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Nazi Organisation of Germans Abroad

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Ministry of Information draft notes describing the activities and organisation of Germans abroad, based on a confidential Foreign Office report and other sources, April 1940.

Notes on


The German minorities abroad have been organised on Nazi lines as the spearhead of a pan-German crusade. In most countries there are branches of the Nazi Party, the Labour Front, the Hitler Youth, and the League of German Maidens; many have also the Strength through Joy movement, and some (e.g. Argentina) the Harbour Service, which is, in fact, the Gestapo. In addition, the German Chambers of Commerce, Travel Bureaux and so forth are turned to the service of Nazism: the Travel Bureaux are commonly managed by the local heads of the Auslandsorganisation, the schools (e.g. in Bulgaria) usually serve as party centres, and German business houses are made to contribute generously to the Party’s finances (e.g. South and Central America) and to provide sinecure appointments for Nazi agents (e.g. South Africa, South America).


First of the directing agencies is the Ministry of Propaganda, under Goebbels, which maintains an army of Press correspondents and controls over 300 German newspapers in all parts of the world, besides news agencies, broadcasting stations, travel agencies and the Press and Propaganda Attachés at the German Embassies and Legations. Linked to the Ministry is “Weltdienst”, conducted by Ulrich Fleischhauer, which, printed in eight languages and finding its way into 33 countries and 500 newspapers, exploits Jew baiting in the cause of Nazi Imperialism.

The Foreign Organisation of the Nazi Party, under Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, a German from South Africa, supervises some 30,000 Nazi groups in foreign countries; its importance was shown when its central department was installed within the German Foreign Office in 1937.

The Foreign Organisation of the Labour Front controls a host of vocational groups abroad, and the Foreign Political Office of the Party, under Alfred Rosenberg, is responsible for the activities of a large number of specialist bodies, such as the Nordic Society, and the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question. Rosenberg runs a school in Berlin for the training of Nazi spies, and the Fichte Bund, which specialises in leaflet and pamphlet propaganda, is closely associated with his office.

A similar body is The People’s League for Germanism Abroad, which is concerned particularly with the frontier districts and comprises such subsidiaries as the Sudeten German Aid Society, the Schleswig-Holstein League and so forth. German teachers who take posts abroad are “instructed” in the German Academy at Munich under Professor Karl Haushofer. The so-called Harbour Service, which is the Gestapo abroad, smuggles Nazi literature into foreign countries, spies on the passengers on German ships, and kidnaps Germans who have offended the Nazi Party.

All these organisations are brought together into the Verbindungsstab, consisting of Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Hans Oberindober (Director of Ex-service Men) and Karl Abetz (Director of Hitler Youth), presided over by Hess. They control an army of agents estimated to number 25,000 and are said to have disposed of £21 million in 1937.

(The Colonial Society and the Reichskolonialbund, both directed by Dr. Heinrich Schnee, supplement the labours of the usual Nazi organisations in the former German colonies).


The concentration of the directing agencies in Germany is reflected in many foreign countries by the accommodation under one roof of the diplomatic mission, the offices of the Auslandsorganisation, the Travel Bureau and other bodies. Local leaders of the Auslandsorganisation, when they are not members of the diplomatic or consular mission, are often heads of the local “Travel Bureaü”.

In general, ever since Herr Bohle took over the Auslandsorganisation, and particularly since he received an appointment in the Foreign Office in 1938, relations between it and the diplomatic missions have become increasingly close and the process, of course, was accelerated after Herr von Ribbentrop became Minister for Foreign Affairs. In several cases the ambassador and the head of the local branch of the Auslandsorganisation are housed in the same building. The German Consul-General at Memel held meetings of the organisation in his consulate from time to time. In Yugoslavia the Landesleiter (National Nazi leader) is titular consul-general, doing, however, no consular work. In Lima the situation is similar.

German consular officers have become an essential part of the German party machine. All German nationals are bound by law to register within three months at their consulates on pain of’ a fine of 5-100 reichsmarks, or if the delay is longer and proved to be deliberate, the withdrawal of passports and loss of German citizenship. On registering German subjects are expected to furnish full details about themselves and certain details even about their employers. The dangers of close co-operation between the Auslandsorganisation and consulate are manifest. Not merely is control made simple, but the consul can himself exercise considerable pressure. Besides the withdrawal of passports, he can, for example, refuse a German subject marriage papers.

The Auslandsorganisation is given the full support of the German Ambassadors. In Brazil very considerable resentment was aroused in 1938 by the efforts of the German Ambassador to frighten President Vargas into repealing the anti-Nazi measures which he had decreed. Each side maintained that the attitude of the other was an attempt to interfere in its own internal affairs. On the German side it is, incidentally, exactly the kind of contention which has led to a claim to control the press of Holland and Switzerland, and according to one well-informed source to an actual control of the Danish press after Munich by the German Minister at Copenhagen.

The diplomatic and consular bags are sometimes used for the purposes of the organisation. Subsidies are paid through the German Legation to local German papers, The American Dieckstein Committee set up in 1934 to enquire into Nazi propaganda established definitely that German consuls had engaged in “vicious” propaganda, paying in cash in the hope it would not be traced.

Another direction in which diplomatic authorities have co-operated has been the acquisition by Germans, especially in Central America, of lands and contracts which could scarcely be paid for by the individual Germans concerned, and the movements in these areas of funds from German sources, transferred by means of the German diplomatic and consular bags, are connected with these purchases of land.

In a general way, where uniforms are allowed, the party organisations wear them. In the Argentine there are rallies in military formation with Nazi banners. In Uruguay the Hitler Jugend is said to be armed with service revolvers. Most major branches of the Auslandsorganisation have their own party paper. There are, at least, forty such papers produced abroad, and very many more under Nazi control or influence. Apart from this the members of the Auslandsorganisation abroad are normally expected to celebrate the 30th January, the 1st May, Harvest Festival, the Führer’s birthday and the 9th November – the normal national feast days of Germany – as also in one case at least the pagan festival of the Sonnwendfeier. A Buenos Aires report speaks of “Eintopfsonntage” (compulsory one-course Sunday meals) in the Argentine. Beyond this the activities vary greatly according to countries. In certain countries e.g. the Argentine, a member has the benefit of a local Kraft durch Freude (workmen’s social service) organisation. Members of the Hitler Youth in Belgium are called upon to spend at least six weeks per annum in camp at Munich.

Party courts are primarily courts established for the trial of party offences. They are not universal. It is probably true that in the majority of countries the penalties are not more than expulsion from the party. In countries, however, where Germany is particularly interested in forming “national groups” and in one or two exceptional cases the powers of these courts are wider. They assess the importance of the offence against the interests of Germany and convict, the offender to suitable punishment accordingly – e.g. to boycott. One of the exceptional cases is the Netherlands, where it would appear that no German may file a suit against another in a Netherlands law court, such cases having to be brought before the local party court. (This rule appeared in one of the publications of the local party organisation). In Yugoslavia Germans are encouraged to do the same, but are not forced to do so. In Bulgaria the party court has been reported in one instance to have settled a criminal case.


The expenses incurred in all this activity are probably met in large measure by the Winter Help Collection, only half of which goes to the purpose for which it is advertised. In Sweden, for instance, it is known that the party “centre” is paid for out of such sources. A Buenos Aires informant said that he knew the exact sums extorted from the various German banks and commercial houses to subsidise Nazi propaganda. Money is also sent from Germany. In Estonia the Volksbund der Deutschen in Ausland (or National League of Germans Abroad) is said to give half a million reichsmarks per annum to the various German organisations. It is however, quite impossible to estimate the total sum actually leaving Germany for such purposes including propaganda, but it cannot be less than the equivalent of many million pounds sterling.


(a) Recruitment of German nationals abroad

Every German national leaving Germany is compelled by a decree of the 17th February, 1937, to inscribe himself in a section of the Auslandsorganisation, and in a number of countries this involves an obligation to attend meetings of the German Labour Front or furnish an adequate excuse for failing to do so.

In almost all countries (even in Brazil where the measures taken against the Nazis have been so severe that 17,000 Germans are said to have left for home) a contribution to the Winter Help Collection is expected in accordance with the wealth of the individual concerned; and members of the German Labour Front are expected to keep their eyes open with a view to furnishing the German authorities with any information of an economic or military character which they may chance to obtain.

The steps taken to force a German national to join the organisation in those countries where active membership is compulsory are (with certain exceptions enumerated below) the same as those taken all over the world to blackmail not only German nationals, but also non-German nationals of German stock, and even in certain cases persons with no racial or national German tie, into obedience to the will of the German Party-State. Very many different forms of pressure are adopted by the Nazis in various countries and no single list of these various forms of pressure could be taken as applying to even a majority of States where the Nazi influence is strong; but it can safely be said that the Nazis use all the means which they can devise, not stopping, at murder or the threat of murder to bring about their ends, if they can do so without coming into open conflict with the State whose hospitality they enjoy. Actually, there are comparatively few concrete instances where the pressure has had to be applied, but German nationals, men of German stock and all men who have any considerable dealings with Germans living abroad are so well acquainted with the ways in which pressure may be brought to bear that they seldom dare defy the great machine with the workings of which they are so familiar. The mere threat of reprisals is enough to bring a recalcitrant person to heel, and the essential thing to realise is the methods which may be, and, in the Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay, have been, extensively applied.

If a man offends the Auslandsorganisation or proves himself a bad Nazi or an opponent of Nazism:

(a) He may be subjected to a social and economic boycott by all members of the local party organisations. In countries where the German population is dense this may be very serious. It is especially so in those parts of Europe where strong German minorities exist and in the parts of South America which are centres of German settlement.

(b) His relations in Germany may be threatened with confiscation of their property, or even with imprisonment in concentration camps.

(c) His own property in Germany will be confiscated.

(d) If ever he visits Germany, he will get into trouble for failing to comply with one of the multitudinous regulations with regard to currency restrictions, or some such trumped-up charge. This, of course, applies particularly to areas like Eupen-Malmedy, where the inhabitants are economically closely associated with the neighbouring German town across the frontier.

The penalties of disobedience specifically reserved for German nationals are:-

(i) They may be deprived of diplomatic protection, of their passports and eventually of their nationality.

(ii) If they want to get married, they will he unable to obtain the necessary papers from the consulate.

(iii) They may be deprived of “Devisen”. The German banks appear in this respect to be important elements in the party machine.

(iv) If they are members of a professional body in Germany, they may be struck off the rolls, e.g. an offending architect who was struck off the German Architects’ Society.

Threats such as these are usually sufficient to force compliance with German interests. It must not, however, be forgotten that a moderate measure of active devotion to Hitler entails great advantages which may well attract many to comply. The Germans in all their propaganda concentrate on the youth, but the advantages of sympathy with the Nazis are not confined to the youth alone. Free holidays in Germany, relief under the Winter Help Collection scheme, cheap Kraft durch Freude tours, etc. and in certain cases even direct money payments are all inducements to the doubtful.

(b) Recruitment of foreign nationals of German origin, and others

The system varies according to the Country.

The Germans only seek to exert pressure upon non-German nationals of German origin as such, or on men of Nordic but not of German origin e.g. the Swedes, in countries where they are interested in forming “national groups” with a view to securing for the latter the ultimate political dominion over those countries. Thus compulsion was used in Memel, before its annexation in March 1939, but not, generally speaking, in Lithuania, despite the presence of 30,000 Balts there. It is generally true to say that, where no such opportunity of ultimate dominion by subversive means occurs persons of German origin, but not German nationality, are left in peace, although in small countries exceptions may be made if the interests of the Reich demand it, and attempts are made especially in the northern countries to bring about the Aryanisation of firms doing business with Germany.

Where hopes of dominion in whatever form exist, foreign subjects of German origin are scarcely distinguished by the party agents from Reichsdeutsche. In certain cases it has been reported that even the German consulates have made no distinction between Reichs and Volksdeutsche, i.e. between German nationals and foreign nationals of German race. In Uruguay, for example, it is alleged that even Uruguayans, if of German blood, had to vote for Hitler during the plebiscite over Austria. It is, incidentally, to be noticed that after the Anschluss the plebiscite took place in the Argentine in the German schools, i.e. on Argentine soil, and that passports had to be produced and stamped. In Argentina it is alleged that it is not only men of German origin who are included in the Nazi group, but also a number of men of Dutch, Danish and generally of Nordic blood. A Nazi paper in the Argentine openly stated that “Nazi Germany refuses to recognise the Argentine nationality of sons of Germans born in this country”. In 1937, Herr Bohle, the head of the Auslandsorganisation, is reported as having explained privately to the Germans who attended the Stuttgart Congress that Germany was interested in every man of German blood. Any such persons, he said, acquire German citizenship whenever he liked, and Germans must make that fact known abroad.


Propaganda, espionage, sabotage, ‘fifth column’


One of the most important aspects of the propaganda is the attempt to influence, and, if possible, to control the press. Editors are threatened in the accustomed manner. Moreover, if they print articles hostile to the Nazi regime, all Germans may be forbidden to buy the paper, all German shops forbidden to sell it, and all German firms forbidden to advertise in it. Equally, if a paper is to be bought, strictly non-commercial prices are paid for advertisements. If editors refuse to be bought, they are subjected to a torrent of defamation in the German press. They are represented as being priests of Judah, or as minions of the capitalists of England and France. Other methods of bribery are the supply of paper gratis for a year and free holidays for journalists in Germany. Balkan newspapers have been brought to heel by threats of withholding newsprint supplies. The Deutsches Nachrichten-Buro (the official German News Agency) normally sells news cheaper than any other news agency, and in South America the German Transozean Service provides news free. The news is, of course, deeply tinged with propaganda for the purpose of which special use is made of foreigners. Distinguished foreigners visiting Germany are asked to address a few words on the wireless to their home country about their experiences. It would need immense courage to say anything critical. Foreign journalists having visited Germany are alleged to have been bribed to write glowing accounts of the Third Reich.

German activities are not restricted to the press. Efforts are made to influence foreign youth from birth upwards. In Portugal German nurses work for Portuguese wages – 25s. to 30s. a month. Cases have been reported of the deliberate ousting of British schools by “cut-throat” competition. There are numerous bursaries provided to enable foreign students to visit Germany. German teachers, who are obliged to undergo National Socialist training at Munich, give their services for a very low figure, as do German scoutmasters. In Portugal German teachers working in theory for nothing are paid from Berlin. Literature for schools is sent from Germany. In a wider sphere it is the chief function of the Hamburg Fichte Bund to distribute pamphlets in a variety of languages free, and by the million.

One of the main means of Nazi propaganda has been found to be the film. The Central Tourist Bureau in Berlin issues a special catalogue of propaganda films, mainly of a non-political character, for gratis distribution. In the Argentine talking-film apparatus has, it appears, been provided more or less free. Germany years ago started foreign language propaganda broadcasts.


The numerous arrests and trials of German spies, particularly in the Netherlands in 1939 and 1940, and the investigations in America in 1938 and 1939 into German spy organisations and the German-American Bund, have shown how actively German elements abroad are exploited by the Nazis for espionage purposes.

It is alleged that German employees of non-German firms in the Argentine are liable to he recalled to Germany in order to render to the German authorities reports on the trade secrete of their employers and that Dutch firms generally consider it imprudent to employ Germans on this ground. All leaders of the Belgian branch of the German Labour Front undergo special courses in Germany dealing with political, military and commercial espionage in foreign countries, and it is known that German students in particular are everywhere encouraged to keep their eyes open for information that might be useful to the Reich.


For years before this war Germans were busy buying land and seeking contracts to build harbours in places which might serve as bases for submarines. This is particularly noticeable in the Panama region of Central America and it has been surmised that the intention is to impede British and other shipping passing through the canal in time of war. The mere possession of land is no doubt insufficient for this purpose, but quite apart from the influence they exert upon the various Governments concerned, the Germans have repeatedly imported particularly into the American hemisphere large quantities of arms for purposes unknown. Several of the semi-Nazi organisations in South America are armed with service revolvers, daggers and other weapons.

‘Fifth Column’

The Nazi use of Nazis in Austria and the Sudeten Germans in Czecho-Slovakia for ‘fifth column’ purposes are well-known.

German army documents which fell into the hands of the Polish army during the war gave detailed instructions to the German troops about co-operation with the ‘fifth column’ behind the Polish lines. Detailed information given about identification marks, passwords, and the activities assigned to members of the German minority in Poland, such as preventing the blowing up of bridges and roads by the Poles, guerilla warfare behind the lines and disturbing Polish communications, indicate the elaborate preparation for ‘fifth column’ work.

For ‘fifth column’ purposes a skilfully combined use is made of German nationals abroad, German minorities abroad, and political adventurers of fascist complexion, with their factions, in the foreign country itself, such as, for instance, Van Severen’s Flemish Fascist Dinaso in Belgium, A. Mussert’s National-Socialists in the Netherlands, Szalasi’s Hungariet party in Hungary, the Iron Guard in Rumania, the Grey Shirts in South Africa, the Gold Shirts in Mexico, the Silver Shirts in the USA, the Integralists in Brazil, and so on. The Nazi invasion of Norway showed how a Norwegian Major Quisling and his National-Socialists could be made to play, in line with the activities of local Germans, the part of a Seyss-Inquart, a Henlein or a Förster. The arrest of Dr. Stoyadinovitch in Yugoslavia and measures against A. Mussert’s National-Socialists in Holland have shown that foreign Governments see the real danger of this technique.

[Source: TNA FO 371/24413, transcribed by]



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