740.00/99: Telegram

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


79. In the course of a long conversation Blum said to me today that on the 24th of this month he would make an important speech dealing with peace in Europe. He asserted that he had had no intention of making such a speech but that the press of the entire world had announced that the speech would be forthcoming and he felt it would produce an unfortunate effect if he should not live up to the expectation.

He added that he felt the moment was not an unpropitious one for such a speech. François-Poncet10 after his return to Berlin had had a most amicable conversation with Neurath11 who had been profuse in his assertions that Germany desired nothing but peace.

Blum commented that the most difficult thing in dealing with Germany was to know whether or not Neurath, or Schacht,12 or anyone else really spoke for Hitler. He said that it was impossible for Poncet to see Hitler frequently and that he understood the other Ambassadors in Berlin were equally unfortunate. Hitler at the present time was spending nearly all his time at Berchtesgaden and seemed to have no [Page 28] real intimates who knew his mind. Neither Goering, Goebbels,15 Neurath, Schacht was really close to him.

Blum said that Neurath had stated to Poncet that he felt any real reconciliation between France and Germany must be prefaced by a settlement of the Spanish conflict16 and that Germany desired settlement sincerely. Blum said that he was in entire accord with Neurath’s opinion that an accord on Spain must be the gateway to larger agreements. He had instructed Poncet, therefore, to go slow for the moment. Poncet would continue the conversations for the conclusion of a new Franco-German trade agreement and in the course of those conversations would explore the possibilities with regard to larger economic cooperation and limitation of armaments but would make no grand scale proposals until the situation in Spain had improved.

Blum then went on to say that he was not altogether without hope with regard to settlement in Spain. He felt that the Germans and the Russians as well were beginning to lose their taste for supporting the rival governments in Spain. It now seemed not impossible to reach an agreement to close all the frontiers of Spain to further shipments of war supplies and “volunteers”. He hoped the second step then would be the withdrawal of all “volunteers” now in Spain. Blum stated that he was in entire agreement with François-Poncet’s point of view with regard to rapprochement between France and Germany reported in my No. 50, January 13, 5 p.m.17

Blum said that he felt there were two new factors in the general situation. The British aviation program was going faster than even the British had hoped; and the Germans had discovered through experience in Spain that the motors of their airplanes were far inferior not only to those of the Italian planes but also to those of the Russians.

He stated that his military experts insisted that the finest bombing planes in the world today were the Russian.

In this connection he said that he had information from Italy which he believed to be authoritative to the effect that Mussolini had promised Goering to supply Germany with a certain number of airplane engines. (He added that the German artillery in Spain and especially the German anti-aircraft guns were considered by the French observers to be superior to anything similar possessed by any country.)

Blum said that he did not know how the question of Alexandretta would be settled.18 It was extremely complicated because of the hostility [Page 29] of the Moslems of Syria to the Turks. He talked, however, in a most friendly way about Turkey, said that he realized the Turkish position was based on fear that Mussolini might at some future date attempt to take Alexandretta, and did not seem disturbed about the matter.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  1. André François-Poncet, French Ambassador in Germany.
  2. Baron Constantin von Neurath, German Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Hjalmar Schacht, German Minister of Economic Affairs and President of the Reichsbank.
  4. Josef Goebbels, German Minister for National Enlightenment and Propaganda.
  5. See pp. 215 ff.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Franco-Turkish treaties were signed later at Geneva, May 29, 1937; League of Nations, Official Journal. November 1937, p. 837.