“I have dipped into Mein Kampf but never read it: it was written only partly by Hitler, and that is the problem. More important are… Hitler’s table talks: daily memoranda which first Heim (Bormann’s adjutant, whom I interviewed) and then Picker wrote down at his table side”. —David Irving
Night of 21-22 July 1941
[Gratitude to the Jesuits - Protestant fanaticism - Similarities between Germany and Italy - Dante and Luther - The Duce is one of the Caesars - The march on Rome - a turning-point in history - Delightful Italian towns - Rome and Paris.]
When all’s said, we should be grateful to the Jesuits. Who knows if, but for them, we might have abandoned Gothic architecture for the light, airy, bright architecture of the Counter-Reformation? In the face of Luther’s efforts to lead an upper clergy that had acquired profane habits back to mysticism, the Jesuits restored to the world the joy of the senses.
It’s certain that Luther had no desire to mould humanity to the letter of the Scriptures. He has a whole series of reflections in which he clearly sets himself against the Bible. He recognises that it contains a lot of bad things.
Fanaticism is a matter of climate—for Protestantism, too, has burnt its witches. Nothing of that sort in Italy. The Southerner has a lighter attitude towards matters of faith. The Frenchman has personally an easy way of behaving in his churches. With us, it’s enough not to kneel to attract attention.
But Luther had the merit of rising against the Pope and the organisation of the Church. It was the first of the great revolutions. And thanks to his translation of the Bible, Luther replaced our dialects by the great German language!
It’s remarkable to observe the resemblances between the evolution of Germany and that of Italy. The creators of the language, Dante and Luther, rose against the ecumenical desires of the papacy.
Each of the two nations was led to unity, against the dynastic interests, by one man. They achieved their unity against the will of the Pope.
I must say, I always enjoy meeting the Duce. He’s a great personality. It’s curious to think that, at the same period as myself, he was working in the building trade in Germany. Our programme was worked out in 1919, and at that time I knew nothing about him. Our doctrines are based on the foundations proper to each of them, but every man’s way of thinking is a result. Don’t suppose that events in Italy had no influence on us. The brown shirt would probably not have existed without the black shirt. The march on Rome, in 1922, was one of the turning-points of history. The mere fact that anything of the sort could be attempted, and could succeed, gave us an impetus. A few weeks after the march on Rome, I was received by the Minister Schweyer. That would never have happened otherwise.
If Mussolini had been outdistanced by Marxism, I don’t know whether we could have succeeded in holding out. At that period National Socialism was a very fragile growth.
If the Duce were to die, it would be a great misfortune for Italy. As I walked with him in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, I could easily compare his profile with that of the Roman busts, and I realised he was one of the Caesars. There’s no doubt at all that Mussolini is the heir of the great men of that period.
Despite their weaknesses, the Italians have so many qualities that make us like them.
Italy is the country where intelligence created the notion of the State. The Roman Empire is a great political creation, the greatest of all.
The Italian people’s musical sense, its liking for harmonious proportions, the beauty of its race! The Renaissance was the dawn of a new era, in which Aryan man found himself anew. There’s also our own past on Italian soil. A man who is indifferent to history is a man without hearing, without sight. Such a man can live, of course—but what a life?
The magic of Florence and Rome, of Ravenna, Siena, Perugia! Tuscany and Umbria, how lovely they are!
The smallest palazzo in Florence or Rome is worth more than all Windsor Castle. If the English destroy anything in Florence or Rome, it will be a crime. In Moscow, it wouldn’t do any great harm; nor in Berlin, unfortunately.
I’ve seen Rome and Paris, and I must say that Paris, with the exception of the Arc de Triomphe, has nothing on the scale of the Coliseum, or the Castle of San Angelo, or St. Peter’s. These monuments, which are the product of a collective effort, have ceased to be on the scale of the individual. There’s something queer about the Paris buildings, whether it’s those bull’s-eye windows, so badly proportioned, or those gables that obliterate whole façades. If I compare the Pantheon in Rome with the Pantheon in Paris, what a poor building—and what sculptures! What I saw in Paris has disappeared from my memory: Rome really seized hold of me.
When the Duce came to Berlin, we gave him a magnificent reception. But our journey in Italy, that was something else! The reception when we arrived, with all the ceremonial; the visit to the Quirinal.
Naples, apart from the castle, might be anywhere in South America. But there’s always the courtyard of the royal palace. What nobility of proportions!
My dearest wish would be to be able to wander about in Italy as an unknown painter.