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from the beginning
Viasat History

Galeazzo Ciano

Italy's Secretary Of State and Benito Mussolini's son-in-law.

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

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.

When I entered the room Mussolini confirmed his decision to go along with the Germans. "You, Duce, cannot and must not do it. The loyalty with which I have served you in carrying out the policy of the Axis warrants my speaking clearly to you now. I went to Salzburg in order to adopt a common line of action. I found myself face to face with a diktat. The Germans, not ourselves, have betrayed the alliance in which we were to have been partners, and not servants.Tear up the pact. Throw it in Hitler's face and Europe will recognize in you the natural leader of the anti-German crusade. Do you want me to go to Salzburg? Very well, I shall go and shall speak to the Germans as they should be spoken to. Hitler will not have me put out my cigarette as he did with Schuschnigg." See more

During the afternoon we examine at length the advisability of sending a note to the Germans, but then we conclude that it is better to make a verbal communication, since if it were written it might induce Germany to ask for clarification about our eventual position in case of war. This is the last thing that I desire. See more

Today I have had two conferences at the Palazzo Venezia. I was alone in the morning and accompanied by Attolico in the afternoon. The Duce is more than ever convinced of the fact that France and England will enter the war if Germany attacks. "If they do not act," he says, "I shall send an ultimatum to the Bank of France, asking for the consignment of gold which is the thing that the French hold more dear than anything else." He is really beginning to react at German behavior toward him. I encourage him in this with every means in my power.

The Duce, who at first had refused to act independently of the Germans, today, after examining the papers that I presented to him, and after our conversations, is convinced that we must not march blindly with Germany. However, he makes one reservation: he wants time to prepare the break with Germany, and he will do it in such a way as not to break relations brutally and suddenly.

He is of the opinion that it may still be possible, though perhaps difficult, for the democracies to give in, in which case it would not be profitable for us to defend the Germans, since we, too, must have our part of the body. It is, therefore, necessary to find a solution which will permit the following: See more

I find Mussolini worried. I do not hesitate to arouse in him every possible anti-German reaction by every means in my power. I speak to him of his diminished prestige and his playing the none-too-brilliant role of second fiddle. And, finally, I turn over to him documents which prove the bad faith of the Germans on the Polish question. The alliance was based on premises which they now deny; they are traitors and we must not have any scruples in ditching them. But Mussolini still has many scruples. I am going to do my level best to convince him, because in so doing I am sure that I shall render a great service to him and to my country. See more

I am firmly convinced that neither England nor France will enter into a general war.

The second meeting with Hitler is briefer, and, I would say, more concise. Even in his gestures, the man reveals more than yesterday his imminent will to action. Our welcome is cordial but well contained on both sides.

I report to the Duce at the Palazzo Venezia. And, in addition to reporting to him what happened, I make known also my own judgment of the situation as well as of the men involved and of events. I return to Rome completely disgusted with the Germans, with their leader, with their way of doing things. See more

Hitler is very cordial, but he, too, is impassive and implacable in his decision. He speaks in the large drawing room of his house, standing in front of a table on which some maps are spread out. He exhibits a truly profound military knowledge. He speaks with a great deal of calm and becomes excited only when he advises us to give Yugoslavia the coup de grace as soon as possible. See more

Everything is the fault of the English. The Polish direly need to be taught a lesson. The democracies are inferior to Germany. They will not fight.

I retain my steadfast conviction that the western democracies will not risk unleashing a full-fledged general war.

Von Ribbentrop is evasive whenever I ask him for particulars about the German line of action. His conscience bothers him. He has lied too many times about German intentions toward Poland not to feel uneasy now about what he must tell me and what they are getting ready to do. See more

The Duce is more than ever convinced of the necessity of delaying the conflict. He himself has worked out the outline of a report concerning the meeting at Salzburg which ends with an allusion to international negotiations to settle the problems that so dangerously disturb European life. See more

Von Ribbentrop has approved the idea of our meeting. I decided to leave tomorrow night in order to meet him at Salzburg. The DucePrime Minister of Italy is anxious that I prove to the Germans, by documentary evidence, that the outbreak of war at this time would be folly. Our preparation is not such as to allow us to believe that victory will be certain.

Mussolini has always in mind the idea of an international peace conference. I believe the move would be excellent. See more