The French Yellow Book

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No. 367 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, September 3, 1939.

(Received by telephone at 5.50 p.m.)

I HAVE the honour to confirm as here below the communication which I made to Your Excellency by telephone at 1 p.m.

Herr von Ribbentrop returned at noon. I was received at this hour by the State Secretary, but the latter informed me that he was not in a position to tell me whether a satisfactory reply had been made to my letter of September 1, nor even whether such a reply could be given thereto. He insisted that I should see Herr von Ribbentrop himself. In these circumstances I asked to be received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the earliest possible moment.

I was received by Herr von Ribbentrop at 1230 p.m.

I asked him whether he could give me a satisfactory reply to my letter which I had handed to him on September 1 at 10 p.m.

He replied to me as follows:

"After the delivery of your letter, the Italian Government notified the German Government of a proposed compromise, stating that the French Government was in agreement. Later, Signor Mussolini intimated to us that the contemplated compromise had failed owing to British intransigence. This morning the British Ambassador handed us an ultimatum, due to expire two hours later. We rejected it for the reason which is explained in the memorandum which I handed to the British Ambassador today and of which I give you a copy.

"If the French Government feels bound by its commitments to Poland to enter into the conflict, I can only regret it, for we have no feeling of hostility towards France. It is only if France attacks us that we shall fight her, and this would be on her part a war of aggression.

I then asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if I was to infer from his utterances that the reply of the Government of the Reich to my letter of September 1 was in the negative. "Yes," he replied.

"In these circumstances I must, on behalf of my Government, remind you for the last time of the heavy responsibility assumed by the Government of the Reich by entering, without a declaration of war, into hostilities against Poland and in not acting upon the suggestion made by the Governments of the French Republic and of His Britannic Majesty to suspend all aggressive action against Poland and to declare itself ready to withdraw its forces promptly from Polish territory.

"I have the painful duty to notify you that as from today, September 3, at 5 p.m., the French Government will find itself obliged to fulfill the obligations that France has contracted towards Poland, and which are known to the German Government."

"Well," Herr von Ribbentrop remarked, "it will be France who is the aggressor."

I replied to him that history would judge of that.


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