European Front


IN THE military sense, the total defeat of the Germans became inevitable when France and Belgium were cleared after the Normandy campaign and when Russia displayed her growing power in the offensives which swept to Poland and the Danube last summer and autumn. If men of military judgment controlled Germany, all precedents would counsel them to quit in order to spare their own territory.

But it is not such men who rule what is left of Germany. It is the Nazi hierarchy, every important member of which knows that surrender, whether early or late, ensures his personal doom. As a result, a spectacle without precedent in history is unfolding in Europe. So long as the Nazis retain one division of Elite Guards, resistance will probably continue.

The decision regarding Germany made by the Big Three at the Crimea Conference will fortify this determination on the part of the Nazi leaders. Germany is indeed doomed by Allied agreements. Not only the Nazi Party and all its works and ideas, but German fascism, the famous General Staff, and the German industrial war potential, are to be uprooted. Defeat, military occupation, destruction of Germany’s ability to wage war — this is the program.

In every ruined country of Europe, popular acclaim greets this verdict. The masses are showing an implacable determination, despite hunger, cold, unemployment, economic stagnation, and political strife, that the Nazis and their sympathizers shall pay for their crimes. Meanwhile the Nazi bitter-enders make it plain that they will seek to exploit the chaos in Europe to counter avowed Allied intentions.

Perpetuation of Nazi designs, regardless of military failure, has been their aim ever since eventual defeat became a certainty. Accordingly they have prepared with their customary thoroughness. There is plain evidence of this in the recrudescence of fifth-column activities noted by every experienced foreign correspondent. More testimony to the same effect is provided by the stream of picked German agents flowing into Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, and overseas to the Americas. Still more is furnished by the flight abroad of patents from the head offices of the great German industrial cartel masters.

ATLANTIC MONTHLY, SUBSCRIBERS’ EDITION, March, 1945, Vol. 175, No. 3. Published monthly. Publication Office, 10 Ferry Street. Concord, N.H. Editorial and General Offices, 8 Arlington Street. Boston 16, Mass. 40 cents a copy, $5.00 a year. Unsolicited manuscripts should be accompanied by return postage. Entered as second-class matter July 15, 1918, at the Post Office, Concord, N.H. under the Act of March 3, 1879. Printed in the U.S.A. Copyright 1945. by The Atlantic Monthly company. All rights, including translation into other languages, reserved by the Publisher in the United States. Great Britain, Mexico, and all countries participating in the International Copyright Convention and the Pan-American Copyright Convention.

Can the Nazis burrow in?

What is their program? It is to hold territorial subtractions from Germany to a minimum; to maintain a grip on the German people by planting camouflaged Nazi Party men in local governments in village, town, and city during Allied occupation; to preserve in hiding, at home and abroad, a quantity of valuable loot sufficient to finance the underground struggle already begun. Above all else, the aim is to keep the great industrial trusts in being — outside the borders of the Reich if necessary, within them if possible — through appeals to “legality” and “the urgent need for a speedy, sound reconstruction of the European economy” — beginning with Germany.

This plan, drawn up by German military and civilian experts fully a year before France was liberated, cannot be expected to function in Russian-occupied areas of the Reich. It is not intended to. It is aimed at Britain and the United States. Regardless of the decisions taken by the Big Three at their latest meeting, the architects of the Nazi scheme will continue their labors for its success. They aspire first to divide the Western Allies from Russia, and then to precipitate yet another holocaust, out of which they expect to recoup both losses and power.

The amazing fact about this gigantic conspiracy for the survival and resurgence of fascism is that many officials and civilians among the Western Allies do not yet assess it at its real dimensions. By wellmeaning but politically inept policies in occupied territory and in some of the liberated countries, they are actually lending it aid.

In town after town taken by the American armies in Western Germany, rehabilitated civil governments are being staffed with Nazi Party members identified as such — on the weak-kneed plea that nobody else is available who knows how to run the job. The story of Italy is being repeated, this time in much more dangerous territory.

Thousands of German refugees who fled the Reich during the early years of the Hitler regime, and sought haven in Great Britain, Canada, and the Americas, might have been organized for these tasks. They have been largely ignored. If this practice continues, a substantia] structure of Nazi controls on the important level of contact with the masses of the German population will be preserved.

Germany first?

Meantime the “pity Germany” campaign, designed a year ago by the Nazis, is picking up momentum. The British, Canadian, and American troops on the western front have encountered it already. Accordingly, during December and January, while the retreating Wehrmacht was looting the starving provinces of German-occupied Holland of every pound of food that German military search parties could discover, the Germans in the Rhineland areas occupied by the Allies were demanding Allied relief supplies.

And while German soldiers and decamping German civilian “settlers” in Moravia and Bohemia were stripping Czech villagers of food, clothing, and personal household possessions, spokesmen for what is described as “a reasonable peace settlement” were emerging in Britain and the Americas with proposals that the first charge on the Allies, once military victory is won, should be the rehabilitation of German industry to facilitate “the recovery of Europe.”

The hue and cry against territorial readjustments in Europe at Germany’s expense grows louder as it becomes certain that changes of Poland’s boundaries will involve East Prussia, parts of Silesia, and possibly segments of Pomerania. With the declaration of the French that the Rhineland must be segregated as an autonomous state under Allied supervision, and that parts of the territory on the west banks of the Rhine should be joined to contiguous Allied states, this clamor grows shrill.

To the war-wracked peoples of Western Europe, pleas in Britain and the Americas for a peace settlement which will not leave the Germans “resentful,” or which will not level an accusation of guilt against the German nation for the crimes of the past six years, have an incredible sound. The British tradeunions, once inclined to accept the theory of selective guilt for Germany, reflect this trend in European thought. By an overwhelming majority they have now filed an attainder of guilt against the entire Reich.

Biological warfare

It is easy to understand why European victims of Germany feel this way. Their demand, as one spokesman for the liberated nations puts it succinctly, is “not revenge, but justice.” During January, according to the Royal Dutch Government, thousands of Dutch boys and men between the ages of fourteen and forty-five were rounded up in Holland by the German occupational forces and shipped to Germany not because they were guilty of any crime, but in order to further the German scheme for depleting Dutch racial stock during the next interval of peace. Prior to the expulsion of the Germans from the eastern part of France, a similar policy was applied with utter ruthlessness to hundreds of French children.

In every nation adjacent to Germany or invaded by her hordes, from Holland to Latvia, churches have been demolished, colleges and universities wrecked, priceless libraries burned, intellectual leaders — artists, scholars, teachers, and professional people — rounded up and murdered, monuments dynamited, and shrines defiled.

Early in January the Soviet State Commission that investigated three concentration camps in Lwow province published its findings. Approximately 700,000 persons, the bulk of them Russians, but including Dutch, Americans, Italians, and French, were listed as slain by Germans operating these three camps. American soldiers battling their way back to the Siegfried Line in Belgium last month turned up case after case where Belgian civilians had been murdered in batches by the forces of General von Rundstedt during the German advance through the “bulge.”

The theory that the agents through whom such vile crimes as these, and the staggering slaughter at Vught in Holland, Maidonek in Eastern Poland, and a dozen other great prisoner camps in Germany proper, were perpetrated are guiltless because they were merely “obeying orders” is a new high in absurdity. In the criminal law of every civilized nation the agent shares the guilt.

What remains of German industry?

The outcry against demolition of Germany’s heavy industries rises loudest from quarters in the Allied world which had pre-war cartel ties with such industrial powers as I. G. Farben. Even the formidable pressures of such groups must not deflect the Allied governments from decisions upon which the survival of their own peoples and world peace depend.

German industry, through the most complicated set of operations known to economic history, has tied the greater part of the productive structure of the continent of Europe to itself. Unless this web of power is shattered, any peace formulated by Allied efforts will prove illusory. Nor will it suffice to break that web in Germany alone. Transfer of the German cartel system into Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Americas must likewise be dealt with.

The wholesale looting of machinery and equipment, which the Germans have practiced in every victimized nation from the Channel to the Volga should be set down alongside pleas advanced on behalf of early rehabilitation of German industries following this war. It is untrue that the economy of Europe will suffer disastrously unless Germany is hastily restored to her industrial primacy on the Continent.

Czechoslovakia is facing this difficulty already. Her government announces that it will cut directly through the specious tangle of “legality” urged on behalf of Germany, and recover full control of the enormous industrial plants in the western part of Czechoslovakia by nationalizing them as government properties. These huge establishments now form part of Germany’s greatest industrial combine — the Hermann Goring Werke.

The distribution of substantial proportions of German industry to nations which have suffered from German depredations is being suggested. This proposal illustrates what the people of Europe mean when they ask for justice. Greater industrial strength for Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands is an insurance policy against aggression by Germany in the future.

Against transfers of population made necessary by coming changes in European borders, more voices are raised. Those who raise them should re-explore the story of the Sudetenland with its Teutonic population, the story of the preparations for the assault on Poland through German colonists strategically organized there, the records of German minorities in Yugoslavia, Rumania, and the Netherlands. Separation of German minorities from transferred territories and their repatriation in the Reich are demanded by experience in two of the world’s most hideous wars. It is simple common sense.

Russia shows her strength

As the debacle develops in Germany, Russian prestige is touching new heights all over Europe. Russian influence is the consequence of two inescapable facts. One is the revelation orf military power given in the amazing Russian winter offensive, which has torn Eastern Germany apart, and stormed to the gates of Berlin. The other is the clarity of Russian policy on questions such as “what to do with Germany” and how to handle her surrendered satellites.

Long before the latest meeting of the “Big Three,” Moscow made it plain that extirpation of the Nazi Party from Germany, swift and merciless punishment of war criminals regardless of their political, military, or economic status, dissolution of the Junker caste and its industrial offspring, and territorial changes favorable to Poland at Germany’s expense are conditions upon which the Soviet Union will insist. The creation of a United Nations Council is not likely to alter these demands substantially.

Russia’s plans

There is no debate in Russia about the guilt of the German people in this war. Moscow has worked out a policy calculated to meet what seem to the Soviet the demands of justice and the instructions of experience. Russia proposes to keep her German prisoners and put them to work in her territory, rebuilding the cities and towns they helped to destroy, in order to bring home to them and to future generations of Germans a lasting realization of the consequences of making war on the Soviet Union. This is re-education with a kick in it.

This program for expiation of guilt by a whole people through reconstructive labor — which means that many of them will be absent from their homeland the better part of the next five years — is by no means intended to operate on a slave basis, as Hitler’s system of forced labor has operated. While proposing to work these hundreds of thousands of prisoners in large gangs under guard, and to house them in barracks, Russia’s program envisages reasonable working and living conditions.

Plans of the Soviet Union for administration of the portions of Germany to be occupied by Russian troops following German defeat continue to be based upon Stalin’s oft-reiterated pledge to support a strong new Germany, once German fascism, together with its carriers and agents, has been eliminated.

What role the German Committee of Liberation now in Russia may play in coming events remains to be seen. The selection and training of German prisoners for administrative posts in Russian-occupied Eastern Germany, under Russian supervision, and the grouping of captured German officers around von Seydlitz and Paulus suggest that Russia intends, if possible, to avoid the complications which are besetting British and American occupational procedures in Western Germany. These facts again emphasize Stalin’s wish for a renovated German nation.