No. 202  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/9

Report from Colman O'Donovan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(2/42) (Confidential)

LISBON, 8 May 1942

An Runaí,
My formal calls on colleagues, now completed, have not lacked interest. In my previous report I mentioned that the Nuncio refrained from any comment when I spoke of our interest in what was being done here. I have since established friendly relations with Mgs. Mozzoni1 who doubtless reflects the views of his chief. Ŕ propos of a press report that we were considering sending a delegation to Portugal to study social and other developments here he pooh-poohed the idea and said that we had nothing to learn in this country. When we had read Salazar's writings we had already had all that was to be got. Ideas and performance were two different things and our delegation had much better stay at home. It will be noted that these views are in agreement with those of the Portuguese priest to whom I referred in my former report. In general I do not find amongst my colleagues many who are impressed by what has been done here. Nearly all have high praise for Salazar but seem to regard his task as a pretty hopeless one without good lieutenants and in a country of remarkable backwardness. Certainly the poverty is appalling, and in more than one quarter I have heard the criticism that Salazar is rather aloof from it all and has done little to improve the condition of the poor during the considerable period he has been in control.

There was some delay on the part of the British Ambassador2 in replying to my formal note due perhaps to some doubt as to how to reply. Eventually he acknowledged receipt of my letter in which I had informed him that I had presented to the President of the Council the letter accrediting me as Chargé d'Affaires of Éire, which term of course I had not used. He and Lady Campbell have had us to lunch and so have other members of the Embassy. All have been very friendly, and the British Shipping and Repatriation officers have been most obliging and helpful when I have had to have recourse to them. I think their attitude towards the Legation has been in all respects what it should be.

Immediately I arrived here I was informed by Fr. O'Sullivan that he had learnt from a reliable source that I was going to be 'taken up' by the Germans and in fact one of my first callers was Baron von Rheinbaben3 to whom Mr. Warnock had given a card of introduction to me. This gentleman was formerly Staatssekretaer at the Foreign Office and by his own account is now doing Red Cross work here being too old for other service. I learn from other sources, how- ever, that his activities are not confined to that sphere. In this connection you may wish to look up a reference to him which appeared in the Times of about a month ago where he was described as the head of the Nazi espionage service in Western Europe. I do not know whether the Department would consider it desirable to issue an instruction to officers abroad regarding the giving of introductions to colleagues in other posts. When these are asked for outright it is of course difficult to avoid giving them, but a separate letter to the colleague in question could make it clear that the introduction was not a recommendation, as it might otherwise be assumed to be. Baron von Rheinbaben was assiduous in his offers to act as my chaperone here, but I was able to put him off and he left for Madrid before his attentions had become embarrassing.

The German Minister also shows me much attention but nothing of special interest passed at our interview. He supposed that I was getting through with my calls 'beginning with the British Ambassador right down to the end of the list'. I smiled at the pleasantry but wondered if he knew that my first call had in fact been on the British Ambassador in despite of the protocol. During the recent visit here of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra I attended a reception and concert at the Legation.

My interview with the Spanish Ambassador4 who is a brother of General Franco lasted an hour. After we had been talking for some time I remarked that I had been trying without much success to find out something about the Seville meeting.5 The ambassador showed himself very willing to talk about it – he had himself been present at all but the personal talk between General Franco and Salazar – and appeared to be speaking with candour when he said that for once the communiqué gave the whole truth. There were no secret agreements and all reports about loans and military understandings were devoid of foundation. Three years ago the two countries had made a non- aggression agreement, and on the first anniversary of the pact they had made an agreement to consult in times of crisis. The present meeting brought the two countries another step closer together. The two statesmen had never met and a meeting was obviously desirable in the present state of affairs in Europe. The Ambassador added, to my surprise, that it had also been useful for Señor Suñer to meet Salazar as he had always regarded him with a certain distrust, which none who knew him could entertain. In references to the food situation in France he spoke of the wholesale seizures by the Germans in that country. Generally I had the impression that the Ambassador is not pro-Axis.

As the Italian Minister was away I made my call on the Chargé d'Affaires. Later, when the Minister returned from Rome I called on him. Both were very friendly and neither made any reference to the war.

The Hungarian and Rumanian Ministers seemed to be at pains to convey that they had no quarrel with the British. The latter said that his country was defending itself from the Bolsheviks. The Finnish Chargé spoke also of that as being the sole interest of Finland but it was clear from his conversation that he is violently pro-German in regard to the larger war also. The Turkish Minister said that his country would resist aggression from any quarter. The Danish Minister was glad to say that the position of his country was appreciated by all his colleagues and that his normal relations had hardly been disturbed.

The Americans, north and south, and the representatives of the occupied countries appear to be firmly convinced that Germany is now losing the war and that no successes in the Far East or elsewhere can prevent her defeat. I have heard no expressions of the same confidence on the other side.

My own impression from this post of observation is that whatever form the war may take if it is continued beyond this year it cannot be prolonged in Europe. A South American colleague whose opposite number from Berlin has just passed through quotes him as saying that ninety per cent of the people in Germany no longer think that they can win. Another tells me that a Portuguese officer who visited the eastern front recently at the invitation of the Germans informed him that the best of the German armies have suffered mortal injuries. On all sides one hears of serious German shortage of man power and a rumour is at present circulating in diplomatic circles here that the Allied powers are working to provoke a German occupation of this country and Spain with the object of further straining her resources. Comment on the war in the press here seems to be somewhat freer of recent weeks and many articles about the Salzburg meetings6 suggest that they were concerned largely with the internal situation in Germany and Italy.

The food and fuel situation in Portugal is expected to become serious before long and even during the few months that I have been here I have noticed a great increase in the queues especially in the poorer quarters. I suppose however that this is still very much the best place on the Continent from these points of view.

1 Monsignor Umberto Mozzoni (1904-83), Secretary of the Papal Nunciature in Lisbon.

2 Sir Ronald Hugh Campbell (1883-1953), British Ambassador to Portugal (1940-5).

3 Werner von Rheinbaben (1878-1975), German politician (DVP), diplomat and publicist, in 1942 and 1943 working in Portugal on matters relating to prisoners of war for the German Red Cross.

4 Nicolás Franco (1891-1977), Spanish Ambassador to Portugal (1942-57).

5 The first meeting between Franco and Salazar took place in Seville from 11 to 13 February 1942. It was dominated by the Second World War, strategic questions (in particular the question of a Spanish-Portuguese alliance) and matters relating to supplies.

6 On 29 and 30 April 1942 Hitler and Mussolini met at Schlöss Klessheim, Salzburg to discuss the Axis war effort.

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