Words & Speeches of WW2, December 14th to 20th, 1939

Tuesday, Devember 14th, 1939

Mr G.A. Grippenburg, Finish Minister, at a meeting at the House of Lords:

I stand before you as a representative of a small, democratic, preace-loving country which overnight, without warning and witout any declaration of war, has become the victim of the most ruthless aggression. Finland has striven unceasingly for agreement. We were willing to go very far in roder to avoid what has now happened, but the Russian Government would not have it.

There was no reason for FInland to refuse to discuss any question that the Soviet Government wanted to discuss. To give some conception of what the Russuan demands clearly meant, I will make a comparison. Think what it would mean to Great Britain if some neighbour about a forty time bigger than this country demanded the Channel Islands, the Isle of Wight, the port of Southampton, the port of Liverpool, and part of the county of Kent, and also aksed to be allowed to keep garrisons in some ports and enter into a military alliance which would make it possible for the bigger country to direct the foreign and home policies of the smaller country…

We want so far as to accept two-thirds of the Russian terms, but there was one condition we had to stick to. We could not accept anything which would have jeopardised our right to live as free men and women in the land of our fathers….While discussing this the Russian Government suddenly started the so-called incidents….

Even after the beginning of the war, after hundreds of causalities among the civil population, our Government let it be known to Russia that we were still willing to come to terms on conditions that a life of liberty and independence would be recognised. Molotov said he would not have any negotiations at all, and so we fight. The Finnish Prime Minister has said “We will hold out, but if we perish, then we believe that our fight has been an inspiration to the whole world”. And so I believe it is, for ours is the cause of all nations who love freedom.

Mr Chamberlain in the House of Commons:

It was generally agreed during the deliberations at Geneva in September of last year that each member of the League shoudl decide for itself, in the light of its own position and conscience, on the nature of the sanctions which it would apply under Article XVI of the Covenant against an aggressor State. His Majesty’s Government for their part have always hed the view that no member State ought to remain indifferent to a clear case of aggression of the sort with which we are now faced. At the outset of the attack on Finland, adn before the question had been raised at Geneva, they decided to permit the release and immediate delivery to Finland by the manufacturers concerned of a number of fighter aircraft of which the Finnish Government stood in urgent need, and they intended similarily to release other material which will be of assitance to the Finnish Government….

The opportunity provided by this conflict has been eagerly seized upon by the German propaganda machine, and by many people acting consciously or unconsciously in its service, to deflect attention from teh priary objective of the Allied War effort, which is the defeat of Nazi Germany. We must never lose sight of that objective. We must never forget that it was German aggression which paved the way for the Soviet attack on Poland, and Finland, and that Germany, alone among the nations, is even now abetting by word and deed the Russian aggressor.

We must all give what help and support we can spare to the latest victim of these destrictive forces; but meanwhile it is only by concentrating on our task of resistance to German aggression, and thus attacking the evil at its root, that we can hope to save the nations of Europe from the fate which must otherwise overtake them.

Saturday, December 16th

Count Ciano, Italian Foreign Minister, in a speech to the Chamber of Fascios and Corporations.

….The singular importance of the decison taken by the Governments of Moscow and Berlin to sign a mutual pact of non-aggression was emphasized by the sense of surprose which the communication aroused throughout the world.

For many months France and Britain attempted a policy of close collaboration with Russia which should have led to a much-heralded pact, and which, according to press reports, might even have reached the point of military collaboration. True, the slowness with which the negotiations went on and the existence of certain problems with regard to which a fundamental divergence of view between Russia and western democracies has arisen had unduced scepticism as to the possibility of arriving at a speedy and favourable conclusion.

Few people, however, were expecting an epilogue such as the one experiences with the conclusion of the German-Russian Pact. The truth is that Russia was going through a bitter crises due to the pitiless purge of Lenin’s Old Guard conducted in three memorable trials, following which dozens death sentances against leaders of the Revoltion Army field-mrshalls, admirals, and ambassadors had been carried out. The country was now being readmitted into the prestige of international politics by the great democracies, whoc envoys had for five months been filling the the waiting rooms of that inaccessible fortress known as the Kremlin. If the great democracies had only ignored Russia, Germany would have had good reason to want to do likewise.

The question had been breached with the German Government as far back as April and May. At that time we had agreed to proceed to a policy of detente with regard to Russia. Our object was to obtain the neutralisation of Russia adn to keep her from entering the system of encirclement planned by the great democracies-an action therefore of limited scope. in any case it appeared to us impossible to reach any more distant goal in view of the fundamentally hostile attitude which Nazi Germany had always assumed with regard to Russia…..

Once hostilities had begun and the Franco-British decision to assist Poland had been made known, the Fascist Government in it’s communique issued on September 1st, following a meeting of the Cabinet, stated that Italy would not take any initiative of a military character. This decision was previously known to the German Government and to the German Government alone. It defined the Italian attitude with regard to which there existed a full accordance of views with the German Government. The position assumed by Italy on September 1st was a position of non-belligerence, strictly in conformity with the German intention of localising the conflict and strictly ensuing from the pact and collateral undertakings existing between Italy and Germany. These and no other are the reasons for Italy’s statement of a military character…..

It is universally recognised that the realistic attitude of Italy has prevented a generalisation of the conflict, which is in the interest of our country and of all States. I wish to make it clear that no initiative has been taken by the Fascist Government so far, not is it our intention, as things stand, to take any.

I would add that Italy reaffirms her desire to maintain and consolidate order and peace in the Danube and Baltic region. A the same time she does not believe that the formation of any kind of bloc can be of use tot he countries which would take part in it, nor would such a bloc serve the higher purpose of hastening the re-establishment of peace….

Fascist Italy continues to follow with a vigilant spirit the development of event’s, even ready, it is be possible, once again to make her contribution towards world peace, but equally her interests and her traffic on land, at sea and in the air, as well as her prestige and her future as a Great Power.

Wednesday December 20th

Mr. RG Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, in a broadcast:

…..Some of the ingenious gentlemen who broadcast from Berlin are feverishly engaged from day to day trying to explain to you that a country like Australia is really not involved in this war, that Australia is really not involved in the war, that Australia will simply sell food-stuffs to Great Britain and hope to make some profit, but that otherwise she will take care to risk no soldiers or ships or airmen or seamen in the conflict.

This silly falsehood has done service before. It overlooks the record of Australia in the last war; it overlooks the contribution of Australia made in blood as well as in treasure towards the winning of that war. It ignores the fighting Australian spirit. It seeks to reduce a race of free and vigorous and courageous men and women to the level of mere bargainers.

I say this to you without mental reservation and without ambiguity. If Australia were to do what the German propaganda says she proposes to do, she would be no more than a benevolent neutral. But because, in truth, she is not only furnishing Great Britain with material supplies, but is in course of providing for active service thousands of sailors, I am able to say we are not benevolent neutrals. We are belligerent partners. WE are in this war to win. We did not enter is lightly and we will not depart from it except as victors. Germany need encourage herself with no false hopes. She will discover to her cost that the winning of this war and the success of our noble cause are just as much the business of Australians as of Englishmen, of New Zealanders as of Scotsmen, of Canadians as of Irishmen. Scattered though we may be over the seven seas of the world, living in different countries, governing our own affairs, conducting our own international discussions, and handling our own trade, we are still one people. What touches one, touches all; what is vital to one is the supreme business of all.

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