GENERAL ARTICLES

The Swastika Marches South

RONALD McEACHERN April 1 1941
GENERAL ARTICLES

The Swastika Marches South

RONALD McEACHERN April 1 1941

The Swastika Marches South

RONALD McEACHERN

WHY CAN’T Germany and Britain divide the rest of the world between them? These are the two great races, obviously destined to dominate the whole world. Britain has Africa and much other territory. Let us have South America. That continent has the metals, the foodstuffs, the raw materials, the living room that Germany needs and must have ...” The speaker was a former German officer. The time, 1919. He was talking to a Canadian officer of the Army of Occupation. The Canadian of that conversation I met on my travels in South America.

Whether the German knew it or not, he was voicing the official German view—the view of the earlier governments of the Kaisers.

The Versailles peace treaty was supposed to put an end to German imperialism. It stripped Germany of her empire. But Germany merely intensified her drive for a new and richer empire—the continent of South America.

Said post-war Germany: Other countries can have the glory of Empire. We’ll take the profits without any of the losses. What we want is a vast and expanding market for our manufactured goods; a big and sure source of raw materials for our factories, and foodstuffs for our bellies.

That was the policy of the old and conquered Germany. The new Germany of Hitler soon acquired ideas of political conquest. Bind South America to the Reich by trade; but

also prepare for Der Tag. Therefore, make the continent German in creed and in sentiment. Get Germans into positions of influence and of power, where, at the crucial moment, they can deliver over the whole continent into the hands of the Reich before South Americans—or North Americans—know what is happening.

Such was Hitler’s strategy.

The result is that if Hitler were to win in Europe, he wouldn’t have to conquer South America. It would be his, a ready-made empire, co-operating in the new Nazi world order.

Why has Hitler impressed South America?

Chiefly because of its politicians and its armies. Many of these are fascist at heart. There is little real democracy

Says this writer: "If Hitler were to win in Europe he wouldn’t have to conquer South America. It would be his —a ready-made empire"

in South America—Colombia comes nearest to it. Government is usually unabashed dictatorship. Democratic forms there are. They provide themes for solemn political mouthings at international love feasts. As in all dictatorships, secret police are a major arm of government, and the visitor is early warned not to talk politics aloud in public places.

A mile off Callao, the port of Lima, on a big barren island, stands one of the big political prisons of South America, a separate, special place for critics of the government. I am told it is not nice to see some of these critics when and if they return to the mainland. The present administration in Peru, however, is reputedly very tender in comparison with some of its predecessors.

There is indeed much appeal in the Hitler system of government for professional politicians whose political —and very probably physical—life depends on favor or force. It is inevitable that many of them gaze wistfully and admiringly at the Hitler means of staying in power, suppressing opposition and effecting their will.

Not all South American politicos are Nazi sympathizers by any means. In almost every government are men held to be good and true friends of the democratic cause; men fired with real zeal for their country’s welfare; guided by abiding principles of honor and justice.

But, also, in almost every government there are avowed Nazi enthusiasts; and many others who, in their political deeds, certainly act like Nazis. Everywhere, the majority of these cabinet ministers sedulously avoid giving any hint of their real sympathies about the European struggle. What the real balance of sympathies is, among people of power and influence, can only be guessed.

Well-fed Militarists

UT THE Nazis have other and even more compelling salesmen of their creed—South American militarists. Based on force, South American governments of course have a tight and unholy alliance with their very sizable armed forces. For only the armed and the organized offer any threat to the despot. While he keeps his forces filled with honors, good food, fine quarters and fat incomes, with lush perquisites, his rule is likely to continue secure and profitable. Lose that supix>rt and, as a grim century of

South American history shows, he’s likely to have an army revolt on his hands and his head on a chopping block.

In Chile rulers have tried to insulate themselves against army pressure by creating a police force larger than the entire army.

To many professional militarists, there seems to be much appeal in Fascism and in the Hitler system. And for generations, German officers have been training South American armies. The 1919 peace treaty provided that conquered Germany was to have an army of not more than 100,000. It added that Germans were no longer to undertake the military training of the armies of other countries.

But Germans promptly reappeared training South American armies. They’ve been at it ever since. Since the outbreak of this war, some countries have formally announced the dismissal of German instructors. Whether all Nazi officers have been eliminated from all South American armies is a matter of doubt.

Certain it is, the military caste of South American countries—and it is large and very influential—has strong sympathies with the Nazis. In drill and uniform, several of the forces even look like Nazi troops. Until the conflict was actual, it was the usual thing for a South American youth with any ambitions for a good military career to go to Germany for a couple of years of advanced military training.

But what of the masses of South Americans; the common people? The great majority of them are anxiously hoping for a British victory; perhaps eighty-five per cent of them. At a Sunday afternoon bull fight in Lima—not the gory old-style fight, just a burlesque version in which neither bulls nor horses get killed—one of the bulls refused to fight, or play.

A wit in the stands said: "That must be Mussolini.” Another shouted, "Come on, Il Duce.” The quips spread like titteis through a classroom. A fortnight later when I

was in Lima the whole city was still gossiping about II Duce, the bull that wouldn’t fight.

For months the movie-goers of South America had been looking forward to the coming of Charlie Chaplin’s film, "Tue Great Dictator,” which does its best to make a fool out of Hitler.

“Will the government let them show it?” was a question I heard wherever crowds paused. Colombia, the democratically-inclined country on the north shore of the continent, reassured the democrats of the whole continent when it led the way by saying, "Sure, go ahead and show it.” Nazi mobs were out stoning the theatre when it was shown.

The government of Peru said, No. One doesn’t protest out loud in Peru, but finally the authorities heard about the quiet seething among the people, fired the authorities responsible for the decision, and appointed new ones. The film was shown.

What would the big and reputedly pro-British Argentine do about it? From the main Argentine centre, the province of Buenos Aires, there came a slow and troubled, No. Here one does criticize governors. There came a torrent of criticism. The ruling came out in the morning newspapers. By evening, the adjoining republic of Uruguay was advertising that the Chaplin film would be shown. The same newspapers carried announcements of special river-boat excursions three hours across the great river, with dinner and the theatre admission thrown in.

By the next afternoon, hundreds of Argentinos were streaming over the river to see the forbidden, therefore delicious film. Several weeks later Buenos Aires was still sticking to its ban. But not so the independent, fiery province of Entre Rios. Now it’s showing the film, bidding for the excursion business.

Seeing “The Great Dictator” or not seeing it does not appear to be a very momentous question. But for weeks it was one of the main concerns for the literate and semiliterate of the southern continent. It was, for this reason: What happened to the film was one of the very few hints the ordinary people had of knowing where, in regard to the world struggle, their government stood.

Pro-British Public

THERE are other convincing indications of where the ordinary man’s sympathies lie. Ever since mobs stoned the offices of the main Nazi newspaper in Buenos Aires, mounted police stand day and night in front of all newspaper offices. The big and enterprising daily newspapers of the south are almost all cheering loudly for a British victory, both in their presentation of news and in their pungent editorials. Guff from the Nazi ministry of propaganda is still being poured out by the column in many of the smaller newspapers and in some newspapers which have

made their appearance since the start of the war. The latter are of course subsidized; the former, mostly lean and hungry, are gorging themselves on fat Nazi bribes.

The picture in Brazil is the only one that no longer fits that general description. There, a powerful section of the press was on the British side. A few days after my departure, the ardent Nazi sympathizer who heads the Brazilian armed forces had the papers favorable to Britain closed. One was permitted to reopen when it promised thereafter to sing only the Nazi tunes.

Even the newsboys shout for Britain. "Read all about

the races; another defeat for the--Italians,” is a

translation of one profane and beady-eyed hustler’s shout. I’ve heard shouts about the Germans which are simply unprintable.

The biggest and best theatres in almost every city show the British newsreels, dramatic films supplied free by the British authorities. Film distributors demand that theatres choose which they will show, the British or the German news films. They can’t have both. Because films of British achievements and of British tragedy are shown to be by far the more popular—because Nazi films often bring hisses and perhaps fist fights in the audience—theatre owners all over the continent are now trying to get on the British list.

Even social life has been disrupted by the war. "Of course, we couldn’t go to that party. The Zweiundreis would be there.” From many South Americans I heard comments like that. For a great many, associating with Germans—even of no known political opinions—is no longer done.

Particularly complex are the official social obligations of ambassadors and embassy staffs. There are various functions which these official representatives of foreign governments must attend. But attendance for British representatives means being forced to drink tea in close, proximity with German and Italian representatives along with all the rest.

"We have a great time snubbing one another,” an embassy staff man told me in one country. "At first we didn’t know quite what to do. After all, we all know each other. Eventually orders came out from the foreign office that in such circumstances we were to nod stiffly and then keep our backs turned on the enemy throughout the entire function. Just try keeping your back turned on somebody all through tea. Jolly difficult ! Quite amusing!”

Hundreds of South Americans are ardent subscribers to British patriotic funds. Campaigns for bundles for Britain get widespread support. Social fêtes for patriotic purposes are jammed. At a big estancio south of Buenos Aires, gauchos and peons—cowboys and farmhands—approached the management some months ago asking that a regular amount be taken from each weekly pay to help buy Spitfires for Britain.

For generations South Americans of means have been getting their education in English schools, and when they travelled it was almost always to England. But why all this popular sentiment for the British cause? That was the question I asked sober South Americans everywhere. Here’s one man’s answer. It serves for all.

"Little Britain standing alone against big Germany must arouse the sympathy of most people everywhere. And ever since the collapse of France, admiration for Britain’s resistance has been growing. For the ordinary man there is nothing appealing about Nazism. Britain stands for everything the ordinary individual wants. Remember that we have a long tradition of liberty here in South America. Realize that under the governments we have at present we have lost most or all of that liberty. But we still hope to recapture those liberties. Most of our people or their ancestors left Europe to escape persecution of one kind or another; to find liberty. Britain is fighting our battle just as much as her own. And if she should lose, our own hope would be crushed lifeless for generations. Naturally, the masses are on Britain’s side.”

The masses, yes. What this man did not emphasize, what so many wishful thinkers ignore, is that nowhere in the world—unless it be China—do the masses and most of the “classes” count for so little in deciding what path their country shall follow.

Machine-gun Authority

THE MAN in the seat of authority, and behind him the man with the machine gun, are doing the deciding for South America.

Consider what all this adds up to:

The “common people:” sympathetic to Britain in tne great majority, but virtually helpless to do anything.

The governments: Fascist in method, design and

aspiration, with some members—perhaps a majority— sympathetic to Fascist victory.

The armed forces: Fascist trained, dazzled with fascist military achievement, contemptuous of democratic ways, holding in their hands the lives of their governments.

That means South America is an easy pushover for "co-operation” with Nazi designs. But, you may ask, are there any indications that South Americans have learned anything in recent months from what has happened to countries in Europe which joyfully flirted with Nazis?

Among some “ordinary people,” yes; no sign of it where it would count, among the ruling cast. Hitler has looked after that, and other eventualities, very carefully. His fifth column is probably nowhere so complete or so well prepared as in South America.

Look at what just didn’t happen to Uruguay. Uruguay is strategically situated between the two great and rich states of the Atlantic coast—Brazil and the Argentine. It is the most thickly-populated country of the southern continent. It is rolling, pastoral and progressive. It is the obvious place from which to start continental conquest. But Uruguay is also the most pro-British country in the south. Uruguay—in case you have forgotten—declared war on Germany and was one of the Allies in the first Great War.

Perhaps the Nazi plot which Uruguay has just nipped in the bud was unique in South America. But after examining the South American political climate for two months, I can’t help asking this question: Was the plot unique in the southern continent or was Uruguay unique in wanting to nip it?

This country has just arrested eight Nazi agents. Included in the little gang were storm troopers, propaganda agents and two Gestapo men. The Nazi plans had been carefully drawn. Their design was to rise against the Uruguayan government and seize the country for the German Reich. Preparations for this momentous 1 day which would hand Hitler the first piece

of a new empire have been going on for years. An army of youths and shock troops had been drilling regularly. Glider organizations were in full operation. Scores of motorcycles were discovered in out-of-the-way sheds. For alleged athletic and excursion societies, the plotters had a phenomenal supply of arms and ammunition.

After the wreck of the Graf Spee on the Uruguayan coast the world read, or saw pictures, of the burial of the German sailors killed in the sea battle. There is a story current in South America—but which I have not been able to confirm— that no dead Germans were then buried in Uruguayan soil, that the buried caskets contained machine guns and ammunition to be dug up and used in the planned putsch.

King-pins of this plot are now in jail. Declared the judge trying them: “We are not dealing with delinquents who consider the nation’s constitution defective and dangerous for the people and attack it with the intention of changing it but still leaving us with Our independence . . . What they are attacking is the very essence of our existence as an independent nation.”

Nowhere else in South America has it yet been revealed that the actual and immediate Nazi plan is for conquest of a state for the Reich. But almost every South American country has a Nazi organization almost identical in outward appearance to Uruguay’s.

There are an estimated two to two-anda-half million Germans resident in South America. How many of these have Nazi sympathies—or any political interest—it is impossible to know. And it doesn’t matter. The Gestapo looks after that. Hitler rules that everybody of German blood who is less than five generations away from the Fatherland is German. In that interpretation, he includes as subjects of the Reich thousands who have long since thought of themselves as Argentinos, Bolivianos or something else.

Because the Gestapo can almost invariably find, living within the borders of the Reich, some relative, near or far, who can be tortured for the un-co-operative or “disloyal” actions of Kurt Rosenstein who is a third generation Chilean, there is usually little difficulty in making Kurt Rosenstein into a thorough Nazi, at least in deed if not in thought. Through this allencompassing discipline, Hitler’s two millions in South America become a mighty political weapon for the Nazi cause; potentially, the most important political group on the entire continent. One such Nazi is worth ten undisciplined South Americans whose main interest is simply to let alone and the status quo.

German “Colonies”

VY7TIERE the Germans do not dominate in a community, they have blended extraordinarily well with the South Americans. British residents in the southern continent live apart in their own colonies; they hardly ever intermarry; they send their children away to school in Britain. The Germans on the other hand—and much to their advantage locally—make their social life among the South Americans, marry them and send their children to the local schools and colleges. The main German colonies are shown on the map accompanying this article, those in southern Chile and southern Brazil being the most important.

Where the German population dominates in number, the Germans really dominate the whole community life. There are important and rich districts such as the province of Rio Grande Do Sul in southern Brazil and down around Valdivia—southern Chile—where the language of business is German and where many of the native blacks or Indians know none other.

In both these districts, the Germans have imposed their own social and educational pattern. German is the language in most of the schools. Schoolmasters, most of them imported from Germany, have been forcing children to start work with a Nazi salute and a “Heil Hitler,” cramming them with German history and literature and the mumbo-jumbo of the Hitler race creed ; and giving them little or no information about their own national and racial background. And of course such communities have their German singing societies, hiking and gymnastic clubs, youth training movements, glider groups and strengththrough-joy picnics.

As a race the Germans are the most prosperous in South America. As farmers, virtually all are prosperous far beyond the continental average and some own vast estates such as the Gildermeister’s Casa Grande in Peru. Germans have almost completely cornered the hardware business. They are very important in machinery, chemicals and drugs. In almost every city I saw one or other of their two great banking houses, Deutsch Sudamerikanische or Deutsche Ueberseeische. In many of the great hotels, if the manager is not a German—and he often is —the man who collects the profits is. The great German steel companies, Krupps and Thyssen, are alleged to own South American interests. Germans own textile mills, and breweries; they control copper, nickel, oil and iron lands.

Britain’s blockade has stalled the German import business, save for a few small and high-priced items which they can still get via the Italian transatlantic airplane which flies once weekly, and for some stuff that comes around the other side of the world through Russia. But Germans of the southern continent still make their regular trip to the local German consulate to pay ten to twenty per cent of their incomes into the party funds.

“We have the most wonderful agent in South America. He’s full of ideas and very actiye. He’s a German, but he says he isn’t a Nazi.” That is a scrap from a conversation I had since my return, with an executive of a Canadian firm that does some exporting to the south.

“ . . he says he isn’t a Nazi.”

Acting as agents for foreign linns is one of the big business enterprises on the southern continent which sells most of its stuff abroad and takes its pay in manufactured goods. The agent is important not only in what goods shall be pushed, but he is also in touch with the shipping situation.

Not until a few weeks ago was it pointed out—very tactfully—to United States firms that in a great many cases their South American agents were Nazi sympathizers or were active Nazi workers. This declaration by Nelson Rockefeller, Uncle Sam’s Co-ordinator of Commercial and Cultural Relations between the Americas, was not guesswork. His information was not based on the say-so of people who said they weren’t Nazis, nor of others who said everybody with a German-sounding name spent his nights running around with a pistol in one pocket, a time-bomb in the other. There are ways of getting facts, you know.

I have been shown, confidentially—in South America—a list of firms, British and American, whose South American agents are known to be Nazi workers, and others whose agents are highly suspect. That list reads like a blue book of modern enterprise. It was interesting, for instance, that one great firm—British—still had as one of its main South American agents until a month ago when I saw the list, a man who kept a Swastika flag always flying over the roof of his house and who is a well-known Nazi orator in his part of the country.

Nazi Air Lines

IMPOSSIBLE to camouflage is the great

network of Nazi air lines throughout South America. Pan American Airways, with which I flew, now has regular routes girdling the continent, ringing the coasts for 26,000 miles. But the Nazi lines have a network of 23,000 miles through the interior and over the most strategic points of the coasts, with their own radio system and weather report service.

At nearly all South American airports you will see Junkers airplanes bearing the German cross insignia—the swastika has been painted off some of them since the outbreak of war apparently—and hangars and airfield equipment bearing the name Lufthansa, Condor or some other German company name.

It is interesting that the biggest network of Nazi air routes in the southern continent should be along the eastern bulge of Brazil which stretches out to a point only 1,600

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miles from Europe, and that they should continue south over the great cities of Rio de Janeiro, through the big German colony of Porto Alegre and to the rich glittering city of Buenos Aires.

It is particularly interesting that another great German airline network should have been created in Colombia, right next to Uncle Sam’s Panama Canal zone. With the outbreak of war German schemes here went bad. Faithful Nazi saboteurs and bomb droppers are no longer making two or three daily flights over, or near by, the Panama canal. Pan American Airways, in co-operation with the Colombian government, has taken over the line and all the German flight crews have been grounded or fired. However, since they’ve been flying this route for more than ten years, the Nazis undoubtedly have had time to study the canal and its defenses in detail.

They have an ace up their sleeve, however. They have another airline system only four hours away from the Canal Zone. SEDTA is the German line in Ecuador, the Pacific-side bulge on the continent. There the Nazi pilots are still on the job, flying the same ships as Germany uses for troop carrying in Europe. Uncle Sam has been trying to get Ecuador to hobble the Nazis. All Ecuador has done is to refuse SEDTA demands for new routings which would take it to within almost two flying hours of the Panama Canal.

Real purpose of these Nazi lines has long been evident: to train Nazi pilots over some of the worst flying country in the world, and to keep Nazis in a position where they would know all about local defense operations and would be in a decisive position as regards airports and radio communications when Der Tag arrived.

Near some of the South American airports are known to be Nazi strong ¡joints —small arsenals with machine guns and ammunition, and manned by faithful Nazis constantly ready to seize control of airfields. I was shown one building reputedly devoted to such purposes. How extensive this strong point system is, it is naturally impossible to ascertain.

Certainly the Nazi air lines of South America were never planned for profit making. German lines travel many routes, regularly, where traffic might justify a once-a-week flivver service, not more.

In addition to these various “arms” of his fifth column for South America, Mr. Hitler has the most powerful and apparently the best short-wave equipment, pouring programs the South Americans like, and propaganda, across the southern Atlantic sixteen hours a day. The British Broadcasting Corporation is engaged in the same work. On several occasions when I was present, the owner of a $500 radio was able to get the BBC programs only with an agonizing lack of clarity. The Nazi shows came in almost as easily as local stations. I am told that the best and cheapest short-wave receiving sets offered South Americans have been German made and that thousands have been bought. With Nazi ingenuity, the sets were built to receive only broadcasts on Nazi wavelengths.

I have dwelt on Nazi penetration of the southern continent because Hitler leads all the forces arrayed against it—and us. But other fascist countries have also been long at work, and their South American boring machines are now useful additional weapons for Hitler.

Italians And Japanese

THE ITALIANS are the second largest racial group in the continent — Spaniards first—and in almost every country there are Fascist youth movements, marching societies for women, clubs for the men and schools for the children. In Peru, Italian officers have long trained the army and air force. Perhaps half the cabinet ministers of South America have some Italian blood in their veins.

But even more menacing is Japanese penetration. For years the stream of Jap migration has been going on; because of friendly immigration laws in some countries, because of crooked immigration men elsewhere. Japs are by now the largest foreign group in Peru. In Brazil, the swelling Jap population has produced as much as sixty per cent of Brazil’s entire agricultural exports.

Frugal, hardworking, and fired with zeal for the cause of the Land of the Rising Sun, Japs have prospered everywhere they have gone. The grocery and provisions business in Peru has been almost completely taken over by the Japs. In Brazil they have vast cotton, sugar and coffee estates. They have acquired important mineral lands. They have great merchandising houses. Their shipping is in every port. Japanese fishing boats—Jap naval officers aboard—have mapped and charted the waters off almost every mile of South American Pacific and Antarctic coast. Japanese university professors—speaking excellent Spanish—are frequent guest teachers in South American universities.

Peruvians note with interest—some with alarm — that Japanese finally have acquired complete ownership over a great level coastal plain on the western bulge of the continent, geographically and strategically the ground that military minds would select as a site for the landing of troops and the creation of a military base for armed conquest. Peruvians also heard with interest the offer of the Japanese community to provide the government with 5,000 armed and trained troops on three hours notice, should any untoward uprising occur.

All these foreign penetration campaigns have been going on for years. All of them —with the exception of the Communist, which never got more than a toe hold in this fascist-minded continent—have had marked success. But as with a lot of other things, we of the democracies have been paying little or no attention.

Reconquering South America for the Americas is now the very earnest effort of the United States’ Good Neighbor Policy. That policy is based on two main principles. First, help South America help herself; develop her industrially so she will be less dependent on the European export trade and bind the two Americas together in the bonds of trade. Second aim is to help the people of the two continents to know, understand, and like each other better, to get some common denominator for their thinking and their national aspirations.

If the Hitler forces are victorious, Uncle Sam and his program will have missed the boat by at least twenty-five years.

But Britain’s refusal to collapse has caused Hitler’s South American agents and friends serious embarrassment. Not only is it tending to deplete their ranks. Fence sitting, which is the constant and anxious occupation of all South American governments on the war issue, becomes increasingly difficult and uncomfortable as time passes.

What will happen in South America if the war should be a stalemate? What if Britain’s victory is complete?

From most South American governments will come beautifully-inscribed pronunciamentos congratulating the victor and declaring in effect, “We knew you could do it. We were with you all the time.”

♦ ♦ +

Wallpaper Guide

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