740.0011 EW 1939/33860: Telegram

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

2073. Tittmann’s 102, March 25, refers his 101, March 25.

From reliable source I understand that chief of German Press Bureau in Rome made following statement to correspondents March 20.

“Activity of Holy Father for protection of Rome as open city is continuing; however, attitude of Anglo-Saxons has in no way changed.

As far as Germans are concerned today as in past full recognition of Rome as open city is maintained and in order to avoid misunderstandings in this regard Germans will take another forward step [Page 1294] and at cost of another sacrifice will avoid Rome as zone of transit for military movements and their own soldiers on leave will no longer be permitted to pass through or stop anywhere in Rome. Sacrifice of Germans is all the more noteworthy in that the roads around Rome are almost impracticable. In spite of this German decision will be fully carried out.”

Impression reliable correspondents present was apparently (1) Germans wished it to be understood decision was theirs alone and had nothing to do with efforts of Pope, (2) decision would take effect immediately, (3) German measure which would appear to include as well removal from Rome of military stores and headquarters would be carried out within week.

Until now there has been no public recognition by Germans of Rome as open city although about 10 days ago some such intimation was given when German controlled Rome press announced that German fighters would no longer rise to meet Allied bombers over city out of respect for open city principle.

There is much speculation why it should have been convenient for German military authorities to make announcement just at this time. In addition to obvious need of Germans to ingratiate themselves with Roman population it has been suggested that they intend in any event soon to withdraw from this area and are endeavoring exploit military necessity for political and propaganda purposes. By taking initiative in agreeing to open city idea they may feel that they have set precedent that will make full use of Rome as military center by Allies politically and morally more difficult and at same time they may hope to gain favor with Catholic countries which have shown themselves interested in preservation of Rome. [Tittmann.]