No. 128-133: King Léopold III's Appeal for Peace and Responses

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23 Aug 1939

ww2dbaseNo. 128: Belgian King Léopold III's Appeal, 23 Aug 1939

(Translation.) The Appeal.

THE declaration which I am about to read is being made in the Palace of Brussels in the presence of the Foreign Ministers of the Oslo Group of States and in the name of the Heads of those States.

The world is living through a period of tension such that there is a risk that all normal collaboration between States will become impossible. The Great Powers are taking measures almost equivalent to the mobilisation of their armed forces. Have not the small Powers reason to fear that they will be victims in a subsequent conflict into which they will be dragged against their will in spite of their policy of indisputable independence and of their firm desire for neutrality? Are they not liable to become the subject of arrangements reached without their having been consulted?

Even if hostilities do not begin, the world is menaced by economic collapse. Mistrust and suspicion reign everywhere. Beneath our very eyes the camps are forming, armies are gathering and a fearful struggle is being prepared in Europe. Is our continent to commit suicide in a terrifying war at the end of which no nation could call itself victor or vanquished, but in which the spiritual and material values created by centuries of civilisation would founder?

War psychosis is invading every home, and although conscious of the unimaginable catastrophe which a conflagration would mean for all mankind, public opinion abandons itself more and more to the idea that we are inevitably to be dragged into it. It is important to react against so fatal a spirit of resignation.

There is no people-we assert it with confidence-which would wish to send its children to death in order to take away from other nations that right to existence which it claims for itself.

It is true that all States do not have the same interests, but are there any interests which cannot be infinitely better reconciled before than after a war?

The consciousness of the world must be awakened. The worst can still be avoided, but time is short. The sequence of events may soon render all direct contact still more difficult.

Let there be no mistake. We know that the right to live must rest on a solid basis, and the peace that we desire is the peace in which the rights of all nations shall be respected. A lasting peace cannot be founded on force, but only on a moral order.

Does not wisdom order us to withstand the war of words, incitements and threats, and agree to discuss the problems before us? We herewith solemnly express the wish that the men who are responsible for the course of events should agree to submit their disputes and their claims to open negotiation carried out in a spirit of brotherly co-operation.

It is for this reason that in the name of His Majesty the King of Denmark, the President of the Republic of Finland, Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess of Luxemburg, His Majesty the King of Norway, Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, His Majesty the King of Sweden, and in my own name, each of us, acting in agreement with our respective Governments, issue this appeal. We express the hope that other heads of States will join their voices to ours in this same anxiety to maintain peace and safety for their peoples.

To-morrow hundreds of millions of men will be at one with us in their wish to stop the course of events leading to war. We can only hope that those in whose hands rests the fate of the world will respond to these sentiments, give effect to the desire which they have so often expressed that the disputes which separate them shall be settled in peace, and thereby avoid the catastrophe which threatens humanity.

No. 129: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Halifax's Response via British Ambassador to Belgium R. Clive, 24 Aug 1939

(Telegraphic.) Foreign Office, August 24, 1939.

His Majesty's Government welcome and are in full sympathy with the appeal issued by His Majesty the King of the Belgians on behalf of representatives of the Oslo Group of Powers assembled in conference at Brussels.

His Majesty's Government for their part have repeatedly expressed their desire to see all questions arising between nations settled by free negotiation, and they are at all times willing to do their utmost to contribute to the creation of conditions in which such negotiation might be carried to a successful and satisfactory conclusion.

Acquiescence in the imposition of settlements by force or threat of force can only hinder and thwart the efforts of those who strive to establish an international order of things in which peace may be maintained and justice done without violating the rights or independence of any sovereign State.

No. 130: French Response, 26 Aug 1939


The noble and generous appeal put forward by His Majesty the King of the Belgians in the name of the representatives of the Oslo Group of States assembled at Brussels has been welcomed by the French Government with the deepest sympathy. The contributions which France has made at all times to the cause of peace and her constant preoccupation to see peaceful methods set up for the settlement of all the problems which arise between peoples leaves no room for doubt as to the general views of the French Government. They remain ready to associate themselves with any initiative the object of which is to create an atmosphere favourable to a lessening in international tension. While resolved to accept no solution imposed by violence or threats, they believe that by their attitude they are contributing to the maintenance of peace and at the same time to the establishment in Europe and in the world of conditions assuring all States that their independence will be guaranteed and their most sacred rights respected.

No. 131: United States President Franklin Roosevelt's Response, 25 Aug 1939

I have read with great satisfaction Your Majesty's proclamation of the 23rd August, and your appeal for the maintenance of peace made in the name of the Oslo group of Powers. Your Majesty expressed the hope that other Heads of States might join their voices with yours in the same desire to preserve peace and safety for their peoples. I take this opportunity to assure you that the people of the United States and their Government cordially share the hopes and aspirations so eloquently expressed by Your Majesty.

No. 132: Polish Response, 25 Aug 1939

I have noted the noble speech of Your Majesty with profound admiration for the ideas which you have expressed. Poland has always defended the idea that power, if it is to last, cannot be based on the oppression of others. Similarly, Poland has always considered the best guarantee of peace to be the settlement of international disputes by the method of direct negotiations based on justice and respect for the rights and interests of those concerned.

No. 133: Summary of Pope XII's Response

In his reply, which was in the form of an autograph letter, Pope Pius XII conveyed his gratitude to the King of the Belgians and expressed his sincere hope that the sentiments expressed by the King of the Belgians would be favourably received by the parties concerned. ww2dbase

The British War Bluebook; courtesy of Yale Law School Avalon Project

Added By:
C. Peter Chen

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