It has remained for the Free City of Danzig to administer to the great Nazi propaganda machine the first defeat that juggernaut has met with since 5,000,000 German citizens refused Adolf Hitler a vote of confidence in the national plebiscite after the death of President von Hindenburg.
The big guns of Nazidom were trained on Danzig as they had not been on the Saarland under League of Nations rule. All the tricks of crippling opposition, terrorizing foes, preventing free balloting were tried in Danzig. Goering, Goebbels, Hess, Streicher disregarded the technical sovereignty of the Free City to campaign within its borders in its internal electionâ€”their campaigning for the return of the Saar had to be done from within the Reich.
But despite all this, despite the fact that Nazis controlled the city’s government to such an extent that they could tell the League of Nations High Commissioner to mind his own business, the Nazis failed of their objective. The electorate, while giving the Nazis an increased majority in the Volkstag, refused them the two-thirds majority necessary for them to proceed with their proclaimed plans of changing the constitution and bringing the statutes into conformity with those of Hitler’s Germany.
Herr Goebbels played his aces in the Danzig election and lost. Lost not so much in Danzig as in a checkmate to all the schemes of Nazi foreign adventure. After the Saar, Danzig. After Danzig, Memel. After Memel, Austria. The push to the East?
But now Poland can no longer enjoy illusions with regard to German policy. Herr Goebbels and his associates were a little too frank in the proclamation of their intentions. And their zealous assistants were too free in their handling of Polish citizens. Poland will now be on guard, no longer trusting in Germany’s assurances of respect for the status quo.
Had the Nazis not attempted to force the issue, no one doubts that the city would have fallen into their hands like an over-ripe plum. Danzig is ninety per cent German. The German population has been almost overwhelmingly pro-Hitler. Had the election not been forced by premature dissolution of the Parliament, but been allowed to take place at its proper time, the chances would have strongly favored a great majority for the Nazi Party, as in the Saar. Nazi policy, however, cannot permit of delays. The Saar victory is already in the distant past; there must be something new for Reich home consumption. The Nazis struck not only too soon but when striking was unnecessary. Their tactics have resulted in a defeat that may be far more than a temporary setback.
German Danzig has had an ample foretaste of Nazi methods. It has witnessed terrorism, ruthless overriding of personal liberties and other forms of highhandedness in full measure. It now has plenty of food for thought. Not the least important grounds for reflection that the election has given it is the case of Dr. Rauschning, former president of the Danzig Senate and onetime leader of the Danzig Nazi Party.
Herr Rauschning had the honor of being attacked by Julius Streicher as a traitor to the Nazi Party and to Germany because, as president of the Danzig Senate, he tried scrupulously to live up to the terms of constitution and the requirements of the treaties. He was accused of being over-friendly to the Jews. As a result, after having the temerity to reply to Streicher and defend his actions, he had to flee the Free City of Danzig and seek refuge in Poland.
Rauschning, it is safe to state, more closely is representative of the average Danzig German than the fire-eating Herr Forster who now rules the city through Dr. Arthur Greiser, Senate president. His moderate Nazism was more German patriotism and a desire to see Danzig again a part of the Reich than a belief in the principles of Nazism. That is probably true also of the majority of those voting the Nazi lists in this past election. It is most questionable now whether at a subsequent election, they would again cast their ballots for the Nazis.
When the results of the election became known, observers predicted that the Nazis would soon force the issue again by dissolving the Parliament and ordering new elections, in which they would browbeat what is left of the opposition into surrender. But such procedure is hardly likely to work.
In the first placeâ€”if it has not been done between this writing and the time of publicationâ€”the League of Nations and Poland will have had to intervene. Mr. Sean Lester, the League’s High Commissioner for Danzig, had the humiliating experience of a public rebuke at the hands of the Nazi authorities. The League cannot permit this to go unchallenged without being prepared to surrender its jurisdiction over Danzig entirely.
Poland likewise will have to act. Her General Commissioner for Danzig, Dr. Casimir Papee, was unsuccessful on several of the occasions on which he attempted to intervene to defend Polish citizens and to protect the rights of Poland in the Free State. It is hardly likely that these two interested parties will permit another election under the conditions governing the last one.
Another reason why the Nazis