THE condition of grave crisis which for weeks and months, indeed for years past, has characterized the international situation is the subject of sharply contrasting interpretations both as to the appropriate remedy and as to the forecast of future developments. All discussion of the crisis and its possible effects must therefore remain of a nebulous nature until this sharp contrast in interpretations is recognized, brought into the open, explained, and resolved. The divergence in evaluation of the situation is emphasized by the explanation which finds so much favor in Western Europe and America, an explanation which is nevertheless dangerous and fallacious — namely, the antithesis of democracy and dictatorship.
The cleavage of opinion runs through the democratic lands themselves, dividing the opinion of their public, their universities, their parliaments, and even of their governments; it was this, for instance, which caused Mr. Duff Cooper to resign from the British Government.
What constitutes this fatal opposition? Not until that question has been answered does an objective survey of the present situation become possible — not until then do we get the fundamental conditions of international understanding, never so necessary and never so rare as at the present time.
The first of these contrasting and irreconcilable points of view — one strictly opposite to the German conception — may be formulated briefly as follows: the so-called dictatorships, by which for years past Germany and Italy have been designated, and Japan also (whilst Soviet Russia, as belonging to the ‘peace-loving nations,’ is apparently no longer regarded as a dictatorship), are the prime cause of all the unrest in the world. As ‘Have-Nots,’ they are dissatisfied with their position, they want to change the status quo by force, they pursue imperialist aims; in fact, they are aiming at world hegemony.
As regards Germany in particular, these alleged aims are featured on a huge scale, and proofs of them are sought even in the details of the present international situation, after the following fashion: —
Germany, realizing her national unity late in time, came out at the short end in the division of the good things of this world, and consequently, suffering from a subconscious dream, from a deep inferiority complex, strove under Wilhelm II to capture the hegemony of Europe, and, as ultimate aim, world mastery. This let loose the World War in 1914. Thanks to the common efforts of nearly all the Powers in the world, it was possible to bring Germany down and destroy her dream of world power. But Germany has not forgotten this dream. National Socialism is nothing else than its resurrection in more radical form. Since 1933 the Third Reich has been working systematically for the realization of such schemes.
The first stages along this route were resignation from the League of Nations and dissociation from the Locarno system, together with the reoccupation and refortification of the demilitarized Rhineland. With the annexation of Austria, Germany took action beyond the Reich frontiers, and the Western Powers were unable to offer any effective opposition. Encouraged by this success, Germany forthwith raised as a pendant to it the problem of Czechoslovakia. This country, created in 1919 in the heart of the Reich so as to make it possible to surround Germany from behind as well as on all other sides, and supported by alliances with France and Soviet Russia, formed a main obstacle to German expansion eastwards, and was to be removed or drastically weakened. According to this view, the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia was consequently the decisive point of the whole European situation; at this point German expansion must be opposed, even at the cost of world war.
If Czechoslovakia were sacrificed to German expansion eastwards, then Germany would become irresistible; Southeast Europe would be politically subject to Germany; its rich national resources would put an end to Germany’s lack of raw materials and make the Reich immune from danger of blockade by the great Sea Powers. The final conflict for world supremacy between Germany and the Western Powers, inescapable in the long run, would then begin with a distinct superiority on the part of Germany, and the Western Powers would have to fight for their very existence. Czechoslovakia was possible as a rallying point for resistance to Germany only if she commanded the strategic frontier of the Bohemian mountains. She could in this way hold up twenty-five German divisions, and provide opportunity for air attack on every German city. Hence any attempt by Germany to violate the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia must be deemed an attack on the Western Powers, and so be met by a declaration of war.
Such a war, legally justified for France by her military alliance, for England by the Covenant of the League of Nations and her Locarno obligations to France, must be made the test case for collective security, which must not fail once again, as in the case of China, Abyssinia, and Spain. Chamberlain’s policy met with the sharpest criticism from those who took this standpoint; he was charged, according to his own words in the British Parliament, with cowardice, with weakness, with presumption, with stupidity. Men like Churchill, Eden, Lloyd George, and almost the whole of the English left wing, regarded Chamberlain’s action as a betrayal of vital British rights, just as Daladier met the same reproaches from the Left in the French Chamber, as well as from individual members of the Right.
The above-stated view of things, so utterly opposite to the German opinion, is presented by its supporters with all the fanaticism of superstition. This, after all, is a ‘policy of utter despair,’ as it was characterized by Mr. Chamberlain, who continued as follows: ‘If that is your conviction, there is no future hope for civilization or for any of the things that make life worth living.’ Chamberlain, Daladier, Mussolini, and Hitler have in fact set out upon a course in direct and irreconcilable contrast to the nightmares of the Left and of the ultra-Right in both France and England. Their way proves to be that which from the German standpoint has been advocated for years as the only course possible.
The presentation of this conception gives us the key to the political future of Europe, as the Germans see it; the significance of Munich lies above all in the fact that the four leading statesmen of Europe have put their hands to this policy of collaboration, whilst rejecting that of collective security, which must inevitably have led to war. It therefore becomes necessary, in what follows, to set forth this view, and at the same time to answer the question as to where German foreign policy will lead in the future; for our foreign policy is nothing but the logical consequence of this view of things.
We Germans are convinced that it is not possible to consider objectively the present European situation, to weigh the significance of the various tendencies, forces, and interests struggling for power and recognition within it, if one accepts in advance as starting point a conclusion which stands in absolute contradiction to two decades of scientific research, but which is nevertheless tenaciously upheld in wide areas of Western Europe and America, which in the last few years has been revived for the purpose of tendentious propaganda, and which shrouds like a dark cloud all clear recognition of realities in Europe. I refer to the legend of the sole or principal guilt of Germany for the World War, a legend which has long since been refuted by experts, especially in the pioneer works of Sidney Bradshaw Fay, as editor of Origins of the World War, and Harry Elmer Barnes, The Genesis of the World War. With this thesis out of the way, the foundations and origin of the whole ideology of despair, described above, disappear, and it becomes necessary to begin by proving this comfortably grounded theory of the German menace, if the whole conjectural superstructure is to be justified. Failing such proof, it must be admitted openly that, in place of the alleged arguments, sheer assumptions, which would make no impression on public opinion, have to suffice.
It is the general view in Germany that the ‘spirit of Versailles’ has been the root of all evil in Europe during the past twenty years. An essential part of this ‘spirit of Versailles,’ however, is the thesis of Germany’s sole or predominating guilt for the outbreak of the World War.
Without this thesis, the imposition of reparations was senseless, since, according to the text of Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty, they were justified precisely because of the ‘responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.’ Without this supposition as to the general menace of Germany, her unilateral disarmament was unjustifiable, as was also the demilitarization of the Rhineland, the mutilation of Germany’s frontiers, the veto against union with the Reich of Germans living outside, and finally the confiscation of colonies, from which as a base, it was alleged, Germany had practised piracy against world trade.
One half of the Versailles Treaty implemented the consequences of this warguilt thesis; the other half, and especially the League of Nations Covenant, contained in Part I of the Treaty, served the purpose of maintaining them by force majeure. This unnatural order of things, which was built on an untenable thesis, and the attempt to uphold it by force against the natural order (which, like all else in nature, struggles vigorously back out of such constraint to the natural equipoise), have poisoned the atmosphere of Europe for twenty years and threatened most dangerously European peace. Anyone not completely blinded by the false view described at the opening of this article must be shocked to note how, for the purpose of maintaining an unnatural, unfair, and impossible condition of things, every form of power and aggression was justified, including the Sanctions of Article 16, with its provisions for ‘hunger blockade’ and merciless war even against women and children; preventive war; the pact with Bolshevism; the denial of solemnly promised rights of self-determination for the peoples.
German foreign policy set itself, at first feebly, but since 1933 with the whole unconditional and radical force of National Socialist will power, to free Germany from the fetters of Versailles. This task is the quintessence of German foreign policy and the key to an understanding of all German ‘aims.’ Along with this task, Germany has at the same time undertaken the function not only of liberating herself from the chains, but also of freeing Europe from the burden of Versailles. With every link of the Versailles fetters that fell away, something was won for European peace, the danger of war became less — so long as this liquidation of Versailles could be attained by peaceful means, along the way of peaceful change, without a socalled ‘preventive war’ intervening to prevent the achievement of a just European peace.
The great significance of the Munich Agreement is that for the first time the coöperation of all four European Great Powers was won for this work of peace, whereas the earlier stages of the Versailles liquidation — of peaceful change — had to be carried through by Germany alone in face of the strongest possible opposition, threats of war, and the execrations of world-wide public opinion. The merit of Chamberlain’s achievement at Munich is not only the fact of coöperation in freeing from the yoke of foreign rule 3½ million Germans, not only the exorcism of the danger of war at this particular moment, but the active collaboration, together with Germany, France, and Italy, against war in general, active collaboration for the peaceful reconstruction of Europe and for the removal of important elements of the injustice of 1919.
It is clear from the foregoing that when we have managed at last to break free from the inevitable conceptions of the fatal spirit of 1919, and to look at things without prejudice in their true relations, the aims of German foreign policy become simple, clear, and illuminating — as clear and simple as the guiding principles set forth in the Programme of the German National Socialist Party in February 1920, with which they are identical.
Germany is determined to free herself completely from the fetters of Versailles; and she will see to it that the unity of her people is realized and secured, a right long since regarded as a matter of course for all other peoples of Europe. Along this path Germany has already made considerable progress, so much so that Adolf Hitler could declare that, after the liberation of the 3½ million Germans in Bohemia, Germany had no further territorial claims to make in Europe.
If we start from the only right standpoint, — that wars are not chance events, but, like everything else in nature, follow the laws of cause and effect, representing a sort of revenge for a false, unjust order in international relationships, — then, with the liquidation, step by step, of Versailles, we approach, likewise step by step, the securing of lasting peace, as the causes of war, the injustices in the mutual relationship of peoples, gradually disappear. A specially important feature of this evolution in Europe must here be emphasized: that Germany has proceeded along this way of liberation without feelings of revenge, which would have been quite understandable in view of the injustice meted out to her.
One thing, however, the German people have learned from the experiences of the past twenty years, and this will continue to be one of the guiding principles of German foreign policy for long to come: a people, be their cause never so just, can expect no help from outside; they must help themselves, and must make themselves strong enough to help themselves.
The German people have to thank the United States of America above all for this lesson. When, in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced a programme for the coming peace, a programme based on a new and just European order, on self-determination of the peoples, on a fair redistribution of colonies, freedom of the seas, and so forth, it was accepted with enthusiasm by the German people. When Mr. Wilson proclaimed that ‘the impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just,’ that ‘every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the population concerned,’ he was proclaiming the German post-war programme, which was accepted unconditionally by the German Government — in contrast to that of England, which country was by no means prepared to proclaim the freedom of the seas.
In fact, when the American Government declared that negotiations over the details of these principles could not begin until Germany (alone amongst the combatants) had laid down her arms, whilst the Allied Powers retained theirs, Germany did lay down her arms, relying in good faith upon the undertaking, solemnly given to the German Government by Secretary of State Lansing in a formal note on November 5, 1918, in the name of the American and Allied Governments.
This note contained among other things the following words: —
The Allied Governments have given careful consideration to the correspondence which has passed between the President of the United States and the German Government. Subject to the qualifications which follow they declare their willingness to make peace with the Government of Germany on the terms of peace laid down in the President’s address to Congress of January the 8th, 1918, and the principles of settlement enunciated in his subsequent addresses.
Never has confidence in pledged word been so disgracefully deceived; never has a combatant who has unilaterally disarmed, on the proposal of its opponent and in order to make negotiations possible, been so shamefully coerced. Once Germany had laid down her arms, no more was heard of these conditions, stipulated as a preliminary to the making of peace; but precisely the opposite terms were dictated. No peace conference assembled at the end of the war, only a conference of victors to distribute the spoils; no peace treaty was concluded, only conditions dictated to Germany at the point of the sword.
The German people have not forgotten this terrible lesson. The German people will never again deliver themselves, trusting and defenseless, into the hands of foreign Powers. The German people will from now on see to it that they are strong enough to protect their own vital interests against anyone who might venture to attack them. This applies to the present as well as to the future, in spite of the proof which the leading statesmen of the Western Powers have lately given of their wisdom and insight; for the parliamentary constitution of these countries offers no guarantee of continuity in their foreign policy, a policy which depends upon majorities in Parliament that are liable to change at any time.
Naturally, it is not possible to forecast the future foreign policy of any country in exact particulars; but we may nevertheless summarize the foreign policy of the Third Reich at the present time.
1. The Third Reich is based on the National Socialist idea: on the principle of Socialism as regards internal policy, on that of Nationalism in foreign policy. This means that the German people are to live together as a unity and shape their own life in freedom and independence.
The process of national unification is to-day in its essentials completed; the German Reich, now comprising 80,000,000 German people, has no further territorial claims to make in Europe. It rejects on principle the inclusion of foreign peoples within its frontiers, but requires from those states where scattered German groups exist unqualified respect for their racial rights.
2. The German Reich will continue its struggle against the system and spirit of Versailles until no trace of them remains, and until by this means complete and equal justice for Germany in the councils of the peoples, the complete vindication of her honor and position as a Great Power, have been secured. The German people are prepared to look back upon the monstrous injustice of Versailles without any feelings of hatred and revenge, if there is readiness on the other side to drop for good and all the discriminating Versailles spirit, and to accord without envy to the great German nation her appropriate place in the sun.
The German people desire to live in peace and friendship with all other peoples; but they will never again confide their rights and interests to other Powers. They will rather make and keep themselves strong, in order to meet with vigor and energy every threat to their vital interests. Germany is firmly convinced that only thus, by the removal of unjust settlements and the substitution for them of a just order, can peace in the long run be preserved. One specially important aspect of Versailles injustice which has not yet been redeemed — the question of colonies — should be here cited.
3. The German people reject the Geneva League of Nations as being an unsuitable instrument for international coöperation, and refuse ever again to enter therein. Their principal acquaintance with the League of Nations is as the executor and guarantor for the injustices of Versailles, appointed to support these injustices, with whom the plaints of the German people never found a hearing. It has not kept the promise of collective security made to the smaller peoples. Abyssinia had to pay for confidence in its support by her downfall as a state.
The League was unable to solve any one of the big post-war international problems. In the attempt to secure general disarmament, — facilitated by that of Germany, already carried out, — it was no more successful than in protecting minorities or in the attainment of economic coöperation; above all, it tried to blink every big political issue. In the recent crisis, the eyes of Europe and the world were not turned upon Geneva, in spite of the fact that the League Assembly was in session there at the time — they were turned instead to Nuremberg, Berchtesgaden, Godesberg, London, Munich, Berlin, Paris, and Washington. Again collective security failed, and exists no more. France would have gone to war, if at all, on the ground of her Alliance, not on that of Articles 16 and 17 of the League of Nations Covenant. Every small and medium-sized Power immediately sought refuge in neutrality. Great Britain, bound by no pact with Czechoslovakia, declared by the mouth of her Prime Minister, on the evening of the day when her fleet mobilized, that she could not fight for the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia — only for some bigger thing than that. What this bigger thing was became unequivocably clear from his statement — namely, the principle of the Balance of Power, to uphold which, in Europe, England has for centuries past gone to war.
4. In place of collective security and the League of Nations, there appeared for the first time at Munich the new principle of European Collaboration. The method chosen to deal with the Czechoslovakian crisis signified the application of that man-to-man policy which has from the first been advocated by National Socialism; it signified a return to the Four-Power policy of Mussolini, nipped in the bud by France in 1933, and it signified the advent of the leadership principle in foreign policy as substitute for the barren parliamentary methods of Geneva.
Thus, return to the concert of the Powers is completed. This concert, apart from trivial interruptions, ensured peace in Europe for nearly a hundred years after 1815, whereas during that period, in both North and South America, considerable armed conflicts took place. The concert only failed to assure peace when it fell apart into two irreconcilably divided hostile blocs.
The Berlin-Rome Axis is no such antagonistic exclusive bloc; we are disposed to make the same assumption with regard to the Anglo-French Entente, and to hope that between the four great European capitals a nicely balanced system of collaboration will develop. For the rest, we regard it as desirable, now that the supra-national illusions of Geneva have been overcome, to start afresh from that point where pre-war Europe was beginning to coöperate with America in international law — namely, at The Hague, in the Peace Plan of Bryan (the Conference of Ambassadors, specified in the Munich Agreement, bears a remarkable likeness to the basic idea of this Bryan Plan), with those modest, limited, realistic steps towards international coöperation and the preservation of peace which have been practised for decades past in the Pan-American Union with so much blessing for the continent of America.
We hope in this way to achieve fruitful collaboration not only with the other European states but also with America. On the other hand, Germany refuses to coöperate with Bolshevism, in which she recognizes the real enemy to peace, order, and civilization; she has consequently drawn especially close to those Powers which, through similar philosophy and experiences, have reached the same conclusion— Italy and Japan. Nevertheless the Anti-Comintern Pact is no veiled alliance or armed bloc, but an open defensive front in which all are welcome who, with us, see in the ideology of world revolution, and its propagandist methods in every land, the true source of discontent, disorder, and unrest, which prevent the stabilization of lasting peace.
5. The Third Reich rejects all pacifist ideologies as being utopian and a menace to real peace; it has, however, since 1933 introduced a ‘Good Neighbor’ policy, which is destined to convert the most strained area of Europe into the most contented. In pursuit of this policy it concluded a Pact of Friendship with Poland in 1934, thereby lifting GermanPolish relations, which for the past fourteen years had constituted a principal part of the work of the Hague Court and of the League of Nations, on to an entirely new level of understanding. The most friendly relations link Germany with Italy, Yugoslavia, and Hungary; Czechoslovakia too, after the disillusionment with her allies, and from motives of enlightened self-interest, seems ready to take her place in the ranks of Germany’s friends. The neutrality of Switzerland, the independence and inviolability of the Netherlands and Belgium, have been most solemnly recognized by Germany. According to Adolf Hitler’s official declarations, there exists no further conceivable material for conflict with France, and the French frontiers of 1919 have been acknowledged by us as definitely settled. Finally England, although separated from us by the North Sea, is still a neighbor — in fact, our most important neighbor, with whom we desire to live forever in peace and friendship, as set forth in the mutual declaration of Munich on September 30, 1938: —
We, the German Führer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting to-day and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe. We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference and thus to contribute to assuring the peace of Europe.
In order to prevent such tragic misunderstandings between two closely related peoples from ever happening again, Germany has voluntarily limited her naval strength to 35 per cent of that of the British Fleet, in order to prove to Great Britain by this most unequivocal and obvious act her firm decision not to think of challenging that superiority at sea which is the condition of British security. This Anglo-German Naval Treaty of June 18, 1935 represents at the same time the only effective agreement between Great Powers for the limitation of armaments, which, since England is wholly the receiving and Germany the conceding partner, gives striking proof of the earnestness with which we are concerned for peace. Germany proposed similarly to the other Powers the conclusion, on a parity basis, of disarmament treaties on land, water, and in the air, in addition to an air pact, but unfortunately without meeting any desire to respond from the other side. The consequence of this was competition in rearmament, which represents a heavy burden on the national budgets, and the end of which cannot yet be seen.
Shall we now witness, as a result of the Munich Agreement and of the strict and fair implementing of the rights of self-determination of the peoples therein laid down, a growth of confidence as to German intentions, of which such clear proofs have been given, and a silencing of the warmongers in every land?
If this question could be answered in the affirmative, the peace of Europe would be assured for an almost indefinite period.