Sunday, May 31, 2015

ADSS 1.39 Valeri to Maglione: French reactions


ADSS 1.39 Valerio Valeri, France to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 8209 (AES 2930/39)

Location and date: Paris, 12.05.1939

Summary statement: French press and public opinion regarding the Pope’s initiative for peace and the international situation.

Language: Italian


The Press is starting to maintain a silence on the steps taken by the Holy See on behalf of peace.  Your Eminence must have noted, however, a satisfactory leader in the Temps of 11.05.1939; yet the same paper published in the last page of the same issue a small and very equivocal article to which I have already called your attention.  This news, according to what I have heard, had a very suspicious origin:  it seems the public relations office of the Quai d’Orsay released it.

Today the Figaro prints on its first page a fine article by L. Romier (1), which is in contrast to the not-so-respectful allusion to the Holy See, which appeared in the article by M. X. on 10.05.1939.  On the whole, as I said, silence is descending on this episode.

In my humble opinion, it is evident on the whole that at the present moment the so-called democratic states do not wish to have any contacts, but rather to enlarge and fortify the barrier set against the expansion of the totalitarian states.  The Democracies are convinced that in a few months the balance of power will tip in their favour.  This was told me by M. Bonnet and repeated the other day by the United States Ambassador, Mr Bullitt, who did not conceal his satisfaction in learning that the Holy See’s step would not have any sequel.  He, too, was of the opinion that the totalitarian States should be placed with their backs to the wall; only then, and after they had given guarantees to which Mr Roosevelt alluded to in his message, could talks be started.

This could be advantageous, certainly, but it is also extremely dangerous.

(1) Lucien Romier (1885-1944), a right-wing historian and journalist who, through the 1920s and 1930s, wrote regular opinion columns for a number of French broadsheets.  He supported a return to a more authoritarian government for France.  His anti-parliament stance won him favour with the Vichy regime where he served until 1943.  Increasingly critical of Petain and Laval’s policies, Romier died just before his arrest by the Gestapo in January 1944.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

ADSS 1.38 Maglione to Nuncios: update on papal peace proposal

ADSS 1.38 Luigi Maglione, Sec State to Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates in London, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Washington, Ottawa, Berne, San Sebastian, Budapest, Belgrade, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires.

Reference: Telegrams 7,27,80, 91, 143, 31, 17, 43, 34, 22, 13, 45, 30
(AES 2771/39)

Location and date: Vatican, 10.05.1939.

Summary statement: Maglione explains the intentions and results of the Pope’s peace proposals.

Language: Italian


On 03.05.1939, by order of His Holiness, I took a diplomatic step with France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Poland with the dual purpose:

1) To ascertain the peace intentions of the Governments of the five Powers concerned and to emphasise the opposition among all people to war:

2) To call a Conference of the same Powers if such a meeting appeared to be possible and necessary or at least useful in the present circumstances. 

The first purpose seems to have been attained: the Holy See has received assurances of good will and of the intention of the various Governments to preserve the peace so desired by the people.  Regarding the second point, the Conference does not appear at the moment to be necessary on account of the improvement of the general situation that has taken place in the meantime.  There is, in fact, the feeling that there is an easing of tension in international relations. (1)

Added for Washington: Your Excellency is asked to bring the above to the knowledge of the President informing him that the Holy Father had intended to request his good offices should the idea of the Conference have been carried out.

(1) It appears that the same communication was given to the Ambassadors, because D’Arcy Osborne, the British Minister to the Holy See, reported it to Lord Halifax by telegram on 10.05.1939.  See DBFP, Series 3, Volume 5, n454, pp 498-99.

ADSS 1.37 Cortesi to Maglione: Polish response to papal conference

ADSS 1.37 Filippo Cortesi, Poland to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Telegram 22 (AES 2766/39)

Location and date: Warsaw, 10.05.1939.

Summary statement: Polish government is not favourable to the Conference.

Language: Italian


The Foreign Minister (1) informs me:

President Republic (2), Poland’s Marshals [sic] (3), President Council Ministries (4), examined in meeting proposal of Holy Father, are in agreement with His august intentions, are afraid Conference members would not understand Poland’s Danzig interests and also feel not fully prepared to debate such matters: non-success may increase danger of war; suggest Holy See diplomatic action; are prepared to reconsider their point of view if interested Powers are favourable. (5)

(1) Jozef Beck (1894-1944), Polish Foreign Minister 1932-39.
(2) Ignacy Moscicki (1867-1946), President of Poland 1926-39.
(3) Edward Rydz-Smigly (1886-1947), Marshall of Poland 1936-41.  The Marshall was the highest command in the Polish armed forces given to commanders who achieved victory on the battlefield. Rydz-Smigly’s honour derived from his successes against the Red Army in 1920.
(4) Felicjan Slawoj Skladowski (1885-1962), Prime Minister of Poland 1936-39.
(5) The point of view of the Polish Government indicated above is confirmed in the message of Howard Kennard (1878-1955) British Ambassador to Poland 1937-39, to Lord Halifax (1881-1959), British Foreign Secretary (1938-40): “The Polish Government would prefer the alternative suggested by you, namely that the Pope should offer his good offices.  M. Beck feels that a conference without due preparation might possibly do more harm than good”. (DBFP, Series 3, Volume 5, n426, pp475-76).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

ADSS 1.36 Notes of Maglione: conversation with Italian ambassador on meeting with Ribbentrop

ADSS 1.36 Cardinal Maglione, Sec State, notes

Reference: AES 2769/39 Personal note

Location and date: Vatican, 09.05.1939

Summary statement: Conversation between Maglione and Bonifacio Pignatti, Italian ambassador to the Holy See (1) about meeting in Milan between Ciano and Ribbentrop.

Language: Italian


The Italian Ambassador, on instructions given to him by Count Ciano immediately after his return from Milan where met von Ribbentrop (2) has given me the following information:

During the Milan meeting the Foreign Ministers of Italy and Germany have examined – with the greatest interest – the approach of the Holy See to the two Axis Powers, Great Britain, France and Poland, on behalf of peace.  The two Ministers, in joint appreciation of the intentions shown by the Holy Father in proposing a Conference of the above-mentioned five Powers, have observed the improvement which has taken place in the international situation and believe that a Conference of the five Powers would not be premature and, in any case, not necessary at present. (3)

Count Pignatti added that the Holy See’s step has, in his view, attained its aim in clarifying and improving the situation. 

He then informed me that von Ribbentrop expressed to Count Ciano the same appreciation regarding the relations between the Holy See and Germany that he had already expressed to His Excellency Monsignor Orsenigo during the conversation between the Nuncio and Hitler. (4)

(1) Bonifacio Pignatti Morano di Custoza (1877-1957), Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1935-39.
(2) On 07.05.1939 Domenico Tardini (1888-1961), Secretariat of State – Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs (Vatican “Foreign Office”), informed the Pope regarding the Milan meeting in the following note: “07.05.1939. A radio broadcast (5.00pm) announces that Count Ciano and von Ribbentrop have examined in Milan the general situation and have decided to strengthen the Axis with a political and military pact to help the peace”.   Sent to His Holiness.  Returned by him 08.05.1939.
(3) According to the official report of the Milan meetings on 06-07.05.1939 between Ciano and Ribbentrop the following decision was reached regarding the Pope’s project for a conference: “It was arranged to thank the Pope for his initiative and to request him at this time to desist from appealing to the five Powers.  As stated by Count Ciano, the Duce has rejected any discussion about the Italian-French question before a conference”. (DGFP, Series D, Volume 6, n341, p374.
(4) See ADSS 1.29.

ADSS 1.35 Notes of Joseph Hurley, Secretariat of State on current tensions

ADSS 1.35 Notes of Fr Joseph Hurley, Secretariat of State (1)

Reference: AES 2778/39

Location and date: 09.05.1939

Summary statement: Conversation with Fr Hurley and A S Rogers, Secretary of the US Embassy to Italy. (2)

Language: Italian


Mr Rogers, Secretary of the American Embassy at the Quirinal, called this evening on Fr Hurley to ask for information regarding the news published by the New York Times today saying that the Holy See proposed a Five Power Conference (France, Italy, England, Germany, Poland) to settle all the problems that at present trouble the relations between Germany and Poland and between  others of the Great European Powers. (3)

Having guessed the purpose of the visit, Fr Hurley had already asked for instructions.  He was then able to answer that, as was to be expected, the Holy Father follows with great concern the developments of this painful situation in Europe, and has already several times taken the opportunity to maintain peace.  The activity of the Holy See’s Representatives in various capital, which has been noted in the last few days by the newspapers, could be explained I this way, but the news that His Holiness has invited the European Powers to attend a Conference in the Vatican City is not true.

Mr Rogers mentioned that an intervention of the Holy See to call a Peace Conference would meet with general approval in Washington and in the United States and would offer the hope of a happier future to a world worried by the danger of war. As the Holy See is above all questions of material interests which put the nations one against the other, it is perhaps the only Power which could be trusted for its impartiality. Even the nations which are not directly interested in the European disputes, as for example, the United States, are more or less involved in the ideological conflict which divides Europe and are, for that reason, not qualified for the task of peacemakers.  Mr Rogers added that the Italian Government and people would be very pleased if such a conference should take place in the Vatican.

In the following more general conversation, Mr Rogers stated that the Head of the Italian Government told M. Gafencu that the difference between Italy and France are not such as to lead to a war. (3)  Several times the Duce repeated: “We have not yet signed a military pact with Germany”.  The Romanian minister had the clear impression that Mussolini wanted his words to be conveyed to the French Government, which he did not fail to do.

A great difficulty according to Rogers, is created by the present attitude of France towards Italy.  France has taken an intransigent attitude and does not want to move from its position. After the Milan meeting between Ciano and von Ribbentrop, French circles in Rome and newspaper in France, thinking that a final decision had been reached, say that there is nothing else to do.  The British, on the contrary, attribute to this meeting a less tragic meaning by saying that the Milan meeting has hardly changed the situation. (4)

I the end, Mr Rogers begged Fr Hurley to keep the Embassy informed about any eventual initiative of the Holy See, if possible.  Fr Hurley promised to ask for instructions in the matter.

(1) Joseph Hurley (1894-1967) priest of Cleveland Diocese, Ohio.  Worked at the Secretariat of State 1934-40 with the responsibility for drafting all documents of the Secretariat.  Appointed bishop of St Augustine, Florida in 1940.  Some claim he had a major falling-out with Cardinal Maglione over papal policy with regard to the Church’s official response to the fascist powers.
(2) I have been unable to locate any information on A S Rogers.
(3) Grigore Garencu (1892-1957), Romanian Foreign Minister 1939-40.  During a visit to Rome he was received officially by Ciano on 30.04.1939 and Mussolini on 01.05.1939.

(4) Galeazzo Ciano (1904-1944), Italian Foreign Minister met with his German counterpart, Joachim Ribbentrop (1893-1946) in Milan between 6-7.05.1939.  At this meeting Ciano, speaking for Mussolini, gave the German government its agreement to enter into a military pact.  Mussolini was hesitant about supporting Germany’s more aggressive stance and sort to create distance by having Ciano report that Italy would not be ready for war until at least 1942.  Ribbentrop surprised the Italians by saying the same for Germany.