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.
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
We telephoned von Ribbentrop, who was unavailable for some time. Finally, at 5:30 p.m., I speak to him and tell him that I want to see him at the Brenner Pass. He says that he cannot give me an answer at once because he "is waiting for an important message from Moscow (sic) and will telephone to me during the evening." I report this to the Duce, who asks me, as he frequently does these days, what the tone of the conversation had been and how the German humor was.
Another conference with the Duce. He approves the document that I have drawn up for my discussion with von Ribbentrop and we settle on four points relating to eventualities that might present themselves. In my opinion three do not count, but one is fundamental: the one which insists that we shall not intervene if the conflict is provoked by an attack on Poland.
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
Mussolini, impelled by his idea of honor, might be led to reaffirm his determination of going along with the Germans. He wanted to do it two days ago, and it was difficult to prevent him from doing so. It would be a mad venture, carried out against the unanimous will of the Italian people, who as yet do not know how things stand, but who, having had a sniff of the truth, have had a sudden fit of rage against the Germans.
Starace, who is in good faith in this matter, says that when Germany attacks Poland we must keep our eyes open to prevent public demonstrations against the Germans. A policy of neutrality will, on the other hand, be more popular, and, if it were necessary later, war with Germany would be every bit as popular.
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
(1) if the democracies attack, we should be able to free ourselves "honorably" from the German;
(2) if the democracies simply swallow it, without fighting back, we should take advantage of it to settle accounts once and for all with Belgrade.
For this purpose it seems useful to Put down in writing the conclusions of Salzburg. This is a document which we might either pull out in the open or leave buried in the archives, as the case may require. But the Duce is more and more convinced that the democracies will
fight. "It is useless," he says, "to climb two thousand meters into the clouds. Perhaps we are closer to the Eternal Father up there, if He exists, but we are surely farther from men. This time it means war. And we cannot engage in war because our plight does not permit us to do so.”
The conversations I had with him today lasted for six hours. And I talked to him with brutal frankness.
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
Meanwhile, I tell Starace not to keep from the Duce the country's true state of mind, which is clearly anti-German. Tomorrow I shall also talk about this with the head of the police force. He should know that the Italian people do not want to fight alongside Germany in order to give it that power with which one day it will threaten us. I no longer have doubts about the Germans. Tomorrow it will be Hungary's turn, and then ours. We must act now while there is time.
I go to the seashore with the Polish Ambassador. I speak with him in vague terms and advise moderation. Our counsellor at Warsaw says that Poland will fight to the last man. The churches are filled. The people pray and sing a hymn, "O God, help us to save our country." These people will be massacred by German steel tomorrow. They are innocent. My heart is with them.
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
They have betrayed us and lied to us. Now they are dragging us into an adventure which we have not wanted and which might compromise the regime and the country as a whole. The Italian people will boil over with horror when they know about the aggression against Poland and most probably will wish to fight the Germans. I don't know whether to wish Italy a victory or Germany a defeat. In any case, given the German attitude, I think that our hands are free, and I propose that we act accordingly, declaring that we have no intention of participating in a war which we have neither wanted nor provoked.
The Duce's reactions are varied. At first, he agrees with me. Then he says that honor compels him to march with Germany. Finally, he states that he wants his part of the booty in Croatia and Dalmatia.
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
I realize immediately that there is no longer anything that can be done. He has decided to strike, and strike he will. All our arguments will not in the least avail to stop him. He continues to repeat that he will localize the conflict with Poland, but his affirmation that the great war must be fought while he and the Duce are still young leads me to believe once more that he is acting in bad faith.
He utters words of high praise for the Duce, but he listens with a faraway and impersonal interest to what I tell him about the bad effects a war would have on the Italian people. Actually I feel that as far as the Germans are concerned an alliance with us means only that the enemy will be obliged to keep a certain number of divisions facing us, thus easing up the situation on the German war fronts.
They care for nothing more. The fate that might befall us does not interest them in the least. They know that the decision will be forced by them rather than by us. In conclusion, they are promising us only a beggarly pittance.
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 decision to fight is implacable. He rejects any solution which might give satisfaction to Germany and avoid the struggle. I am certain that even if the Germans were given more than they ask for they would attack just the same, because they are possessed by the demon of destruction.
At times our conversation becomes very tense. I do not hesitate to express my thoughts with brutal frankness. But this does not move him. I am becoming aware of how little we are worth in the opinion of the Germans.
The atmosphere is cold. And the coldness between me and him is spread even among our secretaries. During the dinner hour not a word is exchanged. We are distrustful of each other. But I, at least, have a clear conscience. He has not.
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
Before letting me go he recommends that I should frankly inform the Germans that we must avoid a conflict with Poland, since it will be impossible to localize it, and a general war would be disastrous for everybody. Never has the Duce spoken of the need for peace with so much warmth and without reserve. I agree with him 100 percent, and this conviction will lead me to redouble my efforts. But I am doubtful as to the results.
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
The Japanese Ambassador informs me that adherence to the alliance has been decided by Tokyo. After so much uncertainty I wonder if this is true. And, if it is true, I wonder if it is for the best, since conversations with Moscow are as yet inconclusive. Besides, won't this
fact make Germany more arrogant and encourage her to rush along a path of intransigence and thus bring the crisis to the boiling point as concerns the Danzig problem?
The King has very cordially confirmed to the Duce the matter of granting the collar.