Sunday, August 16, 2015

ADSS 1.90 Maglione to Osborne: Steps taken by the Holy See for peace from May 1939

ADSS 1.90 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, to D’Arcy Osborne, UK Minister to the Holy See

Reference:  AES 1478/39, typed draft with handwritten corrections; DBFP Series 3, Volume 6, n336, pp 371-72.

Location and date: Vatican, 15.07.1939

Summary statement: Thanks Lord Halifax for his communication and sets out in detail the steps taken by the Holy See on behalf of peace from the beginning of May 1939 to the present.

Language: French


I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of two letters, respectively of the 9th and 10th of this month, which your Excellency has kindly addressed to me, the first one personal and confidential, the second one carrying the Number 38/46/39, by which your Excellency, as instructed by Lord Halifax, Secretary of the Foreign Office of Great Britain, explained to the Holy See the London point of view regarding the Danzig problem. (1)

I submitted this information immediately to the attention of the Holy Father.  His Holiness has taken notice of it with great interest and at the same time has expressed his wish that your Excellency convey to Lord Halifax his august gratitude for the kind attention shown towards him by His Majesty’s Government.

I take the liberty of adding my personal and sincere thanks.

Regarding the German-Polish tension, confirming what I have already had occasion to communicate to your Excellency, I have pleasure to inform you that the Holy See has never thought, nor thinks it opportune to propose of its own initiative to the two interested Governments a concrete solution of the problem. It has thought, on the contrary, that is should limit itself to recommend to the two high parties in the matter to deal with the question with moderation and calmness.

After the approaches made in Berlin and Warsaw in this direction during the month of may, approaches of which your Excellency has been informed, (2) the Holy See judged it to be its duty to insist on these recommendations.  His Holiness let the head of the Italian Government, H.E. Mussolini, know that for the sake of peace it would be very useful that he used his great influence with Chancellor Hitler and with the German Government with the view of ensuring that the Danzig question be treated with the calmness that the delicate international situation made more than ever necessary (first days in June). (3)

Shortly afterwards, having received from reliable sources the assurance that Germany had no intention to attack Poland, I thought it useful to inform he Polish Government, confidentially through the Apostolic Nuncio, his Excellency, Monsignor Cortesi, whom I asked (16 June last) to repeat on this occasion to the said Government the counsel of prudence and moderation already sent to them on behalf of the Holy Father. (4)

Monsignor Cortesti replied to me on 22 June that his Excellency, Minister Beck had told him, amongst other things, that “Poland will keep on following the attitude of prudence and moderation observed so far, notwithstanding the continuous incidents intentionally provoked by the other side”. (5)

On the first of this month, I brought all of this to the attention to his Excellency, Monsignor Orsenigo, Apostolic Nuncio in Berlin, not without adding at the same time that the Holy See had no doubt that Germany, too, would maintain the calmness and prudence necessary at such a delicate moment. (6)

I was well informed about the present firm attitude of the British Government regarding the Danzig issue.  And when I was afraid that the situation could get worse, I thought it useful, in pursuance of the conversation I had with your Excellency on 30 June (7) to tell his Excellency, the Italian Ambassador to the Holy See on the following 3 July – so that he would bring this to the knowledge of his Government, and from there to the knowledge of the German Government – that should Germany occupy Danzig, Great Britain, as well as France, were prepared to go to war. (8)

Finally on 7 July, by order of His Holiness, I repeated to the Italian Ambassador that I was more than ever convinced that Great Britain, as well as France, would declare war on Germany at the first attempt which the last named Power should make to solve the Danzig question by force.  I added that there were probably some people in the circle around Chancellor Hitler who cherished illusions in this respect, but these illusions would lead to a repeat of the error of judgement of 1914.

I am sure that the Ambassador reported this information to his Government. (9)

In closing, I renew my hope that is in the hearts of all good men and which without doubt abides in the heart of your Excellency and your Government: may God bless the efforts which are devoted to the maintenance of peace and save the world from a conflict which will have terrible and incalculable consequences. (10)

(1) ADSS 1.88.  Edward Wood, Lord Halifax (1881-1959), British Foreign Secretary 1938-40.
(2) ADSS 1.19 ff.
(3) ADSS 1.53, 57.
(4) ADSS 1.64. Filippo Cortesi (1876-1947), Nuncio to Poland 1936-47.
(5) ADSS 1.70. Jozef Beck (1894-1944), Polish Foreign Minister 1932-39
(6) ADSS 1.80. Cesare Orsenigo (1873-1946), Nuncio to Germany 1930-45.
(7) ADSS 1.83n1.
(8) ADSS 1.83n3. Dino Alfieri (1886-1966), Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-40.
(9) ADSS 1.85 and notes.
(10) Osborne explained to Halifax that Cardinal Maglione wrote the note himself.  “I am sure that this account may be taken as complete and that reports of other action or intervention may be dismissed.”

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