740.00119 European War 1939/538: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

836. My telegram No. 832, October 26, noon, and previous. Laval denied last night to Heinzen33 that any agreement had been reached with the Germans covering the various reported concessions concerning naval bases, fleet, colonies, etc., and personally authorized the denial story to be sent. While the denial may be technically correct, and I believe that nothing has actually been signed, I take these statements [Page 398] with large and numerous grains of salt: I believe he has made many verbal commitments during his talks with German leaders. Laval spoke of the “excellent impression” which Hitler had made both on him and on the Marshal, of his “consideration” for the Marshal’s age and of his “broad understanding of the problems in Europe”, of his “cold logical reasoning”. How much of it is due to the Führer and how much to Laval’s other German associates I do not know but they convinced him completely that a British defeat is imminent, that the future of a pro-German France is bright and that unemployment—a grave problem today—can be virtually eliminated in a German-directed economy. According to Heinzen, Laval said he quoted figures on German industrial and military production, German plans, et cetera, given him by Hitler and pounded the table in his insistence on early British defeat; that he thus so bulldozed the Council of Ministers that his thesis was accepted in its entirety.

As to the President’s message35 he told Heinzen that he was much shocked at “its rude and disrespectful tone to the Marshal” and indicated that the only reply that would be made would probably be a statement to the press—either here or in Paris. (Heinzen, as you know, is not always reliable. I am inclined, however, to give credence to the foregoing account of Laval’s conversation with him.)

Further reflection and further conversations have only served to strengthen my conviction that the French Government, which means Laval behind the glorious name of the aging Marshal, is plunging definitely along the road of subservience, disguised perhaps but nonetheless complete, to the Axis and that there will be no real or effective reaction on the part of the French public until tempered to turn.

  1. Correspondent for the United Press.
  2. See telegram No. 636, October 25, noon, to the Chargé in France, p. 475.