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ships in the Mediterranean. The purpose was to blockade Valencia and Barcelona, and the consequence was to sink the shipping of a number of nations, when sailing on their lawful occasions.
The British and French Governments decided that this situation could not be tolerated and we agreed to call a conference of the Mediterranean powers to formulate plans to patrol the Mediterranean. We realised that the main burden of this exercise must fall on our two countries, but we hoped to receive useful support from the Conference, which after some hesitation Mussolini decided not to attend.
Our plan was that our naval patrols would have orders to fire on any submarine attacking a non-Spanish ship, it being agreed that none of the submarines of the Nyon powers would put to sea in the Mediterranean unless accompanied by a surface vessel. In order to make these patrols effective beyond doubt, the Royal Navy supplied thirty-five destroyers for the patrols, while the French provided twenty-eight.
The Conference at Nyon reached agreement on these proposals. Mussolini was informed and allotted an area including the Tyrrhenian Sea which he could patrol if he wished and, as I was to write later, "This was done in order to offer a large area, as befitted Fascist dignity, to Mussolini, who could then send his warships to hunt his own submarines where it mattered least. We did not expect that Italy would accept this offer outright, but it could form the basis of a bargain, and our position was strong."
In the event, the instructions given to the allied navies at Nyon were completely successful. No Italian submarine showed itself from that day and piracy in the Mediterranean, in that form at least, came to an end. It was not the least advantage of the Nyon Conference that it was over in forty-eight hours with its agreements reached and its action set on foot. The support of the smaller powers including Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, was significant and helpful. We were thus able together to patrol the main Mediterranean trade routes from Suez to Gibraltar, from the Dardanelles to Gibraltar and from the North African ports to Marseilles.
It will not have escaped your notice that this action was possible because Anglo-French naval power was overwhelming in the Mediterranean. A difficulty for the diplomacy of our two countries in the thirties was that we rarely had the chance to act in such conditions of strength. However, even though such opportunities were difficult to find, it was diplomacy's job to seek them out.
(From Daniel Ellsberg, The Lowell Lectures: “The Art of Coercion: A Study of
Threats in Economic Conflict and War", Lowell Institute, Boston, March 1959, cited in Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, Princeton University Press, 1960)
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: SEQUEL TO MUNICH, MARCH 1939
By Daniel Ellsberg There was the problem of the plate-glass window. This time the vulnerable point in the alarm system was not so clearly England and France; they were not likely again to hold their ally down and stifle her protests while he operated. There must be no cries of protest, no unruly disturbance to challenge them to fulfill their conmitment. As in the
Anschluss, a fait accompli required that the occupation be fast and quiet; and both of these requirements indicated: there must be no resistance at all. An unresisted occupation would not call for large-scale mobilization, which might alert the Allies. As in Austria, the Wehrmacht could bring victory over its single adversary; but the Wehrmacht alone could not guarantee a victory without resistance, without outcries, without delaying actions. Lacking a method of entry that would shut off the burglar alarm and dull the Allies' reflexes, the Wehrmacht could not promise victory at all. For this job, Hitler had his "intellectual weapons”; now, having tested them, in Austria, he trusted them enough to schedule in his military plans a scant few hours for the decisive coercion of the Czechoslovak head of state. This would seem to be cutting it fine; though at this point in our story, we might well be wary of criticizing Hitler's judgment in matters of blackmail. To create the necessary impression in such a short time, of course, a personal audience was essential. So, on the afternoon of March 14, the army being ready to move, the Czechs were informed that the presence of President Hacha and the Foreign Minister, Chvalkovsky, was desired in Berlin.
Hacha took the journey with his daughter as nurse and companion. He was an old man, older than his years, and in bad health. . . . In his last hours as a head of state, Hacha received all honours due him. A guard of honour awaited, to be inspected by him, at the station; and Ribbentrop was present, with a bouquet of flowers for his daughter. At the Adlon Hotel, an aide presented to the daughter a box of chocolates, with the compliments of the Fuehrer. . . . Chvalkovsky held a preliminary conference with Ribbentrop, after which he assured Hacha that nothing drastic was in the offing. Finally, at one o'clock in the morning, after his long journey, the old man was called to the Reichschancellery for his audience. In the courtyard, he and Chvalkovsky were welcomed by a company of the SŠ bodyguard, whose band played the regimental march. Hacha inspected the guard. . .
Then the Czechs entered the presence of Hitler, who was attended by Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Weizsacker, and others. On the table in front of Hitler were documents for signing.
Hitler's interpreter, Paul Schmidt, describes the setting: "The dark panelling of the room, lighted only by a few bronze lamps, produced a sinister atmosphere—a suitable framework for the tragic scene of that night.”
Then Hitler spoke. He was sorry, he said, to have had to ask the President to undertake this journey; but he had reached the conclusion that the trip might prove of great service to his country, "since Germany's attack was only a matter of hours." He launched into a diatribe against the spirit of Benes that still stalked in Czechoslovakia; he cited provocations (that day the German press was reporting the same atrocities against Germans in Czechoslovakia that had been described at the time of Munich: the student beaten, the pregnant woman thrown down and trampled, etc.); e.G., “why had Czechoslovakia not reduced her army to a reasonable size?” Now “for me the die was cast.” He had issued the order for German troops to march, and to incorporate Czechoslovakia into the German Reich.
Hacha and Chvalkovsky, Schmidt writes, "sat as though turned to stone while Hitler spoke. Only their eyes showed that they were alive. It must have been an extraordinarily heavy blow to learn from Hitler's mouth that the end of their country had come.”
But why had they been brought to hear this? The invasion would begin at 6 A.M. that morning: in five hours. There were, said Hitler, "two possibilities. The first was that the invasion of the German troops might develop into a battle. This resistance would then be broken down by force of arms with all available means. The other was that the entry of the German troops should take place in a peaceable manner, and then it would be easy for the Fuehrer . . . to give to Czechoslovakia an individual existence on a generous scale, autonomy and a certain amount of national freedom."
It was simply up to the Czechs; if they did resist, the punishment would be automatic; indeed, it would be out of Hitler's hands.
"If, tomorrow, it came to a fight ... in two days the Czech army would cease to resist. Some Germans would, of course, also be killed, and this would produce a feeling of hatred which would compel him, from motives of self-preservation, to refuse any longer to grant autonomy. The world would not care a jot about this.
"This invitation was the last good deed he would be able to render to the Czech people. If it came to fighting, then the bloodshed would compel us to hate also. But perhaps Hacha's visit might avert the worst.
“The hours were passing. At 6 o'clock the troops would march in. He felt almost ashamed to say that, for every Czech battalion, a German division would come. The military operation was not a trifling one, but had been planned on a most generous scale.”
But how, in any case, asked Hacha, could it be arranged within four hours to hold back the entire Czech nation from offering resistance. The Fuehrer advised him to telephone Prague. "It might be a great decision, but he could see the possibility dawning of a long period of peace between the two nations. Should the decision be otherwise, he could foresee the annihilation of Czechoslovakia."
Hacha asks whether the whole purpose of the invasion is to disarm the Czech army. This might, perhaps, be done in some other way.
Hitler signed the documents, left the room. The Czechs were closeted alone with Goering and Ribbentrop. On this discussion the German minute is tactfully silent; but details emerge, secondhand, from the dispatches of Henderson and Coulondre, and from Schmidt's account. Schmidt's job was to contact Prague, so that the President could send his crucial instructions to a cabinet meeting then in session. But at this moment the telephone line to Prague was out of order. “A nervy Ribbentrop told me to find out 'who's gone and let us down.' " All Schmidt could find was that Prague did not answer. 'Call the Postmaster-General at once, for me personally,' screamed Ribbentrop, scarlet with rage. I redoubled my efforts, with the knowledge that failure to get through might cost many lives."
And inside the room, Hacha and Chvalkovsky had come at last to life. They turned from the documents and refused to sign. "If we should sign those documents,” they said, "we would be forever cursed by our people."
But the Germans pursued them around the table, thrusting the documents before them and pressing pens into their hands, shouting "Sign! If you refuse, half Prague will lie in ruins from aerial bombardment within two hours."
“I have nothing at all against your beautiful city,” Goering told Hacha. "However, if you want to do anything at all against the decision of the Fuehrer, especially if you should attempt to get help from
the West, then I shall be forced to show the world the 100 per cent effectiveness of my Air Force.” A warning example for England and France: there was a rationale, only too credible, for the action Goering threatened. "Sign!" Goering ordered; hundreds of bombers waited only for his signal; the signal would be given at six, if the signatures were refused; the life of Prague was at stake.
Outside Schmidt was dialing; Ribbentrop had told him to "get the Postmaster-General out of his bed," snarling at “ministers who sleep during such a situation while we're hard at work here.”
"Suddenly [Schmidt's account continues) there was a commotion; Goering was shouting for Professor Morell, Hitler's personal physician, who had been detailed to stand by. 'Hacha has fainted!' said Goering with great agitation, 'I hope nothing happens to him. He added thoughtfully: 'It has been a very strenuous day for such an old man.'
“If anything happens to Hacha, I thought, the whole world will say tomorrow that he was murdered at the Chancellery.”
And, though Schmidt knew little of this, more was at stake than world public opinion. Hacha was revived by Morell, with injections. He continued to resist, fainted again, and was revived again. But if he had fainted once too often; or if the telephone line to Prague had stayed out three more hours, Hitler might have lost his gamble. With the burglar alarm unsilenced, with resistance starting in Czechoslovakia, even in an unorganized way, the Second World War might have started in March of 1939.
At 3:55 Hacha signed the documents. He called Prague, Schmidt finally having gotten through, and ordered that there should be no resistance. There was a final conference with Hitler, who assured him: “We do not desire nor do we intend de-nationalization. They, on one hand, shall live as Czechs, and we wish to live contentedly as Germans.” Germany and Czechoslovakia would get orders which would certainly double her production.
Here and there, the Germans concluded, there might be clashes where Hacha's message had not gotten through, but by and large they could count on an entry without opposition. The agreement that the Czechs signed told the world:
“The conviction was expressed on both sides that all endeavours must be directed to securing tranquility, order and peace in that part of Central Europe.
"The President of the State of Czecho-Slovakia has declared that, in order to serve this aim and final pacification, he confidently lays the fate of the Czech people and country in the hands of the Fuehrer of the German Reich. The Fuehrer has accepted this declaration, and has announced his decision to take the Czech people under the protection of the German Reich, and to accord it the autonomous development of its national life in accordance with its special characteristics.
Later when the British and French called to file protests, Weizsacker reports, "I called attention to Hacha's signature.” It was not the document, of course, but the speed of the occupation, unresisted on Hacha's orders, that stayed the hands of the Allies; until too late. Only two days later, in his speech at Birmingham, Chamberlain made his spectacular about-face in his evaluation of Hitler; but by then, he could only resolve not to be caught next time. If segments of the 40 Czech divisions had still been fighting when Chamberlain prepared that speech—and even Hitler had predicted they could hold out that long-what action might the Allies have taken? One thing is sure: Hitler did not care to find out. And, as he read the document that lay before him at 4 in the morning, March 15, with the signatures of Hacha and Chvalkovsky, he knew he would not find out.
The Wilhelmsplatz was still dark as the two Czechs left the Chancellery. It was two hours before the invasion.
"Our people will curse us," said Chvalkovsky to the President, "and yet we have saved their existence. We have preserved them from a horrible massacre.
(From Triumph and Tragedy Vol. VI of Winston S. Churchill's history of the
Second World War, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953)
THE IRON CURTAIN TELEGRAM
By Winston S. Churchill
In these same days I also sent what may be called the "Iron Curtain" telegram to President Truman. Of all the public documents I have written on this issue I would rather be judged by this. Prime Minister to President Truman
12 May 45
2. Meanwhile what is to happen about Russia? I have
3. An iron curtain is drawn down upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind. There seems little doubt that the whole of the regions east of the line Lübeck-TriesteCorfu will soon be completely in their hands. To this must be added the further enormous area conquered by the American armies between Eisenach and the Elbe, which will, I suppose, in a few weeks be occupied, when the Americans retreat, by the Russian power. All kinds of arrangements will have to