The French Yellow Book

Previous Document Contents Next Document

No. 125 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, May 9, 1939.

A FEW days after M. Beck's speech, the atmosphere prevailing in the capital of the Reich is on the whole calmer. The general impression is that a comparative lull will continue in Europe, during which the struggle of the Axis Powers against the policy of restraint adopted by London and Paris will continue in the realm of propaganda and diplomacy.

In this struggle, the events of the last days constitute some new episodes.

1. The speech delivered at the Sejm on May 5 by M. Beck, and the Polish memorandum presented on the 6th to the Government in Berlin, have not noticeably altered the tension of German-Polish relations, such as it has existed since March 26, the day on which Warsaw rejected the German demands and presented counter-proposals. Replying to the speech of the Führer, April 28, the declarations of M. Beck have however made public the disagreement between Berlin and Warsaw and have transferred the German-Polish dispute from the decent obscurity of the chancelleries to the forum of international politics.

M. Beck's expose has been interpreted here as representing a further rejection of the Führer's offers. It is very firm in substance, but moderate in manner; it offered no real opening for violent controversy. Actually, the German comments betrayed some embarrassment. After absorbing 7 million Czechs, the Reich is in a rather difficult position to appeal to the principle of nationalities. As to the doctrine of Lebensraum, in this particular case this could obviously only be applied in favour of Poland.

Consequently, the German reaction has been expressed in the shape of personal grievances against M. Beck, whilst certain of the arguments invoked have very significantly revealed the real objects pursued by the policy of the Reich in presenting at Warsaw proposals of a "generosity unparalleled in history."

Fundamentally, what Poland is being reproached with is for preferring the guarantee and friendship of Great Britain to the place she was being offered in the German-Italian camp.

If she had accepted the German proposals, Poland, weakened politically and in the military sphere, moreover reduced to a tributary State of the Reich economically, would have been definitely riveted to the Axis. The establishment in the East of a rampart against the German drive would have become impossible.

As far as the actual substance of the dispute is concerned, the two parties remain in their respective positions. Each maintains that it is up to the other to make a gesture. Actually, on the German side, they anticipate that Poland will soon grow tired of her "heroic" attitude, will exhaust herself financially and morally, and that she will be given to understand from London and Paris that nobody is anxious to fight for the sake of Danzig. "Danzig is not worth a European war"-this seems to be the catch phrase of German propaganda. Here great hopes are based on this phrase and on the echo which it might awaken abroad. That is the reason why it is maintained that there will be no war on account of Danzig, though it is at the same time claimed that the question will have to be settled sooner or later, in a manner in conformity with the wishes of the Reich.

In the meantime, the German Press continues its campaign against Poland, without, however, forsaking a certain restraint, as though its leaders were anxious to prevent the atmosphere from getting overheated too quickly. Clearly, in Berlin, they are anxious not to be obliged to act before the propitious moment has arrived.

2. The slow and uneven course of the Anglo-Russian negotiations continues to maintain, in official circles in Berlin, certain hopes that had been encouraged by the sudden resignation of M. Litvinov (May 4)

It appears that, for some time past, Berlin believed in a possible change in Soviet policy. Very rapidly, however, the Press at least has returned to a more cautious attitude.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that, amongst the National-Socialist leaders, "determined to break through the encirclement at any price," M. Litvinov's retirement has awakened in certain minds the idea of an intrigue designed to upset the negotiations which are already most difficult between Moscow and the Western Powers and to wreck them in one way or another. Did this idea grow and take definite shape before M. Litvinov's retirement, or was it inspired by this event? This is difficult to ascertain.

In any case, for the last twenty-four hours, the rumour has spread through the whole of Berlin that Germany has made or is going to make proposals concerning a partition of Poland.

This rumour is so persistent that the Soviet Chargé d'Affaires himself was much struck by it, and when I met him this evening, asked me in an excited manner: "Have you learnt that the Soviet Government has decided to change its policy?" As I remarked that it was rather for me to put the question to him, he stated that he had received no indication whatever from Moscow which would justify him in thinking that the rumours circulated were founded on any facts. He added that in the last conversation which his Ambassador had had with Herr von Weizsäcker on April 17, they had dealt with no political questions.

This evening, moreover, the German Press is showing a certain agitation because of the resumption of the Anglo-Russian negotiations. It appears to be somewhat perturbed by the news according to which M. Potemkin, on his return from Bucharest, was to stop in Warsaw in order to pay a visit to M. Beck. As though to reassure itself, it declares that the Soviets are not inclined to serve as England's henchmen in Eastern Europe.

This attitude stresses the primary importance which is attached in the leading circles of the Reich to the final attitude which will be adopted by the Soviets towards the British proposals, and on which will depend, to a great extent, according to their views, the strength and the efficiency of the anti-aggression front set up in the East.


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

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.