Rumania or the Baltics Next?

Is it likely that Rumania and Hungary will be the new storm centres in Europe’s lowering sky? It was held in Paris and London that Poland and Rumania were equally threatened by war. To both of them Great Britain and France gave pledges — for Great Britain unprecedented pledges — of armed support.

I think there is ground for question whether the position of Poland and Rumania is as uniform as it appears. In one point it is identical: that both countries have little to gain by war and much to lose. The case of Hungary is different. It has reason to believe that, while it has little to lose, it may greatly gain by war.

I have just spent eight weeks in these three countries, trying to find out what the people thought about the position in which their rulers or circumstances had placed them.

The Poles were fully alive to their danger, but have drawn on their pride in a glorious past to face without dismay the desperate hazards. They are united behind their government in firm resolve to defend their national independence, which they have recovered after a century and a half of subjection. If anything, they are overconfident, too bold and too romantic. The Rumanians, however, are a much more practical race. Amongst them there is no talk of death in last ditches, no reckless Polish quixotism. The average Rumanian does not seem much concerned about war and is not so tensely strung as his fellow in Poland. The divergence is almost startling. Rumania seems to be threatened, but Rumanians do not act as if they thought so. Hungary is a threat, but Hungarians do not quite dare to think so.

Not wholly without surprise, after twenty-five years’ experience as foreign correspondent, I have begun to wonder whether the thoughts and sayings of the common run of people, the typical ‘man in the street,’ are not a better guide to the policy of a country than the speeches of its statesmen, the editorials of its newspapers, and the broadcasts of its radio. The sum total must doubtless be called an uninformed opinion, and as such perhaps it is lacking in authority and weight. But I give it for what it is worth, with the feeling that, after all, it may be worth a good deal.


The War Memorial was as pitiful and ugly as the thousands like it which the sorrow and pride of Europe have raised to its countless dead. A helmeted soldier in bronze with a heavy pack on his back and a bayonet, lunging forward, stood alone on a block of granite, in whose side was a metal tablet on which forty names were engraved. Fifteen of the names were unmistakably Rumanian, with their endings in -esco and -anu, and eight of the rest were Turkish. Four were German, like Schmidt and Schultz, and three as clearly Bulgarian. All of these men had died fighting for Rumania in a war against Germany, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

There came an old man with a turban who spoke in a high-pitched whine and pointed to one of the names. I did not understand him, and he caught me by the arm and this time spoke in Russian and pointed again to the tablet. I looked and the name was ‘Osman,’ which is not a Rumanian name.

‘But the name is Turkish,’ I said, and the old man nodded assent.

‘I am Turkish; I was born when the Turks were here. I learned Russian in Odessa at the time of the other war. My son was killed in the north, but they did not give me a pension. They paid it instead to his wife, and she is still strong and can work, while I am old and infirm.’

I asked the old man if he had cared, or if his son had cared, that when the boy went to war he might have had to fight against Turks. He looked at me rather blankly and said, ‘It was an order. My son went away and was killed, but they do not pay me a pension. So now I will go to Turkey; they send ships for us twice a year. But in this land I was born, and I hoped that someone would pay.’

He refused to take any wine, but drank coffee and ate sweet biscuits and told me a long, slow tale of a land that was hot and dry, which was Babel without a tower, where water alone was king. In one sentence he used the word ‘we’ three times, meaning each time a different race, Rumanians, Turks, and Russians.

Now this town was Mangalia, in South Dobrudja, the ‘Danzig of Rumania,’ as they call it in Paris and London — a drowsy, hot seaside town, which was not like Danzig at all. It was true, what the old man said, that the Turkish Government is moving the population of Turkish blood and language from the Dobrudja at the rate of ten thousand a year, by arrangement with Bucharest. Their land and property are bought by the Rumanians, which enables the Turks to pay for their transport and get a new start in life on the coast of Asia Minor. The Rumanians in turn settle ‘colonies’ of their own citizens, some from abroad, but mostly from their surplus population at home, and thus the Dobrudja is slowly being transformed in nationality.

It was like a scene from the Bible, the threshing floor of Boaz, who married Ruth and took her off to live ‘amid the alien corn.’ A level floor of earth about the size of a tennis court — here they brought the wheat sheaves and spread them flat like a carpet, then drove teams around in slow concentric circles with each team dragging a roller to loose the grain from its husks.

The place was a German village and all its people were German, in looks and race and speech. Their cottages were neatly thatched, the walls washed white as milk, and the windows and shutters were blue; around each house a neat picket fence painted blue or yellow or green — a typical German village of two hundred years ago, such as you see now on the Volga, or here and there in the Ukraine.

The farmer sat in the shade, a heavy blond German, and watched his sons driving the teams. He said, ‘It is good this year. There were storms and we feared for the crop, but after that it was hot, so the wheat is ripe and dry.’

‘How long have you been here?’ I asked. ‘I mean this village of yours.’

‘Sixty years. I was born here — the second child to be born here — when we came from Bessarabia at the time of the war with the Turks.’

‘And why did you come?’

‘ We did not like the Russians. Before, we had lived in the Ukraine. That was — how many years ago?’ He counted from finger to finger. ‘A hundred and fifty years back. We moved away from Russia and lived on this side of the Dniester for nearly a hundred years. The Turks were easier masters — that’s what I have always heard. You paid the tax and they let you alone, with freedom to live as you pleased and worship your father’s God. But the Russians were not like that, so sixty years ago, when the Russians conquered the Turks, my people moved down here. It was Turkish still when we came.’

I felt like one in a dream — the day so hot and still; the teams moving slowly round with the rollers grinding the grain; and the soft, slurred German speech in Rumania’s Dobrudja, Bulgaria’s ‘irredenta.’

‘Then Bulgarians came,’ said the farmer, ‘the fourth year after my marriage. They drove off my father’s cows and refused to pay the price, but the taxes were lower than before because they wanted to encourage Bulgarian settlers here. They came, but the land is dry, and many would not stay. But some of them still are here; they’ve a village over there.’ He pointed towards the west. ‘The money was changed, I remember that, but we paid our taxes in grain and goose feathers: that was new.’

‘But then the Rumanians came,’ I said, ‘and drove the Bulgarians out.’

He nodded a slow assent. ‘Yes, that indeed was true, and the money changed again. It was very hot that year and we had a bumper maize crop ... or was it the year before?’

‘And later,’ I said, ‘the war — the Bulgarians came again?’

‘Oh yes, they did, and took our cows once more.’

‘And now, if there’s war again?’ I asked.

He said, ‘I have heard that talk.’

‘But they take your men for the war. They took them for wars before.’

‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘they went, and some of them never came back.’

‘Are some of them mobilized now?’

‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘there are some.’

‘But what are you?’ I asked. ‘Bessarabians, Germans, Rumanians?’

‘We are peasants and farm our land.’

But a younger one cried, ‘We are Germans,’ and glanced quickly to right and left. I may be entirely wrong, but I think the words ‘Heil Hitler!’ were trembling on his lips, because later I found that these long-lost sheep were down on the German lists as Auslandsdeutsche whom Hitler has pledged to return to the German fold. They did not have any radios, but there came, so the tall boy told me, fly-sheet newspapers written in German to disrupt their old indifference and make them German-conscious.

In the cafes of Bucharest they were telling this story. The Busch circus came to town, a German traveling circus, animals and clowns and bands, and the fattest Fat Lady that ever had been seen. The personnel was German, and the roustabouts and helpers, and they did a roaring business and everyone was pleased — until suddenly rumors arose and flew wild across the city.

It was said that the German circus had arranged a provincial tour, especially in Bessarabia towards the Russian border, to give shows in all the towns. But someone made calculations and found that if all the population along the route of the tour attended the circus twice daily, the receipts at prices charged would not pay half the cost. Then, vires acquirens eundo, the rumor went on to whisper through cafes and diplomatic circles that the Mayor of Bucharest had fallen madly in love with the fattest of all fat ladies, a notorious German spy, and had laid in her ample bosom not only the keys of the city but the secrets of his country. Next they said that the Mayor was arrested. But that was not enough: the Mayor had committed suicide on learning the shocking fact that his ponderous Delilah was not a woman at all, but a famous German General, whose name might be readily guessed. The fertile Rumanian mind then added jest and embellishment of a kind unfit to print.

‘Was any of it true?’ I asked, as the laughter ceased.

‘Not much,’ said the narrator, ‘but the Mayor nearly died of rage, as he’d never been to the circus. I think that the tour was canceled, though why the Germans should devise that form of espionage when the Economic Treaty gives them rights to cruise for timber, and explore for oil and minerals, and survey for roads and railroads all over the whole damn place, is more than I can imagine.’

‘And what did the papers say?’

‘Oh, of course there was none of it printed.’

I thought the story was funny, but I didn’t see all of its point until a few days later, when I went to watch peasant dancing in a village near Bucharest. Boys and girls in old-fashioned white costumes, embroidered in vivid colors, performed their native ‘Chulandra,’ wild and passionate like the Czardas.

My friend from the city was skeptical. ‘It’s more natural down in the country. These people dance as if they’d been trained to make a show for strangers.’

When we talked to some of the dancers, he said the girls wanted to say that the dance wasn’t good because some of their best partners had been called away to the army. One tall pretty girl said something and a boy threw a quick reply that made them all laugh. ‘What’s that?’ I asked my friend.

‘Oh, she says her partner’s gone to the coast and promised to bring her an amber necklace, — you know the red Black Sea amber, — and the boy said perhaps he’ll bring back a mermaid wife, and what would she do about that?’

I couldn’t understand it. ‘But don’t they know what it means — that there may be war next month, and her boy friend and all the others be killed and never come back? Don’t these people read the papers?’

‘Of course not. And if they did . . . There was some scare last October, and then again in March and in April about Albania, but the newspapers toned it down.’

‘And the mobilization?’ I queried.

‘That was done pretty quietly too, so as not to alarm the people. That’s the way this country is governed, that what the people don’t know won’t hurt them, and I tell you they don’t know much.’

‘They may get a rude awakening.’

‘Oh yes,’ my friend said, ‘they may, but the government’s rather smart. You know,’ he went on with a grin, ‘I believe our people enjoy playing both ends against the middle in international politics. It’s risky, but lots of fun. And even the economic agreement — the Germans perhaps may think that they’ve sewed us up in a bag. But, without speaking ill of my country, the Rumanian mind has a certain meretricious quality . . . and many a man has found that he’s made a deal with a girl which didn’t turn out as he’d hoped.’

I talked with a schoolmaster from a village near Czernowitz, where my plane was delayed for an hour. On Saturday afternoons when he had no classes he made a habit of coming ten miles by bus for an afternoon at the airfield, to get some vicarious touch with the world outside his village.

‘It’s a hopeless muddle,’ he said; ‘my father was Rumanian, my mother Polish, and I was born here in the Bukowina as a subject of the Austrian Empire. The people are mostly Rumanians, but there are Ukrainians and Slovaks and Poles, and of course some Jews. The majority hasn’t changed much, but all the teachers now, and priests and local officials and policemen and postmen and railroad personnel, must be Rumanians and have Rumanian names. Now suppose you asked them all, “Are you happy in Rumania?” They would say with one voice, “Of course we’re happy here, and of course we don’t want war, and things are much better now than they ever were before.” Because you see, dear sir, every one of these people owes his job to the present regime. And twenty years ago the men who held those jobs were given them by Vienna. But now they’ve gone back to Vienna, or Budapest perhaps, to grumble about the Jews and join the Nazi Party.’

‘I don’t see the point,’ I said. ‘Why Jews and why Nazi Party?’

‘My God, man, don’t you know that half of this anti-Semitism comes from people who haven’t jobs? In the AustroHungarian Empire there were literally hundreds of thousands of petty functionaries in every branch of life. The Peace Treaties cost them their jobs. They were promised some sort of pension, but Austria was bankrupt and Hungary was bankrupt, and what was there for them and their children? Not even a crumb on the floor. But everywhere Jews had jobs, in Vienna and Budapest.’ He eased his stiff white collar and continued excitedly, ‘And lots of Jews had money, which everyone wanted, of course. And people owed debts to the Jews and were eager to cancel the debts. So they rallied to Hitler’s program, “Join the Nazis and out with the Jews!”

‘But the Nazis had more than that. For some of these people didn’t want just jobs; they wanted to get back to the towns where they had been born and held respected positions. The Germans from the Corridor and Silesia and Posen and Alsace-Lorraine, and Austrians everywhere, and the Hungarians mourning for their lost estates in Transylvania. The little ones and the big ones. And the Nazis had still another card in their game: the feeling of defeat. Because, you can say what you will, nationalism or patriotism or love of your country — whatever you care to call it — is still a strong motive force, perhaps the strongest in the world. So I tell you that if war comes it will be because Hitler has known how to use national discontent.’

I had never seen so many flowers in the office of a business man. But this was Bucharest, where life is full of color. He dazed me with figures and facts about ‘clearing arrangements’ in a dozen different currencies, with a dozen subdivisions for each of the clearing arrangements. He smiled when I said it was complicated: ‘The harder it is, the better. This system of barter is silly and wastes time and leads to error, but I find that it gives unusual opportunities to a man of intelligence to reap the profit himself and let others make the mistakes.’

‘Perhaps you are right,’ I said, ‘but may I ask you a simple question? You admit there is danger of war?’

‘Oh yes,’ he replied, ‘and indeed —’

‘Then please tell me how it happens that none of you Rumanians seem concerned with the danger? You’ve mobilized half your reserves, yet nobody seems to care. You yourself talk only of business.’

‘Well, I am a business man, but, you see, you don’t know Rumanians. Nine tenths of them are beetles who simply want to work, and enjoy what they can get. And the rest of us are butterflies, but butterflies with brains, who want to use our brains and enjoy what we can get.’

He sniffed at a single rose and smiled at me benignly. ‘The trouble with you, my friend, is that you come here from France or Poland or Berlin and think it’s all open-and-shut, that Hitler wants this and that, and that we must do thus and so. Or refuse to do it — and that, you say, would mean war. But it isn’t so simple as that . . . and so much the better for us. Do you think we are not aware that Hungary and Bulgaria are glaring at parts of our land like savage dogs at a bone? Oh yes, and then they add, those people in London and Paris, that Germany holds the dogs and can loose them or keep them back. But it isn’t so simple as that. Because Germany wants our products, and last March made an agreement to obtain them — and thereby showed us the way, in Germany’s interest and ours, to increase our production vastly. If I were a Hungarian or a Bulgarian, I should not feel pleased with that treaty. You see what it did for us, from Germany’s point of view. It made of us Germany’s goose, but a goose that laid golden eggs — eggs of oil and grain and lumber and beef and butter, the butter which Germany needs. Does a man loose dogs on his goose when it lays golden eggs for him?’

‘Then Rumania will not fight to maintain its independence?’

He threw the rose down on the floor and glared at me. ‘Why must you be so dense? Of course I don’t mean that. We certainly will fight, but only if we have to, and we are not yet sure of that. What is Danzig to us? And as for the Hungarians, don’t you know that they’re screaming their heads off because Germany’s shipping us arms — by that very same trade agreement — which Hungary hoped to get? Dare Hungary fight us alone, unless Germany gives the word? Good God, can’t you see that Danzig is only a pawn in a much more extensive game, and that Hitler’s fixed you on that like hypnotized hens on a chalk line?’

He checked himself and smiled. ‘But I haven’t answered your question — why there’s no war fever in Rumania. There is a big distinction here between the ruling class and the masses — that is what I meant by talking about butterflies and beetles. Most of our people are peasants, and this is their busiest time, the harvest. For their part they are busy, so do not think about war; for our part we see no reason to interfere with the harvest. Of course we are taking precautions, calling up reserves and so forth, but we do it as quietly as possible. In short, we are not stampeded ourselves, nor do we want to stampede the public. Finally — and this is most important — you must consider the time factor. All over Europe the harvest period is a time of lowered tension, just as it was last year. Perhaps in two months from now you will find Rumania different.’

I wasn’t wholly convinced. ‘But if Hitler insists on fighting?’

‘Then he and the Poles can fight, and the British and the French, too. But why should Rumania fight?’

‘But suppose you are attacked by Hungary and Bulgaria?’

‘Oh, then we shall have to fight. But then, as I said before . . . good-bye to their golden eggs. My friend, if you want to know, it all boils down to this: is Hitler a fool or not? I do not think he’s a fool.’


Budapest is beyond all challenge the fairest city in Europe, with palaces crowning its hills and Margaret Island shady and green in the midst of the yellow Danube — as if Piccadilly and Regent Street were placed on the Thames Embankment, and opposite them St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace and the Town of London, arrayed in shining splendor on heights across the river. All Hungary blooms like a rose, and its people seem carefree and happy, handsome, gallant, and courteous, and always friendly to strangers. But their hearts, they tell you, are heavy and oppressed. They can never, they say, be happy until Hungary’s wrongs are righted, and, if you will let them talk, the woes of Armenia and Ireland sound petty in comparison with Hungary’s cruel fate. But at least to outward seeming no sorrows of past or present cast shadows on Budapest or the Hungarian countryside.

Budapest’s summer week-end resort is Lake Balaton, eighty miles away. I drove down there one Sunday night and met an unceasing stream of autos all the way. Nothing strange near London or Paris, but I have seen nothing like it in Poland or the Baltic States or Rumania, while in near-by Austria and Bavaria gasoline restrictions are so severe that motor traffic around the cities has been reduced to a minimum and foreign tourists are warned to take extra supplies with them.

No other pre-war precautions, no hoarding of food or money, are evident in Hungary, and a horse dealer told me something which is not without significance, especially for Hungarians, whose cavalry is their pride. He said, ‘At the summer fairs the prices for horses are low, much lower than I expected, but perhaps’ — he looked at me sharply — ‘perhaps they will rise in the autumn.’

‘Do you mean,’ I said, ‘for war?’

He replied, ‘About that I don’t know, but I won’t believe war is coming until the price of horseflesh goes up.’

The crowds at the bathing resorts along the Balaton’s hundred-odd miles of circumference might have been on the shores of Long Island instead of one of Europe’s alleged danger spots. They did not seem to care for news broadcasts, which is unusual nowadays in Europe, and more than once dance music was quickly turned on again when loudspeakers began to blare out political news.

Of course, it was the holiday season, and people less brave and buoyant than the Hungarians have been known to dance on volcanoes. And also it was the harvest season, which meant in an agricultural country that two thirds of the population were too busy on the land to think of war’s alarms. I felt too that the absence of air-raid precautions, or any talk on the subject in Budapest and the other cities, was due chiefly to the fact that they are not a likely target.

The people in cafes and streetcars, at village markets and fairs, spoke much about Hungary’s wrongs and showed deep patriotic feeling, but it all seemed abstract and vague. As in Poland, and indeed throughout Southeastern Europe, the effects and influence of history are a living force in Hungary. But whereas the Poles have made of history a lever to raise a united people for resistance, the Hungarians seem to have transmuted its lessons into a rather platonic hope that some day they will get their ‘rights.’

A man on a ferryboat said to me, ‘Did you never hear our proverb, “In Hungary IF is a mighty lord”?’ He added, ‘I would go further and say that IF is king, and that when you know that, you know Hungary. Our people are still most religious and have not lost faith in miracles. But how can we really suppose that the withered hand of Saint Stephen, carried in solemn procession through the streets of Budapest, will solve such international problems as Hungary faces today?’

I found his words hard to answer, because it seems that Hungary is like Shakespeare’s ‘cat i’ the adage,’ forced ‘to let “I dare not” wait upon “I would.”’ Even if it is true, as all Hungarians claim, that they could recover Transylvania in a ‘straight’ war with Rumania, it is difficult to see why Hitler should use them to batter through a door which is already more than half open, or allow them, in the words of my Rumanian friend, to kill the goose which lays golden eggs for Germany.

The impression Hungary gave was one of bewildered hope, a feeling that somehow a way would be found, but very little idea what it was or where to seek it. I talked with a group of newspaper men. One speaker met general agreement when he said, ‘So much depends on the Regent, Admiral Horthy. As long as he’s on deck, the Germans won’t get control — you know what he thinks of Hitler.’

‘Has he much power?’ I asked.

‘Well, you see, he holds the Crown. And you know the Hungarian rule, that the Crown is more than the King — that, is why it’s been stolen so often. In the old days, at so-called elections, a group, however small, could win power if they grabbed the Crown. The Crown is really king. And don’t forget, too, that the Regent saved us from the Reds. If he were twenty years younger . . . ‘

‘But what about Rumania?’ I asked. ‘Would he favor a war against the Rumanians?’

He looked rather doubtful, but a younger man broke in: ‘Every true Magyar wants war against Rumania, but what is the price we must pay? If recovery of Transylvania means that Hungary will be overrun by Germans, the Regent will never agree.’

‘But suppose,’ broke in another excitedly, ‘that we act without thought of Germany — just march right in tomorrow and take what belongs to us.’

The discussion then became heated, but most of them seemed to think that the obstacles to independent action, from the Anglo-French guarantees for Rumania to the will and intentions of Hitler, were insuperable for Hungary. They were influenced in varying degrees by hatred of Rumania, friendship for Poland, and an almost instinctive dislike or mistrust of Germany.

One boy cried, ‘Remeber Kossuth! We have never liked the Germans, whether Austrians or Prussians. When Hitler went into Vienna, he used the appeal of blood. But we are Magyars, not Teutons.’

‘But you have a Nazi Party,’ I remarked.

He smiled and said, ‘Have you heard of our emblem, the Turul?’

‘You mean the Hungarian Eagle on your standard?’

‘I mean that it looks like an eagle and foreigners think it’s an eagle, but we know it is not an eagle, but a Turul, a mythological bird. Now the Turul, as I said, is the emblem of the Magyar Fascist Party, and that party is no more German Nazi than the Turul is a German eagle. There are other Nazi groups, but they are not real Magyars.’

‘I see,’ I said — but I didn’t, and was left as bewildered as they. I remembered what H. G. Wells once said, in a wholly different connection: ‘This country’ (but I meant Hungary) ‘looks to me like a noble and ancient coach which several teams of horses are pulling with equal vigor, in several different directions.’


There was no lack of interest in Latvia about the possible dangers ahead. The Letts yield to none in patriotism, not even to the Poles, and it goes as deep as in Poland, to the poorest peasants and workers. But, unlike Poland, Latvia never had any history of its own, but was always subject to foreign masters, Germans, Scandinavians, or Russians, yet held obstinately to its language and folklore poems.

A farmer’s wife sat enthroned at her richly laden white hygienic stall in Riga’s new municipal market. She said, ‘This country belonged to the Russians, but the landlords, our masters, were Germans, and always we hated them both. We won our freedom alone, and my man fought barefoot, in the snow against the Germans south of Riga in the autumn of 1919. Later they gave him some boots, but he didn’t have any stockings — just stuffed straw around his feet, and they sent him to the Dünaburg front to fight the Bolsheviks there. Later I admit the French and English helped us to start things going and the Americans gave food — they fed my babies all winter. But now what do we see? The Germans are strong once more, and the English and French want to fight them, so they go off to Moscow and talk. The Russians say, “Yes, we will help if you give us the Baltic coast.”’

‘But it isn’t like that,’ I said. ‘The Russians ask for the right to send in troops to help you if Germany threatens your borders. And anyway the English and French have refused . . .’

She set her arms akimbo. ‘The Russians come in to help us! We know them, the dirty pigs — we’ve known them for hundreds of years!’

An Esthonian official said exactly the same, less bluntly. ‘As I understand it, the Russians wish to reserve the right to decide whether we or the Finns might be going to make a Nazi coup d’etat, or something of the kind, and invite the Germans to land. That is to say, they won’t wait for an overt act of aggression, but want themselves to determine our possible intentions and then to invade our territory, ostensibly to help us. To me that sounds like nonsense from any point of view, but when it comes from the Russians it has a more sinister ring. You see, we have known the Russians. We know the Germans, too, and of course it’s a choice of evils. But to think that England and France should listen for one moment . . .’

‘I told you they wouldn’t accept it,’ I interrupted.

He continued to frown. ‘With all due respect;,’ he said, ‘I find that hard to believe. In the game of big world politics, small states are just pawns on the board.’

The Germans were busy and prevalent in the Baltic States. High officials and soldiers were constantly making visits to Riga, Tallinn, and Helsingfors. In Riga, the Latvian capital, they bought a site for a Deutscheshaus, and a reception was given there in July for the crews of two German destroyers. They all said much the same thing — that France and England were cowardly and weak and degenerate and would sacrifice the Baltic States to the Bolsheviks, who were enemies of God and man.

There were not only Reichsdeutsche but Germans of Baltic stock, the erstwhile masters and landlords. A young Balt noble, whose family mansion had been looted by the Bolsheviks in 1918, said something I overheard to a group of Letts: ‘You had the Red Terror once — do you want to try it again? You know what the Russians would do. They’d take every cent of your money and cut your throats as well. Whereas Germany has no designs against Latvia or Esthonia except to protect them from the Russians.’

The Letts seemed little eager for protection. ‘Why can’t you leave us alone?’ said one. ‘We don’t want Russians or Germans.’

‘I know,’ came the quick reply. ‘But if you had to choose . . .’

‘We shall fight either one who invades us,’ the Lett retorted stoutly. But I could see that he and the others caught the point of the German’s words.

It is not hard to guess what ‘protection’ the Baltic Germans would give to their former subjects if ever they had the chance. I spent some time in 1920 with the Baltische Landeswehr, a volunteer anti-Bolshevik detachment of Balt landlords and their retainers, and heard what they had to say. Without exception they regarded the Letts as hewers of wood and drawers of water, little better than the Bolsheviks in their desire to break up the big estates and establish their national freedom.

I was traveling through Lithuania this summer, and the dining-car attendant seemed determined to speak his native tongue. A blond young man in a well-cut green semi-hunting costume looked up from his German book and translated matters into the vernacular. When I thanked him he remarked lightly, ‘Oh, what can you expect from these people? They’re barbarians,’ and went on reading.

Speaking generally, Germans of all ages and categories seemed no more inclined to question the voice of authority than the Russians were. But there was a considerable difference of emphasis. Where the Russian says ‘I and my work’ and is chiefly concerned with that, the German begins with ‘we and what we are doing,’ by which he really means the nation as a whole, perhaps without any reference to his own part.

This is only to be expected, because race and nationalism are the fundamental principles of the Hitler doctrine. It leads, moreover, to an entirely different method of approach to any question, especially if the question is put in such a way as to involve criticism of the régime. The Russian answers criticism by a quotation from Lenin or Stalin or Marx or the new history of Communism, and expects that to satisfy you as it evidently satisfied him. The German has less faith in the virtue of ‘texts,’ but takes the stand that everything done for Germany is justified ipso facto.

Thus, anti-Semitism is right because it keeps German blood pure; concentration camps are required because they protect Germany against dissentients; aggression against small nations is noble because it restores German Blut und Boden to the German Fatherland. Newmotor roads, the Kraft durch Frcude movement, canals, buildings from tenements to city halls, battleships — everything is viewed with the same spirit, as an achievement of the race. In talking with foreigners, Germans never fail to add that all these benefits are not for Germany alone but for the cause of civilization, of which Germany is the champion and leader. It is an easy and comforting doctrine, as it enables the individual to compensate his own doubts and imperfections by the conviction of his country’s merit and importance.

That, substantially, was the picture I had made of popular sentiment so far as the Baltic States and Germany were concerned. Then came the sudden shock of the Russo-German pact — or should I say the Hitler-Stalin pact.

The first reaction of the Baltic States to the pact was one of utter horror that their little countries and Poland had been carved like the flesh of cattle between Germany and Russia; they felt it was just a matter of time, perhaps only of weeks, until they fell back under Russian domination. It was worse than the worst of nightmares. Now, I am informed they feel a glimmer of hope — that perhaps the pact is less sweeping, and that it means only Russian neutrality, as Moscow says.

But even so it is hard and bitter for them to seek hope in the word of Moscow. They talk, I know, of resistance, but are aware how hopeless it is, and all they can do is to pray more earnestly perhaps than any other peoples in Europe that war may be averted.

The Balts, for once, share fully the feeling of their former subjects. But in their cup there is added gall because they were proud of their German blood and had not learned to swallow the Hitler doctrine: that what he does is right because it is done for Germany. They still are independent, and speak and think for themselves. They feel that they are dishonored as Germans by this pact, because to them, far more truly than to Hitler, Bolshevism is ‘a horror and a cursing.’