740.00/1074: Telegram

The Ambassador in Poland (Biddle) to the Secretary of State

80. For the President and Secretary.

Official circles here greeted with unexpressed but discernible disappointment Mussolini’s insolent and scornful utterances regarding President Roosevelt’s appeal in that among other features it served further to bear out recent disturbing reports indicative of Hitler’s efforts to make Mussolini an Axis prisoner. In this connection my informants’ reports indicate (a) honeycombing of Fascist Government structure by Nazi officials and (b) (still unconfirmed) interspersion of Italian Army (especially in north Italy) by German troops. Moreover Polish intelligence officer assigned to Italy confidentially observed that Hitler, lacking confidence in Mussolini, was doing all possible to isolate Mussolini from all outside connections other than Berlin. Beck,30 however, in trying to interpret Mussolini’s underlying reaction to the President’s appeal, feels that notwithstanding insolence of Mussolini’s phraseology, Mussolini might conceivably have meant his expressed lack of confidence in large international conferences to serve as a bid for conference of limited scope.
According to Beck’s reports, Hitler had already addressed inquiry to following governments of states listed in President Roosevelt’s appeal, asking (a) whether they felt threatened by Germany and (b) whether they had received advance notice of the President’s appeal: Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Rumania, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia. Warsaw had not yet received this inquiry. Beck believed Berlin was trying to impress Warsaw that Berlin no longer considered Warsaw neutral.
It is obvious that Hitler, counting upon reluctance of certain states to annoy Germany at this time, expects replies to serve him on April 28th as means of discrediting the President’s appeal. This aim together with Mussolini’s utterances marks part of an energetic but diplomatic maneuver to counter President Roosevelt’s appeal.
  1. Józef Beck, Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs.