The Ambassador in Italy ( Phillips ) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 13—3:45 p.m.]
106. Embassy’s 104, May 10, 6 p.m.86 In discussing with Count Ciano87 the results of the Hitler visit he expressed great satisfaction over the solemn statement made by Hitler guaranteeing the present German-Italian frontiers. He said further that there had been no new undertakings between Germany and Italy as a result of the meeting, no documented agreements and no secret understandings. On the other hand he considered that the Rome–Berlin Axis had been fortified by the visit.
I mentioned the reference in the Duce’s speech to a new regime of international relationships offering more effective guarantees of justice, security and peace, and asked whether it had any bearing upon the possible resurrection of a four or five power pact. Ciano replied categorically that it had no such reference and that no mention had been made during the conversations of any move in this direction.
In reply to my inquiry regarding the Italian attitude concerning Czechoslovakia, the Minister answered that as he had previously told me Czechoslovakia lay well outside the Italian sphere of interest. Furthermore the Praha Government had never been friendly to the Italian Government and was in fact “an enemy” of Italy’s friends, namely Germany, Poland and Hungary. He expressed however his personal view that Hitler would not at present take any steps in Czechoslovakia which would lead to trouble. When I sought to obtain some reaction concerning the situation in Hungary I received only a similar expression of the Minister’s personal view that “there would be no surprise move” by Germany at present and he interpreted “at present” as one or two years.
It was evident from the Minister’s reply that Italy had made no concrete effort to restrain Germany in her plans with regard to Czechoslovakia. [Page 54] In view of the free hand given by Hitler to the Italians in respect of the German minorities south of the Brenner it might have been difficult for the Italians to bring pressure to bear on Hitler in regard to German minorities in Czechoslovakia. Ciano, however, told some of my colleagues including the Yugoslav Minister that it had been suggested to Hitler that any rash move in Czechoslovakia might be extremely dangerous. In this connection it may be noted that the British Ambassador called on Ciano last week to inform him of the joint British and French démarche at Praha and Berlin.88
My Czechoslovak colleague is of the opinion that the fundamental plans of Germany envisage the breaking up of the French-Soviet-Czech Association which can best be achieved by pressure on its weakest link, Czechoslovakia. The Minister believes that Hitler will not undertake any military move but rather continue to insist upon the granting of autonomy to the Sudeten Germans. Having once secured this they will find opportunities to complain that the Czechoslovak Government has failed to fulfill its promises to them and will then be in a position to demand before the world their admission to the German Reich. In such eventuality the Czechoslovak Government will be in no position to resist and a new frontier will have to be found.
Ciano’s reference to the fact that no new undertakings had been entered into between Germany and Italy would seem to indicate that the Italians had declined to commit themselves regarding military assistance in the event of a conflict arising out of possible German action in Czechoslovakia and I find among my colleagues a general belief that there is no immediate danger of precipitate action or conflict there.
The impression seems to prevail that the members of Hitler’s staff were disappointed by their visit although it is not believed that Hitler himself shared this view. He appears to have been immensely gratified by the Italian acceptance of the Anschluss and by the splendor of his reception and to have been so emotionally impressed by the spectacle of Italy’s power and the grandeur of Rome that he has returned to Germany with a different conception of the Italian people.
In short, the visit would appear to have reaffirmed the solidarity of the Rome–Berlin Axis following the Anschluss and the Anglo-Italian agreements and to have secured for Italy, without the necessity of further commitments on its part, the reiteration of Hitler’s guarantee of the inviolability of the Italian-German frontier.