Sunday, August 16, 2015

ADSS 1.81Borgonginie Duca to Maglione: Italian view on current tensions

 ADSS 1.81 Francesco Borgongini Duca, Italy, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 7009 (AES 4248/39)

Location and date: Rome, 01.07.1939

Summary statement: Italian For Min, Ciano, talked about his father’s death.  Borgongini Duca spoke about Holy See steps with the Polish gov’t; expects Italy to exert a moderating influence on Hitler; Ciano re-assured Vatican that Germany will not move without Italy –which does not want war.  Ciano also promised to use his influence to calm the anti-religious attitude in Germany.  On the contrary, US Ambassador thinks the situation very grave.

Language: Italian


After the audience that the Holy Father deigned to give me last Sunday (1) and the instructions given me by your Eminence on the same morning, I immediately asked for an interview with Count Ciano. (2)  As, on Monday night, Count Ciano’s father died, I was afraid I would not see him in time. In fact, however, yesterday afternoon, Friday (3), I was called to Palazzo Chigi.  As he afterwards told me himself, this was the first audience given by him after his return to the office.

The minister spoke at length about his father’s death.

After this preamble, I asked him if I could speak about official matters, and he said “I am here for this; in fact I take the occasion to confirm that the Albanian Catholic children I holiday camps are completely separated from the Muslim children.” (4)

I related then what your Eminence told me last Sunday regarding the approach made by his Excellency, Monsignor Cortesi to the President of the Polish Republic, following his (Count Ciano’s) hint, and the President’s reply; (5) then I added that the Holy See relied Italy to exert a moderating influence on Hitler, especially regarding the Danzig and the Corridor questions. (6)

The Minister replied word-for-word that there is no danger in his view  that the situation would deteriorate: the tension of the last few days is dying down and Hitler personally told him during the last visit (7) that Germany needs a long period of peace.

“In any case Germany will not make a move without our consent, and neither I nor Mussolini want war”.

I then went on to speak about the persecution of the Catholics in Germany and I told him what your Eminence said to me about the worsening of the situation, although the Holy See had exerted the utmost tact in not offending the German Government in any way and in avoiding any motive, even only apparent, for fear of reprisals.

I spoke to him about the book on Pius II by Piccolomini, and of its poster, which betrays its publicity aim, and also about the other poster with the Holy Father’s picture. (8)  I added that I had learned fro revered and sad expressions of the Holy Father himself that he had precise arguments to affirm than never before had the Catholic Church been attacked and hurt in Germany as in the last few months, that is just after his elevation to the throne of Peter.

The Minister did not deny these grace and authorised statements, but he assured me that, as always, he will do his best to induce the Reich Government to behave better.

At the end of the audience I met Mr Philipps, the United States Ambassador who was going to see Ciano after me. (9) I asked him if the situation had improved; he answered in the negative, and that, in his opinion, it was still very grace “because one never gets a satisfactory reply”.

The short encounter did not allow me to get more explanations.

(1) 25.06.1939.
(2) Galeazzo Ciano (1903-1944), Italian Foreign Minister 1936-43.
(3) 30.06.1939.  Costanzo Ciano (1876-1939), President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies 1934-39.  His son wrote about his father’s death in Diario I.119-25.
(4) See Bernd Jürgen Fischer (1999) Albania at War 1939-1945, chapter two “The Construction of an Italian Albania”.  The Italian government poured considerable money into Catholic institutions in order to strengthen pro-italian sympathy among Catholic Albanians.  Not surprisingly, the Albanian Catholic clergy rallied to the Italian cause.
(5) ADSS 1.64. Ignacy Mościcki (1867-1946), Polish President 1926-39.
(6) It was a widely held opinion that Mussolini did have a controlling influence over Hitler.
(7) Ciano had visited Berlin between 21-22.05.1939 to sign the Alliance announced in Milan on 07.05.1939.
(8) An allusion to some anti-Catholic pamphlets in Germany.

(9) William Phillips (1878-1968), United States Ambassador to Italy 1936-41.

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