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                                PAPER XII

"Nothing can persuade the peoples of the earth that any governing power 
has any right or need to inflict the consequences of war on its own or 
any other people save in the cause of self-evident home defense."

Letter sent by the President to the Chancellor of the German Reich, 
Adolf Hitler, April 14, 1939

His Excellency Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the German Reich, Berlin, 

You realize, I am sure, that throughout the world hundreds of millions 
of human beings are living today in constant fear of a new war or even a 
series of wars. 

The existence of this fear-and the possibility of such a conflict-are of 
definite concern to the people of the United States for whom I speak, as 
they must also be to the peoples of the other nations of the entire 
Western Hemisphere. All of them know that any major war even if it were 
to be confined to other continents, must bear heavily on them during its 
continuance and also for generations to come. 

Because of the fact that after the acute tension in which the world has 
been living during the past few weeks there would seem to be at least a 
momentary relaxation-because no troops are at this moment on the march-
this may be an opportune moment for me to send you this message. 

On a previous occasion I have addressed you in behalf of the settlement 
of political, economic, and social problems by peaceful methods and 
without resort to arms. 

But the tide of events seems to have reverted to the threat of arms. If 
such threats continue, it seems inevitable that much of the world must 
become involved in common ruin. All the world, victor nations, 
vanquished nations, and neutral nations, will suffer. I refuse to 
believe that the world is, of necessity, such a prisoner of destiny. On 
the contrary, it is clear that the leaders of great nations have it in 
their power to liberate their peoples from the disaster that impends. It 
is equally clear that in their own minds and in their own hearts the 
peoples themselves desire that their fears be ended. 

It is, however, unfortunately necessary to take cognizance of recent 

Three nations in Europe and one in Africa have seen their independent 
existence terminated. A vast territory in another independent Nation of 
the Far East has been occupied by a neighboring State. Reports, which we 
trust are not true, insist that further acts of aggression are 
contemplated against still other independent nations. Plainly the world 
is moving toward the moment when this situation must end in catastrophe 
unless a more rational way of guiding events is found. 

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You have repeatedly asserted that you and the German people have no 
desire for war. If this is true there need be no war. 

Nothing can persuade the peoples of the earth that any governing power 
has any right or need to inflict the consequences of war on its own or 
any other people save in the cause of self-evident home defense. 

In making this statement we as Americans speak not through selfishness 
or fear or weakness. If we speak now it is with the voice of strength 
and with friendship for mankind. It is still clear to me that 
international problems can be solved at the council table. 

It is therefore no answer to the plea for peaceful discussion for one 
side to plead that unless they receive assurances beforehand that the 
verdict will be theirs, they will not lay aside their arms. In 
conference rooms, as in courts, it is necessary that both sides enter 
upon the discussion in good faith, assuming that substantial justice 
will accrue to both; and it is customary and necessary that they leave 
heir arms outside the room where they confer. 

I am convinced that the cause of world peace would be greatly advanced 
if the nations of the world were to obtain a frank statement relating 
to-the present and future policy of Governments. 

Because the United States, as one of the Nations of the Western 
Hemisphere, is not involved in the immediate controversies which have 
arisen in Europe, I trust that you may be willing to make such a 
statement of policy to me as head of a Nation far removed from Europe in 
order that I, acting only with the responsibility and obligation of a 
friendly intermediary, may communicate such declaration to other nations 
now apprehensive as to the course which the policy of your Government 
may take. 

Are you willing to give assurance that your armed forces will not attack 
or invade the territory or possessions of the following independent 
nations: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, 
The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Ireland, France, Portugal, 
Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, 
Yugoslavia, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, the Arabias, Syria, 
Palestine, Egypt and Iran. 

Such an assurance clearly must apply not only to the present day but 
also to a future sufficiently long to give every opportunity to work by 
peaceful methods for a more permanent peace. I therefore suggest that 
you construe the word "future" to apply to a minimum period of assured 
non-aggression-ten years at the least-a quarter of a century, if we dare 
look that far ahead. 

If such assurance is given by your Government, I shall immediately 
transmit it to the Governments of the nations I have named and I shall 
simultaneously inquire whether, as I am reasonably sure, each of the 
nations enumerated will in turn give like assurance for transmission to 

Reciprocal assurances such as I have outlined will bring to the world an 
immediate measure of relief. 

I propose that if it is given, two essential problems shall promptly be 
discussed in the resulting peaceful surroundings, and in those 
discussions the Government of the United States will gladly take part. 

The discussions which I have in mind relate to the most effective and 
immediate manner through which the peoples of the world can obtain 
progressive relief from the crushing burden of armament which is each 
day bringing them more closely to the brink of economic 

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disaster. Simultaneously the Government of the United States would be 
prepared to take part in discussions looking toward the most practical 
manner of opening up avenues of international trade to the end that 
every Nation of the earth may be enabled to buy and sell on equal terms 
in the world market as well as to possess assurance of obtaining the 
materials and products of peaceful economic life. 

At the same time, those Governments other than the United States I which 
are directly interested could undertake such political discussions as 
they may consider necessary or desirable.

We recognize complex world problems which affect all humanity but we 
know that study and discussion of them must be held in an atmosphere of 
peace. Such an atmosphere of peace cannot exist if negotiations are 
overshadowed by the threat of force or by the fear of war.

I think you will not misunderstand the spirit of frankness in which I 
send you this message. Heads of great Governments in this hour are 
literally responsible for the fate of humanity in the coming years. They 
cannot fail to hear the prayers of their peoples to be protected from 
the foreseeable chaos of war. History will hold them accountable for the 
lives and the happiness of all-even unto the least. 

I hope that your answer will make it possible for humanity to lose fear 
and regain security for many years to come. 

A similar message is being addressed to the Chief of the Italian 



An almost identical note was sent to Premier Mussolini by the Secretary 
of State on this date. At this time peace in Europe had been gravely 
endangered by Italy's conquest of Albania, brought to a close on April 
13-15, and the assumption by Germany of a protectorate over 
Czechoslovakia. Relations between Poland and Germany were severely 
strained. See also Paper X of this series.