The Memoirs of Count Bernstorff. (Heinemann. 21s.) Reviewed by PATRICK MAITLAND
Count Bernstorff was German Ambassador to the United States during the Great War. Formerly he was Counsellor of Embassy in London. The first ten years of his life were spent in England till his father, Ambassador in London, died in 1873.
The Count writes, therefore, as one whose service to his country has been throughout affected by his knowledge of the English-speaking world. He probably understood the British mentality as well as any German of his period. He now writes " in this melancholy era" to " face facts" and point out the mistakes of the past that his country may avoid them in the future.
This work is of more than literary interest (for the translation is first-class) it is of more than political interest in the sense in which it might interest those who delight in sentimentalising over the records of diplomats and statesman.
For the present moment when Nazi Germany has sent to Canton House Terrace her ablest ambassador, an ambassador drawn, moreover, from the ranks of the Nazi party, Herr von Ribbentrop, the Count's memoirs show something of the grounds for Germany's extreme anxiety to make friends with Britain.
That anxiety is based on a firmer foundation than the sentimentality of saluting the war graves of past enemies or sending ex-Servicemen's delegations to be feted and propaganded in the other country. For Germany, as the most central great power, geographically, in Europe, friendship with Europe's greatest naval power is vital. Germany is still dependent on overseas supplies for raw materials, and it is doubtful if the new four-year plan will make her appreciably less so. if, then, she is to become the first land power of Europe, a position whose attainment demands the utmost concentrated effort on her part, it is obvious that she can scarcely attain first rank as a naval power simultaneously.
Germany's position, too, vis-à-vis France, makes it vital now as it ever was, to isolate France from her oldest ally.
Count Bernstorff realises this need of German foreign policy. Indeed, for him, one might say it was the paramount need. For he goes on to show, or to argue, that France never has, does not now and presumably never will, want a real rapprochement with Germany. He slates the Geneva mentality of French foreign policy which he argues, with some justification, is the cloak of French aspirations. He argues, too, that sooner or later the Trench hegemony on the continent must collapse (indeed its collapse is already evident) and from that he deduces that Germany must aim at securing Britain's friendship.