No. 281  NAI DFA 219/4

Confidential report from William Warnock to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(43/33)

BERLIN, 16 April 1943

Any visitor to Berlin, who had not seen the city since before the war, would find Berlin life altered beyond recognition. The regular inhabitants, for whom the process of change has been gradual, do not notice the difference to the same extent, but even for them the alteration is very obvious, particularly in the last few months, as 'total mobilisation' has been introduced in the strictest meaning of the phrase.

A stranger finds it extremely difficult to obtain hotel accommodation; unless he has booked beforehand, he may have to spend hours searching for a room. There are scarcely any taxis to be had, and those still available may only take people coming with heavy luggage from a railway station, or persons who are very ill and have a medical certificate to prove it. The hotel staffs are reduced as far as possible, and the servants remaining are so busily occupied that they frequently have not enough time even to be polite. Cash tips have no effect, as nobody can buy anything with money, but cigarettes can work wonders.

A wise visitor takes his meals in his hotel. The quality of the meals varies according to the class of the hotel, though the difference is not so marked as it would be in peace-time. The ordinary restaurants are over-crowded; queues begin to form outside before 6 p.m., the usual time for the evening meal to commence. Many of the hotels have closed their public cafés and restaurants, as it is as much as they can do to cater for their own guests. The expensive restaurants, such as Horcher, Pelzer (Atelier), and Venezia, have been closed since the introduction of 'total mobilisation'. They are considered unnecessary for the war effort, as they served only a comparatively small number of people and had for present-day conditions disproportionately big staffs. Long before the introduction of 'total mobilisation', there had been much popular discontent that these establishments were allowed to continue; once stones were thrown at Horcher's windows.

The menu has been considerably simplified. The preparation of hors d'oeuvres is discouraged; very occasionally one can obtain paté de foix gras or some kind of fish salad, but it is entirely a matter of luck as is, indeed the whole meal. Soups can still be had, of course, and they are often quite good. For the main course, the restaurant may not offer more than three choices. The meat ration is 350 grammes per week, but fish and poultry are 'free'. The free foodstuffs are no longer in good supply, but the restaurants are well treated by the rationing authorities. The usual choice offered is (1) a fish or poultry course ('free', but requiring 10 grammes fat coupons for cooking) (2) a meat course for 50 grammes and 10 grammes of fat (3) a meat course for 100 grammes and 10 grammes of fat. Tuesday and Friday are 'meatless' days, and Monday and Thursday are 'FieldKitchen' days. On 'Field-Kitchen' days, only one choice is offered for the main course, and the meat (50 grammes) and vegetables are cooked together; this is supposed to represent a symbolic unity between front and home. The choice of dessert is very limited, as milk, eggs, and sugar are scarce. Sometimes cheese can be had, but there is rarely more than one kind offered. Real coffee, real tea, and full milk disappeared from the menus right at the beginning of the war; a tiny quantity of skim milk is served with substitute coffee or tea.

There is little wine or liqueur available. The restaurants have a quota for each evening, and it is a question of 'first come, first served'. A few restaurants allow a half-bottle of wine to each customer as long as the supply lasts, but the usual amount allowed per person is one glass. I may add that private households have great difficulty in obtaining wine at all even one or two bottles. There is even a scarcity of beer, though it is available in greater quantities than wine. The alcohol content of beer has been reduced from nine to three per cent.

The ration of tobacco is six cigarettes per day or 1 cigar.

If a visitor were to travel to see his friends or business connections by train, bus, or tram, he would have to fight his way to get into any public conveyance, unless he could arrange to go at one of the fairly quiet periods round 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. He would find that the conductors are mostly either old men or women. A large number of young girls are conscripted from the official youth organisation for a period of three months service on the trams. If he were to go on foot, he would notice that many shops have been closed by order of the Economic Authority; some of these shops, such as Braun of Unter den Linden, were amongst the best-known in the city. The Government has mercilessly carried through the measures intended to eliminate everything from business life which is not absolutely necessary for the war effort. Those shops which are still open have no great assortment of goods to sell; they are permitted to dress their windows, but are no longer under an obligation to sell the goods displayed; otherwise, they might as well draw their blinds, as they would have nothing to put in the place of the articles sold.

One hears a variety of languages spoken in the streets; Italian and French predominate, but many other countries are represented, too. Polish workers are compelled to wear a large cloth badge with the letter 'P' on it, and the Ukrainian and Russian workers must wear a badge with the inscription 'Ost'. The Jews' badge the Star of David has the word 'Jude' written on it.

Berlin has next to nothing to offer the casual visitor in the way of entertainment. Dancing is prohibited, on the grounds that public amusement of this kind is out of place at a time when the German Army is fighting for Germany's very existence. Theatres and cinemas are open as before, but so many seats are reserved for the members of the armed forces and armament workers that the few seats left over are booked for weeks ahead.

Before the war, Berlin, which is a very up-to-date city, always had a 'spick-and-span' appearance. That has changed now, and enforced neglect is becoming obvious in many streets. The recent heavy air-raids have not improved matters, as some areas have suffered badly. It is surprising, though, how the people still manage to preserve a smart, tidy appearance themselves, despite nearly four years of clothes rationing. This is due to two main causes
(1) the average German is careful of his clothes and his belongings generally
(2) soldiers have brought home a lot of clothing from the occupied territory. In this connection I am not exaggerating when I say that as a result of purchases by soldier friends, it sometimes happens that a housemaid is better and more fashionably clothed than her mistress.

And how do the people feel about the war? The Berliner always was a confirmed grumbler, and is detested in the rest of Germany. He still grumbles, and is now more impolite than ever. He grouses about the war, but an intelligent conversation with him will show the visitor that the Berliner is neither a sluggard nor a coward, but a sound patriot prepared to do his bit to the end, come what may; for he is firmly of the opinion, like all other Germans, that if Germany is defeated once more, her fate will be complete destruction and chaos, and that it is therefore the duty of every German to exert himself to the utmost to win through or, at least, to avoid absolute disaster.

[signed] W. WARNOCK


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