Sunday, August 16, 2015

ADSS 1.97 Tardini, notes: alleged Axis Peace Proposal

ADSS 1.97 Domenico Tardini, Secretariat of State, notes.

Reference: AES 5414/39

Location and date: Vatican, 16.08.1939

Summary statement: A note containing an alleged press release has been passed on by Osborne to Montini. Internuncio Holland has telegraphed on this subject saying the Dutch For Minister has spoken to him about it.  No news of this has yet arrived at the Vatican. Press release attached.

Language: Italian and English


This note was delivered by the British Minister (1) on 14 August 1939, to his Excellency, Monsignor Montini. (2) The Minister was informed that nothing had arrived here.

On 16.08.1939 the Internuncio of Holland (3) telegraphs that the Foreign Minister has spoken to him about such a document. (4)

On 17.08.1939 [sic] we reply that nothing has been received here.

The rest of the document followed in English.

Press communication:

Two identical communications from the German and Italian Embassies to the Holy See respectively were passed on today to the Cardinal Secretary of State’s Office in the Vatican.

They are said to run to about a thousand words in length.  In them the two Axis Powers express the fear that, as a result of the war-mongering activities of their opponents, and especially Poland, who is being egged on by the great democratic powers, the European situation is rapidly heading towards a crisis.  The attacks on and oppression of Germans in Poland and the pressure which, it is alleged, is being brought to bear on Italians in France and Tunis, are then cited as two factors which are likely to create a situation which Germany and Italy will soon find intolerable.

After asserting their strong attachment to peace and expressing their deep sympathy with the efforts which the Holy See is continually making in the interests of a peace with justice and “even with certain sacrifices” (this is probably a reference to a remark in the Pope’s recent letter to the French-Canadian Catholics, sent through Cardinal Maglione), the German and Italian Governments state that they wish once again to show their firm desire to solve peacefully the differences which today divide Europe.  With this object in view they make known that, while being ready to immediately defend themselves against all attempts to impose unwarranted settlement upon them by force, they submit the following “final proposals” to the democratic powers for a settlement by agreement.

1. A 30 day truce, with a reciprocal promise not to take any steps on either side, in order to secure time to organise a conference of the Foreign Ministers of France, Britain, Italy and Germany.

2. Since the British guarantee to Poland contemplates the fact that Poland is to be the judge of whether the casus belli clause should function in case of a threat to her independence, Great Britain will send the solution to the Danzig question, reached by mutual agreement between the four Foreign Ministers, to Poland, asking her whether she considers her independence threatened or not by that solution.  A reply that this independence is not threatened would signify Poland’s acceptance of the solution.

3. Once this question – at present considered the most dangerous of all in consequence of the mechanism of the guarantee which is the sole one that leaves the nation guaranteed the arbiter of casus belli – is removed the truce can be extended in order that the four Ministers may gradually examine the other questions in the order they may decide.

Finally, the two Axis Governments express the hope that the acceptance of their proposals may lead to a general slackening of tension, favourable to a gradual and peaceful discussion of all outstanding questions, and manifest their confidence that the Holy See will give its moral support to the end that this “extreme and concrete contribution to peace may not remain unheard”.

(1) D’Arcy Osborne (1884-1964), British Minister to the Holy See 1936-47.
(2) Giovanni Battista Montini (1897-1978), Secretariat of State 1920-54.
(3) Paolo Giobbe (1880-1972), Internuncio to Holland 1935-58.

(4) Eelco Nicolaas Van Kleffens (1894-1983) Dutch Foreign Minister 1939-46.

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