Monday, April 13, 2015

ADSS 1.5 Valerio Valeri, France to Cardinal Maglione: French government opinion on European situation

ADSS 1.5 Valerio Valeri, France (1) to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Report 7902/39 (AES 1761/39)

Location and date: Paris, 28.03.1939

Summary statement: Reactions of public opinion and Government circles regarding the international situation.

Language: Italian


The speech delivered last Sunday by the Italian head of State has given rise, as was to be expected, to a great deal of discussion owing to the importance and seriousness of the problems outlined by Signor Mussolini in connection with the Franco-Italian tension. (2)

In this respect the opinion of the Press, as your Eminence will certainly have noted, is somewhat divided, especially due to the fact that although the speech had a violent tone, the formulation of the Italian claims was prudent and circumspect. (3)

The left-wing Press, however, shows great displeasure and attacks Mussolini, urging Daladier (4) not to cede any territory or any right whatsoever. This line of thought is followed to some extent by some of the right-wing papers, such as Figaro.

Papers of more moderate views – and even one or two radical papers like  La République – find in Mussolini’s speech an opening for an understanding and invite the Government to examine the possibility of reaching an agreement with Italy instead of adopting a rigidly negative position, which would lead inevitably to war.

In such a state of mind the speech that Mr Daladier will make on the radio tomorrow evening is anxiously awaited.  Some newspapers, like L’Epoque, are sure that the Prime Minister will not answer Mussolini directly.  In any case, no matter what style and form the statement takes, we can only hope that Mr Daladier will accept the counsel of moderation proffered to him by various members of his own Government.  As I have had, in fact, occasion to mention several times, the various Ministers are divided amongst themselves: some are in favour of coming to an understanding, others – one of whom is Mr Mandel, Minister for Colonies (5) – foster intransigence at any cost.  This division also seems to exist inside the Quai d’Orsay, where Mr Léger, the Secretary General, supports the leftish current of opinion against the moderate views of Mr Bonnet. (6)

In any case, the situation, on the whole, does not seem to have improved.  On the contrary, after the German coup in Czechoslovakia, the possibility of a war seems to have increased.  Mr Daladier has easily obtained emergency powers form Parliament and his Cabinet has already issued not a few directives for increasing war production, for recruiting men and for preparing the nation to face the possibility of a conflict, and public opinion, which a few months ago was indifferent to or against it, is becoming gradually resigned to this sad eventuality.

(1) Archbishop Valerio Valeri (1883-1963), Nuncio to France 1936-44.
(2) On Sunday 26.03.1939 Italian fascists celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of the Fascist Party.  Mussolini spoke about the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in terms not favourable to the Czechs.  Cf L’Osservatore Romano, 27-28.03.1939.
(3) In the same speech Mussolini mentioned his claims against France, regarding Tunis, Djibouti and Suez.
(4) Édouard Daladier (1884-1970), French Prime Minister 1938-40.
(5) Georges Mandel (1885-1944) French Minister of Colonies 1938-40.  Active in the Resistance he was arrested in Morocco and imprisoned in KZ Orianenburg and Buchenwald before being returned to France where the Milice murdered him.

(6) Quai d’Orsay was the location of the French Foreign Office; Alexis Léger (1887-1975), Secretary General of the French Foreign Office 1932-40; Georges Bonnett (1889-1973), French Foreign Minister 1938-39.

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