765.00/69: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Long) to the Secretary of State

38. This afternoon I had by appointment a conversation with Signor Suvich,34 the first since my return 3 days ago.

I said that his Government had had some interesting experiences since I left. Suvich said that he would review for me the happenings. He said that they had made agreements with France which seemed very bright in prospect for general European peace and certainly were reassuring as regards Franco-Italian friendship.

Suvich then spoke of the Saar, saying that France had made a mistake in agreeing to the plebiscite and in her attitude after her agreement, the consequence of which was that there was an overwhelming vote in the Saar in favor of Germany; that the French Government had said that it would wash its hands of the Saar in case there was a vote in favor of Germany and would not assume responsibility for situations which might develop there; that France had given the impression that she thought the plebiscite would go in favor of Germany; that the priests in the Saar had taken their positions from the bishops and the hierarchy of the church who had announced that the voters might exercise entire freedom of conscience, with the combined result that the people in the Saar were motivated by an impulse of fear for the consequences in case they voted against Germany and Germany should win, with the result that an overwhelming majority of the population voted for return to Germany.

The effect of this victory is contrary to the prognostications. It had been thought in countries other than Italy that Germany would be satisfied for the time being if she obtained the Saar and that peace would be a more settled prospect in Europe. However, the present effect on Germany is to have emboldened her and to have inspired the Hitler regime to additional hope of former territory. They have now the intention to attach territories of Eupen and Malmedy. After that they have in mind, and in the following order, to recapture Memel then the Polish Corridor and to attach Austria. So that instead of serving as a sedative to Europe and as an inducement for a greater [Page 186] security for peace the triumph of Hitler, for the overwhelming nature of which France is partly to blame, has served only to increase the ambitions of Germany and to [incite] the Hitler regime to additional territorial acquisitions.

After the plebiscite in the Saar and acting in the thought that Germany had been placated and after the agreements of Rome between France and Italy which carried the hope of a peaceful solution of the affairs of Europe, England thought that the time would be ripe for conversation with France which led to the impending visit of Flandin and Laval to London. England was animated by the desire to use these two factors to bring Germany into accord with the rest of Continental Europe. Through the conversations of the British with the French it is hoped to have Germany adhere to the nonaggression pact against Austria and have her also accept the Eastern Locarno with the additional proposal to be made by England that part V of the Treaty of Versailles preventing armament by Germany should be abrogated and a new agreement within the framework of the League of Nations and amongst the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles be entered into. This would satisfy Germany in that that part of the Treaty of Versailles would be scrapped and would satisfy England, France and Italy and other former antagonists of Germany on the Continent of Europe by limiting the armaments of Germany in a new treaty. The limitations to be imposed have not been definitely determined upon but would be in some fixed ratio to the armaments of France and Italy.

Mr. Suvich said that his Government was disappointed and yet was hopeful that the conference in London might solve some difficulties of the problem. He said his Government at the present time was decidedly pessimistic. In his own words he said, “We are confronting a high strong wall with just one little door leading through it. We hope the door will remain open but at the present moment we are very pessimistic.”

I asked him whether the agreements at Rome concerning Austrian independence35 involved any obligation on the part of France. He said that the agreement only provided for consultation between the two Governments in case there should be any German aggression toward Austria. To my further questioning as to whether there would be any action of any kind, he replied that there might be a little mobilization along the Austrian frontier of Italy and there might be a little mobilization along the Rhine on the part of France but that while those matters would be in prospect in case of an attempt [Page 187] by Germany there had been nothing settled except that the two Governments would “consult”. Italy had also written to each of the countries contiguous to Austria (except Germany) and to those other countries such as Rumania and Poland which had been invited to join the nonaggression pact against Austria, inviting them to consult with France and Italy in case of German aggression toward Austria pending the time of their signature of the treaties. They have not yet heard from the countries to which they have written so that in case of German aggression in Austria the present agreement involves only consultation between France and Italy with presumable mobilization along both borders. As regards Germany, they have had conversations and in this connection the Italian Ambassador at Berlin has seen Hitler and the German Ambassador at Rome has also seen him and has returned to Rome and is to be received by Mussolini tomorrow. However, Germany is supposed to be antagonistic to the Austrian pact; she is opposed to the Eastern Locarno. In some respects Poland agrees with Germany but not in the definite opposition which Germany bears to both. In the meantime, France is insisting upon giving great power to the Eastern Locarno and has in a way subordinated to it the treaty for the noninterference pact relating to Austria. This makes the whole situation more difficult and is not in accord with Italian desires.

Suvich then proceeded to say that Germany no doubt was swelling with ambition and pride and was feeling the exhilarating effects of her victory in the Saar and looking toward Malmedy and Eupen and to Memel and the Polish Corridor. He felt that if an attempt develops in Austria it would eventually lead to a move to recover the Alto Adige from Italy. To my question as to whether or not it looked as if Germany was to resume her march to Baghdad he replied in the affirmative. Then I said “It looks very much like the davs prior to 1914” and he replied “yes, very much”.

I got from Suvich the impression of a definite pessimism which was illuminated exclusively by the hope of the possible success of the conferences at London and the implication that they might bring Germany to see the light and to agree to a limitation of her armament in cooperation with the powers of Continental Europe and to put her signature to the Austrian and Eastern Locarno Treaties. Lacking these agreements the hope for peace in Europe seemed short-lived. Suvich himself said, “We shall know within the next few weeks or few months whether Germany is willing to agree to keep the peace of Europe and to make political cooperation with the other nations or whether she is intent upon armament to reconquer and to make war.”

  1. Fulvio Suvich, Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. See report No. 14215 by the Acting Military Attaché in Italy, January 10, 1935, p. 170.