France Must Fight
OUR TROOPS ARE IN ENEMY TERRITORY
By EDOUARD DALADIER, Premier of France
Delivered over radio from Paris, October 10, 1939
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, pp. 14-15.
WE are in war and you will understand that silence is necessary for success of our military operations. You have rightly thought and I am thoroughly in agreement with you that it is only natural and legitimate that you be informed of general action of the Government on thoughts and decisions which animate it in the principal events of international politics. It is of that that I wish especially to speak to you today.
For a month our soldiers have advanced on enemy territory. In the air our aviators have multiplied the proofs of their courage. On the sea our sailors have assured free communications of France with her empire, pursued enemy submarines, captured hundreds of thousands of tons of raw materials destined for Germany.
Britain and France are mistresses of the ocean, and you know from the experience of history that those who hold the seas always succeed in carrying off victory.
But England does not confine herself to giving us the support of her fleet. She does not confine herself to sending more aviators daily to our front who give repeated proofs of their ability and valor. She also is sending rapidly to France her splendid youth, her robust material.
I was told the other day that in some French regions at the moment when the German radio was carrying on its vain campaign to separate France from England that it was repeated that Great Britain wanted to wage war with the blood of the French. The voice of the traitors of Stuttgart was covered by the uninterrupted rumbling of convoys which were taking soldiers and cannon of the British Army toward our frontiers. Thus factual propaganda is stronger than that of lies. It is this, moreover, in our national life, as you have certainly noticed yourselves. There also events have wrecked many other undertakings of enemy propaganda.
Several weeks ago communists' leaders posed before you as fierce patriots. They were, according to themselves, new Jacobins. They had no words harsh enough or even insulting enough to scorn the peaceful efforts of the Government.
They announced in meetings that they were ready to fight against Hitler and against his armies for liberty and the fatherland. Yet it sufficed for the Bolshevists to find it to their interest to agree with the Nazis and partition Poland with them for these pretended new Jacobins to simply make their excuses for a peace of treason.
There are dictators who massacre communist workers and reach agreement later with their chiefs, but we French never think of confusing the workers of France, whatever may be their political opinion, with men who wanted to abuse and betray them.
On the contrary, it is with even more ardent faith in the people and the common fatherland that we appeal to French fraternity which will permit us once more to overcome trials and vanquish peril.
For we are fighting not only for our soil and homes but also for civilization which surpasses our frontiers and which made us what we are: free, worthy beings, respectful of their neighbors, capable of keeping their word and faithful to the great tradition of Western culture.
Neither France nor Britain entered the war to support a sort of ideological crusade. Neither France nor Britain entered the war any more with a spirit of conquest than they were obliged to fight because Germany wanted to impose on them her domination over Europe.
Who could be made to believe now that it was a question of Danzig and the corridor or of the fate of German minorities? Germany has taken upon herself to show that she wanted either to subject Poland by deceit or crush her by steel and fire.
After Austria came Czecho-Slovakia, and after Czechoslovakia, Poland. All these undertakings were only steps on the path which would have brought France and Europe to the harshest of slaveries.
I know that they talk to you today of peace, of German peace, of peace which would only consecrate conquests by deceit or violence and would not prevent preparation for new ones.
What, in fact, does the latest speech before the Reichstag amount to? This: I [Hitler] destroyed Poland, I am satisfied; let's stop the combat; let's hold a conference to consecrate my conquests and organize peace.
The misfortune is that we already had heard such talk. After the annexation of Austria, Germany told the world: I have taken Austria; I ask nothing more. Several months later she claimed the Sudetens and Germany's chief told us at Munich that once his claim was satisfied he would ask for nothing more.
Several months afterward Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia. Then before the Reichstag the world was told: Germany asks nothing more.
After crushing Poland it is the same assurance with nothing else that is given today.
Certainly we always wanted and still want only sincere cooperation and loyal understanding to be established among people, but we are determined not to submit to the dictates of violence.
We have taken up arms against aggression. We will lay them down only when we have certain guaranties of security which may not be put in doubt every six months.
How can this security exist, either for us or for the world, if a nation is wiped off the map of Europe by force? What people would ever feel protected from aggression if it appeared thus every six months despite pledges against the annexation or partition of another people which had the right like itself, to live, independent and free?
And how can it fail to be understood that, far from making reduction of armaments possible, the subjecting of one nation can only force all other peoples continually to live and work only to arm.
If peace really is desired, a lasting peace which will give to all women, to all children, the joy of living and confidence in the future, it will be necessary first to calm the revolted consciences, correct abuses of force and conciliate honestly the rights and interests of all peoples.
They say that the fate of Poland concerns only two Powers. We reply that it interests also and first of all the Poles. They want to make the map of Europe without taking any account of living realities of peoples, either their
traditions or their needs. We reply that Europe is brought thus to revolutions and wars which plunged it into blood for centuries.
If peace is really desired, a lasting peace, it will be necessary to understand that security can rest only on reciprocal guaranties excluding any surprise and erecting a barrier against any attempt at domination.
If peace is really desired, a lasting peace, it will be necessary to understand finally that the time has passed when territorial conquests bring well-being to the conquerors. After all these conquests, Germany is beginning the war with bread card, meat card, milk card, sugar card.
We French have a horror of all this servitude. We want our victory to create only a Europe freed from all threats of aggression.
France, upon whom war has been imposed, speaks in battle the same language she has always spoken. I affirm, then, that we are fighting and we will continue to fight to obtain a definite guaranty of security.
The most modest soldier, as well as our greatest chiefs, understands what risks our fatherland would run if, after having demobilized under vain promises, we had to face several months later an abrupt aggression. I know every one would fulfill once again his duty to the fatherland. But
then they would have to rejoin units under fire of the enemy and organize under aerial bombardment. No Frenchman would pardon us for having bared France thus.
In the minds of soldiers, all problems of which I have just spoken moreover are presented with clarity which leaves room for no uncertainty. In the trenches the German soldier must say to himself: "My Government protested against the Versailles Treaty in the name of the right of peoples to dispose of themselves. Now it has seized Vienna, Austria, Prague, Czecho-Slovakia, Warsaw and Poland. This policy of violence has thrown me into a murderous war. These people had the same right to life as the German people. The cause I defend is not a just cause."
And the French soldier thinks, on the contrary: "My country did everything to save peace. It oppressed no people. It wants to oppress none. I am here to defend my fatherland and save it from the tragic fate which so grievously struck in Europe for two years millions of men, women and children. I want to end this. The cause I defend is a just cause. I will lead it to victory."
What our soldiers think the people of all France think as well. And the Government in its daily action, in its unbreakable will, will show itself worthy of the faith which animates all sons of our fatherland.