ARNOLD LUNN REFLECTS
0 N my way through to the World Ski Championship in Poland I stopped for a day in Vienna. " Is it going to rain. " I asked the chambermaid. " That depends on the Lieber Gott," she answered. " But is the lieber Gott still Fiihrer in Austria? " I asked. " They tell me that there has been a change of government."
Glancing at the labels on my luggage she said, " The lieber Gott is a great traveller like you, he is sometimes here and sometimes there."
Poor woman, she had some excuse for wondering if God had left Vienna. Gaiety had certainly disappeared from that once light-hearted city. I wandered sadly into St. Stephen's Cathedral, the deep gloom of which was only relieved by a few dim lights. There was a special offertory box to cover the expenses of a thin, inadequate lighting. The wooden boards which covered the stone floors provided miserable protection against the cold.
One of the windows in the Archbishop's house, broken by the mob, was still unmended. The stonethrowing, so we were assured by the Nazis, was a spontaneous demonstration. I looked at the asphalt street, which was not a very hopeful quarry for stone. The stones, like the spontaneity, had come from many miles away.
On my arrival in Zakopane I was appointed referee of both the downhill races and chairman of the committees entrusted with these events, an appointment inspired, I suspect, to prevent the Germans from dominating the committees.
International ski-ing is a mirror of international politics. The resistance to German hegemony finds expression even in such matters as the appointment of a referee of a World Championship.
Thousands of pounds had been spent preparing for the Championship and thousands of spectators hid been brought by special trains to watch. If the thaw had been followed by a sharp frost the slopes, through which stumps and stones were beginning to protrude, would have been unski-able and the race could not have been held. We were lucky, but even so we had to postpone the race for half an hour because the upper part of the course was obscured by driving mist and
cloud. I can still hear the pathetic pleas of the Polish starter down the telephone. The President of the Polish Republic was waiting at the summit and was getting extremely cold. At the finish the Polish commentator reiterated, not only to the waiting crowd but to all those who were listening-in, his melancholy refrain, "Mr Lunn still won't let the race start."
Now' I have watched a World Championship in which thirty of the competitors had left the course on a stretcher and I was taking no risks, for I am a firm supporter of the view that those present at a race meeting may be divided into three classes, the competitors who alone matter, necessary nuisances such as officials and unnecessary nuisances such as spectators.
My German colleague and I on the ski committee are old friends, and it is symptomatic of the jittery condition of modern Europe that a vast myth developed slowly at Zakopane, for which there was no shadow of foundation, and one of my German colleagues had begun by attempting to annex my room and then proceeded to collar the special car which was placed at the disposal of the referee.
The Germans arrived at Zakopane primed with arguments in favour of increasing the voting power of the new Germany in the International Ski Federation. It is amusing that the Germans should demand that the voting strength should be in proportion to numbers. In Germany, as I pointed out to them, there is only one man who has an effective vote. Ein Reich. sin Filhrer, ein Stimmrecht. Their proposals were not accepted.
Crakow and Warsaw
On leaving Zakopane I visited Crakow and Warsaw. The streets of Crakow and Warsaw were hung With black flags, which symbolised something more than official respect for a great. Pope who is nowhere more beloved than in Poland. The Poles still remember with gratitude that when the Diplomatic Corp left Warsaw, on the eve of the battle in which Poland saved Europe from Bolshevik invasion, the Papal Nunzio and the Italian Minister remained in the imperilled city.
A friend of mine met in a Warsaw night club a Polish official whose devotion to the faith was somewhat academic.
"What are you doing here?" asked my friend.
"1 have not clime to dance}" replied the Polish official. " I came here to
annoy the Germans by showing my respect for the Pope by an attitude of stern aloofness."
I left Poland impressed by the gay courage of the Poles. Europe outside Poland is in a state of jitters, but Poland, which is living on the edge of a volcano, is undaunted by the German
Colossus. German Polish political agitators are promptly thrown into jail.
The German Polish rapprochement exists only on paper. Though it would be impossible to persuade Poland to fight on the side of Germany it would not be easy to persuade the Poles to collaborate with Russia against Germany.
During the period of partition, Warsaw, capital of Poland, was in Russian territory, It was Russia, rather than Germany or Austria, that symbolised to the Pole the oppressor. One of the first acts of the emancipated Republic was to destroy the Russian Orthodox church, which stood in one of the principal squares of Warsaw.
" We should never," a Polish friend of mine remarked, " allow a Russian army to march through Poland. We are Catholics and the Bolsheviks would bring their cursed anti-religious propaganda with them. Moreover, our country is very poor and therefore ripe for revolution."
It is not surprising that Poland is poor. During the war a million houses were destroyed. Invading armies killed the cattle and sheep, commandeered the horses and removed the carts. The Pole is very dependent on horses and carts, for the oadesatare bad and the distances are tvee rgrry
" Somewhere Else ! "
The Poles do not expect that Germany will make any move towards the east in the coming year. The Ukrainian plum requires to ripen. Germany still hopes to mitigate the pronounced Polish hostility towards the conception of a greater Ukraine, a conception which threatens Polish integrity since Poland has a large Ukrainian minority.
The Poles talk a great deal about the Jewish problem. There is not a Jewish problem because a problem implies the possibility of a solution.
" What is your solution?" I asked the Pole. "Emigration," he replied. " Where to?" I asked. " Oh, some colony will be found," he answered, with the unconquerable hopefulness of his race. " Perhaps in Brazil or somewhere else." Europe is still looking for the " somewhere else."
The anti-Semitism of Poland is still comparatively mild. The Pole in control of one of the important races was a Jew, a charming person who fenced and ski-ed for Oxford a few years ago and who is to-day an officer in the Polish Army.
It is impossible to exaggerate the warm welcome which the British team received in Poland. " If you go to Germany or Italy," a prominent Pole remarked to me, "the tourist bureaux of those countries will take care of you. When you come to Poland the whole country takes care of you." I quote this not as an example of Polish eloquence but as an exact and sober statement of fact.
I returned to Switzerland via Prague. A few weeks after the September crieis I listened with interest to a lecture by an American professor whose knowledge of contemporary Europe was derived from an intensive study of newspapers. He was separated by five thousand miles from the events on which he pronounced with somewhat surprising confidence. He assured us that Chamberlain had been bluffed at Munich and that Hitler would never have dared to invade Czechoslovakia.
My Czech friend in Prague smiled sadly when I quoted this view. " But the war had actually begun," he said. " There was fighting all along the frontier, though the fighting was unofficial, The Corp of Sudeten volunteers was already in action and there were many casualties. Hitler could never have left the Sudetens on the Czech frontier without fatal loss to the German prestige.
" I do not blame England," he went on, " for refusing to fight in September, for you stated again and again that you could not guarantee our frontiers. But I wish we had known for certain that France would not march so that we should have had time to come to a reasonable arrangement."
" Jonah "
No cause in Europe is irrevocably lost until the League of Nations Union has made that cause its own. The Negus would still be the ruler of an Italian protectorate, Benes might still be in Prague, but for the noisy but ineffective support of Left Wing Progressives. But in justice to England it is only fair to add that we did in point of fact warn Czechoslovakia of the dangers of the Bones policy.
A high official in the Foreign Office told me that he had conveyed a warning more than once to the Minister of Czechoslovakia in London. " I know you are right," the Minister replied. " We ought to do everything possible to placate the genuine grievance of the Sudeten Germans. But it's no use advising Benes. It's time you stopped giving advice and started issuing commands. Tell us what we have got to do. The trouble is that Benes relies on the Freemasons. He is confident that they will see him through."
In England and America Freemasons have no politics and no anti-religious bias, but the Grand Orient, the chief lodge of Continental Freemasonry, are strongly under the influence of Communism.
Benes, Blum and Azana formed a triumvirate who, it was hoped, would impose their policy on Europe, the policy favoured by the Grand Orient. Benes is now in Chicago, Blum in retirement, and Azana is turning yellow in the process of abandoning the Reds.
Czechoslovakia is a sad country to-day. The Germans who remained in Czechoslovakia were allowed by the Czechs to opt for German nationality, but most of them were ordered by the Nazis to retain their Czech nationality in order to maintain a disintegrating nucleus in what remained of the Czech State.
They have their own schools where lessons open with "Heil Hitler." They arc not allowed to start new industries which might compete with Germany. The Nazis exercise an effective though unofficial censorship on their Press. They are even forced to imitate Nazi anti-Semitism, and as a result their exports have now been boycotted by America.
"Arc you expecting war this year?" I asked my friend. " I fear not," he said, sadly.
The natural sincerity of this astounding remark was more eloquent than any conceivable statement of Czech grievances. What Europe dreads the Czechs hope for as the only escape from an intolerable tyranny. But there is no despair and no whining. They bear their fate with digtaity, and I was never once reminded of the thousands of Czechs who deserted from the armies of Austria to join the volunteers who were fighting our battles in Russia and in France.
It is good for an Englishman to visit Prague. As a race we do not suffer in any exaggerated degree from the vice of undue hurtillity. We hold our heads high, but here is one capital in Europe in which the representative of a great power feels very small. Prague is a monument to the folly and inconsistency of that policy which was mauled by Left Wing Ideologists ,even when Conservatives were in power, the policy which disarmed England and thus left us impotent to help those whom our Pinks and Reds had encouraged in a fatal intransigence.
Mr Chamberlain made the best of a bad business, and those who had been noisiest in abusing him should head a procealsion of national self-abasement to the War Memorial in Prague, for that memierial reminds us of things which the Taeft would be glad to forget. It is flanked by two torches, from whieh rise the undying flame which bears witness to the undying courage of a gallant race. Through the gloom and the drizzle of a February twilight I read one word: Verdun.
They are bruised for our iniquities and by' their stripes we are healed.