The Ambassador in France (Straus) to the Secretary of State

No. 2563

Sir: I paid a courtesy call, by appointment, on M. Sarraut, the new Prime Minister, on Thursday, February 20. The President of the Council, who is also Minister of the Interior, received me in his office at the Ministry of the Interior at the Place Beauvau.

I have the honor to report that my conversation with M. Sarraut lasted three-quarters of an hour and concerned itself chiefly with the broader aspects of world problems. He was greatly preoccupied concerning the peace of Europe and in fact world peace, as a world war would, he felt, certainly follow a European war. The Japanese peril, he thought, was one of particular concern due to the domination of the militarists in that country. Western civilization may have brought blessings to Japan from their point of view, but from the European and American points of view the modern development of Japan raised serious problems.

The Prime Minister spoke briefly of his own war experiences and of the feeling in France for Germany over a period of years. At the present time there was no great hatred of the Germans among the French population. There was, moreover, an intense desire in France to avoid the recurrence of another such struggle as took place in 1914. He said that he would devote his energy to finding some means of preventing war. The French on the one hand, he personally believed, did not desire to form a military ring around Germany and that, on the other hand, it was unlikely that the Germans had at the moment any warlike intentions, provided something could be done to satisfy her needs for raw materials and some territorial expansion for her [Page 203] excess population. He thought the taking away from Germany by the Versailles Treaty39 of the German colonies had been a mistake. He believed that England, although loath to give up any of her African possessions, might be persuaded to return to Germany the latter’s pre-war possessions, provided that Germany gave certain guarantees that she would not use these colonies as bases for propaganda directed at the colonial possessions in Africa of other powers.

M. Sarraut believed that the first step in securing world-wide security would be the calling of an international conference at which all questions of international relations should be considered. The agenda for this meeting should be carefully prepared beforehand so as not to run the risks of a failure similar to that of the London Economic Conference.40 On the agenda of this conference should be the question of securing for each nation

required raw materials,
markets for its products,
outlets for surplus population.

He reiterated that he doubted that Hitler wanted war. However, there were militaristic elements in the German Government and the doctrine of pan-Germanism was one which might give rise to war in the future if some peaceful solution was not forthcoming. The military group in Germany, he thought, would sooner or later seek the restoration of the Hohenzollerns in the person of the second son of the Crown Prince, whether Hitler liked it or not.

I asked the Prime Minister whether he thought that there was any precise arrangement between Germany and Japan. He replied that he had no definite knowledge of any such agreement. He had, however, noted that Germany was according visiting Japanese delegations a warm welcome and he suspected that some sort of an understanding existed.

When I asked him whether he believed that there was any Polish-German agreement, he replied that, in his opinion, Pilsudski41 had mediated between Japan and Germany, motivated by his hatred of the Soviets, and had probably been the intermediary by which some sort of assistance would be given Germany by Japan. His remarks at this point were not entirely clear, but I gained the impression that in the case of trouble between Germany and Russia, Poland would probably take the side of Germany.

Turning to internal affairs, M. Sarraut told me that general elections would probably take place at the end of April or beginning of [Page 204] May and that Parliament would adjourn about the middle of March. The elections he ventured to predict, would probably show a decided swing to the Left.

Respectfully yours,

Jesse Isidor Straus
  1. Signed June 28, 1919, Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 57.
  2. Held June 12–July 27, 1933; see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. i, pp. 452 ff.
  3. Marshal Josef Pilsudski, late Chief of Polish Army Staff and former Premier, who died May 12, 1935.