Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Moffat)

Dr. Leitner63 asked me to lunch with him today and naturally brought up the subject of Germany’s recently announced intention to re-establish conscription, to create armed air force, et cetera. He said that as he diagnosed it, this move was an answer (a) to recent increases by France and Britain of the military establishments, and (b) to the reproaches which had been leveled against Germany for the past year that she was rearming in spite of the treaty. Leitner pointed out (somewhat inexactly) that what Germany was doing followed in large measure the tenor of her note of March 1934.64 This note, he said, had never been controverted by either the British or the Italians, which he felt gave it a certain moral force.

Dr. Leitner then reverted to the usual German thesis and said that Germany could not remain disarmed while all her neighbors were heavily armed. I asked whether Germany felt that any of her neighbors had aggressive tendencies. He replied “why else should they be armed?” I told him that I had lived enough in Europe to know that there was real fear of Germany’s intentions to expand or at least to alter the status quo. He answered that there was no official pronouncement to that effect on record. I told him that the failure of the German Government to accept the Eastern Frontiers or the status quo in Austria, coupled with some of the chapters in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, had been responsible for this feeling. [Page 315] It was not my business to argue with him the rights or the wrongs of Germany’s action but I wished I could feel that it would ease the situation rather than make it more complicated. Dr. Leitner replied that he could not see it in that light and felt that it would certainly ease the situation. As far as Austria was concerned, Germany considered it an internal problem and he remarked that if a group within Austria should develop the same philosophy as Germany’s, it should concern nobody but Austria and Germany.

Dr. Leitner again complained of the American press which he felt was far from objective. He thought that the Associated Press despatches were fair as well as one or two papers such as the Christian Science Monitor. On the whole, he felt that the American press was biased and gave the anti-German point of view whenever possible.

Pierrepont Moffat
  1. Rudolf Leitner, Counselor of the German Embassy.
  2. See British Cmd. 4559 (1934): Further Memoranda on Disarmament, February 14 to April 17, 1934, p. 7.