Logo
The French Yellow Book


Previous Document Contents Next Document

No. 267 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, August 27, 1939.

HERR VON WEIZS√ĄCKER has handed me, and I have the honour to forward to you herewith the original of Chancellor Hitler's reply to the personal letter from M. Daladier.

I attach two copies of the translation of that document.

A duplicate copy of Herr Hitler's message must have been handed to you by the German Embassy in Paris.

I dispatch the present communication by a special messenger.

Coulondre.

Personal

To His Excellency, M. DALADIER, President of the Council of Ministers of France, at Paris.

MY DEAR PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL,

I can understand the thoughts that you have expressed. Nor have I, for my part, ever minimized the high duties devolving on those on whom the fate of peoples rests. As an ex-Serviceman I am as aware as you are of the frightfulness of war. Owing to this outlook and to this experience, I have likewise made sincere efforts to eliminate all cause of conflict between our two peoples. Some time ago I gave a public assurance to the French people that the return of the Saar territory was the preliminary condition of such an appeasement. As soon as this return had been effected I solemnly confirmed my renunciation of any other claim that might affect France.

The German people has approved my attitude.

As you were able to ascertain on the occasion of our last meeting, the German people, fully conscious of their own attitude, did not and do not harbour any kind of bitterness or of hatred towards their old and gallant opponent. Quite the contrary. The appeasement on our Western Frontier engendered a growing sympathy, at least on the part of the German people, a sympathy which on numerous occasions showed itself particularly demonstrative. The building of great fortifications in the West, which has absorbed and absorbs many millions of marks, amounts at the same time for Germany to an official act of acceptance and fixation of the final frontier of the Reich. The German people has consequently renounced the two provinces which belonged in the past to the German Empire, and were conquered afresh with much blood and defended a last time with yet more blood. This renunciation does not represent, as your Excellency will certainly agree, any tactical attitude for external consumption, but a decision which was strictly confirmed by all the measures that we have taken.

You could not, Mr. Prime Minister, mention one instance in which, either by a line or a speech, I have ever acted contrary to this final fixation of the Western frontier of the German Reich. By this renunciation and this attitude, I thought to have eliminated every conceivable element of conflict between our two peoples, which might lead to a repetition of the tragedy of 1914-1918. But this voluntary limitation of the vital aspirations of Germany on the West cannot be considered as an acceptance, valid in all other spheres, of the Diktat of Versailles. I therefore year by year sought to obtain, by means of negotiation, the revision of at least the most incredible and most intolerable clauses of this Dikat. I found this impossible. That this revision ought to take place many far-seeing people in all countries considered to be obvious. Whatever reproaches might be leveled at my methods, however much you might feel obliged to oppose them, no one has the right to overlook or to deny that, thanks to them, it has been possible, in numerous cases, without fresh shedding of blood, not only to find a solution satisfactory for Germany, but also that, by such methods, the statesmen of other nations have been freed from the obligation (which it was often impossible for them to fulfill) of assuming before their own peoples the responsibility for this revision. For, in any case, it is a point upon which your Excellency will agree with me: the revision was inevitable. The Dikat of Versailles was intolerable. No Frenchman of honour, you least of all, M. Daladier, would have acted, in a similar situation, differently from me. I have, therefore, in this spirit, endeavoured to wipe out from the world the most unreasonable of the provisions of the Dikat of Versailles. I made to the Polish Government a proposal which alarmed the German people. No one but I myself could have attempted to bring such a proposal to the light of day. And therefore it could be made only once. I am now convinced, in my innermost conscience, that if England in particular, instead of launching a savage Press campaign against Germany, and of spreading rumours of German mobilization, had by one means or another induced Poland to show herself reasonable, Europe would be enjoying today and for twenty-five years the profoundest peace. But on the contrary, through the mendacious allegation of German aggression, Polish public opinion was alarmed, it became more difficult for the Polish Government to take of their own accord the clear-cut decisions required, and above all their appreciation of the actual limits of what was possible was thereby obscured when we made our offer of a promise of guarantee. The Polish Government rejected my proposals. Polish public opinion, convinced that England and France would henceforth fight for Poland, then started to advance demands which could be treated as ludicrous follies if they were not infinitely dangerous as well. Then began an intolerable reign of terror, a physical and economic oppression of the million and a half Germans still to be numbered in the territories separated from the Reich. I do not want to speak here of the horrors that have been perpetrated. But Danzig itself, following the incessant encroachments of the Polish authorities, has become increasingly aware of being subjected, with no hope of redemption, to the arbitrary exactions of a force alien to the national character of the city and of its population.

May I be allowed, M. Daladier, to inquire how you would act, as a Frenchman, if, as the unhappy result of a courageous struggle, one of your provinces was separated by a corridor occupied by a foreign Power; if a great city-let us say Marseilles-were forcibly prevented from proclaiming itself French, and if Frenchmen residing in this territory were at the present moment beset, beaten, maltreated, nay bestially done to death? You are a Frenchman, M. Daladier; I know therefore how you would act. I am a German. Have no doubt, M. Daladier, as to my feeling of honour and as to my conviction that it is my duty to act precisely thus. If you suffered what we are suffering, would you accept, M. Daladier, that Germany should want to intervene without any motive so that the corridor should continue to cut across France?-so as to prevent the return of the stolen territories to the mother country?-so as to prohibit the return of Marseilles to France? In any case, the idea would never occur to me, M. Daladier, that Germany should embark on a struggle with you for this reason. For I and all of us have renounced Alsace-Lorraine to avoid a fresh shedding of blood. And still less should we shed blood in order to maintain a state of affairs which would be intolerable for you and which would be of no value to us. All that you express in your letter, M. Daladier, I feel exactly as you do. Perhaps, just because we are ex-Servicemen, we are able to understand each other more easily in many spheres. But I beg of you, do understand this equally well; it is not possible for a nation of honour to give up nearly two millions of human beings and to see them ill-treated on its frontiers. I have therefore formulated a precise demand; Danzig and the Corridor must return to Germany. The Macedonian situation must be liquidated on our eastern frontier. I do not see the possibility of bringing to a pacific solution a Poland who now feels herself inviolable under the protection of her guarantees. But I should despair of an honourable future for my people if, under such circumstances, we had not decided to settle the question in one way or another. If, consequently, fate compels our two peoples to fight afresh, there would nevertheless be a difference between the motives of the one and the others. I, M. Daladier, should then be fighting with my people for the reparation of an injustice which was inflicted upon us, while the others would fight for maintenance of that injustice. This is the more tragic, since many of the most important personalities of your own nation have recognized the insanity of the solution of 1919, as well as the impossibility of its indefinite prolongation. I perfectly realize the heavy consequences which such a conflict would involve. But I believe that the heaviest would fall on Poland, for it is a fact that, whatever the issue of a war born of this question, the Polish State of today would be lost anyhow. That for this result our two peoples must engage in a new and bloody war of extermination, is a matter of the deepest sorrow not only for you, M. Daladier, but also for me. But, as already indicated, I fail to see any possibility for us to obtain any result from Poland by reasonable means so as to redress a situation which is intolerable for the German people and for the German nation.

ADOLF HITLER.

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

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.