THE ORIGINS OF THE ROME-BERLIN AXIS
One of the provisos of the Laval-Mussolini entente of January 1935 had concerned Austria. Hitler was to keep out of Austria. If he did not, he would find France and Italy jointly ranged against him (see above, p. 175).
Von Papen, the German Minister to Vienna, had told his American colleague in Vienna, after Dollfuss' assassination, that "all southeastern Europe to the border of Turkey was Germany's material hinterland. Getting control of Austria was to be the first step. He intended to use his reputation as a good Catholic to gain influence with Austrians like Cardinal Innitzer".1 Most likely, Von Papen's words did not remain a dead secret between him and the American Ambassador. There were lots of reasons why the American Government should not conceal them from London, Paris, or Rome.
In the spring of 1935, at the time of the Stresa Conference, the German Press was definitely hostile to Italy in the Ethiopian affair. The Reichswehr anticipated an Italian military fiasco. But Hitler did not want Mussolini to emerge humiliated from the scrape he was in. A humiliation of this kind would react unfavourably on the prestige of the régimes of both Italy and Germany.2 Mussolini, on his side, had every interest in holding Hitler in reserve to keep the French in line. To this end he transferred from Berlin to Paris Ambassador Cerruti who while in Berlin had stood for the policy of the Stresa Conference. Attolico, the new Italian Ambassador to Berlin, on September 8, when officially received by Hitler, stated in the customary exchange of courtesies, that "Italo-German relations now had, and in the future might acquire in still greater degree, an extraordinary significance for peace and for balancing the strength among the nations"; Italy, which was at present engaged "in strengthening its power and national dignity", demanded "from all, before all things, understanding of her legitimate interests, an understanding equal to that which she had and would have for the legitimate interests of others". Hitler replied that he shared the Ambassador's opinions and hopes, and that he trusted that "the community of many ideals which bound Fascist Italy and National-Socialist Germany would work out more and more for the good of both countries".
The London Times commented upon this event as follows:____________________