Sunday, August 16, 2015
ADSS 1.101 Memo of Lord Halifax attached to UK Legation Report
ADSS 1.101 Memo of Lord Halifax
Reference: Attached to British Legation Report 38/72/39 (AES 5388/39 and attached to ADSS 1.100)
Location and date: London
Summary statement: Pleased with the Holy See and its intentions; believes the Holy See can work for peace through negotiation as well as laying down principles rather than proposing solutions. Reports that Hitler has said to the Burckhardt that he is vexed at the Polish ultimatum to the Danzig senate. If, however, Poland left Danzig alone and did not attack Germans in Poland, he was prepared to wait. Halifax believes Hitler does not want war.
I welcome the helpful attitude of the Cardinal Secretary of State and his apparent willingness to act at least as a channel of communication.
2. Broadly speaking I think that the Vatican has two possible lines of action. The first would be to make secret approach, at a moment of which they will be the best judges, to the principal Powers for the opening of diplomatic exchanges and to act as an intermediary in these exchanges. The second would be to make, presumable at a later period, should the crisis reach an acute state, a public approach to the Powers, urging them to find a pacific solution.
3. There is, however, a distinction between advocating procedure for the discussion of the Danzig question and encouraging any particular solution of it. Any plan which was limited to Danzig and involved the return of Danzig to the Reich in full sovereignty would not appear to offer Poland a basis for negotiation. Similarly, any suggestion for negotiations or of a meeting in which Poland did not participate on terms of equality would for obvious reasons be unacceptable.
4. You may tell the Cardinal Secretary of State in the strictest confidence that I have had some account of the meeting between Herr Hitler and the High Commissioner for Danzig at Berchtesgaden on August 11, prior to the meeting between Herr Hitler and Count Ciano. (1) The results of this conversation were inconclusive. Herr Hitler betrayed extreme irritation against Poland on account of Polish action in presenting what was considered as an ultimatum to the Danzig Senate about the question of Polish Customs inspections and on account of the subsequent Press publicity to the effect that the Senate had given way to Polish firmness. Herr Hitler did, however, say that if Poland left Danzig absolutely calm and did not attack German prestige he could wait. He added the condition that the sufferings of the German minority in Poland should cease. He put forward no proposals for any settlement of the Danzig question in its wider aspect. Meanwhile there is a prospect of conversations on local issues continuing in Danzig. Though Herr Hitler said much about the relative strength of German arms he seemed anxious to avoid a way. He said in over-simple terms that the necessity for Germany lay in having grain and timber and in being self-sufficient, but for this purpose he made it clear he required a free hand in the east. He said at the same time that he was ready to negotiate about thi question of economic necessity, but he could not negotiate if his prestige was attacked, and he was challenged by ultimatums.
5. If you convey this summary of the conversation to the Cardinal Secretary of State you should emphasise that it should be kept absolutely secret. I do not wish to compromise Monsieur Burkhardt’s position.
(1) Karl Jacob Burckhardt (1891-1974), League of Nations High Commissioner in Danzig 1937-39, met with Hitler at Obersalzburg on 11.08.1939. See DBFP, Series 3, Volume 6, n659, pp688-89. Also at http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Germany/Burckhardt.htm