No. 179 NAI DFA 34/125

Memorandum on the political situation in Germany from Leo T. McCauley to
Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 15 March 1933

Political Situation in Germany


    The local government elections held on Sunday last went in favour of the Government. The consequence is that the Cabinet now controls a majority in the Reich, in Prussia, and in Berlin. It is making the greatest possible use of its power and is from day to day effecting reforms which would have taken ten or a dozen years to achieve in the ordinary course of political evolution. New history is being made daily; and the change which has taken place is regarded by many as a more drastic revolution than that which over-threw the Imperial Government at the end of 1918.


    A remarkable, and almost amusing, attitude may be detected on the part of foreigners resident in Germany towards the new regime. Hitherto the attitude of such foreigners has in the main been somewhat patronizing. In past years it has been usual to hear foreigners say of Germany and the Germans that they really required a highly centralized government and a strong hand to rule them. The implication was that Germans had always been accustomed to be strictly governed, and that such government brought out their best qualities. Now, however, that Germany has a strong hand holding the reins foreigners are not at all too pleased. In almost every case, when conversing with foreigners about the political situation here, I have noticed that their attitude is one of hostility and criticism. This is very much apparent in the case of newspaper correspondents as is shown by the dispatches printed by foreign newspapers. Even persons whose personal interests are not particularly affected and whose countries are outside the sphere of German influence appear to share in this hostility. One possible explanation may be the reaction from a patronizing attitude to one of respect and perhaps fear.


    My experience is that this feeling is particularly strong in the embassies and legations. They are for the most part full of misgiving. They seem to think that when Hitler has put his house in order in Germany, and has achieved every measure of domestic reform at which his movement aims, he will turn his own amazing energy and the enthusiasm of his following to foreign affairs. It is said that the military attachés in the various embassies are already calculating the period within which Germany will be able to take the field against Poland. It may be taken for granted that the military spirit of Germany has been revived in all its glory by Hitler and his Storm Divisions.


    Great excitement has been aroused in the German press by the action of the Polish Government in strengthening the guard at the Polish Munition Depot at Danzig. The more extreme nationalistic newspapers almost regard this action as tantamount to a declaration of war. The Poles take up a quiet and matter-of-fact attitude. They point out that the depot contains imported munitions in transit to Poland, that they have always had the right to guard it and have, in fact, always guarded it; that, in view of the burning of the Reichstag and the other outrages on the part of Communists to which much publicity had been given by the German Government itself, they had thought it common prudence to provide better protection for such vulnerable and dangerous material.


    Since Monday last the Czecho-Slovakian crown has not been quoted on the Berlin exchange. This quotation has been prohibited by the German Government as a reprisal for the action of the Czecho-Slovakian Government in decreeing that all payments to Germany must be made through a single unified account in the banks at Prague. The Germans see in this an attempt at restricting the importation of German goods into Czecho-Slovakia; and they have taken the above step as a first reprisal, and threaten further more drastic steps of an unspecified character if Czecho-Slovakia continues to embarrass German trade.


    Part of the history that is being made daily is the restoration by presidential decree of the old imperial flag. The Nazi flag has also been recognized officially, and the two flags are being flown together for a period of three days on all government and public buildings. The restoration of the imperial flag has caused more excitement, and let loose more enthusiasm, than persons living outside Germany could well imagine.


    The most drastic step taken by the new Government has been the establishment of a Police Commissioner of the Reich in Bavaria. The word 'Police' in his title appears to be superfluous, as he has full powers to take over all authority in Bavaria. The person chosen is General von Epp1 who figured prominently in Bavarian history during the revolution of 1918-19. He organized a Free Corps of Bavarians across the border in Thuringia and at their head took part in the overthrow of the more or less bolshevist government which had established itself in Munich. The action of the Reich Government in Bavaria came as a great surprise, as being contrary to the assurance given by President Hindenburg in writing that there would be no interference in Bavaria.


    The action of the new Government in Bavaria has been a severe blow to the prestige of President Hindenburg. People cannot help feeling that the promise which he gave in writing to the Bavarian Government has been flouted and treated with contempt. The impression has got about that Hindenburg has been reduced to the level of a rubber stamp, and that, at his great age, he is not equal to resisting the energetic men who are now in office. Some even say that his mental powers are weakening rapidly and that, on the whole, it would have been far better for his great reputation if he had not allowed himself to be put forward for the presidency at the last election.


    The most violent man in the new Government is Goering,2 who was Speaker of the last Reichstag and who holds the portfolio for air in the Reich Government and has also charge of the Prussian Ministry of Home Affairs. He had a distinguished record as a fighter during the War, and holds the highest decoration for bravery won in aerial combat. He is now said, however, to be a morphine addict. He is certainly very violent and unrestrained in his speeches. He is regarded as a somewhat mischievous influence in the Cabinet and as Hitler's evil genius.

  10. THE JEWS

    One of the most interesting problems before the new Government is that of dealing with the Jews. Anti-Semitism was the principal plank in the Nazi platform; and followers of the Government expect it to seize Jewish property, expropriate their businesses and either banish Jews themselves from the country or deprive them of the ordinary rights of citizenship. It will not be so easy to effect this, particularly in the case of the large body of Jews who have been settled in Germany for generations, many of whom occupy prominent places in the industrial, professional and artistic life of Germany. The second class consists of those who came into Germany during and after the War, mainly from Galicia and Poland. Many of these prospered to a surprising extent, apparently because of their connections with other countries which enabled them to obtain foreign currency during the inflation and therewith buy up real property on a extensive scale at absurdly low prices. It will probably be a nice legal problem to find a method of dealing with both of these classes of Jews in a manner likely to satisfy the rank and file of the Nazis. Some direct action has been taken by irresponsible members of the movement against individual shops and business houses owned by Jews; but this has all been stopped, at least for the time being, by the personal order of Hitler.

1 Franz Xavier Ritter von Epp (1868-1947), Governor of Bavaria (1933-45), appointed General of the German Infantry (1935), imprisoned by American troops and died in captivity.

2 Hermann Goering (1893-1946), President of Reichstag from 1932, appointed head of the Sturmabteilung (S.A.), held various ministries, set up Nazi concentration camps along with Himmler, convicted at Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, avoided execution by committing suicide (1946).

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