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The French Yellow Book


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No. 257 :
M. Corbin, French Ambassador in London, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. London, August 26, 1939.

(Received by telephone at 8.46 p m.)

LORD HALIFAX, to whom I communicated the substance of the telegrams in which M. Coulondre described his interview with the Chancellor, observed that this conversation corresponded in the main with that between the British Ambassador and Herr Hitler on the same day. The latter reaffirmed his respect for the British Empire and his desire to establish permanent bonds of friendship with Great Britain.

He added that he had no objection against the close relations uniting England and France, and that he had no quarrel with the latter over the western frontier. Herr Hitler, after specifying that the Polish question must be settled as a preliminary, mentioned the possibility of broaching the problem of disarmament if a general settlement could be arrived at.

He also alluded to the colonial problem, but in terms devoid of a provocative character.

In all references to the settlement of the difficulties of the Reich with Poland, he never stated clearly the manner in which he thinks that they could be solved. The language he used may mean either that he feels it to be simply a question of solving the problem of Danzig and the Corridor, or that he contemplates more far-reaching changes.

Herr Hitler insisted that he did not wish to raise questions in too narrow or absolute a manner, nor would he ask the British Government to default on their pledges.

What he wanted was that the British Government should make a gesture that would induce Poland to be amenable to reason. During the whole interview the Chancellor had, as usual, an appearance of complete sincerity and deep conviction. Taking note of these various indications, Sir Nevile Henderson interpreted Herr Hitler's advice to him to visit London as a sign of the latter's good will. He even believed that the postponement of the Tannenberg ceremony indicated that the F├╝hrer would allow a certain delay in the carrying out of his plans and would at least wait for the replies from Paris and from London.

Lord Halifax, together with his colleagues of the inner Cabinet, listened to the Ambassador's account, and is now preparing a reply to Herr Hitler. In its general lines, the document will first proclaim the British Government's faith in the possibility of continuing the negotiations with a view to avoiding a conflict. It will emphasize that the Chancellor's declarations do not, however, throw any light on the manner in which he envisages the settlement of his difficulties with Poland.

The British Government would regard it as dishonourable to fail in its obligations. It could not, therefore, stand aside and take no interest in the solutions which might be contemplated for the present dispute.

The importance of preventing any fresh violence at the expense of the German minority, in order to facilitate direct negotiations between Berlin and Warsaw, is fully recognized in London. The British Government would therefore be pleased to see this subject discussed. But they realize that these conversations will have no chance of success unless:

(1) Herr Hitler shows a sincere intention to take into consideration the vital interests and the economic rights of Poland;

(2) The settlement envisaged is made subject to certain international guarantees.

The document containing the British Government's answer would add that a general discussion, if it should be opened, could not have a better preface than a pacific settlement of the German-Polish quarrel.

In conclusion, Lord Halifax told me that this document, when drawn up and approved by the Cabinet, will be forwarded to the French Government.

I took it upon myself to assure him that our reply would be likewise communicated to the British Government.

Corbin.

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