170 Sir Thomas Inskip, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Circular Cablegram B300 LONDON, 30 August 1939, 1.37 p.m.

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

My immediately preceding telegram Circular B.299. [1] Following for Prime Minister.

It is specially desired that extreme secrecy should be observed with regard to this telegram.

Following is the full text of Herr Hitler's [2] reply (begins).

British Ambassador in Berlin [3] has submitted British Government suggestions [?to] which I felt bound to reply in order (1) To give expression once more to the will of the Reich Government for sincere Anglo-German understanding, co-operation and friendship.

(2) To leave no room for doubt as to the fact that such an understanding could not be bought at the price of a renunciation of vital German interests, let alone the abandonment of demands which are based as much upon common humanitarian justice as upon the national dignity and honour of our people.

The German Government have noted with satisfaction from the reply of the British Government and from oral explanations given by the British Ambassador that the British Government for their part are also prepared to improve the relationship between Germany and England and to develop and extend it in the sense of the German suggestion.

In this connection the British Government are similarly convinced that the removal of German-Polish tension, which has become unbearable, is the prerequisite for the realization of this hope.

Since Autumn of the past year, and on the last occasion in March 1939, there were submitted to the Polish Government proposals, both oral and written, which having regard to the friendship then existing with Germany and Poland, offered the possibility of a solution of the questions in dispute acceptable to both parties.

The British Government are aware that the Polish Government saw fit in March last finally to reject these proposals. At the same time they used this rejection as a pretext for and occasion for taking military measures which have since been continuously intensified. Already in the middle of last month Poland was in effect in a state of mobilisation. This was accompanied by numerous encroachments in the Free City of Danzig due to the instigation of Polish authorities; threatening demands in the nature of ultimata, varying only in degree, were addressed to that city. A closing of the frontier, at first in the form of a measure of customs policy, but extended later, in a military sense affecting also traffic and communications, was also imposed with the object of bringing about the political exhaustion and economic destruction of the German community.

To this were added barbaric actions of maltreatment which cry to Heaven and other kinds of persecution largely of the German national group in Poland which extended to the killing of many resident Germans or to their forcible removal under the most cruel conditions. This state of affairs is unbearable for a great power.

It has now forced Germany after remaining a passive onlooker for many months in her turn to take necessary steps for the safeguarding of German interests. And indeed the German Government can but assure the British Government in the most solemn manner that a condition of affairs has now been reached which can no longer be accepted or observed with indifference.

The demands of the German Government are in conformity with the revision of the Versailles Treaty in regard to this territory which has always been recognised as being necessary: viz. return of Danzig and the Corridor to Germany, the safeguarding of the existence of the German national group in territories remaining to Poland.

The German Government note with satisfaction that the British Government further are in principle convinced that some solution must be found for the new situation which has arisen.

They further feel justified in assuming that the British Government too can have no doubt that it is a question now of conditions for the elimination of which there no longer remain days, still less weeks, but perhaps only hours. For in the disorganized state of affairs obtaining in Poland, the possibility of incidents intervening, which it might be impossible for Germany to tolerate, must at any moment be reckoned with.

Whilst the British Government may still believe that these grave differences can resolve by way of direct negotiations, the German Government unfortunately can no longer share this view as a matter of course. For they have made attempts to embark on such peaceful negotiations, but, instead of receiving any support from the Polish Government, they were rebuffed by sudden introduction of measures of a military character in favour of developments alluded to above.

The British Government attach importance to two considerations:

(1) that the existing danger of an imminent explosion should be eliminated as quickly as possible by direct negotiation, and that (2) the existence of the Polish State, in the form in which it would then continue to exist, should be adequately safeguarded in economic and political sphere by means of international guarantees.

On this subject the German Government makes the following declaration.

Though sceptic [sic] as to the prospects of a successful outcome they are nevertheless prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter direct discussions. They do so, as already emphasised, solely as a result of impression made upon them by Britain's statement received from the British Government that they too desire a Pact of Friendship (Freundschaftsabkommen) in accordance with general lines indicated to the British Ambassador.

The German Government desire in this way to give to the British Government and to the British Nation a proof of sincerity of Germany's intentions to enter a lasting friendship with Great Britain. The Government of the Reich feel however bound to point out to the British Government that in the event of a territorial re-arrangement in Poland they would no longer be able to bind themselves to give guarantees or participate in guarantees without the U.S.S.R. being associated therewith.

For the rest, in making these proposals the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland's vital interests or questioning the existence of an independent Polish state. The German Government accordingly in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government's offer of their good offices in securing the despatch to Berlin of a Polish emissary with full powers. They count on the arrival of the emissary on Wednesday the 30th August, 1939. The German Government will immediately draw up proposals for a solution acceptable to themselves and will if possible place these at the disposal of the British Government before the arrival of the Polish negotiator. (Ends)

1 Not printed (On file AA: A981, Germany 83B, iii). It reported the dispatch of circular cablegram B300.

2 Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor.

3 Sir Nevile Henderson.

[AA: A981, GERMANY 83B, iii]