740.00119 European War 1939/448: Telegram

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

2217. The Department’s telegram No. 1792 June 28, 3 p.m. was delivered at the Embassy at 3:20 p.m. today. I saw the Italian Ambassador at 6 and recalled in summary his views as reported in my No. 2118, June 26, 9 p.m. He said that it was a correct recital of his views and while he was not authorized to speak for his Government or that of the Reich in the matter he stated that they were also the views of the two Governments as he understood them. However, he had not consulted his or the German Government before the conversations with me which he desired to be considered personal nor was it his intention to make a report to his Government or to the German Government of that interview or of today’s conversation.

He said that for him to do so would expose himself and the Axis Governments to the accusation of having initiated an overture for peace whereas in view of the present military situation it was very obvious that the initiative must come solely from the British side. For him to report or in any way take up the matter with his Government would have an effect opposite to that desired.

He remarked that the American Government without prompting had made two efforts for a peaceful understanding prior to the outbreak of war and was of course always within its rights to take any move in furthering its policy, but if it took any action in the present situation it must not be based on or refer to the interview and he again repeated that the initiative for peace must come solely from Great Britain. He asked that the conversation be held strictly confidential within the Department of State in order to protect his own position.

Alfieri was anxious to convince me that he had acted without specific instructions from his Government during our first conversation. I had the feeling, however, that Alfieri had represented his Government in recent conversations in Berlin on the subject of the desirability of propagating abroad the impression that it was necessary that Great Britain lose no time in initiating overtures for the cessation of [Page 41]hostilities and that by acting before the impending attack the British could obtain relatively favorable terms.

In view of Alfieri’s request that this be held confidential within the Department, to which I felt it necessary to accede, I am not repeating this telegram to Rome.