The Ambassador in France ( Straus ) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 18—4 p.m.]
218. The French press is practically unanimous in treating the German step as a serious menace. The organs of the Left naturally represent Hitler’s denunciation as a direct consequence of the Chamber’s vote on Friday last to use article 40 of the 1928 Recruiting Law to increase by decree the length of conscript service for the class called to the colors next month from 1 year to 18 months and to 2 years for those called beginning next October until 1939.
The news came as no surprise. The press while commenting on the brusque tone of the German decision reflected that it was common knowledge to men in public life that Germany had been rearming on a large scale for some time past. The general opinion of the entire press with the exception of the Left is that this latest blow dealt the Versailles Treaty by Germany is the result of long and careful preparation and that in the face of this fait accompli Simon’s contemplated [Page 299] visit to Berlin would serve only to “condone this multilateral [unilateral?] denunciation of the treaty and would show weakness.”
The Right and Center press organs demand that strong, immediate and decisive action be taken by the Government. This action should be made clear and emphatic beyond the shadow of a doubt at next Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate when Flandin39 and Laval40 will have an excellent occasion to do so in replying to certain interpellations “why the Government did not at once introduce a 2 years military service bill”. It is suggested that (1) politicians renounce electoral considerations and atone for last week’s lamentable vote by instituting a 2 years conscript service immediately by direct legislation (2) the immediate organization of pacts of mutual assistance among European powers.
In general the entire press, save the extreme Left, emphasizes that apart from all electoral conventionalities the chief aim should now be to reinforce the French Army in sufficient numbers and quality to resist the 12 army corps that Germany has officially constituted.
It is of interest to add that the tone of the press has on the whole remained moderate in the face of what is certainly the most serious crisis that has confronted France since 1914.