The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Secretary of State

No. 1465

Sir: I have the honor to recall that during the past year the expression of discontent of a considerable but, of course, indeterminate part of the population with the existing Government seems to have ebbed and flowed at different periods. There was a marked crescendo about the time when von Papen made his Marburg speech and prior to the events of June 30, 1934 (see despatch No. 962 of June 26, and telegram 121 of June 27, 11 a.m.46). After the terrorist measures of June 30, the expressions of discontent became much more guarded even if they increased in bitterness.

I now have the impression that criticism is again becoming more outspoken. This may partly be attributed to the increasing severity of the Government’s economic policy but also to the unsuccessful [Page 252] resistance of the Protestants against the attempt of the Government to dragoon their Church.

Thus, I was advised recently by a well informed intellectual that this Protestant resistance should by no means be considered a purely confessional affair. It was, he said, also largely an expression of disapproval against the present state of affairs. I believe this view to be correct. My informant also claimed that the leading men in the universities who had maintained a cowardly silence during all last year were now beginning to find themselves again. Evidence of this may perhaps be seen in a recent meeting of German philologists and teachers at Trier, at which one professor openly opposed the prevailing theories as to Charlemagne.

While there is no doubt that there is widespread dissatisfaction among the more thinking classes, it is a question as to how far it penetrates the whole population. Peasants have for several months been reported to be displeased with the control of prices, with the arrangement for hereditary farms, and with foreign competition in certain products. The Consul in Dresden recently wrote that there is considerable dissatisfaction among the industrial working population of Saxony. The Saxon workingmen have had a reputation as radicals since the war and some of the Saxon industries have been especially hard hit by the present crisis.

Experience shows, however, that reports of discontent must be evaluated with great caution. It is not that the discontent does not exist, but that it is difficult to attribute to it any definite practical significance.

Even as in the case of Russia there have been for years all manner of prophecies that the Soviet Government would come to a speedy end, none of which have been realized, so, in Germany, notwithstanding the more or less confidential mutterings of countless pessimists it is impossible to predict any change.

The economic disaster, for which Germany is presumably headed, is not yet upon us, and until the population has been well penetrated by its effects, the ferment of discontent will probably remain below boiling point. Purely political dissatisfaction does not seem to polarize about any center with the possible exception of the limited sphere of church administration.

One does not see what group is ready to take the place of the existing government. People speak of a dictatorship of the Reichswehr, but the Reichswehr is probably among the least discontented of the elements of the population. Officially it is held in the highest esteem and the population and resources of the country are being regimented as though for the professional requirements of that organization. Also the Reichswehr has not of late years been addicted to participating in politics, if it can avoid doing so.

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Neither are the evolutionary effects of the present ferment to be confidently predicted. The property holding classes are afraid of the socialistic effects of increasing government regulations; probably the radical wing of the Party are afraid of reaction.

The following sentence from my despatch No. 962, above-mentioned, still seems to apply: “There is no doubt, however, that there is a profound feeling of discontent and apprehension prevalent throughout the country and that a trend to the Left may well occur if economic conditions do not improve.”

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Telegram No. 121 not printed.