The French Yellow Book

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No. 176 :
M. DE SAINT-HARDOUIN, French Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, August 1, 1939.

A FORTNIGHT ago various reliable reports reached the Embassy which seemed to show that about the middle of July an important change had taken place in the attitude of the Führer. He had become convinced that France and Great Britain were firmly resolved to honour their obligations to Poland, and that, this being so, the Reich ran the risk, if it pushed the matter of Danzig to extremes, of provoking general conflict. The impression had moreover been given that the leaders of the Reich were anxious to provide themselves with means of drawing back or of letting the matter rest for a time without relinquishing their aims or excluding the possibility of pursuing them actively, if and when more favourable circumstances presented themselves. The first phase of the Danzig affair, therefore, appear to have led to a set-back for Herr von Ribbentrop, whom his opponents, and especially Field-Marshal Goering, accused, it was said, of having irresponsibly involved Germany in a most dangerous policy. At that moment, it might have been deduced that the cause of peace had scored an important point.

Subsequently, certain signs led to the speculation whether a revulsion of feeling had not occurred in the mind of the all-powerful Lord of the Third Reich in the opposite direction. The German newspapers (as also the Nazi organ at Danzig), which towards August 22 stressed the desire of Germany to obtain satisfaction by peaceful methods, have in the last few days devoted themselves to showing that Germany has nothing to fear even from a general conflict, which, they declare, would find her in a much more favourable position than in 1914. This is particularly the theme of the majority of the articles devoted to the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the entry of Germany into the Great War.

At the same time it became clear that the Press was enlarging the scope of the German-Polish quarrel. It was no longer a question solely of Danzig, but also of the Corridor and even of Poznania and Upper Silesia. This was a somewhat remarkable alteration of the tactics hitherto followed to minimize the quarrel between Berlin and Warsaw and to convey the impression that the German claims only affected a city which was indisputably German in character.

Finally, the Nazi propaganda this very morning resumed the campaign against the Polish Customs officials, which it had abandoned from June onwards. Although for the last few weeks the inspectors of Polish Customs in order to avoid any clash, have allowed considerable supplies of arms and munitions to enter the territory of the Free City, they are declared by the German newspapers to have exceeded their rights and to have behaved as "regular bandits." This is a fresh application of the methods to which Germany resorted in the Sudeten affair.

In the new attitude assumed by Germany in the last few days there is undoubtedly a considerable element of bluff. But it would, nevertheless, be unwise to remain satisfied with that explanation.

Other factors have probably come into play.

We may be faced with the resumption of an offensive attitude on the part of people like Herr von Ribbentrop, who have not given up hope of persuading the Führer that Great Britain will not in the end maintain her firm attitude and that, in order to avoid war, it would again agree to a solution similar to that of Munich.

The surprise visit of the Führer to Berlin on July 28, his interview at the Wilhelmstrasse with Herr von Ribbentrop, the fact that he proposes to conduct together with him a new inspection of the Western fortifications, clearly indicate that the Chancellor wishes to show that he has not in any way withdrawn his confidence from his Foreign Minister. Now it is known that, in respect of Danzig, Herr von Ribbentrop is one of the strongest supporters of a radical solution.

It may also be asked whether, in view of the slow progress of the Anglo-Franco-Soviet negotiations, the Nazi leaders do not feel tempted to return to the plan of lightning action, which would in a few weeks "liquidate" the Polish army and face the Western Powers with an accomplished fact. It is a plan which the German military authorities do not consider free from danger; on the other hand it may be assumed that they do not consider its execution impossible, provided that Russian neutrality is assured. The risk of seeing Germany rally to the support of such a solution cannot be entirely excluded, so long as the Russian riddle remains unanswered.

However that may be, there certainly exist at this moment two opposite currents of opinion in Germany.

The supporters of the one are yielding to the war psychosis and consider a catastrophe as inevitable. This point of view is very widespread, especially in the provinces, where it is supported by the calling up of reservists, the departure of soldiers for unspecified destinations, the antiaircraft preparations, the requisitions, the restrictions on food and on other commodities which are becoming more and more noticeable-the continual movements of troops and the calling-up of the last reserves of workers.

The others-whose faith in the Führer remains unshaken are-convinced that the Chancellor will once more work a miracle and will succeed-without war-in restoring Danzig to the Reich. Some maintain that he has a scheme, the execution of which will astound the world.

In circles that are usually well-informed they declare that they have no knowledge. The Führer himself, they say, does not know which policy he will adopt. It will depend entirely on the circumstances.

In the same circles it is recognized that the only war that Germany can possibly risk is a very short one and that the chances of seeing the end of a war within a few months are extremely slender. The same people hold that the leaders of the Reich will have to come to their decision between now and the beginning of September, the date at which the Nuremberg congress is to begin. The critical period would be the second half of August.

The leaders of the Third Reich seem, then, to be still equally subject to doubts and to temptations. In so far as they become convinced that from now on Poland can count on the effective help of France and England and that a short war is a mere chimera, we may hope that logic will outweigh their leaning towards solutions based on trickery and boldness.


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