311 Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs, to Mr F. Strahan, Secretary of Prime Minister's Department

Memorandum 28 October 1938,

In regard to the letter of 21st October [1]' from the Consul- General of Germany on the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, I feel that there are several recent features in connection with the German agitation for the return of colonies to which the attention of the Prime Minister should be drawn.

As you know there has been of recent months an intensification of this campaign. There is at present in Australia the chief propaganda agent and close personal friend of Dr Goebbels, Minister for Propaganda in Germany, namely Mr Schwartz von Berk.

Von Berk is late Editor-in-Chief of'Der Angriff', Dr Goebbels' own newspaper, and he is at present making a tour of the British Colonies and Mandates with a view to looking into the system and methods of administration and to sound public feeling on the question of the return of the Mandates to Germany.. He makes no secret of this. He and the Consul-General of Germany visited Canberra last week, and they openly approached Ministers and officials as to their views.

Two years ago, Dr Asmis definitely informed me that Germany would make no demand for New Guinea, but last week he informed me in a personal conversation that they were determined to get all of them including New Guinea, and let slip the fact that on his visit to Germany a year ago he had instructions to put this point of view.

Further, I am under the impression that he has reported erroneously to his Government as to the attitude of mind of the Australian people to this question. For example, he is absolutely convinced in his own mind that, in the cause of general appeasement and to prevent a war, Australia, having no real interest in New Guinea, would willingly surrender it. I ventured the opinion to him that such an interpretation did not reflect public opinion. I feel that if he reports, as he undoubtedly does, his own personal views of public opinion an this question, we may in the near future be faced with a very definite demand for the return of German New Guinea. In view of this I feel that an unequivocal and firm reply should be made to his letter, so that he can be in no possible doubt as to the view of the Commonwealth Government on this question.

I might also add that the Commonwealth Government very early made a definite statement, namely, that of Sir George Pearce [2] in the Senate on 13th March, 1936, when this question was first mooted.

This statement did an immense amount of good, because it was the first definite statement to be made by any member of the British Commonwealth, and from that time Germany only spoke of the return of African colonial territory. Thus, I feel it most essential that the German Government should not be allowed to think that the Commonwealth Government is in any way prepared to change its attitude, or even to indicate that it might be prepared to negotiate on the question.


1 The letter, from Dr R. Asmis to the Prime Minister J A. Lyons, was actually dated 24 October 1938. See Document 303.

2 Then Minister for External Affairs. See Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 149, PP. 119-23.

[AA : A981, GERMANY 22, iii]