The August 28th, 1939 headline of the Hitler-hating New York Times confirmed that Hitler sought to avoid war with Britain & France. Below is the abridged text of the thoughtful and logical letter which Hitler wrote to French President Edouard Daladier – a letter which The Times published on its front page!
My dear Minister President:
I understand the misgiving to which you give expression. I, too, have never overlooked the grave responsibilities which are imposed upon those who are in charge of the fate of nations. As an old front line fighter, I, like yourself, know the horrors of war. Guided by this attitude and experience, I have tried to remove all matters that might cause conflict between our two peoples.
I have quite frankly given one assurance to the French people, namely, that the return of the Saar would constitute the precondition for this. After its return I immediately and solemnly pronounced my renunciation of any further claims that might concern France. The German people approved of this, my attitude.
As you could judge for yourself during your last visit here, the German people, in the knowledge of its own behavior held and holds no ill feelings, much less hatred, for its one-time brave opponent. On the contrary, the pacification of our western frontier led to an increasing sympathy. Certainly as far as the German people are concerned, a sympathy which, on many occasions, showed itself in a really demonstrative way.
The construction of the western fortifications, which swallowed and still swallow many millions (of Marks) at the same time constituted for Germany a document of acceptance and fixation of the final frontiers of the Reich. In doing so, the German people have renounced two provinces which once belonged to the German Reich, later were conquered again at the cost of much blood, and finally were defended with even more blood.
I believed that by this renunciation and this attitude every conceivable source of conflict between our two peoples that might lead to a repetition of the tragedy of 1914-1918 had been done away with.
This voluntary limitation of the German claims to life in the West, can, however, not be interpreted as an acceptance of all other phases of the Versailles dictate. I have really tried, year after year, to achieve the revision of at least the most impossible and unbearable provisions of this dictate by way of negotiation. This was impossible.
In this sense I have tried to remove from the world the most irrational provisions of the Versailles dictate. I have made an offer to the Polish government which shocked the German people. Nobody but myself could even dare go before the public with such an offer. It could therefore be made only once.
I am deeply convinced that if, especially, England at that time had, instead of starting a wild campaign against Germany in the press and instead of launching rumors of a German mobilization, somehow talked the Poles into being reasonable, Europe today and for twenty-five years could enjoy a condition of deepest peace.
As things were, Polish public opinion was excited by a lie about German aggression. Clear decisions that the situation called for were made difficult for the Polish government. Above all, the government’s ability to see the limitations of realistic possibilities was impaired by the guarantee promise that followed.
The Polish government declined the proposals. Polish public opinion, convinced that England and France would now fight for Poland, began to make demands one might possibly stigmatize as laughable insanity were they not so tremendously dangerous. At that point an unbearable terror, a physical and economic persecution of the Germans although they numbered more than a million and a half began in the regions ceded by the Reich.
I do not want to speak of the atrocities that occurred. Suffice it to say that Danzig, too, was made increasingly conscious through continuous aggressive acts by Polish officials of the fact that apparently it was delivered over to the high-handedness of a power foreign to the national character of the city and its population.
May I now take the liberty of putting a question to you, Herr Daladier: How would you act as a Frenchman if, through some unhappy issue of a brave struggle, one of your provinces severed by a corridor occupied by a foreign power? And if a big city – let us say Marseilles – were hindered from belonging to France and if Frenchmen living in this area were persecuted, beaten and maltreated, yes, murdered, in a bestial manner?
You are a Frenchman, Herr Daladier, and I therefore know how you would act. I am German, Herr Daladier. Do not doubt my sense of honor nor my consciousness of duty to act exactly like you. If, then, you had the misfortune that is ours, would you then, Herr Daladier, have any understanding that Germany was without cause to insist that the corridor through France remained, that the robbed territory must not be restored, and that the return of Marseilles be forbidden?
Certainly I cannot imagine, Herr Daladier, that Germany would fight against you for this reason. For, I and all of us, have renounced Alsace-Lorraine in order to avoid further bloodshed. Much less would we shed blood in order to maintain an injustice that would as unbearable for you as it would be immaterial to us.
Possibly we, as old front fighters, can best understand each other in a number of fields. I ask you, however, do understand this also: That it is impossible for a nation of honor to renounce the claim of almost two million human beings and to them maltreated at its own borders. I have therefore set up a clear demand to Poland. Danzig and the Corridor must return to Germany.
I see no way of persuading Poland, which feels herself as unassailable, now that she enjoys the protection of her guarantees, to accept a peaceful solution. If our two countries on that account should be destined to meet again on the field of battle, there would nevertheless be a difference in the motives. I, Herr Daladier, shall be leading my people in a fight to rectify a wrong, whereas the others would be fighting to preserve that wrong.
That is the more tragic since many important men, also among your own people, have recognized the insanity of the solutions then found (at Versailles) as also the possibility of maintaining it lastingly.
That our two peoples should enter a new, bloody war of destruction is painful not only for you, but also for me, Herr Daladier. As already observed, I see no possibility for us on our part to exert influence in the direction of reasonableness upon Poland for correcting a situation that is unbearable for the German people and the German Reich.
– Adolf Hitler