The French Yellow Book

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No. 170 :
M. DE SAINT-HARDOUIN, French Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, July 22, 1939.

WITH regard to the statements made yesterday on the Danzig question by an official of the Ministry of Propaganda, a member of my staff gathered this morning from a very good source certain information which I think I ought to bring to your attention without delay. It was on the instruction of State-Secretary Dietrich, who had just come back from Berchtesgaden, where the Führer is staying at present, that Dr. Bömer, the Head of the Press Section at the Ministry of Propaganda, made to the correspondents of the foreign news agencies statements which the English Press reproduced in a sensational form and an accurate summary of which has been given by the Havas Agency.

In essentials these statements may be summarized as follows:

1. The German Government still refuses to contemplate any other solution of the Danzig question than the return of the Free City to the Reich.

2. They wish to arrive at this solution by pacific methods and have no intention of provoking an armed conflict on this account.

3. This solution cannot be indefinitely postponed; at the same time, it is not a matter of immediate urgency; it might not take place till some months hence.

4. German political circles remain convinced that Poland cannot in the long run maintain her uncompromising attitude and that some intervention-presumably from the British side-will in time curb the obduracy of Warsaw.

Learning of these statements after the event and of the use made of them by the British Press, Herr von Ribbentrop, who was still at Fuschl, near Salzburg, was extremely angry. He at once ordered the Press Service of the Wilhelmstrasse to elucidate and comment on the pronouncements of Dr. Bömer before the representatives of the foreign Press. Herr Braun von Stumm, entrusted with this task, was instructed to call attention to the fact that Dr. Bömer's pronouncements did not introduce any new element and to stress with particular emphasis the point that, though the Reich insisted on regarding the return of Danzig to Germany as the only possible solution, it had never on the other hand, regarded the Free City as a problem to be settled by war.

These explanations were further confirmed in some obviously inspired comments which appeared in this morning's papers.

According to the reports collected by this member of my staff, this incident, like so many others, affords evidence of the rivalry between the Wihelmstrasse and the Ministry of Propaganda, or, more precisely, between Herr von Ribbentrop and Dr. Goebbels. Although both Ministers claim to be equally anxious for the most radical solutions, the eagerness of each of them to be regarded by the Führer as the foremost champion of this view has caused a dispute as to competence. Dr. Goebbels has never in fact given up the idea of indirectly influencing foreign policy by means of the Press. But on this occasion Herr von Ribbentrop's discontent is said to be due to the turn taken by the Danzig question, to the fact that recent events have shown his calculations to be wrong, and to the delicate situation in which he consequently finds himself with the Führer. In the face of the unexpected opposition met with in London and Paris, as well as in Warsaw, Herr von Ribbentrop thinks that for the time being his personal interest would be that as little as possible should be said about Danzig, and that the matter should be left in abeyance pending more favourable circumstances. He therefore regards the statements made yesterday by Dr. Bömer as most inopportune.

As I see it, these indications, which I have every reason to believe genuine and accurate, make the following points clear:

1. From Dr. Bömer's statements, as also from their elucidation by Herr Braun von Stumm, there emerges a common element: the desire not to see the issue forced at this moment. This is undoubtedly a retreat, cloaked by the assurance of the pacific feelings which Germany is supposed never to have ceased to entertain.

2. In this respect the evidence set out above serves to confirm various indications gathered from other sources in the course of the last few days, namely, the change which is assumed to have taken place last week in the mind of the Führer following on direct information received from France and England and consequent on recent evidences of Britain's strength in the air; and, secondly, news received from Danzig to the effect that measures of demobilisation were about to be adopted by the Free City.

3. By insisting that the Danzig question is not of an urgent nature and by hinting at the possibility of a British mediation, Dr. Bömer, whether he merely carried out or went beyond the orders given him at Berchtesgaden, has in any case disclosed the difficulty which seems to be embarrassing the Nazi leaders at the moment, as they are beginning to understand that the era of unilateral action and of victories without risk has come to an end.

The tendency to retreat-or at least the wish to temporise-which can be inferred from the various items of evidence just enumerated (in particular from the declarations of the Minister of Propaganda and of the Wilhelmstrasse on the subject of Danzig) do not, however, detract in any way from the German Government's intention to recover the Free City. Although we can note them with satisfaction, it is essential that we should not attach too much importance to them. They are obviously a matter of tactics, and must necessarily prove ephemeral in nature. It is possible that their one object is to lead us to relax our vigilance, or to weaken our will to resist by holding out the false hope of possible negotiations.

In any case, it must be kept in mind that in the meantime the German Army, so far as it is concerned, is carrying on with its preparations in order to reach an advanced state of mobilisation during the month of August. It is certain that if the Nazi leaders come to think that France and Britain are relaxing their military and diplomatic efforts-to which alone the present hesitations of the Reich are attributable-then the few faint signs now discernible of a détente would quickly vanish.

Furthermore, now that there appears to be some slight trace of at least a temporary withdrawal on the part of the rulers of the Third Reich, it is essential, as M. Coulondre has stressed, that our Press should refrain from premature jubilation over victory; they should take their cue from the organs of the Reich, whether these put the German-Polish struggle in the background, or ignore it altogether.


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