No. 265  NAI DFA 219/4

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

BERLIN, 3 February 1943

The people are now settling down somewhat after the feeling of amazement, and even dismay, caused by the official intimation about ten days ago that things were going badly for the German armies on the Eastern Front. Most people had an inkling that there were great difficulties to be coped with this winter, in spite of the fact that they had been assured by high officers and by the Führer himself that the problems which arose last winter would not present themselves again, but they thought that the 'elastic' defence system now so often referred to by military writers would meet the requirements of the case, and any withdrawals which might be necessary would be accomplished with a minimum of loss.

I do not know whether, perhaps, the Supreme Command hoped to be able to relieve the forces at Stalingrad, or whether they hoped that the Stalingrad army would be able to hold out until the spring; at all events the official communiqués showed no anxiety, and the man-in-the-street expected that all would go well in the end. With a surprising suddenness the whole tone of the official reports changed. The people had been told ever since the outbreak of the war that the German soldier was better equipped than any adversary, but now the same authorities who told them this are bluntly saying that, as regards Russia, they had made a mistake. The total mobilisation of labour has also given the general public food for thought.

It is said in some circles that the total mobilisation of the civilian population had been decided upon some time ago, and that the sudden announcement of bad news, particularly concerning the doomed army at Stalingrad (which, though it had no possibility of surviving, carried out tenaciously and heroically to the last the instructions which it had received from the Supreme Command), is being used as a lever to bring their duties to bear on the civil population, and to justify the action of the State in encroaching still more on private rights. It has also been suggested that the new measures are a gesture intended indirectly to conciliate the working classes, that is to say, to force the women of the more leisured classes to contribute to the war effort. In the working-class families, husband and wife have, in most cases, both been employed on war work of some kind for years past, so that the new law calling up all women between 17 and 45 years of age will not affect them; on the other hand, a large number of women (for example, widows, divorcées, and childless women) who have plenty of time on their hands are doing nothing at all.

Whatever may be said about the authorities' approach to the subject, the fact remains that more and more workers are needed, and that man-power is becoming scarcer and scarcer. Foreign workers can help a great deal, but there is not enough of them to fill all the gaps. One hears a really remarkable assortment of languages in the main streets here in Berlin, and I am told that in smaller towns the effect is even more striking.

The newspapers are full of slogans, usually prominently displayed, such as 'Victory or Bolshevism!' or 'The times are hard, but we are harder!' The official propaganda has always taken the line that a German defeat would mean that Bolshevism would spread to every country in Europe, and the people are satisfied that there is a lot to be said for this point of view. The strength of the home front is still unimpaired, because everyone feels that he must do all he can, regardless of his personal opinions about National Socialism, as a second defeat within twenty-five years would mean utter destruction for Germany as we know it to-day; official pronouncements by the various Allied Governments have left no doubt on that score. There is a strong hope, too, that the German armies may be able to go over to the offensive again in Russia next summer.

I feel certain that the German 'Home Front' will do its part, and work ever harder than it is doing now; furthermore the armed forces will continue to do their utmost. The future depends on how strong the Russians really are, whether they can maintain their present pace, and whether they will be able to hold up a possible German offensive in the summer.

[signed] W. WARNOCK


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