Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ADSS 1.109 Papee to Tardini: German-Soviet Pact

ADSS 1.109 Casimir Papeé, Polish Ambassador to the Holy See, to Domenico Tardini, Secretariat of State.

Reference: AES 6836/39

Location and date: Rome, 22.08.1939

Summary statement: News of an imminent German-Soviet Pact will not change the balance of power in Europe.  Russia will not get involved in a European conflict and would not invade Poland.

Language: Italian


Written note by Monsignor Tardini.

The Polish Ambassador came this morning.  He said to me:
1. That he does not place a great deal of importance on the German-Soviet Pact.
2. That Russia wishes to remain outside a European conflict.
3. Therefore Russia itself would not intervene against Poland.

During the afternoon the Ambassador sent me the following note:

The announcement of the imminent conclusion of a non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR, did not make much impression in Warsaw political circles since, on the whole, this does not bring about any changes in the balance of power in Europe.  This announcement demonstrates the wish, on the part of the Russians, to withdraw from the European theatre, a fact that had already been clearly stated during the Anglo-French-Russian negotiations.  This does not have any influence at all and does not alter Poland’s attitude. (2)

(1) Casimir Papeé (1889-1979), Polish Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-58.

(2) Papeé appears to be speaking in accord with instructions received from Warsaw.  The British Ambassador wrote to Lord Halifax: “M. Beck considers this does not make much real difference to the situation, as the Soviet government have been playing a double game for long past.  It made no difference to Poland’s attitude.” DBFP, Series 3, Volume 7, n123, pp 115-16.

ADSS 1.108 Tardini to Cortesi: Pope appeals for calm in Poland

ADSS 1.108 Domenico Tardini, Secretariat of State, to Filippo Cortesi, Poland.

Reference: AES 6820/39

Location and date: Vatican, 22.08.1939

Summary statement: Pope urges calm in Poland.

Language: Italian


The Holy Father, seriously concerned at the critical situation, requests you to communicate to the Government – in the manner which you consider as most advisable – that His Holiness, moved by paternal feelings towards Poland, recommends her once again to be calm and serene in order to avoid pretext of making use of force and he trusts that the conflict may be resolved peacefully buy mutual agreement.


ADSS 1.107 Valeri to Maglione: positive reaction to Pope's speech

ADSS 1.107 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 8831/264, AES 5738/39

Location and date: Paris, 20.08.1939

Summary statement: Positive press reaction to Pope’s words.  Fear of war grows; France resolved to defend Poland.

Language: Italian


The moving words in favour of peace that the Holy Father pronounced yesterday on the occasion of the audience granted to the pilgrims from Venice (1) have been reported immediately by the French Press with great deference, with the exception of a few newspapers – decidedly in favour of war – as L’Humanitie and L’Ordre, which have put forward some reserves or insinuations, or as Le Populaire which did not even mention the news.

Unfortunately, the general situation, as your Eminence well knows, has taken a step for the worse in the last few days.  The danger of an armed conflict seems to be getting nearer. To repeat a figure of speech used the other day by M. Charveriat of the Foreign Office, it is as if an over-excited individual were going around with a lighted fuse in a room full of dynamite: at any moment an explosion could take place. (2)

As far as France is concerned, its attitude remains still the same.  The decision, as I have already reported to your Eminence, has been placed on Poland; if that Nation thinks their rights or territory has been infringed and believes that a military intervention is necessary, France will follow them. (3)

It is hoped, however, as the Holy Father said, that no Government would take upon itself such a grave historical responsibility.

(1) ADSS 1.105.
(2) Emile Charveriat (1889-1964) Political Director, French Foreign Office 1937-40.

(3) ADSS 1.84.

ADSS 1.106 Charles-roux to Tardini: Germany will bear responsibility for any war over Danzig

ADSS 1.106 François Charles-Roux, Amb France to Holy See, to Domenico Tardini, Secretariat of State.

Reference: AES 5559/39

Location and date: Rome, 20.08.1939

Summary statement: Explains the responsibility that would be incurred by Germany should it begin a world war for Danzig.  He asks that the Pope should state on whim the responsibility for the war would rest in such a case.

Language: French


The international situation is so dangerously tense that, in the absence of His Eminence Cardinal Maglione, I wish to make you my confidant for the thoughts that run through my mind.

The admirable words that the Holy Father pronounced yesterday (1) will certainly have the greatest and deepest echo in France.  I am sure that they will have the same effect in England and Poland.  Everybody on that side will be moved and grateful to His Holiness.

But the countries that should be stopped from sliding into war are in the other camp, that is Germany and Italy. Because it is these two who place peace in danger, the one by raising claimed on Danzig, the other by supporting them.

To undertake the responsibility of unleashing a European war for the purpose of under the pretext of re-uniting a city to the Reich which does not form part of Poland and where the inhabitants live under a regime granting them the most ample freedom, is really to assume the responsibility of a crime.

To state that a Germany with more than 80 million inhabitants cannot leave outside its borders 400,000 Germans under an autonomous government is to push intransigence to the point where it defies common sense.

To take up this attitude when on keeps under one’s yoke nine million Slavs (2), and I can also add, eight million Austrians, is to push a paradox to the extreme limit.

To provoke war for 400,000 Danzig citizens, when one has just agreed to the emigration of 250,000 Tyrolese, is a cynical contradiction (3).

Besides, it is evident to all that the German claim, supported by the Italian Government, covers the needs of a prestige, which nothing will ever satisfy, and of an ambition which nothing will quench.  And it is only this which puts Europe on the eve of a catastrophe.

It is impossible not to be struck by the complete similarity that the phases of the German-Polish dispute have with those of the Sudeten issue and of the German-Czech conflict.  They are copied one from the other.  The same methods are repeated by Germany for the same purpose and it would be well that Germany should know that this time the deed cannot be accomplished without starting a European war.

These are the considerations which, not leaving any doubt as to where responsibility would lie for the armed conflict which threatens Europe, lead me to think that these same responsibilities place on those who undertake them such a heavy moral indictment that the Holy See cannot let them pass unobserved.  Things have reach such a point that I think that the cause of peace, in the interest of which the Holy Father has made so many moving and persevering efforts, would greatly benefit from what he would say, with the authority which only belongs to him, to show that the guilt of a war would fall on a country whose enormous annexations have served only increase its insatiable ambition.

The confidence which you have been kind enough to show me has given me the courage to convey to you my thoughts on this subject.

(1) ADSS 1.105.

(2) A reference to the German seizure of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.
(3) In July 1939 Germany and Italy reached an agreement whereby the German-speaking population of South Tyrol (Alto Adige) would emigrate to the Reich.  The outbreak of the war brought the plan to a halt and after the Italian armistice in September 1943, the province was formally annexed to the Reich.

ADSS 1.105 Pius XII to Venetian Pilgrims: peace initiatives

ADSS 1.105 Pope Pius XII to Venetian pilgrims

Reference: ASS Pius XII, 1939, pp8-9

Location and date: Castel Gandolfo, 19.08.1939

Summary statement: The Pope refers to his initiatives for peace

Language: Italian


We wish in the present circumstances above all to pray for peace, for Italy, for the peace of Europe and the world. The Great War broke the heart of that wonderful Pope [Pius X] whose revered and scared memory has been evoked today, as though he had a foreboding of all the horrors and massacres a world conflict was bound to let loose.  His successor, Benedict XV, of holy memory, yearned and prayed for peace, appealed for moderation in feeling and thought, for forgiveness in the interests of international peace.

Our immediate predecessor, Pius XI, of glorious memory, who at this moment comes to Our mind side by side with Pius X, made a gesture less than a year ago that moved the world when he offered his life to God.  In the present renewal of heartfelt anxiety We have tried from the first instant of our pontificate and made every effort to remove from the world the dangers of war, to contribute to the consolidation of a permanent peace based on justice, without prejudice to the honour and freedom of nations.  We have even, as far as the duties of our Apostolic ministry would permit, neglected other urgent tasks.  We have exercised a prudent reserve for fear of hampering the work of peace, conscious of whatever concerned the best interests of the Church and of the world.

We refuse to abandon hope of seeing feelings of moderation and equity putting off a conflict, which everyone can foresee as outdoing all material and spiritual destruction of the past.  We persist in believing that the nations’ rulers will, at the decisive moment, refuse to shoulder the tremendous responsibility of an appeal to arms.

But beyond human hopes as inspired by the wisdom and goodness found in men, Our eyes look to the Almighty, the Father of mercy and consolation, Who alone can inspire nations with His wisdom.  We state, on this memorable day, a wish in which we are united with you our venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, with all Catholics and with all others outside the Church whose prayers and good will count for so much and who all alike long for peace: We wish to beg of Him, Who holds in His palm the hearts and minds of all rulers, that in His infinite mercy He may stop all war at present raging and save us from worse conflicts.  May God becalm this troubled world with peace and fruitful concord between peoples and nations; for this We shall never cease fervently imploring Him: Da pacem Domine in diebus nostris. [Give peace in our time O Lord, Introit for Sunday XVIII after Pentecost]