It Has Been the proud boast of Danzig’s Nazis that, forbidden by the treaties to rejoin the Reich and surrender its status as a Free City under League of Nations auspices, Danzig has nevertheless been a Germany in miniature, that the Nazi program in Germany has been duplicated in Danzig in microcosm.
To an extent that has been true. Danzig’s Nazi rulers gave the city a reign of terror restrained from reaching the limits it did in Germany only by the League’s High Commissioner and Poland’s Commissioner-General. They brutally crushed all minority opposition at the same time paying lip service to the Danzig constitution. They adopted Nazi measures throughout. Non-Nazi administrators and civil servants were unceremoniously ousted to be replaced by Nazis. The Danzig Senate became a helpless replica of the Reichstag. The public debt increased alarmingly, trade decreased, commerce had to submit to strangling restrictions as the Nazi regime struggled to save the gulden and keep the city from bankruptcy.
Today, under Nazi rule, the city is bankrupt—a little sooner, perhaps than Germany, but by the same methods as Germany is now following. The Nazi program, zealously imitated here, has just about ruined the city.
Hitler’s armament and political program have raised Germany’s internal debts alone to almost nine billion dollars. Danzig’s coffers have been looted to provide funds for illegal armaments and for political purposes.
It Would Be interesting to follow chronologically, the steps Germany took under Hitler which have been followed by Danzig under the Nazis. The Danzig Nazis followed their masters closely until circumstances took control. Today, Danzig leads the way that Germany tomorrow must inevitably follow.
Just as Germany, through a combination of unfavorable economic factors resulting from the world depression and resentment of the people at the inequalities of the Versailles system, was prepared for Hitler and a Nazi program promising restoration to front rank on all fronts, so was Danzig prepared for Nazism by the combination of unfavorable economic conditions and the desire of the majority to be united again with the Fatherland.
In Danzig, as in Germany, honest patriots were beguiled by Nazism and became its supporters. In Danzig, the desire to become again a part of Germany from which it had been torn by Poland’s demand for a gateway to the sea, brought many lovers of Germany into the Hitler fold—to repent later. Dr. Rauschning, the first Nazi president of the Senate, is a case in point.
Dr. Rauschning, an honest Danziger, tried to enforce the equality provisions of the Danzig constitution. Disillusioned and shelved by the zealous Nazis, he had the courage to come out openly in the last elections against the Nazi Party ticket. He is now a refugee from Danzig, but he is an example of many honest Danzigers who once supported the Nazis only to have recovered their senses since.
No one can estimate the position of the Danzig Nazis with certainty today. But I have heard competent observers state that were an election to be held tomorrow, the Nazis would not get the plurality necessary for control, let alone a convincing majority.
Germany’s citizens have not yet reached this point. But the experiment in microcosm points the way.
Since Dr. Rauschning’s ousting, more than 100 Danzig Nazi leaders have left the party. They represent the moderate element, the Danzig burgher. Most important was the resignation of Herr von Wunck as president of the Danzig Diet and as member of the Nazi Party. His resignation was accompanied by a statement of lack of confidence in the Nazi policy pursued in Danzig and his refusal to sanction illegal expenditures for armaments and political purposes.
The Nazi Party in Danzig, even the most loyal members will assert, is in a serious position. The "respectable" element is rapidly quitting it, leaving it to such typical Nazis are Arthur Greiser, the Senate president, who can solemnly swear adherence to the constitution at Geneva and hasten home to violate every clause in it guaranteeing the rights of individuals.
The same process, I am convinced, is being duplicated in Germany, but more slowly and of course, far less spectacularly. One does not announce disagreement with Hitler and openly resign from the partly unless one is tired of life or prefers a concentration camp to the amenities of home.
Today Danzig is struggling with a full-fledged currency crisis such as only Dr. Schacht’s prestidigatations have been able to stave off in Germany. The gulden has been devalued. A "banking holiday" has almost ruined Danzig’s commerce and currency regulations stricter than Germany’s are spelling the dom of hundreds of Danzig commercial enterprises.
One result of Nazi methods in meeting a crisis forced by the Nazi program has been to arouse Poland to reprisal measures. If Danzig merchants are not allowed to pay Polish merchants for Polish merchandise, then Polish merchants must be paid in Poland in advance for shipments to Danzig. If Danzig debtors are not to be allowed to pay Polish debts, then they can have no more credit.
And a Danziger travelling to Poland on business, finds that a ticket bought and paid for in Danzig will only take him as far as one of five border towns. Danzig’s dictators won’t allow the proportionate share of the ticket’s price to be turned over to the Polish railways—so the railways won’t recognize the ticket bought in Danzig.
Danzig is face-to-face with bankruptcy and a worthless currency. Her citizens face impoverishment as a result. They now look to their leaders with suspicion and a grim hope that the men and principles which led Danzig into the morass, may find a way out. And they are beginning to feel that Nazi Germany is morally obligated to help them out. If Dr. Schacht can find a means to repair the economic damages suffered in Danzig by Nazi misrule, then he may save Danzig for another while for the Nazis. If not, Danzig is lost to the Nazi cause. An experiment in microcosm, Danzig points the way for the Reich.