Saturday, September 24, 2016
ADSS 1.227 Charles-Roux to Maglione: reasons France has rejected Christmas truce
ADSS.1.227 François Charles-Roux, French Ambassador to the Holy See, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.
Reference: AES 9331/39
Location and date: Rome, 14.12 1939
Summary statement: Detailed explanation of the French government’s refusal to support the Christmas truce.
In accordance with Your Eminence’s wishes, I hasten to summarise below what I had the honour of explaining to you verbally this morning.
The French Government, while rendering homage to the lofty sentiments which have inspired the Sovereign Pontiff’s initiative, would not be in a position, should the matter be referred to them officially, to give it favourable consideration.
The project, which has been mooted to them by Your Eminence through me, meets with objections of a technical and military nature, of which, of course, I can only give here a few instances.
There is, for example, no means of preventing floating, drifting or magnetic mines, which have been laid profusely by the Germans, contrary to the law of nations, from exploding and causing catastrophes at sea during a period of two days of even of one day. This is true with regard to the effects of such mines, not only on French and British ships, but also on neutral vessels, which are hit by mines just as often, if not more so. No undertaking could give us an absolute assurance that the enemy submarines or even the enemy surface ships, which are now operating far from their bases and do not wish to divulge their positions, would receive an instruction not to attack our ships during two days or that they would strictly abide by such an instruction if it re ached them. On this point to, neutral navigation, which is the object of frequent attacks by German submarines and cruisers under the pretext of counter-blockade, would not be more effectively covered than ours by a guarantee, which in certain waters might prove illusory.
On the other hand, it may be feared that Germany might take such an opportunity to intensify the insidious and, at times, pro-Russian propaganda of which she is the instrument and for which her airplanes and radios are often the vehicles. In this respect, the initiative envisaged might not be without psychological consequences that would be difficult to estimate in advance. Moreover, care must be taken not to give rise to illusions that could not materialise.
Lastly, it is a well-known fact that in the parts of Poland occupied by Germany acts of violence and oppression are committed. This is to the detriment of a people allied to France and whose Government has its seat in France. Any truce would be obviously inoperative for them.
It is therefore necessary to consider that the allied armies are fighting, not for selfish ends, but for the safety of principles of which the Holy See itself proclaims sacred and whose defence, which is becoming increasingly urgent, can brook neither remission nor truce.
Such are the argument, which I had the honour of explaining to Your Eminence this morning in compliance with the instructions, received from my Government. My Government has requested that I reply to you in confidence to the overture sent to them by me from You.