BEVERLEY BAXTER'S London Letter

Did Hitler Lose the War?

June 1 1946
BEVERLEY BAXTER'S London Letter

Did Hitler Lose the War?

June 1 1946

London Letter

GENERAL ARTICLES

BEVERLEY BAXTER'S

Did Hitler Lose the War?

IN THE corridor of the British House of Commons, just outside the famous smoke room, there is a telegraphic ticker machine which hiccups and splutters the news of the day. There we can pause and read about the stock market, even about ourselves in debate, and assess the world outside.

A few days ago I stopped to look at the machine, which was hammering out a headline: 2,500,000 MURDERED. Even in these days, when life is the cheapest commodity in the world, this seemed to be violence on rather a large scale. Then came the explanation. A German named Kaltenbrunner was on trial at Nuremberg. This gentleman had the honor of being the former head of the German Security Police, and in his defense he had called Hoess, the recently captured commandant of the concentration camp in Poland called Auschwitz.

Hoess blandly admitted that under the orders of Kaltenbrunner he had directed the extermination of 2,500,000 men, women and children at Auschwitz. A friend of mine, who was at Nuremberg that day, subsequently told me that Hoess was a fairly young man of good appearance and seemed perfectly normal. Without the flicker of an eyelid, without any sense of shame, yet without boasting, he described in detail what was unquestionably the greatest horror of all time. Replying to the judge, he answered that there were some 900 concentration camps under German control in the war, and that the death rate was high in them all, without, of course, reaching the record of his own camp.

it must not be thought that this normal, youngish man was a fiend incarnate who did this on his own responsibility. The great Herr Himmler visited the camp on more than one occasion, and declared himself not only satisfied but pleased. Other high Nazi officials also looked in to give praise where it was due. As a mere afterthought Hoess added that 70% of all who passed through the camp died, and that 500,000 who starved to death should be added to the total of those who were murdered.

Neither a Milton nor a Zola could add one shred of horror to the bar© facts of Iris disclosure. That it could happen in the twentieth century, 1,900 years after the Crucifixion of Christ, is enough to still the very heartbeat of civilization.

Today the great powers of the world are trying to der ide upon the future of Germany. '1’here is reasonable* agreement between America and Britain, but France and Russia have ideas entirely their own. I suggest that every time the foreign ministers of these powers consider the question of Germany they should first be made to read the evidence of Herr Commandant Hoess. And if they are inclined to say that this infamy is to be charged against the Nazi Party as differentiated from the German nation itself, they

might also read of how a young Englishman attacked the Tirpitz in a one-man submarine, was captured and executed by order of the German High Command for “attempting to sabotage a munition of war.” It seems paltry to mention the murder of just one young man after the shambles of Auschwitz, but it is part of the tapestry.

A lawyer might argue that the Germans themselves have been victims of cruelty since their defeat at the hand of the Allien. The Poles have driven 12 millions of them out of the territory which was to be Poland’s compensation for what Russia took from her. The Irek of those wretched people has been one of misery and death, only less in degree than was the case with the Germans expelled from the Sudetenland by the Czechs. No one denies this and no decent man excuses it. But at least it can be said that these acts of cruelty came from two races in whom Hitler destroyed the very quality of pity.

1 know that it is necessary that we study the future of Germany with the official detachment of a judge who does not allow his emotions to inflame his judg-

ment when trying a murderer. But legal detachment and fairness of trial do not lessen the guilt of the killer in the box. Whatever our decision may be, Germany stands arraigned before God and man as the supreme incarnation of evil.

Are we certain that Germany really lost the war? Hitler set out to destroy Europe as a social and spiritual unit, intending to build his empire of tyranny upon the ruins. He planned to weaken the manpower of European nations so that they would never be able to combine against the power of Germany. His own losses were less than 4,000,000. The losses of the nations which he set out to destroy exceed 25 million. Nor did his ingenuity end only with the extermination of the living. By sending millions of men into Germany as slave laborers he parted husbands and wives for four, five and six years. Within the Reich the Germans raised their birth rate by a million and a half per year. Hitler lost the final battle. I wonder if he lost the war.

Dare We Strengthen Germany?

BUT wise people are saying that Europe cannot exist without a strong, industrialized Germany. That may or may not be true, but I would pose another question in answer to the first one. “Can Europe exist with a strong industrialized Germany?” Is there any reason to believe that once she has rebuilt her factories and harnessed to them the coal mines of the Ruhr she will not move once again toward her inevitable policy of war?

Every day in London we are told by returning visitors to the Reich that the three-zone system is impossible, that the Germans are relapsing into the lethargy of despair, that if we do not give them some form of central self-government they will become a famine-stricken plague house, that the social democrats will finally be forced to make common cause with the Communists, and that there will be a Communist Europe from the Urals to the Rhine.

All these things are possible, and the great powers cannot ignore them. But are we then to release the murderer unconditionally from the dock and tell him to go his own way?

France is demanding a bridgehead on the Rhine and control of the Ruhr Basin. That is as if Britain were asked to concede to a conqueror the coal mines of Yorkshire and South Wales, plus a frontier on the Tyne. It would leave the Midlands and the world that is called London to the mercy of the occupying force. Besides, can we not remember that in 1923 the French marched into the Ruhr because Germany was not carrying out reparation deliveries, and that the German miners refused to work even at the point of French bayonets? On that occasion Britain dissociated herself from France, and today the British Government is opposing the French plan. Cuntun page 31

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Five years after the war of 1914-18 1 visited the British and French occupation zones in Germany. The British were friendly, tactful and popularmixing with the inhabitants and doing their best to make the Germans feel that they were there as human beings and not as conquerors. In the French zone the military authorities had given an alternative French name to the principal streets, and they kept themselves aloof. I did not see a Frenchman exchange one word with a German, nor did I see a single friendly glance between them. The French used black Senegalese troops at various points.

Rut again let us keep a sense of proportion. Britain and the U. S. A. have never endured a German occupation. When Clemenceau was asked at the peace conference in 1919 if he had ever been to Germany, he replied: “No. But the Germans have been twice to Paris.” Now, to France’s case, we must add the third and worst of all, the disaster and occupation of the war that has just ended.

France demanded a bridgehead on the Rhine in 1919, and abandoned the idea only when President Wilson promised that the United States, in conjunction with Britain, would guarantee her security. But Congress, in its wisdom, repudiated Wilson, and France was left with neither the pledge nor the bridgehead. Thus were the seeds of the next world war born.

I know the difficulties and the dangers of France administering the Ruhr and keeping a strangle hold on the very source of German industry, but in a situation where no solution is perfect, is

it not the course of wisdom to choose that which at least minimizes the potential threat of a reindustrialized Germany? In my opinion there is much to 1x3 said for France standing guard over the eternal criminal.

There is another so-called school of realism which says: “At the present

moment the hard-pressed British nation is spending at the rate of 85 million pounds a year to keep Germany alive and bring some semblance of order within the British zone. In other words, it is we, the conquerors, who are paying reparations to the conquered. If you give Germany a central government and leave her the Ruhr, she will make a rapid recovery and be able to pay a billion pounds a year in reparations to the Allies.” Admittedly the industries of Europe, ruthlessly destroyed by the Hun, need equipping, and the Western Democracies are not now able to do it, but must we free the murderer to accomplish that? Or shall the murderer be made to w'ork under guard?

The hardest argument to answer ! comes from those few men who have had experience in all three German zones—the Russian, the British and the American. They say: “The British order the Germans to rebuild their homes and factories, but perhaps the bricks have to come from the Russian zone, where the brick works have been stripped. The Americans give orders for a bridge or a building to go up, but there is no transport to bring the steel. German industry is like a mad child’s puzzle, with vital parts of the mechanism missing. To give an order to the Germans is like the conductor of an orchestra beating time when none of the players has an instrument. There j is no combined policy at all among the occupying powers. The British are doing their best, the Americans are bored and want to go home, the Russians are playing politics and stripping their territory.”

Believe Hitler Now

The psychological result of all this is obvious. The Germans are sullen, frightened and rebellious. The first reaction against Hitler and his Nazis has given way to open justification of Germany’s war against the world. “We see now,” they say, “that Hitler was right when he told us that the Democracies were determined to destroy us.”

In what I have written so far I have endeavored to place before you the information and opinions which are brought to us in London from men who have studied the problem at firsthand, and it is indeed a problem of magnitude and complexity. Nevertheless I think it would be utterly wrong to allow the difficulties and even the dangers to influence our judgment or alter our sense of values.

I do not think it matters at this stage whether the Germans revere or abhor the memory of Hitler. The Thirty Years War among the Germanic States, which paved the way for their eventual union, was an unbroken record of savage cruelty. Five times within living memory Germany has made war in Europe. Those who think that defeat can alter the hearts of such a people overnight are exchanging sentiment for sanity. Nor do those who play with the idea that Germany can be built up into a counterthreat to Russia show any sense of history or responsibility. The days of isolated wars are over. The world has so shrunk in size and the nations are so bound together in a common destiny that every war is now a civil war.

I am convinced that it would be a mistake to create a central German government in Berlin. We do not want to repeat the flabby experiment of the

I Weimar Republic, behind whose vacil! lations the Nazis prepared their plan of revenge. We do not want a mild Stresemann or a scholarly Bruning demonstrating to the Germans that democracy does not work. On the other hand there should be a general assembly, with the representation of Prussia cut to the minimum, an assembly which would debate the issues of the day and create, if possible, a philosophical leadership for the people. But the actual processes of government should be decentralized as much as possible, with an Allied Commission in absolute authority in Berlin.

France wants the Ruhr to become a politically detached region, administered by an international commission, and made to serve the whole of Europe. It is always a harsh thing to amputate territory from a sovereign state, and certainly such a deed would prove a rallying cause to German chauvinists in the future, but is it not time that Germany was made to serve Europe instead of savaging her? This political detachment of the Ruhr plus a bridge-

head for France on the Rhine are not too severe and might become a guarantee against future wars.

And if the Germans squeal—let them squeal. “The mothers used to try and hide their children under their skirts,” said Herr Commandant Hoess, “but we found them just the same. We allowed 15 minutes for them to die in the gas chambers, but we knew they were dead when the screams came to an end.”

The dead of Auschwitz crowd to the bar and shout the one word, “Guilty!” The unborn children of France and Poland cry from their mothers’ hearts the one word, “Guilty!” The blinded soldier, the generation that went to winged death in the skies, the women who shall be husbandless and childless because of the war cry, “Guilty!” The voice of civilization itself pronounces the verdict, “Guilty!”

We offer Germany her life and the chance to atone for her crimes. She offered nothing but death to the innocent millions whom she drove into the gas chambers of Auschwitz.