We receive first through the press, and then from the ambassadors, the texts of the Moscow agreements. They deal with an outright partition of Poland although they contain something which allows us to foresee that on the German side at least there is some intention to do something later on in the way of face-saving. The Duce, however, is rather pessimistic and believes that in view of present conditions it is almost impossible to attempt a peaceful solution. He is right. Besides, it would not be admissible that the head of the Fascist party should support a solution that will put into the hands of the Bolsheviks many millions of Polish Catholics.
Berlin gives us absolutely no information. It is from the press agencies that we find out that von Ribbentrop has left for Moscow. But the scope of his trip is entirely unknown to us. Alleging that he has very little time at his disposal, von Ribbentrop refused to receive Attolico. This is bad....
The alliance between Moscow and Berlin is a monstrous union against the letter and spirit of our pact. It is anti-Rome and anti-Catholic. It is a return to barbarism, which it is our historic function to resist with every weapon and by every means. But will it be possible for us to do so? Or has not the outcome already been tragically decided?
Such is the diagnosis that the Duce has made of the Russian intervention invoked by Germany. He is more than ever convinced that Hitler will rue the day he brought the Russians into the heart of Europe. They have two weapons that make them still more terrible: pan-Slavic nationalism, with which they can bring pressure on the Balkans, and Communism, which is spreading rapidly among the proletariat all over the world, beginning with Germany itself.
The fact is that the Duce is in favor of peace only, because the position of a neutral is not at all to his liking. In the last few days he has repeated that a great nation cannot remain eternally in such a position without losing face, and that someday it should prepare to intervene. I cannot contradict him, because that would make matters worse.
A long conference with the Duce in the evening. I reported what I had learned from General Graziani. At the Present time our firstline forces amount to only ten divisions. The thirty-five others are patched up, incompletely manned, and ill-equipped. The Duce admitted that this was so and uttered bitter words as to the real condition of the Army, which at this time is so faulty. He boasts about our aviation. He has figures given him by Valle, which are absurdly optimistic. I advised him to start an investigation through the prefects: count the planes in the hangars and then add them up. This should not be an impossible undertaking. And yet until now we have not succeeded in finding out the truth.
I have answered Halifax, ending my letter with an allusion to possible action by the Duce to re-establish peace.
Magistrati has had a very important conference with Goering, who seems to have been persuaded of the advisability of Italy's remaining neutral. Such a position will help Germany more than our eventual entrance into the conflict. One surprising thing-Goering gave a hint of the impending intervention of Russia, which is to absorb a part of Poland. In fact, Russia is showing signs of restlessness. It is mobilizing numerous classes and the Zars prints news of Polish boundary raids and provocations. How unimaginative people are when they intend to quarrel.
Villani reports that the Germans have asked for the free use of the railroad at Kaya to attack Poland from the rear. The request, without threats at this time, was made today by Ribbentrop over the telephone. Czaky informs us at four o'clock that the first German troops will be despatched tomorrow at twelve. The Hungarians do not wish to yield to the demand. They are aware that this is a prelude to an actual occupation of the country. And they are right.
The Duce is in a more serene humor. He still believes that the opportunity of entering the game as a mediator will shortly present itself. Thus he is glad of the German successes in Poland, believing that they will shorten the conflict. Today Cracow fell, and the German generals paid their respects at the tomb of Pilsudski. The Duce feels that this fine gesture could never have been made by the Germany of the Kaiser. The Ambassador from Poland, whom I received this afternoon, was sad but not depressed. He says that the war will be continued until the last soldier is dead and that we shall yet have many surprises. What surprises, and when?
At eleven o'clock the news arrives that Great Britain has declared war on Germany. France does the same at 5 P.M. But how can they fight this war? The German advance in Poland is overwhelming. It is not impossible for us to foresee a very rapid finish. In what way can France and England bring help to Poland? And when Poland is liquidated, will they want to continue a conflict for which there is no longer any reason? See more
The Duce does not believe so. He believes, rather, after a short struggle, peace before the clash which he judges impossible from a military point of view. I agree. I am not a military man. I do not know how the war will develop, but I know one thing-it will develop and it will be long, uncertain, and relentless. The participation of Great Britain makes this certain. England has made this declaration to Hitler. The war can end only with Hitler's elimination or the defeat of Britain.
On his way to the front Hitler calls Attolico to the chancellery and entrusts him with greetings to the Duce. He was, I am told, calm and optimistic. He thinks that he will have Poland at his feet in four weeks, and in another four weeks will be able to concentrate his forces on the western front. He said nothing more. The Duce, who still prizes German friendship, was happy to know of Hitler's gesture.
Yielding to French pressure we suggest to Berlin the possibilities of a conference. A mere hint for the information of Berlin. Contrary to what I expected, Hitler does not reject the proposal absolutely. I inform the Duce. I call in the ambassadors of France and England. I telephone personally to Lord Halifax and to Bonnet. (I note that my telephone call to Bonnet, to judge from the tone of his voice and from the words spoken, has produced lively satisfaction in Paris.) I find much good will among the French, and maybe as much among the English, but with greater firmness on the part of the latter. One condition is put forward: the evacuation of the Polish territories occupied by the Germans. This condition is confirmed by Lord Halifax, after the meeting of the Cabinet.
Nothing new here. The Duce is convinced of the necessity of remaining neutral, but he is not at all happy. Whenever he can he reverts to the possibility of action. The Italian people, however, are happy about the decisions taken.
An ugly awakening. Attolico telegraphs at nine, saying that the situation is desperate and that unless something new comes up there will be war in a few hours. I go quickly to the Palazzo Venezia. We must find a new solution. In agreement with the Duce I call Halifax by telephone to tell him that the Duce can intervene with Hitler only if he brings a fat prize: Danzig. Empty-handed he can do nothing. On his part, Lord Halifax asks me to bring pressure on Berlin, so that certain procedural difficulties may be overcome and direct contacts established between Germany and Poland. See more
Here, then, are the consequences of the measures taken in the last few days, or, in other words, the consequences of too much publicity on the meager results of the too many measures taken in the last few days. I go to inform the Duce. He is affected by it. "This is war," he says, "but tomorrow we shall declare in the Grand Council that we are not marching." Tomorrow will be too late. The English and French may have then committed acts that render very difficult any such declaration.
I propose that we call Percy Loraine and that I commit an indiscretion. If scandal come of it I am willing to be sacrificed, but the situation will be saved. The Duce approves. Percy Loraine comes to me. I acquaint him with what has happened and then, acting as if I can no longer contain my feelings, I say, "But why do you want to start the irreparable? Can't you understand that we shall never start a war against you and the French?" Percy Loraine is moved. He is on the verge of tears. He takes my two hands in his and says, "I have known this for fifteen days. And I communicated it by telegram to my government. The measures of the last few days had shaken my faith. But I am happy to have come to the Palazzo Chigi tonight."
After Mackensen went away the Duce prepared the answer. He expressed regrets at not being able to intervene. He again proposed a political solution. The Duce is really out of his wits. His military instinct and his sense of honor were leading him to war. Reason has now stopped him. See more
But this hurts him very much. In the military field he was badly served by his collaborators who, under the illusion of eternal peace, have lulled dangerous illusions in him. Now he has had to confront the hard truth. And this, for the Duce, is a great blow.
However, Italy is saved from a great tragedy, that very tragedy which is about to fall on the German people. Hitler is entering the war with an alarming scarcity of equipment and with a divided country.
Berlin is showering us with requests for the list of our needs. We convene at the Palazzo Venezia at ten o'clock with the chiefs of staff of the three armies and with Benni.
We go over the list. It's enough to kill a bull-if a bull could read it. I remain alone with the Duce and we prepare a message to Hitler. We explain to him why it is that our needs are so vast, and we conclude by saying that Italy absolutely cannot enter the war without such provisions. The Duce makes some mention also of his political action to follow.