863.01/566: Telegram (part air)

The Chargé in Germany ( Gilbert ) to the Secretary of State

17. 1. Rumors are again current that “some development” in the “Austrian question” is relatively imminent. As has repeatedly been the case in the past, the Embassy can find no substantiation of these rumors.

In relation to this, the general aspect of the situation here is substantially as follows. Germans undoubtedly envisage the ultimate incorporation of Austria into the Reich. Their desires in this regard are derived from a fundamental attitude respecting the political union of German peoples enhanced by the individual sentiment of Hitler. This circumstance forms a permanent basis for the outcropping from time to time of rumors of German action. While German leaders might take advantage of some unexpected development in the international situation favorable to their taking steps to bring about a union and while it is difficult to judge what combination of conditions they might construe as opportune, the present circumstances suggest that Germany feels that in the international scene time is working in her favor and with special preoccupations regarding Great Britain and France, Germany is disinclined to dispute what she perceives as a favorable current by launching on an adventure the results of which might be unpredictable. Diplomatic opinion here is however sharply divided on the Italian elements in the equation. The majority favor the classical view that Italy entertains unalterable apprehensions of a Germany at the Brenner. There remains a strong minority opinion that Italy in return for German support of which she is evidently in need has bargained away her objections to a German Austria, certain diplomats asserting that such an arrangement was consummated at least in principle during Mussolini’s visit to Berlin last September. I find, however, that these divergent views are apparently based on the individual’s concept of the “logic” of the situation and have not been able to discover any substantiating facts.

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In respect of current German-Italian relations it is noteworthy that while the proposed visit of Hitler to Italy is given enormous publicity in the Italian press, the German press has maintained utter silence having confined itself merely to a pro forma carrying of the Italian statement (Embassy’s 7, January 8, noon2). On this score Foreign Office officials in conversation with me have not disguised a resentment over Ciano’s3 recent visit to Vienna and Budapest and the inference is conveyed that the marked lack of a display of enthusiasm in Germany over Hitler’s proposed trip is in retaliation for some Italian attitudes, unwelcome here, possibly including Ciano’s visit and some feature of an alleged receptivity to direct conversations with Great Britain.

2. Without suggesting anything but a most remote analogy between the “Austrian” and “Czechoslovak” questions,4 the general considerations believed to govern Germany’s continental policy described above may, I think, be applied to current German-Czechoslovak relations.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. See pp. 483 ff.