It is now more than six months since I have handed over my Credentials to the President of the Reich, and it may have appeared strange to you that I have not as yet furnished you with any general report, as opposed to the various despatches which I have sent dealing with particular matters. But I think you will understand the reasons for this. You will realise that we are really only beginning to find our feet in this new life into which we have been plunged. There has been so much to learn, so much knowledge to make up quickly which in other cases is absorbed slowly in the course of several years apprenticeship. There is further the fact that we have had to build up our own organisation and to set our office running smoothly, both of which involved time. And finally you must remember that the Legation as such has only been functioning in the full sense of the word since the end of February, when I received the bulk of the furniture.
With regard to the last point, I should like to give you my impression, for what it is worth, that it would probably have been wiser to wait until the premises had been furnished before opening the Legation. I would certainly recommend that in the case of future Legations, where it is decided to furnish the premises from home, the Minister should not enter on his functions until the furniture has been despatched and fitted up. I had a considerable amount of difficulty in the opening stages of my mission owing to the fact that there were only a few rooms furnished here and only one into which visitors could be shown, viz. my own office. That meant that I had to receive not merely journalists and friendly callers but also the Heads of Missions who were returning my calls. I fear that they did not receive a favourable impression of the Legation, when they had first to traverse two completely bare rooms before arriving at an oasis in the desert. Further, as entertaining under such circumstances was out of the question, I was unable to return the hospitality offered to me until some months afterwards, and I have formed the impression that it is very important for a new Minister (especially when he happens to be the first representative of his country) to avail himself of the interest occasioned by his arrival to make as many influential friends for his country as possible; and, as far as I can see, the best way to do this - in Berlin at all events - is to entertain lavishly at the beginning of his mission.
I do not wish it to be inferred from this, however, that I deplore the decision to furnish the Legation from Ireland. On the contrary, I am more firmly convinced every day that it was an excellent idea. Thanks to the industry and taste of the Board of Works, and especially of their furniture department, we have in Berlin a Legation which compares very favourably with all the diplomatic quarters which I have seen. It has the great merit of being quite distinctive, and by that fact alone arouses interest and admiration. All the visitors who have seen it have been loud in their praises, and I am convinced that it is a better advertisement for Ireland and Irish products than any amount of lecturing and propaganda. The great success which the scheme has had here makes it well worth considering, I think, whether it would not be advisable to adopt it as a general rule for any new Legation which may be established in the future.
The Official Attitude Towards Ireland
I now propose to summarise for you the impression which I have formed of the attitude of the German Government, as represented by the Foreign Office, towards the Irish Free State and the new Irish Legation. You will bear in mind that these are first impressions and may be modified in the course of further experience.
You will remember that when the establishment of a Legation at Berlin was under consideration, Herr von Dehn-Schmidt was constantly emphasising the great interest which was taken in German official circles in the new Irish State, as well as the eagerness with which they were looking forward to the arrival of an Irish Minister. No doubt, you were from the first inclined to discount a certain proportion of this. It was only natural that Dehn should be led, both by his own personal interest in the question as well as by his very genuine interest in Ireland, to put the best complexion possible on the official attitude. My own experience with the members of the Foreign Office has led me to believe that Dehn considerably overestimated the interest which it took and takes in us.
I should like to give you a few facts in support of this. You have good cause to remember how eagerly Dehn urged the appointment of a Minister at the earliest possible moment. If I am not mistaken, he gave you as well as me to understand that the German Government was surprised and even somewhat perplexed at the delay in establishing the Legation. He also said (to me at least) that he was receiving constant inquiries from his superiors as to when the appointment might be expected. I confess I could see very little of this alleged eagerness in my first dealings with the Foreign Office here. Indeed my experience has led me to believe (perhaps wrongly) that Dehn, at the time when he was impressing upon you the eagerness with which the new appointment was being awaited by his superiors, was trying to convince these same superiors that the Irish Government were anxious, and even impatient, to appoint their representative at Berlin as soon as ever possible. When I visited Berlin in July, I found the Officials of the Foreign Office somewhat apologetic and very anxious to explain to me that it would not be convenient that I should hand over my Credentials at once. When I told them that the Government were not in any immediate hurry for me to do so, they seemed quite relieved but said that they had understood that the Government attached great importance to my being duly accredited immediately. They even asked me if I was sure that the Government would not be offended if my reception were postponed! You will have little difficulty in tracing the source of this information.
A similar state of affairs confronted me on my arrival on the 10th of October. Of course the situation was complicated then by the recent death of Dr. Stresemann.1 Still a temporary successor had been appointed and the Foreign Office seemed to be working just as usual. Despite this it was only with considerable difficulty that I was able to get the 26th of October2 fixed as the date for my reception by the President. This delay, which would have been unusual even in the case of an ordinary new Minister, was still more remarkable in the case of a completely new Legation, and does not fit in very well with Dehn's description.
Neither does the action, or rather inaction, in regard to reciprocity. Here again you will remember that Dehn assured you that the German Government were only waiting for the Irish Minister in order to appoint their own Minister in Dublin. I feel firmly convinced that they could have done so last October or at any time since, if they were really keen on the matter. Unfortunately I am not as yet sufficiently acquainted with the machinery of these appointments in Germany to be able to check the excuses which have been given. All I know is that they have been incoherent and sometimes even contradictory. As early as last November Baron Ow-Wachendorf told me that if Stresemann had lived he would have anticipated the consent of the Reichstag and made the appointment at once. On my inquiring why Curtius3 would not do the same, he replied that Curtius was merely Interim Minister and therefore could not take these liberties. But afterwards, when Curtius became definitely Foreign Minister, Wachendorf said that it was impossible to make these appointments without a vote from the Reichstag, which could be got by means of a supplementary estimate. Still later, he said that the Finance Minister had vetoed the supplementary estimate and that the matter could only come up for discussion on the ordinary estimate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the matter should be let slide any longer I would suggest that I be instructed to enter a very sharp protest. At first I took the line of saying that the date of the proposed appointment of a Minister was a matter for the German Government itself. I believed that the impending appointment of a French Minister would hurry them up much more effectively than any representation of mine. In this it will be seen that I too fell into the error of overestimating German interest in us, because the Foreign Office appears to view the anticipation of its Minister by his French Colleague with extreme placidity. But it seems to me that reciprocity has now been delayed to a point at which it is proper to protest. Apparently the Foreign Office thinks that it has salved its conscience by appointing a Chargé d'Affaires ad interim and that the question of a full Legation can be conveniently shelved until more important matters have been dealt with. I shall be glad if you would allow me to disabuse them of this idea.
These facts are typical of the general attitude of the Wilhelmstrasse towards us. I do not at all mean to be taken as implying that their attitude is not a friendly one. It is very friendly, and my personal relations with all its officials who are in contact with me are of the happiest. What I should like to emphasise is that the Foreign Office is not really interested in us any more than it is in any small unimportant state situated a considerable distance from its frontiers. It thinks of us in precisely the same terms as it thinks, say, of Bulgaria or a small Central American Republic. It is concerned to maintain the most friendly relations possible with us, but it apparently has no appreciation whatever of our importance as a member of the British Commonwealth. Indeed its policy seems to be to ignore our membership of the British Commonwealth entirely and to treat us as a small completely isolated state. In all my conversations with members of the Foreign Office, any talking that has been done about the British Commonwealth and our Status in it has been done by me. Apart from openings which I have made myself, I have never heard from them one piece of voluntary information about the relations between Germany and the members of the Commonwealth in general. I have never been asked any question as to what our influence was on the shaping of any common foreign policy which the members of the Commonwealth might agree to follow. Any information that I have given about the status of the Dominions has been gratuitous and not requested. Indeed the whole policy of the Foreign Office seems to be to treat us as if we were a republic in name as well as in fact. No doubt there are many people at home who would approve of this policy and say that this was the ideal attitude from our point of view. I venture to believe, however, that you agree with me in the view that our international position and our significance in German eyes would be infinitely stronger if our independent position and status within the British Commonwealth were clearly recognised.
I have often asked myself whether this attitude of the Foreign Office is unconscious or the result of deliberate resolution. If it is the latter, what grounds have led them to adopt this policy? Not any nervousness about my feelings in the matter, because they are well aware from my conversation of the importance which I attach to Ireland's membership of the Commonwealth as a factor in her international position. Nor do I believe that Dehn would ever have given them such advice: he is far too well acquainted with Irish political feeling to think that we would be sensitive on this point and that we would prefer to be treated as a small completely isolated state. If you consider the matter fully, you will find that the one Government which stands to gain most by this policy is the British Government. Now that an Irish Legation has come to stay in Berlin, the only thing to be done from the 'Imperial' point of view is to circumscribe and localise its activities as much as possible, and to secure that, while dealing with all questions exclusively connected with Germany and Ireland, it should be carefully kept out of discussions on all important general matters which, as hitherto, should be settled between the Foreign Office and H.B.M. Embassy. I have no means of knowing whether this policy has ever been suggested by the British Embassy to the Foreign Office, but in view of the political relations between ourselves and the Embassy which I shall describe later, I do not put it at all beyond the bounds of possibility. It would not be the first or the only case of agreement between the British Imperialists and our own hyper Nationalists in matters of Foreign policy. For my part I shall, with your approval, continue to impress on members of the Foreign Office both the importance which we attach to our membership of the Commonwealth and the importance of that membership for countries like Germany.
I should now like to summarise for you my impressions of the leaders of the Foreign Office as well as of those officials with whom the Legation is in special contact.
The present Foreign Minister, Curtius, suffers first of all under the disadvantage of being the successor of Stresemann. People are naturally inclined to draw comparisons between the two, rather unfairly to the detriment of Curtius. The latter is primarily an economist, formerly party expert and subsequently Minister for Industry and Commerce. His change-over to Foreign Affairs was due rather to accident than design: he belonged to the same party as Stresemann and was one of his firmest supporters at the first Hague conference; accordingly when Stresemann died, it was inevitable, for formal and party reasons, that his mantle should descend on Curtius. Since he took over the Department of Foreign Affairs he has had a difficult time, both in internal and external politics. Stresemann was, in one sense, 'felix opportunitate mortis', because many of the real difficulties involved in his policy did not materialise until the period immediately following his decease. It must be said for Curtius that he has met and faced these difficulties with great courage and considerable ability in the domestic area. He has yet to prove his mettle in the international field, but I have no doubt that he will hold on steadily to the Stresemann policy, and while himself probably incapable of inaugurating a new policy, will work painstakingly at the consolidation of that which he has found in existence before him. I have always found him very friendly and courteous. About Ireland he knows nothing except the Shannon scheme, in which he seems to be very interested.
Herr von Schubert, as you will perhaps have noted in the newspapers, is about to relinquish his position as permanent head of the Foreign Office (Staatssekretar), and it is now definitely settled that he is to be Ambassador to the Quirinal. There are rumours of disagreement between himself and Curtius, but I think they may be completely discounted. His departure is merely connected with the general revirement in the Foreign Office, which has long been expected. Schubert is well acquainted with our Minister, and has always been very friendly, though sometimes slightly abstracted, during the interviews which I have had with him. He gives me the impression of a man almost stupefied by overwork, and it is little wonder, considering the burden which he has had to bear during the last couple of years. If one raises any point with him he at once professes interest, takes an elaborate note of it, and then apparently forgets it. His memory, never very good, seems to have gone to pieces completely within the last 12 months; he sometimes fails to recognise even prominent members of the Diplomatic Corps. He speaks pleasantly of his relations with the Irish Delegation at Geneva, but I could not describe him as interested in Ireland. I have been told that in politics he is a strong Anglophile and would have much preferred the Embassy in London, to which it was first rumoured that he was going.
His successor as Secretary of State is Herr von Bülow, who is doubtless well known to you from Geneva, where I remember meeting him in 1926. If I remember rightly, he is also well acquainted with Dehn. He has the reputation of being very intelligent - he certainly has enough diplomatic blood in his veins - but he has yet to win his spurs. I sat near him at dinner the other evening, but he maintained an almost unbroken and, I think, somewhat studied silence.
The Chief of the Section dealing with the British Commonwealth is Herr De Haas. He does not look in the least like such an important official; in fact from his appearance one might be pardoned for mistaking him for the porter. He has had a somewhat remarkable career, part of which at least should help to prejudice him in favour of Ireland. At the outbreak of the war he was Consul-General in Melbourne, and was treated with the greatest brutality by the Australian Government, which carried its anti-German stampede to lengths unheard of even in England. He was arrested at first as a spy, his property sequestrated, and his wife and children left without any means of subsistence whatever. In their distress the latter were assisted by Irish nuns, of whose kindness and fearlessness in the face of opposition de Haas still speaks with emotion. The turn of the wheel which has brought him to the post which he now occupies can hardly be pleasing to the British. It is natural that de Haas, in view of his experience, could never be an Anglophile, and I do not think that the British Embassy have in him a very easy man to deal with. I remember Nicolson,4 the former Councillor of the Embassy, telling me that on the occasion of negotiations with regard to the liquidation of confiscated German property (in which England and all the overseas Dominions, except Canada, acted with peculiar meanness) he had had some very painful scenes with de Haas. For Ireland, of course, he has nothing but good will, but again he undoubtedly takes the line of treating us as an absolutely isolated state. I have frequently attempted to engage him in conversation about the British Commonwealth, but while he was more than willing to ask me questions about the internal politics of Great Britain and the Irish Free State, he did not display any interest in the Commonwealth at large.
Junior to De Haas is Baron von Ow-Wachendorf, with whom practically all the ordinary business of the Legation (as well as of the British Embassy) is done. I know him best of all the officials, and like him personally very much. He is exceptionally agreeable, but not, I should say, excessively clever. Ever since my arrival he has been exceedingly friendly with me; he constantly speaks of going to Ireland for his holidays, whither he has a standing invitation from Dehn. I have an idea that he does not take Dehn quite as seriously as the latter thinks, and I fear that his attitude towards Irish affairs may be coloured by his view of the man who reports them to him. Although he is a Catholic and politically inclines towards the Centrum, he has very close associations with England. He was in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and at the outbreak of the war was in London, but he was not interned: apparently things were made easy for him by friends in the Foreign Office. He is in close personal relations with some members of the British Embassy: with Nicolson he has been on terms of intimate friendship since their Oxford days. At the same time, I have the feeling that he is absolutely reliable and friendly to us; for instance he told me of the objection made by Nicolson on behalf of the Embassy to the German version of my agrément, as I reported at the time.
I believe that Dehn keeps his superiors very well acquainted with the situation in Ireland, if they read all his despatches, which is doubtful. I remember Wachendorf jestingly remarking on one occasion that Dehn would need a section to himself. Perhaps his genuine interest in Ireland leads him to overburden them with unnecessary details and they are inclined to take his pronouncements with a grain of salt.
The Public Attitude Towards Ireland
It is very difficult to gauge the feelings of one country towards another as distinguished from the official attitude. But I think I may sum up the attitude of German public opinion towards Ireland as one of uninformed sympathy. I must deal first with the people among whom my present position compels me to move, that is to say the so-called members of 'society'. Berlin post-war society is a strange body. One of its chief characteristics is a cult of English ways and English fashions which amounts almost to a religion. I think that this cult existed in Berlin aristocratic circles before the war, but their successors of the revolution have carried it to crazy lengths. In society nowadays it is a test of respectability to speak English, which is occasionally very trying for native speakers of that language. The Englishman is regarded as the very essence of good breeding and smartness, the beau idéal of social life. Any sympathy which exists for Ireland must be read subject to this qualification. The average member of Berlin society regards Ireland as a country where English is also spoken, where people play bridge, drink Whiskey, hunt, golf, shoot etc. and therefore a kind of 'next best thing' to England. Quite a surprising number have visited Ireland in the course of sojourns in England. Many more inquire about the particulars of the journey to it.
This raises for me a problem to which I find it difficult to give a satisfactory answer. Whatever may be one's opinions about the desirability of increased tourist traffic to Ireland (and I am a strong heretic about the prevailing view) I feel that it is my duty here to stimulate it by all means, but I do not think it is sufficiently realised on our side how particular German tourists are about satisfactory and not overexpensive conditions. The Germans are great travellers, and they have reduced travelling to a science. They are by no means stingy about money, like the Americans, but they expect full value for what they spend. They are accustomed to travel in countries where they find really good arrangements at moderate prices. When I think of the majority of our Hotels and our travelling facilities, I feel very hesitant, in the interest of the tourist traffic itself, about recommending them to visit Ireland. I have noticed that those who have been there already preserved a discrete silence in my presence about the arrangements.
It would not however be correct to regard modern Berlin society as typical of the real Germany. The average German, while sharing to a certain extent the respect of his 'betters' for England, is exceedingly friendly to Ireland, though he knows little or nothing about us. How to get in touch with him has been a problem on which we have concentrated our attention. And accordingly the chief work which has been done by this Legation up to the present has been a steady campaign of publicity, I might even say propaganda. I think we may claim that this campaign has had very successful results, inasmuch as it has spread information about Ireland among hitherto inaccessible quarters.
I availed of the interest occasioned by my arrival to give several interviews to newspaper correspondents. Unfortunately I was so rushed at that time that I did not keep an account, but I must have given at least twelve interviews. I have not been able to trace a number of them, but they have certainly all appeared and have been widely circulated. This I know from letters which I have received from former fellow-students of mine who are now scattered all over Germany. I forwarded you at the time those which I was able to trace. All the others were on precisely the same lines, dealing in detail with the status of the Dominions and of Ireland in particular. Since then I have been writing articles and delivering lectures. The latter, of course, could only reach a limited public, but fortunately it was the most important section, viz. the educated public, and in any event the Press always gave favourable reports. I have chiefly spoken in University circles, and incidentally I think it good policy from every point of view to keep in close touch with the University of Berlin. The majority of the articles and lectures have dealt with political affairs and in particular with constitutional and international status. But they have not been confined exclusively to these subjects.
I have found a great many educated Germans very interested in Irish literary activity, and on two occasions I have lectured about this. I have also been agreeably surprised to find sympathy and approval for the attempt to revive Irish, even in the most unexpected quarters. (Dr. Brandel, Emeritus Professor of English at the University, is one of its most enthusiastic supporters.) Hence the article in the English Edition of the Berliner Tageblatt, which you were good enough to commend; I trust it will be by no means the last of my work on this all-important subject. I believe that it should be possible to extend my lecturing activities very considerably next season. In many ways I am inclined to regret that my presence in Geneva next September prevents me from accepting the invitation to address the General Meeting of the 'League of Nations' Societies of Germany, which is composed of Delegates drawn from the whole Reich, and would therefore offer a very wide platform.
The British Embassy
Owing to the importance of the relations between that Embassy and ourselves, I propose to deal with it in special detail.
First, a word as to the position which it now occupies in German political life. It has fallen considerably from its former high estate, and is nothing like as powerful as it used to be under D'Abernon,5 when German politics were dictated and German Governments made and unmade in his reception rooms. Many causes have contributed to this decline: the personal difference between D'Abernon and the present Ambassador6 for one, but more important the recovery of German confidence and security, the eased relations with France and Italy and the ever increasing influence of America. At the same time it must be emphasised that the British Embassy is still a power in the land and that enormous importance is attached to it by the Foreign Office. The internal politics of the latter remain strongly Anglophile, and it would only be self-deception to imagine that its interest in us would ever be sufficient to make it run the risk of any sharp disagreement with the British Embassy. Not only that, but I believe we may find on some important occasion that the agreement or at all events the benevolent neutrality of that Embassy may be a deciding factor in our dealings with the Wilhelmstrasse, if we can only secure its agreement without any sacrifice of national dignity. From the outset, therefore, I have attached great importance to our relations with the British Embassy, and I have tried to cultivate good relations with all its members. All of them have been invited to functions at the Legation, and I go to their various parties with fortitude, although I wish they would not give quite so many. Further I send them a few cards for any lectures given by me which deal with the British Commonwealth.
On the other hand the policy of the Embassy towards us seems to be to maintain good personal relations coupled with the most complete political detachment. From the very beginning there has been an absence not merely of anything savouring of interference but even of curiosity. I am naturally well aware that this attitude is studied and not genuine, but it is very well maintained. I amuse myself occasionally by putting it to various tests. The rule seems to be that all political matters are taboo in conversation unless I introduce them, and then they are to be treated with polite reserve. Indeed they affect to treat us as the representatives of a completely separate power, and I feel convinced that the similarity of their attitude with that of the Foreign Office is no mere coincidence. Whatever instructions they may have received from Whitehall about 'matters of common interest' they certainly interpret in the most restrictive sense possible; on no occasion has there been any consultation about such matters. It may be that they have not as yet arisen, but I take leave to doubt this. Their behaviour in the recent dispute about the Doyen (c.f. my dispatch of the 30th December 1929)7 is illuminating. I feel sure that I spoke to some members of the Embassy about the matter when the problem became first acute, but I was given no inkling whatever that the Ambassador had been instructed to protest against the Nuncio's appointment. As I was unable to attend the Meeting of Heads of Missions, I only heard of this protest a couple of days afterwards. On communicating with the Embassy, I was told that the Ambassador thought I would be present at the Meeting and would express my own view just like any other Chef de Mission. On the other hand I, for my part, was most careful to inform them of the instructions which I received from my Government immediately before communicating them to the French Ambassador.
The idea of this policy of isolation is, of course, to convey the impression that the Irish Legation is only competent to deal with exclusively Irish matters, and that matters involving the Commonwealth as a whole are still the inviolable preserve of the British Embassy. I should be glad to hear from you whether my colleagues in other Capitals have received a similar impression and if so what line of policy you think it desirable to follow.
With the Ambassador himself, Sir Horace Rumbold, I rarely come into contact. In any business matters I deal with the Counsellor; all ordinary matters are transacted between Mr. McCauley and the Secretaries of the Embassy. Rumbold still remains somewhat of a mystery to me. He makes the impression of an exceptionally stupid man, but this is belied by his very good career in the diplomatic service, the details of which are to be found in the Foreign Office Year Book. Since his arrival here he has not been a prominent figure either in the political or social world, having been quite eclipsed by personalities like the French Ambassador, de Margerie, the former Nuncio Pacelli and the former American Ambassador Shurman. Germans are not quite sure what to make of him. They do not know whether he is really as stupid as he seems or whether this appearance is merely a mask which conceives8 great cleverness. If so it is certainly a most effective one.
My own personal relations with him were not at first very agreeable. He used to go out of his way to avoid me at all social functions, and when an unlucky chance brought us face to face in some crush he used to affect not to see me. His behaviour, which I ascribed to hostility to Ireland used to occasion me a good deal of amusement, mixed with a certain concern that other members of the Diplomatic Corps might notice it; Rumbold's personal feelings towards me, as long as they did not affect good relations with the Embassy in general, were of course a matter of complete indifference to me. Perhaps it was a realisation of this indifference which caused him to change, or perhaps his manner was all the time due rather to a certain sense of awkwardness in regard to me, as a strange and uncomfortable phenomenon for the treatment of which no diplomatic precedents existed. (Incidentally he has been described to me by some of his subordinates as a very shy man.) At all events, since he first dined here a couple of months ago, he has abandoned his older habits, and his manner towards me in public is now perfectly correct. For the sake of appearances I welcome the change, but I cannot help feeling how much less dangerous is a man like Rumbold than an excessively friendly individual who would make every effort to 'annex' us. His wife has always been friendly, and gave me the impression of being somewhat ashamed of his former behaviour. During the season I have been invited by the Rumbolds to just the necessary minimum of social functions - one luncheon, one dinner, one reception - and I observe the same rule with them. Their subordinates, however, unfortunately for me, do not imitate them in this restraint.
When I arrived here the Counsellor of the Embassy was Mr. Harold Nicolson, and most of my preliminary dealings with the Embassy (including my visits in March and July of last year) were conducted with him. Nicolson was the most remarkable man I have met since I came: utterly unlike the conventional British Diplomat, careless in dress, unconventional in language and behaviour, and - graver still - interested in Literature! He had already published a number of works, including a delightful and surprisingly indiscrete series of sketches entitled 'Some People', dealing almost entirely with colleagues of his in the Diplomatic Service. He had fought with the British Foreign Office, and had been reduced from the rank of Counsellor in Teheran (to which he had refused to proceed) to that of First Secretary in Berlin, but Sir Ronald Lindsay,9 on being appointed Permanent Under Secretary in Whitehall, had raised him to be Counsellor again. Lately he had further difficulty with the Foreign Office, and as a result he resigned from the Diplomatic Service at the end of last year in order to devote himself to Journalism and eventually, I should say, to Politics. In many ways I regret his departure, as we liked each other personally. Whatever Whitehall may have thought of him, Nicolson was a British Diplomatist of the first order, at his best and at his most dangerous. His unconventionality and free and easy manners merely served to conceal great shrewdness, sharp observation and unremitting industry. For this reason I used to watch his methods carefully, and I think it may interest you to hear something of them, although I have not sufficient experience to say whether they are typical or not. He always affected an almost indiscrete frankness and openness in conversation; on some of the walks which we used to take on Sundays he would talk apparently without any reserve on political matters, as if he believed that there should be no secrets between us. In fact, of course, he never told me anything of importance that I could not discover through other channels. His 'revelations' were merely a clever method of concealing what he wanted to conceal. I noticed with grim amusement that this method had been extraordinarily successful with the officials of the German Foreign Office, to judge by the complete confidence which they placed in him. On the other hand, when he wanted information, he asked for it straight out without any beating about the bush, as if he expected to be treated with the same frankness with which he treated you! In a difficulty he neither equivocated nor took refuge in 'diplomatic' evasions; if he could not tell the truth (which he obviously preferred to do) he told a good thumping lie, as in the case of his intervention about my agrément. In politics he was sympathetic to Labour, attracted exclusively by its Pacific Policy in Europe, in which he seemed a genuine believer, largely no doubt because he realised how much England stands to gain by it. As a boy he had spent some years in Shanganagh Castle, professed great liking for Ireland, and used to boast about his descent from Hamilton Rowan, but I was inclined to discount these declarations.
His successor as Counsellor Mr. B.C. Newton, has only recently arrived from China. He is exceedingly friendly with us, but we have had very little business dealings with the Embassy since he came. When he called on me first, he said that he was a firm believer in the new conception of the Commonwealth, and that he looked forward to the extension of the Diplomatic Representation of the Dominions. Personally he is perhaps the most agreeable member of the whole Embassy, and is doubtless a much finer character than his predecessor. Whether he is his equal in ability remains to be seen.
I come on now to the Secretaries. The First Secretary Mr. A.F. Yencken, is an Australian, whose admission to the Diplomatic Service, significantly enough, dates from the year 1920. Yencken, like many of his countrymen, is 'Anglior Anglicis ipsis', reserved, courteous, and exceedingly efficient. We have it on the somewhat prejudiced testimony of his Junior, Montgomery, who does not like him, that he is a full-blooded Imperialist; but on the other hand he once told Mr. McCauley, in a moment of unusual expansiveness, that had his regiment been ordered to Ireland he would not have gone. Our personal relations are excellent.
A much more interesting personality is the Press Secretary (with local rank of First Secretary) by name Tim Breen. He is the only real Irishman in the Embassy, and unlike the Anglo-Irishmen (such as Nicolson, Montgomery, Rowe-Dutton and Graves) is not at all anxious to advertise the fact. Indeed, when I first met him, he seemed suspicious and somewhat surly. Perhaps he was afraid that I knew too much about him already, although at the time I was in complete ignorance of his identity. Since then I have discovered enough to explain his reserve. His father taught Mr. McCauley at Saint Columb's College in Derry, and two of his brothers (Gerald and Billy, both of them known to you) were at school with me. Breen's career reads like a romance. As a boy he passed an examination into the Post Office and worked in London as a boy learner. Growing weary of the monotonous work, he bolted to Paris and secured a job in a Garage there. In this way he picked up French. At the outbreak of the war he had secured a Student Interpretership in the Consular Service, and was attached to the troops as interpreter. He was captured in the early months of the war and spent most of it as a prisoner in Germany. He escaped three times and on one occasion had practically got to the frontier disguised as a German soldier when he was discovered by the carelessness of a companion. After the war he realised his great ambition, being admitted to the Diplomatic Service. And has charge of the Press in the British Embassy here. I think in reality that he has charge of a considerable amount of other things also. I have no doubt that he was commissioned to keep a very careful eye on Irish activities here during the revolutionary period, and I have it on the unreliable testimony of the Casement-warrior, Michael P. Keogh, that he watched the movements of the Irish Brigade closely. Quite recently a novel about the Revolutionary Period in Germany was published here, which is supposed to be history under a very thin guise of fiction and in which Breen is represented as playing the part of a British Agent Provocateur, interfering with the German Coal Industry for the benefit of British Mine owners. The book has created a mild sensation, and though the British Embassy are naturally rather reticent about it, I believe that Breen is considering a libel action. For our part we find Breen quite amiable since he got over his first apprehensions. He probably feared that we were going to claim him and is very relieved that we have made no attempt to do so; as a result he is always very friendly, and incidentally was the only member of the Embassy who gave me any real assistance at the time when I needed it most, during my quest for suitable Legation premises.
The Second Secretary H.E.L. Montgomery, member of the well-known Unionist family in Co. Tyrone, fairly near the Border, is an Anglo-Irishman who would willingly drop the prefix. He became a Catholic at Oxford and was for some time in London, where he knew the Governor General and Mrs. McNeill. He is absolutely overflowing with friendship for Ireland and this Legation, and is accordingly a useful man to have in the Embassy. He would be more useful however if he were not so singularly lacking in many of the qualities usually expected from a Diplomatist. He is incredibly tactless and may be invariably relied upon to say the wrong thing; as a result his colleagues regard him with friendly amusement and probably tell him no more than they can help. It was a mystery to me how he was ever admitted to the British Diplomatic Service until I learned that his uncle is Assistant Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office. Very different from him is the Third Secretary Mr. R.J. Bowker, a perfect specimen of a British Diplomat in embryo, for whom it is safe to prophesy a highly successful career.
These are the people with whom we are most in contact, and the remainder of the Embassy need not delay us long. There are the Military and Naval Attachés Colonel Cornwall and Commander Hawes, two pleasant-spoken Militarists and Reactionaries; the Air-Attaché, Group-Captain Gossage, much more modern in outlook and very friendly to us; the Commercial Counsellor, Thelwall, very English, but at the same time always willing to give us any information we need, and therefore quite useful - the same applies to his Second in-Command, Edwards; the temporary Financial Adviser loaned by the Treasury, Rowe-Dutton, who you will remember from Geneva-days, another Anglo-Irishman and also very friendly. Lastly there is the unpaid Attaché, A.P. Graves, whose people still live somewhere in Co. Kilkenny. In regard to him, one could only wish that he would attempt to conceal his Irish associations (which unfortunately he does not). He is an absolutely impossible bounder, and generally recognised as such, but as his only connection with the Embassy is that he saves some thousand of pounds in income tax every year by his nominal membership, he need not trouble us further.
Taken altogether then, the members of the British Embassy are personally agreeable and easy to work with. In general when we ask them for information on any point, especially in commercial matters, they give it to us willingly. To say that they treat us with absolute candour on all matters would be an over-statement. Thus, to give you an example of something which occurred quite recently, on ringing up the Embassy the day before Mr. Amery's recent lecture (c.f. my despatch of 19th May)10 we were told by the Third Secretary that they had no idea as to whether he had arrived in Berlin or not. It is difficult to imagine his reason for telling a purely gratuitous falsehood, but in any event I learned a couple of days later from Rumbold in person that Mr. Amery actually lunched at the Embassy on the day in question.
The Diplomatic Corps
The Diplomatic Corps in Berlin in enormous, there being no less than 52 Heads of Missions (9 Ambassadors, 38 Ministers and 5 Chargé d'Affaires). The visits to and from my colleagues at the outset of my mission were in themselves a formidable and lengthy task. Incidentally I was impressed in the course of these visits with the importance of a knowledge of French. The vast majority spoke French with me and quite a considerable number do not speak either German or English. I think that this fact should be borne in mind when filling cadetships in our service.
My acquaintance with the majority of my colleagues here is confined to meeting them at formal and exceedingly dull social functions. It would be possible, I understand, to lead an exotic existence in Berlin completely within the diplomatic circles, for the representatives of the smaller and more distant powers seem to have very little less to do except to entertain each other unceasingly. I believe if one wishes to court their favour one must go steadily to these functions and ask them back regularly, but as this would be a 'full-time' job in itself, and as I regard the primary object of my appointment here as being to bring light unto the Germans, I fear that I am a frequent absentee. I could not help noticing that the smaller and more unimportant the country which a particular Minister represents the more conscious he is of his great dignity and the more sensitive about its acknowledgement.
The Papal Nuncio and Doyen of the Corps, Monsignor Pacelli, was raised to the Cardinaliate shortly after my arrival, but I managed to have an interview with him on the very day on which he left Berlin. I had been presented to him formerly as a student in Munich when he was Nuncio to Bavaria, and our conversation was very friendly. His departure caused a storm in a tea-cup among the Corps. Owing to the uncertainty of the legal position, it was doubtful as to whether his successor would be recognised as Doyen. I informed you of the course of the controversy at the time (c.f. my dispatch of Dec. 30th, 1929)11 and its final settlement. Monsignor Orsenigo, the new Nuncio is now recognised by the German Government by courtesy, but without prejudice to the question of law. I fear that from the strictly legal point of view the British and other opponents of the Nuncio had the right end of the stick, and I wonder if the Nuncio would have had such an easy victory were it not that the Senior Ambassador, who would become Doyen in default of him, was Krestinsky, the representative of the Soviet Republics. I had a long conversation with Monsignor Orsenigo during his reception of the Members of the Corps. With his Counsellor, Monsignor Centos, we have been very friendly since the start. I must say, however, that we find the Nunciature of remarkably little use to us in our attempts to get information about aspects of Catholic life and activities in Germany, such as the information required by the Catholic Truth Society in connection with the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress.
Among the other Embassies by far the most important from our point of view is the American, and from the very start we have set ourselves to cultivate the Members of it assiduously. We are on excellent terms with all its members, some of whom are of Irish descent and very proud of it. The former Ambassador, Mr. Shurman, who was so extraordinarily successful during his mission here, was very friendly to me since our very first meeting. Like myself he was a graduate of a German University, had studied substantially the same subjects, and some of his fellow-students had been teachers of mine. We therefore had many interests in common. His successor, F.M. Sackett, is also very friendly, but he belongs to a different order, being a successful business man, and I do not feel that I should ever understand him as well as Shurman. I further keep in touch with various American organisations, and one result of this was that when the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany gave its Banquet to welcome Mr. Sackett, I was the only diplomatic representative of a foreign country who was invited.
The French Ambassador, De Margerie, is now, with the departure of Monsignor Pacelli and Mr. Shurman, the outstanding figure in the Diplomatic Corps. He has been Ambassador ever since the year 1923 and has functioned through a very difficult and at times painful period with outstanding success. Personally I do not find him very sympathetic, and I should not be surprised if he had come to a similar conclusion about me. The Spanish Ambassador, F. Espinosa de los Monteros, had an Irish Governess, of whom he has the most pleasant memories, but I fear she cannot have taught him English very efficiently, because he has forgotten every word of it. The Turkish Ambassador, Kémalettin Sami Pascha, has spent considerable time in denunciation of the British to me, to which, needless to say, I listen in respectful and noncommittal silence. He has some reason for his denunciations, having been a General in Mustaphe Kemal's Army, and having been in 1921 sentenced to death by the British High Commissioner in Constantinople, who was none other than Sir Horace Rumbold himself. Of the Ministers, I am well acquainted with most of those who represent European countries; the Austrian, Hungarian, Polish, Czecho-Slovakian, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish Ministers. The Belgian Minister also had an Irish Governess, but this time with vastly more successful results, because he talks English just like a Dublin man. Of the extra-European representatives the most interesting is the Egyptian, with whom I am on very friendly terms. He is quite young, but is described as a coming man in Egyptian politics. I have discovered however that he belongs to the party which would have been called in 18th Century England 'The King's friends'. He is a confidante of King Fuad, talks continuously about 'His Majesty', and is more than guarded in his references to Egyptian nationalism and its relations with Great Britain.
In summing up the work of our Legation during the first six months of its existence I think we may claim to have made a good start. Naturally there are some aspects of our work which we will have to develop more in the future. But I would ask you to remember that we have really been very rushed since we came here, and that we had to concentrate on a publicity campaign, in order to exploit to the full the popular interest taken in our arrival.
I cannot conclude this report without acknowledging the great assistance which I have received in all matters referred to in it from the Secretary of the Legation. Mr. McCauley, apart from his help in political and other matters, has had exclusive charge of all economic questions, even where for form sake my name has appeared under a newspaper article or piece of information.