Thursday, December 22, 2016
ADSS 1.247 Maglione: notes on Italian situation
ADSS 1.247 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, notes.
Reference: AES Italy 1086, unnumbered, personal notes.
Location and date: Vatican, 17.02.1940
Summary statement: During the Milan interview, Italy had agreed to Germany’s claims over Danzig, but without war. At Salzburg, Hitler was determined to go to war against Poland. Ciano determined that Italy will not go to war. Ciano claims Mussolini agrees.
His Excellency [Galeazzo] Ciano, Italian Foreign Minister (1), while dining at Ambassador Alfieri’s (2) house yesterday confided to me the following:
1. At the meeting, which he had in Milan with M. von Ribbentrop, the German claims over Danzig and the Corridor had been admitted. It was explicitly declared however that his claim could not be a motive for going to war nor that it should be attained through war (3);
2. At Salzburg Hitler and his Foreign Minister appeared already decided on going to war against Poland: the German Chancellor gave in fact a description of the future military operations with a precision which has been confirmed by the subsequent events. All the pleasing of Ciano against the war did not cut any ice with the Chancellor who was under the manifest and domineering influence of the Minister von Ribbentrop, who was sure that the Western powers would not make a move. Ciano’s remarks and assurances to the contrary based on reliable information had no effect. Ribbentrop was even prepared to take a best: he would give Ciano a collection of German armour if the Western powers made a move: otherwise he would receive from Ciano an old Master. (The German collection of armour never arrived …) (4)
3. Ciano has not a good opinion of von Ribbentrop; he thinks that Hitler is more human and astute.
4. Ciano has done everything and will continue to make every effort to precent Italy going to war; the people do not want war; he is against fighting a war on the German side against France and Britain.
Ciano sees the danger of a German victory …
Mussolini is more inclined towards Germany. He was leaning towards Germany and … war. But, Ciano told me, Mussolini loves Italy and is too much of a realist not to see that it is in Italy’s interest to stay out of the conflict and Mussolini cannot underestimate the danger of a German victory.
On the other hand – added Ciano – the war cannot be carried on, because there are no means for fighting it, armaments, etc. Italy is not prepared. The Under-Secretaries of the military ministries had not informed Mussolini of the true state of affairs: they have been obliged afterwards to tell the truth and it has transpired for example that the Air Force had only one thousand planes, and not 5,000 as had been stated before. Italy can only handle the small Balkan powers, if necessary, but for the moment no more than that (5).
(1) Galeazzo Ciano (1903-1944), Italian Foreign Minister 1936-43.
(2) Dino Alfieri (1886-1966), Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-40. See CJ Lowe and F Marzari (2001/13), Italian Foreign Policy 1870-1940, Volume 8, pp 331-334.
(3) Ciano had met Ribbentrop in Milan for talks on 06-07.05.1939. Mussolini attempted to persuade the Germans to delay war for at least three years; questions of the legitimacy of German claims over Danzig were accepted. Ciano attempted to keep Italy out of any agreement that would drag Italy into a war but was, ultimately, unsuccessful, as the Pact of Steel announced later that month pointed to.
(4) See Lowe and Marzari, op. cit. pp 337-40; see too ADSS 1.103.
(5) The note accurately reflects the change in Ciano’s thinking between mid-1938 and the beginning of 1940. He was determined to do all he could to keep Italy out of a war he believed would bring more harm than good to the nation. At the same time Mussolini was moving from his position of “non-belligerence” to a more accommodating position with Germany that would eventually bring Italy into the war as a co-belligerent power.