Wednesday, August 31, 2016

ADSS 1.206 Valeri to Maglione: Situation seen from France

ADSS 1.2016 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State

Reference: Report 9152/311 (AES 6938/39)

Location and date: Paris, 21.09.1939

Summary statement: International situation seen from Paris; possibility for peace; Russia’s attitude; Italian neutrality; negotiations with Turkey; possible mediators of peace.

Language: Italian


The day before yesterday, in the afternoon, I was received by M. Champetier de Ribes, who had called on me the previous day on behalf of the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Daladier. (1)

At the Quai d’Orsay everybody was waiting for the speech that Herr Hitler was going to make in Danzig and which everybody, even here, believed would open a peace offensive. (2) I understood that if this was so the speech would be given a certain amount of attention by the Government here.  There are in fact amongst the members of the Government some who would welcome the end of the conflict, if possible.  As far as I was concerned I just mentioned a few conditions which could help this, such as the restitution of the independence to Czechoslovakia and an outlet on Memel to Poland, although that country has already been deprived, unfortunately, of part of its territory.  But the peace offensive has probably been postponed and, in the meantime, the Council of Ministers yesterday proclaimed its intention to wage the war until final victory, echoing Mr Chamberlain’s reply to Hitler. (3) It is superfluous to tell Your Eminence, in this respect, that the occupation of Polish territory by Russia has dispelled the last illusions on the Soviets reaching agreement with Germany, as it has profoundly altered the facts concerning the European problem.

I believe that because of this new factor, the enormous importance of Italian neutrality is beginning to be recognised by everybody.  M. Champetier de Ribes, who belongs, as Your Eminence knows, to a group always opposed to Fascism, told me that good news was coming from Italy but it was better not to talk much about it in order not to create difficulties to those in charge.  He added that he hoped that everything would continue as present.

For my part I merely add that the rumour is circulating here that many troops are being transferred from the French to the German front on the Brenner, which in my opinion, could be a simple precautionary measure.

It is, however, difficult to see, how, after the liquidation of Poland, the war can be carried out on the western front, without going beyond sorties and aerial bombardments, which would mean terrible and total destruction, In fact the Balkan Sector, owing to circumstances, has lost its importance and Turkey itself can no longer contribute to the execution of great projects.  With reference to the latter country, some circles state that they have urged France to hand over Syria immediately and when this Government refused because of the changed circumstances, replied that they may start negotiations again with Moscow.  For this reason, perhaps, the journey of the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs to Moscow had been announced, a journey which has been delayed for a few days. (4)

Does Moscow intend to keep out in order to intervene late in the struggle as an intermediary?  Some people would interpret it in this way because of the fact that several Communist members of Parliament have the other day distributed some leaflets in the corridors of the Palace Bourbon (5), evidently with the consent of the Russian Embassy here, in which the failure of the famous negotiations was attributed to Britain and it was affirmed that Stalin has decided to observe the strictest neutrality (after having taken his share of Polish territory).

If this were true, it would be much better that similar action were taken, at a proper moment, by M. Mussolini and by President Roosevelt, not to speak of the Holy Father.  Some people are looking forward to the next Pan-American Conference (6), which will be presided over by Roosevelt himself; but unfortunately, it would seem very difficult for a peace initiative to have any hope of success at this moment.

(1) Auguste Champetier de Ribes, (1882-1947), French Senator 1934-40, a senior advisor to Edourd Daladier (1884-1970), French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister 1938-39-40.
(2) Hitler addressed a large gathering of Nazi faithful in Danzig in the evening of the same day as the Nuncio’s report to Rome.  The text can be found here:  In the speech Hitler said Germany had no territorial claims on Britain or France but Germany had been forced into war because of Polish outrages against German minorities.  Germany had only ever sought the way of peace but the war-mongers in other states had encouraged Polish aggression.  Even so, the inferior Poles had, in many instances fought heroically at the lower levels while deserted by the Polish officers and military leadership.  Text follows below.
(3) Neville Chamberlain, (1869-1940), British Prime Minister 1937-40. Formal Declaration of War, 03.09.1939:
(4) Mehmet Sukru Saracoglu (1886-1953), Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs 1938-42, visited Moscow in late September and October 1939 for talks regarding Soviet proposals to revise the 1936 Montreux Convention which had given Turkey an internationally recognised and exclusive right to control access to the Bosphorus and Dardenelles.  The Soviet Union wanted control over the straits, a foreign policy direction that traced former Imperial Russian policy back to the reign of Catherine the Great.  Turkey refused.  Tensions between the USSR and Turkey were not resolved until 1947 when Turkey abandoned neutrality and sided with the Western Powers.
(5) The Bourbon Palace housed the National Assembly.

(6) The Pan-American Conference or the International Conference of American States, made up of the republics of the Americas, met periodically from 1889.  There was no Pan-American Conference during the war, although there were several meetings of Foreign Ministers (September 1939, July 1940 and July 1942).  The 1939 meeting was held in Panama City and the delegates issued statements affirming Northern and Southern American neutrality south of Canada, and warnings to belligerent states to respect North and South American territorial waters. (Canada joined the Union of American States in 1989)

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