LONDON LETTER

What Is Truth in Germany?

Beverley Baxter's January 1 1939

LONDON LETTER

What Is Truth in Germany?

Beverley Baxter's January 1 1939

LONDON LETTER

What Is Truth in Germany?

Beverley Baxter's

WHAT is truth? Like Pontius Pilate, I ask that question. In these letters it is my desire to keep my Canadian readers informed of what is going on over here, why it is going on, and where we shall be when we reach the hill and see what is on the slope beyond. There have been times when that task has been easy. Events have been so clear-cut, personalities so definite, and the conflicting forces so assessable, that prophecy could be counted almost as one of the exact sciences.

Just now, though, I am in difficulties. Someone once asked, “What does a detective do when he is not being baffled?” Today I feel like a detective. The mystery deepens, and the mind searches aimlessly for the clue that cannot be found.

To add to the general bewilderment, the English summer, which has been mislaid for the last three years, has turned up and refuses to leave. Even the Lord Mayor’s procession, which traditionally takes place in a fog, was simply drenched in sunshine.

“Come to England for sunny November.” I must suggest that slogan to the Government. But would the world believe it? The forces of doubt and scepticism are so formidable these days.

However, that is enough preamble. In spite of this torpid, sultry atmosphere, this misplaced summer in late November, we must rouse ourselves and search again for the inwardness of events.

What is truth?

Today I would echo that cry. What is the truth about Germany? Is it so vile as it seems? Have the Dark Ages returned to engulf the world in a long pitiless night? Is Britain faltering, or is she as wise as she is patient?

What is truth?

Shout it, whisper it, scream it if you like, and the only answer is silence.

Yet as we search for understanding, I would like to take you now to a private room at the House of Commons, wfflere I gave a hastily improvised dinner in honor of Dr. Silex, the editor of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of Berlin. The date was a day or so before a young Jew shot Herr vom Rath in Paris.

A German Editor Answers Questions

AS YOU know, the British House of Commons is called the best club in Europe. That is quite true. If you wrant to give a dinner in a hurry for some distinguished foreigner, you wander into the smoke room and round up your guests like the press gang obtaining recruits in Nelson’s days.

Therefore I shall now introduce you to your fellow guests at our little dinner party:

This is Commander Fletcher, who retired from the Navy, became a violent Socialist, specializes in sneering attacks on the Tories, and is such an Imperialist that he would kill anyone who said the British Empire was not the greatest thing in existence.

This is Sir Archibald Sinclair, the leader of the Independent Liberal Party (the whole twenty of them!, successor to Asquith and Lloyd George, debonair, goodlooking, believes in collective security, and stutters (no wonder).

This is Sir Archibald Southby, who commanded a destroyer in the War and thinks a Tory is God’s finest work.

This is Robert Boothby, a young man who is always going to arrive but invariably gets off the train one station

too soon. Twice a year he supports Winston Churchill, and twice a year regrets it. Still yoa lg, but beginning to grey at the temples.

This is Captain Robert Cary, who has served on the Northwest Frontier, has drunk his peg in the blazing sun of India, and is all for the Government doing something about something.

That charming elderly gentleman is W. W. Hadley, the editor of the Sunday Times; and the sinister-looking fellow next to him with the twinkling eyes is Colonel Llewellin, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, which means that he is second in command to the First Lord, who does not have to be civil.

And this imposing figure on my left is none other than R. B. Bennett, that great Canadian who is big enough to visualize Canada’s duty to herself and at the same time her place in the Empire. It is good to see how the face of each Englishman lights up with pleasure at the magic name of the man I think is the greatest Imperialist of our age.

And finally, of course, there is the guest of honor. May I introduce you to Dr. Silex, the famous Berlin editor who signs his political articles and manages to keep his dignity even while conforming to the policy which dear Dr. Goebbels forces on all German newspapers.

I had never seen him before, but a few months ago we exchanged correspondence over an article of his which seemed reasonable and constructive. Finding that he was in London, I telephoned him. and he accepted the proposal

for a small political dinner party with alacrity.

But you can never tell with a German. We thought he had come to London to study British conditions. Instead, he had come to be married to a German girl living in London.

We asked him if he had ever been married before.

“Oh, yes.” he replied. “Twice. But I must explain that I married the same lady both times. She was English. We divorced, remarried and divorced. Now I marry a German girl.” Silex is in his early forties. He is neat, suave, good-looking, and possessed of natural good manners. It was rumored in the early days of the Nazi regime that he was not in favor of Hitler.

Today, while his newspaper supports the Nazi Government. it never descends to the shrieking frenzy of newspapers like Dr. Goebbels’ Angriff. No one will pretend that any German editor can give full expression to his thoughts, but at least Dr. Silex does not destroy dignity even if he has to tamper with truth.

Now the dinner is ending and we reach that portion of it which means nothing to men like Bennett, De Valera and Hitler but is what the rest of us enjoy most.

Would Dr. Silex care to answer questions? If so, we would all be delighted. Dr. Silex is quite willing to answer questions, but first, he thinks, it might be better to make a few remarks.

“The question has always been,” he begins, “as to whether there is room for a powerful Britain and a powerful Germany. We, on our part, do not doubt it. We are not so sure, however, that Britain believes it possible or desirable.

“We need not go over the last War or the peace treaties, because there is nothing new to be said about them and I would not willingly waste your time. But even in the War we did not lose our respect for Britain, and we keenly regretted to find ourselves enemies. As a matter of fact, 1 was a naval officer in the German Navy during the War (Fletcher. Llewellin and Southby all smiled with pleasure) and it was often our custom to toast the navies of the Two White Nations.”

We all murmured our pleasure at this revelation. On such occasions courtesy is thicker even than tobacco smoke, and anyone who asked if submarine commanders also toasted their victims would have been instantly suppressed.

Then Dr. Silex introduced Herr Hitler into his story. By 1930, he argued, the democratic government of Germany was doomed. It had been weak intrinsically, and rendered still weaker by the failure of Britain and France to support it.

Germany was at the crossroads. The apple must fall either into the hands of the Communists or the Nazis. "Fortunately for Germany and the rest of Europe, Hitler acted swiftly and firmly, and Communism was destroyed or driven underground.”

“Hitler had one great desire,” went on our visitor. “Peace and friendship with Britain. Yet every gesture he made met with no response. A man like that who, without background, has made himself all-powerful, is also sensitive. He was deeply hurt by the coldness with which all his offers were received by France and Britain. Finally he decided upon one grand gesture. In 1935 he made the proposal that Germany would accept a ratio of thirty-five per cent in naval parity with Britain.

“By that agreement, which he has never infringed to the slightest degree, he surrendered all means of challenging Britain, with her overseas Empire. He accepted the position of land-locked nation. And all this to prove to England that Germany recognized her as the supreme maritime power.

“Yet your British Government was attacked at home for agreeing even to so advantageous an offer as that. Nothing could persuade some people that Germany was not your implacable enemy and would some time try to destroy you. Hitler wrote it in ‘Mein Kampf and said it in his speeches a hundred times, but no one in England would believe it. Herr Hitler was deeply hurt, and when such a man is hurt he is also angry and disappointed.

“Even so, he did nothing to injure Britain. Nothing. He still believed that friendship was possible.

“Finally there came Czechoslovakia. Up to two years ago, no one in England would pay any attention to Czechoslovakia. Even in this House I think there were many who knew very little and cared nothing about it. To you the Balkans are a nuisance; to us they are places where a gun can be pressed against our breast.”

His quiet pleasing voice w’ent on without a moment’s hesitation except for effect. Paderewski playing a Chopin Nocturne could not show a greater familiarity with his theme. R. B. Bennett looked at him out of the comer of his eye. Perhaps he was thinking that Silex was as clever as Mackenzie King. Sir Archibald Sinclair, who hates Hitler with a passionate detestation, was smiling agreeably and nodding polite encouragement to the German. Only Commander Fletcher looked as if he would like to send a shell across the enemy’s bow.

"The situation of the Germans in Czechoslovakia,” said Dr. Silex, “was quite impossible. Quite impossible. Dr. Benes had concluded a pact with our enemy, Russia. German boys were being trained in the army to fight on the side of Russia against their German Fatherland. That and a thousand other discriminations could not go on. Herr Continued on page 33

London Letter

Continued ƒ rom page 11 -

Hitler therefore determined to act.”

War Would Have United Germany

DR. SILEX ended abruptly. There was a silence around the table; and then, as host, I asked if he would submit to questions.

“Willingly,” replied the German with the confidence of a skilled duellist asked to cross swords with an unknown opponent.

Some of the questions were of a character which could only be answered by agreeing that they would not be made public, but the most interesting and important points on which he was challenged can be given here:

Question: “If there had been a general European war over Czechoslovakia, would the German nation have supported Hitler, or would there have been an internal revolution?”

Answer: “The nation would have been completely united, for this reason: The

German people regarded the Czech problem as a local one concerning Germany and the Czechs. They did not believe it was of any importance or even interest to Britain and France. Therefore, if a general war had broken out, they would have believed that the allies were determined to crush them again and had chosen this issue as a pretext. Germany would have fought to the last man.”

The eleven o’clock division bell rang, giving us six minutes to go upstairs to record our votes. Our little party prepared to break up.

“Before we go.” I said, “I would like to ask a final question as one journalist to another. What were your feelings as an editor when you had to publish stories of

Czech atrocities which, shall we say, were heavily exaggerated?”

Dr. Silex was quite unperturbed. “It was necessary,” he said, “to arouse the w’orld to the seriousness of the situation.” “Does the Government order the newspapers what they must publish?”

“Oh, no. There is. I believe, a daily conference with the Government authority, which is useful to both sides in understanding what is going on.”

So Dr. Silex departed for his honeymoon.

Mr. Bennett went home to his hotel to prepare to sail for Canada. The rest of us went upstairs to vote for the Government, excepting Sinclair and Fletcher who. of course, voted against it. The fierce rivalries of political parties had succeeded the bonhomie, of the dinner party.

But afterward w-e all agreed that Silex had made a deep impression, and as long as there were men like him it proved that Anglo-German friendship was ¡xjssible, etc., etc. Once more our eyes saw the

In the World of Science

Sawdust For Fuel

SAWDUST is being used in heating more than 15.000 homes, offices, theatres and other buildings in British Columbia. In co-operation w’ith combustion engineers, the forest products laboratories of the Canadian Department of Mines and Resources have devised methods of using sawdust as fuel and for storing it safely. As a fuel, sawdust is clean, cheap, very low’ in ash content and light in weight. It burns freely, requires little attention and makes a fire that is easily controlled. The sawdust requires an auxilian,’ grate, but special furnaces are unnecessary. The grate is designed so that it may be attached to any standard heating unit. The fuel is fed as required by gravity from a storage hopixr placed above the grate. The hopper is filled two or three times a day.

Formerly regarded as unavoidable w’aste. sawdust soon may be returning to mill owners of the United States and Canada thousands of dollars for a pnxluct once sent to refuse burners. The quantity of sawdust produced annually in Canada is estimated to be sufficient to cover fifteen to twenty city blocks to a depth of 100 feet. — Popular Mechanics.

Reduces Gas Bill

ASBESTOS attachments which form a collar around the burner on the kitchen stove are said by the manufacturer to reduce gas bills on an average of thirty per cent. The asbestos ring extends down to the under grate and is one eighth to one fourth inch thick. It prevents outside air currents from dissipating the heat, and intensifies the flame. Popular Mechanics.

Germany which so many of us have experienced on our visits there kindly, hospitable people; healthy, eager youth; a s¡x>tless countryside, and beer gardens beneath the trees where sentimental music mingles with the rustling of the leaves and life is giMXl.

GERMAN ENVOY SI IOT IN PARIS

THAT poster hit me like a blow between the eyes when driving to Westminster next morning. One hardly needed to buy a newspaper. Instinctively one knew that a Jew had at last struck back.

You know the rest The cowardly, brutal mobs, the acquiescent German police, the Government pretending they could not control the situation, the hours of terror and torture, the attempt of a few army officers to keep alive the spark of decency, and the jeering of the mob at their weakness.

And then the decree that the Jews must pay for the damage done to their property, while their insurance policies would be confiscated by the state.

In the name of sanity what is this monstrous thing called Germany? Or are there two Germanys the one we have described a moment ago, and the other created out of the filth and savagery of the Nazi philosophy?

Do you wonder that those of us who have worked for Anglo-German friendship, not out of fear but because we have believed in it, are looking at each other today in despair?

What is truth?

Perhaps Dr. Silex could answer that question, too.

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