No. 226 NAI DFA 19/50

Confidential report from Charles Bewley to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 16 July 1934

I1 have put off until today writing on the Chancellor's speech of Friday evening in order to see what impression it would make here. I think it is now clear that it has been generally accepted in Germany as a complete justification of the policy of the Government in regard to the events of 30th June and in particular of the executions. On the first days after the news of the executions and of General von Schleicher's2 death had been published, there was undoubtedly considerable perplexity, and some people even went so far as to say that they did not believe in the plot and that Schleicher had been murdered. The same persons now are inclined to say that they always knew Schleicher to be an intriguer, and that a conspiracy with a foreign power was only what might be expected from him. For Röhm and the other executed S.A. leaders I have at no time heard a single word of regret.

The Chancellor's speech, at which I attended in the Reichstag, was undoubtedly a very fine piece of oratory, and gave the impression of com- plete sincerity. Its effect was heightened by the presence of the whole Government, with the exception of the Vice Chancellor von Papen, and of the highest officials of the S.A., S.S., Arbeitsfront and other organisations. It should however be mentioned that von Papen is apparently not too shattered by recent events to appear at the fashionable racecourse of Hoppegarten and have his photograph published in apparently the best of humour.

It is unnecessary for me to give a résumé of the speech, as it was very long and has been reproduced at some extent in the press. I should like however to remark that it is very difficult to judge a speech of this type even by copious extracts, as it depends essentially on the cumulative effect of the various events, any of which taken alone would not be so significant, in establishing the existence of a plot against the Government and the community and the imminence of a rebellion with the probable outbreak of civil war.

To my mind (I try to be as objective as possible, though no doubt with no more success than any other person who attempts to judge so hotly contested matters) the Chancellor succeeded in proving his case beyond all doubt. I am all the more convinced because a number of the facts he brings forward in support were known months ago, although it did not appear at the time that they possessed any particular significance, and it is only by correlating them in the light of subsequent disclosures that they fit into the general scheme.

The Chancellor's reference to the 'revolutionaries for the sake of revolution', who could not realize that order must exist in the State and hated the successes of the Government because that meant the settling down into normal life, seems to be profoundly true of revolutions in general and in particular of Röhm and his supporters. The statement that about three months ago talk began to be heard of a second revolution is admittedly correct: references were certainly made to a second revolution in the speeches of S.A. leaders, but owing to the censorship these were in so vague terms that it was not clear whether they meant a revolution of ideas or of arms. I have also recently heard, though it was not mentioned in the Chancellor's speech, that the same S.A. leaders in speeches not reported in the papers on various occasions attacked violently the forces of the State: thus Ernst in a speech to the S.A. at the Sonnenwendfeier of June 22 promised that in a short time the 'grey swine' would no longer be allowed to appear. The reference made by Hess in a speech towards the end of June to the 'second revolution', in which he said that Germany was not an exotic republic which could thrive off recurring revolutions, can now of course be seen to be an allusion to Röhm's period spent in reorganizing the Bolivian army. Further, the fact that on July 1, when a meeting of S.A. leaders had admittedly been summoned by Röhm in Bavaria, Ernst, who was undoubtedly one of his most intimate collaborators, remained in Berlin, would be impossible to explain except on the supposition that he was intended, as Hitler stated, to lead the revolt in the capital.

As regards the general conduct of Röhm and his associates, there can be no doubt as to the correctness of the allegations. Their moral characteristics were long known, though I personally had no idea that they were so widely spread. Their generally extravagant and luxurious way of living was obvious. The German emigrant papers, published in Paris and Prague, had for some time been publishing attacks on them for these very matters - which does not prevent the same papers now from referring to them as martyrs of Hitler's blood-bath. But, apart from the personal characteristics of Röhm and his clique, it would appear to me that their intention to carry out a rebellion has been proved beyond all doubt, and I find it difficult to believe in the bona fides of, for instance, the Times correspondent who refers to the 'plot' in inverted commas.

The second point in the speech is of course the complicity of General von Schleicher in the conspiracy. Here the main portion of the evidence must rest on the word of the Chancellor and his Government. But there are certain confirmations from independent sources: for instance, the English Daily Chronicle stated that it was known that Schleicher had emissaries in the last months in London and Paris. It is theoretically possible that these emissaries were carrying out quite innocent and legitimate work, but it scarcely seems likely. Moreover the Chancellor's references to a meeting of three Germans with a foreign diplomat, at which the servants were sent away and which was carefully kept from his own knowledge, with the further reference to the assurances of the foreign statesman in question that only such subjects as ancient coins were discussed, appear to be so definite that they could not have been invented. The diplomat in question must be assumed to have been the French Ambassador.

The Chancellor then went through the events of June 30 and July 1 in so far as they had not already been published: you will already have read this portion of the speech which was fully reported. He gave the figures of those who were executed, were shot while resisting arrest, or committed suicide. It is noteworthy that neither the Times correspondent nor the telegraphic agencies which supply the Irish Press and Irish Independent with their news from Germany mention the fact that he stated that those persons who had committed a number of outrages which had no connection with the action of the Government were being handed over to the courts for trial. The Irish Times gives the passage in question. The statement in the leading article of the Independent that 'it is asserted in the official report that among the parties implicated were the Catholics in the Rhineland' is pure invention: neither the word Catholics nor the word Rhineland occurred in the speech, nor was there any allusion which could possibly be taken as referring to them.

As regards the justification for the summary executions Hitler's answer was that it was the only way to prevent an outbreak of civil war, in which tens of thousands of innocent S.A. men and others would have lost their lives. Whether this answer is accepted as sufficient justification will depend on the point of view: if it was possible to proceed according to the ordinary forms of law, it would of course have been right to do so; on the other hand, just as in war executions take place without legal forms, so it is claimed that the necessity existed on July 1. That the Government believed in the necessity is, I think, clear: they may have been mistaken, but it is very hard for outsiders with a limited knowledge of the facts to dispute the necessity.

There are two questions which have not so far been satisfactorily answered. The first of them is of course why Röhm, whose proclivities were long known to Government and public, was allowed to hold his post. The Chancellor said that he delayed in the last three months to remove him because he was reluctant to believe in so gross treachery and because he wished if possible to spare the S.A. the shame of the publicity and disputes involved. The answer scarcely carries conviction, especially as it implies that Röhm's general character would not have prevented him from continuing in office if he had not also conspired against the State.

The second question is as to the fact of Bose, von Klaussen, and other persons, some in the Vice Chancellery, who were shot. No reference was made to them, and they do not, as far as I can ascertain, figure in the 77 persons mentioned by the Chancellor. It will be interesting to see whether their shootings were entirely unauthorized, and whether the persons responsible will be tried.

The speech as a whole was received with very great enthusiasm by the Reichstag. In the diplomatic box opinions seemed to be divided. Many of the heads of missions were on leave. But, as I have stated above, there can be no doubt that it has been accepted by the vast majority of the country as a complete justification of the Government's action.

[signed] C. Bewley

1 Marginal note: 'Seen by Secy and President. S.G.M.'.

2 Kurt von Schleicher (1882-1934), last Chancellor of Weimar Republic (Dec.1932 - Jan.1933), murdered during the 'Night of the Long Knives' on 30 June 1934.

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