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INTERNATIONAL: Plan v Plan v Plan

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Plan v. Plan v. Plan

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Adolf Hitler was reasonably happy last week. Behind him was a Germany so united on paper as to leave no outside doubt that he was its one & only master. Before him was a ring of sovereign powers who could not make up their common mind what to do about this fuzzy-lipped little man who had just spat in their respective faces.

Fortnight ago Adolf Hitler had collected 44,952,937 fresh pieces of paper purporting to show that 99% of German voters approve his three great steps toward FREEDOM AND PEACE. That these three steps had rashly violated Germany’s most solemn treaty obligations and had thereby unbalanced the peace of Europe seemed to disturb no one inside the Fatherland. Once again Germany had a real Army, with more than half a million men cocked and primed to strike at a minute’s notice. Once again a tough, hard-hitting German Navy was in the making. Once again the Rhineland, sacred soil to every German, was back in the Fatherland’s military fold, with German guns and German gunners muzzling the frontier. And once again Germany was virtually friendless in an angry world.

Wooing Problem, Finished with an “election” in which the loss of even one per cent of the vote was surprising. Adolf Hitler last week turned back to the difficult international front where the Locarno Powers were waiting for him to make amends for his remilitarization of the Rhineland. In the glass and steel elegance of the Reichskanzler Palace on the Wilhelmstrasse, the Realmleader summoned his foreign policy favorites: Special Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister Baron Constantin Neurath, Nazi Foreign Affairs Expert Alfred Rosenberg. Germany’s problem: to woo Great Britain away from France and split the Locarno Powers.

Last month the League of Nations Council had voted Germany guilty of violating the Locarno Pact, had then adjourned without taking any punitive action. Playing close to the sidelines instead of in the middle of the official field, the Locarno Powers, by means of a British White Paper, had stated the terms on which they would settle the issue of Germany’s treaty rupture: 1) occupation of a strip of the Rhineland frontier by British and Italian troops during the period of negotiation; 2) cessation of all German military activities in the Rhineland; 3) adjudication by the World Court of the German charge that the Franco-Soviet mutual assistance treaty violates the Locarno Pact; 4) an international conference for peace. France called these proposals an ultimatum. Britain described them as merely proposals. Ambassador Ribbentrop delivered Hitler’s rejection of them only to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. If Hitler could produce counterproposals that seemed reasonable to Britain, unreasonable to France, he would succeed.

Carried away by his 99% election responsibility, the Realmleader announced that he would call the new Reichstag and shout his counterproposals at it at the same moment they were being delivered in London. His Minister of Propaganda & Public Enlightenment Paul Joseph Goebbels told him the world had had enough Nazi stump-speaking for the present. A 19-day “oratorical armistice” was thereupon declared for all Germany. Into the silence came bad news. The British had decided to fulfill their legal duty under the Locarno Pact, to engage in military staff conversations with France and Belgium to prepare for possible “unprovoked aggression” against them during the period of negotiation. True, Foreign Minister Eden had told Ambassador von Ribbentrop that these talks were not to be directed against Germany. Nevertheless the British Cabinet was scheduled to meet in two days to decide when and where to hold them. Suddenly the Wilhelmstrasse had an extraordinary case of jitters.

It announced that a “congenial atmosphere” for counterproposals had vanished. Nevertheless that afternoon Ambassador Ribbentrop was handed 22 pages of German typescript. With his brother-in-law, Foreign Office Division Chief Dr. Hans-Heinrich Dieckhoff, and 26 other experts, he led the huge German delegation by air to London. The German diplomatist was at the British Foreign Office at the unprecedented hour of 9:55 o’clock the next morning, two minutes before Captain Eden.

German Peace. Last week’s Peace Plan of the German Government proved to be a remarkable document. Read by itself in one piece, it was eminently reasonable, generous and idealistic, calculated to convince any open-minded crowd in the world.

It rejected the Locarno Powers’ proposals on the grounds that they were based on the inferiority of a Germany without sovereignty over its own territory. It then launched into a recapitulation of 1914-18, touching off the Allies’ hamstringing of Woodrow Wilson’s famed Fourteen Points, the Allied occupation of the German Ruhr and the Franco-Soviet Pact of this year. The emotional, if not the legal, argument of this last was that if a man who has humored one neighbor by keeping his dog in the house finds that that neighbor has agreed with the neighbor on the other side to keep both their dogs in their yards, the first agreement is void, and the man may let his dog out.

Most important, Hitler declined to submit the Rhineland dispute to arbitration on the grounds that no international court of law was competent to judge this political case.

He proposed instead a four-month period for the “atmosphere to calm,” during which Germany and its “equals,” France and Belgium, all promise to send no more troops to the border, the stalemate to be policed by a commission of one Briton, one Italian and one neutral. During the succeeding period of negotiation, Germany will demilitarize back from the border mile for mile with France and Belgium, will make a 25-year non-aggression pact with both, will discuss a mutual assistance pact, an air pact and non-aggression pacts with Poland, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and Austria.

To show that they have really reformed, France and Germany were to suppress, each within its own borders, all inflammatory print and talk against the other. Germany will return to the League of

Nations, in the pious hope of getting back some of its lost colonies. Then Europe will be ready for disarmament, the outlawing of gas. poison and incendiary bombs, long-range bombardment of cities, heavy guns and tanks and in general the humanizing of all new weapons of war. Thus, concluded Adolf Hitler, will come “a new Europe on the basis of mutual respect and confidence between sovereign States.”

“Impertinence, etc.” To this “irresistibly attractive” spiel, the British Foreign Office did not respond like a German election crowd. It looked in vain for one “positive” amelioration of the fact that after all Hitler had violated two international treaties when his soldiers marched into the Rhineland. Foreign Secretary Eden read the document’s 3,000 words through carefully, listened to Ambassador von Ribbentrop’s further remarks and strode to No. 10 Downing Street where waited the British Cabinet.

The British Cabinet listened to Mr. Eden, then coldly agreed that the staff conversations with France and Belgium must begin soon and if possible in London, decided further to send letters to the French and Belgian Governments guaranteeing Britain’s assistance in case of war. Mr. Eden announced that the German Peace Plan, though far from satisfactory, was certainly “conciliatory.” Could not Germany, Mr. Eden asked, promise at least not to fortify the Rhineland during the period of negotiation? Ambassador von Ribbentrop thought not. Anyway, he said, four months was obviously too short a time in which to match on the German side France’s Maginot Line of steel and concrete that had taken five years to build. Mr. Eden pressed the point. Ambassador von Ribbentrop telephoned Berlin. The answer was No. The French understood why. As their spies discovered long ago, Germany already had field fortifications along the frontier.

Back in Paris from a campaign tour of his home constituency of Auxerre-Avallon, France’s Foreign Minister Pierre Etienne Flandin reacted sharply to the German proposals. He called in to the Foreign Office the French Ambassadors at Berlin, London, Rome and Brussels, suggested to the Locarno Powers a new conference at Brussels this week to crack down once more on Germany.

Screamed Petit Parisien: “In impertinence, hypocrisy and false sentiments the German memorandum surpasses anything imaginable. The whole plan is an attempt to impose on the European problem a 100% German solution.”

French Peace. The tone of the French Press was that of an aging coquette whose friends are about to leave her. But she had their friendship in black & white. Wearied by French intransigence, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Eden suggested that the Powers next meet, not in the stuffy boudoir atmosphere of Brussels or Paris but in the cool objective air of Geneva.

At this juncture French Foreign Minister Flandin bestirred himself to make a French “gesture” toward peace. Working day & night with his Foreign Office experts, he framed a plan that combined “collective security” with the necessities of a campaign document for the French elections next fortnight. Its chief virtue was that it would be discussed in the atmosphere set by the French, Belgian and British staff conversations which the German Press were excoriating as “a diplomatic blunder” and “a dark shadow.”

The Flandin Plan rejected Adolf Hitler’s political case in toto. demanded permanent defortification of the Rhineland and proposed a network of mutual assistance pacts to cover Europe and include Russia. It also proposed Andre Tardieu’s favorite idea of a League of Nations Army for Europe’s exclusive use.

In the Chancelleries of Europe last week a huge split was appearing between the “legal” and “political” realities of Europe. France, for good reasons of her own, was insisting on the exclusive maintenance of the legal realities set forth in treaties made in a bygone era. Germany was rigidly insisting on the political reality of her might as a Great Power. Britain straddled the split. She promised to go to the aid of France in case of a German invasion. She deplored the scrapping of the Locarno Pact. But in the last pinch she did not consider that Germany had yet invaded anybody by invading her own Rhineland.

Realities & Face. Adolf Hitler’s small, neat architect’s mind, abnormally isolated and emotional, likes simplicity, which it manufactures by excluding all contradictory facts. But he has a firm grasp of the realities on which European politics is based. These are simply that there are 65,000,000 white Britons, 66,000,000 Germans. 41,000,000 Frenchmen and 43,000,000 Italians and, on the other side of Europe, 162,000,000 Russians. Germany’s pre-War diplomacy was so bankrupt that it went to War against all the other four. Its defeat was achieved not by its original enemies but by the economic might of the U. S. A basic principle of diplomacy is to preserve the fiction that all Great Powers are equally sovereign and therefore not to be coerced or humiliated in public. This maintenance of “face” is what imposes on Great Powers the reciprocal obligation to act with a sense of responsibility for world affairs. The post-War treaties violated this law. They did it safely in the case of Austria-Hungary by legalizing the com plete destruction of that Empire. They did it unsafely in the case of Germany by not destroying Germany. The Treaty of Versailles all but wrote into its text the eventual arrival of Adolf Hitler upon the world scene. The German people have an abnormal respect for Law and Authority, and their impulse is to adjust themselves to circumstances rather than to revolt against them. To an extraordinary degree Germans are in the hands of their leaders. Germany’s responsible leaders were ruined by the Treaty of Versailles’ post-War operations. Chancellor Brüning tried to show the Powers it could not be obeyed, by trying faith fully to obey it. Depression made Ger many’s creditors call their loans, leading inevitably to foreign exchange control, standstill agreements, the Hoover Moratorium and the bankruptcy of Germany’s international credit and internal politics. Had not resident von Hindenburg, the only German Germans could still respect fully look up to. been in an advanced state of mental senility, Adolf Hitler might have failed to call the cards. Franz von Papen, beloved of Hindenburg, spoke for Hitler to the aged President and, effective Parliamentary government having been scrapped three years before. Hitler was in as Chancellor. The rest was fairly easy. Nazis All. Hitler’s attraction for Ger mans is that he, a little, high-strung Austrian, can break the Law for law-abiding Germans. Even to intelligent Germans it began to seem that the Hitler regime might be useful in getting Germany’s necessary international dirty work done. By last week Realmleader Hitler had thrown three patriotic tantrums, had bluffed the Versailles Powers into letting him have an Army, a Navy and the Rhineland and had led Germany toward the same dead end as 1914. By last week Realmleader Hitler had also got all he could by patriotic tantrums. To get such real and expensive things as Austria, Memel, Danzig or lost German colonies he must from now on have Britain’s friendship. To that end he has directed all his recent diplomacy to London, not to Paris.

Despite last fortnight’s dummy vote of 99% the world last week wanted to know how many Germans Adolf Hitler really represents in his world dealings. Certain it is that the German lower middle class is solidly behind him. Furtive opposition honeycombs the workers whose trades-unions have been destroyed, the aristocracy (excluding the Army), the upper middle class, 6,000,000 pre-Hitler Communists and the professions. Many of these have joined the Storm Troops for protective coloration, shout “Heil Hitler!” with the rest. In the Nation, U. S. Leftist magazine, Louis Fischer reported the widespread opposition to Naziism he had found inside Germany. He retold a Berlin cafè story of an imaginary visit to a factory by General Hermann Wilhelm Göring who told the men they must speak openly to him.

” ‘Tell me where you stand,’ Göring said turning to a grey-haired foreman. I have been a Communist for many years,’ was the reply. ‘And are you still a Communist?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And are there many Communists in this plant?’ Göring pressed. ‘Oh, only about 30% of the force.’ ‘What are the rest?’ ‘Well, approximately 50% of the total are Social Democrats,’ someone volunteered. ‘And the remaining 20%?’ Göring asked hopefully. ‘They are Christian Socialists.’ ‘Then where are the National Socialists?’ Göring inquired perplexed. ‘We are all National Socialists,’ several men smilingly assured him.”

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