Germany, France, and England

by Maximilian Harden; translated and edited by William Cranston Lawton. New York: Brentano’s. 1924. 8vo. viii+326 pp. $2.50.
IT takes courage to translate a book by Harden, and toil as well as skill to render even tolerably close to the original the fire and quality of his more rhapsodic passages. Moreover, when Germany’s most daring and brilliant controversialist pursues his victims through the darker labyrinths of domestic politics, his writing needs much exegesis for the foreign reader. Creditable, therefore, as is the translator’s effort to lend equal lucidity to all parts of this great polemic, many may be moved to skim lightly over certain chapters through sheer inability to follow their rapid rapier play.
Nevertheless, a substantial balance of facts and arguments remains to make this the most morally courageous book that has come out of Germany since the war. Harden’s text, FrancoGerman coöperation, is not novel, but his sermon upon it surpasses in frankness, force, prophetic ire, and prophetic fire, all previous preachments upon the subject.
We owe to the editor the chapter divisions of what is in the original ‘a single essay of nearly sixty thousand words without division or pause.’ They begin with a review of the relations of Germany and France following the war of 1870, and draw a contrast humiliating enough for Germans between their own acts and attitude since the armistice and the conduct of their defeated Gallic enemies fifty years ago. Pages of scathing denunciation follow, excoriating the politics and politicians of Berlin, with no sparing of epithets and nicknames. The foul spirits that have bred Germany’s morass of inflation and financial and social degeneration are paraded unveiled before the reader’s vision. But when Juvenal turns to statecraft, as in the hypothetical reply to the French May Note that forms a long chapter by itself, the serious student of foreign affairs finds material that alone repays the purchase and perusal of the volume.
Letters written by William before he was Crown Prince to Tsar Alexander are printed for the unpleasing light they throw upon the future Kaiser’s character. The perpetuation of Balkan discord is attributed to Britain’s interested effort to prevent political stability on the Dardanelles, plus the dimastic worries and ambitions of a ‘withered coterie of crowned ladies.’ Isvolskii’s dispatches from Paris are dismissed more summarily than historians may think warranted, and Poincaré, who ‘did not wish that his Lorraine home should again become a battlefield,’ is defended from the charge of plotting the war.
Harden denies that the Versailles Treaty exacts an unworthy confession of guilt from Germany. ‘The balancing of the account after this war is so difficult, because the chief victor waged it only in his own land, while the leader of the vanquished fought almost wholly on an alien soil, and because her three allies can do nothing toward Reparation, so she alone, must be responsible “for all losses and damages.”That stands in the treaty. An acknowledgment of guilt was not extorted, and has never been expressed.’
Germany’s own obstinacy and blundering are blamed for protracting the war to the point where Wilson’s ‘peace without victory’ was impossible, and the Allies were in a position to say to him: ‘Everlasting shall be our gratitude for your help: but we can take care of what is left of the hostile Four by ourselves, and must not keep you away from home any longer. Our debts? We shall pay them, of course, every cent. That we can’t to-day, nor to-morrow, is evident. Three cheers for Franklin, Lafayette, Wilson, Pershing. Good Day!’
Altogether this book contains a more brilliant brief for France — and incidentally a more plausible, though in a broader sense not hostile, bill of grievances against Great Britain — than France herself has produced in all the mountains of controversial writing under which the world now labors. The author’s historical interpretations, and the contemporary political consequences he deduces from them, should be weighed with the fact in mind that Harden was discovered and brought to the front by Bismarck, and that he ardently championed the cause of the ex-Chancellor against his young monarch throughout their long estrangement. But this does not reflect upon Harden’s intellectual honesty, which has been tested by unwavering loyalty to his convictions through imprisonment, brutal assault, and constant physical danger, and by a consistent boldness in publishing what he believes to be the truth probably unparalleled in Germany’s journalistic annals.
VICTOR S. CLARK.