Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume IV
Document No. 1866-PS

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Record of the conversation between the Reich Foreign Minister and the Duce in the Palazzo Venezia on the 13th May 1941, in the presence of Count Ciano.

To begin with the Reich Foreign Minister conveyed the Fuehrer's greetings to the Duce.

He would shortly propose to the Duce a date for the planned meeting, which he would like to take place as soon as possible. As the place for the meeting he would probably prefer the Brenner. At the present moment he was, as the Duce well understood, still busy with the Hess affair and with a few military matters, but could be at his disposal after that for a meeting.

The Duce replied that he would agree with all the Fuehrer's proposals concerning the place and date of this meeting. That he was prepared to go to Germany, to meet him at the Brenner, or to arrange for the conversation to take place anywhere else in Italy.

The Reich Foreign Minister then said that the Fuehrer had sent him to the Duce, in order to inform him about the Hess affair and the conversation with Admiral Darlan about the Hess affair. He remarked that the Fuehrer had been completely taken aback by Hess' action, and that it had been the action of a lunatic.

Hess had been suffering for a long time from a bilious complaint and had fallen into the hands of magnetists and nature cure doctors who allowed his state of health to become worse.

All these matters were being investigated at the moment as well as the responsibility of the aides-de-camp who had known about Hess' forbidden flights. Hess had for weeks carried out secret practice flights in a M.E. 110. Naturally he had acted only from idealistic motives. His being unfaithful to the Fuehrer was utterly out of the question. His conduct had to be explained by a kind of mysticism and a state of mind caused by his illness.

The Reich Minister went on to say that Hess was undoubtedly convinced that England was facing imminent defeat, but that the English could not take the step of drawing the necessary conclusions.

Being sympathetically inclined towards England Hess had conceived the crazy idea of using Great Britain's Fascist circles to persuade the British to give in. He had explained all this in a long and confused letter to the Fuehrer. When this letter reached the Fuehrer, Hess was already in England. It was hoped in Germany that he would perhaps have an accident on the way, but he was now really in England and had tried to contact the former Marquis of Clydesdale, the present Duke of Hamilton. Hess quite wrongly considered him as a great friend of Germany and had flown to the neighbourhood of his castle in Scotland. He had thus carried out his plan at the risk of his life. The Fuehrer who was naturally and personally deeply stricken by these events, took up a very severe attitude under the circumstances, demoted Hess immediately and stated that he would have Hess shot immediately if he returned to Germany. The investigation of the event was continuing, but it was quite clear that Hess had not acted out of lack of faithfulness towards the Fuehrer.

The Duce replied that he was also of the opinion that Hess was no traitor. From the political point of view he did not consider the results of his action serious. He was wondering what Hess intended to say in England. It was said that his first words after being found were to the effect that he had always had a great sympathy for England.

Without failing to see that the psychological results of Hess' flight were not slight, one could nevertheless say that the prosecution of the war and public opinion in the Axis countries remained untouched by it. In 3 or 4 days the whole affair would gradually subside. The question arose as to whether anyone in Germany knew about Hess' attitude to England, and whether Hess had perhaps wanted to save England.

The Reich Foreign Minister remarked here that in Germany Hess had had supporters mainly among the [illegible] party members, but that now every German was wondering how it was possible that Hess could have done such a thing. The Fuehrer would want first to see in what way enemy propaganda would make use of this affair. Considering England's morale and its situation, Churchill could naturally not use Hess' peace idea as propaganda material; this would immediately cause trouble among his own people. The British would probably rather direct their propaganda tactics towards making out that they regarded the whole event as a sign of discord and internal division and as an outcome of an allegedly difficult position of the Reich, and would also maintain that Germany would now no doubt have to make peace soon. If it should be necessary, the Fuehrer would carry out an energetic counter-attack against this propaganda and would, if necessary, summon the Reichstag, in order to clarify the whole situation there.

The Duce repeated his unworried view of the affair and remarked that to him also it seemed best that the whole truth should be told about the whole affair.

Going on to the matter of the talks with Admiral Darlan, the Reich Foreign Minister explained to the Duce that two subjects especially had been discussed:

1. the assistance which France could give in Syria for the support of Iraq, and

2. the facilities she could provide for German-Italian supplies to North Africa.

Darlan had agreed to deliver to Iraq certain quantities of arms and war materials out of the stocks stored in Syria under Italian control. Part of these arms would, no doubt, already be on their way to Iraq. Ambassador Rahn and a French official had flown to Syria and had submitted a directive of the Vichy Government to the local Government Commissioner, General Deuz, according to which he was to provide all the deliveries and other facilities recommended by the two delegates. Darlan had, furthermore, put landing places for German aircraft and stocks of petrol at their disposal.

At the same time, Ambassador von Papen had been recalled to Germany and been instructed, as he, the Reich Foreign Minister, could inform the Duce confidentially, to endeavour to obtain from the Turks permission for the secret passage of arms for Iraq through Turkish territory.

According to the impression he left, Darlan would certainly do all that was possible to help the Axis. Although, of course, one could not look into his heart, he yet definitely appeared to be an enemy of the English.

Should a large-scale transport of arms reach Iraq it would be possible to move airborne troops in to the regions, who could then advance against the British with the material found there and who could, under certain circumstances, attack Egypt from the East from Iraq.

The Duce stated his point of view on the Iraq question:

1. One must definitely help Iraq, as a new front against the British would be created in this way and the indignation, not only of the Arabs, but also of the great number of Moslems would be aroused. Already the Grand Mufti had summoned the Arabs of the world to a holy war against England. In answer to an interpellation by the German Foreign Minister, the Duce declared that he ascribed a certain importance to these events in any case.

2. It would be necessary to get possession of Crete and Cyprus (the "anteroom" of Syria). If one could then obtain, from the French, permission to land troops and planes in Syria, the Axis powers help to Iraq could be very substantial. The Italians had already prepared five planes, which would proceed to Baghdad via Rhodes, in order to transport their 400 machine-guns, as well as 20 anti-tank guns. In addition, 12 fighter planes were ready for action.

Should the passage of arms through Turkey prove impossible, one would have to march against England from Syria. The great advantage here lay in the 100 km stretch of desert which had to be overcome in the event of an attack on Egypt from Syria, as compared with the 500 km stretch of desert in the case of an attack on Egypt from the West.

In answer to an interpolation by the Reich Foreign Minister as to how long Iraq would be able to hold out against the British, the Duce replied that the Head of the Iraq Government had declared that he could hold his own against the British, provided only he received some war material. If, however, he received no aid, opposition would, in the Duce's opinion, be overcome by the British in 3 or 4 weeks. He was also wondering whether the de Gaullist movement in Syria would not perhaps put difficulties in the way of French assistance. The Reich Foreign Minister replied to that that Darlan appeared convinced that he could carry out the business in Syria as planned.

With regard to Tunis, the Reich Foreign Minister, reported on the purchase of lorries and the recent concession that these lorries could be sent Tripolitania with freight. Darlan had agreed to place an Algerian harbour, Baume, at their disposal for the unloading of the materials transported by sea, (as these things could be carried out more easily in Algeria than in Tunis). The Reich Foreign Minister also mentioned, in this connection, that Darlan had told him that he would like it, for personal reasons, if lorries were sold to Germany only. Should Italy wish to obtain such vehicles from the French, he proposed that the sale should first take place to Germany, and that the trucks should then be given by the Reich to Italy. The Duce and Count Ciano agreed to this procedure.

In reply to the Duce's question as to what Germany had conceded to France in exchange for these concessions, the Reich Foreign Minister pointed to the lowering of the occupation costs from 20 to 15 millions which, although it had not yet been definitely fixed, was expected, as well as to certain facilities with the regard to the Line of Demarcation. Further the rearming of some torpedo boats.

The Fuehrer had laid down as a principle that France could be granted facilities to the extent to which she on her part made the war against England for the Axis easier.

The Reich Foreign Minister answered the Duce's question as to whether concessions had been made regarding French prisoners of war in the negative and mentioned that the Fuehrer had first of all reminded Darlan of how the German prisoners of war had only been released in the year 1920, when the World War had already been over a long time.

The Reich Foreign Minister further pointed out that he had suggested to Darlan that if France should now grant facilities for the continuation of the war against England, such an attitude would be taken into account when the peace was signed. Furthermore he had stressed to Darlan the necessity that France choose now, and place herself unambiguously on the side of the Axis. Germany had certain wishes concerning naval bases in Morocco for the maintenance of her submarines and surface vessels. If France agreed to that, she (Germany) would allow her some destroyers to arm, as she had long requested to do. Beyond this, Germany did not, for one moment, anticipate assistance from France on a larger scale, just as she did not expect the possible assistance of the French Fleet against England.

It had been made clear to Darlan that in future the Axis powers would be the decisive centre of power in Europe and that France would have to toe the line in this respect.

It was also pointed out that France must, of course, count on having to make concessions in the Mediterranean in the peace treaty; the Italian demands were indeed known to them. She might, however, receive compensation for the concessions elsewhere, e.g. in Africa, at the expense of England.

In a private tete-a-tete conversation, Darlan declared to the Reich Foreign Minister that he wished to assist the Axis powers against England under all circumstances, after the Reich Foreign Minister had analysed to him the three possibilities which offered themselves to France, namely, that France could either work against Germany, in which event she would be destroyed, or she could adopt a waiting attitude, which, however, would also be to her detriment. Finally she could give clear evidence of her will to cooperate with the Axis, and would then receive an honourable position amongst the peoples of Europe.

The Duce replied that there were two camps in France, those who wanted to wait, and those who were in favour of collaboration. When the Yugoslav campaign began, people in France had hoped that it would end unfavourably for the Axis. The opinion of French politicians was beginning to waver. Typical of the trend of public opinion was the fact, that in those days the monument of King Alexander of Yugoslavia in France had been decked with flowers by the population. But when the French saw how quickly Germany was victorious in the Balkans, they immediately turned round towards collaboration again. In Vichy the majority belonged to the camp that wanted to await events. Count Ciano here added that the only difference between Vichy and Paris was that in Paris people were saying: "Let us hope the British win," whilst in Vichy people were saying, "Let us hope those British swine win". To this the Reich Foreign Minister added, that of course chauvinists continued to exist in France and would have to be weeded out according to a plan yet to be laid down. In his opinion Petain was an old fox, whose memory deserted him just at the moments when it best suited him. A few days before, and in connection with the invitation to Admiral Darlan to come to the Berghof [Hitler's residence in Berchtesgaden], he had written a letter to the Fuehrer, which factually contained nothing of importance, but which nevertheless indicated that in France people were gradually becoming more and more certain that the war was finally lost. It was the Fuehrer's opinion that final victory against England must under all circumstances be achieved. For this purpose he wanted to obtain from France a maximum of facilities, without in any way binding himself. The French questions would be dealt with on this basis, and it would now have to be seen how far Darlan was prepared to go along this road. But, as already stated, France would only be granted concessions in proportion to facilities for the battle against England. When the French would participate on a large scale in the battle against England was still undecided.

To this the Duce remarked that France could give many small, but very important bases to the Axis. In this connection he stressed the fact that France always drew closer to the Axis when the Axis gained a victory. But as soon as things were not making any proper headway, she made eyes at England and the United States. The latter, particularly, would have to be watched closely in this connection. The Reich Foreign Minister agreed with this and remarked that if France was to attach herself in any way to the Axis organization, this fact would make a deep impression on the United States.

The Duce agreed with this conception, and referred in this connection to the policy, expressed by the Fuehrer, of the unity of all Europe against England. Russia and Spain were alone absent from this united front. Serrano Suner had actually stated that Spain would march after this year's harvest. But this seemed to him to be extremely doubtful. To this the Reich Foreign Minister remarked that at the beginning of this year Franco had unfortunately left the Axis completely in the lurch. This he had to note with regret again and again. If he had cooperated at that time, Gibraltar would today not be in the hands of the British, and the Spanish people would probably have far more to eat than now, when alms from England and America could not save them either.

The Duce returned to his remark concerning the united front of Europe against England and the two countries, Spain and Russia, that were absent from it, with the remark that, to him, it seemed that it would be advantageous if a policy of collaboration with Russia could be carried out. He asked the Reich Foreign Minister whether Germany excluded such a possibility, i.e. collaboration with Russia. The Reich Foreign Minister replied that Germany had treaties with Russia, and that the relations between the two countries were in other respects correct. He personally did not believe that Stalin would undertake anything against Germany. But should he do so, or should he carry out a policy that was intolerable to Germany, then he would be destroyed within 3 months.-The Duce agreed to this.-The Fuehrer would certainly not look for any quarrel, but he had nevertheless taken precautions for all eventualities. He had in no way come to any decision, but as a result of certain occurrences and want of clearness on the part of the Russians, he had become suspicious. Thus, for example, the Russians had strengthened their forces along their western Frontier, which of course caused Germany to reinforce her troops too, but only after the Russians started it.

But Russia would never be a problem that could have any influence on the final victory against England. She would never be able to interfere with Germany, for Germany had such a large number of troops available that she could easily deal with any eventuality.

The Duce then enquired whether Germany was not receiving deliveries of raw materials from Russia, whereupon the Reich Foreign minister mentioned the figures 1 million tons of oil and 11/2 million tons of corn, and added that these deliveries were coming in relatively well.

During the further course of the conversation, the subject of Japan, and in particular the Japanese-American exchange of opinions, was touched upon. In this connection the Reich Foreign Minister stressed the fact that the principle that Japan shared a common destiny with Germany and Italy had been so clearly understood by the Japanese that he (the Reich Foreign Minister), did not think Japan would pursue a policy which would not in the end align itself once more with the policy pursued by Germany and Italy. In this connection the Reich Foreign Minister referred to Matsuoka's remarks that he was forced into frequent manoeuvres for reasons of home politics, and that on occasion he might be forced to do things that would not be easily understood in Germany. At any rate he (the Reich Foreign Minister) trusted Matsuoka, although of course he could not know what was going on inside his heart. It was unfavourable that the discussions with Roosevelt were being conducted via Admiral Nomura, for at heart Nomura inclined rather towards the Anglo-Saxons. Matsuoka had, for the time being, made the following further enquiries:

1. Whether the United States were willing to enter into an undertaking not to enter into the European conflict, and

2. What was the attitude of the United States on the problem of the Philippines.

If against all expectations, Japanese policy should follow a course which does not correspond with the spirit of the Tripartite agreement, great opposition would certainly arise all over Japan and Ambassador Oshima would probably become the soul of such a real revolution. But these affairs should be handled carefully, and we should avoid creating unnecessary difficulties for Matsuoka.

The whole affair shows that Roosevelt is beginning to get alarmed, probably because he is gradually realizing that, in case of warlike complications, he can accomplish nothing, because of America's bad armament position, and therefore wishes to keep his back free.

The Duce remarked, in this connection, that it would without doubt be favourable to Germany, and Italy if Matsuoka were in this manner to prevent the United States entering the war. On the other hand, the motive of his actions could, of course, also be Japan's desire to keep out of the war herself.

To that, the German Foreign Minister remarked that, if a forcing hand were played and it were laid down that the American system of protecting convoys meant war, the Americans would most probably hesitate, because American rearmament was the biggest bluff in the world's history.

In this connection the Duce referred to the split which had appeared in the United States and quoted speeches by Hoover and Lindbergh as the most prominent opponents of Roosevelt's policy. As against this, the Jews and their propaganda were so strong that they had brought the whole of America under their influence. But if in a country a War party fights against a Peace party the War party usually wins, because war is much nearer the soul of man than peace.

The German Foreign Minister replied that the same naturally went for Japan as well, and that it was his conviction that sooner or later Japan would enter the war on the side of the Axis to exploit the opportunities offered. Anyhow he was absolutely certain that Japan would meet her treaty obligations.

The Duce went on to speak about Turkey, which he called Germany's and Italy's trump card. He asked the German Foreign Minister whether he believed that Turkey would go with Germany and Italy.

The German Foreign Minister replied that Germany was in the act of trying to influence Turkey in this sense. The preliminary conditions were favourable, in so much as it was not in Turkey's interests to let great masses of English troops assemble in Iraq, so that Germany hoped to be able to draw the Turks over to her side. A certain improvement in the attitude of the Turkish press could already be noted.

Later on in the discussion the German Foreign Minister spoke about a great intended propaganda drive in the British Empire, with the motto that the Axis would support the liberation of all peoples oppressed by the British. In this connection he mentioned the presence in Germany of the Indian Nationalist leader-Bose-news which the Duce received with surprise and great interest. The Duce agreed to this kind of propaganda.

In conclusion, the German Foreign Minister explained the plans according to which he intended to employ Bose for Indian propaganda and he emphasized that the development of any antagonism between Bose and Ghandi should be avoided. Besides, Ghandi had written a very good article against the British a short while before.

In conclusion, the Duce mentioned in this connection that Italy was in contact with the Fakir of Ipi and was attempting by means of large sums of money to get him, as well as the Grand Mufti, to carry on some activity in the interests of the Axis. Even if these actions were not very extensive, they would nevertheless create some unpleasant difficulties for the English.

When parting, the possibility of having another discussion next morning shortly before the return flight of the German Foreign Minister, was left open.

This discussion took place in a very cordial spirit.

Fuschl, the 14th May 1941.
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume IV
Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality
Washington, DC : United States Government Printing Office, 1946

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