Sunday, February 19, 2017

ADSS 1.261 William Godfrey to Maglione: Sumner Welles visit to London; Ribbentrop's visit to the Holy See

 ADSS 1.261 William Godfrey (1), Ap Del UK, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 550/40 (AES 2540/40)

Location and date: London, 12.03.1940

Summary statement: Visit of Sumner Welles to London well received by the British.  FDR’s peace efforts well received. UK critical of US neutrality.  Ribbentrop’s visit was a surprise – possible peace move by Hitler?

Language: Italian


I think it opportune to report to Your Eminence the comments on Mr Sumner Welles’ visit to London and of Minister Ribbentrop’s visit to Rome.

With reference to the former I think I am able to say that President Roosevelt’s effort to co-operate in some way in settling the European dispute has been well received here in England.

His special envoy, Mr Welles, has been received with great courtesy; but even before his arrival the Press affirmed that all the Franco-British points of view had already been well defined and known by the entire world.  However, all possible information will be given to Roosevelt’s representative; but it will consist only of details to explain the situation.

Since the start of the war the possibility that the American republic would enter the conflict has never been seriously discussed.  Here and there, and from time to time, there has been a certain criticism of the American attitude, on the assumption that it reflects the trend of “neutrality at all costs”.

It is generally remembered that after Munich the United States reproached France ad Great Britain for having yielded to Hitler.  Now that both nations have taken up arms to block the progress of German hegemony, the United States is completely disinterested in Europe.

It does not seem, therefore, that the British nation expects the United States to enter the war.  On the other hand no responsible personality of British politics has made any request of this kind.

Yesterday’s and today’s newspapers give great publicity to Ribbentrop’s visit to the Holy Father.  Taken unawares the Press indulges in speculations on what could have been the motives and aims of the visit.

The particulars of this visit have received great attention from radio and newspapers and it has been noticed that there were not Swastikas on the Vatican motorcars, and Pope Pius XI’s words have been recalled when he said that this emblem in not Christ’s cross.

“Ribbentrop” writes the Evening News, “could during this visit to the Pope try to excuse Nazi brutalities against Poland: Pius XII will not be easily convinced by mere words, not matter how sweet”.

Another newspaper, the Evening Standard, insinuates that the aim of the visit could be that of asking the Pope to support the recent peace plan of Hitler.  German diplomacy would try to line up Berlin-Rome-Vatican over a peace plan, ready for the return of Sumner Welles to Rome.

Other newspapers think that Ribbentrop’s visit is designed to persuade Italy to see a simple economic alliance in the relations between Germany and Russia.

I thought it my duty to report all this to Your Eminence.


(1) William Godfrey, (1889-1963), Apostolic Delegate to the United Kingdom 1938-53.

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