No. 227 NAI DFA 19/50

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

Berlin, 3 August 1934

The1 effect on the situation in Germany of the events in Austria has since yesterday been completely overshadowed by the death of Hindenburg, which, coming after the Röhm affair, the assassination of Dolfuss2 and the general economic situation, has concerned3 very great depression. It enables the German Press, however, to cut down its foreign news to almost nothing, which is no doubt felt as a relief by the Department of Propaganda.

For example, there has been no mention whatever in the German papers of the document found on a German citizen in Austria giving directions for the Putsch, nor of the Cabinet to be formed by Rintelen4 with Habicht, Frauenfeld, and other prominent National Socialists as Ministers. The Austrian and Swiss papers in the German language which contained these items were confiscated soon after their arrival in Berlin; only Italian, Spanish and such papers are allowed to circulate, presumably on the theory that they cannot be read by Germans.

Nevertheless, or perhaps on account of the want of news, there is very great uneasiness, and confidence seems to have been very much shattered. The assumption by Hitler of the post of President as well as that of Chancellor has not, so far as I can judge, roused any enthusiasm, as it would have six months ago: it is merely looked on as inevitable, on the ground that he could not well see any other individual in a position even technically superior to his own. And, for the first time, the man in the street is beginning to state openly that the Government's policy is unwise.

The attacks made by the Italian Press on Germany have perhaps had a greater effect than anything else. There is a feeling that Italy was the one great power which has consistently supported German claims, and that its friendship has been lost by a foolish policy in Austria. The fact that Italy has become so hostile further suggests to the German public that it has not been told the whole truth about events in Austria, and the attitude of the German press itself confirms this suspicion.

The directions given to the Press here have in fact been incredibly futile and childish. For days, the insurgents in Austria were merely referred to as the 'rebels', and the shooting of Dolfuss was called a murder: the word National Socialist was not mentioned, and it was stated that Rintelen was clerical, and therefore could not possible have been supported by the National Socialists. Then, when it appeared that the revolt was continuing in Carinthia and Styria, the German Press reverted to the theory that it was a popular and unorganised movement and referred to the 'heroic resistance' offered to the Austrian troops and the atrocities alleged to have been committed by the Heimwehr. Finally, it published an enthusiastic account of the execution of Dolfuss' assassins, describing their 'heroic' conduct in going to their death with the cry of 'Heil, Hitler!' on their lips.

It is no wonder that the average German has come to distrust the Press and to wonder how far the attacks of foreign newspapers are justified.

At the same time, I do not think there is any reason to think that the plebiscite to take place on the Chancellor's office will result in anything but a tremendous majority for Hitler; in fact there is no other alternative. But, whatever the result may be in votes, the enthusiasm of last year has disappeared, and, as I have already observed, the general impression which one gets is of a tremendous depression.

[signed] C. Bewley

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

2 Engelbert Dolfuss (1892-1934), Austrian Chancellor (1932-34), assassinated by Austrian Nazis (1934).

3 May have meant 'caused'.

4 Anton Rintelen (1876-1946), Federal Minister of Education (1932-33), appointed Austrian Envoy to Rome (1933), conspired with the Nazi Party and was pronounced Federal Chancellor of Austria by the Nazis during the failed July Putsch (1934), found guilty of high treason and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1935, released in 1938.

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