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237 Mr R. G. Menzies, Attorney-General, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Letter (extract) LONDON, 6 August 1938

The first part of the letter referred to matters unrelated to foreign policy.

The only other matter which I should perhaps mention just before leaving London is that last week I went to Berlin. My principal impressions can be stated in a few paragraphs:

(1) Both Chamberlain [1] and Halifax [2] enjoy a very high reputation in the official and semi-official quarters in which I moved.

(2) The Ambassador, Sir Nevile Henderson, is an extremely clear- headed and sensible fellow with a frank and even breezy method of putting the British view to the Germans.

(3) All around the German Foreign Office I found them optimistic about an amicable settlement of the Polish Corridor affair but rather depressed about the Czechoslovakian position. Runciman's appointment [3] was very well received but there appears to be a gloomy feeling in the German mind that Benes [4], egged on by France, will refuse to do the fair thing and that trouble may ensue.

(4) I came to the conclusion that the actual absorption of the Sudeten into the German Reich is not in the immediate programme and that Germany may quite possibly be satisfied, for some time, at least, with a loose Federal system in Czechoslovakia, based on substantially autonomous national communities.

(5) I am more than ever impressed with the view that this problem requires a very firm hand at Prague, otherwise Benes will continue to bluff at the expense of much more important nations, including our own. (6) The Germans are enormously impressed by British rearmament.

(7) Paradoxically enough, the Royal visit to France was well received in Berlin, the idea being that this dramatic affirmation of the Entente Cordiale should make the French much less nervous and therefore much less liable to do silly things.

I am looking forward very much to getting back home again. As you know, the pleasures of these overseas visits can be grossly exaggerated.


1 U.K. Prime Minister.

2 U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

3 The appointment of Lord Runciman as an independent mediator between the Czechoslovakian Government and the Sudeten Germans was announced on 26 July 1938.

4 Eduard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia.

[AA : AA1972/341, Box 6, MINISTERIAL DELEGATION, 1938]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History