No. 276  NAI DFA 219/4

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

BERLIN, 25 March 1943

A very marked difference has come over German public opinion since January last. The complete self-assurance of the majority of the people has disappeared almost entirely, and for a time, particularly after the tragedy of Stalingrad, there was a widespread feeling of pessimism. As long as the Russian advance continued unchecked, people feared the danger of a complete collapse; this danger has, however, now been overcome, and the German armies have at last been able to stop the Russians’ progress.

The people have had a rude shock, but they are comforted by the thought that the worst is over for the time being, at all events as far as the Eastern Front is concerned. They expect that British and American forces will make an attempt to land on the Continent in the late spring or summer, but they are fairly confident that the German Army will be able to meet this threat. The main cause for anxiety remains Russia; nobody knows what reserves of men and material the Red Army still has at its disposal, and wishful thinking has shown itself to be a costly luxury. It is a disquieting thought for Germany that the Russian successes during the winter were achieved with purely Russian equipment, as this leads to the conclusion that Stalin can get on very well without the assistance of British or American supplies (Here I should point out that German propaganda has consistently taken the line that the Russians, after the loss of the Ukraine and the Donetz Basin, had been deprived of over half their resources in important minerals and of considerable sources of food supply. Only the fringes of these regions have been recovered by the Russians in their winter advance). It looks as if the campaign may develop into a war of attrition, the Germans advancing in the summer, and the Russians going over to the offensive in the winter; if matters take this turn, the losses on both sides will certainly be heavy.

British air-raids have greatly increased in intensity. There is no comparison between the raids of two years ago and those carried out now; the explosive bombs dropped then did little damage except to the objects which they struck, but those dropped in recent raids destroy or damage everything within a radius of fifty yards or more. The currents of compressed air caused by the explosions move in unforeseen paths; there seems to be no way of calculating the direction. One house near the explosion may escape with small damage, and the next be totally smashed. Roofs and windows are particularly sensitive; a high explosion sometimes blows off the roofs and breaks the windows in an area a hundred yards square. Where buildings are struck by both explosive and incendiary bombs, as is often the case, nothing can be done to save anything, and unless the cellar is particularly strongly built, the inhabitants are doomed as well.

The Minister of Propaganda, Dr. Goebbels, is handling the situation with great skill. He is not encouraging hopes that all will come right of its own accord in the end; on the contrary, he is emphasising that the danger is growing, and that only the utmost efforts on the part of the German people, at home and at the front, will be sufficient to hold and defeat the Bolshevist armies. No one can say that the German people are not being told how unfavourable the position is, and how determined the Russians are. I do not think there is any danger of the home front cracking; that could only be brought about by a long series of defeats, combined with a bad deterioration in the food situation, and the possibility of either of these things happening seems at the present moment to be remote.

The attention of European countries is being drawn to the controversy between the Soviets and the Polish Government in London. The German press regards the dispute as a good example of what any small country may expect from a victorious Russia, which would destroy everything standing in the way of world revolution in the Communist sense. Neither Great Britain nor America could do anything to hold the rulers of the Kremlin in check, and a wave of destruction and terror would spread over Europe, the Russians doing exactly what they pleased, and paying precious little attention to the 'Atlantic Charter ' or any similar international instrument. This Anti-Bolshevist feature of German propaganda is perhaps the most successful, as nobody who has enjoyed the benefits of European civilisation has any desire to see it replaced by a Bolshevist regime, for this would cause the disappearance of the last vestiges of individual freedom and the extermination of religion and culture as Europe knows them; propaganda on these lines is having a profound effect in Sweden, where the people are torn between their sympathy with the democratic countries and their traditional fear of Russian expansion.

Ireland is rarely mentioned in the press. The last occasion where more than a few lines were devoted to Ireland was the election of Mr. J. Beattie, a member of the Labour Party, to one of the Six County seats in the British Parliament.1 The election of Mr. Beattie was quoted as a sign of the weakening of Mr. Churchill's influence in Northern Ireland; it was even described as a sort of 'twilight' of the Unionist Party. Paper and labour are both scarce, and the volume of the newspapers has been drastically reduced in the last twelve months. Irish news is rarely of sufficient importance from the German point of view to merit more than passing reference; furthermore, the competent officials in the Foreign Office and in the Propaganda Ministry know that too much attention in the German press would embarrass rather than assist us in maintaining our neutrality, and they have no desire that we should change our policy. I have heard on more than one occasion from good sources that the German Minister in Dublin emphatically and continually advocates an attitude of reticence in dealing with Irish news, and that he does not approve of direct propaganda to Ireland, such as, for example, the scheme of regular broadcasts each evening.

[signed] W. WARNOCK

1Jack Beattie (1886-1960) won the West Belfast by-election on 9 February 1943, though he resigned from the Northern Ireland Labour Party shortly afterwards. Until February 1943 West Belfast was a safe Unionist seat.

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