Sunday, August 16, 2015
ADSS 1.84: Valeri to Maglione: views on current tensions from France
ADSS 1.84 Valerio Valeri, France to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.
Reference: Report 8616/216 (AES 4412/39)
Location and date: Paris, 04.07.1939
Summary statement: French public opinion has understood the Pope’s approach for peace. Nuncio has spoken to For Off about articles in the French press critical of the Pope; expresses opinion that France and UK are not recommending moderation to Poland. Military preparations continue in France. France and UK had informed Germany of their intention to defend Poland.
Obeying the wish expressed by your Eminence with despatch number 4036/39 of 29 June 1939 (1) to keep you informed about changes in public opinion regarding the Holy See’s action, I am pleased to tell you that lately there have been no attacks or unfavourable comments against it. Only on the occasion of the death of Minister Ciano’s father I noted that some leftish newspapers and even La Croix have reported a telegram in which it was said the first the Holy Father then your Eminence and lastly even the Apostolic Nuncio had expressed their sympathy. The mention of the names and their sequence was not a mere coincidence.
In any case I think that the unrest created in the political circles and in some social sectors is quietening down completely. From my side I have continued my work of necessary clarification. So, not later than yesterday evening I was pointing out to M. Charveriat, Political Director at the Foreign Office, how unseemly and without foundation certain comments published in some newspapers were regarding the well-known steps taken by the Holy See. I mentioned as well the articles of the Mercure de France on the conclave and on the Holy Father Pius XII (2). The Minister told me he had read a summary of them without understanding who could have written or fostered them or what was their aim. I told him then that we “unfortunately” knew their source; but, as it was obvious, although he wanted to know, I claimed it was a secret I was not entitled to divulge. I hope, however, he more or less understood whom I meant from the way I expressed myself. In any case, I think I must write agin on this point to give more details.
I have had occasion, too, to point out to Minister Champetier de Ribes with whom I travelled last Sunday to Sens, the incongruities and contradictions of M. Pezet’s speech at the Popular Democratic Party Congress (3).
Passing on to the international situation it is necessary that I tell your Eminence that seen from here it is still very grave and that the danger of an armed conflict is becoming more probable on account of the tension regarding the Danzig issue. On this subject, in my conversations at the Quai d’Orsay, I have had the clear confirmation that neither France nor Great Britain intend to exert any action upon Poland to induce them to use moderation and to agree to negotiate with Germany. It has been declared that the two great Western Powers are, therefore, ready to march alongside Poland when the latter, defending her threatened rights, decides to take arms against Germany. France and England have, therefore, placed the determining of the casus belli in the hands of Poland.
The Government in the meantime continues to organise with increasing speed the military and material preparation of the nation. Plans for the evacuation of frontier zones and of city centres are ready, especially those for Paris; M. Lozé, Head of Protocol at the Quai d’Orsay (4), told me yesterday, in confidence, that the Office of the President of the Republic, the Ministries, Parliament and the Central Administration of the State are to be transferred, from the first days of the declaration of war, to the region of Tours (about 160 kms from Paris). M. Lozé showed me the plans which the Ministry was completing regarding accommodation and arrangements for the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the President of the Republic, and also mentioned to me in which castle (about 5 kms from Tours) the Ministry intended to accommodate the Nunciature.
As well as military preparations, attention is paid to the nation’s moral preparation, and the people now show that they are ready for the trial. To this state of mind the Government’s attitude of not leaving any stone unturned to repeat that the situation is grave has been especially noticeable and everybody has been told to be ready for the greatest of sacrifices.
Certainly the moment could not be more delicate. It is to be hoped, however, that the prayers of the good people, the action of the Holy See and the endeavours for peace of all well-meaning people could even at this stage avert the danger of a general conflagration.
PS: Yesterday evening the Italian Ambassador (5), who came ot see me about a flattering speech on the Italian army given by a priest of the Archdiocese of Toulouse, told me that M. Bonnet (6) had notified the German Ambassador here, not only orally but also in writing, regarding the irrevocable decision of France an Great Britain to go to the help of Poland when this nation thought it was necessary. Notwithstanding all this, the German Ambassador himself, Count von Welczeck (7), thinks that in some circles near to Hitler many people still have illusions on the eventual attitude of the two Powers.
In this way Germany would repeat, and in a greater measure, the error of judgement about the British attitude as in 1914.
In any tragic situation there is also the comic or the almost comic element. I was informed that recently there had been underhand dealings to sell to France the 1,400 aeroplanes taken from Czechoslovakia by Germany (8). This, while it demonstrates the irresistible power of business, shows also the extreme necessity of Germany to get hold of foreign currency.
(1) Not published in ADSS.
(2) ADSS 1.68 n2. Emile Charveriat (1889-1964) Political Director, French Foreign Office 1937-40.
(3) ibid. Auguste Champetier de Ribes (1882-1947), Christian Democrat Deputy and Senator 1924-40.
(4) Maurice Lozé (??), Assistant Chief of Protocol of the French Foreign Office 1937-41.
(5) Raffaele Guariglia (1889-1970), Italian Ambassador to France 1937-40.
(6) Georges Bonnet (1889-1957), French Foreign Minister 1938-39.
(7) Johannes von Welczeck (1878-1972), German Ambassador to France 1936-39, DGFP, Series D, Volume 6, n602. Note of the French Government, and ibid nn 603, 692-94.
(8) See DDI, Series 8, Volume 12, nn312, 361. Ernst Weizsäcker denied any sale to France to Bernardo Attolico (1880-1942) Italian Ambassador to Germany 1935-39.