The French Yellow Book

Previous Document Contents Next Document

No. 242 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, August 25, 1939.

(Received by telephone at 11 p.m.)

THIS afternoon I had an interview with Herr Hitler, who had asked to see me at 5.30.

This is the substance of what he told me: "In view of the gravity of the situation," he said, "I wish to make a statement which I would like you to forward to M. Daladier. As I have already told him, I bear no enmity whatever towards France. I have personally renounced all claims to Alsace-Lorraine and recognized the Franco-German frontier. I do not want war with your country; my one desire is to maintain good relations with it. I find indeed the idea that I might have to fight France on account of Poland a very painful one. The Polish provocation, however, has placed the Reich in a position which cannot be allowed to continue.

"Several months ago I made extremely fair proposals to Poland, demanding the return of Danzig to the Reich and of a narrow strip of territory leading from this German city to East Prussia. But the guarantee given by the British Government has encouraged the Poles to be obstinate. Not only has the Warsaw Government rejected my proposals, but it has subjected the German minority, our blood-brothers, to the worst possible treatment, and has begun mobilization.

"At first," pursued Herr Hitler, "I forbade the Press of the Reich to publish accounts of the cruelties suffered by the Germans in Poland. But the situation has now become intolerable. Are you aware," he asked me emphatically, "that there have been cases of castration? That already there are more than 70,000 refugees in our camps? Yesterday seven Germans were killed by the police in Bielitz, and thirty German reservists were machine-gunned at Lodz. Our aeroplanes can no longer fly between Germany and East Prussia without being shot at; their route had been changed, but they are now even attacked over the sea. Thus, the plane which was carrying State Secretary Stuckart was fired at by Polish warships, a fresh incident which I was not yet in a position to bring to the notice of Sir Nevile Henderson this morning."

Raising his voice, Herr Hitler went on: "No nation worthy of the name can put up with such unbearable insults. France would not tolerate it any more than Germany. These things have gone on long enough, and I will reply by force to any further provocations. I want to state once again: I wish to avoid war with your country. I will not attack France, but if she joins in the conflict, I will see it through to the bitter end. As you are aware, I have just concluded a pact with Moscow that is not only theoretical, but, I may say, practical. I believe I shall win, and you believe you will win: what is certain is that above all French and German blood will flow, the blood of two equally courageous peoples. I say again, it is painful to me to think we might come to that. Please tell this to President Daladier on my behalf."

With these words, Herr Hitler rose to show that the interview was over. Under the circumstances I could make only a brief reply. I told him, first of all, that I knew that all misunderstanding had now been removed; yet that, in a moment as grave as this, I emphatically gave him my word of honour as a soldier that I had no doubt whatever that in the event of Poland's being attacked, France would assist her with all the forces at her command. I was able however to give him my word also that the Government of the Republic would still do all it could to preserve peace and would not spare its counsels of moderation to the Polish Government.

The Chancellor replied: "I believe you; I even believe that men like M. Beck are moderate, but they are no longer in control of the situation."

I added that if French and German blood were to flow, this blood-money, however costly, would not be the only payment to be made. The ravages of a war that would certainly be a long one would bring a succession of ghastly miseries in their train. Though I was, as he said, definitely certain of our victory, I feared, at the same time, that at the end of a war, the sole real victor would be M. Trotsky. The Chancellor, interrupting me, exclaimed: "Why, then, did you give Poland a blank cheque?"

I replied by recalling the events of last March and the deep impression they had made on French minds, the feeling of insecurity to which they had given rise and which had led us to strengthen our alliances. I repeated that our most ardent desire was to maintain peace; that we continued to exert a moderating influence in Warsaw; and that I could not believe that it was impossible to bring the incidents complained of to an end.

I had hinted earlier that the German Press seemed to me to have considerably exaggerated the number and importance of these incidents, and I had mentioned in particular the case reported by the Angriff on August 15 of the German engineer who was said to have been brutally murdered for political reasons, whereas, in actual fact, he had been on June 15 the victim of an ordinary quarrel whose motives were exclusively passionate. Herr Hitler replied that he had indeed been informed of our moderating influence in Warsaw; yet the incidents were increasing. As for the events of last March, he added, it was true that he had taken the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia under his protection, but he had preserved the liberties of the inhabitants, and anyone who touched a hair of their heads would pay dearly for it; this was a point of honour for the Reich. The Polish minority in these regions were not subjected to any kind of brutalities; in the Saar, too, not a single Frenchman had had any reason for complaint. "It is very painful for me," repeated the Chancellor once again, "to think I might have to fight your country; but the decision does not rest with me. Please tell this to M. Daladier."

I was unable to prolong the interview any further, and after these remarks I took my leave.


Previous Document Contents Next Document
Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 20th Century Page World War II Page

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.