740.0011 European War 1939/33489: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland (Harrison) to the Secretary of State

1437. This is Tittmann’s 56, February 19.

Re bombing of Monte Cassino by Allies. Vatican is outwardly assuming a noncommittal attitude as indicated in Osservatore Romano article excerpts from which quoted my 54 February 18.15 It is evident, however, high Vatican officials are holding Allies responsible.

Cardinal Maglione spoke to me about the matter this morning with some heat. He said he was convinced from evidence at hand there were no German soldiers, gun emplacements, etc. in Monastery or immediate neighborhood although he admitted he was unable to specify exactly extent of “immediate neighborhood”. He added he thought the bombing entirely unnecessary from military point of view, was a “colossal blunder” and “a piece of gross stupidity” on part of Allies because needless destruction of this symbol of civilization was bound to react unfavorably on pro-Ally opinion everywhere. I told the Cardinal I did not believe for a minute the Allies would have destroyed Monastery had there not been overriding military reasons and I did not think he was justified in being so positive since only those on the spot were in a position to pass definitive judgment. To this he replied “Pardon me if I say so but I know what I am talking about and have access to sources of information that are probably not open to you”. I was forced to admit that my only source so far was the radio.

Maglione said German Ambassador16 had suggested that Holy See issue a public statement deploring the incident but that he had refused “at least so far” on grounds that Holy See did not wish to become involved in a controversy between belligerent parties. The Cardinal hinted, however, that Holy See might feel obliged to make [Page 1283] some sort of public statement later or [on] after further investigation. I said I thought any finger pointing at this late date in war would be badly received in general and especially in countries whose monuments had been destroyed by Germans. It is likely, however, that Holy See having openly championed the cause of Monte Cassino and being convinced of German good faith in present instance will find it difficult to remain silent especially under German pressure. [Tittmann.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker, German Ambassador to the Holy See.