Of all the countries of Europe I visited this year Germany is the most amazing, the most dramatic, the most unbelievable. Here in the twentieth century among this highly educated, disciplined and civilized people we are witnessing a dictatorship which is at the moment more ruthless, more barbarous and relentless than any in the world. There exists an implacable persecution or slow strangulation of Jews, Socialists, Communists, and often even of liberals. It is to be feared that Christians in this very land of Luther, who stand for complete freedom of conscience and spiritual autonomy of the Church, will be in danger of the conquest and prostitution of religion by the State as under Constantine in Rome. With its frozen terror, implacable hatred and savage atrocities, of which the half has not yet been told, I found the situation even worse than I had feared.
To realize how it is possible in our day that this unbelievable situation can have developed among this great people, we must look back for its sources to the punitive terms of the ruthless Versailles Treaty, the relentless collection of reparations by the Allies and debts by the United States beyond the limit of human endurance, the failure of the Social Democrats and the liberals of the Weimar Republic to give an honest, enlightened and bold administration, and the inevitable consequent rebirth and rise of nationalism and militarism in Germany, at which psychological moment came the flattering promise of deliverance to a long suffering people by a semingly messianic figure rising in a messianic settingâ€”Adolf Hitler.
SIX BLOWS AIMED AT GERMANY
Such a figure and such a movement would be impossible against the background of liberty in Anglo-Saxon America or Great Britain. But we must remember that Germany was shell-shocked by six successive blows or catastrophes: (1) the exhaustion of the World War in which Germany fought almost to a draw the nearly thirty nations arrayed against her; (2) the collapse of defeat, the impossible terms of the Versailles Treaty, the endless burden of disheartening reparations, the humiliation of the occupation of the Ruhr and Rhineland; (3) the Spartacist revolution and civil war in 1918 when some 150,000 were killed and the nation terrorized; (4) the inflation which swept through the country like a blizzard and wiped out the frugal middle class; (5) the world economic crisis which left this country with six millions, or one-third of its workers, unemployed, and with a dangerously lowered standard of living, with wages of often only ten marks or less than three dollars a week; and finally (6) the political crisis as seen in the failure and breakdown of parliamentary government, with its forty-two ineffectual competitive parties, just when a dictator was arising who promised to unite and deliver a crushed people. Hitlerism thus became not only possible but almost inevitable as an antitoxin to the poison of defeatism and despair for a disarmed Germany, hopeless and humiliated among her eleven armed neighbors and the Allied powers.
For her weal or woe in the crises of her history four men have transformed or molded modern Germany. Each was in part a creator, but to a greater extent the product of the movement of his timeâ€”Luther, the reformer: Frederick the Great, the soldier; Bismarck, the statesman; and last and least of all, Hitler the dictator, strangely enough wielding a power at the moment greater by far than any of the others. He has risen to rule within a decade, chiefly through constitutional means through many elections. Rising from a party with but seven members he has gained the vote of over seventeen millions, and would now capture probably eighty percent of the electorate.
WITHOUT POLITICAL SAGACITY
Yet he rules by arbitrary decrees, and so long as he does not in name abolish the Reichstag and the Presidency, he can alter the present unwritten constitution of Germany at will. without consultation, and is actually doing so from day to day even more swiftly than Soviet Russia or Fascist Italy introduced their revolutionary changes, and without as much political sagacity.
Adolf Hitler is described, even by many of his enemies in Germany, as simple, honest, patriotic, Puritan, intensely nationalistic and slightly socialistic. He seems to be emotional and pathological, but with shrewd peasant common sense. He is Germany’s first orator and publicity expert, not in the land of William Jennings Bryan, “Big Bill” Thompson, Huey Long and Amy Semple McPherson, but in this country of silent scientists, impractical philosophers and goosestepping militarists. He has a magnetic personality, power over men, the ability to surround himself not with a brain trust but with strong-arm lieutenants and to dramatize himself as a messianic deliverer. Unlike Stalin or Mussolini he avoids making decisions; he is easily influenced and is surrounded by a camarilla of his followers who seek to isolate and control him. Most of them are enthusiastic but inexperienced young men, unacquainted with the rest of the world.
The situation in Germany is not yet crystallized and clear as in Italy or Russia, but is still fluid and chaotic. The Nazi Party, with its some three million members, seeks to unite the hundred million Germans, sixty-five million within and thirty-five million without the nation’s boundaries, to abrogate the Treaty of Versailles which fixes the present map of Europe, to seek equality of armaments and to regain all of the lost autonomy, territory and glory of Germany. And all this on the part of a nation politically inept and psychologically blind, which, along with the rest, played its full part in dragging the world into the war in 1914.
NUCLEUS OF A VAST ARMY
Although not armed like France and her neighbors, and although desiring a breathing spell of “peace” for a decade, Germany has a military spirit and forces that are considerable, a remarkable army of 100,000, an efficient police of 160,000, some 800,000 of Hitler’s Brown Shirts, over 100,000 of his aristocratic Black Shirts, 400,000 Steel Helmets, and nearly a million enthusiasts in his youth movement.
I found upon arrival in Germany this past summer that almost all liberty of the press, of speech, of assembly or association had been swept away. Although they are kept secret as far as possible, atrocities are occurring. By a ruthlessly controlled press the people are being kept in ignorance of what is going on in the outside world and even in Germany itself. At a reception given to our party by the Karl Schurz Society in Berlin, I felt under obligation to tell the Germans who were present, and the Nazis in particular, the facts as we saw them. I gladly admitted every sign of progress or achievement of the new Germany. There is undeniably a new national unity, a new enthusiasm, a virile youth movement, a new spirit of hope and self-help, and the claim of the beginning of economic recovery.
DENIAL OF LIBERTY, JUSTICE
But I confessed that we were filled with uneasiness, misapprehension and fear for Germany today at three points (1) The denial of impartial justice. We asked: “Are you giving impartial justice for all or merely class or racial justice for Nordics and favored Aryans? Have you given justice to the Social Democrats, to the despised Communists, to the Jews, to the liberals?”
(2) The denial of liberty. Again we demanded: “Have you given liberty of thought, of conscience, of speech, of the press, of association? The Archbishop of Canterbury presided at a mass meeting of unanimous protest against Germany’s treatment of these groups and classes. But was it published in your press? Columns of ‘self criticism’ are welcomed in the press of Russia by laboring men. But if you hold criticism to be treason and confine the press to the official propaganda of one party alone, you will never know what is going on in the rest of the world, nor even in Germany itself. Only today here in Berlin your own people have come to us and asked us to tell them what is going on here in their own country. Your official declaration has called for ‘the humane extermination of the Jews.’
“Here in your daily paper of yesterday is an article on ‘Why the Influence of Judaism Must Be Broken.’ Here is a textbook used in your schools where hatred and contempt for this great race is being instilled into the children of Germany. I have listened to your orators preaching a flaming hatred of Jews which might logically have incited their hearers to pogroms. I am not now speaking of atrocities which occur in all wars and in the beginning of all revolutions. What is much more serious is the economic elimination of this despairing people. I had hoped to find that there was no longer persecution of the Jews. Instead I have learned from many reliable witnesses, both Jew and Gentile, that the fate of the Jews is becoming increasingly more helpless. My friends, you cannot deny or defend the sad state of all these groups and classes and races who differ from you.”
WORLD OPINION AGAINST HER
(3) The denial of certain moral and economic principles upon which for centuries the progress of the human race has been founded. If there is economic failure within and if there are wrong international relationships without, Germany cannot succeed with world public opinion growingly against her.
Space, as well as the personal safety of many individual witnesses whose liberty or lives are in danger, forbids the giving of a detailed narrative of undoubted atrocities, some of which still continue, of ruthless concentration camps with perhaps a hundred thousand inmates, of the persecution and economic strangulation of the Jewish people, of the extermination or imprisonment of radicals and often of liberals, and of the many emigres who have escaped out of Germany and whom I have interviewed in other countries. But the number of witnesses is legion, the facts are undoubted and cannot successfully be denied by the present German Government.
Austria is at the moment threatened with a rising tide of Hitler’s National Socialism, though the party is outlawed and driven underground here. There are three contending parties in Austria: (1) The Socialists, who after making Vienna the model city of the world in housing, health, social welfare and education, have lost power and are now witnessing the conflict between the two dominant parties. (2) Prime Minister Dollfuss, the diminutive “pocket chancellor”, a courageous peasant nationalist with a minority government, is now ruling by dictatorial decrees. He has the support of his fellow conservative Roman Catholic peasants, of members of the older generation who still believe in the mission and glory of Austrian culture, and of the Jews with their wealth, influence and intelligence who, naturally, do not wish to be slaughtered or starved by the Nazis.
AS A LESSER EVIL
In part he has the support of the Socialists who regard Dollfuss as “a little Hitler”, though the lesser of two evils, but who are not being won to enthusiastic loyalty by a