No. 155 NAI DFA 219/22A

Extracts from the Berlin Legation annual report for 1939-40

Berlin, 19 April 1940

(1) 1st April – 31st August 1939

[matter omitted]

B. German interest in Ireland

The campaign being carried on by the I.R.A. in England received much publicity in the German press, which had altered its previous policy of aiming at an Anglo-German rapprochement. Irish protests against Partition were frequently reported, so that even the man-in-the-street now knows that this problem exists in Anglo-Irish relations, even though his own ideas of the matter may be very vague.

Emphasis was laid on the fact that we recognised the Government of General Franco before Great Britain did so.

In a public reply on the 28th April 1939 to a letter received from President Roosevelt, who had asked him to define his attitude towards the independence of certain states, the Chancellor asked why Mr. Roosevelt should include Ireland on the list. He said that he had read statements by Mr. de Valera which seemed to indicate that Irish independence was threatened not by Germany, but by Great Britain.

Articles on Ireland began to appear more frequently than before in newspapers and periodicals, and books dealing with Ireland sold very well in the shops. The most important of these were:-

Robert Bauer:-Irland, Insel der Heiligen und der Rebeller.
Bringmann:-Gaschichte Irlande
Muller-Ross:-Irland die andere Insel

and German translations of

Desmond Ryan:-Eamon de Valera
Ernie O'Malley:-On another man's wound.

The official German News Agency has a regular correspondent in Dublin since February 1939.1

Germany was represented at the European Boxing Championships held in Dublin, and secured one title. The German team was accompanied by journalists, who wrote very favourably of their reception in Ireland. One of them, who represented the official wireless service, spoke from Dublin over the German broadcasting system. A Military Jumping Team competed at the Dublin Horse Show.

A party of school-children from Dresden visited Ireland in August. The Irish side of the arrangements was looked after by Mr. C.L. Dillon, of the High School, Dublin, who, in co-operation with Dr. Thieme of Dresden, has been organising exchange visits for some years past. The Student-Exchange-Service sent five students to Ireland for the academic year 1938-39.

C. German-Irish Trade

The trade agreement concluded in November 1938 worked smoothly. It resembled that in force in the years immediately previous, with one important change, namely, that the various 'Reichsstellen' (State control offices) which purchased the entire amount of our agricultural exports to this country, sent a permanent representative of their own, Dr. Hobohm, to Dublin. All purchases for the Reichsstellen were made by this representative. In previous years agricultural products intended for Germany had been exported under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, and delivery taken by the Reichsstellen at the German port of entry. The representative of the Irish Department of Agriculture at Bremen, Mr. O'Loan, was recalled, as, in view of the new arrangement, his services were no longer required there.

Live animals and agricultural products accounted for almost all our exports to Germany. The trade in feathers was maintained.

D. Consular Work of the Legation before the outbreak of war

The number of Irish citizens permanently resident in Germany is small, but, before the war, there were generally a few Irish students, though never very many, at German universities. 11 new passports were issued, and passports were renewed in four cases. One passport was made available for additional countries.

Visas for travel to Ireland were issued as follows:-

German citizens273
American citizens4
Polish citizen1

Notarial services were rendered on three occasions.

One citizen was repatriated.

E. Assistance given to Irish citizens to return home

A number of Irish citizens who came to Germany for holidays last summer took the wise precaution of sending their names and addresses to the Legation, as there was a constant fear that war might break out suddenly. Fortunately for non-combatants, particularly for neutrals like ourselves, the period of crisis before the catastrophe lasted for about a week, which gave sensible foreigners ample time to leave the country. While leaving the final decision to the individuals concerned, the Legation counselled all citizens who asked for its advice that they should leave the country unless they had some good reason for remaining. It was emphasised, however, that there was scarcely any possibility of Ireland's being involved in the war as a belligerent.

During the last week in August I took up residence in the Legation building. Telephone calls and telegrams came in at all hours of the day and night, and were dealt with promptly as they arrived. In some cases sums of money were lent to Irish people who were short of ready cash. The last of those who wished to return home, Mr. Michael O'Callaghan, of 18 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin, left Berlin soon after the outbreak of war.

A special word of praise is due to Miss Walsh for her whole-hearted co-operation throughout that period of tense political excitement and correspondingly increased work for the Legation.

(2) 1st September 1939 – 31st March 1940

[matter omitted]

B. German Interest in Ireland

Our decision to remain neutral in the present conflict was given great publicity. Public interest increased, and articles on Ireland appeared even more frequently in the newspapers. Ireland became a favourite topic for lectures, and numerous requests for information were received at the Legation. Prominence is given to the activities of the I.R.A. The execution of Barnes and McCormick2 in Birmingham was reported on the front pages of the newspapers, and was the subject of comment in leading articles.

Dr. Ludwig Muhlhausen, Professor Celtic at Berlin University, and Herr Joachim Gerstenberg, a well-known writer of travel-books, lectured in several important cities in Northern Germany under the auspices of 'Kraft durch Freude'.

Madame Maud Gonne MacBride's autobiography, 'Servant of the Queen', was translated into German, and had a large sale.

The German wireless stations inaugurated in December a weekly transmission of news in Irish, broadcast from Hamburg and Bremen. The speakers are Dr. Muhlhausen and Dr. Hans Hartmann, who worked for some time in the Irish Folklore Institute under Professor Delargy.

The average German is at last beginning to see that the difference, politically and otherwise, between Ireland and Great Britain is something more than that between Baden and Wurtemburg, or between Prussia and Saxony, which was the nature of the analogy most people here would have drawn before the war.

One number of a series of propaganda booklets is devoted to 'England's rule by force in Ireland', and one section is given over to Ireland in a volume of facsimile reproductions from British and American sources, entitled 'Concerning English Humanity'.

Many people have expressed surprise that Ireland should not have warmly espoused the German cause from the start, though no statement of this kind has ever found its way into any public utterances. Various newspaper articles have suggested that our Government, in prohibiting the I.R.A., is – against its will – supporting Great Britain, and that the Taoiseach has been forced into a difficult position.

C. General work of the Legation

After the outbreak of war, the Legation was cut off for some weeks from direct connection with Ireland. Contact was maintained through the Irish Legation to the Holy See, which has been very helpful to this Legation on many occasions since September last. Direct telegraphic communication was restored in October. Postal communication never really ceased, but there were delays of over a month in the early stages of the war. The Legation mail was despatched through Rome until the end of December 1939, by which time direct connection had improved considerably.

Direct trading between Ireland and Germany ceased on the outbreak of war, and trade in general has come to a standstill since the introduction of the total blockade.

The most important part of the Legation's work in trade matters has been in connection with the German contraband control. Irish merchants were accustomed to buy large quantities of timber from Baltic and Scandinavian countries. Several ships bound for Ireland with cargoes of wood were brought into German ports for examination, and subjected to long delays. It was suggested that wood consigned to Ireland might be re-exported to Great Britain or Northern Ireland. Our Government gave explicit guarantees that this would not occur, but even this did not at first expedite matters, as the German authorities then suggested that the ships might be seized on the way by the British, and forced to discharge their cargo in an English port. Finally, after energetic protests to the Foreign Office the ships were released singly. The second was not released until definite confirmation had been received that the first had arrived safely in Ireland and so on, until eventually all the vessels were allowed to proceed.

As a result of representations made by the Legation, an alteration was made in the wavelength of the wireless station at Memel, which was interfering with the transmission of the medium-wave station at Athlone.3

At the request of the Foreign Office, the Legation agreed to deal with any matters affecting Ireland which might arise in the German occupied regions of the former Poland.

D. Consular Work of the Legation

A few persons of Irish origin who had previously held British passports applied for registration as Irish citizens, and several Irish citizens who had passports in the old form exchanged them for new passports. In all, 16 new passports were issued between 1st September 1939 and 31st March 1940. There were 4 passport renewals. Notarial acts were rendered in 7 cases.

8 visas were granted.

Enquiries were made concerning the whereabouts of Irish people in Poland.

3. Important questions still outstanding at the end of the financial year

  • The German Government has not given a full report of the circumstances of the sinking of the S.S. 'Inverliffey' (Dept.'s reference 206/45).4
  • The German Government has given no reply so far to our enquiry concerning the sinking of the S.S. 'Germaine' (Dept.'s reference 206/67).
  • No arrangement has been made for the transfer of currency between Ireland and Germany. Germany is pressing in particular for the transfer of sums due in respect of contracts made before the outbreak of war.
  • The question of the Legation premises had not been settled. The present lease expires at the end of this year.

4. Conclusion

The present state of war has broken off almost all connections between Ireland and Germany, and consequently the consular and trade work of the Legation has been considerably reduced, but the forty-odd Irish citizens living in Germany and in the German sphere of influence are continually turning to it for assistance and advice. The fact that the Legation still remained on after the outbreak of war was a clear demonstration to the German public, which had had only hazy ideas in the matter, that the Irish state has sovereign status, and can pursue its own foreign policy independently of that of any other country. It is of great historical and political significance that we are maintaining diplomatic relations with a country at war with Great Britain and the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and that our right to remain neutral is recognised and respected by both parties.

No political differences have arisen between ourselves and Germany, and the general attitude towards us is one of friendly interest.

[signed] W. Warnock

1 Dr Karlheinz Petersen, the representative of the Deutsche Nachrichten Büro, later became Press Attaché at the German Legation in Dublin and was well known to Irish Military Intelligence (G2).

2 James McCormick used the pseudonym 'James Richards'.

3 In 1939 the Radio Éireann station at Athlone, Co Westmeath, operated on 565 Kilohertz (Khz), while the station at Memel, now Klaipėda in Lithuania, operated on 564 Khz. Memel became part of the Third Reich on 22 March 1939 following the receipt of an ultimatum from Germany to Lithuania to cede the area to the Reich. In 1940 the Memel station moved frequency from 564 Khz to 1285 Khz.

4 See footnote 11, No. 37.

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