No. 271  NAI DFA 219/89

Extracts from the annual report of the Irish Legation in Germany for 1942

Berlin, 8 March 1943

I. Consular
During the year 1942 the consular work of the Legation remained at about the level of the previous year, except that more passports were issued. Many of the outstanding passport and registration cases in occupied France were disposed of, and our citizens there now appear to have got used to corresponding through Berlin, so that much of the confusion caused by the transfer of jurisdiction from Vichy to Berlin in 1941 has dissipated. The fact, too, that Mr. C. C. Cremin of the Legation at Vichy spent two months in Berlin as Chargé d'Affaires of this Legation during last summer, was of invaluable assistance in clearing up doubtful and difficult cases, and his work here strengthened still further the bonds of co-operation between the two Legations.

[matter omitted]

III. Political
As Russia was the principal theatre of war in 1942, there were few cases of German aircraft flying over our territory, in contrast to the first half of 1941. Attacks on our shipping were also less frequent. The main strength of the German Air Force had been removed from the western European seaboard to the East, and Ireland benefited indirectly from the fact that German operations against Great Britain were on a considerably reduced scale.

One very serious incident was, however, the sinking of the S.S. 'City of Bremen' by a German aircraft on the 2nd June, in a position about 130 miles south west of Mizen Head. The ship was on a voyage from Lisbon to an Irish port with a cargo of Argentine wheat. The German Government expressed regret at the occurrence, but declined on principle to pay compensation, on the grounds that the ship was at the time sailing within the area which they had notified to neutral countries as being dangerous to shipping.

We furnished a full list of Irish ships, with details of markings and signals, to the Foreign Office. The competent official expressed the opinion that this information would be of great value, and assured us that the German Forces were very anxious to avoid incidents; nevertheless, they made a point of adding to all their statements in this connection that they could accept no responsibility for anything which took place within a war area. We on our part maintained that Ireland, as a neutral country, is entitled to send her ships where she wishes.

I must say that I always find the officials of the Foreign Office friendly and interested, and anxious to facilitate us. Germans are very pleased that we still maintain diplomatic relations with them, at a time when a very large number of other countries have withdrawn their missions. Before the war there were over fifty foreign missions in Berlin, now there are only twenty-two, including Manchukuo, Slovakia, Nanking-China, and Croatia. The neutral states still represented are the Holy See, Afghanistan, Argentine, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and ourselves.

Germany's fortunes fluctuated considerably during 1942. From January to March the German armies on the Eastern Front had to struggle hard to hold their position, and were forced to retreat on the Moscow sector. The severe winter helped the Russian offensive. At the same time the German-Italian forces in North Africa under Marshal Rommel were driven back to El Agheila, but they soon fought their way back to Gazala, and eventually, in June, pushed on to within 60 miles of Alexandria.

The British Air Force introduced new and more intensive tactics in nightbombing, and caused great damage in Western and North Western Germany, notably in Cologne, Mainz, Karlsruhe, Essen and Dusseldorf; Kiel, Lubeck, and Rostock on the Baltic also suffered severely. The German Air Force, which had heavy commitments in the Eastern Front, was not in a position to reply.

In the spring the German Army went over to the offensive once more, and advanced through the Kuban territory into the Caucasus, and to the Volga at Stalingrad. Their prospects of holding their newly-gained positions seemed to be good, but in the late autumn the Russians started a counter-offensive on a really tremendous scale, and by the end of the year the Germans at Stalingrad had been cut off from the main forces, and the Russians had advanced to the Don. In North Africa, Rommel was defeated in Egypt, and driven back into Tripolitania. British-American Forces landed in French North Africa and gained possession of Morocco and Algeria without much resistance on the part of the French, who, under Admiral Darlan, agreed to cooperate with the 'United Nations'. By way of reply, German-Italian Forces landed in Tunisia, and forestalled a British attempt to seize the important ports of Bizerta and Tunis, thus thwarting a British plan to re-open the Mediterranean for their shipping to the Near East and India; in addition Axis forces occupied the French Mediterranean coast and Corsica.

IV. Press and Propaganda
The news about Ireland appearing in the German press comes almost entirely from German newspaper correspondents in Stockholm, Lisbon, and Berne, whose normal duty is to report on events in Great Britain. The sources of their information are the reports sent out by British and American agencies, such as Reuter and the Associated Press. The Press Attaché of the German Legation, who was formerly a member of the staff of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, acts as correspondent for the German News Agency, but it seems that he gets very few messages through to Berlin.1

Ireland is rarely chosen as a subject for a leading article, and the articles which do touch on Ireland are always restrained in references to the Irish Government, and refrain entirely from criticism. This policy has, as a matter of fact, been laid down for journalists by the Foreign Office and the Propaganda Ministry; I am on friendly terms with the press department officials of both ministries, and I think that they understand our position very well. Dr. Karl Silex, the editor of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, has been in Ireland, and so has Dr. Hopf'l of the Volkischer Beobachter, who occasionally writes political articles on Ireland. Dr. Karl Megerle, the Diplomatic Correspondent of the Berliner Boersen-Zeitung, sometimes said to be the mouthpiece of the Foreign Office, whose articles I have frequently mentioned in reports, has always shown great sympathy and understanding for our point of view. I know all3 gentlemen for some time, and they have often been my guests.

Robert Bauer, who wrote a good book on Ireland in 1938, published a short reference book on Ireland in a new series dealing with European and other countries.2

The German Society for Celtic Studies continued its work, though its scope was limited owing to the difficulties of the times. During the year the Society published a treatise by Dr. Hans Hartmann3 dealing with ideas of Sickness and Death in Irish folklore. Dr. Hartmann, who studies under Professor Delargy,4 is well-known in Dublin; he is head of the Irish Department in the German Broadcasting Company, and arranges the daily programmes addressed to Irish listeners.

Lectures on Ireland were given by Professor Ludwig Muhlhausen,5 and by the photographer Joachim Gerstenberg;6 the latter is a very popular lecturer with the Army, and has travelled all through Germany and through many of the occupied countries. Professor Mahr,7 the Director of the National Museum, gave occasional lectures to archaeological societies.

V. General
As I have stated in previous reports, the Irish colony is negligibly small, and plays no part of its own in the life of Berlin or of any other city. Popular interest in Ireland is, however, on the increase, due to the determined attitude of our Government and people to maintain our policy of neutrality. On the occasion of the Taoiseach's sixtieth birthday8 the press published articles full of appreciation for his work as patriot and statesman. The stage has been reached where most Germans can distinguish between Ireland and Great Britain, and this is very gratifying.

There is a continuous stream of visitors at the Legation, composed mainly of German and foreign journalists and students interested in Ireland. They can no longer communicate direct with Ireland, and the Legation is their only source of information. I am very glad to assist such people, as I can thus do much to spread reliable information about Ireland and correct false impressions (of which the most prevalent is that the Irish people are starving as the result of the British blockade), in other words, fulfil one of the most elementary functions of the Legation. This feature of our work has, however, one grave disadvantage; I feel it my duty to see all these callers, but it takes up a disproportionate amount of time. Often I spend a whole morning seeing callers; if they are received by Miss Walsh, time is lost to the Legation just the same.

I should like, therefore, to make the point that the staff is not sufficient adequately to carry out the duties of the Legation, and to keep the work up-to-date. The work has increased since the outbreak of war, and is much more varied. The necessity to transact so much business (including passport applications) by code telegram is a great burden, as the 'personal' code, the only one in use at this Legation, is tedious and long drawn-out. The staff, however, has been reduced to half of what it was in 1939. There is a great need for clerical assistance in the office. Perhaps I should add that soon after the outbreak of war the stage was reached in Germany where nothing can be done without the permission of either the police or some other authority, and that certain matters which are quite simple at home involve a complicated procedure in Germany. Our citizens, particularly those in the occupied countries, are turning to the Legation for assistance in matters which never used to arise before, such as the grant of laissez-passer to travel from one district to another and the issue of textile ration-cards.

In conclusion, I think that I can safely say that the Irish citizens living within the jurisdiction of this Legation are appreciative of and thankful for the assistance which is being rendered to them by the Department and the Legation. The only complaints of importance which I receive refer to repatriation, but they are for the most part based on a lack of realisation of the difficulties in the way of arranging travel home to Ireland; most of the people concerned have now, however, come to understand the real position, and are satisfied that we are doing what we can to help them.

1Karl Heinz Petersen, Press Attaché at the German Legation in Dublin.

2Robert Bauer, Irland. Die Insel der Heiligen und Rebellen (Leipzig, 1938).

3 Dr. Hans Hartmann, Celtic scholar, a member of the Dublin German community who had travelled widely through Ireland in the 1930s. In 1943 Hartmann was running the Irland-Redaktion, the Irish bureau of the German overseas propaganda radio service.

4James Hamilton Delargy (1899-1980), Professor of Folklore at University College Dublin.

5 Ludwig Muhlhausen, a Celtic scholar at the University of Berlin who had studied in the Gaeltacht in the pre-war years and travelled around Ireland.

6Gerstenberg had travelled about Ireland in the pre-war years. His Éire ein Irlandbuch, a book of photographs of contemporary Ireland, was published in 1940.

7 Dr. Adolf Mahr (1887-1951), Director of the National Museum of Ireland (1934-9) and Nazi Ortsgruppenleiter (local group leader) in Ireland (1934-8).

8 Eamon de Valera was born on 14 October 1882, celebrating his sixtieth birthday in 1942.


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