European Front


THE confusion let loose by the surrender of the German armies in Central Europe is resolving slowly into order. The homeward trek of nearly 4,000,000 demobilized members of the Wehrmacht and the Volkssturm, in small groups and in larger formations, from various quarters of Europe; the trudging millions of displaced persons moving from ruined cities, rural colonies, and dispersal camps where, until six or seven weeks ago, most of them were Germany’s slaves; the return of exiles who sought refuge abroad from Hitler’s tyranny during the past twelve years — all this is a reversal of the greatest diaspora in history. It will be months before it is over.

These destitute wayfarers need food. They are unlikely to boggle at methods of obtaining it, especially when they are tramping the long roads home from enslavement.

After World War I, German demobilization was preceded by thoroughgoing disarmament of the beaten foe and followed by an intensive scouring of Germany for hidden or reserve weapons. This time great numbers of the German troops have been permitted to move back from sections of the upper Balkans, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and other points without giving up their arms. Reports from correspondents who have encountered these returning soldiers are identical in describing their arrogance. Thousands of the beaten foe have even taken uninspected baggage over the frontiers into Germany.

The vast dimensions of the demobilization task confronting the British and Americans in Germany are partly responsible for this laxity. But anyone mindful of the plight of Europe after the last war and informed as to the mentality of the still cocky Nazi remnants — especially the SS troops — will perceive the possibilities of future trouble from these men who are now scattering to their home districts in the battered Reich. The French forces of occupation are meeting it already. Even our Russian allies, who have been far more rigorous in this matter than the British or Americans, are having serious trouble with German partisans around Berlin.

As the military government of the Reich under American, British, Russian, and French auspices takes form and becomes more effective, no doubt steps will be taken to hunt down and collect these arms, which are far more difficult to find than heavier war equipment.

The job of clearing explosives and arms caches from the liberated lands is not much easier. French authorities estimate that there are still approximately 100,000,000 German mines in French soil alone, while identified stores of German explosives still to be removed to places of safety run as high as 100,000 tons. Several thousand lives have been lost in Western Europe and Italy since V-E Day because of these mines. As for caches of arms and explosives, their presence does not improve the prospect.

Political censorship

Censorship is still being used as an instrument for the perversion of facts as well as for the concealment of information. Immediately after World War I, the city of Riga in Latvia became notorious as a dissemination center for poisonous propaganda. Riga’s successor today, Cairo, operates throughout the entire Mediterranean area, coloring facts, manipulating the news, and suppressing, wherever it sees fit, unbiased reporting by veteran correspondents in the area. The dangers stemming from such efforts to bamboozle the American and British public are all too evident.

The blackout of news in areas under Russian control is rightly identified as a tremendous obstacle to mutual understanding among the Allied peoples. By Western standards it is inexcusable. Worse than inexcusable, however, is the action of officials serving nations accustomed to freedom of the press — which Russia is not — in matching Russia’s procedure.

Pipeline or lifeline

The affair of Syria and Lebanon provides an illustration of this lamentable trend, and serves warning on champions of peace to be on guard against perverted information. The clouds of propaganda emitted from Middle East Headquarters and its agencies through the Levant bear a heavy share of responsibility for the bitter quarrel which racks AngloFrench relations today. By persisting in a long-cherished aim of eliminating French influence from the Levant, and by fortifying the new Arab Federation as an adjunct of British policy throughout the Middle East, and so compromising France’s only important external oil supply, Cairo and its collaborators in the British Colonial Office at London have succeeded in embroiling two European nations which should be close and sympathetic allies.

It is calamitous that, just as the San Francisco Conference was moving toward conclusion of its difficult tasks, with good prospects for a substantial achievement in laying some foundations for a reign of international law, misguided directors of policy in Cairo and London should decide to swap the friendship of the French in Europe for the dubious support of Arab nationalism in the Near East.

It will take a long time to correct this error. For if the thesis of absolute independence for the Arab States is sound, — and it is, according to any democratic principle, — then it is just as sound for Transjordania, Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine as it is for Syria and Lebanon. The Arab ruler of Transjordania has already indicated this to the British mandatory power in his country.

At San Francisco, Lord Cranborne explained that there is a legal impediment preventing transfer of the Palestine or any other World War I mandate to the proposed Trusteeship Council of the new organization for world security. The mandates, he pointed out, were a trust, legally instituted by the League of Nations, and cannot be yielded without sanction from that defunct organization. How does this jibe with British pressure on the French mandates in Lebanon and Syria?

Britain’s argument that tranquillity must be maintained on her communications lines because of her war commitments in the Far East is equally sound for France, which likewise possesses rich territories in Asia and is actively at war with Japan in IndoChina. How is tranquillity fortified by the spectacle of a feud between the world’s two largest empires? What assurance has London that the opportunistic Arabs, who always lean toward the strongest power in their vicinity, will lean toward Cairo and London in the long run in any power conflict, rather than toward the most massive land power in Europe or Asia, Soviet Russia, which is their close neighbor ?

Empire forever

Iran has chosen this moment to demand retirement of both the Russian and the British occupational forces from her soil in accordance with the pledges given at Teheran. Along the entire communications line of the British Empire, from Spain to the borders of India, multiplying frictions are evident.

Behind this maneuvering lies the continued unwillingness of those directing Britain’s policy to recognize the revolutionary significance of the war just ended in Europe, and the profound alteration of status produced by that struggle in its bearing upon Britain’s imperial interests. The revolutionary implications of the war against the Axis demand a more constructive democratic attitude on the part of the Western Allies toward the liberated nations.

The Dutch, who are genuine partisans of Great Britain, have been among the first to direct friendly warnings to London on this matter. “England,”writes one of them in the Netherlands News, “thinks it can continue its traditional policy in Europe, and apparently is unaware that the tide has completely shifted and has made such a course impossible.'

Mr. Anthony Eden pointed out several months ago that British policy will oppose the strongest continental power in Europe, which happens to be Russia. And that is precisely what Mr. Churchill’s policy has been doing increasingly since the defeat of Germany.

But Russia, the Dutchman continues, is an enormous land power, “situated in such a way that nothing much can be done against it by sea power. As for possible allies, what European power will have a strong enough army in the next quarter of a century and at the same time be willing to choose the side of England against Russia? France? Never again. . . . Germany? Will that country have a strong army again in the next twenty-five years? If so, 20,000,000 dead will have died in vain.

“But aside from the fact that this horrible treachery could be possible, the General Staff of that strong German army would, without vestige of a doubt, choose the side of Russia, regardless of whether Russia is red, black, or white. . . . The traditional German army will never again be willing to fight against Russia.”

This Dutch analyst suggests that Britain’s only allies in her present policy, should crises develop during the next generation, would be the Vatican, “which could not exercise a decisive influence,” and the United States, “whose real mission, as a matter of life and death for itself as well as for England, is to remain above the frictions and conflicts of Europe and help England find a safer policy.”

What do we want?

The Austrian Provisional Government, it now develops, was in fact created by anti-Nazi Austrians. Moscow, as she stated plainly to both London and Washington, permitted it to come into existence in the interests of public order, her proviso being that it must contain no pro-Nazis. As it stands, this regime consists of three non-party members, three Social Democrats, four Christian Socialists, and two Communists. It is a non-party regime in fact as well as by avowal. Its program is thoroughly in harmony with the professed anti-Nazi ideas and democratic ideals of the British and American governments.

“We were told,” complains one of the Cabinet members at Vienna, “that if we formed an honest nonpolitical government it would be recognized by all three great powers.” In the light of the declaration at Teheran on this subject, and the reiteration of pledges at Yalta to aid the creation of democratic regimes, it is timely to inquire just what the Big Three meant when they urged Austrians opposed to Nazism to do exactly what these democratic leaders have done at Vienna.

Why is it considered dangerous to approve a regime headed by the 74-year-old Karl Renner, who has had thirty-eight years of political experience? His career as Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Austrian Republic is well known, and also his work as president of the Austrian coöperative movement. He was imprisoned under Dollfuss for opposing fascism — a fact that should win for him better treatment than he and his Cabinet have been given by two of the three great Allies. The Christian Socialists in this Cabinet represent Catholic trade-unions with sturdy records of opposition to fascism.

The opposition of Washington and London is extended through the ban on the Austrian Cabinet’s proposals that an election be held, to provide a mandate for the new government. Britain’s objections are that such elections might return a “leftist” majority. Is it any wonder that Austrian liberals, as well as other spokesmen for democratic ideals, are linking the future of Otto of Hapsburg with this Allied policy?

Last of the species

The German debacle leaves Franco’s Spain the lone fascist political remnant on the European continent. The day of his downfall is drawing near. Though Franco’s fascist terror runs almost unchecked in Spain, whose jails bulge with political prisoners, he continues his desperate endeavors to disguise himself in a toga of belated democratic principles.

The break with Japan is part of this program. So is the pseudo-lifting of press censorship. The Falange, now his sole supporter, confronts an underground resistance swelling toward the 75,000 mark. The haven given Pierre Laval ensured the hostility of France. The Church, the landowners, and the industrialists have gone over to the opposition. So have the monarchists.

Franco’s hopes for extricating himself from approaching disaster lie in restoration of the monarchy and the behind-the-scenes influence of the great international cartels. But the Spanish Pretender, Don Juan, has been at pains publicly to break relations with Madrid and to issue a liberal manifesto on behalf of a Spanish constitutional monarchy. Don Juan reads the signs of the times correctly, in so far as Franco’s survival is concerned.

But monarchy cannot be restored in Spain without producing savage civil war. That is practically guaranteed by the resistance forces within Spain and by the junta formed among the exiles abroad.

Don Juan’s trip to England after the issuance of his manifesto has been duly noted by the Spanish underground. So has the resignation of the Duke of Alba, Franco’s ambassador to London — an event which took place soon after the appearance of the manifesto. The Duke’s close friendship with Mr. Churchill, the fact that Don Juan is a nephew of the late Queen Victoria, and Mr. Churchill’s obsession for restoring kings in Europe are taken by foes of Franco as foreshadowing Britain’s policy.

In Greece since Admiral Voulgaris displaced General Plastiras as Premier as a result of royalist pressure, there has been little effort to conceal the determination of the Greek reactionaries and their British supporters on the spot to reimpose King George upon the Greek nation, regardless of the fact that he is hated by fully three fourths of the country’s population.

Greece today is the scene of a white terror. Persecution, arrests, street beatings, and murder are employed by forces operating under sanction of the Voulgaris government. The Varkiza agreement is ignored. Some 4100 separate violations of that accord were reported for the period of a single month between early April and early May. Book burnings reminiscent of Nazi tactics in Germany, raids on hospitals, and destruction of opposition newspapers stud the record. Four military leagues, similar to those which supported King George in imposing fascism upon Greece in 1936, are busy readying things for the plebiscite of restoration.