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No. 32, 34, 38, 39, 43: Messages between Norton and Halifax on Danzig

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1 Jul 1939

ww2dbase----- The British War Bluebook No. 32 -----
From: Clifford Norton, British Chargé d'Affaires in Poland
Sent: Saturday, 1 Jul 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, July 1, 1939.

I read M. Beck the gist of your telegram. M. Beck said that he would first give me a piece of information. German Government yesterday notified the Polish Government in proper legal manner that the Königsberg would visit Danzig for three days on 25th August. Polish Government were at once passing this on to the Danzig Senate with all courtesy adding that they had no objection.

2. Passing to the substance of your Lordship's message, M. Beck asked me to assure you that he entirely shared your view as to the necessity of foreseeing a situation in which Poland might be manoeuvred into a dilemma of either accepting a fait accompli or appearing to be aggressive.

3. He therefore was fully in favour of an exchange of views. He was, however, leaving Warsaw this evening for forty-eight hours and would prefer to go into the matter more thoroughly with me on Tuesday when he had thought things over especially as he had only returned yesterday from a week's leave.

4. He said that reading between the lines of your message he felt you might be thinking of a joint démarche in Berlin. He did not at first sight think the time had come for this. It might put us all into a position where we had to proceed more vigorously than seemed wise to either of our two countries.

5. I asked whether he thought Great Britain's action would be better taken with the Danzig Senate. He was inclined to think so but preferred not to commit himself at the moment.

6. He asked me assure you that despite some people's ideas of Polish rashness, the Polish Government were determined not to be scared by any psychological terrorism into imprudent action. Only last night there had been a rumour (the forty-ninth of its kind) that the Germans were going to march into Danzig at once. He had seen the Polish Chief of Staff and it had been decided that not one Polish soldier was to be moved. He had gone to bed and slept peacefully.

7. I asked if it was not the case that recent Nazi activities in Danzig were creating a worse military position for Poland. M. Beck replied that it was in a sense true, but a war was not won by a few thousand "tourists." The Germans knew that quite well and were mainly hoping to provoke and intimidate Poland. They would not succeed, and it must be clear to them now that any actual aggression would be met by the solid block of Great Britain, France and Poland.

8. He had not changed his attitude one jot since he spoke with you and the Prime Minister in London. He still desired peaceful and normal relations with Germany.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 34 -----
From: Clifford Norton, British Chargé d'Affaires in Poland
Sent: Monday, 3 Jul 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, July 3, 1939.

FROM the austere calm which continues to prevail in Polish official circles and generally throughout Poland, it would appear that gradual remilitarisation of Free City of Danzig has not yet attained dimensions sufficiently serious to alarm Polish Government.

2. They are, of course, aware that the process is intended to facilitate a coup by Herr Hitler should he decide on one.

3. Their attitude to this latter possibility seems to be as follows :-

(a) They are strengthening their powers of defence ceaselessly and to the extent of their financial ability;
(b) They have no intention of provoking a quarrel or of showing weakness;
(c) If their rights in Danzig and the Corridor are seriously threatened they will reply by counter-measures proportionate to the circumstances;
(d) That Herr Hitler will think twice before challenging the anti-aggression front openly;
(e) If he does so, Poland will put up the best show she can.

4. This attitude may seem over-simplified, but at least it is comprehensible, restrained, and well-calculated to counteract German technique of "psychological terrorism."

5. It is unfortunately inevitable that the initiative should rest with the would-be aggressor.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 38 -----
From: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Sent: Friday, 21 Jul 1939
To: Clifford Norton, British Chargé d'Affaires in Poland

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, July 21, 1939.

I am most anxious that this tentative move from German side should not be compromised by publicity or by any disinclination on part of Polish Government to discuss in friendly and reasonable spirit any concrete question which may be taken up by Senate through High Commissioner.

2. Unless you see most serious objection, please approach M. Beck in following sense.

3. His Majesty's Government have learnt with great regret of further incident, but they hope that Polish Government will handle it with same restraint and circumspection which they have hitherto shown, more especially as there is some reason to think that German policy is now to work for a détente in the Danzig question. It is nevertheless essential not to destroy possibility of better atmosphere at outset, and I trust that more care than ever will be taken on Polish side to avoid provocation in any sphere and to restrain press. Above all, if any sign is forthcoming of more reasonable attitude on the part of Senate or German Government, it is important that from Polish side this should not be made occasion for provocative assertions that German Government are weakening. Moreover, I hope that if Senate show any sign of desiring to improve atmosphere by discussing concrete questions, the Polish Government for their part will not be slow to respond in a friendly and forthcoming manner.

4. For your own information, I hope to arrange that we shall be informed through High Commissioner and His Majesty's Consul-General in Danzig when any concrete question is to be taken up by High Commissioner at the request of Senate, and, of course, of the discussions, in order that we may have an opportunity of discreetly urging moderation on Polish Government.

5. Finally, when newspaper article referred to in telegram under reference appears, please do what you can to ensure that Polish Government and press treat it calmly, perhaps on the lines that it does not introduce any new element into the situation. You might also say that the publication of the proposed article does not modify impression of His Majesty's Government that Senate and the German Government, in fact, desire a détente and an improvement in the atmosphere.

6. Whatever may be the import of this German move, position of Polish Government cannot be worsened in any respect by doing their utmost to make a success of procedure proposed by Gauleiter to High Commissioner.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 39 -----
From: Clifford Norton, British Chargé d'Affaires in Poland
Sent: Tuesday, 25 Jul 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Danzig, July 25, 1939.

I developed your Lordship's ideas to M. Beck this morning.

2. M. Beck asked me to assure you that Polish Government were always on the look-out for signs of a German wish for a détente. They are inspired by the same principles as your Lordship, since it was in everyone's interest that temperature should be allowed to fall. Polish Commissioner in Danzig had received formal instructions to deal with each question in a purely practical and objective manner. Even shooting of Polish Customs guard, which Polish Government now considered to have been deliberate, was being treated as a local incident.

3. The most important question was whether new German tendency reported by M. Burckhardt was a manoeuvre or not. M. Beck was naturally suspicious since Poland had much experience of German mentality and Germans real interest must be by any and every means to attempt to separate Poland from Great Britain. At one moment they tried to achieve this by threats, at another by talk of appeasement. In actual fact Polish Government had not received the slightest concrete sign of a desire for a relaxation of tension. For example, remilitarisation of Danzig was proceeding and identifications of fresh German troops on Polish frontier had been received. Marshal Smigly-Rydz had not decided to counter these for the moment since amongst other things Poland was not so rich as to be able to spend money for military purposes freely.

4. Words let fall by Herr Forster were not in themselves sufficient evidence of German intentions. Herr Forster had within the last few days complained to M. Burckhardt about Polish intention to put armed guards on their railways in Danzig.

M. Burkhardt had said that such complaint had better be made by Herr Greiser. Latter had at once said that he had no evidence of any such Polish intention. M. Beck feared that this allegation by Herr Forster was only a pretext for increasing militarisation of Danzig.

5. All in all M. Beck, while entirely understanding and sharing your Lordship's general desire, did not at present see any facts on which to base a forecast of German change of policy.

6. He said incidentally that he had not given up the idea that démarche in the form of warning to Danzig Senate, supported by French and British representations, might be advisable.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 43 -----
From: Clifford Norton, British Chargé d'Affaires in Poland
Sent: Friday, 4 Aug 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Warsaw, August 4, 1939.

M. BECK to-night, through his "chef de cabinet," informed me that at four customs posts on Danzig-East Prussian frontier Polish customs inspectors were to-day informed that by decision of Danzig Senate they would henceforth not be allowed to carry out their duties.

2. Polish Government take a very serious view of this step. Previous action of Danzig Senate has been clandestine, but this is an open challenge to Polish interests.

3. Polish Commissioner-General has therefore been instructed to deliver a note to-night requesting immediate confirmation that Polish customs inspectors will be allowed to carry out their duties, and warning to Senate that if they are interfered with Polish Government will react in the strongest manner. A reply is requested by to-morrow evening, 5th August.

4. "Chef de cabinet" could not say what steps the Polish Government would take. M. Beck proposed to give me further information to-morrow morning. Meanwhile, he was most anxious that his Majesty's Government should be informed at once of the serious turn events have taken.

5. Polish note is, I gather, not being published nor its contents revealed to press.

6. M. Burckhardt is being informed by the Polish Commissioner-General.

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

Added By:
C. Peter Chen

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