No. 192 NAI DFA 34/125

Memorandum by Leo T. McCauley for Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin) on the
general political situation in Germany

Berlin, 11 May 1933

I forward herewith a memorandum dealing with a number of matters connected with the present political situation in Germany.1

Events have moved so rapidly that this memorandum cannot pretend to do more than summarise the more important matters very briefly. Should you, however, desire to have a fuller report on any of these matters, I shall be glad to supply it.

[signed] Leo T. McCauley


1. Strength of Government.

The Government has succeeded in establishing itself completely. There is now no question of its ability to impose its will; opposition has completely disappeared. Further, it is most courageous and energetic in all its under-takings. No problem is too difficult or too big to be faced, and equally no problem is too small or insignificant for its attention. It has absolutely no regard for vested interests or even vested rights. It interferes in every sphere of physical and intellectual activity, abolishing and re-organising trade unions, reforming the various academies of art, unifying the Protestant Church in Germany, creating a unified system for sport, revising school books, and, in a violent manner, censoring the existing literature of the country. It would be difficult to find a parallel in history for such a burst of administrative energy. Further, the Government has had to do many of its jobs twice over. It usually begins with some purely theoretical idea which has formed part of the Nazi programme for years; it applies this idea by law or decree; finds that the facts make its application imperfect or impossible; and then a new law or decree is issued remoulding the scheme to make it practical. These draughts on the Government's energy show not the least sign of tending to exhaust it.

Probably the greatest demonstration of strength given by the Government was its action within the last few days in seizing the funds of the social democratic party and of the newspapers associated with that party. This, of course, was the party which created the republic and which ruled it for many years either alone or in coalition with other parties. It must still have an enormous following in the country, especially among people of the lower middle class. The position is not quite the same as if a Dictator in Great Britain seized the funds of the Liberal Party, but the action approaches that in boldness and magnitude.

2. Foreign Affairs.

The new Government has not so far secured any success in foreign affairs. Most observers are of opinion that it has estranged various powers which had been inclined under previous regimes to enter into closer and more friendly relations with Germany. In the case of powers which were already inclined to be unfriendly, their nervousness and suspicion have been increased.

The Government's first effort at securing cordial relations was made with Italy. The Fascist rule was akin to Hitlerism and naturally suggested Italy as a first choice. The leaders of the delegation consisted of von Papen, the Vice-President, and Goering, who is probably the most energetic of Hitler's lieutenants. Nothing that has been so far disclosed would indicate that the effort was successful. The delegation appears to have come home with empty hands. The difficulty appears to have been Austria. No formula could be found enabling the conflicting interests of Austria and Italy to be reconciled. Generally speaking the Germans are not profoundly disappointed over their failure in Italy. Their experience in the Great War has taught them that the Italians are not reliable as allies, and not very formidable enemies.

3. Austria.

Relations with Austria are at present peculiarly difficult. The Nazi party in Austria is in opposition. Violent speeches by Nazi leaders have been made on the German side of the border in support of that party. These speeches have been made even by responsible leaders like the Nazi Governor of Bavaria, General von Epp. These speeches hint very clearly at a possible coup d'état by the Nazi party in Austria with the support of Storm Detachments from Germany who would cross the border to support them. Some of these speeches even speak of bringing the whole German race ?under one roof'. In these circumstances it is not to be wondered that relations between the Austrian and German Governments are somewhat strained. Two German Ministers propose shortly to visit Vienna in connection with a demonstration of the Nazi party, and some official Austrian newspapers have described their proposed visit as 'uninvited' and 'unwelcome'.

4. Czecho-Slovakia.

Relations with Czecho-Slovakia have somewhat improved. The dispute concerning payments between the two countries, reported in the memorandum which accompanied my minute of the 15th March last,2 has now been cleared away; and trade is proceeding normally between the two countries. In Czecho-Slovakia itself, however, unfavourable conditions have been created by the advent of the new administration in Germany. The hopes which the Czecho-Slovakian Government had begun to entertain of completely conciliating the German population within its borders have been shattered. Much had been done to make this conciliation effective: for example, persons of German racial origin had been admitted to the Cabinet and had co-operated with apparent loyalty in the administration. The national resurgence, however, across the border in Germany has reinfected the German population in Czecho-Slovakia with German national ideals. This has led to a remarkable prohibition in connection with radio reception. The Czecho-Slovakian Government has forbidden persons owning wireless sets to tune in any foreign station if the set is operated in a public place such as a hotel or restaurant. Similarly private persons operating sets in their own homes are forbidden to tune in foreign stations if persons other than members of their own household are present. The object of this amazing prohibition is to prevent assemblies of people gathering together to hear the speeches of Hitler and other Nazi leaders relayed by wireless.

5. Poland and U.S.S.R.

The most surprising step in foreign affairs taken by the Government has been the attempted conciliation with Poland and the U.S.S.R. Previously every Nazi speaker had denounced Poland as the most objectionable enemy of Germany, and apparently the recovery of the lost territory on the eastern frontier, including the Corridor, appeared to be one of the main objects of the movement. Great was the surprise, therefore, when Hitler, some days ago, invited the Polish Minister in Berlin3 to call on him. Their discussion was resumed on several days and received great publicity. What took place is not known, but it is suggested that Hitler's object was to allay Polish fears and suspicions and to prevent Polish nervousness leading to an attack on Germany before Germany was in a position adequately to defend herself. Critics hostile to the Government point out how completely inconsistent this action on the part of Hitler is with the defiant attitude which he had always previously shown in his speeches. Similarly, although the whole creed of the Government is based on bitter hostility to Communism, Hitler invited the Soviet Ambassador to call on him. The interview was followed by announcements in the Press declaratory of the Government's intention to observe the cordial relations which had hitherto existed between the two countries. It is worth mentioning that, shortly before this interview, the headquarters and practically all the branches of the Derop (Russian Oil Products) had been raided and papers seized, and the organisation itself described as sheltering Communist propagandists. These raids had formed the subject of an indignant protest from the Soviet Ambassador. The situation now is that a Government in Germany based upon an intensely anti-communist party organisation proposes to cultivate friendly relations with a Russian Government which is similarly based on a Communist party. The explanation is that German industry cannot do without Russian orders.

6. Denmark.

Great nervousness has been caused in Denmark by Nazi activity on the German side of the border in conjunction with considerable unrest among he German inhabitants of the territory recovered by Denmark after 1918. The Danes fear that they, as the weakest neighbours of Germany, may be the first objects of attack. The German Government has sent one of its Commissars to Denmark, and also to Sweden, for the purpose of establishing good relations with the Press in those countries.

7. Great Britain.

German public and individual opinion appears to be puzzled by the attitude of the British public as disclosed by the British Press. Germans cannot understand that the persecution of the Jews in Germany should evoke so much interest in Great Britain and give rise to so much unfavourable criticism. The leading articles in such papers as 'The Times' and the recent anti-German speeches of Sir Austen Chamberlain and Lord Grey of Fallodon4 have been reported here and read with great indignation. The Germans suggest that the Jewish problem exists in Germany in a form which cannot be appreciated in Great Britain, the reason being that the Jews in Great Britain have usually reached that country after a sojourn of several generations in Germany, where they have undergone a process of civilization, while Germany itself has to deal with the rawer product drawn from Eastern countries with a lower standard of culture. The general feeling is that a rift has been created between Great Britain and Germany at a time when Great Britain's friendship and sympathy would have been very valuable; and that this rift is due largely to skilful Jewish propaganda.

8. France.

France has scarcely figured at all in the pronouncements or activities of the Government. It is recognised that French nervousness has been greatly increased, but the German Government does not appear to be interested in taking any steps to allay it.

9. Disarmament.

The work of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva is a burning question in Germany; not that Germans have any faith in the Disarmament Conference as such, but they believe that its only practical function will be to find a formula enabling Germany to re-arm. They think that the day is long since past when there was any hope of the Conference succeeding in getting other countries to disarm, and they naturally realize that the advent of the present challenging regime in Germany has not assisted the Conference in that direction. Generally they feel that the Conference is not giving them a fair deal. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to set up a long-service professional army on the British model. They disliked the system, but they worked it and made a success of it. Now the French have proposed that the Germans should return to a short-service system, and the Germans dislike the proposal intensely. The reason is that they have wrought their present defence forces into a perfect organisation forming an efficient cadre forming a framework on which a much larger army could be quickly created. They do not want, at the present critical time, to abandon a system which appears to be serving them well. On the 8th inst. General von Blomberg, the Minister for Defence, gave an interview to the Press in which he said that Germany could not switch over from a twelve years service system to one of eight months at a moment's notice; that everybody's interests were being consulted at Geneva except Germany's; and that the time had come when Germany would refuse to be dictated to any longer. At the same time he said that, as a disarmed nation in the midst of an armed Europe, Germany had a special interest in the success of the Conference.

When Military Attachés in Berlin are discussing the Conference among themselves they always refer to it with considerable contempt as a means for achieving disarmament, but they are very outspoken in declaring that the Conference itself is a menace to the peace of the world, their implication being that a dispute might develop at the Conference table into trouble which would lead to war.

10. Propaganda.

The propaganda of the Government within Germany itself has been brilliant. A new ministry has been established for the purpose under the charge of Herr Goebbels,5 the orator of the party, and this ministry has devoted itself with conspicuous success to catching and holding popular interest and attention in the Government's work. Its method appears to be to arrange for a succession of dramatic occasions, such as the solemn opening of the Reichstag, Hitler's birthday, the anniversary of the death in aerial combat of Manfred von Richthofen, and Labour Day. By means of a wonderful publicity it interests the public in each of these events well in advance of the date on which it is to be celebrated, with the result that the public has always something exciting and interesting to look forward to. Secondly, the celebration is so arranged that the public are given the feeling that they individually are taking part and contributing to the celebration. This contrasts with the methods of the old regime which, for example, celebrated the anniversary of the Constitution by dry as dust proceedings in the Reichstag, to which only privileged persons were invited. Much different was the action of the present regime in celebrating the 1st May, when between one and two million people were assembled on the Tempelhofer Feld and treated to stirring speeches and a unique display of fireworks.

The Ministry of Propaganda has yoked to its purpose every channel of publicity, not only the Press, the public platform and the wireless, but even literature and the stage. It has secured that officials etc. not in sympathy with the present regime should be removed from the broadcasting organisation and from the staffs of newspapers; and it has carried out a thorough reformation of even such bodies as the Academy of Arts. It has arranged for a play called 'Schlageter' (dealing with the execution by the French of a German patriot of that name in the Saar territory) to be performed not only at the State Theatre in Berlin, but in theatres all over Germany; so that an enormous number of persons will be subjected to the influence of this particular piece. In a speech on the 8th inst., at a gathering of persons interested in the theatre, Herr Goebbels said that the whole theatre system must be re-organised, so as to breathe the spirit of nationality and be brought closer to the life of the people. He denied the proposition that art was international.

11. The Jews.

The Government has been faithful to the anti-Semitic portion of the Nazi programme. It has endeavoured to oust the Jew from public offices, the press, theatre, the academies of art, the professions and business. To what extent the reports of personal attacks on Jews were true, it is impossible to establish; but no doubt such attacks took place, and no doubt they were very much exaggerated. A journalist who has recently had a number of interviews with Captain Goering was told by him that when such attacks took place they were the result of personal enmity between individual Nazis and individual Jews, the former taking advantage of the changed state of affairs to pay off old scores. I think that this could scarcely be accepted as a full explanation of what occurred, but it probably is true that the attacks were the result of individual action and were not official.

The official actions of the Government are sufficiently severe. They aim at depriving Jews in official life, the professions etc. of their means of livelihood, and they go to the extent of limiting the educational facilities available to Jews in the universities and schools. The test applied is whether any one of an individual's grandparents was of the Jewish race: a person with one Jewish grandparent is classified as a Jew even though the remaining three might be of German origin. A person classified as a Jew is automatically considered unfit to participate in the public services, a penalty of extreme severity in Germany where so many people, such as university professors and teachers, are classified as officials, who would not be so classified with us. Exception is made in favour of persons who served in fighting units during the War, or whose fathers fell in action.

This persecution of the Jews is carried out in the manner most calculated to give offence. For example, the dismissal of Jews from public bodies and offices is described as a 'cleansing' of those bodies and offices. Further, during the boycott of Jewish shops and business houses, each shop was marked with the yellow label which Jews in the middle ages were required to wear on their dress in order that they might be distinguishable from other citizens and detected if they failed to return to the ghetto at the prescribed hour each evening.

In my minute of the 8th May (reference 136/30)6 reporting the issue of an Order prohibiting the opening of new shops for a period of 6 months I detailed the official reasons which prompted this step. Another reason suggested, but not official, is that many Jews deprived of their occupations had sought to gain a livelihood by opening shops, and this Order was intended to prevent that.

The general effect of the Government's measures against the Jews has been to deprive Germany of the services of many men distinguished in the sciences, in medicine and otherwise; and to reduce many ordinary inconspicuous people to poverty and despair. The Press has reported a remarkable number of suicides among such people.

To some extent the Jews brought this trouble on themselves. They made a display of wealth and prosperity when the average German was struggling for an existence. They filled the restaurants, theatres and seaside resorts more or less to the exclusion of the ordinary German citizens. The consequence is that scarcely a voice has been raised in their defence, the only case perhaps being the letter addressed by Dr Furtwangler, the famous musician, to Dr Goebbels pointing out that Jewish musicians had contributed richly to German art, and that German art would be the poorer for their loss.

12. The Churches.

Until recently the Catholic Church was in conflict with the Nazi movement, and went so far as to refuse Christian burial to some members of the party. The result was that Hitler declined to attend the Mass celebrated at Potsdam for Catholic deputies in connection with the solemn opening of the Reichstag. Shortly after that event the German Bishops made their peace with Hitler; but, from the worldly point of view, it would seem that the Church missed a big opportunity because of its earlier hostility. There are undoubtedly anti-catholic elements in the movement, and the attitude of the Church naturally strengthened these. On the other hand, the Government has shown itself anxious to make the Protestant Church in Germany more of a national institution, and to rescue it from the provincialism into which it had fallen. The Protestant Church in Germany is very loosely organised as regards the Reich as a whole and consists of a number of Churches identified with each of the States. It is Hitler's ambition to make a unit out of these individual organisations. He appointed a Commissar for the purpose; and, at first, his proposals appeared to be welcomed and likely to meet with immediate success; but later indications show that individual local protestant bodies are resisting the proposed re-organisation.

1 Marginal note: 'Seen by President, S.G.M., 19/5.'.

2 See above No. 179.

3 Alfred Wysocki.

4 Sir Edward Grey (1862-1933), British Foreign Secretary (1905-16), President of the League of Nations Union from 1918, Chancellor of Oxford University (1928-33).

5 Paul Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), Nazi Propaganda and Public Information Minister from 1933, committed suicide (1945).

6 Not printed.

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