Monday, October 11, 2010

The story of Enrico Galeazzi 1943

One of the strangest stories to emerge from a close reading of ADSS is one that I had clearly missed on the first read through several years ago.  I say "missed", because I was not looking for it, was not expecting anything like it, and so did not see it.  Now that I am engaged in a slow detailed reading of the whole of ADSS (I am now into year three and only up to Volume 7 - leaving out Volume 6 for the moment) I am cranky at myself for being so focused on finding evidence about Vatican engagement in rescue work etc that I missed this incident.

Throughout 1943 the Vatican was increasingly concerned at the threat of Allied bombing of Rome.  When the city was badly hit on 19 July Pius wrote urgently to Roosevelt, pleading to spare the city.  The tone was more desperate but the substance of the Pope's letter and those of the Cardinal Secretary of State, Luigi Maglione, was in keeping with a large number of documents written since late 1942 appealing to the Allies to spare Rome. 

Saving Rome was clearly one of the priorities of the Holy See and part of the strategy was to convince both the Italian government and the Allies to respect Rome as an "Open City".  Things seemed to be working towards this goal until the debacle in late July when Mussolini was sacked and arrested.  The interim government under Marshal Badoglio promised to demilitarise Rome and continue the war - though it was clear that very few believed him.  Hitler certainly did not.  The Allies were not convinced of the sincerity of much of the Badoglio rhetoric and refused to rule out future raids over Rome.  The Germans were watching the situation carefully; Rommel moved from the Brenner Pass into Bologna and was waiting for the order to occupy the peninsula.  Marshal Albert Kesselring had withdrawn from Sicily with an intact German military force that was vastly superior to the Italians.  The Pope dreaded a slow "scorched earth" fate for Italy.

Believing FDR would be more impressed by an eye-witness to the devastation caused by the bombing of Rome, Pius asked an architect, Enrico Pietro Galeazzi (1896-1986) to travel to Washington and plead the cause of the Eternal City.  Galeazzi was the Rome director of the Catholic men's fraternity the American based "Knights of Columbus".


Reading the account from the documents in Volume 7 of ADSS I have reconstructed a timeline:

In early August 1943 the Vatican was convinced that the Badoglio government would declare Rome an "Open City".  This was sent out to the Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates with instructions to publish the news in the Catholic press.

13 August:  Rome bombed for a second time.  Papal diplomatic activity becomes frantic.

Doc 339: 13 August: Cardinal Maglione wrote to William Godfrey, the Apostolic Delegate in the UK asking for a visa for Enrico Galeazzi to travel to Washington on Vatican business.

As a personal representative of the Pope, Galeazzi travelled on a Vatican passport.


A visa was issued by Harold Tittmann, the USA Charge d'affaires in the Vatican on 26 August (valid from 21 August) which allowed Galeazzi permission to make one journey to the USA.


Doc 374: 28 August: Maglione telegraphed Galeazzi's instructions to Amleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate in Washington.  In summary - Situation in Italy is serious; fears of a German coup and occupation, desire for peace.  Dangerous situation for Rome and the Vatican.  Danger of communism.

Galeazzi left Rome shortly after and travelled to the USA via Spain and Portugal.  He arrived in Washington on 8 September.  Unknown to Galeazzi, the Italian government signed an armistice with the Allies on 3 September in Sicily.  His mission was about to be scuttled.   

Doc 381: 6 September: Maglione telegraphed Cicognani in Washington informing him that the situation in Italy had changed and that Galeazzi's letter for FDR now only partially corresponded to the reality.

On 8 September the Armistice was announced in Italy.  Galeazzi's mission was effectively over.  Pius knew the Germans would move quickly to secure the country and impose a military government.  All diplomatic efforts to have Rome declared an "Open City" were now void.  It would be up to the Germans to decide if they would make an announcement.  The situation in mid-September did not bode well for such a decision.

Doc 402: 13 September: Maglione instructed Cicognani that Galeazzi was to limit his discussion with FDR to administrative issues concerning prisoners of war and Sicily.

Doc 412: 21 September: Pietro Ciriaci, Nuncio in Portugal telegraphed Maglione asking for instructions for Galeazzi's return to Italy.  Would he proceed to Rome via Switzerland and Germany or through Algeria and Sicily?  (Instructions arrived in Lisbon from Rome on 2 October [Doc 419])

Galeazzi left the USA on 19 September 1943.  He arrived in Lisbon on 20 September before travelling to Madrid where he applied for a German visa to travel through Occupied Europe.  The German visa was issued on 18 October permitting him to travel through France.  Galeazzi arrived back in Rome on 23.10.1943.


On 26 June 1944, Domenico Tardini, who worked in the Secretariat of State wrote an assessment of Galeazzi's mission within the context of the collapse of Italy over the summer of 1943.  It is an attachment to Doc 374.

What struck me most about the Galeazzi mission was the high level of energy put into the attempts to spare Rome from bombing and have it declared an "Open City".  While the cause was noble and had enormous popular support from Catholics around the world, it begs the question of "what if?"  If the Pope could send a private emissary to Washington to plead for Rome, could he have sent a similar emissary to plead for the most persecuted people on the continent - the Jews?

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