Beverley Baxter's LONDON LETTER

Hitler's Peace Feeler to Britain

A. Beverley Baxter December 1 1940

Beverley Baxter's LONDON LETTER

Hitler's Peace Feeler to Britain

A. Beverley Baxter December 1 1940

Beverley Baxter's LONDON LETTER

A. Beverley Baxter

Hitler's Peace Feeler to Britain

LONDON, November 6. (By cable)—1910 nears its close. November is under way and the nights draw in. It is true that on the Fifth of November we had fireworks over London, but not quite the kind that used to enliven existence in peace times. It also is true that on November 9 all the various new mayors will take office, but there will be no Lord Mayor’s procession. Instead of the golden coach and cheering crowds, our demolition squads will be hauling away the night’s debris.

A few minutes ago, I was in the House of Commons, listening to Mr. Churchill review the war. He was not depressed, but he seemed determined to avoid any suggestion of rosy dawn. In fact, he gave us a grim picture, almost totally unrelieved by vaunting claims or pleasing prophecy. Deliberately he spoke of next year and the year after, as if the war would go on at least as long as the last one. In other words, according to the Prime Minister we are in for a tough time. These pleasant islands, their fields covered with autumn leaves, will winter in the shadows. And yet I wondered while listening to Churchill, if he was making a sfKHrh for tactical effect rather than actually giving us a candid survey of the scene.

It is notorious, of course, that the British thrive on bad news and go soft when good tidings arrive. So perhaps the Premier wanted to rouse us to further efforts by his ultraseriousness. There is, however, another aspect which may have influenced him. Unless all portents are wrong, Hitler is going to make a spectacular and sustained attempt to bring the war to an end before winter takes its toll.

I have recently been in touch with reliable news sources from Germany, and what I have learned coincides closely with certain happenings in London. Call Hitler madman, mountebank, murderer (and he is all three), yet he has the cunning of an abnormal mind. From September, 1939, to this hour he has fought two wars one against us, and the other against his own generals. He invaded Scandinavia against his generals advice. He attacked Holland and Belgium despite the generals’ protests. 1 le flung his forces against France while his generals pleaded for time to reorganize. Finally, as the British Army, with all its equipment gone, ferried from Dunkirk to almost defenseless Britain, he demanded that the victorious Germans should reach England at the same time. It was an audacious idea, and his casualties in the Channel would have been ghastly, but it was the one chance to bring Britain to her knees. But this time the German generals stood firm. They said invasion would demand six weeks preparation, and Hitler, realizing he was lost if the gamble did not come off, gave in to them.

At the appointed time the invasion began according to the generals’ plan. The German Air Force would first crush our aerial resistance, and, by bombing London and other vital places, create complete chaos. Then, and not until then, the armada of flat-bottomed boats gathered in every |x>rt of Europe’s western coast, would move against the island citadel.

As usual, the Germans thought in terms of massed terrorism, and their bombers came in broad daylight by the hundreds. Intensified attack began August 8. Ilefore it came to an end, the Germans had lost 2,433 machines, with a personnel of 6,000. Even yet we can hardly grasp the significance of the terrific punishment administered by our Spitfires and Hurricanes. When that part of the massed daylight invasion was stopped by Hitler’s own order, he had lost the cream of his machines and airmen. The morale of his pilots was so shaken that many of them crashed on landing, or came down in the sea, while there were amazing examples of German squadrons turning back when challenged by half their number.

The ratio of losses in machines was three German for every British. In air crews, it was fourteen German for every British airman. In addition to that, the German

armada of ships was bombed so furiously in ports by the R.A.F. that wreckage was strewn about the waters and casualties among the German troops numbered more than 50,000.

No one bothered saying so, but the undoubted fact remains that the Battle of Britain began on August 8 and was won by Britain in one of the most significant victories in all history. The defeat of the Spaniards in the 16th century, or the Battle of Trafalgar three centuries later, was not more decisive in the determination of our destiny.

Hitler’s Fury and Cunning

C*'\NCE more the German generals had been wrong, and this time Hitler’s fury broke its bounds and overflowed like a torrent in springtime. He accused his military advisers of lx*ing uninspired automatons, working to a textlxK)k a hundred years out of date. He reproached Goering for having assured him Germany’s Air Force was invincible and German soil inviolate. But he did not let matters rest there. Almost as if to keep the world from realizing the significance of his invasion defeat—and certainly British propaganda did little to emphasize it he went on tour. Like a provincial actor he crossed the Brenner Pass and talked to Mussolini. He went to France and talked to Pétain and Laval and. later, to Franco and Suner. His swift, cunning mind was turning over every factor. Since his generals had failed him, he would wrest another kind of victory with tortuous ingenuity.

I íe had intended to fasten conqueror’s terms on France, but now he wooed her instead and promised a thousand years of friendship if the French would only co-operate in ending the war and establishing a peace that would never be broken. With Italy he used the rough side of his tongue. It is stated he hinted that France would be a more useful partner than the timorous Italians, and that Mussolini would have to show greater ardor in his fighting if he were to retain the confidence of the Leader of all the Germans. With Spain it was sweet reasonableness, for if Italy grew sulky, Spanish ports in the Mediterranean would be important.

Hitler’s Peace Feeler

AND then the most curious thing of all happened.

*• Messages by various underground methods came from Hitler in the hope of them reaching Churchill. Naturally,

I would not state this without complete proof of its accuracy, because the subject is too important for mere speculation. These messages did reach Downing Street, but there my know ledge ends. Whether they were studied as an entertaining example of German psychology, whether they were chucked in the wastepaper basket, or whether they were filed in the archives for future revelation, no one except the Prime Minister and his entourage can say. But roughly these were the unofficial peace feelers sent from Wilhelmstrasse to Whitehall:

"Hitler has always admired Churchill, although forced to denounce him. Hitler and Churchill both are soldiers, and if they could meet around a table for fifteen minutes, everything would lx? settled. Hitler is sick of his ally, and thinks Churchill must be pretty tired of his friends, France and the United States. Hitler has always recognized the necessity of the British Empire remaining intact, and has never made any move to injure it until Chamberlain went to war against Germany. Hitler has no desire to break up the British Empire and apportion it to inferior nations. Hitler claims there are only two first-class nations ~ the British and Germans, and they ought to combine to rule the world.”

The seduction of such an approach is obvious. These theories were the very gospel of those who sought to build

up Anglo-German friendship in the troubled period between the two wars. But Hitler’s blandishments do not end there. By every possible approach he is wooing the Vatican, and not entirely without success, assuring the Pope that as a good Catholic he, Hitler, looks to His Holiness to spread the rule of the Church throughout Europe and Christianize Russia, once Stalin and his communistic creed have been driven out by force of German example or German arms.

Finally, there is the subtle, persistent attempt to cloud the purpose of America. In Washington, Hitler’s agents are saying, "France and Germany are ready to end their thousand-year-old feud. Italy and Spain are anxious to embrace the new' order. What is there left of Europe to justify the United States intervening on behalf of Britain, w'hich is not and never can be a continental power?”

I have given that picture of Hitler’s campaign to recover w'hat w'as lost by the obtuseness of his generals. When it will culminate, I cannot say, but I believe that perhaps before these words are published he will summon the Reichstag and tell them that the war is finished; that the British are merely fighting a guerrilla battle to maintain their prestige, and that Germany w:ill lead Europe in co-operation and eventual disarmament. Then he will call on God’s blessing for those who seek peace instead of war.

Britain’s Answer?

VWTIAT will Britain’s answ'er be? Loathing war to the W uttermost, and conscious of the long, hard road ahead, I hojxj, indeed I am certain, we shall answer such a speech with a terrific bombardment of Berlin and Rome— not a bombardment of words, but high explosives, incendiaries and land mines.

Germany has precipitated w'ar five times within living memory. Four times she wras successful, and even w'hen she lost she prepared as soon as possible to try to reverse the decision. War is in her blood. It is her philosophy, her creed and her faith. If w'e accepted the new' order of a Germanized Europe and a free British Overseas Empire, there would commence a rivalry of armaments and such a series of demands and provocations that would make the life of the British race one of progressive degradation. With the shipyards of all Europe at her disposal, Germany would build the biggest navy in history. With the factories of Europe available, and unlimited imports of raw materials, she would create an Air Force that would literally darken the skies. As the years w'ent on, we would live our lives with minds concentrated on the growing menace of a new w'orld pow'er, a Germany flushed with success and with a mounting arrogance nothing could suppress. How could a new order, founded on persecution of the Jews, the murder of 30,000 innocent people in Rotterdam, the machine-gunning of refugees, the torpedoing of children’s ships, the rule of the Gestapo and concentration camp, the fouling of the young mind, the suppression of liberty and the deification of one man and a supei-race, create anything but a system of scientific barbarity and the crushing of the human soul?

Greece, tom by internal dissension for years, has answered that question. Whether she can fight long against the Axis forces I do not know', but the flickering flame of ancient Athens is burning fiercely once more. More than 2,000 years ago, Pericles thundered his immortal funeral oration in the square at Athens. He was commemorating the sacrifice of those who had fallen in battle. "None of these men,” he cried, “were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life. None of them put off the evil day in the hope that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, and to Continued on page 45

London Letter

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leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness, and in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. Make them your example, and esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war.”

I wish that Churchill had read that speech of Pericles before he came to the House of Commons. Today, it is not enough for us to say that the way is grim and that we must have patience. We should inflame the whole world with the

thought that courage is freedom and freedom alone is happiness. For the sake of Europe, as well as our own country, the fight must go on. That will be the answer of Britain and her brave Premier, and in these islands we know we shall speak for those of our race across the seas. Hitler wants peace badly. He wants time to consolidate his gains and break the spirit of those whom he has conquered. If we allow him to build an empire on sorrow, suffering and the shame of humanity, then our generation will be cursed to the end of time.