Posted Tuesday, August 10, 1999

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London, August 9 1999

Britain 'ready to betray Poland in 1939'



A GROUP of British industrialists proposed to Hermann Goering a four-power conference on the future of Poland to dissuade Hitler from invading the country, a historian claimed yesterday.

Andrew Roberts has studied hitherto unpublished papers belonging to Lord Aberconway, the only surviving member of the delegation. Mr Roberts says the discovery suggests that the Government was prepared to go further in appeasing Hitler than had been thought and that Neville Chamberlain was ready to consider in effect betraying Poland.

His claims were dismissed last night by other historians and by Lord Aberconway.

The meeting, most details of which have long been known, took place on August 7, 1939 on a German island in the Baltic. Goering was present with a team of advisers.

Britain had guaranteed Poland's security but, according to Roberts, the British delegation told Goering's team that "it would of course be best if an attempt were made to solve the problem by negotiation before the killing started".

Speaking from his home in North Wales yesterday, Lord Aberconway said: "This makes me sound as though I was part of a campaign to betray Poland, which is nonsense. We never gave any indication of that to Goering; we were there to make absolutely clear to him that Britain was prepared to fight for Poland. The Government felt this message was not getting through." 

Professor Donald Cameron Watt, a leading authority, said that the suggestion of a four-power conference on Poland had not been known to historians, but that it was almost certainly an idea that Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, had tossed out without having thought it through. "There is no evidence that he ever talked abou it to Chamberlain; it came nowhere near being a formal British proposal."

ROBERTS published his claims in the The Sunday Telegraph newspaper on August 8, 1999. David Irving has written the following letter to the newspaper:

Selling out Poland 
Good news to hear that Britain did not sell out Poland in August 1939 (we waited until 1945, at the cost of millions of lives, immense destruction, and the loss of our own empire, before doing that).

Andrew Roberts' discovery of that "secret" meeting between seven British businessmen and Field Marshal Göring near Sylt was not news, however: I described it at great length ten years ago, on pages 255-7 of my biography of Hermann Göring (Macmillan, 1989), basing my narrative on Göring's own and other secret documents.

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