No. 83 NAI DFA 219/4

Confidential report from William Warnock to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 6 December 1939

Neutral observers here are awaiting with great interest the action, if any, which Germany proposes to take should other powers give material assistance to Finland in her struggle against the Russian invaders. I think that we may take it for granted that Germany will not idly stand by if either Great Britain or France send large numbers of aeroplanes, or big supplies of munition to Finland; Germany fears that the Allies might utilise the Finnish situation to advance their influence in Scandinavia, and to foment intrigues against her.

The tone of recent press articles shows that Sweden and Norway are being watched very closely. It is obvious, of course, that any Allied help to Finland must pass through these countries. Both of them are having an anxious time, torn as they are between wishes to preserve their absolute neutrality on the one hand, and on the other to protect themselves from being engulfed by Russia. Germany will not tolerate their co-operating with the Allies. Even though Russian policy is always, to say the least of it, something of a mystery and full of surprises, it seems fairly certain that, if they are successful in Finland, the Russians will be sorely tempted to 'free the workers' of Norway and Sweden, too. I think myself, however, that at this point Germany would be forced to intervene. She imports large quantities of Swedish ore – the Swedish mines are, in fact, her surest source of supply – and could not view with equanimity the passing of such a convenient store of this precious raw material into Russian hands, or under Russian control. They do not wish to see them under British control, either. In view of the Russo-German treaty the Russians might halt at the Finnish frontiers of their own accord. It is hardly likely that they would wish to test the new German friendship to breaking point just yet, even though they know that the Germans are prepared to acquiesce in many things rather than run the risk of a war on two fronts.

Strange as it may seem, the Allies will also suffer if Germany does not fairly soon call a halt to Russian expansion around the Baltic. If Russia's aggression is not checked, they will be forced to declare war on her.

In spite of the official attitude, private opinion here is strongly in sympathy with Finland, and some people with whom I come in contact resent strongly – outwardly, at all events – any suggestion that Germany must share some of the responsibility for present happenings.

Long reports appear concerning the organisation of an army under the French General Weygand1 in Syria. It is stated that the British and French are aiming a stroke at the Russian oilfields in Baku, one of the richest oil-bearing districts in the Soviet Union. This is given as a further proof that the Allies are endeavouring to spread the war out as much as possible, and to involve more and more nations, knowing that they cannot hope to defeat Germany as matters stand at present.

A diplomat recently transferred here from Brussels tells me that in the Low Countries there is still great anxiety. The defences on both sides of the present Western Front are so perfect that it is almost natural to expect that one of the opposing parties will attempt to cut through either Belgium or Holland.

Recent speeches by Dr. Funk,2 the Minister for Economics, in which he exhorted his hearers to save money, are regarded in some quarters as intended to correct the present tendency to buy up all kinds of articles. Memories of inflation are still fresh in everyone's mind. Now a new committee headed by Field-Marshal Goering,3 has been established to guide war economy. Final decisions will rest with the Field-Marshal himself.

Field-Marshal Goering is extremely popular with the people. It is becoming hard to keep trace of his many activities, each of which, Germans assure me, he takes very seriously. He is, to name some of his offices: Minister for Air, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force; Prime Minister of Prussia; President of the Reichstag; Special Commissioner for the Four Year's Plan; Chairman of the Council for the Defence of the State; Chief Forester; and Chief of Hunting and Game-Keeping, together with his new position as supreme director of war economy.

The general public is slowly beginning to realise that the war is likely to last a long time. The present bitter weather (the temperature has not been above freezing point, even at mid-day, in Berlin for the past ten days, and we have had cold spells intermittently since November) has made people think. Fuel is scarce, and even where it is still available, the quality is poor, and then comes a further difficulty, namely, that of transport; the number of lorries or other conveyances available is very limited, and labour is scarce owing to the large number of men mobilised for service with the armed forces. The question of clothes is not yet serious, but everybody is wondering what it will be like next winter.

[signed] W. Warnock

1 General Maxime Weygand (1867-1965), Marshal Foch's Chief of Staff (1918-40), appointed Supreme Allied commander in May 1940.

2 Walther Funk (1890-1960), German Minister for Economics (1937-45), President of the Reichsbank (1939-45).

3 Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering (1893-1946), Commander in Chief of the Lufftwaffe (1939-45) and Hitler's chosen successor from 1939 to 1945. Goering was sentenced to death at the Nuremburg Trials but committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill before the sentence could be carried out.

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