FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Feb 2021 01:24

Hi DrG,

While it is entirely plausible that Serrano Suner met all three of them separately, the idea of a summit between the German Foreign Minister, two recently dismissed Foreign Ministers (one of them dismissed barely a fortnight before at the behest of the Germans for his contacts with the Allies) and an American prelate with no diplomatic standing is inherently unlikely.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

For the "summit" to be stood up requires a lot of of corroborative evidence. Do we have any?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by DrG » 22 Feb 2021 02:15

Sid, we are in front of an account of a meeeting in the same place among Serrano Súñer, Spellman, Ribbentrop and Ciano reported in genuine WW2 documents held in the British National Archives, used as primary sources by two Italian university professors in an article published in an academic review. If this case doesn't comply with your often repeated rule "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", I don't know which one could do it.

The only way to say that this story is false is to proof that Serrano Súñer was lying, not only to Suma but also to his colleagues (we should recall that Suma asked a meeting with Serrano Súñer because he had heard rumors in the inner circle of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Madrid) for some reasons which I have not found, and I have tried to find one (as you may notice, I had already checked the movements of Spellman in order to find any discrepacy, precisely to understand if there was something wrong). I find this story really astonishing, but, given the source, I don't find any reason to deny its veracity.

With regards to your remark about Spellman's lack of a "diplomatic standing", frankly I don't understand you. Parallel diplomacy, by personal envoys appointed by statesmen, is not an exception, but the rule, especially when some very sensitive issues must be treated without leaving too much paperwork in the Ministries. It is the established praxis, and it has been so for centuries. There are scores of examples of this habit also, and especially, during WW2.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Feb 2021 08:14

Hi Dr.G,

You post,".....we are in front of an account of a meeting...." Yes, one account by someone who was not present. For this reason it was already secondary when written.

You post, ".....reported in genuine WW2 documents held in the British National Archives....." which does not preclude them being mistaken for several possible reasons.

You post,".....by two Italian university professors in an article published in an academic review". It is certainly worthy of an academic article, but this does not, of itself, prove its veracity, just its potential importance, if true. I haven't seen the article. What is their opinion? What corroborating evidence beyond the original claim do they bring that such a summit meeting took place at the Palazzo Venezia, presumably on 24/25 February 1943?

You post,"If this case doesn't comply with your often repeated rule "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", I don't know which one could do it." Although I use the phrase, it is not mine but one in academic circulation for some forty years. ("The standard illustrates a core principle of the scientific method and skepticism and can be used to determine the validity of a claim.").

I would suggest that you are here mistaking the original source as "extraordinary evidence". In fact the original source is itself the "extraordinary claim" that needs corroborating. It is the starting point for further investigation, not the end point.

The onus is not on anyone else to ".....to say that this story is false" or "to proof that Serrano Súñer was lying". The onus is first on the proposers to make the original proposition stand up, and I would suggest that this is not done on the basis of just one uncorroborated, secondary source.

You post, ".....we should recall that Suma asked a meeting with Serrano Súñer because he had heard rumors in the inner circle of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Madrid". If such rumours could be corroborated, then at least their contemporaneity could be verified. Do other Spanish sources confirm such rumours?

You post, "I find this story really astonishing....." So do I, which is why I am interested in knowing if there is any corroborating evidence for it.

You post, "Parallel diplomacy, by personal envoys appointed by statesmen, is not an exception, but the rule". No, it is the exception. Most diplomatic activity takes place through normal diplomatic channels. However, that said, such indirect means are not uncommon or particularly remarkable in themselves. For example, the USSR apparently had a back channel to Nazi Germany via (Madam Kollontai?) in Sweden. I have no problem with such a possibility. However, a summit meeting directly with Ribbentrop himself is not such a back channel.

For such a meeting to take place there must have been several other direct witnesses [i.e. translator(s) to avoid misunderstandings of consequence], and even more indirect potential witnesses (aides de camp, drivers, etc.). After all, the Palazzo Venezia was not some secluded spot. It was the site of Mussolini's office.

I find the idea of Serrano Suner having serial meetings with all three much more plausible than the proposed round table "summit".

Serrano Suner lived a very long life. He only died in 2002. Is there anything from him directly about such a "summit"?

I could write a little more, but you get the gist.

Thanks for drawing our attention to this,

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. I just had a look at: "Archbishop Francis J. Spellman's Visit to Wartime Rome" by Gerald P. Fogarty in The Catholic Historical Review,Vol. 100, No. 1 (Winter, 2014), pp. 72-96 (25 pages). (You can view it free on JSTOR at the moment.)

Fogarty says there is no evidence that Ciano met Spellman, that it was "highly unlikely" that Ribbentrop would have met Spellman, notwithstanding newspaper reports, and makes no mention of Serrano Suner at all. He also says that Ciano had yet to be confirmed as Ambassador to the Vatican and that one of the side issues for Ribbentrop's visit to Rome may have been to prevent Ciano receiving this appointment precisely because of his proven links with the Allies.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by DrG » 22 Feb 2021 23:16

Sid, I see you are in full "Spanish Inquisition" mode now, therefore I beg your pardon but I won't play this kind of "third degree" game. I can understand that the information which I have quoted don't fit in your view of WW2 and honestly I was surprised by them too. But your zeal in denying any relevance (which is something quite different from trying to falsify a theory) to the reports written by a Japanese ambassador to his Foreign Minister about a matter of the utmost importance (which, of course, required a high degree of precision and attention by the Japanese diplomat) does not make a good service to historical debate.

I thank you for Fogarty's article, also because I had not thought about searching about this topic in JSTOR. By the way, I have full access to this database, for the same reason that I ask you to refrain from this "teacher-pupil" attitude with me, please, especially about research methods: I am not a historian, nor I have published a couple of military history books, but while I put the "Dr." in my nickname by mere chance more than 17 years ago, now it is not out of place. Et de hoc satis.

Fogarty's study, while interesting, does not touch the matter of Suma's report about Serrano Súñer's account, which the author ignores. On the other hand, it reports several rumors about a meeting of Spellman with Ciano, it notes that an archbishop (as Spellman) had not the right to a diplomatic authorization to travel to Italy in wartime, yet he got it anyway, and, an important aspect which I didn't know, Spellman's mission to Rome was made after an invitation by Card. Maglione, who did everything he could to ease peace negotiations between Italy and the Allies (Giuseppe Bastianini, in his memoirs, explains that Maglione provided Giuseppe Fummi, an Italian banker working for J.P. Morgan, with the Vatican diplomatic credentials needed to travel to UK to try to open peace negotiations with the British in mid July 1943, with Mussolini's consent; this mission aborted due to the coup of 25 July, when Fummi was still in Lisbon waiting for the British acceptance of his Vatican diplomatic credentials).

There is also a mistake in this article, since it places Ribbentrop's arrival in Rome on 28 February 1943, while he arrived on the 24th and departed on the 28th. He had a meeting in Palazzo Venezia at 17:00 on the 26th with Mussolini, Bastianini, gen. Ambrosio, and gen. Warlimont. Given that Ribbentrop, due to the presence of his escort and the eyes of everybody on him during his visit in Rome, had much less freedom of movement than Ciano, Spellman, and Serrano Súñer, I guess that their meeting took place (if it did, but, again, I don't find a reason for such a complex and serious lie by Serrano Súñer) on 26 Feb., maybe after the official one.

Anyway, I fear that we won't know anything more about this matter, unless there is something in Spanish or Japanese archives. But matters like this usually never get declassifed and it is already a miracle that these documents did not get "weeded" by British archivists (surely they didn't expect that such a theme were the object of a Japanese dispatch).

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Feb 2021 13:03

Hi DrG.,

You post, "I see you are in full "Spanish Inquisition" mode now......" If you mean me asking whether there is any corroborating evidence for the "summit" story, then, Yes, I plead guilty as charged and proudly so. Is there any corroborating evidence that you are aware of?

You post, "I can understand that the information which I have quoted don't fit in your view of WW2....." My view of of WW2 is that whatever happened happened, and we should get as close to the hard facts as possible. The information that you quoted about the "summit" is far short of hard facts. It is just that at present, without corroborating evidence, it does not yet stand up. If you have more than an intriguing, second hand report, please tell us.

You post, ".....and honestly I was surprised by them too." I can't say I was surprised, but I am interested.

You post, "But your zeal in denying any relevance.....does not make a good service to historical debate." Firstly, I am not denying anything about them. I would just like to establish what their precise relevance is. So should you. It is just due diligence,

Secondly, I would suggest that what ".....does not make a good service to historical debate" would be a failure to go in search of corroborating evidence of what appears to be a single, second-hand report by someone who was not present. One swallow does not a summer make!

I am not concerned about your qualifications. Whether we are university dons with PHDs in History or shelf stackers without a school leaving certificate doesn't much matter here, because it is the content of what we post that is important.

You post, "Fogarty's study, while interesting, does not touch the matter of Suma's report about Serrano Súñer's account, which the author ignores." What do you mean by "ignores"? The implication in that word is that he was aware of it but chose not to use it. Is that what you wished to convey, or just that he was ignorant of it?

You post, "On the other hand, it reports several rumors about a meeting of Spellman with Ciano....." Yup, but he specifically states that he finds no evidence of one. I think such a meeting is quite plausible. The two men were recently dismissed former Foreign Ministers of their countries who already knew each other professionally, both were coincidentally related by marriage to their head of government and both were doubtless looking for ways to make themselves still relevant.

You post, "It notes that an archbishop (as Spellman) had not the right to a diplomatic authorization to travel to Italy in wartime, yet he got it anyway, and, an important aspect which I didn't know". This was because he lacked formal diplomatic status and wasn't senior enough in the Church hierarchy for automatic entry without consulting the Italians under the Lateran Treaty. It would be interesting to know whether the visit was originally arranged before or after Ciano's dismissal. I'll have to check Fogarty.

Yes, I also noticed that ".....there is also a mistake in this article, since it places Ribbentrop's arrival in Rome on 28 February 1943, while he arrived on the 24th and departed on the 28th."

You post, "I don't find a reason for such a complex and serious lie by Serrano Súñer". Neither do I. There are other plausible and less extreme possible explanations than that he lied.

You post, "Anyway, I fear that we won't know anything more about this matter, unless there is something in Spanish or Japanese archives." Is that your way of saying that, as yet, you know of no corroborating evidence?

You post, "But matters like this usually never get declassifed and it is already a miracle that these documents did not get "weeded" by British archivists (surely they didn't expect that such a theme were the object of a Japanese dispatch)." This is essentially conspiracy theory. Firstly, you clearly do not know the brief of the "weeders". I know one at the Foreign Office personally and the removal of sensitive material is not part of it. More importantly, "Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence".

Given the coincidence of all four men being in Rome at the same time, a number of one-on-one meetings between some of them seems plausible, though evidence for a single one of them is lacking. It is this risky and unnecessary "summit" that at present seems improbable.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by DrG » 24 Feb 2021 23:01

Hi Sid, as I have stated, I do not debate in this inquisitorial way.

PS Just for seek of clarity, I wished to mean that Fogarty did not know Suma's messages, not that he deliberately neglected them. My intended meaning was lost in translation (the verb "ignorare" in Italian has a slightly different meaning than in English).

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Feb 2021 23:25

Hi DrG.,

Why do you have to personalize what was essentially a well meant and necessary enquiry about corroborative evidence?

I thought you would be interested in finding out more.

The Suma information is just the beginning of the trail, not the end.

I know you are deeply invested in Italy and have information that most of the rest of us lack, but this does not mean that we necessarily have to accept your standards of evidence as our own.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by mikegriffith1 » 03 Mar 2021 15:14

If you want to get an accurate picture of just how strong the anti-Hitler resistance was, read Nigel Jones' book Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler. Jones refutes any notion that the resistance was small or inconsequential. The resistance included field marshals, generals, colonels, and high-ranking civilian officials.

Jones makes the same point that Fleming does: that the policy of "unconditional surrender" substantially hindered the resistance, that the resistance would have been even stronger and more widespread if FDR had renounced the policy and had assured the German people that the Allies would treat them humanely and would not seek to dismember or destroy Germany as a country.

Jones also makes the point that Chamberlain's shamefully weak response to Hitler's demands regarding Czechoslovakia prohibited the plotters from staging the coup they had planned on carrying out in 1938.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 03 Mar 2021 19:31

Hi mg1,

You post, "The resistance included field marshals, generals, colonels, and high-ranking civilian officials." Surely, this has always been known about in assessing the strength of the resistance? The active resistance was necessarily quite small, for security reasons, though known sympathy was doubtless much wider. Had it succeeded in killing Hitler it would doubtless have been retrospectively almost universal among the same classes of people.

Besides, why should the Allies worry if the unconditional surrender demand hindered the German resistance? The "resistance" had overthrown the Kaiser at the end of WWI, but this had not had a very appealing long term result! From the Allied point of view the German "resistance" probably looked like a late war attempt by some Germans to consolidate some of Hitler's gains by giving up others.

Unconditional surrender does not preclude humane treatment or require the destruction of Germany. And why should "dismemberment" be off the table? There were still people alive who had been adults when German unity had been first declared in 1870/71. Dismemberment was Germany's normal historic state from time immemorial.

You post, "Jones also makes the point that Chamberlain's shamefully weak response to Hitler's demands regarding Czechoslovakia prohibited the plotters from staging the coup they had planned on carrying out in 1938." This is true, but was Chamberlain made aware of this?

I would also question how "shameful" Chamberlain's action was at Munich. Unlike the French or Soviet Union, the UK had no defence obligations towards Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovaks could then field 40 divisions, or their equivalents. The French and USSR about a hundred each. The British could contribute just two for deployment on the continent. Britain's capacity to physically assist Czechoslovakia was almost non-existent, especially when compared with that country's formal allies.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 Mar 2021 02:32

Sid Guttridge wrote:
03 Mar 2021 19:31
... Besides, why should the Allies worry if the unconditional surrender demand hindered the German resistance? The "resistance" had overthrown the Kaiser at the end of WWI, but this had not had a very appealing long term result! From the Allied point of view the German "resistance" probably looked like a late war attempt by some Germans to consolidate some of Hitler's gains by giving up others. ...
This brings up the question of exactly what the 'Resistance' had offered to the Allies, Roosevelt, or anyone else? Anything substantial there?
Knouterer wrote:
31 Jan 2021 09:32
... The German (military) resistance - such as it was - seems to have had only vague unrealistic ideas about what they could offer and what the Allies would accept. ...
I recall surrendering German army commanders coming to their US army counterparts in April or May 1945 with long lists of material they needed to continue fighting the Red Army. They were nonplussed to discover they were were actually 'surrendering', not entering into a new anti Communist alliance.
Knouterer wrote:
31 Jan 2021 09:32
... Another problem would be that whatever FDR did or said, from 1943 on the Russians were not going to be satisfied with anything short of total crushing victory.
Considering how bent on ensuring rapid and complete surrender, complete elimination of armed German organizations, and subjugation in May 1945 its easy to imagine the consequences of a US attempt to negotiate a 'soft' capitulation as in 1918.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Takao » 05 Mar 2021 21:26

mikegriffith1 wrote:
03 Mar 2021 15:14
If you want to get an accurate picture of just how strong the anti-Hitler resistance was, read Nigel Jones' book Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot to Assassinate Hitler. Jones refutes any notion that the resistance was small or inconsequential. The resistance included field marshals, generals, colonels, and high-ranking civilian officials.
Well, he does little to refute that the resistance was small & inconsequential. He does explain that many expressed a passing interest in the "resistance", but their participation was based on contingencies...Field Marshal X would participate if Hitler did Y, General A would participate if Hitler did B, etc. However, very few of these contingencies came to pass, and the "resistance" remained small and inconsequential.

mikegriffith1 wrote:
03 Mar 2021 15:14
Jones makes the same point that Fleming does: that the policy of "unconditional surrender" substantially hindered the resistance, that the resistance would have been even stronger and more widespread if FDR had renounced the policy and had assured the German people that the Allies would treat them humanely and would not seek to dismember or destroy Germany as a country.
Actually, Jones makes only passing mention of "unconditional surrender". The announcement crushed the "last hope" of the "resistance". Hmmm...."Last hope", meaning they" wasted, squandered, or otherwise blew all previous chances at overthrowing Hitler. A far cry from
"Substantially hindering the 'resistance'". Jones makes a little more out of the "No separate peace" proclamation.

mikegriffith1 wrote:
03 Mar 2021 15:14
Jones also makes the point that Chamberlain's shamefully weak response to Hitler's demands regarding Czechoslovakia prohibited the plotters from staging the coup they had planned on carrying out in 1938.
Actually he does not. He points to the "resistance members' human frailty...They did not want to be remembered poorly by Germans or historians. That would be their own egos that prohibited them from taking action, not Chamberlain.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Mar 2021 16:50

Recalling 1918; the 'Stab in the Back' belief developed despite that the Imperial German Army was collapsing in the west, that the German economy was collapsing, and there was a incipient famine oncoming. Conditions for the Germans and German army were far better both in reality and perception to June 1944. How is a resistance that removes the top nazi leadership before then going to be perceived? There is a hint in the historical record.

What conditions can such a new government offer that would be acceptable to the Allies? Would the Allies have any conditions that would be acceptable to this new German government? Theres a huge gap between the goals of each side & its difficult to see any 'conditions' that fit the goals of each side.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Mar 2021 12:24

Hi Guys,

An outline of Vatican dplomacy in WWII is found in: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25019543?r ... b_contents

According to this, the Papacy apparently invited Cardinal Spellman to visit the Vatican City State on 6 February. However, as this was the same day that Ciano was dismissed as Foreign Minister, it is unclear if the two events are related, or whether Ciano had any input into the invitation.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Aber » 07 Mar 2021 13:23

Sid Guttridge wrote:
07 Mar 2021 12:24
According to this, the Papacy apparently invited Cardinal Spellman to visit the Vatican City State on 6 February. However, as this was the same day that Ciano was dismissed as Foreign Minister, it is unclear if the two events are related,
"It can be no coincidence that..." :P

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Re: FDR's Tragic Refusal to Deal with the German Resistance and Abandon "Unconditional Surrender"

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Mar 2021 13:49

Hi Aber,

Alternatively "It could be complete coincidence that....."

Cheers,

Sid.

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