The French Yellow Book

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No. 315 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, August 31, 1939.

(Received by courier on September 1, at 10 p.m.)

AT five minutes past nine this morning my British colleague telephoned me. "I know from a reliable source," he said, "that if the Polish Government has not accepted before noon the proposal to send a plenipotentiary, the German Government will consider that Poland has given up any intention to seek a peaceful solution of the dispute, and it will give the German troops the order to attack."

"First of all, we must get a clear idea of the situation," I replied, and I immediately went to see him.

Sir Nevile had been informed that, once before, on the evening of the 25th, war had all but broken out and that once again there was a risk of its breaking out today.

I knew that Sir Nevile's information about the 25th was accurate but it seemed to me that if the German Government had really decided in the absence of the Polish reply to attack at noon, it would have officially apprised the British Government, with which it was in contact. My British colleague told me then and there the sources, assuredly trustworthy, from which he had received his information.

Sir Nevile Henderson added that the night before, at midnight, he had gone to Herr von Ribbentrop to take him a British communication, intimating that Herr Hitler's reply had been transmitted to Warsaw. The German Foreign Minister had rapidly read through the detailed plan of settlement given in the German reply, but had refused to deliver the text of it to Sir Nevile, on the grounds that the period stipulated for a Polish plenipotentiary to be sent to Berlin had expired.

I decided to go immediately to the Polish Ambassador, who told me that he had been woken up at 2 a.m. by Sir Nevile, who had urged him strongly to go immediately to Herr von Ribbentrop to establish the required contact. M. Lipski had refused, because he was without instructions to that effect from his Government. He had, however, telephoned in the morning to Warsaw asking that some instructions be sent.

After examining the position, it seemed to us desirable that Poland while being careful not to appear to yield to a German ultimatum, should not expose herself to the reproach of having sought to avoid a direct conversation, which she had accepted both in her reply to President Roosevelt's message, and in her exchanges of views with Paris and London.

M. Lipski accordingly decided to telephone once again to Warsaw, and I myself telephoned to Your Excellency the communication which I here repeat as a reminder:

"The British Ambassador has just informed me that, according to information which is not official, but which he considers reliable, the German Government is seriously displeased at the non-arrival of the Polish plenipotentiary, and he considers that the present situation cannot be prolonged beyond the end of the morning without involving the most serious consequences.

"I consider that this news should not induce us to depart from the dignified composure with which the exchange of views must be conducted.

"But it seems to me that it would certainly be to the interest of the Polish Government to inform Berlin without delay that the Polish Government accepts the direct negotiations which, moreover, have been suggested by the French and British Governments, and that, while reserving judgment on the German note, it is preparing to send to M. Lipski the necessary instructions to meet the Germans in the capacity of plenipotentiary.

"I would add that it would seem advisable for M. Lipski not to limit himself to receiving communication of the German claims, but himself to present a statement of the Polish point of view in order that the balance may be maintained.

"It would probably be well if, in order to gain time, you would telephone to Warsaw immediately to this effect."

At 12.10 p.m. Your Excellency was good enough to inform me by telephone that the Polish Government would in a few minutes give a reply which would be affirmative in principle.

At 2 p.m. M. Lipski did, in fact, receive notice from his Government that it favoured the establishment of contact and that it was preparing a reply on the subject. He immediately requested an interview with Herr von Ribbentrop. At 3 p.m. the State Secretary, Herr von Weizs├Ącker, asked him whether he was requesting this audience as a plenipotentiary or as an Ambassador. M. Lipski replied that it was as an Ambassador.

My Polish colleague has just informed me (7.45 p.m.) that he has just been received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that he informed the latter of the communication transmitted to him by his Government.


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