The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Aggression Against Poland, Danzig, England & ; France
(Part 18 of 21)

It is only just now, as I emphasized before, that the right to the Corridor has been "recognized" for so long. On 28 April, Hitler demands consisted only of Danzig, the Autobahn, and the railway. But now Hitler's aim was to manufacture justification and to put forth proposals which under no circumstances could either Poland or Great Britain accept. The note states:

"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 (2) that the existence of the Polish State, in the form in which it would then continue to exist, should be adequately safeguarded in the economic and political sphere by means of international guarantees.

"On this subject, the German Government makes the following declaration:

"Though skeptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, they are nevertheless prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter into direct discussions. They do so, as has already been emphasized, solely as the result of the impression made upon them by the written statement received from the British Government that they too desire a pact of friendship in accordance with the general lines indicated to the British Ambassador."


"For the rest, in making these proposals the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland's interests of 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 this Emissary on Wednesday, 30 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 negotiators." TC-72 No. 78)

That was at 7:15 in the evening of 29 August. As previously explained, insufficient time was allowed for the Polish Emissary to reach Berlin by midnight the following night.

Sir Neville Henderson's account of his interview on the evening of 29 August summarizes what took place then:

"I remarked that this phrase sounded like an ultimatum, but

[Page 718]

after some heated remarks both Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop assured me that it was only intended to stress urgency of the moment when the two fully mobilized armies were standing face to face." (TC-72 No. 79)

Again the British Government replied and Sir Neville Henderson handed this reply to Ribbentrop at the famous meeting on midnight of 30 August, at the time the Polish Emissary had been expected. The reply stated that the British Government reciprocated the desire for improved relations. It stressed again that it cannot sacrifice its interest to other friends in order to obtain an improvement in the situation. It understood that the German Government accepts the condition that the settlement should be subject to international guarantee. The British Government makes a reservation as to the demands that the Germans put forward in their last letter, and is informing the Polish Government immediately. Lastly, the British understand that the German Government is drawing up the proposals. (TC-72 No. 89)

Sir Neville Henderson gave this account of that interview at midnight on 30 August:

"I told Herr von Ribbentrop this evening that His Majesty's Government found it difficult to advise Polish Government to accept procedure adumbrated in German reply, and suggested that he should adopt normal contact, i.e., that when German proposals were ready to invite Polish Ambassador to call and to hand him proposals for transmission to his Government with a view to immediate opening of negotiations. I added that if basis afforded prospect of settlement His Majesty's Government could be counted upon to do their best in Warsaw to temporize negotiations.

"Herr von Ribbentrop's reply was to produce a lengthy document which he read out in German aloud at top speed. Imagining that he would eventually hand it to me I did not attempt to follow too closely the sixteen or more articles which it contained. Though I cannot therefore guarantee accuracy the main points were: ***"


"When I asked Herr von Ribbentrop for text of these proposals in accordance with undertaking the German reply of yesterday, he asserted that it was now too late as Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin by midnight.

"I observed that to treat matter in this way meant that request for Polish representative to arrive in Berlin on 30th August constituted in fact, an ultimatum in spite of what he and Herr Hitler had assured me yesterday. This he denied,

[Page 719]

saying that idea of an ultimatum was figment of my imagination. Why then I asked could he not adopt normal procedure and give me copy of proposals and ask Polish Ambassador to call on him, just as Herr Hitler had summoned me a few days ago, and hand them to him for communication to Polish Government. In the most violent terms Herr von Ribbentrop said that he would never ask the Ambassador to visit him. He hinted that if Polish Ambassador asked him for interview it might be different. I said that I would naturally inform my Government so at once. Whereupon he said while those were his personal views he would bring all that I had said to Herr Hitler's notice. It was for Chancellor to decide.

"We parted on that note, but I must tell you that Herr von Ribbentrop's demeanor during an unpleasant interview was aping Herr Hitler at his worst. He inveighed incidentally against Polish mobilization, but I retorted that it was hardly surprising since Germany had also mobilized as Herr Hitler himself had admitted to me yesterday." (TC-772 No. 92)

Henderson of course did not know at that time that Germany ad also given the orders to attack Poland some days before. On the following day, 31 August, at 6:30 in the evening, M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador, had an interview with Ribbentrop. This is M. Lipski's account of the conversation:

"I carried out my instructions. M. von Ribbentrop asked if I had special plenipotentiary powers to undertake negotiations. I said no. He then asked whether I had been informed that on London's suggestion the German Government had expressed their readiness to negotiate directly with a delegate of the Polish Government, furnished with the requisite full powers, who was to have arrived on the preceding day, August 30. I replied that I had no direct information on the subject. In conclusion M. von Ribbentrop repeated that he had thought I would be empowered to negotiate. He would communicate my demarche to the Chancellor." (TC-7 No. 112)

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