Col. Drew to Mr. Baxter
Germany does not want war with Great Britain, says
LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW
LIKE SO many other readers of Maclean's. I have found Beverley Baxter's London Letters extremely readable, but I am afraid his recent attempt to interpret the German spirit follows the tendency to oversimplify, to the point of reducing a whole nation to the image of one man.
His article in Maclean’s of April 15. under the title “Does Germany Want War?" apparently comes to the conclusion that Germany will want war just as stxm as Germans feel that they are strong enough to express openly their underlying hatred of the British.
In support of this contention, he sets forth some rather remarkable evidence.
Exhibit A is the picture of a village inn in Bavaria. After “endless tankards of good German beer" someone suggested that Baxter should sing. He did, and presently “a huge fellow in the centre of the crowd” who had at first been friendly, became extremely angry and threatened to crash his tankard on Baxter’s head. This he recalls, “because it represents in many ways the attitude of Germany toward Britain today."
Nowr surely. Mr. Baxter, that is a harsh criticism even of Germany. Personally, I marvel that if you matched German folk songs with Annie Laurie in Bavaria, only one person threatened to crown you with his stein. I could almost guarantee better results if any stranger tried the same thing in Canada.
Exhibit B is a German professor who recalled that during the Great War “at last we became so strong that we decided that our hatred could take on the supreme gamble. We could actually afford now to hate England. Instead of
'guten Tag,’ we greeted each other with 'Gott strafe England.’ ”
Exhibit C is an extremely drunk but unnamed German officer who finished an evening’s drinking with the following toast to an unnamed British officer. “To peace between your great country and ours - for three more years.”
Further Agreements Likely
I AM afraid this gives a very unreal impression of Germany today. I think we said just as many stupid things during the Great War as anyone else, and I certainly do not think that I would like any foreign opinion of British sentiment to be based on the alcoholic remarks of any British officer after a night of drinking such as Mr. Baxter describes. I doubt that any jury would convict Germany of a feeling of hatred for Great Britain on such flimsy evidence.
The question of whether or not there is to be another world war depends on four nations—Germany, Italy. Japan, and Russia. At the moment it is not conceivable that a major conflict will be started by any other nation. Each of these is a military dictatorship, one under Nazism, one under Fascism, one under a military junta backed by an absolute monarch, and one under Communism. In our dislike for each of these forms of government, it is possible to create a spirit of hostility toward the nation as a whole which will make agreement of any kind next to impossible.
When Eden resigned it was the opinion of many that he was right in his contention that Britain should have no truck or trade with Italy or any other dictatorship. But
others, including Mr. Baxter, agreed with Mr. Chamberlain that this could only lead to war, and that it is infinitely better to try to work back to international justice by agreements than to force the dictatorships to work together as an outlaw gang. It is an old but obvious truth that if there are ri iff emu res between nations the only îtion.
between Great Britain and [•eater hope of peace than any fgning of the Treaty of Versailles. íe dictatorships are prepared to fnd that on most international ice is not so great between the nations as is made to appear by ^sides. Democracy and Fascism are the poles, but the agreement reached rbe a reasonable interpretation of the Jajority of the British and Italian people, iis agreement was signed. France moved i of a similar agreement. It is surely most dll end there.
ly has indicated through their official Tiat they may be able to make similar agreements with Great Britain and France. There will, of course, be those who will assail any such proposal as the selling out of Democracy to Fascism. That is the sort of nonsense which is most likely to lead us into war. It is because I think that it is only by such agreements that the present crisis can be overcome, that I am concerned with the impression of Canadians in regard to the mental attitude of any other nation. There already is an agreement with Italy. There may very soon be one with Germany. There would appear to be no reason why other agreements with Japan and Russia cannot follow. Understandings of some kind would offer the only hope of moderation on the part of the dictatorships.
If the German people hate the British, there is not much hope of any agreement that will be of any use. But I do not believe they do, and I am convinced that much lasting harm may be done if any substantial number of British people in Canada or elsewhere throughout the Empire form the opinion that this is the case.
Germans Want Britain’s Friendship
I HAVE exactly the opposite opinion to Beverley Baxter in regard to the sentiment of the German people. I am convinced that most Germans would rather have the friendship of Great Britain than of any other nation on earth. I must confess that I did not put any Germans to the acid test of singing to them, but I have talked to many Germans in different parts of Germany who had no reason to mislead me. and without exception they all, at some time or another, expressed the hope that Germany and Great Britain should work together for the preservation of peace.
As a result of a letter of introduction from Air Marshal “Billie” Bishop, I was the guest two years ago of a number of German war pilots at the Aero Club in Berlin. After dinner, in a room hung with photographs of the pilots of Richthofen’s squadron, we drank a toast to the war pilots of Germany and Great Britain. They paid particular tribute to a man who is a member of the German Aces Association, because in the same room a few years before, the one-time pilot of Richthofen’s squadron, now Field Marshal Hermann Goering, had presented the badge of that association to an enemy of other days, now Air Vice-Marshal W. A. Bishop. Granted that no one can be entirely sure of these things, but I would like to believe that I was right in the feeling I then had. more from the way they said it than from what they said, that these men had a high regard and something approaching affection for the British.
I also have a vivid recollection of a conversation I had in Nuremberg, on a day that Hitler was there reviewing some of the Storm Troops, with a German who I discovered had been in their artillery' exactly opposite where our brigade was firing in the spring of 1916. On the strength of the fact that we had at one time done our best to kill each other, we became great friends. I asked him if all this drilling and arming meant that wre should some time be fighting again. He grabbed me by both arms and almost shouted at me. “But that can never happen again. It was madness the last time.” And then he pulled me over to a near-by café, wffiere we sat in the open and drank coffee while he recalled all the occasions in history when the British and Germans had fought on the same side, and drove his point home by emphasizing the fact that the only time we had fought against each other was during the Great War.
I^ast summer my wife and I were in many parts of Germany and talked to many Germans. Everywhere we found friendliness and courtesy utterly inconsistent with any general hatred of the British. On the contrary, time and time again they went out of their way quite unnecessarily to explain to us that what the German people want more than anything else is the understanding of British people.
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And I believe it is in the interests of peace and ultimately in the best interests of our own people that we should seek to understand their aims and ambitions and what they are striving for. There is of course the alternative of having nothing to do with them because we dislike everything connected with Nazism, but we must recognize that in the end that attitude can only lead to war.
“Union of All Germans”
TN URGING that we should try to A understand them, I am not for a moment suggesting that we should give way to their ambitions. But I do think we should have a clearer conception of what lies behind Hitler’s course, and what we must expect unless some agreement is reached. In the first place, it should be understood that there was no surprise in Germany when Hitler absorbed Austria
into the Reich a few weeks ago. This has been one of the clearly defined policies of the Nazi Party for eighteen years, and he was merely fulfilling the promise he had made to the German people.
In seeking to understand Germany and their probable course in the immediate future, it is necessary to understand the blind faith of the Nazis in the Program adopted by the Nazi Party on February 25, 1920, at the first mass meeting of the Party in the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich. This Program contains twentyfive clearly defined points, and in the constitution of the Nazi Party we find this naive declaration:
“Our Program, our aims, are unaltered. No essential corrections of any kind have been made, and none are necessary. We refuse to do as other parties do—to adapt our Program, on grounds of expediency, to the so-called circumstances. We shall simply adapt the circumstances to our
Party, by making ourselves the masters of circumstances.”
There was a time when Germans themselves laughed at the arrogance of this statement. But they laugh no longer. Hitler came to power in Germany only five years ago. One by one, he has carried out the promises of the Program. Three years ago he declared to the world that the German Army recognized no limitations of any kind. He has restored the Saar to German control. He has remilitarized the Rhineland. In those few short years he has created the most formidable fighting force the world has ever known except during the years of the Great War. He has carried out most of the other promises of the Program, which has stood unchanged for eighteen years. But the first three points of the Program, which to most Germans seemed the most important of all, were still only promises.
1. We demand the union of all Germans on the basis of the right of the self-determination of peoples, to form a great Germany.
2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in its dealings with other nations, an abolition of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint-Germain.
3. We demand land and colonies for the nourishment of our people, and for settling our surplus population.
These parts of the Program have always aroused concern in the minds of moderate members of the Nazi Party. The other points dealt almost entirely with internal problems, but these three points all affected existing treaties and the national aspirations of people bitterly opposed to Nazism and German expansion. Hitler had said publicly, shortly before he came to power. “I shall never suffer changes in the principles of the movement as laid down in its Program.” Since he came to power Hitler had shown a disturbing tendency to keep his promises, and Hitler had made it clear that the first step in “the union of all Germans” was the annexation of Austria to form a part of Great Germany. Even those Germans who were fearful of the consequences were in no doubt of Hitler’s ultimate intention. Nazis generally, but Hitler in particular, regard the Program with a fanaticism which must be recognized if any attempt is to be made to forecast what they will do.
The acquisition of Austria and its incorporation in the German Reich does not complete "the union of all Germans.” There are Germans in Danzig and the Polish Corridor. There are Germans in Prussian Poland. There are Germans in Silesia. There are Germans in the Austrian Tyrol, now held by Italy, and there is a German section of Switzerland. Any or all of these may be under consideration in the Nazi dream of a “union of all Germans.” But the more immediate problem, and one which should not be considered from the point of view of Germany’s willingness to lutte, but should be considered from the point of view of Hitler’s interpretation of the Program, is what Germany intends to do in Czechoslovakia. In Western Bohemia, which the Germans call Sudeten Deutschland, there are three million, five hundred thousand Germans. No matter what the rest of the world may think, there is no question about the Nazi intention to bring Sudeten Deutschland into the Reich. At the end of the Field Marshal’s Hall in Munich, which is the shrine of Nazi faith, are the names of territories which the Nazis have promised to include in Germany. Over these names are large wreaths which will be removed when the lands under them are returned. Sudeten Deutschland is one of the names on that wall.
T5UT WILL the Nazis be satisfied to restore only that part of Czechoslovakia to the Reich in which these Germans are concentrated? A glance at the map makes this appear most unlikely. The main railway line from Berlin, through Dresden to Vienna, runs along the valley
of the Elbe to Prague, the old capital of Bohemia, and then in a fairly straight line southeast to Vienna. There are obvious military reasons why Germany would want the whole of Bohemia as part of the Reich. It is moreover one of the greatest industrial areas in the world. Its steel, glass, china, footwear, and leather goods are found in every market. It has coal and iron and, above everything else, it has huge armament companies, most important of which are the Skoda works at Pilsen where the heavy guns were made with which the German Army blasted their way through Belgium in 1914. The addition of this one plant to Germany’s war production is in itself almost sufficient temptation to repeat the Austrian experiment in Bohemia.
Unfortunately for the peace of Europe, Bohemia, which makes up the west one third of Czechoslovakia and contains about one half of the population, is of great geographic importance. Bismarck once said, "He who holds Bohemia is master of Europe,” and the Germans have a habit of remembering what Bismarck said. The mountains of Bohemia are the key to Eastern Europe and, apart from the promises of the Nazi Program, there would appear to be reason for grave doubt that in the present tense atmosphere a powerfully armed Germany is prepared to leave this key in the hands of any other nation. Press talk of Czechoslovakia’s determination to defend herself disregards an extremely important consideration. These expressions are in most cases all too obviously a mere repetition of what other nations would like to believe the Czechs really intend to do.
It must be remembered that geographically Czechoslovakia is extremely weak. A long, narrow country, with five hostile neighbors, and including four different races who never before formed one nation. This national association of Germans, Czechs, Slavs, and Ruthenians is one of the nightmares of Versailles. They have not been long enough together to create any united national sentiment, even if it should ever be possible.
The guard of honor at the President’s palace in Prague illustrates as well as anything else in Czechoslovakia the anomalies existing in some of the so-called "Treaty States.” It is known as The Legion and its three component regiments, which correspond to the guard regiments in some other countries, are made up of veterans of the Great War. The interesting thing about the regiments of the Legion is that they do not wear the uniform of Czechoslovakia. One regiment of the Legion wears the blue-grey uniform of the French Blue Devils. The second wears the uniform of the Italian Alpini Chasseurs. The third wears the uniform of Czarist Russia. The men who form this guard of honor were all deserters. Those who now wear the French uniform in Prague wore the French uniform after they deserted from the Austria-Hungary armies during the Great War. Those who wear the Italian uniform joined the Italian Army after having deserted in Italy. Those who wear the Russian uniform fought with Russia against the army they had deserted on the Eastern Front. It is a significant qualification for a post of honor. In using the word deserter I make no suggestion that these men were not brave. It is merely to emphasize the division of sentiment in the country.
This strangely symbolic use of three foreign uniforms by those who guard President Benes, indicates the possibility that national consciousness has not yet reached the point where Czechoslovakia could be expected to act as a united nation in a crisis. Nearly half the population in fact is openly anxious to break away. There is little doubt about the desire of the 3,500,(XX) Germans on the west to become part of Germany, and there is no doubt about the desire of the 700,000 Hungarians, who were separated from Northern Hungary, to rejoin the nation of which they had been a part for more than a
thousand years. The only part of the nation which might offer determined resistance would be the Czechs, who form less than half of the whole population. In the vent of an attempt by Germany to takeover Bohemia. Czechoslovakia would be the unhappy plight of facing internal as well as external enemies.
If Czechoslovakia is to continue as a nation in the face of the German threat, other powers must preserve its national integrity, not because of, but in spite of, the wish of a great part of the people who make up the nation.
Recognizing this situation, and with the clearly expressed promise of the Nazis to bring Sudeten Deutschland within the Reich, there cannot be much doubt that sooner or later Germany will adopt exactly the same course against Bohemia as she did against Austria, unless something happens in the meantime. And that would not be the last move in "the union of all Germans.” There would still remain the third point in the Program—the demand of land and colonies for settling the surplus German population.
What Britain Can Do
SO LONG as Hitler lives and the Nazi Party retains control of Germany, there is only one thing that will prevent the progressive fulfillment of these promises, which at some point would almost inevitably lead to a European war. That one thing is an agreement with Great Britain, under which Germany would be assured access to supplies of certain raw materials in exchange for finished goods which Germany can make so well. Within the British Empire we have every kind of raw material and foodstuff which Germany needs. Germany in turn makes many things which do not seriously compete with our own products. Throughout the Empire there are many possibilities of bilateral agreements which would be mutually beneficial. Such agreements, which would probably be followed in turn by other nations, would appear to be the only satisfactory alternative that Hitler could offer to his people without destroying his own prestige.
It may not be an attractive prospect to consider agreements with Hitler or the Nazi Party, but such agreements might in the end be the most effective way of ending the excesses of Nazism and bringing some hope of sanity to Germany and the rest of Europe.
The demands of the Nazi Party, which today speaks for Germany, are clear. They are not based on the hatred of any nation or group of nations. They are the result of racial pride expressing itself in terms of the future. No matter how little we may like them, their aspirations have been made perfectly clear. Surely it is better to sit down and discuss these problems now, instead of waiting until Germany makes another move. The time to consider how peace can be preserved is before a war begins. The issues are just as clear today as they would be after millions of lives had been needlessly sacrificed.
We will get nowhere if we believe that the Germans hate us, or if, on the other hand, they believe that we hate them: On the contrary, I believe that the majority of Germans want British friendship, and that we should also seek theirs. We need make no confession of any kind to Nazism as a political doctrine.
Nazism and other forms of dictatorships thrive on the stimulated belief that other nations threaten their existence. An attitude which will support that belief is what will best sustain the Nazi power in Germany. On the other hand, a spirit of friendship which in spite of censorship must convey itself to them in the end, is more likely than anything else to end the extremes of Nazism and give some measure of freedom to the German people. When the only alternative would appear to be war, it is surely better to believe in the possibility of their friendship and to seek some such agreement as has now been
signed with Italy, so that friendship instead of hatred can at least be given a trial.
I have not overlooked the fact that at the end of his article Mr. Baxter says he is convinced that Hitler does not want war. However, that does not dispose of the examples and quotations which he gives to prove that the German people have an underlying hatred of the British.
Hitler is not Germany. I do not believe that, even under a dictatorship, any man can for long do anything that is directly opposed to the will of a great majority in a country where there is a high average of education. And I am convinced that the majority of his people will be prepared to abandon even their dreams of a “Union of all Germans,” including the seizure of Bohemia, if an agreement that offers hope
of peace and world trade can be worked out with the British. In spite of all their vast armaments, or rather because of them, most Germans want peace, no matter what Hitler may have in mind.
The more we dislike Nazi policies, the more we should seek a basis rj real friendship with the people of Germany. If we can establish that friendship, Hitler with all his power will not dare to oppose it.