17 M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET—Berlin, October 19 M. François-Poncet gives an account of the audience which Herr Hitler granted him on the occasion of the termination of his mission as Ambassador in Berlin. The Führer's pro- posals for improving Franco-German relations and for a gen- eral appeasement .......................................... 19 18 M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET-Berlin, October 20 M. François-Poncet gives a detailed account of his visit to Herr Hitler; he indicates that in his opinion the plan (a written recognition by France and Germany of their existing frontiers and pledges for mutual consultation-eventual limitation of armaments-monetary and economic problems) out- lined to him by Herr Hitler deserves consideration ........ 20 19 M. GEORGES BONNET-Paris, October 21 The French Government takes a favourable view, in principle, of Herr Hitler's proposals ................................ 28 20 M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET-Berlin, October 22 The German Government is at once informed of the views of the French Government ..................................... 28 21 M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET-Berlin, October 24 Marshal Goering shows himself extremely favourable to the plan under discussion. According to him, Herr von Ribben- trop, as well as the Chancellor, would also be favourably disposed .................................................. 29 22 MINISTER'S NOTE-Paris, November 22 The Minister informs the Polish Ambassador in Paris; the latter receives very favourably the communication made to him ....................................................... 29 23 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, November 23 M. Coulondre presents his credentials to Herr Hitler on Nov- ember 22. The Führer discusses Franco-German relations, which he hopes will be peaceful and good; he expresses his wish to translate into practical measures the ideas he has outlined to M. François-Poncet ........................... 29 24 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, November 24 The D.N.B. Agency announces that negotiations are in pro- gress and lets it be understood that Herr von Ribbentrop will shortly go to Paris .................................. 31 25 M. GEORGES BONNET-Paris, November 25 The Minister for Foreign Affairs informs the French Ambas- sador in Berlin that the German Ambassador in Paris has in- formed him of his Government's agreement to the final text 32 26 M. GEORGES BONNET-Paris, November 27 The Minister for Foreign Affairs informs the French Ambas- sador Washington of the Franco-German negotiations and of their result. He points out that the forthcoming declara- tion will fully reserve our liberty of action towards third parties to whom we are bound by ties of solidarity and indi- cates that the British Government has expressed its satis- faction with the document ................................. 32 27 MINISTER'S NOTE-Paris, November 28 The Minister for Foreign Affairs informs the Ambassador of the U.S.S.R. of the proposed Franco-German declaration .... 34 28 M. GEORGES BONNET AND HERR VON RIBBENTROP-Paris, December 6 The Franco-German declaration is signed in Paris by the Min- isters for Foreign Affairs on December 6, 1938. It proclaims the necessity of peaceful relations between the two coun- tries; it takes note that there are no further territorial questions between them, and that both parties recognize the Franco-German frontier as permanent; it constitutes at the same time an undertaking between the parties to consult each other ..................................................... 35 29 Paris, December 6 A communiqué published at the conclusion of the Franco- German conversations reproduces the text of the speeches delivered by the French and German Ministers for Foreign Af- fairs, which particularly emphasize the contribution to gen- eral appeasement made by the Franco-German declaration .... 36 30 M. GEORGES BONNET-Paris, December 11 The Minister for Foreign Affairs informs the French Ambas- sador in London that he has left Herr von Ribbentrop in no doubt as to the character of Franco-British solidarity, and that he has pointed out to him the necessity for an improve- ment in Anglo-German relations parallel with the development of Franco-German relations ................................ 38 31 M. CORBIN-London, December 12 Mr. Chamberlain expresses in the House of Commons the sat- isfaction of the British Government at the completion of the Franco-German agreement ................................... 38 32 M. GEORGES BONNET-Paris, December 14 The Minister for Foreign Affairs notifies the diplomatic representatives of France abroad that in the course of his conversations with Herr von Ribbentrop different subjects were approached, among others the question of the inter- national guarantee to be accorded to Czechoslovakia ....... 39 33 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, December 15 M. Coulondre notes that the desire for good relations with France is general in Germany, but that as a corollary there is a very clear desire for expansion in the east. It seems that Herr Hitler wants to make himself master of Central Europe by making Czechoslovakia and Hungary vassal States, and by creating a Greater Ukraine under German hegemony ... 41 34 M. RISTELHUEBER-Sofia, December 16 According to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, it is perhaps not so much South-Eastern Europe as Poland that is aimed at, in the first place, by Germany. In his opinion a German- Soviet rapprochement would not be out of the question, and would herald the fourth partition of Poland ............... 45 35 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, December 22 In the course of a conversation with our Ambassador in Ber- lin Baron von Weizsäcker shows himself reticent on the sub- ject of the granting to Czechoslovakia of the international guarantee provided for in the Munich Agreement ............ 46
M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, October 19, 1938.
THE Chancellor of the Reich gave me a farewell audience yesterday afternoon, not at Berchtesgaden, but in the eagle's eyrie which he has had built on a rocky spur 6,000 feet high with a view extending over the vast arena of mountains which surround Salzburg. The conversation, at which the Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs was present, soon assumed an interesting and important character.
Referring to the Munich Agreement, Herr Hitler expressed his regret that subsequent events had allowed a dangerous state of tension to continue between the Great Powers, and had not fulfilled his hopes. With regard to France, he took a rather indulgent attitude but on the other hand he insisted bitterly on the fact that he could, so he said, discern in the British attitude the expression of a fundamental antagonism.
Endeavouring to moderate and correct his views, I tried more especially to explain to him the reasons for the currents of opinion in France and in England as a result of the speech at Saarbrucken, and after the conclusion of an agreement which had saved peace, but at the price of heavy sacrifices.
The Chancellor declared in a general way that he was prepared to seek ways and means of improving existing conditions and to develop the potentialities of appeasement and conciliation which the Munich Agreement seemed to contain.
(1) Herr Hitler would consent to sign an agreement by which France and Germany would reciprocally recognize their existing frontiers and express their determination not to attempt to change them.
(2) For his part he believed that this text should be accompanied by an undertaking to hold mutual consultations on all questions likely to have repercussions on the relations between the two countries.
(3) Alluding to the problem of the limitation of armaments, Herr Hitler seemed extremely irritated and greatly impressed by the military measures announced in Great Britain and in the United States. He is of the opinion that, owing to the practical difficulties which would arise if a programme of disarmament were to be set up without further preliminaries, it would be wiser and more opportune to begin with a programme for the humanization of war (bombardment of open cities, etc.).
(4) Speaking of economic questions such as, for instance, the possibility of stabilizing the currencies, Herr Hitler recognizes both their importance and the difficulties they present. But he declared that, having little knowledge of these matters, he would gladly, if need be, have recourse to the services of experts.
At the end of this conversation, and in conclusion, the Chancellor asked the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs to cause the different suggestions that had been examined in the course of the interview to be studied, and more or less detailed plans on their execution to be prepared. The texts thus drawn up would then be communicated to us for careful consideration and eventual correction and criticism.
In view of the conversations I have had with Your Excellency, I took it upon myself to give the assurance that the French Government would consider with the greatest sympathy all proposals or suggestions favourably received by the Chancellor or initiated by him. We agreed that the preliminary study of these questions should remain confidential until further notice, it being understood that we would for our part ascertain the views of the British Government while Germany reserves the right to inform the Italian Government.
M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, October 20, 1938.
WHEN on the evening of October 17, the German Chancellor asked me to see him as quickly as possible, he placed one of his private planes at my disposal. I therefore left by air for Berchtesgaden on the
next day accompanied by Captain Stehlin. I arrived there towards three in the afternoon. From there a car took me not to the Obersalzberg villa where the Führer lives, but to an extraordinary place where he likes to spend his days when the weather is fine.
From a distance, the place looks like a kind of observatory or small hermitage perched up at a height of 6,000 feet on the highest point of a ridge of rock. The approach is by a winding road about nine miles long, boldly cut out of the rock; the boldness of its construction does as much credit to the ability of the engineer Todt as to the unremitting toll of the workmen who in three years completed this gigantic task. The road comes to an end in front of a long underground passage leading into the mountain, and closed by a heavy double door of bronze. At the far end of the underground passage a wide lift, paneled with sheets of copper, awaits the visitor. Through a vertical shaft of 330 feet cut right through the rock, it rises up to the level of the Chancellor's dwelling-place. Here is reached the astonishing climax. The visitor finds himself in a strong and massive building containing a gallery with Roman pillars, an immense circular hall with windows all round and a vast open fireplace where enormous logs are burning, a table surrounded by about thirty chairs, and opening out at the sides, several sitting-rooms, pleasantly furnished with comfortable arm-chairs. On every side, through the bay-windows, one can look as from a plane high in the air, on to an immense panorama of mountains. At the far end of a vast amphitheatre one can make out Salzburg and the surrounding villages, dominated, as far as the eye can reach, by a horizon of mountain ranges and peaks, by meadows and forests clinging to the slopes. In the immediate vicinity of the house, which gives the impression of being suspended in space, an almost overhanging wall of bare rock rises up abruptly. The whole, bathed in the twilight of an autumn evening, is grandiose, wild, almost hallucinating. The visitor wonders whether he is awake or dreaming. He would like to know where he is-whether this is the Castle of Monsalvat where lived the Knights of the Graal or a new Mount Athos sheltering the meditations of a cenobite, or the palace of Antinea rising up in the heart of the Atlas Mountains. Is it the materialization of one of those fantastic drawings with which Victor Hugo adorned the margins of his manuscript of Les Burgraves, the fantasy of a millionaire, or merely the refuge where brigands take their leisure and hoard their treasures? Is it the conception of a normal mind, or that of a man tormented by megalomania,
by a haunting desire for domination and solitude, or merely that of a being in the grip of fear?
One detail cannot pass unnoticed, and is no less valuable than the rest for someone who tries to assess the psychology of Adolf Hitler: the approaches, the openings of the underground passage and the access to the house are manned by soldiers and protected by nests of machineguns....
The Chancellor received me amiably and courteously. He looks pale and tired. It is not one of his excitable days, he is rather in a period of relaxation. Immediately, he draws me towards the bay-windows of the great hall, shows me the landscape and enjoys the surprise and admiration that I make no effort to conceal. We exchange some compliments and a few polite phrases. At his order, the tea is served in one of the adjoining sitting-rooms. When the servants have left and the doors are closed, the conversation begins between the three of us; Herr von Ribbentrop intervenes only at rare intervals, and always to stress and emphasize the Führer's remarks.
Adolf Hitler is disappointed with the sequels of the Munich Agreement. He had believed that the meeting of the Four, which banished the spectre of war, would have marked the beginning of an era of conciliation and improved relations between nations. He cannot see that anything of the kind has occurred. The crisis is not over; it threatens, if the situation does not improve, to become worse within a short time. Great Britain is sonorous with threats and calls to arms. For the Chancellor this is an opportunity to utter, against that country, against her selfishness and her childish belief in the superiority of her rights over those of others, one of those tirades which he has already delivered several times in public.
The Chancellor's irritation calms down fairly quickly. I point out to him that after the joy at the preservation of peace, a reaction was inevitable; the realization of the sacrifices exacted from Czecho-slovakia, the harsh treatment meted out to that country could not fail to stir the hearts and even to disturb the conscience of many people; and especially, the Saarbrucken speech had spread the impression that all these sacrifices had been made in vain, that their only effect had been to increase the appetite of the Third Reich. This speech had considerably strengthened the position of the adversaries of the Munich Agreement.
The Führer protests; he had not started the present trouble; the
English had done so; he had not uttered a single word against France; and as to Czechoslovakia, it was not true that he had ill-treated her; all that he had done was to insist upon the rights of the German people, which had been trodden underfoot!
I interrupt his self-justification; we must not linger over the past, the future is more important; after the joy at the preservation of peace and the subsequent bitterness aroused by the sacrifices it exacted, a third stage is now reached. The statesmen must now with more self-control consider whether the Munich Agreement is only to be a fruitless episode or whether now that experience has proved that the democracies and the totalitarian states can cooperate in promoting general appeasement, they will attempt to develop this first successful experiment into a larger enterprise and gradually lead back Europe towards more normal and enduring conditions.
Herr Hitler does not raise any objection. He declares that, as far as he is concerned he is quite prepared to do this, and that he had asked me to visit him as much in order to be able to discuss this matter with me as to allow me to take my leave of him.
In my telegram of yesterday, I indicated in a sufficiently explicit manner the course the conversation then took. On the three points that were raised in turn, and which, taken as a whole, form a complete programme starting from Franco-German relations and widening to questions of importance to all the Powers, the Chancellor is full of arguments, objections and suggestions, like a man who has already considered the matter and is not being caught unaware.
As regards the suggestion of a written recognition by France and Germany of their common frontier and an agreement to hold consultations in all cases which might affect the relations of the two countries, Herr Hitler declares that he is ready to accept it immediately; actually, this appears to be the point which makes the greatest appeal to him. He stresses the difficulties which might arise from a formula of non-aggression if it were accompanied by reservations relating to the Covenant of the League of Nations, or to the existence of pacts with a third party. He hopes that these difficulties may be removed, and he does not ask once that France should renounce her pact with Soviet Russia.
As to the problem of a limitation of armaments, he is undecided; he is not opposed to the principle of such a limitation, but he does not see by what means it can be put into practice; he outlines, without dwelling on it, the theory according to which Germany, situated in
the centre of Europe and exposed to simultaneous attacks on several fronts, has no true equality of armaments unless she is superior in that respect to any of the States that could attack her; he also fears that if he were to speak of the limitation of armaments, the opposition in Great Britain would say that he was retreating before a display of British energy; his thoughts remain uncertain. On the other hand, he is ready to approach without hesitation the problem of the humanization of war and to go fairly far in this matter. He sees here a good introduction, a happy preface from which might arise a more favourable atmosphere for the ultimate examination of the disarmament question.
As to the monetary and economic problems, he obviously leaves to others the task of dealing with them. That is no business of his. He understands nevertheless that it is important not to leave these matters in abeyance, but to invite experts to take up again the work already begun and to examine the possibilities offered by present conditions.
Concluding the conversation, he gives Herr von Ribbentrop the order, as I have already said, to set his department to work and to make them study the suggestions arising out of our interview with a view to formulating concrete proposals. Paris will then study the drafts and state its own views. I promise that we shall receive his suggestions with earnest sympathy and study them carefully, being moved by the same peaceful intentions that appear to animate the Führer. In the meantime, Germany will approach Italy. France, on her side, can investigate British views. We are not committed, on either side, to anything precise but both sides are agreed to proceed in all good faith to an investigation.
Therefore the utmost discretion should be maintained towards the public until further notice; public opinion must not be informed until the assurance of a positive result has been obtained.
On two other subjects I attempt to persuade the Führer to reveal his views: the claims of Hungary and the war in Spain.
He admits frankly that he considers the pretensions of the Hungarians excessive, although he adds that the cessions and concessions of the Slovaks are insufficient. For him, the only criterion is the ethnographical one, the race; it was the only one on which he based his claims towards the Czechs in tracing the new frontiers; the Hungarians and the Poles had better keep to these principles as well; obviously he has no sympathy with the efforts they are making to obtain a common frontier. The Chancellor boasts that he has brought
about the failure of the appeal which Hungary had intended to make to the four Munich Powers. He believes that in so doing, he has avoided a definite danger.
"Such a conference," he says, "would have placed us before two conflicting theses. I should have been obliged, regardless of my personal opinion, to side with the Hungarians and Poles, because of the political ties that unite them to us; Mussolini would have acted in the same manner. You, however, and the English, for similar reasons, would have defended the Czechs. Thus, three weeks after Munich, we should again have had a conflict, which this time could not have been settled. I rendered a service to Europe in avoiding it. I preferred to exercise pressure on the Hungarians and the Czechs and persuade them to take up the interrupted negotiations, with less intransigence on both sides. Mussolini helped me. I hope that a compromise will take place. But the whole business is dangerous. This occasion shows how wrong France and England were to promise Czechoslovakia to guarantee her frontiers, even before the latter were clearly defined. This may still lead to most unpleasant complications."
With regard to Spain, the Chancellor repeats that he never had any intention of establishing himself there permanently. He had secured some economic advantages, but he would have obtained them in any case. It is far from his thoughts, so he assures me, to use Spain as a perpetual menace against France. Spain herself needs to maintain good relations with France. General Franco's attitude during the September crisis proved this plainly. Let all the foreign volunteers be withdrawn and let the two Spanish factions remain face to face with each other; in these conditions Franco will win in the end, and France will be none the worse for it.
For nearly two hours Herr Hitler has been readily listening to my questions; he has answered them without any embarrassment, with simplicity and-at least apparently-with candour. But the time has come to release him. Antinea's Castle is now submerged in the shadow that spreads over the valley and the mountains. I take my leave. The Führer expresses the wish that I might later return to Germany and come to visit him in a private capacity. He shakes both my hands several times. After going down in the lift and through the underground passage, I find the car waiting for me; passing through Berchtesgaden it takes me back to the airport, from where our plane starts immediately on its night flight to Berlin.
During the whole of our conversation, except for a few outbursts of violence when referring to England, the Führer was calm, moderate, conciliatory. One would have been justified in thinking that one was in the presence of a man with a well-balanced mind, rich in experience and wisdom, and wishing above all things to establish the reign of peace among nations. There were moments when Herr Hitler spoke of Europe, of his feelings as a European, which are, he asserts, more genuine than those expressed so loudly by many people.
He spoke of our "white civilization" as of a very precious possession common to us all, which must be defended. He appeared sincerely shocked at the persistent antagonism which has remained after the Munich Agreement, and which the British attitude revealed to his mind with great clearness. Obviously, the possibility of a coming crisis and the eventual outbreak of a general war are ever present in his mind. Perhaps at heart he himself is skeptical as to his chances of preventing this tragedy? In any case, he seems willing to attempt to do so or he wishes to feel he has made the attempt so as to calm if not his own conscience, at least the conscience of his people. And it is through France that he thinks this attempt must be made.
I have no illusions whatever about Adolf Hitler's character. I know that he is changeable, dissembling, full of contradictions, uncertain. The same man with the debonair aspect, with a real fondness for the beauties of nature, who discussed reasonable ideas on European politics round the tea-table, is also capable of the worst frenzies, of the wildest exaltations and the most delirious ambitions. There are days when, standing before a globe of the world, he will overthrow nations, continents, geography and history, like a demiurge stricken with madness. At other moments, he dreams of being the hero of an everlasting peace, in which he would devote himself to the erection of the most magnificent monuments. The advances that he is prepared to make to France are dictated by a sentiment which he shares, at least intermittently, with the majority of his countrymen, namely the weariness of an age-long contest, and the desire to see it end at last; this feeling is now strengthened by the memories of the Munich interviews, by the sympathy that the person of President Daladier aroused in him, and also by the idea that our country's evolution tends to make it easier for her to understand the Third Reich. But at the same time we may be certain that the Führer remains true to his wish to disintegrate the Franco-British bloc, and to stabilize peace in the west, so as to have a free
hand in the east. What plans may be revolving already in his mind? Is it Poland, Russia, the Baltic States which, in his thoughts, will be called upon to pay the cost? Does he himself even know?
Be that as it may, Hitler is one of those men with whom one must never relax one's utmost vigilance, and whom one can only trust with reservations. Personally, I do not draw the conclusion that we should not listen to his suggestions. In these circumstances, as in many other previous ones, I hold that the main thing is that we should know exactly where we stand and with whom we are dealing. But it does not follow that an attitude of abstention and negation is the right one. Dr. Goebbels said recently, and not without reason, that one cannot win in a lottery if one does not take at least the risk of buying a ticket. It is our bounder duty not to neglect a single one of the ways that lead to peace. If it so happens that Herr Hitler, either as a feint or as a deliberate plan, engages himself far enough on that path, it is possible that he will end by not being able to turn back again, even if he wished.
Besides, who could predict the astounding changes of front of which this dictator, impressionable, mutable and abnormal, may be capable, and what will his personal destiny and that of Germany be tomorrow ?
After the Munich conference, it was normal and necessary that one should think of expanding the results of an agreement on which public opinion had pinned such high hopes.
As matters stand to-day, Germany is expressing a wish to take the initiative; Germany is trying to work out a formula and a plan.
If we were to turn a deaf ear, we would, to our detriment, be providing her with the alibi which she wishes for perhaps in order to cover her future enterprises.
Besides, the contracts she appears ready to enter into have only a limited scope.
If these promises are kept, they will contribute in a large measure to the lessening of tension in Europe.
If they are broken, the guilty party will assume a moral responsibility which will weigh heavily on his future position.
France should, therefore, undertake to consider the proposals without fear. Perhaps it is not unreasonable to think that the events France has now lived through may have finally convinced her people of the pressing need for national order and cohesion, for a certain moral
reform and for rapid and thorough overhauling and improvement of our military organization.
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to M. FRANÇOIS-PONCET, French Ambassador in Berlin. Paris, October 21, 1938.
THE suggestions which you have conveyed to me in your telegram of October 19 arising out of your conversation with Herr Hitler have been the subject of attentive scrutiny and have in principle been favourably received by the French Government. I should like you to inform the Chancellor of this personally. The Government of the Republic are disposed for their part to devote their utmost care to the study of the plans announced as soon as they are submitted to them. For this purpose they will not fail to make the necessary contacts with the British Government while strictly maintaining the utmost discretion, as agreed.
Moreover, referring to the two specifically Franco-German questions of a mutual agreement to hold consultations and a reciprocal recognition of existing frontiers, you will add that the French Government declares itself prepared from now on to take part with the Government of the Reich in a preliminary exchange of views opening the negotiations, as soon as the precise details of which you have been told are submitted to them. Indeed, as you do, I look upon the initiative taken by Herr Hitler with all the interest it deserves, and I agree with you that we must endeavour to reach concrete results as quickly as possible.
FRANÇOIS-PONCET, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, October 22,1938.
THIS morning, in the absence of Herr von Ribbentrop, I have conveyed the communication prescribed by your telegram of October 21 to Baron von Weizsäcker. He will pass it on without delay, to the Chancellor of the Reich.
FRANÇOIS-PONCET, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, October 24, 1938.
IN the course of a conversation, during a farewell luncheon which he was giving for me, Field-Marshal Goering declared that he was very much in favour of the projected plans; he appeared very optimistic as to their realization, and it seems that he himself will see that they are carried out without delay. Herr von Ribbentrop, so Field-Marshal Goering assured me, was also, as well as the Chancellor, favourably disposed and would use all his efforts to further the projects.
I have also had a conversation on the subject with Herr Gauss, to whom the preparation of the drafts has been entrusted; he had been summoned to Berchtesgaden, after my visit to the Chancellor.
Paris, November 22, 1938.
THE Polish Ambassador was informed, on November 22, by M. Georges Bonnet, of the French Government's intention of signing, with the German Government, a declaration about the frontiers and an undertaking to hold consultations. This declaration, reserving in principle the relations of the contracting parties with third countries, and consequently those of France with Poland, does not in any way interfere with France's commitments towards the latter country.
M. Lukasiewicz showed himself very favourably disposed towards this project.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, November 23, 1938.
YESTERDAY, at Berchtesgaden, I presented my credentials to the Chancellor of the Reich.
The Führer received me affably in his simple and elegant dwelling of the Berghof.
After we had exchanged the usual speeches, he conversed with me for half an hour, and, contrary to his habit-for usually he does not mention politics in the course of these formal visits-he almost immediately attacked the problem of Franco-German relations.
"These relations," the Führer said, "I wish to see peaceable and pleasant, and I see no reason why they should not be so. There is no cause for conflict between Germany and France." He then looked at me insistently, but without trace of harshness, and added, "I hope, in any case, should difficulties arise, that you will do your utmost to smooth them out, in the same spirit as your predecessor and with the same sincerity."
The substance of my reply was that I was bringing with me a certainty and a hope. The certainty of the absolute sincerity dictated by my conscience and by my fervent patriotism. (Here Herr Hitler signified his approval by nodding his head with vivacity.)
I continued: "The hope is that of an effective and enduring rapprochement between the two nations. I have gained this hope both from your speeches, which I have recently read over again, and through which the word 'reconciliation' seemed to shine as a gleam of light as well as in the dispositions evident in France. During my last stay in my country, when I returned from Moscow, I gathered in the most varied circles precise indications that have convinced me of the fact that the vast majority of the French nation wishes for a rapprochement with Germany. France was profoundly stirred by the September crisis; like the German nation, she touched the fringe of war, and like the German people, our people have expressed their gratitude to the leader who preserved them from war. They look upon the Munich Agreement as a possibility for opening up a path for a policy of reconciliation and they wonder whether France and Germany might not in the end reach a mutual understanding, once and for all time, so as to avoid the possibility of a repetition of such a menace."
I concluded that it was the task of the Governments to answer this question, and I alluded to the last conversation of M. François-Poncet with the Führer.
Herr Hitler assured me that he shared these feelings, that he, on his side, was anxious without delay to translate into action the good intentions he had expressed to my predecessor, and he repeated that no territorial question remained in suspense between France and Germany.
I then stressed the importance, in order to start the two countries
on the path of reconciliation and collaboration, of not delaying too long the first manifestation of the mutual goodwill of the two Governments, otherwise we ran this danger, that the effects of the psychological shock caused by the September crisis would fade out like a photograph which had not been fixed.
The Führer smiled and agreed, then he became more animated, his tone warmed up and he said: "I am an ex-Serviceman, I know what war is. I want to spare my people these trials; even an alteration of the frontier between our two countries would not be sufficient justification for the sacrifices it would entail. That is my opinion, and I know it is also that of President Daladier."
Herr Hitler then bade me good-bye after adding while shaking hands: "We are both ex-Servicemen; if ever difficulties should arise, we will find a way of solving them peacefully."
It is in that spirit, with which the mysticism of the National-Socialist regime is so largely permeated, that as soon as I got back to Berlin, I laid a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior of Germany.
At the luncheon which after I had been received by the Chancellor was offered to me by Herr Meissner, Minister of the Reich Chancellery, Herr Hitler's intimates evinced satisfaction at the progress of the conversations which had gone far beyond a mere expression of courtesy. A high official whom I have known for twenty years said to me: "From this you can infer the Führer's state of mind."
The Counselor and the Military Attaché of this Embassy had accompanied me to Berchtesgaden. During the whole journey we were the guests of the Government of the Reich, and the German authorities did their utmost to show us attentions and courtesy.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, November 24, 1938.
THE D.N.B. agency publishes the following communiqué for its foreign service:
We have had the following information from an authoritative source concerning Franco-German relations:
In the course of recent years, the Chancellor and Führer has repeat-
edly seized opportunities of declaring that no problems exist between France and Germany which could form a fundamental obstacle to friendly and neighbourly relations. After the meeting at Munich, both parties found they had the wish to give concrete expression to this attitude. During the last few weeks, the possibilities of a Franco-German agreement on the lines of the Anglo-German declaration of Munich have appeared in a very favourable light. This is the reason why the French and German Governments are both considering a declaration that would be prepared jointly concerning the friendly relations between the two States, and it is to be expected that Herr von Ribbentrop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Reich, will visit Paris very soon in order to settle the agreement with M. Bonnet
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs,
to M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin.
Paris, November 25, 1938.
ON November 22 I saw Count von Welczeck, who informed me that his Government accepts the draft which was communicated to you before your departure from Paris, the final text of which will be sent to you without delay.
The German Ambassador added that Herr von Ribbentrop is ready to come to Paris for the exchange of signatures, which could take place between November 28 and December 3. Perhaps we shall have to postpone the date by two or three days; I shall inform you as soon as it is fixed.
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. DE SAINT-QUENTIN. French Ambassador in Washington. Paris, November 27, 1938.
IN my communication or October 3,  I called your attention to the possibilities of an international détente contained in the Munich Agreement; it would have been inconsistent not to attempt to translate such possibilities into actual facts in so far as this action was
 See Document 15.
compatible with the execution of the policy of national defence undertaken in France as well as in England.
The communiqué which was published after an interview between Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Herr Hitler on October 1 on the day immediately following the signature of the Munich Agreement, showed that both parties were at one in their desire for appeasement.
The Chancellor of the Reich, when he received M. François-Poncet for a farewell audience on October 19, declared himself ready to seek means to improve Franco-German relations and to further the elements tending to a rapprochement which are contained in the agreement of September 29. At the same time, he made various suggestions to this effect; the French Government, after examining them carefully, informed Berlin as early as October 21 that they were prepared to exchange views on this subject with the authorities of the Reich without delay.
The two Governments soon arrived at an agreement on the text of a declaration to be signed by the respective Ministers for Foreign Affairs, which would stress the following main points:
(1) That pacific relations and a neighbourly attitude between the two countries constitute an essential condition for the preservation of peace; that efforts should be made on both sides to develop their relations in this direction;
(2) That no problem of a territorial nature remains in suspense between France and Germany, the existing frontier being solemnly recognized as permanent;
(3) That the two Governments are determined, while reserving their special relations with third Powers, to remain in contact on all questions of importance to both countries and to enter into consultation in case developments arising out of these questions should threaten to lead to international difficulties.
This document is to be signed in Paris, at a date which is to be fixed shortly, and will then be published immediately.
I do not consider it necessary to emphasize the importance of this declaration: it will not escape your notice that not only does it demonstrate the desire for appeasement and reconciliation common to both Governments, but also recognizes by means of a diplomatic instrument the German intention, already expressed unilaterally by the Chancellor in some of his speeches, of regarding the mere possibility of territorial disputes between the two countries as excluded, and of
recognizing the existing frontier between France and Germany as permanent.
The procedure of mutual consultation foreseen in case of international difficulties can, moreover, provide a valuable means of avoiding, in future, certain sudden initiatives likely to endanger the preservation of peace.
Finally, the text that has been adopted leaves us our entire freedom of action regarding third parties to whom we are bound.
Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, during the conversations which took place in Paris yesterday, have clearly expressed their satisfaction with a declaration, which, in their opinion, is, like the Anglo-German declaration, an immediate contribution to the task of international appeasement.
You should be guided by the above considerations during your conversations on the subject with the Secretary of State, asking him also to treat them as confidential until the document has been published.
Paris, November 28, 1938.
I RECEIVED M. Souritz on Tuesday, November 22. I explained to him the main points of the plan for a Franco-German declaration, emphasizing that this declaration made a reservation about the special relations of the contracting Powers with third Powers, and consequently about the Franco-Russian pact.
M. Souritz took note of the information which I had conveyed to him. He has informed his Government. He made no special comment.
On the evening of the following day, M. Souritz telephoned to ask me for the text of the agreement. I answered that, as I had not yet communicated it to anyone, it would be impossible for me to give it to him in its entirety. Nevertheless, I informed him of the essential points of the document over the telephone.
M. Souritz come to see me again on Saturday the 26th. On that occasion I asked him whether he had any comment to make with regard to the agreement.
He replied that he had received no communication from his Gov-
ernment, and that, moreover, the agreement in its present form could not be modified.
I drew his attention to the fact that before putting the agreement before the Council of Ministers, I had informed him of its main contents. M. Souritz made no further comment.
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the French Republic and M. JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the German Reich,ACTING in the name and by order of their respective Governments, have agreed on the following points at their meeting in Paris on December 6, 1938:
(1) The French Government and the German Government fully share the conviction that pacific and neighbourly relations between France and Germany constitute one of the essential elements of the consolidation of the situation in Europe and of the preservation of general peace. Consequently both Governments will endeavour with all their might to assure the development of the relations between their countries in this direction.
(2) Both Governments agree that no question of a territorial nature remains in suspense between their countries and solemnly recognize as permanent the frontier between their countries as it is actually drawn.
(3) Both Governments are resolved, without prejudice to their special relations with third Powers, to remain in contact on all questions of importance to both their countries and to have recourse to mutual consultation in case any complications arising out of these questions should threaten to lead to international difficulties.
In witness whereof the Representatives of the two Government have signed the present Declaration, which comes into force immediately.
Executed in duplicate in the French and German languages at Paris, on December 6, 1938.
Signed: GEORGES BONNET, JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP.
Paris, December 6, 1938.
THE visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Reich to Paris on December 6, has provided the opportunity for a Franco-German exchange of views over a wide range of questions. In the course of the conversations that have taken place, the principal European problems have been examined, most especially those which have a direct bearing on the political and economic relations between France and Germany. It has been recognized on both sides that the development of the relations between the two countries on the basis of the unequivocal recognition of their frontiers would not only serve their mutual interests, but also constitute an essential contribution towards the maintenance of peace.
In this spirit the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of both countries have signed a declaration which, while reserving the special relations of both Governments with third Powers, expresses their determination to cooperate in a peaceful spirit on a basis of mutual respect, and thus marks an important step on the way to general appeasement.
I WISH first of all to greet H. E. the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the German Reich, whom we are happy to welcome and whose presence here emphasizes the importance of the documents we have just signed.
The efforts of the present French Government, continuing those of all its predecessors, have been directed with unswerving sincerity towards the maintenance and the organization of peace.
The furtherance of good neighbourly relations between France and Germany, as well as the expression of their mutual desire to develop peaceable relations, constitute an essential element in this enterprise.
For this reason I feel gratified at the signing of this Franco-German declaration, which, by solemnly recognizing the existing frontiers, puts an end to a long historical contest and opens the way to a collaboration which is made easier by the conviction that no difference which might endanger the peaceful basis of their relations now exists between the two countries.
This conviction is further reinforced by the mutual appreciation of the value of the intellectual exchanges which have always existed between the two nations, and by the esteem rightly felt for each other by two peoples which, after fighting heroically during the Great War, now desire to work in an atmosphere of understanding and peace.
Furthermore, I have no doubt that this joint declaration will bring to the cause of general appeasement a contribution the value of which will be confirmed in the future; it marks a particularly important stage in the task of reconciliation and cooperation in which France ardently desires to see all nations participate.
WITH to-day's declarations, France and Germany, taking into consideration the solid foundation constituted by the friendship uniting them to other States, have agreed to put an end to the age-long conflicts concerning their frontier, and, by mutually recognizing their territories, hope to facilitate the course of reciprocal understanding, and of consideration for the vital national interest of both countries.
As partners with equal rights, two great nations declare themselves prepared, after serious differences in the past, to establish good neighbourly relations in the future. With this declaration of good will, they express the conviction that no opposition of a vital nature exists between them, which could justify a serious conflict. The economic interests of the two countries complement each other. German art and the spiritual life of Germany owe valuable inspirations to France, just as Germany, on her side, has often enriched French art.
The mutual esteem which arose from the courage shown by the French and the German peoples during the World War can find its natural complement in peace, and still increase, thanks to the courageous effort of each nation in its daily work.
I am therefore convinced that the Franco-German declaration of today will help to remove historical prejudices and that the détente in our neighbourly relations which finds expression in this declaration will meet with unanimous approval not only from the leaders, but also from the peoples of our States.
The feelings of the German people towards a new orientation the relations between the two States were manifested by the warm welcome given at Munich to the French Prime Minister, M. Edouard
Daladier. The marks of sympathy which I have received during the few hours of my stay in Paris prove how these feelings are also shared by the French population.
I hope and trust that the declaration of to-day will initiate a new era in the relations between our two peoples.
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to M. CORBIN, French Ambassador in London. Paris, December 11, 1938.
I HAVE fully informed Sir Eric Phipps of the substance of my conversations with the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs. Nevertheless I should be glad if you would call the particular attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that, in my conversation with Herr von Ribbentrop, I made a point of taking the initiative to state in the clearest manner the character and scope of Franco-British solidarity and its fundamental importance for the orientation of French policy.
During my conversations with the German Minister, I left him in no doubt of the impossibility of Germany being able at any time to speculate on any dissociation of France and Great Britain.
On the other hand, when examining with Herr von Ribbentrop the means of translating into fact an easing of Franco-German relations, I indicated very clearly that I could not conceive such an effort except in the framework of a general adjustment of European relations; any attempt at developing Franco-German relations appeared to me futile without a corresponding effort to improve the relations between the Reich and Great Britain. Pointing out the bitterness of the polemics against England in the German Press, I remarked that they could only harm our efforts.
M. CORBIN, French Ambassador in London, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. London, December 12, 1938.
IN answer to a question put by Mr. Arthur Henderson, the Prime Minister declared in the House of Commons this afternoon:
"His Majesty's Government welcome the conclusion of the Franco-
German agreement with great satisfaction, and the French Government was so informed when it communicated, on November 24, the terms of the declaration to His Majesty's Government."
A member of the Labour Party then asked Mr. Chamberlain whether the Franco-German declaration, in its bearing on the frontiers of France and the Reich, would in any way affect the obligations of Great Britain under the Treaty of Locarno. Mr. Chamberlain answered in the negative.
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the French Ambassadors in London, Berlin, Brussels, Rome and Barcelona, and to the French Minister in Prague. Paris, December 14, 1938.
HERR VON RIBBENTROP'S visit to Paris was undertaken for the express and sufficient object of signing the Franco-German declaration. Nevertheless, it has provided an opportunity for a wide exchange of views between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries. Although these conversations on the whole retained a very general character, they have made it possible to obtain definite information on the German attitude regarding some particularly important international questions.
The anti-French incidents that have recently occurred in Italy naturally gave rise to the question of Franco-Italian and German-Italian relations, and I expressed the wish to see every element incompatible with the pursuance of a policy of Franco-German appeasement disappear from the relations between Paris, Berlin and Rome. Referring to the solidarity between Germany and Italy, similar, he said, to that uniting France and Great Britain, Herr von Ribbentrop was at pains to assure me that nothing in the existence of these two groups appeared to him to prejudice any attempt to bring into harmony the relations between the four Powers, which might eventually extend to an arrangement for cooperation between the two Axes. By indicating that the struggle against Bolshevism is the basis of the common political views of the German and Italian Governments, but without saying so openly, Herr von Ribbentrop wished to convey to us the impression that no other aim could be attributed to it. The recent demonstration in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, which in his opinion involved no government responsibility, appears to have made no particular impression on
the German Minister, who affects in the circumstances to consider the Mediterranean questions involved as outside the scope of German interests; in any case he persists in declaring himself convinced that the improvement of Franco-German relations is of a nature to exert a favourable influence on future Franco-Italian relations.
Concerning Spain, he gave us to understand that there again the action of Germany had from the beginning been inspired solely by the struggle against Bolshevism. The German Minister continues to desire the victory of General Franco, as, in his opinion, it would be a guarantee for the re-establishment in Spain of a national order which would favour a general resumption of commercial relations with that country, without prejudice to the interests of France. Moreover, he does not believe in the possibility of mediation. He did not then dispute the propriety of the position maintained by France as well as by Great Britain regarding the application of the decisions of the Non-Intervention Committee.
These considerations incidentally led the Foreign Minister of the Reich to raise the question of French policy toward the U.S.S.R., without however laying any particular stress upon it and only with a view to informing himself of the position. This policy appeared to him to be a survival of the encirclement policy of Versailles. I had to remind him that the Franco-Russian pact was not originally meant to remain only bilateral, that it had been and still was conceived as an element of collective agreement, in which Germany and other Powers had been invited to participate, and that it was the fault neither of France nor of the U.S.S.R., if it had actually developed into an apparently purely Franco-Soviet affair.
With regard to Great Britain, I stressed to Herr von Ribbentrop the part that the improvement of Anglo-German relations must play in any development in the policy of European appeasement, which was considered to be the essential object of any Franco-German action. The Minister was at pains to throw all the blame for the present state of affairs on the British Government. He said that the British Government and especially the British Press, which in the days following the Munich Agreement had appeared to show a certain degree of understanding, had now adopted an attitude that was most disappointing for Berlin; the emphasis placed in London on the urgency of rearmament, the repeated demonstrations in Parliament, under the influence of Mr. Duff Cooper, Mr. Winston Churchill, Mr. Eden and Mr. Morrison, and the articles in the newspapers, had been strongly resented
in Germany, where he said it would have been impossible to restrain the action of the Press. I again stressed the fundamental and solid character of Franco-British solidarity, and gave him very clearly to understand that a genuine easing of Franco-German relations could not be conceived as enduring without a corresponding improvement between Great Britain and Germany.
With regard to Czechoslovakia, an exchange of observations was necessary in order to leave no doubt as to the implications of the international agreement of Munich, if executed both in the letter and the spirit. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is to re-examine, as soon as he returns to Berlin, the question of the setting up of the international guarantee, the principle of which was asserted by Germany in protocol No. 1.
Such are the principal political questions mentioned, in very general terms, in the course of the Franco-German conversations of December 6, which never assumed the formal character of a conference. Although they were not embodied in detailed heads of agreement or in any official record, they shed light on certain important points. These explanatory talks were essential at the moment when the Franco-German declaration was signed, which not only aims at promoting peaceful cooperation between the two countries but should also be conducive to a general appeasement in the relations of the principal European Powers.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, December 15, 1938.
THE recent conversations between Your Excellency and the Foreign Minister of the Reich must have enabled you to ascertain the dispositions of the German Government as regards the chief political problems of the moment. It is, however, not unimportant perhaps that I should communicate to you, if only for purposes of comparison, the impressions I have received from my first contacts with German circles.
(1) The establishment of good relations with France meets, at the present moment, the general desire of the German people. All the leading personalities I have approached have, without exception,
expressed their views on this subject in the most emphatic manner and without the slightest reserve; they have all assured me that Germany desired an understanding with France on the basis of the territorial status quo, and wished to make an end of the age-long quarrel between the two countries.
This sentiment, the sincerity of which cannot be questioned, also found expression in the satisfaction with which the signing of the Franco-German declaration of December 6 was received.
This feeling is explained by reasons which, no doubt, may vary according to the different circles in which it can be observed.
The German people, which taken as a whole is peacefully minded, sees in the better understanding of the two countries a guarantee of peace. Those who are disturbed by the excesses of National-Socialist "dynamism" and by the political and economic tension brought about by the regime, are hoping for some relaxation in the internal and external situation, which might help Germany to return gradually to more normal conditions of life. As to the Party, it is evident that they wanted an agreement with France essentially because of the security it offers in the West, if enterprises in other directions are contemplated.
(2) The will for expansion in the East, as a matter of fact, seems to me as undeniable on the part of the Third Reich, as its disposition to put aside-at least for the present-any idea of conquest in the West; the one is a corollary of the other. The first half of Herr Hitler's programme-the integration of the Deutschtum into the Reich-has been carried out more or less completely; now the hour of the "Lebensraum" has come. The insistence with which it has been explained to me that Germany has no claims in the direction of France would have been enough to enlighten me. But I received even more explicit information; all those with whom I held conversations, with the exception of Herr Hitler, spoke to me, in different ways, and always with intentional vagueness, of the necessity for German expansion in Eastern Europe, Herr von Ribbentrop spoke of "the creation of zones of influence in the East and South-East"; Field-Marshal Goering, of "an essentially economic penetration in the South-East."
I have not personally received very definite confidential information on this subject; but it appears that little by little one can see the outlines of a great German enterprise emerge from what is still nebulous. To secure mastery over Central Europe by reducing Czechoslovakia and Hungary to a state of vassalage and then to create a Greater Ukraine under German control-this is what essentially
appears to be the leading idea now accepted by the Nazi leaders, and doubtless by Herr Hitler himself.
Unfortunately the vassalage of Czechoslovakia is almost complete by this time. "My country is now nothing more than a province," my Czech colleague said only yesterday. The German Secret Service is said to be already only working there with Poland in mind and certain German circles are reported to have gone so far as to declare that from now on the Czech army will be called on to play the same part as the Bavarian army under the Second Reich. The construction of the motor road between Breslau and Vienna and of the canal between the Oder and the Danube will be entrusted exclusively to Czech labour. From two equally trustworthy sources I have learnt that in the near future a German-Czech currency agreement will be concluded and will soon be followed by an economic and monetary union.
In Hungary, where resistance will evidently be more determined, they will first endeavour to establish a sort of economic vassalage, and to ensure for the German Army the right of transit, which has become indispensable for action in the east, since Hungarian territory cuts across the Slovak railway.
With regard to the Ukraine, it has been talked about by the whole staff of the National-Socialist Party for the past ten days. Dr. Rosenberg's Centre of Studies, Dr. Goebbels's Services and the "Ost-Europa" organization under the former Minister, Herr Curtius, as well as the Intelligence Service of the German Army, are working on the question. It looks as if the ways and means had not yet been decided upon, but the aim appears to be well defined: to create a Greater Ukraine which would become Germany's granary. In order to achieve this Rumania must be subdued, Poland won over, and Soviet Russia dispossessed; German dynamism is not to be stopped by any of these obstacles, and in military circles, they already talk of the advance to the Caucasus and to Baku.
It is unlikely that Herr Hitler will attempt to achieve his plans concerning the Ukraine by direct military action. It would be contrary to the principles he has professed at different times, and according to which the regime wants neither an ideological war nor the annexation of heterogeneous populations. It seems, moreover, that he has not yet decided on the means of action. Among those who approach him, a political operation is thought of which would repeat, on a larger scale, that of the Sudeten: propaganda in Poland, in Rumania and in Soviet
Russia in favour of Ukrainian independence; support eventually given by diplomatic pressure and by the action of armed bands; Ruthenia would be the focus of the movement. Thus by a curious turn of Fate, Czechoslovakia, which had been established as a bulwark to stem the German drive, now serves the Reich as a battering-ram to demolish the gates to the East.
(3) Nobody in Germany has mentioned the Colonies to me. For the moment at least, only certain specialized circles are occupied with that question. When Herr von Ribbentrop alluded to the demonstrations in France following the German claims it was only to declare that the question might be discussed in five or six years' time. He expressed himself in precisely similar terms when speaking to one of my colleagues, which points to the existence of instructions on the subject. The Führer gave the Belgian Ambassador the definite impression that he was not interested in the question, and that he only raised it from time to time to prevent the "rights of ownership" of Germany from falling into abeyance. The Nazi leaders use the method of Descartes, taking up each question in turn; above all, their appetites, whetted both by their needs and by their ambitions, drive them towards the East, towards the "glorious adventure" and the great achievement of the regime, which they are eager to undertake.
(4) It would appear that the difficulties of the economic situation contribute largely to this haste. The shortage of foreign currency following on the enormous expenses for armament entails ever increasing restrictions, particularly of food stuffs. The population is badly nourished, and sometimes probably even underfed. Unemployment has disappeared, in fact there is actually a shortage of labour, as the manufacture of substitutes requires much more labour than the preparation of natural products, but the working men, who are forced to work ten hours a day, are showing signs of weariness, and I have heard of recent cases of ca' canny strikes that were fairly serious. Competent authorities which do not belong to the Party hold that the financial and economic capacity of the country is strained to the limit. But most of the leaders refuse to admit this. In order to sustain and reinforce this preparatory war economy, there is need of a granary, of mines, and of labour; the Ukraine is at the door of the Reich.
(5) The situation within the Party itself appears fairly tense. Well-informed people think that they can detect the usual premonitory signs of internal convulsions in the Third Reich, namely: unrest among the population, a general feeling of uneasiness and anxiety, outbursts of
indignation and unexpectedly frank criticism of the regime on the part of high functionaries, officers and Party members, especially after the pogroms-in a word, the atmosphere of a thunderstorm. It is said that the tension between the Führer's principal lieutenants has increased: Herr Himmler, for instance, is supposed to have made vain efforts to bring about a reconciliation between Field-Marshal Goering and Herr von Ribbentrop.
I have not been in Berlin long enough to be able to reach personal conclusions on this last point. It certainly does not seem to me that the personal prestige of the Führer has suffered. He is above the clouds that pass over public opinion, as he is above the quarrels that divide his entourage. But it is quite possible that, among other advantages, he will see in a Ukrainian adventure an opportunity to divert the attention of his people from the internal difficulties now increasing in a dangerous manner.
M. RISTELHUEBER, French Minister in Sofia, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Sofa, December 16, 1938.
IN the course of a recent conversation that I had with the Prime Minister, the latter mentioned the great satisfaction he felt in consequence of the recent Franco-German declaration. He said that it had not come as a surprise to him. When Baron von Neurath passed through Sofia nearly two years ago, he stressed the very ardent desire of his Government to arrive at an understanding with France, as there were no questions at issue to divide the two countries. He had even confessed himself pained at the lack of enthusiasm with which Paris had responded to these advances.
As for Germany, while her desire for expansion eastwards was obvious, it was perhaps a mistake to imagine that her first objective would be South-Eastern Europe. It appeared to him that Poland was most menaced. The Polish-Soviet rapprochement constituted a defence against this danger. But the two Slav peoples hated each other so profoundly that their understanding could only be ephemeral and artificial. On the contrary, M. Kiosséivanov did not consider as impossible an understanding between the U.S.S.R. and the Reich, especially if the Comintern agreed to tone down its propaganda. Such had always been
the dream of a section of the German General Staff. In that event a fourth partition of Poland would allow Germany to proceed with her forceful drive eastwards.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin. to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, December 22, 1938.
THE visit I paid yesterday morning to Herr von Weizsäcker on his return from leave afforded me the opportunity to discuss with the State Secretary various political matters of a general character.
Baron von Weizsäcker is an extremely courteous, but also, as it seemed to me, a very cautious man, proceeding with the utmost care whenever he ventures off the beaten track.
Stressing the importance of Anglo-German relations for the promotion of a European détente, as well as for the building up of Franco-German cooperation, I asked the State Secretary how he explained the tension now prevailing between England and Germany. Was it merely a matter of the Press, as Dr. Goebbels had told me ?
"Dr. Goebbels," he answered, "is thinking in professional terms when he gives this explanation. As a matter of fact, it is largely true. There is, in my opinion, no serious cause of misunderstanding between the two countries. It is a question of method rather than of fundamental differences."
With regard to the international guarantee envisaged in favour of Czechoslovakia, Baron von Weizsäcker was reticent. When I reminded him that in Paris Herr von Ribbentrop had expressed his intention of re-examining the question, and asked whether there were any new developments, he answered in the negative. "Could not this matter," he asked with a smile, "be forgotten? Since Germany's predominance in that area is a fact, would not the guarantee of the Reich be sufficient?" I did not fail to remark that obligations entered into cannot be forgotten, and placed the matter in its true light. But I received the impression that my interlocutor had already made up his mind.
"Besides," he concluded, "it would be for Czechoslovakia to claim that guarantee. In any case we are in no hurry to settle this question, and M. Chvalkovsky is not coming to Berlin until after the holidays."
Actually, the visit of the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister has already been postponed twice.
As my conversation with the State Secretary was no more than an exchange of personal views in the course of a courtesy visit I think that it would not be suitable to take official cognizance of it. Nevertheless, I thought it my duty to report his pronouncement on the last question to Your Excellency, as it seems to me to confirm the misgivings felt in Prague concerning the conditions that the Reich might intend to attach to the granting of its guarantee.