THE TANA DAM
At the Stresa Conference "it Would have been possible to warn Germany in such a way as to cure her of any fancy that she could sooner or later start a new war. It would have been necessary to speak out loud and strong, and, in addition, to work out and make public some draconian decisions conforming to the spirit and the letter of the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact." Nothing was done. After two days of sibylline reserve, the English delegates said that the British Government must be governed by public opinion, and British public opinion was not aware of what the great interests of Britain on the European continent were. Every British citizen realized that any German threat in Belgium or Holland, and even in the Scandinavian countries, would represent danger to England and the Empire, but it was hard to make him understand the necessity of a British military intervention in the defence of Austria or of Czechoslovakia. It would take time before public opinion reached a clear judgment on those points. Britain was a democratic, parliamentary country, and the Government had to follow popular will.1 The truth was that Hitler was heartily detested by the bulk of the British people, and nothing would have been easier than to convince them that it was necessary to talk clearly and forcefully to him. It was the leaders of the Conservative Party who did not understand, or rather did not wish to understand, the situation, and hid behind the pretended blindness of their people.
In the memorandum he wrote in the prison of Fresnes while awaiting execution ( October 2, 1945), Laval stated that at Stresa his discussion with the British delegation was "rather heated" ("assez vif"):
"I asked Mr. MacDonald, in the face of the German danger which was growing clearer, to form a chain from London to Moscow. I had signed the Rome agreements and the Franco-Soviet pact. They had swept away difficulties which had been deemed insurmountable. But England was not yet ready to consider that policy of encirclement of Germany which alone might have made it impossible for Hitler to become noxious and thus would have prevented war."
Laval was writing in his own defence, and was not above altering the truth. But his statement regarding MacDonald's and Sir John____________________
"At Stresa itself, we refused to hear of immediate sanctions against further treaty violation, or to make a bilateral air pact in advance of a general agreement."