Vhere Thi Misunderstandings &a) Lie
The Path To Peace Is Open
IBy Michael de la Bedoyere THESE words are being deliberately written immediately after a reading of the full text of Hitler's speech and before one's own natural judgment is affected by the interpretations put upon it by the politieians and the Press.
On the face of it Herr Hitler has been able to state on impressive case in answer to President Roosevelt and therefore to prevailing public opinion in Britain, America and France. The speech certainly stands before the world, and perhaps before history, as a proof that Germany has an answer that merits attention and discussion.
We cannot, in the light of those twenty thousand words, simply go ahead on the assumption that all the right is on our side and all the wrong on Germany's. On the other hand, were Mr Roosevelt or Mr Chamberlain to follow the Fuehrer's example and propound to the world an elaborate defence of the Anglo-French thesis, they too could state an impressive case which would in large measure answer Hitler's aecusations isgainst the demoeravies.
It would seem, therefore, reasonable to conclude that both parties can successfully argue that a measure of right is on their side and both could be forced, on the plane of honest reason, to admit a misunderstanding of one another's motives.
So far, so good. But behind this historically unprecedented exchange of public argument there lies the possibility of action that may be out of tune with the spoken professions. WE are left wondering —and not without (Acmewhether Herr Hitler is merely preparing the ground for another advance in pursuit of world domination by force. HITLER may he wondering whether we are planning another step along the road which will ultimately destroy his Nazi regime.
Let us consider these matters in a little more detail and see what conclusions they will lead us to.
THE SPEECH ANALYSED
Hitler was not too clear in his speech as to the precise limits of his professed aspirations. Thus his claim to the right to restore the ancient Germany can be interpreted as a right to Hungary, and large slices of Rumania, Yugoslavia and Poland. On the other hand, carefully worded and wise statements, acknowledging that the rise of new circumstances put a limit to the possibilities of revising even what are considered to have been unjust and particular guarantees to different countries, suggest that only the question of Danzig and the Polish Corridor remains unsettled in the German intention. The restoration of German colonies is still strongly claimed but with the repeated assurance that in no circumstances will this be supported by force.
In the second part of his speech Hitler professed his scepticism about peaceful negotiations at the council table and declared that under no circumstances would he go to the council table unsupported by the united force and will of Germany. On the other hand he was ready to give guarantees for mutual non-aggression with any States which wanted such guarantees if they approached him with appropriate proposals.
The remainder of his speech was virtually a defence of German policy in the light of post-war aistory and an assertion that the refusal of others to understand the nature of Germany's intentions had led to a change of relative positions justifying the breach of the AngloGerman naval treaty and the German-Polish Pact.
With the exception of the German attitude to Poland there was nothing hi the speech to which British, American and French statesmen could take strong exception. The bite was taken from the denunciation of the Anglo-German .laval treaty since Hitler denied any intention of trying to catch up with the British navy. The isolating of the Polish question is undoubtedly ( minous since it. is reminiscent of previous tactics when a move was being prepareia But Poland is a very different proposition, especially to-day, from Austria and Czechoslovakia The effect of Hitler's statement would appear to be more likely to stiffen Poland and drive her nearer Russia than to cause her to give in. Unless Hitler has misjudged the situation, his present claim to Danzig can be read as an expression of sincerity :other than another mere attempt at a coup.
One's difficulty over the speech arises rather from the reflection that, even though Hitler meant what he said cn Friday, he may change his mind about it all in a few months or even weeks. There can he no sort of doubt that Hitler has more than once completely changed his mind after making proposals as satisfactory as the present one. It is quite unnecessary to suppose that he does not mean to stand by his word when he gives it; it is enough to realise that he considers anychange as a sufficient reasen for a policy that contradicts his previous promises. To some extent we all do this—Mr Chamberlain did it over conscription—but Hitler does it in the grand manner This, of course, provides the driving power to the Franco-British policy which Hitler wrongly dubs " encirclement." One might almost say that there is little which Hitler might do which the British Government is not at a pinch prepared to swallow, except the uncertainty about what crucify he does intend to Co. The essence of the Chamberlain resistance is not against any. part of Hitler's avowed programme but against his methods and against the apparent infinity of the horizon within which he works . Those who try to judge Hitler most impartially are none the less forced to admit that his record must leave one in doubt about his future action and therefore it. must throw upon Other nations the responsibility of preparing against the hazards of an unknown future.
OUR INTENTIONS 'Elk is the vital difficulty which Hitler has not answered. Nowhere in his speech does he allow for it. His apologia for the method of taking Czechoslovakia is the weakest part of his argument, hut he never recognises the succession of changes of mind.
If the point were privately pressed, he would probably defend himself by accusing the democracies of taking advantage of his earlier moderation to force the Nazi regime further into the corner. Unfortunately there is some truth in this retort. We cannot deny that a large section of public opinion in Britain, France and America holds that the destruction of the Nazi aegime is a condition of settled peace in Europe. It is so stated in the last issue of one of the national weeklies, the so-called " independent " Time and Tide: "It is pure nonsense to imagine that Herr Hitler will become a prophet of peace. If Peace to come back, he and his gang must go."
That is a non-Socialist opinion. There is no need to underline the fact that Socialists and Communists would find a way of putting the matter even more rudely. And just because this is not the view of Mr Chamberlain he is being freely called Fascist.
TWO ENDS FOR WHICH TO PRAY AND WORK
We can see then that the real point of differenee—the point upon which rests the fate of Europe, for both sides are agreed that war would prove fatal to all—resolves itself to this. We wish to put a. limit at all costs to undetermined Ilitlerian aggression Hitler wishes to make his Nazi regime and the new Germany absolutely safe from the openly admitted threats made against it by large and influential sections of public opinion in Britain, Franee and America.
If this analysis is correct there lies open before mankind a possible way of peace—and when one says " peace " in this connection one means not merely the avoidance of war but the restoration of such mutual confidence as will cause a limitation of armaments and the gradual return to civilised conditions of life.
If we are to tread this path concessions on both sides will be required. The most difficult concession to enforce will have to come from us, but we may he justified in requiring a first. step from Hitler. That first step is a recognition on his part of a fact, the fact, namely, that the present responsible Governments in Britain and France, whether their policy is wise. or not.. have no intention of trying to destroy Nazism. Their intention is simply to prevent the possibility of further German coups the nature of which, abstracting altogether from the question of justice, is such as to undermine all confidence. There is no sufficient reason why Hitler should not admit this fact, and distinguish between this justifiable policy and the unjustifiable attacks on Nazism that are too common among the democratic peoples and Press. This recognition would enormously strengthen the Governments concerned. It would enable them to approach any German grievance, such as the Danzig one, in a genuine spirit of conciliation for the good of all. Above all, it would weaken the case of those who are taking advantage of the present tension to press for the destruction of Nazism and thereby endangering peace. Our return must be the firm resolution not to interfere either directly or indirectly with Germany's internal regime. This does not mean that we may not criticise it or wish it to be different.; but it does mean that we shall not resort to any species of force, including propaganda, in order to undermine it.
It seems, therefore, that those of us who are determined to work for peace in the light of truth., justice snd charity can propose to ourselves two ends for which to pray and to work : convincing Hitler of the reasonableness under the circumstances of the Government's aim to limit Germany's possible field of unilateral action and the even more important task of convincing our own countrymen that the forceful destruction of Nazism is the way to war not to peace. With this double conviction assured there will he no reason why both sides should not conic again to a. new Council Table in order in seek together for those inevitable compromises (as Hitler himself vans them) which make for the nearest approach to justice and therefore for the welfare and happiness of the peopIea on both sides.
That all this may be SO can be the object of our prayers to God and to Our Lady f Walsingham.