ADOLF HITLER REFUSES CHIANG KAI-SHEK'S DESPERATE PLEA AS CHINA COLLAPSES
CHIANG'S HITHERTO UNKNOWN EFFORT TO SWAY HITLER, GAMBLING PEACE WITH THE JAPANESE A historic, most important group of 17 letters and documents to and from the German Foreign Ministry, Reich Chancellery, Chinese Embassy, and associated offices documenting the desperate attempts of Gen. Chiang Kai-Shek's personal envoy and the Chinese Ambassador to Germany to deliver to Adolf Hitler a personal message from Gen. Chiang Kai-Shek, a gamble sent in the hope that Hitler would intervene in peace negotiations with the Japanese as defeat of the Chinese seemed inevitable. The official text of Chiang's letter to Hitler, as delivered to Hitler and never before revealed, is included in this grouping as well. The grouping spans the dates between September 26, 1937 and February 5, 1938, with the bulk of the material from late November to early December, 1936. These dates correspond exactly with the 'Trautmann Mediation' - an attempt by the German Ambassador to China, Oskar Trautmann, to broker a peace between Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe and Chiang Kai-shek of the Chinese Kuomintang Government. On November 5th, Trautmann had submitted to the Chinese terms asked by the Japanese in order to obtain a peace agreement. However, Chiang Kai-shek expected diplomatic or military assistance from outside parties, hence the desperate mission to bypass Trautmann and negotiate directly with Hitler to influence the Japanese to obtain better terms. Meantime, the Japanese were militarily pressing Shanghai which would fall during these events. The first document in the grouping is the text of a telegram from German Ambassador OSKAR TRAUTMANN in Nanking to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Sep. 6, 1937. Trautmann advises that Chinese 'General 'Chiang Po-Li' [sic, actually TSIANG PA-LIE] will be travelling to Germany on behalf of Marshal Chiang Kai-Shek 'with the special mission to bring a personal letter from him to the Fuhrer...The letter seems mainly to contain the Marshal's thanks for the Germans working here'. This would prove to be a 'red herring' - the real reason being Chiang's seeking Hitler's influence in negotiations with the Japanese. On Oct. 13th, ERICH BOLTZE (1891-1981), German diplomat and Deputy Chief of Protocol, sends a signed report to State Secretary OTTO MEISSNER detailing Gen. Tsiang's background: '...55 years old and speaks German very well...In 1932, Chiang Kai-Shek moved him...to Nanking where he has since acted as a member of the military council with special responsibility for technical financial questions...Very close relations have so far existed between him and the German military advisors in Nanking...During the Olympic Games he was in Germany...[and] got to know General Field Marshal von Blomberg...a particularly important representative of Marshal Chiang Kai-Shek...' On Nov. 3, 1937 (two days before Trautmann's talks with the Chinese and Japanese commenced), OTTO MEISSNER initials a typed note for his files: 'At my talk with him today, the Fuhrer declined to give a personal audience to Lieutenant-General Chiang Po-Li. He leaves it to the last-named to decide whether to hand over the letter to the Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs [von Ribbentrop] or to me, so that it can be passed to the Fuhrer...'. Hitler's refusal to meet is echoed in a retained copy of a Nov. 4 message sent by the Chancellery to the Foreign Ministry citing 'great demands' on Hitler and his 'imminent departure'. On Nov. 24, VICCO VON BULOW-SCHWANTE (1891-1970), Chief of Protocol and later Ambassador to Belgium, sends a signed message to State Secretary OTTO MEISSNER reporting that Gen. Pa-Lie had been advised via the Chinese Embassy that Hitler had asked that Chiang Kai-Shek's letter be handed to Meissner for delivery to Hitler. It further reports that the Tsiang: '...replied that his mandate was to hand over the letter personally to the Fuhrer...he would be staying in Berlin for several more weeks...[and] he hoped to be received later by the Fuhrer...At the same time, he let it be known that the Italian Prime Minister Mussolini had also received him in Rome...the Chinese government is considering appointing [him]...as its ambassador in Berlin....' It further urges a private audience with Hitler. Also included are two calling cards, one each from Gen. Pa-Lie and Lin Tsin-Sen, a member of the Supreme National Defense Council, both enclosed in an enveloped marked: 'To be sent immediately by a special officer.' These cards were filed with a typed note stating that a reciprocating card was sent from Meissner with a message delivered by a lower legation counsellor advising: 'The Fuhrer and Reichs Chancellor is at present moment exceptionally busy. The Chinese general may care to give the Marshal's letter...to the Secretary of State...After taking cognizance of the contents of the letter, the Fuhrer...will decide on the question of whether personally to receive the general. Bring up in one week's time...' A signed copy of this report is also present, signed by WERNER KIEWITZ (1891-1965), a German diplomat later punished with assignment to the murderous Dirlewanger Brigade. Kiewitz was a ministerial advisor under Otto Meissner. Included also is a retained copy of the text of a Dec. 1, 1937 report from German Foreign Minister KONSTANTIN VON NEURATH (1873-1956). He reports on a meeting with the indefatigable General Tsiang Pa-Lie: 'The Chinese ambassador visited me today, in company with Lieutenant General Tsiang Pa-Lie. The latter repeated the request...that he should have the opportunity of handing personally to the Fuhrer a letter from Marshal Chiang Kai-Shek. He stated that he had been instructed by the Marshal to give the letter to no one but the Fuhrer in person. I told him...the matter was already handled by the head of the Presidential Chancellery [Meissner]. I made the suggestion that he should, above all, send a German translation of the letter to Meissner....' The letter is annotated at bottom by Werner Kiewitz who notes that 'Tan, First Secretary of the [Chinese] embassy...thought that the general would probably hand over a German translation...' Finally, the general relents. There is first a signed letter on official Chinese Embassy letterhead from Ambassador CHENG TIEN-FONG (aka Cheng Tianfang, 1899-1967), the first such ambassador to Germany who would later flee to Taiwan in 1950. On December 6, 1937 he signs a typed cover letter to State Secretary OTTO MEISSNER: '...As Your Excellency might already be aware, Lieutenant General Tsiang Pa-Lie has been commissioned to deliver personally to H.E. the German Reich Chancellor a handwritten letter from Marshal Chiang Kai-Shek. I take this opportunity to send Your Excellency the enclosed German translation of this letter...General Tsiang Pa-Lie would be happy to fulfill his mission [to meet Hitler] as soon as possible...' Included with his letter is the actual German translation of Chiang Kai-Shek's fawning and desperate letter to Hitler, typed on Chinese Embassy letterhead. It has never been published. It reads, in part: '...I have the honor to send my personal representative, General Tsiang Pa-Lie, to Germany, to express my deep admiration for the sweeping successes of the Third Reich. I think that I can affirm that the spirit of the new Germany, with its loyalty and sense of duty, provides the Chinese people with the highest example. I am of the view that it is quite impossible for Communism to force its way into a nation which stands united under the will of a single leader, and which is always ready to sacrifice itself for the Fatherland. China is fighting for its honor and independence. The Chinese people can fulfill its destiny as a civilized nation, as it has in the course of history, only on the condition that it is united and free. I should be very grateful, if General Tsiang Pa-Lie could have the opportunity of describing to Your Excellency in detail the aim of the Chinese government...' General Pa-Lie was too late...by the end of November, the military situation for China had become hopeless. The fall of Nanking, the capital, was imminent. Chiang Kai-shek had little choice but to accept the first Japanese proposal as the basis of peace negotiations, which was communicated to Trautmann on December 2nd. However, Japanese hard liners, fresh from their victory in Shanghai ten days before Chiang Kai-Shek's letter was delivered to Meissner, decided to change the terms of any peace proposal to improve their position. The new terms were far beyond what was acceptable to Chiang. He refused them but did not make an official reply. In Berlin, and taking his time, Meissner prepared a heavily annotated draft response to Chiang's letter on December 14th - eight full days after receiving the Marshal's plea. He advises Ambassador Tien-Fong Cheng that he has given the text of Chiang's letter to Hitler, adding: '...The German Reich Chancellor has noted the contents of the handwritten letter, and has instructed me to inform Your Excellency that, to his regret, he does not see himself as being in a position, in view of the heavy demands on him, personally to receive Lieutenant-General Tsiang Pa-Lie...[He] instructed Freiherr von Neurath...to receive the visit...[I] would ask Your Excellency to concert further arrangements for the latter...' Hitler offered no additional commentary. Also present is a copy of Meissner's letter on the same day to von Neurath sending a copy of his letter to the Chinese ambassador. To make matters worse for General Tsiang, there is included a retained copy of Meissner's December 19 letter to Ambassador Cheng advising that still no audience with Hitler would be possible: '...The Fuhrer...asked me to tell you that he would be absent from Berlin from the day after tomorrow until January 10, 1938...' On January 12th, Meissner adds a 'Note for the file', reading in part: '...The Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor decided...that he now definitely declines to receive General Tsiang Pa-Lie; he has instructed me, in case the Chinese ambassador further approaches me in connection with such an audience, to return a negative response on the grounds that the Fuhrer has such heavy claims made upon him by his other duties that it is impossible for him...He has already taken cognizance of the contents of the letter [from Chiang Kai-Shek]...' Three days after Hitler made his final decision, Japanese primary cabinet members and military leaders held a conference. There was a heated argument about the continuation of the Trautmann mediation, and on the same day, Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe reported the cabinet's conclusion to Hirohito: termination of Trautmann's mediation. The next day, January 16, 1938, Konoe announced: 'The Japanese government will not negotiate with the Chiang Kai-shek government anymore.' Thus ended any hope of peace with the Japanese. Clearly, Chiang Kai-Shek had wagered everything on having General Tsiang Pa-Lie convince Hitler that he, Chiang, was cast in the same mold: an anti-communist, pro-fascist strongman, all with the desperate hope that Hitler would intervene in the negotiations with Japan in favor of Chiang. He had good reason to be optimistic, as throughout the Thirties Sino-German relations, both commercial and political, had been strong and friendly. But Hitler chose Japan as his ally against the Soviet Union as that nation was militarily strong and capable. In addition, the Sino-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 21, 1937 didn't serve to reassure Hitler of China's motivations. In the end, Chiang's desperate gambit failed and China's capital fell to Japan. History records the result of Chiang's miscalculation. The final insult in this historic episode is revealed in the last letter sent by Meissner to the Chinese Ambassador on February 5, 1938. In this retained copy, Meissner writes: '...In response to our recent conversation regarding the reception of Mr. Lieutenant-General Tsiang Pa-Lie...the Fuhrer has not yet been able to make a decision...[he] is travelling to southern Germany, from where he will not return until February 20th...' Nanking had fallen three weeks earlier, with an estimated 200,000 dead civilians, and 70,000 killed and murdered Chinese soldiers. Almost all of these documents are accompanied by full translations. File holes, docketing, some loss at corners, else overall fine condition.