The French Yellow Book

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No. 362 :
M. Corbin, French Ambassador in London, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. London, September 2, 1939.

(Received by telephone 9.45 p.m.)

LORD HALIFAX has just made a declaration in the House of Lords which was received with cheers. The Secretary of State pointed out that the British Ambassador was received last night at 9.30 by Herr von Ribbentrop, to whom he delivered the warning message that was read to the House yesterday. Herr von Ribbentrop replied that he must submit the communication to the German Chancellor. Our Ambassador declared his readiness to receive the Chancellor's reply, but up to the present no reply has been received. "It may be," Lord Halifax pointed out, "that delay is caused to a proposal which, meanwhile, had been put forward by the Italian Government that hostilities should cease and that there should then immediately be a conference between the five Powers-Great Britain, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy.

"While appreciating the efforts of the Italian Government, His Majesty's Government, for their part, would find it impossible to take part in a conference whilst Poland is being subjected to invasion. Her towns are under bombardment, and Danzig has been made the subject of a unilateral settlement by force."

This last passage was interrupted by great cheering.

Resuming, Lord Halifax recalled that the British Government, as stated yesterday, would be bound to take action unless the German forces were withdrawn from Polish territory.

"The Government," he stated, "is in communication with the French Government as to the limit of time within which it would be necessary for the two Governments to know whether the German Government were prepared to effect such withdrawal.

"If the German Government would agree to withdraw their forces then His Majesty's Government would be willing to regard the position as being the same as it was before the German forces crossed the Polish frontier. That is to say, the way would be open to discussion between the German and Polish Governments of the matters at issue between them, on the understanding that the settlement arrived at was one that safeguarded the vital interests of Poland and was secured by an international guarantee.

"If the German and Polish Governments wished that other Powers should be associated with them in the discussion, His Majesty's Government for their part would be willing to agree.

"There is one other matter to which allusion should be made in order to make the present situation perfectly clear. Yesterday, Herr Forster, who on August 23 had, in contravention of the Danzig Constitution, become the head of the State, decreed the incorporation of Danzig in the Reich and the dissolution of the Constitution.

"Herr Hitler was asked to give effect to this decree by German law. At the meeting of the Reichstag, yesterday morning, a law was passed for the reunion of Danzig with the Reich. The international status of Danzig as a Free City is established by a treaty of which His Majesty's Government are a signatory, and the Free City was placed under the protection of the League of Nations.

"The rights given to Poland in Danzig by treaty are defined and confirmed by agreements concluded between Danzig and Poland. The action taken by the Danzig authorities and the Reichstag yesterday is the final step in the unilateral repudiation of these international instruments which could only be modified by negotiation.

"His Majesty's Government do not therefore recognize either the validity of the grounds on which the action of the Danzig authorities was based, the validity of this action itself, or of the effect given to it by the German Government."

At the same time the Prime Minister made a declaration in identical terms in the House of Commons. In the course of this statement, which was greeted with warm cheering, he said, in substance:

"The Government is in a somewhat difficult position. I suppose it always must be a difficulty for allies who have to communicate with one another by telephone to synchronize their thoughts and actions as quickly as those who are in the same room; but I should be horrified if the House thought for one moment that the statement that I have made to them betrayed the slightest weakening either of this Government or of the French Government in the attitude which we have taken up.

"I am bound to say that I myself share the distrust which Mr. Greenwood expressed of maneuvers of this kind.... I should have to be convinced of the good faith of the other side ... before I could regard the proposition of a conference as a proposition having reasonable chances of a successful issue.

"I should have been very glad had it been possible for me to say to the House now that the French Government and ourselves were agreed to make the shortest possible limit to the time when action should be taken by both of us.

"It is very possible that the communication which we have had with the French Government will receive a reply from them in the course of the next few hours.

"I feel certain that I can make a statement to the House of a definite character to-morrow when the House meets again. I anticipate that there is only one answer. I hope that the issue will be brought to a close at the earliest possible moment so that we may know where we are."


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