The Ambassador in Poland (Cudahy) to the Secretary of State

No. 661

Sir: Confirming my telegram No. 34, April 4, 5 p.m.,71 I have the honor to report that yesterday I called upon Mr. Arthur Francis Aveling, Secretary of the British Embassy in Warsaw, and discussed with him the visit of Mr. Eden on April 2 and 3, 1935. The British Ambassador in Warsaw is slowly recovering from a serious illness.

Mr. Aveling told me that he was present at the meetings Mr. Eden had with Minister for Foreign Affairs Józef Beck and that he was also present at the meeting with Marshal Pilsudski.

Beck, he said, had emphasized the importance of Poland as a buffer State between Germany and Russia and the menace to Europe of a war. He said that Beck developed this thought at great length, calling attention to the war between the Soviets and Poland in 1920 which, he said, saved Western Europe from an invasion by the Soviets. He dwelt upon the geographical position of Poland and said that in order to preserve its national existence the country must maintain a neutral position between Germany and Russia and could not enter into any multilateral undertaking containing sanctions the execution of which would jeopardize this neutral position. So emphatic was the Foreign Minister on this point that Aveling said that Mr. Eden did not propose the participation of Poland in the Eastern Pact of Mutual Assistance. Beck stated that at the foundation of Poland’s foreign policy are its Non-Aggression Declaration with Germany and its Non-Aggression Treaty with Russia.72 The Foreign Minister, he said, stated that Poland also has faith in effective alliances but that it does not believe in alliances that are susceptible of conflicting commitments [Page 223] or that might be impossible of fulfillment. As an example of what he meant by an effective alliance, Beck cited the French-Polish Alliance.

The Foreign Minister solemnly assured Mr. Eden that no alliance or undertaking has been concluded with Germany other than the declaration of January 26, 1934. He said that declaration meant just what it said, and nothing further.

Mr. Aveling said that at the meeting with Marshal Pilsudski no definite foreign policy program was discussed. He said the Marshal, upon greeting Mr. Eden, said that he had received a complete report of Eden’s meeting with officials of the Polish Foreign Office, that he had given the Minister for Foreign Affairs full authority to act in the premises, and that there would be no necessity to discuss the matters taken up at that meeting. Mr. Aveling said that Marshal Pilsudski spoke at length about Russia and the menace of Russia to the rest of Europe. The Marshal said that the British were playing a dangerous game when they attempted to enter into political negotiations with Russia. He said that no Englishman had any insight into the Slav mentality, and as an illustration of his statement he cited the policy of England in backing Denikin in 1918–1919.73 Any Slav, said the Marshal, could have predicted that Denikin would never succeed and that his movement in Russia was from the outset doomed.

Mr. Aveling told me that Mr. Eden had told him in detail about his meeting with Hitler, and had made no attempt to conceal the sharp and apparently irreconcilable differences between Hitler and the British Foreign Office. Mr. Eden told Mr. Aveling that Hitler, without equivocation and very forcefully, had insisted upon his right to the 36 divisions set forth in his announcement of military conscription, and that he meant to augment the military forces of Germany regardless of all opposition. Mr. Eden said that Hitler stated that he would consider rejoining the League of Nations, but only upon the condition that the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty were expunged.

Hitler expressed himself with equal clarity as being opposed to any pact involving mutual assistance, or to any consultative pact which would give the majority of the signatories the right to decide what constitutes an act of aggression and to take military measures against an alleged aggressor. He said that no nation was qualified to pass upon what was an act of aggression, and that this was clearly indicated by the War of 1914 when Germany was adjudged an [Page 224] aggressor although the Germans would never admit that they had been guilty of an act of aggression and from the German viewpoint were not guilty. He expressed himself as willing to consider any nonaggression agreement such as the Danubian accord, but reiterated his unqualified opposition to any such agreement as the Eastern Pact of Mutual Assistance.

Hitler stated very solemnly that Germany has no alliance or understanding of any character with Poland other than the declaration of January 26, 1934, which, he said, meant precisely what it purported to mean and would be faithfully executed by Germany.

Mr. Aveling said that Mr. Eden told him that Hitler spoke at great length and with great force on the impending peril to Western Europe of bolshevism. He called attention to the bolshevik attempted invasion of Western Europe in 1920 and said that Russia is now only waiting for the suitable moment to attack again. He said that the Soviets had built a tremendous military establishment, and that the only hope of saving Germany and all of Western European civilization was for Germany to rearm and prepare to meet the inevitable Russian onslaught.

Mr. Eden, Mr. Aveling said, had evidence that German munition factories were working day and night and that the German military preparation was proceeding at the highest possible speed.

With reference to the meetings in Moscow, Mr. Aveling said that Mr. Eden had told him that the Russian fear of an attack from Germany was even greater than the fear expressed by Hitler of a bolshevik menace. Mr. Eden said that this dread of an attack by Germany was expressed with great emphasis and in detail by Litvinov and Stalin, but that Litvinov could suggest no remedy for restraining Germany other than his proposed Eastern Pact for Mutual Assistance. Eden declared, said Aveling, that the Soviets are ready to sign any treaty, so thorough is the alarm regarding Germany. Great Britain advocates and strongly favors the Eastern Pact for Mutual Assistance, said the Lord Privy Seal, as the only present workable proposal for the control of Germany’s military ambitions. He told Mr. Aveling that the British anticipate close cooperation with the Soviets, adding that the British and Soviet Governments see eye to eye in the present situation.

The purpose of his journey to Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw, and Prague, Mr. Eden told Mr. Aveling, was to ascertain the points of view at these capitals and with the information thus gathered to attempt to work out a feasible proposal to be advanced at the Stresa Conference. He said that Eden admitted that he has grave misgivings at the diversity of viewpoints that has been revealed and the difficulties that are involved, and that most careful consideration would [Page 225] have to be given by the British Foreign Office to the possibility of finding some compromise that would coordinate these opposing viewpoints and that, even if it were not acceptable to Germany, would act as a guarantee of European peace against the Reich’s determination to pursue a policy of military preparation.74

Respectfully yours,

John Cudahy
  1. Not printed.
  2. Signed July 25, 1932, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxxxvi, p. 41.
  3. See telegram No. 588, November 19, 1918, 7 p.m., from the Chargé in Russia, Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. ii, p. 644; see also ibid., 1919, Russia, pp. 425777, passim.
  4. By instruction No. 183, May 9, 1935, the Department commended the Ambassador for his reports on the political situation in Europe, the comprehensive information they contained having been “very helpful to this Government in its analysis of the general European situation.”