Monday, July 17, 2017
ADSS 1.274 Borgongini Duca to Maglione: Meeting with Ciano
ADSS 1.274 Francesco Borgongini Duca, Italy, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.
Reference: Report 7679 (AES 2793/40)
Location and date: Rome, 31.03.1940
Summary statement: Reports meeting with Ciano who revealed that Muissolini had ‘committed himself excessively’; but Ciano continues to do everything possible to preserve neutrality. Nuncio invited minister to act with prudence. Ciano warns Nuncio not to trust information sent by the ambassadors to their gov’ts.
Last Friday, 27 March, at 12.15, Minister Ciano, who had just come back from the palazzo Venezia, received me.
The purpose of my visit was to converse with him on the matters which Your Eminence had instructed me to settle (about ten arguments, more or less thorny, regarding which I had reported to you in the last few days) and also to take advantage of the occasion to obtain some information about political events.
The Minister, who always listens kindly to me (without ever taking his eyes from the pile of Notes which I am instructed to hand to him), told me when I thanked him, as Your Eminence told me to, for the information which he had sent to you through the Ambassador before the Brenner meeting (1), that: “Certainly it was a big commitment; but I am still doing everything to put a stop to it. He (Mussolini) committed himself excessively. I cannot say if there will be war or not but ertainly I am working hard and you cannot have any idea of what I have done and am still doing. But god helps me.
“When will you see the Holy Father?” (I replied that I had already asked for an audience and hoped that His Holiness would consent to me soon.) “Well, ask him to think about me from time to time and to pray for me and to send me his blessing because I need it very much”.
Then we started dealing with the business in hand, as I have already mentioned.
At the end, when we got up and were walking towards the door, I returned to the subject hoping to obtain a little more information.
He told me again that it is a great commitment.
I took courage and added: “Excellency, take good care of yourself and do not expose yourself too much”.
He replied: “You are right, I always go about without a bodyguard. Certainly, the Germans would shoot me if they could” (2).
I insisted: “Be on guard not only against the Germans but also against the Italian people because among them there could be ill-intentioned people”.
He replied: “The Italian people love me and know that I am working for them”.
In the end he gave me a warning: “Do not trust the diplomats accredited to the Holy See who in their telegrams and reports give information about Italy as heard in the Vatican and also mention my name. We read everything, and Mussolini also reads everything. You must consider my position, otherwise I shall be obliged not to tell you anything more”.
I replied that we should not give too much credit to the statements of diplomats who want to make themselves look bigger by increasing the importance of the news they send, sometimes adding something of their own.
The conversation ended with these words: “What I told you is meant for the Holy Father and for His Excellency Cardinal Maglione”.
The Minister’s warning makes me fear that the Foreign Embassies have secret informers in the Vatican, besides those the Italian Government itself has.
(1) ADSS 1.272.
(2) There were rumours among some German diplomatic circles that Ciano was an Anglophile. See DGFP, Series D, Volume 9, n179, pp197-98.