Volume 4 1932~1936

Doc No.

No. 245 NAI DFA 19/50

Extracts from a confidential report from Charles Bewley to
Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 6 December 1934

As stated in my minute of 8th November,1 all the evidence is at present that in foreign policy Germany is awaiting events and is very unlikely to make any new departure for some time to come. In the meantime an elaborate programme has been undertaken with the purpose of consolidating its position at home.

It should not be considered that the actual régime is in any danger or likely to be for a very long time to come, or that there is any possible alternative to it except Communism or mere chaos; but, as Hitler has said in his book and on countless other occasions, National Socialism does not aspire to be a dictatorship in the sense of governing against the will of the mass of the people: it is a government responsible to the people for its acts and aims, though it considers the submission to the people of the methods to be used in realizing those aims an impossibility and a danger in the modern world. And therefore it has consistently adopted in its programme and is now carrying out a series of measures which are obviously favoured either by the great mass of the working-class and the small employees, or else by the more enthusiastic members of the National Socialist Party.

[matter omitted]

More typical are the various steps taken by the Government to carry out its particular cultural ideas. This is in complete accordance with the ideas in Hitler's 'Mein Kampf', where he explains that propaganda holding out material benefits as an inducement is never so efficacious as that which inculcates sacrifice for an ideal, because the first can be outbidden by rival parties, and because people who are taught to look on material benefits as the summum bonum will not be prepared to sacrifice themselves, as sacrifice would be in direct contradiction to what has been held before them as the ideal.2

The class to which the National Socialist ideology will certainly make a tremendous appeal consists of the old members of the National Socialist party and the S.A., many of whom have remained in the ranks and in poverty in spite of years of service. It should be remembered that they were largely recruited from the working-class, often from the ranks of the Communist party, and that, apart from their attitude towards Nationalism, under which must be included Antisemitism, their point of view is for all practical purposes communist. One member, now highly placed in the Secret Police, told me that he had at one period eight years ago left the National Socialist party for the Communists, because he thought they had more chance of success, but that when he saw that Communism was hopelessly anti-national and pro-Jewish he returned to the National Socialists; he also said that the best and most reliable men in the S.A. were the former Communists.

This class had undoubtedly been getting rather restive for some time. The luxury indulged in by Röhm and his friends offended them, and the offence was only partially wiped out by the executions in June. They have been dissatisfied by the slow realization of practical Socialism, and I imagine also by the somewhat neutral attitude taken up by the Government in confessional matters: the majority of them (including probably Himmler,3 the head of the S.S.) are strongly anti-clerical and desire to substitute some kind of vague national idealism for the established religions. This dissatisfaction was manifested drastically by their refusal to allow Dr Goebbels to speak at a meeting about a month ago: I am told that he was hissed out of the hall, though of course nothing appeared in the German Press. As this class constitutes in a way the praetorian guard of National Socialism, it is natural that the Government should feel itself forced to placate it so far as possible.

This is being done in a number of ways, mostly in matters trifling in themselves, but extremely significant. For example, the composer Hindemith was appointed a member of the Reichskulturkammer (the official organization for all the arts). The Angriff and Volkischer Beobachter protested against his music being rendered by the wireless or in official concerts. Furtwangler, the director responsible, who is himself in the Reichskulturkammer and a member of the Prussian Staatsrat, wrote an article in Hindemith's defence. The attacks on Hindemith were redoubled, on the grounds that his music was decadent and non-Germanic, and that he had formerly played in a trio with two Jews; it was stated that he might eventually be acceptable to the National Socialist state when he had shown a year-long repentance. And Furtwangler has had to resign from all his positions: he will presumably be more or less compelled to leave Germany.

Similarly the campaign against the Jews is being taken up with more thoroughness than before, and is being extended to all classes of art.

These matters may be regarded as a practical attempt to carry into effect the ideology of which Rosenberg is the chief exponent. Officially, the organizations of the party have nothing to do with religious questions, and facilities are afforded to everyone to attend his or her religious service. But the tendency is of course to suggest that religious convictions are merely a harmless eccentricity, which do not matter to sensible and patriotic people, and I have not the slightest doubt that the atmosphere of the Hitler Youth is the worst possible for Catholics or believing Protestants. It is not compulsory to read Rosenberg's 'Myth of the XXth Century', now on the Index, but it is studied by the whole organization as a gospel second only to Hitler's 'Mein Kampf', and its fantastic libels on the Catholic Church are no doubt accepted absolutely by its readers, especially as criticisms of it are not sold in public, though not actually prohibited. A considerable number of the Catholic Youth associations have gone over to the Hitlerjugend, though how many cannot be known.

In the Protestant Church the whole position is mysterious, and as nothing is allowed to be published, I have no clear idea. But undoubtedly the idea of some kind of German National Church, without dogma but with a vague agnosticism under a veneer of German sentiment, has very many supporters. Whether this will be carried out through the ￿German Christians' or as a new body is not clear.

I am convinced that after the Saar plebiscite4 is over there will be a strong move in this direction, and that it will be directed officially or unofficially against the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Confessional Church. If the negotiations over the Concordat break down, as they probably will on the question of the education of the youth, it will give an opportunity to the regime. At the same time, it is obvious that the Vatican cannot do anything before the plebiscite, as its action would certainly be represented as intended to injure German prospects in the Saar, and its repercussions on German Catholics would be very dangerous to the interests of the Church in Germany.

At the same time, the German Government, while willing to go a long way with its extremists in cultural matters, has shown quite clearly that it is not prepared to run any financial or economic risks for the sake of their theories. Dr Schacht5 appears to be assuming a position of more and more importance in the whole economic life of Germany, in spite of the fact that he was never a member of the National Socialist party, and only acted in harmony with it on certain occasions in the last years. Gottfried Feder, the official economist of the Party and member since 1923, has had to retire from his position on account of differences with Dr Schacht. His panacea for German financial troubles was a note issue based on the work done; i.e., workmen constructing a bridge were paid in notes the backing of which was the bridge in question. I do not understand the system, which I am told has resemblances to the Douglas Credit system, but it is clear that the German Government is going to run no risks of inflation or any other form of unsound finance.

As regards foreign states, the attitude of the German Government is one of waiting events. It is confidently expected that the Saar plebiscite will result in a large majority for Germany, and it is presumed that the price fixed will be paid as arranged, and that thus the main cause of difference between France and Germany will be removed. In the meantime, of course, Germany is rearming, but at what rate no one can know. I hear that workmen have been imprisoned for stating in public the particular kind of work on which they were engaged. But this is of course no proof that the German Government is meditating a war, as suggested by interested publicists in the foreign press. It may be the fact, but if so, either German rearmament has progressed to an extent which is not believed by any responsible observer or the German Government are afflicted with sheer madness. My personal belief is that Germany is quite aware that for years, perhaps generations, to come she will be incapable of waging a war with any chance of success, and will therefore do everything to consolidate her position economically and politically while keeping the peace.

[signed] C. Bewley

1 Not printed.

2 This paragraph has been highlighted by a line drawn down the left hand margin.

3 Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945), head of the Schutzstaffel (S.S.) (1929), founder of the Gestapo, chief of German Police (1936), German Minister of the Interior (1943-45).

4 In 1920 the Saarland became an autonomous territory (administered by France under League of Nations supervision) under the Treaty of Versailles (1919), pending a plebiscite to determine its final status. In a plebiscite held on 13 January 1935, 90% of the population voted in favour of integration into and rule by Germany.

5 Hjalmar Schacht (1877-1970), head of the Reichsbank (1933-39), German Minister for Economic Affairs (1935-37).