Sunday, August 28, 2016

ADSS 1.182 Rotta to Maglione: Hungary will remain neutral

ADSS 1.182 Angelo Rotta, Hungary, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State

Reference: Report number 2666/39, (AES 6347/39)

Location and date: Budapest, 03.09.1939

Summary statement: Hungarian Foreign Minister says Mussolini and Ciano promised to keep Italy out of the war.  Csaky welcomes Italian neutrality which will help Hungary maintain her neutrality.

Language: Italian


Following my coded message number 41 yesterday (1):

As soon as I was back in Budapest I asked to be received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. (2) I wanted in this way to collect information from reliable sources and to take advantage of the occasion to bring to him the Holy Father’s Benediction and to beg him to convey to His Highness, the Regent, and to his worthy Consort, who are at present staying at Gödöllö, the feelings of gratitude and pleasant remembrance of His Holiness.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs expressed great praise of the supreme Pontiff’s efforts for peace, and appreciated very much his kind message to him.

During this conversation he confirmed what I have already written in my report of 21 August, Number 2618/39 Pr 31 (3) regarding his recent meeting with Hitler and Ribbentrop.  Regarding the conversation with Mussolini and Ciano he said that he met Mussolini on 19 August, after the army manoeuvres, and he found him in very good health: he stayed with him for about three hours.

After Minister Csáky had illustrated Hungary’s attitude in case of a probable conflict, that is: a state of neutrality, even if there will not be an official declaration in this sense.  Hungary therefore would be ready to supply goods against payment both to Germany and Poland; and he asked for information on the future attitude of Italy in the deplorable event of a war.  Regarding this he received from Mussolini’s lips an idea, which he, for the first time, was hearing from him, and which impressed him very much.  Mussolini said Italy was a Catholic country and would feel distressed to have to fight alongside the new pagans against a Catholic State.  Italy is united for sentimental reasons with two European nations, Hungary and Poland.

At this conversation Count Ciano was also present and he in turn said that amongst the secret clauses of the military pact with Germany there was also Germany’s undertaking to maintain peace for three years; he then added that it is easy to govern an unarmed nation but when the nation is armed the ruler must seriously consider its feelings.

Relata refero (4). Would that such ideas were the Government’s guide in determining Italy’s attitude in the present circumstances!

Naturally Minister Czáky understands very well what a difficult position Hungary is in and he hopes that this neutrality which she proposes to observe could last, even if the conflict were to be a prolonged and expanding one; but he is unable to give assurances regarding this subject.  Who can be prophetic?  Certainly it would be a great help to Hungary if Italy could remain a spectator, with a pronounced sense of neutrality, even if more of less in favour of one of the parties in conflict: this would help Hungary to maintain her policy.

Conditions here are still calm: many precautionary restrictions have been introduced, especially regarding the Press, which is under censorship in order that it should report the news with impartiality, without comments and without showing sympathy for one side or the other.  As Minister Csáky told me, the army has been increased to 80,000 men, while Rumania has got 600,000 men under arms.

Here ends the summary of the conversation.

The declaration of war by Great Britain which has taken place today and which will be followed, as I am told, by that of France, has not surprised anyone here, as was expected; indeed, both were expected last night.

For the moment Hungary has not taken, nor has the intention of taking, new precautionary measures but watches the development of events.

I shall endeavour to keep Your Eminence fully informed should I get news of some interest.  This report is being taken to Rome directly by Monsignor Principi of the Secretariat of State there. (5)

(1) Not published in ADSS.  This report demonstrated that the neutral powers valued the representations of the Holy See regarding Franco-Italian relations.
(2) István Csáky (1894-1941), Hungarian Foreign Minister 1938-41.
(3) As per note 1.
(4) Relata refero – literally – “I tell what I have been told”.  Originally from Herodotus and used as a disclaimer to emphasise the writer has not fabricated the recounted event.

(5) Primo Principi (1894-1975), Secretary in the Second Section of the Secretariat of State c1920-1965.

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