760C.62/1013: Telegram

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

1262. I have just been at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister, Halifax,62 Cadogan,63 and Horace Wilson.64 They have discussed with me the Henderson interview.65

Hitler seemed calm and earnest. He pointed out that he always wanted a deal with Great Britain but he was not deterred by Great Britain’s actions of yesterday. He was indignant with the Poles for their persecutions of his people, firing on airplanes, et cetera, and if they said they did not, it showed they had no control over their subordinates. He was going to have his rights in Poland even if it meant a great war, from which England would suffer much more than Germany. He now had Russia to back him up with supplies and therefore he could go on.

If, however, he could get straightened out in this Polish business he would make a deal with England that would guarantee the British Empire forever. He would limit armaments and then Germany and England could proceed to economic satisfaction. Henderson kept pointing out that England could not make any deal that the Poles did not want, and Hitler said he did not want England to break her word and in the next breath said that Poland had no future anyway because Russia and Germany would settle Poland. This last remark was said to Henderson but was left out of report of meeting which Hitler sent [Page 370] to Henderson after the meeting which purported to be the gist of the conversation. Hitler urged Henderson to fly home to persuade Britain to accept his proposition which was:

That Poland adjust her differences with Germany at once.
England agree and urge this and in return Germany would agree to respect and even fight to preserve the British Empire.
Hitler would limit armaments, go back to peaceful pursuits, and become an artist, which is what he wanted to be. (Aside by Kennedy, he is now, but I would not care to say what kind.)
If this was not agreed it was going to be a war worse than ’14–18.

Writing this out it looks like a ridiculous proposition to make Great Britain quit or cut away from the Poles but to hear the text as read it seems much more reasonable.

Chamberlain and others do not know just whether the proposition is (1) throw sand in their eye while he marches in or (2) whether he really does not want a fight with England or (3) whether it is a proposition on which something can be done. They are going to listen to Henderson in the morning and then probably say:

We certainly will not agree to permit Poland to be carved up by you66 and Russia.

Nor are we willing to force Poland to make concessions based on these probably ridiculous charges of cruelty but we are willing to help negotiate a fair deal and perhaps with all other powers work out some economic future for the world.

Incidentally Hitler asked for a settlement from Britain on the colonies but on a time basis and as he said by fair negotiation.

They are not going to give this message to either [Poles] or French until they have thought it out very carefully and have heard Henderson.

During the conversation Wilson asked whether the President had received any answer from Hitler. I said I had not heard of any.

Chamberlain held up Henderson’s wire and said “This is the answer”.

  1. Viscount Halifax, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Sir Alexander Cadogan, British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Chief industrial adviser to the British Government.
  4. See British Cmd. 6106, Misc. No. 9 (1939), doc. Nos. 57, 58, and 59, pp. 98–102.
  5. i. e., Germany.