164 Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 363 LONDON, 29 August 1939

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Have obtained the following amplification of Dominions Office summary of Henderson's conversation with Hitler. [1] No part of the following must be referred to in any communication to the United Kingdom Government.

After Hitler had read Intelligence Bureau translation, Henderson indicated that he desired to make certain observations. He stressed that the United Kingdom had given its word to Poland, and Great Britain did not break its word, that it would be prepared to negotiate with the Poles and any such negotiations would afford the Poles fair and reasonable treatment, that the United Kingdom would fight and Germany and the United Kingdom would be involved in a long and desperate struggle contrary to the wishes and sentiments of both our peoples, that the Prime Minister [2] and Foreign Secretary [3] were both desirous of friendship and understanding with Germany (Ribbentrop [4] intervened that the Prime Minister had told him that it was the dearest wish of his life), that Germany must choose between choosing a fair and reasonable settlement with Poland and friendship with the United Kingdom or War, that the idea of the United Kingdom desiring to encircle Germany with a view to destroying her either by force or economically was nonsense.

Hitler appeared to have taken it quite well and was calm and reasonable and when Henderson, in reply to a question, stated he was convinced that the Prime Minister would carry the United Kingdom on the lines of a policy of friendship with Germany asked whether an Alliance would be possible. To this Henderson replied 'Yes' in certain circumstances and under certain conditions'.

Henderson asked what the German demands were, and Hitler stated that he would require the return of Danzig, the whole Corridor and an adjustment in Silesia. Henderson made it quite clear that these demands were impossible.

In reply to a question whether Hitler would be prepared to negotiate and consider an exchange of population, Hitler replied 'Yes' to the latter but indicated before giving a reply to the former that he would have to consider the United Kingdom reply more fully and, turning to Ribbentrop said-'You must get going at once'. He said that a written reply would be given today.

Notwithstanding excessive demands indicated, Henderson's and the view held here is favourable, and felt that the reply will leave the door open.

BRUCE

1 See Document 163.

2 Neville Chamberlain.

3 Lord Halifax.

4 Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister.

[AA: A1608, A41/1/1, iv]