No. 109 NAI DFA 219/4

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

Berlin, 13 January 1940

The resignation of Mr. Hore-Belisha from his position as British Secretary of State for War was the subject of long and numerous articles in the German press, but the public were warned that they need not expect that any change will be noticeable to British War policy. Emphasis is laid on Mr. Chamberlain's letter to Mr. Hore-Belisha on the day of his departure from office.

The resignation is a slight loss to German propaganda. Jewish influence in Great Britain and France is claimed to a large extent for the war, and the fact that the British War Minister was a Jew was a very valuable aid to the discussion. The press has been endeavouring, as happens in all countries during war-time, to ascertain as many dark 'facts' as possible regarding the career of the politicians on the opposite side. Mr. Hore-Belisha is alleged to have been born in a ghetto in Morocco, and to have been frequently concerned in shady business transactions, and generally speaking, to be 'a typical Jewish adventurer'. In that the war is not going well for Great Britain he has decided to make a temporary disappearance so as to be in a safe place if disaster comes. In the meantime he will remain active behind the scenes. A cartoon shows Mr. Chamberlain whispering: 'Good-bye Leslie, come in by the back door in future'.

It is felt that Mr. Chamberlain's personal prestige will suffer greatly, and some observers suggest that he will not be able to retain the position of Prime Minister very much longer, and that this time next year will see a completely altered British Cabinet.

The attitude of the Scandinavian countries to the proposed British and French assistance to Finland is still being sharply watched, and it has not yet been clarified. The arguments that Norway and Sweden are bound, as members of the League of Nations, to allow aid for Finland to pass through their territory, is discussed as being irrelevant, in that the League of Nations is a moribund – if not dead – institution. The question for Germany is a simple one; are the Northern Countries going to allow the British and the French to make use of their territory or not? The much advertised schemes of 'help for Finland' are no more than attempts on the part of the Allies to gain a foothold in Scandinavia.

The announcement that Britain intends to limit her imports of foodstuffs in order to be in a better position, from the point of view of shipping and foreign currency, has caused more sarcastic amusement here. In recent years British propagandists have been sneering at statements by German leaders that 'guns are more important than butter'; now Great Britain is unashamedly following the same policy.

I referred in a previous report1 to the bitter cold which we are enduring in Berlin. The problem of fuel is very acute as the waterways, which convey most of the city's coal supply, have been frozen over for three weeks. The passenger train service has been reduced to make room for goods trains carrying coal, and all cheap fares have been cancelled until further notice. London reports that owners of block flats have been ordered to operate the control heating apparatus on no more than two days per week are incorrect. There is a new regulation of this nature in respect of warm water supplies but it does not extend to central heating. The intense cold has damped people's enthusiasm about the progress of the war; very likely, however, spirits will go up again when a thaw sets in. The food position is deteriorating. Fresh vegetables are impossible to obtain. In other years there used to be big imports of vegetables about this time of the year. This winter raw materials for industry are regarded as being more important. I hear from reliable enough sources that the decision to withdraw fresh milk from sale has brought in unexpectedly large stocks of butter, and that at the present rate, Germany's butter supply will hold out for years. Since the outbreak of war, full milk is supplied only to children, and to the sick and infirm. The newly acquired areas in Poland will, it is hoped, produce abundant supplies of foodstuffs. Agricultural produce will also be available in Russia and in the Baltic countries – if Germany can arrange some method of payment. Coffee and tea (and substitutes for them) are becoming very scarce, and in this respect the members of the Diplomatic Corps are beginning to feel the pinch, as the bonded supplies of tea and coffee in the free port at Hamburg, where we usually buy, seem to be running low, and the neighbouring countries prevent the export of these commodities. The Food Control Office has arranged that limited supplies of tea be supplied to us by one particular shop. The price per lb. is RM.12 (over £1.4.0 at the official rate of exchange)! Cheaper qualities have been sold out. Soap and soap products are unobtainable with the exception of a new standard 'unity soap', which is supposed to serve for all purposes from washing one's face to scrubbing the floor (but soap is now too precious to use for scrubbing). On the whole the population is taking the difficulties in good spirits. Most of them got enough practice in the last war. This time they are at least protected against profiteering.

Figures published a few days ago by the Italian Government show that eighty percent of the German speaking population in the former Austrian regions in Northern Italy have opted for return to Germany. Friends of the German Consul General in Milan tell me that the proportion was over ninety per cent in the purely German areas, and that the Italians had purposely extended the area for option in order to reduce the percentage for the combined provinces. The press has not much to say about the matter, as the whole question of the definite cession of the South Tyrol to Italy called up many bitter and unpleasant memories. The final decision to transplant the population was most unpopular. It is proposed to settle the migrants in Styria, Carinthia, and in the Tyrol.

As the enclosed cuttings show, there are frequent references in the press to Ireland, but few of them are of any special interest, save that some of the reports (not those from Dr. Petersen) show a tendency to sympathise with the 'I.R.A.'. A well-known journalist said in confidence to me the other day that he had reason to believe that the Propaganda Ministry is disappointed with the general attitude of the 'Irish Press'. I replied that they must remember that we are a neutral country, and that, from my own regular reading of the Irish newspapers, I did not think that Germany had any reason for complaint. This matter was never mentioned to me at the Foreign Office, nor do I intend to raise it. Even if there is any truth in my informant's suggestion, I doubt that the Foreign Office will mention it just yet. If I hear anything further indirectly, I shall report it to you at once.

[signed] W. Warnock

1 See No. 106.

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