Sunday, August 28, 2016

ADSS 1.200 Pius XII notes on prevention of war

ADSS 1.200 Pope Pius XII, notes

Reference: AES 6114/39; Edited version in L’Osservatore Romano, 15.09.1939

Location and date: Vatican, 13.09.1939

Summary statement: The Pope has done everything possible to prevent the war.

Language: Italian

An English newspaper (Manchester Guardian) has printed an article stating that during the last days preceding the war a number of telegrams were sent to the Holy Father asking him to call immediately and in person on the Chancellor of the Reich, Herr Hitler, and to visit the German and Polish nations in order to avoid cruel and wanton international slaughter. (1)
We are in a position to state that His Holiness up to the last moment has unceasingly tried to precent hostilities, not only through the initiatives already known to the public, but also through confidential and practical steps.  He has exhausted all possibilities which still gave some ope of maintaining peace or, at least, to exclude an immediate danger of war.

(1) George Glasgow, “Pope and Peace: Heroism and the Ordeal”, Manchester Guardian, 10.09.1939.

ADSS 1.199 Valeri to Maglione: French hopes for Italian Neutrality

ADSS 1.199 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 9100/298, (AES 6563/39)

Location and date: Paris, 13.09.1939

Summary statement: Meeting with French Foreign Minister, George Bonnet (1889-1973).  Italian neutrality appears secure.

Language: Italian


The day before yesterday, 11 September, I asked for an audience with Minister Bonnet (1) to talk to him about various difficulties that members of this Diplomatic Corps were experiencing on account of the recent security measures, when they were away from Paris.  Many of them, in fact, go to and fro having found accommodation outside Paris.

I took advantage of this meeting to talk to him about other things.  This I reminded the Prime Minister to see that steps were taken to protect the members of religious orders at least.  M. Bonnet promised he would deal with this immediately.  I also spoke to him about those missionaries in the republic of Haiti, on whose behalf you have given me instructions, and who are in danger of being called up.  On this point too the Government will try to satisfy the wishes of the Holy See.

We went on to talk about the international situation and especially about Italy.  M. Bonnet has seen M. Poncet (2) before me and told me that the news received form him was good.  He told me that Minister Ciano had called him by telephone on 31 August to inform him about the attempt made in extremis by Mussolini (3) to call a Conference, and on that occasion he had noticed the cordial tone of the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The French Government, it seems, already realise on an assured Italian neutrality, on this subject M. Bonnet suggested I should pay no attention to what people here, who do not know the facts, are saying, namely that it would be better if Italy entered the war. (4)  “The French and British Governments are of a completely different opinion” he affirmed.  He also said that the French Government was always ready to lend a friendly ear to the requests or wishes of Italy.

For my part, I assured him that the Holy See had done and would keep on doing everything in its power to limit the conflict, as, unfortunately, it had been impossible to prevent it and that the Holy Father considered it very important that good relations exist between France and Italy.  Then, as I pointed out the possible difficulties that might have to be overcome on account of the military pact between Germany and Italy, M. Bonnet replied he did not believe that there would be any difficulties in this respect, as, from information received from well informed sources during the Salzburg talks, M. Mussolini had sustained the view that a war need not be started for three years and that, in any case, Italy would have to agree to this. (5)

I have in fact received from other sources rumours that confirm the optimistic outlook of M. Bonnet.  Nor should we forget that Italy’s intervention, which would also affect Germany’s interests, would immediately be followed by Turkey’s entry into the war, as the Turkish Ambassador gave me to understand.  Hungary also wishes to remain neutral and her Minister here would like this to be known.

Before taking me leave, I asked M. Bonnet – who in the meantime was telling me that Marshal Petain had brought very good news from Spain and that France, Spain and Italy, if united could in the future carry out a great mission – if every hope had to be abandoned of stopping the conflict already in progress.  The reply did not leave me any illusions.

(1) George Bonnet (1889-1973), French Foreign Minister 1938-39.
(2) Andre Francois Poncet (1887-1978), French Ambassador to Italy 1938-40.
(3) According to Ciano Diario I, pp154-57, and of reports contained in DDI, Series 8, Volume 13, pp 407, 412, it appears Lord Halifax was the person to whom Ciano communicated the plan for a conference and the official information was given by the French and British Ambassadors.  On 2 September Ciano had a telephone conversation with Bonnet, this time to launch Mussolini’s plan afresh.
(4) See DGFP, Series D, Volume 7, n438.
(5) Ibid.

ADSS 1.198 Charles-Roux to Maglione: request for a papal condemnation of German aggression

ADSS 1.198 François Charles-Roux (1), French Ambassador to the Holy See, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: AES 6441/39

Location and date: Rome, 11.09.1939

Summary statement: Ambassador asks for a papal declaration against German aggression against Poland.  Refers to German announcement of the fall of Warsaw on 08.09. (2)

Language: French



According to my understanding of certain radio broadcasts, events in Poland have come to a dramatic pass, with Warsaw (whose capture the Germans announced three days ago) having been defended street by street, civilian populations in towns and villages bombed, strafed and starving, children butchered, hostages host and priests tortured.

In the face of such a situation, which revolts feelings already sickened by Germany’s aggression against Poland, I am more convinced that public opinion, including some in the country where I am writing these words, eagerly awaits some word from the Holy Father as a verdict and condemnation of such violence and cruelty.

I am taking the liberty of writing this to you so as not to lose more time by arranging a visit in person, and I thank you in anticipation for the accustomed indulgence shown to the French Ambassador and appreciation of how his duty in present circumstances impels the recording of such feeling which it is trusted you will forgive.  You do, I know, realise that my concern for my own country’s interests has never minimised my loyalty to the Holy See.

Personal note of Domenico Tardini:

12.09.1939 – Delivered by me to the Holy Father and returned by him to me 13.09.1939.

(1) François Charles-Roux (1879-1961), French Ambassdor to the Holy See 1932-40.

(2) The reports were false.  Wehrmacht troops reached the outskirts of the city on 08.09.1939.  Polish forces finally capitulated on 28.09.1939.

ADSS 1.197 Osborne to Maglione: UK believes Holy See has done everything it can for peace

ADSS 1.197 D’arcy Osborne, UK Minister to the Holy See, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: British Legation Number 99/14/39, (AES 6552/39)

Location and date: Rome, 09.09.1939

Summary statement: Lord Halifax believes the Holy See has done all it can for peace.  Drew attention to allied declaration to pursue ‘human methods of war.’

Language: French


In our last conversation you asked me if I thought that the Holy See had done everything possible for the sake of peace.  I unhesitatingly replied that I was convinced that she had. (1)

I discussed this conversation with Lord Halifax (2) who asked me to tell Your Eminence that he entirely agrees.

I added when writing to Lord Halifax that Your Eminence has again reassured me that you were always ready and willing to hear any suggestion from my Government regarding any action that it might consider possible or useful for the Holy See to take.

Lord Halifax then asked my to draw Your Eminence’s attention to the statements of the belligerent powers as to humane methods of war and to suggest to you the possibility of the Holy Father’s making some public mention of these.

Personal note of Domenico Tardini:

The Holy Father referred to the above in his speech on the occasion of the presentation of credentials by the Belgian Ambassador. (3)

(1) ADSS 1.171, n3
(2) Edward Wood (1881-1959), Viscount Halifax, UK Foreign Minister 1938-40.

(3) Adrian Nieuwenhuys, Belgian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-45. ADSS 1.202.  Tardini’s note was added after 14.09.1939.  The pope’s speech could not have been inspired by Osborne’s letter.

ADSS 1.196 Valeri to Maglione: French perspectives

ADSS 1.196 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State

Reference: Report number 9062/292 (AES 6443/39)

Location and date: Paris, 09.09.1939

Summary statement: France is calm.  Any peace offer from Hitler would be rejected unless it guaranteed Polish and Czechoslovakian independence.  UK has demanded Hitler’s head.

Language: Italian


As it is well known to Your Eminence the first days of war have not brought any action worthy of notice on the Franco-German front.  The three air raid warnings in Paris, apart form the panic created, were at most due to reconnaissance planes.  In fact nobody has spoken of damage to people or property although during the Wednesday warning the anti-aircraft guns went into action, with evident danger to the population, as soon as the sirens started. (1)

It is clear therefore that Hitler’s plan is to offer new negotiations as soon as poor Poland has been liquidated.  In this regard the Press here has not yet announced the capture of Warsaw, although neutral radio stations yesterday evening gave it out.  Will an offer by Hitler, which is highly probably, be accepted?  I very doubt it; such doubt would be confirmed by the retirement, in a future cabinet reshuffle or extension, of M. Bonnet who, in the audience he granted to me on 30 August, let slip the phrase “it is vital to urge counsels of restraint on Poland”. (2)

Nevertheless, if Hitler, while restoring Germany to her 1914 frontiers as far as Poland is concerned, were to guarantee independence to the remainder of the latter, offering for example Memel and a connecting strip of territory along the rim of East Prussia, and to restore full independence to Czechoslovakia, over which he has proclaimed no more than a protectorate, would there not be justifiable hopes of limiting and concluding the conflict? … I believe there would and that the international conference favoured by Mussolini could then take place.

It is true that Britain has more or less officially, as of now, demanded Hitler’s head.  This is a somewhat more serious matter … unless the Lord enlightens her and the Führer, after restoring the former Germany, retires from the world scene and leaves to others the task of governing people in peace.

(1) See Canberra Times, Wednesday 06.09.1939, “No air raid on Paris”. 

(2) ADSS 1.157

Amazon SearchBox