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Sunday, May 9, 2004

Controversy: Did Churchill and Mussolini exchange secret letters during World War II?

February 3, 2000


Churchill-Mussolini 'secret letters'

From Signor Roberto Festorazzi

Sir, -- The question of the existence of correspondence between Winston Churchill and Mussolini from 1936 until June 1940 (report, "Churchill 'offered land to Mussolini' ", January 29) has never been taken very seriously in Great Britain. Nevertheless, in 1952 Luigi Carissimi-Priori was offered £100,000 by British sources for photographic copies of the letters that they believed were still in his possession.

In fact he had passed them some years earlier to the Italian Government, at which time he and others involved agreed to keep silent on the subject for at least half a century. I believe that Signor Carissimi-Priori did his country and history a service by protecting important material which will one day be extremely useful in re-evaluating the causes of the Second World War.

Mr Denis Mack Smith, Mussolini's biographer, refers ("Historians cast doubt on letters' existence", same day) to communications between Neville Chamberlain and Mussolini: "But Chamberlain was an appeaser, Churchill was not an appeaser."

I believe that on this occasion Churchill was indeed attempting to appease. Until 1939-40, Chamberlain was more pro-German than pro-Italian, while Churchill, having demanded sanctions against Italy in retaliation for the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 was the first to request that the League of Nations remove them. Churchill was sympathetic towards Mussolini and was the only British or European politician who might have been able to prise Hitler and the Duce apart.

These letters - which I hope will now be published - will demonstrate that he did absolutely everything in his power to achieve this.

Yours faithfully, ROBERTO FESTORAZZI (Author, Churchill-Mussolini, Le Carte Segrete, Datanews, Rome, 1998), Via Acquanera 24, 22100 Como, Italy. January 30.

From Dr John Seale

Sir, Why would Churchill, in 1940, offer the Dodecanese islands to Italy to persuade the Duce not to join Hitler? Rhodes, Kos and most of the other Dodecanese islands were seized by the Italians from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 and had been Italian for 28 years.

Yours faithfully,

Southcombe House,
Devon TQ13 7TU.

From Mr David Irving

Sir, I investigated alleged secret Churchill-Mussolini letters exhaustively in 1982, and was eventually shown two "1940" letters, as mentioned in your report, in which Churchill supposedly offered territory to keep Italy out of the war. The Chartwell letterhead was hopelessly wrong, and both Churchill writing to Mussolini and the latter, replying, had seemingly typed the same elementary spelling error ("wich").

The same source [Gerd Heidemann] later provided the Hitler "Diaries" to your newspaper.

Yours faithfully,

81 Duke Street,
W1M 5DJ. January 30.

Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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