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No. 27-28, 30, 41-42, 45-47, 50-51: Messages between Kennard and Halifax on Danzig

Editor's Note: The following content is a transcription of a period document or a collection of period statistics. It may be incomplete, inaccurate, or biased. The reader may not wish to take the content as factual.

11 Jun 1939

ww2dbase----- The British War Bluebook No. 27 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Sunday, 11 Jun 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, June 11, 1939.

FOLLOWING is full summary of note, as published here, addressed on 10th June by Polish Commissioner-General to President of Danzig Senate in reply to latter's note of 3rd June:-

2. President of Senate's complaint of behaviour of Polish Customs Inspectors on and off duty is not supported by any proofs and must be regarded as unfounded. On the other hand, behaviour of certain Danzig elements, including Customs officials, has been highly provocative, as Commissioner-General has frequently pointed out orally and in writing. Polish Inspectors have reacted with dignity and moderation and refused to be provoked. The Polish Government still expect Senate to take measures to secure personal safety of Polish Customs Inspectors to allow free execution of their duty, with reference to Point 3 of Polish-Danzig Agreement of 1922, which lays down that Polish officials in Danzig should receive the same treatment as corresponding Danzig officials.

3. As regards alleged excessive number of Polish Customs officials, Polish Government, on the contrary, consider it at present rather insufficient. This can be shown by present state of affairs as regards handling of goods in Danzig harbour and passenger traffic between Danzig and Poland, and is partly due to obstruction encountered by officials in execution of their duty.

4. Polish Government, moreover, cannot agree to any restriction of activity of Polish Inspectors as forecast in note of Danzig Senate. Present treaty arrangements would not permit of Inspectors merely exercising general supervision within customs offices, a restriction which would be contrary to Sections 1 and 4 of Article 204 of the Warsaw Treaty of the 24th October, 1921. In this connexion Polish note also quotes Article 10 of Polish-Danzig Customs Agreement of the 6th August, 1934, which lays down that Danzig officials shall conform to instructions of Polish Customs Inspectors in connexion with manifest cases of smuggling.

5. Polish Government must regard Senate as fully responsible for any disputes which may arise in this last connexion, and must regard as illegal and contrary to treaty obligations any attempts by Danzig Customs authorities arbitrarily to restrict Polish rights of control. Instructions given to Danzig Customs officials as described in Senate's note must be regarded as a violation of the principle of collaboration between Danzig Customs Administration and Polish Inspectors. Latter have been instructed to continue exercising their functioning within the same limits-which are in conformity with treaty situation-as in the past twenty years, and hope is expressed that they will not meet with obstruction from Danzig authorities.

6. As regards question of swearing-in Customs officials, Polish note refers to written communications of Senate on this subject and to Commissioner-General's interviews with President. Should Senate not take account of fully justified demands of Polish Government, and should they proceed to swearing-in of officials in spite of assurance by President of Senate that this would not take place except after consultation with Commissioner-General, Polish Government will have to consider question of strengthening customs control, since Danzig Customs officials will in future be giving a less binding guarantee of their respect for, and proper execution of, Polish Customs regulations.

7. Essence of whole question is that territory of Free City is part of Polish Customs Territory, both legally and in virtue of treaty obligations. Authorities must therefore be assured of thorough-going execution of their Polish customs policy and regulations on external frontier of their Customs territory. Hence any measures by Danzig authorities which threaten to obstruct, if only in part, the functioning of the Polish Customs system can only provoke reaction by Polish Government in the form of measures designed fully to protect Poland's rightful interest.

8. Polish Government desire, as before, to regulate all vital questions concerning Free City of Danzig in agreement with Danzig Senate. In the situation recently created, however, they consider it their duty to warn the Senate that any shortcomings or obstructions in functioning of Polish Customs system and administration must react unfavourably on the economic interests of Danzig and its population, a consequence which Polish Government desire to avoid.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 28 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Tuesday, 27 Jun 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, June 27, 1939.

I ASKED the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs this morning what information he had regarding the constitution of the Freicorps at Danzig. He told me that according to Polish information a corps of 4,000 was being formed of whom 2,000 would be quartered at barracks in Danzig itself and 2,000 in new buildings which were being constructed at Praust.

2. As regards the general situation in Danzig it was perhaps a little better. There had been some fifty cases of Danzig officials refusing to carry out the instructions of the Polish Customs Inspectors during the past fortnight, but during the past few days there had been no cases of this kind. This may be due to the fact that the arms for the Freicorps were being surreptitiously introduced into the Free City from East Prussia during the past fortnight and that presumably now that the arms were in Danzig there is less occasion for contravention of the Polish Customs regulations.

3. M. Arciszewski did not think that Germany would go to the length of risking a general war in connexion with Danzig, but felt that she would gradually strengthen her position there, weaken any authority that Poland might still have there and hope that Poland would finally be reduced to such a state of economic exhaustion that she would have to accept some solution as regards Danzig which would be favourable to Germany. Further, Germany would in the meantime, no doubt, assiduously propagate the idea that Great Britain and France would not implement their guarantee as regards Danzig and thereby endeavour still further to undermine Polish morale.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 30 -----
From: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Sent: Friday, 30 Jun 1939
To: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, June 30, 1939.

You should at once seek interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs and ask him how the Polish Government propose to deal with the situation which appears to be impending. It would seem that Hitler is laying his plans very astutely so as to present the Polish Government with a fait accompli in Danzig, to which it would be difficult for them to react without appearing in the role of aggressors. I feel that the moment has come where consultation between the Polish, British and French Governments is necessary in order that the plans of the three Governments may be co-ordinated in time. It is in the view of His Majesty's Government essential that these plans shall be so devised as to ensure that Hitler shall not be able so to manage matters as to manoeuvre the Polish Government into the position of aggressors.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 41 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Monday, 31 Jul 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, July 31, 1939.

I ASKED Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day what impressions he had brought back from his visit to Gdynia and how far he thought that the détente at Danzig, foreshadowed in the conversation between the Gauleiter and the High Commissioner, should be taken seriously.

2. M. Beck said that, unfortunately, there were no indications that the Danzig Senate intended to behave more reasonably. They had just demanded that the Polish customs police who accompany the customs officials on their duties should be withdrawn, despite the fact that they have been employed in Danzig by the Polish customs authorities for some years past.

3. It was possible that the remilitarisation of Danzig was not proceeding so actively, and he had no information as to the intention of the German Government to send a General Officer Commanding to Danzig.

4. He, further, had no information of a serious increase in German concentrations on the Polish frontier, but he was somewhat perturbed by the reports which he had received from some eight Polish Consular representatives in Germany to the effect that an intensive official propaganda is now being conducted in Germany demonstrating the necessity of an isolated war against Poland without any British or French intervention. This, coupled with the notices which have been sent to German reservists who are to be called up during the second fortnight in August, was somewhat ominous. He said that an intensive propaganda was also being conducted in East Prussia, where reservists up to 58 years old were being called up.

5. M. Beck did not think that the moment had yet come to convey a serious joint warning to the Danzig authorities, and felt that it would be well to await further developments and see how far the Gauleiter's suggestion of a détente was to be taken seriously.

6. The most essential thing was to show by every possible means the solidarity of the three Governments of Great Britain, France and Poland in their resistance to German aggression in any form.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 42 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Monday, 31 Jul 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 2, 1939.

I DISCUSSED the situation at Danzig at some length informally with the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day and asked him more especially for information regarding the controversy respecting the reduction of the Polish customs personnel in the Free State. M. Arciszewski said that three years ago there had only been about thirty Polish customs inspectors, and that in view of the numerous cases of smuggling and so forth, some eighty frontier guards had been added for the purpose of surveillance. The frontier guards wore a different uniform from the customs inspectors, and he thought that provided the Danzig Senate were acting in good faith and any concession would not be interpreted as a sign of weakness, it might be possible to come to some arrangement by which the customs officials and frontier guards should wear the same uniform and the number of the latter might be somewhat reduced. He did not think that any threat of a customs union with Germany should be taken too seriously as hitherto the Senate had never risked coming too far into the open. He admitted that the general situation might become critical towards the end of this month He agreed that it was very difficult to fix a limit at which the Polish Government must react seriously to the accentuation of the surreptitious methods by which Germany was endeavouring to bring about a fait accompli at Danzig, but he still thought that she would hesitate before going to the length where a serious crisis must develop.

He admitted that the situation might develop within a few hours from the political to the military phase, but felt that the military preparations at Danzig were to some extent exaggerated. If the Reich really did not wish or intend to participate in a European war over the Danzig question, and there were real signs of a détente, it might be possible to resume conversations, but he thought that Herr Forster's assertions were in the present circumstances only a manoeuvre, and that until there were serious indications that the German Government's intentions were reasonable, it would not be possible to discuss any practical solution.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 45 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Wednesday, 9 Aug 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 9, 1939.

POLISH attitude towards the dispute over recent Danzig attempt to eliminate Polish customs inspection has been firm but studiously moderate. There was at first no attempt to represent the Danzig Senate as having climbed down, but, as was inevitable, the papers have since reproduced comment to this effect from the French and British press. The Polish Government said little to the press about what really passed, and even now nothing has been said of any time limit. Polish attitude to diplomatic conversations is also moderate.

2. It is true that on 7th August the independent Conservative Czas, in a commentary on Marshal Smigly-Rydz's speech, said that Poland was ready to fight for Danzig, and that if a fait accompli were attempted, then guns would fire. It also emphasized at length the Marshal's insistence that Poland had no aggressive intentions (the German press does not seem to be interested in that point).

3. The Polish Telegraph Agency to-day-in a message from its German correspondent-replies to attacks of Deutches Nachrichten-BĂŒro and German press, pointing out that one sentence in the article in Czas had been singled out to give a distorted picture of Polish opinion in order to represent Poland as a potential aggressor. "Polish provocations" was the term used in Germany to describe Poland's attempts to defend her just interests. "A volley fired by German guns will be the closing point of the history of modern Poland," that was the pious desire of "peaceful and persecuted Germany." The message concluded by emphasising again that everyone knew that Poland had no aggressive intentions.

4. I fear that at times of strong national feeling it is almost inevitable that occasional remarks like that of Czas should occur in the press. Experience shows that the Germans can wax indignant with anyone and on any subject if Goebbels so desires. And the "provocation" of one article in a small and independent Warsaw newspaper compares strangely with the official utterances of Dr. Goebbels and Herr Forster in Danzig and the daily military and civil violation of all the treaties on which Poland's rights are based.

5. Possibly the German campaign is intended to cover up the Senate's withdrawal in Danzig, where the situation is regarded as somewhat easier.

6. I shall, of course, continue to urge moderation here, both in official and press declarations.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 46 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Thursday, 10 Aug 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 10, 1939.

MINISTER for Foreign Affairs communicated to me to-day the text of a communication which was made to Polish Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin by State Secretary yesterday and of reply of the Polish Government which was made this afternoon. (Text of these communications, which are strictly confidential and are not being published at present, will be found in my immediately following telegram.). Both these communications were made verbally though notes were taken of their contents in either case.

2. M. Beck drew my attention to the very serious nature of German démarche as it was the first time that the Reich had directly intervened in the dispute between Poland and Danzig Senate. He had already, through Polish Ambassador in London, warned your Lordship briefly of what he had communicated to me, but he asked me to request you to consider whether you could take any useful action in Berlin to reinforce Polish attitude. He would leave it to your Lordship to decide the nature of any such action, but would be glad in any case to learn your views as to the significance of this démarche on the part of the Reich. M. Beck has made a similar communication to my French colleague.

3. He further told me that the High Commissioner had communicated to him the tenor of a conversation which M. Burckhardt had had with Herr Forster this morning. Conversation was relatively moderate, and Herr Forster said Herr Hitler had told him that no incident should take place at Danzig at present time in view of gravity of the situation. Herr Forster said that he intended in his declaration which he is to make to-night to deal with aggressive tone of Polish press.

4. M. Beck finally said that he felt that a serious political crisis would develop during the last fortnight of this month, which while it need not necessarily lead to war would require very careful handling. No further military measures were being taken by the Polish Government for the moment, but he would at once inform me if they became necessary.

5. M. Beck stated that while he had not thought it necessary to refer, in his reply to the German Government, to the specific question of Polish customs inspectors, he could have refuted German allegations as the Polish Government had documentary proof that Danzig customs officials had definite instructions from authorities to inform Polish inspectors that they could no longer carry out their functions.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 47 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Thursday, 10 Aug 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 10, 1939.

Following is translation of German note verbale:-

"German Government have learnt with lively surprise of tenor of note addressed by Polish Government to Senate of Free City of Danzig, in which Polish Government demand in the form of an ultimatum cancellation of an alleged measure whose existence was based on incorrect rumours. This measure, designed to prevent activity of Polish customs inspectors, was not, in fact, decreed by Senate. In case of refusal the threat was expressed that measures of reprisal would be taken.

"The German Government are compelled to call attention to the fact that repetition of such demands having the nature of an ultimatum and addressed to the Free City of Danzig as well as of threats of reprisals, would lead to an aggravation of Polish-German relations, for consequences of which responsibility will fall exclusively on Polish Government, German Government being obliged to disclaim here and now any responsibility in this respect.

"Further, the German Government call attention of Polish Government to the fact that steps which latter have taken to prevent export of certain Danzig goods to Poland are of such a nature as to cause heavy economic losses to the population of Danzig.

"Should Polish Government persist in maintaining such measures the German Government are of the opinion that in present state of affairs the Free City of Danzig would have no choice but to seek other opportunities of exporting, and, consequently, also of importing goods."

2. Following is translation of Polish reply:-

"The Government of Polish Republic have learnt with liveliest surprise of declaration made on 9th August, 1939, by State Secretary at German Ministry for Foreign Affairs to Polish Chargé d'Affaires ad interim at Berlin regarding existing relations between Poland and the Free City of Danzig. The Polish Government indeed perceive no juridical basis capable of justifying intervention of Germany in these relations.

"If exchanges of views regarding the Danzig problem have taken place between Polish Government and German Government these exchanges were solely based on goodwill of Polish Government and arose from no obligation of any sort.

"In reply to above-mentioned declaration of the German Government the Polish Government are obliged to warn the German Government that in future, as hitherto, they will react to any attempt by authorities of the Free City which might tend to compromise the rights and interests which Poland possesses there in virtue of her agreements, by employment of such means and measures as they alone shall think fit to adopt, and will consider any future intervention by German Government to detriment of these rights and interests as an act of aggression."

----- The British War Bluebook No. 50 -----
From: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Sent: Tuesday, 15 Aug 1939
To: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 15, 1939.

I HAVE the impression that Herr Hitler is still undecided, and anxious to avoid war and to hold his hand if he can do so without losing face. As there is a possibility of him not forcing the issue, it is evidently essential to give him no excuse for acting, whether or not conversations about Danzig at some future time may be possible. It therefore seems of the first importance to endeavour to get the local issues (customs inspectors, margarine and herrings) settled at once, and not to let questions of procedure or "face" at Danzig stand in the way. It also seems essential that the Polish Government should make every effort to moderate their press, even in the face of a German press campaign and to intensify their efforts to prevent attacks on their German minority.

2. In dealing with local Danzig issues, I would beg M. Beck to work through the intermediary of the High Commissioner, or at all events after consultation with him, rather than direct with the Senate. I should like M. Beck to treat M. Burckhardt with the fullest confidence, as in my opinion he is doing his best in a very difficult situation.

3. While the present moment may not be opportune for negotiations on general issues as opposed to local differences, the Polish Government would in my judgment do well to continue to make it plain that, provided essentials can be secured, they are at all times ready to examine the possibility of negotiation over Danzig if there is a prospect of success. I regard such an attitude as important from the point of view of world opinion.

4. Before speaking to M. Beck on the above lines, please concert with your French colleague who will be receiving generally similar instructions in order that you may take approximately the same line with M. Beck.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 51 -----
From: Sir Horward W. Kennard, Ambassador to Poland
Sent: Tuesday, 15 Aug 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 15, 1939.

I SPOKE to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the sense of your telegram of 15th August. M. Beck agreed that Herr Hitler was probably still undecided as to his course of action. German military activity was nevertheless disturbing, though he did not take too alarmist a view at present.

2. M. Beck agreed that an effort should be made to settle local issues in Danzig and said that he was endeavouring to separate economic from political questions with a view to settling the former quickly and equitably. He hoped that to-morrow's conversation between Polish Commissioner-General and President of the Senate might lead to some results.

3. M. Beck said that if he could not arrive at a direct settlement of new incident which had occurred he would invoke M. Burckhardt's intervention.

4. This incident was as follows: Three Polish customs inspectors, while making their round of harbour in a motor boat, discovered a German vessel entering the harbour without lights, and, as they suspected smuggling of munitions, turned their searchlight on her. On landing, they were arrested by Danzig police. Polish Commissioner-General has sent in a note demanding their release, though not in unduly energetic language. If he did not receive a reply shortly he would invite High Commissioner to settle this incident.

5. As regards press, he remarked that it was not the Poles but the British and other foreign press who first suggested that firmness of the Polish Government had caused the Senate to yield in the matter of Polish customs inspectors.

The British War Bluebook; courtesy of Yale Law School Avalon Project

Added By:
C. Peter Chen

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