Prime Minister, August 29, 1939

Speech in the House of Commons



German Chancellor to His Majesty's Government, August 29, 1939

Reply to No. 74



Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 29, 1939

Comment on two points in No. 78, i.e., German reply to British proposals for direct German-Polish negotiations and an international guarantee



Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 29, 1939

Comment on interview with Herr Hitler on August 29



Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) telegram) August 30, 1939

Acknowledgment of No. 78. Unreasonableness of German request for immediate visit of a Polish plenipotentiary to Berlin



Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 30, 1939

Action taken on No. 81



Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) (telegram), August 30, 1939

Interim reply to No. 78



Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 30, 1939

Views on method of conducting German-Polish negotiations



Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) (telegram), August 30, 1939

Suggestions tending to improve the situation



Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 30, 1939

Message from M. Beck regarding incidents and proposed British answer to Herr Hitler



Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) (telegram), August 30, 1939

Instructions to inform German Government of renewed representations made in Warsaw



Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) (telegram), August 30, 1939

Suggestion to be put to German Government about request for a Polish plenipotentiary



His Majesty's Government to German Chancellor, August 30, 1939

Reply to No. 78



Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) (telegram), August 30, 1939

Instructions to communicate No. 89 to M. Beck and to ask for reply



Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 30, 1939

Conversation with Herr von Ribbentrop regarding to No. 85



Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 30, 1939

Interview with Herr von Ribbentrop at which the latter read out the German proposals



Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 31, 1939

Report of interview with M. Beck as instructed in No. 90



Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) (telegram), August 31 1939

Instructions for joint Anglo-French suggestion to the Polish Government to confirm to German Government their acceptance of principle of direct discussions



Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) (telegram), August 31, 1939

Suggestions for German-Polish discussions of any German proposals



Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 31, 1939

Conversation with M. Beck regarding Polish reply to No. 90



Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), August 31, 1939

Text of Polish reply to No. 90 confirming readiness for direct German Polish discussions



German Government to His Majesty's Government, August 31, 1939

Note containing German proposals now regarded by them as rejected



Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin) (telegram), August 31, 1939

Instructions to inform German government of Polish steps to establish contact



Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) (telegram), September 1, 1939

Instructions to speak to M. Beck about certain points in the Polish reply contained in No. 97



Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw) to Viscount Halifax (telegram), September 1, 1939

Action on No. 100 rendered useless by German invasion



No. 77.

Speech by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on August 29, 1939.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain): Since the House met on Thursday last there has been little change in the main features of the situation. The catastrophe, as I said then, is not

* No. 75.


yet on us, but I cannot say that the danger of it has yet in any way receded. In these circumstances it might perhaps have seemed that it was unnecessary to ask the House to meet again before the date which had been fixed, but in times like these we have felt that it was right that the House should be kept as far as possible continuously informed of all the developments in the situation as they took place. That will continue to be the principle which will guide us in further meetings of this House.

There is one thing that I would like to say at this moment with regard to the press. I think it is necessary once more to urge the press to exercise the utmost restraint at a time when it is quite possible for a few thoughtless words in a paper, perhaps not of particular importance, to wreck the whole of the efforts which are being made by the Government to obtain a satisfactory solution. I have heard that an account purporting to be a verbatim description of the communication of the British Government to Herr Hitler was telegraphed to another country last night or this morning. Such an account could only be an invention from beginning to end. It is, I think, very unfortunate that journalists in the exercise of their profession should take such responsibilities upon themselves, responsibilities which affect not only themselves, but the inhabitants, perhaps, of all the countries in the world.

I hope that it will not be necessary this afternoon to have any long Debate. I will attempt to give the House an account of the events of the last few days, but, of course, there has been no change in the policy of the Government, and, therefore, there would not appear to be any necessity for any lengthy discussion. On the day after the House adjourned-on Friday, that is-we received information in the course of the morning that the German Chancellor had asked the British Ambassador in Berlin to call upon him at half-past one that day, and in the course of the afternoon we were told by telephone that Sir Nevile Henderson had had an interview lasting about an hour and a half with Herr Hitler, that he was sending us an account of that interview, and that Herr Hitler had suggested to him that it would be a good thing if he were to fly over to this country the next morning in order to give us a verbal and more extended account of the conversation. We received the record of the interview from our


Ambassador on that evening, on Friday evening, but it was not completely deciphered until after midnight, and I did not myself see the whole of it until the next morning, Saturday morning. On Saturday Sir Nevile Henderson arrived by plane from Berlin shortly before lunch, and we understood from him that in Berlin it was not considered to be necessary that he should go back the same day, as the German Government were very anxious that we should give careful study to the communication he had to make to us. Accordingly, we devoted the whole of Saturday and the Sunday morning to a very careful, exhaustive and thorough consideration of the document which was brought to us by the British Ambassador and of the reply that we proposed to send back, and our final answer was taken by the Ambassador yesterday afternoon, when he flew back to Berlin and delivered it to the Chancellor last night.

I should be glad if I could disclose to the House the fullest information as to the contents of the communications exchanged with Herr Hitler, but hon. members will understand that in a situation of such extreme delicacy, and when issues so grave hang precariously in the balance, it is not in the public interest to publish these confidential communications or to comment on them in detail at this stage. I am, however, able to indicate in quite general terms some of the main points with which they deal. Herr Hitler was concerned to impress upon His Majesty's Government his wish for an Anglo-German understanding of a complete and lasting character. On the other hand, he left His Majesty's Government in no doubt of his views as to the urgency of settling the German-Polish question. His Majesty's Government have also frequently expressed their desire to see the realisation of such an Anglo-German understanding, and as soon as circumstances permit they would naturally welcome an opportunity of discussing with Germany the several issues a settlement of which would have to find a place in any permanent agreement. But everything turns upon the manner in which the immediate differences between Germany and Poland can be handled and the nature of the proposals which might be made for any settlement. We have made it plain that our obligations to Poland, cast into formal shape by the agreement which was signed on 25th August, on Friday last, will be carried out. The House will remember


that the Government have said more than once, publicly, that the German-Polish differences should be capable of solution by peaceful means.

Meanwhile, the first prerequisite, if there is to be any general and useful discussion, is that the tension created by frontier clashes and by reports of incidents on both sides of the border should be diminished. His Majesty's Government accordingly hope that both Governments will use their best endeavours to prevent the occurrence of such incidents, the circulation of exaggerated reports, and all other activities that result in dangerous inflammation of opinion. His Majesty's Government would hope that if an equitable settlement of Polish-German differences could be reached by free negotiation, this might in turn lead on to a wider agreement which would accrue to the lasting benefit of Europe and of the world at large. At this moment the position is that we are waiting for the reply of Herr Hitler to our communication. On the nature of that reply depends whether further time can be given for the exploration of the situation and for the operation of the many forces which are working for peace. A waiting period of that kind is often very trying, but nothing, I think, can be more remarkable than the calm which characterises the attitude of the whole British people. It seems to me that there are two explanations of that attitude. The first is that none of us has any doubt of where our duty lies. There is no difference of opinion among us; there is no weakening of our determination. The second explanation is our confidence that we are ready for any eventuality.

The House might like to hear one or two particulars of the preparations which have been made. Obviously, there are many things which I cannot very well say here because they could not be confined to those whom I see before me. My statement must, therefore, be in very general terms. Some of the measures which we had to take, such as those in connexion with requisitioning, necessarily must cause some degree of inconvenience to the public. I am confident that the people of the country generally recognise that the nation's needs must now be paramount and that they will submit willingly, and even cheerfully, to any inconvenience or hardships that may be involved. At any rate, we have not had to begin here by issuing rationing cards. To deal


first with the active defence of the country, the air defence of Great Britain has been placed in a state of instant readiness. The ground anti-aircraft defences have been deployed and they are manned by territorial anti-aircraft units. The regular squadrons of the Royal Air Force have been brought up to war strength by the addition of the necessary reservists, including a portion of the Volunteer Reserve. The fighter and general reconnaissance squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force have been called up and are standing ready and the balloon barrage is in position. The Observer Corps are at their posts, and, indeed, the whole warning system is ready night and day to be brought into instant operation. The coast defences are ready and are manned by the coast defence units of the Territorial Army. Arrangements have also been made for the protection by the National Defence companies, by the Militia and by units of the Territorial Army of a very large number of important points whose safety is essential for the national war effort.

As to the Navy, the House will remember that in July last it was announced that the Reserve Fleet would be called up at the beginning of August in order to take part in combined Fleet and Air exercises. For that purpose a number of reservists were called up under the provisions of the Reserves and Auxiliary Forces Act. As a result, the Navy was in an advanced state of preparedness when the present crisis arose, and the whole of our fighting Fleet is now ready at a moment's notice to take up the dispositions which would be necessary in war. A number of other measures have been taken during the past week to increase the state of our naval preparedness. I need not go into all the details, but the naval officers in charge of the various commercial ports have been appointed and have taken up their duties, and the naval ports and bases have been put into an advanced state of preparedness. As hon. members will be aware, the Admiralty has also assumed control of merchant shipping, acting under the powers conferred by the Emergency Powers Act, and written instructions have already been issued to merchant shipping on various routes. A considerable number of movements have been carried out of units of the armed land forces both at home and overseas. These movements are part of prearranged plans to provide that in order to ensure a greater state of readiness a


number of units should, if possible, move to their war stations before the outbreak of war. The Civil Defence regional organisation has been placed on war footing. Regional commissioners and their staffs are at their war stations.

The main responsibility for the organisation of Civil Defence measures generally rests with the local authorities. Instructions have been sent to the local authorities to complete all the preparatory steps so that action can be taken at the shortest notice. Plans for the evacuation of school children, mothers with young children, expectant mothers and blind persons from certain congested areas-plans which have involved an immense amount of detailed thinking-are ready. Those who have to carry out those plans have been recalled for duty, school teachers in evacuation areas have been kept in easy reach of school assembly points since Saturday, and a rehearsal of the arrangements for evacuating school children was carried out yesterday. Nearly a week ago local authorities were warned to make arrangements for the extinction of public lighting and to prepare the necessary aids to movement when the lighting has been extinguished. Arrangements have been completed for calling up at very short notice of the personnel of the Air-Raid Precautions Service, and duty officers are available throughout the twenty-four hours at key posts. The last item I mention is that the necessary preliminary steps have been taken to prepare hospitals for the reception of casualties.

I have given a number of instances of steps which have been taken over and above the measures which have already been put into operation. A complete and continuous survey is being carried out over the whole range of our defence preparations, and preparatory measures are being taken in order to ensure that further precautionary measures, if and when they should be found necessary, can be given effect to as rapidly as possible. The instances I have given to the House are merely illustrations of the general state of readiness, of which the House and the country are aware. I think that they justify and partly account for the general absence of fear, or, indeed, of any violent emotion. The British people are said sometimes to be slow to make up their minds, but, having made them up, they do not readily let go. The issue of peace or war is still undecided, and we still will hope,


and still will work, for peace; but we will abate no jot of our resolution to hold fast to the line which we have laid down for ourselves.

No. 78.

Reply of the German Chancellor to the ommunication of August 28, 1939, from His Majesty's Government.* This reply was handed to Sir N. Henderson by Herr Hitler during the evening of August 29, 1939.


THE British Ambassador in Berlin has submitted to the British Government suggestions which I felt bound to make in order-

(1) to give expression once more to the will of the Reich Government for sincere Anglo-German understanding, co-operation and friendship;

(2) to leave no room for doubt as to fact that such an understanding could not be bought at the price of a renunciation of vital German interests, let alone the abandonment of demands which are based as much upon common human justice as upon the national dignity and honour of our people.

The German Government have noted with satisfaction from the reply of the British Government and from the oral explanations given by the British Ambassador that the British Government for their part are also prepared to improve the relationship between Germany and England and to develop and extend it in the sense of the German suggestion.

In this connexion, the British Government are similarly convinced that the removal of the German-Polish tension, which has become unbearable, is the pre-requisite for the realisation of this hope.

Since the autumn of the past year, and on the last occasion in March, 1939, there were submitted to the Polish Government proposals, both oral and written, which, having regard to the friendship then existing between Germany and Poland, offered

* No. 74


the possibility of a solution of the questions in dispute acceptable to both parties. The British Government are aware that the Polish Government saw fit, in March last, finally to reject these proposals. At the same time, they used this rejection as a pretext or an occasion for taking military measures which have since been continuously intensified. Already in the middle of last month Poland was in effect in a state of mobilisation. This was accompanied by numerous encroachments in the Free City of Danzig due to the instigation of the Polish authorities; threatening demands in the nature of ultimata, varying only in degree, were addressed to that City. A closing of the frontiers, at first in the form of a measure of customs policy but extended later in a military sense affecting also traffic and communications, was imposed with the object of bringing about the political exhaustion and economic destruction of this German community.

To this were added barbaric actions of maltreatment which cry to Heaven, and other kinds of persecution of the large German national group in Poland which extended even to the killing of many resident Germans or to their forcible removal under the most cruel conditions. This state of affairs is unbearable for a Great Power. It has now forced Germany, after remaining a passive onlooker for many months, in her turn to take the necessary steps for the safeguarding of justified German interests. And indeed the German Government can but assure the British Government in the most solemn manner that a condition of affairs has now been reached which can no longer be accepted or observed with indifference.

The demands of the German Government are in conformity with the revision of the Versailles Treaty in regard to this territory which has always been recognised as being necessary: viz., return of Danzig and the Corridor to Germany, the safeguarding of the existence of the German national group in the territories remaining to Poland.

The German Government note with satisfaction that the British Government also are in principle convinced that some solution must be found for the new situation which has arisen.

They further feel justified in assuming that the British Government too can have no doubt that it is a question now of conditions, for the elimination of which there no longer remain days,


still less weeks, but perhaps only hours. For in the disorganised state of affairs obtaining in Poland, the possibility of incidents intervening, which it might be impossible for Germany to tolerate, must at any moment be reckoned with.

While the British Government may still believe that these grave differences can be resolved by way of direct negotiations, the German Government unfortunately can no longer share this view as a matter of course. For they have made the attempt to embark on such peaceful negotiations, but, instead of receiving any support from the Polish Government, they were rebuffed by the sudden introduction of measures of a military character in favour of the development alluded to above.

The British Government attach importance to two considerations: (1) that the existing danger of an imminent explosion should be eliminated as quickly as possible by direct negotiation, and (2) that the existence of the Polish State, in the form in which it would then continue to exist, should be adequately safeguarded in the economic and political sphere by means of international guarantees.

On this subject the German Government makes the following declaration:-

Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, they are nevertheless prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter into direct discussions. They do so, as has already been emphasised, solely as the result of the impression made upon them by the written statement received from the British Government that they too desire a pact of friendship in accordance with the general lines indicated to the British Ambassador.

The German Government desire in this way to give the British Government and the British nation a proof of the sincerity of Germany's intentions to enter into a lasting friendship with Great Britain.

The Government of the Reich felt, however, bound to point out to the British Government that in the event of a territorial rearrangement in Poland they would no longer be able to bind themselves to give guarantees or to participate in guarantees without the U.S.S.R. being associated therewith.

For the rest, in making these proposals the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland's vital


interests or questioning the existence of an independent Polish State. The German Government, accordingly, in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government's offer of their good offices in securing the despatch to Berlin of a Polish Emissary with full powers. They count on the arrival of this Emissary on Wednesday, the 30th August, 1939.

The German Government will immediately draw up proposals for a solution acceptable to themselves and will, if possible, place these at the disposal of the British Government before the arrival of the Polish negotiator.

No. 79.

Sir N. Henderson to Viscount Halifax (received 9:15 p. m.).

(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 29, 1939.

HERR HITLER handed me German reply at 7.15 this evening. Translation of full text will follow as soon as possible.

2. In reply to two British proposals, namely, for direct German-Polish negotiations and international guarantee of any settlement, German Government declares:-

(1) That, in spite of its scepticism as to the prospect of their success, it accepts direct negotiation solely out of desire to ensure lasting friendship with Britain, and

(2) In the case of any modifications of territory German Government cannot undertake or participate in any guarantees without consulting the U.S.S.R.

3. Note observes that German proposals have never had for their object any diminution of Polish vital interests, and declares that German Government accepts mediation of Great Britain with a view to visit to Berlin of some Polish plenipotentiary. German Government, note adds, counts on arrival of such plenipotentiary to-morrow, Wednesday, 30th August.

4. I remarked that this phrase sounded like an ultimatum, but after some heated remarks both Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop assured me that it was only intended to stress urgency of the moment when the two fully mobilised armies were standing face to face.

5. I said that I would transmit this suggestion immediately


to His Majesty's Government, and asked whether, if such Polish plenipotentiary did come, we could assume that he would be well received and that discussions would be conducted on footing of complete equality. Herr Hitler's reply was "of course."

6. German demands are declared to be revision of Versailles Treaty; namely, return of Danzig and the Corridor to Germany, security for lives of German national minorities in the rest of Poland; note concludes with statement that the German Government will immediately elaborate proposals for an acceptable solution, and inform British Government, if possible, before arrival of Polish plentipotentiary.

No. 80.

Sir N. Henderson to Viscount Halifax (received 10:25 p. m.).

(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 19, 1939.

INTERVIEW this evening was of a stormy character and Herr Hitler far less reasonable than yesterday. Press announcement this evening that five more Germans had been killed in Poland and news of Polish mobilisation had obviously excited him.

2. He kept saying that he wanted British friendship more than anything in the world, but he could not sacrifice Germany's vital interests therefor, and that for His Majesty's Government to make a bargain over such a matter was an unendurable proposition. All my attempts to correct this complete misrepresentation of the case did not seem to impress him.

3. In reply to his reiterated statement that direct negotiations with Poland, though accepted by him, would be bound to fail, I told his Excellency that their success or failure depended on his goodwill or the reverse, and that the choice lay with him. It was, however, my bounden duty to leave him in no doubt that an attempt to impose his will on Poland by force would inevitably bring him into direct conflict with us.

4. It would have been useless to talk of a truce, since that can only depend on whether M. Beck or some other Polish representative came to Berlin or not.


No. 81.

Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 30, 1939, 2 a. m.

WE shall give careful consideration to German Government's reply,* but it is, of course, unreasonable to expect that we can produce a Polish representative in Berlin to-day, and German Government must not expect this.

It might be well for you at once to let this be known in proper quarters through appropriate channels. We hope you may receive our reply this afternoon.

No. 82.

Sir N. Henderson to Viscount Halifax (received 1 p. m.).

(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 30, 1939.

YOUR message** was conveyed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs at 4 a. m. this morning. I had made similar observation to Herr Hitler yesterday evening, his reply being that one could fly from Warsaw to Berlin in one and a half hours.

2. I repeated the message this morning by telephone to State Secretary, who said that it had already been conveyed to Herr Hitler. He added that something must be done as soon as possible.

3. While I still recommend that the Polish Government should swallow this eleventh-hour effort to establish direct contact with Herr Hitler, even if it be only to convince the world that they were prepared to make their own sacrifice for preservation of peace, one can only conclude from the German reply that Herr Hitler is determined to achieve his ends by so-called peaceful fair means if he can, but by force if he cannot. Much, of course, may also depend on detailed plan referred to in the last paragraph of the German reply.

4. Nevertheless, if Herr Hitler is allowed to continue to have the initiative, it seems to me that result can only be either war or once again victory for him by a display of force and encourage-

*No. 78.

**No. 81.


ment thereby to pursue the same course again next year or the year after.

No. 83.

Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin).

(Telegraphic) Foreign Office, August 30, 1939, 2:45 p. m.

WE are considering German note * with all urgency and shall send official reply later in afternoon.

We are representing at Warsaw how vital it is to reinforce all instructions for avoidance of frontier incidents, and I would beg you to confirm similar instructions on German side.

I welcome the evidence in the exchanges of views, which are taking place, of that desire for Anglo-German understanding of which I spoke yesterday in Parliament.

No. 84.

Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (received 10 a. m.).

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 30, 1939.

I FEEL sure that it would be impossible to induce the Polish Government to send M. Beck or any other representative immediately to Berlin to discuss a settlement on basis proposed by Herr Hitler. They would certainly sooner fight and perish rather than submit to such humiliation, especially after examples of Czecho-Slovakia, Lithuania and Austria.

2. I would suggest that if negotiations are to be between equals it is essential that they should take place in some neutral country or even possibly Italy, and that the basis for any negotiations should be some compromise between the clearly defined limits of March proposals on the German side and status quo on the Polish side.

3. Considering that the Polish Government, standing alone and when they were largely unprepared for war, refused the March terms it would surely be impossible for them to agree to proposals which appear to go beyond the March terms now that

* No. 78.


they have Great Britain as their ally, France has confirmed her support and world public opinion is clearly in favour of direct negotiations on equal terms and is behind Poland's resistance to a dictated settlement.

4. I am, of course, expressing no views to the Polish Government, nor am I communicating to them Herr Hitler's reply * till I receive instructions which I trust will be without delay.

No. 85.

Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 30, 1939, 5:30 p. m.

ATMOSPHERE may be improved if strict instructions are given or confirmed by Polish Government to all their military and civil authorities:-

(1) Not to fire on fugitives or members of the German minority who cause trouble, but to arrest them;

(2) To abstain themselves from personal violence to members of German minority, and to prevent similar violence on the part of the population;

(3) To allow members of the German minority wishing to leave Poland to pass freely;

(4) To stop inflammatory radio propaganda.

Please inform M. Beck, adding that I realise that Herr Hitler is using reports to justify immoderate action, but I am anxious to deprive him of this pretext. I am requesting German Government to reciprocate; and warning them that Polish Government can only be expected to maintain such instructions if no provocation is offered by members of the German minority.

No. 86.

Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (received 8:15 p. m.).

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 30, 1939.

M. BECK has asked me to say:-

1. His Majesty's Government may rest absolutely assured that Polish Government have no intention of provoking

* No. 78.


any incidents. On the other hand, they point out that German provocation at Danzig is becoming more and more intolerable.

2. In connexion with proposed British answer to Herr Hitler, Polish Government feels sure that His Majesty's Government will not express any definite views on problems concerning Poland without consulting Polish Government.

No. 87.

Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 30, 1939, 5-30 p. m.

IN informing German Government of the renewed representations which have been made in Warsaw, please make it clear that Polish Government can only be expected to maintain an attitude of complete restraint if German Government reciprocate on their side of frontier and if no provocation is offered by members of German minority in Poland. Reports are current that Germans have committed acts of sabotage which would justify the sternest measures.

No. 88.

Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 30, 1939, 6:50 p. m.

WE understand that German Government are insisting that a Polish representative with full powers must come to Berlin to receive German proposals.

2. We cannot advise Polish Government to comply with this procedure, which is wholly unreasonable.

3. Could you not suggest to German Government that they adopt the normal procedure, when their proposals are ready, of inviting Polish Ambassador to call and handing proposals to him for transmission to Warsaw and inviting suggestions as to conduct of negotiations.

4. German Government have been good enough to promise they will communicate proposals also to His Majesty's Govern-


ment. If latter think they offer reasonable basis they can be counted on to do their best in Warsaw to facilitate negotiations.

No. 89.

Reply of His Majesty's Government to the German Chancellor's Communication of August 29, 1939.* This reply was handed by Sir N. Henderson to Herr von Ribbentrop at Midnight on August 30, 1939.

His Majesty's Government appreciate the friendly reference in the Declaration contained in the reply of the German Government to the latter's desire for an Anglo-German understanding and to their statement of the influence which this consideration has exercised upon their policy.

2. His Majesty's Government repeat that they reciprocate the German Government's desire for improved relations, but it will be recognised that they could not sacrifice the interests of other friends in order to obtain that improvement. They fully understand that the German Government cannot sacrifice Germany's vital interests, but the Polish Government are in the same position and His Majesty's Government believe that the vital interests of the two countries are not incompatible.

3. His Majesty's Government note that the German Government accept the British proposal and are prepared to enter into direct discussions with the Polish Government.

4. His Majesty's Government understand that the German Government accept in principle the condition that any settlement should be made the subject of an international guarantee. The question of who shall participate in this guarantee will have to be discussed further, and His Majesty's Government hope that to avoid loss of time the German Government will take immediate steps to obtain the assent of the U.S.S.R., whose participation in the Guarantee His Majesty's Government have always assumed.

5. His Majesty's Government also note that the German Government accept the position of the British Government as to Poland's vital interests and independence.

6. His Majesty's Government must make an express reservation in regard to the statement of the particular demands put

* No. 78.


forward by the German Government in an earlier passage in their reply. They understand that the German Government are drawing up proposals for a solution. No doubt these proposals will be fully examined during the discussions. It can then be determined how far they are compatible with the essential conditions which His Majesty's Government have stated and which in principle the German Government have expressed their willingness to accept.

7. His Majesty's Government are at once informing the Polish Government of the German Government's reply. The method of contact and arrangements for discussions must obviously be agreed with all urgency between the German and Polish Governments, but in His Majesty's Government's view it would be impracticable to establish contact so early as to-day.

8. His Majesty's Government fully recognise the need for speed in the initiation of discussion, and they share the apprehensions of the Chancellor arising from the proximity of two mobilised armies standing face to face. They would accordingly most strongly urge that both parties should undertake that, during the negotiations, no aggressive military movements will take place. His Majesty's Government feel confident that they could obtain such an undertaking from the Polish Government if the German Government would give similar assurances.

9. Further, His Majesty's Government would suggest that a temporary modus vivendi might be arranged for Danzig, which might prevent the occurrence of incidents tending to render German-Polish relations more difficult.

No. 90.

Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw).
(Sent to Sir H. Kennard on August 30 and acted on in the early morning of August 31.)

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 30, 1939.

MY telegram to Berlin gives the text of the reply of His Majesty's Government * to the German communication ** which has been repeated to you.

2. Please communicate it to M. Beck. In doing so, you should

*No. 89

**No. 78.


point out that, whilst the first part of the German Government's reply consists of an indefensible and misleading presentation of the German case, the really important part of the reply consists of Germany's acceptance of the proposal for direct discussion, of the suggestion of the proposed international guarantee, and Germany's assertion that she intends to respect Poland's vital interests.

3. It is perhaps unnecessary to take exception at this stage to much that finds place in the German reply, of which His Majesty's Government would be as critical as, they have no doubt, would be the Polish Government, but His Majesty's Government have made an express reservation in regard to statement of the particular demands put forward in the German note. The point that seemed to call for immediate comment was the German demand that a Polish representative should present himself at Berlin to-day. M. Beck will see the line we took last night on this (see my telegram to Berlin *) and the further reference we have made to point in our reply to German Government's latest communication. German Government are now drawing up proposals for a solution, and it will be in the light of these, and of other developments, that the decision as to future procedure, including place and conditions of discussion, will have to be taken.

4. M. Beck will see from the reply of His Majesty's Government that the proposal has been made for a military standstill during discussions, to which His Majesty's Government earnestly hope that the Polish Government will have no objection.

5. His Majesty's Government would be glad to have the views of the Polish Government urgently. In view of the fact that the Polish Government have authorised His Majesty's Government to say that they are prepared to enter into direct discussions with the German Government, His Majesty's Government hope that, provided method and general arrangement for discussions can be satisfactorily agreed, Polish Government will be prepared to do so without delay. We regard it as most important from the point of view of the internal situation in Germany and of world opinion that, so long as the German Government profess themselves ready to negotiate, no opportunity should be given them for placing the blame for a conflict on Poland.

*No. 81.


6. You should, of course, emphasise that His Majesty's Government have made it quite clear to Herr Hitler that they are irrevocably determined to implement their obligations without reserve. On this point there is no misunderstanding in Berlin. The position of the Polish Government is very different from that which they occupied last March, since it is now supported both by direct British guarantee and promise of British participation in guarantee of any settlement reached on bases we have indicated, and the conversations would be carried on against this background.

No. 91.

Sir N. Henderson to Viscount Halifax (received 2 45 a. m. August 31).

(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 30, 1939.

I INFORMED Herr von Ribbentrop to-night of the advice given to the Polish Government in your telegram of 30th August to Warsaw.*

2. Practically his only comment was that all provocation came from the side of Poland. I observed that His Majesty's Government had constantly warned the Polish Government that all provocative action should be vigorously discouraged and that I had reason to believe that the German press accounts were greatly exaggerated. Herr von Ribbentrop replied that His Majesty's Government's advice had had cursed ("verflucht") little effect. I mildly retorted that I was surprised to hear such language from a Minister for Foreign Affairs.

No. 92.

Sir N. Henderson to Viscount Halifax (received 9:30 a. m. August 31).

(Telegraphic.) Berlin, August 30, 1939.

I TOLD Herr von Ribbentrop this evening that His Majesty's Government found it difficult to advise Polish Government to accept procedure adumbrated in German reply, and suggested

*No. 85.


that he should adopt normal contact, i.e., that when German proposals were ready to invite Polish Ambassador to call and to hand him proposals for transmission to his Government with a view to immediate opening of negotiations. I added that if basis afforded prospect of settlement His Majesty's Government could be counted upon to do their best in Warsaw to temporize negotiations.

2. Herr von Ribbentrop's reply was to produce a lengthy document which he read out in German aloud at top speed. Imagining that he would eventually hand it to me I did not attempt to follow too closely the sixteen or more articles which it contained. Though I cannot therefore guarantee accuracy the main points were: restoration of Danzig to Germany; southern boundary of Corridor to be line Marienwerder, Graudenz, Bromberg, Schönlanke; plebiscite to be held in the Corridor on basis of population on 1st January, 1919, absolute majority to decide; international commission of British, French, Italian and Russian members to police the Corridor and guarantee reciprocal communications with Danzig and Gdynia pending result of the plebiscite; Gydnia to be reserved to Poland; Danzig to be purely commercial city and demilitarised.

3. When I asked Herr von Ribbentrop for text of these proposals in accordance with undertaking in the German reply of yesterday, he asserted that it was now too late as Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin by midnight.

4. I observed that to treat matter in this way meant that request for Polish representative to arrive in Berlin on 30th August constituted, in fact, an ultimatum in spite of what he and Herr Hitler had assured me yesterday. This he denied, saying that idea of an ultimatum was figment of my imagination. Why then I asked could he not adopt normal procedure and give me copy of proposals and ask Polish Ambassador to call on him, just as Herr Hitler had summoned me a few days ago, and hand them to him for communication to Polish Government? In the most violent terms Herr von Ribbentrop said that he would never ask the Ambassador to visit him. He hinted that if Polish Ambassador asked him for interview it might be different. I said that I would naturally inform my Government so at once. Whereupon he said while those were his personal views he would


bring all that I had said to Herr Hitler's notice. It was for Chancellor to decide.

5. We parted on that note, but I must tell you that Herr von Ribbentrop's whole demeanour during an unpleasant interview was aping Herr Hitler at his worst. He inveighed incidentally against Polish mobilisation, but I retorted that it was hardly surprising since Germany had also mobilised as Herr Hitler himself had admitted to me yesterday.

No. 93.

Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (received 8 a. m.).

(Telegraphic) Warsaw, August 31, 1939.

I HAVE communicated to M. Beck the reply of His Majesty's Government to Herr Hitler and made the comments therein in the sense of your telegram of 30th August.* M. Beck stated that before giving me a definite reply he would have to consult his Government but he could tell me at once that he would do everything possible to facilitate the efforts of His Majesty's Government which he greatly appreciated. I think he was greatly relieved to know that His Majesty's Government had not in any way committed themselves as regards demands put forward by German Government and he fully realised the main importance which His Majesty's Government attaches to the necessity for not giving the German Government any opportunity for placing the blame on Poland in any refusal to enter into direct negotiations.

2. He has promised me the considered reply of his government by mid-day to-morrow.**

3. I took the opportunity of impressing upon him again the necessity of avoiding any incidents in the meantime and asked him whether any had recently occurred. He said he had just heard that there had been a clash between German and Polish military forces but as at present informed he did not think it had amounted to more than an exchange of shots without serious casualties.

*No. 90.

**i.e., meaning August 31.


No. 94.

Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 31, 1939, 12 noon.

You should concert with your French colleague in suggesting to Polish Government that they should now make known to the German Government, preferably direct, but if not, through us, that they have been made aware of our last reply to German Government and that they confirm their acceptance of the principle of direct discussions.

French Government fear that German Government might take advantage of silence on part of Polish Government.

No. 95.

Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard (Warsaw).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 31, 1939, 1:45 p. m.

BERLIN telegram of 30th August.*

Please at once inform Polish Government and advise them, in view of fact that they have accepted principle of direct discussions, immediately to instruct Polish Ambassador in Berlin to say to German Government that, if latter have any proposals, he is ready to transmit them to his Government so that they may at once consider them and make suggestions for early discussions.

No. 96.

Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (received 7:15 p. m.)

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 31, 1939.

MY telegram of 31st August.**

M. Beck has just handed me in writing Polish reply to my démarche last night***; translation is in my immediately following telegram.# He particularly asked that it should be treated as most confidential.

*No. 92.

**No. 93

***i.e., the night of August 30/31.

#No. 97.


2. I asked M. Beck what steps he proposed to take in order to establish contact with the German Government. He said he would now instruct M. Lipski to seek an interview either with the Minister for Foreign Affairs or State Secretary in order to say Poland had accepted British proposals. I urged him to do this without delay.

3. I then asked him what attitude Polish Ambassador would adopt if Herr von Ribbentrop or whoever he saw handed him the German proposals. He said that M. Lipski would not be authorized to accept such a document as, in view of past experience, it might be accompanied by some sort of ultimatum. In his view it was essential that contact should be made in the first instance, and that then details should be discussed as to where, with whom, and on what basis negotiations should be commenced.

4. As regards Danzig he pointed out that the situation there was becoming extremely serious. Polish officials were being arrested, railway traffic was suspended, and he thought it essential that immediate steps should be taken to secure a modus vivendi as a result of which those arrested would be released and railway traffic would be resumed. He suggested M. Burckhardt might be able to effect this.

5. He confirmed that no other serious incidents had occurred, but stated that he feared that in connexion with any negotiations he would have to appeal to the intervention of His Majesty's Government.

6. He added that if invited to go to Berlin he would of course not go, as he had no intention of being treated like President Hacha.

No. 97.

Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (received 6:30 p. m.)

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 31, 1939.

FOLLOWING is text of Poland's reply dated 31st August, 1939:

"(1) Polish Government confirm their readiness which has previously been expressed for a direct exchange of views with the German Government on the basis pro-


posed by British Government and communicated to me by Lord Halifax's telegram of 28th August addressed to the British Ambassador, Warsaw.*

"(2) Polish government are also prepared on a reciprocal basis to give a formal guarantee that in the event of negotiations taking place Polish troops will not violate the frontiers of the German Reich provided a corresponding guarantee is given regarding non-violation of frontiers of Poland by troops of the German Reich.

"(3) In the present situation it is also essential to create a simple provisional modus vivendi in the Free City of Danzig.

"(4) As regards the suggestions communicated to Polish Government on 28th August through the intermediary of the British Ambassador at Warsaw, an explanation of what the British Government understands by international guarantee would be required in regard to relations between Poland and the German Reich. In default of an answer to this fundamental question the Polish Government are obliged completely to reserve their attitude towards this matter until such time as full explanations are received.

"(5) Polish Government express hope that in the event of conversations with the German Reich being initiated, they will continue to be able to take advantage of good offices of His Majesty's Government."

No. 98.

Message which was communicated to H.M. Ambassador in Berlin by the State Secretary on August 31, 1939, at 9:15 p. m.


HIS Majesty's Government informed the German Government, in a note dated the 28th August, 1939,** of their readiness to offer their mediation towards direct negotiations between

*Conveying the substance of No. 74.

**No. 74


Germany and Poland over the problems in dispute. In so doing they made it abundantly clear that they, too, were aware of the urgent need for progress in view of the continuous incidents and the general European tension. In a reply dated the 28th August,* the German Government, in spite of being sceptical as to the desire of the Polish Government to come to an understanding, declared themselves ready in the interests of peace to accept the British mediation or suggestion. After considering all the circumstances prevailing at the time, they considered it necessary in their note to point out that, if the danger of a catastrophe was to be avoided, then action must be taken readily and without delay. In this sense they declared themselves ready to receive a personage appointed by the Polish Government up to the evening of the 30th August, with the proviso that the latter was, in fact, empowered not only to discuss but to conduct and conclude negotiations.

Further, the German Government pointed out that they felt able to make the basic points regarding the offer of an understanding available to the British Government by the time the Polish negotiator arrived in Berlin.

Instead of a statement regarding the arrival of an authorised Polish personage, the first answer the Government of the Reich received to their readiness for an understanding was the news of the Polish mobilisation, and only towards 12 o'clock on the night of the 30th August, 1939, did they receive a somewhat general assurance of British readiness to help towards the commencement of negotiations.

Although the fact that the Polish negotiator expected by the Government of the Reich did not arrive removed the necessary condition for informing His Majesty's Government of the views of the German Government as regards possible bases of negotiation, since His Majesty's Government themselves had pleaded for direct negotiations between Germany and Poland, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Ribbentrop, gave the British Ambassador on the occasion of the presentation of the last British note precise information as to the text of the German proposals which would be regarded as a basis of negotiation in the event of the arrival of the Polish plenipotentiary.

*No. 78.


The Government of the German Reich considered themselves entitled to claim that in these circumstances a Polish personage would immediately be nominated, at any rate retroactively.

For the Reich Government cannot be expected for their part continually not only to emphasise their willingness to start negotiations, but actually to be ready to do so, while being from the Polish side merely put off with empty subterfuges and meaningless declarations.

It has once more been made clear as a result of a démarche which has meanwhile been made by the Polish Ambassador that the latter himself has no plenary powers either to enter into any discussion, or even to negotiate.

The Führer and the German Government have thus waited two days in vain for the arrival of a Polish negotiator with plenary powers.

In these circumstances the German Government regard their proposals as having this time too been to all intents and purposes rejected, although they consider that these proposals, in the form in which they were made known to the British Government also, were more than loyal, fair and practicable.

The Reich Government consider it timely to inform the public of the bases for negotiation which were communicated to the British Ambassador by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Ribbentrop.

The situation existing between the German Reich and Poland is at the moment of such a kind that any further incident can lead to an explosion on the part of the military forces which have taken up their position on both sides. Any peaceful solution must be framed in such a way as to ensure that the events which lie at the root of this situation cannot be repeated on the next occasion offered, and that thus not only the East of Europe, but also other territories shall not be brought into such a state of tension. The causes of this development lie in: (1) the impossible delineation of frontiers, as fixed by the Versailles dictate; (2) the impossible treatment of the minority in the ceded territories.

In making these proposals, the Reich Government are, therefore, actuated by the idea of finding a lasting solution which will remove the impossible situation created by frontier delineation, which may assure to both parties their vitally important line of


communication, which may-as far as it is at all possible-remove the minority problem and, in so far as this is not possible, may give the minorities the assurance of a tolerable future by means of a reliable guarantee of their rights.

The Reich Government are content that in so doing it is essential that economic and physical damage done since 1918 should be exposed and repaired in its entirety. They, of course, regard this obligation as being binding for both parties.

These considerations lead to the following practical proposals:-

(1) The Free City of Danzig shall return to the German Reich in view of its purely German character, as well as of the unanimous will of its population;

(2) The territory of the so-called Corridor which extends from the Baltic Sea to the line Marienwerder-Graudenz-Kulm-Bromberg (inclusive) and thence may run in a westerly direction to Schönlanke, shall itself decide as to whether it shall belong to Germany or Poland;

(3) For this purpose a plebiscite shall take place in this territory. The following shall be entitled to vote: all Germans who were either domiciled in this territory on the 1st January, 1918, or who by that date have been born there, and similarly of Poles, Kashubes, &c., domiciled in this territory on the above day (the 1st January, 1918) or born there up to that date. The Germans who have been driven from this territory shall return to it in order to exercise their vote with a view to ensuring an objective plebiscite, and also with a view to ensuring the extensive preparation necessary therefor. The above territory shall, as in the case of the Saar territory, be placed under the supervision of an international commission to be formed immediately, on which shall be represented the four Great Powers-Italy, the Soviet Union, France and England. This commission shall exercise all the rights of sovereignty in this territory. With this end in view, the territory shall be evacuated within a period of the utmost brevity, still to be agreed upon, by the Polish armed forces, the Polish police, and the Polish authorities;

(4) The Polish port of Gdynia, which fundamentally constitutes Polish sovereign territory so far as it is confined territorially to the Polish settlement, shall be excluded from the


above territory. The exact frontiers of this Polish port should be determined between Germany and Poland, and, if necessary, delimited by an international committee of arbitration;

(5) With a view to assuring the necessary time for the execution of the extensive work involved in the carrying out of a just plebiscite, this plebiscite shall not take place before the expiry of twelve months;

(6) In order to guarantee unrestricted communication between Germany and East Prussia and between Poland and the sea during this period, roads and railways shall be established to render free transit traffic possible. In this connexion only such taxes as are necessary for the maintenance of the means of communication and for the provision of transport may be levied;

(7) The question as to the party to which the area belongs is to be decided by simple majority of the votes recorded;

(8) In order to guarantee to Germany free communication with her province of Danzig-East Prussia, and to Poland her connexion with the sea after the execution of the plebiscite-regardless of the results thereof-Germany shall, in the event of the plebiscite area going to Poland, receive an extra-territorial traffic zone, approximately in a line from Butow to Danzig or Dirschau, in which to lay down an autobahn and a 4-track railway line. The road and the railway shall be so constructed that the Polish lines of communication are not affected, i.e., they shall pass either over or under the latter. The breadth of this zone shall be fixed at 1 kilometre, and it is to be German sovereign territory. Should the plebiscite be favourable to Germany, Poland is to obtain rights, analogous to those accorded to Germany, to a similar extra-territorial communication by road and railway for the purpose of free and unrestricted communication with her port of Gdynia;

(9) In the event of the Corridor returning to the German Reich, the latter declares its right to proceed to an exchange of population with Poland to the extent to which the nature of the Corridor lends itself thereto;

(10) Any special right desired by Poland in the port of Danzig would be negotiated on a basis of territory against similar rights to be granted to Germany in the port of Gdynia;

(11) In order to remove any feeling in this area that either


side was being threatened, Danzig and Gdynia would have the character of exclusively mercantile towns, that is to say, without military installations and military fortifications;

(12) The peninsula of Hela, which as a result of the plebiscite might go either to Poland or to Germany, would in either case have similarly to be demilitarised;

(13) Since the Government of the German Reich has the most vehement complaints to make against the Polish treatment of minorities, and since the Polish Government for their part feel obliged to make complaints against Germany, both parties declare their agreement to have these complaints laid before an international committee of enquiry, whose task would be to examine all complaints as regards economic or physical damage, and any other acts of terrorism. Germany and Poland undertake to make good economic or other damage done to minorities on either side since the year 1918, or to cancel expropriation as the case may be, or to provide complete compensation to the persons affected for this and any other encroachments on their economic life;

(14) In order to free the Germans who may be left in Poland and the Poles who may be left in Germany from the feeling of being outlawed by all nations, and in order to render them secure against being called upon to perform action or to render services incompatible with their national sentiments, Germany and Poland agree to guarantee the rights of both minorities by means of the most comprehensive and binding agreement, in order to guarantee to these minorities the preservation, the free development and practical application of their nationality (Volkstum), and in particular to permit for this purpose such organisation as they may consider necessary. Both parties undertake not to call upon members of the minority for military service;

(15) In the event of agreement on the basis of these proposals, Germany and Poland declare themselves ready to decree and to carry out the immediate demobilisation of their armed forces;

(16) The further measures necessary for the more rapid execution of the above arrangement shall be agreed upon by both Germany and Poland conjointly.


No. 99.

Viscount Halifax to Sir N. Henderson (Berlin).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 31, 1939, 11 p. m.

PLEASE inform German Government that we understand that Polish Government are taking steps to establish contact with them through Polish Ambassador in Berlin.

2. Please also ask them whether they agree to the necessity for securing an immediate provisional modus vivendi as regards Danzig. (We have already put this point to German Government.) Would they agree that M. Burckhardt might be employed for this purpose if it were possible to secure his services?

No. 100.

Viscount Halifax to Sir H. Kennard(Warsaw).

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, September 1, 1939, 12:50 a. m.

YOUR telegrams of 31st August*:-

1. I am glad to learn that Polish Ambassador at Berlin is being instructed to establish contact with German Government.

2. I fully agree as to the necessity for discussing detailed arrangements for the negotiations and as to the undesirability of a visit by M. Beck to Berlin.

3. On the other hand, I do not see why the Polish Government should feel difficulty about authorising Polish Ambassador to accept a document from the German Government, and I earnestly hope that they may be able to modify their instructions to him in this respect. There was no mention of any ultimatum in the report on the German proposals which has been furnished to us, and the suggestion that the demand for the presence of a Polish plenipotentiary at Berlin on 30th August amounted to an ultimatum was vigorously repudiated by Herr von Ribbentrop in conversation with His Majesty's Ambassador. If the document did contain an ultimatum, the Polish Government would naturally refuse to discuss it until the ultimatum was withdrawn. On the other hand, a refusal by them to receive proposals would be gravely misunderstood by outside opinion.

* Nos. 96 and 97.


4. I should have thought that the Polish Ambassador could surely be instructed to receive and transmit a document and to say (a) if it contained anything like an ultimatum, that he anticipated that the Polish Government would certainly be unable to discuss on such a basis, and (b) that, in any case, in the view of the Polish Government, questions as to the venue of the negotiations, the basis on which they should be held, and the persons to take part in them, must be discussed and decided between the two Governments.

5. If negotiations are initiated, His Majesty's Government will at all times be ready, if desired, to lend any assistance in their power to achieve a just settlement.

6. As regards an international guarantee, this will no doubt have to be fully discussed. What His Majesty's Government had in mind was a guarantee of the full and proper observance of any settlement reached.

7. As regards Danzig, we fully share the view of M. Beck as to the importance of establishing some modus vivendi. We have already made a suggestion in this sense to the German Government and will in the light of paragraph 4 of your telegram of 31st August** do so again. If German Government agree, I will at once approach M. Burckhardt.

8. Please speak to M. Beck immediately in the above sense.

No. 101.

Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (dated 7 43 p. m. September 1 and received 2 a. m. September 2).

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, September 1, 1939.

YOUR telegram of 1st September* was decyphered at 4 a. m. to-day.

2. M. Lipski had already called on the German Foreign Minister at 6:30 p. m. yesterday. In view of this fact, which was followed by German invasion of Poland at dawn to-day, it was clearly useless for me to take the action suggested.

**No 96

*No. 100.