Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Circular Cablegram D33 LONDON, 10 October 1939, 1.17 a.m.


Following is text referred to in my preceding telegram. [1] 1.

Last week in speaking of announcement about Russo-German pact, I observed that it contained a suggestion that some peace proposals were likely to be put forward and I said if such proved to be the case we should examine them in consultation with the Governments of the Dominions and of French Republic in the light of certain relevant considerations. Before I inform the House of the results of that examination I must ask Honourable members to recall for a few moments the background against which these proposals appear.

2. At the end of August His Majesty’s Government were actively engaged in correspondence with the German Government on the subject of Poland. It was evident that the situation was dangerous but we believed that it should be possible to arrive at a peaceful solution if passions were not deliberately stimulated and we felt quite certain that the German Government could, if they desired, influence their friends in Danzig in such a way as to bring about a relaxation of tension and so create conditions bound by calm and sober negotiations. It will be remembered that in the course of this correspondence the German Chancellor [2] expressed his wish for improved relations between our two countries as soon as the Polish question was settled, to which His Majesty’s Government replied that they fully shared the wish but that everything turned on the nature and method of settlement with Poland. We pointed out that a forcible solution would inevitably involve the fulfilment of our obligation to Poland and we begged him to enter into direct discussions with the Polish Government in which the latter Government had already expressed its willingness to take part.

3. As everyone knows these efforts on the part of His Majesty’s Government to avoid war and the use of force were in vain. In August last the President of the United States [3] made an appeal to Herr Hitler to come to confer in order to prevent war breaking out in Europe and thereafter the King of the Belgians [4], Queen of Holland [5], His Holiness the Pope [6] and Signor Mussolini [7] all tendered their good offices in vain. It is evident now that Hitler was determined to make war in Poland and whatever sincerity there may have been in his wish to come to an understanding with Great Britain it was not strong enough to induce him to postpone an attack upon his neighbour. On September 1st Herr Hitler violated the Polish frontier and invaded Poland hearing down by force of arms and machinery the resistance of the Polish nation and army. Towns and villages were bombed and shelled into ruins and soldiers and civilians alike were slaughtered wholesale and in contravention at any rate in later stages of all undertakings of which Hitler now speaks with pride as though he had fulfilled them.

4. It is then, after this wanton act of aggression which has cost so many Polish and German lives, sacrificed to satisfy his own insistence on the use of force, that Hitler now put forward his proposals.

5. If there existed any expectation that these proposals would include some reparation for this latest crime against humanity, following so soon upon the violation of the rights of the Czechoslovak nation, it has been doomed to disappointment. The Polish State and its leaders were covered with abuse. What the fate of that part of Poland which he described as German sphere of interest is to be does not clearly emerge from Hitler’s speech but it is evident that he regards it as a matter for the consideration of Germany alone and to be settled solely in accordance with her interests. The final shaping of this territory and the question of restoration of a Polish State are, in Herr Hitler’s view, problems which cannot be settled by war in the West but exclusively by Russia on one side and Germany on the other.

6. We must take it then that the proposals which Herr Hider puts forward for the establishment of what he calls ‘the certainty of European security’ are to be based on recognition of his conquests and his right to do what he pleases with the conquered.

It would be impossible for Great Britain to accept any such basis without forfeiting her honour and abandoning her claim that international disputes should be settled by discussion and not by force.

7. The passages in the speech designed to give fresh assurances to Herr Hitler’s neighbours I pass over, since they will know what value should be attached to them by reference to similar assurances he has given us in the past. He objects strongly, he tells us, when a foreign statesman charges him with breaking his word. But who was it said in November 1935:-‘Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, to annex Austria, or to conclude an Anschluss’? Who was it in May, 1936 said-‘the lie goes forth again that Germany tomorrow or the day after will fall upon Austria or Czechoslovakia. I ask myself always: who can these elements be who will have no peace, who incite continually, who must sow distrust, and want no understanding’? These are the words of Herr Hitler himself. Yet in March, 1938, German troops without warning marched into Austria.

‘The Sudetenland is the last territorial claim which I have to make in Europe … I have assured Mr Chamberlain [8] and I emphasise it now, that when this problem is solved Germany has no more territorial problems in Europe.’ And who said-‘We have assured all our immediate neighbours of the integrity of their territory as far as Germany is concerned. That is no hollow phrase, it is our determined will’.

As before, these are Herr Hitler’s very words, yet it is the same Herr Hitler who complains if others doubt his good faith.

8. But not less disturbing than these examples of failure to adhere to his pledged intentions are radical departures by Herr Hitler from long professed and fundamental principles of his policy.

The first of these principles forbade the inclusion of non-Germans within the Reich. On September 26th, 1938, Herr Hitler said-‘We are not interested in suppressing other nations. We do not want to see other nations amongst us’. He repeated with great earnestness to me that he had not wished to include in the Reich people other than German race.

Yet within less than a year Germany has in effect included in the Reich eight or nine million Czechs, and now claims the right to dispose of the fate of many more millions of Poles.

9. A further feature which may be said to have predominated Herr Hider’s policy was his abhorrence of the Soviet Bolshevist system.

In 1936 Hitler said-‘we see in Bolshevism a bestial, mad doctrine which is a threat to us. I cannot make a pact with a regime whose first act is not the liberation of workmen but of inmates of gaols’.

In 1937, he said-‘We look upon Bolshevism as upon an intolerable danger to the world; we shall try to keep the danger away from the German people by every means at our command … we should avoid all contacts with these poisonous bacilli . . . any treaty links between Germany and present-day Bolshevist Russia would be without any value whatever’.

As late as the end of April 1939 (barely four months before he made his pact with the Soviet) he said-‘If the sub-human forces of Bolshevism had proved victorious in Spain they might easily have spread across the whole of Europe’.

By August, the wheel had come the full circle and we find him saying-‘the pact of friendship between Germany and Soviet Russia win not only render possible peace but a happy and permanent co- operation’.

10. This repeated disregard of his word and these sudden reversions of policy bring me to the fundamental difficulty in dealing with the wider proposals in Herr Hitler’s speech. The plain truth is, and everybody knows it, that in the light of past experience it is no longer possible to have faith in the present German Government and therefore no reliance can be placed on any agreement to which they put their name.

11. I am certain that all the peoples of Europe, including the people of Germany, long for peace, a peace which will enable them to live their lives by devoting their energies and their gifts to the development of their culture, the pursuit of their ideals and the improvement of their material prosperity. What a contrast between such a peace and the horrors of war on which Herr Hitler has dilated at such length in his speech. What stands in the way of such a peace? It is Germany-Germany alone which by her repeated acts of aggression has robbed all Europe of tranquillity and implanted in the hearts of all her neighbours a sense of insecurity and fear.

12. Many are the pacts and conventions which Germany has signed in the past dealing with the limitation of the use of arms as weapons of warfare but they have not sufficed to prevent her using any of these weapons when it suited her purpose and something much more solid than pacts and conventions are wanted now to give back to the world confidence which has been shattered. Do we then want to crush Germany as Herr Hitler maintains? By no means. It is not and never has been part of our policy to exclude a Germany which will live in amity and confidence with us from her rightful place in Europe. But the peace which we are determined to secure must be a real and settled peace not an uneasy truce interrupted by constant alarms and repeated threats and mobilizations. Peace cannot be settled or real if it is to be achieved by dictation.

13. His Majesty’s Government do not in this war seek material profit for themselves-they know all too well that in modern war between great powers victorious and vanquished suffer cruel loss alike. But surrender to wrong-doing spelt the extinction of all hope and the annihilation of all those values of life which have, through the centuries, been the inspiration of human progress.

Believing this the British people are resolved to make every effort in their power to win for themselves as for others liberty through respect for law and to establish the right of all peoples freed from the dark shadows of fear to decide their own lives and destinies.

14. The conclusions of His Majesty’s Government are therefore as follows:-

Herr Hitler rejected all suggestions for peace until he had overwhelmed Poland as he had previously overthrown Czechoslovakia.

Peace conditions cannot be acceptable which begin by condoning aggression. The so-called peace proposals in Herr Hitler’s speech are vague and uncertain and they contain no suggestion of reparation for wrongs done to Czechoslovakia and to Poland.

Even if his proposals were more closely defined and contained suggestions for reparation for these wrongs it would be useless to discuss them until a preliminary condition had been satisfied.

Germany must first convince the world that her aggressions will cease and that her pledges will be kept. Acts, not words alone, must be forthcoming before the Allies would be justified in ceasing to wage war to the utmost of their strength.

There can be no new and better world order of the kind that all nations want until this preliminary condition has been fulfilled;

only so would the way be open for discussion and ultimately for settlement.

The issue is therefore plain. Either Germany must give convincing proof of the sincerity of her desire for peace by definite acts and by the provision of effective guarantees of her intention to fulfil her undertakings or we must persevere in our duty to the end. It is for Germany to make her choice.


1 Document 277.

2 Adolf Hitler.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

4 King Leopold III.

5 Queen Wilhelmina.

6 Pope Pius XII.

7 Benito Mussolini, Italian Head of State.

8 U.K. Prime Minister.


[AA: A981, WAR 45B, i]