The French Yellow Book

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No. 175 :
M. DE LA TOURNELLE, French Consul in Danzig, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Danzig, August 1, 1939.

THE Senate having adopted a policy of silence in regard to the renewed protests made by the Polish Government on the subject of Customs inspectors, that Government has just taken measures of economic reprisals which may have grave consequences.

The Polish Commissioner General has indeed notified the authorities of the Free City that the inspection by Polish officials of the transformation of fats by the firm "Amada Unida" will cease as from August 1, and that the right given to Danzig to export them to Poland free of duty will no longer be recognized. At the same time a similar treatment is to be applied to the herrings caught by the Danzig fishing fleet. In both instances considerable interests are involved, and the parties concerned appear to be aggrieved.

Certainly herrings figure prominently in the Polish diet; Dutch boats, sailing under the Danzig flag, used to supply 6 million zlotys' worth. On the other hand, Amada, an English firm run on Dutch capital, supplied margarine to inland Poland to the value of some 15 million zlotys, this being, according to its managing director, some 95 per cent of the country's import of the commodity; while, conversely, the firm handled 50 per cent of the country's export of colza.

These unexpected reprisals caused surprise that found expression in the local Press of July 31. The two daily newspapers protested loudly against this linking of an economic question with one which they held to be political, namely that of the inspectors. They considered the whole matter a violation of the exchange agreement valid up to July 31, 1940, and on several occasions they described this attitude as being "direct action," a procedure which seemed to arouse in them great indignation.

The official reaction was no less strong. On August 1 the Senate gave orders to its Customs officials to disregard for the future the Polish inspectors, who, they said, belonged to the corps of frontier guards and not to the Customs service. No rule was established for distinguishing between these two categories, and it will presumably be difficult to establish one, in view of the stream of abuse with which the whole body has been flooded for three months by the official propaganda.

This step was heralded in the Press by a long article in which were set out all the delinquencies of which the agents of the neighbouring republic were said to have been guilty, consisting in equal proportions of cases of espionage and of gross indecency. It was recalled that the Treaty of Paris provided in Section 14 for an independent Customs service in the Free City with merely a general right of control by Poland. Poland had step by step transformed this privilege into a highly specialized system of inquisition, using such specious arguments as the development of commercial activity or the growth and complication of the Customs service. The Danziger Neueste Nachrichten countered with the following figures:

1929 - Number of Polish Inspectors: 27; Tonnage through the Port: 8.5 million tons, of a value of 1.5 millards of zlotys.

1938 - Number of Polish Inspectors: 100; Tonnage through the Port: 7.1 million tons, of a value of 500 million zlotys.

So far as numbers are concerned, in almost all the posts on the frontier of East Prussia the inspectors largely exceeded the Danzig officials of the same rank, for example at Kalthof by twelve to one.

In general this inspired article did not maintain the same presence of dispassionate consideration. Its conclusion under the headline, "Poland wrecks the Customs Union," is most provocative. It insists that the Warsaw Government must give up its new claims, otherwise "the economic policy of Danzig must be directed not only to new outlets, but also to new sources of supply." The meaning of this threat is obvious; the reference is to rumours of an opening of the frontier with the Reich.


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