740.0011 European War 1939/16982: Telegram

The Chargé at Tangier (Childs) to the Secretary of State

374. Following is a composite summary of conversations being reported in detail by despatch with 6 of the highest officials in Rabat, with 5 of whom I am on fairly intimate terms and who spoke with even more than their customary freedom. My conversation with the Resident General is being reported separately.

No police powers have been given the members of the German Armistice Commission in Morocco. The facts are substantially as reported by Murphy (see Algiers 606, November 26, noon). The appearance of so many Germans in uniform no doubt gave rise to the rumor of the landing of 50 additional Germans at the airdrome in Casablanca as reported in Casablanca’s 642, November 23 [22], 10 a.m.41 The most categoric denial was made of this last report.
Noguès was to meet Orgaz42 November 29 and to lunch with latter at Larache but was prevented by illness. The meeting was a return of that of last July (see Legation’s telegram 348, November 12, 4 p.m.41) and matters relating to the feeding of Tangier were the principal items on the agenda.
There is a general desire that the economic accord should go on. It is pointed out that the termination of this accord would throw Morocco into the economic arms of Germany. The furnishing of cotton goods for the use of the natives can not assist Germany indirectly. One official welcomed the temporary suspension of the accord as affording the French the opportunity to press Germany to [Page 487]supply Morocco and thus to prove to Germany that no other means exist for keeping Morocco going economically than by maintaining relations with the United States. Another official suggested that so long as Germany is short of men it cannot spare either the men or material for the policing of Morocco and North Africa now being done by French troops and that it is in the present interest of Germany not to do anything that will disturb the existing arrangement. I heard through a third party that Auer, new German Consul General in Casablanca, had stated to a French official that Germany desired nothing more than to preserve the status quo in Morocco.
The view expressed that one could only consider it little short of a miracle that France had been left as long as she had in undisturbed possession of North Africa. (This was the view expressed by me to the British Consul General in Tangier last week.)
It is in our interest to do everything possible to maintain French contact in North Africa. When the statement was made that one of the fundamental considerations to us in solving the North African problem was that of avoiding doing anything that might assist Hitler, an official stated that the Protectorate authorities would give any practical guarantees not touching Morocco’s sovereignty; that nothing produced in Morocco went to Germany which was the result of American economic aid. The further suggestion was made that our aid be if necessary placed on a shorter term basis.
Great gratification was expressed with our decision to suspend licenses for petroleum shipments to Spanish Morocco and Tangier, the reduction of such stocks lessened the possibility of Spanish pressure on French Morocco.
If the economic aid is to go on, and no one sees anything but economic collapse and native troubles otherwise, stress was laid by all on the necessity for greater prudence and discretion in all discussions and comments relating to the accord (see my telegram 373, December 1, 11 a.m.). Some time ago I told a British journalist in Tangier he could render Noguès no greater disservice than to praise him or to leave the slightest suggestion that he was anti-German and pro-Ally. This holds true for American journalists and American radio broadcasts, I was told.
The policy of the Marshal was interpreted as that of making concessions of subsidiary importance to protect what he regarded as more important French interest. With the means at France’s disposal and the inhuman means of pressure available to Germany (see Legation’s telegram 215, June 14, 194143) no other method than that of bargaining and of giving way step by step to better protect one’s retreat [Page 488]is available. When I asked where the limits of retreat were, the answer was made that this was impossible to determine. I asked if the French were prepared to abandon North Africa and the fleet to German pressure. The answer was that the Marshal’s policy was directed to preserve North Africa, and that the Germans would never be able to compel the use of the fleet by their side. Some naval officials might will it but the fleet would not sail.
Weygand’s dismissal has had a profound effect on public opinion in Morocco and has opened the eyes of many French waverers who have been touched to the quick by the offense to French amour-propre. It has greatly strengthened French sentiment against Germany including even the Legion and other organizations of anti-democratic tinge.
The situation may be summed up as extremely fluid. The greatest hopes are centered on a British victory in Libya and officials who first make it clear that they are not Communist fairly gloat over Russian resistance. I do not think I have ever found the feeling in Rabat so pronouncedly anti-German nor have I found at the same time such uncertainty as to the future.
Neither Noguès nor any other French official in North Africa, I was assured, would take the lead in offering any resistance. The impression given was that the French have not the means and have not the will to offer any other than passive resistance to the Germans but one thing seemed certain, that this spirit of passive resistance is growing.

Repeated Vichy; courier to Algiers and Casablanca.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Gen. Luis Orgaz, High Commissioner of the Spanish Zone of Morocco.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Ante, p. 377.