The Ambassador in France ( Straus ) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 20—9 a.m.]
223. The French attitude with respect to the German announcement on conscription was characterized yesterday by despair and smouldering resentment against England for its decision to go ahead on negotiations with Germany alone without consulting France or Italy. Massigli47 states that Italy is ready to assume a very firm attitude with respect to Germany and is entirely opposed to the idea of the Simon visit without previous consultation. The British Chargé d’Affaires here spent most of yesterday in consultation with Laval or on the telephone to London and late last night seemed well on the way to arranging at least for a stop-over by Simon en route to Berlin or possibly for a meeting of Mussolini, Laval and Simon in northern Italy before the Berlin visit.
It is felt in French official circles that the British note was sent too quickly when there was no necessity for such prompt action in face of the German decision. Although it is felt here that the British action was dictated by internal political consideration and fear of the Parliamentary opposition it is the French opinion that this feeling was miscalculated and that it would have been better to have sounded out the strength of the opposition before committing themselves so openly to a line of action which would certainly fix the full burden of the European future entirely upon England.
It was hoped that some announcement from England that Simon would consult before going to Berlin would be available before the debate in the Senate this afternoon on the 2 years military service period for France.
Repeated to London and Rome.
- René Massigli, Assistant Director of Political Section in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.↩