Foreign News: Lady of the Axis

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As the Foreign Minister's wife Edda became dashing, chic, smart. At times she was a brunette, at other times as is fashionable in Rome, a blonde. She wore heavy, fashionable make up—except when she went to see her father. The circular rolled hairdo she adopted means a daily visit to famed Hairdresser Attilio on the Piazzo di Spagna. All one winter she wore a sable coat everywhere. During her junket to Vienna and Budapest in 1936 she was seen in ermine, morning, noon and night. In Poland last winter she wore mink. While she patriotically orders Roman, rather than Parisian, clothes, she prefers French perfumes and creams but was only slightly disturbed when Italy stopped importing these items. Her comment: "The Ala Littoria (Italian civil air service) boys will bring them to me."

As Countess Ciano became sleek she also became a cagier diplomat. On her trips to London Britons made little social fuss over her, and it was even reported that the British once turned down the appointment of Count Ciano as Ambassador to the Court of St. James's. True or not, Countess Edda developed an antipathy for the western democracies, became Italy's most ardent proponent of the Axis.

Guido Manacorda, professor at the University of Florence, had been promoting the idea of a Rome-Berlin Axis for some time. It began to take form when the Countess made a month's trip to Germany in June 1936. Officially, Countess Ciano traveled with 200 other Italians on a "goodwill" tour, but on her arrival she was met by officials from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Propaganda. Field Marshal Hermann Göring, Propaganda Minister Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (then Minister Without Portfolio) were all present at a dinner for her at the Italian Embassy. Adolf Hitler gave a brilliant reception for her at the Chancellery and later presented her with his esteemed autographed photograph.

Her father's daughter, she liked the heavy masculine atmosphere of Berlin. Handsome young Nordic men were always at hand to keep her in a proper Germanic frame of mind. Nazi bigwigs flattered her by talking international politics, insinuating projects of future German-Italian cooperation. Herr & Frau Göring became her fast friends (they later named their daughter after her). She made friends of bushy-browed Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess. Born and reared in Alexandria, Egypt, Herr Hess has long had a Mediterranean "outlook" for Germany. The two talked so long and so earnestly, were seen together so much that wits came to call Countess Edda the "mother" and Führer Hess the "father" of the Rome-Berlin Axis.

Edda returned to Rome flushed with pleasant German memories. Whether her urgings were decisive or not, in the following October Count Ciano was created a general and sent to Germany. At Berchtesgaden he signed the Axis Treaty, but Edda already wore the diplomatic trousers. Out of this treaty came Italian-German cooperation in Spain, Italian support for Germany in the Czecho-Slovak crisis, German support in Italy's invasion of Albania last spring, the hidebound military alliance signed between the two countries last May.

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