The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/british/foreign-office/war-blue-book-contents-summary

Archive/File: orgs/british/foreign-office/war-blue-book-contents-summary
Last-Modified: 1997/10/19

                    SUMMARY OF CONTENTS.
     THE  governing factor in the relations between  Germany
and   Poland   during  this  period  was  the  German-Polish
Agreement  of the 26th January, 1934 (No. 1, pp. 1-2),  This
agreement, which was valid for ten years, provided  that  in
no   circumstances  would  either  party  "proceed  to   the
application of force for the purpose of reaching a decision"
in  any  dispute between them. In the five years  after  the
signature of this pact Herr Hitler made a number of speeches
friendly to Poland (Nos. 2-8, pp. 3-6). Poland was "the home
of  a  great, nationally-conscious people" (21st May, 1935).
It  would  be "unreasonable and impossible," so Herr  Hitler
acknowledged, "to deny a State of such a size  as  this  any
outlet  to  the  sea" (7th March, 1936). The agreement  "has
worked  out  to the advantage of both sides" (30th  January,
     The  position  after the German occupation  of  Czecho-
Slovakia was summarized in speeches by the Prime Minister at
Birmingham  on  the  17th March (No. 9,  pp.  6-13)  and  by
Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in
the  House of Lords on the 20th March, 1939 (No. 10, pp. 13-
23). Mr. Chamberlain described the German occupation as  "in
complete disregard of the principles laid down by the German
Government itself," and asked: "Is this the end  of  an  old
adventure, or is it the beginning of a new? Is this the last
attack  upon  a  small State, or is it  to  be  followed  by
others?"  Lord Halifax stated that the action of the  German
Government  was  "a  complete  repudiation  of  the   Munich
Agreement   and  a  denial  of  the  spirit  in  which   the
negotiators of that agreement bound themselves to co-oper-
ate  for a peaceful settlement." On the 23rd March the Prime
Minister  stated in the House of Commons that His  Majesty's
Government, while not wishing "to stand in the  way  of  any
reasonable  efforts  on the part of Germany  to  expand  her
export  trade," was resolved "by all means in our power"  to
oppose  a  "procedure  under which  independent  States  are
subjected to such pressure under threat of force  as  to  be
obliged to yield up their independence" (No. 11, pp. 23-24).
In  a  conversation  of  the 27th  May  between  Sir  Nevile
Henderson,  His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin,  and  Field-
Marshal Goring, the Ambassador warned the Field-Marshal that
Great  Britain  and  France would be involved  in  war  with
Germany   if   Germany  attempted  to  settle  German-Polish
differences "by unilateral action such as would  compel  the
Poles  to  resort  to arms to safeguard their  independence"
(No. 12, pp. 24-27).
     In  a  speech to the Reichstag on the 28th April,  Herr
Hitler  announced that he had made proposals to  the  Polish
Government that Danzig should return as a Free City into the
framework  of the Reich, and that Germany should  receive  a
route and railway with extra-territorial status through  the
Corridor  in exchange for a 25-years' pact of non-aggression
and  a  recognition of the existing German-Polish boundaries
as  "ultimate." On the same day a memorandum to this  effect
was  given  to the Polish Government. The German  proposals,
which  had  been presented for the first time  on  the  21st
March,  1939,  i.e.,  less  than a  week  after  the  German
occupation  of  Prague,  were now  described  as  "the  very
minimum  which must be demanded from the point  of  view  of
German interests." Herr Hitler also claimed that the German-
Polish  Agreement of January 1934 was incompatible with  the
Anglo-Polish promises of mutual assistance and therefore was
no longer binding (Nos. 13 and 14, pp. 28-36).
     On  the  5th May the Polish Government replied  to  the
German  Government  with an explanation of  their  point  of
view.  The Polish note repeated the counter-proposals  which
the  Polish  Government  had put  forward  as  a  basis  for
negotiation  in reply to the German proposals,  and  refuted
the  German argument that the Anglo-Polish guarantee was  in
any way incompatible with
the  German-Polish Agreement (No. 16, pp. 42-47). The Polish
Minister  for Foreign Affairs elaborated his country's  case
in  a  speech made in the Polish Parliament on the 5th  May.
The  Minister  said that the Polish Government regarded  the
German  proposals as a demand for "unilateral  concessions."
He added that Poland was ready to approach "objectively" and
with   "their  utmost  goodwill"  any  points   raised   for
discussion by the German Government, but that two conditions
were  necessary if the discussions were to be of real value:
(1) peaceful intentions, (2) peaceful methods of procedure (
No. 15, pp. 36-42).
     The  Polish  memorandum reminded the German  Government
that  no  formal  reply to the Polish counter-proposals  had
been  received for a month, and that only on the 28th  April
the  Polish  Government learned that "the mere fact  of  the
formulation  of counter-proposals instead of the  acceptance
of  the  verbal  German  suggestions without  alteration  or
reservation had been regarded by the Reich as a  refusal  of
discussions" (No. 16, p. 45).
     On  the  31st March, 1939, the Prime Minister announced
the  assurance of British and French support to  Poland  "in
the  event  of  any  action which clearly threatened  Polish
independence,  and  which the Polish Government  accordingly
considered it vital to resist" ( No. 17, p. 48).  An  Anglo-
Polish  communiqu‚  issued on the  6th  April  recorded  the
assurances of mutual support agreed upon by the British  and
Polish Governments, "pending the completion of the permanent
agreement"  (No.  18,  p.  49).  The  Agreement  of   Mutual
Assistance  was  signed  on the 25th  August.  The  articles
defined  the  mutual guarantee in case of  aggression  by  a
European Power (No. 19, pp. 49-52).
     (APRIL_JUNE 1939).
     Anglo-German   as   well  as  German-Polish   relations
deteriorated after the German occupation of Czecho-Slovakia.
On  the 1st April Herr Hitler made a speech at Wilhelmshaven
in  which  he  attacked  Great Britain  and  British  policy
towards  Germany,  and attempted a justification  of  German
policy (No. 20, pp. 52-63).
Herr  Hitler  spoke  in  the Reichstag  on  the  28th  April
announcing  the denunciation by Germany of the  Anglo-German
Naval  Agreements (No. 21, pp. 63-68). On the 27th  April  a
memorandum to this effect was sent to the British Government
(No  22, pp. 68-70). On the 16th June Viscount Halifax again
denied to the German Ambassador in London that Great Britain
or any other Power was "encircling" Germany (No. 23, pp. 70-
71).  A week later (23rd June) His Majesty's Government sent
a  reasoned  protest  to the German Government  denying  the
validity of the German unilateral denunciation of the Anglo-
German Naval Agreements, and also refuting the arguments  of
fact  (i.e.,  persistent British hostility  to  Germany)  by
which  Herr Hitler attempted to justify his denunciation  of
the Naval Agreements (No. 24, pp. 71-77).
     In   view   of   these  facts  and  of  the  increasing
international   tension,   Viscount   Halifax    took    the
opportunity, in a speech at Chatham House on the 29th  June,
to  define at some length the attitude and policy  of  Great
Britain.  He explained the reason for the obligations  which
Great Britain had undertaken in the Continent of Europe.  He
discussed  Anglo-German  relations  and  stated  that  Great
Britain had no wish to isolate Germany, and that, if Germany
wished, "a policy of co-operation" could be adopted at once.
"British policy rests on twin foundations of purpose. One is
determination to resist force. The other is our  recognition
of  the world's desire to get on with the constructive  work
of building peace" (No. 25, pp. 78-87).
3, 1939).
     With  the increase of agitation in the Reich the  local
situation  at Danzig rapidly became worse. On the  3rd  June
the  President of the Danzig Senate made accusations against
Polish  customs inspectors (No. 26, pp. 87-88).  The  Polish
Government  on  the 10th June replied with a denial  of  the
accusations and a statement of the legal rights of Poland in
relation to Danzig (No. 27, pp. 89-91). On the 27th June the
Polish  Vice-Minister  for  Foreign  Affairs  told  Sir   H.
Kennard,  His  Majesty's  Ambassador  in  Warsaw,   that   a
Freicorps was being formed in Danzig (No. 28, p. 91), and on
the  28th  and 30th June, and on the 1st July, Mr. Shepherd,
His Majesty's Consul-General in Danzig,
reported  upon military preparations in the city  (Nos.  29,
31,  33, pp. 92-93, 94-95, 96-97). On the 30th June, in view
of  the gravity of the situation, Viscount Halifax suggested
consultation   between  the  British,  French   and   Polish
Governments  for the co-ordination of their plans  (No.  30,
pp.  93-94).  Meanwhile, the Polish Government maintained  a
restrained attitude (Nos. 32 and 34, pp. 95-96 and 97).
     On  the  10th  July,  while  the  situation  at  Danzig
appeared to be becoming critical, the Prime Minister defined
the  British  attitude  towards  the  Danzig  problem  in  a
statement  in the House of Commons (No. 35, pp. 98-101).  He
pointed  out  that  it was before Poland  had  received  any
guarantee  from  Great Britain that the  Polish  Government,
fearing  to  be  faced with unilateral  German  action,  had
replied  to the German proposals, by putting forward certain
counter-proposals, and that the cause of the Polish  refusal
to  accept  the  German proposals was to  be  found  in  the
character of these proposals and in the manner and timing of
their  presentation  and  not in the  British  guarantee  of
     On  the  14th July Sir Nevile Henderson discussed  with
Baron von Weizs„cker, German State Secretary at the Ministry
for Foreign Affairs, a statement by one of the German Under-
Secretaries  that  "Herr Hitler was convinced  that  England
would   never  fight  over  Danzig."  Sir  Nevile  Henderson
repeated  the  affirmation already  made  by  His  Majesty's
Government  that,  in the event of German aggression,  Great
Britain  would  support Poland in resisting force  by  force
(No. 36, pp. 101-103).
     After  the  tension in Danzig at the end of June  there
was  a  temporary lull in the situation. The Acting  British
Consul-General at Danzig reported on the 19th July that Herr
Forster,  the  leader  of the National  Socialist  party  in
Danzig,  had  stated, after an interview with  Herr  Hitler,
that  "nothing will be done on the German side to provoke  a
conflict,"  and  that  the Danzig question  could  "wait  if
necessary until next year or even longer" (No. 37, pp.  103-
105). On the 21st July Viscount Halifax instructed
Mr.  Norton, His Majesty's Charg‚ d'Affaires at  Warsaw,  to
impress upon the Polish Government the need for caution (No.
38,  pp.  105-106). M. Beck replied, on the 25th July,  that
the Polish Government was equally anxious for a d‚tente (No.
39, pp. 106-107). On the previous day Herr Forster had again
stated that "the Danzig question could, if necessary, wait a
year  or  more" (No. 40, pp. 107-108). On the 31st July  and
the  2nd  August,  however,  Sir H.  Kennard  reported  less
hopefully about the position (Nos. 41 and 42, pp. 108-110).
     On  the  4th  August M. Beck told His Majesty's  Charg‚
d'Affaires  at Warsaw that the Danzig Senate  had  that  day
informed  Polish customs inspectors at four posts in  Danzig
that  henceforward they would not be allowed  to  carry  out
their  duties.  The Polish Government took "a  very  serious
view" of this step (No. 43, p. 110). Similar news came  from
Mr.  Shepherd at Danzig (No. 44, p. 111). On the 9th  August
Sir  H. Kennard reported that the Polish attitude was  "firm
but  studiously  moderate"; (No. 45,  pp.  111-112).  A  day
later, Sir H. Kennard reported to His Majesty's Government a
communication  made by the German Government to  the  Polish
Charg‚ d'Affaires at Berlin on the Danzig question, and  the
Polish  reply  to  this  communication.  M.  Beck  drew  the
attention  of Sir H. Kennard to "the very serious nature  of
the  German d‚marche as it was the first time that the Reich
had  directly intervened in the dispute between  Poland  and
the  Danzig  Senate"  (No.  46,  pp.  112-113).  The  Polish
Government in their reply to the German note verbale  stated
that they would "react to any attempt by the authorities  of
the  Free City which might tend to compromise the rights and
interests  which  Poland possesses there in  virtue  of  her
agreements, by the employment of such means and measures  as
they  alone shall think fit to adopt, and will consider  any
future   intervention  by  the  German  Government  to   the
detriment  of  these  rights and  interests  as  en  act  of
aggression" (No. 47, pp. 114-115).
     Sir  Nevile Henderson on the 15th August discussed with
Baron   von  Weizs„cker  the  deterioration  in  the  Danzig
position,  and pointed out that if the Poles "were compelled
by   any  act  of  Germany  to  resort  to  arms  to  defend
themselves, there was not a
shadow  of  doubt  that we would give them  our  full  armed
support .... Germany would be making a tragic mistake if she
imagined   the  contrary."  Baron  von  Weizs„cker   himself
observed  that "the situation in one respect was even  worse
than last year, as Mr. Chamberlain could not again come  out
to  Germany."  Baron  von  Weizs„cker  also  discounted  the
character  of Russian help to Poland and "thought  that  the
U.S.S.R.  would even in the end join in sharing  the  Polish
spoils" (No. 48, pp. 115-119).
     Meanwhile,  on  the 11th August, M.  Burckhardt  had  a
conversation  with  Herr  Hitler  at  Berchtesgaden  at  the
latter's  request, in which the question of Danzig  and  the
general European situation were discussed (No. 49, p.  119).
Viscount  Halifax,  who still hoped that Herr  Hitler  might
avoid  war, advised the Polish Government to make  it  clear
that  they remained ready for negotiations over Danzig (Nos.
50 and 51, pp. 119-121).
     During  the  course of the correspondence  outlined  in
this  section, Sir H. Kennard reported that the German press
campaign  about  the persecution of the German  minority  in
Poland  was  a  "gross  distortion and exaggeration  of  the
facts"  (No.  52, pp. 121-123). On the 26th  August  Sir  H.
Kennard  reported frontier incidents which had been provoked
by  the  Germans.  They had not caused the Poles  to  change
their "calm and strong attitude of defence" (No. 53, pp. 123-
124).  Reports of unfounded German allegations  against  the
Poles were also sent by Sir H. Kennard on the 26th and  27th
August (Nos. 54 and 55, pp. 124-125).
     24_SEPTEMBER 3).

The Prime  Minister's letter to Herr Hitler (August 22)  and
     Herr  Hitler's  interview  with  Sir  Nevile  Henderson
     (August 23).
     On  the 22nd August, after the publication of the  news
of  Herr  von  Ribbentrop's visit to Moscow to sign  a  non-
aggression pact with the U.S.S.R., the Prime Minister sent a
personal  letter to Herr Hitler. Mr. Chamberlain once  again
gave a clear statement
of  the  British  obligations to  Poland,  and  stated  that
"whatever  may  prove to be the nature of the  German-Soviet
Agreement,  it cannot alter Great Britain's obligation."  He
added  that  "it  has been alleged that,  if  His  Majesty's
Government had made their position more clear in  1914,  the
great  catastrophe would have been avoided. Whether  or  not
there  is  any  force  in  that  allegation,  His  Majesty's
Government are resolved that on this occasion there shall be
no  such  tragic misunderstanding" (No. 56, pp. 125-127)  On
the  23rd  August  Sir Nevile Henderson reported  his  first
interview  with Herr Hitler earlier in the day. Herr  Hitler
was   "excitable  and  uncompromising";  his  language   was
"violent  and  exaggerated  both  as  regards  England   and
Poland."  Herr  Hitler observed, in reply to  His  Majesty's
Ambassador's  repeated warnings that direct  action  against
Poland would mean war with Great Britain, that "Germany  had
nothing  to  lose, and Great Britain much; that he  did  not
desire  war,  but  would  not  shrink  from  it  if  it  was
necessary,  and  that his people were much more  behind  him
than last September (No. 57, pp. 127-130).
     Herr  Hitler was calmer at a second talk, but  no  less
uncompromising. He put the whole responsibility for  war  on
Great  Britain,  and  maintained  that  Great  Britain   was
"determined to destroy and exterminate Germany. He  was,  he
said, 50 years old; he preferred war now to when he would be
55  or  60."  He said that "England was fighting for  lesser
races,  whereas he was fighting only for Germany"  (No.  58,
pp. 130-31).
     The  German  reply to the Prime Minister's  letter  was
given  to His Majesty's Ambassador on the 23rd August.  Herr
Hitler  stated  that the British promise  to  assist  Poland
would  make no difference to the determination of the  Reich
to  safeguard  German interests, and that the  precautionary
British  military measures announced in the Prime Minister's
letter  of  the  22nd  August  would  be  followed  by   the
mobilisation of the German forces (No. 60, pp. 132_135).
Text of  the  German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August  23)
     (No. 61, pp. 135_136).
Appointment of Herr Forster as Head of the State of the Free
     City of Danzig (August 23).
     Herr  Forster  was  declared by decree  of  the  Danzig
Senate,   on   the   23rd  August,   Head   of   the   State
(Staatsoberhaupt) of the
Free  City  of  Danzig  (No. 62, pp.  136-137).  The  Polish
Government protested to the Senate against the illegality of
this appointment (No. 63, pp. 137-138).
Speeches  by the Prime Minister and Viscount Halifax on  the
     Danzig  and  general German-Polish  situation  and  the
     determination  of  Great  Britain  to  honour   British
     obligations to Poland (August 24) (Nos. 64 and 65,  pp.
Attempts  by the Polish Government to establish contact with
     German Government (August 24).
     In  view  of the increasing tension in Danzig, M.  Beck
told  Sir H. Kennard that he considered the situation  "most
grave,"  and  that  he  had asked the Polish  Ambassador  in
Berlin to seek an immediate interview with the German  State
Secretary  (No. 66, pp. 153-154). This interview could  not,
however,  be  arranged, since Baron von  Weizs„cker  was  at
Berchtesgaden, but the Polish Ambassador had an interview in
the  afternoon of the 24th August with Field-Marshal G”ring.
The  Field-Marshal regretted that "his policy of maintaining
friendly  relations with Poland should have come to  nought,
and  admitted that he no longer had influence to do much  in
the  matter."  The Field-Marshal hinted that  Poland  should
abandon her alliance with Great Britain, and left the Polish
Government with the impression that Germany was aiming at  a
free hand in Eastern Europe (No. 67, pp. 154-155).
Interview  between  Sir  N. Henderson and Herr  Hitler,  and
     German "verbal communication" of August 25.
     On  the  25th  August Herr Hitler sent for  Sir  Nevile
Henderson  and asked him to fly to London to "put the  case"
to  His Majesty's Government. The "case," which included  an
offer  of  friendship with Great Britain,  once  the  Polish
question  had  been  solved,  was  contained  in  a   verbal
communication made to His Majesty's Ambassador (No. 68,  pp.
155-158). During the discussion with Herr Hitler, Sir Nevile
Henderson stated once more that Great Britain "could not  go
back  on  her  word  to  Poland," and would  insist  upon  a
settlement by negotiation. Herr Hitler refused to  guarantee
a   negotiated   settlement  on  the  ground  that   "Polish
provocation  might at any moment render German  intervention
to   protect  German  nationals  inevitable"  (No.  69,  pp.
 Correspondence between the British and Polish Governments,
                        August 25-27.
     On  the  25th August Viscount Halifax suggested to  the
Polish  Government the establishment of a corps  of  neutral
observers, who would enter upon their functions if  it  were
found  possible to open negotiations (No. 70,  p.  160).  He
also  suggested  the  possibility  of  negotiating  over  an
exchange of populations (No. 71, p. 160). M. Beck raised  no
objection in principle to either proposal (No. 72, pp.  160-
Reply  of His Majesty's Government, dated August 28, to Herr
     Hitler's  communications of August 23 and 25  (No.  60,
     pp.  132_135  and  No. 68, pp. 155_158):  interview  of
     August 28 between Sir Nevile Henderson and Herr Hitler:
     speech of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on
     August 29.
     On the 28th August Viscount Halifax informed the Polish
Government through Sir H. Kennard that in the British  reply
to  Herr Hitler "a clear distinction" would be drawn between
"the   method   of   reaching  agreement  on   German-Polish
differences and the nature of the solution to be arrived at.
As  to  the  method, we (His Majesty's Government)  wish  to
express our clear view that direct discussion on equal terms
between  the parties is the proper means" (No. 73, pp.  161-
     The  reply  of  His  Majesty's  Government,  suggesting
direct discussion between the German and Polish Governments,
was presented to Herr Hitler by Sir N. Henderson on the 28th
August  (No.  74,  pp.  162-165). His  Majesty's  Government
stated they had "already received a definite assurance  from
the  Polish Government that they are prepared to enter  into
discussions,"  and that, if such direct discussion  led,  as
they  hoped,  to agreement, "the way would be  open  to  the
negotiation  of  that wider and more complete  understanding
between  Great  Britain  and Germany  which  both  countries
desire."  In  his  interview of the 28th  August  with  Herr
Hitler,  Sir N. Henderson repeated the British readiness  to
reach  an Anglo-German understanding, "but only on the basis
of  a  peaceful and freely negotiated solution of the Polish
question." Sir Nevile Henderson pointed out to Herr
Hitler that "it lay with him (Herr Hitler) as to whether  he
preferred  a  unilateral solution which would  mean  war  as
regards  Poland,  or British friendship." Herr  Hitler,  who
said  that "his army was ready and eager for battle,"  would
not  answer at once whether he would negotiate directly with
Poland (No. 75, pp. 165_169)
     On  the  29th  August  the  Prime  Minister  once  more
explained  in  the  House of Commons the British  standpoint
(No. 77, pp. 169-175).
Interview  of  August 29 between Sir N. Henderson  and  Herr
     Hitler,  and German demand for the arrival of a  Polish
     representative in Berlin by August 30.
     At  7:15  p.  m.  on the 29th August Sir  N.  Henderson
received from Herr Hitler the German answer that the  German
Government  was prepared to accept the British proposal  for
direct  German-Polish  negotiations,  but  counted  on   the
arrival of a Polish plenipotentiary by the 30th August  (No.
78,  pp. 175-178). The British Ambassador remarked that  the
latter  demand "sounded like an ultimatum," but, after  some
heated  remarks,  both Herr Hitler and Herr  von  Ribbentrop
assured the Ambassador "that it was only intended to  stress
the  urgency  of  the  moment" (No. 79,  pp.  178-179).  The
interview  was  "of a stormy character."  Sir  N.  Henderson
thought  that Herr Hitler was "far less reasonable" than  on
the 28th August ( No. 80, p. 179).
     At  4   a.  m. on the 30th August Sir N. Henderson,  on
instructions  from  His Majesty's Government,  informed  the
German  Government that it would be "unreasonable to  expect
the British Government to produce a Polish representative in
Berlin"  by the 30th August, and that "the German Government
must not expect this" (Nos. 81 and 82, pp. 180-181).
Exchange  of correspondence between His Majesty's Government
     and the Polish Government on August 30.
     Sir  H.  Kennard  also reported his  opinion  that  the
Polish   Government  could  not  be  induced   to   send   a
representative immediately to Berlin to discuss a settlement
on  the basis proposed by Herr Hitler. "They would certainly
sooner fight and perish
rather than submit to such humiliation, especially after the
examples of Czecho-Slovakia, Lithuania and Austria" (No. 84,
pp.  181-182).  On this same day the Polish Government  gave
their  assurance, in reply to advice from Viscount  Halifax,
to avoid any kind of provocation (No. 85, p. 182), that they
had no intention of provoking any incidents, in spite of the
provocation  at  Danzig, which was becoming "more  and  more
intolerable" (No. 86, pp. 182_183).
Exchange  of  correspondence between the British and  German
     Governments with regard to the opening of direct German-
     Polish negotiations (August 30).

     At  2:45  p.  m. and again at 5:30 p. m.  on  the  30th
August  His Majesty's Government instructed Sir N. Henderson
to inform the German Government of the representations which
the  British Government had made in Warsaw for the avoidance
of all frontier incidents and urged the German Government to
reciprocate (Nos. 83 and 87, pp. 181 and 183). They repeated
at  6:50  p.  m.,  in view of the German insistence  on  the
point,  that  it  was "wholly unreasonable" for  the  German
Government to insist upon the arrival in Berlin of a  Polish
representative with full powers to receive German proposals,
and that they could not advise the Polish Government in this
sense.  They  suggested the normal procedure of  giving  the
Polish  Ambassador the German proposals for transmission  to
Warsaw (No. 88, pp. 183-184).
     At  midnight  on the 30th-31st August Sir N.  Henderson
handed to Herr von Ribbentrop the full British reply to  the
German letter of the 28th August (No. 78, pp. 175-178).  The
reply  noted  the  German  Government's  acceptance  of  the
British  proposal for direct German-Polish discussions,  and
of  the "position of His Majesty's Government as to Poland's
vital interests and independence." The reply also noted that
the  German Government accepted "in principle the  condition
that  any  settlement  should be  made  the  subject  of  an
international  guarantee." His Majesty's  Government  stated
that they were informing the Polish Government of the German
Government's  reply. "The method of contact and arrangements
for  discussions must obviously be agreed with  all  urgency
between  the  German  and  Polish Governments,  but  in  His
Majesty's Government's view it
would be impracticable to establish contact so early as  to-
day (i.e., the 30th August) (No. 89, pp. 184-185).
     The  British reply was also telegraphed to  the  Polish
Government,  and Viscount Halifax hoped that  "provided  the
method  and  general  arrangement  for  discussions  can  be
satisfactorily  agreed," the Polish  Government,  which  had
authorised  His Majesty's Government to say that  they  were
prepared to enter into direct discussions, would be ready to
do so without delay (No. 90, pp. 185-187)
     In  his interview at midnight the 30th-31st August with
Herr  von  Ribbentrop, Sir N. Henderson suggested  that  the
German  Government  should adopt  the  normal  procedure  of
making  contact with the Polish Government, i.e., that  when
the German proposals were ready the Polish Ambassador should
be  invited  to  call  and to receive these  proposals  "for
transmission to his Government with a view to the  immediate
opening of negotiations."
     "Herr  von Ribbentrop's reply was to produce a  lengthy
document  which  he read out in German aloud at  top-speed."
When  His  Majesty's Ambassador asked for the  text  of  the
proposals in the document, he was told that it was "now  too
late,"  as a Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin
by midnight (the 30-31st August). Sir N. Henderson described
this procedure as an "ultimatum," in spite of the assurances
previously given by the German Government. He asked why Herr
von  Ribbentrop  could not adopt the normal procedure,  give
him  a  copy of the proposals, and ask the Polish Ambassador
to  call  on him (Herr von Ribbentrop) to receive them.  "In
the  most  violent terms Herr von Ribbentrop  said  that  he
would  never ask the Polish Ambassador to visit him," though
he   hinted  that  it  might  be  different  if  the  Polish
Ambassador asked for an interview (No. 92, pp. 187-189)
Exchange  of  correspondence between the British and  Polish
     Governments  on  August  31  with  regard   to   direct
     On  hearing of the reply of His Majesty's Government to
the  German Government (No. 89, pp. 184-185) on the  subject
of  direct German-Polish negotiations, M. Beck said that  he
would  do "everything possible to facilitate the efforts  of
His Majesty's
Government."  He  promised  the  "considered  reply  of  his
Government" by midday on the 31st August (No. 93,  p.  189),
Later on the 31st August Viscount Halifax advised the Polish
Government immediately to instruct the Polish Ambassador  in
Berlin  to  say  that  he  was  ready  to  transmit  to  his
Government  any proposals made by the German  Government  so
that they (the Polish Government) "may at once consider them
and  make  suggestions for early discussions"  (No.  95,  p.
     At   630  P.M.  on  the  31st  August  Sir  H.  Kennard
communicated to London the formal Polish confirmation of the
readiness  of  the  Polish Government to enter  into  direct
discussions with the German Government on the basis proposed
by  Great Britain ( No. 97, pp. 191-192). M. Beck said  that
"he  would  now  instruct M. Lipski  [Polish  Ambassador  in
Berlin]  to  seek  an  interview either  with  the  (German)
Minister  for  Foreign Affairs or the  State  Secretary"  in
order  to  establish  contact for the initiation  of  direct
discussions,  but that the Polish Ambassador  would  not  be
authorised  to  receive  a document  containing  the  German
proposals, since, "in view of past experience, it  might  be
accompanied  by some sort of ultimatum." In M.  Beck's  view
"it  was essential that contact should be made, in the first
instance," for the discussion of details "as to where,  with
whom,  and  on what basis negotiations should be  commenced"
(No. 96, pp. 190-191).
German  proposals for German-Polish settlement, presented to
     the British Ambassador in Berlin at 9:15 P.M. on August
     31, and German invasion of Poland on September 1.
     It was not until 9:15 p. m. on the 31st August that the
German  Government gave Sir N. Henderson  a  copy  of  their
proposals, which had been read to him so rapidly by Herr von
Ribbentrop  on  the  previous night. The  German  Government
stated  that the note contained the sixteen points of  their
proposed    settlement,   but   that,    as    the    Polish
plenipotentiary,  with powers "not only to  discuss  but  to
conduct  and  conclude negotiations,"  had  not  arrived  in
Berlin, they regarded their proposals as "to all intents and
purposes rejected (No. 98, pp. 192_197). At 11 P.M. Viscount
Halifax  telephoned  instructions to  Sir  N.  Henderson  to
inform the German Government that the Polish Government
were taking steps to establish contact with them through the
Polish  Ambassador in Berlin (No. 99, p.  198).  At  9  P.M.
British  summer  time  the German Government  had,  however,
broadcast  their proposals together with the statement  that
they  regarded  them  as  having been  rejected.  They  had,
however,  never  been communicated to the Polish  Government
and all means of communication between the Polish Ambassador
in Berlin and the Polish Government had been cut off.
     As a final attempt to meet the German demands, Viscount
Halifax  telegraphed to Sir H. Kennard in the night  of  the
31st   August-1st  September  his  view  that   the   Polish
Ambassador   in   Berlin  might  receive  a   document   for
transmission to his Government and might say that "(a) if it
contained  anything like an ultimatum, the Polish Government
would  certainly be unable to discuss on such a  basis;  and
(b) that, in any case, in the view of the Polish Government,
questions as to the venue of the negotiations, the basis  on
which  they should be held, and the persons to take part  in
them,  must  be  discussed  and  decided  between  the   two
Governments" (No. 100, pp. 198-199).
     In  answer to this telegram, Sir H. Kennard replied  on
the  1st September that M. Lipski "had already called on the
German  Foreign Minister at 6:30 p. m." on the 31st  August.
"In  view  of  this fact, which was followed by  the  German
invasion  of Poland at dawn to-day (1st September),  it  was
clearly  useless  for me to take the action suggested"  (No.
101, p. 199).
     These  facts were announced to the House of Commons  by
the  Prime Minister on the 1st September (No. 105, pp.  202-
207). A further "explanatory note, upon the actual course of
events,"  reprinted from White Paper (Misc.  No.  8  (1939),
Cmd.  6102)  (No.  104,  pp.  200-201)  should  be  read  in
connexion with Herr Hitler's version of events as  given  in
his  speech of the 1st September to the Reichstag (No.  106,
pp. 207-213) and in his proclamation to the German army (No.
107, p. 214).
Reunion of Danzig with the Reich (September 1).
     On  the  1st  September  Herr Forster  announced  in  a
proclamation to the people of Danzig the reunion  of  Danzig
with  the Reich. He telegraphed an account of his action  to
Herr  Hitler, who replied at once accepting the reunion  and
ratifying the so-
called legal act by which it was brought about (No. 108, pp.
Action  taken  by His Majesty's Government after the receipt
     of news of the German attack on Poland (September 1-3).
     On  the  1st  September, after His Majesty's Government
had received news of the German invasion of Poland, Viscount
Halifax  instructed Sir N. Henderson to  inform  the  German
Government  that the Governments of the United  Kingdom  and
France  considered  that  the  German  action  had  "created
conditions (viz., an aggressive act of force against  Poland
threatening the independence of Poland) which call  for  the
implementation by the Governments of the United Kingdom  and
France  of  the  undertaking  to  Poland  to  come  to   her
assistance."  Unless  the  German Government  suspended  all
aggressive  action  against Poland,  and  promptly  withdrew
their forces from Polish territory, His Majesty's Government
in  the  United  Kingdom would "without  hesitation  fulfill
their   obligations  to  Poland."  Sir  N.   Henderson   was
authorised to explain, if asked, that this communication was
"in  the nature of a warning," and was "not to be considered
as  an  ultimatum," but Viscount Halifax added, for  Sir  N.
Henderson's own information, that, "if the German  reply  is
unsatisfactory, the next stage will be either  an  ultimatum
with  time-limit or an immediate declaration of  war"  (Nos.
109 and 110, pp. 216-217).
     On  the night of the 1st-2nd September Sir N. Henderson
reported  that  he  had made the necessary communication  to
Herr  von  Ribbentrop at 9:30 p. m. and  had  asked  for  an
immediate answer. Herr von Ribbentrop replied that he  would
submit  the communication to Herr Hitler (No. 111, pp.  217-
218). Meanwhile, on the 1st September, the Polish Government
announced  to  His Majesty's Government that,  although  the
Polish Ambassador in Berlin had seen Herr von Ribbentrop  at
6:30  p.  m.  on  the  31st August, and  had  expressed  the
readiness  of  the  Polish Government to enter  into  direct
negotiations,  Polish territory had been  invaded,  and  the
Polish Government had therefore been compelled to break  off
relations with Germany (No. 112, pp. 218-219) (see also Nos.
113  and  115, pp. 219 and 221). At 10:50 a. m. on  the  1st
September  Viscount  Halifax  sent  for  the  German  Charg‚
d'Affaires in London, drew his attention to the reports
which  had  reached  His Majesty's Government  about  German
action  against Poland and informed him that  these  reports
"created a very serious situation" (No. 14, pp. 220-221).
     The  Prime  Minister  on  the  2nd  September  made   a
statement in the House of Commons, in the course of which he
said that no answer had been received to the message sent to
the  German Government on the 1st September, requesting  the
cessation of German aggression and the withdrawal of  German
troops  from  Poland. The Prime Minister also  informed  the
House of proposals put forward by the Italian Government for
a  cessation  of  hostilities, but made it  clear  that  His
Majesty's  Government could not take part in any  conference
unless  German  aggression ceased  and  German  troops  were
withdrawn from Poland (No. 116, pp. 221-224). At 5 a. m.  on
the 3rd September Sir N. Henderson was instructed to ask for
an  interview  at  9 a. m. with Herr von Ribbentrop  and  to
inform  him  that,  although His  Majesty's  Government  had
warned  the  German  Government of the results  which  would
follow  if  Germany  did not suspend all  aggressive  action
against Poland, no answer had been received from the  German
Government.  His Majesty's Government therefore stated  that
unless satisfactory assurances were received from the German
Government  not  later than 11 a. m. a state  of  war  would
exist  between the United Kingdom and Germany (No. 118,  pp.
     At  11:20   a.  m.  on  the 3rd  September  the  German
Government   replied  with  a  statement  of   their   case,
concluding with the suggestion that His Majesty's Government
desired  the destruction of the German people, and with  the
words "we shall answer any aggressive action on the part  of
England  with  the same weapons and in the same  form"  (No.
119,  pp.  225-228). Shortly afterwards the  Prime  Minister
announced in the House of Commons that Great Britain was  at
war with Germany (No. 120, pp. 228-230.) This section of the
documents concludes with Herr Hitler's proclamations of  the
3rd  September to the German people and to the  German  army
(No. 121, pp. 230-232).
     The  full  text  is given of the exchange  of  messages
between  the  President of the United States of America  and
His Majesty the
King of Italy (Nos. 122 and 123, pp. 232-234); the President
of the United States of America and the President of Poland;
and  the  messages of the President of the United States  of
America  to  Herr  Hitler (Nos. 124-127, pp.  234-238);  the
broadcast appeal of the 23rd August by His Majesty the  King
of  the  Belgians in the name of the Heads of States of  the
Oslo Group of Powers and the replies (Nos. 128-133, pp. 238-
242);  the joint offer of mediation by His Majesty the  King
of   the  Belgians,  and  Her  Majesty  the  Queen  of   the
Netherlands and the replies (Nos. 134-138, pp. 242-244); the
broadcast appeal of the 24th August by His Holiness the Pope
with  the  reply of His Majesty's Government  and  telegrams
describing  a  last peace attempt by the Pope  on  the  31st
August,  together with His Majesty's Government's  reaction,
are also given in full (Nos. 139-142, pp. 244-248).
     A  communiqu‚  issued by the official  Italian  Stefani
news  agency on the 4th September recording the efforts made
by  the Italian Government to maintain peace is published as
the last document in this chapter (No. 143, pp. 248-249).
     The  final Document (No. 144, pp. 249-251) is the Prime
Minister's  broadcast  of the 4th September,  1939,  to  the
German People.

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.