The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 26—9:23 a.m.]
1606. For the President and the Secretary. I now have the full explanation of Bonnet’s statement to me that Hitler’s talk with Coulondre [Page 372] was a warning before action and his subsequent telephone call saying that there were signs that Hitler might desire to enter into negotiations. See my rush 1599, August 25, midnight.67
I have just had read to me at the Quai d’Orsay the telegrams of Coulondre, French Ambassador in Berlin, on his conversation with Hitler and Henderson’s conversation with Hitler.68
Hitler said to Coulondre that he had summoned him to say that he had no desire to have war with France. He had no claims against France. Personally he renounced all claims to Alsace-Lorraine.
The French had, however, given carte blanche to the Poles and the Poles were acting in a manner that no self-respecting state could endure. If such actions should continue he on his side would have to act with force.
Hitler’s voice then rose and he screamed out a series of imaginary Polish atrocities against the German minority in Poland. After this he said that he would regret war with France; but that he was ready for it. He knew that the French were a brave nation like the Germans and that they would expect to win. He also would expect to win especially since his agreement with the Soviet Union was a positive one. If France chose to make a general European war out of the action which he would be obliged to take if the Poles should continue their present behavior, there would be war.
He then said something vague which indicated that he seemed to have in his head some sort of an idea about an exchange of minority populations between Poland and Germany. He then returned to the alleged Polish atrocities against the German minority and ended his talking with the French Ambassador on a highly belligerent note.
It was immediately after receipt of the French Ambassador’s telegram that Bonnet gave me the information that he considered Hitler’s statements to Coulondre a warning before action.
A few minutes later Bonnet received a telegram from Coulondre giving the report that his British colleague, Henderson, had made to him with regard to his conversation with Hitler.
Hitler said to the British Ambassador that he did not desire to have war with Great Britain. The cruelties which the Poles were inflicting on Germans in Poland, if continued, would oblige him to take military action against the Poles.
He desired Henderson to convey a message to his Government positively not by telegraph or telephone but only by word of mouth.[Page 373]
The message was that he, Hitler, was prepared to consider a certain measure of disarmament and he desired to assure Great Britain that although he needed colonies and would continue to demand them, this demand need not be fulfilled for 4 or 5 years and Germany need not require the same colonies which she had lost after the War of 1914.
He said that he was in desperate need of timber and oilstuffs of all sorts.
His demands against Poland still remained the attachment to the Reich of Danzig and the establishment of a strip of territory across the Corridor to Danzig and from Danzig to East Prussia so that East Prussia would be connected directly through German territory with the Reich.
It might also be necessary to agree with the Polish Government to exchange the German minority in Poland against the Polish minority in Germany.
He requested Henderson to leave for London at the earliest possible moment and to return with the reply of the British Government to the statements that he had made.
Henderson expressed the opinion to Coulondre that Hitler would not make war during the 48 hours necessary to receive the reply.
It was after the receipt of this message from Coulondre that Bonnet telephoned to me and said that it appeared that Hitler did not desire a general European war and might be ready for negotiation.
I was informed by Léger69 and Rochat70 this morning that the French Ambassador in Berlin had informed the Polish Ambassador in Berlin about Hitler’s remarks about the exchange of populations and that the Polish Ambassador had informed Beck.
As you know both Léger and Rochat are intensely opposed to a policy of another Munich and absolutely determined that France and England shall support Poland. I asked them both if they did not fear that Henderson’s conversation with Hitler was the prelude to British action designed to disintegrate Polish resistance. They both replied that there was not the slightest indication of any such weakening on the part of Great Britain and both assured me that France would oppose any such betrayal of Poland to the end.
- Not printed.↩
- See the French Yellow Book, Diplomatic Documents (1938–1939), Papers relative to the events and negotiations which preceded the opening of hostilities between Germany on the one hand, and Poland, Great Britain and France on the other (New York, Reynal & Hitchcock), doc. Nos. 242 and 245, pp. 302 and 306.↩
- Alexis Léger, Secretary General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.↩
- Charles Antoine Rochat, Assistant Director of Political and Commercial Affairs in the French Foreign Office.↩