740.0011 European War 1939/4823: Telegram

The Chargé in Germany ( Kirk ) to the Secretary of State

3128–3131. Aside from the pertinent passage in the Reichs Chancellor’s speech20 the strictest official reserve has recently been maintained with respect to German-Russian relations and rumors and speculation on this subject continue to be rife in Berlin.

The recent Soviet advances into Bessarabia and the Baltic States have been accompanied by persistent reports in Polish, German, and neutral circles to the effect that events of some importance may be in the making in German-occupied Poland. These reports agree that there have been in the past month extensive transfer of troops to Polish points especially in the southeast. Stories emanating from Warsaw stress growing Bolshevik sentiment there and in the country districts to the east. It is said that Communist propaganda has been circulating freely during the past few months and that it is not unusual to find the red flag hanging from destroyed houses and factories. Important elements of the city population particularly the church group fear and expect as imminent a Soviet occupation up to and including Warsaw. These rumors are steadily gaining currency in Berlin and certain circles believe that by an agreement between Berlin and Moscow the original [occupation?] line along the Vistula may shortly be reconstituted.

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Aside from laconic, inconspicuous press items concerning the final and formal bolshevization of each of the three Baltic States, the most frigid silence has been observed by the German press on this direct subject. No effort has been made to explain away these Soviet advances or to reconcile the public to them and there have been no intimations of satisfaction over them or attempts to portray them as part of the development toward a new order in Europe. It is not known that any decision has been taken with regard to the Baltic Legations in Berlin, but it is indicated in official statements that their role will be altered even if they do not disappear. Exiled Lithuanians profess to believe that Germany intends to take away from the Russians at least a small strip of Lithuanian territory along the German frontier and they cite stories of naval concentration at Memel as indicative of tension in that district but no confirmation of these rumors is available and the strong probability is that they are pure wishful thinking.

Although in Finland Russian influence appears to be successfully exerted recently in the matter of the demilitarization of the Aaland Islands21 and in the direction of Finnish demobilization, Germany is reported to have insisted at Moscow that no further steps such as the recent ones in the Baltic States be taken. Furthermore, it is said that recently Germany requested and obtained from Moscow the withdrawal of troops along the German-Lithuanian frontier. Another minor source of German-Russian friction appears already to have arisen in the question of the future distribution of the output of the Petsamo nickel mines as the Russians resented and protested over Finnish plans to sell to Germany and the Germans resented the Russian protests. All in all the impression is gained that whatever the Russians may have been promised with regard to Finland in the agreements of last August the Germans now consider the promises to have been substantially fulfilled and further Russian advances in this area are, barring new arrangements with Germany, not probable.

Despite all these signs of uneasiness in the east, however, the German official position remains as the elated Chancellor defined it: namely, that everything done so far has fallen strictly within the scope of the existing agreements for the diversion [division?] of spheres of influence and that no grounds exist or need be anticipated for any conflict between the two countries in this generation. The concentration of German troops in Poland is explained in official German circles as due to the recall of surplus units from the west and the necessity of finding quarters for them pending demobilization and some observers even go so far as to predict that the development of the war against England will find Soviet and German forces eventually fighting together in the eastern Mediterranean district. The recent [Page 560] departure for Moscow of a German official delegation which is to arrange for the resettlement within the Reich of the racial Germans in Bessarabia and north of Bukowina gives the impression moreover of German sanction of the territorial changes in Rumania.

The fact remains, however, that the thoroughness with which the Russians cashed in on the promises made to them last summer as well as the timing of their several moves which is said to have caused surprise in Berlin on certain occasions may well have served to deepen German consciousness in Berlin of the gravity of the sacrifices made to gain Russia’s benevolent neutrality and there is evidence that the new neighborly proximity is giving rise to many new problems which may require solution other than by the usual diplomatic processes. Furthermore, it is not possible to exclude the contention that a policy of expansion to the east on the part of Germany will bring about armed conflict with Russia and that Germany’s military machine must sooner or later find employment against the Soviets. For the moment, however, Germany’s attitude toward the Soviet Union appears to be dominated by the supreme necessities of the present war and it would not seem that the time has yet come when the problems involved can be approached from the German side in its characteristic way or German policy determined from a long range point of view. This being the case, there would appear to be strong reason for Germany to maintain for the time being the present relations between the two great empires, at least insofar as outward appearances are concerned.

  1. Speech by Adolf Hitler before the German Reichstag on July 19, 1940, offering peace to Great Britain in a “final appeal to common sense.” See the New York Times, July 20, 1940, p. 5.
  2. See telegram No. 327, July 29, 3 p.m., from the Minister in Finland, p. 333.