Friday, April 17, 2015
ADSS 1.17 Valeri, France to Maglione: Hitler's speech to the Reichstag; reactions in France
ADSS 1.17 Valerio Valeri, France to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.
Reference: Report 8135 (AES 2560/39)
Location and date: Paris, 01.05.1939
Summary statement: French opinion on Hitler’s speech. Chances of French-Italian understanding.
Herr Hitler’s speech (1) has been widely commented upon in the French Press, as was to be expected. The prevailing opinion among the various trends, is that the speech has not clarified the atmosphere and that in any case words can no longer be believed, and only fact count. This conclusion follows closely the one, which, as your Eminence well knows, is expressed by the British Press.
It seems on the other hand, according to what Minister Bonnet told me the day before yesterday, that some hope is beginning to rise on the Italian side. Minister Ciano had, in fact, during the last few days tried to re-establish contact with Ambassador Poncet. (2) Regarding French concessions to Italian claims, however, it is thought here that they will meet with Mr Daladier’s opposition (3) although England – as I have understood from a few words of Ambassador Phipps (4) - has not lost all hope of being able to bring about an improvement in the relations between the two Latin countries, and is prepared therefore to exert a moderating influence to this end.
The action of bringing Italy and France together could perhaps be facilitated by the fact that not only amongst the Italian people, as your Eminence knows well, but even within the Fascist Grand Council there are many elements against the pro-German policy pursued by the Government. Thus, the United States Ambassador, Mr Bullit (5) told me that during the last meeting of the Grand Council – I report this only as a confirmation and not because I assume that your Eminence does not know it – Marshal Balbo clearly expressed his dissent on this matter to the Head of the Government. Signor Mussolini replied that Italy had never been able to obtain anything from Great Britain or France and therefore he remained of the opinion that the only way to bring about the acknowledgment of Italy’s claims was through the fear the two nations had of the German army.
Mr Bullit added to this that, in any case, the democratic Powers had now gained the upper hand over the totalitarian countries and should relax their hold. This comment, coming from a person close to Mr Roosevelt, is not without interest and make one think that the current of opinion still predominating in the White House is to ahead with determination.
(1) Extract from the speech:
Extract from Herr Hitler's speech to the Reichstag on April 28, 1939.
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/blbk13.asp (Accessed 24.03.2015)
There is little to be said as regards German-Polish relations. Here, too, the Peace Treaty of Versailles-of course intentionally-inflicted a most severe wound on Germany. The strange way in which the Corridor giving Poland access to the sea was marked out was meant, above all, to prevent for all time the establishment of an understanding between Poland and Germany. This problem is-as I have already stressed-perhaps the most painful of all problems for Germany. Nevertheless, I have never ceased to uphold the view that the necessity of a free access to the sea for the Polish State cannot be ignored, and that as a general principle, valid for this case, too, nations which Providence has destined or, if you like, condemned to live side by side would be well advised not to make life still harder for each other artificially and unnecessarily. The late Marshal Pilsudski, who was of the same opinion, was therefore prepared to go into the question of clarifying the atmosphere of German-Polish relations, and, finally, to conclude an agreement whereby Germany and Poland expressed their intention of renouncing war altogether as a means of settling the questions which concerned them both. This agreement contained one single exception which was in practice conceded to Poland. It was laid down that the pacts of mutual assistance already entered into by Poland-this applied to the pact with France- should not be affected by the agreement. But it was obvious that this could apply only to the pact of mutual assistance already concluded beforehand, and not to whatever new pacts might be concluded in the future. It is a fact that the German-Polish Agreement resulted in a remarkable lessening of the European tension. Nevertheless, there remained one open question between Germany and Poland, which sooner or later quite naturally had to be solved-the question of the German city of Danzig. Danzig is a German city and wishes to belong to Germany. On the other hand, this city has contracts with Poland, which were admittedly forced upon it by the dictators of the Peace of Versailles. But since, moreover, the League of Nations, formerly the greatest stirrer-up of trouble, is now represented by a High Commissioner-incidentally a man of extraordinary tact-the problem of Danzig must in any case come up for discussion, at the latest with the gradual extinction of this calamitous institution. I regarded the peaceful settlement of this problem as a further contribution to a final loosening of the European tension. For this loosening of the tension is assuredly not to be achieved through the agitations of insane warmongers, but through the removal of the real elements of danger. After the problem of Danzig had already been discussed several times some months ago, I made a concrete offer to the Polish Government. I now make this offer known to you, Gentlemen, and you yourselves will judge whether this offer did not represent the greatest imaginable concession in the interests of European peace. As I have already pointed out, I have always seen the necessity of an access to the sea for this country, and have consequently taken this necessity into consideration. I am no democratic statesman, but a National Socialist and a realist.
I considered it, however, necessary to make it clear to the Government in Warsaw that just as they desire access to the sea, so Germany needs access to her province in the east. Now these are all difficult problems. It is not Germany who is responsible for them, however, but rather the jugglers of Versailles, who either in their maliciousness or their thoughtlessness placed 100 powder barrels round about in Europe, all equipped with hardly extinguishable lighted fuses. These problems cannot be solved according to old-fashioned ideas; I think, rather, that we should adopt new methods. Poland's access to the sea by way of the Corridor, and, on the other hand, a German route through the Corridor have, for example, no kind of military importance whatsoever. Their importance is exclusively psychological and economic. To accord military importance to a traffic route of this kind, would be to show oneself completely ignorant of military affairs. Consequently, I have had the following proposal submitted to the Polish Government:-
(1) Danzig returns as a Free State into the framework of the German Reich.
(2) Germany receives a route through the Corridor and a railway line at her own disposal possessing the same extraterritorial status for Germany as the Corridor itself has for Poland.
In return, Germany is prepared:-
(1) To recognise all Polish economic rights in Danzig.
(2) To ensure for Poland a free harbour in Danzig of any size desired which would have completely free access to the sea.
(3) To accept at the same time the present boundaries between Germany and Poland and to regard them as ultimate.
(4) To conclude a twenty-five-year non-aggression treaty with Poland, a treaty therefore which would extend far beyond the duration of my own life.
(5) To guarantee the independence of the Slovak State by Germany, Poland and Hungary jointly-which means in practice the renunciation of any unilateral German hegemony in this territory.
The Polish Government have rejected my offer and have only declared that they are prepared (1) to negotiate concerning the question of a substitute for the Commissioner of the League of Nations and (2) to consider facilities for the transit traffic through the Corridor.
I have regretted greatly this incomprehensible attitude of the Polish Government, but that alone is not the decisive fact, the worst is that now Poland, like Czecho-Slovakia a year ago, believes, under the pressure of a lying international campaign, that it must call up troops, although Germany on her part has not called up a single man and had not thought of proceeding in any way against Poland. As I have said, this is in itself very regrettable and posterity will one day decide whether it was really right to refuse this suggestion made this once by me. This-as I have said-was an endeavour on my part to solve a question which intimately affects the German people by a truly unique compromise, and to solve it to the advantage of both countries. According to my conviction Poland was not a giving party in this solution at all but only a receiving party, because it should be beyond all doubt that Danzig will never become Polish. The intention to attack on the part of Germany, which was merely invented by the international press, led as you know to the so-called guarantee offer and to an obligation on the part of the Polish Government for mutual assistance, which would also, under certain circumstances, compel Poland to take military action against Germany in the event of a conflict between Germany and any other Power and in which England, in her turn, would be involved. This obligation is contradictory to the agreement which I made with Marshal Pilsudski some time ago, seeing that in this agreement reference is made exclusively to existing obligations, that is at that time, namely, to the obligations of Poland towards France of which we were aware. To extend these obligations subsequently is contrary to the terms of the German-Polish non-aggression pact. Under these circumstances I should not have entered into this pact at that time, because what sense can non-aggression pacts have if in practice leaves open an enormous number of one partner exceptions.
There is either collective security, that is collective insecurity and continuous danger of war, or clear agreements which, however, exclude fundamentally any use of arms between the contracting parties. I therefore look upon the agreement which Marshal Pilsudski and I at one time concluded as having been unilaterally infringed by Poland and thereby no longer in existence!
I have sent a communication to this effect to the Polish Government. However, I can only repeat at this point that my decision does not constitute a modification of my attitude in principle with regard to the problems mentioned above. Should the Polish Government wish to come to fresh contractual arrangements governing its relations with Germany, I can but welcome such an idea, provided, of course, that these arrangements are based on an absolutely clear obligation binding both parties in equal measure. Germany is perfectly willing at any time to undertake such obligations and also to fulfil them.
(Full text available at http://comicism.tripod.com/390428.html )
(2) André Françios-Poncet (1887-1978) French Ambassador to Italy (1938-40).
(3) Édouard Daladier (1884-1970) French Prime Minister (1938-40)
(4) Eric Clare Edmund Phipps (1875-1945) British Ambassador to France (1937-39)
(5) William Christian Bullit (1891-1967), United States Ambassador to France (1936-40).