The Charlotte News

Saturday, August 26, 1939



Site Ed. Note: This day's news of possible further appeasement by Neville Chamberlain to Hitler has Cash in a bitterly sarcastic mood.

Apparently the story was mere rumor as nothing contained in the documentation of the time, preceding August 26 at least, substantiates this rumor of some formulaic basis for compromise--although a summary of a conversation by British Ambassador to Germany, Neville Henderson, with Hitler, dispatched to the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, on August 28, even if it confirmed the maintenance of an approach to Hitler mindful of his violation of the Munich accord with respect to Czechoslovakia in its earlier portion, certainly hovered close to suggesting the possibility of appeasement in its latter paragraphs:

10. In the end I asked [Hitler] two straight questions. Was he willing to negotiate direct with the Poles and was he ready to discuss the question of an exchange of populations? He replied in the affirmative as regards the latter (though I have no doubt that he was thinking at the same time of a rectification of frontiers). As regards the first, he said he could not give me an answer until after he had given reply of His Majesty's Government the careful consideration which such a document deserved. In this connexion he turned to Herr von Ribbentrop and said: "We must summon Field-Marshal Goring to discuss it with him."

11. I finally repeated to him very solemnly the main note of the whole conversation so far as I was concerned, namely, that it lay with him as to whether he preferred a unilateral solution which would mean war as regards Poland, or British friendship. If he were prepared to pay the price of the latter by a generous gesture as regards Poland, he could at a stroke change in his favour the whole of public opinion not only in England but in the world. I left no doubt in his mind as to what the alternative would be, nor did he dispute the point.

12. At the end Herr von Ribbentrop asked me whether I could guarantee that the Prime Minister could carry the country with him in a policy of friendship with Germany. I said there was no possible doubt whatever that he could and would, provided Germany co-operated with him. Herr Hitler asked whether England would be willing to accept an alliance with Germany.

I said, speaking personally, I did not exclude such a possibility provided the developments of events justified it.

13. Conversation was conducted in quite a friendly atmosphere, in spite of absolute firmness on both sides. Herr Hitler's general attitude was that he could give me no real reply until he had carefully studied the answer of His Majesty's Government. He said that he would give me a written reply to-morrow, Tuesday. I told him that I would await it, but was quite prepared to wait. Herr Hitler's answer was that there was no time to wait.

14. I did not refer to the question of a truce. I shall raise that point to-morrow if his answer affords any real ground for hope that he is prepared to abandon war for the sake of British understanding.

The first expression in this period of the possibility of a quid pro quo regarding populations, (already mentioned in editorials by Cash), came in a telegram of August 26 from British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax to the British Ambassador to Poland, Howard Kennard: "Is it not possible for Polish Government to adopt suggestion that they should approach German Government with enquiry as to whether they would contemplate making exchange of populations an element to be considered in any negotiation? It is true this would afford no immediate safeguard as it is a remedy that would take some time to apply, but it would be a pledge that Polish Government recognise the difficulty and are genuinely seeking means to overcome it, and it would give Polish Government some definite and new point on which to open up negotiation."

Kennard then replied on August 27: "As regards [the question of exchange of populations], [Polish Foreign Minister Joseph Beck] said that in principle he saw no objection and was prepared to convey to German Government that he was ready to consider such a proposal, possibly not directly to State Secretary, but in such a manner that he was sure it would reach the highest authorities." This was acceptable along with establishment of neutral observers in Poland to oversee and insure proper treatment of Germans living in Poland, estimated by Kennard to be no more than 10% of any commune.

 After reiterating his usual objections to Polish mistreatment of Germans and the interference by the Polish government with the "Free City" of Danzig, Hitler did agree on August 29, to "insure friendship with Great Britain", to enter into discussions over the Polish question, provided the U.S.S.R., in light of the non-aggression pact, was included in those discussions, (meaning of course that Russia would be included in the division of Poland at any such "conference"). The demands by Hitler were the same, however, surrender of Danzig and the Corridor and assurance of the security of Germans in the rest of Poland, and, in light of his previous statements to Henderson and with his troops stationed on the Polish border, was essentially an ultimatum to rearrange the Versailles Treaty or else face "annihilation" of Poland, not a peace tender as he suggested it.

A reply of August 29 from the British Government in theory accepted the idea of conference to resolve the issue but rejected any foregone conclusion as to territorial demands.

The Polish Government then replied on August 31 favorably to the suggestion of conference with arbitration by the British.

The same old German demands, however, were communicated on August 31 to the British Ambassador as "suggestions" for the negotiations; the Reich complained also of not having received a Polish representative with plenipotentiary powers to act during the intercession of two days from August 28-30. As communications continued in a flurry through the wee hours of September 1 between the Polish Government and the British Government, trying desperately to arrange for a Polish representative to be presented with full power to negotiate directly with Berlin, the German army fired at Puck, near Danzig, at around 4:00 a.m., and the war began.

Preceding August 28, the Chamberlain Government had stood resolute to protect the territorial integrity of Poland. Thus, there was left no choice on the part of the British once the shooting began but to declare war on Germany. In a letter of August 22, Chamberlain stressed to Hitler that Britain would act if Poland were compromised.

Hitler answered on August 23. After stating his problem with the mistreatment of "German minorities" in Poland, and the need to avoid the "economic extermination" of the "Free City" of Danzig through "Customs blockade" and the necessity to resolve the issues of the Corridor and Danzig generally, Hitler protested:

"6. Your Excellency informs me in the name of the British Government that you will be obliged to render assistance to Poland in any such case of intervention on the part of Germany. I take note of this statement of yours and assure you that it can make no change in the determination of the Reich Government to safeguard the interests of the Reich as stated in paragraph 5 above. Your assurance to the effect that in such an event you anticipate a long war is shared by myself. Germany, if attacked by England, will be found prepared and determined. I have already more than once declared before the German people and the world that there can be no doubt concerning the determination of the new German Reich rather to accept, for however long it might be, every sort of misery and tribulation than to sacrifice its national interests, let alone its honour.

7. The German Reich Government has received information to the effect that the British Government has the intention to carry out measures of mobilisation which, according to the statements contained in your own letter, are clearly directed against Germany alone. This is said to be true of France as well. Since Germany has never had the intention of taking military measures other than those of a defensive character against England or France, and, as has already been emphasised, has never intended, and does not in the future intend, to attack England or France, it follows that this announcement as confirmed by you, Mr. Prime Minister, in your own letter, can only refer to a contemplated act of menace directed against the Reich. I therefore inform your Excellency that, in the event of these military announcements being carried into effect, I shall order immediate mobilisation of the German forces.

8. The question of the treatment of European problems on a peaceful basis is not a decision which rests on Germany but primarily on those who since the crime committed by the Versailles dictate have stubbornly and consistently opposed any peaceful revision. Only after a change of spirit on the part of the responsible Powers can there be any real change in the relationship between England and Germany. I have all my life fought for Anglo-German friendship; the attitude adopted by British diplomacy--at any rate up to the present--has, however, convinced me of the futility of such an attempt. Should there be any change in this respect in the future nobody could be happier than I."

Then Chamberlain gave a speech to the House of Commons on August 24 in which he stated:

"At the beginning of August a dispute arose between the Polish Government and the Danzig Senate as to the position and functions of certain Polish Customs officials. It was not a question of major importance. Many more acute difficulties have been easily settled in the past under less tense conditions and even in this case discussions had actually begun between the parties last week. While those discussions were in progress, the German Press opened a violent campaign against the Polish Government. They declared that Danzig could not be the subject of any conference or any compromise and that it must come back to the Reich at once and unconditionally. They went further. They linked up with the Danzig question the question of the Corridor. They attacked the whole policy and the attitude of the Polish Government, and they published circumstantial accounts of the alleged ill-treatment of Germans living in Poland. Now we have no means of checking the accuracy of those stories, but we cannot help being struck by the fact that they bear a strong resemblance to similar allegations that were made last year in respect of the Sudeten Germans in Czecho-Slovakia. We must also remember that there is a large Polish minority in Germany and that the treatment of that minority has also been the subject of bitter complaints by the Polish Government."

A reaffirmation of a mutual assistance agreement between the UK and Poland was then signed August 25, 1939.

This essential position of commitment to assist Poland in the event of incursion by Germany was reaffirmed by Chamberlain in another speech before Commons on August 29.

Meanwhile, a decree by the Senate of Danzig, making Nazi Gauleiter Forster head of Danzig, had issued on August 23; this action intensified the crisis and became known as the Danzig "fait accompli", as so described by the British Ambassador to Poland, Kennard, in his reply of August 24 denouncing the action and questioning the authority of the Danzig Senate to so act.

Ambassador to Germany, Henderson, indicated the futility of talks with Hitler on August 24.

In fact, the invasion of Poland had been planned for August 26, but was delayed by Hitler until September 1 because of the mutual assistance pact announced by England.

At the beginning of his August 29 address to Commons, Chamberlain complained of reports circulating in the press based on unfounded rumors and even complete fabrications of alleged replies from Chamberlain to Hitler as had been reported the day before.

Still, however, no mention appears to have been made publicly or privately one way or the other regarding any particular "formula" for negotiations of which the below editorial remarks, other than one anticipated only by the Nazis; perhaps in the muddle of inter-communiques, the press reports took the acquiescence generally for conference in the face of Hitler's demands as acquiescence to the particulars of those demands as well.

Regardless, the Chamberlain Government, to its credit, remained consistent, expressly relying on its experience with Hitler betraying the Munich accord with respect to Czechoslovakia, in holding that the territorial integrity of Poland would have to be respected in any negotiations.

Hitler chose another path.

The British responded, not as at Munich.

Is It Another Munich?

Wholesale Surrender Of All Hitler Asks Would Be Easier On The World's Nerves

If the swarming rumors are true, Neville Chamberlain has found a "formula" which will save everybody's face "except Poland's" and the world is in for more "appeasement of Adolf Hitler." It may not be so, but in view of the past performances of the extraordinary English Primary Minister it seems pretty likely. If so, then it may be said at once that the "formula" is a mere matter of words, that Poland is to be cynically sold out in the face of the signing of the treaty with Britain yesterday and that Adolf Hitler is to have all his way.

It may well be that such a sacrifice is justified. Part of the curious melange of ideas which make up the Hitler philosophy is taken from Oswald Spengler's "The Decline of the West." In that book Spengler argues that civilizations like men, have their lifecycle, and that their final destruction is as inevitable as the death of an individual. And in their last days, he goes on, the men who represent the dying civilization grow so feeble and effete that they no longer have the energy to fight for their fading ideas and ideals, that war becomes for them the most horrible of all possibilities. And before the onslaught of the new and vigorous barbarians who are the forerunners of the new order of things, they fold up and take it lying down.

Certainly, just that thing has happened many times, most notably in the case of the Romans before the inrush of the earlier German barbarians. What is more still, it may be argued that even if the Romans had fought the result would still have been exactly the same--chaos and the triumph of barbarism as a preparation for the emergence of the Western civilization about the end of the Fourteenth century.

Under the analogy which Mr. Hitler himself expressly applies, you can say that war now means a collapse into chaos and barbarism in any case--that Western civilization as we have known it is done for if war comes, that we all will end with a military dictatorship along Nazi lines--and that, therefore, it is best to accept the inevitable with the least possible sacrifice of human life.

But if so, then the West ought to try to face a boldly, and quit engaging in wish-thinking. Perhaps we are too effete for even that. But the sensible thing to do is certainly to face the fact that Germany, having already returned to barbarism, is willing to fight for its purposes, that the rest of us aren't--and to make what terms with her we can instead of eternally living in an uproar that always hands in one more triumph for Hitler.

Surely, to talk of compromise in the case of Poland is plain nonsense. According to the reports, what Hitler demands is that he be given Danzig as a sine qua non to "negotiating" with Poland over the Corridor, Upper Silesia, and a "protectorate" over the rest of the country. In return, he is supposed to give his promise that this is the "last territorial demand I shall make in Europe" (for the seventh time), to sign a 25-year non-aggression pact with Britain, and to come into a disarmament conference "with the pistol on the table" (his own words in response to Mr. Roosevelt some months ago).

What all that means anyone who remembers Munich and Czechoslovakia should know. It means that Adolf Hitler is going to take all of Poland. Merely, as with the Czechs, he'll probably take it by piecemeal instead of all at once. Danzig is the key to Polish independence as certain as the Sudetenland was the key to Czechoslovakian independence. And if he is going to be given Danzig, then the rational thing to do is frankly to give him all Poland at once. The result will be the same, and it will avoid future uproar.

This thing doesn't, as a matter of fact, even save anybody's face. It is not only a sell-out of Poland, it is a flat and appalling surrender on the part of Britain. When it is done, Rumania, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey, all of whom have some realism left, will hasten to climb into the German camp. The Scandinavian nations will have no choice either. Nor will Holland and Belgium. After that, it is likely to be France's turn, for Germany has a much better claim to Alsace and Lorraine than to any part of Poland.

What the world will then face is an endless series of choices between war or more Munichs. And if there is no point at which it will fight--a thing that if this rumor is true, seems manifest--then the sane thing to do is to call a conference, ask Mr. Hitler humbly to state all his demands at once and proceed to give 'em to him. That way we shall at least be able to rest our nerves.


Buffeted Pound

Threat Of War Sends Little Stabilizers To Cover

Life is a very amenable business and man an immensely superior being, captain of his soul and monarch of all he surveys and all that, until a thunderstorm comes piling up or a hurricane--or a depression. Then he feels his immense helplessness in the grasp of natural forces. And so with nations and their grandiose fiscal schemes.

The United States and Great Britain entered into an accord some time ago to prevent excessive fluctuations in the exchange value of their currencies. Both countries, equipped with huge stabilization funds, have been buying Sterling when it seemed in danger of falling too low in terms of the dollar, and vice versa. But with the onslaught of this latest European crisis, the British Government felt compelled to husband her resources against war needs, and so word was passed along that the Pound would have to look out for itself.

Previously pegged at $4.68 (old par, $4.8665), it opened yesterday at $4.59, plummeted to $4.37, climb back up to $4.491/2 at the close of the hectic day. This mind you, to the money with which Englishmen buy their goods from all over the world, on the mere threat of war to British credit itself. And in spite of stabilization funds and tripartite agreements and the fabled British pluck and luck to win through.

And somehow, this demonstration of the transcendent power of great forces, involuntarily set in motion, over the puny might and plans of governments, fills us with foreboding at the fiscal condition of the United States. Indubitably its Government is over-extended. Its debt reaches a limit which Congress specified more in fun than in any apprehension that it would ever be approached. It is spending even in peace times far in excess of the revenue produced by high and multitudinous taxes.

And it has given its Administrators no pause whatsoever. In fact, they blithely "planned it that way," and have shown no sign of anxiety.

But the sun has been shining. They may rue their recklessness if the barometer falls and the war clouds roll up and begin to thunder.


Red Apology

The Comrades Have A Hard Time Explaining This One

The unhappy Bolshies all over the world are dreadfully embarrassed by the action of Comrade Stalin in making up to Mr. Hitler. The Right Wing Bolshies, anyhow. No doubt the Trotskyites are more cheerfully gloomy than ever before, because it perfectly bears out their dark predictions. But the boys who take their Stalinism straight are sweating copiously. Even so, the old never-say-die spirit is still in 'em and they are doing their manful best to put a good face on the transaction.

Thus there are the boys in Paris who for years have screamed that Russia was the only true friend of France, and that she alone can be trusted to save the world from Fascism. It is especially tough for these. Nevertheless, L'Humanite, their official organ, reports with a perfectly sober face its opinion that this is a masterful move for peace on the part of Moscow!

And our old friend, The Daily Worker, of New York, reports in its turn that the pact, undoubtedly means that "German Fascism has suffered a serious blow in its own country as well as in the world." And that "the people of Poland... in imminent danger from the threats of Fascist aggression and Chamberlain's appeasement schemes, now as before realize the firm position of the Soviet Union in uncompromising support for their freedom and independence."

It doesn't, to be sure, quite make sense under ordinary logic. But if you accept Bolshie logic, then it does. For the first postulate of that logic is that whatever emanates from Moscow, and only that, always represents the supreme good.


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