The French Yellow Book

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No. 168 :
Personal Letter from M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to Herr von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister. Paris, July 21, 1939.


I am in receipt of the letter you wrote to me, marked "Personal," in reply to the communication I myself sent on July 1 to Count von Welczeck.

There is one point which I am anxious to make absolutely clear. At no moment either before or after the declaration of December 6, has it been possible for the German Government to think that France had decided to disinterest herself in the East of Europe.

At the time of the conversations of December 6, I reminded you that since 1921 we had had a treaty of alliance with Poland and since 1935 a pact with the U.S.S.R., both of which we are determined to maintain. I then gave definite assurances on this point to the Ambassadors of Poland and of the U.S.S.R. by communications, which were given the widest publicity in the Press. I remember, moreover, that at the time when I reminded you of the treaties which bound us to Poland, you were good enough to reply that these treaties could not do any harm to Franco-German relations, since your own relations with Poland were at that time excellent.

I was the less surprised at the assurance you gave me since, three months earlier, Herr Hitler had, in his speech at the Sports Palace in Berlin on September 26, referred to the German-Polish agreement as a model of its type:

"Within barely one year we succeeded," he said, "in arriving at an understanding with him (Marshal Pilsudski) which by its very nature has removed the possibility of conflict, at all events for ten years. We are all of us convinced that this understanding will lead to a lasting peace. We appreciate that we have here two peoples who have to live side by side. A country with a population of thirty-three millions will always seek access to the sea; it was therefore necessary to find the way to an agreement. This has been found and is steadily being developed. The decisive factor should be a firm determination on the part of the two Governments, and all reasonable and level-headed men among the two peoples and in the two countries, to work for a constant improvement of their mutual relations."

In addition to this, in the course of our conversation on December 6, one of the most pressing requests which I had to make to Your Excellency was in respect of our common guarantee to Czechoslovakia in fulfilment of the Munich Agreement. Such a request I could not have addressed to you, if France had no longer been interested in what was happening in Eastern Europe.

Since I was unable to obtain a satisfactory reply on this matter, I sent you a note on February 8, 1939, recalling the agreement signed at Munich on September 29, in order once more to impress upon you the necessity of completing without delay the arrangements for our common guarantee to Czechoslovakia. To this note you replied on March 2, asking me to await the clearing up of internal developments in Czechoslovakia and the improvement of relations between that country and the neighbouring States, before considering a general arrangement between the Munich signatory Powers.

Further, the actual statement which I made from the Tribune of the French Chamber on January 26, 1939, confirmed my attitude in a manner which admitted of no equivocation. This statement, which you may find in our "Journal Officiel" (p. 234), was reproduced in the Press throughout the world.

"France has also maintained her traditional friendly relations with Poland. At the time of the Franco-German declaration of December 6, I had, in conformity with the spirit of our agreement, advised the Polish Ambassador of our intentions. In thanking me for keeping them informed, the Polish Government expressed their appreciation of an action, the aim, the significance and the implication of which they fully realized.

"Thus, Gentlemen, can we dispose of the legend that our policy had led to the cancellation of our obligations in the East of Europe with the U.S.S.R. or with Poland.

"These obligations are still binding and must be honoured in the spirit in which they were entered into."

Thus there is no equivocation whatsoever. You knew the treaty which united France and Poland. You never dreamed of asking me to denounce it on the occasion of the Franco-German declaration of December 6. At the time when we signed that declaration your relations with Poland were excellent, and there was nothing in the Franco-Polish understandings which were likely to arouse suceptibilities on your part.

In the speech he made in the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, Hitler once again expressed his satisfaction at the understanding between Germany and Poland. "At this moment," he declared, "it would be difficult to discover any divergence of opinion amongst the true friends of peace as to the value of this agreement" (the German-Polish pact of non-aggression). These words were the more significant from our point of view because they were uttered some weeks after an important conversation at Berchtesgaden between Herr Hitler and the Polish Foreign Minister, Monsieur Beck.

In the month of March relations between Germany and Poland became strained, and that fact brought about a new situation.

France bears no responsibility for the development of these relations between Berlin and Warsaw. She has in fact always refrained-and will continue to refrain-from any interference in matters bearing upon the special relationships of the two neighbouring countries, and not affecting in any way the general international situation and the maintenance of peace.

In conformity with the statements which I had the honour to make to Count von Welczeck, we earnestly hope that a bilateral arrangement between Germany and Poland may prove feasible. But there is one point that I am bound to bring to your notice, particularly in view of the conversations which I had with you on December 6 and 7 in Paris, namely, that France is bound to Poland by a treaty of alliance, and will remain true to her bond, and scrupulously carry out all her promises.

You are good enough, in reminding me of all the efforts which you yourself have made to bring about a rapprochement between France and Germany, to call my attention to the fact that Herr Hitler has always desired a Franco-German understanding and has stigmatized as "madness a new war between our two countries."

Such an assurance is in accordance with our sincere wishes. I desire, as you do, the continued maintenance of friendly relations between France and Germany. It is for that reason that, in my communication of July 1, whose validity is maintained with all its implications, I made a point of reminding you, with the frankness called for by the circumstances, of the position of the French Government in respect of Poland, particularly in relation to the situation at Danzig.

France is eagerly desirous of peace. No one can doubt that fact. Moreover, no one can doubt the determination of the French Government to fulfil its obligations. But I cannot permit it to be said that our country would be in any way responsible for war because it remained true to its pledged word.

I beg you, my dear Herr von Ribbentrop, to accept the expression of my sincerest regards.

Georges Bonnet.

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