Broadcast to Germany: Dorothy Thompson Speaking
LISTEN, HANS. By Houghton Mifflin Company. $2.50.
“THE last time we met, Hans, and drank tea together on that beautiful terrace before the lake, you told me, ‘Listen, Dorothy, there will not be a war.’” This is Dorothy Thompson speaking over the air to the German people as personified in her friend Hans. For Hans is not a fictitious character. He is real, and a man “whose mind is thoroughly familiar" to her.
Dorothy Thompson is one of the few who realized from the beginning what Hitler and the Nazis stood for. She boldly challenged the general apathy and indifference long before most of those who are nowshouting revenge and hatred. Undoubtedly this clairvoyance, as some have called it, resulted from her really knowing and understanding Germany. What is more important, she was thereby enabled to see clearly the universal dangers of which the Nazis are merely the most blatant outward manifestation. “To believe that Naziism is an exclusively German phenomenon is to disregard the evidence all about ourselves.” But also “the frustrations which caused it to burst forth are not frustrations imposed upon Germany from the outside. They are inherent frustrations growing out of inherent conflict in itself never harmonized.”Dorothy Thompson is no sentimental pro-German but a dauntless fighter for a newworld. She knows that to indulge in hatred and revenge does more harm to ourselves than to the enemy.
Invasion of the German mind
Listen, Hans is one of the most remarkable books that have come out of the war thus far. It is a document which every thoughtful American will want to read and ponder. It is “written with blood.”Its first half is a striking discourse on political warfare — the invasion of the German mind based upon a real grasp of the weaknesses of the enemy. It is devoutly to be hoped that our political warfare will be carried forward in terms such as these. Miss Thompson has given a masterly sketch of the German mind in terms of German history, geography, and culture.
She minces no words in describing the confusions and contradictions of this mind. “The world is sick and tired of German wars that are apparently fought by Germany partly for the purpose of determining
through them what the German destiny may be.” “If the German mind cannot make itself up, then we must make it up for her, by force.” But “we should never despair of German aid in achieving this.” She concludes that “the most dangerous idea with which certain persons in and out of foreign offices are playing is the idea of securing permanent European peace by German dismemberment.”
Clearly Listen, Hans is a book written with passion and a measure of prejudice. But the passion and the prejudice are not centered in Germany. Let no one tell you so. Dorothy Thompson’s one great concern is mankind. She here joins us who have discovered a new belief in the common man. And who are these “common people”? “They are all those who recognize their kinship with the commonalty of mankind.” And “we must create our revolutionary allies in enemy countries by creating revolutionary principles for ourselves.”Are there such common people in Germany? Can we make peace with them? “We do not know how many Germans in Hitler’s Reich would rally to such a banner. But we shall never know until we raise it. And when we raise it, we will find the answer to the question: With what Germans can we make peace?”
Miss Thompson takes a clear and unequivocal stand in favor of world government. “The world is one single habitation for mankind and must at long last be governed. For the absence of world government is world anarchy.” She formulates ten principles for a people’s peace which have the ring of genuine conviction. They go far beyond the feeble conservatism of the Atlantic Charter, the poetic vagueness of the Four Freedoms. I will not quote them here, because you must read the book to feel their impact. But they certainly set the stage for the conversations with Hans that fill the second half of the book: “the strangest talk that Dorothy Thompson has ever made in her life — speaking to thousands of people to reach a single one.”
These broadcasts make strange and inspiring reading. They belong to our extraordinary world. No such thing has ever happened before. There is wisdom here; there are tenderness and much straight good common sense. These conversations between Dorothy Thompson and her enemy-friend are a living symbol of an emerging new world.
CARL J. FRIEDRICH