126 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, May 15 German propaganda claims that the risk of war is due to Polish obstinacy over the question of Danzig. It does not add that from the commercial, naval and military point of view, Danzig commands access to Poland and that Germany, once mistress of the Free City, would have Poland at her mercy ..................................................... 159 127 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, May 22 Herr von Ribbentrop appears to contemplate a partition of Poland dependent upon a German-Russian agreement; he would not appear to be the only one of this opinion in Germany. Herr Hitler, however, would seem to be reluctant for ideo- logical reasons to come to an understanding with the U.S.S.R., aimed ultimately at the destruction of the British Empire against which Herr von Ribbentrop harbours a personal grudge. Thus Germany will exploit every setback in the negotia- tions now in progress between Britain, France and Russia .. 162 128 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, May 25 The German Government has not yet lost all hope of attaining its ends by eventually exhausting the vigilance of France and Great Britain ......................................... 164 129 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, May 25 Incidents are occurring on the Polish-Danzig frontier. The most serious to date took place at Kalthof, a Polish Customs station, which has been pillaged by S.A. men, one of whom has been killed ........................................... 165 130 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, May 30 These incidents, cleverly exploited, will enable Germany to raise an out cry against Polish persecution, to proclaim that conditions are becoming unbearable for Germans, to announce that it is her duty to protect them; in brief, to begin a maneuver similar to that which succeeded in the case of Czechoslovakia, and which ought to be unmasked ............ 168 131 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, May 31 Poland adopts a conciliatory attitude over the Kalthof inci- dent and takes care not to envenom the discussion already in progress in the Danzig Senate .......................... 169 132 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 1 The prevailing view at the Wilhelmstrasse appears to be that if Poland does not yield, Herr Hitler's future action will be determined by the outcome of the Anglo-Russian negotia- tions. Hence the Ambassadors of France and Great Britain in Berlin emphasize to their respective Governments the urgency of concluding the Anglo-Franco-Russian agreement .......... 170 133 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, June 7 The Notes delivered by the Danzig Senate to the Polish High Commissioner following the Kalthof incident reveal the tac- tics of the Government of the Free City, which consist in pursuing a policy of systematic sabotage of the rights of Poland .................................................... 172 134 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, June 11 An increased infiltration of German military elements is further noted in the Free City; the Polish authorities do not seem to be disturbed by this .......................... 174 135 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 13 The impression in Berlin is that Herr von Ribbentrop consid- ers the Danzig affair no more than a detail in the whole Polish problem which is now in question in its entirety. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Reich is understood to have given up the idea of an understanding with the U.S.S.R., which is now very tactfully handled by the Nazi leaders in their speeches, he is only awaiting the outcome of the Anglo- Franco-Russian conversations ............................. 175 136 M. DE LA TOURNELLE-Danzig, June 14 In Danzig, a violent Press campaign against Poland ........ 176 137 M. DE LA TOURNELLE-Danzig, June 16 The German Press campaign continues ....................... 177 138 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 20 Dr. Goebbels at Danzig makes two speeches in which, after emphasizing the German character of Danzig, and criticizing Poland and Great Britain severely, he declares the determin- ation of his Government to recover the Free City .......... 178 139 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 20 In an interview with the French Ambassador in Berlin, Herr von Weizsäcker seems to expect an easing of the present tension. At the same time he pretends to maintain that the chances of entering into conversations likely to lead to a détente would not be increased by the conclusion of a Franco-Anglo-Russian pact ................................. 181 140 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, June 20 The staff of the German Embassy in Warsaw talk and spread rumours to the effect that Herr Hitler will settle the Danzig affair as he himself sees fit; they mention the Corridor also, and even Upper Silesia ..................... 182 141 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, June 21 The French Ambassador in Warsaw gives details of the position taken up by Poland; this country would not be opposed to modifications in the statute of Danzig; but will not consent to its annexation by the Reich. The Poles would be willing to give the Germans all transit facilities through the Corridor, but will not admit the extra-territoriality of these transit roads ..................................................... 183 142 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, June 22 Poland continues absolutely calm and proceeds with the neces- sary preparations for her defence. Her leaders are trying to gain time, and postpone a conflict which the majority do not however believe it will be possible ultimately to avoid .... 183 143 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 22 In diplomatic circles in Berlin a crisis over Danzig is con- sidered inevitable before the end of the year; moreover the German claims now extend to the Corridor and Silesia ...... 184 144 M. DE LA TOURNELLE-Danzig, June 23 In Danzig the population is surprised by the repercussions abroad, provoked by Dr. Goebbels' speech in the Free City on June 17. Many regret it should be believed that they gave their assent to a revision of the statute of Danzig, during a demonstration in which it was in fact, their duty to take part ..................................................... 186 145 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 27 The German leaders may contemplate having the Free City pro- claimed part of the Reich by the Danzig Senate; this would provoke Polish counter-measures making it possible to repre- sent the Poles as the aggressors. It would be advisable to forestall this maneuver by making it clear that any violent action originating in Danzig itself, and which Poland consid- ered essential to resist, would automatically bring France and Great Britain to her assistance ....................... 186 146 M. LÉON NOËL-Warsaw, June 27 The militarisation of Danzig continues and will soon consti- tute a threat to the Corridor. When the Poles will no longer be able to remain inactive under this threat, Germany will declare their attitude provocative, and denounce them as aggressors. This maneuver is seriously disturbing the Poles ..................................................... 189 147 M. GEORGES BONNET-Paris, June 29 The Minister for Foreign Affairs asks the French Ambassador in London to approach Lord Halifax with a request that in the speech he is to deliver on the evening of June 29, he should give the leaders of the Reich clear warning of the common determination of the two Governments to fulfill their guarantee of assistance to Poland, whatever means Germany may adopt to conceal the real character of its action under a cloak of ambiguity ........................................ 190 148 M. COULONDRE-Berlin, June 30 Herr von Weizsäcker informs the French Ambassador in Berlin that Colonel Beck is believed, according to certain indica- tions, to be seeking the basis for a solution, but at the same time he attempts to establish a distinction between the attitude of Great Britain and the intentions of France in the event of a conflict ................................... 191
M. LÉON NÖEL., French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, May 15, 1939.
AT a time when Germany, by clever propaganda, is trying to persuade the world that the present risk of war is due solely to Poland's uncompromising attitude over the Danzig question, and to her stubborn refusal to permit the incorporation in the Reich of a city whose character is indisputably German, it will, perhaps, be useful to point out once more the causes which determine the Polish attitude.
In refusing to allow the annexation of Danzig by the Reich, with its inevitable consequences-among the foremost of which would be the occupation of the Free City not only by the S.A., the S.S., and a large militarized police force, but also by troops with all the most up-to-date equipment in use in the Germany Army-Poland is not guided merely by the very legitimate fear, prompted by memories of the Czechoslovak experience, of being caught in the fatal mesh of continuous concessions and renunciations. Whatever promises and "guarantees" Herr Hitler might offer by way of compensation for the annexation of Danzig, it would remain none the less true that Germany, once master of the Free City, would not be far from having Poland completely at her mercy. It would be a simple matter for Germany to restrict the advantages of access to the sea, which Germany would in principle have recognized to Poland, and easier still to deprive her of the right of access altogether at the first convenient opportunity.
Sea-borne trade figures largely in Poland's foreign trade. Two thirds of it in value, and more than three quarters in bulk, pass through the two ports of Gdynia and Danzig. In 1938, in fact, of a total trade of 19,200,000 tons, 16,300,000 tons passed through them.
The tonnage handled by Gdynia and Danzig, which, as we shall see, is far from adequate for Poland's total needs, is divided between these two ports as follows: 9,200,000 tons at Gdynia, and 7,100,000 at Danzig. The analysis of imports and exports is as follows:
Imports Exports Gdynia....... 1,526,000 tons. 7,646,000 tons. Danzig....... 1,562,000 tons. 5,563,000 tons.
One-third of the bulk, and 17 per cent of the value, of Polish foreign trade therefore passes through Danzig, while 46 per cent of the bulk and 48 per cent of the value passes through Gdynia.
As the Polish Government has been at pains, for practical reasons and in order to avoid wasteful competition, to make the two ports in its Customs area specialize in particular trades, Danzig has become the principal port for the export of Polish cereals (in 1938, 407,000 tons of agricultural produce against only 112,000 via Gdynia) and Polish timber (813,000 tons against 402,000). The coal trade is shared between them. Coal from the Dombrowa basin is exported via Danzig that of Upper Silesia via Gdynia; the latter thus takes first place with 5,380,000 tons plus 1,000,000 tons of bunker coal against 3,500,000 tons via Danzig.
If Poland wanted to dispense with Danzig and give Gdynia the handling of all her commerce, she could do so only after some time had elapsed, and at great expense. Gdynia could probably cope successfully with the coal exports, but this port is not adequately equipped for handling either cereals or wood. Not only would new accommodation (granaries, etc.) have to be provided, but even new quays and larger warehouses would have to be built. The construction at the back of the port of a canal 2 kilometres long, a project already contemplated, would also be necessary.
From the point of view of communications, the importance to Poland of the Free City of Danzig is not confined to the use at present made of the harbour, or the fact that the mouth of the Vistula-the one important Polish river-is at Danzig. Though the Silesian-Baltic Railway, built and operated by the Franco-Polish Railway Company,
runs outside the territory of the Free City, the Warsaw-Gdynia line, on the other hand, crosses it and runs through Danzig itself.
From the naval and military point of view, it is no exaggeration to say that the territory of Danzig commands Poland's access to the sea.
The distance from Danzig to Hel is about 30 kilometres as the crow flies; from the nearest point on the coast in Danzig territory to Hel is about 25 kilometres. Ships passing near the Hel peninsula could, therefore, enter and leave the Bay of Gdynia remaining all the time out of range of the batteries on the Danzig coast.
On the other hand, Gdynia is less than 10 kilometres from the nearest point of Danzig territory and would be within range of guns placed between Zoppot and the western limit of Danzig territory.
Generally speaking, if Germany were able to construct fortifications in the south-west territory of the Free City, which forms a salient into the corridor, the defence of the latter would become still more difficult than it is now.
For the militarisation of the Free City to have its full value, the Germans would, it is true, have to establish permanent means of communication between the two banks of the Vistula so as to link up the eastern portion with East Prussia. At present, no bridge spans the Vistula between Tczew (the last Polish town on the Vistula) and the sea, but Germany's vast technical resources would allow her to fill this gap quickly enough, and in any case make up for any deficiencies by emergency measures.
The above indications show how well founded is the uneasiness with which Poland regards the intentions of Herr Hitler.
Poland could not possibly exist without free access to the sea. Napoleon himself recognized this, adding that Danzig was essential to Poland "to enable her to dispose of her produce." The "Corridor" and Gdynia are not enough to ensure to Poland this "exit to the sea," which, in the words of Proudhon, is "vital to every large state." It should not be forgotten, moreover, that the events of last March have made this a still more vital necessity for Poland; she could, after her reconciliation with Lithuania, have utilized the "Port of Memel," but this is now out of the question; while, on the other hand, since the annexation by the Reich of Bohemia and Moravia, only at the cost of surrendering her independence to the Reich could she make sufficient use of the Czechoslovak railways to facilitate appreciably her foreign trade.
Herr Hitler does not seem to have understood these points; by
choosing to claim Danzig precisely on the morrow of a series of aggressions, one result of which has been to make the maintenance of the existing status of Danzig more than ever indispensable to Poland, he has shown a complete lack of psychological insight.
Before the partitions, the Poles called Danzig "the Admiral of Poland," thus symbolizing the importance they traditionally attached to this ancient port. The Poles of the twentieth century, with their passion for the sea, and their high ideals for their reborn state, and what it should become, are not prepared to allow themselves to be despoiled in Danzig of the rights they consider essential to them. They are unanimous on this point; they will not put up with any settlement which would not, in their opinion, appear likely to safeguard them.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, May 22, 1939.
FROM a reliable source I have received certain indications of Herr von Ribbentrop's present attitude to the International problems of the moment, which it appears to me advisable to pass on to your department.
The Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs considers it absolutely unbelievable that Poland should have rejected the Führer's proposals. These were Herr Hitler's personal suggestions. Herr von Ribbentrop himself would never have approved them. In his opinion, they were quite incomprehensible in "their clemency and their generosity." It was unthinkable that Herr Hitler should have revealed, at the same time such modesty in his demands, and such generosity in his offers. Furthermore, last January, M. Beck had accepted these advantageous proposals. It was because of the internal situation in Poland that he had been unable to keep his word. The Warsaw government had therefore missed a most unlooked-for chance of securing the continued existence of Poland for twenty-five years. But nothing would be lost by waiting.
The possibility that Poland might accept the German point of view, and enter into her orbit, although it seemed highly remote at the moment, had not been altogether set aside by Herr von Ribbentrop.
But what, in fact, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Reich
thinks, is that the Polish State cannot last very long. Sooner or later it would be bound to disappear, once more partitioned between Germany and Russia. In Herr von Ribbentrop's mind the idea of such a partition was closely linked with that of a rapprochement between Berlin and Moscow. To him such a reconciliation seemed, in the long run, both indispensable and inevitable. It would be in accordance with reality, and with a tradition still very much alive in Germany and would be the only way of bringing about a permanent settlement of the German-Polish dispute, that is, according to the methods already applied in the case of Czechoslovakia, the deletion of Poland from the map.
But above all it would give the rulers of the Reich the means of destroying the power of Great Britain. That was the chief objective which Herr von Ribbentrop had set himself, the idée fixe, which, with fanatical determination, he was unceasingly striving to achieve.
The hope, that a Russo-German cooperation would one day give the Reich a chance of striking a mortal blow at the world power of the British Empire, had been strengthened latterly in Herr von Ribbentrop's mind by the difficulties which were met with in the Anglo-Soviet negotiations. It was true that the Führer was still opposed to the political designs of the Minister for Foreign Affairs with regard to Soviet Russia. Herr Hitler considered that, for ideological reasons, it would be extremely difficult to bring about such a re-orientation of German policy. However, Herr von Ribbentrop had his backers, notably amongst the Higher Command and the more important industrialists. The Chancellor himself had, to a certain extent, already taken account of these tendencies of his Foreign Minister by making no attack against Soviet Russia in his speeches during the past few months, and by allowing the German Press for the time being to lower the tone of its anti-Bolshevik tirades.
One of the immediate objects that the advocates of a reconciliation with the U.S.S.R. hoped to gain, appeared to be the possibility of persuading Russia to play the same role in an eventual dismemberment of Poland that the latter country had played with regard to Czechoslovakia. The ultimate object appeared to be to make use of the material resources and man-power of the U.S.S.R. as a means to destroy the British Empire.
It is possible that up to the present the Führer has resisted these appeals or at any rate hesitated to commit himself to such a policy, for ideological reasons. But, even admitting that such is his present attitude, there is nothing to indicate that he will not change his mind.
In any case, the ease and rapidity with which rumours of a Russo-German reconciliation found credence in Germany at the time of M. Litvinov's resignation were enough to allay any fears that Herr Hitler might have had as to the effect on public opinion. One cannot eliminate the possibility that it was to enlighten the Chancellor on this point that the advocates of Russo-German reconciliation put about these rumours.
At this moment, when the Anglo-Franco-Russian negotiations seem to have entered upon a decisive phase, we should keep clearly conscious of this situation and bear in mind that the Reich would do its best to take advantage, to the detriment of France and Great Britain, of any failure, howsoever veiled, in the conversations now taking place with Moscow.
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, May 25, 1939.
WHILE maintaining an attitude of reserve, which contrasts with the activity and blunders of some of his collaborators, the German Ambassador has, since his return to Warsaw, had interviews with several of his colleagues.
According to information I have gleaned he reproaches M. Beck with having abandoned the "only reasonable policy" under pressure from the Army and public opinion.
As to the present situation, he declares that Germany wishes to avoid extreme measures towards Poland at the moment, and quotes in support of his statement the "composure" with which his countrymen have taken the recent incidents at Danzig, and the much more serious ones, according to him, at Tomaszow.
But he does not attempt to hide the fact that this "patience" is only a question of passing tactics and he makes no mystery of the hopes of his Government: "in three months," he said emphatically in the course of conversations, "England, France and even Poland will be tired and will not think any more of fighting for the sake of Danzig. Then we shall settle the problem under favourable conditions."
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, May 25, 1939.
WITHIN the last few days there has been a series of incidents on the Danzig-Polish frontier. They were for the most part insignificant, but their frequency, the trouble stirred up about them by the Danzig authorities, and the use which these are obviously seeking to make of them give them exceptional importance.
It will, therefore, be of interest to sum them up briefly here;
1. The Kalthof incident (Customs post on the frontier of East Prussia).
A troop of the S.A. collected before a house occupied by the Polish Customs officials and threatened them. The officials withdrew. The assailants entered the house and ransacked it.
Informed of the incident the Polish Commissioner-General made it known that he was sending his deputy, M. Perkowski to the spot, and informed the Danzig authorities who agreed to have him accompanied by the police. A few moments later, the same authorities telephoned to say that they had no police available. M. Perkowski therefore went alone by car to Kalthof.
While he was visiting the ransacked building, a group of "unknown persons" attacked his car which was parked outside. The chauffeur, after firing two shots in the air, fired on his assailants. One of them was killed. The dead man turned out to be an S.A. from Marienburg in East Prussia, Grübnau by name.
The crowd scattered immediately. M. Perkowski and his chauffeur joined the Customs officials, who had taken refuge in a neighbouring railway station, and had themselves conveyed on a railway engine to Tczew, in Polish territory.
The German version separates the two portions of the incident. It explains Grübnau's death in the following manner: "A citizen was going through a deserted village in a taxi when he was killed by a Polish chauffeur who had first dazzled the taxi-driver with his headlights."
As a sequel to the incident the Polish Commissioner-General transmitted to the Senate of Danzig a note in which:
(1) He pointed out that the Polish Government could not admit that the work of the Polish Customs officials should be interfered with in any way.
(2) He demanded that an inquiry should be held.
(3) He claimed compensation for damages.
(4) He insisted upon a clear and precise declaration as to the guarantees that the Senate was disposed to give to ensure the security of the Polish minority in the Free City.
The Senate, on its part, sent a protest on account the death of the S.A. Grübnau, demanding also compensation, sanctions and apologies.
At this stage the Polish Customs officials returned to their post.
To the note of the Polish Commissioner-General, the Senate has just replied with two notes. In the first it declared itself unable to accept the Polish version of the incident and refused to accede to the requests of the Polish Commissioner-General. In the second, the Senate requested the recall of M. Perkowski, the Commissioner-General's deputy, and of the Polish Inspector General of Customs and one of his collaborators. The Danzig note accused M. Perkowski of taking advantage of his diplomatic rights to flee into Polish territory taking with him the murderer thus enabling the latter to escape from the Danzig justice.
Finally, yesterday, May 24, the funeral of the victim took place at Marienburg. Herr Hitler sent a wreath of flowers by special aeroplane. President Greiser and Gauleiter Forster took part in the ceremony. The speeches made dwelt chiefly upon the virtues of their lost comrade without making any allusion to Poland. But one of the S.A. took a solemn oath over the grave of Grübnau to avenge his death.
2. Incident at Pieklo (Picker) on the frontier of Danzig and East Prussia, opposite Elbing.
On Sunday, May 14, there was a further hostile manifestation before the Polish Customs post. But this time, at the request of the Polish Commissioner-General, the police intervened and dispersed the demonstrators.
3. Incident on the Tczew bridge (Dirschau).
On Tuesday, May 16, in the early hours of the morning a lorry coming from Elbing (East Prussia) going towards the Reich across the Corridor, drew up at the Polish frontier post near the Tczew bridge. At that moment a Polish Customs official fired a revolver shot in the air to prevent the chauffeur moving off. The Danzig version asserts that the Customs official attempted to kill the chauffeur. The Vorposten, the official organ of the Senate, devotes considerable space to
the incident, preceding the story with the huge headline: "Fresh attempt at murder by Poles on Danzig territory."
4. Incident at Kohling.
Two Polish frontier guards crossed the frontier. Called upon to withdraw they left a bicycle in Danzig territory. The Senate speaks of a further violation of the frontier.
Taking their stand upon the whole series of incidents, the Senate sent the Polish Commissioner General a note of protest which the Vorposten describes as extremely vigorous. But it does not publish the text.
However, from information which has reached Warsaw it would seem that the Senate requested the Polish Government "to take the necessary measures to put a stop to the hysteria of the Polish officials before the trouble caused by it led to incalculable consequences."
The Polish press, which had reacted violently after the Kalthof incident, does not seem, on the other hand, to attach much importance to the incidents which followed. It publishes brief reports under the heading "Minor frontier incidents."
In the same way only a very fleeting allusion is made to yesterday's notes from the Danzig Senate. A telegram reproduced by the Gazeta Polska merely remarks "a peculiar feature of the Danzig requests is the recall of three Polish officials."
The Pat Agency observes, in one of its bulletins, that the Senate's request for the recall of the Deputy Commissioner at Danzig cannot possibly be accepted, for the Polish Commissioner-General represents the Polish Government at Danzig and cannot be regarded as a normal diplomatic Representative. The same considerations, adds the semi-official agency, hold good for the officials under him.
The same bulletin remarks that the Senate's notes are considered in Warsaw as tending, for purpose of propaganda, to aggravate the relations between Poland and Danzig; "the unhealthy publicity given by the Senate to minute incidents, and to the notes addressed to the Polish Government, cannot have any other object than that of further inflaming public opinion."
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, May 30, 1939.
I HAVE pointed out that in the near future we must expect Germany to begin, à propos of Danzig, one of those large-scale campaigns, thanks to which she has been able to lay hands successively on Vienna, Sudetenland, and Prague. The threat of war, formulated in a more or less veiled or crude fashion, will still be, in all probability, the weapon to which the Reich will have recourse to vanquish if possible outside opposition. But before reaching this point, the Nazi leaders-who today can well measure their losses in the international field since March 1W will leave no stone unturned in order to try to persuade the world of the justice and purity of their intentions. It is necessary for us, therefore, to be ready to combat their propaganda and not to allow their arguments to pass without a reply. We have only to remember the case of Czechoslovakia to get an idea of the methods of agitation which the Heads of the Third Reich will most likely adopt once more.
The German tactics will consist principally, it seems, in drawing the attention of the world to the fact-not disputed-that the majority of the population of Danzig is German in race and language. The Nazis will furthermore assert that the provocative attitude of the Poles, the dislike of the Danzig Germans for Poland, and the many incidents thus rendered inevitable, make the situation intolerable, and demand that a solution shall be found without delay. German blood spilt, women ill-treated, harmless peasants or peaceful city dwellers hunted from their homes by the hatred for Germany and obliged to seek refuge in the Reich-nothing will be lacking in the campaign launched by the German propaganda, nothing will be neglected so that the Führer may, when the time comes, make the very most of the role which he himself has assumed, that of the protector of all Germans.
Despite the fact that world opinion is forewarned, we cannot exclude the possibility that certain elements who have learnt nothing from the Czech affair, will still allow themselves to be impressed.
It is essential, therefore, in my opinion, that as the German Press campaign develops, our newspapers should take special pains to stress the weaknesses in the German arguments. I consider that the following points could be developed with advantage.
Can Germany, which has just brutally incorporated 7,000,000
Czechs into the Reich, that is to say a whole people, more numerous than quite a number of other European nations, possibly advance ethnographic principles to support her claim for the return of 400,000 Germans to the Reich?
Can Germany, while invoking the principle of Lebensraum as a justification for the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia, possibly deny that Danzig and the Corridor are indispensable to the life of Poland?
Can the leaders of the Reich who, having rejected historical principles last October, revived them in March to excuse their seizure of Prague, possibly refuse to recognize that Danzig and the Corridor have been considerably longer under Polish than under German rule? (From 968 to 1939, Pomerania was Polish for six hundred and ninety years and German for three hundred and sixty-three years only.)
As for the dislike of the Germans in Danzig for the Poles and the intolerable nature of the situation which reigns in Danzig, how can such statements be reconciled with the oft repeated publicly stated affirmation of friendship for Poland given by the Führer himself since 1934 and, in particular, with his remark on February 20, 1938: "Danzig has ceased to be one of the danger spots of Europe"?
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, May 31, 1939.
A P.A.T. AGENCY bulletin has given a resumé of the letter addressed by the Polish Commissioner-General at Danzig to the President of the Senate, Herr Greiser, in reply to the two notes addressed by the latter to the Polish Government after the Kalthof incident.
According to this resumé M. Chodacki states in his letter that responsibility for the events at Kalthof rests entirely with the authorities of Danzig, who, despite repeated representations from the Commissioner-General, had taken no steps "to prevent the criminal activities of the disturbers of the peace . . ."
In reply to the Senate's demand for the recall of the Polish Deputy Commissioner, M. Perkowski, and of two Customs officials, the Commissioner-General confined himself to saying that he was unable to discover any lapse on the part of these officials and that, furthermore,
"he could not admit the right of the Senate to formulate any demands in the matter."
The letter ended by declaring that, if the Senate was really prepared to put an end to the existing tension, the Polish Government was, for its part, prepared to undertake a joint examination "of the arrangements that could be made in order to ensure the possibility of normal activity for Polish officials in the territory of the Free City, and to improve the relations between these officials and the authorities of Danzig."
No comments accompanied this P.A.T. communiqué, but one cannot help being struck by the conciliatory tone of M. Chodacki's letter. It does its utmost to avoid a continuation of the discussions started by the Senate on the prerogatives of the Polish Commissioner-General and his collaborators. At the same time the Polish Government implicitly renounces its claim for an indemnity for the damage done and refrains from speaking of the "new guarantees" for its officials, and for the Polish population of Danzig, which had been demanded in a previous letter immediately after the incident.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 1, 1939.
FROM a reliable intermediary, I have received the following indications, given by a senior official of the Wilhelmstrasse, on the manner in which the higher authorities envisage the settlement of the Danzig problem.
I give as "reliable" the information which the official from whom it was obtained says he checked himself.
"Three possibilities are at present contemplated: withdrawal on the part of Poland; war; and withdrawal on the part of Germany.
"(1) The first solution is naturally preferred: it is one which is reckoned on and which is already being aimed at. That is the reason why a state of crisis is kept up in Poland, in order to oblige her to remain mobilized, and to exhaust progressively her nervous resistance and her financial resources. It is anticipated that the action undertaken will produce results in about two months.
"Reliable-German diplomatic representatives abroad have been in-
structed to spread the report that France and England will not fight for the sake of Danzig. I have, myself, noted a revival of this campaign amongst the members of the diplomatic corps in Berlin.
"Reliable-Herr Hitler has no illusions on this subject, for he has in his hands the reports of the competent Embassies in which it is declared that France and England will fight without any doubt in support of Poland.
"(2) The higher authorities know, therefore, that if war broke out with Poland over the question of Danzig, a general war would result.
"The Führer has asked General Keitel, chief of the General Staff, and General von Brauchitsch, C.-in-C. of the Army, whether in their opinion, under existing conditions, an armed conflict would turn in favour of Germany. Both replied that much depended on whether Russia remained neutral or not. In the first case General Keitel replied 'Yes' and General von Brauchitsch (whose opinion has greater value) replied 'probably.' Both declared that, if Germany had to fight against Russia, she would not have much chance of winning. Both generals attached considerable importance to the intervention of Turkey, their opinion being that Turkey was likely to act in favour of the Western Powers only if Russia herself join in.
"The prevalent opinion at the Wilhelmstrasse is that, if Poland does not yield, Herr Hitler's decision will depend upon the signature of the Anglo-Russian pact. It is believed that he will risk war if he does not have to fight Russia, but that if, on the contrary, he knows that he will have to fight Russia as well, he will give way rather than expose his country, his party and himself to ruin and defeat.
"Should the Anglo-Russian negotiations be protracted the possibility of a lightning seizure of Danzig within the next few weeks is not excluded.
"(3) They are convinced at the Wilhelmstrasse that, in the mind of the Führer, Danzig is a means, but not an end. They stress the fact that, in his speech of April 28, Herr Hitler mentioned Alsace with a certain reticence."
The above statements fit in as a whole with the information that I have already sent to Your Excellency. They underline at the same time the primary importance that is attached here to the Anglo-Russian talks and the extreme urgency of their being brought to a speedy conclusion. They indicate the middle of August as the culminating point of the crisis, but they also make clear the very great danger of the
period which will elapse before the present negotiations have been concluded.
My British colleague, who considers as I do, that this information is very serious, informs me that he has communicated it to London urging that the conclusion of an Anglo-Franco-Russian pact be pushed forward as quickly as possible. I told him that for our part we would leave no stone unturned to bring about this result with the least possible delay.
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, June 7, 1939.
THE two notes which were handed by the Senate of Danzig on June 3 to the Polish Commissioner-General and, according to the Vorposten, constituted "Danzig's last word" on the Kalthof shooting, are worth particular study. They would seem, in fact, to give a clearer picture of the tactics which the Free City means to adopt towards Poland at any rate for the next few weeks. On the one hand, the idea seems to be to turn a deaf ear to any proposal for renewing collaboration, or even easing the existing tension, with Poland. On the other hand the Free City seems to be planning to profit by the circumstances in order to proclaim itself an independent German state; it must, therefore, abolish progressively all the Polish prerogatives. Thus it is taking advantage of the Kalthof incident, to quarrel with the Polish Representatives whom the Senate wishes to reduce to the level of ordinary diplomatic representatives and with the Polish Customs inspectors. If Poland should grow weary of the struggle, they would manage, in course of time, to obtain recognition by her of the Free City as an independent German state; and it will be remembered that it was towards such a solution that M. Beck seemed inclined to turn at the time when he was on good terms with Berlin. If Poland resists and conflicts arise, which from a distance appear to be of quite minor importance, Poland will be accused of adopting an uncompromising attitude and of wishing to undermine the essentially German character of Danzig.
We know that, as a result of the Kalthof incident when the chauffeur of the Polish Deputy Commissioner, M. Perkowski, fired at a
Marienburg butcher and killed him, the Senate demanded the "recall" of this official, for abusing his diplomatic privileges in order to make good the escape of the murderer, as well as that of two other Customs officials.
In its reply the Polish Government had refused to recognise the right of the Senate to make any demands, but at the same time declared itself willing to examine the arrangements that could be made in order to ensure the possibility of normal activity for Polish officials on the territory of the Free City "if the Senate was willing to put an end to the existing tension."
The last two notes of the Senate had, as their object, to leave no doubt that it was not in the least prepared to end the existing tension and still less to assist in ensuring the possibility of normal activity for the Polish officials.
The presentation of these notes is in itself eloquent. According to the official Danzig communiqué, they were addressed by "the Government of Danzig to the diplomatic Representative of the Polish Republic" and the Polish Commissioner-General, M. Chodacki, found himself addressed as "Herr Minister." The first note warns the Polish Government that "if it maintained its refusal to recall the three officials mentioned, an order would be given to all Danzig officials, whether directly dependent on the Senate or not, to cease for the future all private and official dealings with them."
The second note protests against the excessive number of Polish Customs inspectors, which was "contrary to treaty stipulations"; and notifies the Polish Representative that in future the Customs officials would be obliged to take an oath of allegiance to the authorities of the Free City.
The Polish Press, which had received orders not to lay stress on the question, published only a brief report in which the reply of the Senate was reduced to the proportions of a purely local event upon which it was not necessary to dwell. The few newspapers which brought the matter up again, only did so in order to ridicule the Senate's claims. The I.K.C., for example, called Herr Greiser the "Burgomaster of the town of Gdansk." The Kurjer Warszawski was rather sarcastic about the senators who "in asking for a reduction in the number of Polish Customs officials revealed their ignorance of the statutes of their own city."
The remarks made by Herr Forster on Sunday last, June 4, at the festival of the Danzig Labour Service, with the agreement of Reichsar-
beitsführer Hierl, seem to confirm the impression that the Free City is at present determined to carry on a policy of resistance and systematic sabotage of Polish rights. The Gauleiter compared the "unbridled fury" and the "hysteria" of the Poles with the calm of Danzig. "For us, Danzigers," he said, "we must not allow ourselves to lose our tempers-we leave that to our neighbours-we have only to wait, trusting in the Führer. We have held out for peace, we can hold out a little longer. The Führer wants a strong Danzig. Four hundred thousand people of Danzig are waiting, resolute, at the mouth of the Vistula, and look to no one but him."
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, June 11, 1939.
THE force of 6,000 S.A. now circulating in Danzig, "with their packs on their backs, with entrenching tools and armed with carbines" which according to the Vorposten gives the town "almost the appearance of a mobilized city," have now been joined, the Nazi journal informs us, by "motor-cars and motor-cycles of the Reichswehr, manned by German soldiers." The newspaper which is supposed to reflect the views of the Senate affirms that there is nothing sensational in this and that it is only a question of a simple military tournament amongst the S.A., "in which units of the standing Army are taking part."
It is stated, furthermore, in National-Socialist circles in the Free City, that these military motor-cars and motor-cycles have merely brought from East Prussia officers accompanied by their orderlies and chauffeurs, who have come to take part in the festivities.
These army vehicles, as far as can be gathered, are about thirty in number and will take part in a rally to be held round the outer edge of the Free City.
Neither the gathering of the S.A. nor the presence amongst them of the German regulars seems to disturb the Polish authorities who reckon that they will leave Danzig the way they came.
The intention of the German leaders to "nibble" at the statute of Danzig is none the less evidenced anew by these facts.
Such were the tactics formerly applied by Germany in the occupied Rhineland, but there they were confronted by a system of administra-
tion which it was easier to defend; all the circumstances (ceremonies, strikes, catastrophes) were utilized by the authorities of the Reich to try to introduce uniforms into the demilitarized zone.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 13, 1939.
A PERSON in close touch with this Embassy has just gathered together the following observations from someone in Herr von Ribbentrop's immediate entourage.
Beneath the apparent calm which at the moment prevails in Berlin and astonishes some people and worries others, they are feverishly at work at the Wilhelmstrasse. Preparations are being made to face all manner of eventualities, but before directing his foreign policy into any one definite channel, Herr von Ribbentrop is awaiting the outcome of the talks between the Western Powers and Russia. The Danzig question is, in his eyes, only a detail which in itself does not interest him. For him it is the whole Polish question which is at stake. This problem could be settled:
Either by an arrangement with England and France, as was the Czechoslovak problem,
Or by an arrangement with Poland itself,
Or by an arrangement with Russia.
The first solution is ruled out by the attitude adopted by France and England since March 15.
The second has met with the rigid resistance from Poland, backed by the British guarantee. There is now no longer much hope of its being realized, for the so-called negotiations in progress between Warsaw and Berlin only deal with technical details and do not touch on the conflict of principle.
There remains, therefore, the third solution, namely the destruction of the Polish State by partition between the Reich and Russia.
Herr von Ribbentrop has not given up this idea. He will not abandon it until the Anglo-Russian pact is signed. Until then he reserves all decisions, while continuing to show every consideration to the Soviets.
The return of the "Condor" Legion should normally have been an
occasion for diatribes against Bolshevism. Herr von Ribbentrop saw to it that none of the speeches contained anything likely to offend Russia. The Führer himself, when addressing the "Condor" Legion never uttered the word "Bolshevism" or "Communism." It was against the "Democracies," the "warmongers and war profiteers," the promoters of "encirclement," that his thunderbolts were directed. The reserve that he observed with regard to Russia was evidently not due to chance. It was due to the influence of Herr von Ribbentrop who still has hopes of winning over the Russians, or at any rate of seeing them remain outside the bloc constituted under the aegis of France and England.
These considerations, which bear out information I have already communicated to Your Excellency, seem clearly to reflect certain designs of Herr von Ribbentrop and the National-Socialist Government with regard to Poland and Russia. One could imagine perhaps that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Reich is himself the originator of these "confidences." Yet it is difficult to conceive how it would be to his interest to spread news which would incite the Western Powers to speed up the negotiations whose conclusion seems to be so much feared in Berlin. On the other hand, Your Excellency is aware that similar information reached me from Field Marshal Goering as well as from other sources.
The manoeuvre which the advocates of collaboration with Moscow hope to bring off, evidently consists of a repetition to the detriment of Poland and with the aid of Russia, of the device already employed so successfully against Czechoslovakia.
M. DE LA TOURNELLE, French Consul in Danzig, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Danzig, June 14, 1939.
SINCE June 10, the date of the departure of the President of the Senate, who will be away about eight weeks, the situation has perceptibly deteriorated.
An anti-Polish campaign of unheard-of violence and vulgarity is being carried on by the two daily papers, who charge the Polish Customs officials with the most unlikely offences. The reduction of their number, which is not limited by any agreement, is also de-
manded. It would seem that these officials exercise an effective control and have been taking steps to prevent the smuggling in of firearms, especially since the March crisis. The Press wishes perhaps to point out to the large numbers of visitors who have come from the Reich for the Cultural Congress and the exercises of the S.A., how intolerable life is for the German population of the Free City. A state of great excitement has been noted amongst the local militia.
Business circles, however, seem to think that, as a result of Polish concessions, tension will diminish in the course of the next few weeks.
M. DE LA TOURNELLE, French Consul in Danzig, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Danzig, June 16, 1939.
IN the Danzig-Polish dispute, the National-Socialist party is stressing the question of the Polish Customs inspectors, that is to say, they are giving indications as to just where the shoe pinches them. As I pointed out in a previous dispatch it is reported that a considerable number of firearms were being smuggled into the territory of the Free City in February and March. It appears that, since that time, this contraband has ceased and that the inspectors, doubtless backed up by their Government, have been showing more zeal in the performance of their duties. Although articles 200 and 201 of the Danzig-Polish treaty of October 24, 1921, which prescribe for their conditions of service, does not fix a limit to their number, the Senate, with a dogged perseverance, sends note after note protesting against their increase and denying them the right to exercise any authority outside the Customs offices, that is to say, for instance, to control the vehicles passing in front of the said offices.
The local Press accuses them of being agents of the Frontier Guards service, carrying on espionage work, and not officials of the Ministry of Finance. At the same time it attempts to back up its attacks by transforming the slightest incidents into fantastic tales. For instance, two inspectors, who on May 25 took a look at the building of a landing-stage for the ferry boat over the Vistula, were abused most violently by the two dailies on June 7.
On June 12, after a night spent in drinking together, an inspector and two S.A. came to blows; immediately the inspector was accused
of having tried to get the S.A. men drunk in order to kidnap them and get them into Poland. He was arrested, and brutally knocked about, and, up to date, permission has not been given for him to be visited in prison by subordinates of the Polish Commissioner-General.
However, attacks and accusations have not weakened the Warsaw Government; on the contrary they have just increased the number of the inspectors, whose task is becoming more and more difficult, from 90 to 120. On the 10th the Polish Representative in the Free City handed a note to the Senate denying it the right to meddle with the questions of Customs and threatening a further increase in the numbers of the inspectors if their activity was further interfered with, or if the Danzig Customs officials were forced into taking the oath of allegiance to the National-Socialist party. The text of the note also hinted that, if need be, economic reprisals would be taken against the Free City.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 20, 1939.
ALTHOUGH the two speeches of Dr. Goebbels at Danzig have not introduced any new factor into the Polish-German problem, they were, if one can follow the intentions of the German propaganda, intended to mark a date, and an epoch in its evolution. After the warning shot of April 28, we have, as it were, the beginning of the heavy artillery preparation designed to intimidate the enemy and disorganize his countermeasures. The circumstances, the violence of their tone, the obvious wish to work up chauvinistic passions in the Free City to their maximum, all give added significance to the words of the Minister of Propaganda.
From this point of view last Saturday's is the more interesting of the two speeches. The speaker, it is reported, spoke extempore. The warm welcome of the crowd seems to have made him improvise declarations thrilling with enthusiasm from the dress-circle in the theatre from which he had just watched a gala performance. But it is, in point of fact, sufficient to read the text of the speech to see that its terms had been most carefully weighed.
Without discussing the speech as a whole, four essential points may be singled out as essential:
(1) Dr. Goebbels reasserted the German character of the Free City, which no one attempts to deny. The visit of the Führer's representative to Danzig is in itself proof that the population is perfectly at liberty to proclaim its attachment to the German "Volkstum."
(2) With regard to the international aspects of the problem the speaker claimed that its present development could in no way be ascribed to the people of Danzig, who had only one desire, namely to belong to the Greater German Reich. This wish was "understandable, clear, definite and unshakable." "It is your misfortune," he added "that your lovely German city should be situated at the mouth of the Vistula. According to the theories of Warsaw, cities at the mouths of rivers always belong to the country through whose territory the rivers flow. Rotterdam, therefore, belongs to Germany since this port is at the mouth of the Rhine and the Rhine is a German river."
(3) The Minister of Propaganda made a violent attack on Polish and British policies.
"The Polish bullies," he said, "are now claiming East Prussia and German Silesia. According to them the west Polish frontier should be the Oder. Why not claim the Elbe or the Rhine? There they would meet their new allies the English, whose frontier, as we all know, is the Rhine." The Polish chauvinists are often speaking of a great battle that will take place outside Berlin. These boastings are the result of the fact that Polish policy is now passing through its "age of puberty." We must wait until this disorder disappears of itself.
As to England, Dr. Goebbels cannot reconcile the statement made by Lord Halifax before the House of Lords that he wished to see a peaceful settlement of the Danzig question, and the fact that the British Government had "drawn a blank cheque in favour of Warsaw." Great Britain was endeavouring to encircle Germany and Italy and so "reviving her 1914 policy." But National-Socialist Germany was far from being the feeble bourgeois Germany of former times.
"Therefore," said Dr. Goebbels, "we consider the oratory of Warsaw and London as so much bluster intended to hide under its volume of words, its deficiencies in strength and determination."
(4) At the end of his speech the Head of the Nazi Propaganda let fall a more definite threat. Yet this threat was scarcely more open than that made by the Chancellor himself on April 28.
"Our wish in the Reich," he cried out, "is as clear as your own,
wish; the Führer made this quite plain in his last speech to the Reichstag when he said 'Danzig is a German city and wishes once more to be part of Germany.' The world must have understood these words. It should realise too, from past experiences, that the Führer's words are not platonic. It will, in any case, be making a grave error if it imagines that Adolf Hitler withdraws before menaces, or gives in to blackmail. There can be no question of it."
From the political point of view, Sunday's speech, which was almost entirely devoted to a eulogy of National-Socialist culture, was not so interesting. Dr. Goebbels was content with saying "political" frontiers were of limited duration, but that frontiers traced by language, race and blood were unchangeable and eternal.
So this strange "cultural" week will have served to underline the will of the Reich to regain Danzig. The German Press proclaims it. The Montag writes that "the plebiscite has been held," Danzig has spoken. Danzig has made its choice. And the Volkischer Beobachter says that the word of the Führer, given two months ago, will be kept. "Today," it writes, "the people of Danzig know that, in no circumstances will they be left alone and that they will come into their own, come what may. Such is the historic significance of June 17, 1939.
Under what form and when will the Führer attempt to carry out his project? No one knows, and he himself is in all probability waiting for the opportune moment. But it would seem that, for the time being, the Nazi authorities do not contemplate immediate action. That is, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the conclusion to be gathered from the words of Herr von Weizsäcker, which confirm those of his conversation with Herr Burckhardt.
As far as one can gather, in Herr Hitler's eyes the affair is not yet ripe. He wishes to await, before acting, the development in one way or the other, of the Anglo-Franco-Russian negotiations (for in Berlin there is still the hope that these negotiations may break down). He also wants to await the evolution of the Anglo-Japanese conflict. During this respite that he has given himself and which will last, from what I can gather, for about two or three months, he will redouble his efforts in the sphere of propaganda supporting them probably with intimidatory measures of a military nature. It is apparently with the latter object in view that work is being intensified on the fortification of the German-Polish frontier in Slovakia, and on the Siegfried Line. It goes without saying that in this juncture the "bunkers" in the East will not play a purely defensive role.
One cannot fail to notice-and I have confirmation of the fact from various quarters-that the radical elements of the regime seem, for the moment, to have increased their influence on the mind of the Chancellor. The delay in the Moscow conversations, the Tientsin incident which confronts Great Britain with a formidable dilemma, perhaps certain statements made in London which have been interpreted as a sign of hesitation, have encouraged them and increased their confidence. Under their influence German policy is on the watch for any possible developments and is taking soundings in all directions, even as far off as Arabia and at the court of Ibn Saud.
However, pending further information, nothing justifies the belief that the Führer will risk a general war for the sake of Danzig. Danzig has no doubt great strategic value for the development of the policy of the Third Reich. But the Nazi authorities will exhaust all means of turning the position before contemplating a frontal attack, that is to say starting a war with Poland, which would mean, in turn, a European war. I have been told that several of Herr Hitler's advisers keep on repeating that, even in the event of a general conflict, Germany will win. Herr Hitler is said to be not so sure, and quite apart from his horror of war which one can take as genuine, he has never up till now undertaken any move which was not certain of success.
Things would be different if some particularly favourable circumstance presented itself. In Berlin in such a case prudence would be thrown to the wind in order to stake all on the last throw of the dice, "come what may," as the Volkischer Beobachter has put it.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 20, 1939.
I HAD an interview on June 16 with the State Secretary at the very beginning of which he volunteered the opinion that, as far as he knew, all was quiet for the moment and that he saw no reason why the situation should become more strained in the near future. He repeated with special reference to Danzig, that, in his opinion, only acts of aggression on the part of the Poles could bring about a conflict. As I showed some skepticism he declared that, although the central Government of Warsaw exercised a moderating influence, a state of mind
existed among certain local authorities which made him seriously afraid of rash action on their part. Herr von Weizsäcker was none the less confident with regard to the immediate future and told me that he intended to take a holiday during the month of July.
If the State Secretary had not obtained this information from a reliable source, it may be doubted whether, prudent and reserved man as he is, he would have offered it to me on his own initiative. From this declaration made to me, therefore, on the eve of the "Kulturtag" of Danzig, one may at least infer that no immediate action on the part of the Reich is likely to follow on Dr. Goebbels's speeches.
Speaking generally, Herr von Weizsäcker considered that the opening of conversations likely to bring about an easing of the political tension would not be in any way aided by the conclusion of a Franco-Anglo-Russian pact. To threaten-the democracies should persuade themselves once and for all-was the worst possible way of dealing with the Führer. I pointed out that up till then only the reverse situation had been seen. Such methods had never been considered either in Paris or London, where it was fully realized that they had no effect on Herr Hitler. The cause of peace would have made great progress if Berlin became convinced that they had equally little chance of success with the Democracies.
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, June 20, 1939.
WHEN the moment arrives Chancellor Hitler will settle the Danzig question as he pleases and on his own responsibility, such is the view expressed and circulated by the German Ambassador in Warsaw and his collaborators.
But they are also now enlarging the scope of their propaganda. They are speaking not only of Danzig, but now insist on every occasion on the impossibility of Germany allowing the Corridor to continue any longer in existence.
The necessity for Germany to recover Upper Silesia is also mentioned by some of them.
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, June 21, 1939.
THE innumerable comments, to which the question of Danzig an the Corridor give rise, contain so many inaccuracies regarding Poland attitude, that I feel it necessary to define that attitude once more.
(1) Poland has always shown herself willing, since the beginning of last winter, to give up the right to represent the Free City vis-à-vis foreign powers, and at the same time to agree to the abolition of the office of High Commissioner of the League of Nations, and to complete independence of the Free City from Geneva. Poland would not, in principle, oppose certain modifications of the constitution of the City, which would be only of minor importance to Poland because they would not compromise vital Polish interests (Customs control transit facilities). Polish opposition is directed above all against a annexation by the Reich, which would, it is considered, invalidate a real guarantees relating to the utilization of the Vistula and the port of Danzig, and constitute such a menace to the Corridor that it would run the risk of being taken at any moment.
(2) Poland is now, as previously, prepared to facilitate German rail and road communications between East Prussia and the rest the Reich by building, if necessary, at her own cost, a motor-road the use of which by Germans would involve neither Customs control, no a passport or pass. In this respect the intransigency of the Polish Government only applies to its absolute refusal to concede the principle of extra-territoriality for one or more roads across the Corridor.
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, June 22, 1939.
THREE months have now elapsed since Germany made known her demands to Poland, and for that time Poland has not ceased to be in a state of alarm. At the beginning of this period, one could wonder whether, in the circumstances, Polish opinion would be able to retain its composure without losing its resolution.
The ordeal has shown the Poles in a very favourable light. Their determination to resist has not flinched, they remain ready to face anything. At the same time, even if one often hears the opinion expressed, especially amongst the masses and the Army that "they must put a stop to the present state of affairs and fight"; the nation has shown a remarkable sang-froid and obeys its authorities quite docilely when they advise it to show prudence and moderation.
The Government is doing its utmost to prepare the defences of the country. Important results seem to have been obtained in the last three months. Without departing one whit from the attitude they have adopted towards Germany they are doing everything possible to gain time and postpone the conflict even though the majority do not believe that it can be avoided indefinitely.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 22, 1939.
THE situation is still confused in Berlin. If Dr. Goebbels's speeches have shown the stiffening attitude of the Reich on the Danzig question, they have not disclosed Herr Hitler's intentions; the question must be settled, but when and how? Probably no one knows except the Führer; it is not certain whether even he has made up his mind.
Diplomatic circles are pessimistic. The events in the Far East and the difficulties of the negotiations with Moscow contribute to this feeling. It is considered, above all, that the manifestations of June 17 and 18 have given proof of the Führer's will to go ahead; that they have committed him before international opinion; and as, on the other hand, the Polish will to resist seems strong, it is not clear how any solution can be found to the crisis but war.
Two points are more or less unanimously taken for granted here: (a) A crisis over Danzig is inevitable before the end of the year; (b) Danzig is not for Herr Hitler an end in itself. He has other objectives in Poland, namely the Corridor and Silesia. If any doubts may have existed on this subject, Dr. Goebbels took it upon himself to remove them last night, when he declared at the festival of the summer solstice that "Germany intends to take back all the territory which has belonged to her in the course of history." 
 This phrase did not appear in the German Press.
The majority of the diplomats accredited to Berlin are searching for a compromise solution, and growing uneasy at their inability to find one. They shut themselves up thus in a sort of contradiction, for, if one admits the limitless character of the German claims, and they do admit it, there is no hope for the moment of ending the situation by settling the Danzig question, and thus no advantage in compromising themselves over it. There are, on the other hand, some major disadvantages.
Herr Hitler has definitely committed himself over the Danzig question, but he has not yet burnt his boats as he did with regard to Czechoslovakia. He will not burn them unless he definitely decides to go to the length of war, except in the event of his convincing himself that he can force the enemy position simply by means of threats and intimidation. That is why I am convinced that it is important today, even more than before, to abstain from taking the initiative, or adopting any attitude which could be interpreted here as a weakening of the Allied determination to oppose force by force. It seems to me nearly certain that we shall not be able to avoid a formidable increase of tension in the situation this autumn. Perhaps, however, if there is no giving way, on the part of the peace front, we shall see no repetition of the ultimatum of September 1938. What we must at any cost eliminate this time is the risk of war developing out of a threat of intimidation.
According to my latest information this risk still exists. Is the information supplied by German agents abroad regarding the will to resist of the Allies less definite than it was before? I cannot say, but I have heard from a good source that Herr von Ribbentrop is once more convinced that at the present juncture Great Britain will not fight over Danzig. I know, on the other hand, that Field-Marshal Goering is very worried by the consequences of an uncompromising policy and would like to see the Führer play for time. It is impossible to foresee which of these two ideas will prevail, especially as the National-Socialist authorities, acting evidently upon "orders," are keeping a discreet silence in their dealings with the diplomats. The Minister for Foreign Affairs seems to be still very much in favour with Herr Hitler; on the other hand Field-Marshal Goering's credit with the Führer is reported to have gone up.
M. DE LA TOURNELLE, French Consul in Danzig, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Danzig, June 23, 1939.
THE publicity given abroad to Dr. Goebbels's speech made here on June 17 seems to have astonished the people of Danzig.
In former years similar sarcasm and violence had been leveled at the heads of the German opposition parties, and the League of Nations, to which the latter could appeal, and then against the Jews; no one doubted that the Poles' time would come once the others had been eliminated. If, by his language, the Minister of Propaganda of the Reich gave the impression abroad that he was bringing a new element into the situation, his words have not surprised the population in the least; it had often heard similar phrases during the course of private meetings of the National-Socialist party. There are a great many who regret giving the impression that they had assented to a revision of the Danzig statute during the course of a demonstration, supposedly spontaneous, but in which the majority of the demonstrators were present by order.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 27, 1939.
As I have previously pointed out, diplomatic circles in Berlin are somewhat pessimistic about the development of the international situation from the month of August onwards.
It is possible that the approach of the period when the crisis of 1938 broke out has something to do with this state of mind. It is also likely that most of the heads of the diplomatic missions have received information similar to that which has reached this Embassy. This may be classified under three headings:
(1) Activity within the German Army. The number of reservists called up is estimated, by our Military Attaché, very roughly at 600,000 and shows a tendency to increase. Maneuvers are in progress in the fortified zone of the West.
(2) Military measures in Italy and Bulgaria. Large-scale maneuvers involving considerable bodies of troops are planned in Italy for the
month of August. The Bulgarian Army is expected to mobilize two classes at the same time.
(3) Various indications: advice given by high German officials to foreign families not to remain in Germany during August; the general time-limit set for the validity of the passports of the male population; information to the effect that the Reichswehr has been instructed to hold itself in readiness for August 15.
It is a noteworthy fact that, whereas a rather marked anxiety is beginning to arise among the middle classes, Germans in influential circles seem rather optimistic and are obviously trying to reassure foreigners whom they meet.
One sentence struck me particularly in a statement made to one of my colleagues by one of the best-informed personages in the party. "In the event of Danzig proclaiming its return to the Reich," he said, "war would break out only if we were compelled to defend ourselves against aggression." This passage reminded me of certain words spoken by the State Secretary in the course of my last interview with him. After telling me that in his opinion no tension was to be foreseen in the near future, he added: "We have no intention of attacking Poland." When I pointed out to him that in this case no conflict was to be feared, since Poland was not going to attack Germany, he replied that serious incidents might occur, and quoted, as an example, the possible murder of a German consul. In the farewell audience which he granted to the Argentine Ambassador on June 26, Herr Hitler also told him more or less plainly that he had no intention of attacking Poland.
Even if one admits that these various pointers express the real intentions of the German Government, one may ask how far they are reassuring. They may suggest that the Reich is prepared to temporize, but they may also be a preparation of the ground for an annexation of Danzig conducted from within the city.
One may suppose that, among the various plans considered by the Nazi leaders for imposing their own solution of the problem of the Free City, the idea of stirring up a "spontaneous" movement and inducing the Danzig population itself to proclaim its return to the Reich, is particularly engaging their attention.
In this event the plan of action would probably be as follows: At a moment chosen by the Führer, the National-Socialists of Danzig would proclaim the return of the city to the Reich. With their own resources, and without calling upon German troops, they would cut
off the little Polish garrison of the Westerplatte, together with the Polish Customs officials, and await Warsaw's reaction. The Polish Government would then have no other course than to occupy the city by force in order to re-establish the status quo, which would serve as a pretext for the launching of German military action.
The object of such a maneuver is obvious. "If the Poles undertook the forcible suppression of a 'people's' movement," a notability of the regime recently said to one of my colleagues, "it would be they who would be the aggressors. They would be taking the initiative in violence. In such a case, would Great Britain and France be justified in attacking us?"
It is thus calculated in Berlin that, when the right time comes, it would be possible for German propaganda to trouble the waters and create confusion, at least in the public opinion of neutral countries. Ever since the Austrian and Sudeten affairs for that matter, Nazi policy has shown itself a past-master in the art of fomenting internal crises and profiting by them.
Such a conjecture makes it possible to reconcile the assurances given in various quarters that Germany "will not attack" with the indication of approaching tension gathered elsewhere. The latest information received from our consul in Danzig seems to show that this plan has already been set in motion, at least in its early phase. The Reich's preparations in the Free City are being rapidly intensified, and Herr Himmler is said to have arrived incognito in order to inspect their progress. Everything that is happening suggests that the Nazi Government wishes the armed forces in the city to be so strong that, when the appointed time arrives, the Führer may be able to take possession of it without any need either for a Putsch by the Party or for the dispatch of German troops.
The Warsaw Government has doubtless taken such a possibility into account, and I know that it has been considered by the staff of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. German policy, therefore, cannot reasonably count upon taking the other side by surprise or confusing the question ad libitum by playing upon the word "aggressor." Moreover, the declaration read in the House of Commons by Mr. Chamberlain on March 31 on behalf of the British and French Governments, and the statement made by the President of the Council on April 13 are sufficiently explicit to convince the National-Socialist leaders that any act which infringed Poland's vital interests would entitle it to ask for the immediate support of France and Great Britain.
Nevertheless, in order to avoid any misunderstanding on this subject, one may ask whether it is not high time to speak plainly and frustrate this possible maneuver by dispelling any illusions which may still be held in Berlin. If Your Excellency agrees, it would be desirable to specify, for the benefit of the responsible leaders of German policy and within the framework of the Franco-British declaration, that any forcible action undertaken within the Free City contrary to the statute -i.e., action which, in view of the allegiance of the National-Socialists of Danzig to the Nazi party, could only be provoked and promoted by the Reich-and which Poland should feel bound to resist, would automatically lead to assistance being rendered by France and Great Britain. Such useful specific information might be given at the earliest opportunity by Paris and London. This would bring about the collapse of the elaborate presence which the German leaders seem to be so industriously building up.
In any case, in the absence of further information it does not appear that any German action in this direction is imminent. At the Polish Embassy, where calm and resolution still prevail, it is considered that the alarmist rumours about German troop movements towards the Polish frontier (it was reported this morning that the Marshal Goering Regiment had left Berlin for Pillau, but this rumour is unconfirmed) might well come from German sources. According to this interpretation, National-Socialist agencies are seeking in this way to foster confusion by spreading false news in the hope of masking in advance any real military movements when they take place.
In periods of fermentation, the policy of the Hitler Government usually surrounds itself with a smoke-screen. We can only stand to gain by making this maneuver ineffective through being on our guard against any surprise.
M. LÉON NÖEL, French Ambassador in Warsaw, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Warsaw, June 27, 1939.
IN his latest telegrams, M. de la Tournelle seems to me to present a very accurate idea of the situation in Danzig and its probable development.
According to him, in order to reach his goal, Herr Hitler, after hav-
ing progressively destroyed the Danzig constitution and brought the population to heel, will have very little distance left to go.
It certainly seems that, after failing in March to induce Poland to accept the annexation of Danzig by the Reich, he made up his mind to round off his work in this direction by militarizing the Free City. In order to complete its assimilation with "the rest of Germany," visits by soldiers, sailors and National-Socialist militia from the Reich follow one another in increasing numbers. Danzig's military forces may become strong enough to constitute, in themselves, a serious menace to the Polish Corridor, when the "Free Corps" which is now being talked about has been created. If Poland should one day feel bound to react against this menace and against these successive encroachments, German propaganda will not fail to represent its attitude as provocative and brand it as aggression.
The German game is arousing great anxiety among the Poles, who see it for what it is.
M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to M. CORBIN, French Ambassador in London. Paris, June 29, 1939.
IN a telegram sent en clair by messenger, which I am communicating to you by air, M. Coulondre indicates that the latest news received from Danzig supports the view that the Reich is preparing the ground for a coup for the annexation of the Free City conducted from within, the Danzig Senate and population themselves proclaiming their return to the Reich. In this event the Polish Government would have no alternative but to occupy the city, by way of the harbour, in order to re-establish the status quo. Germany would represent itself as "attacked" and would exploit this equivocation by playing upon the word "aggression" in an attempt to confuse foreign public opinion and paralyze the reactions of the Governments of France and Great Britain.
Our Ambassador informs me this morning that the Reich's military preparations in the Free City appear to be advancing more rapidly, and it seems to him to be essential, in order to frustrate this maneuver, to take steps beforehand and warn the Reich of the consequences which its attitude would inevitably entail.
I fully share the feeling expressed by M. Coulondre, and it seems to me most desirable that Lord Halifax, in the speech which he is to make this evening, should take the opportunity to give the rulers of the Reich a plain intimation of the common determination of the two Governments to fulfill the obligations of assistance which they have assumed towards Poland, no matter what devious means Germany might bring into play in order to create ambiguity about the real character of her action. You should approach the Principal Secretary of State with this object in view.
M. COULONDRE, French Ambassador in Berlin, to M. GEORGES BONNET, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, June 30, 1939.
THE State Secretary was good enough to ask me to call upon him today, in order to convey to me an expression of regret on the part of Herr von Ribbentrop, whom I had asked for an interview and who is at the moment unwell, and his hope that he will be able to see me next week.
When I drew Herr von Weizsäcker's attention to the pessimism of the Diplomatic Corps, he once more told me that he found it difficult to understand the reason for it. To be sure the negotiations of France and Great Britain with Russia, and the agreement with Turkey, gave no great pleasure to Berlin, and in his opinion did not make it any easier to reach peaceful solutions; without underrating the difficulties of the situation he could see no ground for being particularly anxious.
I then spoke to him about Danzig and Poland, and emphasized the disquiet which I felt over information pointing to an increase of military activity in the Free City. "I recollect," I added, "that sometimes people still say in Germany that we are not going to fight for the sake of Danzig. I hope that your Government will be under no misapprehension in this respect. Danzig is a matter between Poland and you; but, whether it has to do with Danzig or not, we shall stand beside Poland if a conflict breaks out."
The State Secretary's reply was, in substance, as follows: "The question whether such a conflict should break out in connection with Danzig is, I fully recognize, a secondary one. We have no doubts
about your alliance coming into play. France has long had alliances in the East. But we find it hard to understand that Great Britain should have delegated to a Continental country the responsibility of deciding whether she should go to war. It must have been the pressure of the Left-Wing Opposition which caused Mr. Chamberlain to give way.
"So far as Danzig is concerned, plenty of fantastic rumours are in circulation. It is even said that the Führer is to be solemnly granted the freedom of the city on July 15. The police of the city, it is true, have recently been reinforced. The population are in the state of excitement that might be expected in the people of a town upon which the spotlights of the whole world are concentrated. Still, I do not see that any startling coup is to be feared. There is obviously a state of tension which could not continue over a period of years; but at present I still think that only incidents could provoke a conflict. They would need, for that matter, to be more serious than those about which we have so far had occasion to complain. The Polish provincial authorities continue to display frequent symptoms of great excitability. Recently, after Mass, a general made a speech in which he advocated an extension of Poland's sphere on the Baltic. But I am bound to recognise that the Central Government show more calm and greater moderation. I have even fancied that I could discern some indications of a desire on the part of M. Beck to seek a basis for a solution of our difficulties."
I observed to Herr von Weizsäcker that I was much interested by this last remark of his, and asked him whether he would authorize me to make use of it. He replied in the affirmative, at the same time desiring me to emphasize the fact that as yet it was a question only of very slight indications, and that this was his personal opinion.
Needless to say, I stressed the absolute solidarity between France and Great Britain in case of a conflict. It is nevertheless important to note that, in a more or less covert form, people here still attempt with regard to a Polish-German conflict, to draw a distinction between Great Britain's attitude and our own.