The French Yellow Book

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No. 181 :
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, August 6, 1939.

THE clash which occurred on August 4 between the authorities of the Free City and the Polish Customs inspectors has been reported by M. de Seguin. But I consider it essential that I should touch on these Occurrences again in order to make clear certain details which remained obscure, and to deduce from them certain indications in view of the coming difficulties.

On the afternoon of the 4th the Ministry of Foreign Affairs learnt that at four of the Danzig Customs posts on the East Prussian frontier, the Polish Customs inspectors had been given notice by the heads of the Danzig posts that they could not continue to perform their duties after Sunday the 6th. The Polish Government took the step of addressing a note to the Senate, requesting it to give by the following evening a written assurance that the Customs officials would be allowed to continue to perform their duties, otherwise the Polish Government reserved to itself the right to take necessary steps to safeguard its rights. Toward 8 p.m. the French and British representatives were informed of the wish of M. Beck to communicate matters of importance to them in the evening. At about 10 p.m. the Private Secretary of the Minister for Foreign Affairs summoned a secretary of the British Embassy and M. de Seguin, and informed them of the events of the afternoon and of the Polish Government's intentions. Count Lubienski added that M. Beck expected to be in a position to inform the French and British Governments next morning of the steps the Polish Government might be led to take in the event of the Senate of the Free City not giving a favourable reply.

The Polish note was delivered during the night to the President of the Senate in person.

At 830 a.m. the Polish Commissioner informed the League High Commissioner of the Polish démarche. Shortly afterwards, M. Greiser telephoned to M. Chodacki that the Senate of the Free City would not put any difficulties in the way of the Polish officials performing the duties assumed by them, but that it would not "for technical reasons" reply in writing to the Polish note before Monday.

The Polish Government decided to be satisfied for the time being by this reply, and at the end of the morning informed the two Embassies of the relaxation in the crisis.

Such was the course of events. One point has not yet been cleared up: what exactly took place between German and Polish officials at the four frontier posts? In his conversation on Saturday morning with Sir Howard Kennard, M. Beck made it clear that the German notification was addressed only to Customs officials in the strict sense of the term (the Department is aware of the distinction which the Senate seeks to establish between Customs inspectors and the ordinary Customs officials whom it calls "Grenzer"). According to further information from official Polish circles, there had been no notification to the Polish officials, but a threat to remove them by force, if they did not give up their posts. Finally, according to the version reported by M. de la Tournelle, M. Chodacki had taken his action because the President of the Diet had issued orders for the arrest of the "Grenzer" before 3 p.m. of that day.

In itself the episode of August 4 seems to have been closed by Herr Greiser's answer to the Polish note, always supposing that the Senate's promised note arrives to confirm its terms. But this answer does not end the controversy on the subject of the distinction the Senate claims to draw between Customs inspectors and Customs officials. It neither provides, nor does it point towards, a final solution of the problem of the working of the system of Customs supervision. However, a new factor has appeared. Although Poland has taken no action against the remilitarization of the Free City, she has taken a stand against the threat of an attack aimed openly and publicly against her rights in the sphere of the Customs. Before August 4 the Reich might speculate as to how far it could go with its policy of "nibbling." This is now determined, and henceforth the Reich, before it frames its future policy, will have to take into its calculations the Polish will to resist.


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