Mr. F. M. Shepherd (Danzig) Viscount Halifax (telegram), July 19, 1939
Interview between Herr Forster and theLeague of Nations High Commissioner
Viscount Halifax to Mr. Norton (Warsaw) (telegram), July 21, 1939
Instructions to approach Polish Government regarding No. 37
Mr. Norton (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), July 25, 1939
Conversation with M. Beck as instructed in No. 38
Mr. F. M. Shepherd (Danzig) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), July 25, 1939
Statement by Herr Forster that Danzig question could wait. Increased military movements
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), July 31, 1939
Conversation with M. Beck
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 2, 1939
Conversation with the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr. Norton (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 4, 1939
Polish intention to address note to Danzig Senate about Customs Inspectors
Mr. F. M. Shepherd (Danzig) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 4, 1939
Exchanges between the Polish Commissioner-General, the League of Nations High Commissioner and the President of the Senate
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 9, 1939
Polish attitude towards the customs dispute
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 10, 1939
Conversation with M. Beck regarding German Government intervention in the Danzig customs dispute
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 10, 1939
Text of notes exchanged at Berlin between the German and Polish Governments referred to in No. 46
Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 16, 1939
Conversation with German State Secretary
Herr Hitler's meeting with M. Burckhardt on August 11, 1939
Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) (telegram), August 15, 1939
Instructions to discuss situation with M. Beck
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 15, 1939
Conversation with M. Beck as instructed in No. 50
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 24, 1939
Refutation of the German press allegations of persecution
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 26, 1939
German-Polish frontier incidents
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 26, 1939
Polish denial of story that Germans had been killed at Lodz and Bielsko
Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 27, 1939
Reasons for German false accusations of ill-treatment of German minority
(Telegraphic.) Danzig, July 19, 1939.
GAULEITER FORSTER visited the High Commissioner at noon to-day. The latter has sent me, in a personal and confidential form, notes of conversation, of which the following is a translation:-
The Gauleiter told me the result of his interview with German Chancellor was as follows:-
1. There is no modification of German claims regarding Danzig and the Corridor as formulated in Chancellor's speech to Reichstag.
2. Nothing will be done on the German side to provoke a conflict on this question.
3. Question can wait if necessary until next year or even longer.
4. The Gauleiter said that the Senate would henceforth seek intervention of High Commissioner in difficult questions which might arise between the Senate and Polish representative. This would, he said, terminate a war of notes which only poisons the
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situation, but he added that "a single press indiscretion to the effect that the Senate and German Government are having recourse to politics would immediately terminate practice and more direct and consequently more dangerous method would again be applied." He said verbatim: "We are having recourse to High Commissioner and not to Geneva itself."
5. He requested High Commissioner to intervene officially at once in the matter of military trains not announced beforehand. Non-observance of this rule, which was established by an exchange of letters between the Senate and Polish representative in 1921, would have effect beyond local Danzig question and would, for example, entail a modification of German usage announcing to Polish Government visit of warships to port of Danzig. In addition, according to information at disposal of Senate, there were 300 men at Westerplatte in place of 100 agreed to. Herr Forster gave his word of honour that there were at Danzig only a few anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns and light infantry guns-no heavy guns, not an invading German soldier-nobody but Danzigers and four German officers. He claimed that a sharp watch at the frontier was necessary by the extensive importation of weapons for 3,000 Polish reservists resident in the district.
6. Herr Forster will publish an article which he had already read to me confidentially on the occasion of our last interview, when he said he would submit the question of publication to the Chancellor's decision. This article underlines point of view announced in Reichstag speech. Herr Forster declared that if repercussion of his article is not violent and if there is no incident, this will put an end to all Danzig-Polish polemics and press would be ordered to drop the subject of Danzig completely.
7. If there is a détente in situation, all military measures now taken in Danzig would be dropped.
8. The Gauleiter promised his loyal collaboration.
9. High Commissioner would be happy if it were possible to obtain from Poland a positive reaction in any formal matter which might arise in the near future so that new methods may be given a good initiation.
10. The Gauleiter said that Herr Hitler would have liked to take an opportunity to talk to the High Commissioner about the Danzig situation, but that Herr von Ribbentrop, who was pres-
TEMPORARY EASING DANZIG SITUATION 105
ent at the interview at Obersalzberg, had raised objections to which the Chancellor replied evasively: "Well, it will be a little later, I will let you know."
(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, July 21, 1939.
DANZIG telegram of 19th July.*
I am most anxious that this tentative move from German side should not be compromised by publicity or by any disinclination on part of Polish Government to discuss in friendly and reasonable spirit any concrete question which may be taken up by Senate through High Commissioner.
2. Unless you see most serious objection, please approach M. Beck in following sense.
3. His Majesty's Government have learnt with great regret of further incident, but they hope that Polish Government will handle it with same restraint and circumspection which they have hitherto shown, more especially as there is some reason to think that German policy is now to work for a détente in the Danzig question. It is nevertheless essential not to destroy possibility of better atmosphere at outset, and I trust that more care than ever will be taken on Polish side to avoid provocation in any sphere and to restrain press. Above all, if any sign is forthcoming of more reasonable attitude on the part of Senate or German Government, it is important that from Polish side this should not be made occasion for provocative assertions that German Government are weakening. Moreover, I hope that if Senate show any sign of desiring to improve atmosphere by discussing concrete questions, the Polish Government for their part will not be slow to respond in a friendly and forthcoming manner.
4. For your own information, I hope to arrange that we shall be informed through High Commissioner and His Majesty's Consul-General in Danzig when any concrete question is to be taken up by High Commissioner at the request of Senate, and, of
* No. 37.
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course, of the discussions, in order that we may have an opportunity of discreetly urging moderation on Polish Government.
5. Finally, when newspaper article referred to in telegram under reference appears, please do what you can to ensure that Polish Government and press treat it calmly, perhaps on the lines that it does not introduce any new element into the situation. You might also say that the publication of the proposed article does not modify impression of His Majesty's Government that Senate and the German Government, in fact, desire a détente and an improvement in the atmosphere.
6. Whatever may be the import of this German move, position of Polish Government cannot be worsened in any respect by doing their utmost to make a success of procedure proposed by Gauleiter to High Commissioner.
(Telegraphic.) Danzig, July 25, 1939.
YOUR telegram of 21st July.*
I developed your Lordship's ideas to M. Beck this morning.
2. M. Beck asked me to assure you that Polish Government were always on the look-out for signs of a German wish for a détente. They are inspired by the same principles as your Lordship, since it was in everyone's interest that temperature should be allowed to fall. Polish Commissioner in Danzig had received formal instructions to deal with each question in a purely practical and objective manner. Even shooting of Polish Customs guard, which Polish Government now considered to have been deliberate, was being treated as a local incident.
3. The most important question was whether new German tendency reported by M. Burckhardt was a manoeuvre or not. M. Beck was naturally suspicious since Poland had much experience of German mentality and Germans real interest must be by any and every means to attempt to separate Poland from Great Britain. At one moment they tried to achieve this by threats, at another by talk of appeasement. In actual fact Polish Govern-
* No. 38.
TEMPORARY EASING DANZIG SITUATION 107
ment had not received the slightest concrete sign of a desire for a relaxation of tension. For example, remilitarisation of Danzig was proceeding and identifications of fresh German troops on Polish frontier had been received. Marshal Smigly-Rydz had not decided to counter these for the moment since amongst other things Poland was not so rich as to be able to spend money for military purposes freely.
4. Words let fall by Herr Forster were not in themselves sufficient evidence of German intentions. Herr Forster had within the last few days complained to M. Burckhardt about Polish intention to put armed guards on their railways in Danzig.
M. Burkhardt had said that such complaint had better be made by Herr Greiser. Latter had at once said that he had no evidence of any such Polish intention. M. Beck feared that this allegation by Herr Forster was only a pretext for increasing militarisation of Danzig.
5. All in all M. Beck, while entirely understanding and sharing your Lordship's general desire, did not at present see any facts on which to base a forecast of German change of policy.
6. He said incidentally that he had not given up the idea that démarche in the form of warning to Danzig Senate, supported by French and British representations, might be advisable.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, July 25, 1939.
HERR FORSTER informed High Commission yesterday that Danzig question could, if necessary, wait a year or more, and said that military precautions now being taken would be liquidated in the middle of September.
2. Meanwhile, there is increasing amount of horse and motor transport visible, and frequent reports reach me of men being called up and of arrival of men and material from East Prussia. While I cannot at present confirm these reports, it would be unwise to ignore them. There are numerous warehouses and other buildings in Danzig where material could be stored and men housed.
110 THE BRITISH WAR BLUE BOOK
3. I learn that a certain Major-General Eberhard is now in command here.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, July 31, 1939.
I ASKED Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day what impressions he had brought back from his visit to Gdynia and how far he thought that the détente at Danzig, foreshadowed in the conversation between the Gauleiter and the High Commissioner, should be taken seriously.
2. M. Beck said that, unfortunately, there were no indications that the Danzig Senate intended to behave more reasonably. They had just demanded that the Polish customs police who accompany the customs officials on their duties should be withdrawn, despite the fact that they have been employed in Danzig by the Polish customs authorities for some years past.
3. It was possible that the remilitarisation of Danzig was not proceeding so actively, and he had no information as to the intention of the German Government to send a General Officer Commanding to Danzig.
4. He, further, had no information of a serious increase in German concentrations on the Polish frontier, but he was somewhat perturbed by the reports which he had received from some eight Polish Consular representatives in Germany to the effect that an intensive official propaganda is now being conducted in Germany demonstrating the necessity of an isolated war against Poland without any British or French intervention. This, coupled with the notices which have been sent to German reservists who are to be called up during the second fortnight in August, was somewhat ominous. He said that an intensive propaganda was also being conducted in East Prussia, where reservists up to 58 years old were being called up.
5. M. Beck did not think that the moment had yet come to convey a serious joint warning to the Danzig authorities, and felt that it would be well to await further developments and see how far the Gauleiter's suggestion of a détente was to be taken seriously.
TEMPORARY EASING DANZIG SITUATION 109
6. The most essential thing was to show by every possible means the solidarity of the three Governments of Great Britain, France and Poland in their resistance to German aggression in any form.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 2, 1939.
I DISCUSSED the situation at Danzig at some length informally with the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day and asked him more especially for information regarding the controversy respecting the reduction of the Polish customs personnel in the Free State. M. Arciszewski said that three years ago there had only been about thirty Polish customs inspectors, and that in view of the numerous cases of smuggling and so forth, some eighty frontier guards had been added for the purpose of surveillance. The frontier guards wore a different uniform from the customs inspectors, and he thought that provided the Danzig Senate were acting in good faith and any concession would not be interpreted as a sign of weakness, it might be possible to come to some arrangement by which the customs officials and frontier guards should wear the same uniform and the number of the latter might be somewhat reduced. He did not think that any threat of a customs union with Germany should be taken too seriously as hitherto the Senate had never risked coming too far into the open. He admitted that the general situation might become critical towards the end of this month He agreed that it was very difficult to fix a limit at which the Polish Government must react seriously to the accentuation of the surreptitious methods by which Germany was endeavouring to bring about a fait accompli at Danzig, but he still thought that she would hesitate before going to the length where a serious crisis must develop.
He admitted that the situation might develop within a few hours from the political to the military phase, but felt that the military preparations at Danzig were to some extent exaggerated. If the Reich really did not wish or intend to participate in a European war over the Danzig question, and there were real
110 The BRITISH WAR BLUE BOOK
signs of a détente, it might be possible to resume conversations, but he thought that Herr Forster's assertions were in the present circumstances only a manoeuvre, and that until there were serious indications that the German Government's intentions were reasonable, it would not be possible to discuss any practical solution.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 4, 1939.
M. BECK to-night, through his "chef de cabinet," informed me that at four customs posts on Danzig-East Prussian frontier Polish customs inspectors were to-day informed that by decision of Danzig Senate they would henceforth not be allowed to carry out their duties.
2. Polish Government take a very serious view of this step. Previous action of Danzig Senate has been clandestine, but this is an open challenge to Polish interests.
3. Polish Commissioner-General has therefore been instructed to deliver a note to-night requesting immediate confirmation that Polish customs inspectors will be allowed to carry out their duties, and warning to Senate that if they are interfered with Polish Government will react in the strongest manner. A reply is requested by to-morrow evening, 5th August.
4. "Chef de cabinet" could not say what steps the Polish Government would take. M. Beck proposed to give me further information to-morrow morning. Meanwhile, he was most anxious that his Majesty's Government should be informed at once of the serious turn events have taken.
5. Polish note is, I gather, not being published nor its contents revealed to press.
6. M. Burckhardt is being informed by the Polish Commissioner-General.
FURTHER DETERIORATION DANZIG SITUATION 111
(Telegraphic.) Danzig, August 4, 1939.
POLISH representative saw the High Commissioner this morning on his return from Warsaw and read to him a translation of a note which he will hand to the Senate this afternoon. It is polite but firm, and ends on a conciliatory note. Referring to the threat to open the East Prussian frontier M. Chodacki requested the High Commissioner to give the President of the Senate a personal message to the effect that such a move would be for Poland a casus belli.
2. The President of the Senate complained to the High Commissioner that Gauleiter had not passed on to him the desire of the Führer to terminate the war of notes and to work towards a détente. Herr Greiser was incensed at having been placed in a false position, and said he would not have sent his notes of 29th July had he been kept au courant.
3. The President and Polish representative will meet at the High Commissioner's house on 7th August.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 9, 1939.
POLISH attitude towards the dispute over recent Danzig attempt to eliminate Polish customs inspection has been firm but studiously moderate. There was at first no attempt to represent the Danzig Senate as having climbed down, but, as was inevitable, the papers have since reproduced comment to this effect from the French and British press. The Polish Government said little to the press about what really passed, and even now nothing has been said of any time limit. Polish attitude to diplomatic conversations is also moderate.
2. It is true that on 7th August the independent Conservative Czas, in a commentary on Marshal Smigly-Rydz's speech, said that Poland was ready to fight for Danzig, and that if a fait
112 THE BRITISH WAR BLUE BOOK
accompli were attempted, then guns would fire. It also emphasized at length the Marshal's insistence that Poland had no aggressive intentions (the German press does not seem to be interested in that point).
3. The Polish Telegraph Agency to-day-in a message from its German correspondent-replies to attacks of Deutches Nachrichten-Büro and German press, pointing out that one sentence in the article in Czas had been singled out to give a distorted picture of Polish opinion in order to represent Poland as a potential aggressor. "Polish provocations" was the term used in Germany to describe Poland's attempts to defend her just interests. "A volley fired by German guns will be the closing point of the history of modern Poland," that was the pious desire of "peaceful and persecuted Germany." The message concluded by emphasising again that everyone knew that Poland had no aggressive intentions.
4. I fear that at times of strong national feeling it is almost inevitable that occasional remarks like that of Czas should occur in the press. Experience shows that the Germans can wax indignant with anyone and on any subject if Goebbels so desires. And the "provocation" of one article in a small and independent Warsaw newspaper compares strangely with the official utterances of Dr. Goebbels and Herr Forster in Danzig and the daily military and civil violation of all the treaties on which Poland's rights are based.
5. Possibly the German campaign is intended to cover up the Senate's withdrawal in Danzig, where the situation is regarded as somewhat easier.
6. I shall, of course, continue to urge moderation here, both in official and press declarations.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 10, 1939.
MINISTER for Foreign Affairs communicated to me to-day the text of a communication which was made to Polish Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin by State Secretary yesterday and of reply of
FURTHER DETERIORATION DANZIG SITUATION 113
the Polish Government which was made this afternoon. (Text of these communications, which are strictly confidential and are not being published at present, will be found in my immediately following telegram.*). Both these communications were made verbally though notes were taken of their contents in either case.
2. M. Beck drew my attention to the very serious nature of German démarche as it was the first time that the Reich had directly intervened in the dispute between Poland and Danzig Senate. He had already, through Polish Ambassador in London, warned your Lordship briefly of what he had communicated to me, but he asked me to request you to consider whether you could take any useful action in Berlin to reinforce Polish attitude. He would leave it to your Lordship to decide the nature of any such action, but would be glad in any case to learn your views as to the significance of this démarche on the part of the Reich. M. Beck has made a similar communication to my French colleague.
3. He further told me that the High Commissioner had communicated to him the tenor of a conversation which M. Burckhardt had had with Herr Forster this morning. Conversation was relatively moderate, and Herr Forster said Herr Hitler had told him that no incident should take place at Danzig at present time in view of gravity of the situation. Herr Forster said that he intended in his declaration which he is to make to-night to deal with aggressive tone of Polish press.
4. M. Beck finally said that he felt that a serious political crisis would develop during the last fortnight of this month, which while it need not necessarily lead to war would require very careful handling. No further military measures were being taken by the Polish Government for the moment, but he would at once inform me if they became necessary.
5. M. Beck stated that while he had not thought it necessary to refer, in his reply to the German Government, to the specific question of Polish customs inspectors, he could have refuted German allegations as the Polish Government had documentary proof that Danzig customs officials had definite instructions from authorities to inform Polish inspectors that they could no longer carry out their functions.
* No. 47
114 THE BRITISH WAR BLUE BOOK
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 10, 1939.
MY immediately preceding telegram.*
Following is translation of German note verbale:-
"German Government have learnt with lively surprise of tenor of note addressed by Polish Government to Senate of Free City of Danzig, in which Polish Government demand in the form of an ultimatum cancellation of an alleged measure whose existence was based on incorrect rumours. This measure, designed to prevent activity of Polish customs inspectors, was not, in fact, decreed by Senate. In case of refusal the threat was expressed that measures of reprisal would be taken.
"The German Government are compelled to call attention to the fact that repetition of such demands having the nature of an ultimatum and addressed to the Free City of Danzig as well as of threats of reprisals, would lead to an aggravation of Polish-German relations, for consequences of which responsibility will fall exclusively on Polish Government, German Government being obliged to disclaim here and now any responsibility in this respect.
"Further, the German Government call attention of Polish Government to the fact that steps which latter have taken to prevent export of certain Danzig goods to Poland are of such a nature as to cause heavy economic losses to the population of Danzig.
"Should Polish Government persist in maintaining such measures the German Government are of the opinion that in present state of affairs the Free City of Danzig would have no choice but to seek other opportunities of exporting, and, consequently, also of importing goods."
2. Following is translation of Polish reply:-
"The Government of Polish Republic have learnt with liveliest surprise of declaration made on 9th August, 1939, by State Secretary at German Ministry for Foreign Affairs to Polish Chargé d'Affaires ad interim at Berlin regarding exist-
* No. 46.
FURTHER DETERIORATION DANZIG SITUATION 115
ing relations between Poland and the Free City of Danzig. The Polish Government indeed perceive no juridical basis capable of justifying intervention of Germany in these relations.
"If exchanges of views regarding the Danzig problem have taken place between Polish Government and German Government these exchanges were solely based on goodwill of Polish Government and arose from no obligation of any sort.
"In reply to above-mentioned declaration of the German Government the Polish Government are obliged to warn the German Government that in future, as hitherto, they will react to any attempt by authorities of the Free City which might tend to compromise the rights and interests which Poland possesses there in virtue of her agreements, by employment of such means and measures as they alone shall think fit to adopt, and will consider any future intervention by German Government to detriment of these rights and interests as an act of aggression."
(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 16, 1939.
STATE Secretary, whom I visited yesterday evening, said at once that the situation had very gravely deteriorated since 4th August. When I last saw him he had regarded the position as less dangerous than last year; now he considered it no less dangerous and most urgent. Deterioration was due firstly to Polish ultimatum to Danzig Senate of 4th August, and secondly to last sentence-which he quoted-of Polish reply to German Government of 10th August, but also in general to the unmistakable set policy of persecution and extermination of the German minority in Poland.
I told Baron von Weizsäcker that there was quite another side to the case. Polish note of 4th August had been necessitated by the succession of measures, and particularly military ones, undertaken in Danzig with view to undermining the Polish position
116 THE BRITISH WAR BLUE BOOK
there; Polish reply of 10th August had been provoked by German verbal note of 9th August, and moreover only described as aggression "acts to the detriment of Polish rights and interests"; and Polish Ambassador had only the day before complained to me of the number of cases of persecution of Polish minority in Germany.
State Secretary replied with some heat that though isolated cases of persecution of Poles had occurred, there was absolutely no comparison between them and what was being done in Poland. Hitherto, he said, not too much stress had been laid in the German papers on what was happening in this respect, but there was a limit to everything and that limit had now been reached. As he put it the bottle was full to the top. (In other words Herr Hitler's patience was now exhausted.)
He admitted the militarisation of Danzig, but said that its object had been entirely defensive in order to protect the town against what should have been its protector.
As regards the Polish note of 10th August he said that if any German intervention to the detriment of Polish rights and interests in Danzig was to be regarded as an act of aggression, it meant asking Germany to disinterest herself altogether in the Free City, since the whole basis of her former negotiations with Poland had been with a view to modifying the position there in favour of Germany. It was a claim which made the whole situation intolerable and even His Majesty's Government had admitted that there might be modifications to be made.
I told Baron von Weizsäcker that the trouble was that Germany could never see but one side to any question, and always wanted everything modified in her favour. We disputed with acrimony about the rights and wrongs of the case without either apparently convincing the other. With these details I need not trouble you.
I eventually said that what was done could not now be undone. We seemed to be rapidly drifting towards a situation in which neither side would be in a position to give way and from which war would ensue. Did Herr Hitler want war? I was prepared to believe that Germany would not yield to intimidation. Nor certainly could His Majesty's Government. If Germany resorted to force, we would resist with force. There could be no possible
FURTHER DETERIORATION DANZIG SITUATION 117
doubt whatsoever about that. The position had been finally defined in your Lordship's speech at Chatham House on 29th June and by the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons on 10th July. From that attitude we could not deviate.
In reply to a suggestion of mine, State Secretary observed that whereas it might just have been possible before 5th August, it was absolutely out of the question now to imagine that Germany could be the first to make any gesture. Even apart from the recent Polish ultimatum and the verbal note about aggression, a German initiative could hardly have been possible in view of Colonel Beck's speech on 5th May in which he had deigned to say that if Germany accepted the principles laid down by him Poland would be ready to talk, but not otherwise. That was language which Germany could not admit. I made the obvious retort. State Secretary's only reply was that the fact remained that to talk of a German initiative now was completely academic.
Baron von Weizsäcker then proceeded to say that the trouble was that the German Government's appreciation of the situation was totally different from that of His Majesty's Government. Germany, with innumerable cases of the persecution of Germans before her eyes, could not agree that the Poles were showing calm and restraint: Germany believed that Poland was deliberately running with her eyes shut to ruin: Germany was convinced that His Majesty's Government did not realise whither their policy of encirclement and blind assistance to Poland were leading them and Europe: and that finally his own Government did not, would not and could not believe that Britain would fight under all circumstances whatever folly the Poles might commit.
I told Baron von Weizsäcker that the last was a very dangerous theory and sounded like Herr von Ribbentrop who had never been able to understand the British mentality. If the Poles were compelled by any act of Germany to resort to arms to defend themselves there was not a shadow of doubt that we would give them our full armed support. We had made that abundantly clear and Germany would be making a tragic mistake if she imagined the contrary.
State Secretary replied that he would put it differently (and he gave me to understand that the phrase was not his own). Germany believed that the attitude of the Poles would be or was
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such as to free the British Government from any obligation to follow blindly every eccentric step on the part of a lunatic.
I told the State Secretary that we were talking in a circle. The Polish Government had shown extreme prudence hitherto, and would, moreover, take no major step without previous consultation with us; just as in accordance with their military agreement I understood that the German Government would take no irrevocable step without prior consultation with the Italian Government. His Majesty's Government had given their word and must be sole judges of their action. It was consequently hypothetical to speak of "under all circumstances" or of blindly "following Poland's lead."
Baron von Weizsäcker's reply was that Poland had not consulted His Majesty's Government either before M. Chodacki, who could not have so acted without previous authority from Colonel Beck, had addressed his ultimatum to Danzig Senate, or before replying to the German verbal note of 9th August. Yet, in his opinion, both these were major steps fraught with the most serious consequences. He admitted that some of the Poles were, or wished to be, prudent, but they were, unfortunately, not the rulers of Poland to-day. The real policy of Poland, over which His Majesty's Government had no control and of which they probably were ignorant, was the thousands of cases of persecution and excesses against Germans in Poland. It was a policy based on the Polish belief in the unlimited support of the British and French Governments. Who, he asked, could now induce the Poles to abandon such methods? It was those methods, combined with the Polish press articles, which encouraged them, which made the situation no longer tenable and so extremely dangerous. The matter had since 4h August changed to one of the utmost seriousness and urgency. Things had drifted along till now, but the point had been reached when they could drift no longer.
There is no doubt that Baron von Weizsäcker was expressing, as he assured me very solemnly that he was, the considered views of his Government and the position as he himself sees it. He told me, though he admitted that he could not say anything for certain, that it was likely that Herr Hitler would in fact attend the Tannenberg celebration on 27th August. But he hinted that things might not only depend on a speech. Yet if nothing happens
FURTHER DETERIORATION DANZIG SITUATION 119
between now and then I fear that we must at least expect there on Herr Hitler's part a warlike pronouncement from which it may well be difficult for him later to withdraw. As Baron von Weizsäcker himself observed, the situation in one respect was even worse than last year as Mr. Chamberlain could not again come out to Germany.
I was impressed by one thing, namely, Baron von Weizsäcker's detachment and calm. He seemed very confident, and professed to believe that Russian assistance to the Poles would not only be entirely negligible, but that the U.S.S.R. would even in the end join in sharing in the Polish spoils. Nor did my insistence on the inevitability of British intervention seem to move him.
M. BURCKHARDT accepted an invitation from Herr Hitler to visit him at Berchtesgaden. M. Burckhardt accordingly had a conversation of a private character with Herr Hitler on the 11th August, in the course of which it is understood that the Danzig question in its relationship to the general European situation was discussed between them.
(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 15, 1939.
I HAVE the impression that Herr Hitler is still undecided, and anxious to avoid war and to hold his hand if he can do so without losing face. As there is a possibility of him not forcing the issue, it is evidently essential to give him no excuse for acting, whether or not conversations about Danzig at some future time may be possible. It therefore seems of the first importance to endeavour to get the local issues (customs inspectors, margarine and herrings) settled at once, and not to let questions of procedure or
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"face" at Danzig stand in the way. It also seems essential that the Polish Government should make every effort to moderate their press, even in the face of a German press campaign and to intensify their efforts to prevent attacks on their German minority.
2. In dealing with local Danzig issues, I would beg M. Beck to work through the intermediary of the High Commissioner, or at all events after consultation with him, rather than direct with the Senate. I should like M. Beck to treat M. Burckhardt with the fullest confidence, as in my opinion he is doing his best in a very difficult situation.
3. While the present moment may not be opportune for negotiations on general issues as opposed to local differences, the Polish Government would in my judgment do well to continue to make it plain that, provided essentials can be secured, they are at all times ready to examine the possibility of negotiation over Danzig if there is a prospect of success. I regard such an attitude as important from the point of view of world opinion.
4. Before speaking to M. Beck on the above lines, please concert with your French colleague who will be receiving generally similar instructions in order that you may take approximately the same line with M. Beck.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 15, 1939.
I SPOKE to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the sense of your telegram of 15th August.* M. Beck agreed that Herr Hitler was probably still undecided as to his course of action. German military activity was nevertheless disturbing, though he did not take too alarmist a view at present.
2. M. Beck agreed that an effort should be made to settle local issues in Danzig and said that he was endeavouring to separate economic from political questions with a view to settling the former quickly and equitably. He hoped that to-morrow's con-
* No. 50.
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versation between Polish Commissioner-General and President of the Senate might lead to some results.
3. M. Beck said that if he could not arrive at a direct settlement of new incident which had occurred he would invoke M. Burckhardt's intervention.
4. This incident was as follows: Three Polish customs inspectors, while making their round of harbour in a motor boat, discovered a German vessel entering the harbour without lights, and, as they suspected smuggling of munitions, turned their searchlight on her. On landing, they were arrested by Danzig police. Polish Commissioner-General has sent in a note demanding their release, though not in unduly energetic language. If he did not receive a reply shortly he would invite High Commissioner to settle this incident.
5. As regards press, he remarked that it was not the Poles but the British and other foreign press who first suggested that firmness of the Polish Government had caused the Senate to yield in the matter of Polish customs inspectors.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 24, 1939.
WHILE I am of course not in a position to check all the allegations made by the German press of minority persecutions here, I am satisfied from enquiries I have made that the campaign is a gross distortion and exaggeration of the facts.
2. Accusations of beating with chains, throwing on barbed wire, being forced to shout insults against Herr Hitler in chorus, &c., are merely silly, but many individual cases specified have been disproved.
3. M. Karletan, for instance, arrested in connexion with murder of Polish policeman on 15th August, was alleged by German press to have been beaten to death and his wife and children thrown out of the window. Manchester Guardian correspondent tells me that he visited him in prison on Sunday and
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found him in good health. He had not been beaten or physically injured at all. Story about wife and child was equally devoid of any foundation whatever.
4. It is true that many of the German minority have left Poland illegally, but I hear both from the Acting British Consul at Katowice and from British Vice-Consul at Lodz that the Germans themselves have told many to leave. There was an initial exodus last May. Many subsequently asked to come back, but the Poles were not anxious to have them, as they had no doubt been trained in propaganda, sabotage and espionage activities, such as Jungdeutsche Partei in Katowice have been conducting. In Lodz area some of those who left recently raised all the money and credit they could before leaving, and the Voivode told Vice-Consul on 20th August that from evidence available he was satisfied that German Consulate had transferred these funds to Germany and was no doubt privy to their departure. Many of those who left, especially from Lodz, are of the intelligentsia, and they are said to include Herr Witz, leader of Volksbund. British Vice-Consul at Lodz says many German organisations have been closed there, but they were notoriously conducting Nazi propaganda, and Polish authorities could not ignore it altogether. I think, however, many Germans have lost their jobs, especially in factories of military or semi-military importance, and some 2,000 workmen have left Tomaszow.
5. Many of those who left their homes undoubtedly did so because they wished to be on German side of the front in event of war, and in general there is by common consent less individual friction with members of the minority now than last May.
6. Ministry for Foreign Affairs tell me that figure of 76,000 refugees quoted in German press is a gross exaggeration. I should say 17,000 was the absolute maximum. Gazeta Polska correspondent in Berlin has asked to be shown refugee camps of the 76,000 and apparently received no answer.
7. In Silesia the frontier is not fully open, but a special frontier card system is in force and considerable daily traffic is possible. The German authorities having closed frontier in Rybnik area where Poles cross to Poland, Polish authorities closed it elsewhere where Germans cross into Germany. In view of revelations of activities of Jungdeutsche Partei, the Polish
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authorities feel greater control of frontier traffic is in any case necessary.
8. Polish press has recently published many complaints of wholesale removal of Poles from frontier districts in Silesia and East Prussia to the interior of Germany, smashing of property, especially in Allenstein district, closing of all Polish libraries in Silesia and other forms of persecution. According to semi-official Gazeta Polska, from April to June there were recorded 976 acts of violence against the minority, and since then the number of cases is stated to have increased beyond all bounds. For the last two days, however, no further information has been published, as M. Beck has damped the press down.
9. In general, responsible organs of the Polish press have not published violent tirades, still less claimed German territory for Poland, and A.B.C., recently quoted in Germany, is a violent Opposition newspaper with little reputation and less influence.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 26, 1939.
SERIES of incidents again occurred yesterday on German frontier.
2. Polish patrol met party Germans 1 kilometre from East Prussian frontier near Pelta. Germans opened fire. Polish patrol replied, killing leader, whose body is being returned.
3. German bands also crossed Silesian frontier near Szczyglo, twice near Rybnik and twice elsewhere, firing shots and attacking blockhouses and customs posts with machine guns and hand grenades. Poles have protested vigorously to Berlin.
4. Gazeta Polska, in inspired leader to-day, says these are more than incidents. They are clearly prepared acts of aggression of para-military disciplined detachments supplied with regular army's arms, and in one case it was a regular army detachment. Attacks more or less continuous.
5. These incidents did not cause Poland to forsake calm and strong attitude of defence. Facts spoke for themselves and acts
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of aggression came from German side. This was best answer to ravings of German press.
6. Ministry for Foreign Affairs state uniformed German detachment has since shot Pole across frontier and wounded another.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 26, 1939.
MINISTRY for Foreign Affairs categorically deny story recounted by Herr Hitler to French Ambassador that twenty-four Germans were recently killed at Lodz and eight at Bielsko. Story is without any foundation whatever.
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 27, 1939.
So far as I can judge, German allegations of mass ill-treatment of German minority by Polish authorities are gross exaggerations, if not complete falsifications.
2. There is no sign of any loss of control of situation by Polish civil authorities. Warsaw (and so far as I can ascertain the rest of Poland) is still completely calm.
3. Such allegations are reminiscent of Nazi propaganda methods regarding Czecho-Slovakia last year.
4. In any case it is purely and simply deliberate German provocation in accordance with fixed policy that has since March exacerbated feeling between the two nationalities. I suppose this has been done with object of (a) creating war spirit in Germany, (b) impressing public opinion abroad, (c) provoking either defeatism or apparent aggression in Poland.
5. It has signally failed to achieve either of the two latter objects.
6. It is noteworthy that Danzig was hardly mentioned by Herr Hitler.
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7. German treatment of Czech Jews and Polish minority is apparently negligible factor compared with alleged sufferings of Germans in Poland, where, be it noted, they do not amount to more than 10 per cent. of population in any commune.
8. In face of these facts, it can hardly be doubted that, if Herr Hitler decides on war, it is for the sole purpose of destroying Polish independence.
9. I shall lose no opportunity of impressing on Minister for Foreign Affairs necessity of doing everything possible to prove that Herr Hitler's allegations regarding German minority are false.