760F.62/715: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State

891. My 889, September 9, 7 p.m.15 The meeting of the Prime Minister and principal Ministers and Foreign Office officials broke up about 6:30. Cadogan16 told a member of the staff tonight they had under consideration all day the advisability of a strongly worded warning to be delivered orally and privately to Hitler and the possible terms of such a warning. Cadogan said they know that Ribbentrop has deliberately withheld from Hitler all knowledge of Henderson’s representations and those of other foreign representatives, and they consider it of vital importance for an accurate presentment of the British views to reach Hitler’s ear. He said that the Prime Minister is being strongly urged from quarters both here and abroad (France) to make such a warning and in no unmistakable terms so that Hitler will be under no misapprehension as to the serious consequences which, in the British view, would flow from an attempt to solve the Czech crisis by violence. It was apparent from Cadogan’s remarks that the warning they have in mind is to be more sharply worded than any public statement hitherto made by the Government.

Cadogan said that before final decision had been taken regarding this warning to Germany, word came that Ribbentrop had taken Henderson to see Hitler at 4:30 and that at 6:30 they were still in conference, with no report to London of results. The meeting of ministers here was accordingly adjourned at 6:30 as Cadogan said it was obviously impossible to reach a final decision on the question of instructions to Henderson until the result of his meeting with Hitler was known. The Nuremberg meeting is a calamity from their point of view, Cadogan said. Henderson is there without a cipher. They can receive no direct reports from him nor send him instructions except through Berlin and a courier from there to Nuremberg. They have sent urgent instructions to Berlin to get a report of the Hitler meeting as soon as possible. Dealing with Ribbentrop is appalling he said and termed his withholding of information from Hitler, as to foreign representatives, as “criminal”.

Adverting to the “warning” which, depending on what Hitler says to Henderson, may yet have to be given, and given urgently, Cadogan emphasized with great earnestness the necessity for secrecy. The warning will be given orally to Hitler and with no publicity whatever. They feel here that with the background of the May 21 experience [Page 585] it would be fatal to give Hitler any warning in the nature of a threat, of which the German public and the world have any knowledge. Cadogan twice emphasized the confidential nature of this information.

It is not true, as reported in the press tonight that Henderson has yet received any instructions to warn the German Government in terms beyond the previous public declarations of the Government.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Sir Alexander M. G. Cadogan, British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.