The Shadow of the Crooked Cross
A. Beverley Boxter
IN A RECENT London Letter I cited what Herr Fitz-Randolph of the German Embassy said about the psychological no-man's land between the German and British people. According to him, no one could cross this terra prohibita, and because of that it seemed that war would come again.
This conversation impressed me so much at the time that I wrote an article for the London Sunday Graphic entitled, “Germany—We Have Tried to be Friends.’’
Admittedly the chances of an article published in London reaching the German people seemed pretty obscure. It was like trying to shout across the North Sea. To my delight, however, the B.B.C. decided to translate what I had written and broadcast it on its service in German.
Briefly the article traced British policy toward Germany from the Armistice to recent times. With no attempt to argue the case, but merely citing what seemed to me irrefutable facts, I depicted the long sequence of friendly British acts toward Germany, such as:
The granting of an armistice to Germany when she was hopelessly beaten.
British support for the Anschluss in 1931. #
The cancellation of reparations.
Refusal to support the French march into the Ruhr. Securing Germany’s entry into the League of Nations. The withdrawal of our Army of Occupation long before it was due.
The Anglo-German naval agreement, thus acknowledging Germany’s right to arm.
Among the correspondence which reached me as a result of this attempt to cross no-man’s land was a letter from Herr Max Hunger, of Admiral von Schröder Street. Berlin. He had only seen or heard part of my case, and in perfect but resentful English he denounced me as a distorter of the truth. In fact he could not have been more resentful at my attempt to justify British foreign policy if he had been one of my Canadian critics.
Nevertheless there was in Herr Hunger’s letter a sincerity which appealed to me. Therefore I wrote to him, enclosing a complete copy of my article. My letter stated that I would be grateful for his comments if he would care to take the trouble.
In due course his letter reached me. No one will deny that he is a forceful thinker, and that therefore nothing but good can be done by letting him have his say. Here is what he wrote to me.
The omissions I have made are unimportant and are only to keep him within publishable length.
They do not alter his arguments in any way.
A German View
DEAR Mr. Beverley Baxter:
“I have to thank you for your letter and the article. You ask me to comment your article. I f I do so, I should like to preface my remarks with the assurance that I am anything but Anglophobe. On the contrary, I have only one hope: the ultimate reconciliation of England and Germany. In a speech held at Cologne your Ambassador. Sir Nevile Henderson, said that between England, the greatest maritime power, and Germany, the greatest continental power, an equitable understanding should be possible. Such an understanding is the only salvation for Europe; if it is frustrated, then diplomacy might just as well declare its bankruptcy.
“You must admit that in the light of recent events, the German public has no alternative but to feel that England is doing everything to split the world again into hostile camps with the view of engineering a war against Germany and the other powers of the anti-Comintern pact. It is,
therefore, only too correct what you say with regard to the fears prevalent in Germany.
“England knows exactly Germany’s grievances. They are all the outcome of Versailles, and all the Fuehrer does aims only at their final abolition.
“The proofs of England’s friendship and assistance, as you term the English attitude in certain post-War measures enforced by the Allies against Germany, have for a German who looks at them from the other side of the ditch, of course, quite another significance. You say you ‘permitted’ an armistice when Germany was hopelessly beaten and when nothing stood in the way of the Allied troops to march into Berlin. Don’t you think that this is rather a gratuitous speculation? I might say with the same right that had the War been fought to the bitter end, not a single English soldier would have crossed the Maas or Rhine defenses as victor! Therefore, you can hardly claim credit for permitting a measure to be taken which, as we know now, the Allies were just as much in need of as Germany.
“Shall I say anything of that historic Armistice and its fourteen points, and how they were respected by the Allied powers? History has already condemned this piece of gross treachery, and Germany will never forget it no more than the prolonged blockade which caused the death of hundreds of thousands of German women and children, not to speak of the illnesses contracted by others as a result of the privations suffered.
“Now the Ruhr invasion, undertaken by the French, you say, because Germany had defaulted on her payments! This was not so. Germany was not in arrears with lier payments. The French asserted that there had been a shortage in the delivery of telegraph poles, coal and other kinds of wood. This was the reason of the warlike measure taken by the French and Belgians in 1923. It is true England abstained at the time, but you can t call this a sign of friendship on the part of England. It would have been that if she had prevented the step of her filibustering Allies. In a way, she was in the position of an accomplice before the fact. “The proposed Austro-German customs union launched in 1931 was really a stillborn changeling, and it is just as well that it was howled down by the Allied press at the time, much to the discomfiture of the muddle-headed German democrats. Therefore the British attitude at the Hague was of no practical value to Germany, nor was it considered as such by the German public.
"As regards the admission of Germany to the League of Nations, delayed for years on degrading grounds although promised at first by the great American apostle of justice and good will, Wilson, but little can be said in its praise by Germany. Germany’s membership of the League only brought dishonor to Germany. No appeal w-as heard, no injustice redressed. What, for instance, did Geneva do to alleviate the distress of the two million Germans who were driven out of Poland, i.e., the territory ceded under the Versailles dictate? Stripped of all their possessions, they were kicked across the new German frontiers, paupers. Their treatment at the hands of the rapacious Poles had been appalling, in fact as disgraceful as had been the treatment of the Germans resident in England, her colonies and dominions.
“You also try to claim credit for the English attitude in 1929-30 when the notorious Young Plan was evolved. England and the other Allied despoilers of Germany had no alternative left, unless, of course, they wanted to kill the g(X)se that was meant to lay the golden egg. Their sympathy toward the German people corresponded with that of the slaveholder who also keeps his slave gang fit for the benefit he can get out of its work.
“Not once, in all these post-War years, has England come forward spontaneously to show her good will toward Germany in a practical manner! Her ‘commitments' always ranged her on the side of Germany’s antagonists. Whatever the Fuehrer said or did to bring about a more friendly feeling between Germany and England was belittled, distorted and jeered at by the English press and Incertain public men. And now at last we see ‘God-fearing England’ blossoming forth as the ally of atheist, murderous Bolshevism. In a way, there is nothing surprising in such an alliance, seeing the benevolent neutrality England observed toward the Spanish church-burners and wholesale butchers. You know how easy it is, also in politics, to hide the grossness of ‘damned error’ with fair ornament. So, no doubt, also this alliance between the devil and the deep sea will be rendered palatable to the simple-hearted. Dx>k at the flixxl of lies which is daily being poured out over Germany and the German people by the English press, with few noteworthy exceptions! Nothing is spared, not even the professed loyalty of the people toward the Fuehrer.
"I know from personal experience that an Anglo-German alliance would work because, you see, I am married to an Englishwoman and there cannot be a happier union. If such a thing is possible between individuals, why should it not be possible on a wider, national scale?
“And just one more parting word! Do not place too much reliance on what you hear from German renegades or refugees. Believe me, if anything had been wanting to weld the German people together into one irrefragable block, the war-mongering of the so-called ‘anti-aggcession block’ has supplied this cohesive fluid by its vile attacks on the Fuehrer. Germany was never more united, and whatever may happen, you will see the people rise like one man.
“Believe me, dear Mr. Beverley Baxter, “Yours faithfully,
"(signed) Max Hunger.”
No one will deny that Herr Hunger is a forceful writer. When one considers that he is expressing himself in a foreign language, it can be realized that among his own countrymen he must exert a considerable influence.
After much thought, I dispatched my reply to him. It seemed to me that no good couíd be done by continuing a discussion in which no basic agreement was possible and where prejudice puts its own interpretation on every action of British policy.
“Dear Mr. Max Hunger:
“I read your letter very carefully. Once more it demonstrates that you are intelligent and sincere, and quite properly a great patriot. I also believe what you say that you desire friendship and peace between Germany and Great Britain. Then, unfortunately, you deal with Britain’s attitude toward Germany, and in doing so disclose so much prejudice that normal discussion is impossible.
“For example, you deny my statement that Germany was hopelessly beaten at the end of 1918 and that there was nothing in the way of the Allied troops marching to Berlin. By that, of course, I meant that nothing strong enough was in the way to prevent the march. You say that you have as much right to declare that had the War been fought to the bitter end, not a single British soldier would have crossed the Rhine. When I tell you that the Canadians went through fifteen miles in one day you must realize how completely the German defense had collapsed. Further, if you deny that the German army was beaten, or that the German situation was desperate, then why does Herr Hitler complain that the Jew's had destroyed Germany from within? If Herr Hitler speaks the truth, then Germany was destroyed and nothing could have stopped our invading Germany. There w'as no immediate necessity for an armistice for us except on the grounds of saving human lives. The Americans were arriving in great numbers. The submarine menace was checked, and we could have fought for another two years. Finally, do you seriously contend that the German delegates would have accepted an armistice completely on our terms if they had not realized that they were beaten? Foch refused any conditions at all to the Germans. His owm terms were that he would grant an armistice only on condition that the Germans would not be in a position to resume the War.
“You refer to the fourteen points of President Wilson. These wrere rejected by Germany when they w'ere put forward because Germany thought she could still win. When the War was lost, she tried to pretend that the Armistice had something to do with the fourteen points which she had rejected.
“The blockade of Germany by our Navy after the Armistice is something I do not understand. It seems utterly unnecessary and brutal.
“When I tell you we did not go into the Ruhr because we had a genuine desire not to bully Germany, you reply it was merely because we were afraid of France. It does not matter what we do or what we did, you see only in it British selfishness. It seems to me that, like so many Germans, you are bitter and resentful and there is in your mind a lack of that toleration which admits mistakes on both sides. To you the German case is 100 per cent right. I do not for a moment say that the British case is 100 per cent right. \Y e were wrong in many things, but fairness on your part should make you realize that the British are not vindictive, they are not cruel, and that their instinct is always to be fair to a nation in defeat.
“\ou say that the democracies are warmongering. Why in the name of sanity would Britain and France want war? Has
Germany any gold or any territory that we covet? Then you say that Germany would rise as one man if war came. That may be true. But if Germany is as united as you say, why not get rid of your secret police? Why not do away with your concentration camps? Why not give back to Germany the individual freedom of men. which is the only thing that matters? The spectacle of a united nation which requires hundreds of thousands of secret police to keep it united is something which we cannot understand over here.
“There is much about the Germans whiclrwe admire. But we are convinced that unless we form a peace bloc of nations which will guard against aggression. Germany would try to make of every small European state another Bohemia. Britain can only live in a w'orld where freedom exists. We do not intend to see that area of freedom relentlessly done away with.
“I am sure you will pardon the frankness of this letter, but I write it as one who still believes that in spite of everything our two countries wall not go to war again. Will you convey to your wife my respectful and cordial greetings?
“A. Beverley Baxter.”
“P.S. Herr Hitler and other Germans speak incessantly of the suffering imposed upon the Germans by the Treaty of Versailles. I wonder why no German ever refers to the suffering of the people of Belgium and France when their countries were invaded by the armed forces of Germany.”
“The Tragedy of Europe”
TN THIS correspondence between a Brit-
ish subject and a German subject there is, in miniature, something of the tragedy of Europe today.
Here is a German, married to an English wife, firmly believing in Anglo-German friendship, yet unable to see anything we do except in colors of hypocrisy, greed or stark brutality. He is obviously a keen scholar of Pmglish. yet cannot discover that tolerance—or indolence if you like which makes the British incapable of hating anyone except momentarily.
The Nazi propaganda machine operates on one simple system. If a lie is repeated enough, it becomes the truth to those who listen. If it is still repeated, it may become history.
Of all these lies, nothing has had such success as the story that the Germans were tricked into an armistice. According to the Germans, they were induced to enter into a deal on a basis of strict equality with President Wilson as the referee.
It is quite true that the Germans, whose defeat had become a rout which nothing could halt, asked for an armistice on the basis of the fourteen points which they had contemptuously rejected a few months before when they thought they were winning.
General Foch’s terms were simplicity itself. “You are beaten, and the only condition under which we shall grant you an armistice is that you shall not be in a position to begin the War again.”
It was a soldier’s armistice pure and simple. And Germany accepted it as a brave and defeated nation that could battle no more.
It is truly heartbreaking . . .
We must go on trying to discover the Germany that is lost, the Germany of honest dealings, of lovely lakes and historycrowned hills, of great music and noble literature, of simple men and women who ask nothing more of life than to live peacefully with their neighbors.
The shadow of the crooked cross surely cannot remain over Germany forever.