760F.62/1747: Telegram

The Ambassador in Germany (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

565–566. For the Under Secretary. Supplementing my 558, October 20, 2 p.m., and in further reply to your 181, October 18, noon.

Report on your point No. 1. Weizsaecker telephones he cannot verify the hour at which Hitler received the President’s second message. Papers are not given a time stamp in the Chancery and he is unable to find anyone who saw the paper delivered.

Wiedemann26 states that he saw the telegram between 10 and 11 o’clock the morning of Wednesday the 28th, that it was already translated at that time and that he “supposed that it had already been brought to the Chancellor”.

Reference to your point 3. I had a long talk this morning with Attolico who begged me to keep strictly confidential anything he told me about September 28. His story follows:

He did not participate in events on the 27th instant other than to follow as well as he could what was going on.

On the morning of the 28th at 11 o’clock he told the Belgian Minister, who was calling on him, that he fully expected war to break out that day.

A few minutes later Mussolini called on the telephone in person to inform Attolico that a message from Chamberlain had just been received through Lord Perth. Mussolini instructed Attolico at once to apprise Hitler that whatever happened Mussolini was with him to the finish. He knew that Hitler was planning to issue orders for final mobilization and the march of troops at 2 p.m., that he had just received a message from Chamberlain that looked interesting but he wanted time to consider it. Hence he begged Hitler to delay everything 24 hours. He closed with a further assurance of his solidarity whatever happened.

Attolico went at once to the Chancery and was informed by the adjutant that François-Poncet was with Hitler. He persuaded the adjutant to carry in a note saying that Attolico was there with a message from Mussolini. Hitler read the note and told François-Poncet that he was called to the telephone, went out of the room leaving François-Poncet with Ribbentrop. He then heard the message from Mussolini hesitated some 20 seconds and said that since Mussolini requested it he would delay affairs 24 hours. Attolico then said that [Page 728] Mussolini was calling him at noon sharp to have Hitler’s answer and that he must hurry back to the Embassy to take the call. Attolico says that Hitler returned to François-Poncet and told the latter that he had just had a message from Mussolini thus giving François-Poncet the impression that Mussolini himself had called on the telephone.

Mussolini called Attolico promptly at 12, instructed him to return to Hitler to thank him for his consideration, to state that Chamberlain proposed that the whole situation be liquidated in 1 week, and that he undertook his guaranty in respect to carrying out the solution not only vis-à-vis Germany but vis-à-vis Italy as well. Attolico was further to state that acceptance of the plan in Mussolini’s opinion meant for Hitler such a “grandiose victory”, that there was no point in precipitating hostilities. Attolico was to return to Hitler at once and in the meantime Chamberlain’s proposal was to be read over the telephone to the Italian Embassy.

Attolico proceeded again to the Chancery where he encountered Goering and Neurath in the anteroom. He immediately acquainted these two with the state of affairs and received Goering’s assurances that he would push for the acceptance of Chamberlain’s proposal. Hitler then entered the room and Attolico delivered his message briefly. Hitler appeared puzzled and said that nobody had yet spoken to him about the problem being solved in 1 week and he thought there was some confusion. Attolico immediately volunteered to return to his Embassy, get the copy of Chamberlain’s communication (not yet delivered by the British Embassy) and return at once with it. He desired thus to give Goering a chance to urge Hitler to accept the proposal. Attolico returned to the Embassy, picked up Chamberlain’s communication, found a further message from Mussolini instructing him to say that if Hitler so desired Italy would be present at any conference if Chamberlain chose to come over again and Hitler received him.

Attolico returned to the Chancellery. This time Hitler was summoned from a conference with Henderson carrying in his hand Chamberlain’s communication which Attolico also presented. Hitler said that he could not see much purpose in an announcement in Rome that dealings at Godesberg had given him27 the impression that he was in agreement with Hitler’s suggested line. Chamberlain had then returned to England, encountered a wave of hostile opinion and had slipped back. He would only talk to Chamberlain again provided not only that Italy was represented but that Italy was represented by Mussolini in person.

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Attolico rushed again to his Embassy, telephoned Mussolini, rushed back to the Chancellery arriving there about 2:40 for the fourth time since 11 o’clock. Hitler came from the lunch table still eating. Attolico who speaks no German spoke this time four words in that language “morgenelfuhr Mussolini …”28 Hitler laughed for the first time during the day and Attolico went back to lunch.

Attolico added one further detail emphasizing again its strictly confidential nature. In the course of the third visit Hitler dictated a brief outline of his minimum and irreducible demands and told Attolico to communicate them to Mussolini. Attolico did so but warned that other influences here might cause Hitler to stiffen those demands before the meeting. Mussolini replied that he thought he could take care of that. At the first meeting of the four Heads of Government Mussolini at once spoke and proposed as his’ own suggestion the irreducible demands which Attolico had telephoned. Attolico states that he has since learned that in fact the demands had been stiffened subsequently but that Hitler was unable to disclaim Mussolini’s suggestion in view of the fact that it had originated with himself.

  1. Capt. Fr. Wiedemann, retired, personal aide-de-camp to the German Chancellor in his capacity as Fuehrer.
  2. i. e., Chamberlain.
  3. Quotation apparently garbled.