740.00/944: Telegram

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

773. Leger20 read to me today a telegram which he had just received from the French Embassy in Berlin. This telegram stated that it had been learned from a high official of the German Foreign Office who in the past had proved to be an entirely reliable source of information that Hitler’s first reaction to the President’s message had been one of violent rage and that he had decided at once that he would make no reply but merely have the German press insult the President in every possible way.

News of the profound impression which the message had made in all quarters of the world including the impression that it had made among those Germans who had heard it through the transmissions in German of the London and Strasbourg radios finally convinced Ribbentrop and Hitler that a reply must be made.

It had been decided therefore that the proposal of the President should be rejected on the ground that while Germany had the highest [Page 143] respect for the American people and wished them nothing but good, no communication from so contemptible a creature as the present President of the United States could be taken seriously by the German Government and that so long as President Roosevelt should remain President of the United States no friendly relations could exist between Germany and the United States.

Leger said that he could not believe that 9 more days would pass without the Germans realizing that such a reply as this would be disastrous folly. He had been informed that the Italians wished the Germans to reply—and wished to reply themselves—along the lines predicted by Daladier yesterday to me (see my 762, April 17, 7 p.m.).

Leger said that he feared the reply would finally be that Germany and Italy would be prepared to give guarantees for the future after the settlement of certain political questions. Hitler would propose another Munich conference to meet under threat of war.

Leger said he feared that Chamberlain might favor such a conference and he hoped that if the German reply should take this form, the President would be prepared to meet the unjust attack.

  1. Alexis Léger, Secretary General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.