Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr N. Chamberlain, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered 27 August 1939,

I have carefully considered Hitler’s proposals [1] and make the following comments for your consideration:-

Having regard to past experience proposals should be approached with great suspicion.

In particular we should do nothing which would lead Poland to think that we were deserting her as this would not only be a breach of guarantee but disastrous in South East Europe.

Hitler should therefore be clearly told that we will not modify our Polish obligations.

Subject to the foregoing I would make it clear to Hitler that we regarded merits of Danzig and the Corridor as quite open to argument and that we would use our influence with Poland to procure some form of arbitration or adjustment so long as Germany was prepared to play her part; that we felt the time was opportune for a general European settlement which would recognise Germany’s obligations to Italy and ours to France and that we welcome his reference to possible future limitation of armament because we felt that the present state of affairs must lead to serious economic breakdown in which Germany would suffer as much as any country.

I would emphasise that there was amongst all British people a genuine desire for good relations with Germany but that this desire was not inconsistent with the determination to fight her in what seemed a just cause but that it would be a tragedy if we should fight each believing his cause to be just when unprejudiced discussion and desire to understand other man’s point of view might have avoided it. From this point of view a clear statement by Hitler of his aims and desires should if possible be obtained.

Throughout I would not dismiss Hitler’s proposals because they are vague and sometimes meaningless.

I think it essential that our approach should be liberal and generous so long as the generosity is at our own expense.

What I have in mind is that we must not connive at a Polish settlement which would leave Poland at such disadvantage in future negotiations as to render it probable that her future history will resemble that of Czechoslovakia.

While suspicion in our own minds is inevitable and proper I consider endeavour should be made to make Hitler realise that we are taking him seriously and that we are prepared to treat his approach as genuine. Having regard to type of man Hitler is this seems essential.

You personally went to Germany to prevent war last September.

Would like to suggest you invite Hitler to London or to some neutral meeting place and that it be put to him that acceptance of such invitation would have following advantages- (a) it would tend to break down psychological barriers now being rapidly built up between British and Germans.

(b) it would be most effective way in which Hitler could demonstrate reality of his own peaceful desires.

(c) it would so reduce European temperature as to render recovery more probable.

In reading the cables I have been much struck by what appears to be a real advance in Hitler’s last statement to Henderson [2] over what he said in his letter to you two days before.

My comments above. are made with necessarily limited detailed knowledge of the background and circumstances. Whatever your decision is you may rely upon our loyal co-operation and support and our appreciation of your great efforts. [3]


1 See Document 153.

2 Sir Nevile Henderson, U.K. Ambassador to Germany.

3 Menzies informed S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, of this cablegram in an unnumbered cablegram of 27 August 1939 (on file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, iv).


[AA: A981, AUSTRALIA 39, i]