Sunday, July 30, 2017

ADSS 1.276 Notes of the Secretariat of State on the meeting between Hitler and Mussolini March 1940

 ADSS 1.276 Secretariat of State Office, notes (1).

Reference: AES 2892/40

Location and date: Vatican, 04.04.1940

Summary statement: Information about the 18.03.1940 meeting between Mussolini and Hitler.  Hitler asked Mussolini to send 60 divisions to the French border.  Mussolini agreed to enter the war in August.  Italian government is divided.  Ciano defends neutrality but his position is difficult.

Language: Italian


There are two minutes on the Brenner meeting, one in Italian and the other in German, and they report the entire discussions with the exception of the conversation between Mussolini and Hitler which tool place without witnesses (2).

M[ussolini] repeated three times: “We are ready to march with you”.  The first time H[itler] did not understand.  (M speaks German, but the bodyguard interpreter whom H always takes along with him and whose name the writer does not remember, was also present) (3).

H proposed that Italy should send 60 divisions to the French frontier, not to fight, but only to force France to shift part of their forces and in this way to weaken their defences.  According to this plan the offensive would start on the Dutch frontier on 15 April.

M did not agree (it is possible however, that the German may go it alone).

Nevertheless M and H have agreed that Italy should enter the war by the beginning of August.  Italy is short of many things, for example anti-aircraft guns, but in Munich 100 batteries are being assembled, ready to be sent to Italy and already 20 have arrived.

The tightening of the British blockade at this moment could hasten Italy’s entry into the war, perhaps by June.  The blockade is a measure which M cannot tolerate.

Ciano has called the members of his Cabinet and told them that he no longer controls the course of events.  On the other hand the position of Ciano could be shaken any moment, if M felt that is carrying out a personal policy.

M would appoint him Minister of the Interior, to take him away from the Foreign Office.

At the beginning of the war M had a crisis of depression lasting a few months, as at the time of the Matteotti affair, but he has now regained full activity (4).

Some are afraid that with C[iano] as Chief of Police there is a danger of a revolt in Italy, as the people are against war.  M, however, does not worry about the internal situation.

Anfuso (5) will be sent as Ambassador to Berlin.  Magistrati has quarrelled with C on private matters; for this reason he has been sent to Sofia (6).

M told H: “Do not become more involved with Russia because Italy wants nothing to do with Communism; and this could engager German Italian union”.

On M’s side are: Buffarini, Renato Ricci, Starace (7): all the others, and in particular the Service Ministers, stand by C – Cavagnari was with C in China when he was Charge d’Affaires (8).

A month ago C was candidate for M’s succession, and this could have happened at any moment.  In those days Prince Umberto came to Rome and for a week he dined with C.  The King sent Acquarone around the various Ministries to obtain information, and sent the same Acquarone (9) to C to tell him “it was not ripe” (this phrase has never been explained).

But now M has regained strength and controls decisions.

Alfieri is not regarded as much of an Ambassador; he does not send reports, while Pignatti (10) sent at least a short telegram a day to give information about the Vatican’s mood.  Alfieri sent a report on his audience with the Holy Father after R[ibbentrop]’s visit.  Among other things he wrote he said: The Holy Father told me that having asked R about some political matters he replied that he did not know very much about them, because the affairs of state are personally directed by H (11).

C has a personal liking for the Russian Charge d’Affaires and although he is no longer received at the Palazzo Chigi they still meet on the golf course.  This man has large sums of money at his disposal and gets all he wants in the Ministries, and is very well informed. He has been occupying this position since the time when the Ambassador, owing to hostile demonstrations at the time of the attack on Finland, left in a great hurry, without even calling on the King, with whom he had an appointment (12).  On that occasion, though very few people knew about it, there was even demonstrations of sympathy in front of the Finnish Legation and the Minister carried around in triumph.

M did not trust Welles because he had the impression that Welles came here for personal reasons, that is, to become Foreign Minister, after the next presidential election.

(1) Domenico Tardini wrote at the top of the Note: “Give to me by His Eminence on 03.03.1941”.  It is reasonable to assume the note had originally been sent to Maglione who passed it to Tardini, even though there is nearly a year between the composition of the Note and its arrival on Tardini’s desk.
(2) Compare this with ADSS 1.272 n2.  There are major differences.
(3) Possibly Eugen Dollmann (1900-1985) who had worked as a translator for different Nazi leaders from 1934.  He held the SS rank of Obersturmbannfuhrer.
(4) Giacomo Matteotti (1885-1924) was an outspoken anti-fascist.  He was murdered on 10.06.1924 after publishing The Fascists Exposed and publically denouncing electoral fraud in the Italian parliament. Mussolini was widely presumed to have had some involvement whoever peripheral, but there was insufficient evidence to prove it.
(5) Filippo Anfuso (1901-1963), Foreign Ministry Chief of Staff 1938-42. He was not sent to Berlin.
(6) Massimo Magistrati (1899-1971) Counsellor at the Italian Embassy Berlin 1933-40; transferred to Sofia 1940-43. He married Ciano’s sister Maria in 1930 (died 1939).
(7) Guido Buffarini (1895-1945) Italian Minister of the Interior 1940-43; Renato Ricci (1896-1956) Italian Minister of Corporations 1939-43; Achille Starace (1889-1945) former Fascist Party Secretary 1931-39, Chief of Staff for the Blackshirts 1940-43.
(8) Service Ministers most likely refers to the chiefs of Italy’s armed forces. Domenico Cavagnari (1876-1966), Chief of Staff of the Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy) 1934-40.
(9) Pietro d’Acquarone (1890-1948), Duke and Master of the Royal House 1934-1944. He often acted as an intermediary for King Vittorio Emanuele and was known to be sympathetic to anti-Fascists.  He later played a role in the dismissal of Mussolini in 1943.
(10) Dino Alfieri (1886-1966), Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-40; Bonafacio Pignatti (1877-1957), Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1935-39.
(11) See DDI, Series 9, Volume 3, n536, p467.  According to Alfieri, Ribbentrop replied that he did not know anything and that he was not competent, but not that it was Hitler who directed all the affairs of State.
(12) Leon Helfand (1900-1961), Soviet Charge d’Affaires in Rome 1935-40 (he defected to the United States a few months later where he became Leon Moore); Boris Shtein (1892-1961), Soviet Ambassador to Italy 1935-39.

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