740.00119 European War/10–444

The British Embassy to the Department of State


Sir Noel Charles recently received from the Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a private letter regarding the “forthcoming Armistice with Germany which will undoubtedly be imposed by the Allied High Command in the name of the United Nations”. Marchese Visconti Venosta expressed the hope that Italy would be allowed to participate in the Armistice and gave the following reasons:—

Italy has been in state of war with Germany for one year on the side of the United Nations.
Italian land, sea and air forces have contributed to the Allied effort in a manner which has repeatedly won the appreciation of the Allied Command.
The campaign waged by Italian patriots in German occupied Italy has reached the proportions of war operations and patriots have been included by the Allied Command in the body of the Allied forces.

The Under Secretary suggested that the most suitable way of recognising Italy’s position juridically in respect of the Armistice with Germany would be to accept Italy’s adherence to the Atlantic Charter and to Declaration of the United Nations signed at Washington on January 1st 1943 [1942]. As a result of Italy’s adherence to the Declaration the armistice with Germany would be concluded by the Allied High Command also in the name of Italy and the more important Italian interests connected with state of war with Germany would be safeguarded.
In the event of Italy “not finding herself in a position corresponding to legal and de facto conditions of her participation in the fight against the common enemy, the shock on Italian public opinion would be very strong and its probable effects detrimental to everybody”.
In the opinion of His Majesty’s Government the Italian request is clearly prompted by two motives, (a) the desire for equality of status with the United Nations and (b) the desire for participation in the enforcement of surrender terms against Germany and for the support of the victorious Allies in asserting Italian claims against that country.
His Majesty’s Government still adhere to the view expressed in this Embassy’s Aide-Mémoire of March 31st 194450 that it would be inappropriate to permit Italy to adhere publicly to the Atlantic charter nor do they favour Italy’s formal admission to the ranks of the United Nations by any other means. They are not prepared to concern themselves in any way with any claims which Italy may have against Nazi Germany.
Apart from being undesirable in the view of His Majesty’s Government, Italian participation in any armistice with Germany is unnecessary. Hostilities between Italy and Germany could be terminated by declarations issued by the Governments of either state on instructions of the Allied Control Commission concerned, followed, if desired, by signature of a German-Italian instrument confined exclusively to recording the cessation of hostilities.
Similar considerations apply to Roumania51 who may also claim to be co-belligerent and to Bulgaria52 who has declared war on Germany, and would apply to any other state which after breaking with Germany might declare war on her and/or be regarded as co-belligerent.
The recent declaration by the President and Mr. Churchill53 and the execution of the concrete proposals which it has announced, will render it unnecessary to make any further concessions to the Italian Government in the interest of “stability and order”. His Majesty’s Government therefore see no objection to leaving the request of the Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs unanswered. If pressed however, they would like Sir Noel Charles to return a reply on lines of the foregoing paragraphs.
His Majesty’s Government understand from Mr. Winant that Mr. Kirk has received a similar communication from the Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and, as it is most desirable that the American and British Representatives should speak with one voice in this matter, they would be glad to learn whether the United [Page 68] States Government agree with the views expressed in paragraphs 5 to 8 above.
  1. Vol. iii, p. 1084.
  2. For correspondence regarding the negotiations leading to the signing of an armistice with Rumania at Moscow, September 13, 1944, see vol. iv, pp. 133 ff.
  3. For correspondence regarding the negotiations leading to the signing of the armistice with Bulgaria at Moscow, October 28, 1944, see vol. iii, pp. 300 ff.
  4. For the statement regarding Italy by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, released to the press September 26, 1944, see telegram 205 to Rome, September 27, ibid., p. 1153.