No. 278 NAI DFA Paris Embassy 19/34

Confidential report from Seán Murphy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Vichy, 27 August 1940

I have already stated in a telegram1 that I visited Paris accompanied by Mr. Cremin on the 17th inst. After being turned back from the line of demarcation two weeks previously I had asked Count O'Kelly who has been in Paris since the end of July, to apply for a permit to enable me to make the journey. The arrangements were made with the German authorities at Moulins on the 16th. We were therefore able to effect the trip without any difficulty. The distance to Paris is about 350 kilometres (220 miles). There is little sign along the road of extensive havoc wrought by the war. Apart from some partially broken bridges and rather extensive damage (caused I think by the German attack of the 3rd June) to the aerodrome at Orly, about six miles south of Paris, I noticed nothing in particular. There are German troops, however, stationed in all the villages and on the upward journey we were stopped on a number of occasions, while soldiers examined the outside of the car. About 30 kilometres before Paris, we were held up by the final German control station which after examining our papers allowed us through with little delay. The actual entry to Paris is not easy as most of the gates are blocked up by sandbags – only three or four on the outskirts being left free. On arrival in the city I went to see the Legation and found everything just as I had left it, the flag which we had hoisted on the morning of our departure being still flying. Count O'Kelly had received the visit of a number of persons of Irish birth in, and around Paris, who were anxious to obtain Irish papers so as to avoid difficulties with the German authorities. All these people were told to come to the Legation on the Monday and Tuesday following. Some of them only wanted advice. The required particulars were taken from those who asked for Irish passports. Their cases are dealt with in separate minutes.2

2. On Sunday morning I called on Fr. O'Grady, Fr. Travers and Fr. Griffin, as well as Monsignor Bertoli, Secretary of the Nunciature who had remained in Paris, and for whom I had correspondence from the Nuncio. I invited all four as well as Fr. O'Farrell – the only other member at present of the clergy of Avenue Hoche to lunch on Monday. Fr. Griffin was unable to accept as he was going on retreat that evening. The other four accepted and seemed to enjoy the lunch which was attended also by Count O'Kelly and Mr. Cremin. The four Irish priests are all in excellent form. Fr. O'Grady must, I think, have had a considerable amount of worry since the occupation of Paris, as his Congregation has very seriously dwindled and on the other hand, he has had a number of visits from the German authorities who have sealed up a number of rooms in the Presbytery. You are probably aware that this church is under the joint protection of the British and American Embassies. It is however as you know generally considered to be an English Church. He informed me that the Germans had said that they intended to return to examine the contents of the rooms which they had sealed. So far they had not done so, and he told me that the Catholic Chaplain-General of the German forces who is quartered in the Park Monceau hotel in the same street, and says Mass regularly in the church had undertaken to intervene on his behalf. I believe that the Spanish church in Paris was sealed in a similar manner, but that on a protest from the Embassy the seals were removed. Neither Fr. O'Grady nor Fr. O'Farrell has been personally molested although Fr. O'Grady holds a British passport. This passport is now expired, and as he is a citizen under the 1922 Constitution he could obtain an Irish one. He said however, that he would prefer not to do so, at least for the time being as the fact of his holding a British passport enables him to get funds from members of his Congregation from the American Embassy (as representing British interests), whereas this recourse would be closed to him if he held an Irish passport.

3. On Tuesday I and Mr. Cremin lunched with Fr. Travers at the Irish College. Up to then the College had not received any visit from the German authorities. One room of it has been for some time past and still is used by officials of the Defense Passive. By a coincidence while we were talking after lunch, the German officer came along to inspect the building which he understood was empty, with a view to installing some of his men there. I was therefore able to explain to him directly that it was the property of the Irish Bishops and used by them for lodging Ecclesiastical students at present on holiday. Later I gave Fr. Travers a signed document to be put on the door in Irish, French and German to the effect that the property belongs to the Irish Bishops and is used for ecclesiastical studies.

4. I mentioned in a previous minute that I understand that the German authorities had carried out considerable perquisitions in ecclesiastical establishments – my information on this point came from the Nunciature. Mgr Bertoli when I was in Paris told me that shortly after their arrival the Germans went to the Archbishopric and examined carefully everything they found there. After a few days the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris who only took up his functions towards the end of May, was completely confined to his room to the extent of his being unable to say Mass. Latterly, however, the German treatment of the Archbishop and Archbishopric has been less severe, and he is able to carry on his activities more or less normally. Mgr. Bertoli's opinion is that the search conducted by the Germans is directed to finding proofs for their suspicion of political action injurious to them on the part of Cardinal Verdier, against whom he says they are inspired by an extreme hatred. They consider that during his missions abroad to countries like Czecho-Slovakia, Austria and Hungary, he carried on a political propaganda opposed to Germany. They apparently also suspected the church in France of having assisted Jews and political émigrés, and suspect political connivance between them. Apart from the Archbishopric one or two other ecclesiastical institutions of an international character have also been searched and are at present under seal. Mgr. Bertoli confirmed also that the Germans have on one or two occasions already held non-Catholic ceremonies in some churches including the Madeleine. According to the Nuncio a similar service was held in Notre Dame.

5. As far as the superficial aspect of Paris under German occupation is concerned the most striking feature is by far its relative emptiness. The 1936 census gave Paris proper a total population of 2,829,776 inhabitants. I do not know the total exodus from Paris in the days immediately preceding the German entry. On the 7th July the Paris population according to a census taken on that date was 1,056,000, which meant that about 1,800,000 persons were absent. On the 12th August another census gave the figure of 1,403,000 as the then population of the city, which represents approximately about half the normal total population. Apart from the Champs Elysées the streets on the whole, when we were there, had a very empty air. This is probably due to some extent at least to the fact that a great number of business houses even belonging to people who had returned have not yet re-opened, and that the economic life of the city is undoubtedly still only in process of resuming. In the Champs Elysées one sees large numbers of German soldiers and Officers. Practically all the cars circulating in the city are German cars or cars requisitioned by the German authorities. Private traffic is completely suspended. The only other vehicles which circulate are those engaged in bringing provisions etc. A large number of the first-class hotels have been taken over by the Germans – those already requisitioned by the French Government and a number of others – Georges V, Prince de Galles, Crillion, Meurice, Majestic, Grand Hotel, Claridge, Napoleon, Raphael, Continental, Ritz. German administrations are installed in some of these Hotels, such as the Crillon and the Majestic, and also in a few French Ministries; the Ministry of the Marine is used for the German Admiralty, the Palais Bourbon is used for the issue of certain kinds of permits; the Ministry of War is taken over and many of the others are closed. The Elysée has not been taken over. The rumours which circulated here from time to time both in regard to the taking over by the occupying authority of certain houses and flats, and the transport to Paris of large numbers of German families, are, if not entirely false, very exaggerated. I was able to see for myself that the houses in the Avenue Foch, which belong to the Rothschilds were not taken over. There are not a great number of German women to be seen, and I understand that those that are there, are, firstly, those belonging to the Red Cross and other units, and secondly those serving as typists. The Officers serving in Paris are not for the most part accompanied by their wives. M. Abetz3 is installed in the German Embassy. His wife is apparently French. The black-out at night is at least as full as prior to the German occupation. A considerable number of military convoys pass through the city. As far as I could observe the German military individually do not interfere at all with the population, and their conduct is not in any way truculent. Food supplies are better in Paris than here in Vichy. The restaurants offer a much greater choice of food and seem to do a thriving business. The restrictions on circulation are of course a result of the lack of abundant supplies of petrol. Up to the middle of August each diplomatic mission was entitled to a certain quantity of petrol per month – 800 litres per Embassy – and 500 litres per Legation. The system changed while we were there and I understand that the new system has not yet been fully arranged. The time at Paris is, of course, one hour in advance of that in the unoccupied zone as Central European time is observed.

6. As far as I can gather there is only a small section of the French Administrations installed in the city. Mgr. Bertoli told me that the Minister for Finance and the Minister of Communications who had gone to Paris with the intention of remaining there had been invited by the Germans to leave. What is certain is that they are not at Paris now. It seems that the French administration is the executive authority for all measures relating to the Government of Paris and matters arising therefrom. I think, however, that all measures in this connection are either decided by the Germans or at least have to be approved by them. The French press consists of three or four dailies, the main one being the Matin. The Matin is published only at Paris and not at all in the free zone. Its owner who was always regarded as being primarily anti-Russian and incidentally rather pro-German, chose that course. There is also a Paris edition of Paris-Soir, which however, in its previous form appears in the free zone. In addition there is a newspaper called 'La France au travail', and another called 'Les Dernieres Nouvelles de Paris'. Finally there are a few weeklies including one called 'Au Pilori' which is mainly anti-Semitic and is, I understand, the revival of a newspaper on similar lines which appeared at the end of the last century at the time of the Dreyfus case.4 All the French newspapers published adopt the German point of view, and are frequently at the least sceptical of the prospects of success of the French Government. They are critical of the sincerity or effectiveness of the measures taken by the Government to alter political morals and to bring those responsible for France's defeat to book.

1 See No. 273.

2 Not printed, but see also No. 298.

3 Otto Abetz (1903-58), German Ambassador to Vichy France (Nov. 1940-July 1944). Though assigned to the German embassy in Paris in 1940 and appointed in November Abetz was never formally accredited owing to the fact that a formal peace treaty between Germany and France was never signed.

4 The Dreyfus case caused a political scandal with anti-Semitic overtones that divided France from the 1890s to the early 1900s. It involved the wrongful conviction for treason, in 1894, of a Jewish army Captain, Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935).

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