The following document provides interesting insights with ‘non-British’ perspectives regarding Germany’s foreign policy in 1936. The observations reported by Irish Envoy Charles Bewley revealed various diplomatic efforts undertaken between the government of the Reich and her neighbours, Poland and Austria, none which gave any indication of a desire or even potential for war, much less an “aggressive” foreign policy. Indeed, according to Bewley, Hitler was willing to shelve matters of dispute for up to 10 years to preserve the peace! As noted in German White Book of foreign policy documents Hitler was generous and willing to make many compromises to avoid war. Hitler himself said from the beginning in 1933 and many times afterwards, that Germany desired peace. And yet, there was war. Why? Because Britain and France, and also America and Russia were inciting the neighbours against Germany, to thwart German efforts for diplomatic resolution to issues which arose out of the Treaty of Versailles, and agitating within those countries to create attitudes and policies that would lead to war, which the allies always desired.
It is interesting to note that the Irish were very friendly towards the Germans and that there was admiration and respect for Hitler and National Socialist Germany, and apparently there was a feeling of kinship in that they both were attempting to resist British interference and bullying. Also, note that this report was filed just a few weeks before the start of the Berlin Olympics (August 1st to 16th, 1936) when Germany was open to the world for inspection, and brimming with joy and a restored sense of national pride and dignity.
Following the document which I quote below, I have added some further background information about the two Irish gentlemen mentioned in it, which offer even further insights into Irish-German relations. I then added information pertaining to the British Ambassador to Berlin in this same time frame, Sir Eric Phipps, the relevance of which I think will become apparent once you read it.
Extract from a confidential report from Charles Bewley (Irish Envoy to Berlin) to Joseph P. Walshe (Secretary of the Department of External Affairs)
No. 351 NAI DFA 19/50A (43/33)
Berlin, 10 July 1936
The main subject of interest in diplomatic circles at the moment is the possibility of an agreement between Germany and Austria which would at once pave the way towards close collaboration in international affairs between Germany and Italy. There are undoubtedly signs of a relaxation of the tension which has existed between Berlin and Vienna since 1933: thus, Austrian athletes are coming to the Olympic Games, and permission to go to Austria is more readily given to Germans who have either relations or business concerns in that country. It is true that for the ordinary tourist the fee of RM. 1000 is still charged by the German Government, but it is anticipated that this may shortly be removed. Propaganda against the Austrian Government does not occupy an important part of the German Press, although the propaganda against a Habsburg restoration is violent. I understand that, presumably owing to the efforts of von Papen, a corresponding charge of heart, or at least of tactics, has taken place also in Vienna.
At the same time, it cannot be denied that the differences between the Governments of Hitler and Schuschnigg are very grave ones, and at first sight it is not easy to see how they could be bridged over. On the one hand, National Socialists in Austria have been encouraged to regard themselves as members of the German people, separated from their fatherland by the Treaty of Versailles. It is very difficult to see how Hitler could come to any agreement which would be tantamount to disowning his own supporters in Austria and denying an integral part of the fundamental theory of National Socialism, namely the unity of all persons of German race. And, on the other hand, it would be equally difficult for Schuschnigg to come to any agreement with Germany which would permit National Socialists to carry on their propaganda unhindered in Austria. The suggestion was made that they should be allowed to continue cultural, though not political, propaganda, but the obvious impossibility of making the distinction caused this particular proposition to break down.
But I think it would be very rash to say that, in spite of the manifest difficulties, any agreement is impossible. Three years ago, before the agreement between Germany and Poland was announced, German, and indeed international, opinion considered a German-Polish rapprochement quite as inconceivable as an Austro-German agreement today. It was thought that Germany could not possibly give up her claim to the Corridor and Upper Silesia. Yet, when Hitler agreed to a ten years’ truce on the basis of the status quo, not a voice in Germany was raised against it. After this proof of his being able, in the classic phrase, to ‘deliver the goods’, I do not consider it at all inconceivable that he might agree to discontinue all political activity in Austria for 10 years in consideration of an undertaking that during that period there should be no restoration of the Habsburg monarchy. His real gain would of course be that in the event of a European War he could count, as France could in 1914, on a friendly Italy.
This is of course only one suggestion as to a possible basis of accord between Germany and Austria, and hence between Germany and Italy: There are no doubt many other possible bases. The Austrian Minister here denies that any agreement has been come to, but the very form of this denial appears to confirm the rumours that the matter is being discussed. In Italian circles it is hinted that some such agreement is quite within the bounds of possibility.
It is rumoured, so far as I can gather on good authority, that the German Foreign Office proposes to answer the English questionnaire*, but probably in a general form without entering into the particulars requested. It is not anticipated that an answer will be given to the inquiry what distinction the Chancellor makes between the German Reich and the German people – an inquiry which has become particularly relevant owing to the claim by the President of the Danzig Senate to speak in the name of the German people. [* explained in additional background info below]
As regards Danzig, the prevailing opinion, with which I entirely agree, is that there will be no attempt at direct annexation and no alteration of the Constitution, but that the Senate will carry out a National Socialist policy in its internal affairs, completely ignoring the High Commissioner and the League of Nations, but scrupulously regarding the rights of Poland. The position will then be that the League of Nations could only interfere by actual physical intervention, which it would never venture to do. The plan appears to have been very cleverly calculated, and will certainly present great difficulties to the League. The only possible flaw in the German calculation would be in the event that Poland was dissatisfied, but there appears to be every ground for thinking that the Polish Government, provided that Polish rights are not infringed, will bear with equanimity the suppression of the German Opposition. Particularly at a time when Communism is attempting to become active in Poland, and with the example of France and Spain before its eyes, it is, to say the least, unlikely that the Polish Government will without very grave reasons quarrel with the power which seems its best protector against Bolshevik Russia.
Extracts from Wikipedia:
Charles Henry Bewley (July 12, 1888, Dublin – 1969, Rome) was the Irish Envoy to Berlin. He went to Berlin in July 1933. President of Germany, Hindenburg, praised his impeccable German. His reports from Berlin enthusiastically praised National Socialism and Chancellor Hitler.
He gave interviews to German papers, which were anti-British. In Berlin he annoyed the British embassy. He ignored the King’s jubilee celebrations in 1935.
Bewley was the “Irish Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary” in Berlin in the crucial years from 1933 to 1939.
Reading his reports to Dublin during the 1930s gives the impression that German Jews were not threatened; that they were involved in pornography, abortion and “the international white slave traffic”.
This was also the man responsible for processing visa applications from Jews wishing to leave Germany for Ireland. He explained the Nuremberg Laws “As the Chancellor pointed out, it amounts to the making of the Jews into a national minority; and as they themselves claim to be a separate race, they should have nothing to complain of.
“He reports that he had no knowledge of any “deliberate cruelty on the part of the [German] Government … towards the Jews”.
He criticised Irish refugee policy as “inordinately liberal, and facilitating the entry of the wrong class of people” (meaning Jews).
The Irish legation in Berlin consisted of two people, Bewley and a German secretary called Frau Kamberg. This German lady appeared more concerned than Bewley. Fewer than a hundred Jews obtained Irish visas between 1933 and 1939.
Joseph (Joe) Walshe (2 October 1886 Killenaule, County Tipperary, Ireland – 6 February 1956 Cairo, Egypt) was an Irish civil servant. As Secretary of the Department of External Affairs of the Irish Free State from 1923–46, he was the department’s most senior official.
During World War II, he was viewed as being pro-German by outside observers, especially in the United Kingdom. In June 1940, he met with Eduard Hempel, the German Minister to Ireland. According to Hempel’s report back to Berlin:
“The conversation, in which Walshe expressed great admiration for the German achievements, went off in a friendly way … (Walshe) remarked that he hoped that the statement of the Leader in his interview with Weygand respecting his absence of intention to destroy the British Empire, did not mean the abandonment of Ireland.”
On May 2, 1945, he and Taoiseach Éamon de Valera visited Hempel at home in Dún Laoghaire to express the Irish Government’s official condolences on the suicide of Adolf Hitler.
He retired to Rome and died in Cairo on the 6th February 1956.
* The “Questionaire”
Sir Eric Clare Edmund Phipps, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC (27 October 1875 – 13 August 1945) was a British diplomat, and the brother-in law, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Robert Vansittart.
In 1933 he was appointed British Ambassador to Germany. In his despatches whilst ambassador in Berlin, he warned the British Government about the character of Adolf Hitler’s régime.
On 31 January 1934, Phipps wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon: [Hitler’s] policy is simple and straightforward. If his neighbours allow him, he will become strong by the simplest and most direct methods. There mere fact that he is making himself unpopular abroad will not deter him, for, as he said in a recent speech, it is better to be respected and feared than to be weak and liked. If he finds that he arouses no real opposition, the tempo of his advance will increase. On the other hand, if he is vigorously opposed, he is unlikely at this stage to risk a break.
Phipps gave a further warning to Simon on 1 April 1935: Let us hope our pacifists at home may at length realise that the rapidly-growing monster of German militarism will not be placated by mere cooings, but will only be restrained from recourse to its ultima ratio by the knowledge that the Powers who desire peace are also strong enough to enforce it.
During his first year in Berlin, Phipps managed to see Hitler only four times. Phipps himself regarded Hitler as something of a cipher, who was variously described in his dispatches back to London as more moderate than his followers or as possibly mad.
In May 1936, Phipps presented to Hitler the famous “questionnaire”, largely written by his brother-in law, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Robert Vansittart, that asked point-blank if Germany intended “to respect the existing territorial and political status of Europe”, and was willing to sign “genuine treaties”. Neither Hitler nor any other German leader ever responded to the “questionnaire”.
In 1937, Phipps was transferred to Paris as British Ambassador to France. During his time in Paris, Phipps strongly identified himself with French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet, and most of his dispatches to London reflected Bonnet’s influence.
On 24 September 1938, at the height of the great crisis over Czechoslovakia that was to culminate in the Munich Agreement, Phipps reported back to London “all that is best in France is against war, almost at any price”, being opposed only by a “small, but noisy and corrupt, war group”. Phipps’s extremely negative assessment of the willingness and/or ability of France to go to war with Germany in 1938 created major doubts in London about the value of France as an ally.
Obviously the Germans considered Vansittart’s “questionnaire” a deliberate, rude and arrogant provocation, not worthy of an official response Please see my previous post about him:
Apparently there was more to the report than what was posted on the Irish DIFP site, but I have no idea as to what they omitted, nor why they would omit it.
My sincere thanks to Christopher in Ireland who discovered the aforementioned Irish Foreign Affairs report and who kindly alerted me to it.