The French Yellow Book

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No. 143 :
M. Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 22, 1939.

THE situation is still confused in Berlin. If Dr. Goebbels's speeches have shown the stiffening attitude of the Reich on the Danzig question, they have not disclosed Herr Hitler's intentions; the question must be settled, but when and how? Probably no one knows except the Führer; it is not certain whether even he has made up his mind.

Diplomatic circles are pessimistic. The events in the Far East and the difficulties of the negotiations with Moscow contribute to this feeling. It is considered, above all, that the manifestations of June 17 and 18 have given proof of the Führer's will to go ahead; that they have committed him before international opinion; and as, on the other hand, the Polish will to resist seems strong, it is not clear how any solution can be found to the crisis but war.

Two points are more or less unanimously taken for granted here: (a) A crisis over Danzig is inevitable before the end of the year; (b) Danzig is not for Herr Hitler an end in itself. He has other objectives in Poland, namely the Corridor and Silesia. If any doubts may have existed on this subject, Dr. Goebbels took it upon himself to remove them last night, when he declared at the festival of the summer solstice that "Germany intends to take back all the territory which has belonged to her in the course of history." (This phrase did not appear in the German Press.)

The majority of the diplomats accredited to Berlin are searching for a compromise solution, and growing uneasy at their inability to find one. They shut themselves up thus in a sort of contradiction, for, if one admits the limitless character of the German claims, and they do admit it, there is no hope for the moment of ending the situation by settling the Danzig question, and thus no advantage in compromising themselves over it. There are, on the other hand, some major disadvantages.

Herr Hitler has definitely committed himself over the Danzig question, but he has not yet burnt his boats as he did with regard to Czechoslovakia. He will not burn them unless he definitely decides to go to the length of war, except in the event of his convincing himself that he can force the enemy position simply by means of threats and intimidation. That is why I am convinced that it is important today, even more than before, to abstain from taking the initiative, or adopting any attitude which could be interpreted here as a weakening of the Allied determination to oppose force by force. It seems to me nearly certain that we shall not be able to avoid a formidable increase of tension in the situation this autumn. Perhaps, however, if there is no giving way, on the part of the peace front, we shall see no repetition of the ultimatum of September 1938. What we must at any cost eliminate this time is the risk of war developing out of a threat of intimidation.

According to my latest information this risk still exists. Is the information supplied by German agents abroad regarding the will to resist of the Allies less definite than it was before? I cannot say, but I have heard from a good source that Herr von Ribbentrop is once more convinced that at the present juncture Great Britain will not fight over Danzig. I know, on the other hand, that Field-Marshal Goering is very worried by the consequences of an uncompromising policy and would like to see the Führer play for time. It is impossible to foresee which of these two ideas will prevail, especially as the National-Socialist authorities, acting evidently upon "orders," are keeping a discreet silence in their dealings with the diplomats. The Minister for Foreign Affairs seems to be still very much in favour with Herr Hitler; on the other hand Field-Marshal Goering's credit with the Führer is reported to have gone up.


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