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Ulrich von Hassel

Member of the German Resistance against Adolf Hitler.

Hitler and Ribbentrop, having decided to attack Poland knowingly took the risk of war with the Western Powers, deluding themselves to varying degrees up to the very last with the belief that the West would remain neutral after all. The Poles for their part, with Polish conceit and Slav aimlessness, confident of British and French support, had missed every remaining chance of avoiding war. The government in London, which with its policy of guarantees and flirting with the Soviets under the effects of 15 March pursued a shallow but at least unaggressive war policy, and whose ambassador did everything to keep the peace, gave up the struggle in the very last days and adopted a devil-may-care attitude. France went through the same stages, only with much more hesitation. Mussolini did all in his power to avoid war. His proposal of mediation of 2 September offered no real hope of success because Britain no longer could or would back down. The attitude of France on this day is not quite clear. Hitler accepted Mussolini's proposal first, because he was certain that Britain would not agree to it and second, perhaps because he had realized finally that, if he invaded Poland, Britain and France would declare war. See more

12:25

At ten o'clock today (previously at Foreign Ministry on account of my trip) I heard Hitler's weak speech from my room at the Hotel Adlon. Few people on the streets, only official enthusiasm over the closing of the border.

Ribbentrop had called for Henderson last night and ranted at him, exclaiming that these delaying tactics of the British and Poles were contemptible. The German government had been prepared to make a very acceptable proposal, which he had read to Henderson. Essentially it contained the following points: Danzig to be ceded to the Reich, but demilitarized: referendum in the main part of the Corridor and, depending on the result, either a German east-west traffic route, or a Polish south-north route to Gdynia, which would remain Polish. These definitely modest terms were no longer open since no Polish negotiator had come. Therefore there was nothing left for Germany but to take action to secure its rights.

The Foreign Ministry received word today from the Ministry of Economic Affairs that there would be no war, and that further preparations were unnecessary. This light-hearted conclusion was justly received with indignation. Weizsäcker told Wiehl over the telephone in my presence that his people must be drunk, the tension remains undiminished. Everybody is now waiting to see if a Polish negotiator will come. Should Ribbentrop feel himself firmly in the saddle again, the Poles will be presented with unacceptable demands if they come.

At the cinema last night I saw a disgusting example of how human misery is exploited for propaganda purposes. Weeping women and children were shown describing their sufferings in Poland in voices choked with tears. The audience remained completely passive; there was only very weak applause at the showing of military newsreel, not taken up by the bulk of the audience.

There is news everywhere, from young Kessel, Nostitz and others, but it is not easy to verify. In any case the higher-ups are in a ‘state of mind’, and the people in the throes of great unrest and anxiety. Every chauffeur is asking if there will be war. Mobilization goes on apace. Ration cards, scarcity of foodstuffs - all that even before the war begins. Breakfast with Beck. Well-known figure, very worried, lowest possible opinion of the actors.

As for the substance of our proposal to Britain I could get no authentic information. The most plausible conjecture is: 'Leave us to our quarrel with Poland, then we shall make some generous arrangement with you.'

This day, on which the celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Tannenberg was to have taken place, may go down in history as the day of a very great decision. Whether there will be world war or not will depend ultimately on what Henderson brings back today from London.

Hitler's expectation that the Western Powers, as well as Poland, would now yield has not been realized. See more

The most dangerous game imaginable has already begun. It is highly probable that war with Poland is imminent and I cannot believe (as Hitler pretends to do) that the Western Powers will remain neutral. Some people believe we must go through the catastrophe of a world war, in which the chances of defeat are 80 per cent, in order to achieve healthy conditions at home. I cannot share this hope, and consider the whole business an irresponsible adventure, both from the National Socialist point of view and from that of an enemy of the Nazi regime. All clear-headed people should do all in their power to prevent war. The only question is what one can do. See more

News from Nostitz (Foreign Office): the third and last wave of partial mobilization against Poland is now in progress. At the top, ugly demeanor and wobbling for the first time; orders and counter-orders, for instance with reference to an earlier plan to stage the naval demonstration off Danzig. Ribbentrop behaving like a lunatic, unbearable in the office, and has lost whatever friends he ever had. Involved in a battle with Goebbels, is in Göring's bad books and of late has not been seeing eye to eye with Hess. Göring still appears to be the most sensible but - as I heard today from another source - does not wish to be discredited again as a coward.

Widespread war psychosis. One might say that the situation is so much the result of the Anti-Comintern Pact that Molotov holds the future of the world in his hands. [Christian Weber scandal.] One might well believe from their vacillating conduct that the Soviets are deliberately planning to bring about a war in Europe.

The decision was reached after Mussolini ‘finally’ agreed to go along with it. Hitler is supposed to have thanked him, adding that he appreciated it more because Italy would have to bear the brunt of the first thrust. Mussolini is alleged to have declared that he would refuse to be drawn into a war if Russia had a pact with the Western Powers. His main worry is the Black Sea Fleet. This does not seem very plausible. 

The editor of the Fränkischer Kurier has been informed of the seriousness of the international situation by personages high up in the Propaganda Ministry. Is this a bluff? Does not seem likely to me. According to them, on about 20 August, the Poles will be attacked by Germany and Lithuania, to whom we have apparently promised Vilna. Shortly before that there will be a propaganda build-up.