761.6211/165: Telegram

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

1720. The permanent officials of the French Foreign Office are of the opinion this morning that the announcement in Berlin yesterday that a Soviet military mission will reach Berlin today20 is probably the beginning of a last and dangerous diplomatic maneuver to achieve the enslavement of Poland without serious war.

Their analysis of the situation is the following.

The French Foreign Office expects that today in Berlin a military alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union will be announced.

[Page 409]

Hitler’s attack against Poland was serious in exactly the regions that he most desires to annex, Danzig, the Corridor and Polish Silesia. At other points the attack was not pushed with the intensity that the Poles anticipated (this is confirmed to me by the Polish Ambassador).

The French Foreign Office is of the opinion that Hitler will seize these regions, will announce a military alliance with the Soviet Union, that Mussolini will then propose a conference for the settlement of the war between Germany and Poland and the general liquidation of the Treaty of Versailles.

The communication exchanged with the Italian Government by the French Government yesterday was a polite note of thanks for the Duce’s efforts to preserve peace, an expression of regret that the entry of German forces into Poland had made the Duce’s efforts fruitless and an expression of French readiness’ to hear any further proposals that Mussolini might have to offer.

You will have noted that no time limit was mentioned by either the British Ambassador or the French Ambassador when they made their démarche in Berlin yesterday and asked for the withdrawal of German troops from Poland or the return of their passports.

Ribbentrop replied that he would have to consult the Fuehrer and it is believed that Germany will attempt to delay a definite reply until the announcement of the alliance with the Soviet Union, a further proposal by Mussolini, and the occupation by Germany of the portions of Poland Hitler wants most.

It is obvious to every one in France that if such a proposal should be made by Mussolini the French and British Governments ought to reply that they would be prepared to enter a conference only after the complete evacuation of the Polish territory seized by Germany.

It is also obvious that an end could be put to this maneuver by the immediate demand of the French and British Ambassadors in Berlin for a reply within an hour to the démarche of yesterday, to be followed by attack on Germany.

It is also obvious that if Poland should be let down at this moment by France and England, when she is engaged in defending her soil there would be no further resistance by any state in central or eastern Europe to German aggression; and Germany after organizing all these states would attack France and England with the greatest chance of success.

It is further obvious the abandonment of Poland would in that case be a mortal blow at the morale of the peoples of France and England which is today extremely high and honorable.

Under the circumstances it will no doubt seem strange to you that the French and British Governments have not taken more rapid action to come to the support of their Polish ally. The excuse given [Page 410] in Paris is that the Chamber of Deputies could not meet for physical reasons until 3 this afternoon and that an ultimatum to Germany to be presented by the French and British Ambassadors in Berlin could not be delivered until after the meeting of the Chamber of Deputies.

The fact is that certain prominent French statesmen whom I refrain from mentioning as I have refrained from mentioning names in giving you the views of the permanent officials of the Foreign Office, are so afraid of facing war at the present moment that they would be willing to arrive at a compromise which would give Hitler the substance of his 16 demands of August 31.21 A number of prominent members of the French Chamber of Deputies and Senate who work in close contact with these Government officials are also inclined at heart to abandon Poland.

Daladier and the military leaders on the other hand are fully determined to fulfill to the full the obligations of France to Poland and the entire population of France is facing war with a resolute courage that is beyond praise.

Chamberlain’s speech yesterday will make any betrayal of the Poles by the British extraordinarily difficult.

The decision of the French Government in spite of the point of view of some of its members will in the end prove to be firm and honorable both because of the point of honor involved and because of the complete realization that if Poland should be abandoned it would be the turn of France next. Those who wish to give in have no policy except that of submitting to enslavement and I cannot believe that they will be able to conceal this issue from the people of France, and by weasel actions draw their country into a position which in the end necessarily would be fatal. The alternative may in the end prove to be fatal but at least it offers a fighting chance.

  1. See pp. 477 ff.
  2. For text of the 16 demands, see British Cmd. 6106, Misc. No. 9 (1939), doc. No. 98, p. 149.