760F.62/1495: Telegram (part air)

The Ambassador in Germany (Wilson) to the Secretary of State


529. 1. In a conversation which I had with Weizsaecker and in the conversations of the Counselor of this Embassy with the French [Page 714] and British Counselors as reported in the Embassy’s 528, October 5, 1 p.m.,15 certain problems associated with the Munich settlement were discussed.

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In the course of these conversations it was manifest that the French and British Embassies fully recognized that the jubilation of the public in Great Britain and France and also largely in Germany and Italy was at present almost solely based on escape from a dreaded war and that every effort must now be made by Paris and London and in fact to a degree by every capital to follow the present situation through to the establishment of conditions in all directions which would make for a durable peace.

The British Counselor speculated on a certain opposition to Chamberlain in Great Britain but did not believe that there was any immediate threat to his position. Regarding Daladier the French Counselor felt confident that the majority in France would continue to accord him support and although he learned from Paris that Moscow would make every effort to stir up French communist opposition he did not believe that such opposition would prevail to any serious extent.

In respect of the possible future attitude of Hitler regarding various phases of the European situation the British Counselor expressed himself as hopeful of a display of a conciliatory and reasonably understanding spirit provided Germany is accorded a position which he undoubtedly sincerely feels is its right. In this he spoke of Hitler’s relying on Neurath16 and Goering in a moment of crisis with all that that implied. He was in particular inclined to emphasize the perception which he believes Hitler now has and which he believes will progressively come to him of the widespread opposition throughout Germany to being led into a war or even to be subjected to apprehensions of a war which under conceivable circumstances might seriously threaten his popularity (this point seems to me of capital importance). In respect of this he mentioned contrasting incidents which took place during the crisis which he asserts deeply impressed the Chancellor, for example while the mechanized divisions were passing Hitler’s residence the populace crowding the sidewalks watched in grim silence and the only time spontaneous popular applause occurred was while the Chancellor was en route to the station to take the train to Munich.

He said that among the questions which it is felt certain Hitler will raise will be that of colonies. A phase of the Hitler–Chamberlain conversations [Page 715] points to this. The circumstance that when Hitler stated colonies would be a matter for negotiation and Chamberlain made no denial may, he felt, be construed to mean that London has in effect agreed to negotiate the question.

He also speculated as to what effect the changed position of Russia in Europe might have on Germany’s Far Eastern policy.

2. I may say that here as probably in many other quarters two schools of thought are expressed regarding the future with particular reference to the attitude of Germany and Italy. There are many who feel that their “victory” in the game of great power politics will be a precursor of violent demands in all directions on the part of Berlin and Rome under the guise of proceeding by “negotiations”. On the other hand there are those claiming to be close to high German quarters who believe although Germany unquestionably will proceed to an intensive economic penetration or even economic domination to the southeast that Hitler feeling that he has righted Versailles injustices although at a pistol point is nevertheless under the “spell” of a, for him, new international experience at Munich and that he will endeavor to continue in a spirit of adjustments by conciliation. There are those who even go so far as to assert that they have definite knowledge that certain moves may be expected on the part of the Chancellor in these respects and that his immediate intention is speedily to adjust certain differences with Poland in a manner which it is very probable Warsaw will accept if it has not done so already and that he even contemplates making general démarches in the field of disarmament and perhaps in that of international trade.

There is one danger point in all this which I feel may well be watched. Weizsaecker told me that in the now famous telephone conversation between Hitler and Mussolini on September 28 Mussolini’s first words were “I want you, before I say anything else, fully to understand that whatever happens I am with you to the hilt”. The outstanding characteristic of Hitler in standing by his friends is well known. A disturbing thought thus arises as to what Rome might now demand of Berlin.

In all however there is one characteristic of the situation in Berlin which I have discussed before but which I feel cannot be too much emphasized. It is the inadequacy which all of us have experienced here of any and all estimates of Hitler’s character, in particular when venturing into the realm of what he may be expected to do. He is a man apart whom it seems almost impossible to judge by customary standards. Until further indications are manifest I do not feel that I can usefully undertake forecasts respecting the future.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Baron Constantin von Neurath, President of the German Secret Cabinet Council.