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

Cablegram [373 [1] LONDON, 1 September 1939, 1.45 a.m.

FOR PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Developments today [2] very rapid, and extremely difficult to estimate their significance and effects.

During the day information conveyed to you in Dominions Office cables came in from Warsaw as to the difficult attitude of Poland and from Berlin with regard to new German proposals which were to be regarded as most secret. [3] Instructions to Ambassador in Warsaw [4] were being drafted this evening to urge Colonel Beck [5] to instruct the Polish Ambassador in Berlin [6] immediately to inform Ribbentrop that Poland agreed to direct negotiations and to add that he was authorised to discuss where discussions should take place (Berlin or elsewhere), by whom negotiations should be conducted, plenipotentiaries with full power and on what conditions, indicating that the Poles were prepared to agree to the standstill arrangement and modus vivendi re Danzig; also to instruct the Polish Ambassador to say, if Ribbentrop presented any proposals, that while he was not authorised to negotiate he would convey to his Government any proposals the Germans desired considered in the contemplated discussions. In the event of any ultimatum being associated with the proposals he should refuse to receive them.

Just when this line was agreed on news was received that the Germans had given their new proposals in a broadcast.

This considerably modified the position, but instructions to Ambassador in Warsaw will probably be adhered to, but with the addition that the terms published would be considered in negotiations.

Until the reactions to Germany's proposals in Poland, this country, France and throughout the world are known, it is difficult to estimate how the position will develop. Proposals are regarded as being surprisingly reasonable, and felt to be further evidence that Hitler realises the dangers of the position he has got into and is seeking a way out.

BRUCE

1 The copy in the Bruce papers gives this number (AA: M100, August 1939).

2 31 August 1939, when this cablegram would have been drafted.

3 See circular cablegrams B301 and 306 from the U.K. Dominions Secretary, not printed (on file AA: A981, Germany 83B, iii). The latter cablegram reported that on the night of 30-31 August the U.K. Ambassador to Germany, Sir Nevile Henderson, had delivered the British reply to Hitler's demands of 29 August to the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop responded by reading out sixteen new proposals, but refused at that time to give Henderson a copy; he said that he considered the proposals rejected as no Polish representative had arrived in Berlin. The sixteen proposals were later broadcast by German radio stations during the evening of 31 August (see Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September 1939, P. 18). The new German terms differed from those of 29 August inter alia in proposing that the residents of the Polish Corridor should themselves decide by plebiscite whether to belong to Germany or to Poland.

4 Sir Howard Kennard.

5 Colonel Joseph Beck, Polish Foreign Minister.

6 Joseph Lipski.

[AA: CP290/6, ITEM 27]