Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)

Major Percy Black, U. S. A., Assistant Military Attaché in Berlin, called. He reported that he had every reason to believe that Germany would start moving again in the early Spring. He knew as a fact that certain key reserve officers and certain transport bodies had received orders to hold themselves in readiness as of January 20. (Curiously enough this date coincided closely with the time Ambassador Kennedy had told me the British regarded as the end of the safe era.) He thought that the move would be eastward this time though he was indefinite in his opinions as to just where it would strike. He felt that Danzig would be absorbed without difficulty and likewise Memel. He thought that ultimately the Polish Corridor would be solved—not by granting Germany an autobahn across the Polish Corridor but by granting Poland an autobahn to Gdynia across German recovered territory. He did not believe that this eastward movement would result in general war: (a) partly because France and England could not close in the gap between Germany and themselves, and (b) partly because nobody would fight for Poland. On the other hand, he thought the Poles themselves would fight, rather than follow the surrender technique of the Czechs. During the crisis of last September the Germans had denuded East Prussia of troops and had made no efforts to cover their left flank in Silesia. This could only indicate close cooperation between Polish and German General Staffs. I asked Major Black how long he thought it would have taken the German Army to overcome Czech resistance. He replied, “Not more than two weeks and probably less”. The Czech defenses such as they were were excellent, but there were serious gaps in them which the Germans knew about. More important, however, was the fact that the Czech plan of defense was to protect the frontiers with approximately equal strength everywhere rather than mass a preponderant [Page 736] strength at some key positions. Thus if the Germans broke through at any one point the collapse of the line followed. The German military had told him after taking over the Czech Maginot-Line that the war would have lasted even less than they had anticipated.

Major Black went on to say that Germany was definitely planning a customs union and a monetary union with the smaller states to the southeast; that she was going very slowly for the moment in Czechoslovakia as it was a laboratory test being watched by her neighbors. As to German psychology he said that instead of regarding the acquisition of Czechoslovakia as a vast victory for Hitler achieved by his having stronger nerves than his opponents, the man in the street had reacted somewhat as follows: He never believed that there was going to be any fighting until some time in September. He viewed the prospect with horror. Then Chamberlain came over to Germany and war was averted. Ergo, Chamberlain was the man of peace and a public hero in Germany. As the acquisition of the Sudeten area had been assumed from the beginning it was not considered an undue triumph. The German authorities did not like having Chamberlain or the British so popular in Germany; as a result the Goebbels propaganda against England was intensified and has been going full blast ever since. The Germans did not take too seriously the Italian demands for expansion in the Mediterranean; they were merely useful in keeping French and British attention concentrated elsewhere than on themselves.

Pierrepont Moffat