Monday, September 19, 2016

ADSS 1.218 Sec State to British Legation: summary of August 1939


ADSS 1.218 Secretariat of State to the British Legation

Reference: AES 8223/39

Location and date: Vatican, 13.11.1939

Summary statement: Details of steps taken in August 1939 with Warsaw in favour of peace.

Language: Italian

Text:

Draft 1

Minister Beck (1), contrary to what had been suggested to him by Mr Howard Kennard, Ambassador of Great Britain to Warsaw (2), did not let the Holy See know that he was prepared to consider an exchange of populations and also to accept neutral observers in order to demonstrate that German accusations of maltreatments were unfounded; in fact M. Beck did not even accept proposals suggested by the Holy See on this subject:

In fact:

1. On 15 August, His Excellency, the Cardinal Secretary of State requested Monsignor Cortesi, Apostolic Nuncio in Warsaw, to ask the Polish Government if it thought that the Secretariat of State could make some approach and if so what, to precent the situation getting worse. (3) Mons Cortesi, spoke on this subject to the Foreign Under-Secretary (4) who was not able to give a precise answer, although he stated that there was the possibility of a peaceful understanding. (5)

2. On 26 August, His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State, having heard that it could be helpful if Poland, following an invitation from the Holy See, declared itself ready to prevent the alleged maltreatment of citizens of German nationality, if Germany, for its part, would make the same promise regarding the Polish people in German territory, instructed the Apostolic Nuncio in Warsaw to put this suggestion before the Polish Government asking if such a declaration on the part of the Polish Government could be brought to the knowledge of the German Government through the Apostolic Nuncio in Berlin. (6)

M. Beck, replying to the communication of Mons Cortesi, expressed fear that the Germans would take advantage of the above-mentioned Polish declaration as a confirmation of the alleged persecutions of the German minority, and suggested, as a better solution, the idea of an invitation of the Holy See to the Polish and German Governments to check the excitement created in their respective countries regarding the situation of the minorities (27 August). (7)

3. On 31 August the Cardinal Secretary of State instructed the Apostolic Nuncio in Warsaw to give the Polish Government the opportunity to accept an international control on the alleged persecution of the German minority. (8)

Owing to the outbreak of hostilities the proposal had no sequel.

Draft II

Concern of the Holy See to avoid the question of the minorities being used as a pretext for war between Germany and Poland.

1. On 14 August 1939, the Holy See received news that Germany was massing troops at the Polish border and that the situation was getting worse. (9) The Cardinal Secretary of State immediately instructed the apostolic Nuncio in Warsaw to ask the Polish Government if it thought that the Secretary of State could take some initiative and, eventually, to suggest one (15 August). (10)

Mons Cortesi conferred on the subject with the Foreign Under-Secretary, but the latter was not able to give a precise answer, although he affirmed that there was a possibility of a peaceful understanding (18 August). (11)

2. On 26 August the Cardinal Secretary of State received a communication from a reliable source that war was approaching and that it was opportune to make a new attempt for averting it: perhaps it might help if Poland, accepting suggestion of the Holy See, declared itself ready to prevent the alleged persecutions , and if Germany, for its part, undertook the same commitment regarding the Polish people in German territory. (12) Immediately, on the same day, the Apostolic Nuncio in Warsaw was instructed to submit the matter to the Polish Government asking if such a declaration on the part of the Polish Government could be made know to the German Government through the Apostolic Nuncio. (13)

Mons Cortesi immediately informed Minister Beck about the proposal, but the Minister expressed the fear that the Germans could take advantage of the possible Polish declaration as if it were an admission of the alleged persecutions of the German minority, and suggested, as another solution, the idea of an invitation by the Holy See to the Polish and German Governments to check the excitement created in their respective countries regarding the position of the minorities (27 August). (14)

3. On 28 August the idea was put forward to the Holy See to ask the German and Polish Governments what measure they thought was necessary to guarantee the situation of the minorities. (15)

The Apostolic Nuncio in Berlin was informed immediately about this proposal (29 August) (16), but he replied that he considered that the German Government thought it impossible to guarantee the protection of the minorities unless an international control was set up (30 August). (17)

4. Following this communication the Cardinal Secretary of State instructed the Papal (?) Nuncio in Warsaw to submit for the consideration of the Polish Government, the opportunity of accepting international control over the alleged persecution of the German minority (31 August). (18)

War broke out and the initiative was abandoned.

The conclusion to be drawn form what is said above, is that M. Beck did not accept the suggestion put forward to him by Mr Howard Kennard, Ambassador of Great Britain, on 27 August, that is, to inform the Holy Father that he was prepared to consider an exchange of populations and to accept neutral observers with the aim of demonstrating that the German accusations regarding the persecutions had no foundation in truth. (See Documents concerning German-Polish Relations and the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and Germany on 3 September, 1939, p124, number 72) (19)

Notes:  
(1) Jozef Beck (1894-1944), Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs 1932-39.
(2) Howard Kennard (1878-1955), British Ambassador to Poland 1937-39.
(3) ADSS 1.95
(4) Miroslaw Arciszewski (1892-1963), Polish Under-Secretary Foreign Affairs 1938-39.
(5) ADSS 1.102
(6) ADSS 1.133. Cesare Orsenigo (1873-1946), Nuncio to Germany 1930-45.
(7) ADSS 1.136
(8) ADSS 1.161
(9) ADSS 1.94
(10) ADSS 1.95
(11) ADSS 1.102
(12) ADSS 1.123
(13) ADSS 1.133
(14) ADSS 1.135
(15) ADSS 1.141
(16) ADSS 1.146
(17) ADSS 1.150
(18) ADSS 1.168
Sir H. Kennard to Viscount Halifax (received 5:05 p. m.).
(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 27, 1939.
Your telegrams of 25th and 26th August.[Nos. 70 and 71.]
I discussed questions of exchange of populations and neutral observers with M. Beck this morning.
2. As regards first, he said that in principle he saw no objection and was prepared to convey to German Government that he was ready to consider such a proposal, possibly not directly to State Secretary, but in such a manner that he was sure it would reach the highest authorities.
3. As regards question of neutral observers, he had again consulted President of the Council, but he would let me know his decision in the course of the day.
4. As he told me that the Pope had during the night, through the Nuncio, asked if there was anything he could do, I suggested to M. Beck that he should inform His Holiness that he was prepared to consider an exchange of populations and also use of neutral observers in order to demonstrate that German accusations of maltreatment were completely without foundation. The Pope could then communicate these proposals to the German Government with approval of Polish Government. M. Beck seemed to consider this favourably and promised he would give it his immediate consideration. I warned him that there was no time to lose.
5. As regards Danzig, M. Beck did not from his latest information anticipate fait accompli there to-day or in very immediate future. For the moment all was quiet there as far as he knew.
6. I again emphasised to his Excellency importance of his giving sufficient warning to His Majesty's Government of any action which Polish Government or army contemplated taking as result of any fait accompli at Danzig. His Excellency again promised to do this, though he made reservation that situation might arise where immediate action would be necessary.


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