Paris (Jul. 24)
The International Federation of Trade Unions points out today in a press report that “Unions in the Saar formerly affiliated to the German National Trade Union Centre have courageously refused to become ‘assimilated’ into the Nazi regime and have manfully continued to carry on the fight against the usurpers of the free Trade Unions in Germany.”
When the Saar came under the administration of the League of Nations in 1919, the Trade Unions, like the Social Democratic Party, quite definitely took the point of view that the Saar, with its 99 per cent German population, should go back to Germany in 1935. They took this point of view, in spite of the fact that economically this industrial district belongs more closely to France, (out of a total of 7,800,000 tons of coal produced in 1933, 4,800,000 tons went to France and only 980,000 to Germany. In 1933 also, of 3,600,000 tons of iron ore worked up in the Saar, 3,000,000 tons came from the haematite mines of Lorraine, less than twenty miles away!)
After the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, and the resulting persecution of everything appertaining to the working class movement, continuation of propaganda for the unconditional return of the Saar to Germany would have been equivalent to suicide. The free Trade Unions of the Saar, therefore, in conjunction with the Social Democrats, worked under the slogan of “For Germany but Against Hitler!” Translated into practice, this means that they would give their support to the maintenance of the status quo. Accordingly, a very strongly attended delegate conference of the free Trade Unions held on the 15th July in Saarbruecken unanimously and enthusiastically decided in view of the plebiscite being fixed for the 13th January 1935, to vote for the maintenance of the present position.
Financed and inspired from Berlin, the Nazis in the Saar have developed a terror on an unheard-of scale. Anyone who hesitates to express himself in favor of return to the regime of dictatorship and slavely is branded as a traitor to his country. But from the outset the Trade Unions have been carrying on a heroic campaign against this, and their position has recently been much strengthened by the action of the Communists, who form the second largest party in the Saar, in supporting the attitude of the Trade Unions and the Social Democrats in the matter of the plebiscite, and by the strong opposition to “assimilation” which has arisen among the Catholics, which group has issued its own paper, the “Saarpost,” since the 1st May. In the last few weeks feeling among the Saarlanders has undergone a great change, in view of the events in Germany. The Trade Unions can now look forward to the plebiscite, strengthened in their fight by the firm conviction that a defeat such as the maintenance of the status quo would mean to Hitler would be a great blow to him. Such an occurrence would mean a great success for the fight against Fascism. The Saar Trade Unions want thus to do something to make up for the Nazis’ persecution of the German working class organizations and to help weaken the dictatorship in Germany. Unfortunately, their finances are badly crippled, as a result of the confiscation by the Nazis of the funds of the German Unions. (Up till the 2nd May the Saar Unions had sent their affiliation fees to their headquarters in Berlin). And this lack of funds is naturally prejudicing their fight, while their opponents have at their disposal the millions provided by the Propaganda Minister, Goebbels.