No. 230  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/3

Letter from Con Cremin to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(49/17) (Personal)

VICHY, 5 October 1942

Dear Secretary,
It was very interesting to have had the opportunity of going for the summer to Berlin. I found Mr. Warnock in excellent form and none the worse for the motor-accident (which might have been very serious) which he had had early in June. He seems to be very much at home in Berlin and is very well known. It was, of course, quite a change after Vichy, to find oneself in a big-sized city again and our stay there was very pleasant in every way, the manner in which the Diplomatic Corps is treated being most generous.

I did not know Berlin before, so cannot judge of the differences brought about by the war. Externally it was very quiet with a fair amount of motor traffic, mainly of military (private) cars. One sees no evidence at all of troop movements. A number of the monuments and buildings are camouflaged in a very minute, and, I presume, effective fashion. A similar system of camouflage extends over one side of a large part of the West-End axis (which runs into Unter den Linden). In the Legation area one does not see much evidence of great crowds except occasionally in the Kurfürstendamm and the surrounding streets. There is, however (I believe there has always been to some extent) a rather severe housing problem as the population of the city has increased enormously (by about a million I think) since the war, largely owing to the influx of workers for the factories lying around the city. It is practically impossible to get a room in any hotel big or small. In the better restaurants one has no chance of a table unless booked beforehand and generally a day ahead. The same applied to the theatres except that here it may be a question of weeks rather than days ahead: and it is even impossible to get into most cinemas unless one has booked. The operas, theatres and cinemas are playing continuously (except for the usual summer 'relâche'1), but occasionally one or other of the former is taken over for several days at a time so as to enable members of such organisations as the Kraft durch Freude and Arbeitsfront to attend performances. The shop windows are fairly well stocked but this is deceptive as it is in 80% of the cases impossible to buy the goods exhibited. While it is true that as a general rule one can get the goods for which one has received coupons, this is not always so, and being able to 'cash' a 'Bezugschein' may often depend on untiring perseverance as well as good fortune. Almost everything is rationed and many articles (e.g. gloves, men's hats) are, I believe, practically unfindable. In this respect there is no doubt that the position has to date been easier in France. The same applies to furniture and most wooden objects – I was told that the Portuguese Legation, which is just across the road from ours and which was only finished about the time war broke out, is not lived in because it cannot be furnished! The food rations for the normal person are about the same (or perhaps a shade higher) as in France but the whole scheme is much better organised than here. Here for instance, whatever the value of the tickets of which one disposes, meat can only be eaten under the regulations, in restaurants on three or four days a week and for lunch only (Thursday to Sunday): and one can never have butter served (unless one brings it in) during lunch or dinner. In Germany you can have meat at any meal and on any day except, I think, two, and butter or anything else for which you can pay in tickets. This applies also to white bread which does not exist in France at all. Of course in practice very few people can afford butter or white bread for lunch or dinner as the rations are, I believe, at the best only sufficient. I gather the 'black market' in food, in the general sense of the term as used here (i.e. meals or foodstuffs without tickets) does not exist at all but there is I think a certain amount of what is almost a legitimate traffic in tickets, in the sense that A with too much of them for one produce exchanges them with B for tickets for something he lacks. Our experience of the restaurant food in Berlin (at home one had enormous latitude owing to the bigness of the ration) is, that it was good and wholesome but there were very few vegetables. Food prices seem, on the whole, to have been kept within reasonable bounds.

You know, of course, that one of Germany's insatiable needs is for labour. In Berlin the lack of domestic servants is very acute. I believe that even this kind of service has been subjected to regulations and that one is only entitled to servants in proportion to the size of one's family. There is, I think, a fair number of foreigners in this kind of employment. The majority of the waiters in such places as the Eden and the Adlon, are foreign – Italians mainly but also Bulgars etc. There may quite well be a movement in this direction from France. From what I heard the French workers are very highly appreciated and said to do very well. The total number of foreign workers in Germany already is apparently now almost six millions (including prisoners of war who do work). There is no doubt, however, that 'personal service' is at a high premium in Berlin and very difficult to secure.

The general impression which I gathered, as far as the war proper is concerned, is, that anything like a spontaneous collapse is most unlikely. The Germans may be driven to a collapse by military events (I think at this stage as far as Germany is concerned they must be military and not e.g. economic) but will not probably undergo anything like the 'éffondrement moral'2 proceeding from in the rear which was often expected and which, if only for the very reason that they believe it was this which beat them in the last war, the Germans intend to avoid. You will have remarked that Goebbels and other speakers have been hitting this latter point for several months past. I don't think that fact indicates that the leaders feel that such an event is likely, but rather that they think they can use it, to strengthen the will of the population to see the war through. I would say that a possible source of weakness in this respect in the Germans at one stage, was their rather naïve optimism, by which I mean their tendency to think that because they had won victories here and victories there, there could be no possibility that the war would not end quickly in their favour, as a result. I think, however, that if that tendency existed the danger-moment, as far as its possible consequences in the way of pessimism and passivity are concerned, has passed, and that, as a result of their Russian experience in particular, they do not expect to see victory come until all opponents have been reduced (whether as a result of direct military defeat or by other means, such as indifference or exhaustion.) As for the various adversaries of Germany, one feature of the press that rather struck me was the relatively large amount of space devoted to England to the exclusion of the U.S.A. and Russia. During my stay there were practically no articles on Russia apart from the communiqués and commentaries on them, and some articles as to Russia's economic resources. England on the other hand, and to a definitely less extent the U.S.A., figured in the press every day, happenings and statements in the House of Commons etc. being commented upon and analysed, frequently to an extraordinary extent. One might be tempted to believe that, for the German authorities, England remains the real enemy and that her defeat would put an end to the war; but perhaps the tendency to which I refer, (if it has any importance as an indication at all), is a natural reaction from the prewar admiration of England's power.

During all of my stay there were, as far as I know, (and in spite of reports which I have since seen to the contrary), no bombs dropped in Berlin. If the Russian 'planes, as alleged, did come that far towards the beginning of August, nobody heard of them and no 'alerte' was given. There were in all three 'alertes' while I was there, one in daylight at Potsdam (apparently for a reconnaissance 'plane) about the middle of August and two real ones in my last week's stay. Judging by the 'Flak' the last (on the night before I left) was the most serious, but I did not hear of any bombs being dropped or damage done on that occasion, though it is not impossible there may have been some. I believe that, as a general principle, the authorities have, in the past few months changed their attitude to publicity about air-raids. Up to some months ago the policy was either to ignore them completely in the press or make only the merest reference. Latterly they are mentioned regularly and Dr. Goebbels had a few articles about them while I was there as well as paying a visit to the Rhineland. As regards their effects it was said that the damage done to dwellings in some of them at least (e.g. Cologne, Düsseldorf) was enormous but that the number of killed was, relatively, extraordinarily slight. According to the Nuncio, who had been in Cologne after the big raid at the end of May, the number of people rendered homeless ran into several scores of thousands but the number killed did not exceed 500. Such a small number of victims seems difficult to believe; but on the other hand the population is very well trained and goes to the shelters at once (the law, I believe, provides that compensation will not be paid to anyone injured as a result of an air-raid who was not in a shelter at the time). I have no idea of the extent of the military damage done but was told that it was relatively slight, the main damage at Cologne of that nature being apparently to the railway system. I heard it said too that the Rhinelanders would stand bombardment very well and much better than e.g. the inhabitants of Berlin.

I got no very detailed information about the position of the Church. One member of the Nunciature told me that their relations with the Government must be regarded as rather 'abnormal' for some years past (apparently because of non-observance of the concordat on the German side). The churches are fairly full but far from overflowing, but then, of course, Berlin was never a big Catholic centre. As regards the general tendency of the régime I am inclined to think that those who say that it is of a definite and strong socialist tendency are right and that the Führer would like to see an end to all class distinction. Curious as it may seem, I got the impression from the little I saw about France in the press that National-Socialist Germany believes that France's best chance of salvation in the New Order lies in the workers, on the theory that that class represents the most vital and least artificial stratum of the French nation and would long ago have come to terms with Germany if it had not been completely blinded and misled by self-seeking politicians. I gathered from a conversation I had with Dr. Woermann3 that there are different currents about how France should be treated; he gave it as his own opinion that the Embassy in Paris is rather too inclined to interfere in internal French policy but did not specify in what respects. He incidentally confirmed what you will remember M. Laval told the Minister viz. that General Giraud's escape completely upset Franco-German relations.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely,

1 'slackening off'.

2 'moral collapse'.

3 Dr. Ernst Woermann (1888-1979), Under-Secretary of State, Political Division, GermanForeign Office.

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