The French Yellow Book

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No. 189 :
M. DE SAINT-HARDOUIN, French Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, August 10, 1939.

THE respite in the anti-Polish campaign which had followed the verbal acceptance by President Greiser last Saturday (August 5) of the Polish ultimatum in the affair of the Customs inspectors turned out to be only of short duration. The Nazis, both in Danzig and in the Reich, at first a little taken aback by the Polish resistance, did not take long to recover themselves. At the moment, the agitation against Poland is more violent than ever.

The Germans in Danzig, as well as in the Reich, completely overlooking the origins of the present crisis, declare that they are threatened, so as to be able themselves to adopt a threatening attitude with a semblance of justification. Behind the question of the Free City, the deep-seated animosity between Germans and Poles, which was artificially masked by the 1934 agreement, is becoming more and more apparent with its full implications and with ever-increasing acuteness.

(1) On August 5, in the course of the day, Herr Greiser, President of the Senate, taken aback by the Warsaw Government's sudden determination to resist had hastily parried this with verbal assurances which he had promised to confirm in writing by Monday, (August 7). It had seemed for a moment as though the Danzig authorities were going to seek a peaceful solution to the quarrel raised by the Free City in respect of the Polish Customs inspectors.

The German Press itself, despite the biased character of its version of the discussion last Saturday between the Free City authorities and M. Chodacki, hinted that negotiations were about to begin between Danzig and the Poles. The D.N.B. Agency's communiqué referred to them.

In the note handed to M. Chodacki by the Senate on the 7th, there is, however, no longer any question of negotiation, according to our Consul in Danzig. In any case since August 9, no more mention of it has been made in the German Press, which merely proclaimed the need for a swift and thorough settlement of the dispute. That same day it was announced that at a mass meeting of Danzigers to be held on the evening of August 10, Herr Forster would speak "in protest against the Polish threats."

It is difficult not to see in this decision the result of the interview which the Danzig Gauleiter had with Herr Hitler at Berchtesgaden on the 8th. The Czas article perhaps helped to suggest to the Chancellor the idea of a strong and solemn protest by the Free City against "Polish threats." Actually the moment had come for the Nazis to change their tactics. Their system had now come up against the Warsaw Government's determination to resist "nibbling." It was therefore necessary to come back to the method of intimidation, but this time making out that they were the victims of intolerable bullying and would be obliged to defend themselves by every means.

That will doubtless be the tenor of the speech which Herr Forster is to deliver this evening in Danzig, a speech composed on Herr Hitler's instructions and which official German circles have already announced will be vehement in tone.

In striving thus to create an unbearable tension between Danzig and Warsaw, and apparently seeking in this way to wreck all chances of a friendly agreement between the two States, the rulers of the Reich would seem, if we are to believe what we hear from well-informed quarters, to be pursuing a well-defined aim: to get the Senate to declare that it can no longer continue the talks with Poland on its own and must ask the Reich to safeguard the interests of the Free City within the scope of diplomatic action. The idea seems to be to prepare the diplomatic abdication of Danzig in favour of the Reich. In this way the differences between Danzig and Warsaw would be transformed into a direct conflict between Warsaw and Berlin. This would be a procedure similar to that followed in the Sudeten dispute, in which, at the decisive moment, the Reich took Herr Henlein's place. Meanwhile the campaign of incitement against Poland in the German Press has gone far beyond the legal quarrel raised over Danzig.

By making great play with certain articles in the Polish Press, such as that which appeared in Czas the day before yesterday, and then one in the Kurjer Polski today, the German papers have blazoned with sensational headlines the charge that Poland not only wishes to "conquer" Danzig and East Prussia and to reach the line of the Oder, but that she seeks the complete destruction of the Reich and the extermination of the German people, as formerly Rome desired the ruin of Carthage. Normally such threats-if in fact they are being uttered in Poland-should not in the least affect a nation as proud of its size and of its strength as the Greater German Reich. They should provoke nothing but ridicule. They are, however, being exploited to the full to fan the hatred against Poland and seem to reveal the intention to aggravate systematically the present crisis.

The public pronouncements made in the last few days by eminent personalities of the Third Reich, more especially, Field-Marshal Goering and General von Brauchitsch, are also not of a kind to simplify a solution of this crisis.

On the 25th anniversary of Germany's entry into the War, the Embassy pointed out the two main objects which the leaders of the Reich have in view: to persuade their people that Germany is threatened and that if the Reich made war it would be in self-defence; to convince public opinion that the war could have no end but a victory for the German arms, as the Reich was invulnerable and invincible.

It is this two-fold intention that was revealed in the speech delivered by Field-Marshal Goering before the "Rheinmetall" workmen on Sunday, the interview which he gave to the Nachtausgabe (August 9), and the words spoken this very day by General von Brauchitsch to workmen of the armament factories.

In the present circumstances these speeches might well seem to be the exhortation of a captain to his men before leading them to the attack against the Polish enemy and against the "encircling Powers."

It is not certain, however, that such is the true meaning and the real aim of the anti-Polish campaign whose revival at the present time we have just noted.

General von Brauchitsch stated that if the Führer demanded the last and supreme sacrifice from the German soldier, each would answer to his call; but he also asserted that the Chancellor would not lightly risk the life of one single German and that he would not decide to do so unless there were no alternative.

As for Field-Marshal Goering, his chief concern was to cover up the weak points in Germany's armour. He was at pains to make it clear that Germany did not want war, that the Reich was awaiting the peace it desired with calm and with confidence in the Führer, but that it would defend itself if it were refused this peace or if someone were to commit the folly of plunging Europe into war.

Neither Field-Marshal Goering nor General von Brauchitsch touched on the problem of Danzig. It is a fact worth noting.

The campaign of agitation now taking place in Germany may have several objects in view:

Either to prepare the people's minds for a war, the prospect of which is very far from filling the great majority of Germans with enthusiasm;

Or to prepare a way out for the German Government. Only recently a claimant, the Reich has abruptly become a defendant. To read the German newspapers, it would seem to be less a matter of annexing Danzig than of preventing Poland from taking it, an intention which the Warsaw Government has never held;

Or, finally, to intimidate the Poles and bluff the Western Powers in the hope either of forcing Poland to come to terms or of isolating her.

One cannot a priori reject any of these possibilities.


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