762.63/464: Telegram

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

38. Saw Foreign Minister Schmidt this morning. He regrets Eden’s departure33 because of latter’s sympathy and understanding for Austria. He let it be clearly implied, however, that Chamberlain’s attitude was more practical and that there was now hope that through Anglo-Italian understanding Central European equilibrium might be restored. Italy had been disturbed owing to his [sic] German policy [Page 406] towards Austria but had not been in a position to take effective action without incurring the risk of complete isolation.

He said that Schuschnigg’s speech tomorrow would contain no surprises but would be strong. Austrian Government would not admit additional Nationalists and was not going one millimeter beyond the line agreed on in Berchtesgaden.

Though he still considered situation most difficult for Austria he called attention to the relatively small number of Nazi demonstrators as evidence of fundamental weakness of the movement in Austria. The Nazis, he said, showed strength only in Graz.

On the subject of Hitler’s speech he admitted that Schuschnigg was disappointed that Hitler had not specifically mentioned Austrian independence and non-intervention in domestic affairs. On the other hand Schuschnigg had been greatly relieved that Hitler had not spoken of situation as “family affair.” He denied that Goering was coming to Austria.

Also saw Hornbostel, Political Director of the Foreign Office. He said that Eden had been disposed to make clear in Berlin that England and France would not remain passive in cases of German violation of Austria. Hornbostel fears that Chamberlain would not take similar action for the present which he deeply regrets. However, he believes that Anglo-Italian understanding is proceeding rapidly and satisfactorily. If Italy could count on England’s support, former would be able to exercise effective influence to redress Austrian position.

Hornbostel told me that irrespective of what information I may have had from other sources it was a fact that Ciano knew of proposed meeting at Berchtesgaden as far back as Budapest Conference and that Mussolini highly approved of it. (Am informed in strictest confidence that Italian Minister made urgent representations February 21 that Austrian Government should not permit impression that Italy “let down” Austria. He explained that the Duce had been greatly disturbed by foreign press comment.)

When asked when next serious crisis with Germany might be expected Hornbostel replied that if things went well there might be none, if badly, not before the beginning of summer.

Saw President Miklas last night at the French Legation. He appeared depressed and stated that Austria accepted great sacrifice because Europe was not prepared. Europe should prepare herself for the immediate future. At the same time General Zehner, Under Secretary of National Defense, while admitting situation difficult maintained battle far from lost and asserted that Schuschnigg’s speech would be followed by a sharp crystallization of Austrian national sentiment. Also saw Zernato deputy leader of Patriotic Front. [Page 407] He said 21st had been critical day. He was then afraid he would lose half of his force through desertion and half through defeatism. However, morale had been restored and he was now entirely reassured. I infer that big Patriotic Front demonstration planned for Thursday after Schuschnigg’s speech.

It appears that Austrian Government intends to continue struggle courageously and that confidence is increasing.

  1. Anthony Eden resigned as British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on February 20, 1938.