Italy Between Non-belligerence and War Part II

By | February 10, 2022

Overall, it can be said that the winter of 1939-40 was neutralist (the new pope Pius XII expressed his desire to keep Italy out of the conflict with the visit to the Quirinale on December 28, 1939); with the first breath of spring, however, interventionism was announced. The starting point was the conflict with England for the naval blockade. The crudeness of this and the inevitable collisions made the game of the Anglophobic current. On March 3, 1940, the Fascist government issued a direct note to the British government, concerning the British provisions for the arrest, after March 1, of ships carrying Germanic coal. The note protested against the provisions contrary to international law, not only with regard to coal, but in general for the naval policy of the British admiralty. The British government made the concession to let a certain number of ships already loaded through, but held firm for the future, while affirming its willingness to respect Italian interests. The fascist government concluded an agreement with Germany, to obtain from it all the coal necessary for the overland route. In the meantime, on March 10, Ribbentrop came to Rome, bearing a letter from Hitler which replied, with considerable delay, to one from Mussolini on January 4. In this the Duce had given Hitler a series of advice, in the sense of a compromise in the West and a clear opposition to Bolshevism in the East. Hitler now expressed his firm intention of resolving the Western game with arms and proclaimed that Italy’s place was alongside Germany. L’ 11 Mussolini declared to Ribbentrop that he intended to intervene in the conflict, fighting a war parallel to the German one, to free Italy from its captivity in the Mediterranean. Ribbentrop proposed a meeting between the Duce and the Führer at Brenner and Mussolini accepted. The meeting took place on March 18.

According to globalsciencellc, Mussolini’s talks with Hitler were always dominated by the superiority of the second over the first. Hitler imposed theme and development, and he almost always spoke. On March 18, he said that he planned to wipe out France and England soon. He was definitively determined to maintain friendship with Russia. He indicated to Mussolini the side that Italy could take in the conflict, leaving him free to decide. Mussolini replied that the entry of Italy into the war, alongside Germany, was inevitable, not for military aid which it did not need, but for Italian honor and interests (thus the Duce previously devalued his intervention in respect of the ally). The time of the intervention would have depended on the course of German military operations, in relation to the Italian financial situation which did not allow a long war. In essence, nothing definite was established; above all, nothing was said by Mussolini to clarify and guarantee the Italian objectives.

In April, after the German invasion of Norway, the psychological preparation for intervention intensified by fascism. Earlier this month, the council of ministers approved two bills for civil mobilization. On April 26, Undersecretary for the Interior G. Buffarini Guidi made warlike declarations to the Chamber: “only warrior peoples are allowed to weave the great and eternal fabric of history”; “every decisive event for the fate of Europe and the world must pass through Rome”. On April 27 the closing speech of the President of the Great Chamber had a similar tone (success to Costanzo Ciano, maintaining – in open contempt of every rule on the division of powers – the post of minister). L’ On 11 May an official report was published to Mussolini on the conditions created for Italian trade by Franco-British control. After the invasion of Holland, Belgium and France took place, on May 19, Ciano told the Milanese, in Piazza del Duomo, that Italy could not be estranged from European events; Rome had to say its word: it was necessary to finally realize the ancient aspirations. On May 24th there was a demonstration at the Pincio (homage to the bust of Pasquale Paoli) of Còrsi irredentisti and on the 25th the distribution of one of their posters. the old aspirations had to be realized at last. On May 24th there was a demonstration at the Pincio (homage to the bust of Pasquale Paoli) of Còrsi irredentisti and on the 25th the distribution of one of their posters. the old aspirations had to be realized at last. On May 24th there was a demonstration at the Pincio (homage to the bust of Pasquale Paoli) of Còrsi irredentisti and on the 25th the distribution of one of their posters.

Already in April Ciano had abandoned all resistance. Sumner Welles’s American exploratory maneuver in March had remained vague; more precise interventions by Roosevelt in May at Mussolini to induce him to remain neutral, opening up prospects for both American intervention and American support for Italian aspirations, were flatly rejected. Nor were repeated French approaches to concessions to Italy more successful and – in mid-May – a step by Churchill. Things precipitated in France, Mussolini – now afraid of arriving late, while Hitler did not make the slightest urge – decided (pushed rather than detained by the king, on whom the pontiff had pressed in vain for peace) to intervene for 5 June, then postponing it to 10.

In it the Duce said: “let us take the field against the plutocratic and reactionary democracies of the West, which, at all times, have hindered the march and often undermined the existence of the Italian people”. Fascist Italy had done everything possible to avoid war: its conscience was perfectly calm. There was no intention of a peaceful revision of the treaties; the deadly policy of anti-German guarantees had been chosen; the Führer’s proposals of 6 October had been rejected. “We are taking up arms to resolve, after the problems of our continental borders, the problem of our maritime borders… A people of 45 million souls is not truly free if it does not have free access to the oceans”. It was a struggle of the poor, numerous, young peoples, against the monopolizers of wealth, sterile, turning to sunset. “Italy does not intend to drag other peoples bordering it by sea or land into the conflict. Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and Egypt take note of these words of mine. It depends on them, only on them, whether or not they will be rigorously confirmed “.

Italy Between Non-belligerence and War 2