The Ambassador in Poland ( Cudahy ) to President Roosevelt 1

Dear Mr. President: I went from London and stayed with Bullitt2 in Paris, saw Dave Morris3 in Brussels, and then went to Berlin where I found Dodd4 laid up with a cold and talked to him while he was in bed. He finds the winter humidity of Berlin very trying and suffers a great deal, he told me.

Everywhere there was a persistent rumor that you contemplate some sort of move in furtherance of peace in Europe and I hope this rumor is not true unless you intend to act under certain conditions precedent. I am certain a Wilsonian pronouncement in favor of peace while it would create a great stir would be forgotten in two weeks’ time. Also any attempt to assemble the leaders of European States for a statement of their objectives and grievances would result in nothing but propaganda and recriminations and would leave things worse than before.

Really to bring about any tangible results it will be necessary to diagnose the cause of existing conflicts and propose a program which will eliminate this cause. Otherwise your present great prestige in Europe will be greatly diminished and your usefulness as a future arbiter.

Germany is the outstanding threat. The whole impulse of the country is war preparation. The economy is a war economy and if this [Page 25] were suddenly stopped, from four to six million people would be thrown out of employment. But it must be stopped or the end is a certain conflict. About ten days ago Hitler and Goering5 assembled the leading industrialists and told them that they must regard the present state of the country as if it were at war. If they failed heads would roll. Hitler is said to have become so violent that several who heard him had grave doubts concerning his sanity.

Germany is in a bad way economically and faces a hard winter with a prospect of genuine privation. There is a shortage in grains 20 per cent, of last year’s consumption. Moreover consumption must be greater because of the pronounced shortage in fats. Already the people are being rationed on fats and dairy products which many think is the beginning of a drastic curtailment in free consumption of other food.

This lowering standard of living has been brought about because of the failure to find markets for German exports and the limitation of German imports to those materials requisite for war preparation. As suffering becomes more acute the people will grow discontented and there will be evidence of social unrest unless they are offered some compensation. Such compensation should be another dramatic stroke for the enhancement of German world prestige with a resultant prospect of a better life. If you will examine the record since the beginning of the Nazi regime you will find that almost each six months there has been such a dramatic stroke by Hitler. Some of these strokes have been fraught with great peril of war, such as the one nine months ago when the Rhineland was militarized, but the nature of Hitler’s leadership is a daring one and having gambled successfully so far it is only reasonable he will continue his same audacious international policy.

The ultimate issue is between Germany and Russia, not between Communism and Fascism or between forms of government and political philosophies but between the intense internationalisms of Germany and Russia. Here is a proud, capable, ambitious and war-like people who are denied a full and happy life while on the same continent the Russians, crude and uncouth, three hundred years behind present day civilization, are in possession of the wealth of an empire. The day of reckoning is coming on this issue—it is only a question of time—that is the ultimate issue.

What the immediate issue will be no one can tell or when it will arise. Some say Danzig or Memel. It seems more probable to assume that next spring when a probable social conflict will occur in France Hitler will, as he has in the past, take advantage of this and move into Bohemia with its four millions of Germans. The danger will [Page 26] then not come from France despite its obligations to the “Little Entente” but it may well be that the ultimate enemy, Russia, will decide that the time has come to resist the inevitable German assault. It will be improbable that such a war can be confined to the East of Europe.

The future looks dismal, unless something can be done to relieve the economic condition of Germany, in return for its assurance to stop or diminish its great rearmament program. The recent speeches of both Eden6 and Blum7 had this thought as their inspiration. The question is what can be done? A prominent French journalist in Berlin told me that the French Ambassador there had a definite program and asked me to discuss it with him. Of course I could not do so but I shall write Bill Bullitt to take it up with the French Foreign Minister in Paris. This same journalist spoke about credits on the part of France and Great Britain and more broad trade opportunities for Germany with these countries. But it is hard to see how France can lend abroad any substantial sum, for financial people say that they do not see how the French Government will be able to finance itself after February. Nor is there anything to indicate that Great Britain is ready to accept a flood of German imports even if France is willing. As far as we are concerned Germany owes us three billion marks on private credits upon which no American investors, with the exception of those holding the Dawes and Young loans,8 can get payment in dollars.

But all these questions are for the experts. All I have written is only to emphasize, Mr. President, that, in my opinion, it would be a grave mistake to attempt any mediation or peace suggestion in Europe at the present time without first having a definite program for the improvement of conditions in Germany. Furthermore any discussions should, in my opinion, be conducted in greatest secrecy. Nothing should be known until the program is ready for execution. Then and not before can a proposal be made for the future peace of Europe.

Respectfully yours,

John Cudahy
  1. Photostatic copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y.
  2. William C. Bullitt, American Ambassador in France.
  3. American Ambassador in Belgium.
  4. William E. Dodd, American Ambassador in Germany.
  5. Field Marshal Hermann Goering, German Minister for Air.
  6. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  7. Léon Blum, President of the French Council of Ministers.
  8. See Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, pp. 1 ff., and ibid., 1929, vol. ii, pp. 1025 ff.