Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]



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Austro-Yugoslavian-­Italian Frontier 



I HAVE just motored across the Italian border and it is packed with troops.”

An excited motorcyclist shouted this to the clerks on the other side of the counter at the travel agency in this Austro-Yugoslavian frontier town, where I was buying my ticket to Italy. 

“I was stopped by soldiers every few minutes,” he exclaimed.  “I saw tanks and big guns and regiments with armoured cars.  There are thousands of men there.”

“Will they march if there is trouble?”  I asked, joining in the conversation. “March! They’re ready to march at any moment.  It’s no bluff he replied. 

The head of the travel agency, a calm, elderly man, broke in and said slowly: “Then Carinthia will be seat of war and Klagenfurt will be the battleground. For the Yugoslavs will send their troops here.  If the Italians march it means another European war.” 

I inquired where the Yugoslavs would be likely to enter Austria should the Italians march, and being told that this was the strategic point came here by train. And I sit in Yugoslav territory.  Soldiers from Serbia in grey uniforms are washing themselves in the stream nearby.  A few yards away is a railway on which 20 years ago thousands of Austrian troops were being transported to crush the Serbs.  The high mountains, which form the border on Yugoslavia and Austria, except at low-lying point, stand to the south, and I am talking to the Austrian frontier guard, the Yugoslav Customs official, and an Austrian Nazi. 

“At Their Mercy” 

This peaceful frontier is the very point where Yugoslav (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) soldiers might pour into Austria if the Italian troops crossed the border. 

“But why should you Yugoslavs wish to march into Austria?” I asked the Yugoslav Customs official. 

“You have a map there,” he says, “let me show you.  If Austria decides to join Germany, then Italy will send in troops to prevent it.  They will cross by the pass near Tarvis and will take the military road, known as the Packroad which passes through Carinthia and Styria and unites the Italians with their allies, the Hungarians.  

“Along that route the Italians will march through Villach, Klagenfurt, and Graz.  What then?  If they do that, we Yugoslavs are at their mercy.  We shall be cut off from the North of Europe, cut off from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and we shall be like a nut in the nutcracker of our enemy, Italy.  That we shall never allow.  That is why there are several regiments stationed now within two or three miles of where you are sitting.”

Thus if the Italians occupy Austria these quiet meadows filled with flowers and the pinewoods around will echo to the tramp of soldiers’ feet, and those Yugoslav soldiers who are now singing their folk-songs a few yards away will be loading their rifles in real warfare. 

Hatred of Italy

What will the Austrians do?  I do not think that they will remain quiet.  Although the present Government relies upon the friendship and help of Italy and is closely bound with Mussolini, there is among the population bitter hatred of Italy and a fear Italian domination.  They remember that Italy was their ally in 1914 yet came into the war against them. They know that in the South Tyrol Italians are mishandling their fellow Austrians.  The consequences of the Italians entering Austria might, therefore, be grave. 

It is not certain that the Yugoslavs would enter Austria.  It is possible that their internal troubles, the severe dictatorship and the rumblings of discontent among the Croats would keep their troops away from Austria. 

It is possible that the French would use pressure upon their ally, the Yugoslavs, to prevent them from marching into Carinthia.  Nevertheless, most people on this border believe they would march. 

In some respects the situation is similar to that of 1914 in that the independence of a small country is the issue, and the crisis is in the same region. If Austria succeeds in maintaining her independence, however, no crisis will arise and the Italian troops will remain at home. 

What of Italy?  I shall cross the Austro-Italian frontier at the strategic point of Tarvis and shall report on my findings. 








Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.


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