740.00119 European War 1939/447: Telegram

the Chargé in Germany (Heath) to the Secretary of State

2118. Yesterday the Italian Ambassador47 sent word that he would be glad to have me call on him this afternoon. He discoursed at length on the allegedly critical situation of Great Britain. He stated that Britain had failed to prepare its defense in time and was now, he asserted, in no condition to prevent German attack and invasion which, he added, would be successful within a very short time. He remarked the King understood that Churchill thought that resistance could be prolonged over a period of months until greater assistance could be drawn from overseas but by virtue of his position as Ambassador of an Allied Power he had been given insight into German plans and preparations and that he was convinced no such possibility existed. Neither was there, he indicated, any possibility of relief through a diversion created by Russian advance in the Balkans.

He asserted that it was neither the desire nor the interest of either Germany or Italy to destroy England nor was it in the interest of the United States or the world at large that England and the British Empire be destroyed. There yet remained a few days but only a few in which the catastrophe might be averted. He was confident that peace terms which would be acceptable to England under the circumstances would be offered by the Axis Powers but that the request had to come from England. He had devoted thought to who might take such initiative in order to prevent the “catastrophe.” The Pope was regrettably no longer in such a position. The King of England might act in an emergency but he indicated doubt that without prompting the King would take upon himself such responsibility, although a move of England for peace, he argued, would not constitute a national disgrace for England since it would be excused by the crushing and unexpected defeat of its ally France. He asserted that it was not even necessary that Churchill resign. It would suffice that there be some changes in the composition of the present British Cabinet.

He avoided making the direct suggestion that the United States intervene to persuade England to ask for terms beyond saying at the conclusion of the interview that the responsibility for the continuance of the war and the prevention of what he termed a catastrophe rested largely and primarily on the United States. He remarked possibly with intention that he had been several times at the Fuehrer’s headquarters and that that afternoon he had had a long talk with State Secretary Weizsaecker.

  1. Dino Alfieri.