Friday, June 5, 2015

ADSS 1.43 Cortesi to Maglione: German-Polish tensions

 ADSS 1.43 Filippo Cortesi, Poland to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 221 (AES 2605/39)

Location and date: Warsaw, 15.05.1939

Summary statement: German-Polish tensions; Poland will resist German claims; believe Germany is set on destroying Poland.

Language: Italian


I have the duty of thanking your Eminence for the clear statements contained in your coded dispatch of 10.05.1939 (1), in accordance with which I have already given, at an opportune moment, useful clarifications to the Government, who seemed to be expecting them.

The Minister (2) expressed his appreciation and his full agreement, adding that the Polish Government valued very highly the eager interest shown by the Holy Father in the preservation of peace, and promised to keep me informed about the development of the issue between Poland and Germany.

The position has not changed since the speech of the Chancellor of the Reich, and the reply of the Foreign Minister, M. Beck: the former wants the annexation of Danzig and a motorway and a railway giving access to East Prussia, which would mean handing over a strip of territory of about 900 square kilometres to Germany; the latter firmly rejects both claims. (3)

Although both leave an opening in their statements for the possibility of friendly negotiations, no step has been taken so far in this direction and the tension arising from the Reich’s unilateral denunciation of the “non-aggression” Treaty of 1934 is still grave.

Government and people in Poland, without any difference, are unanimous, firm and decided to remain in this position, convinced that the independence and the integrity of the Country is at stake and confident in the righteousness of the cause they defend, in their own strength and in the grace of God.

I must stress that this Government endeavours with great care and attention to leave no doubts about its desire for peace and collaboration with all nations, starting with its neighbours; they affirm the continuity of their policy of keeping out of any political bloc, and explain in particular how the agreement of mutual defence with Great Britain cannot be construed as a hostile or aggressive act against the Reich.

Regarding this subject the Minister asked me to inform your Eminence that his Government not only refuse the invitation to participate in an agreement with Russia as they have no intention of binding themselves, but are exerting pressure on Great Britain to limit the extent of their agreement with Russia.

I said that the situation is still grave, and it is so although the Polish Government have stated, in a conciliatory manner, their willingness to carry out a revision of the Statutes of the Free City of Danzig, in order to give it the utmost autonomy, and to build with Polish money a motorway through Polish territory to give the Reich free access to East Prussia.

In the meantime, both sides continue their preparations for war, and, although public opinion in general remains calm, the state of unrest grows amongst the German minorities in Poland and with it the chances of a conflict.

A highly-placed person, not Polish, informs me confidentially that, according to news received from a well-informed Berlin source, Hitler is preparing to exert diplomatic pressure on this Government to satisfy his claims.  This person thinks that Hitler has the partition of Poland in mind.

The German Ambassador, now back in Warsaw, has not yet called on the Foreign Minister. (4)

In general, there is no hope here of a peaceful direct settlement.

(1) See ADSS 1.38.
(2) Possibly Felicjan Slawoj Skladowski (1885-1962), Prime Minister of Poland 1936-39.
(3) See ADSS 1.17 for Hitler’s speech and ADSS 1.26 for Beck’s response.

(4) Hans-Adolf Moltke (1884-1943), German Ambassador to Poland 1934-39.

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