Dear reader: can you possibly still have anything to learn about World War II? Let’s see.
This cataclysmic event happened in the lives of those now living. It shaped the world we live in today. Blah de blah de blah. You have seen it all on the History Channel. UR is not the History Channel.
The question, still, is easy to answer. The answer is: “yes.” You actually have a lot to learn about World War II. Basically, there are three forces in this war: the Allies, the Communists, and the Nazis. To what extent do you understand these parties?
As an educated person in the year 2010, your historical understanding of the Third Reich is almost perfect. In fact, even an uneducated person in the year 2010 has a fine understanding of Nazi Germany. This is why, here at UR, we so seldom mention Hitler. You already know your Nazis. National Socialism was both original and good; the good parts were not original, and so are unimportant; the original parts were not good; and there was a third part, which was neither.
The Nazi-ology of the best-educated today is terrifyingly accurate and complete, if charged perhaps with a little too much emotional contempt to really be sub specie aeternitas. This is appropriate in a primary source, like Fritz Reck or Victor Klemperer; it is not permitted to the historian. So, for instance, I much prefer Michael Burleigh to Richard Evans. Professor Burleigh’s goal is to explain National Socialism; Professor Evans I find too obsessed with denouncing it. But neither will be found engaging in any fundamental misrepresentation, for they just don’t need to. Sorry, Nazis.
The Nazi-ology of the uneducated is simply the refined critical judgment of the educated, boiled down to an emotional essence. The essence is true. Which is fortunate, because there is a lot of it around. To osmose into the skulls of the uneducated, and worse the ineducable, the molecule must be small and the ambient concentration high. That’s democracy for you.
Hence we depart from Nazis and proceed to Communists. Here our awareness declines; but not by much. The academic understanding of the Soviet Union is remarkably good, at least in the Stalin period. Pre-Stalin and post-Stalin, the history is much weaker; but our period today is Stalin. Moreover, the academic picture of the Stalin era is emotionally appropriate; the best work is neither falsely impersonal in the Dryasdust vein, nor marred by invective. Of course, there is still a lingering core of sympathizers, but hope has deserted them and emphysema will do the rest.
Popular understanding of the Communist phenomenon is quite weak. Again, it is best for Stalin, but this is not saying much. I’d say most people understand 20th-century Communism about as well as I understand 18th and 19th-century Freemasonry, and I don’t understand Freemasonry at all. For instance, they simply cannot understand how it could possibly matter whether their President, Barack H. Obama, “is or ever has been” a Marxist. Fortunately, as Bismarck put it, God takes care of fools, drunks and the United States—though His patience with the latter shows signs of shortening.
And finally: the Allies. No one knows fsck-all about the Allies.
That’s the point of this primary sourcebook, a long post composed entirely of fair-use excerpts from period sources on the Allied side. You want proof? You can’t handle the fscking proof. But this is UR, so we’ll give it to you anyway. Grown men will run screaming from this post. They will break down in tears, like little girls.
Let’s start with a picture. I feel it is essential to begin by engaging the visual imagination:
This image appeared in LIFE magazine, August 16, 1943. Mrs. Moldbug cleaned it up for possible publishing purposes, but Google has generously brought us the original image—in a Mobil ad, flying horse and all. If you read the text under the picture, you will see that there is nothing even slightly facetious about it:
Just as fast as American refineries can get into production of a sensational new aviation gasoline—United Nations’ bomber fleets will be given a new—far wider cruising range for their deadly blows at Axis Europe!
I have no joke. I just like saying: “United Nations’ bomber fleets.” At least they weren’t throwing their bombs out of black helicopters! Ha ha.
Now, run your eyes along that image again. Savor the names of the towns. Before Flying Horsepower, with that old, off-brand aviation gas, “Present Range with Block-Busting Loads,” UN bomber fleets could hit Paris, Berlin, Munich…but haven’t we heard it already? Another raid on Munich? Film at 11. Frankly, after a point, you’re just making the bricks bounce. (Though here’s one thing you can say for the United Nations: we never bombed Paris. At least, not seriously.)
But with Flying Horsepower …new vistas appear. New territories, gentlemen, to liberate from the air, with our amazing flying machines! Prague! You should have stayed a cockroach, Kafka. Salzburg! Just call it Salieri’s revenge. And if we push the gas to its last drop…Venice! We can bomb Venice! We’ll show you some Death in Venice, Herr Oberstuermfuehrer Mann.
This is what we do when we read a primary source. We surrender, aghast, to the spirit of the age. In the context of American public opinion, 1943, here is nothing unusual or striking about the language of this one Mobil ad—this image of extraordinary, homicidal revenge on the entire continent of Europe, endorsed implicitly and with gusto by the entire LIFE-reading public, and enacted by…by…the—United Nations? Funny, we never covered that in Model UN.
Of course, you know that we bombed Germany in the war. What you don’t know is why. There are a couple of answers to this question which may be kicking around your head. They are not correct answers, but they resemble correct answers. So let’s dispel them.
One: we know that, at the same time as Mobil’s New Super Fuel is leading the Pentagon to lick its lips and fantasize lovingly about stretching its deadly blows to Axis Florence, the Jews of Europe are being exterminated in death factories in Poland. Are these historical events in any way causally connected?
The answer is “no.” At least, “no” in the obvious sense of the word. One can make a case that the Allied bombing of Germany motivated the Holocaust—it certainly didn’t hurt. Christopher Browning (not a Nazi) describes German Ordnungspolizei receiving a motivational speech before being sent to shoot Jewish women and children in Poland; they are told that their own women and children are being incinerated by British bombers (true and verifiable)—dispatched by the Jews, who control Britain (untrue, but un-verifiable—for any but the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan of Germans, a set which certainly did not include Hitler). But the causality of the Holocaust leads us into the dark swamp of Hitler Studies, which is not our destination today.
One cannot, however, make a case that the Holocaust motivated the bombing of Germany. The Holocaust has almost no bearing on any study of the Allies’ war, for the simple reason that almost no one on the Allied side knew a damned thing about it. Far from being Allied atrocity propaganda, the reports were if anything suppressed.
Why? Because the Holocaust did not fit the narrative. The idea that World War II was about the Jews was the Nazi narrative, not the Allied narrative. In both Anglo-American and Russian propaganda, the Nazis were equal-opportunity oppressors—their obsession with the Jews was a mere pretext in their cunning plan for world domination. When the Holocaust was revealed and the terrible sincerity of the anti-Semitic obsession became clear, the masters of public opinion both East and West faced a delicate transition in their interpretation of National Socialism. Thus, for instance, the Russian suppression of Grossman and Ehrenburg’s Black Book.
That transition was accomplished. Indeed, it was accomplished so effectively that millions, nay billions today assume, without even thinking about the matter, that the Allies fought the war (a) to save the Jews, (b) to take revenge for the Jews, or (c) something like that. There is thus no space in their brains for the question: before we hated the Nazis for killing the Jews, what did we hate them for? What were the bomber pilots, the LIFE readers, thinking?
Two: we also know that the Nazis bombed London. This suggests another simple answer: the Allies are bombing Germany to retaliate for the Blitz. Unfortunately, this answer is the reverse of the truth. It was the Germans who were retaliating.
If you doubt this, as of course is your right, I direct you to a fascinating volume called Bombing Vindicated, written by one J. M. Spaight, “Principal Assistant Secretary, Air Ministry,” 1944. As some Nazi has already pirated this entire volume and uploaded it to archive.org, I will not quote extensively from it, but the source is certainly both authentic and authoritative—and a fine illustration of the proximate, though not ultimate, cause of the “New Zone of Destruction” mentality. On the specific question of Hitler’s motivation, Spaight writes (p. 41):
So little did he relish the idea of long-distance raiding that he initiated no attack of this kind in the first ten months of the war (see the following chapter for the facts). The German air force was then the most powerful in the world. Its bombers may not have been, individually, as good as ours, but there were more than twice as many of them; and our anti-aircraft defences were notoriously weak in the early part of the war. Then, if ever, would have been the time to launch massed air attacks on Britain. No such attacks came.
They showed their stupidity when they kept on harping, once the raids on London had begun, on the retaliatory nature of the attacks on the city. Again and again the German official reports emphasised the reprisal element in the action of the Luftwaffe. They kept screaming, in effect: We are hitting you because you hit us first. If you stop bombing us, we’ll stop bombing you. That, too, was the recurrent note in Hitler’s periodical denunciations of our air offensive. He added to his diatribes a good deal of sob-stuff about war on women and children—as if the German airmen had never machine-gunned the pitiable refugees crowding the roads in France.
“Sob-stuff.” Spaight is a fascinating psychological case—all those interested in the psychology of mass violence should be sure to have a look at Bombing Vindicated. He reaches a kind of pinnacle of sanguinary high weirdness with this segment (p. 118):
The Archbishop of York on Bombing
Dr. Garbett, the Archbishop of York, had some wise things to say on this subject in the York Diocesan Leaflet in June, 1943. He had been asked, he said, to join in protests against the bombing of German and Italian towns. He gave some reasons for not being able to consent. ‘The real justification for continuing this bombing is that it will shorten the war and may save thousands of lives. Those who demand the suspension of all bombing are advocating a policy which would condemn many more of our soldiers to death, and would postpone the hour of liberation which will alone save from massacre and torture those who are now in the power of the Nazis.’
‘Often in life,’ the Archbishop went on, ‘there is no clear choice between absolute right and wrong; frequently the choice has to be made, of the lesser of two evils, and it is a lesser evil to bomb a war-loving Germany than to sacrifice the lives of thousands of our own fellow-countrymen who long for peace and to delay delivering millions now held in slavery…However much we may deplore the sufferings of the civilian population and the destruction of their homes, and of beautiful buildings, we must continue to use our superiority in the air as a means of ending the war as speedily as we can, and then build up some strong central international order which will by force maintain peace until it is willingly accepted by all the nations.’
That first paragraph sounded almost reasonable. And then, somehow, we got back to the United Nations! Peace through aerial incineration of civilians—for the United Nations. What is it about the United Nations? Ya can love the UN, ya can hate it, ya can just not care. But how many children would you turn into flaming torches for it? Yeah, me too.
Which is why I say: no one knows fsck-all about the Allies. Dear reader, do you believe me now? Read and learn.
Our first primary source is from a fascinating book called Advance to Barbarism (1948, London) (here is another excerpt), by the British fascist historian F. J. P. Veale. I can find very little information on Veale, but he was associated with the Mosleyites. Then again, so was Harold Nicolson. The intellectual (and social) quality of the far right has greatly declined over the last century. Dean Inge wrote a preface for Advance to Barbarism. Of course, nobody these days knows Dean Inge from Dean Ing.
As a fascist, even a British fascist, this man should not be trusted. None of the works I present today are in any sense trustworthy. If you want trustworthy sources, you are reading the wrong century. (Note also that the text below is not from the original Advance to Barbarism—but a revised edition, 1968. An apparently complete copy of the whole is in the Google cache here.) Also, if I were writing this, I would have used more commas.
Tardily professional historians have at last begun to realise that the events of the first half of the 20th century have presented them with a problem of unique difficulty.
From the first it was apparent that 1914 was destined to be a memorable date in history because in that year began a war in which a vast number would be doomed to die violent deaths and which would certainly lead to sweeping changes in the map of Europe if only for the worse. For a decade historians limited themselves to investigating the origins of this struggle which they explained to their own satisfaction by attributing it to the chance that Germany was ruled by an emperor who was obsessed by an insane ambition to conquer the world. From patriotic motives, at first to assist the war effort and later to justify the dictated terms of peace, professional historians, many of them men of great eminence and learning, laboured to confirm and endorse the Wicked Kaiser Myth.
Once however this had been exposed as an impudent propaganda fiction, they failed to find any generally acceptable explanation for the blind homicidal frenzy that seized the nations of Europe during the period, 1914–1918, and ultimately they became resigned to leaving the problem for solution to the psychologists and psychiatrists. Thus the First World War came to be regarded as a bizarre episode of history, mainly as a grim warning to posterity of the consequences of allowing greed and pugnacity to overcome reason.
The conclusion that the great struggle which broke out in Europe in 1914 resulted from a pathological wave of hysteria which afflicted the most advanced nations of mankind in that year is now held up for admiration as the most remarkable achievement of modern historical research. But this diagnosis was first put forward over thirty years ago by Field-Marshal Lord Allenby who bluntly declared, “The Great War was a lengthy period of general insanity.”
Not until after 1939 when another world war broke out, rendered inevitable by the terms of peace imposed on the vanquished after the First World War, was it realized how profound were the effects which the latter struggle had had on the character, outlook and ethics of the average Western civilized man. Since the times when the Dark Ages had gradually evolved into the Middle Ages, the story of civilization in Europe had been one of slow but steady upward progress. The advance of civilization apart from occasional fluctuations remained continuous until the beginning of the 20th century, by which time it had come to be regarded as an established law of nature that progress was an automatic process of unending duration. As the late Dean Inge observed, belief in Progress became a kind of religion with most educated men. Apart from the steady accumulation of scientific knowledge, arbitrary violence had become controlled by the rule of law, manners had become milder, and in warfare primitive savagery had become modified by the tacit adoption at the end of the 17th century which, later codified at the conventions of Geneva and the Hague, became known as the Rules of Civilized Warfare.
The fundamental principle of this code was that hostilities should be restricted to the armed and uniformed forces of the combatants, from which followed the corollary that civilians must be left entirely outside the scope of military operations. It was widely believed that war, being an essentially barbarous method of settling international disputes, was bound ultimately to die out. With seemingly full justification the outlook at the beginning of the 20th century was one of unclouded optimism.
As early as 1770, by which time the horrors of the Thirty Years War had become generally forgotten, the Comte de Guibert could express the already prevailing complacency by writing:
“Today the whole of Europe is civilized. Wars have become less cruel. Save in combat no blood is shed; prisoners are respected; towns are no more destroyed; the countryside is no more ravaged; conquered peoples are only obliged to pay some sort of contributions which are often less than the taxes they pay to their own sovereign.”
In the 19th century this happy state of affairs was taken for granted: no one dreamed that it would shortly come to an abrupt end. To us it seems fantastically unreal, now that prisoners of war are faced with the prospect of being subjected to war-crimes trials at the pleasure of their captors, or of being sent to work indefinitely as slave labour; towns with their inhabitants are obliterated by terror bombing; conquered peoples are uprooted from their homelands and mass-deported abroad; and the property of the vanquished is either appropriated as a matter of course by the victors, or simply destroyed.
The war which broke out in Europe in 1914 seemed at first indistinguishable from the civil wars which previously had periodically devastated that continent. During the struggle, however, quite unforeseen by any one, civilization began a retrograde movement without a parallel in history. While the struggle lasted this retrograde movement was not generally perceived but after the wave of optimism generated by the creation of the League of Nations had faded, the realization dawned that somehow the times had become out of joint. Working below the surface a profound psychological change had been taking place. Many of the men then living in obscurity who in the next decade were to rise to power and fame—for example Yagoda, Stalin’s chief of the G.P.U. during the Great Purge, Heinrich Himmler, the S.S. leader, and Adolf Eichmann, the organiser of systematic genocide—might have been reincarnations of men who had flourished the times of the Merovingian Kings. Even the outlook of so irreproachable a character as Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard with his then novel recipe for victory—“bomb the enemy civilian population until they surrender”—was nearer akin to that of an Iroquois war chief than to that of a professional European soldier of the 19th century.
Hardly perceptible for twenty-one years, when hostilities were resumed in 1939 the reversion to primitive practices in warfare soon became headlong until at last all pretence of complying with the Rules of Civilized Warfare was abandoned and both sides tacitly adopted the principle that any act was justifiable if it held out even a remote hope that it might stave off the frightful consequences of defeat.
An explanation is clearly needed to account for the fact that governments composed of educated men, reared in the 19th century and brought up to accept as a matter of course the standards of conduct then accepted by everyone, should have so quickly and easily overcome their natural repugnance and adopted and carried out such enormities as the systematic extermination of a defenceless minority on account of its racial origin, the mass-deportation of enemy populations numbering millions, and the deliberate slaughter of enemy civilians by terror bombing in order to generate among the survivors a disposition to surrender unconditionally.
It was many years after hostilities had ceased in 1945 before historians realized that this problem existed. In Germany the thinking powers of historians were for long paralysed by the ruthless brainwashing to which they with the rest of their countrymen were subjected in 1945 to force them to accept the propaganda fictions of the victors. In Britain and the United States historians were so preoccupied investigating the crimes against humanity committed by the vanquished that they overlooked the background of concentrated terror bombing against which these crimes had been committed. They failed to realize that genocide and terror bombing were not isolated phenomena but symptoms of the same retrograde movement which had mysteriously overtaken Western civilization.
It is commonly assumed that genocide and terror bombing were accepted respectively by the governments of Germany and Britain without protest or opposition from those they ruled who, it is assumed, were as completely subject to the spirit of the times as their rulers. The facts as now disclosed do not support either assumption but the subject remains uninvestigated.
The situation in Britain was very different. There was no official prohibition on expressions of opinion as such, but persons who ventured to express opinions which the authorities deemed might hamper the war effort were put in prison without a trial or even without a specific complaint against them. With regard to the bombing of the enemy civilian population, everyone knew that civilians in Germany were being slaughtered wholesale but it was believed that this was an unavoidable by-product of an air offensive against military objectives. The comforting reflection was accepted that the German civilian population could at any moment bring its sufferings to an end by surrendering unconditionally.
It would not indeed be correct to say that what was officially termed “the strategic bombing offensive” was carried out to the last day of the war without opposition, protest or misgivings. Questions were asked in Parliament as to the character of this air offensive which were fully reported in the Press with the answers given. Certainly it cannot be said that the Ministers of the Crown upon whom fell the duty of answering these questions, resorted to evasion or equivocation. In accordance with the British tradition they kept a stiff upper lip and gave clear and emphatic replies, without any signs of embarrassment such as might have been expected from them having regard to the fact that as recently as March 1942 Mr. Churchill’s War Cabinet had accepted the plan laid before it by Professor Lindemann by which ‘top priority’ as an objective for air attack was in future to be given to “working-class houses in densely populated residential areas.”
Fine. So: we’ve established that this happened, and that it was crazy. But, duh, we knew that. Evaluated by the standards of 2010, the golden age of the “human shield,” the Allied strategic bombing of World War II seems demented at best and psychopathic at worst. The standards of 2010 are perhaps no less warped in the opposite direction, but (like Veale) I always feel free to follow the standards of previous centuries. By the standards of previous centuries, it remains demented and psychopathic.
But the strategic bombing of Europe and Japan is not World War II. It is not even the Allied World War II. It is, if I may sound a little too much like Jean-Marie Le Pen, a detail of that war. The bombing makes us ask what the Allies were thinking. But they were thinking about a lot more than the bombing.
So let me pull the camera back and look at the emotional roots of the war. I’m going to start with an Allied source by a German writer, Heinrich Hauser, author of the very unusual tract The German Talks Back (1945). Written in America to explain postwar Germany to Americans, not from the point of view of a German liberal but that of a German national-conservative, this work was published with an introduction and footnotes by Hans Morgenthau (no relation to Henry Morgenthau, whom we shall meet later) which frequently quarrel with the text itself. The result can only be described as wacky and wonderful, at least in a scholarly sense.
Here we see the strange psychological relationship between Germany and America that developed between the wars. We’ll see the American side next—let’s start with the German side. Hauser’s presentation, while a little—um—cinematic, is I believe basically accurate.
The crucial test to which the American government in Germany ought to subject all claimants and lobbyists is, of course, “Just how many followers do you have? How many hale and hearty democrats can you deliver?” An honest question, to which in honesty the non-Nazified functionaries of the old Weimar Republic can only answer: “None. Unfortunately, the people have become estranged from us. The young generation has forgotten us and doesn’t care about democracy. After thirteen years of Hitler, what can you expect?”
This is perfectly true, except that for once it is not Hitler who must take all the blame if American ideas don’t work out in occupied Germany. That blame must be shared by German gullibility and American gullibility alike. The truth is that the fathers of the present generation ate sour grapes from America, and now the children’s teeth are set on edge.
I will spare you the well-worn argument about Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and how the Germans felt let down when they got the Treaty of Versailles instead. No: what you have forgotten, or never became conscious of, is that for ten years after the First World War Germany’s most popular slogan was “Wir amerikaniseieren uns!” (“We must Americanize ourselves.”) Rarely, perhaps never in history, was there a defeated nation so completely enamored of the victor’s efficiency as the Germans after 1919. “American mate’riel has won the war? So than everything American must be superior. Let’s imitate them, let’s Americanize ourselves.” Such was German logic.
Every American who visited Berlin during those reconstruction years will remember to waht ridiculous lengths that German logic went: American bars and American-style nightclubs, American jazz bands, if possible with one “real imported” Negro at the saxophone. American cafeteries and American movie houses were ubiquitous. The neatly dressed German wore “shimmy” shoes and a suit of American cut. American cars rolled on the streets with a new and surprising noiselessness, and in if an American asked his way in German he got an English answer. The dollar was the Elite-Valuta—the elite-professionals of the Kurfuerstendamm demanded it from even their German customers. And the first skyscrapers begain to raise their steel skeletons over the trees of the Tiergarten.
We imitated everything. The National Assembly imitated your Constitution, and the Reichswehr your Sam Browne belt. Industrialists copied your production systems, workers adapted themselves to your speed-up systems, and poets sang in praise of the assembly line. We introduced your week end and your bookkeeping. We blossomed out in Rotary Clubs and poured sugar into our perfectly good wine to ape the sweet tooth of America.
We really meant it all. Sure, the people were disappointed that their Wilsonian dream hadn’t come true after all, but then they still clung to their dream of America. What kind of dream?
“If you will only be good democrats and work like hell and be modern and progressive as we are, then you can live like Americans.” That was the siren song which in a thousand variations sounded from across the ocean, and the people listened as starry-eyed as ever Hitler listened to a Wagner opera. They dreamed of the electric refrigerator that would one day be theirs, and of the vacuum cleaner, and, above all, of that cheap little car.
For a time the carrot worked; the ugly 19th-century brick-and-plaster houses of Germany’s Main Streets put on pants: facades of concrete reaching to the second floor and framing modern stores with neon lights. Cities built new municipal buildings and parks and hospitals for themselves. Yes, it was done with American loans—to a large degree, at least. Industry modernized itself and installed new machinery. Yes, American money helped do that, too. It looked almost like prosperity on the face of it, and a typical German crowd looked almost like a normal American crowd.
It must not be forgotten that private enterprise in Germany had suffered a major blow a few years before the Nazis came to power. In 1930, the great depression hit the economic body of Germany, which owing to malnutrition had a low resistance anyway. And the most significant thing about it was that “Wir amerikanisieren uns,” the slogan of the ’twenties, backfired on us with a vengeance.
When the United States retracted her private loans, the first establishments to topple were the ones that had taken the loans. These included the municipalities that had gone farthest along the American way of modernity, and the industries that had gone the limit with American production methods, thereby accumulating an unduly high overhead. The workers on the American-style assembly lines were the first to be thrown on the dole. The most progressive farmers, who had invested heavily in modern American implements, were the first to surrender to the sheriff’s sale.
The cheapest kind of amusement, which even those on the dole could afford once a week, which indeed was thrown in as part of the dole, was a ticket to the movies. People thronged the movie houses, partly for the warmth, partly to snatch an hour of sleep in half-comfort, partly to forget their misery, and partly for the show. And the show always included a newsreel and some slapstick comedy from the U.S.A.
Never shall we forget—we, the unemployed of the depression years in Germany—those nauseating scenes that Hollywood projected for us on the silver screen as ostensibly representing the American way of life. Never shall I forget the incredulous stare at first, and then the tightening of lips, and then the gleam of hatred in the people’s eyes…
“So that’s the way those fellows live over there in America…did you see those brats throwing pie at each other’s faces, and all besmeared, and the whipped cream dripping all over?…And the girls in the sexy bathing suits, swimming in a pond full of apples and banging them around…Don’t forget the ones who got their buttocks measured by a bunch of fellows—a beauty contest, they called it…And that other hussy in the beauty parlor; got her hair all plastered with yolk of egg. I’ve seen it. Real eggs, at least a dozen….
In that other thing, College Fun or whatever it was, did you see how they wrecked the place, smashed up the furniture and all? Did you think that was funny? No, I call that beastly, and I could have taken a stick and smashed their skulls, and never be sorry I did it.”
Here is the psychology of the German reaction. This reaction, of course, eventually produced its poisoned fruit—Hitler. But Hitler was anything but the cause of Weimar’s collapse. That collapse included many other figures and forces on the right. The victory of Hitler over all the other would-be Hitlers (few of whom were anywhere near as crazy) is simply one of history’s tragic contingencies.
For a front-row view of this victory, we go to another fascinating volume, Germany Turns the Clock Back (1933) by Edgar Mowrer. Here, for the first time, we see the familiar tone of New Deal radical journalism—the ancestor of our own beloved “mainstream media.” Mowrer was a leading figure in the OFF/OWI and later the ADA. If you want to ask why the Americans who read LIFE Magazine in 1943 thought what they thought, the answer is that the likes of Edgar Mowrer were telling them what to think.
Now, when I ordered Germany Turns the Clock Back from my library, I assumed given the publication date that I would be getting the perspective of the American press on the Nazi seizure of power. Wrong. The book was actually completed in late 1932. As a result, we have an even more invaluable picture: the Weimar Republic in the throes of collapse, with no definite sense of what will come next. Hitler is certainly important, but not yet all-important. From the foreword:
In the following pages Mr. Mowrer has carried the story of the collapse of German democracy through the Reichstag elections of November 6. Since then Adolf Hitler has failed again in his efforts to win the German Chancellorship, and Lieutenant-General Kurt von Schleicher, the brains of the Group that has ruled Germany since June, has come out into the open as the head of a new Cabinet. Colonel von Papen and Baron von Gayl are no longer members of the Government, though still quite as important as they ever were in the secret conferences of the Group. Chancellor von Schleicher has not altered his original policies in the slightest, but finds it wise to speak more gently to the German electorate than Chancellor von Papen used to. Some of the Emergency Decrees against free speech and the freedom of the press have just been lifted, and to the amusement of Berlin, a gentleman known as Dr. Friedrich Syrup has become Minister of Labor. Nothing more need be said to bring Mr. Mowrer’s book up to date.
The Publishers—Dec. 21, 1932
Dr. Syrup actually has nothing on my favorite German of the Third Reich period—Fritz Vitamin. At least, I was intoning some page containing this name to Mrs. Moldbug, and “Fritz Vitamin” is what she heard. “Fritz Vitamin!” she said. Or, rather, Hauptmann Friedrich Wiedemann—Hitler’s commander in the First World War; later, personal assistant; later, Nazi consul to San Francisco; active, with Tom Cruise, in the resistance…sadly, Wiedemann never published a memoir, though his colleague Reinhard Spitzy did. But the ear, once tuned—“Fritz Vitamin!”—picks him up everywhere, the Third Reich’s Zelig or Batz. Who was Fritz Vitamin? What did he know? What was his role? Please report any sightings to UR, Dept. Hit. Stud.
But anyway. Let’s get back to Mowrer. The special tone of New Deal journalism is immediately evident. The more of this material you read, the more nauseating it becomes. p. 11:
Ask a German Democrat who was responsible for the German reaction. “The Allies,” he will reply with bitterness. Ask the same question of nearly any foreigner living in Germany and the answer is, “The German Republicans.”
Both are right […] Unquestionably, the co-authors of the entire German reaction, including both Hitler and the Barons, were the Allied makers of the Versailles Treaty and the early German Republicans.
But could a better treaty have been made…? I think it could…Somewhat as follows:
The Allied Armies do not accept Ludendorff’s request for an armistice on terms they later set aside by brute force. They continue the war a little longer until the German people realize the futility of further resistance.
The is no amputation of East Prussia, no Polish Corridor or Free City of Danzig. Poland is reconstituted with the port of Memel, on the periphery of Germanism, and a strip of what is now Lithuania. Later, Poland indignantly refused the suggestion of such an exchange. In 1919 the Poles would have had to make the best of it.
Note that besides his amusing giveaway of Poland, Mowrer, about the most adverse possible witness, has just sold you about 85% of the famous Dolchstosslegende. Specifically, he has accepted the following points:
(b) Further resistance by Germany, if futile, was not obviously so.
(c) In the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies reneged on these armistice terms in a deceitful manner. (Everyone accepts this).
(d) They were able to do so because the November Revolution had eliminated the possibility of German resistance.
If you agree that an honorable German government would have held the lines and resumed fighting when the punitive terms of Versailles were proposed, you are at full-on 100% Dolchstoss. You’re basically entitled to start your own hair-metal band. If you believe that Germany had no choice but to surrender—my own guess—you cannot be too concerned that armistice morphed into unconditional surrender. (I am at the same 85%.)
However, either interpretation paints both the Allies and the “early German Republicans” (or, as Hitler would put it—“November criminals”) in a rather nefarious light. Exactly as Mowrer admits.
So that was his solution to the German problem in 1919. What is his solution in 1932? p. 15:
Republican historians of some future day may have a curious tale to tell of the first Republicans who managed to throw away nearly full power in so few years.
What should they have done? What must any new regime do that comes to power by revolution? Occupy the key positions within the State, of course. Place its own people in all positions of responsibility or control, eliminate, bribe or fetter and even gag its potential opponents at least until it has definitely solidified its own position. Wipe out dangerous traces of the past. Destroy former symbols and substitute new ones for them. Embark upon a vast campaign of education to make clear to the people the evils of the old and the benefits of the new. A revolution must be a break with tradition. In Germany the Republicans themselves left intact a bridge over which the old figures came streaming into the present so soon as they realized that they had nothing to fear.
What would such a program have meant to Germany? It would have meant the immediate creation of a Republican Guard from the democratic fragments of the old Army—an easy task. The ruthless elimination from the bureaucracy of all persons who could not accept the Republic in their hearts. Such persons, once removed, should have received pensions only so long as they abstained from anti-Republican activities. At the least hostile word or deed their pensions should have been forfeit.
Necessary as well would have been the rewriting of the school books with the elimination of the feudal spirit and the servile adulation of the former princes. Instead the new textbooks would have insisted on the responsibility of the Imperial statesmen for the war and its terrible consequences, thus driving a wedge between the permanent Germany, the people, and a transitory group of rulers. They would have stigmatized servility and exalted individual freedom, thus dulling the radiance of Prussianism.
And since the spirit of greed lodges easily in the republic, special laws should have been provided for the severe punishment of commercial and political corruption among the rich and highly placed, while the common misdeeds of the poor, such as petty larceny, should have been dealt with mildly as the normal outcome of misery and mis-education.
And finally, the Republic should have instituted a number of public spectacles of and holidays in its own honor, and not stinted money on making them popular. It should have rewarded distinguished service with high-sounding republican titles, publicly martyred whatever political dead it might have, and honored its own leaders under all circumstances.
Wow, Mr. Mowrer! Don’t hold back, please. Are you sure you’ve laid it out there on the table? Any more plans you’d like to tell us about? Because clearly, I’m not the only one who’s been reading Mr. Defoe’s Shortest-Way With the Dissenters. I have to say—thanks for the recipe. Maybe someone should forward it to Sarah Palin. “Republicans” indeed!
Not that it was exactly a secret. The irony, of course, is that this is exactly what was done to Germany after the next war. Nor was Germany the only place it was done!
What’s especially wonderful is that this agenda is simply set out as what it is: a plan for national subjugation. Many can play at that game! Have played it in the past; will play it in the future. We continue on to page 36:
Hans Henning Grote, a baron by birth, was interested in the antithesis between German Nationalism and Occidental liberalism. Important for us are two small sentences, typical of the amount of arrogance that can be induced by impotent nationalist amour propre: “If Germany goes down, the European Christian world will go down with it. Not today or tomorrow, but in the time of our children and grandchildren.”
Ya think? Alas, the Internet is silent on this mysterious Baron Grote. p. 45:
Obviously enough, when the young Germans later aspired back to Prussianism, it was not primarily out of a lust for war or a perverse desire to kowtow and be kicked. It was because they had been taught to see in old Prussia a model of political splendor and the incarnation of all that the democratic Republic lacked.
“Breeding, order, service to society, iron discipline, unconditional authority, political leadership, a strong army, a solid, incorruptible bureaucracy, national prosperity produced by the tenacious energy of its inhabitants and the iron thrift of its princes, popular Christian and patriotic education, and beside the individual’s attachment to law, a generosity of spirit, a liberalism of opinion, a religious tolerance found nowhere else—that together is Prussia.”
This enthusiastic description, by the National-Socialist leader, Joseph Goebbels (Voelkischer Beobachter, April 14, 1932), goes far to explain the accompanying clamor for a return to Prussian ideals.
These are indeed the Prussian ideals. But alas, those ideals were not quite what Germany got. A tricky fellow, that Goebbels. “A liberalism of opinion.” p. 87:
The German military policy was the most candid thing in the world: the re-acquisition of power and unlimited national sovereignty. It was carried through with rare consistency.
Unlimited national sovereignty! These reactionary Teutonic fiends, you see, aim at nothing less than unlimited national sovereignty. As opposed what? As opposed to “some strong central international order which will by force maintain peace until it is willingly accepted by all the nations.” Dr. Goebbels versus Archbishop Garbett. (Or Benjamin Franklin Trueblood.) Here, dear reader, is your 20th century. p.101:
This Republic the mass of the people accepted with comparative enthusiasm, but largely in the naive faith that it would secure them better treatment at the hands of the Allies. When this faith collapsed, many would have been for giving up the Republic, had this seemed feasible…One may say that the ineptitude of the Treaty of Versailles, the political infantility of the German people, the brutal penury induced by economic depression, and a skillful Nationalist propaganda were chief agencies through which this people was again brought to believe in reaction.
I can’t imagine how that might have happened. p. 112:
Pre-eminent among the dispensers of hatred was Alfred Hugenberg. To put the German clock back to 1914 was the aim of this man’s life. Like so many of the passionate advocates of Prussian aristocracy, he was neither aristocrat nor Prussian. He was successively an official, an agricultural expert, a leader in agrarian banking, a manager in the great firm of Krupp.
During the war he struggled manfully against “premature peace” or “peace without annexation.” After the war he become the leader of unvarnished reaction and, before the rise of Adolf Hitler, the most outstanding person in the reactionary camp. Thanks largely to his control of the greatest publicity organization in Germany, Hugenberg obtained control of a hundred and fifty-odd newspapers, and through his news agency, the Telegraphen Union, supplied vast material to about 200 provincial sheets too poor to keep correspondents in the capital. With this organization in his hand, the small official from Hanover, whose waving mustaches made him look surprisingly like a seal, could wield a power greater than that of Beaverbrook in England or Hearst, Curtis or Scripps-Howard in the United States.
This man fought without romanticism, without great wit or intelligence, without fire, but with a cold determination that is unique in German politics. His program? Conservative! Against Poland and against France. Against reparations and the Versailles treaty. For Kaiser and nobility, for the Army and the bureaucracy. For the economic privileges of the Prussian Junkers and the West German industrialists! The better to carry on his fight, he lived almost like a miser. His millions were left to the firm and devoted exclusively to the great cause of German Toryism. His internal enemies were socialism, labor, democracy, the German Republic—and the hysteria of Adolf Hitler.
How he worked became apparent in the output of his moving picture company, the Ufa. In Hugenberg’s hands, the Ufa became a refined instrument of reactionary propaganda. The studios at New Babelsberg became the heirs and disseminators of the dear old spirit of nearby Potsdam. Wise to the fact that one cannot make a nation reactionary against its will, Hugenberg set out to make it want to be reactionary. Here and there, in the midst of pictures dealing with this, that, and everything, appeared one that glorified the German past. Not the revolutionary past of course, but the Monarchist, Military, Prussian, servile past.
Gradually, “national awakening” spread over the country. “Sleepers,” who had dreamed that Germans might still be moderately happy even if enchained, began to prick up their ears and lift protesting voices. Out of every little hole of an office in the provinces, teachers, lawyers, judges, officials, parsons, who had somehow managed to swim over from the old regime and whom the mild Republic had neglected to eliminate, began openly to propound that reaction they had long bred and nourished in private.
You have to love that “neglected to eliminate.”
What we’re starting to see here is Germany’s sin. Long before Germany murdered the Jews, invaded Poland or even elected Hitler, Germany had sinned in the eyes of Edgar Mowrer. By rejecting “Republicanism,” it had rebelled against the new international order of which it was destined to become a part.
Therefore, it had to be punished. And hence the bombers. Or so I believe. p. 117:
My friend the banker is an Israelite. His nose is of the super-Hittite sort, his gestures are Oriental in amplitude, his manners are correctly cosmopolitan and his business interests are scattered throughout half a dozen countries. Yet to a somewhat bewildered gathering in a drawing-room in plutocratic Berlin, he unctuously explained how for years he had been a heavy subsidizer of the National-Socialists, a group of people whose war cry runs: “Germany awake and perish the Jew.” No one who knows the banker could possibly imagine him subject to suicidal mania. Why therefore did he seek to strengthen his a movement that wrote upon its boldest banner his own extinction as financier and Jew? A cynic might suggest that he hoped by his assistance to purchase a physical and financial immunity for himself in the expected Third Empire. But he did not say that. He explained that he was supporting his avowed despisers because they were “friendly to capital.” He would, he said, assist the very devil, could the latter be persuaded to lead a fight on that most ruinous influence in the contemporary world, “Marxism.”
As might be expected, the meaning of “Marxism” was not altogether clear, for in the jargon of the reaction, “Marxism” was applied to anything from free abortion, atonal music and the flat roofs of the latest architecture, to the learned exegesis of the doctrines of Karl Marx. The banker—who has no particular objection to abortion—often explained that by “Marxism” he means socialism, which brought about the ruin of post-war Germany, the world economic depression and constituted the greatest threat to Occidental civilization. Out of this heated utterance it resulted that the “Marxism” he was paying the National-Socialists for destroying, had nothing common with the music of Schoenberg or Hindemith. What was it, then?
Knowing the ways of journalists, I rather suspect that Mowrer’s “Israelite” banker is something of, um, a composite. I also feel that Mr. Mowrer has quite a bit of nerve in describing anyone other than himself as “unctuous.” Nonetheless, as we’ll see, he’ll understand his Marxism in time. p. 118:
“At least, you concede that the Marxists are traitors!” This was another common piece of propaganda. Behind it are various shades of meaning. It was meant that the workmen made the revolution, the infamous “November crime,” which took the rule out of the hands of a few groups and “for a time” gave it to the German people. A half truth for there was, strictly speaking, no revolution in Germany. The people took the power only after it had fallen from the hands of the princes and generals, and used it with such tolerance that within a few years these disinherited ruling classes were able to snatch most if it back for themselves. The “stab-in-the-back” fairy-tale, according to which the undefeated Army had to submit because the people betrayed it, is one of the quaintest legends ever concocted to account for heroic failure. It was the generals who first weakened in Germany.
See above. Also note that wonderful word, “workmen.” A number of words could be used to describe Kurt Eisner, but I’m not sure I see him as, say, a plumbing contractor.
You see, a foreign correspondent like Edgar Mowrer occupies a very peculiar place in the life of a country like Germany. Because he and his friends in the foreign press lead American opinion on Germany, and America is a democracy, they lead American policy toward Germany. And, naturally, they have friends in Germany, and enemies in Germany; and they feel that American policy should result in their friends running Germany, and their enemies…not running Germany.
So, in a sense, when Germany moves to the right, it is rebelling against the nascent international community—and against Edgar Mowrer. And thus his anger. Later expressed in tons of TNT. Moreover, since Germany is rebelling, Germany too feels an anger—and that anger, too, seems ugly in the calm light of 2010. It is ugly. It is, after all, Hitler. Thus these hideous forces clash. p. 125:
The final charge against the Social-Democrats was that wherever possible they instituted “party rule.” The prejudice against party rule was one of the strangest kinks in the German brain. It revealed the fact that the Germans had not understood the essence of democracy or of government. A politically awakened people is no more than the sum of its political parties and party rule is neither more nor less than the will of the majority. The claim to stand “above the parties” is therefore inept or it is camouflage. For soon as any practical matter is under consideration, difference of opinion will emerge. This difference of opinion is the basis of party existence. In Germany the word “non-partisan” or “super-partisan” practically always turned out to mean militaristic, reactionary, anti-Republican. The former Imperial Government was, we are told, “above parties.” In point of fact it was the practical possession of a single class, who managed to do just about anything they pleased. Naturally, they claimed to be non-partisan.
Yet despite this patent warning, almost the first act of Fritz Ebert as President was to declare that he too stood “above parties.” Therefore, instead of carrying out the will of the people who elected him, he apparently felt the duty of protecting the Republic’s enemies. Just why Ebert should have imagined it to be the duty of the President of the German Republic to do anything but suppress the reactionaries, the generals and the former sovereigns, is one of those mysteries that lie so thick around the Republic’s decline.
Another big Irony Cross for Mr. Mowrer. p. 180:
Unquestionably, the determination of the Allies, chiefly the French and the Belgians, to hold to the substance of a one-sided peace, was one of the most terrible handicaps the Democrats had to endure. Since democracy was new and experimental, it needed popularity. To be popular, success were necessary. The Allies consistently refused the Republic any brilliant successes. Should the fall of German democracy prove definite, some of the blame falls on foreign heads.
But not all of it, by a very long shot. In all matters relating to public life, the Germans, being intense subjectivists, shut within their problematic selves, unable to see with others’ eyes, have an instinct for doing the wrong thing that partakes of genius. According to Lord d’Abernon, Gustav Stresemann himself complained that the “ignorance of the German nationalists, particulary of the country party (Junkers), regarding foreign policy was almost incredible. One could not discuss foreign policy with them for they said they were totally indifferent to the opinion of foreign countries.”
Consider the situation: a politically retrograde people goes over to self-government. Unprepared. Almost unwillingly. Hopelessly divided. A numerically weak but highly daring and unscrupulous minority opposes democracy in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat. A numerically strong but temporarily discredited minority wishes to restore the old regime, or something very like it. The remainder, the Republicans, are a majority divided into several groups, separated by such stout wedges as property and religion. What must the rulers do?
Clearly, establish, if only for a time, a system that will automatically exclude all but Republican parties from politics. This could be done either by outlawing anti-Republican parties for ten years, or by adopting an electoral system that would automatically give a firm majority to the greatest single group of Republicans, which, by iron control of army, bureaucracy, schools, etc., would be in a position to stave off possible insurrection from right or left, while allowing the democratic idea time to grow in the minds of the people.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Mr. Mowrer has, indeed, discovered the true essence of democracy. His solution is indeed excellent; it was tried later, and it worked; his analysis is, on almost every point, unimpeachable. We shall get back to him a little later.
But first, let’s hop across the Atlantic, roll the clock forward a little, and see the situation from the British point of view. Stripping ourselves of the awful reek of the New Deal press, we return to the refreshing British voice of F. A. Voigt, perhaps this post’s most reliable source. From his Unto Caesar (1938), prologue:
This book was finished before the middle of February, 1938. Since then, the union of Germany and Austria—the “Anschluss”—has been achieved. In little more than a month the balance of power has been weighted heavily against Great Britain, while the ascendancy of the Germans and Italians in Spain has increased the menace to her communications in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.
On the 24th March, Mr. Neville Chamberlain said in the House of Commons that, while England could not guarantee the independence of Czechoslovakia, a central European war might have consequences that might compel England to act in defense of her own security. There is no statesman more determined than Mr. Chamberlain to confine the purpose of his foreign policy to the bare defense of British interests, and his words show, more than the words of any other man could show, that the destiny of Great Britain is entwined with the destiny of Europe as a whole.
It would now seem that the danger of precipitating a general European war will deter Hitler from an armed attack on Czechoslovakia. Mr. Chamberlain’s warning will have made him doubly alive to that danger, all the more so as the warning is to be followed by an increase, long overdue, in the speed and volume of British rearmament. It would seem that Czechoslovakia will be “masked” like a fortress that cannot be assaulted with impunity. But she will be invested and will be menaced by political and economic pressure from without and by disruption from within. He will then be on the Rumanian border and will, by peaceful penetration and various forms of pressure, including the menace of rebellion among the large Hungarian and the smaller German minorities, try to achieve an ascendancy over Rumania that would place her rich supplies of raw material, especially oil, at his disposal.
Nor will Poland, the Baltic States, and Russia be able to elude the German challenge.
A month ago it seemed that the Spanish civil war might go on for another year, or even more, and perhaps end inconclusively…
It may be that, if General Franco wins the war, the German and Italian troops will leave. But the German and Italian political and commercial agents, their military, technical, and administrative experts, their institutes and educational establishments, their subsidized newspapers, their propagandists, their open and secret clubs and societies, will remain. For a long time to come, Spain will be under German and Italian influence.
England and France will be compelled to develop a counter-influence, for even the discreetest ascendancy of any foreign Powers in Spain threatens one of the main arterial systems of the British Commonwealth.
Ie, the British Empire. For Voigt is a late Asquithian Liberal Imperialist. And he regards it as essential for Britain to fight Germany, to preserve the Empire—or rather, Commonwealth.
Now, Hitler too was an Imperialist—although anything but a liberal. He was, in fact, a huge fan of the British Empire; he wanted desperately to make peace with it; his symbol, the swastika, was ripped off from Kipling, and much of his ideology was as well. His ideal, stated repeatedly in his books, was that Germany would rule the European continent, and England would continue to rule the seas. No doubt in the most Kiplingesque manner.
So the Voigts of the world are caught between the Hitlers and the Mowrers. There is no place for the Empire—except as a symbolic, meaningless “Commonwealth”—in Mowrer’s vision. Mowrer’s is a universal vision; he is not satisfied until the entire planet adopts American democracy, and even then he will fantasize about exporting it to Mars.
But Voigt still believes. And his understanding of the new Germany is much deeper than Mowrer’s, although in fairness informed by seven more years:
No expression of the Marxian vocabulary is more derisive than “petit bourgeois,” “Kleinbuerger,” “kleiner Mann,” or “little man,” denoting the “small shopkeeper” or other humble persons of the “lower middle” class.
For the “little man” the Marxist feels far greater hatred than for the “capitalist.” The “little man” is worse than “counter-revolutionary.” He is unrevolutionary, and to be unrevolutionary is, in the eyes of the Marxist, to be a kind of leper. Marxists are habitually contemptuous of the “petit bourgeois mind” as not a mind at all, but something reptilian, something infinitely mean and ignominious.
In one respect the Marxist is right. The “petit bourgeois” is revolutionized. But he has his own ideas about revolution. He becomes a revolutionary—not as a “proletarian,” not even on the side of the “proletariat,” not in fulfillment of the dialectical process, not in the manner so prophetically announced by Marx and Lenin, but in defiance of their teaching; not to destroy the capitalist order, but to transform it; not to establish a transnational dictatorship in which the State will “wither away,” but one in which the State will be re-established with greater solidity than before, a State armed with terrible coercive power, a State that will send Marxists to prison, concentration camps, or to execution, and will replace the Marxian myth by a myth of its own.
Mowrer, whose hate we can feel, and who hates aristocracy, identifies the German reaction as essentially aristocratic. Voigt sees that Hitler has defeated the Barons; he sees the essentially petit-bourgeois, Sarah-Palin nature of the Nazi phenomenon. Not that Hitler and Sarah Palin are anything like each other; they just appeal to the same social class, that’s all.
And what political system is it, under which shopkeepers can overcome barons? Well, I certainly w ouldn’t call it feudalism. Again: no Weimar, no Hitler. p. 177:
The greatest extension of international, social, and religious peace ever achieved has been achieved within the British Commonwealth. Throughout a quarter of the world the satanic forces that engender war and revolution are curbed, thanks to the Pax Britannica, with which a benevolent Providence has associated the Pax Americana and the Pax Gallica.
The Pax Europaica is one of these ideals that transcend practical statesmanship, which is necessarily short-sighted and bent on the fulfillment of immediate tasks. Excessively far-sighted statesmanship may be very dangerous, and to pursue an international ideal by political means is to invite a general catastrophe.
The Pax Europaica would certainly be in the interest of the British Commonwealth, but to enforce it is beyond the power of the Commonwealth (we often forget that the greatest power—even the power of the Commonwealth—is limited). England is under the absolute necessity of defending western Europe because that defense is self-defense. That necessity imposes a terrible burden and is attended by fearful dangers. The burden and the dangers must be borne, but to augment them in the pursuit of an ideal that is, in any case, unattainable in so short a time as one generation, would be madness. The Pax Britannica would be shaken and, perhaps, fall to pieces, British vital interests would suffer profound and perhaps irretrievable injury, and the ideal would certainly not be achieved but would, in all likelihood, be buried forever in the irretrievable ruin.
The true lover of peace will be more concerned with peace in the concrete than peace in the abstract; with defending his and his country’s peace, rather than with chimerical schemes for extending peace beyond the limits of the possible. He will always reflect whether its extension beyond the frontiers of his own country will be an extension not of peace, but of war. Even a seemingly small extension of peace may be dangerous, as the extension of the Pax Britannica to western Europe is. Inherent in universal peace is the menace of universal war—“indivisible peace” is “indivisible war.”
The modern effort to establish universal peace is perhaps for this reason mainly an English effort. After the armistice, the English experienced a prodigious revulsion against war. But they also felt an island security which could no longer be menaced, seeing that the German fleet had been destroyed. Their pacifism acquired a messianic character—they were less concerned with saving their fellow-countrymen than with saving all mankind from war. Their own security made them more accessible than any other nations to utopian dreams of universal peace—and blinder to the danger inherent in such utopian dreams.
Monstrous proposals, like the proposal to create an international air force that would emerge—from some Alpine stronghold, presumably—and bomb the cities of the alleged aggressor, found a considerable following in the post-war years. Such inhuman phantasmagoria had an affinity with the secular religions of the European continent. Indeed, English militant pacifism had something in common with the Marxian dreams of a universal realm of peace, justice and well-being. As we have seen, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is inseparable from its own opposite. It can only come about by violence. The threat of universal war as a means of establishing universal peace is a peculiarly English conception that has crystallized in the doctrine of “sanctions.” This doctrine is analogous to the doctrine of the proletarian dictatorship which would establish social peace by making class-war permanent and universal. “Sanctions” are the counterpart of the revolutionary terror—the purpose of either is peace, but the effect of both is the consolidation, through war or the threat of war (whether between classes or nations), of power in the hands of those hold it.
To erect the “punishment of the aggressor” into a general system would be to concentrate immense power into a few hands and establish an abominable and universal tyranny. In nothing is the evil inherent in universal systems of enforced morality more evident than in the doctrine of “sanctions.” It was against such systems that Karl Barth uttered one of his great warnings:
“That men should, as a matter of course, claim to possess a higher right over their fellow-men, that they should, as a matter of course, dare to regulate and predetermine almost all their conduct, that those who put forward such a manifestly fraudulent claim should be crowned with a halo of real power as though they had been invested with the authority of God, that the Many should conspire to speak as though they were the One, that a minority or a majority—even the supreme democratic majority of all against one—should assume that they are the community, that a quite fortuitous conduct or arrangement should be regarded as superior to the solid organization of the struggle for existence and should proclaim itself to be the peace which all men yearn after and which all should respect; this whole pseudo-transcendence of an altogether immanent order is the would that is inflicted by every existing government—even by the best—upon those who are most delicately conscious of what is good and right. The more successfully the good and the right assume concrete form, the more they become evil and wrong—summum jus, summum injuria.
Supposing the right were to take the form of theocracy, supposing, that is, superior spiritual attainment were concreted into an ideal Church and all the peoples of the earth were to put their trust in it; if, for example, the Church of Calvin were to be reformed and broadened out to be the League of Nations—this doing of the supreme right would become the supreme wrong-doing. This theocratic dream comes abruptly to an end when we discover that it is the Devil who approaches Jesus and offers Him all the kingdoms of the world. It ends also with Dostoevsky’s picture of the Grand Inquisitor. Men have no right to possess objective right over other men. And so, the more they surround themselves with objectivity, the greater is the wrong they inflict upon others.”
There is no reason to suppose that a universal system of “sanctions” would abolish war even for a time. One evil would be replaced by a greater evil. Private wars would be abolished—only world wars would be allowed.
This material, in my mind, approaches real greatness. Throughout the book we can see Voigt struggling with his own thesis; he can see that the vision of universal order is a vision of destruction, but he does not quite know how to set it aside. p.191:
England is the only Great Power exposed to the permanent danger of total and permanent defeat in war.
The United States have absolute security. They are exposed neither to blockade, nor invasion, nor attack from the air. Not one of their vital interests can be menaced. Unless their whole fleet engages in some rash enterprise far from its bases, they are safe from major defeat. And even major defeat would not expose them to conquest by a foreign foe. The United States can never be less than a Great Power.
Of all the Great Powers, England is the most vulnerable. On her armed strength depends her own existence—and the existence of others. She can never share the enviable state of the small countries on the north-western fringe of Europe. Without her, these countries would be threatened with extinction. If it were not for the British command of the sea, Holland would be absorbed by Germany, and her colonial empire would be at the mercy of Japan. It is very doubtful whether Denmark would exist at all if she were not situated on the fringe of the Pax Britannica. Norway and Sweden have a certain security in their remoteness—but the security of Norway, at least, is made doubly secure because England could not tolerate an alien conquest or penetration that would give a foreign navy the use of the Norwegian coast.
Belgium cannot exist as an independent nation without Britain and France. It is not even sure that Swiss independence would survive if the Swiss had not the French for neighbors and the French had not the English for allies.
England’s general interest is in the national independence of existing States within their present frontiers and therefore, in the European status quo. But that interest is not so vital that she can make every change in that status a casus belli. Indeed no change in the territorial status anywhere in Europe, except in the west and in the Mediterranean area, can be a casus belli for England. But so delicate is the European equilibrium and so far-reaching may the consequences be if it is upset, that any territorial change anywhere in Europe may, by involving other Powers (especially France), lead to a situation so full of danger that she must always reserve to herself the possibility of intervening in defense of her vital interests.
Nor is the question purely political. The triumph of the militant, imperialistic Powers would promote the spread of protection and of tied economies. German expansion in central and eastern Europe would extend the area of German “self-sufficiency.” Whether Germany achieves political domination, or even a decisive political and commercial influence, tariffs and systems of quotas, subsidies and import and export licenses are promoted to the advantage of Germany and to the exclusion of other countries.
Loss of trade in an area so extensive as the prospective Pan-German Empire and the zones of German ascendancy beyond the borders of that Empire would be a very serious matter for England.
While avoiding direct intervention in the affairs of central and eastern Europe, [England] must always be able to impinge on the central and eastern European situation, using her influences and her good offices to preserve the status quo. A general anti-German policy would be excessively dangerous and costly. Any general coercive system would be fatal to England if it were to dominate her policy. Isolation would be no less fatal. Her path must run clear of a utopian universalism and an equally utopian isolationism.
The principal antithesis in the world today is not between Berlin and Moscow, London or Rome, but between London and Berlin. Without this antithesis, a Pax Europaica or a United Europe would be possible.
The greatest—and perhaps unattainable—political need of Europe today is that a relationship, such as exists between London and Washington, should also exist between London, Paris and Berlin. If England, France and Germany are united, not in any federation or any centrally directed system, or indeed any system of any kind, but by virtue of a certain fundamental identity of outlook and by a common civilization (no other unity can be real), then Europe is united, and the dream of all “good Europeans,” the Pax Europaica, will have come true.
The Pax Europaica cannot be achieved by protocols or treaties, by pacts, by alliances, by mutual assistance or by the League of Nations. It can only come about through a spiritual change—in Germany, but also in France and England.
Here we see the tragedy of the British “appeasers” of the late ’30s. Between the Congress of Vienna and the rise of Germany, Britain had enjoyed effective world supremacy, as the US does now. Liberal Imperialism foundered on this rock; it could not let Germany become a world power equal to the British, for Germany was not liberal.
Yet, by opposing Germany and denying it Westphalian parity, Britain made Germany hateful and paranoid, for Germans saw themselves being treated as an inferior in a world system in which it was not just formally an equal, but economically and militarily an equal. Thus the harder Britain worked to deny Germany equality, the less deserving of that equality Germany became.
The appeasers of the ’30s inherited the final dilemma of this epic conflict. From the perspective of British interests, the right decision was clearly to abandon the Little Entente-type states created after World War I, whose adherence to democratic principles was anyway quite a bit less than stellar, and allow Germany to create her empire in the East. Yet this decision was both a release of power, which is always difficult for the powerful, and an empowerment of dangerous and illiberal forces beyond the control of Britain or anyone. Unlimited national sovereignty!
Another decision, of course, would have been to support Poland and Czechoslovakia to the hilt. This might not have restrained all future Hitlers; it probably would have restrained Hitler. But ultimately, it would have been necessary to back this bluff with actual war. Hence the course of universal peace, later followed.
But, through the natural tensions in her political system, Britain wound up following a course between these two poles, and one which was clearly worse than both. Seeking to avoid war and preserve her Empire—excuse me, “Commonwealth”—she got war, and lost her Empire. And lo, did Edgar Mowrer inherit the earth. Along with Moscow, for a time.
Here, again, is the tragedy of Voigt’s liberal realism. He dabbles with actual, real realism—and rejects it. He ends up, with Mowrer, trying to convert Germany to “good thinking.” That this can only be done with bombs, and that it can only end in the death of the British Empire, he at some level knows; but he cannot reject his geopolitics, his commercial advantage, his trade routes, all the cant of late Imperialism. Hence the war sucks him and his country in.
We know his geopolitical cant is cant. Let’s see a brief paragraph from an American friend of Voigt’s, Walter Lippmann—definitely one of the five creepiest intellectuals of the 20th century. I only have space for one paragraph from Lippmann’s US Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic (1942). But compare its geopolitical analysis to Voigt’s:
The fall of France in 1940 was a conclusive demonstration that France is a member of the great defensive system in which the American republics live. The fall of France laid Spain and Portugal open to the possibility of invasion and domination. This in turn opened up the question of the security of the Spanish and Portuguese island stepping-stones in the Atlantic. The fall of France gave Germany the sea and air bases from which Britain was besieged and American shipping along our Eastern shore and in the Caribbean subjected to a devastating raid. The fall of France uncovered the West Coast of Africa from above Casablanca to Dakar, and opened up the threat, in the event of a German victory in Europe, of a sea-borne and air-borne invasion of South America…
Following which, Hitler will invade Texas. From Mexico! Believe it or not, serious and influential Americans actually worried very seriously about this scenario at the time.
So, to Voigt (who is probably one of the last people to use the plural), “the United States have complete security.” Britain, however, will suffer economic disaster if cut off from its vital export markets in Bulgaria. And so on. I think Voigt actually believes his cant—I’m not so sure about Lippmann. Again, the two are personal friends.
But even Lippmann feels wholesome next to our next source—Henry Morgenthau, Jr. No relation to Hans.
I present these excerpts from Morgenthau’s Germany Is Our Problem (1945) without much comment. I don’t feel much is required. Actually, I suspect that just as the Morgenthau Plan (the Wikipedia entry, at least at present, is remarkably strong) itself was the work of Morgenthau’s aide, Harry Dexter White, this book is not the work of the Treasury Secretary himself, but of some unknown OWI hack. It certainly has the unmistakable OWI feel.
It is also important to note that Germany Is Our Problem was published after the war (it contains a quote dated June 1945, and was published in October, I believe)—so it cannot be attributed entirely to wartime bloodlust. Indeed, Morgenthau policies continued in Germany well into 1947. Copies of this book were widely distributed to postwar administrators.
From the prologue:
As for Germany, that tragic nation which has sown the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind—we and our Allies are entirely agreed that we shall not bargain with the Nazi conspirators, or leave them a shred of control—open or secret—of the instruments of government.
We shall not leave them a single element of military power—or of potential military power.
But I should be false to the very foundations of my religious and political convictions, if I should ever relinquish the hope—and even the faith—that in all people, without exception, there lives some instinct for truth, some attraction toward justice, and some passion for peace—buried as they may be in the German case under a brutal regime.
We bring no chage against the German race, as such, for we cannot believe that God has eternally condemned any race of humanity. For we know in our own land how many good men and women of German ancestry have proved loyal, freedom-loving, peace-loving citizens.
There is going to be stern punishment for all those in Germany responsible for this agony of mankind.
The German people are not going to be enslaved—because the United Nations do not traffic in human slavery. But it will be necessary for them to earn their way back into the fellowship of peace-loving and law-abiding nations. And, in their climb up that steep road, we shall certainly see to it that they are not encumbered by having to carry guns. They will be relieved of that burden—we hope, forever.
FDR, too, has that telltale New Deal tone. There’s a specific sense of humor, or what passes for humor. For Stalin too it might well have passed. (In fact, of course, the United Nations did traffic in human slavery. Once you know your liar, the sound of him lying is unmistakable. He cannot let the lie pass by omission; he must go out of his way to emphasize it.)
Morgenthau (who was a close personal friend of FDR), p. 190:
“These Krauts ain’t so bad!”
The words, uttered by an American soldier who had just been presented with a glass of beer, a smile from a pretty girl and a flower from a small child, sum up the reason why United States troops should not be a part of the long-term army of occupation in Germany. The unidentified private who expressed this opinion in tones indicating a pleasant surprise was one of the first to enter Cologne. He shared the views of many thousands.
A day or two later, one of his comrades, Sergeant Francis Mitchell, explained to newspapermen why Americans could not hold much of a grudge against their civilian enemies. The sergeant had been fighting hard for weeks, but without a great deal of hate in his heart. He was doing a hard job efficiently. He knew from reading and from talking that the Nazis were guilty of horrible brutalities. But he could not connect these bloody excesses with the smiling, apparently friendly people in Cologne. He and his fellows just hadn’t been trained to resist kindness from a good-looking fraulein or a motherly woman or a gentle old man or a wistful child. He thought it was very pleasant that young women offered him beer, that housewives gave him food, that all the people cheered and waved as they were being liberated.
Americans are pretty proud of fellows like Sergeant Francis Mitchell. It is good to know that they can fight so well and not lose the sympathy for others, the response to kindness and the consideration that makes them good citizens. Bitter and brutal experiences have neither embittered not brutalized them. But by the same token it has not equipped them to appraise the significance of the German reaction to their presence. It is quite natural for the average Germans to become meek and inoffensive characters to all appearances whenever they are confronted with soldiers or the obvious label of arbitrary authority. It is not conscious hypocrisy that makes them anxious to please a conqueror, fawning and a little subservient, for they have been trained in obedience to force rather than in obedience to justice.
No men in the armies of the United Nations are likely to be so susceptible as Americans to the danger of this people’s bid for compassion. The misery of hunger and cold is bound to be extreme in Germany this winter. Until the workers in her heavy industry have begun to raise food crops and rebuild houses, there will be malnutrition and exposure for her people. The only possible way to avoid it would be to divert food and materials and labor from other European nations even more in need of them.
But the American soldier in the army of occupation has not seen the devastation of Poland and Russia, Yugoslavia and Greece, Norway and Czechoslovakia. He has seen little of the suffering of France, Belgium and Holland, and may well look upon that little as the inevitable destruction of the battlefield. In his heart he compares the lot of Germans with the lot of the city or town or countryside from which he came in the States. The tendency is for him to believe the Germans are more destitute and miserable than any other people. They are sure to tell him so. Soon he will become, if he is not now, a ready victim to a campaign for more lenient treatment of Germany.
On the other hand, the argument that it is more important to feed Greeks than Germans seems extremely logical to a Greek soldier. It is not difficult to persuade a French poilu that it is better to keep French homes warm this winter than provide fuel for German homes. It seems only just to a Russian infantryman that Russian cities get material for reconstruction rather than that German factories be rebuilt. Stories of continued shortages in their own home communities harden British, Belgian, Dutch and other troops against the demands of Germans to have their own shortages relieved.
Therefore, it is not merely a sentimental desire to get our own men back that prompts the proposal that they should leave Germany soon. The tasks in which they should participate need not take long. They should help supervise the complete dismantling of the Reich. They might be on hand to hasten the dismantling of German heavy industry. Then they should give way to the troops of our European allies.
The history of the American occupation of the Rhineland after World War I illustrates the dangers that would be confronted if a new, long-term American army of occupation is formed now. Twenty-five years ago, the Americans, homesick and bored and without very much to do, were subjected to a barrage of German propaganda. German sufferings were intruded upon their notice and greatly exaggerated.
“Germany is on the verge of starvation,” cried the German Armistice Commission. “The harsh injustice terms of the Allies merely precipitated this tragedy. Famine leads to anarchy and Bolshevism, which now menace Germany.”
“The German food supply is on the brink of a catastrophe,” mourned the Vossische Zeitung on December 15, 1918. “The decision remains with our enemies whether they will pay the price to save Germany from hunger and anarchy.”
“If,” warned the Vorwaerts, “we do not succeed in giving food, light, heat, shelter and clothing to the people, then we are lost, because first comes hunger, then anarchy, civil warfare, the fall of the state, and on the heels of this, the intervention of a merciless enemy.”
Actually the Germans were a great deal better off than a great many other peoples of Europe. Colonel I. L. Hunt, officer in charge of civil affairs in the Rhineland during the occupation, considered the German estimates of the food situation grossly exaggerated. He said:
“That there was a considerable shortage of foods, particularly those to which the German was accustomed, and of food luxuries, cannot be denied, but that seventy million people were on the verge of starvation is untrue. It is perfectly true that the comparative scarcity of accustomed articles of food, and the probability of the condition becoming more pronounced, was producing an ever-increasing social unrest. This is particularly so, as the condition was depicted in more or less exaggerated form and constantly held before the people in public print.”
Nevertheless, the German propaganda was effective among our own troops of occupation. In April, 1919, the United States Army began the sale of flour from army stocks at cost prices to the civilian population. Later bacon, sugar, rice, lard, salmon and milk were similarly furnished. At the time, the hunger Germany complained about, but was not actually experiencing, was a horrible reality in Central Europe. Even neutral Scandinavians were undernourished because they could not yet get supplies from abroad. The Army explained that its distribution in Germany was made “in order to allay the social unrest due to scarcity or impending scarcity of food, and to the nondistribution of allotted supplies.” The “impending scarcity” was German propaganda; the failure to distribute allotted supplies was the fault of the Germans, if it existed.
Another feature of the American occupation was the inability of the Army to prevent fraternization between its soldiers and the German civilians. Whenever one loophole was closed, another was discovered. A month after the Armistice, the first of a long series of anti-fraternization orders was issued.
There are better was of checking venereal disease among our troops than marrying them off to German girls or even permitting them to “associate with decent women.” One way is to bring them home, and leave the police work to troops who can be given furloughs to go back to their own countries and meet their own women.
Nobody wants Americans to behave so that they will be cordially hated in the lands through which they pass. But the whole purpose of an army of occupation is to enforce unpalatable terms. That the American troops were not very good at this is evidenced by the appeal of the German Foreign Minister against withdrawal of the Americans from the Rhineland in 1922. They were to be replaced by other Allied forces. Secretary of State Hughes received from the German Foreign Minister a note protesting the change because it would remove the “impartial and moderating influence of the American power of occupation.” A report of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, summed up the popular German reaction:
“The departure of a train filled with soldiers bound for the United States furnished evidence of the friendly relations…The sight of the throngs of Germans gathered about the train, of the sorrowful and in some cases tear-stained countenances, and the shouted farewells made it difficult to realize that those leaving were soldiers of an army of occupation or that the crowds were composed of inhabitants of an occupied area.”
A dozen years later those same sorrowing, tearful Germans were busily and openly preparing for another war, convinced that the Americans were a foolish degenerate lot who could never rouse themselves in time to meet a real danger.
This time the occupation is at once harder and more heart-rending. Allied troops are not confined to the Rhineland. They are not, as in 1918, stationed in cities virtually untouched by war. This time, there may well be real hunger, not just “impending scarcity of food.” Millions of demobilized Germans have been returning to bombed-out homes and wrecked places of business. The sanitation and health conditions seem intolerable to an American.
Besides the pressure which our men’s sympathy might create to divert supplies from countries even more devastated than Germany, there is a danger of weakening controls for which the armies of occupation are a guarantee. To an American soldier it may well seem unfair that an apparently goodhearted German who has fed him beer and a hard luck story should not get a little piece of machinery from abroad. It may well seem harsh that an unhappy businessman should not smuggle out a few concealed assets to a brother in America or Switzerland. The American may be persuaded much more easily than a Frenchman or an Englishman or a Russian to turn the other way from sheer goodness of heart while the transaction is completed. That very transaction may be a strong link in the chain leading to the rebuilding of Germany for another war.
The European’s memory of five years of starvation is not so short or easily discarded as the American’s recollection of his war training and combat. It is quite natural that the European has the more fixed determination to carry through a realistic program to prevent future German aggression. It is not an unusual citizen whose father was killed at the front between 1914 and 1918. If during this war his mother was bombed out of her house only once by the Luftwaffe, she would be considered lucky. His wife and children have been deprived of everything they owned, driven from one place to another like cattle, suffered years of malnutrition. They are accounted the fortunate ones among their acquaintances, for many families have been tortured and murdered by the Germans or perhaps taken off to Germany to serve in virtual slavery.
These men are not likely to be very susceptible to German pleadings of the 1920 model, nor even similar assaults upon their sympathy in the streamlined manner of more modern propaganda. It is no reflection on the good sense of the American that he might be inclined to fall for it. His experience has not fitted him, any more than it has fitted his relatives at home, to carry out a cold, unfriendly but entirely necessary program.
If this doesn’t creep you out, there may be something wrong with your creepy-sensor. Also, note that in practice, by “European allies” Morgenthau basically means “Russians.” On the radical end of the New Deal at this time, there is a very strong desire to leave the rubble of Europe in the hands of our friends, the Russians—not just up to the Elbe, but to the Rhine. And why should this be a problem? Russia is, after all, the strong right hand of the United Nations…
Let’s jump back to p. 56 and see a little more of this cold, unfriendly but entirely necessary program:
If Germany makes a serious attempt to feed herself, she can do so. The use of low-cost labor will make up for the loss of territory and machinery. But we can expect her to make the effort only if she is forced to it by refusal of the United Nations to take over the responsibility from the German people. If we feed them ourselves—and it would have to be from stores of food which hungry millions of our allies need—the Germans will not undertake the necessary agricultural reform. They will, if they run true to their form of the last one hundred years, prefer to intrigue for a return of heavy industry and war.
Millions of man-years of good hard work could be put into draining swamps, terracing hills for cultivation, clearing cut-over forest, putting back into productive use the vast acreage ruined by being turned into army camps, artillery proving grounds, training fields, etc.
The transition from factory to farm will be much easier for Germans than for most urban dwellers. Even more than with us, the present generation of industrial workers has been recruited from farms. An even greater number are the sons and daughters of farmers. Besides, the German worker has kept a closer touch with the soil than most others. Millions of them have had subsistence gardens which were often almost small farms of anything up to an acre. Even before the Nazis came to power Berlin alone counted 198,000 such garden plots within the city limits and 247,000 in surrounding territory; Hamburg had 96,000 inside the city.
The Nazis intensified this practice, and in addition sent all youths out for a few weeks each year to work on real farms. The combination of these factors makes millions of German workers almost farmers before they get their land.
Even if the safety of Europe did not demand that most of them become farmers, the immediate needs of their own country would. Germans will have to raise their own food within a few years no matter what course the United Nations take, short of starving Allies for the sake of enemies. There will be little enough for a long time for the Belgians, Hollanders, Poles, Greeks, Czechs, Yugoslavs and others who have been hungry for years because the Germans plunged the world into war.
Furthermore, the twelve-acre farms of former steel, chemical and electrical workers can get into production a great deal more rapidly than the steel mills of Essen. Under current world conditions, the only way we can be sure sixty million Germans will eat is to get a great many of them on the land as soon as possible, and keep them there.
Adding all these factors together, it seems unlikely that Germany could achieve within the next few years a level of nonagricultural employment as high as she had in 1933. The depression will be at least as bad. Based on the number of Germans employed in 1939, that would mean a postwar employment for Germans of 10,000,000, which would also seem to be a minimum for some time to come unless many go on the land. The manufacturing, mining, and construction industries alone would drop 7,800,000 from the payrolls, even if heavy industry were to be left on the 1933 basis. (That was the year the Nazis really started the war.)[ MM: my italics] Another 2,200,000 would be jobless in the service trades, transportation, public service and public utilities.
The existence of millions of destitute and probably desperate families would be an offense both to humanity and to world security. The only practical solution is to put most of them to work on the land and on labor battalions outside Germany[ MM: my italics] repairing the damage they have done. But once the postwar chaos has been reduced to some kind of order, most of the industries which Germany could no longer acquire will be able to revive. On the basis of 1933 statistics—and with the elimination of heavy industry—that would give an industrial population of 6,660,000 divided approximately as follows:
Mines and quarries: 900,000 Optical products (nonmilitary): 100,000 Textiles: 850,000 Paper and allied products: 190,000 Printing and allied industries: 275,000 Leather and leather products: 120,000 Rubber products (not synthetics): 50,000 Sawmills, furniture and wooden goods: 610,000 Musical instruments: 40,000 Food processing, etc.: 1,450,000 Apparel and other fabricated textiles: 1,050,000 Construction: 1,025,000
This list gives pretty much the measure of the industries Germany should be allowed to retain. With 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 in transportation, public utilities and trade, they offer her a well rounded life for her people. Of course it will take years. But she will be able to achieve full employment without the opportunity for hasty conversion of industry to a war basis.
Germany will have to import a certain amount of metal or metal products for such homely items as nails, hammers, screw drivers and spare parts of machinery. But imports of steel should be checked to see that amounts in excess of needs for needles, razors, etc., are not slipping through. An even closer check on chemicals and the apparatus for scientific research must be made.
Even if the memorandum of the meeting in Strasbourg’s Rotes Haus had not proved the importance that the Nazis attach to scientific laboratories, the whole course of German preparations for aggression would give us the key to their methods. It must be one of the aims of Allied policy to circumvent the plans of German leaders to organize hidden laboratories for war under the guise of studying the peaceful sciences, whether pure or applied.
The nature of modern research gives us the clue to our course. The solitary inventor working alone, in secret and in poverty is not the source of most of our industrial progress any longer. Research is organized on a large scale, without a great deal of method, a great deal of apparatus and a great many workers. The sum of their toil frequently adds up to genius, but it would not have given practical results if that many scientists had been working individually without co-ordination of effort.
Therefore, the teeth can be drawn from Germany’s scientific war machine by forbidding the organization of the elaborate laboratories of her past. Elimination of heavy industry will help here, because it is precisely these industries which have sponsored the most research. The electrical, metallurgical and chemical industries generally account for most of the factory-financed research in any large country.
Equal vigilance must be directed to rooting out centers of German research abroad. Those centers already have been established; they were part of the careful German preparation for defeat, since the Germans, as we now know, began preparing for World War III just after they paused their high tide of conquest in World War II. On the basis of evidence now available, this preparation to carry out scientific studies under foreign cloaks began in 1943.
It will not be possible to prevent German scientists from setting up laboratories in their homes or hidden in barns. But it will be possible to check the importation of scientific equipment, without which their work will be extremely slow if not impossible. It will be possible to deprive them of their organized centers of research, which will make it difficult for them to gain the benefit of each other’s experiments.
There will remain to Germany her medical laboratories and the like. They will not be a substitute for the research once carried out in the Reich. The result may well be that the world will have to wait for a few discoveries of benefit to its health and well-being until they are made by non-Germans. The experience of the past is that the sum of all the lives saved by German discoveries would represent but a tiny fraction of the lives expended in fighting the two world wars, to which German scientific genius contributed much more than it did to the arts of peace.
Shortly after Hitler’s rise to power prominent Nazi politicians drew up a plan for the “solution of the Jewish problem.” Under its terms the Jews of Europe, and perhaps those of other continents as well, were to be deported to Kenya in Africa. Nazi propagandists stressed that their plan was extremely humane: several million Jews, by dint of hard manual labor, would live and prosper as farmers tilling the virgin African soil. But the entire plan was sheer propaganda. The real intentions of the Nazis were to exterminate the Jews, in accordance with their thesis that their elimination would resolve Europe’s social crisis.
Ya can sort of see where he might be going with that.
But speaking of Communism, Morgenthau (or his ghostwriter) has a little more for us:
It is not very persuasive nor does it help to bring about an effective world organization, to have a widely read magazine print the charge by an insignificant and disgruntled former foreign service officer of the Russian government that Communism is a growing menace to American freedom. [The Saturday Evening Post had printed parts of Alexander Barmine’s memoir One Who Survived, ghostwritten by his friend Victor Serge—an excellent book, and a notable exception to the Mission-to-Moscow type of propaganda that of course dominated the US press at this time. —MM]
Although the man was obscure and his knowledge of the current situation sadly out of date, an attempt to scare the reader was evident in the highly misleading heading which claimed that the article exposed the existence of a new Communist conspiracy in America. And [ America’s] hope of enduring friendship with Russia will have to be strong to survive such attacks as that made by another popular magazine late in 1944. A Russian proposal for oil concessions in northern Iran was twisted into a prediction of a break in Anglo-Russian relations. The twist consisted of conjuring up a Russian plot to evade Teheran pledges and dominate Russia’s neighbors.
The harm in such propaganda is not so much that we read it but that we might act upon it. Certain elements of the press have carried it on for years. Only because they are notoriously unreliable has the damage to our foreign relations been relatively slight. But it can become more serious if the same line appears in the pages of journals with a better reputation, particularly those widely read for their views on international affairs.
Advocates of this blueprint of war never advance any reasonable grounds for supposing that America really is threatened by Russia or the spread of communism. Nor do they offer any evidence for supposing that a strong Germany would protect us. All the facts point to exactly the opposite conclusion.
Ever since the United States became a country, our ideologies have been almost scurrilously antagonistic. At the same time, our relations have been not only consistently peaceful but actually friendly in the pinches. Even when one of us liked the other’s form of government least, we have intervened on behalf of the people. Although the rebellion of the thirteen colonies against King George of England seemed abominable to the Czar of Russia, the Russians nevertheless adopted a policy of armed neutrality which in practice favored the new United States. Again during our Civil War, despite a theoretical leaning toward the beliefs of the South, Russia took the stand that dismemberment of the Union would be opposed to Russian interests. She virtually warned England and France against recognizing the Confederacy, which they were inclined to do.
America reciprocated when Russia was being threatened by an Allied force in Siberia in 1919. The United States troops were there more for the purpose of watching the Japanese than of fighting Russians. During the course of the peace conference, both Wilson and Lloyd George went home for a short time and in their absence the conferees were whipped up to a mood of more active intervention. Wilson heard of it in mid-ocean and, although thoroughly disliking the Communistic philosophy, promptly dispatched a radio message to the effect that the only course he would agree to was speedy withdrawal of all Allied troops from Russian soil.
Of course not all advocates of a strong postwar Germany are Red baiters. Some disagree with proposals for removing German heavy industry on grounds of mistaken humanity, but there is no concealed animosity for or fear of Russia lurking behind their arguments.
Others are not so scrupulous in presenting their motives. Unwittingly they are adopting the propaganda line most favorable to the Germans, for any return to the cordon sanitaire policy toward Russia is a preparation for World War III. That policy could never be imposed upon the American people openly. The attempt is being made, therefore, to lead them into this policy secretly and by way of blind allies. Those making this attempt are proposing to dedicate the lives of our children to a purpose which they decline even to discuss with the parents. They may think their intentions are good, but good intentions make a proverbially dangerous paving, and no secret cabal ever brought anything good to this country.
If American democracy is to play its full part in winning and maintaining peace, it must be through the free play of democratic processes. That means full discussion of policies on their merits with all the arguments and all the facts before the public. For the sake of our friendship with Russia, as well as for the proper development of our own democracy, the case for and against building up Germany as a bulwark against Communism should be brought into the open. The people, whose instincts in the matter are sounder than the judgment of any cloistered “statesmen,” will know how to deal with it.
Creepy shit, dear reader. No doubt about it. Your friendly local public library has a copy of Germany Is Our Problem—check it out. You’ll never watch Band of Brothers or wax sappy about the “Greatest Generation” in quite the same way. (Disclaimer: not only did my own dear grandfather fight Hitler in the US Army—but he was a party-line Communist, too, just like whatever wonderful person wrote the above.)
And finally, we advance to the Cold War—which is really part of World War II, or at least was caused by it (setting aside Wilson’s pro-Soviet intervention in 1919—Woodrow Wilson is the reason there was ever a Soviet Union to begin with).
We come back to two of our old friends, Edgar Mowrer and Walter Lippmann—now on different sides of the Cold War divide. Mowrer has become a Cold War hawk; apparently he really does believe in democracy. He’s depressed. Lippmann is a Cold War dove; it’s all geopolitics, engagement and “realism” for him.
From Mowrer’s The Nightmare of US Foreign Policy, 1948, p. 98:
Sometime in the middle thirties President Roosevelt and his Secretary of State began to be aware of the inordinate nature of the aggressors’ ambitions. And as good public servants they began warning their countrymen against banking too heavily upon the policy of isolation and neutrality.
But at no time did they actually throw the full facts on the table and beg their fellow citizens for permission to take action that would have stopped the aggressors and prevented or postponed the coming struggle.
Yet the effect of twenty years’ repetition of an outdated creed—the virtue of aloofness—was such that few citizens seem to have understood immediately that the United States could easily be drawn into the conflict.
When, therefore, Roosevelt and Hull were finally forced to the conclusion that the Axis powers, if successful elsewhere, would eventually move against the United States, they had—as the State Department subsequently explained—“to move within the framework of a gradual evolution of public opinion in the United States away from the idea of isolation expressed in ‘neutrality’ legislation and toward realization that the Axis design was a plan of world conquest in which the United States was intended to be a certain, though perhaps ultimate, victim…”
Many people still believe in this. There is almost no evidence for it. There was little or no joint coordination between the “Axis” as a whole, as with the Allies. Hitler certainly planned to conquer Eastern Europe and Russia; Italy had its little empire in Africa; Japan wanted China, Indochina and Indonesia. It is not terribly clear that their governments would have been terribly worse than the people who in fact ended up ruling these places. It is also quite clear that Hitler never planned to invade Texas through Mexico, although doubtless if he’d been given the opportunity, etc.
But essentially, what we have here is a party saying: we had to conquer the world, or someone else would have. The theory certainly cannot be disproved! And thus it falls. p. 92:
Whatever its causes, American paralysis in the face of growing peril was not due to any lack of information, not even among the general public. The American newsmen abroad predicted the successive steps of the world crisis with consistent accuracy. They foresaw that Mussolini would be a persistent source of trouble and disorder. They recognized that Hitler meant murder. They knew and warned that the Spanish Civil War would be a curtain-raiser to World War II unless the democratic Spanish Republic was saved. They howled from the housetops that Japan’s invasion of China was no local incident, but a great step toward the creation of a Far Eastern monopoly.
Most of them foresaw that if World War II came, America would have to get into it to save itself. These typewriter Cassandras were not believed.
Despite the grimness of the events, I simply cannot suppress a chuckle at this line. p. 104:
The job facing the President was to save the American people in the teeth of their conviction that isolation and neutrality meant security.
For this task the President was specially equipped. His complicated mind was capable of the needed efforts on both the psychological and military planes. His self-confidence carried him serenely along a knife-edge, where a slip on one side would have meant defeat for the Allies, and on the other, repudiation by his own people. His extrovert love of improvisation and his lack of candor saved him from constitutional doubts.
“His extrovert love of improvisation and his lack of candor saved him from constitutional doubts.” Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest President ever—Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Lo, when He invented the Man from Hyde Park, God cast his golden smile on our noble Republic. p. 144:
No foreign policy that enabled the United Nations to win World War II could be called a failure. Yet no policy that left the United States with a new adversary as powerful and ruthless as the beaten Axis could be called a success.
In winning the war, FDR left nothing to chance. In planning for peace, he bet the future of the American people on one card: that the Soviet Union would prefer peace and collaboration with the West to armed and ideological expansion. He was warned of the risk. He acknowledged the risk. He deliberately took the risk. And he lost.
About one third of formerly independent Europe, well over one hundred million people, had passed under Soviet control. Some nations had been totally absorbed—gone to join the other captive peoples in the Russian bear’s belly. Others had fallen victim to native communist bailiffs. The rest of continental Europe, war-devastated, ill-armed, disunited, wormy with local communists bent on delivering their own countries to Stalin, lived on in constant fear. A major international traffic artery like the mighty Danube River was cut into two pieces. Nothing but the presence of American and British forces on the continent stood between Western civilization and total submergence.
Over the planet Earth the red star of Moscow shone with a ruddy light that looked to some like “liberation,” to others more like an approaching inferno.
It’s not a failure, it’s not a success. It’s a failess! Or a succure. p. 157:
In Spain, once the United Nations victory in Europe was assured, it would have been both simple and proper to have eliminated Dictator Franco and re-established the democratic Spanish Republic.
How explain that Secretary Hull’s stern anti-fascism was never applied against Argentina or against Spain? Both stood for the negation of democratic principles. Only German greed in North Africa prevented Franco Spain from going to war on Hitler’s side. Both governments could have been eliminated by a minimum of effort—the Farrell-Peron regime in Argentina by a Pan-American joint demarche, the Franco regime in Spain (for which American nonintervention in the Spanish Civil War bore some responsibility) by a naval blockade once the war with Germany was virtually complete.
As Mandelstam wrote of Stalin: “he pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.” p. 231:
The old world was dead.
Even the landmarks had vanished. Never again could Americans afford to indulge in that indifference toward matters foreign which their fathers had affected. Never again could they ignore military maneuvers in Pskov, a riot in Zanzibar, a palace revolution in Arabia, or a famine in Bengal.
There’s only one cure for the nightmare of US foreign policy: more US foreign policy. p. 254:
Around the necks of the American peeople, unseen but irksome as an iron chain, hung an inescapable syllogism.
Once admitted that the Air-and-Atom Age required the abolition of war, once granted that this required a permanent preponderance of power, then no possible alliance of sovereign states, no limited federation of the kind suggested by Henry Adams forty years ago (the “Atlantic Combine”) and revived by modern thinkers, was good enough.
The requisite alternative to empire was a voluntary federation strong enough to keep world order by the enforcement of world law.
Such a voluntary federation was clearly the proper goal for American statesmen.
Unhappily, between the goal and the reality yawned an abyss.
The only universal voluntary organization, the UN, was an unfinished bridge leading nowhere.
On one side of the gulf was a vast and “uncontained” Soviet bloc animated by an unswerving purpose and a proselyting faith and supported in almost every country by fanatical disciples and organized disorder squads.
On the other side were the majority of mankind, but unorganized, unallied, unfederated, a mere congeries of sovereign states united by nothing but their common opposition to communism and to domination by Russia. No Grand Alliance existed to supply so much as a temporary preponderance of power. No United States of Europe was yet in being. No concrete steps toward an “Atlantic Combine” had been taken. There was still no Far Eastern Alliance or Middle Eastern Alliance temporarily able to block Russian expansion in those areas.
In short, nothing stood between the Russian bloc and the achievement of a world Union of Socialist Soviet Republics but the power of the United States.
Yet at this juncture, in such a crisis, it seemed to many observers that the drowsy leaders of the world’s greatest democracy were aiming at nothing more than the preservation of an outworn system of sovereign states. Within this system they were even continuing their country’s dreary diplomatic pattern of weakening potential allies and strengthening potential enemies.
Would they awaken and use their country’s power in time?
This was the nightmare of US foreign policy in 1948.
And on, and on, and on. As you see, it is simply impossible to disentangle this madness. It folds over and over and over on itself, like the iron in a Japanese sword—history as a great strudel of lies.
You cannot unpeel the 20th century layer by layer. You have to sense the whole insane pattern. You have to cut the Gordian knot. You can’t believe in this but not that—you have to deny the whole thing. For the 20th is the century of democracy, and democracy is the political apotheosis of nonsense. Until you understand and accept this, you will never make any headway.
Otherwise, you are back to listening to the likes of Walter Lippmann. Imagine a debate between him and Edgar Mowrer—now firmly in the neoconservative camp, it seems. Here is Lippmann ten years later, in The Communist World and Ours, 1958:
During the last two weeks of October, 1958, my wife and I were in the Soviet Union, almost all of the time in Moscow. We traveled as tourists although we had discussed our visit with the Soviet Embassy in Washington and it had been agreed in advance that my main purpose would be to understand Soviet foreign policy in relation to the United States. Except for a bit of sightseeing in Leningrad, we did not go anywhere else in the vast expanses of the Soviet Union, and I know nothing at firsthand about the internal condition of the Soviet Union. But from an interview, which lasted for two hours, with Mr. Khrushchev himself, supplemented by various talks with Soviet officials and Soviet editors, I think I came to understand better than I had before what are the mainsprings and the controlling ideas of Soviet foreign policy.
The cause of the bad relations is the suspicion, felt on each side of the Iron Curtain, that the other side intends to commit aggression. The suspicion arises from a belief that in the long run neither side can tolerate the other. The Soviet Union is now entering upon the climactic years—the next seven or ten years—in which it means to surpass the United States, not in the material comforts of ordinary life but in productivity per capita. The Communist leaders are certain that as they achieve this goal, the great mass of the poorer and undeveloped peoples will rally to them. No doubt, wherever they can, they will promote this rally by propaganda and by infiltration and by subversion.
But we delude ourselves if we do not realize that the main power of the Communist states lies not in their clandestine activity but in the force of their example, in the visible demonstration of what the Soviet Union has achieved in forty years, of what Red China has achieved in about ten years.
The inner moving force of Soviet suspicion is the belief that the United States and the governments of the non-Communist countries will, unless compelled to do so, never allow Russia and China to consummate the revolution which they are leading in Asia and in Africa.
The Communists are expanding in Asia because they are demonstrating a way, at present the only obviously effective way, of raising quickly the power and the standard of living of a backward people. The only convincing answer to that must be a demonstration by the non-Communist nations that there is another and more humane way of overcoming the immemorial poverty and weakness of the Asian peoples.
This demonstration can best be made in India, and there is little doubt in my mind that if we and our Western partners could underwrite and assure the success of India’s development, it would make a world of difference. It might be decisive in turning the tide. It would put an end to the enervating feeling of fatality and of inevitability, to the sense that Communism is the only wave of the future, that there is only one way of internal salvation, and that the West is impotent and too lazy to do anything but let the future go by default.
But we must not exaggerate. We must not jump to the conclusion that the Communist movement is destined to expand until it has conquered the whole world. There are, of course, many on both sides of the Iron Curtain who think that this will happen. I talked to some Communists in Moscow—Mr. K was not one of them—who said, in effect, that this is one world and that Communism is bound to rule it.
Both these views are extreme and each is, I believe, derived from the same very human and common fallacy. It is the fallacy of assuming that this is one world and that the social order to which one belongs must either perish or become the universal order of mankind. But looking at the history of the globe, the truth, as I see it, is that there has never been one world, that there has never been a universal state or a universal religion.
The Communist revolution which began in Russia and has spread to China is not a repetition of the English and the French Revolutions. It is a new historical phenomenon which comes out of a convulsive awakening of the submerged masses demanding a better life for themselves. The dictators who lead this massive uprising rule the people despotically. But he would be a rash man, I think, who would say that such great masses of backward people could be persuaded by democratic methods to accept the discipline and the sacrifices which are necessary to rapid formation of capital in a primitive economy.
Anyway. I feel no need to further abuse you with this nonsense. The point is: if you feel there’s anything even slightly holy about any 20th-century political system, it is long since time you were disabused.
Our political system is a human one, not a holy one. The people who said and did these things were human, like us. They had some idea of the good for which they were striving. They felt that, in order to achieve a greater good, it was necessary to commit a lesser evil. The good they sought was not realized; the evil swallowed them up, as evil does. And, if we look them in the face, if we read their words and scan their advertisements and experience them directly, we sense the presence of evil.
Yet evil is in all of us; history is full of evil; and their lesser evils, for all we know, might have averted greater. It would be as much a mistake to condemn and ridicule these people, as it is to worship and revere them. I do condemn and ridicule; but only as a matter of balance. Get the plaster saints out of your history; get the cartoon demons out as well; replace them with nothing but reality, considered with whatever sympathy and judgment you apply to the world you live in.