I am writing this letter to you at a moment when months
of anxious deliberation and continuous nerve-racking waiting are ending
in the hardest decision of my life. I beliefafter seeing the latest
Russian situation map and after appraisal of numerous other reportsthat
I cannot take the responsibility for waiting longer, and above all,
I believe that there is no other way of obviating this dangerunless
it be further waiting, which, however, would necessarily lead to disaster
in this or the next year at the latest.
The situation: England has lost this war. With the
right of the drowning person, she grasps at every straw which, in her
imagination, might serve as a sheet anchor. Nevertheless, some of her
hopes are naturally not without a certain logic. England has thus far
always conducted her wars with help from the Continent. The destruction
of Francefact, the elimination of all west-European positionsdirecting
the glances of the British warmongers continually to the place from
which they tried to start the war: to Soviet Russia.
Both countries, Soviet Russia and England, are equally
interested in a Europe fallen into ruin, rendered prostrate by a long
war. Behind these two countries stands the North American Union goading
them on and watchfully waiting. Since the liquidation of Poland, there
is evident in Soviet Russia a consistent trend, which, even if cleverly
and cautiously, is nevertheless reverting firmly to the old Bolshevist
tendency to expansion of the Soviet State. The prolongation of the war
necessary for this purpose is to be achieved by tying up German forces
in the East, so thatparticularly in the airthe German Command
can no longer vouch for a large-scale attack in the West. I declared
to you only recently, Duce, that it was precisely the success of the
experiment in Crete that demonstrated how necessary it is to make use
of every single airplane in the much greater project against England.
It may well happen that in this decisive battle we would win with a
superiority of only a few squadrons. I shall not hesitate a moment to
undertake such a responsibility if, aside from all other conditions,
I at least possess the one certainty that I will not then suddenly be
attacked or even threatened from the East. The concentration of Russian
forcesI had General Jodl submit the most recent map to your Attaché
here, General Marasis tremendous. Really, all available Russian
forces are at our border. Moreover, since the approach of warm weather,
work has been proceeding on numerous defenses. If circumstances should
give me cause to employ the German air force against England, there
is danger that Russia will then begin its strategy of extortion in the
South and North, to which I would have to yield in silence, simply from
a feeling of air inferiority. It would, above all, not then be possible
for me without adequate support from an air force, to attack the Russian
fortifications with the divisions stationed in the East. If I do not
wish to expose myself to this danger, then perhaps the whole year of
1941 will go by without any change in the general situation. On the
contrary. England will be all the less ready for peace, for it will
be able to pin its hopes on the Russian partner. Indeed, this hope must
naturally even grow with the progress in preparedness of the Russian
armed forces. And behind this is the mass delivery of war material from
America which they hope to get in 1942.
Aside from this, Duce, it is not even certain whether
shall have this time, for with so gigantic a concentration of forces
on both sidesfor I also was compelled to place more and more armored
units on the eastern border, also to call Finland's and Rumania's attention
to the dangerthere is the possibility that the shooting will start
spontaneously at any moment. A withdrawal on my part would, however,
entail a serious loss of prestige for us. This would be particularly
unpleasant in its possible effect on Japan. I have, therefore, after
constantly racking my brains, finally reached the decision to cut the
noose before it can be drawn tight. I believe, Duce, that I am hereby
rendering probably the best possible service to our joint conduct of
the war this year. For my over-all view is now as follows:
1. France is, as ever, not to be trusted. Absolute
surety that North Africa will not suddenly desert does not exist.
2. North Africa itself, insofar as your colonies,
Duce, are concerned, is probably out of danger until fall. I assume
that the British, in their last attack, wanted to relieve Tobruk. I
do not believe they will soon be in a position to repeat this.
3. Spain is irresolute andI am afraidwill
take sides only when the outcome of the war is decided.
4. In Syria, French resistance can hardly be maintained
permanently either with or without our help.
5. An attack on Egypt before autumn is out of the
question altogether. I consider it necessary, however, taking into account
the whole situation, to give thought to the development of an operational
unit in Tripoli itself which can, if necessary, also be launched against
the West. Of course, Duce, the strictest silence must be maintained
with regard to these ideas, for otherwise we cannot expect France to
continue to grant permission to use its ports for the transportation
of arms and munitions.
6. Whether or not America enters the war is a matter
of indifference, inasmuch as she supports our opponent with all the
power she is able to mobilize.
7. The situation in England itself is bad; the provision
of food and raw materials is growing steadily more difficult. The martial
spirit to make war, after all, lives only on hopes. These hopes are
based solely on two assumptions: Russia and America. We have no chance
of eliminating America. But it does lie in our power to exclude Russia.
The elimination of Russia means, at the same time, a tremendous relief
for Japan in East Asia, and thereby the possibility of a much stronger
threat to American activities through Japanese intervention.
I have decided under these circumstances as I already
mentioned, to put an end to the hypocritical performance in the Kremlin.
I assume, that is to say, I am convinced, that Finland, and likewise
Rumania, will forthwith take part in this conflict, which will ultimately
free Europe, for the future also, of a great danger. General Maras informed
us that you, Duce, wish also to make available at least one corps. If
you have that intention, Ducewhich I naturally accept with a heart
filled with gratitudethe time for carrying it out will still be
sufficiently long, for in this immense theater of war the troops cannot
be assembled at all points at the same time anyway. You, Duce, can give
the decisive aid, however, by strengthening your forces in North Africa,
also, if possible, looking from Tripoli toward the West, by proceeding
further to build up a group which, though it be small at first, can
march into France in case of a French violation of the treaty; and finally,
by carrying the air war and, so far as it is possible, the submarine
war, in intensified degree, into the Mediterranean.
So far as the security of the territories in the West
is concerned, from Norway to and including France, we are strong enough
thereso far as army troops are concerned-to meet any eventuality
with lightning speed. So far as air war on England is concerned, we
shall, for a time remain on the defensive,but this does not mean
that we might be incapable of countering British attacks on Germany;
on the contrary, we shall, if necessary, be in a position start ruthless
bombing attacks on British home territory. Our fighter defense, too,
will be adequate. It consists of the best squadrons that we have.
As far as the war in the East is concerned, Duce,
it will surely be difficult, but I do not entertain a second's doubt
as to its great success. I hope, above all, that it will then be possible
for us to secure a common food-supply base in the Ukraine for some time
to come, which will furnish us such additional supplies as we may need
in the future. I may state at this point, however, that, as far as we
can tell now, this year's German harvest promises to be a very good
one. It is conceivable that Russia will try to destroy the Rumanian
oil region. We have built up a defense that willor so I thinkprevent
the worst. Moreover, it is the duty of our armies to eliminate this
threat as rapidly as possible.
I waited until this moment, Duce, to send you this
information, it is because the final decision itself will not be made
until 7 o'clock tonight. I earnestly beg you, therefore, to refrain,
above all, from making any explanation to your Ambassador at Moscow,
for there is no absolute guarantee that our coded reports cannot be
decoded. I, too, shall wait until the last moment to have my own Ambassador
informed of the decisions reached.
The material that I now contemplate publishing gradually,
is so exhaustive that the world will have more occasion to wonder at
our forbearance than at our decision, except for that part of the world
which opposes us on principle and for which, therefore, arguments are
Whatever may now come, Duce, our situation can become
worse as a result of this step; it can only improve. Even if I should
be obliged at the end of this year to leave 60 or 70 divisions in Russia,
that is only a fraction of the forces that I am now continually using
on the eastern front. Should England nevertheless not draw any conclusions
from the hard facts that present themselves, then we can, with our rear
secured, apply ourselves with increased strength to the dispatching
of our opponent. I can promise you, Duce, that what lies in our German
power, will be done.
Any desires, suggestions, and assistance of which
you, Duce, wish to inform me in the contingency before us, I would request
that you either communicate to me personally or have them agreed upon
directly by our military authorities.
In conclusion, let me say one more thing, Duce. Since
struggled through to this decision, I again feel spiritually free. The
partnership with the Soviet Union, in spite of the complete sincerity
of the efforts to bring about a final conciliation, was nevertheless
often very irksome to me, for in some way or other it seemed to me to
be a break with my whole origin, my concepts, and my former obligations.
I am happy now to be relieved of these mental agonies.
With hearty and comradely greetings,
[United States, Department of State, Publication No.
3023, Nazi-Soviet Relations 1939-1941. Documents from the Archives
of the German Foreign Office (Government Printing Office, Washington,
1948), pp. 349-353.]