762.03/428: Telegram

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

20. My telegram February 14, 9 p.m. Dined last night at a large dinner given by Schmidt with Chancellor Schuschnigg, Seyss-Inquart, members of the Government and Diplomatic Corps. Atmosphere most oppressive. To French Minister, Schuschnigg described visit to Berchtesgaden as the most horrible day of his life. He says that Hitler undoubtedly a madman with a mission and in complete control of Germany. Hitler openly told him of his desire to annex Austria and declared that he could march into Austria with much greater ease and infinitely less danger than he incurred in remilitarization of the Rhineland. Schuschnigg admits that appointment of Seyss-Inquart is highly dangerous but states that he will make it in order to avert the “worst”. In respect of Italy, Schuschnigg declared that he can count only on moral not material support.

Schmidt is attempting to make best of bad situation and was in a long and friendly conversation with Seyss-Inquart. Hornbostel is in utter despair and states openly that there is nothing left for him to do but to leave Foreign Office.

Italian Minister21 claims that he was informed of Berchtesgaden meeting only on the 11th and denied that Italy took any initiative in the matter. He telegraphed full information to Mussolini. Latter, however, is engaged in winter sports and up to last night Ghighi had no information that his messages had reached the Duce. Italian Minister gives anxious impression.

Papal Nuncio admits that Seyss-Inquart may be good Catholic but fears nevertheless that it is the beginning of the end.

The French Minister who has been here 5 years states that this is the most critical moment since July 1934. “It is not the end. It is the moment before the end.” In his opinion Austria can only be saved by immediate reconciliation of France and England with Italy and energetic joint action. Enderrs, author of May constitution, made identical remark this morning.

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In my opinion Austria’s situation is most unfortunate and menacing. If Seyss-Inquart is loyal his appointment would not be a solution. If he is disloyal it is a catastrophe. Germany probably plans gradual Danzigification and any unsupported efforts Schuschnigg may make to outmaneuver Seyss-Inquart can at best only retard process.

Repeated by telegraph to Paris, London, Berlin and Rome.

  1. Pellegrino Ghighi.