862.00 P. R./173

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

No. 1876

Sir: I have the honor to report that since the writing of the Embassy’s last Fortnightly Report, despatch No. 1832 of March 8, 1935,65 the event of greatest importance internally as well as from the standpoint of foreign relations has been the re-introduction of general military service.

The decision was announced in the late afternoon of Saturday, March 16, with a suddenness which seemed to stun the population at first, but Dr. Goebbels’ reading of the proclamation in the Sport Palast that same evening touched off a train of enthusiasm which has evidently left the people little time for reflection. This spirit gained in force through the Memorial Day exercises of the following Sunday, the aerial defense maneuvers of Tuesday and Wednesday, and has continued over into the period of the conversations with the British Ministers. When these are finished and affairs are likely once more to lapse back to normal, the new law will have become an accepted fact.

It is only natural that such a fundamentally important step should dominate every sphere of activity in the brief period following its announcement. It has been noted that in certain parts of the country instructions have been issued to teachers on how to interpret the new law, as well as the historical significance of the ending of the Versailles “Dictate,” to their students. Speakers who have taken part in the commemoration of the “Potsdam Day,” when the first National Socialist [Page 316] Reichstag met on March 21, 1933, have all given primary attention to the new decision, however varied the subjects they were supposed to be dealing with. General von Blomberg has made use of the prominence into which he has been thrown as Reichswehr Minister, to give interviews to the press, address an appeal to the youth of the country, thank the population for its response to the decree, and inform it that a special postal account has been opened for voluntary contributions for the building up of the army.

The re-introduction of military service is likely to have far-reaching effects upon German life. In the first place it may eventually entail modifications in such party organs as the S.A., the S.S., and the Labor Service, although for the present at least, in the absence to date of the regulations which will put conscription into effect, no steps have apparently been taken in this direction but on the contrary, a decree has been issued stating that present assignments to the Labor Service are to remain unchanged. More important still is the strengthening of the conservative forces in the State which may possibly result from the increased influence of the Reichswehr and the fact that the youth of the country will pass through its hands for certain periods. Whether or not this will be accomplished at the expense of National Socialist ideology remains to be seen. As matters stand at present this would appear to be the natural result. Under the existing system it seems that recruits are given a certain fundamental education which notably fails to include teaching in National Socialist doctrine, and it is known that in the comparatively few cases where S.A. and S.S. men have been taken into the Reichswehr, these men have not had a particularly happy time. In officers’ gatherings, moreover, while loyalty to Hitler as the Führer is openly emphasized, it is understood that all mention of National Socialism is usually omitted.

It is inconceivable on the other hand that the Führer will allow his cherished ideas of National Socialist proselytism to go by the board. Nazi teaching of the youth is likely to continue as heretofore by virtue of the fact that service in the Hitler Jugend will probably remain, but the point of primary interest will be what mental adjustments, if any, the youth will be called upon to make upon entering the army. Possibly in practice a modus vivendi may be worked out between army and party leaders, and it may be of some significance, as a sign that the army may be preparing to yield in some measure, that high officers have lately taken to frequenting lectures delivered by such party prophets as Rosenberg66 and Goebbels. It is conceivable nevertheless that some of the Reichswehr’s present conservatism is likely to remain and, transformed now into a more universal [Page 317] influence, may possibly serve as a check to a more appreciable extent upon party extremism.

Individual events of the past fortnight are discussed under separate headings transmitted as annexes,67 the subjects being listed upon an Attachéd sheet.67

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not printed.
  2. Alfred Rosenberg, editor of Völkischer Beobachter, a Nazi Party publication.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.