No. 81 NAI DFA 219/4

Confidential report from William Warnock to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 2 December 1939

The news of the Russian advance into Finnish territory was not revealed to the German public until quite late on the 30th November, and even then it was reported as if the matter was not serious, and as if there were still a good chance of a peaceful settlement. The news bulletins gave full reports of Molotov's1 broadcast speech after the breaking off of diplomatic relations, and emphasised the passages in which he hinted that the Western Democracies had been endeavouring to stiffen the Finnish attitude. The offer by President Roosevelt of mediation by the United States was not reported at all until this morning, and then only in an obscure place in the newspapers. Military operations were scarcely mentioned, except that Russian aeroplanes had flown over Helsinki and Viborg, and had dropped 'some bombs on military objects'.

Several people to whom I have spoken, and who know the real state of affairs, have expressed their disgust at the Russian action. Relations between Germany and Finland have hitherto been exceptionally friendly, particularly before the conclusion of the Russo-German Pact. The Olympic Games were to have been held in Helsinki next year, and thousands of Germans hoped to go there for a week or so during the Games.

The official attitude will doubtless be that Finland lies within the Russian sphere of influence, that Russia cannot endure provocation on this important stretch of frontier, that Britain and France have been looking for another Poland, and that in any case the dispute concerns no one but Russia and Finland. The public will possibly sympathise with their old friends, but at the moment I do not think that the Government will be much affected by this – unless the Russians attempt to spread out further than Finland, into either Norway or Sweden; in that case even the most plausibly-tongued expert of the Propaganda Ministry will be hard put to it if he wishes to explain that the Russians are Germany's friends, and that they will not do anything at all which might harm Germany's interests.

I have often referred to the people's pride in the Navy. The Navy's popularity has been still further enhanced this week by the report that Lieutenant-Commander (Kapitanleutnant) Prien, whose submarine entered Scapa Flow and torpedoed the 'Royal Oak' at her anchorage, claims to have sunk a cruiser of the 'London' class. The British deny the claim. Mr. Winston Churchill, however, has been found wrong so many times that nobody here gives the slightest credence to communiqués issued by the British Admiralty. About once a week Mr. Churchill announces that the German submarine danger has now been overcome, and on the next day the U-boats come into the news again. Lieutenant-Commander Prien, who certainly seems to be a gallant and capable officer, has become a national hero.

The press reports that we are going to establish a small fleet of motor-torpedo-boats and armed cutters to defend our coasts. It is pointed out that the great activity at sea of the belligerents has compelled us to this step. The wireless adds a report that the boats will be assisted by aeroplanes in their watch. Our preparations are taken to mean that we doubt the ability of the British to keep even the seas around their own coast clear.

The newspapers this morning carry reports that German women and children have been interned under inhuman conditions in the British Colony of Southern Rhodesia, whose Governor, Sir Herbert Stanley,2 is said to be a Jew. As a reprisal for this, British women in Berlin, who were until now allowed to remain at liberty, have been arrested. Some at least were released again soon after detention, though I know that others are still in custody.

Newspaper cuttings referring to Ireland are enclosed.

[signed] W. Warnock

1 Vyacheslav Mickhaylovich Molotov (1890-1986), Russian Foreign Minister (1939-49).

2 Sir Herbert Stanley (1872-1955), Governor of Rhodesia (1935-40).

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