The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Aggression Against Poland, Danzig, England & ; France
(Part 16 of 21)

On 29 August, at 7:15 p. m. in the evening, Hitler handed to Sir Neville Henderson the German Government's answer to the British Government's reply of the 28th. It seems quite clear that the whole object of this letter was to put forward something which was quite unacceptable. Hitler agreed to enter into direct conversatiOns as suggested by the British Government, but he demanded that those conversations must be based upon the return to the Reich, of Danzig and also of the whole of the Corridor.

[Page 712]

It will be recalled that hitherto, even when he had alleged that Poland had renounced the 1934 agreement, Hitler had put forward as his demands the return of Danzig alone, plus the arrangement for an extra-territorial Autobahn and railroad running through the Corridor to East Prussia. That demand was unacceptable at that time. To make quite certain of refusal, Hitler now demanded the whole of the Corridor. There was no question of an Autobahn or railway. The whole territory must become German.

Even so, to make doubly certain that the offer would not be accepted, Hitler stated: "On those terms I am prepared to enter into discussion, but to do so, as the matter is urgent, I expect a plenipotentiary with full powers from the Polish Government to be here in Berlin by midnight tomorrow night, the 30th of August."

This offer was made at 7:15 p. m. on the evening of the 29th. That offer had to be transmitted, first, to London; and from London to Warsaw; and from Warsaw the Polish Government had to give authority to their Ambassador in Berlin. So that the timing made it quite impossible, if indeed it were possible, to get authority to the Polish Ambassador in Berlin by midnight the following night. It allowed Poland no opportunity for discussing the matters at all. As Sir Neville Henderson described it, the offer amounted to an ultimatum.

At midnight on 30 August, at the time by which the Polish Plenipotentiary was expected to arrive, Sir Neville Henderson handed a further message to Ribbentrop in reply to the message that had been handed to him the previous evening. Ribbentrop read out in German a two- or three-page document which purported to be the German proposal to be discussed at the discussions between them and the Polish Government. He read it out quickly in German. He refused to hand a copy of it to the British Ambassador. He passed no copy of it at all to the Polish Ambassador. So that there was no kind of possible chance of the Poles ever having before them the proposals which Germany was so graciously and magnanimously offering to discuss.

On the following day, 31 August, Mr. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador, saw Ribbentrop, and could get no further than to be asked whether he came with full powers. When he replied that he did not, Ribbentrop said that he would put the position before the Fuehrer. But, in actual fact, it was much too late to put any position to the Fuehrer by that time, because on 31 August Hitler had already issued his Directive No. 1 for the conduct of war, in which he laid down H-Hour as being a quarter to five the fol-

[Page 713]

lowing morning, 1 September. And on the evening of 31 August, at 9 o'clock, the German radio broadcast the proposals which Ribbentrop had read out to Sir Neville Henderson the night before, saying that these were the proposals which had been made for discussion, but that as no Polish Plenipotentiary had arrived to discuss them, the German Government assumed that they were turned down. That broadcast at 9 o'clock on the evening of 31 August was the first that the Poles had ever heard of the proposal, and it was the first that the British Government or its representatives in Berlin knew about them, other than what had been heard when Ribbentrop had read them out and refused to give a written copy on the evening of the 30th.

After that broadcast, at 9:15 -- perhaps while the broadcast was still in its course -- a copy of those proposals was handed to Sir Neville Henderson for the first time.

This summary of events during that last week of August 1939 is based upon the contents of several documents which will now be alluded to.

In a pre-trial interrogation on 29 August 1945, Goering was asked the question:

"When the negotiations of the Polish Foreign Minister in London brought about the Anglo-Polish Treaty at the end of March or the beginning of April, was it not fairly obvious that a peaceful solution was impossible?" (TC-90)

This was Goering's answer:

"Yes, it seemed impossible according to my conviction, but not according to the convictions of the Fuehrer. When it was mentioned to the Fuehrer that England had given her guarantee to Poland, he said that England was also guaranteeing Rumania, but then when the Russians took Bessarabia -nothing happened, and this made a big impression on him. I made a mistake here. At this time Poland only had the promise of a guarantee. The guarantee itself was only given shortly before the beginning of the war. On the day when England gave her official guarantee to Poland the Fuehrer called me on the telephone and told me that he had stopped the planned invasion of Poland. I asked him then whether this was just temporary or for good. He said, 'No, I will have to see whether we can eliminate British intervention.' So then I asked him, 'Do you think that it will be any different within four or five days?' At this same time -- I don't know whether you know about that, Colonel -- I was in connection with Lord Halifax by a special courier outside the regular diplomatic channels to do everything to stop war

[Page 714]

with England. After the guarantee I held an English declaration of war inevitable. I already told him in the Spring of 1939 after occupying Czechoslovakia, I told him that from now on if he tried to solve the Polish question he would have to count on the enmity of England. 1939, that is after the Protectorate." (TC-90)

The interrogation of Goering proceeded as follows:

"Question: 'Is it not a fact that preparations for the campaign against Poland were originally supposed to have been completed by the end of August 1939?'

"Answer: 'Yes.'

"Question: 'And that the final issuance of the order for the campaign against Poland came some time between 15 August 1939 and 20 August 1939 after the signing of the treaty with Soviet Russia." [The dates obviously are wrong].

"Answer: 'Yes, that is true.'

"Question: 'Is it not also a fact that the start of the campaign was ordered for the 25th of August, but on the 24th of August in the afternoon it was postponed until September the 1st in order to await the results of new diplomatic maneuvers with the English Ambassador?'

"Answer: 'Yes.' " (TC-90)

In this interrogation Goering purported not to have wanted war with England. It will be recalled, however, that after the speech of Hitler on 22 August to his commanders-in- chief, Goering got up and thanked the Fuehrer for his exhortation and assured him that the armed forces would play their part. (798-PS)

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