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

No. 3047

Sir: In recent reports we have endeavored to give the Department contemporary outline of Germany’s position in the complex state of affairs which has enveloped Europe during the past few months, with special reference to the conflict in Spain and the German campaign against Bolshevism. As Germany’s further moves on this checkerboard of events will be governed to some extent by her confidence in her own unity and strength, it may be of interest to the Department to have a few observations on the state of feeling among the German people toward a possible armed conflict.

To review oft-repeated questions: What would be the reaction of the German people to a declaration of war by the German Government? Would not the loyalty of the Reichswehr be doubtful? Would not the population, mindful of the horrors and privations of the last war and of Hitler’s frequent pledges of peace, rise up in revolt? Would not the thousands of irreconcilable Communists and Socialists, not to mention the remnants of Röhm’s SA24 followers and the embittered Nationalists, welcome the opportunity to settle old scores? Might not civil war ensue?

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Two years ago many observers would have been inclined to answer these queries in the affirmative. The Reichswehr was then in a state of reorganization, and there was strong friction between the militarists of the old school and the strutting SA and other Party groups; the St. Bartholomew of June 3025 and the ignominious failure of the Austrian Putsch a scant month later26 were still fresh in the minds of the people; the reestablishment of universal military service and the remilitarization of the Rhineland were dreams yet to be realized.

But the situation has changed since then, and a people so susceptible to the influence of mass suggestion is apt, under the spell of alluring promises held out by clever propagandists, to forget the less pleasant events in its existence. And here the resourcefulness of a marvellously organized Ministry of Propaganda has been of indisputable value. With absolute control of the press, radio, films and theatre, a systematic campaign of propaganda was inaugurated to break down the resistance of “doubting Thomases” and to strengthen the enthusiasm of those already converted to the new order. (We need not mention certain other measures of “persuasion” resorted to by groups not having the subtle facilities of the Propaganda Ministry at their disposal.) The workmen were to be endowed with special blessings; class hatreds were no longer to exist, employers and employees were to become a harmonious brotherhood; wages could not be increased until unemployment was reduced, but the workers were to receive other benefits of a finer nature. And this was done. Under the joint direction of the Labor Front and the Propaganda Ministry, tours and excursions were organized for the workers, whole fleets of ships and omnibuses being maintained by the Kraft Durch Freude organization for this purpose. Thus, workers who never before had set foot upon a vessel more pretentious than the small excursion craft plying the lakes around Berlin, were taken, for a small sum, on voyages to Madeira, Portugal and the Northland Fjords on modern liners with all comforts and conveniences. Special theatres were established for the poorer classes, or tickets made available to them at greatly reduced prices for other theatres or the opera; all-day outings, week-end excursions and other forms of recreation and entertainment were provided.

The friction between the Reichswehr and the SA and other semi-military groups was ironed out by making a drastic reduction of the forces of the latter; the feverish activity of rearmament with the attendant stimulation in many branches of industry, the construction of highways and other Government-financed projects furnished jobs for hundreds of thousands. There returned a semblance of prosperity, [Page 151] however artificial; the people again had money to spend; theatres, cafes and restaurants became crowded, the trains filled as not before in years with vacationists traveling to the seashore or the mountains. For a people who had for years been groping in the dark, uncertain of the future, a new dawn had awakened. This was existence as Hitler had promised it; this was the New Reich that would grow even stronger and more invincible under the guidance of a Fuehrer who had had the courage to scrap the Treaty of Versailles and to restore to his adopted country the sovereignty which was its due.

In all this the Ministry of Propaganda played an important part. With steam-roller effectiveness, its activities reached out into every corner of the Reich, into every walk of life. The German press, radio, films and theatre were placed under its direct control and subjected to its instructions; foreign newspapers, if too literal in their views of German affairs, were immediately banned; foreign films were rigidly censored. The German radio, the Ministry’s most effective medium of propaganda, was taken in hand and so carefully nourished that it now has—according to published statistics—seven million subscribers, as against four millions in 1932. This could not fail to have effect.

Of course there is still discontent. The price of living has increased, whereas wages have not; periodic scarcities of meats, butter and eggs have brought on grumbling; many small shopkeepers have been forced out of business because of increased taxation and Party levies; and the Communists’ underground work has not been completely stamped out. But this sort of opposition can never become effective as long as it is not organized; and the secret police do not tolerate attempts in this direction. Serious economic disturbances, with increasing sacrifices on the part of the people, would aggravate this discontent and might even lead to attempts at open resistance, such as strikes or plundering of shops. The experience of June 30, 1934, however, causes one to believe that such resistance would be short-lived.

In order to sum up the attitude of the German people to a contingency such as that mentioned at the beginning of this despatch, certain additional factors should not be overlooked.

The psychology of the German people, which adapts them admirably to organization and, by virtue of the same reason, to follow without hesitation a leader strong enough to dominate them.
The vital personality of Hitler, supported by his actual achievements and the halo of mysticism built up around him by Goebbels and other leaders.
An inherent love of militarism and the glorification of military deeds, revived by Nazi propagandists and cleverly stimulated by the spectre of foreign invasion. Any doubt of this spirit may be removed [Page 152] by observing a twelve-year-old Hitler Youth issuing commands to his squadron.
Room for expansion and need of colonies; dreams of a Mittel Europa. An issue regarded by most Germans as inevitable and justified on the grounds of economic necessity and the invalidity of the Versailles Treaty. We have seen—and the German people have seen—the impotency of the League of Nations or any other force to hinder Japan’s annexation of Manchukuo or Italy’s conquest of Abyssinia.

If a conclusion may be based upon these observations, it seems safe to assume that Hitler, for the present at least, can count upon the support of an overwhelming majority of the German people in any venture he might undertake, whether it be one of outright conquest or one cloaked in the guise of repelling an invader.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd