740.0011 European War 1939/9941: Telegram

The Chargé in Germany (Morris) to the Secretary of State

1423. My 1368 [1360], April 9, 5 p.m.62 I feel impelled to report that following German successes in the Balkans there is a revival and increase of belief here that Germany will shortly attack Russia. Although no good authority is cited for this report and many of those who believe it profess inability to perceive the logic of such action at this precise time, it is nevertheless firmly believed by many Germans including officials and by members of the Diplomatic Corps. May is the month usually assigned for the action and there are now appearing corollary rumors that it will be accompanied by a revolution in Moscow.

In only one case known to the Embassy has an informant stated that his information came from Hitler himself (see my No. 1239, of April 2, 8 p.m.) and in this instance no date was set for the action which was only threatened in case Russia failed to come to terms with Japan. Several Germans believed to be sincere who have frequently furnished reliable information insist that an invasion of Russia has been definitely decided upon but they do not claim that their information in this instance comes from any high authoritative sources.

Apart from these informants there is the fact that Germany has in the last months been steadily increasing its forces along the Russian frontier. But this fact and the rumors themselves are explainable as a deliberate attempt on Germany’s part to arouse the apprehension [Page 140] of Russia and make it more amenable to Axis demands for supplies and for a cessation of its attitude of opposition and threat to the third partner, Japan.

Opponents of the theory of an early German attack on Russia, while expressing the belief that Germany would eventually attack Russia, insist that to do so now would establish a war on two fronts and detract from, if indeed not entirely destroy, Germany’s ability to invade or disable England which would be the only operation which might bring an early end of the war. They characterize the rumors as deliberately planted either to impress Russia or to detract [distract] attention from possible German large-scale military action to drive Britain from the Mediterranean.

Apart from the probably authentic information transmitted in my 1239 the best justification of the reports I have heard was given by the former Lithuanian Minister here63 who recently asserted to me that his belief was not derived from wishful thinking but was based on numerous indications he had received. The only thing which might prevent Germany’s taking such action he claimed would be a Soviet agreement to admit large numbers of German experts with adequate authority to organize Russian oil and agricultural production and transportation for German use, which Russia would never in fact permit. Germany he asserted had given up hope of invading England (a statement which is repeated by various Germans) and had little belief that its Atlantic operations would be finally successful in preventing an intensification of the British blockade and mastery of the seas. Neither had Hitler hopes of being able to make a compromise peace at this time.

His only recourse therefore was to enlarge Germany’s economic base for a defensive war and destroy the possibilities of Russian military growth. Hitler could not wait for it would take a considerable period to restore the Russian economy to the position it occupied in Czarist times of being a principal grain supplier of Europe, a role largely taken over by South America in recent years. European food reserves were steadily if slowly declining and only immediate steps toward reorganization in the Ukraine could bring an increased food supply in time to prevent hunger and political desperation in many sections of Europe.

In addition to the foregoing “logic” of a German attack on Russia at this time, certain Germans here say that such action is looked on with favor by elements in the High Command who are skeptical of Germany’s ability permanently to subject Western Europe and believe that a victory over the Bolshevik regime might restore Germany to [Page 141] “social standing” among conservative elements in other countries and enable the Reich to make peace.64

Repeated to Moscow.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Kazys Skirpa.
  3. Ambassador Steinbardt reported in some detail from the Soviet Union in telegram No. 805, April 20, 1941 (vol. iv, p. 959), remarks from a German source that an attack on the Soviet Union was not imminent, but that Germany would now adopt “a more severe and disagreeable attitude toward the Soviets than at any time since August 1939.” Several days later, in telegram No. 889, April 30, 1941 (post, p. 879), the Ambassador further set forth his views on the likelihood of war between Germany and the Soviet Union, together with the preparation of plans for the evacuation of the American Embassy from Moscow.

    In report No. 33 of April 22, 1941, from the American Consul at Vienna, Harry E. Carlson, to the Embassy in Berlin, there was enclosed a memorandum describing rumors current in Vienna regarding the worsening state of relations between Germany and the Soviet Union and the possibility of a German attack in the near future. The memorandum then stated that “the only points that stand out and can probably be accepted as actual facts are (1) the evacuation of the civil population and civil administrative authorities from certain areas [especially in the vicinity of Lublin and Radom] in German occupied Poland, and (2) the sending of units of the German army [60 to 80 army divisions] into this area. In addition, mention may also be made thereof, that all Russian deliveries to Germany have apparently ceased. These deliveries included such vitally important commodities as flour, oil, coal and meat, and it may, therefore, not be out of the question that Germany might resort to drastic means to get into its own hands the actual sources of production of these commodities.” (761.62/942)