly the Government of the Reich does not find itself in a position to discuss with the French Government questions concerning German-Polish relations, or to recognise its right to exercise any influence upon questions dealing with the future settlement of the destiny of the German city of Danzig.

(2) For your personal guidance, I beg to make the following statement about the German point of view in the Polish question:

The Polish government has replied to the Führer's historic and unique offer, aiming at the settlement of the question of Danzig and at a definitive consolidation of German-Polish relations, by threats of war which can only be described as strange. At the present moment it is impossible to say whether the Polish Government will depart from this peculiar position and return to reason. But, as long as it maintains the unreasonable attitude which it has taken up one can only say that any violation of Danzig soil by Poland, or any Polish provocation incompatible with the prestige of the German Reich, would meet in reply with an immediate march by the Germans and the total destruction of the Polish army.

(3) The statement already mentioned, which is contained in the final sentence of your note, would, if taken literally, mean that France recognises Poland's right to oppose by arms any departure in any respect from the status quo in Danzig, and that, if Germany declines to tolerate that violence should thus be done to German interests, France will attack Germany. If such was in fact the purpose of French policy, I would beg you to consider that such threats could only further strengthen the Führer in his resolve to ensure the safeguarding of German interests by all the means at his disposal. The Führer has always desired Franco-German understanding and described as madness a fresh war between the two countries, which are no longer separated by any conflict of vital interests.

But, if we have reached a point where the French Government wants war, it will find Germany ready at any moment. It would then be the French Government alone which would have to bear before its people and before the world the responsibility for such a war.

Because of the pleasant personal relations which I was able to form with Your Excellency on the occasion of the signature of the declaration of December 6, 1938, I regret that your note constrains me to make this reply. I should not like to abandon the hope that in the end, reason will prevail and that the French people will recognise where its real interests are to be found. Since I have devoted myself for more than twenty years to Franco-German understanding, this would also represent to me personally the fulfilment of a deeply felt wish.

Yours very sincerely,

Joachim Von Ribbentrop.

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