Sunday, February 19, 2017

ADSS 1.263 Valeri to Maglione: Ribbentrop's visit to Holy See; end of war in Finland

ADSS 1.263 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 1059/509 (AES 3112/40)

Location and date: Paris, 14.03.1940

Summary statement: Ribbentrop’s visit to the Vatican came as a great surprise.  Some see it as a peace plan devised by Hitler.  Peace imposed on Finland has disappointed public opinion; criticism of Allied inactivity.

Language: Italian


The journey of the Reich Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, to Rome has not failed, as Your Eminence knows, to give rise here in France to a great deal of comment.  His visit to the Vatican has caused great surprise and amazement.  The newspapers, however – excluding a few of clearly anti-Catholic tendency and a few more who do not have a large distribution such as the Petit Bleu which covers the interest of certain financial groups – have abstained from openly criticising the affirmative reply of the Holy See to the request of the Reich Foreign Minister to be received by the Holy Father.  On the other hand various hypotheses have been expressed as to the aims of this visit and the bitter sweet tone of the Press lets one feel that some displeasure has been created by this action which could be interpreted as a success for German diplomacy.

The Press, however, instead of criticising has tried to explain with more or less credible reports, that the visit of von Ribbentrop to the Vatican will not bring Nazism the advantages, which were anticipated.  Nor could it be otherwise, because the Hoy See could not support Hitler’s plans in favour of peace, if this peace is not founded on justice and the wrongs committed by the Reich against the conquered nations are not put right.  The newspapers have delved particularly into these points and some of them, like Populaire yesterday morning have again quoted the Christmas address of the Holy Father on the peace conditions.

People here think in fact that one of the principal aims of Ribbentrop’s visit to Rome was that of preparing a new German peace offensive which could be harmful to the Allies, by influencing public opinion in the neutral countries and in particular that of the United States of America and Mr Roosevelt’s decisions, while his representative is going to meet Signor Mussolini again in a few days (1).

I must add furthermore that the peace which Finland was forced to sign the day before yesterday with the Soviets, has been a blow to French public opinion, and they ask what the Allied Governments are doing (2).  M Daladier was obliged to answer a question in Parliament on this point during Tuesday’s session.  Parliament is in a bad mood regarding the trend that international political and diplomatic events are taking.  A rumour is going around that new ministerial changes will take place.

On the whole the situation is rather confused especially because France cannot break away form the decisions and dispositions of Great Britain.

(1) Reference to Benjamin Sumner Welles visit to Rome, Berlin and London in March and April 1940.
(2) The Russo-Finnish war (13.11.1939-13.03.1940) ended with Finland signing the Treaty of Moscow.  Finland had held the Red Army at bay for over three months.  Britain and France pledged to send troops to Finland via Scandanavia.  Part of the Allied plan was to secure Swedish iron ore deposits and Norwegian coastal ports, especially Narvik, and deny them to Germany.  This would effectively end Swedish neutrality and Norway’s ambition to stay out of the war.  However, Norway, Denmark and Sweden announced in February 1940 that they would not give permission for Allied troops to pass through their territory.  The USSR took 11% of Finnish land space and about 30% of Finnish economic power.

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