762.63/427: Telegram

The Chargé in Austria (Wiley) to the Secretary of State

18. My telegram No. 16, February 13th. Have just seen Schmidt and he told me that the Berchtesgaden conversations had been extremely “hard” and that he had to admit that Schuschnigg had been under heavy pressure. I inquired whether Schuschnigg had been confronted as rumored with the text of an agreement already signed by Hitler. He denied this and stated that during the protracted conversations every possible combination had been debated. He admitted, however, that three ranking German generals had been present in order to increase the pressure and did not deny a rumor that Hitler had threatened trouble in the event that Schuschnigg refused to accept Hitler’s proposals. It had all, however, come to a happy end and he felt that a great service had been rendered to world peace. He would not promise that the solution would be a permanent one. Probably Austro-German relations would again come to a crisis and require revision.

I asked Schmidt whether an agreement had actually been definitely concluded. He replied that the agreement had not as yet been formally reached but that he thought it would be and that a joint communiqué would be issued. I inquired with regard to details. He told me that the agreement would comprise all of the basic elements of the July 11th accord and admitted that Hitler had requested the inclusion of Seyss-Ińquart in the Government as Minister of Public Security. Police President Skubl however would remain. Schmidt assured me that the Chancellor had complete confidence in Seyss-Inquart and that he, Schmidt, did not regard him as an obstacle to appeasement. He said that “if he is loyal we prefer to have Nazis arrested by a Nazi. If he is not loyal it will mean that appeasement between the two countries is not possible and something else will have to be done”. I suggested that as late as 2 years ago Seyss-Inquart had been working [Page 392] actively on behalf of the Nazis. He replied that Seyss-Inquart was a devout Catholic and since that time the “Kultur Kampf” had broken out. Moreover Seyss-Inquart was in deadly opposition to Captain Leopold, the illegal Austrian Nazi leader. I suggested that if Seyss-Inquart was loyal to Schuschnigg I did not understand why Hitler placed such emphasis on his inclusion in the Government or if he was not loyal how the Austrian Government could risk turning over the police control of the country to him. Schmidt replied that he had raised the same question with Hitler. However there was always a “middle way” and he hoped that it would be found in the present instance. (I could not obtain clarification of this.)

I [asked?] Schmidt if it was true that Schuschnigg had shown Hitler documents seized in Tavs affair incriminating Nazi leaders in Germany. He replied in the negative stating that this had previously been done through Papen. (Papen definitely leaves end of this week.)

Schmidt added that while it had been agreeable to work with Ribbentrop he had the definite feeling that Ribbentrop had inwardly been much opposed to the results achieved.

I queried Schmidt with regard to the Italian attitude. He was noncommittal save for the admission the Italian Government was informed of the negotiations well in advance.

I told Schmidt that my Government maintained a deep and sincere interest in the welfare of Austria and I was sure it hoped earnestly that the Austrian Government would firmly resist threats against the independence of Austria.

I have learned indirectly but reliably from the Federal Press Service that in return for the appointment of Seyss-Inquart Hitler promised the maintenance of the principles the July 11th agreement with recognition of Austria’s independence, may20 the patriotic front as the unique political structure of Austria together with a pledge of noninterference in domestic affairs; economic matters were not mentioned.

Schuschnigg avoided committing himself stating that he was not authorized to sign any agreement without previous consultation with President Miklas. According to the Press Service the attitude of the Chancellor was that the portfolio of Public Security which he now retains could only be confided to some one having his entire confidence. President Miklas was opposed to the proposed concession.

From another source reliably informed Hitler promised to dissolve Austrian legion in Germany. About a thousand workmen at Austro Fiat and Clayton Shuttleworth factories made a short protest strike this morning against concession to National Socialists.

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My feeling is that inclusion of Seyss-Inquart in the Government would be stopgap solution reflecting force of German pressure and would profoundly discourage spirit of resistance in Austria.

  1. Sentence apparently garbled at this point.