Salzburg Meeting 7 - 10 April 1943

On the afternoon of 6th April 1943 , Mussolini by the last special train of real Duce. He was accompanied by German Ambassador in Rome , Mackensen , Italian Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Ambrosio and new Italian Foreign Minister Bastianini (Duce’s son in law Count Glezzo Ciano was sacked from Foreign Minister post and sent to Vatican as Ambassador in January 1943 along with another group of ministers during one of Mussolini’s regular "Changing of Guard) with a team of Italian Foregn Ministry experts.

The last summit meeting between Axis leaders was held in Salzburg a year ago in April 1942. The setting in Klessheim Castle was same but as German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop told his Italian collegue Bastianini on arrival , “much hapened since then” Behind this laconic understatemenmt lay the brutal unfaced fact that a decisive Axis victory could no longer be won. The hammer blows at Alamein , Torch and Stalingrad had marked the turning point of the conflict. The strategic initiative now lay at the hands of the enemy on all fronts and survival of Axis depended on basic revision of strategy. Thwe issue was stark there was no way Germany and Italy could go back to favorable balance of forces like 1940-1941 , the concept of Blitzkrieg was dead, the concept of a Second Front which had been derided by Axis leadership so far , now became a possibility in 1943 , the loss of all Italian North Africa and shrinking Axis foothold in Tunisia , brought the war close to the Italian mainland. The continued presence of Italy in Axis coalition depended on a decisive reinforcement by Germany on Mediterranean Theater and such a strategic revolution could only be achieved at the expense of Eastern Front either by staying on defensive at Ukraine or seeking a compromised oeace with Soviet Union. If that was achieved , an all out effort against Westetn Allies could lead a negotiated settlement with them that would leave something of Axis gains in Europe.

Such a stratregic analysis of war situation in the spring of 1943 was in general shared by both German and Italian circles with the cardinal exception of Hitler. The pervesive fear of total defeat had seeped into the leadership of both countries and the awareness that hope of salvation lay in the hands of uniquely in the personal prwstige Mussolini still had in the eyes of Hitler. For Italian diplomatic and military notables , only Mussolini could persuade him to consider the necessity of a strategic revolution by liquadating Eastern Front. Such was the significance of Salzburg meeting.


The preliminary meetings of Axis leadership stated on 8th April between Italian Foreign Minister Bastianini and German Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop in presence of German Ambassador Mackensen. Von Ribbentrop just parroted his master Hitler’s obsessive determination on focusing Eastern Front. According to Ribbentrop “There could be no compromise with world battle. Germany never expected Russia to collapse instantly. Its aim was not to destroy Russia but to destroy its military and industrial capacity and push it further east so it would never be threat to Reich ever again. Besides Germany needed Ukraine and Stalin was not ready to make peace. Allied shipping losses exceed 1.000.000 gross tons and Germany had no plans to make peace with England till latter begs for it”

Italian Foreign Minister Bastianini countered with thessis that Axis was playing at the hands of its opponents and continuing war against Russia was a great source of satisfaction for England and America. Italy was compeled supply nine armies in various fronts , the provisoning was becoming more and more difficult , not one convoy large or small was reaching its destination in Tunis intact and the ammunition had to be flown ibn to supply Axis armies left in Africa.

According to Bastiani Mussolini was also concened that Italian army was no longer capable of taking any initiative and must confine itself only for a defensive role. One wondered for how long could that be maintained for an army without initiative was condemned. In these circumstances therfore it was understandable that a wave of pessimism strikes was surging in Italy and one should not overlook the importance of unofficial strikes across industrial cities of Northern Italy , Turin , Milan. One talked of how good old Italian people but their good nature had limits. Ribbentrops’s supposition that the strikes were contrived by Engilish agents was instantly rejected by Bastiani who revealed that it was the work of Italian communists who were taking instructions from Moscow.

No direct records of talks or conversations between Hitler and Mussolini (that officially started that night at Hitler’s apartments and next day) survived but there are several wtness accounts. Italian Chief of Staff Ambrosio heard from Mussolini after first meeting of Hitler with Il Duce “having referred the situation in Eastern front proved a lively violent reaction from Hitler who intended to demonstratre thsat in light of enormous losses Russia was about to collapse and to this end therefore all German offensive efforts were directed” There was no talk of a seperate peace.

The general impressions gained from these meetings on that day and next day under Hitler’s chairmanship and recorded buy Ambrosio reveal and absolute lack of progess of strategic and political issues and rotue , a complate dysfunction and distrust in Axis allience and a general wave of pessimism from most of Italian party and several German participants except Hitler and his close circle. There was not even an attempyt for joint Italo-German cooperation and planning. Italian delegation refused to issue a joint decleration with Germans about the conferance till German Air Force substantially reinforced Axis air power in Sardinia and Sicily with at least 500 extra aircraft. Hitler opposed that , pointing out the intelligence reports that Axis airfields in Sardinia and Siccily were so bad shape even a light Anglo-American air bombing would cause heavy damage on these newly arrived aircraft but despite that he agreed to send additional several German air force units and AA guns to Sicily. According to Italian participants , for the Mediterranean problems German concern had been what could be defined for a secondary theater. They see the need to hold Tunisia at all costs to pin down enemy forces as long as possible (a very bad strategic move in hindsight) , fear for any enemy landings on Sicily or Sardinia or Balkans which had became last recent obsession of Hitler. But they had a tendancy not to allot a lot of resources to the passive zones that are not expected to be attacked.


German fear of a political collapse in Italy and their distrust of Bastianini and Ambrosio was deepened.

On the morning of 10th April after a breakfast of milk and biscuits , Mussolini was able to attend closing session of military situation conferance , there was no news from Eastern Front and Hitler warmed up to his guest declared “Duce , I guarantee you that Africa will be defended , the situation is serious but not desperate , recently I have read a copy of Battle of Verdun in the First World War , Verdun resisted best German regiments , I see no reason why this should not happen in Africa , with your help my troops will make Tunisia the Verdun of Africa !” (while during the meetings , Germans refused to increase the share of fuel or even provide temporary fuel stocks from Roumania for Italian Navy so unlike Verdun which had an excellent supply route from land in 1916 , Tunisia was getting mostly isolated from sea)

The formal meeting therefore was closed and two dictators and their entourage went down the hall of Klessheim Castle for departure. Some of them saw Mussolini first time since he did not leave his quarters much since his arrival. Both leaders Hitler and Mussolini seemed livid , with contracted features and vacant looks. Italian delegates saw them with alarm. “They seem like two invalids” said one. “Rather like two corpses” said Dr. Pozzi , Mussolini’s personal doctor. While Hitler wanted his personal physician Dr. Morell to see Mussolini , he could not convince Il Duce for that.

A private lunch was arranged in Bastianini’s apartment where only Hitler , Mussolini , their respective foreign secretaries andf Goring himself attended. Apart from familiar comparisons Hitler made between himself and Prussian King Frederick the Great , Fuhrer also gave Mussolini a free hand in dealing with Spanish dictator Franco to enter the war at Axis side (Mussolini had been insisting for that or if that did not work invading Iberian peninsula to sever Allied naval route at Gibraltar to Mediterranean and Africa as if at this stage of war Franco ever pragmatist who rejected to enter the war in 1940 would switch to Axis now in 1943) but relayed his pessimism “I do not believe he would do it”

The two dictators then went through their formalities for leave taking via train. Mussolin was in intense pain on the journey back home though a new radiographic inspection revealed no new symptoms. “My illness has a name” wailed Mussolini “Convoys”

Hitler later described his success to Goebbels, who jotted it down in his diary. By putting every ounce of energy into the effort, he succeeded in pushing Mussolini back on the rails… The Duce underwent a complete change… When he got out of the train on his arrival, the Fuehrer thought, he looked like a broken old man; when he left [after four days] he was in high fettle, ready for any deed.

The Duce had always been susceptible to this kind of treatment. Hitler lectured him about Stalingrad , the need to stay in Tunisia “till quarter past twelve” Mussolini’s advisors (political or military) came back from Klessheim talks in a sharply contrasting mood of frustration and distrust.

The contrast between Casablanca Conferance in January 1943 could not be greater.


Hitler has definitely lost it.

He was reading of the battle of Verdun written by whom? His own account? Because they lost at Verdun.

And he said the V-Word.


Totally agree, unless he meant the pointless German activities which led to many hundred thousands of casualties just to end up in the same trenches.

I suspect the German survivors might end up in the same position before going to Africa. Seeing it from Europe with binoculars :sunglasses::v::smiling_imp::smiling_imp::smiling_imp::smiling_imp:


merdiolu, as always thanks for the Sterling posts :pray::+1::+1::+1:


On the upside, they should be glad that they were not captured by the soviets. And they get to see Europe with Binoculars and not put in gulags.