No. 106 NAI DFA 219/4

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

Berlin, 3 January 1940

The Christmas and New Year holidays passed over quietly this year, owing to the war. The Christmas dinner suffered on account of the rationing restrictions, but it would be a mistake to accept the reports of it given in the London wireless broadcasts, which tried to give the impression that the Germans had next to nothing to eat. As I mentioned in earlier reports,1 the rations were increased for Christmas, and even though few were able to eat until the indigestion stage, most people got enough in some way or another. Many of my acquaintances have said to me that they find that they can live quite well on smaller portions than they used to have formerly. On Christmas Day I dined with a friend in quite an ordinary restaurant in the Kurfürstendamm, the main street in the West of the city, and we were given an excellent helping of goose (the national dish for the Christmas), without even having to produce ration-cards, as fowl, like fish, is still free from restriction.

The usual merry-making in the streets on New Year's Eve had to be abandoned on account of the 'black-out', and severe warnings were given by the police against over-indulgence in alcohol.

The Chancellor did not hold the usual New Year reception for the Heads of the Diplomatic Missions, but the Heads of Missions were invited to call and enter their name in the visitor's book in the Presidential Chancellory, and I duly did so.

The naval battle of the estuary of the River Plate took up a lot of space in the newspapers just before Christmas.2 At first, naturally, we were given accounts of what was reported as the 'Admiral Graf Spee's' significant victory against a superior force. The report of the ship's destruction was compressed into a few lines, but these were followed a day or so afterwards by a violent attack on the Uruguayan Government, who were accused of partisanship with Great Britain. Criticism of Uruguay has commenced again since the internment of the 'Tacoma', the German ship which took the crew of the 'Admiral Graf Spee' on board before it was blown up at sea.

As a compensation for the loss of the pocket battleship, the public is given reports of big German air victories. The fact that British sources state that the reports are grossly exaggerated does not in the least take away from the propaganda value of these reports, as nobody here gives any credence to the war news supplied by the British Ministry of Information.

Several articles have appeared in the press describing the development of Russia's transport system in recent years. It is stated that considerable quantities of goods can be brought to Germany by sea from Leningrad, or through Tailinn or Riga. Agreement has already been reached with Russia concerning new frontier control pacts for land traffic. These articles are undoubtedly intended as a reply to British assertions that the Russian system of communications is so bad that Germany can never hope to get anything like as much from Russia as she would wish, that the rolling stock is insufficient and in bad condition, etc. It is felt here that the Germans will, in their own interests, give considerable help to the Russians in building up a modern system of transport, and that the more important railway lines will soon be in a position to carry as much traffic as required.

The mutiny in Derry Gaol3 and the attack on the Magazine Fort in Dublin4 received great attention in the German press. There were also references to the Taoiseach's Christmas address to the United States, which was quoted to point out a few home truths to the British. The measures taken to recover the stolen munition are also featured prominently.

An interesting article on Ireland appeared recently on the front page of the Frankfurter Zeitung. It was written by Walter von Dewall, who was, until the end of August last, their London correspondent. Mr. von Dewall wrote a series of articles on Ireland a few years ago. He has some friends in Dublin, among them Mr. District Justice Lennon. In his article Mr. von Dewall explained carefully to his readers that they must not expect that, because she is anti-British, Ireland would automatically support Germany. It must be remembered that Irish people see parallels between their own history and that of Poland. Nevertheless a wise censorship controls the press so well that war news is given objectively. The writer says: 'There are, of course, infringements, but it can be said, to Ireland's honour, that the Irish press maintains its neutrality much more honestly than that of many other neutral states. Nor is even the “Irish Times” an exception'.

The German press has made no comment on the incident at the Magazine Fort, but it has interested its readers so much that events are being extensively watched.

Some press cuttings are attached.

[signed] W. Warnock

1 See No. 93.

2 The reference is to the battle of the River Plate of 13 December 1939 in which a force of British cruisers engaged the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. Though Captain Langsdorff of the Graf Spee scored a greater success in terms of damage to British vessels, he was ultimately forced to scuttle his ship in Montevideo harbour.

3 The revolt of thirty-nine republican prisoners on 25 December 1939.

4 On 23 December 1939 the IRA raided the Irish Defence Force's main ammunition store at the Phoenix Park in Dublin. A large quantity of ammunition and weapons was stolen, though most was later recovered.

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