No. 165  UCDA P150/2571

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe for Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

DUBLIN, 15 December 1941

The German Minister called to see me at 12 o'clock today (by appointment at his request). After the usual preliminaries, he asked me to give him some idea of the implications of the Taoiseach's friendly remarks directed to America during his speech at Cork yesterday. He would like to know especially what the Taoiseach intended by the expression 'friendly neutral'.

I told the Minister that the explanation was really contained in the immediately preceding part of your speech where you refer to the number of Irish people in America, to the sympathy of that country towards Ireland in her fight for independence, and the close bonds that have united us since the American fight for independence. Naturally, I said, these considerations were present in the minds of every Irishman here in Ireland, and there could not but be a certain very real sympathy for America in a fight in which so many people of Irish blood would be taking part.

The German Minister enquired whether it followed from these considerations that the Irish Government would listen more readily to requests for the use of the ports, whether by Great Britain or America.

I again referred the Minister to your speech for an answer. You had made it clear that our history, our present circumstances, and the division of our country, imposed neutrality upon the Government as the only possible policy. Neutrality was for us the best form of defence of our independence and our best protection against internal strife.

I then asked the Minister whether he had any further instructions relating to Germany's attitude towards our neutrality.

The Minister said he had not received any instructions within the last few days, but his previous instructions had been so firm and constant on this question of Irish neutrality that he had no doubt whatever about their unchangeable character. No matter what nations went into the war, Germany would not interfere with Irish neutrality.

I made use of this statement to come back to the Görtz case. The activities of this man, I urged, did not help our neutrality apart from their very bad effect on our relations with Germany. The German Minister must be fully aware that Görtz had been a centre of rumour ever since the Held trial.1 Although I was still without detailed knowledge of the activities of this man, I was now more convinced than I had been when I was last talking to him that the activities were definitely of a subversive character. It was idle to talk about the motives of the German Government, their desire to do nothing detrimental to our Government or to its policy of neutrality, etc., so long as they maintained an agent in Ireland who by his activities was keeping in being and encouraging an organisation whose main purpose was the overthrow of the existing Irish State.

Dr. Hempel replied that his position in the whole matter was a deplorable one. Things happened without his knowledge, and then he was asked to put out the fire. I should know from my knowledge of his attitude towards us since his arrival in Dublin that he would never countenance any activities against the Irish Government. He had heard about Görtz, but he was consoled by the fact that he had learned on several occasions that Görtz was trying to get back to Germany. He was most anxious to undo the harm which had been done through this incident. He had given a full report to his Government after our last conversation and he would now urge upon them to allow him to take some action towards removing the suspicions entertained by the Irish Government against Germany.

I suggested that he should point out to his Government that knowledge of the Görtz activities had no doubt percolated through to England and America and was the cause of a great deal of the Press comment and the consequent hostility towards Irish neutrality in those two countries.

When the Minister asked me to suggest what he might do, I told him once more that the least he should do was to get assurances from his Government that the activities of German agents in this country would cease absolutely.

He suggested at one moment that it might be a good thing if he saw Görtz and had a talk with him, but I rejected the suggestion immediately. I told him it could do no good and would probably arouse further suspicions.

The German Minister then made a plea that the Government should put this incident in its proper perspective. We were in the midst of the greatest war in the world's history. A policy which the Foreign Offices of the different belligerents might decide to be the wisest course in any particular case might be completely upset by contrary decisions of military intelligence authorities who look for more immediate results and did not always seek the guidance of those who knew better. He hoped that the incident would not assume a distorted importance in the eyes of the Government. If we allowed our sense of proportion to be blunted by the Görtz case, we should quickly drift into a situation where normal relations, and even neutrality, would be endangered.

I quite agreed, but I again emphasised that the remedy was in the hands of the German Government.

I must say that, while Dr. Hempel did not conceal this time that he had a certain knowledge of Görtz's activities e.g., his attempts to get out of the country he genuinely regretted the presence of Görtz in the country with its inevitable repercussions on the relations between the Legation and the Government. I have the impression that Dr. Hempel's loyalty to his Government has been subjected to the greatest strain by their stupidity.

Before he left, I called the Minister 's attention to the recent renewal of radio operations, and I gave him the full text of the three messages sent out. I warned him of the danger of again using this method of communication. It was another element in our relations which was fraught with the gravest consequences.

[Initialled] J. P. W.

1 Görtz had been hiding in Stephen Held's home in Dublin. The house was raided on 22 May 1940 and Görtz's intelligence papers and belongings were seized. Held was arrested and subsequently jailed.

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