Saturday, July 15, 2017
ADSS 1.267 Luigi Maglione, Secretary of State: fears of Italian entry into the war
ADSS 1.267 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, notes.
Reference: AES 2494/40
Location and date: Vatican, 17.03.1940
Summary statement: Italian ambassador, Dino Alfieri, told Maglione of Mussolini’s planned meeting with Hitler. Fears that Hitler will try to draw Italy into the war.
The Italian Ambassador (1) confirms to me (11.30) the news - given to me yesterday by the British Minister (2) – of the Mussolini-Hitler meeting on the Brenner Pass (3). The Head of the Italian Government will leave for the Brenner today at 13.00 together with Minister Ciano and will be back in Rome tomorrow evening or Tuesday morning.
Hitler who will insist on the points already put forward by Ribbentrop has requested the meeting. The latter declared his complete confidence in Germany’s victory and did not even mention the possibility of or the wish to start peace negotiations.
It is believed there that Hitler will try to persuade Italy join the war on Germany’s side.
It is also believed that Mussolini would like to maintain his policy of biding his own time.
Formally, according to the Ambassador, the relations between the two Governments seem to have improved: but in fact they have not changed.
During the conversation I expressed all the reasons, which in my judgement constrain and compel Italy to remain outside the conflict.
The Ambassador thinks that these reasons are well founded; but he thinks that, as time goes buy, it will be extremely difficult for Italy to keep out of the conflict (4).
(1) Dino Alfieri (1886-1966) Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-40.
(2) D’Arcy Osborne (1884-1964) British Minister to the Holy See 1936-47.
(3) Hitler and Mussolini met on 18.03.1940 in a hastily arranged meeting on Hitler’s train. The consensus was that Hitler wanted Mussolini’s assurance that Italy would enter the war eventually. Ciano recorded his impression of the meeting in his diary.
The Hitler meeting is very cordial on both sides. The conference … is more a monologue than anything else. Hitler talks all the time, but is less agitated than usual. He makes few gestures and speaks in a quiet tone. He looks physically fit. Mussolini listens to him with interest and with deference. He speaks little and confirms his intention to move with Germany. He reserves to himself only the choice of the right moment … The conferences with a short meal.
Later Mussolini gives me his impressions. He did not find in Hitler that uncompromising attitude which von Ribbentrop had led him to suspect. Yesterday, as well, von Ribbentrop only opened his mouth to harp on Hitler’s intransigency. Mussolini believes that Hitler will think twice before he begins an offensive on land.
See too Peter Neville (2004), Mussolini, Routledge, London, pp 158-59.
(4) See ADSS 1.272, 274, 276