6 Dec. 45

their heaps of gold and deluded themselves about their riches . . . . The Western Democracies were dominated by the desire to rule the world and would not regard Germany and Italy as in their class. This psychological element of contempt was perhaps the worst thing about the whole business. It could only be settled by a life and death struggle which the two Axis partners could meet more easily because their interests did not clash on any point.

"The Mediterranean was obviously the most ancient domain for which Italy had a claim to predominance. The Duce himself . . . . had summed up the position to him in the words that Italy, because of its geographic location, was already the dominant power in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the Führer said that Germany must take the old German road eastwards and that this road was also desirable for economic reasons, and that Italy had geographical and historical claims to permanency in the Mediterranean. Bismarck . . . . had recognized it and had said as much in his well-known letter to Mazzini. The interests of Germany and Italy went in quite different directions and there never could be a conflict between them.

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs added that if the two problems mentioned in yesterday's conversations were settled, Italy and Germany would have their backs free for work against the West. The Führer said that Poland must be struck down so that for 10 years" — there appears to have been a query raised in the translation — "for so many years long she would have been incapable of fighting. In such a case, matters in the west could be settled.

"Ciano thanked the Führer for his extremely clear explanation of the situation. He had, on his side, nothing to add and would give the Duce full details. He asked for more definite information on one point, in order that the Duce might have all the facts before him. The Duce might indeed have to make no decision because the Führer believed that the conflict with Poland could be localized. On the basis of long experience he" — Ciano — "quite saw that so far the Führer had always been right in his judgment of the position. If, however, Mussolini had no decision to make, he had to take certain measures of precaution, and therefore Ciano would put the following question:

"The Führer had mentioned two conditions under which he would take Poland: (1) if Poland were guilty of serious provocation, and (2) if Poland did not make her political position clear. The first of these conditions did not depend on the