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Title: Is Tomorrow Hitler's?

200 Questions on the Battle of Mankind

Author: Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker
Release Date: September 8, 2021 [eBook #66251]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Tim Lindell, Craig Kirkwood, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)
H. R. Knickerbocker European Travel.


Is Tomorrow Hitler’s?

Title page.



200 Questions
On the Battle of Mankind

Reynal & Hitchcock : New York


All rights reserved, including the right to
reproduce this book, or portions
thereof, in any form

Second Printing


To Agnes[vii]


NOTE: This descriptive table of contents gives only a
sampling of the many provocative questions discussed.

Have you ever met Hitler?
What impression does he make when you meet him?
Does Hitler’s personality grow upon closer acquaintance?
Is Hitler personally brave?
Is it true that Hitler is a homosexual?
Are women attracted to Hitler?
What kind of public speaker is Hitler?
What is the secret of Hitler’s power?
Do you think Hitler is personally responsible for the war?
Is Hitler the real boss of Germany?
Are any of the men around Hitler of a calibre to succeed him?
Does Hitler actually direct his battles as did Napoleon?
Why didn’t Hitler attack England after Dunkirk?
What was Hitler’s second mistake?
Isn’t there anything constructive about Hitlerism?
How has Hitler run his show without money, without gold, without foreign exchange?
Can the Nazi economy continue to run indefinitely?
How can you describe the German people as hysterical?
What would happen if Hitler were killed?
Why doesn’t somebody kill Hitler?
What was the explanation of the bombing attempt on Hitler in the Munich Beer Hall?
Were the Nazi atrocity stories exaggerated?
Do you consider Out of the Night authentic?
Hasn’t Hitler proved he is an enemy of Bolshevism by attacking Russia?
What should we do with Hitler after he is defeated?[viii]
What is the best way for the United States to help the Russians?
How can the Russian resistance to the German attack be explained?
What do the Russians fight for?
Is it true that the Soviet government has restored freedom of worship?
Are we running a risk if we support the Russians?
Can Stalin be trusted?
Under what circumstances would Stalin make a separate peace?
What would be the effect of such a compromise peace on Great Britain and the United States?
What is the NKVD?
Are the peasants better off on collective farms?
How about the Soviet elections of which we hear?
Why do you give so much importance to the Soviet Terror?
How do you explain Russian inefficiency and wastefulness?
How has the Red Army been able to stand up so well?
Could Stalin carry on with the resources of the Urals?
What place will Churchill have in history?
Is Churchill really backed by the English people?
Can Churchill be trusted?
What does Churchill think of the United States?
What are Churchill’s characteristics as a person?
Would the British Navy survive the fall of the British Isles?
How can the flight of Hess be explained?
What is the secret of Churchill’s success?
What are Churchill’s principal interests?
4.War Aims184
What are Britain’s war aims?
What was the meaning of the Churchill-Roosevelt meeting?
How can the gains of victory be consolidated?
Will the United States come out of the war in a better economic condition than others?
What will the peace conference be like?
In what sense will the conquered peoples be slaves?
How could we compete with Hitler after a German victory?[ix]
Can’t American labor produce better and cheaper than slave labor?
What are Hitler’s plans for Europe?
What kind of negotiated peace would be acceptable to the Axis?
What is the text of Hitler’s terms?
What chance has Communism in a defeated Germany?
Is there any way to render Germany impotent?
Is the problem of the Germans insoluble?
Will England come out of the war with a socialist system?
What is to be done with all the former nations of Europe?
Why did France fall?
Were there traitors on the French General Staff?
How did treason manifest itself in the operations of the army?
Who gave the orders?
What is the opinion of informed Frenchmen?
Is Pétain a patriot or traitor, or misguided?
Is Pétain moved by personal ambition?
What would Hitler do if he finally tired of fooling with Vichy?
What about Darlan? And Laval?
Has Laval a chance to seize power?
In what way are we Americans very much like the French?
Are there any encouraging differences between ourselves and the unfortunate French?
Is there any hope that the French may come back?
Will Hitler’s treatment of France be different later?
How was the French indemnity fixed?
How does this compare with the reparations paid by Germany after the World War?
What is Hitler doing with French industry?
Should we continue diplomatic relations with Vichy?
6.The United States293
What is the greatest danger we face as a nation today?
Is our morale very bad?
What is the state of our armament?
If we have nothing to fight with, how can we go to war?
Could Hitler succeed in invading the British Isles?
Why doesn’t Ireland allow Britain to take over naval bases?[x]
Is it true that Hitler wants to destroy the United States?
Haven’t we plenty to do at home without getting into a foreign war?
Why do you think we ought to go to war with Germany today?
Why would a declaration of war be worth so much immediately?
What effect would a declaration of war have on the morale of the Army?
But weren’t we suckers in the last war?
Would an American declaration of war have any effect on the morale of the Germans?
Would another A.E.F. be required?
Might a new League of Nations be successful?
7.Fifth Columnists339
What makes Lindbergh the way he is?
Are we fair in calling Lindbergh a Copperhead?
What is the reason for the divorce between Lindbergh and the American people?
Why did Lindbergh attack the Jews?
What is to be the fate of the Jews?
What are Lindbergh’s arguments against our entering the war?
What is the answer to America’s Fifth Columnists?



I met H. R. Knickerbocker way back in 1927 or thereabouts. Those were the good old days. They were the days of the Long Armistice. No one had ever heard of the Rome-Berlin Axis, Stuka dive bombers, or the Haushofer Plan. Mr. Roosevelt was out of politics, Mr. Churchill was a chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Lindbergh had just flown the Atlantic. We talked of such neolithic creatures as Pilsudski of Poland and Alexander of Jugoslavia, and most of us thought that Hitler was a bad Austrian joke, more or less. Those were the good old days. Even so, thunderheads were gathering.

I first met Mr. Knickerbocker in Berlin. This was fitting, since Berlin was his bailiwick. We all had bailiwicks in those days. Duranty was in Moscow, Raymond Swing was in London, and Dorothy Thompson had just left Berlin. I was bouncing all over the place. I didn’t have my bailiwick yet. We were all very good friends. We formed a kind of fluid international community. We were buzzards in every foreign office, and kings on every wagon-lit.

We didn’t meet often, since we lived in different cities, and it took something of a catastrophe to bring us all together. When we did meet, the vault of heaven shook. I remember days—and nights—in Geneva, Bucharest, Cairo, Helsingfors. I think of Sheean, the Mowrers, Webb Miller, Shirer, Jay Allen, Fodor, Whitaker, and many more. Don’t let me sound nostalgic. I am thinking merely that we have all grown up. We are not cameras any longer.

This foreword is not about Mr. Knickerbocker’s book. Let that speak for itself. Knick is the most pertinacious, plausible, and inquisitive question-asker I ever met. In this book he answers questions[xii] instead of asking them. I like to see the tables turned. I don’t know that I agree with all his answers. But let him answer them.

This foreword is about Mr. Knickerbocker himself. His flaming red hair, his flaming red personality (I mean “red” chromatically, not politically) are famous on four continents. He needs no introduction. But certain nuggets of memory stay fixed in mind. I remember the time he fed me caviar inside a baked potato, at Horcher’s in Berlin, and I remember the time I fed him a dinner in London that, deliberately, we planned so that it would cost exactly five pounds. I remember the time that he took me to hear Putzi Hanfstaengl hammer out a tornado of Wagner in the Hotel Kaiserhof, and I remember the time I took him across the freezing Danube, on the way to Sofia, in what was supposed to be a rowboat. I remember week-ends on the Semmering, bad oysters in Madrid, evenings in the Café Royal, drinks in Rome, Budapest, and points beyond.

Knick’s career has been spectacular in more than one dimension. He once set out to fly the Atlantic, as a passenger in a German plane, long before the Lindbergh flight; he was the only correspondent during the Ethiopian war to glimpse the front from the air; he has had more interviews with European heads of state, I imagine, than any other newspaper man alive.

Mr. Knickerbocker was born in Texas in 1898. He went to Europe in 1923, and, a student of psychiatry at the University of Munich, walked straight into Hitler’s Beerhall Putsch. He studied briefly in Vienna, and then got a job in Berlin on the New York Evening Post-Philadelphia Public Ledger foreign service. Since then his career has been a calendar of most of the great events of our time. He spent two years in Moscow as correspondent for the International News Service (this was in 1924-26, when Trotsky was declining and the N.E.P. expanding), and in 1928 took over Dorothy Thompson’s job as chief correspondent in Berlin for the Public Ledger. He won a Pulitzer prize for distinguished foreign[xiii] correspondence—a series of articles on Russia’s Five Year Plan, but for almost ten years Berlin was the blazing focus of his life.

Meantime there were trips to take. In 1933 he travelled all over Europe for a series, “Will War Come in Europe?” for I.N.S. He saw the death of Dollfuss in Vienna, and the burial of Hindenburg in Germany. He met Mussolini, Masaryk, King Alexander, King Boris, Otto Habsburg, and hosts of others. He did one series of articles on Russia and the Baltic states, comparing living standards under communism and capitalism, and another surveying economic aspects of the Europe that was crumbling. Came the war in Ethiopia in 1935, which he covered on Haile Selassie’s side. I will never forget the agitated days in London when Knick was accumulating the vast equipment he took along. In 1936 came the Spanish civil war, and the next year the war in China. He saw bombings all the way from Toledo to Nanking. He returned to Europe to cover the Anschluss crisis and the Munich disaster; then he dipped briefly into South America, and reached Peru. Then Europe called again; he saw the beginning of World War II in London and France, and in 1940 accompanied the French armies till they collapsed, and then saw the battle of Britain at its fiercest climax, in September.

But let me go back to those days in Berlin. The main point I want to make has to do with Knickerbocker in Berlin. During the turbulent 1930’s he was much more than a journalist covering Germany; he was a definite public character in German political life. After Hindenburg and Hitler, he was practically the best known man in the country. His réclame was fabulous, personally and politically. Everyone knew the lithe, active, red-haired Herr Knickerbocker (pronounce the K, please). Once a musical comedy was named for him—supreme tribute!

Partly this was because he published half a dozen books in German, compiled from the long newspaper articles he wrote,[xiv] which appeared serially in the Vossische Zeitung or the Berliner Tageblatt. The books were extraordinarily successful in Germany; they introduced German readers to a new type of American journalism. Among them were Der Rote Handel Droht!, Der Rote Handel Lockt!, Kommt Europe Wieder Hoch?, Rote Wirtschaft und Weisse Wohlstand!, England’s Wirtschaft und Schwarzhemden!, Deutschland So oder So!, and Kommt Krieg in Europa?

Knick knew practically every human being of consequence in Germany. He explored the country from top to bottom. He talked to Hitler, Spengler, Brüning, Goering, Goebbels. Then Hitler came to power. At the time Knickerbocker was in the middle of a German lecture tour that had begun in the Lessing Hochschule in Berlin. Knick watched the Nazi revolution crushingly obliterate all opposition. He wrote a series exposing the Brown Terror that caused violent comment in New York as well as Berlin. Presently he was excluded from the country. There are hate affairs as well as love affairs. The hate affair between Hitler and Knickerbocker is one of the most torrid in political history.

But this should not detract from the main point, which is that Knick knows the real Germany, loves it, and respects it. He is a Nazi-hater, but not a German-hater. His authority on the subject is authentic and complete.

John Gunther



There is no such thing as winning a fight without passion. France went to war apologetically; France fought the war without music, and so France lost. Britain went to war apologetically, but Britain had the inestimable advantage of being bombed, and today for the first time in 100 years Britain is angry and is fighting as she has never fought before. We, the United States, are today apologetic, so sorry that it seems we after all are called upon to fight, and some of us still say we should not fight, and others say we must fight only with aviators and sailors, and never with infantrymen, and very few indeed are the strains of martial music throughout the land. From all sides we are called upon to restrain our emotions, and it is said that the cool head is the shrewd head, and that is correct, of course, but a cool head without a hot heart is useless on a battlefield. Without anger there can be no victory and useful anger is based upon understanding. Unless the American people can be brought to understand that our national existence and our individual security are today in peril, and unless the American people become angry at the enemy, we shall become a part of Hitler’s Reich.

History may eventually record that Britain was saved by the bombs Hitler has rained upon her since the fall of France. Unless they annihilate the British, these bombs will have fulfilled a function Hitler never imagined. He thought they would terrorize the British into surrender; instead the bombs aroused a resistance such as no other population has ever shown, for the prolonged punishment of Britain’s cities has been worse than anything we know of elsewhere, including Belgrade, Warsaw, Rotterdam, Madrid, Barcelona,[xvi] or Chungking. The British required this experience to awaken them. They had been at war eight months when the Germans finally attacked in the West, but they had not given up the grand old British custom of the Friday to Tuesday week end. It took the German break-through on the Meuse, and then the German bombs on London, to shock every inhabitant of the British Isles into the realization that they faced death for their nation and death or slavery for themselves unless they fought with a ferocity even greater than that of their jungle enemies.

We are today as sound asleep as the British were before May 1940. We are as sound asleep as the French were before they saw their fortifications fall and their army of 4,500,000 soldiers with the tradition of Napoleon dissolve between May 10 and June 17, in five weeks of the greatest military debacle of all time. We have had no bombs on America, and presumably shall not have them until it is time to trek for the Rocky Mountains. A sober American patriot remarked, “How fortunate Britain has been to have had the bombs to arouse her martial spirit before it was too late. If Hitler were to have a lapse in judgment and send just half a dozen bombers over New York, and drop just half a dozen bombs, it might be the salvation of America.” But Hitler will do no such thing. He is glad to accommodate those Americans who refuse to believe they are threatened until they are physically attacked. When and if the Germans break through upon America we shall awake to find ourselves alone, cut off, surrounded, outnumbered, outgunned, and outlawed amid a world of enemies.

A few of us, chiefly correspondents formerly in Germany, have been trying to do duty for German bombs on America, and for the German break-through. We have been called alarmists. For years the world of international observers was divided into two groups: the one composed of nearly everybody on earth outside of Germany, who understood nothing of the true character of Hitler’s Third Reich; and the second tiny group, small enough to[xvii] be contained within a lecture hall, composed of correspondents, diplomats, and a few businessmen who had firsthand knowledge of what the Nazis mean. Today a good many persons without this intimate knowledge of Nazi Germany have been able to decide for themselves about the character of a regime which has overrun fifteen countries in three years, but the danger to America still looks very remote and impersonal to millions of patriotic citizens. I have been talking to about 100,000 of these citizens, during a lecture series.

My thesis was in brief: That the United States should be in a state of formal, shooting war with Germany as speedily as possible because only by this means can we make the world safe for America; and that we must realize that after going to war we have only begun a task which may last for many years and one which we can fulfill only by learning to fight with even more fervor than the demoniac Nazi shock troops, and by greater national self-sacrifice than we have ever been called upon to make.

On this thesis I was asked around 3,000 questions during the question period following the lectures. For this book I have chosen around 200 as representative of what the American people are thinking. I have arranged the questions in categories and have added many recent ones to bring the Forum up to date. Eager, painful, almost agonizing concern for the future of America was the background of these queries from audiences in 128 communities, including two-thirds of all cities of more than 100,000 population and scores of towns and villages. The people with whom I talked ranged from millionaire winter tourists in Florida to coal miners in Pennsylvania, applegrowers in Yakima, oilmen in Oklahoma, college boys in the Great Lakes states, farmers in the Midwest, workers, bankers, club ladies, teachers, cowhands, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, atheists, Yankees, Southerners, Texans, Westerners—Americans.

I am convinced that these earnest Americans, representing[xviii] through their family and friendly connections at least ten times their number, or more than 1,000,000 persons, are far in advance of the President’s moves toward active defense, just as the President has always been far ahead of the Congress. They wanted action even before the President offered it. Among 3,000 questioners there were not more than six openly hostile hecklers from the floor. Would it be too hopeful to say that America is 2,994 to 6 in favor of liberty?



Q. Have you ever met Hitler?

A. Many times. From 1923 until today I have watched and studied him and a good part of that time I was close enough to have opportunities for firsthand observation. I first heard him speak in August 1923, not long before his unsuccessful attempt to seize power, in the famous Beer Hall Putsch, and then I witnessed the Putsch, and reported his trial with Ludendorff for treason. He was released from Landsberg Prison in December 1924 where he had been held in comfortable “fortress confinement” just long enough for him to have time conveniently to write Mein Kampf. I interviewed him for the first time in the Brown House in Munich in 1932. Thereafter I had a series of interviews with him, and was present at many of the great moments of his career.

Q. What impression does he make when you meet him?

A. The first impression he makes upon any non-German is that he looks silly. Not to a German, mind you, and I suppose he did not look silly to any of those heads of European states who crawled to Berchtesgaden to get their orders. But to a foreigner not subject to his commands he certainly looks silly. I know that is a strong word to use about a man who has already conquered a continent but it fits.

I remember well the first time I ever laid eyes on him, in August 1923, when he was speaking at the Zirkus Krone in Munich—I broke out laughing. Even if you had never heard of him you[2] would be bound to say, “He looks like a caricature of himself.” The moustache and the lock of hair over the forehead help this look, but chiefly it is the expression of his face, and especially the blank stare of his eyes, and the foolish set of his mouth in repose. Sometimes he looks like a man who ought to go around with his mouth open, chin hanging in the style of a surprised farm hand. Other times he clamps his lips together so tightly and juts out his jaw with such determination that again he looks silly, as though he were putting on an act.

Indeed Hitler is, more than anything else, an actor. He will go on being one the rest of his life, a great actor who in his role as tyrant conqueror will have affected the destinies of more millions of people than any other human being in history, but an actor to the last, a tragedian whom no one would take seriously until he began shooting at his audience. Even in the midst of his triumphs he manages to look silly to any outsider capable for the moment of detaching himself from horrified contemplation of the fate inflicted upon his victims.

I remember watching him roll down the Ringstrasse in Vienna standing beside the chauffeur in a cream-colored Mercedes car, with his arm outstretched in the stiff salute he affects on such occasions, the hand rigidly held at a slight angle downward. It was the moment of his conquest of Austria. The streets were crowded with half a million people, a few cheering sincerely, many cheering out of fear, and hundreds of thousands grim-faced, weeping inwardly.

At that moment when I, too, felt like weeping at the abasement of the city where I had worked and danced and studied and played when I first came to Europe fifteen years before, even at such a moment I found myself smiling and saying to friends looking out the window of my room in the Hotel Bristol, “Doesn’t he look silly?” That oversized cap of his, the military cap with the too-large[3] crown and the visor which completely hides his low forehead!

There is something absurd even about his stance as he rides his victorious chariot through freshly conquered cities. He is softly fat about the hips and this gives his figure a curiously female appearance. A scientist friend of mine watching him once remarked that Hitler seemed afflicted by steatopygia, which he defined as “an excessive development of fat on the buttocks, especially in females.” It is possible that the strongly feminine element in Hitler’s character is one of the reasons for his violence. He realizes his femininity, is ashamed of it, wishes to be a man, and overcompensates by brutal behavior. This little fatty-hipped, slope-shouldered, lonely figure, standing so inflexibly, his arm outstretched so tautly, his eyes staring over the heads of his subjects, is incredible. “No,” you say to yourself, “this can’t be true.”

If this odd creature finally conquers the world, his last victims, we once proud Americans, would still be saying as we filed into concentration camp, “It’s impossible. He looks too silly.” But he is not silly. My friend, Captain Philippe Barres of the French Army, one of those who did not surrender, remarked to another Frenchman: “You say Hitler is merely a madman, an idiot. I suppose you must be one of those Frenchmen who prefer to have been conquered by an idiot than by a clever man.”

Oh no, he certainly is not an idiot; but is it not incredible that this mighty conqueror, now master over two hundred and fifty million Europeans—more civilized white human beings than ever before came under the tyranny of a single despot—and now reaching out to drive another thousand million under his yoke, that this man usually looks completely insignificant? I am sure that was the first impression Mussolini had of him. I saw the two dictators when they first met and Hitler never looked sillier in his life than at that time.


Q. How did the two behave toward each other? Did they seem to like each other?

A. Not much. It was June 14, 1934 when Hitler first visited Italy to meet the Duce and discuss with him the fate of Austria. Hitler had not yet created his army and Mussolini could still talk on terms of equality, or even a little better. Mussolini wanted to impress his guest as much as possible with the power and glory of Fascist Italy. Hitler had to try to impress Mussolini with the coming strength of Nazi Germany. Mussolini, being at home, had all the advantage. For Hitler the trip itself must have been a great experience because it was the first time he had ever been out of Germany or Austria in his whole life, if you except the time he spent as a soldier in the trenches of Northern France.

Mussolini proved a great stage manager. He arranged the meeting to take place in Venice, and had his guest land on the airfield of the Lido. The fact that it was an island made it easy for the authorities to exclude the public, and when Hitler arrived he stepped directly into a perfectly appointed theater.

There were representatives of all the Italian armed forces, companies of Bersaglieri, Alpini, Sailors, Airmen, and the Black Shirt Fascist Militia, and a group of the highest civilian officials in black uniform with the black-tasseled fez caps of the party, surrounding the Duce himself who was in the powder-blue uniform of a Corporal of the Fascist Militia.

Mussolini used to think of himself as the successor to the Corsican Corporal. I remember once noticing that the only ornament on his desk was a framed portrait of Napoleon. I remarked on it, and Mussolini exclaimed, “A great Italian!” One of the Duce’s most ambitious literary ventures was a play called The Hundred Days. Whether he is still able after Greece, Libya, and Ethiopia to fancy himself in the role of a conqueror when he meets Hitler[5] now, he still appears in the uniform of a corporal as when he met Hitler the first time.

The only persons on the field not in uniform were the foreign correspondents and we looked very dim compared with the brilliant Italians. Mussolini appeared a few minutes early and when he strode down the line and looked over his warriors he made a most vigorous impression. He had an electric step; his feet seemed to bounce off the ground, and the air vibrated with his personality. After he finished reviewing his troops he came over and stood within a few feet of us and we waited.

Presently Hitler’s Junkers plane roared down out of the sky, landed, taxied up to us, and came to a full stop. The door opened. The Italian troops, dazzling in full dress, presented arms. The Fascist officials stood at attention. The sunshine sparkled on Mussolini’s gold braid and the Duce, stepping close to the open door of the airplane, flung out his arm in a Roman salute with so much energy that it seemed as though he might lose his hand. He trembled with passion. Then, out of the shadow of the door, emerged Hitler. There, before the splendid Italians, he stood, a faint little man arrayed in his old worn raincoat, his blue serge suit, and a brand-new Fedora hat. His right hand faltered up in the Nazi salute.

He gives the salute two ways. For reviewing his own troops or crowds he gives it stiff-arm. This is his Prussian style. For greeting individuals he gives the salute, Viennese style, with a limp hand, the arm not outstretched but bent at the elbow and the hand flopping back until it almost touches his shoulder, then flopping forward feebly. He used the Viennese version on Mussolini. Hitler was embarrassed. Later we learned he had threatened to dismiss Baron von Neurath, then chief of protocol, for having advised him to come in civilian clothes.

The Fuehrer stood for a moment, blinking in the sunlight, then awkwardly came down the steps, and the two dictators shook[6] hands. They were not over three yards from me, and I was fascinated to watch the expressions on their faces. Beneath the obligatory cordiality I fancied I could see an expression of amusement in Mussolini’s eyes and of resentment in Hitler’s. At any rate Hitler’s embarrassment did not diminish, for when Mussolini led him down the line of troops he did not know how to carry it off. This was the first time he had ever had to inspect foreign troops, but that was not the chief trouble. The chief trouble was his hat.

He had taken it off as a salute to the Italian flag, and he started to put it back on his head, thought better of it, and held it in his right hand. Then, as he walked beside the Duce, who was chattering all the time in his fluent German, Hitler shifted the hat to his left hand, then back to the right, and so back and forth until one could feel he would have given anything to be able to throw the hat away. Finally, when they reached the end of the line, he clapped the hat back on his head, but he had not yet recovered his poise because when they came to the launch which was to carry them to Venice, Hitler, flustered, tried to insist that Mussolini, the host, precede him on board. The Duce finally got behind the Fuehrer and shooed him down the gangplank first.

Mussolini arranged that his visitor should constantly be reminded that although Germany might have her great man, Italy had a greater. With true totalitarian courtesy Mussolini ordered thousands of young Black Shirts to cheer him and keep up a continuous howl of “Duce, Duce, Duce!” whenever Hitler appeared. They jammed St. Mark’s square and that night when Mussolini gave his guests a banquet in the wonderful old Palace of the Doges, the Black Shirts yelled so much and so powerfully that nobody could hear the speeches. Finally Mussolini had to send word for the boys to quiet down.

The show had its desired effect as far as the Italian populace was concerned. The climax of the evening was a procession on the Grand Canal. They had taken from museums the most treasured[7] old gondolas, and decorated them with lanterns. You may imagine what a spectacle they made under a June moon. My wife had a gondolier who spoke a few words of broken English. She asked him, “What do you think of Hitler?” “Oh,” said the gondolier, “Eetlaire, Eetlaire is only a piccolo Mussolini.” I wonder if the gondolier still thinks Hitler is a “little Mussolini”?

Q. What did the two dictators accomplish by their meeting? Did they lay the basis for the Axis there?

A. No, just the contrary. They laid the basis for nearly going to war with each other. The Axis was not formed until much later, after Mussolini had been compelled to recognize Hitler’s supremacy and take orders from him. At the time they first met, Mussolini still fancied himself Hitler’s superior. At Venice they were supposed to negotiate an agreement about Austria.

At that time Mussolini wanted very much to take Austria himself, or to keep it independent as a buffer state between Italy and the Germany which he felt was going some day to become strong enough to menace him as well as the rest of Europe. Hitler, on the other hand, was bent upon the Anschluss, upon annexing Austria as the first item on his program of expansion.

Mussolini had an army of unknown quality but big enough compared with Hitler’s to make the Duce feel superior and Hitler feel cautious. So they talked on this basis and Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and already Propaganda Minister, took me aside the afternoon of the second day and triumphantly whispered that a “gentleman’s agreement” had been reached that both parties would respect the integrity and independence of Austria. It was all I could do to restrain myself from putting in my cable some obvious crack about the agreement between those two notable “gentlemen,” but one does not do that under censorship.

What happened then? I must say that everything that has happened[8] in Europe since the gangsters took over has the quality of a caricature. Sure enough, Hitler and Mussolini made their “gentlemen’s agreement” to keep hands off Austria on June 15, and just forty days later, on July 25, Hitler sent a band of Nazi revolutionaries to seize the Austrian government. They murdered Chancellor Dollfuss, but were overpowered by loyal troops, and before Hitler could move, Mussolini had mobilized on the Brenner mechanized forces strong enough to make Hitler back down and disavow the whole action. I reached Vienna and the Ballhaus Platz while the loyal troops were still besieging the Reichskanzlei. Dollfuss had not died yet. In the midst of it all I had to laugh at the thought of that “gentlemen’s agreement.”

Q. That must have made Mussolini cocky, to make Hitler back down?

A. Decidedly! I went from Vienna where I had covered the Dollfuss Putsch, back to Berlin for the death of Hindenburg—and incidentally for a sidelight on Hitler, let me remark this. You still hear repeated the wishful thought that the German Army will some day “do something” about Hitler. Nobody who knows anything about Germany believes that for a moment now, but I admit I thought it possible until the day Hindenburg died that the army might stop Hitler.

That was August 7, 1934, and at the moment Goebbels announced on the radio the death of the President he also announced that Hitler had assumed the presidency, which meant he was commander in chief of the armed forces as well as Reichs Chancellor, and thus had sole executive power. That morning I came early to the office in Berlin and as I entered the door Goebbels’ voice began to come over the radio. I worked on the cables until mid-afternoon and then Dosch-Fleurot and I went out to witness the[9] swearing in of the Berlin garrison. That was where I learned that the army would from then on do nothing to stop Hitler.

The regiment was drawn up in hollow square and in the middle stood the commanding general on a platform. Every one of the 2,000 men and officers held his right hand above his head with the two fingers extended as in taking an oath in court. The general repeated the words two at a time and the troops repeated in sonorous chorus, “I swear—by God—eternal allegiance—to my Fuehrer—Adolf Hitler—to obey him,” and so on, with no word about the flag, the Constitution, or even the Fatherland. The oath was a personal oath to Hitler himself, as commander in chief. I believe it is unique; at any rate I have never heard of such an oath in any other army.

The officers corps knew what it meant, so much so that thousands of officers absented themselves that day from duty “on account of illness,” but when they came back each had to take the oath individually. The significance of that is that no German army has ever mutined, and this oath bound every soldier of Germany to the person of Adolf Hitler. It was a most impressive ceremony and I carried away from it the conviction that this army would never break its oath and turn on Hitler until it met defeat. I am still convinced this is true.

Q. Yes, but what about Mussolini? You said he was decidedly cocky about defeating Hitler over Austria.

A. I started to say that after having covered the death of Hindenburg and the accession to the Presidency of Hitler, I went down and reported the Nuremberg Party Congress, and directly thereafter went to Rome and met Mussolini. It was October 1934. I had met him several times previously and he always used to insist on asking more questions than he answered; so he began our conversation[10] by saying, “I hear you have been to Nuremberg—what did you learn there? What did they think of me?”

I answered that frankly the Italians were not popular in Nuremberg, and that one of my English colleagues, Chris Holmes of Reuters, who is tall, dark, and handsome, had once been mistaken for an Italian and had some trouble with Nazi Storm Troopers until he identified himself. “So we are unpopular there,” Mussolini ruminated. “And go on, what else did you observe in that line?”

“Well,” I continued, “one night I met a group of officers of the SS [Schutzstaffel] and we were talking about affairs, and one of them asked me what you, Your Excellency, would have done with those troops you mobilized on the Brenner during the Dollfuss Putsch if you had marched into Austria.” “Yes,” said the Duce leaning forward. “Yes, yes, go on, what did they want to know?” “Well,” I hesitated, “they wanted to know if you had marched into Austria, would you have stopped there, or would you have gone on and marched into Germany?” Mussolini put his hands on the desk and leaned halfway over it, and a great smile came on his face as he ejaculated, “Ahhhh! Were they afraid?” I laughed and he laughed and it was agreed that the Germans had been afraid, and if ever there was a delighted man it was Mussolini, reveling in the thought that he had frightened his gentlemen friends.

Q. You have told us that the first impression one gets of Hitler is that he looks silly, but you remarked that this was a false impression.... Do you imply that on closer acquaintance his personality grows upon you?

A. In a way, perhaps. At any rate you realize after several meetings that the silly appearance is due to superficialities. His moustache, the lock of hair over his forehead, and his staring eyes make his face easy work for a cartoonist, and a world of them have taken[11] advantage of it. It is almost like a mask. He frequently looks as though he were gazing into space when he is looking straight at you. He has terrific power of concentration and sometimes when he talks he appears to forget his surroundings, and to be conversing with himself, although he may be shouting loud enough to be heard by a great multitude.

His manner is various, and he can be quietly affable just as another time he may rave and bellow until his voice breaks. Once, during his trial for treason, I heard him bellow and then surrender to a louder voice. This was an incident worth recording, because as far as I know it is the only time Hitler has been literally shouted down. All during his trial the courtroom was dominated by the figure of Ludendorff, the great Ludendorff who for the last two years of the war had been master of Germany. Ludendorff of course was as guilty of treason as Hitler, and if the court had done its duty both Ludendorff and Hitler would have been sentenced to death and executed. Ludendorff, however, had such prestige that even this republican court was afraid to find him guilty, and as you know, they acquitted him. And having acquitted Ludendorff it was not possible to sentence Hitler to death. They gave him the lightest possible sentence, fortress confinement for five years, and later commuted by a general amnesty to less than a year.

Ludendorff used to bark at the court in Kommandostimme, the tone of the parade ground, every syllable clipped harsh, and when his imperious voice rose, the little Chief Justice in the middle of the Bench would quiver until his white goatee flickered so badly he had to seize it to keep it quiet. Hitler at that time had nothing like the authority of Ludendorff but he made up for that by his volubility and his rough treatment of the witnesses against him. As defendant he had the right to question witnesses and he bullied them unmercifully until the turn came of General von Lossow, the chief witness for the state. Von Lossow was in command of the Bavarian Reichswehr.


A few days before the Putsch, Hitler had given his personal word of honor to von Lossow that he would not try a revolution. On the night of the Putsch, Hitler, brandishing a revolver, forced von Lossow to join the revolution and yield the Bavarian Reichswehr to the new Hitler government. But the moment von Lossow was free, he mobilized his troops and crushed the Putsch. So the two men hated each other, and each considered the other a double-crosser.

When von Lossow took the stand, Hitler stood up and yelled a question. Thereupon the General, a tall bony man, with a corrugated shaven head and a jaw of steel, pulled himself up to his full height and began yelling at Hitler and throwing his long forefinger as if it were a weapon at Hitler’s face. Hitler started to shout back, but the General shouted so much louder, and looked so menacing, that presently Hitler fell back in his seat as if he had collapsed under a physical blow. Hitler had his revenge on June 30, 1934 when he had von Lossow assassinated along with the hundreds of others who perished in the Blood Purge. In retrospect it is fascinating to reflect that Hitler, the most successful bully our world has seen, can himself be bullied.

Q. Do you think that Hitler is personally responsible, or largely responsible, for this war? Is it possible to ascribe that much importance to one individual?

A. I do ascribe that much importance to the individual Hitler. We would no more have had this war, in the form it has taken, and at the time it has taken place, without Hitler, than we would have had the Napoleonic wars without Napoleon. Without Hitler, Germany would either have forged slowly ahead as she was doing under the Weimar Republic, or she would have come under some other leader of Pan-German Imperialism who would have attempted on a lesser and not so successful scale something like the[13] thing Hitler has attempted. It is extremely unlikely that anyone else could have been found with Hitler’s genius. It is more likely that the Weimar Republic would have persisted. Remember, when Hitler was sentenced to fortress confinement for his 1923 Putsch, his National Socialist German Workers Party practically disappeared, but immediately upon his emergence from prison it began to grow until by 1928 he had 12 seats, and in 1930, 130 seats in the Reichstag.

You may say this growth of a radical party would have been inevitable under the circumstances of economic crisis, unemployment, and so on. I agree that the growth of radical votes would have been inevitable, but it was far from inevitable that so many of these radical votes should be canalized into one great, super-efficient, terroristic, militaristic party. This was the accomplishment of one man, Adolf Hitler.

I was a correspondent in Germany from 1923 on, and during that particular decade, 1923 to 1933, when Hitler took power, two-thirds of the German electorate voted consistently in favor of some form of collectivism, either Social Democracy, or National Socialism, or Communism. I contend that it was solely the genius of Adolf Hitler which eventually brought the whole country under his particular brand of collectivism. Without him the votes given the Nazis would have been split in half a dozen ways, and the probability is that the conservative parties representing one-third of the votes, with the Social Democrats who wanted a democratic republican collectivism, would have won out in the long run, and we should have had a republican Germany today and no war. This is sheer retrospective speculation, but it is useful to point out the importance of the personality of Hitler.

The Marxists have always insisted that individuals do not count; that history is made by economic and social forces which in the long run accomplish their destiny no matter who lives or dies. The[14] longer I live the less I believe in this explanation of history, at any rate as it applies to our span of life.

Over centuries it may be that the great forces carry mankind irresistibly along no matter what leaders it has, but within a single generation we are bound to feel that the history of our nation would have been quite different if this or that individual had not existed. Objectively it may be true that over long periods of time the individual leader counts for little. But subjectively, for short periods of time, the individual leader counts for nearly everything. What a difference it would have made for the Jews of the whole world, if a Hitler had not obtained control of the collectivist movement in Germany.

There was nothing inherently anti-Semitic in the German yearning for a Gemeinschaft, a collective. Anti-Semitism need not have played any part in National Socialism any more than it did in Communism or Social Democracy. Yet, because Hitler from his early youth had been infected with this curious kind of psychic sickness, anti-Semitism became a part of the German state religion, and from this accident of history has grown the tragedy of twelve million people.

Q. Is Hitler really the boss of Germany, or is there not someone behind the throne?

A. There is nobody behind the throne. Hitler is the whole regime, its author, its parent, its spirit, its brains, and its boss.

Q. What about the men around Hitler; are any of them of the caliber to succeed him?

A. None of them is of the caliber to succeed Hitler, but Hitler has publicly announced Goering as his successor, and he would automatically take the position if der Fuehrer should die now. In[15] the Party there is nobody to compete with him. The bloodthirsty Himmler, head of the SS Elite Guards and the Gestapo, is merely a policeman, one of great ability, ranking perhaps with the notorious Fouché of the French Revolution, but out of the question as Fuehrer. Goebbels, the advertising director, is the cleverest man in the Party, but he would be lucky to remain alive twenty-four hours after Hitler’s protective hand was removed. He and Himmler are rivals in unpopularity. Who are the rest? Minor figures, as Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, the upstart “Bismarck” of the champagne trade, who if anything is more widely disliked and despised than Goebbels. Hess, of course, has fled. Dr. Ley, the head of the Labor Front, is the type of drunken, racketeering labor gangster who in this country would have gone to the penitentiary under the lash of Westbrook Pegler. Alfred Rosenberg, the Party’s “brain,” could no more succeed Hitler than he could take Joe Louis’s place.

The more one scrutinizes the German scene the more one realizes that the war has moved all the big party figures far into the background, leaving only Goering a modest place miles beneath the Fuehrer. The outside world has believed Goering would be an improvement on Hitler, in that he would be more amenable to reason, less aggressive. He would be an improvement only in that he would be weaker. His instincts and intentions are not more Christian than Hitler’s. He would have neither Hitler’s magic hold on the German people nor Hitler’s genius in action, but he is as cruel a man as ever exercised power in a modern state. At the same time he has all the sentimentality which is an almost invariable accompaniment of brutality in this type of German. During the period of the worst Terror, the active Nazi revolution in 1933, Goering was over Himmler in charge of the concentration camps, and at the moment when the Nazi sadists and criminals in charge of the camps were beating to death and torturing and hanging[16] scores of men daily, Goering decreed the severest law against cruelty to animals ever to be passed anywhere.

Goering’s most marked characteristics, aside from his high animal spirits, his callous cruelty, and his sentimentality, are his energy, courage, and will power. He looks too fat to be self-disciplined, but he twice cured himself of the morphine habit, which he had contracted after his wounding in the World War, and again after his wounding on the Odeon’s Platz during the Munich Putsch. A glandular derangement resulting from his wounds made him monstrously obese, but appears to have endowed him with an excess of energy which he demonstrates by doing the work of half a dozen men. He works incomparably harder than Hitler who by any ordinary standards is a fitful worker, given to long spells of dreamy idleness.

Everybody else in Germany quails before Goering, but Reichs Marshal Goering becomes a trembling, whipped child when Hitler yells at him, despite fanciful newspaper stories about Goering’s disputing with der Fuehrer. The Army prefers Goering to any other Nazi leader except Hitler, because Goering is the only soldier and the only gentleman by birth among the Nazi chiefs. Yet when one has reviewed all the points in favor of Goering’s position, it becomes more and more obvious that the war has made a successor to Hitler almost unthinkable. Hitler has the power now more than ever, but the power now is the Army; it is no longer, as it was until September 1939, the Party. If Goering were to take over automatically, after Hitler’s death, how long could he keep the apparatus running; what would the Army do; how would the German people and the people of Europe respond to their new and obviously so immensely inferior master? The more one considers the condition of Germany today the more it seems that Hitler is indispensable to German success. His successors would probably succeed one another with Blitz speed.


Q. What about Karl Haushofer, who is said to be his one-man brain trust?

A. Haushofer is one of the men Hitler consults. Hitler likes Haushofer’s theory of what they call Geopolitik because it fits in with Hitler’s own theory that politics should always go ahead of economics, which is his particular way of proving the Marxists wrong. But Haushofer has no more influence than perhaps half a dozen of Hitler’s advisers. Hitler hates experts, because they advance objections to his projects. The only experts who have a chance with him are yes-men, except in the Army. He listens to technical advice from generals he respects, although even from them he would tolerate no shadow of opposition to his grand strategy. You may be sure Haushofer has never said no.

Q. Is Hitler also in the military sphere the real war lord? Does he actually direct his battles as did Napoleon?

A. Hitler is the nearest thing to Napoleon since Napoleon. I remember just before the beginning of the war, in August 1939, I asked a Colonel of the French General Staff if they had heard that Hitler had taken over active command of the Army, in fact, and that when war began he would direct the fighting. The French Colonel said yes, that the French General Staff knew that was true. Then he surprised me by saying that they did not like it.

I had expected him to rub his hands and exclaim over French good luck in having an amateur at the head of the German Army. Not at all. This French Colonel went on to explain that Hitler had already demonstrated the most miraculous sense of timing, and this was perhaps the most important talent a field marshal could have, and that with the technical advice of his generals, Hitler might prove a formidable adversary indeed. Less than a year later the[18] French Colonel who had foreseen so well was one of the vast army of military refugees fleeing before the New Napoleon.

I do not mean to say that Hitler blueprints each battle and determines where each division is to go. He simply determines the grand strategy, names the objective, and sets the time. For instance, in the case of Poland, some time before the German attack, Hitler called his General Staff together and said, “Gentlemen, I want you to work out a plan for the crushing of Poland as swiftly as possible. The problem is how to knock out Poland before the French and British can bring any help or alleviation by attacking in the West. Now, how many divisions can we have fully mobilized within a month? So, and how many do we need to hold the French? So. That will leave us so and so many for the Polish campaign. Now, gentlemen, at how many different points can we attack Poland, from every available entrance? You say five, including East Prussia. All right, now within forty-eight hours I want you to bring me a sketch plan of attack, with the outline of the number of divisions to attack at each point.”

With these data in hand Hitler orders the general disposition of the troops. Then he waits, and takes into account each of a score or hundred other factors besides military factors that may enter into the supreme decision to choose the exact time to strike. He considers the attitude of all the powers involved, the British and French morale, their military strength, the weather, the attitude of Poland’s neighbors, the Polish preparations, and finally when he is ready he gives the fateful order to march at 2 A.M. on September 1, 1939. Before the order reaches the commanding generals probably not more than half a dozen men in the world know the time.

He may meet technical criticism from his generals; he often does. But unlike Mussolini, whose staff is so subservient and sycophantic that they say “Yes” when the Duce has outlined some impossible campaign such as his fiasco in Greece, the German generals voice their objections. If the objections are valid, Hitler[19] may change his plans. As a rule, however, Hitler’s grand strategy is seldom affected, because the great sweeping decisions are based upon Hitler’s appreciation of the problem, the campaign, the scene as a whole. His generals will be thinking of the local problem, and their opinion in this respect carries weight. But Hitler will be thinking in terms first of the whole war, second of the whole campaign, as against Poland. To these great decisions the generals invariably bow.

Q. Why? How has this man who was able to become only a corporal in the last war suddenly obtained such an ascendancy over the German Army and in particular over the General Staff? I always understood that the General Staff of the German Army was one of the proudest, most professionally capable, and vain and exclusive organizations in the whole world.

A. How has Hitler done it? By being always right. Well, nearly always. He has so far made two mistakes, either or both of which may prove fatal, or not, as destiny will have it. The first was when, instead of launching an all-out assault on Britain immediately after Dunkirk, he pursued the crumbling French Army, which as he later learned, could not have been a danger to him; thus he postponed too late his attack on Britain.

Q. Why didn’t he attack England at that time?

A. Because Hitler did not expect France to collapse as speedily as she did. Neither he nor anyone else in the world expected it. He may say he did but the best proof that he did not is the fact that he failed to take advantage of it. When the German armies broke through the Low Countries, and began to press upon the French line at the famous “hinge” at Montmedy, they were like a man who is pressing hard on a locked and bolted door when suddenly[20] the bolt breaks, the door flies open, and the man pitches forward into the room.

So the German armies pitched forward into France when they broke across the Meuse and staggered on, almost losing their balance for lack of the opposition they had expected to find. They lurched on until at the end of five weeks the French Army had dissolved; the French government had surrendered; the nation of France had ceased to exist. Then Hitler pulled his army together, turned it around, started it for the Channel ports. But it takes time to turn an army around; it takes time to establish air bases and collect the thousands of flat-bottomed vessels to ferry an army across the channel.

The time required was fifty-five days from June 17, the day the French asked for an armistice, to August 8, when the Germans made their first mass air attack on Britain as preliminary to invasion. It was those fifty-five days which saved Britain. I arrived in London on June 20, full of the apprehension that Hitler’s army was about to sweep the world. After all it is impressive to have believed all your life that the French Army was the best in the world and then to witness it disappear in thirty-seven days of fighting.

It is more impressive to become a refugee. I had established in Paris the first home I had had in twenty years of vagabond newspaper work. As the German armies came closer to the French capital I congratulated myself that I could now live at home and motor daily to the front. Then one night around midnight the American military attaché, my old friend Colonel Horace M. Fuller, our wisest professional observer of the war abroad, and Lieutenant-Commander Hillenkoetter, our naval attaché, veteran submarine expert, called on me and said: “Knick, you must leave tonight; the Germans will be here by morning.”

In Edgar Mowrer’s overfull Ford, followed by Lilian Mowrer valiantly driving her tiny Simca, we left Paris about three o’clock[21] in the morning, passing through empty streets, the great boulevards stretching wide and forlorn without so much as a policeman in sight, while fog eddied above the paving. We passed through the gates of the city where not even a sentry stood.

Paris was already broken, already humiliated. We fled on down, stopping with the demoralized government at Tours, and then on to Bordeaux where with 1,600 other refugees I found a place on the British India Line S.S. Madura, built to accommodate 160. On the way from Paris to Bordeaux we had traveled with six to eight million other refugees, the largest number of fugitives ever to assemble on the roads of the Western World. Flight, flight, flight! Anything to get away! That was the panic spirit which had gripped the whole population of France, as of the Low Countries.

The German Army could not even come in contact with the main body of refugees, except in the contact of murder when the Luftwaffe machine-gunned the roads. From the moment, eleven days after the grand assault began, when the Germans reached the sea at Abbeville, May 21, from that moment on French resistance disappeared. But Hitler could not begin to attack England until the British Expeditionary Force and the Northern French Army were destroyed. Actually the B.E.F. escaped from Dunkirk June 4, and from that date on Hitler was free to turn in either direction, and many observers believed he would drive straight at England.

Instead, he chose to pursue the French Army another thirteen days, until it surrendered. If Hitler, immediately after Dunkirk, had concentrated every resource on invading England, nobody can say what would have happened. Dunkirk had shocked the British more deeply than anything in 100 years, but the French capitulation shocked them worse.

By the time I arrived at Falmouth, after four days on deck with my fellow refugees, the British were still dazed, dismayed, not panicky, but desperately aware that they stood closer to national destruction than ever in 1,000 years. The truth was they had no[22] army, or rather their army had no weapons. The B.E.F., which had possessed about 75 per cent of all the weapons possessed by all the British Land Forces, had been compelled to leave behind at Dunkirk all their tanks, cannon, and most of their machine guns and even their rifles. It was terrifying to stand on the curb in London and watch battalions of the Guards march by with only half a dozen rifles to a battalion.

The British Land Forces immediately after Dunkirk were practically weaponless. The R.A.F. which was soon to give so gallant an account of itself, needed reorganization; all the units which had been in France had to be brought back and reintegrated for the defense of the island. If ever the German invasion could succeed, it could have succeeded then, but Hitler did not move until the night of August 8, when he sent over his first mass of 400 bombers and fired the docks of London in a blaze so high I was able to read a newspaper by its light on the roof of the Ministry of Information building, eight miles from the fire. Had that attack been launched June 8 or even June 18, instead of August 8, who knows what the result would have been? By August 8 the British had been transformed.

Three things had happened to them which had not happened for over 100 years, since the time of Napoleon. First, they had become frightened; second, they had become angry; third, they had been forced, again I repeat, for the first time in 100 years, forced to go to work. Until the fall of France the British had been as easygoing as we are now, despite the fact they had been formally at war for eight months; but after the fall of France every able-bodied human being in the United Kingdom went to work at the rate of ten to twelve hours a day seven days a week.

In a miraculously short time they tripled their production of weapons, planes, ammunition; meanwhile we sent them 1,000 cannon, many machine guns, and 750,000 rifles. The R.A.F. trained, reorganized, expanded, laid out new fields. In short, when Hitler[23] attacked he struck a new Britain, aroused as never since 1066. It was a dazzling example of what danger can do to a people. The British of August 1940 were not the British of June 1940.

Historians will wonder why Hitler did not move earlier against England. I suppose they will go on wondering why for centuries, even after Hitler has explained it in his memoirs, for his own benefit, and to the satisfaction of few. My estimate is that he simply overvalued the French Army and undervalued the British spirit. Surprised by the French collapse he was carried along by the momentum of his drive to destroy the possibility of further French resistance before trying to invade England. He lost thereby what may prove to have been his greatest chance when he failed to throw his whole air force, army, and navy at England in the moment of her greatest weakness.

Q. What was Hitler’s second mistake?

A. His second mistake was when he went into Russia, apparently expecting the Red Army to fold up at least as fast as the French Army, probably hoping to be able to turn around and launch a second attack on Britain in 1941 before American aid became effective. The initial effect of the invasion of Russia was a disappointment to Hitler, however it may eventually end. So was the First Battle of Britain, but the final outcome of both battles must be awaited to determine how they will affect Hitler’s reputation as a master of war.

Meanwhile his generals have not had reason to change fundamentally the judgment they formed on the basis of their experience with him since 1933. That experience began when he took over the Presidency and obtained the oath of allegiance which, as we have seen, laid at least a legal foundation for his ascendancy over the armed forces. Then he set out to build out of the 100,000-man[24] Reichswehr the mightiest military machine the world has ever known.

He denounced the military clauses of the Versailles treaty, and thus relieved the Army of its crushing sense of being condemned forever to inferiority. He boldly announced the creation of an Air Force, and assigned to it the explosive energies of his first Paladin, Goering. Thereafter, all the resources of the nation were poured into the armed forces. Nothing was too good for the troops. They were given barracks such as no European army had ever had, as good as anything the United States Army has ever known. The food of the army and navy and air force was improved until it was on the average far better, even in peacetime, than anything the German soldier had to eat at home.

Discipline was kept at its highest point, but at the same time a new spirit of comradeship came into the German armed forces. For the first time in the history of the German Navy, officers and men would eat at the same table. All this was bound to have its effect upon the services and to make them think at any rate gratefully of Hitler, but of course the test had still to come. What would this commander in chief order his troops to do? Would he lead them into some impossible adventure prematurely? Would this amateur after building his beautiful machine sacrifice it in some vainglorious maneuver? It seemed as though he would do just that.

The first test of Hitler’s fitness to command his army came on March 7, 1936, when he ordered it into the Rhineland to reoccupy that portion of Germany adjoining France which had been demilitarized by the Versailles treaty. France had insisted that Germany should promise never to quarter troops on the right bank of the Rhine. This was to make up for the fact that France had been prevented from occupying the right bank of the Rhine, and for the fact that the United States in 1919 had refused to join the proposed[25] tripartite pact of France, England, and the United States, to guarantee the French from invasion by Germany.

As long as the Germans kept out of the Rhineland, France was safe. If the Germans ever reoccupied the Rhineland, it meant that they intended sooner or later to use it as a jumping-off-place from which to attack France. France therefore had insisted upon and had obtained this clause in the Versailles treaty, and had thereafter frequently announced that its violation would mean war. Nevertheless, Hitler toward the middle of February 1936 informed his General Staff that in the first week of March he intended to reoccupy the Rhineland. At that moment Hitler met his first opposition from the Army. The generals protested that they could not be responsible for what would happen, because if the French mobilized and fought, the German Army was not strong enough—it would have to retreat. Unspoken was the conclusion that if the German Army retreated, it would mean the end of the Nazi regime, the end of Hitler.

Hitler replied that it was the duty of the Army to obey orders; it was his duty as Fuehrer to give orders which could be successfully obeyed. “I know,” he told them, “that the French will not mobilize. I know the French will not fight. I know the English don’t want them to fight. Don’t ask me how I know. I know. It is my business to know.”

When I was in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, I learned under unusual circumstances something of what went on inside the German General Staff during those days of March 1936, which were to decide the history of the continent. At Burgos, headquarters of Franco’s government, I met Major von der Osten, who was ostensibly in charge of certain economic investigations or negotiations, but as a matter of fact was the chief of the German Gestapo in Spain. He was an agreeable fellow, father of eight children, highly intelligent, amusing, and it did not matter to me that some months before, his organization, the Gestapo, had had me arrested[26] and thrown into a death cell in San Sebastian for thirty-six hours, whence I escaped by the determined vocal and political efforts of my friend and fellow correspondent, Randolph Churchill.

The Major knew that I knew that he was chief of the Gestapo and he knew that I would do all I could to get information from him of value to me, as I knew he would do likewise with me. So we got along famously, and one day he included me in a picnic with several other correspondents. There, on the banks of a clear stream while the Major’s soldier servants served us grilled frankfurters and Rhine wine, I led the conversation into discussion of what the Army thought of Hitler. The theme reached the reoccupation of the Rhineland, and at this the Major became enlightening.

“I was assigned to the Bendlerstrasse [headquarters of the General Staff] then,” the Major said. “I can tell you that for five days and five nights not one of us closed an eye. We knew that if the French marched, we were done. We had no fortifications, and no army to match the French. If the French had even mobilized, we should have been compelled to retire.” He confirmed that the opinion of virtually the entire General Staff was against Hitler; they considered the move suicidal, and when they did move, it was only to obey orders, not because they were convinced it was right.

“And what did they think after the thing was all over and Hitler had been proved right? Did they think that Hitler had proved himself a genius or that he just had extraordinarily good luck?”

The Major smiled. “We thought there was a good deal of kind fortune concerned,” he said.

That was Hitler’s first brush with his army, and his generals may well have put him down as lucky. He won, and later events proved how tremendous his victory was. For the occupation of the Rhineland enabled Hitler to build there his Siegfried line, and the Siegfried line enabled him eventually to hold France until he was ready to fall upon and destroy her as he did in 1940.

This first demonstration that he was “always right,” strengthened[27] his position with the General Staff enormously. The second test was accordingly easier. It was Austria.

Just as in the case of the Rhineland, so in the case of Austria, France had often declared that any German attempt to annex Austria would be a cause of war. This made good sense, just as it had made good sense for the French to have said they would go to war to prevent reoccupation of the Rhineland. Once the Germans had the Rhineland and began to fortify it, they made it difficult for the French to defend Austria. Once the Germans had Austria they made it difficult for the French to defend Czechoslovakia. Once the Germans had Czechoslovakia they made it difficult for the French to defend France.

The German generals understood this series of steps as well as or better than the French, and therefore they could not believe that the French would allow each step to be taken without trying to stop it. Therefore, as Hitler ordered each step taken, his generals protested, since like all generals they did not want to start a war without the certainty of winning.

They protested vigorously over the decision to go into Austria, but once again Hitler said: “Gentlemen, it is your business to take the action I direct. It is my business to direct only action which will be successful. I can assure you now, as I assured you on the reoccupation of the Rhineland, that now also France will not move, the British will not move; we can do as we like.” He was right again, and now with two major victories to his credit, he could face his generals with an even more momentous and critical order—to occupy Czechoslovakia.

This third move, against Czechoslovakia, was the most critical, because here France was pledged by her solemn word of honor to fight for her ally, and because the possession of Czechoslovakia would make it possible finally to attack France herself. These two facts were of course amply known to the German generals and once more they assumed that the French generals and the French[28] government would now awaken and fight for the life of their country.

So, in spite of the two lessons Hitler had given them, the German generals once more pointed out the dangers. Their Siegfried line was not nearly complete. If they threw crushing weight at Czechoslovakia, they would have to weaken their West Front so badly that the French, if they wished to plunge, might break through. Hitler this time was beside himself. He not only knew the French and British would not fight if the Czechs asked them to fight, but he believed, and I think he was right, that the French and British would not have fought even if the Czechs had fought.

So he wanted above all things at this juncture to meet a little opposition to blood his sword. He wanted the Czechs to fight, and knowing he would have them alone, he longed for a chance to show what his vast army and air force could do with overwhelming odds on their side. In my opinion it is just the opposite of true to say that Hitler wanted another bloodless victory. He did not. He wanted a bloody one, the blood of course, to be shed by the hopelessly outnumbered enemy. It seemed to him absolutely idiotic that any of his generals should object. They did, but feebly.

Once more Hitler overrode them, with the same arguments. “France will not fight. The British will not fight. We can do as we like with the Czechs. I only hope they do fight.” Hitler this time got everything he wanted but one thing. The Czechs, brutally betrayed by their ally France and bullied by England, did not fight. Hitler was cheated of his desire to do violence. At Munich the bad temper he displayed when Chamberlain and Daladier gave in to him on every point was caused by the fact that he realized these good gentlemen were going to make the Czechs surrender. He was not going to be given the chance to drop one bomb. He had to wait a whole year for his bloodshed.

If you doubt this analysis of Hitler’s bloodthirstiness, recollect that he never gave Poland a chance to imitate Czechoslovakia’s[29] surrender. Would it not be a matter for wonderment if the German generals had failed to be impressed by this third example of the Fuehrer’s infallibility?

Yet when he proposed to destroy Poland even after the British and French had “guaranteed” her, some of Hitler’s generals still cautiously offered objections on the grounds that this would inevitably mean the Great War and maybe they could not win the Great War. For the fourth time Hitler overcame constantly lessening opposition of “timid” generals. He explained that he would knock out Poland before the French or British could strike, if indeed they intended to strike at all.

There was some doubt whether the Allies would really fight. Ribbentrop insisted Britain was through, and although they might declare war and mobilize, the British would do so only to save face, and would take the first opportunity to quit with a negotiated peace. But even if the British and the French did go to war, Hitler explained, he would finish Poland swiftly, and then turn such heat on France, bring such terrific forces to bear on the Western Front, that she would probably also be ready to negotiate peace, and if not he would knock her out also. That he was sure he could do, and once he had done that, the British would capitulate.

If there was any opposition lingering among the generals, it disappeared upon the signature of the Russo-German Pact, August 23, 1939. This most brilliant of all Hitler’s foreign political coups convinced his generals first that they would not have to fight a war on two major fronts, second that they were in the hands of an invincible military-political genius of the first category.

How gloriously right Hitler seemed to be. At first everything appeared to depend upon the speed with which Hitler could knock out the Poles, whether he could finish them off before the French could mobilize for a great offensive on the West. Optimistic Poles said they could hold out for three years; pessimistic Poles said one year. The French thought the Poles could hold for six months.[30] The German generals thought it would take three months to break the Poles. Hitler gave them six weeks to do the job. They conquered Poland in eighteen days!

Then came Norway and then came France!

No matter what the German generals had thought before, by May 1940 they had the feeling Hitler was another Napoleon. Sure enough, on May 10, they attacked and on June 17 the French Army, the mighty French Army of 4,500,000 men only three generations from Napoleon, surrendered. The Germans, led by Hitler, had accomplished the greatest victory in the history of the German Army, and had inflicted upon their age-old enemy the most colossal defeat in the history of France. Indeed from the point of view of the numbers of men involved, and the issues at stake, it may be said to be dimensionally the greatest victory of military history.

How can anyone now wonder that after the fall of France the German General Staff with all its professional vanity would be proud to take and if necessary blindly obey orders from Corporal Hitler?

Hitler had brought his General Staff to this position of unquestioning obedience when he gave the orders to attack Russia. Here was truly the place for caution. If Hitler was another Napoleon, here was the same Russia. It meant a two-front war. It would give time for United States aid to become effective. At the best it meant lengthening the war by years.

“No,” Hitler ordered, “we shall conquer Russia before the summer is out, and conquer England before the year is out and before the United States can do anything about it. Vorwaerts!” Only the prestige built up by Hitler’s uninterrupted series of victories from the Rhineland to Crete could have won the acquiescence of the German General Staff to the Russian adventure.

Q. Is Hitler personally brave?


A. It is hard to say. I could put it this way: Hitler is not the sort of man about whom one would unhesitatingly say that he is personally brave, as one would say about Churchill, for example. Perhaps we shall not count the story he told me about his winning the Iron Cross in the last war, since many Germans say it is not a true story. Yet it is an interesting one. He told it to me the night of March 11, 1932 on the eve of the Presidential election when he ran against Hindenburg and scored eleven million to Hindenburg’s eighteen million votes.

I asked him how he had won his Iron Cross. He always wore it but his political enemies declared there was no record in the army archives of its having been awarded him and neither in Mein Kampf nor elsewhere could there be found any account of how he got it. I was afraid when I asked the question that it might irritate him, but he seemed amused, and even pleased.

“You know,” he said, “I was a dispatch bearer in the war. One day, toward the first of June 1918, I was ordered to take a message to another part of the front, and had to traverse a section of no man’s land. Presently I passed a dugout which I thought abandoned, but suddenly I heard French voices below.

“Being alone, and armed only with a pistol, I stopped a moment, then drew my pistol and shouted below in my very bad French, ‘Come up, surrender!’ Then I shouted in German as though to a squad of soldiers, orders to ‘Fix bayonets! Draw your hand grenades!’ First one French soldier, and then another, and then another came up with their hands in the air until there were seven. I marched them to the rear and turned them over as prisoners of war. Now,” he paused, and smiled at Tom Delmer of the London Daily Express, who was with me, “if they had been English soldiers, or,” turning to me and continuing to smile, “if they had been American soldiers, I am not sure I should have been able to make them surrender so easily, and perhaps I would not have my Iron Cross or be here today.”


This is the only time I have observed a sense of humor in Hitler, and of course if his story is correct, it proves that he had on that occasion a considerable amount of personal bravery.

Then there is the time when, during the 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch, he threw himself down when the Reichswehr armored car began to fire its machine gun at him and Ludendorff and Goering and the rest of them. I was about a hundred yards away, jammed in the crowd, when I heard that machine-gun fire, the first I had ever heard in my life. That one whiff of fire killed sixteen of Hitler’s men including the body servant of Ludendorff standing next to the General whom he had served throughout the war. Hitler was injured because he had thrown himself down so violently that he broke his collarbone. Would you consider that a sign of cowardice? I do not know. It was the proper reaction for a front-line soldier.

Nevertheless, Ludendorff not only refused to take shelter but contemptuously stalked across the Odeon’s Platz and, in his uniform of a Lieutenant General, gave himself up to the Reichswehr Lieutenant in charge of the armored car, with the words: “Arrest me, Lieutenant. I shall never wear this uniform again.” Now there was a man about whom one would unhesitatingly say he is a brave man. You remember how Ludendorff, then a Colonel, took the fortress of Liege singlehanded, simply drove in his staff car to the Belgian lines, by amazing luck got through, drove straight to the entrance of the fortress, knocked, and walked in. When the Belgian commander saw before him a German Colonel, he assumed the game was up and surrendered. That won for Ludendorff the Pour le Merite, Germany’s Victoria Cross.

There was a time when Hitler displayed indubitable personal courage. That was when he arrested Captain Ernst Roehm, the head of his 2,500,000 Storm Troops, on the famous June 30, 1934, the day of the Blood Purge. Roehm had been Hitler’s close, if not closest, personal associate. I cannot use the word friend, because[33] Hitler has never had a friend. He was the only man in the party, in the world, as a matter of fact, with whom Hitler exchanged the intimate “Du” or “Thou.” We Americans can never understand the significance of this continental custom. If you are on “Du Fuss” or “Thou Footing” with another man, it means you are brothers, and it is taken very seriously indeed by all except the proletariat, who in the informal brotherhood of the working classes, call each other indiscriminately “Thou.” But this intimacy of Hitler and Roehm did not prevent Hitler from cold-bloodedly ordering his friend’s execution when once Hitler had convinced himself Roehm was plotting treason. Cold blood is one of Hitler’s chief characteristics. It reminds one of Robespierre.

Roehm was hiding out with his staff at the hamlet of Wiessee, not far from Munich. His guards, heavily armed, had strictest orders to stop everyone, but everyone, and by that underlining emphasis in the orders, everyone was meant to include Hitler himself. Nevertheless, on the fateful morning, Hitler with two automobiles containing among others the canny Goebbels, several high SS officers, and a handful of SS gunmen, drove into Wiessee at daybreak, and when Roehm’s guards saw the All-Highest, instead of stopping him they saluted “Heil Hitler!” There was at least some bravery in Hitler’s daring to go personally to arrest Roehm, surrounded by his bodyguards. Once he had penetrated the sentry lines, there was not much for Hitler to fear, especially not in his personal encounter with Roehm. He found Roehm in bed with what they call in German a Lust Knabe.

Roehm was a barrel-chested, scar-faced desperado whose only two weaknesses were his homosexuality and drink. He had grown potbellied, and invariably woke with a hangover. He slept in a nightgown. When Hitler flung open his bedroom door at daybreak and routed him out of bed, Roehm must have been distinctly at a disadvantage. There he stood, bleary-eyed, nightgowned, potbellied, before his Fuehrer roaring charges of treason, yelling that[34] he was under arrest, ordering him to dress and be quick about it.

I passed through Munich on my way from Rome to Berlin to cover the Blood Purge the next night. From SS officers who boarded my train at Munich, via the good-looking Italian Wagon-Lit conductor who had been from time to time propositioned by Roehm, I learned that Major Buch, Hitler’s chief SS executioner, had that evening gone to Roehm’s cell where a revolver had been left to let him commit suicide, and had shot Roehm as he cried, “Tell Adolf to come kill me if he has the nerve!”

Q. Is it true that Hitler is a homosexual?

A. No, it is not true. He came seriously under suspicion because of his intimacy with Roehm, and because for so many years he tolerated the blatant homosexuality of Roehm and his cohorts. This was a scandal so colossal that it surely has no counterpart in history. Roehm as the head of 2,500,000 Storm Troops had surrounded himself with a staff of perverts. His chiefs, men of the rank of Gruppenfuehrer or Obergruppenfuehrer, commanding units of several hundred thousand Storm Troopers, were almost without exception homosexuals. Indeed, unless a Storm Troop officer were homosexual, he had no chance of advancement.

All this was known to every intelligent observer in Germany and of course was known in every detail to Hitler. His moral indignation when he made his Blood Purge and cleaned out this “nest of immorality” was one of his more brazen pieces of hypocrisy. He purged Roehm not on account of his distasteful habits but because Roehm was plotting to seize power, make himself head of the Army, and form what would have been, incidentally, a homosexual government.

Nobody knows whether he intended to do away with Hitler or merely force Hitler to go along with him. At any rate Hitler would have no part of it, and Roehm was killed, though not for[35] his abnormal love life. Thereafter Hitler passed the most stringent edicts against homosexuality and this odd feature of German life was driven underground. It remains, nevertheless, characteristic of the Germans, that they, outwardly the most brutally masculine of all European peoples, are the most homosexual nation on earth.

Naturally because Hitler never showed any sign of interest in women, he came under suspicion, but prolonged observation has convinced all the witnesses I know, including Germans and foreigners, that Hitler is simply asexual, has no sex life at all, or rather has sublimated it in his “marriage to the German people.”

Q. How do you mean, “marriage to the German people”?

A. That is precisely the relationship Hitler conceives himself to have with the Germans, and I must say millions of Germans appear to feel as though they constituted his wife. Incidentally it was Lord D’Abernon, long-time British Ambassador to Germany, who remarked that the world did not properly understand the meaning of masculinity and femininity as applied to nations, and that in his opinion the Germans were the most feminine people in Europe and the French the most masculine. Whether D’Abernon would today be of the same opinion, I do not know. At any rate Hitler certainly obtains from his contact with the German people a more than adequate surrogate for normal sex life.

Just imagine what his feelings must be when he stands, as in peacetime he used to stand, on the platform at the Tempelhofer Field in Berlin, and before him are a million Germans. This is the largest crowd that any man has ever had before him in person. You could never assemble such a crowd in a democracy, because it takes them twelve hours to march into place and twelve hours to march away.

On the night before the first of May, which the Nazis stole from the Communists and Socialists and made their own Labor Day,[36] the Berlin population is herded into line and marched off in battalions. Everything is meticulously arranged by a General Staff, so that by the time Hitler appears one million persons, no less, are standing to hear him. When Hitler appears, from a million throats roars the cry “Heil Hitler! Heil! Heil! Heil!” time and time and time again.

Then he speaks and at every possible opportunity comes again the bellow from a million German voices “Heil! Heil! Heil!” Sounds silly? Oh no, not any more than the German goose step is silly. It looks silly only in the movies. In real life it is tremendously impressive—ten thousand steel-shod boots striking the ground with all the force ten thousand muscular legs can put into it. They shake the ground, and when the million Germans shout “Heil!” they make the firmament quiver. I defy anyone to hear such a mass yell without trembling at the sheer brute power of it.

Suppose you were the recipient of this ovation! Hitler obtains his life’s satisfaction from this sort of power orgasm. Now, of course, he has the whole continent of Europe to trample upon. Every man who loves power for its own sake as Hitler does, has a strong streak of sadism, of enjoyment in the infliction of pain or humiliation upon others. So now Hitler has a double stream of enjoyment in which to wallow. I do not think he will ever marry.

Q. Are women attracted to Hitler?

A. Soon after he came to power he had to pass an edict forbidding German women to crawl out of the crowd and attempt to kiss the hem of his raincoat as he passed by. This was forbidden partially for the same reason as the Verbot against throwing flowers, which was issued because it would be easy to conceal a bomb in a bouquet. Whenever he appeared in public, scores of German women tried to get near enough to him to touch his raincoat or come into some kind of personal contact with him.


It is, regrettably, impossible to record that this is a purely German phenomenon. An American woman distinguished herself at the Olympic Games, and incidentally brought about a disciplinary shake-up among Hitler’s bodyguards, by brushing past his gunmen and kissing him on the cheek. All this is, perhaps, only evidence of the traditional regard women have for strength, whether exhibited by the champion prize fighter, wrestler, chess master, millionaire, or by the Fuehrer of Germany.

Q. I have heard scores of you fellows, foreign correspondents and others, say they “know the truth about Hitler,” and constantly recommend that we find out what he means, but that seems to be a pretty complicated business, and we cannot all live in Germany long enough to find out about it. Can you tell us in a few words just what he does mean, for us?

A. Yes, in the fewest words: Hitler means exactly what he says. He says the German people are a master race, destined to rule the world. He says the German people have the power to enforce their rule on the world. He intends that they shall rule the world during his lifetime. He includes the United States in the world he intends to rule.

Finally, he does have the power to carry out his world conquest unless we fight him in time. That is the shortest way to put it. The reason you think it hard to understand or find out what Hitler means is that you refuse to believe these things because they upset you, and if you believed them then you might have to work harder, or sacrifice something such as your automobile, or blood, or maybe your life. Read Mein Kampf. It is all there.

Q. What kind of public speaker is Hitler? Is he truly a great orator? How does he compare with others?


A. He is probably the greatest spellbinder of all time. He literally talked himself into power in Germany and thereafter he talked the great German nation into becoming his blindly obedient and fanatically loyal Herculean slave. With his slave he has laid a continent in chains. But he never delivered an oration in his life, because an oration according to Webster is “An elaborate discourse, delivered in public, treating an important subject in a formal and dignified manner,” and that Hitler never did. In this respect, Goebbels is incomparably his superior.

An oration by Goebbels has a beginning, a middle, and a crescendo end; it has form, style, and the language is chosen, the gestures sparing but effective, the voice clear and only now and then distorted by passion. Hitler begins any old way, rambles, digresses, becomes excited, rants, shouts until his voice is hoarse, and frequently breaks into a falsetto scream.

The quality of Hitler’s voice is unpleasant. It is thick in the middle register, guttural in the low, and its high notes are rasping. In every speech at some time he becomes angry and then the tone is either terrifying or embarrassing to the listener, depending upon his relation to Hitler’s power. I speak, of course, of the foreign listener, as it would affect you if you understood German. His anger frequently overpowers him, but he never splutters, he roars. I sometimes felt as I listened to him, and I have heard him fifty times or more, as though he were a wild beast.

Then he can shift in a twinkling to the tone of irony, contemptuous, derisive. Much of his speech is ungrammatical; many of his sentences do not “read,” do not make German. He pays apparently no attention to the structure of his speech. He sometimes ends so abruptly that his audience is shocked, having expected him to finish his thought, or even complete a sentence. His gestures are extravagant, and resemble those of an old-fashioned camp-meeting preacher. He mimics well, and delights in ridiculing his opponents by caricaturing them.


There is scarcely a rule of oratory he does not ignore. He is seldom dignified. All of this, of course, is in reference to his extemporaneous public speaking which brought him to power, not to the speeches he reads, as he has read nearly everything since he took power. As Chancellor of the Reich he can read a speech with dignity, as he read the funeral oration over Hindenburg, which I heard in Tannenberg.

Yet with all the criticism one can bring to bear on his public speaking, he remains the most effective mob master ever to step on a platform. He sweeps his audience with him. Sometimes they are slow to come along, as the time when after seven days of slaughter in Germany he rose in his own uniformed Reichstag to explain the Blood Purge of June 30, 1934. That time he spoke for twenty minutes before he received a single handclap. He had just killed more than a thousand people including leaders of his own party, Ernst Roehm, his closest friend and head of the 2,500,000 Storm Troops; Gregor Strasser, one-time rival for leadership of the Nazis; General Kurt von Schleicher, former Reichs Chancellor, and his wife; Karl Ernst, head of the 250,000 Berlin and Brandenburg Storm Troopers; General von Lossow and former Reichs Commissar von Kahr of Bavaria, who had defeated his first effort at seizing power in Munich, and hundreds of others.

The nation was stunned; the Nazi Party itself was partially paralyzed with fear. Hitler had turned his SS (Schutzstaffel) Black Guards against his SA (Sturmabteilung) Storm Troops, and hundreds of Brown Shirt officers had died before the Black Shirt firing squads, many of them shouting “Heil Hitler!” as they fell. Most of the members of the Reichstag, that curious gesture of Hitler before democracy, were active or honorary officers in the Storm Troops. A score of seats were empty. Their lawful occupants were dead. The survivors were appalled and not less bewildered than the public. Nobody knew what had happened; what to expect.[40] When Hitler began to speak, for the first time in his life he was received in silence.

As I sat in the press gallery of the Kroll Opera House, I noted this with amazement, but I felt the silence was that of stupefaction, not of indifference and certainly not of rejection. The listeners were simply stricken dumb. Yet the silence continued, for five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. By then I began to think that Hitler might have made a mistake, that perhaps his dummy Reichstag was actually disapproving their idol. Many of them had close friends among the dead. Then came the breaking point. I think it was the most dramatic moment in any speech I have ever heard of Hitler’s.

In his intolerably repetitious way he had started with a description of Germany’s suffering under the Versailles treaty, and under the “fourteen years of servitude to the traitors of November,” then sketched the events leading up to the Blood Purge, described his discovery of the plot against the State, and then with a leap he shifted into his most passionate style. He had come to the moment of ordering the executions. Raising his right hand, forefinger pointed on high, he stood on his toes and roared: “Meine Herren, at that moment I was the Supreme Court of Germany; I was the Supreme Judge of Germany; I was Germany!”

The silence in the Reichstag broke, and as though hypnotized, the 500 Brown-Shirted members roared: “Heil! Heil! Heil!” There, they had recognized their master. He had spoken as a master. He had consented again to be their master, and from a mood of bewilderment and fear they burst into the joyful acknowledgment of their abasement. Forgotten were the friendships with the dead, blotted out in the keen pleasure of hearing the crack of the lash. From then on his lengthy accounting was constantly punctuated by the traditional applause.

Incidentally it might be pointed out here that there is after all a very significant difference between the tyrants of long ago and the tyrants of today. It is a fact that the tyrants of today[41] exercise greater power over the lives of their subjects than any we can recollect from former times. Historians have to search to find a Ptolemy, a Caesar, or a Mongol Khan who had so complete a discipline over their populations, so profound a control over the individual lives of their subjects as have the despots of the modern totalitarian states.

But all the modern despots find it necessary to report to their subjects, to speak and explain, to take them into their alleged confidence, however mendacious the report may be. They find it expedient, no matter how they spurn the principles of democracy, to pretend to treat their subjects as free to exercise a judgment. Why else does Hitler constantly come before his people to talk? In the western tyrannies of antiquity and the Middle Ages, in the European monarchies of divine right and in the Oriental despotisms, the rulers considered it unnecessary to deliver an accounting to their people.

The conclusion is that the short experience the world has had with democracy, not yet two hundred years in duration, has left with the most imperious ruler a sense of responsibility to the ruled, or is it merely fear? Hitler despises the masses, I know. But he fears them also. If Louis XVI had possessed a fraction of Hitler’s speaking talent, or King Charles of England, or Czar Nicholas of Russia, perhaps they might have had a different fate.

In the preface to Mein Kampf Hitler indicates the paramount importance he attaches to the art of political speaking. He wrote: “I know that one is able to win people far more by the spoken than by the written word, and that every great movement on this globe owes its rise to the great speakers and not to the great writers.” He then wrote a book of 1,000 pages which is said by now to have been distributed to eight million people, but it was still the spoken word. He dictated every line of it. You ask, what kind of public speaker is Hitler? I answer, read Mein Kampf.

It reminds me of a man named Korff. Korff was the brains of the[42] Ullstein Verlag, pre-Hitler Germany’s greatest publishing concern. Korff originated the Berliner Illustrierte, first of the world’s great picture weeklies, forerunner of Life, and Look, and the French Match. He raised his Berliner Illustrierte to more than two million circulation, undreamed of on the continent before. His salary was record breaking, his prestige likewise.

One day in 1931, more than a year before Hitler came to power, Korff came before his board of directors and said, “Gentlemen, I’m through. I am going to resign. I wish you to release me and to make your arrangements accordingly.” Astounded, the board asked why. “Because I’ve read the book, gentlemen,” replied Korff. “What book?” they asked. “Mein Kampf,” Korff said, and began to explain, but couldn’t on account of the laughter. Dear old Korff had to have his joke. But no, it was not a joke. Korff resigned, liquidated his property, got out of Germany and in 1933 when Hitler came to power the Nazis bought out Ullstein’s at forced sale.

The laughing members of the board and stockholders—those not yet dead, shot attempting to escape, or hanged by their belts in concentration camp—received a fraction of one per cent of the value of their holding. Of all the house of Ullstein, only the man who read the book escaped. I advise you to read the book.

As an orator, Hitler has many superiors. I have mentioned Goebbels in Germany. Trotzky was certainly better. I heard Trotzky speak in Moscow the last time he ever appeared on a Russian platform. It was in 1926. He had been in disgrace for more than a year, but was allowed to speak on the innocuous theme, “The United Sates of America and Siberia,” a lecture with paid admissions. The proceeds were to go to the benefit of needy students of Moscow University. Why Stalin allowed it I do not know, but he never permitted a return engagement, for Trotzky’s popularity proved so great that the mounted police had to be called out to move the crowds which, despite the exorbitant admission price, jammed the street before the lecture hall.


I paid thirty roubles for a balcony seat. It was worth the price. Trotzky appeared, dapper in a light-gray whipcord suit, and for an hour and a half in Russian which I only faintly understood, moved me and the three thousand other listeners to intense appreciation of his forensic talents. I was surprised to hear Trotzky’s voice, a clear high tenor. I had expected a deeper, more rotund tone. They said, however, that the clarity of his delivery and its carrying power were such that he alone among Bolshevik orators could speak in the Red Square and without a microphone be heard by half a million listeners. Without being able to understand more than one word in ten, as at that time I had been in Russia less than a year, I was nevertheless convinced by this one hearing of Trotzky that he was one of history’s greatest orators.

Q. What sort of eyes has Hitler? Are they magnetic? What color are they?

A. It seems to depend on who is looking at them. I noticed that Francis Hackett in his useful book, What Mein Kampf Means to America, cites three descriptions of Hitler’s eyes, all different. Otto Tolischus calls them “small, greenish brown and almost poetically introspective eyes.” William D. Bayes calls them “faded blue eyes between colorless brows and puffy sallow cheeks.” John McCutcheon Raleigh wrote: “The fanaticism in his eyes was the most commanding thing about him ... they possess a hypnotic quality that can easily persuade his followers to do anything the mind behind the eyes desires.”

These differences evoked from Mr. Hackett the remark: “If you want to feel discouraged about the art of reporting, consider these three accounts of Hitler’s eyes.” But what about these additions? Dorothy Thompson says in her interview, reprinted in Dictators and Democrats: “The eyes alone were notable. Dark gray and hyperthyroid, they have the peculiar shine which often distinguishes[44] geniuses, alcoholics and hysterics.” In the same book Lothrop Stoddard writes: “His eyes are very dark blue.” Likewise, in the same compilation, I have reported that “He fixed his flat, non-magnetic, China-blue eyes on me....” I will stick to my version. His eyes were certainly not magnetic as far as I was concerned, though I am convinced they would be highly magnetic to any German. As for the color, they are of such an intermediate, shifting shade that it may well be they could show in different lights all the way from greenish brown, faded blue, dark gray, dark blue, to China blue.

Q. Is Hitler really the tough man he claims to be? I remember he was reported in a recent speech to have remarked: “I am the hardest man ever to rule Germany.”

A. When a man talks too much about his strength, it may mean he is not so strong after all. Francis Hackett sorted out in his index of Mein Kampf all the references to “Qualities, concepts or practises Hitler approves,” and to the ones he disapproves. The two lists throw a good deal of light on Hitler’s character, or rather on what he thinks his character ought to be.

The things Hitler approves are: First, “Advance by sections,” by which he means that to achieve, one must concentrate upon one goal at a time, as he has brilliantly exemplified in his conduct of the war so far. Then in alphabetic order, Hitler approves: “Brutality; Discipline; Executions for Treason; Faith; Fanaticism; Force; Hardness; Idealism; Joy in responsibility; Loyalty; Obedience; Passion; Perseverance; Ruthlessness; Sacrifice; Self-preservation; Self-sufficiency, national; Silence and discretion; Social justice; Social responsibility; Terrorism; Toughness; Will power and determination.”

Hitler condemns: “Cowardice; Eroticism; Half measures; Humaneness; Liberty; Pacifism; Passive resistance.”


My impression is that of the qualities he named, Hitler possesses brutality, discipline, faith, fanaticism, force, hardness, idealism, joy in responsibility, passion, perseverance, ruthlessness, sacrifice, discretion, terrorism, will power and determination; but that he does not possess loyalty or a true sense of social justice, or social responsibility, or toughness. He is hard without being tough. That is, I believe he will one day prove brittle. As for loyalty, he is notoriously able to discard a lifelong friend, and if necessary kill him, as he did Roehm, without visible compunction.

Q. What is the secret of Hitler’s power?

A. That is a question that has interested me for eighteen years, since I first saw Hitler and heard him speak. During all this time I have heard hundreds of explanations of his power and have thought of some myself. But the most interesting and plausible discussion of his personality I have ever heard was given me by Dr. Carl G. Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist, when I visited him in his home in Zurich to ask him to diagnose the dictators. It was in October 1938, and I had come directly from Prague where I had witnessed the death of Czechoslovakia.

Dr. Jung’s analysis of Hitler has been remarkably confirmed by the events since that time. He had been personally fascinated by the problem of Hitler’s personality, and had studied it for years. He said: “There were two types of strong men in primitive society. One was the chief who was physically powerful, stronger than all his competitors, and another was the medicine man who was not strong in himself but was strong by reason of the power which the people projected into him. Thus we had the Emperor and the Pope.

“Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man. His body does not suggest strength. The outstanding characteristic of his physiognomy is its dreamy look. I was especially struck[46] by that when I saw pictures taken of him in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer.”

I asked, “Why is it that Hitler who makes nearly every German fall down and worship him, produces next to no impression on any foreigner?”

“Exactly,” Dr. Jung assented. “Few foreigners respond at all, yet apparently every German in Germany does. It is because Hitler is the mirror of every German’s unconscious, but of course he mirrors nothing from a non-German.

“He is the loud-speaker which magnifies the inaudible whispers of the German soul until they can be heard by the German’s conscious ear. He is the first man to tell every German what he has been thinking and feeling all along in his unconscious about German fate, especially since the defeat in the World War, and the one characteristic which colors every German soul is the typically German inferiority complex, the complex of the younger brother, of the one who is always a bit late to the feast. Hitler’s power is not political; it is magic.

“To understand magic you must understand what the unconscious is. It is that part of our mental constitution over which we have little control and which is stored with all sorts of impressions and sensations; which contains thoughts and even conclusions of which we are not aware. Besides the conscious impressions which we receive, there are all sorts of impressions constantly impinging upon our sense organs of which we do not become aware because they are too slight to attract our conscious attention. They lie beneath the threshold of consciousness. But all these subliminal impressions are recorded; nothing is lost. Someone may be speaking in a faintly audible voice in the next room while we are talking here. You pay no attention to it, but the conversation next door is being recorded in your unconscious as surely as though the latter were a dictaphone record.

“Now the secret of Hitler’s power is not that Hitler has an[47] unconscious more plentifully stored than yours or mine. Hitler’s secret is twofold; first, that his unconscious has exceptional access to his consciousness, and second, that he allows himself to be moved by it. He is like a man who listens intently to a stream of suggestions in a whispered voice from a mysterious source, and then acts upon them.

“In our case, even if occasionally our unconscious does reach us through dreams, we have too much rationality, too much cerebrum to obey it—but Hitler listens and obeys. The true leader is always led.

“We can see it work in him. He himself has referred to his Voice. His Voice is nothing other than his own unconscious, into which the German people have projected their own selves; that is, the unconscious of seventy-eight million Germans. That is what makes him powerful. Without the German people he would be nothing. It is literally true when he says that whatever he is able to do is only because he has the German people behind him, or, as he sometimes says, because he is Germany. So with his unconscious being the receptacle of the souls of seventy-eight million Germans, he is powerful, and with his unconscious perception of the true balance of political forces at home and in the world, he has so far been infallible.

“That is why he makes political judgments which turn out to be right against the opinions of all his advisors and against the opinions of all foreign observers. When this happens it means only that the information gathered by his unconscious, and reaching his consciousness by means of his exceptional talent, has been more nearly correct than that of all others, German or foreign, who attempted to judge the situation and who reached conclusions different from his.”

I remarked that if Hitler’s Voice continued to be always right, we were in for a very interesting period. This was five months before Hitler swallowed the whole of Czechoslovakia, and eleven[48] months before he launched the Second World War by assaulting Poland.

Dr. Jung gravely answered: “Yes, it seems that the German people are now convinced they have found their Messiah. In a way the position of the Germans is remarkably like that of the Jews of old.

“Since their defeat in the World War the Germans have awaited a Messiah, a Savior. That is characteristic of people with an inferiority complex. The Jews got their inferiority complex from geographical and political factors. They lived in a part of the world which was a parade ground for conquerors from both sides, and after their return from their first exile to Babylon, when they were threatened with extinction by the Romans, they invented the solacing idea of a Messiah who was going to bring all the Jews together into a nation once more and save them.

“The Germans got their inferiority complex from comparable causes. They came up out of the Danube Valley too late, and founded the beginnings of their nation long after the French and English were well on their way to nationhood. They were too late for the scramble for colonies and for the foundation of empire. Then when they did get together and made a unified nation, they looked around them and saw the British, the French, and others with rich colonies and all the equipment of grown-up nations and they became jealous, resentful, like a younger brother whose older brothers have taken the lion’s share of the inheritance.

“So the Germans slept through the division of the world into colonial empires and thus they got their inferiority complex which made them want to fight the World War; and of course when they lost it their feeling of inferiority grew even worse and developed a desire for a Messiah, and so they have their Hitler. If he is not their true Messiah, he is like one of the Old Testament prophets; his mission is to unite his people and lead them to the Promised Land. This explains why the Nazis have to combat every other[49] form of religion besides their own idolatrous brand. I have no doubt but that the campaign against the Catholic and Protestant churches will be pursued with relentless and unremitting vigor, for the very sound reason, from the Nazi point of view, that they wish to substitute the new faith of Hitlerism.”

I asked Dr. Jung: “Do you consider it possible that Hitlerism might become for Germany a permanent religion for the future, like Mohammedanism for the Moslems?”

“I think it is highly possible,” Dr. Jung replied. “Hitler’s ‘religion’ is the nearest to Mohammedanism, realistic, earthy, promising the maximum of rewards in this life, but with a Moslem-like Valhalla into which worthy Germans may enter and continue to enjoy themselves. Like Mohammedanism, it teaches the virtue of the sword. Hitler’s first idea is to make his people powerful because the spirit of the Aryan German deserves to be supported by might, by muscle and steel. It is not a spiritual religion in the sense in which we ordinarily use the term. But remember that in the early days of Christianity it was the church which made the claim to total power, both spiritual and temporal. Today the church no longer makes this claim, but the claim has been taken over by the totalitarian states which demand not only temporal but spiritual power.

“Incidentally it occurs to me that the religious character of Hitlerism is also emphasized by the fact that the German communities throughout the world far from the political power of Berlin, have adopted Hitlerism. Look at South America.”

Dr. Jung said he had closely observed Hitler at his meeting with Mussolini in Berlin. “I was only a few yards away from the two men and could study them well. In comparison with Mussolini, Hitler made upon me the impression of a sort of scaffolding of wood covered with cloth, an automaton with a mask, like a robot or a mask of a robot. During the whole performance he never laughed; it was as though he were in a bad humor, sulking. He showed no human sign.


“His expression was that of an inhumanly single-minded purposiveness, with no sense of humor. He seemed as if he might be a double of a real person, and that Hitler the man might perhaps be hiding inside like an appendix, and deliberately so hiding in order not to disturb the mechanism.

“With Hitler you do not feel that you are with a man. You are with a medicine man, a form of spiritual vessel, a demi-deity, or even better, a myth. With Hitler you are scared. You know you would never be able to talk to that man; because there is nobody there. He is not a man, but a collective. He is not an individual, but a whole nation. I take it to be literally true that he has no personal friend. How can you talk intimately with a nation?”

Finally Dr. Jung delivered a prophecy which was to prove woefully accurate just five months later. “England and France,” he said, “will not honor their new guarantee to Czechoslovakia any more than France honored her previous pledge to Czechoslovakia. No nation keeps its word. A nation is a big, blind worm, following what? Fate perhaps. A nation has no honor, it has no word to keep. That is the reason why in the old days, they tried to have kings who did possess personal honor, and a word. But you know if you choose one hundred of the most intelligent people and get them all together, they are a stupid mob? Ten thousand of them together would have the collective intelligence of an alligator. Haven’t you noticed at a dinner party that the more people you invite the more stupid the conversation? In a crowd, the qualities which everybody possesses multiply, pile up, and become the dominant characteristics of the whole crowd.

“Not everybody has virtues, but everybody has the low animal instincts, the basic primitive caveman suggestibility, the suspicious and vicious traits of the savage. The result is that when you get a nation of many millions of people, it is not even human. It is a lizard or a crocodile, or a wolf. Its statesmen cannot have a higher morality than the animal-like mass morality of the nation, although[51] individual statesmen of the democratic states may attempt to behave a little better. For Hitler, however, more than for any other statesman in the modern world, it would be impossible to expect that he should keep the word of Germany against her interest, in any international bargain, agreement, or treaty. Because Hitler is the nation.”

Q. Isn’t there anything constructive about Hitlerism? Is it all destructive? Won’t they get over their period of madness and settle down and make good world citizens?

A. In 1934 I talked with President Thomas G. Masaryk of Czechoslovakia in the old Hradzin Palace in Prague. The venerable statesman was eighty-four years old, but he was still able to deliver measured philosophical replies. One of them was to the question: “Aren’t you as head of the Republic of Czechoslovakia which Hitler and his Nazis threaten so violently, afraid he may some day attack you?” The old man slowly replied, “No, because every revolutionary movement such as the Nazis’ has its period of ecstasy, and the Nazis are going through theirs now, but in a little while more they will subside and we will be able to get along peaceably with them.”

I went away with my first example of the fact that no man over seventy ever seems to be able to understand Hitler. I beg the pardon of the grand exception, Senator Glass, whose early and persistent advocacy of effective action against Hitler has distinguished him among Senators, some of whom approach treason in their imbecilic refusal to comprehend the life-and-death issue facing America.

Just five years after the founder of Czechoslovakia had expressed his faith in the fundamental normality of the Nazis, his conviction that they were after all like other people, and that their revolution would follow the natural course of other radical movements and[52] become stabilized, Hitler sat at the very desk in the Hradzin where Masaryk had sat. Czechoslovakia had ceased to exist precisely because Masaryk and all the other heads of states in Europe blindly refused to see that in Hitlerism the world was faced with a brute which always had to move forward, steadily became bigger and hungrier as it was fed, and would never cease to destroy and devour until stopped by force. To the German there is something mystically attractive about this Nazi Wave of Destruction. They feel their fate is being achieved by violence so fierce that it intoxicates them, as the young Nazi Shock Troops are intoxicated by battle lust when they fling themselves upon the enemy.

It is the Nazis’ ability to combine this berserk, mystic rage with cold scientific mastery of the intricate instruments of mechanized war that makes them so formidable. They even loot scientifically, as witness the way they have bled France. I know an amusing and typical example of the German’s aptitude for plundering profitably.

In Spain I met a young German Nazi machine gunner serving with Franco. His name was Franz, and he had been an SS officer in Duesseldorf. He had come to Spain, he declared, for idealistic motives, to fight the Bolsheviks, and now after three months’ service his idealism had been rewarded with a small fortune. I asked him how he had been able to make any money serving as a noncommissioned officer.

“Oh,” he explained, “I have the advantage over these Spaniards and Moors of having an academic education. I did not finish school but I had enough Naturwissenschaft to know my way about in a physics or chemistry laboratory. Now what do these poor ignorant Spaniards and Moors do when they enter a town we have just taken. They go busting around breaking into homes and offices, looking for cash and jewelry and such things, but nobody ever leaves cash and jewelry lying around. What do I do? I go straight to the Kino, the motion picture theater, and straight to the projection[53] room, and there I remove the lenses which are worth from ten to twenty thousand pesetas, and I put the lenses in my suitcase when I get back, and now I have two suitcases full of lenses. They are worth a fortune. You see the beauties of education?”

Q. How has Hitler run his show without money, without gold, without foreign exchange? Can the Nazi economy continue to run indefinitely on its present basis?

A. The Nazi economy can continue to run only as long as the war lasts. This is the economic compulsion on Hitler to go on fighting. The Nazi economy is one of scarcity. There are not enough workers, since most able-bodied men are in the army; not enough food, or clothing, or fuel, or manufactured articles. Everybody not in the armed forces has to work very hard, very long hours in order to feed the colossal war machine and produce the minimum necessary for the civilians to subsist. Scarcity would normally shove prices upward; but not in the Nazi economy where the Terror makes price control really work. The Gestapo is a more potent backing for the currency than gold. The workings of a totalitarian economy seem queer to us only because we continue to think of Adam Smith’s “economic man,” and because we still believe that man will always act freely in accord with the law of supply and demand. But man under the Nazis is not free, does not act according to the law of supply and demand but according to the Nazi law. This compulsion by Terror makes a different kind of economic unit of him; our economic laws do not apply to him any more. In our bourgeois society when civil law condemns a man to go hungry, appetite is likely to make him break the law. In the totalitarian state the punishments of the concentration camp subdue almost every impulse to rebel.

For foreign trade the Nazis use an infinitely flexible, complex system of barter, often three-way. They confidently assert they[54] have outgrown the use of gold; although one of the reasons Walther Darre advanced for a Nazi conquest of America was to lay hands on the American gold reserve at Fort Knox. The Nazis have demonstrated that they can do without gold, but this is no proof that gold is not more convenient than barter; it is proof only that anything can be used for money as long as the people believe in it, by natural inclination or by compulsion—wampum, cows, brass, paper, or the muzzle of a Gestapo pistol. It is one of our commonest fallacies to believe that financial considerations affect very much the beginning or the middle or the end of a war. Can you recall any war that had to stop because one side ran out of money? In wartime a nation becomes a collective and money a mere bookkeeping item. Only after the war when accounts are presented, does bankruptcy become real. Hitler inherited a bankrupt, bourgeois, peacetime economy and turned it overnight, from the moment he came to power in 1933, into a wartime economy. Real peace would mean the total collapse of Hitler’s totalitarian economic machine.

Q. Why do the Nazis call theirs the Third Reich?

A. Historically the First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire, the second was the one founded by Bismarck, and the third is Hitler’s. When I discussed this once with Dr. Jung, he pointed out deeper meanings. He said, “Nobody called Charlemagne’s kingdom the First Reich, nor William’s the Second Reich. Only the Nazis call theirs the Third Reich, because it has a profound mystical meaning.”

Dr. Jung said the Nazis feel a parallel between the Biblical triad, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the Third Reich, and that in fact many Nazis refer to Hitler as the Holy Ghost. “Again,” Dr. Jung continued, “consider the widespread revival in the Third Reich of the cult of Wotan, God of Wind. Take the name Sturmabteilung,[55] Storm Troops. The swastika is a revolving form making a vortex moving ever toward the left—which means in Buddhistic symbolism sinister, unfavorable, directed toward the unconscious. All these symbols of a Third Reich led by its prophet under the banners of wind and storm and whirling vortices point to a mass movement which is to sweep the German people in a hurricane of unreasoning emotion on to a destiny which perhaps none but the seer, the prophet, the Fuehrer himself can foretell—and perhaps not even he.”

This psychiatric explanation of the Nazi names and symbols may sound to a layman fantastic, but can anything be as fantastic as the bare facts about the Nazi Party and its Fuehrer? Be sure there is much more to be explained in them than can be explained by merely calling them gangsters. They are products of that most hysterical, illogical, emotional mentality in Europe, the German.

Q. But I thought the Germans were stolid, phlegmatic, sensible people. How can you describe them as hysterical?

A. The commonest mistake the outside world makes about the Germans is to describe them the way you have done. We Americans seem to have judged most European nations exactly opposite from what they really are. We consider the Italian to be emotional, easily swayed, the Frenchman to be volatile, the Spaniard passionate, and so on. Well, all the Latin races are models of calm, common sense and middle-of-the-road, essentially stable people compared with the Germans. As Dr. Jung put it, “The Italians are stable. Their minds do not roll and wallow and leap and plunge through all the extravagant ecstasies which are the daily exercise of the German mind.” The Germans carry everything to excess.

What other nation in Europe would have been inundated in one decade by a wave of hysteria which was to sweep them into idolatrous[56] worship of a former building-trades laborer and corporal and lift them into conquest of the entire continent of Europe and promise the conquest of the world? Surely this is the most extraordinary yielding by a great people to a mass emotion ever observed in our so-called civilized world.

It is not, however, the first time that similar things have happened in Germany. Hitler has had some notable predecessors in the turbulent period of the Reformation.

The Anabaptists of Munster were forerunners of the Nazis, and their Fuehrer, John of Leyden, was a figure comparable to Hitler in ambition and in his mystic hold over his followers. Leyden and his associates seized the city of Munster in Westphalia in 1532 and, establishing a totalitarian theocracy, set out to conquer the world and make Munster its capital. Is that any more or less fantastic than Adolf Hitler, setting out to proceed from Munich to the conquest of the world?

John of Leyden differed in one respect, however, from Hitler. He not only encouraged polygamy as Hitler’s Black Guards encourage promiscuity, but he had four wives of his own, one of whom he, in a typically Hitlerian fit of rage, beheaded with his own hand in the market place. Munster for three years was the scene of excesses, profligacy, and inhuman tortures committed upon the foes of the medieval Nazis, until they were finally overcome by a coalition of outraged neighbors, comparable in a smaller way, one might say, to the present coalition against the Third Reich.

Q. Doesn’t the life of Hitler, as far as we know it, show that he suffered very much from poverty in his youth and then when Germany was defeated, he suffered along with his fellow Germans so deeply that we ought to be able to understand and forgive instead of hating and making war upon him?


A. That seems the equivalent of appealing for sympathy and understanding for a mad dog, because the poor dog had been bitten and given rabies without wanting it. It was not his fault, and he had suffered from it, so why shoot him? Hitler, we know, did suffer as a youth from many disabilities, including extreme poverty, and we ought to be sorry that he did, not merely as Christians from love of our neighbor, but because Hitler is causing us such infinite trouble and misery, partially perhaps, on account of these early discomforts.

But we can do nothing to correct Hitler’s personal history. By the time he came into our lives his character was fixed in rigid, implacable hatred for every human being on earth not willing or suitable to help him place Deutschland in command of the world with himself the globe’s supreme ruler. He is as little susceptible to reformation today as a rattlesnake. As for the German people and their sufferings after the defeat in the last war, there are several things to say.

First, they did not suffer nearly so much as a nation usually suffers after losing a four-years’ war. I can testify to that from personal observation of the Germans from 1923 on, a period including the most desperate months of the inflation. It is simply not correct to say as Hackett says about the Germans after the war, “They were just as unhappy, as despairing and as demoralized, in the midst of their Reconstruction Period, as the old South in the years after the Civil War.”

The old South was physically devastated by the war. Germany surrendered before the enemy reached her territory; she came off materially scot-free. The people of the old South felt permanently beaten and for a long time hopeless because they had failed in their attempt to defend their right to be independent. The people of Germany felt temporarily frustrated of their ambition to dominate the world; just twenty years later they set forth to try it again. Do you think the old South, if it had wanted to do so, would have[58] been able physically or economically to have resumed the struggle with the North in 1885, twenty years after the end of the Civil War, as the Germans did with the Allies in 1939, twenty years after Versailles?

My second point about the German suffering is that before Versailles they demonstrated their intention in the treaties of Bucharest and Brest-Litovsk, to inflict upon their enemies terms incomparably more severe than Versailles.

Third, in the course of the present war the Germans have proved that the sort of peace they intend to grant the countries they vanquish now will make the Versailles treaty appear to be a dispensation from Heaven.

Fourth, although these facts do not of course excuse the flaws in the Versailles treaty, none of its defects could possibly excuse the bestial behavior of the Germans toward the especial objects of their pathological antipathy, the Jews, Czechs, and Poles, nor provide a reasonable basis for their desire to inflict vengeance upon the entire world.

Finally, it makes no difference what the reasons for present German behavior are, that behavior threatens to destroy us and unless we check it by force, we shall perish.

Q. What should we do with Hitler after we beat him? Will he be allowed to escape to a lifetime of comfort the way Kaiser Wilhelm did?

A. When this question is asked I am reminded of an old Texas recipe for cooking rabbit. It begins, “First catch your rabbit.” I do not know what will be done with Hitler. There are many people who say he will never be taken alive; that he will commit suicide. I do not believe that. My guess is that Hitler would either “do a Hess” and escape to England or seek death in battle as the Kaiser once claimed he would do.


If he remains alive, our people being incurably sentimental, we should probably treat him the way the Allies treated Napoleon after Leipzig. They sent him, as you may remember, to Elbe, and gave him an annual income of 2,000,000 francs, which was about $400,000 and equivalent to $1,000,000 in purchasing power today. Perhaps we would not, though, especially if the American people have to live through a great deal of hardship and bloodletting on account of this man. Maybe we will become like the British, who, after all, are going to have something to say about the fate of Hitler if and when he is ever caught.

The Daily Mail of London ran a questionnaire asking its readers what they thought should be done with Hitler after the war. The largest number, twenty-five per cent, wanted him shown about the country in a cage. This is an idea which had been suggested for the former Kaiser, and it shows a surprising insight into the source of the deepest emotions for extremely vain men of the type of Hitler and the Kaiser; they certainly would suffer more from such public humiliation than from any other punishment.

Another twenty per cent wanted him executed by hanging, shooting, or beheading, in that order. Fifteen per cent wanted him exiled to remote, unpleasant places, as Devil’s Island, the Andaman Islands, Ascension Island, Arctic wastes, and the African desert. Another fifteen per cent wanted him condemned to lifelong solitary confinement. Ten per cent wanted to make him live the rest of his life under the same conditions the English are living under now, with bombs, rationing, and so on. Five per cent wanted to hand him over to the Poles or Jews. Five per cent would have him treated as a certified lunatic.

Five per cent suggested all sorts of miscellaneous treatment, including confinement under precisely the same conditions as normally obtain in a Nazi torture chamber. There were no suggestions at all that he should be treated well, as Napoleon was treated. The question is not trivial and the answers of the British[60] are really important, because they throw light on the temper of the British people after the brutal manhandling they have received from Nazi bombers. The most constructive suggestion I ever heard on the subject of what to do with Hitler came from my brilliant friend, Edgar Mowrer, who had a decade of experience in Germany. He suggests that after we have defeated Hitler we put him in a cage and send him about Germany to explain to the Germans how wrong he had been.

Q. What would happen if Hitler were to be killed?

A. It would reduce the German war effort by one-half, and would guarantee that Germany would lose. Hitler is irreplaceable, unique, and if he were to be killed, or died, or anyhow left the scene, Germany would not collapse but she would be as an automobile going at top speed, suddenly run out of gasoline. The momentum of the car would carry it forward a certain distance, but it would eventually stop.

That, in my opinion, is what would happen to Germany if deprived of Hitler. It is not his technical ability that would be missed so much, nor his administrative brains, nor even his incredibly accurate, intuitive knowledge of his enemies, nor even his uncanny sense of timing. What would be missed would be his inspiration to the German people. If they lost their medicine man the faith in his name would flicker on, but the confidence in his infallibility which now upholds the civil population in the hardships of war and promotes the courage of the troops in battle would disappear. The effect would be disastrous.

Q. Why doesn’t somebody kill Hitler?

A. For the last two years that has been the question most frequently asked me on the lecture platform all over America. Sometimes[61] a fourth of all the written questions sent up would be this one. An average of twenty-five persons out of every thousand in the audience would put this question and they have been doing that ever since Hitler’s victory over the Allies in Munich in September 1938. This itself is an interesting light on the American attitude. Most of the time the question was framed, “Why doesn’t some Jew, or some Britisher, or some Frenchman kill Hitler?”

It is bewildering to reflect that up until September 1939, any young man, Jew or Gentile, British, French, or of any of the thirteen nations Hitler has conquered, any brave, intelligent man could have killed Hitler within two months of making the resolution to do so. Only one requirement was essential—that the assassin be willing to give up his life. Now, however, it may cost the lives of millions of young men on the battlefield before this author of evil is destroyed.

Q. But wasn’t he always too closely guarded to be killed?

A. Not at all. Now it is another matter. Since the war began he is so well guarded that it might be impossible to get at him. Before the war began it would have been easy to kill him. It might even have been possible for a bold and shrewd assassin to have killed him without being captured. I give you one instance.

At every Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg there are hundreds of thousands of strangers in the city. The Gestapo with all its resources cannot possibly check on them all. A resourceful foreigner, speaking German and posing as a German, could obtain a room in a hotel facing the main street down which the parades pass. During the course of the Congress Hitler appears in at least one parade a day down this street. He always uses a long black Mercedes car and he stands in the front, next to his chauffeur. Hitler stands there holding on now and then with his left hand, and giving the Nazi salute with his right.


In the rear of his car are four SS men, and on the running boards are two others, and behind Hitler’s car is another identical Mercedes with six to eight more SS men. The SS men, who are the best pistol shots in Germany, lean out of their cars, peering at the crowds, and they keep their right hands always on their pistols. You say that sounds as though he were well guarded? Not at all. The crowd in Nuremberg is so great that it encroaches on the path of the automobiles until they are slowed to a walk. That means Hitler passes underneath your window at a walking speed.

An assassin could lean out of his window and toss a bomb into Hitler’s car with absolute accuracy. He could not miss. I have often leaned out and looked down at Hitler and remarked in a whisper to my comrades, “How easy it would be, wouldn’t it, to drop a grapefruit?” And if you think a bomb is too uncertain, why not try a sub-machine gun? That would be 100 per cent sure. You would have him at a distance of about thirty yards. With one burst you could riddle him, put perhaps twenty bullets into him before the guards could turn around.

You ask how the assassin could get the sub-machine gun or the bombs into the hotel? The Gestapo is good, but it is a long way from being perfect. They overlook a great many things. We were in Vienna when Hitler marched in. The Gestapo had been in control of the city for days. But on the very day Hitler came to Vienna my wife borrowed a radio set from Tess Shirer and had the porter carry it into the hotel and up to our room. It was the size of a large thick suitcase. Nobody stopped her, or asked to investigate it. It might have contained two or three sub-machine guns with sufficient ammunition and a few hand grenades.

You object that the assassin would certainly be caught and executed. I agree. Political assassins almost never escape. But political assassins must always and nearly always are willing to take this chance. You can take it as a rule of political assassination, however, that if the assassin is bold enough, he can always get his man.[63] Remember the Macedonian gunman, Vlada Georgiev, who killed King Alexander and Louis Barthou in Marseilles, October 9, 1934? He was a husky fellow who waited behind the police line until the royal automobile came opposite him and then burst through the line like a football player and with one leap was on the running board of the automobile pumping bullets from his automatic into his two victims. It was all over in thirty seconds. The police had no chance to intervene before Alexander was dead. General Georges, later the unhappy second in command of the French Army, cut down the assassin with his saber.

This is the classic street assassination, resembling in every detail the killing by Gavril Princip of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, June 28, 1914, which touched off the first World War. But the Nuremberg situation would give an assassin a chance for his life. You see, the SS guards are constantly watching the crowds in the street. None of them pays attention to the windows of the houses and hotels along the street. The crowds are so thick that between our hotel and the path of Hitler’s automobile would be standing twenty to thirty thousand people.

Now suppose the assassin drops his bomb or fires his machine gun, or to make assurance doubly sure, drops bombs and fires his machine gun. Hitler falls. The crowd panics. How long would it take the SS men or other police to get through the crowd to the hotel entrance, climb the stairs, and search for the assassin? It would take several minutes at least. And in the midst of that howling mob of panic-stricken people it would take minutes more before the police could surround the block. Meanwhile the assassin would have plenty of time to run upstairs to the roof, across to another building, and down a rear fire escape to mingle with the crowd. Whatever the later details of escape, there would be a chance of his getting away from the scene of the shooting if he had laid his plans carefully in advance.


Q. You haven’t told us yet why nobody ever tried it?

A. Yes, it has been clumsily tried, but without the proper preparation. Four or five attempts were made on Hitler’s life during his first two years in office, 1933 and 1934, while I was in Berlin. They were all hushed up so closely that we never had more than the skeleton of the story. They were hushed up because the Nazis and especially the Gestapo, and especially its chief, Heinrich Himmler, know that there is nothing so infectious as the idea of political assassination.

The news of an attempt at assassination will set off a series of imitative attempts. Therefore Himmler gave up his original idea which was expressed in his announcement through the German press a few weeks after Hitler took office. Himmler declared in a formal proclamation that if anyone were to assassinate or attempt to assassinate the Fuehrer, there would be, and these are his exact words, “a massacre such as the world has never seen.” He specified that the Gestapo would massacre all of the Nazis’ opponents, and implied they would kill every Jew in Germany.

Himmler’s announcement was calculated to deter assassins, but he never meant to put it into effect unless Hitler were actually killed. We correspondents, however, heard of several attempts on Hitler. One was said to have taken place the day before the great Blood Purge of June 30, 1934, and was believed to have contributed to Hitler’s decision to exterminate his enemies. In this case the assassin fired with a rifle at Hitler’s automobile. Another time his car was narrowly saved from crashing into an obstacle supposed to have been placed in the road with the purpose of killing him. Other attempts were even more vaguely rumored. Himmler took care that the public should learn nothing about these attempts, not only because of the infectious nature of the news of the assassinations, but because the Gestapo considered it undesirable to reveal that anybody in Germany could want to kill the Fuehrer.


Q. That’s all right about Germans, but why not a Britisher, or a Frenchman, or a Jew?

A. The question why doesn’t a Jew, or why didn’t a Jew, kill Hitler is one that I have often heard asked of my Jewish friends, and the answer usually is that if a Jew killed Hitler the Nazis would slaughter every Jew in their dominions. The Nazis now have under their despotism in the Reich and the fifteen conquered countries perhaps five or six million Jews still. I agree that it is perfectly possible that the Nazis might try to slaughter them all if a Jew were to kill Hitler, but if Hitler is not defeated these unfortunate victims of Nazi hatred will ultimately perish anyway.

Nevertheless, even the very courageous young Jews who used to operate an organization to counter Arab terror argued the same way with me when I was in Palestine, that if they killed Hitler they would doom hundreds of thousands if not millions of Jews to death. It seems that they can believe rationally that Hitler does intend eventually to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, and so it would not make much difference if they were all or many of them killed as a result of Hitler’s assassination, but emotionally they cling to the subconscious hope that something will happen to save them. Of course, the only thing that can save the Jews of Europe is for Hitler to be defeated before they all die.

As for a young Britisher or Frenchman killing Hitler, before the war began, as I have said, it would have been easy, but consider if a man had killed Hitler before the war, what would the world have said? What sort of judgment would the world have delivered on the assassin? Would he have been considered a hero, a savior of mankind? Not at all, because Hitler up to that time was only a potential menace to Britain, France, and the other peaceful states. If he had been killed, his assassin would have been declared a madman, and his act would have been condemned by all save the small group of persons who perceived the inevitability and the catastrophic[66] course of the war Hitler planned against the world. No assassin kills out of pure idealism. A man who killed Hitler would want a little credit for it, and until the war began he would have received none.

Q. He would receive plenty of credit now. Why doesn’t the British government organize the killing of Hitler? Haven’t they plenty of agents in Germany?

A. I have no doubt the killer of Hitler would be decorated by fifteen governments or more, but there are still millions of muddled sentimentalists in this country who would shudder at the thought of assassination. There were few, I suppose, who objected to the G-men shooting the rabid Dillinger, but millions denounced the little doctor, Weiss, who shot the far more dangerous criminal, Huey Long. So it would have fared with anyone who would have assassinated Hitler. Imagine how different the history of Germany and of the world might have been if Hitler had been among the victims of the machine gun which fired on him on the morning of November 10, 1923, on the Odeon’s Platz in Munich.

Before this war there were just as many sentimentalists in England, but you would have to look a long time to find one now. During an air raid in London I asked an old English lady, one of the gentlest creatures I have ever known, what she would do if she were driving an automobile and suddenly Hitler were to appear in front of the car. Would she turn and save him, or would she drive ahead and hit him? “I would press the accelerator and drive straight over him,” she said firmly.

Q. What was the explanation of the bombing attempt on Hitler in the Munich Beer Hall?

A. It bore every earmark of being an admirably well thought-out[67] and executed plan by the British which just failed by a few minutes. I should think the British government has done all it could to have Hitler killed. Certainly the British know how supremely important it would be to do away with the heart and brains of Nazidom. The bomb attempt on Hitler in the Buergerbraeu Keller in Munich, November 8, 1939, the anniversary of the Hitler-Ludendorff Putsch, nearly succeeded. To refresh your memory: Hitler and his “Old Fighters” left the beer hall twelve minutes before a time bomb exploded, killing seven persons and wounding sixty-three. The Germans blamed it on the British secret agents, and announced they had captured two such agents, a Mr. Best and a Captain Stevens, on the day after the bomb explosion.

The Gestapo had gone over into Holland to kidnap the two Britishers who incautiously made a rendezvous close to the frontier.

Some persons analyzed this affair thus: The Gestapo itself arranged the bomb to go off after Hitler left. The Gestapo did it for one of two reasons. Either Himmler wanted to kill Hitler, or Hitler wanted the bomb attempt in order to arouse sympathy for himself among his people, and hatred of the English. Neither of these explanations makes sense to me. No Nazi leader in his right mind wants Hitler to be killed, because every Nazi is aware that his party, his job, and his very life are dependent upon the continued existence and leadership of Hitler. I will not say anything further about the plain fact that most of Hitler’s subordinates literally worship him. Just on the basis of individual self-interest, it would be unlikely that any Nazi leader should wish to weaken the Nazi position so disastrously.

I do not believe Himmler or any other Nazi was behind the attempt. Nor is it credible that Hitler planted the bomb to arouse sympathy for himself among the German people. He has all the sympathy he needs, and German hatred for the English is quite adequate. Neither of these two reasons could balance the danger involved in the infectious quality of a public attempt at assassination[68] such as this was. This attempt, which took place before a large public, could not be concealed.

Finally, it seems that the German capture of the two British secret agents crippled the British Intelligence Service in Germany for many months. They were men high in the service and could be presumed to have known a good deal about the whole Intelligence Service setup in Germany. With the Gestapo at work on them in the approved style recently made so vivid and bloodcurdling by Jan Valtin in Out of the Night, it is not likely that many British Intelligence agents in Germany remained unidentified. At any rate there have not been any further attempts on Hitler, at least none that we know about.

The time-bomb attempt was compared by some correspondents to the Reichstag fire, but I fail to see the basis for comparison. The Reichstag was set afire by the Nazis for the specific, rational purpose of blaming it on the Communists, suppressing their party, jailing their deputies, and thus obtaining for the Nazis a majority vote in the Reichstag. These purposes were achieved to the great profit of the Nazis. What profit could the Nazis have had in staging a near assassination of Hitler? When the Reichstag was burned, my cabled report was censored, the first censorship I had experienced in eight years of work as a correspondent in Germany.

The freshly appointed censor cut out a paragraph in which I had pointed out that police when seeking the perpetrator of a crime, always try to find out first who would have profited by the crime. So in the case of the Reichstag fire it was only necessary to look for the persons who would profit by the fire. The answer was as plain as daylight. Only the Nazis would profit by the fire. The censor deleted this commonplace but accurate observation. Who would profit by the death of Hitler? The Nazis? Of course not. The British? Of course! If they had succeeded they would have earned the thanks of a thousand million beneficiaries throughout the world.


The fact that Hitler and his staff saved their lives by leaving the Buergerbraeu Keller earlier than had been their custom in former years is the basis of the peculiar claim that the whole thing was a Nazi plot. Why, it is argued, should Hitler have not stayed as usual to chat with the comrades of the early days? Why indeed? Because this was wartime, the first anniversary of the Putsch to be celebrated since the war began. Hitler has not been known to waste much time since the war began. He could be assumed to have had a number of things to do more important than chatting with his Beer Cellar veterans. This time his industry saved his life.

Q. Why is it there are so few assassinations or attempted assassinations in any of the totalitarian states? You would think their cruelties would lead many desperate men to seek revenge.

A. Yes, you would, and this is a matter that many of us in Russia used to discuss. How odd it was that in the history of the Soviet Union there were only three known assassinations or attempts at assassination of Soviet leaders.

Lenin was shot and seriously wounded in 1918 by Dora Kaplan, a Social Revolutionary; Uritzky, police chief of Leningrad, was killed at the same time; and sixteen years later, December 4, 1934, Sergei Kirov, political boss of Leningrad, was shot by a half-demented former Communist, Nikolaev. I shall not forget the Kirov killing because I was in Moscow at the time and saw Stalin, in the bitter cold of a Moscow December, help carry barehanded the coffin of Kirov to its grave on the Red Square, and then hurry back to his office to plan his revenge, the most colossal ever enjoyed by a human being since the prophet wrote that vengeance was reserved to the Almighty.

It was the Kirov killing, of course, which touched off Stalin’s great purge. It illustrates perfectly the first of several reasons why assassinations are rare in the totalitarian states. Let me say here that[70] one of those reasons is not the one most popularly believed. It is not due to the impenetrable guard kept around the tyrants. There at the funeral of Kirov, we in the press box were not more than twenty yards from Stalin as he stood on top of Lenin’s tomb, and when he walked to the grave he came within almost touching distance of me.

Granted that the correspondents have unusual facilities, and that the G.P.U. checks all of them to be confident none of them is dangerous. But there in the Red Square hundreds of thousands of men and women marched past Stalin, the nearest only a few feet away. Any one of them could have shot at him or hurled a hand grenade at him before any of the police surrounding the tomb could have intervened.

Likewise, Stalin could have been killed any time during the two decades by any person with the initiative to attend the Bolshoi Theater when Stalin was there, sitting in the rear of his first floor forward box. He could have been shot from a score of seats in the first two rows of the orchestra. It would have been even easier to wait for one of the big Communist meetings in the Bolshoi Theater when Stalin was there with all the leaders of the party. I have seen him with the entire Politburo and forty or fifty others, sitting bunched together on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater, while we in the Press box in the Gallery, almost overhanging the stage, leaned over the rail and quietly observed how easy it would be to drop something in Stalin’s lap.

A single bomb small enough to be concealed beneath an overcoat would have killed Stalin and perhaps the entire top rank of the Communist Party. Why hasn’t anyone tried it? Stalin surely has more enemies who would like to see him dead than any man in the world except Hitler. Stalin probably has more personal enemies than Hitler, because Stalin has executed more people. When you think of the millions who died as victims of the Revolution, and of the millions who died in the famine of 1932-33, when Stalin ordered[71] the peasants of the Ukraine to be stripped of all their food to teach them a lesson, it seems singular that no bereaved survivor should have lifted his hand against the tyrant.

The first reason, however, why a modern despot enjoys relative security is the character of totalitarian terror. In a normal democratic country an assassin has to fear only the loss of his own life, and the lives of his immediate conspirators, if any. In Russia, after Kirov’s death, Stalin executed in this wise:

First, 103 persons who were not even accused of having had anything to do with the assassination but had been held in jail for various political offenses. This was simply the first gesture of the Terror, intended to shock the country. Then as the police rounded up Nikolaev’s family, friends, and acquaintances, and read his diary, they came to know virtually every human being Nikolaev had known during his whole life. Every one of these persons was arrested and after being squeezed dry of information was executed; at any rate they all disappeared.

But that was only the beginning. The purges which were occasioned, not caused, by the Kirov killing lasted about four years, from 1935 to 1938 inclusive. The Purge became so huge that Nikolaev was forgotten, but before the G.P.U. finished with the Nikolaev complex, they had liquidated in this wise: Every relative of Nikolaev to the third cousins; every acquaintance of Nikolaev and every acquaintance of an acquaintance of Nikolaev, and every acquaintance of every acquaintance of every acquaintance of Nikolaev. You think this is an exaggeration? Not at all. The number of executions ran into thousands.

Now what would be the effect upon a would-be assassin, if, as he contemplated his deed, he reflected that as a consequence of his killing Stalin, not merely would he himself be executed, but every human being in the world with whom he had ever come in contact? Man experiences the world largely as a series of contacts with other men. Suppose the assassin knew by just such an experience as the[72] Russian people had in the case of the killing of Kirov, that his entire world would be blotted out if he went on with his plans. Would not this deter almost any man?

He might be motivated by the highest idealism, and would plan to give his own life in order to rid his country of a cruel despot, but if he were thinking of helping the people in his own world he would be bound to admit that far from helping them, he was about to condemn to death everybody on earth he had ever known. This surely is the most important deterrent to assassination in despotic states and it is corroborated by the experience of Italy.

Mussolini’s Fascist state is the least terroristic of the three totalitarian states. The terror is so mild in comparison with the Soviet or Nazi varieties, that it almost fails to qualify as terroristic at all. The best proof I know of this is the experience of an Italian friend of mine who before Fascism came to Italy was chief correspondent of one of Italy’s greatest newspapers.

He occupied a position which might be compared with that of chief Washington correspondent of the New York Times. When Mussolini took power this friend, whom I may call Luigi, was dismissed from his newspaper because he refused to become a Fascist. If he had wished to serve Mussolini, he would have been made a Senator, and would have become a rich man. But no, he was a courageous, passionately sincere liberal. He used to declare, “I would approve of nearly all Mussolini’s program (he doubtless would not say that now), but as long as he wants to compel me to approve, I disapprove. I shall only approve when I am at liberty to disapprove.”

Now what would have happened to this sort of man in Soviet Russia? A leading journalist under the Czar defies Bolshevik power! You know as well as I what would happen to him. He would be shot at once. They would not even waste on him food for a day’s extra meals. He would have been shot the moment the Cheka noticed him. And what would have happened to Luigi in Germany?[73] He would have been sent to a concentration camp and there he would have been tortured and either gradually killed or turned out a broken emasculated creature, not a man any more.

But what happened to him in Italy? First, his newspaper, with which he had a contract, bought off the contract for a sum sufficient for him to live on in a modest way the rest of his life. At the same time the police established a twenty-four hour surveillance of him. Three detectives working in eight-hour shifts were assigned to watch him. Mind you, he wasn’t arrested, and was even allowed to become the correspondent of a foreign newspaper.

The detectives were there all the time. Luigi came to know them well. If they behaved decently and he liked them, he never gave them any trouble. But if one of them was rude, this is the way Luigi would do. He would get all his newspapers, a dozen or more to read in the morning, and though ordinarily he would take a taxi or walk to his office, now to discipline the detective, Luigi would get on one of the streetcars which circle Rome and he would sit there, going around and around the city for a couple of hours, reading his papers. The detective had to follow him. The detective rode a bicycle. Two hours of hard road work usually corrected the manners of the worst of them. Think of that kind of police “Terror,” and you have a fair idea of the comparative mildness of the Italian kind of totalitarianism. We used to take delight in counting up how many hundreds of thousands of lire it had cost the Italian government to keep three detectives employed for fifteen years.

What has this to do with our theme of assassination? Just this, that during the first twelve years of Mussolini’s dictatorship he was attacked twelve times, and several of the attempts only failed by the narrowest margin.

One of the earliest and most serious attempts was by a former general who hired a room a couple of hundred yards away from the Palazzo Chigi, equipped himself with a sporting rifle fitted with telescopic sights, and waited for Mussolini to come out on[74] the balcony to speak. This event may have inspired Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male. The general was betrayed at the last moment, arrested, and sentenced to life imprisonment on the Lipari Islands. That is another index of the comparatively mild character of the Italian despotism. At that time the Fascist legal code still had no provision for the death penalty for a plot against the life of the head of the State.

Q. In spite of everything you say it still seems difficult to see why some person half-demented by persecution or the cruelties inflicted upon his family and friends should not have tried to take vengeance against the tyrant. There must certainly be among the victims of Nazi or Bolshevik brutality many persons too tortured in mind to be able to remember all those considerations you have advanced?

A. Undoubtedly there are, but these persons are generally too demoralized to act. If they are sufficiently distorted by their suffering to forget the consequences to their family and friends of an attack on the tyrant, they are too enfeebled to move. Fear paralyzes them. The modern totalitarian tyranny, as the German and Russian, by reason of the ideology of the ruling party and superior organization of its police force, ferrets out, identifies, and disciplines a larger percentage of its opponents than any tyranny was ever able to do in the past. The ideology of the party makes an ex-officio police agent out of every Communist in Russia and every Nazi in Germany.

The G.P.U. and Gestapo are superior to the police systems of former modern tyrannies because this is the first time that tyrannies have not been ashamed of their political police, but acknowledge, boast of them, and coerce the population to cooperate with them. The amorality of Bolshevism and Nazism, or rather their rejection of the Christian standard of behavior, is best illustrated[75] by the exceptional position of the political police systems. Under a regime such as the Czar’s, the political police, the Okhrana, was likewise an instrument of repression, and as such the regime showed constant evidence of being ashamed of it.

The efficiency of the Okhrana suffered correspondingly. Today, in view of our experience with the G.P.U. and the Gestapo, the Okhrana seems like a benevolent association for the benefit of wayward Russians. It is instructive now to go back and read the memoirs of that great opponent of the Czar, the noble revolutionary, Prince Kropotkin. To note the comparative triviality of the offenses charged by the revolutionaries against the regime, and then to note the comparative leniency of the punishments inflicted by the Czar upon his enemies is to measure the chasm which the Bolshevik Revolution and the Red Terror dug between our New Dark Age and the imperfect, liberal, easygoing Past, the like of which no one in our generation shall ever see again.

Under the Okhrana the number of political assassinations in Russia culminating with the killing of Alexander the Second, reached an all-time high. This fact, like the attempts on Mussolini’s life, corroborate the thesis that mild Terror is ineffective, while extreme Terror may be completely effective. It seems to me to be useful to stress this fact about the Nazi or Bolshevik Terror, because one of our American democratic illusions to which we cling most fondly is that good will always triumph, liberty will eventually win over tyranny, and despots will ultimately be overthrown by their oppressed victims.

This doctrine is not only false, but one of the most harmful of our wishful thoughts, since it leads us to believe that all may come right with this very wrong world without our having to do anything about it. Another instructive pursuit is to get a copy of the old Who’s Who of the Russian Communist Party and observe that there was not a single leading member of the Party who had not been at one time or another, and frequently many times, under[76] arrest by the Okhrana. Stalin, supreme butcher of the lot, was five times in the hands of the men whom he later was to help exterminate. One can conservatively say that if the Okhrana had been operated on the principles of the Soviet Police, not a single leader of the Bolsheviks would have been left alive, and there would have been no Bolshevik Revolution as we know it, and no Soviet Union with its melancholy record of life-taking failure, and perhaps no Nazi party in Germany, and who knows, perhaps no World War now.

Absolute Terror not only physically removes the more dangerous opponents of the tyranny but it reduces the survivors to morbid obeisance, to a sort of unwilling, servile, unconscious idolatry of the tyrant. The tyrant, when he attains the stature of Hitler or Stalin, becomes the Omnipotent Father in the subconsciousness of all his subjects, including those hostile to him. This makes it all the more difficult for the rebel to raise his hand in patricide. Those who insist that the modern tyrants are mere gangsters overlook the aura of mystic power which is created around the figure of a ruler daily greeted by choruses of adulation and abasement from tens of millions of his people. It is no more to be resisted than the rhythm of tom-toms.

When the Lion of Judah, Emperor Haile Selassie, declared formal mobilization of his ragged soldiers, he had two batteries of war drums, one in major, one in minor key, beating their defiant message all day and all night from his palace in Addis Ababa. The pulsations of the drums at the Ghibi more than two miles away came to me in my room in the stables of the Imperial hotel with a mesmeric force that made me long to follow their rhythmic directions. The same effect is obtained in the great tyrannies by the mass salutations of the tyrant worshipers.

Never in history have there been such vast numbers of people to add the influence of the multitude to the herd instinct to conform. The greatest tyrannies of long ago, when the human tribe[77] was a fraction of its size today, the Roman Empire, the Mongol Khanates, or even the Indian Mogul Kingdoms, disposed of power over small populations compared with the more than 250,000,000 now ruled by Hitler or the 200,000,000 by Stalin. In this day of electric communications the huge bulk of such aggregates does not become unmanageable. The more territory Hitler conquers, the more loot he has, the more permanent resources to exploit, and the more people to enslave at work useful for the Nazis. Our only hope against him is for his military defeat at the hands of ourselves and our friends.

Q. You have made discouragingly plain why there are so few political assassinations in Germany, but couldn’t somebody like the fellow who killed King Alexander and Barthou in Marseilles be found?

A. I do not think so. That fellow, Vlada Georgiev, was a member of the famous Imro, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, which had the only system I ever heard of to guarantee that their members carry out assigned assassinations, no matter what the police terror might be. The Imro’s object was to unify and obtain the greatest possible degree of independence for Macedonia, divided among Bulgaria, Greece, and Jugoslavia. Their chief weapon was assassination, and when the Imro decreed a person’s death it was about as certain to be carried out as any human decision can be. The procedure was to appoint a killer and provide that he be killed unless he fulfilled his task. To make this principle work it was necessary that the appointed assassin realize he would more surely die if he failed than if he succeeded and risked legal execution. A long tradition of killings within the Imro made this fearful compulsion effective.

The mechanics of the system were simple. Like the Russian Nihilists under Boris Savinkov, the Imro used to try and formally[78] condemn their victims to death. Thereupon the committee would draw beans from a bag. The man drawing a black bean was the appointed assassin. He was A. He had to leave the room. The others drew again. The man drawing the second black bean, B, was appointed to kill A if A didn’t kill the chosen victim. B then left the room and a third black bean, C, was appointed to kill B if B failed to carry out his assignment, and so on until the whole committee had lined up, each with a gun in the back of another. No one knew who among his comrades was his potential executioner, but each knew that death was certain if the decisions of the committee were not obeyed. Now this sort of system would work, I believe, even in Nazi Germany, but the democracies are far too squeamish to indulge in such practical methods.[1]


[1] A German statistician objected to this description of the Imro system on the ground that the second to the last man would know that it was the last man who was delegated to kill him if necessary; and the last man would not have a gun in his back. True enough mathematically, but the Imro system was run by practical assassins, not mathematicians. They never let it get to the last man; the existence of the chain, incomplete though it had to be, guaranteed that the originally appointed assassin performed his duty.

Q. Did the Nazis or the Bolsheviks practice assassination?

A. They both rather looked down on individual killings as dilettante. They preferred to do away with their victims en masse; especially the Bolsheviks. I remember at the time of the Blood Purge of June 30, 1934, when Hitler had murdered one thousand or more of his opponents, a Polish correspondent in Moscow was expelled by the Soviet authorities because he commented in a dispatch from the Russian capital that the Bolsheviks regarded Hitler’s purge with the same disdain a wholesaler would have toward the operations of a retailer. One thousand dead would be retail business for the Bolsheviks. The Communists, however, stood programmatically on the platform of no “individual terror” as[79] they put it, because they considered that assassinations of single persons were ineffective, time and energy wasting.

The Nazis spurned no weapon, and so they murdered right and left from the beginning. It was their type of young men, whether yet organized in the Nazi Party or not, who committed most of the political assassinations of postwar Germany from Rathenau and Erzberger until Hitler came to power. Meanwhile, they deliberately provoked battles with the young men of every other faction, Democrats as well as Communists, in assemblies and on the streets, and the deaths from these clashes numbered hundreds yearly.

After Hitler came to power you might have expected individual assassinations to cease. But no, the murders by individual Nazis of individual enemies, business rivals, or of anyone they happened to dislike, continued through the year 1933 and it was not until 1934 that the Gestapo took over the monopoly of murder. No claim of Hitler’s is more ridiculous than his boast that the Nazi revolution was bloodless. There is no record of how many Germans perished at the hands of the uniformed bullies of the Nazi Party for strictly personal reasons, but the numbers surely ran into thousands. I was a correspondent in Berlin during that bloody year and I can testify as an eyewitness.

Q. But weren’t those stories about atrocities exaggerated? You know we were fed so much propaganda in the last war that later turned out untrue, like the Belgian baby’s hands being cut off—how much can we believe of the atrocity stories we hear now?

A. No, the atrocity stories of today and of yesterday and of the last war were not exaggerated. The truth is that we shall never learn of more than the tiniest fraction of the atrocities committed by the Germans, and I am sure we never learned about more than a fraction of their atrocities in the last war.


Now by all means let some earnest young man arise and declare that the British and the French and the Americans also commit atrocities. Do they? Perhaps, because among our troops as among the troops of every nation are some exceptionally brutal men, who when they are possessed of the fury and license of battle become criminals. But only among the Germans was and is atrocious behavior, torture, and murder, an official policy, calculatedly carried out upon the authority of the government to terrorize or exterminate the vanquished. When I came to Germany I was intensely sympathetic with the Germans and refused to believe any of the atrocity stories of the last war. It took many years of residence in Germany and the experience of living through the bloodiest period of the Nazi revolution to realize that there was almost no atrocity charged against the Germans which could not have happened.

What a beautiful example of German propaganda the Belgian baby atrocity story was. Dr. Goebbels must often have jealously admired the person, whoever he was, who thought up the Belgian baby. Do we wish to cast in doubt reports about the atrocities our people are committing? Very well, let us plant a monstrous charge against ourselves, which we can prove untrue, then we can claim (and many of our softheaded opponents will believe us) that all other charges are untrue. This was the effect of the charge that German troops had cut off the hands of Belgian babies. Strangely enough, it was Northcliffe’s Daily Mail which obliged the Germans by first picking up the story of the Belgian baby, and then offering a reward for proof, and finally printing as a journalistic scoop the fact that no proof could be found that the Germans had ever cut off a Belgian baby’s hands. Thus in the minds of millions of simple British and Americans the Germans were exculpated of any atrocities. The bombarded British are not likely to make such a mistake again.

Was there anything in the first World War to equal the deliberate machine-gunning by German warplanes of the fleeing[81] populations on the roads of Poland, France, and the Lowlands? I do not believe it has a counterpart in modern history, and only Genghis Khan and Tamerlane could have matched it in earlier days. There were thousands of children including babes in arms among the dead along the roads scarified by the Luftwaffe. An American diplomat in Paris estimated that in France and the Lowlands 100,000 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, were killed thus by the Germans, or approximately the same as the number of French soldiers who died in battle. The slaughter of civilians in Poland surpassed this figure many times.

I do not know why I should boggle at the lopped-off Belgian baby’s hands, except that nobody could ever find an authentic example, and I cannot imagine what good it would do the Germans, nor believe that even Nazi Germans like to torture babies. The machine-gunning of the roads in Europe had a military object, to cause panic and to clog the movements of the Allied troops. But I have seen enough purposeless acts of brutality committed by the Nazis to know what they are capable of doing.

I wish Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whose sensitivity as a poet I sincerely admire, could have been with me one day in the women’s ward of a Berlin hospital as I listened to a woman explain to me why she lay there bandaged from head to foot, with the blood still oozing through. It was in the spring of 1933, and the Brown Terror was getting into its stride, but the Nazis had not yet learned to bar correspondents from hospitals. After this story they were all barred.

The woman was Frau Marie Jankowsky, forty-eight years old, mother of five sons. She was a Social Democratic welfare worker. “Night before last,” she related to me, pausing only when pain made her gasp, “a group of Storm Troopers came to our flat. One of them backed my husband and sons into the kitchen and held them at the point of his revolver. The others took me away to a Storm Troop barracks on the second floor of a building not far[82] from my house. There they stripped me naked. In the middle of the room was a table, and covering the table a flag. They asked me what the flag was.

“I answered it was the Black Red Gold flag of the Republic. They said ‘No,’ and commanded me to repeat that it was Black Red Ordure. I refused and four Storm Troopers pulled me face down over the table, the fifth pushed my face into a bundle of rags to stop me screaming, and a sixth began beating me across the back with a light steel rod.

“It cut the skin and made blood come with every blow. The Storm Troop Captain said, ‘Give her twenty blows, the Jewish sow.’ I am not Jewish but that did not make any difference. Then they jerked me off the table and said, ‘You stole shoes from your welfare section, didn’t you?’ I said, ‘No,’ and the Captain said, ‘Give her another twenty.’ I was bleeding badly when they pulled me off the table again and yelled at me, ‘What’s this?’ and showed me our flag of the Iron Front with three arrows. I told them, but they demanded that I say it was a manure fork. I refused and the Captain ordered another twenty blows.

“That made sixty, and I was very weak, but finally when they pulled me off the table again and yelled at me, ‘You served Communists in your soup kitchen,’ I still had enough strength left to say, ‘You ought to be ashamed to say that because I served you and you and you, but no Communists.’ This made them angrier than ever and the last twenty blows were the worst, and when I rolled off the table they picked me up, and the Captain struck me across the face with his riding crop, and then a Storm Trooper hit me on the jaw with his fist and knocked me across the room so that I fell and wrenched my knee.”

The livid scar of the riding crop flamed across her face, and the dressing on her knee confirmed that injury. I asked the medical attendant to describe her injuries as they were when she arrived and he confirmed that her back had been cut deep into the[83] musculature. Yes, I wish Anne Morrow Lindbergh had been with me to see and hear this story, although it is only one of hundreds of thousands which could have been related first by German victims of the Nazis and now by the vanquished of the entire continent.

Mrs. Lindbergh says the “Wave of the Future,” by which she means the wave of collectivism, the wave of Nazism, is irresistible, and hence we would be wrong to try to resist it, because by resisting we would only increase the casualty list. She dismisses the brutalities, atrocities, inhumanities of the conquering Nazis as merely the “scum” on the wave, something which will pass away and leave the clear blue water of the New Order. But she has not viewed this Wave of the Future at firsthand and so she has not been able to perceive that the scum reaches all the way from the top to the bottom of the Nazi wave; that there is no clear water beneath the surface brutality of the New Order, that from its beginning until today and until it is destroyed it has been, is, and will be unqualifiedly evil.

Atrocities? I assure you there are more atrocities being committed this very moment by the hosts of the Gestapo, the Black Guards, the Storm Troops, and all the other ruffians of Hitler throughout prostrate Europe than you have ever dreamed about. If only we could arrange to have all our isolationists, our weasel-worded noninterventionists, and our complaisant converts to the Wave of the Future take a trip to Europe and let them observe the fate of the 150,000,000 under Hitler’s heel. The Wave of the Future is a wave of blood and tears. What American in his right mind can wish to live if this wave engulfs our world?

Q. You mentioned Jan Valtin’s book, Out of the Night. Do you consider the book authentic?

A. It is the most accurate description of Nazi and Bolshevik Terror[84] I have ever seen in print. Valtin tells from the inside of the G.P.U. and the Gestapo what an American newspaperman working in Russia and Germany could observe in fragments from the outside. There is not an incident in the book, however gruesome, which could not have happened, no matter how improbable it may appear to a reader far away from the horrors of totalitarian police methods. I recommend the book to every American, because these two evil weapons of the tyrant states are operating today in our country and Valtin has given us the most authoritative picture of their activities we have ever had. Whatever he was in the past, this strange young German has done more for democracy by writing these grim memoirs than most democrats who have been democrats all their lives.

Q. Since Hitler attacked Russia, don’t you think it is no longer correct to say Nazism and Communism are the same? Hasn’t Hitler proved now that he is really an enemy of Bolshevism and is protecting the world against it?

A. That would be the equivalent of saying that one monarchy would not attack another or that you could not have war between two republics. The war between Hitler and Stalin is a war between two terroristic collectives. The collectivist form of their economy is almost identical, both of them being a form of state capitalism; both are supported by police terror and both found their principle motive power, the fuel to run their society, in hatred.

Both avowed that the end justifies the means and both thereupon employed every conceivable form of fraud, deceit, and violence to attain their ends. Pagan, atheistic rejection of Christianity, deliberate denial of even the desirability of the principle of universal brotherly love was common to the two totalitarian creeds. The fact that the two monsters of malevolence finally turned their hatred upon one another actively only emphasizes the identical character[85] of the fratricidal twins. What of their essential features has changed since they warred upon each other? Nothing whatever. Does the Russo-German war prove Hitler’s thesis that he was an implacable enemy of Bolshevism? Nonsense! Hitler’s brand of Bolshevism is infinitely more menacing to us all than any produced in Russia. The bibles of the twin regimes, Mein Kampf and Das Kapital, preach identical doctrine: Here, hate everybody of a different race; there, hate everybody of a different class. Since Jesus Christ was on earth the Communist Party and the Nazi Party and the states they founded are the first institutions of such dimensions to be built avowedly and officially on hatred.

In Russia they began by saying they had to hate and kill in order to clear the land of all classes hostile to a socialist world, in order to make room for a happier life. But hatred becomes a habit, grows, expands monstrously until it cannot find enough victims. Before the Bolsheviks even gained a far-off glimpse of a happier life their hatred had become an end in itself. They began, by hating, as they thought, rationally; they finished by hating and killing themselves.

The proletariat and peasantry, instructed by the Communists, began by hating the Czar, the aristocrats, bankers, factory managers, engineers, technicians, schoolteachers, dentists, undertakers, physicians, lawyers, priests and policemen, everyone who occupied any position noticeably superior to that of the masses. It took them about ten years to slaughter this lot, and then they began hating and killing the better-off farmers. I was there during the final mopping up of the first victims and again for the extermination of the second group, and as the last of the identifiable enemies of the Bolsheviks disappeared in the cellars of the G.P.U., or in the wastes of Siberia, we in Moscow used to discuss quite seriously what these furious haters were going to do when they ran out of “classes” to hate.

It was no joke. It had become indispensable to Bolshevik life to have an object of hatred and when the object was exterminated[86] another had to be found. We guessed they would have to begin hating and killing themselves, and we were right. To us it was not surprising. When you lived among them, you realized that Communist “class hatred” is hatred of anyone who gets along better than oneself and there is just as much hatred of Communists by Communists as of capitalists.

In no organization has there ever been more back-stabbing, poisoning, strangling, murderous mutual hatred of one another than in the Communist Party, from the malignant Russian Central Committee through all its verminous offspring in the Comintern. They used to boast of the “monolithic” character of the Russian Communist Party. It was like a block of granite without a crevice. The Russian Jacobins declared they would never commit the error of their French forebears who found they could not stop killing when once they had started to kill one another. For years the outside world observed this Bolshevik self-restraint and there was much fear of it.

Then suddenly the prodigious store of hatred within the Bolshevik breast burst the bounds of self-preserving sanity and the apostles of Marx fell to killing each other with bewildering ferocity. Howling “Wrecker,” “Saboteur,” “Trotzkyist,” “Bukharinist,” “Rightist,” “Leftist,” “Nazi,” “Fascist,” they shot their own Soviet-reared professional men, generals, admirals, government officials, in a whirl of self-destroying madness which left even persistent Soviet sympathizers unable to explain what was going on because nobody, possibly including Stalin, understood it. It was like a mad dog biting himself, tearing out his own viscera. What could be the fate of the eviscerated animal?

Even before the war, in both Germany and Russia, the omnipotent, omnivorous State had devoured all but a vestige of happiness. As the two regimes of hatred went forward along their respective paths each lost gradually even the desire to promote the happiness of anybody, even of its own people.


In the land of the Bolsheviks, the bigoted struggle against men of another class became a struggle against men of another view. The internal political conflict impaired production, hampered the campaign against poverty, and protracted the wretchedness of the population. Nobody ate, drank, slept, lived even decently, much less comfortably, and there was no security. They had given up liberty for security. Now security was gone, for to their dismay the Bolsheviks saw that the one thing for which everything had been sacrificed, the defense apparatus, was inadequate.

In the land of the Nazis, the attempts of the Supermen to rule the world led the Germans to forget individual happiness as completely as the Bolsheviks. The Nazis believed that if they gave up butter for guns today, they could tomorrow win with their guns more butter; but the Nazi chief never had any intention of stopping for butter. In comfort-loving, once-bourgeois Germany, food, clothing, fuel, transportation deteriorated until it was impossible to find even a physically happy person outside the young armed forces for whom the nation sacrificed all. These favored youths found their chief pleasure in the exercise of a technical skill and lust in combat which enabled them to crush a continent with playful ease.

Now from the Atlantic to the Pacific, across the greatest continuous land surface on the globe, from the English Channel to the Sea of Japan there exists not one comfortable, secure, happy family. Not among the more than five hundred million persons now in Europe with its neighbor states could be discovered a trace of the happiness, imperfect though it was, which used to exist. The Nazi Bolsheviks had achieved triumph as far as Europe was concerned. The Wave of the Future had swept happiness from its path.



Q. What is the best way for the United States to help the Russians fight the German Army?

A. The best way for the United States to help the Russians fight the German Army is for us to go to war against Germany. Our declaration of war against Germany would be of more value to Russian resistance than all the war supplies we shall ever be able to send to the Soviet Union. We ought to try to send the Red Army as much as we can spare of airplanes and arms and anything else it needs to help it hold the Germans, but all such aid would be trivial compared with the effect of our declaration of war.

Q. Why? What practical effect on the Russian war effort would we have by going to war with Germany?

A. It would have the moral effect of convincing the Russians that they would win in the long run; hence it should obviate any chance, however faint, of Stalin’s capitulating. As we have said before, it would convince the Germans they would lose the war and hence would halve their determination to go on. It would triple our war effort overnight, and result speedily in a vast increase of production here of the materials the Russians as well as the British need to carry on the war. It would enable us to base our Pacific Fleet on Singapore and other British bases in the Far East, and our Air Force, if it were found expedient, on Russian bases in Kamchatka and near Vladivostok within bombing distance of Tokyo. This would not only check the Japanese from[89] advancing farther south but from indulging in any military adventure, such as attacking Siberia, while the danger existed of our immediate intervention against them. This would relieve pressure on the Far Eastern Red Army and permit it to send urgently needed reinforcements to the troops fighting the Germans in European Russia.

The use of our Atlantic antisubmarine vessels in complete cooperation with the British Navy in all the war zones would help break the German counter-blockade and permit a greater quantity of supplies to reach the British armed forces. It would enable us to seize those positions we need off the west coast of Africa and on the coast, and thus provide the first step toward establishing another take-off place for an expeditionary force against the Reich. The example of America’s entering the war could lead Weygand, or other authorities in Morocco, to consider collaboration with us instead of with the Germans; the north African coast has long been kept in mind as a possible springboard for invading Europe. America’s entry into the war would for the first time enable the British to attempt invasion of the continent. Until now the British have had to keep at home more reserves than they would need if they knew the American Army would soon be at their side.

Even with our Army in its present state of semi-preparedness, we have enough completely trained Regular Army and Marine units to be able to send abroad for active service an important contingent which would either take its place immediately in an invasion force or replace British units assigned to that task. The first effect upon the Germans of the intelligence that the British were seriously preparing to attempt an invasion would be to compel them to send back troops from Russia to threatened points in Europe.

Finally, from the broadest strategical standpoint, the entry of the United States would turn the tables on the Germans who until now have had the advantage of initiative and surprise. Throughout[90] the world until now Hitler has kept the world wondering “where is he going to strike next?” With the United States in the war, it would be the turn of the Axis powers to wonder where the Anglo-American-Russian forces were going to strike next, and Hitler would be forced to keep large numbers of troops stationed at every point where our forces could possibly attack.

Q. The Russian resistance to the German attack seems to have surprised nearly everybody. How do you explain it?

A. There are many reasons for it. It is true that almost every expert expected the Russians to collapse within a few weeks after Hitler began his drive. Walter Duranty is the only one I know who said from the outset that the Red Army would hold much longer than the outside world seemed to expect.

The first reason for Russian resistance is that this was the first time Hitler ever tackled a country with lives to waste and miles to waste. Its 200,000,000 population lived almost like animals, but most of them flourished like healthy animals on their black bread and cabbage and made sturdy fighting material. They claimed around 12,000,000 soldiers in their standing army and reserve. Thus they could lose as many men as the entire German Army and still have left an army as big as the former French Army. In fighting against the Germans they could afford to lose two to one and still have superiority in numbers. Their high command knew this and wasted lives with abandon but sometimes to advantage. The same advantage in size held with respect to terrain. They could afford to retreat over distances equivalent to the width of many European countries and still have room to live in, just as the Chinese did.

The second reason for Russian resistance is that this was the first time Hitler had ever struck an army and a generation untouched by the humanizing influence of Christianity, immune to[91] any form of pacifism, unsoftened by Western civilization. It was the first time Hitler had ever struck an army that had been taught that all life is struggle, that to fight for the Soviet Union was the noblest thing a man or woman could do, the first time the Nazis had met a fanaticism sharper than theirs. The Bolsheviks invented totalitarian fanaticism; the Nazis only copied it.

It was the first time the Germans had come up against a people more savage than themselves. The Bolsheviks were ahead of the Nazis in pronouncing that the end justifies the means, and the oriental Russians surpassed the occidental Germans in cruelty. The Germans have known Hitlerism only since 1933 and until that time they had normal contacts with the outside world. The Russians have known nothing but Bolshevism since 1918 and from that moment on have been hermetically sealed from the outside world.

For war-making this savage insularity has its uses. The Red Army is even more fanatically homogeneous in its political faiths and hatreds than is the Nazi Army. Everybody under the age of forty in Russia today has experienced either throughout life or in adult life nothing but the Soviet regime. The Russians have the advantage that they have been practicing totalitarians all their lives and are used to it. For the civilian population not immediately in the path of the battles there was less change in the move from peace to war in the Soviet Union than in any other belligerent state, because the Russians have been living on a war footing since 1918.

During this generation of hardships their Asiatic characteristics have been deepened, their fatalistic contempt for death increased. They are content to let the Party guide their emotions. There are no Hamlets among them. The Russians Dostoevsky wrote about, who dreamed and sorrowed and could not act—all these have long been eliminated. Also no living inhabitant of the Soviet Union has been corrupted by ease or luxury! Yet because they are completely[92] cut off from the outside world the Russians think the Soviet Union superior to any other country. This is an advantage in war.

Isolated and youthful, the Russians after twenty-three years of suffering and historically unparalleled loss of life through revolution, famine, and terror, still were not disillusioned by a political, social, and economic system which had given them a standard of living and culture beneath that of any large white community in the world. There were no ideological divisions to rend the nation, since all who differed with the ruling clique were liquidated the moment the difference became apparent. Hence there was no Fifth Column in Russia. Since Soviet justice or Stalin policy goes on the principle that it is better to execute a hundred innocents than to let one guilty escape, the purge of 1934-1938 probably did eliminate important Fifth Columnists, together with many valuable military and industrial leaders.

A third reason for the strength of the Russian resistance is that the Red Army for the past twenty-three years has received a larger share of the national income in peacetime than any other defense force of any nation has ever enjoyed, including Germany. Though Russia starved, the Red Army ate well. On the four occasions—1925-1927, 1930, 1934, and 1937—when I visited the Soviet Union and worked there as a correspondent, I noticed that no matter how poorly the rest of the population was dressed, Red Army soldiers always wore good uniforms and strong leather boots. This was because ever since the Soviet Union was born, every leader from Lenin and Trotzky to Stalin was profoundly convinced that “the capitalist world will never permit the Socialist State to exist and some day will seek to destroy us.”

Of course this attack of Hitler’s is not the attack of the capitalist world upon the Socialist State, and the Socialist State now finds the capitalist world its only ally. Nevertheless the unshakable and correct Bolshevik belief in inevitable war led the regime to impose the greatest sacrifices upon the people for the sake of the armed[93] forces, and even though the Soviet economy was most backward, the enormous amounts expended were bound to have effect.

Even in American terms the Soviet defense budget was large. In 1940 it was the equivalent of $11,000,000,000, and represented one-third of the national expenditure. Measure this against the fact that the infinitely richer United States will approximate the expenditure of that much yearly only in 1942 after two years of our greatest defense effort.

Most of the money spent on the Red Army and Air Force went for machines of war. Twenty-three years ago when the Bolshevik revolution took place there were few machines in Russia. Marx said Communism must come in a highly industrialized society. The Bolsheviks identified their dreams of socialist happiness with machines which would multiply production and reduce hours of labor until everyone would have everything he needed and would work only as much as he wished. Somehow this has not come about, but the Russians still worship machines, and this helped make the Red Army the most highly mechanized in the world, except perhaps the German Army now.

Like Americans, the Russians admire size, bigness, large numbers. They took pride in building a vast army of tanks, some of them the largest in the world, armored cars, airplanes, motorized guns, and every variety of mechanical weapon. Their quality was seldom the best. Few things produced in the Soviet Union have attained high quality, but the attempt is made to compensate by quantity.

Bolshevik love of novelty, eagerness to experiment and try new things (they invented parachute troops), their willingness to discard traditional methods, and their liking for youthful leadership all were advantages. The Red Army apparently was the only one to learn from the lessons of the German campaign in Poland—which were open for the instruction of the French, British, Dutch, Belgians, and every other country in Europe, but were ignored by all of them. Stalin’s purge of the Red Army wherein he executed[94] or otherwise eliminated one-fourth of the senior officers was believed at the time to have done unmitigated harm, but besides the probability that it disposed of some real Fifth Columnists, it destroyed nearly all the older generals, and left the field for men under fifty. Voroshiloff and Budenny were vestigial exceptions. In this day of brand-new warfare youth has an advantage.

We have to include here also the fact that the Russian is an excellent pilot. He has reckless courage, keen eyesight, abounding health, contempt for the enemy, and fanatical belief in his cause. The Russians have a word they like to apply to themselves, Shirokaya Natura, meaning broad-natured, lavish-tempered. That is a characteristic of all the good pilots I have ever known. It means they are ready to spend themselves, their lives, as readily as they spend their money. The R.A.F. has it, Udet has it, Goering has it, the American and Canadian pilots have it, and the Russians have it. I dare say Lindbergh must have had it once. There are millions of boys in Russia of pilot age.

The fourth set of reasons for Russian resistance is based upon the immense benefit the Red Army won through the occupation of the Finnish Mannerheim line, the Baltic states, Eastern Poland, and Bessarabia during the time Hitler was busy conquering the rest of Europe. This action of Stalin’s was typical of the principle that the end justifies the means. If you believed in this principle and in the righteousness of the Soviet cause, you would now have to admit that the end did justify the means in this case, since the creation of this screen of territory enabled the Red Army to defeat the Blitz.

The term Blitzkrieg, frequently misused, technically means the destruction of your enemy by action so swift that he is not able to mobilize, or bring up his forces to meet yours at the decisive point. The screen of occupied territory slowed up the Germans long enough for the Red Army to mobilize fully. Thereafter the great distances, the bad roads, the unfavorable weather, and the scorched-earth[95] policy impeded the German advance, while Russian guerilla warfare proved more effective than anything of the kind the Germans had ever met.

Russian guerilla fighting is not the old-fashioned kind, where a farmer hides with a shotgun to catch an enemy sentry with his back turned. During the Russian Civil War, the most ferocious conflict of modern times until its Spanish equivalent, the Reds especially developed Partisan warfare. This consisted in deliberately hiding companies of several score or hundred heavily armed men until the enemy passed forward. These guerillas would then attack from the rear, usually by night, and often annihilate whole detachments of the enemy. Their ambushes, ruses, and surprises were endlessly ingenious. The guerillas seldom wore uniforms. They were invariably shot if captured. They also never took prisoners except to obtain information by torture. They were extremely successful. Heretofore the Germans have been able to terrorize their conquered populations by the exercise of utterly ruthless Terror. They will have less success with the Russians than with any people they have yet tried to break, except perhaps the Serbs.

Q. But that is a very long list of reasons for Russian resistance. Can’t you sum them up for us in a word?

A. Yes, the answer is morale, or better, faith. That word with its deep Christian connotations may sound blasphemous when applied to the atheist Bolsheviks, but it is a true faith, in reverse, founded upon hatred. It may be objected that faith is a positive force and it may be asked in what do the Russians have faith? In their dogma, their doctrine, their nation, or faith in themselves, or the faith that lies in their deep attachment to their soil? Or is it not their faith in the unspeakably evil character of their enemies? I think it is the last. The Bolsheviks have taught all Russians to hate the Fascists, as they generically call the Nazis, with a ferocity[96] which surpasses anything in our experience. This sort of faithful hatred is a terrific force. It inspires to limitless valor. It is a priceless asset in war. The Russians see the Nazi legions as the incarnation of wickedness, led by the devil himself. They are right. Furthermore they are inspired to fight by the belief, also correct, that if they lose they will suffer intolerable punishment. Unlike the French they have no illusions about the fate that awaits them at the hands of the man who has called them the “scum of the earth.”

This hatred of their enemies and fear of the consequences of defeat are probably the strongest feelings animating the Russians in battle, but they have also an incredible faith in themselves. It makes no difference that this faith is founded for the most part on lack of knowledge of the outside world, and the absence of any chance to compare themselves with other nations and other systems: they are unshakably convinced that they are what would have been called in another time and another place, “God’s anointed.” An American general defined morale as “when a soldier thinks his army is the best in the world, his regiment the best in the army, his company the best in the regiment, his squad the best in the company, and that he himself is the best blankety-blank soldier man in the outfit.” This is what the Red Army soldier thinks. The Red Army was not impressed by the German victory in France. After all, the defeated were “just Frenchmen, just bourgeoisie.”

The average Russian has a strong conviction, unspecified and unsupported by evidence, but forming a subconscious background for all his thinking about the war, that the citizens of the outside world, in “capitalist-imperialist” and “capitalist-fascist” states alike, are composed of two classes, depraved slave drivers and spiritless slaves. He even looks down on the proletariat abroad which has gone these twenty years without making the revolution the Russians made. It was a bitter revelation to many an American and other foreign Communist leader on visiting Moscow the first time,[97] to be assigned a cubbyhole in the old Lux Hotel, and to be forced to wait hours for an audience with a Russian official who scarcely troubled to conceal his contempt for the inferior foreign communist.

We are surprised that the Russians, after all these years of starving and pain and suffering, should still possess the morale to fight, but we overlooked the fact that faith thrives on tribulation. The British had no faith and no morale until they were threatened with death and punished with fire. Today they have a faith in their cause such as they have not had since they became a nation, and now they announce they will scorch the earth, and if necessary burn London before the advance of an invader. Today the British are poor in food and clothes and lodgings, but rich in spirit. The Russians are likewise, and though it is painful to say it, so are the Germans. We alone among the nations are still rich in material goods and poor in spirit, for we lack faith. Where are those among us furious to fight for liberty and democracy?

Q. Do you mean to say the Russians have more faith in their cause than we do in ours?

A. I do.

Q. How can you say such a thing, how do you mean it?

A. I think you are surprised because you confuse faith and morality. They have nothing to do with each other.

The morality of the Nazis and the Bolsheviks is abhorrent. That has nothing to do with the fact that their faith was strong enough to make them great warriors. The best fighters in the Spanish Civil War, Ernest Hemingway testifies, were the Moors. Those skinny brown men, who looked so insignificant and whose behavior was so abominable, were always chosen, if available, to be[98] the shock troops, as when they relieved the Alcazar. They fought with the bravery traditional of the Mohammedan warrior from the Ottoman Turks to the Afghans. Their morals were criminal. They butchered, looted, raped with neither compunction nor discrimination.

I have seen them walking down a village street laden with sewing machines, women’s clothing, surgical instruments, and chicken feed to set up shop in a Cathedral underneath the image of the Saviour whose head they had hacked off. Decent folk on Franco’s side were appalled, but Franco could not do without them. They had a faith that only the Catholic Requetés on the one hand and the Communists on the other could equal, and when they went into battle the Moors sang. I have heard them and reflected that good and evil have nothing to do with faith which moves mountains and wins wars. Are we today in the United States going into battle singing? We are not even going into battle, although we admit it is ours.

Q. Do you mean to say the Moors fought for the Mohammedan faith in Spain?

A. I do not. I mean to say that they fought because they believe the profession of a man is to fight, and in fighting they are upheld in spirit by their belief in Allah, and their faith in his promises.

Q. What do the Russians fight for? They have no Allah and believe in no hereafter.

A. I am not sure that either of those statements is correct. The images of Lenin, Stalin, and Marx blend in the primitive Soviet Russian mind together with dim memories of Orthodox ritual to make up a kind of ikon of Communism. In some minds it may be only the figure of Father Lenin, now mummified, deified, or at[99] least sanctified, in his glass coffin on the Red Square, but in all save the minds of the intellectualized leaders there is some personification of the faith. As for belief in a hereafter, I have sometimes wondered if even the highest leaders of the Party are always as sure as their Bezbozhnik Society, the Society of the Godless, professes to be.

The Bezbozhniks’ battle against God would be meaningless unless they thought, however subconsciously, that there must be something there to fight. Twice I have seen Stalin stand at the graveside of a lifetime comrade, once at the burial of Frunze and once at Kirov’s, and each time as the final words were spoken and the earth fell and the bells of the Kremlin tolled, I scrutinized his face for a sign of his thoughts and under the spell of the moment I always thought I could see the flicker of a question across his gloomy face. As a matter of fact I suppose he was absorbed in thinking how to finish the ceremony as quickly as possible in order to get back to his office and ensure that a good Stalin man succeeded the dead.

Q. Is it true that in order to curry favor with the outside world the Soviet government has restored freedom of worship?

A. Freedom of worship in the Soviet Union was never frankly and publicly prohibited; it was merely quietly strangled. Today its public restoration is a gesture toward the outside world and an effort to canalize even the religious energies sleeping in the hearts of the older people, into national defense. All the old shibboleths of religion and patriotism and nationalism and local pride and mystic faith in Holy Russia which for two decades had been banned have now been revived. In the supreme trial of war the Russian people have returned instinctively to the deep primitive traditions common to man everywhere. Their Bolshevik masters have apparently recognized the desirability of kindling fighting[100] energy from any fuel, and have permitted a veritable carnival of emotions which a short while ago would have been condemned as “bourgeois” and “counterrevolutionary.” Who knows what further changes the war may bring?

Q. American friends of the Soviet Union claim that her present resistance to the Germans entitles her now to our moral approval, and that we are obligated to give it to our “Ally.” Is this true?

A. I am sure Stalin does not care for our moral approval. He would much rather have our material support. Those Americans who changed their views of the Soviet Union either when Stalin signed his pact with Hitler in August 1939, or when the Red Army attacked Finland, or when it marched into Poland, the Baltic states, and Bessarabia, or again when the Germans attacked Russia and the Red Army fought back—such observers only proved that their judgment of Stalin’s system was founded on mere day-to-day, surface events. When they approved of the Soviet Union it was for wrong reasons; when they disapproved it was for wrong reasons.

None of the events just named meant any change in the nature of the Soviet regime. If one approved of it today for resisting Germany, one ought to have approved of it in August 1939 for having signed up with Germany. Both acts had the same motive: the self-interest of the Stalin regime.

Whether we wish to extend our moral approval to the Stalin regime or not, we all owe profound gratitude and respect to the Russian people. It is said that every people gets the kind of government it deserves, but I do not think this has ever been true of the Russian people; they have never had as good a government as they deserved. Today they are demonstrating a spirit on the battlefield which places us forever in debt to them. Whatever his regime, the Russian soldier is giving his life to defeat the Germans and[101] every sacrifice of a Russian life means the possible saving of an American life.

To the Russian people we owe our friendship as well as all our support. Our support can reach the Russian people only through their regime. Let us keep the distinction sharp and the supplies moving.

Q. Aren’t we running a risk if we support the Russians?

A. Yes, we are compelled to run a risk no matter what we do. The time when we could have made ourselves secure without risk is long past; our isolationists saw to that. Today we risk much if we support the Soviet Union, but we risk more if we do not. If we do not support her, we risk Hitler’s winning the resources of Russia. If we do support her, we risk two things, first, that after we have poured supplies and munitions, airplanes, gasoline, and guns into Russia, Stalin might capitulate and these war materials would fall into the hands of the Germans.

The other risk is that with our help the Red Army should not only hold the Germans but actually defeat them and invade and occupy Germany. I purposely draw this picture crudely. This is a small immediate risk, for the Red Army has not the offensive power to do it. But suppose the Red Army were able to hold the Germans for another year, the while Britain with the United States’ help grows strong enough in the air to obtain supremacy over the Luftwaffe on the Western Front. Suppose during this time, with the aid of shipments from the United States the Red Air Force recovers and also grows strong enough to dominate the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front. It is then possible to imagine a time when the Germans, disintegrating from within, would begin to withdraw from the East and the Red Army begin to attack.

When once Germany begins to crumble, it is the conviction of all who know that brittle country that she will fall apart at once.[102] It will be a miracle, indeed, if she finds a Hindenburg to lead her armies home and demobilize them in orderly fashion. It will be more of a miracle if a Prince Max of Baden can be found in Germany to apply for an armistice or negotiated peace.

The German Army will have been defeated, disrupted, demoralized. For a time there will be anarchy. Then all will depend upon which forces reach German territory and the German capital first, the Red Army or the armies of the West. If we have stayed out of the war, or have participated only as a naval and air power; if the Western Allies have conquered Germany on the sea and in the air, but have left the land to be conquered by the Red Army; then if the Red Army pushes into Germany before our forces can arrive, it will mean Communist revolution throughout Europe.

Why has the world not gone Communist long ago? It is because Communism, or its Soviet version, in the only country it was ever tried, had been a peacetime failure. Let us not argue the definition of Communism and whether we ought to call it State Capitalism. The world had made up its mind that the collectivist system as practiced by the Russians could not produce enough to make its population as well off as the people were even under old-fashioned, broken-down, rickety capitalism. Now, victory by the Red Army would be evidence that Russian Communism could do what Western capitalism could not do—defeat Hitler. The populations of Europe would count that power victorious whose land armies were on the spot to occupy the territory of the defeated. If the Red Army were to get there first, it would prove to millions of uncritical observers that the Soviet system had won, that it was a success to be emulated, and in the circumstances of disorder and unemployment which would prevail at the conclusion of the war, such a judgment could lead to continental upheaval.

Q. How can we prevent this and at the same time see that Nazi Germany is defeated?


A. Only by going to war against Germany now. Never since the war began have we had any stronger reasons for entering the war than now. We cannot afford to stay out and allow Hitler the possibility of winning the war by getting Russia. We cannot afford to stay out and allow the Bolshevik regime the possibility of winning the continent of Europe to Communism.

Q. But can Stalin be trusted?

A. Certainly not. His agreement with Churchill not to conclude a separate peace is worth even less than the solemn promise the French government made on March 28, 1940 to make no separate peace, just three months before it made a separate peace over the protest of its Ally, Britain.

Q. Why do you say Stalin’s promise is worth even less than that?

A. Because Bolsheviks, from whom the Nazis have copied their ethics, do not believe in keeping their word. I do not mean this frivolously or cynically. On page 323 of volume XVII of the collected works of Lenin, the father of Bolshevism wrote: “Morality is that which serves the destruction of the old exploiter’s society ... which creates a new society of communists. Communist morality is that which serves this struggle.... We do not believe in eternal morality and we expose the deceit of all legends about morality.” As the end justifies the means and the end is the State, so treaty breaking is justified when it serves the State. For a Bolshevik or a Nazi, one of the most absurd phrases in the Bible is the reference to the obviously bourgeois simpleton who sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not. For both Bolshevik and Nazi the theory is that individual honor must always be sacrificed if necessary to the State, and the State itself has no obligation of honor to any other State, or individual.


You may say that the only difference between a Bolshevik’s or Nazi’s breaking his word and a bourgeois’ doing the same is that the Bolshevik or Nazi would be proud of it and the bourgeois would not. True enough, and that makes all the difference between a moral world and an amoral world. It is the difference between the recognition of morality and the defiance of it—the difference between civilization and the jungle. This jungle attitude we hope to eliminate by defeating Hitler.

Q. How do you expect to eliminate this jungle by fighting on the side of the Bolsheviks?

A. We would not be “fighting on the side of the Bolsheviks.” We would be fighting disease with disease. As a youth I studied medicine for a while in Vienna, and one of my professors was the great Wagner-Jauregg, the discoverer of the malaria treatment for the tertiary stage of syphilis. Wagner-Jauregg observed that some of his paretic patients who contracted another disease accompanied by high fever would after the recession of the fever often be almost cured of their syphilitic disabilities. He began to inoculate his syphilitic patients with malaria and thus by using one disease against another won a considerable number of victories over the more dangerous of the two afflictions. After curing the syphilis it was relatively easy to cure the malaria. Nazi Germany is at this moment as much more dangerous than Bolshevik Russia to our world as syphilis is more malignant than malaria.

Q. So you think Bolshevism, after it has helped eliminate Nazism, will be as easy to cure as malaria?

A. Probably not, but we may entertain reasonable hopes that in case the Red Army as distinct from the Bolshevik Party is victorious,[105] or even semi-victorious over the invading Germans, it will have more to say in the affairs of Russia than ever in the past.

Q. Do you consider that would be an improvement?

A. Decidedly. Armies are usually conservative and pacifist. If we want to get rid of the Communist International and have Russia re-enter the family of nations, let the Red Army take hold of affairs in the Kremlin. Stalin is afraid of it.

In the purge of 1934-1938 Stalin arrested no less than 30,000 officers according to an estimate quoted by Louis Fischer. He started by executing the head of the army, Tukhachevsky, and seven other of the highest generals, then three more, and so on until there were left of the original staff only Voroshiloff and Budenny. Some may have been guilty of wishing to cooperate with the Nazis, but most were killed because Stalin feared they were plotting against him.

Stalin’s principal instrument of espionage against his own army is the system of political commissars, whereby a Stalin party man is allocated to each Red commander, with the prime duty of watching his every move, listening to his every word, and if possible trapping him into an indiscretion. This obviously hinders military efficiency, and in times when Stalin feels safe or when he wants military efficiency more than an immediate sense of personal security, he gives it up.

When he attacked Finland, for example, he felt strong enough personally to give it up, and the Red Army improved sufficiently to win. There was much boasting among Communists that the Red Army now no longer would need political commissars again, but to their disappointment, shortly after the German attack on Russia, Stalin reinstalled his commissars. This at the moment when the Soviet Union was more gravely threatened than ever in its history[106] meant that Stalin felt himself less menaced by the defeat of the Red Army than by the Red Army itself.

Is it farfetched to imagine that since Stalin has played the part of a super-Robespierre, the time may come when he will suffer Robespierre’s end?

Q. If you say, as you did, that Stalin would make a separate peace if it suited him, despite his agreement not to do so, what was the use of Britain’s offering and entering into such an agreement?

A. It was useful to make the agreement in order to convince Stalin that Britain, for her part, intends to keep on fighting no matter what happens. This might encourage Stalin to fight a little longer than he might have done if he thought that at any moment he might be deserted by his Ally. You remember the New Yorker anecdote about the suburbanite who met the town Communist soon after Germany attacked Russia, and twitted him about the German-Soviet pact, but without results.

The Communist said blandly that it was only to be expected, that it proved Russia was the dominant figure on the international scene, and so on. Then he added: “The only time I was worried was when I was listening to Churchill’s speech on the radio. For a minute, at the beginning, I thought he was going to rat on us.” So the Anglo-Soviet agreement is strictly one-way, but it has its uses. It may persuade Stalin that Churchill is not going to rat on him!

Q. Under what circumstances do you think Stalin would make a separate peace?

A. At any time Hitler would let him have peace and remain in power and retain sufficient of the framework of the Soviet system to promise its continuance after the Western powers had defeated Hitler. It is plain now that, once the Germans had attacked, Stalin[107] must have realized he had to fight or die, for Hitler was evidently sure of quick, complete victory. If Stalin had tried to capitulate, as some thought he would, without fighting, he could have obtained nothing better than obliteration of himself and his regime. Therefore Stalin fought, but this does not necessarily mean he intends to fight to the bitter end, with the Red Army backing up to the Urals, to Siberia, and the Soviet government moving to Sverdlovsk or Novosibirsk, as romantic enthusiasts would have it.

Stalin probably defines his task to fight Hitler so well, make it cost the Germans so much, that Hitler will finally offer a peace Stalin could afford to accept on the basis of his expectation that Germany would in the long run lose the war. The Bolshevik surrender at Brest-Litovsk in 1918 was based on similar reasoning, that the Bolsheviks’ enemy, Germany, would eventually be removed by world revolution and that good Bolshevik strategy would seek first to preserve the structure, if only a skeleton structure, of the Soviet Socialist State, at any cost of immediate humiliation and suffering.

The Russians have proved now by their destruction of the great dam at Dniepropetrovsk that they mean truly to scorch the earth before Hitler even if it means the destruction of their most precious possessions. The destruction of the Dnieper dam was to my mind the most important single event of the Russian-German war.

Q. Why was the blowing up of the Dnieper dam so important?

A. Because Dnieprostroy was an object almost of worship to the Soviet people. Its destruction demonstrates a will to resist which surpasses anything we had imagined. I know what that dam meant to the Bolsheviks. I visited it in 1930 when it was being built under the supervision of the American engineer, Hugh Cooper. It was the largest, most spectacular, and most popular of all the immense projects of the First Five-Year Plan. It was the principal source of hydroelectric power for the Ukraine.


During all the years under the Soviet government the Russian people had to do without romance, until the Five-Year Plan was begun. Then they began to find glamour in statistics. They glorified in figures showing that this or that project in the Soviet Union was the largest of its kind in the world. The Dnieper dam when it was built was the biggest on earth and so it occupied a place in the imagination and affection of the Soviet people difficult for us to realize. I remember standing in the middle of the mile-long dam and listening to a young Soviet engineer rhapsodically exclaim: “You see there, that forest of cranes, that army of excavating machines! There is more machinery concentrated on this construction site than was ever concentrated anywhere in the world! Look at those gravel mixers. We are pouring here five thousand cubic meters of gravel, more per day than any body of men ever poured in the history of the world! See those immense snail-shaped turbo dynamos! They are the biggest ever made. We will supply more electricity from a single point than ever....” And so he went on endlessly, and back in Moscow people would eagerly scan the newspapers for the latest bulletins on Dnieprostroy.

Stalin’s order to destroy it meant more to the Russians emotionally than it would mean to us for Roosevelt to order the destruction of the Panama Canal. Suppose our troops defending the canal were to have been driven back by the invading Japanese until it became evident they would capture the canal if we did not destroy it. If our troops then blew up the locks, it would be an act of determination which could be compared to that of the Russians in blowing up the Dnieper dam.

Q. Well then, doesn’t this prove that the Russians will fight to the bitter end and never make a separate peace?

A. Perhaps, but not necessarily. They may fight to the bitter end but even the Dnieper dam does not prove it. The task of Stalin, it[109] appears now, is by just such a demonstration of stubborn courage, to whittle down Hitler’s demands until they reach Stalin’s ability to accede to them. If he can get Hitler to offer to keep the Soviet government and bureaucracy in power and to withdraw the bulk of the German troops, and not to demand too much in the way of demobilization of the Red Army, the two tyrants might once more get together.

Q. But why should Stalin quit? Why should he ever be willing to make such a compromise peace if in the long run he believes Germany will be beaten?

A. Because the Soviet Union is not strong enough economically to go on fighting indefinitely, particularly if the industries and mines and agriculture of Southern Russia are cut off by the Germans. It would be a miracle if the Russians could endure a long war. Most peoples have a surplus they can do without in wartime. The Soviet Union has no surplus.

Q. What about the Chinese? They didn’t seem to have a surplus either, but they have gone on fighting the Japanese now for over four years.

A. That is true and important, but the Chinese economy was decentralized. The Chinese lives locally. Chinese communities could be cut off from the outside world and live almost normally. The Soviet economy is centralized, a closely knit system of collective farms-mines-factories, which if ruptured at one point would tend to go to pieces. Nevertheless there is a significant similarity between the primitive character of the Russian and the Chinese peasants, and their ability to improvise a living and keep on fighting when more highly civilized folk, as the French, would give in.


Q. Under what circumstances do you think Hitler would offer Stalin a compromise peace?

A. The moment he believes he has defeated the Red Army sufficiently to force Stalin to accept a peace which would include substantial demobilization of the Red Army—enough to ensure that it could not be used for a sudden attack on the German Army after it had returned its attention to the West. It is probable that Hitler had much more totalitarian goals in view when he first attacked Russia; but the Red Army has probably made him content for the moment with less.

Q. Isn’t there some evidence that Hitler is after an all-out victory over Russia and intends no compromise, but complete conquest?

A. Yes, the most direct evidence we have of such an intention is contained in his speech of September 12, 1936 at Nuremberg, when he said: “If the Ural mountains with their immeasurable wealth of raw materials, Siberia with its rich forests, and the Ukraine with its immense grain fields, were lying within Germany, this country under National Socialist leadership would be swimming in wealth. We would produce so much that every single German would have more than enough to live on.”

This does not sound as though he intended to stop short of anything, but the fact still remains that unless he believes he can make peace with the West (and he cannot have much hope for that after the Roosevelt-Churchill proclamations of peace terms), his most advantageous solution of the war would be compromise, with Stalin or some other Russian leader as his Gauleiter.

Q. Wouldn’t Hitler obtain more supplies if he took them than if he trusted to the Soviets to deliver them, even if they promised to do so after having been conquered?


A. Not for a very long time, probably several years. If Hitler, completely defeating the Red Army, were to try to replace the Soviet system with something of his own devising, imagine the chaos! There are several million employees of the Soviet bureaucracy. Suppose they all sabotaged as the Czarist bureaucracy sabotaged the Bolsheviks when they seized power. It took the Bolsheviks five years to work back up from starvation in 1918 to the level of subsistence in 1923.

Suppose the scorched-earth policy is extended to the oil fields of the Caucasus. Really determined skilled effort can make an oil field unproductive for a year or more. To pursue the Red forces into the Urals and beyond and then to hold down the whole country would be a task which would absorb the energies of even the German war machine. There would thus be bargaining points on both sides.

Hitler could say to Stalin: “I can utterly destroy you and your system if I choose.” Stalin could say to Hitler: “Yes, but I can make your conquest futile as far as supplies are concerned, and if you try to destroy me and my system I will starve you and tire you until you are too weak to win in the West.” Stalin’s argument might well run that by making a compromise peace he could save something, including his own job, from the wreck; then by waiting patiently for the victory of the Allies which he probably foresees in the long run, he would win back everything, just as the Bolsheviks did after they had deserted the Allies in the first World War.

Hitler, on the other hand, knows that without Stalin’s help he cannot begin to obtain the materials he needs from Russia in time to serve his necessity. Douglas Miller points out that in the two summers of 1917 and 1918 when the Germans occupied the Ukraine, they got only 43,000 small carloads of grain, which scarcely paid the costs of occupation. Only with Stalin as his Gauleiter can Hitler make his Russian investment pay economically during the critical next two years.


Q. What would be the effect of such a compromise peace between Germany and Russia on the United States and Great Britain?

A. It would be a disaster even worse than the signing of the original Soviet-German pact in August 1939.

Q. Why worse? It would be just about the same, wouldn’t it?

A. No, because this time Hitler would have obtained what he thought he had obtained but had not obtained from Russia through his 1939 pact. He would have nearly complete security on the Eastern frontier and would not have to pin down there more than a fraction of the divisions he had there from 1939 on.

He would have obtained guaranteed deliveries of the oil and grain and other products he needs. His guarantee would be the disarmament of the Red Army to the point where the Germans could march in at any moment and enforce their demands. He would also have obtained the right to march his troops across the Ukraine, or sail across the Black Sea and from the Caucasus drive at Suez, or eventually India. Furthermore the re-neutralization, or the military emasculation, of the Soviet Union would free Japan’s rear from the danger of attack, and would proportionately increase the chances of Japan’s attacking southward in the area of our vital interests. Such a compromise peace would enable Hitler to endure many years longer than if he had to fight on to the complete conquest of Russia, against a nationwide, scorched-earth, guerilla warfare.

Q. You make it seem as though a compromise peace were quite possible. Why then did Stalin fight at all?

A. You mean, when the Germans attacked? Because he was given no choice. There was rumor of Hitler’s having submitted an ultimatum[113] or terms to Stalin, but as it turned out Hitler submitted no demands at all; he simply attacked.

Q. Why didn’t Hitler at least make the attempt and demand of Stalin the things he wanted, including the demobilization of the Red Army?

A. I suppose he knew that even Stalin could not successfully order the demobilization of the Red Army without suffering the danger of revolution. Hitler had successfully brought the armies of several powers under his control without fighting: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, but they were small states which would never have stood a chance for more than a few hours or days of resistance against the Germans. It seemed to many people that Hitler could have done the same with Russia. The acquiescence of Stalin in every other German demand encouraged this belief. But Hitler never made the trial.

Q. I still do not see why he did not try.

A. Perhaps because of Napoleon. This is only a theory of mine, but in analyzing Hitler’s motives for attacking Russia, it struck me that his vanity may have led him to wish to impose his will by force upon Stalin, his only remaining rival on the continent, and to do the thing Napoleon failed to do, conquer Russia. Hitler is an admirer of Napoleon. When he first visited Paris he spent half an hour alone by the tomb of Napoleon, then ordered the remains of Napoleon’s son brought from Vienna to be re-interred beside his father. Hitler does not collect ordinary Napoleonana as Mussolini does. Hitler collects the same countries which Napoleon once collected or tried to collect. He is not merely going over the same territory, he is consciously emulating Napoleon.

The French Emperor’s excuse for attacking Russia was that[114] Alexander refused to join Napoleon’s blockade of England, the “Continental System.” Historians now agree, however, that Napoleon went into Russia in 1812 chiefly to satisfy his vanity and his lust for war and to appease his jealousy of Alexander, his only remaining rival on the continent. Alexander was willing to do almost everything Napoleon wanted, but Napoleon wanted to impose his will by force. So with Hitler. He had even less excuse than Napoleon for attacking Russia.

I share the opinion of many observers that Hitler could have had anything he liked from Stalin, beginning with the delivery of all available materials even if it meant stripping the Russians, and including the permission to pass troops through Russia, and even including perhaps consent to as much of a demobilization of the Red Army as Stalin believed he could order without danger of revolt—possibly enough to have satisfied Hitler that the Red Army could not attack him. Nor does it seem likely that the Red Army ever would have attacked the Germans except after they had definitely lost the war in the West, and then it would have made little difference who delivered the final blow.

The Russians would probably have behaved toward Germany exactly as the Italians behaved toward France. In their anxiety to run no risks, the Italians waited until their intervention made no difference; the French were already defeated. So Stalin would probably have waited until the German Army was knocked out before he moved.

Q. But wasn’t it likely that Stalin would have attacked if Hitler attempted to invade the British Isles?

A. Not unless it had become apparent that the invasion had not only failed but that the German Army had lost practically all its Air Force and was about to collapse. If this contention is correct,[115] there was no danger to Hitler from the Russians, and the material supplies he seeks could certainly have been obtained in greater quantity by peaceful coercion than by war.

Q. You have given us quite a number of strong points of the Soviet Union. Can you outline its weak points?

A. Without pleasure. It is no pleasure to expose the demerits of a force which for the time being, at any rate, is fighting against our major enemy, and has fought gallantly and has lost more blood than all the other opponents of our enemy put together. Yet it seems to me useful always to keep our eyes open and to know as much as we can about the characteristics of friend and foe and especially of the sort of ally which has the ambiguous role of the Soviet Union toward both Britain and America, neither friend nor foe, but possessed merely of the same enemy.

The fundamental weakness of the Soviet Union and the root of all its evil is the fact that the Bolsheviks believe and practice as their first rule of political conduct that the end justifies the means. This rule led to adoption of the Terror as the chief weapon in the struggle to establish Socialism, and the Terror in turn made it impossible to establish Socialism. The Terror destroyed democracy. Without political democracy, the vaunted economic democracy of the Soviet Union became a farce. Constant coercion of the masses through the Terror benumbed them. Production was concentrated on war materials and the output of consumption goods never rose above subsistence level. The Soviet Union became a permanent pauper state. The level from the standpoint of culture and comfort remained barbarian, but the Russians showed they had the virtues of barbarians. When the time came to fight they proved they could stand up better to their Nazi brother barbarians than any of the civilized folk of Europe.

The principle that the end justifies the means works in wartime[116] as it is a barbarous principle and war is a barbarous business, and that is one reason why the Russians have done as well as they have against the Germans. In peacetime the principle that the end justifies the means defeats itself because peaceful processes are not promoted by violence. The Bolsheviks used the Terror to force every member of the vast community of Russia into a pattern of National Planned Economy, but after thirteen years of watching the Five-Year plans, now in the midst of the Third, we can scan the whole Russian scene and soberly observe that National Planned Terror plus Bolshevik zeal have not been able to produce anything like as much for the whole population as free capitalist economy running on the profit motive with a competitive labor market. I am not for Hoover capitalism, but even it is incomparably better than Stalin’s economy.

Q. What authority have you to speak about Russia?

A. Possibly no authority, but a good deal of experience. I was for two years a correspondent in Moscow, from 1925 to 1927—that was during the NEP—and thereafter made three long trips and visited every part of the country from Vladivostok to Odessa and Leningrad to Tiflis. I was the first correspondent to visit the huge industrial plants of the First Five-Year Plan from the Urals to the Caucasus, and after a 17,000-mile trip which lasted three months I wrote a series of twenty-four articles, which were given a Pulitzer prize. That was in 1930, and I made another study trip in 1934 and another in 1937. I keep up as well as one can by diligent reading and contact with friends fresh from the Soviet Union and it appears that the conditions there today, aside from the war, are about as they were when I was last there. Most capitalist critics of the Soviet Union oppose it because it has done away with the institution of private property and of profit, and substituted a collectivist system. It would not make much difference to these capitalist[117] critics whether the Soviet collectivist system worked or not. What irks them is that it has eliminated the form of economic organization which has enabled them to become well to do.

This is not of any interest to me. The only thing that interests me about the Soviet collectivist system is whether it works or not. If it works better than ours, to bring more happiness to everybody in the community than our system, then let us have it. But the trouble with the Soviet collectivist system is that it simply does not work to make men happier. It’s only success has been to make men fight. That is what we need now, but it is not enough.

Q. Can you prove that the Soviet system does not work?

A. I am not going to try to do it with statistics. I have played and worked and sweated with Soviet statistics as much as the next man, but if there ever was a country on earth where the old saying, “Figures don’t lie but liars figure,” is true, it is the Soviet Union, where avowedly and openly it is announced that the Statistical Office must consider itself in the service of propaganda for the national good. I can give you only a reproduction of the impressions I had, and which you would have had if you had been with me.

The two chief impressions you get from the Soviet Union are its extreme poverty and the all-pervading Terror. True, the Terror diminishes as one gets away from Moscow and the large cities, but it is present in greater or less degree everywhere. The population as a whole is desperately poor and always afraid. I thought when I read of the German attack on the Soviet Union, and then of the valiant initial Soviet resistance, that the war must have come to the Soviet population as a sort of release.

Although “the NKVD instituted severe police measures to round up Fifth Columnists,” nevertheless the net effect of the impact of the war upon the Soviet population must have been very much like[118] the opening of jail doors. The national emergency and the necessity for all to get together and fight for their lives, I am sure had an inspiriting effect even greater than it would have in a less primitive Western community. That wartime spirit of exaltation is not true of the Soviet Union in peacetime. In ordinary times, the Soviet population is surely the unhappiest 200,000,000 ever to live under one flag in one vast succession of barracks and slums covering one-sixth of the land surface of the globe and stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea and from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Baltic. Think of that immense area with its huge population and reflect that from one end of the country to the other there cannot be found a single household (aside from those of high Soviet officials, and a few artists, journalists, and other privileged classes—not more than a few thousand out of 200,000,000) possessing the food, clothing, furniture, the necessities and conveniences of an ordinary workman’s family in the United States.

After two years of warfare and bombing and blockade it would be difficult to find in all England a workman compelled to live as uncomfortably, unhygienically, and with as poor food and clothing as the ordinary Moscow workman. The average family on relief in America lives better than the privileged Moscow workman’s family. I particularly emphasize “Moscow workman” because he is the best-off person in the Soviet Union with the exception of the tiny privileged group I have mentioned. The revolution was made for the proletariat and what there is to enjoy goes to the workman.

The peasants on their collective farms live on the whole on a level beneath that of any large group of white people in the world. The Soviet peasant’s condition is substantially that of a serf. He is bound to his collective and may not leave without permission. He is paid chiefly in kind and his pittance of cash is almost useless, since there are such small supplies of anything in the stores to buy. He eats day in and day out, year in and year out, for breakfast, dinner, and supper black bread and cabbage soup and little else.


The average Russian peasant does not taste meat more than a few times a year. He is able to live on this diet because his black rye bread contains everything necessary for complete nutrition save fat, which he gets from a meager ration of salt pork. His relationship to the collective is the relationship of serf to master. The serf under the Czar could be punished by his master; so can the Soviet serf be punished by the NKVD, without trial, and whereas under the Czar the landowner had no power of life and death over his serfs, the NKVD has that power not only over the peasants but over every human being in the Soviet Union except Stalin himself and his immediate cohorts.

Q. If the peasant is such a serf, why has he not revolted now that the advance of Hitler’s armies has given him a chance to do so?

A. It may sound flippant but it is the sober truth that the Russian peasant serf does not know that he is a serf; he is convinced that he lives better than any farm hand in the world. He has utterly no standard of comparison. He is as incapable of judging his position in the world as the Eskimos in Kabloona who had never seen a white man until Gontran de Poncins visited them. The Russian peasant is as shut off from the outside world as an inhabitant of old Japan before Perry. Within his world he has no neighbors better off than himself. This makes him a happier man than if he were able to observe and become envious of more pleasant ways of life.

Q. What is the NKVD?

A. That is the name given the Soviet Political Police in 1934. It has had three names, first the Cheka, then the G.P.U., pronounced Gay Pay Oo, and now NKVD, pronounced En Kah Vay Day, which is an abbreviation for the Narkomvnudel, itself an abbreviation of four Russian words meaning Peoples Commissariat of Internal[120] Affairs. Whenever the Political Police has accumulated too much blood on its name, it is changed, but its functions remain the same: to administer the Terror.

Q. Are the people in the collective farms better off than when they were individual farmers?

A. I did not know the Russia of the Czars, but the peasant himself gave a very good answer to that when he refused to go into the collectives, and rather than enter with his livestock, killed it by the thousands of head, until within a year more than half the cattle, horses, pigs, and sheep of the country had been slaughtered. The Soviet Union has not yet entirely recovered from this animal massacre. The peasants slaughtered their livestock because once collectivized, the livestock passed completely out of control of the peasants. Stalin later conceded each collective farm peasant the right to own one cow and one pig as his private possession. Otherwise the members of the collective may not dispose of the product of their own toil.

Q. But isn’t that precisely the nature of a collective, for all members to pool their resources and labor and then draw the dividends?

A. That is the theory, but the dividends for the Soviet peasant consist of the barest subsistence. They must turn over to the State trusts a stipulated amount or share of whatever their collective produces, wheat, or dairy products, beef or pork, and this share is usually so high that there is nothing left for the peasants to eat but black bread and cabbage. It is the settled policy of the Five-Year Plans to take from the soil all its produce except the minimum subsistence for the peasants and devote it to industrialization, by distribution at high prices to the workmen, and by export, in exchange for machines from abroad.


Q. Then, surely the Russian workman is much better off, since the whole system is supposed to be for the benefit of the proletariat.

A. He is better off than the peasant, but he is worse off than any other white workman in the world. In the winter of 1934-1935 I made a survey of the Russian standard of living and compared it with the standard of living in capitalist states. In order to make the comparison as fair as possible I chose the little capitalist states which used to be a part of Imperial Russia—Finland, Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

First I spent two months in Moscow, studying the standard of living of the workmen in the best Moscow factories. These workmen were more favorably situated than any others in the Soviet Union. Then I spent three months studying the standard of living of typical working-class families in the little capitalist states. To my surprise I found that the poorest workmen’s families in the capitalist states lived considerably better than the Moscow workers, who were the most prosperous in all Russia.

This was after seventeen years of Communism, and the capitalist states used for comparison were among the poorest in the world. They had all suffered more from the World War than Russia as a whole had suffered, and they began their new national lives from scratch, without capital or credit. Yet the average workman in Finland, Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland was living at least twice as well as the best-off workmen in the Soviet Union.

Q. How did you get your facts?

A. By visiting scores of homes and talking with the housewives. I asked each one fifty to a hundred questions, and found out the total family income, how it was earned, and how it was spent. Then I made up a theoretical basket, to contain a week’s supply of food for a workman, and found out by direct inquiry the number of[122] hours a man would have to work to earn the basket. I found that in order to buy the basket the Soviet workman had to spend an average of twice as many working hours as his fellow worker in the small capitalistic states, while he would have to spend over three times as many working hours as a workman in the United States.

The Moscow workers, as the workers in most parts of the Soviet Union, live in barracks, one or more families to a room, brutally overcrowded. The Soviet Union has never succeeded in solving its housing problem and seems, indeed, to be slipping steadily backward, each year jamming more and more people into tenements fantastically full. It is not unusual to find four families sharing a single room. Imagine how much privacy they have, with each family’s quarter of the room partitioned off by a hanging sheet. In the little capitalist states, many workmen had their own cottage homes, a thing utterly unknown in the Soviet Union.

The food eaten by the capitalist workmen was incomparably better in quality and greater in quantity than the Soviet workman’s food. The clothing worn by the Soviet workmen and their families was pathetically threadbare, sleazy and cheap, while the capitalist workmen were well-dressed in comparison. Now these Russian workmen, it must be remembered, were in the midst of their Second Five-Year Plan, and were the recipients of the cream of its production. They were the beneficiaries of that vast scheme of National Planned Economy which was to produce so much more efficiently than the capitalist system that before long everybody in the Soviet Union would be living like rich men in the United States. It was their idea that the time would soon come when production of every conceivable kind of commodity would be so prolific in the Soviet Union that everybody could have his every material want satisfied. “From each according to his ability—to each according to his need,” the classic Communist ideal would be finally attained.

Now after twenty-three years of trial it seems certain that in place of Soviet State Capitalism, any form of private capitalism[123] under a democracy would have given Russia not only the blessings of individual liberty, but far greater industrial production, which of course is the prime measure of any economic system’s success. This is not a mere speculation. If you take the graph of Imperialist Russian industrial production before the last war, and prolong it over the next twenty-three years at the same rate of increase as the years 1900 to 1914, you will find that Czarist Russia would have produced more in 1940 than the Soviet Union with all its Five-Year Plans. What Russia could have accomplished under a liberal democratic, or a free democratic-socialist regime, we can only guess.

Both Lenin and Trotzky once remarked that no matter what else the Soviet Union did, if it did not succeed in producing more than the capitalist system produced, the Soviet system must be called a failure. If it is objected that the Soviet Union had to spend its surplus on defense, one can reply that a system which is so poor that the population has to live on a bare subsistence level in order to maintain its armed services, is a failure also. Twenty-three years is a long enough trial for any system to show at least some hope.

Q. What is State Capitalism and what has this to do with the war?

A. It has a great deal to do with the war, because Soviet weakness tempted Hitler to attack and Soviet weakness is a direct outcome of Soviet State Capitalism. This term means that the State is the monopolizer of all industry, trade, and agriculture. It is the sole employer. It is the owner and manager of all factories, mines, shops, farms, fisheries, transport systems, in short of every means of production and distribution in the country.

No one can work for any other employer except the State and the State has absolute power to order every minute detail of the daily lives of its employees, the whole population. The Soviet workman is no less a serf than the Soviet peasant, for the workman also cannot leave his job without permission, and he also has no control[124] of any kind over his employer, no means of bringing pressure on him, because his employer is the State and the State is not elected, but its representatives are appointed from the top down, beginning with Stalin.

Q. You say the State is not elected, but how about the Soviet elections we hear about?

A. The voters are presented with a ticket chosen by the Party and they are allowed to accept the Party candidates. Citizens of the Soviet Union have exactly as much voice in their government as citizens of Nazi Germany have in theirs, that is, none at all. It is nevertheless interesting to note that the tyrant in the Soviet Union still thinks it worth while to preserve the farce of elections while the tyrant in Germany has apparently dispensed with them altogether.

Q. But cannot the Soviet workmen bring pressure to bear on the authorities by striking?

A. Strikes have been outlawed de facto in the Soviet Union since its earliest years. Soviet trades unions are merely the instruments for helping the State enforce discipline. They are the classic type of company unions. We can sum up this aspect of Soviet State Capitalism by saying that whereas this form of collectivism was intended originally to free the workman from all the disabilities, injustices, and inequalities suffered by the workman under the individual capitalist employer, all that has happened is that the workman has exchanged a comparatively weak, sometimes well-meaning, individual or corporate capitalist employer for a monster, all-powerful, completely egocentric, impersonal, soulless monopoly, the State, which has all the faults of the worst individual employer multiplied a millionfold. It is just as greedy as the worst individual,[125] but has no check upon its greed, and it is never as efficient as the least efficient individual. It is Jack London’s Iron Heel in reverse.

Q. It was the original Bolshevik theory, was it not, that their Planned National Economy would be superior to Unplanned Capitalist Economy because it would prevent the cyclic recurrence of economic crises, such as 1929-1930? It was to end all booms and depressions by ending overproduction. Hasn’t the Soviet Union done at least that much?

A. We cannot tell, because the Soviet Union has never, in the twenty-three years of its existence, had anything like sufficient production, much less overproduction.

Q. Why couldn’t the Soviet Planned Economy succeed?

A. We can split the total failure into five parts: First, failure adequately to replace the profit system; second, failure of planned production; third, failure of planned distribution; fourth, failure of the monetary system; fifth, failure of Soviet construction to keep up with deterioration. Behind all these four failures looms the black father of them all, the Terror.

Q. Why do you devote so much importance to the Soviet Terror?

A. From having witnessed its importance in the Soviet Union. Aside from that, we ought to be able to recognize purely theoretically its paramount role in any attempt swiftly to transform an individualistic society into a collectivist society. For thousands of years men have been living more or less free individual lives. Suddenly it is decided to create a collective, as the Bolsheviks decided in Russia. At the time of the Revolution there were said to have been no more than ten thousand Bolsheviks. Eventually they were[126] to impose their will upon 200,000,000 people and reorganize them into a vast, badly functioning, but nevertheless authentic anthill. To do this as swiftly as the Bolsheviks wanted it done required compulsion, applied without stint, to every unit in the ant heap. Having no say in the matter these multitudes of human beings were required to change every habit of their lives; were ordered even to change their instincts. It took unlimited compulsion to achieve a semblance of the goal. The instrument of compulsion was the Terror.

It produced an ant heap, but the ant heap never was able to do more than provide minimum food, lodging, and clothing for its ants. For a long time outside observers leniently agreed that this must be due to the strain of reorganizing an individualistic into a collectivist society, but now that a generation has passed, the tendency is to consider that more fundamental faults are to blame.

First, it appeared that the motive for work was not so effective in the ant heap as it was in the outside world, since from the day of its foundation until this moment the Soviet workman has produced less per capita per hour than capitalist workmen anywhere in the world. Furthermore, higher ranks, as engineers, technicians, superintendents, managers, and directors in the Soviet Union were so notably inefficient compared with their capitalist colleagues that for a time the anthill authorities imported and paid highly trained specialists from the outside world to set an example and teach.

This effort too was a failure, as Soviet production usually declined to its original level after departure of the foreign specialist. Also the men of enterprise who in a free society risk their capital and brains to found factories, dig mines, and sometimes swindle their fellow men, were assigned in the anthill to the Gosplan, the Government Planning Commission. There, in the effort to plan production for 200,000,000 people, the anthill failed most dismally. The conclusion was that the collective with its rigid wage scales, limited incomes, prohibited labor market, and ban on profits had[127] not provided a motive for work as stimulating and productive as the profit motive and the competitive wage system in the free capitalist world.

Q. How can you call it a free capitalist world? There isn’t any freedom left in the capitalist world. Look at all the checks on business here in the United States. Do you consider our farmers free? They can’t even plant what they want.

A. Yes, I call it free, as free as bird life compared with the Soviet Union or with Nazi Germany. The trouble with you and with all of us who complain about the checks on business, on agriculture, and so on, is that we lack the experience of being really without freedom. Unless you have lived in a slave state, under a real tyranny, you simply do not know what freedom means. All these checks about which you complain are legal checks imposed by law made by representatives of your choosing and passed upon by courts which are eventually also of your choosing, and drawn within a constitution which was also chosen and is now maintained by the people’s free will. If you dislike any of these checks, you have only to get a majority to agree with you and you can change it. To compare the lack of absolute freedom in our world with the absolute lack of freedom in the totalitarian world, whether Bolshevik or Nazi, is the same as to compare a traffic policeman with the warden of a penitentiary.

It was precisely this effort at penitentiary production on a continental scale that broke down the Russian effort at planned national economy. It proved impossible to plan effectively for so enormous an aggregate of human beings every detail of their production. A few of the population, perhaps two per cent, were zealous Communists who were willing to work harder to make the collective successful than they would have worked for any amount of profit.

Terror was used to make the other ninety-eight per cent fit in[128] and work. But the Terror took away from the managers, supervisors, and technicians the willingness to take responsibility. A mistake, honest though it might be, could cost a factory manager his life. In the Soviet Union the man who makes a mistake is automatically suspected and accused of sabotage. The only way to be safe is to make no decisions, pass every responsibility to a higher authority. This is the rule today throughout the Soviet economic apparatus.

Parallel with this effect of the Terror is the benumbing influence of the unforgiving rigidity of the Plan. Each factory manager is given a quota to fulfill. Quotas are calculated at a trifle more than normal maximum capacity. No excuses are accepted for nonfulfillment. In the chaos of Soviet economic life it is seldom that raw materials, fuel, tools, and labor can easily be brought together to fulfill a quota, yet failure may cost the factory manager “liquidation,” which means anything from dismissal or exile at hard labor to death.

Consequently, nearly all quotas are fulfilled in quantity, but quality is in practice ignored. The number of units of production is easily checked; quality is more difficult to check. Hence, Soviet industrial production is lower in quality than in the capitalist world, and this is a partial explanation for the divergence between Soviet industrial statistics which show a high level of production, and the facts of Soviet economic life which demonstrate to the naked eye how low the level of production is. Some observers have estimated that at least thirty per cent should be taken off all Soviet industrial production statistics to allow for the quantities of entirely unusable goods produced.

Q. But we used to prize highly many objects of Russian manufacture, and you can still see in jewelry and antique stores all kinds of finely made things, enamel work, and leather goods, wonderfully printed books. What has become of them?


A. Nearly all that fine handicraft is gone now. The Russian artisan used to be one of the best in the world. Home handicrafts formerly supplied a sizable fraction of Russian consumption goods, not only the things you mention, but furniture, pottery, textiles—wonderful hand-woven linen and wool—and lacquer work. Most of these artisans, or such of them as outlived the hardships of the Revolution, have been forced into factories today to turn out mass production articles inferior to any in the world, including the Japanese.

I often wonder what a Moscow citizen would say if he could walk through an American five-and-ten-cent store. I am sure he would think he was being deceived. He could not imagine such a wealth of high-grade, luxurious articles. Once one of the younger members of the Rosenwald clan visited Moscow and as we looked in the pitiful shopwindows I remarked that if he wanted to start a revolution in Russia all he would have to do would be to distribute a few million Sears Roebuck catalogues among the workers and peasants of the greatest poorhouse in history. Such a system of nationwide mail-order distribution would be utterly beyond the comprehension of a Soviet citizen, for one of the weakest links in the weak chain of Soviet economy is the distribution of goods.

Poor as the goods are, they are not so poor as the method of putting them in the hands of the consumers. Since there is always a goods shortage, the consumer is placed in the permanent position of a supplicant, glad to get anything even if it is a substitute for a substitute for the article he wants. Allocation of the scanty supplies is made from the top down. The local community is not asked what it needs. The Planners arbitrarily ship certain quantities of shoes, hoe handles, and seed, and the recipients have learned to be grateful, no matter if what they needed was kerosene, matches, and cloth.

Q. But you said something about the monetary system, that it had[130] failed too. How can a monetary system fail in a completely planned national economy?

A. The monetary system under the Soviets seems just as difficult to handle as it is in the capitalist system. The authorities incessantly juggle wages against prices, raising the one, lowering the other, inflating the currency, selling bonds and even lottery bonds, as blatantly gambling as the old Louisiana lottery. Yet the answer never seems to be achieved satisfactorily. Always the citizen’s purchasing power is behind his needs. Fundamentally, of course, the answer is that there is never enough of anything to go around.

Q. But isn’t the answer to that the fact that the Soviet State is taking away from the citizens today in order to invest in productive industry from which the citizens will draw a dividend tomorrow? At least I should have thought that was the theory.

A. That is the theory, but one of the tragic aspects of the epic struggle of the Russian Bolsheviks to make their collectivist system work is that their investments in factories and machinery wear out almost as fast and sometimes faster than they can replace them and build new ones. The bad workmanship of the buildings and the poor quality and rough handling of the machines results in a speed of deterioration far beyond the normal in the capitalist world. If they had given their population slightly better food and living conditions and had therefore been compelled to limit their investment in new buildings and machines to something like a capitalist standard of new investment, deterioration would probably have taken away more plant than they could replace.

Q. How do you explain such inefficiency and wastefulness?

A. For all the reasons given before, and for another which I left[131] for a different category since it is, so to speak, historical, while these reasons we have discussed are current. The historical fact of import at least during the life of this generation is that the Bolsheviks twice in twenty years exterminated their ablest people in the country, or rather I should say, the Bolsheviks first killed off the ablest people of old Russia and then Stalin killed off the ablest Bolsheviks. It has been so long ago, and the popular interest and sympathy in the Soviet experiment was at the time so great, that we have almost forgotten what the Bolsheviks did to their own countrymen.

Their conviction was that they could not establish Communism, or Socialism, without physically exterminating the persons who had become, under capitalism, better off than the mass of the people. They reasoned that no capitalist, and by that they meant any person who lived a little better than the poorest member of the community, would ever tolerate willingly the establishment of a Socialist State. They believed all such people would attempt to wreck the new Socialist economy. The professional revolutionaries had spent half their lives attempting to wreck the capitalist system, and they attributed to the capitalists a similar resolution.

In Germany, the Nazis succeeded in coercing the capitalists into becoming useful members of the National Socialist Collective. In Russia, the Bolsheviks set out to destroy the capitalists as a class, or rather every human being who by his birth, or position, or accomplishment, had become identified as an active member of the old system. First, they killed off the aristocracy and landed proprietors, numbering several hundred thousand, and including of course the Czar and his family. Then they exterminated the industrialists, not very numerous, because Russia was the least industrialized of the great nations. Nevertheless they were important. With them a little later were exterminated the managers, supervisors and technicians, the scientists, the professional men, dentists,[132] surgeons, lawyers, teachers, and judges. These numbered a million or more.

By the time I got to Russia in 1925 all these were fully exterminated. By extermination I mean just that. They were either shot, or sent into exile in the Arctic or the deserts of Central Asia, or condemned to penal labor under such conditions that they died within a few years. They were nearly all killed. Only the most meager remnant remained, a few accidents of survival. I shall never forget the man who peddled cigarettes. I shared a house in Moscow with Theo Seibert, correspondent of the Hamburger Fremdenblatt, today, alas, editor of the Voelkischer Beobachter. Theo and I used to try to get the old man to talk, but he was too frightened to make much sense. The baldheaded trembling man who begged us to buy his cigarettes had been a Justice of the Moscow Supreme Court! His survival was just an accident.

After this initial massacre the Bolsheviks let a pause ensue and for several years no great killings took place, just the routine score or so of executions per month. But when the Five-Year Plan was inaugurated, the decision was made to exterminate the kulaks. A kulak was the term applied originally to a peasant who had risen sufficiently above his neighbors to employ labor. That made him an exploiter, a person who lived from the surplus value produced by his hired hands. The Bolsheviks, however, chose to amplify this category to include all peasants who, even if they did not employ labor, had become in the least degree more prosperous than their neighbors. This prosperity, based for the most part upon the individual industry and sagacity of the kulak, might consist in the possession of two cows to the neighbor’s one. In any case the reasoning of the Bolsheviks was that they could not afford to tolerate the existence of any peasant who, forced to join a collective farm, would at the beginning have to live worse than he had lived as an individual farmer.

Such peasants, the Bolsheviks reasoned, would be just as incorrigible[133] enemies to collectivism as the aristocrats and industrialists. They had to die. They did die. This was the greatest Soviet mass slaughter, because there were a great many more such peasants than there were aristocrats, or industrialists, or intelligentsia. It took about two years to do away with the kulaks. Tens of thousands of G.P.U. troops and agents sought out every family of better-than-average peasants throughout the entire Soviet Union, and forced them into boxcars and herded them off to places of exile, down to Kazakstan or up to Narimsky Krai, to places where it was too hot or too cold to live. It is a conservative estimate to say that some 5,000,000 of these more enterprising farm workers and their families died at once, or within a few years.

This process destroyed what there was left of the originally non-Communist party talent in Russia. You would have thought that this ought to satisfy the Bolsheviks. It did, but it did not satisfy Stalin. There was no more opposition to the Bolshevik program. There was not a human being left in Russia who had any connection with the old regime. Not in modern history has there been such a clean wiping of the slate. The Bolsheviks were left not only as absolute masters, but containing a country in which every living person was their hopeful or cowed collaborator. Then came the fatal quarrel between Stalin and Trotzky. Out of this quarrel came the great purges by Stalin which destroyed for the second time within a generation the principal talent of Russia.

This may be regarded as the most fateful slaughter of all. Bolsheviks could argue that the extermination of every vestige of Czarist Russia could be justified on account of the inefficiency, inhumanity, unproductivity of the old regime, and the fact that, according to Bolshevik reasoning, members of the old regime would never cooperate with the new. But now Stalin was destroying not the old, but the new regime, all its talents, its best intellects, its best characters if you like.

Beginning with the politicians, he killed off in the course of four[134] years of uninterrupted purges, the top fourth or fifth, to estimate it conservatively, of the Party itself, of the Army, Navy, and Air Force leaders and then of the new Bolshevik intelligentsia, the foremost technicians, managers, supervisors, scientists. There is, of course, enough youth among 200,000,000 for the nation to recover even after such a purge. The youth whom Stalin spared have proved in battle how boundless are the forces of Russia, the first country Hitler ever tackled with lives to waste!

Q. You have not made it clear, if the Soviet system is so brutal a tyranny, how it is that the Red Army has been able to stand up so well to the Germans.

A. The answer is that the Red Army has fought as Russians have always fought under any regime, bravely, enduringly, stubbornly, gallantly. Russians have always had to fight despite their government; as they did in the last war, as they are doing in this war. The general distaste of the outside world for the Bolshevik system led many to forget that the Russian soldier retains in the Red Army all the martial virtues he possessed in the past. And have we forgotten that the Imperial Army in the last war held the Germans for three years? If the Red Army does as well we will be eternally thankful. True, the Germans in the last war had to divide their forces into two fronts, while today the Red Army has to bear the shock of nearly the full force of the whole German land forces. The task of the Red Army is accordingly heavier.

But our appraisal of the Red Army’s resistance has been strongly influenced by an element which has colored and distorted our judgment of the quality of any army which faces the Germans. That element is our recollection of the collapse of the French Army, which was due to a score of causes besides the excellence of the German Army. It was so overwhelming, bewildering, and impressive that it gave rise to the involuntary, subconscious feeling[135] that the Germans were invincible. Now when any troops stand up to the Germans we are inclined to judge it a miracle of valor and military effectiveness. This is not to take away one whit of the immense credit due the Russians for holding up Hitler’s juggernaut but it is fair to point out that if we had not seen France fall, if for example Germany had attacked Russia before attacking France, everybody would have expected the Russians to put up just about the resistance they have put up. After all, Russia is a nation of double the population of Germany, with incomparably greater natural resources, and with twenty-three years of unflagging preparation for precisely this war. If there had been the exceptional virtue in the Soviet collectivist system which is ascribed to it by its disciples in America, it should not merely have stopped but should have defeated, routed, and conquered the Germans.

Q. Aside from the fact that everybody was influenced by the French example, most military experts seem to have been deceived about the fighting ability of the Red Army. Why was that?

A. It seemed almost as though Stalin wanted the outside world to think his army less strong than it was. None but the most acute of professional observers, among them Colonel Faymonville, for years American military attaché to Moscow, and now a member of the Allied military mission there, had a correct view of the Red Army. Hitler for the first time in his life admitted he had “had no idea” how strong the Red Army was. No outsider was ever allowed to see more than fragments of it. No newspaper correspondent, for example, ever put foot over the threshold of a Red Army barracks. Maneuvers were nearly always carried out in secret without the presence of military attachés. One almost had the feeling that Stalin had deliberately arranged the initial debacle of his attack on Finland in the first Soviet-Finnish war in order to deceive the world into thinking his army inferior to its real strength. Of course[136] that makes no sense, and the fact was that Stalin had been led to think he could walk over Finland with ease and hence had not properly prepared his attack. Nevertheless the net effect of the first Finnish war combined with the secrecy thrown about the Red Army was to make even military attachés in observation posts around Russia believe the Red Army extremely weak. There was always the greatest difficulty in obtaining the most elementary facts about the Red Army. The Soviet government published less about its military establishment than any other great power. It kept concealed the very existence of important armaments factories; it never published production figures in the arms industry; it furnished the League of Nations less information about its vast army than any other members of the League. The G.P.U. Terror made it possible to envelop the Red Army in an impenetrable blanket which even the Germans were not able to pierce.

This secrecy emphasized the surprise that many felt at the outbreak of the war, when the Soviet economy was now indisputably revealed to have been a totally one-purpose economy, for the single end of making war. Every student of the Soviet Union had realized the great emphasis laid upon national defense, but everyone had supposed that at the same time the Soviet Planners were working primarily, if ineffectively, to create a thousand-purpose economy for the satisfaction of the myriad needs of the population. No one had divined what turned out to be the fact, that this huge economy was being organized for nothing but fighting.

It proved effective, as was to be expected. A brutal, simplified economy which ignores most of the people’s wants and devotes all its energy and materials to preparing for war, is better able to prepare and to make war than a more complete economy devoted to satisfying its people’s peacetime needs. Sparta was stronger in battle than Athens, but should we measure the value of a society by the efficiency with which it makes war? If so, we ought to value the Nazis above all others, since they are still leading in this activity.[137] Hitler’s society took Sparta as its model; Stalin’s took Spartacus. The Nazis met their identical twin when they struck the Red Army in battle. Hitler wishes us to believe he is crusading against a fundamentally different regime in a “crusade for civilization.” We shall not be deceived.

Q. What would be the result if Stalin were really to try to hold out indefinitely? Could he do so? Has he the resources in the Urals to carry on there?

A. He has almost everything he needs in the Urals except sufficient oil. If he were cut off from oil in the Caucasus, he would have to import supplies over the trans-Siberian, already overburdened. If he really were determined to carry on in spite of all odds, and could make Sverdlovsk or Cheliabinsk another Chungking, it would compel Hitler to keep an important fraction of his total forces in action in Russia; it would probably prevent Hitler from being able to attempt to invade England; it would lead to a deadlock which could be turned into victory by our intervention.

Q. Would it be possible for us to supply the Russians with sufficient to make up for their losses? Could we enable them to carry on?

A. Our shipments to Russia are as important morally as materially; indeed their token strength is greater than their real strength. We shall never be able to make up for the territory Russia has lost to the Germans—60 per cent of their steel supply, 45 per cent of their manganese, 49 per cent of their tire production, and so on. Our shipments will always be limited by the transportation facilities of the trans-Siberian railway and the route through Iran, both of which are long and time-consuming. Actually we can scarcely hope to get enough American supplies in the hands of the Red[138] Army to make much real difference before next spring, no matter how hard we try, and we ought to do our best. It is the publicly announced policy of both Washington and London that Russia shall have priority on the vital war materials. But everything is up to Stalin. If he wishes to quit and announce that he had not received sufficient aid from Britain and the United States, he will be able to do so any time during the next several months, and make a case at least among his friends.

If Stalin decides to hold on, we have a two to one chance to beat Hitler in the long run; if he decides to quit it means we face much worse odds. There is only one way we can persuade him that we are going to put our full powers into the struggle. It is our crystal-clear duty to ourselves, our children, and our national future to keep Stalin in the war by ourselves going formally to war against Germany. It is a crime against America to wait.



Q. What place do you think Churchill will have in history?

A. If Churchill brings his country victorious out of this war, he will without a doubt go down as the greatest man in English history. No Prime Minister of the sixty ministries since Walpole, and none of the Monarchs when they exercised unlimited power, nor any Admiral or General has upon his tombstone: “He saved England from death.” Many have saved England from defeat. Many have added to England’s power and glory. But only Churchill will be entitled to the supreme rank, for never before has England been threatened with the supreme penalty of national extinction. Among the Prime Ministers Lloyd George would have a place near Churchill, but the alternative to victory in the first World War was not the alternative in this war. Among the defenders of England, Nelson, Wellington, and the Great Duke of Marlborough would rank near Churchill. But the alternative to victory against Napoleon or Louis XIV was not the alternative England faces now. And no England of the past ever faced such odds as Churchill and his people faced at the fall of France. Whatever the decision, Churchill has already achieved greatness. This man who used to be accused of playing at politics and acting only for himself has been lifted by his responsibility to forget himself in the Battle of Mankind.

Q. Is Mr. Churchill really backed by all the British people?

A. Mr. Churchill is the most popular and trusted leader the British[140] people have had within the memory of living man. The man who caused the defeat of the General Strike in 1926 is if anything more popular among the working classes than among the upper classes. In the House of Commons he usually receives heartier applause from Labor members than from Conservatives even though he is the head of the Conservative party. This is partly because the Conservatives cannot rid themselves of a tinge of resentment at the man who was always, consistently, unfailingly right about the coming of the war, and what it would be like, while they were always, consistently, unfailingly wrong. The Conservatives out of a rooted misconception of the character and intentions of Hitler, felt an instinctive sympathy for him almost up to the time he actually began to drop bombs upon them. The Labor party on the other hand shared Churchill’s antipathy for Hitler from the very beginning, and there was thus early established a bond between the great British aristocrat and the British working classes which has been greatly strengthened by his leadership of the war. I doubt if there is a single Labor party leader with as devoted a following among the British workers as Churchill has.

Q. What part in the war has the British workingman played under Churchill’s leadership?

A. The British workingman, inspired and informed by Churchill, has been superbly and intelligently patriotic. It is this union of Churchill with Labor which has warded off defeat in the most desperate hour, and which with our help will eventually win the war. British Labor’s attitude toward the struggle which will decide the fate of all the world for generations to come is a reproach to that minority of American labor which has failed to understand the fact that the liberty and the life of every individual American workingman depends on the outcome of this war. During those awful months following the evacuation of Dunkirk, the British[141] trades unions voluntarily gave up all the trades unions rules which, designed to protect the interests of labor in peacetime, hampered production and became a danger in war. They lengthened hours, took less pay for more work, stayed on the job to the point of complete exhaustion. In the course of about three months the British workingman doubled the production of weapons and munitions, and almost tripled airplane production by the end of the year. It could not have been done without Churchill. From 1932 to 1939, for seven years, Churchill had been tirelessly teaching, preaching, exhorting, and pleading with the British public and the British government to meet the German menace. By the time the war came the British working classes had learned from Churchill what it was about. They learned much faster than the Chamberlains and many a muddleheaded rich appeaser.

Another impressive sign of the wisdom of the British Labor Party from the leaders to the rank and file is that you do not hear from them the demands for a “definition of war aims” which are so loudly voiced by groups of American liberals. These Americans who are so concerned about establishing the chemical purity of British intentions, and who insist on a blueprint of the peace settlement, and a guarantee that the world will be made over in a style that meets with their approval—these Americans show precisely the incomprehension of Hitler that Chamberlain showed with his appeasement. Your ordinary British dock worker knows more about the meaning of the war than scores of American intellectuals who are still bleating about war aims. As the British Labor publicist, G. D. H. Cole, put it, “The Labor leaders and the great majority of their followers alike believed firmly that the defeat of Hitler mattered immeasurably more than anything else. For this reason they were ready to put aside even their socialism and the greater part of their reforming policy and even to abstain from criticizing openly the government’s mistakes rather than run any[142] risk of dividing the national elements which stood for a vigorous prosecution of the war.”

Q. Is Churchill what you would call a realist or an idealist?

A. Churchill is both. He is a hardheaded, tough-minded idealist and an imaginative, generous realist. He is convinced that the policy which works for the good of all will also work best for the good of the individual. This is the foundation stone of civilization. Hitler believes that the smart man is the man who exploits others. Hitler’s are the ethics of the “heel,” the gangster, the racketeer, the cheat who is always on the lookout for a chance to swindle, or rob, betray, or murder for profit. The Churchill attitude is that of the moral man, the member of society. The Hitler attitude is that of the amoral man, the bandit preying upon society.

I do not think Churchill is formally a religious man, although he attends divine services and thus sets an example for the nation under his leadership. But Churchill’s beliefs add up to something closely approaching practical Christianity. It seems to me that very few Americans really understand what Churchill stands for. He is so much in the public eye as a war leader, that we are bound to think of him as a warrior first. We forget or never were told that he is first of all a builder. Before the war, in the field of international relations he believed passionately in the life-and-death necessity of sustaining the League, of collective security through the League.

Then as now, and in England as here in America, there were great numbers of persons who thought they were being hardheaded realists by rejecting the League as romantic. Their successors today are our isolationists or noninterventionists, as they shamefacedly call themselves now. Churchill remorselessly revealed how suicidal was this refusal to cooperate among nations for the maintenance of security for all. Long before Litvinoff coined the[143] phrase Churchill was preaching that “peace is indivisible,” that only through collective security could the security of any single state be secured. His scorn for the British counterpart of our isolationists was withering: “It is of the utmost consequence to the unity of British national action that the policy of adhering to the Covenant of the League of Nations shall not be weakened or whittled away. I read in the Times a few days ago a letter in which a gentleman showed that these ideas of preventing war by international courts and by reasonable discussion had been tried over and over again. He said they had been tried after Marlborough had defeated Louis XIV and after Europe had defeated Napoleon, but, he said, they had always failed. If that is true it is a melancholy fact but what was astonishing was the crazy glee with which the writer hailed such lapses from grace. I was told the other day of a sentence of Carlyle’s in which he describes ‘the laugh of the hyena on being assured that, after all, the world is only carrion.’”

It is of course plain to everybody now that the world is being torn apart because crazy people prevented the League of Nations from functioning, crazy people who believed they were as shrewd as the Americans who today would like us to wait for the Germans to land on United States soil before we fight. It has always been considered by cheap and vulgar men that it is clever to be entirely selfish, and so our Lindberghs, Wheelers, and Nyes even whisper temptingly the base suggestion that we may profit by this war if Britain falls and her Empire crumbles. What retribution would be ours were we to listen to such voices! Churchill, whom no detractor has ever called a stupid man, is not afraid to come out boldly and declare: “I think we ought to place our trust in those moral forces which are enshrined in the Covenant of the League of Nations. Do not let us mock at them, for they are surely on our side. Do not mock at them for this may well be a time when the highest idealism is not divorced from strategic prudence. Do not mock at them, for these may be years, strange as it may seem, when[144] Right may walk hand in hand with Might.” This he spoke in 1937. How the words are crammed with meaning now for America whose vital self-interest to bring about the defeat of our enemy is identical with the highest idealism.

Q. Can Churchill be trusted?

A. I will answer by citing Mr. Churchill’s attitude toward Ireland. In 1938 when the bill to turn the Irish naval bases back from British to Irish control was being discussed, Churchill protested that when war came, if Ireland refused to lend the ports to England, there would be no way to get them back. Because, he said, “It will be no use saying, ‘Then we will retake the ports.’ You will have no right to do so. To violate Irish neutrality should it be declared at the moment of a great war may put you out of court in the opinion of the world and may vitiate the cause by which you may be involved in war. If ever we have to fight again we shall be fighting in the name of law, or respect for the rights of small countries.” Can you imagine Hitler nourishing such scruples? Churchill has proved, moreover, the hardest way, that he meant what he said. The British still abstain from occupying and using the Irish ports. They have lost scores of ships to German submarines which might have been stopped if the Royal Navy had the use of the Irish bases. Many people think it wrong for the British to imperil their cause by respecting the neutrality of Ireland, which like every other country outside the Axis owes its hopes for national independence to a British victory.

Q. What does Churchill think of the United States? I know that his mother was American and that now during the war he wants as much help from us as he can get, but what does he really think of America?


A. We can go as far back as 1932 and find that he had this to say: “Of course if the United States were willing to come into the European scene as a prime factor, if they were willing to guarantee to those countries who take their advice that they would not suffer for it, then an incomparably wider and happier prospect would open to the whole world. If they were willing not only to sign but to ratify treaties of that kind, it would be an enormous advantage. It is quite safe for the British Empire to go as far in any guarantee in Europe as the United States is willing to go, and hardly any difficulty in the world could not be solved by the faithful cooperation of the English speaking peoples.” This was his view of the possibilities of Anglo-American cooperation before the war; his faith in it now is stronger than ever. As for his opinion of the American people, one can deduce a good deal from some of the adjectives he has used about us in the past. He has called us “active, educated, excitable and harassed”; and “the most numerous and ebullient of civilized communities.”

Q. What does Churchill think of Roosevelt and the New Deal?

A. I am sure he has a profound admiration for Mr. Roosevelt quite aside from the help he wants from him. Churchill and Roosevelt are both aristocrats, both expert politicians, both highly cultured men, both believers in humanity, and in the destiny of the English-speaking peoples. There are only two factors to make them differ. The first is that they are rivals, friendly rivals, of course, and allied rivals for the duration of the war, but rivals just the same, and when the time comes to translate victory into peace terms it is going to be exciting to see which of these powerful, determined men will do the leading. It will be a struggle of titans. As one reviews the chief characteristics of each man it seems as though each possesses to the ultimate possible degree the qualities of courage, intelligence, imagination, and stubbornness.


Churchill has called Roosevelt “this great man, this thrice chosen head of a nation of 130,000,000.” Another time in 1934 he described Roosevelt’s administration as a dictatorship, writing: “Although the Dictatorship is veiled by constitutional forms it is none the less effective.” Hastily he added: “To compare Roosevelt’s effort with that of Hitler is not to insult Roosevelt but civilization.” Now both men have become dictators in the classical sense of the word as it has been so sapiently defined by Frederick L. Schuman. “‘Dictatorship’ is a form of power which is resorted to voluntarily and temporarily by democracies to meet dangers of invasion or revolution. It is a device to save democracy, not to destroy it.... The disposition of democrats to regard dictatorship in times of crisis as fatal to democracy rather than as fundamental to its preservation reflects a tragic confusion resting upon ignorance of history and misuse of labels.” Schuman points out that Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini are tyrants or despots, but not, if one uses the word properly, “dictators.”

The reassuring fact is that both Roosevelt and Churchill believe that a Pax Anglo-Americana is the key to the future. Churchill believes that the British ought to take the leading role in such an arrangement because they have borne the heat of battle to a greater degree than we shall have done even with our troops in Europe. Roosevelt believes America ought to be the leader since we are coming out of the war considerably stronger than Great Britain and the younger nation is now ready to take over guidance of world affairs from the parent country. Out of this fundamental difference could come a massive dispute, but since it will have been based on victory we can hope fervently that the opportunity for the discussion be provided as quickly as possible.

Churchill has a second difference with Roosevelt in the field of economic theory and practice. He is distinctly against the New Deal. There was a time during the period of the Blue Eagle when Churchill seemed almost to fear that communism was coming to[147] the United States. He warned: “It is irrational to tear down or cripple the capitalist system without having the fortitude of spirit and ruthlessness of action to create a new communist system.” With Churchillian directness he proclaims his belief in profits. “There can never be good wages or good employment for any length of time without good profits.”

With equal candor and with much wit he defends rich men. “A second danger to President Roosevelt’s valiant and heroic experiments seems to arise from the disposition to hunt down rich men as if they were noxious beasts.... It is a very attractive sport, and once it gets started quite a lot of people everywhere are found ready to join in the chase.... The question arises whether the general well-being of the masses of the community will be advanced by an excessive indulgence in this amusement. The millionaire or multi-millionaire is a highly economic animal. He sucks up with sponge-like efficiency money from all quarters. In this process, far from depriving ordinary people of their earnings, he launches enterprise and carries it through, raises values, and he expands that credit without which on a vast scale no fuller economic life can be opened to the millions. To hunt wealth is not to capture commonwealth.” All this, his own economic philosophy, he sums up in the formula: “Whether it is better to have equality at the price of poverty or well-being at the price of inequality.”

Does this indicate a narrowly selfish interest by Churchill in his own class? Not at all. He believes profoundly in the possibility of extending leisure and well-being to all mankind through the benefits of science. He takes the evidence of Soviet Russia that the means to general affluence is not communism, nor does he think it can come through any form of nationalization of production. He believes the essence of the problem is monetary. He believes the rights of man are more important than the success of any economic system. He believes in the British Empire as a mighty instrument of civilization. He believes profoundly in cooperation with us.[148] There is no reason why the two mightiest democratic dictators, Roosevelt and Churchill, should not emerge from the Peace Conference with a harmonious plan.

Q. Is it true that Churchill is gifted with a peculiar power to foresee the event?

A. I know of no statement which summed up in so few words a complete forecast of history as was contained in one sentence of Churchill’s delivered April 6, 1936 in a speech on the fortification of the Rhineland. You will remember that Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland March 6, 1936. Mr. Churchill had this to say: “The creation of a line of forts opposite to the French frontier will enable the German troops to be economized on that line and will enable the main forces to swing round through Belgium and Holland.” There in thirty-six words you have the entire story of the Battle of France, told four years before it took place.

Q. Tell us what you know of Mr. Churchill as a person. What are his principal characteristics?

A. Courage is his principal characteristic. I hesitated a moment but decided to put his courage ahead of his intelligence, because courage is a more important quality than intelligence. I remember I once had a spirited argument on this point with Henri Bernstein, the French playwright. We were at the country home of Louis Bromfield in Senlis, the point outside Paris where the Germans during the last war came nearest to the capital. Bernstein insisted intelligence was the most valuable quality a man could have, and with enough of it he would not need more than a minimum of courage. I argued that without courage the keenest intelligence is useless in a world of action. A couple of years later Bernstein and I were on the same refugee ship, the Madura of the British India[149] Line, fleeing from Bordeaux to England after the fall of France. I reminded Bernstein of our argument and insisted that the disaster of France proved my contention was right. Surely the French were still what they have often been called, the most intelligent people on the continent, but for some reason which nobody has yet completely fathomed, they had at this moment of their national history lost the desire or the willingness to fight. I suppose it would be fair to define that as lack of courage, although I would be the last to assert that this is a permanent state of mind or of heart on the part of the French.

The collapse of the French was the signal for Churchill to display the finest quality of his character. Senator Gerald P. Nye once, with the good taste characteristic of our isolationists, said: “Britain is a dead horse. America should not team up with a lost cause.” To France in her death agony Churchill made the offer that she merge with Britain and establish a single Franco-British government and cabinet, unite the resources of the French and British Empires, and fight on to the last drop of British blood, even if all France were occupied. It took a Churchill’s imagination, generosity, and audacity to make such an offer. The French did not have enough strength left to reach out and accept the hand of rescue. We have heard a great deal about fighting to the last drop of blood, but Churchill is the only man I have ever seen among the belligerents who makes it absolutely convincing.

I was in London during those peak months of the Battle of Britain, August and September 1940 when the Germans were bombing by day as well as by night, trying to conquer the R.A.F. to make invasion possible. One day I was driving through London with Mr. Churchill, and as we passed a particularly large and well-camouflaged machine-gun emplacement at a street intersection, the Prime Minister called my attention to it. “Do you see that?” “Yes,” I said, “it seems you really meant it when you said the British would fight in the streets.” “Meant it!” exclaimed Mr. Churchill.[150] “Why the Germans could if they liked drop a hundred thousand parachutists on London, and if they did we would chew them up and spit them out.” There was in his voice a note of delight at the prospect. This note is present in all of Churchill’s references to getting at the enemy. Although no man would act more quickly to relieve his people of the necessity of shedding their blood, while the fight is on Churchill revels in it. The responsibilities which are his now must be greater than those carried by any other human being on earth. One would think such a weight would have a crushing effect upon him. Not at all. The last time I saw him, while the Battle of Britain was still raging, he looked twenty years younger than before the war began. As we walked across the garden in the rear of Number Ten Downing Street I had to quicken my pace and almost trot to keep up with him, so swiftly did he stride along the gravel path.

His uplifted spirit is transmitted to the people and it is my impression that the British are, just as Churchill said, “proud to be under the fire of the enemy.” You may think it overdrawn but if you had shared with them the experience of heavy air bombardment, you would agree that Churchill was only expressing the exact truth when he said: “The sublime but also terrible experience and emotions of the battlefield which for centuries have been reserved for soldiers and sailors now are shared for good or ill by the entire population.” Even in the midst of the most fearful danger Churchill taunts the enemy—“We are waiting for that long promised invasion. So are the fishes.” I would not be surprised if Churchill really wanted the Germans to try, for if they were to try and fail it would be a defeat so disastrous that it might well lead to a German collapse.

Without courage nothing can be accomplished. With it plus intelligence everything can be done. Churchill’s courage is of every variety. He has the simple battle courage of the Hussar. Remember the cavalry charge at Omdurman in the Sudan when the young[151] Lieutenant Churchill fought his way through a tangle of howling dervishes? He has the enduring physical courage to play a championship game of polo with a dislocated shoulder. He has the moral courage to lead a lost cause. It was he who defended the Duke of Windsor at the abdication, when the once most popular man in the British Empire had lost every other friend. He has the courage to take responsibility, and since he has been Prime Minister he has personally taken the criticism for every ill turn of fortune, every plan gone wrong. He can meet a hostile mob and talk it down. He can lead in battle. He can lead in war. Above all he can infuse his courage into others.

One’s pulse quickens at that immortal peroration of his delivered on June 18, 1940, when France had surrendered, the British Expeditionary Force had escaped with the loss of all its tools, and England stood weaponless before the foe, in greater mortal peril than ever in ten centuries. The words Churchill spoke then were the equivalent of a strong army to defend the British Isles. Translated into the deeds of the R.A.F., they defeated the enemy. Churchill said: “What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned upon us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘This was their finest hour.’”


Q. What was it Churchill said about carrying on even if the British Isles were conquered?

A. On August 20, 1940 in the midst of the Battle of Britain, Churchill said: “If we had been put in the terrible position of France, a contingency now happily impossible, although, of course, it would have been the duty of all war leaders to fight on here to the end, it would also have been their duty, as I indicated in my speech of June 4, to provide as far as possible for the Naval security of Canada and our Dominions and to make sure they had the means to carry on the struggle from beyond the oceans.”

Q. That would be fine for us if we could depend upon it, but do you think Churchill really meant it? What good would it do for the British Navy to carry on if the British Isles were conquered?

A. I am sure that Churchill himself would do exactly as he said he would. He would perish with his troops or with his Navy—who can tell how or where—but he would never surrender. Can you doubt it when you hear those words of his which are as much an inspiration for us today as they were for the British when he uttered them on the last day of the evacuation of Dunkirk? They deserve to be memorized by us all. “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas, and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet,[153] would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

With Churchill’s picture these words are placarded in homes and offices throughout the British Empire. Their spirit is the spirit of Britain. But having said this I am compelled to add that it would be feeble-minded for us to expect that the British Navy would continue resistance to the Germans after the British Isles had been conquered.

Let us examine what the position would be if the British Isles fell. First let us ask a British Naval Officer what would happen to the Royal Navy if the British Isles were conquered. He will tell you: “There wouldn’t be any Navy left.” I can see readily how this would be true. If the Germans try invasion, the Royal Navy is going to throw itself between the home island and the invaders with a desperation such as has never been equaled in British Naval history, and that is saying a very great deal. The Germans cannot capture the British Isles by air power alone. They can land men and machine guns by air as they did at Crete, but the heavy weapons they need to beat off and batter down the formidable British artillery and heavy tanks now massed at home, they will have to land by sea. Without these weapons they cannot win. The Royal Navy will prevent their landing or perish in the attempt. The Germans will try to clear the way for their invading craft by torpedoes, mines, speedboats, Stukas, burning oil on the water, and every conceivable means, and by some perhaps not now conceivable to us. The British defenders will discard caution and risk everything. They will hurl themselves at the invader. If they lose there will surely be little left of the Navy.

But suppose there were left a British naval force large enough when taken in combination with what we could spare from the Pacific to continue to maintain practical control of the Atlantic, enough anyway to prevent any German attempt at sending an invading[154] army to America. Could we then expect this remnant of the British Navy to retire to Canada or the United States, and continue resistance to the Germans? I do not think so.

In the first place, what would be the purpose of the British Navy in continuing resistance to the Germans after the British Isles had been captured? Would it be for the purpose of eventually reconquering the British Isles? No, because that would be impossible. This is one of those grim facts which are too ugly for most people to look at, but there is no use turning our eyes away and refusing to see that if the Germans do invade and conquer the British Isles, the British people will have finished their life. It would be the end for them, not for the duration of this war, which would in fact be ended then, but for as far into the future as the imagination can travel. The Germans might remain in possession of the British Isles or in effective control for the thousand years Hitler so often boasts about, or until they became weak through centuries of good living. Hitler would disarm the people of Britain and allow hunger to decimate them. He could count on forty per cent of the population dying of starvation in a year or so. Does this seem an exaggeration? It is only one more of those facts about Hitler which nobody would believe. The trusting Dutch would not believe what Hitler was like until he taught the people of Rotterdam. But the British people have now learned their lesson. They have totally lost the wide-eyed faith of our Lindberghs, that Hitler is “human after all.” The British know Hitler would do just what I have said, he would deliberately destroy a great part of the population, allowing to remain alive only those sufficiently broken to become good slaves. But why, you ask, could not the British Navy reconquer the British Isles, if they had our wholehearted help? The answer is that there would be no base from which to operate.

We can now contemplate reconquering Europe from the Nazis because we have a base or several possible bases from which to operate against the Reich. We have the British Isles and Russia and[155] the Middle East, and parts of North Africa, and may have other bases before the war is over. But if the British Isles were captured, where could the British Navy land to invade and repossess them? And with what troops would this engagement be fought? With the Canadians and Australians? Nobody would dare disparage the fighting qualities of these magnificent men, but if the 46,000,000 Britishers in the British Isles had failed to throw back the German Army is it likely that 16,000,000 Canadians and Australians could defeat it? What about the United States? If we had not entered the war before the conquest of the British Isles, is it likely we would go to war after the British had been beaten? Moreover, if we did, it is inconceivable that we should beat the Germans after they had seized the resources of the United Kingdom. They would then have added to the shipbuilding capacity of the continent all the British shipyards, at this moment the most productive in the world. It might be worth our while to glance an instant at the shipbuilding situation which would exist if Germany takes the British Isles.

The shipbuilding capacity of each of the following countries is listed as of the most productive year since 1917. This was usually 1919.

United Kingdom2,000,000


After the defeat of Britain, Germany and her allies would possess the capacity to build 4,335,000 tons of ships a year, which is more than four times our 1941 production of around 1,000,000 tons and is even larger than our record performance in 1919 when we turned out 4,075,000 tons of ships. Admiral Land’s prediction that we would eventually build 6,000,000 tons a year remains to be fulfilled. As matters now stand if the Germans were to capture Britain, time would be on their side for the building of ships. Furthermore, of course, the Germans would inherit the vast British industrial machine, and save for the production of steel, would have the power to turn out more airplanes and munitions than we could for many years. All of this is merely to emphasize what the fall of Britain and the end of the British Navy as a fighting force against Hitler would mean to the United States.

Q. But isn’t Churchill often wrong in his military judgment? Hasn’t he made mistakes due to overconfidence?

A. It is true that Mr. Churchill has the vices of his virtues, and since his most prominent virtue is courage, he also possesses what has seemed at times to be recklessness. His sanguine temperament makes him ideally equipped to lead a nation in desperate circumstances, but his critics of whom a few still exist will never cease insisting on the obvious, that he makes mistakes, as though it were not the hoariest of adages that only the man who never does anything commits no errors. They list a roll of his alleged military failures, beginning with his unsuccessful defense of Antwerp and the costly attempt to take the Dardanelles in the last war; and in this war Norway, Greece, and Crete. But if these events are analyzed it will be seen that each of them had its justification.

Many military critics looking back at the last war now agree that Mr. Churchill was right to advocate holding Antwerp as an Allied strong point behind the German lines, and if the Allied High[157] Command had supported him sufficiently Churchill’s defense might have succeeded. The Dardanelles attempt—which used to be the failure his enemies most enjoyed—was in the view of most military men today a brilliant conception which would have ended the war victoriously for the Allies two years earlier, if Churchill’s plan had been carried out as it could have been. We know now not only that the campaign could have succeeded from the outset and at comparatively little cost, if the Churchill timetable had been scrupulously kept, but also that the straits could have been captured even at the very end if one last push had been made. One of Raymond Swing’s best stories is of his experience as a war correspondent with the Turks, whom he saw hoarding their last few rounds of ammunition as, to their astonishment, the British steamed away, losing with a completely un-British lack of persistence. It was jealousy more than anything else that spoiled the Dardanelles campaign, Kitchener’s jealousy of Churchill.

In his old age, Kitchener, the Army chief, obstinately refused to do what the Navy chief advised, and the end was failure. It was perhaps the most keenly felt failure in the life of Churchill when he resigned after the Dardanelles. Anyone who reads the painstaking account he has written of the campaign in his history of the war, The World Crisis, may perceive how heavy the blow was. Even clearer evidence are the pictures of him in his country place at Chartwell. One for which he sat immediately after the Dardanelles campaign shows him looking years older than a picture of him before the campaign began. No, the Dardanelles ought to be remembered to Churchill’s credit, and it will be eventually.

In this war its place has been given by his critics to Norway, Crete, and Greece. Ed Angly, my companion in flight from France, used humorously to wonder if the British were ever going to cease retreating and my reply was that they probably never would until they had retreated to victory. The Norwegian campaign discouraged many, and critics on both sides of the Atlantic[158] demanded to know why the British secret service had not known in advance of the German intention to invade Norway; why the Royal Navy had not prevented invasion; why the British Army landed in the north could not hold on.

The reproach of faulty information can be leveled only by persons not acquainted with the nature of the Gestapo. It must not have escaped general attention that when the German Army marches into a captured territory, for a few days news of a sort continues to trickle out, and we may hope that British or other enemy agents continue to function during this time. But as soon as the Gestapo appears, with Himmler directing its hordes of agents in civilian clothes, and its tens of thousands of black-uniformed SS, it is as though an asbestos curtain had fallen on the frontiers of the country, and from then on the silence of the grave envelops the land. I was not surprised that Hitler could strike with such devastating secrecy; what victim of his has been warned except by the general reputation of the invader? Even the Bolsheviks were plaintively surprised when the “assassin of the working classes” so violently dissolved his friendship with the “scum of the earth.” We may be sure that if Hitler were ever put, by the fall of Britain, in a position to attack the Western Hemisphere, we would also be surprised, not by the action but by the time and method. The Norwegian surprise was no fault of Churchill.

The question why the British could not hold on is one that is put not only about Norway but about Crete and Greece and it may be put again before the last battle is fought. The answer is one which may have to be borne in mind for a long time. It is contained in the simplest facts about the war, which tend to be forgotten in the riot of daily news. The principal fact is that Britain after two years of war has not yet caught up with the numbers and equipment of the German war machine built by a population double that of the British over seven years of peacetime preparation and two of war. The British have fought on nearly every one of their[159] battlefields so far with inferior numbers against superior material and better-trained men. Let those of us in America who imagine we have only to call a few million boys to the colors and train them a year in order to have an army, consider the British experience. The British soldiers are only now after more than two years of war training, becoming a capable modern army, about one-third the size of Britain’s “medium-sized” army.

Finally we heard the criticism that Churchill’s decision to send troops to Greece was a mistake, since he knew they could not hold out against the Germans. “Political” reasons, it was said, ought not to govern military decisions. But what is the war being fought about if not to re-establish honor among nations? Britain was sworn to come to the aid of Greece. Had she failed to do so, forlorn though the hope was of immediate success, she would have lost a good part of that moral reputation which is worth more than many army corps to her today. This “political” decision was made in the sense of the classical definition of politics, “that branch of ethics dealing with the ethical relations and duties of states.”

Churchill did make one public mistake, and it was shared by hopeful millions, when he said at the beginning of the Norwegian campaign, “Herr Hitler has committed a grave strategic error in spreading the war so far to the north.” The man who had almost never underestimated the Germans did so that time.

Q. Wasn’t that apparent error in judgment perhaps really a piece of good-cheer propaganda for the people?

A. I do not think so; it was a real mistake based on his own audacity, yet who would not prefer a leadership which tries and fails to one which does not try at all? In Churchill the British have one leader who understands that wars are never won on the defensive, and we may be sure that he can be depended upon to seize the first conceivable opportunity to carry the war into Hitler’s territory.[160] The offensive spirit never had a more consistent exponent than Churchill, as in his proclamation:

“We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of his Nazi regime; from this nothing will turn us—nothing. We will never parley, we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his men. We shall fight him by land, we shall fight him by sea, we shall fight him in the air, until, with God’s help, we have rid the earth of his shadow and liberated his peoples from the yoke.”

This eloquence of Churchill is a gift from Heaven for our side during these terrible years, when confusion of mind is the greatest foe of the democracies. One of the most famous sayings of Hitler, quoted by Rauschning is: “Mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, panic; these are our weapons.”

We in America can see how effective these weapons are. Consider the mental confusion, indecisiveness, and conflicting feelings aroused in the United States by the speeches of Hitler’s American Quislings, the Lindberghs and Wheelers. The counterpart of these circles existed in England but they were long ago rendered powerless and even speechless by the analytical eloquence of Churchill. Take the case of Hitler’s invasion of Russia. Hitler undoubtedly expected to divide the outside world by proclaiming his “Holy Crusade” against Bolshevism. But Churchill choked this deceit in its inception. The Germans began their attack on Russia at four o’clock in the morning, and before the day was out Churchill had given the world his answer. Other statesmen might have waited a day or even a week. Churchill gave Hitler no time to spread mental confusion. “Any man or state,” Churchill declared, “who fights against Nazidom will have our aid. Any man or state who marches with Hitler is our foe.... Hitler’s invasion of Russia is no more than a prelude to an attempted invasion of the British Isles.... The Russian danger is therefore our danger and the danger of the United States.... Let us redouble our exertions and strike with united strength while life and power remain.” This[161] declaration, swift and uncompromising as a bullet, was equivalent to the loss of a great battle for Hitler. I am sure he entertained hopes that he could induce Britain even to stop fighting in order that he could more easily destroy Bolshevik Russia. Churchill’s speed prevented the question from even being debated. This is the finest example of leadership. The Prime Minister did not wait to find out by Gallup poll or otherwise what the British people thought. He boldly led them.

Q. Do you think the flight of Hess to England had any connection with the German attack on Russia which followed six weeks later?

A. Hess fled to England May 10, and Hitler attacked Russia June 21. I think there must have been a connection, and I have my theory of it, but it is only a theory. I think Hess may have carried Churchill a message from Hitler saying he was going to attack Russia, offering a negotiated peace, and soliciting the benevolent neutrality if not the active aid of Britain to destroy the Bolshevik menace. We may be sure that whatever was the purpose of Hess’s visit, Churchill knows all about it by now.

There are two passages in Churchill’s speech after the invasion of Russia which might bear on Hess. In one place he says, “All this was no surprise to me. I gave clear and precise warnings to Stalin of what was coming.” And then, as though he realized that this statement might indicate that he had specific foreknowledge of the German plans against Russia, Churchill adds, “I gave him warnings as I have given warnings to others before. I can only hope that these warnings did not fall unheeded.” Then at another point Churchill emphasized: “We will never parley, we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his men.” That might refer to Hess’s effort to negotiate. We know that if Hess had carried such a proposal to Churchill it would have been rejected, and if Churchill warned Stalin it is very likely Stalin profited by the warning. It has[162] been argued, however, that the British could have allowed Hess to believe, and to transmit to Hitler his belief, that the proposal would be accepted. This would have served to encourage Hitler to go ahead with his plans and attack Russia. We can be certain that in the meeting between Hess and Churchill, the Prime Minister did not come off second best.

I knew Hess personally—not very well, but well enough to have formed an estimate of his character. On the basis of his character I would say we could exclude a great many alleged explanations of his flight. He was brave and led a life of hazardous adventure. He was not likely to flee for cowardly reasons. He was first in the personal esteem of Hitler and Hitler was the only person who could have threatened his life. Himmler could not do so, nor Goering. He was a quiet, unambitious fellow and had few enemies. I do not believe fear had anything to do with the flight. He was devoted to Hitler and it is almost inconceivable that he should have done anything contrary to the Fuehrer’s wishes. He was never a policy maker, meddled not at all in the high politics of the party or state, but merely delivered speeches on order, and acted as a sort of super-private secretary and valet to his master. It is not likely that he went to England to advance a policy of his own, as was widely believed before the German attack on Russia. Many signs point to the probability that Hess was acting as Hitler’s emissary to try to dupe Churchill into withdrawing from the war and sanctioning the attack on Russia. The objections are, of course, that it is hard to believe that Hitler could have been such a fool as to think such an attempt feasible, or that he would risk losing his valued confederate on a mission with such little likelihood of success, or that he would have risked the revelation of his plans to the Russians. Yet if Hess had fled because he was afraid, or because he thought Germany was losing, or because he had split with Hitler, or for any other reason discreditable to the Nazi cause, surely the British by now would have given the facts to the public. It would have made the[163] best propaganda in the world. I heard Jan Valtin, author of Out of the Night, advance the suggestion that Hess, who was always a sensitive fellow, with a touch of sissy in his carriage, and who was attached to the Fuehrer with an almost morbid devotion, might have succumbed to a fit of pique; he might have been slighted by Hitler before one of his rivals, as Goering or Himmler or Goebbels or Rosenberg, and might have leaped into his plane and left the country to “make Hitler sorry.” This is an engaging theory. I will stick to mine.

Q. What is the secret of Churchill’s success?

A. His appetite for creation. He is as eager to create as Hitler is to destroy life. He cannot live without creating. Hitler cannot live without destroying. Churchill’s courage, wit, and eloquence are matched by his industry. He does an incredible amount of work. Before he came back into the government he never let a day go by without writing at least 2,000 or 3,000 words. His powers of concentration are phenomenal. His memory is prodigious. He dictates everything he writes. I have visited him in his workroom on the top floor of his country home at Chartwell in Kent. A shelf about breast-high runs the length of the room, and on it he has arranged his books of reference, notes, and documents. I was there when he was finishing his monumental life of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. There were twenty or thirty volumes lying open on the shelf, with paper slips marking other passages to be consulted. His practice is to walk up and down the room, glancing here and there at his various works of reference, dictating all the time to a secretary. As in the composition of his speeches, he has a first draft typed with plenty of space for corrections and interlining. This is returned for recopying and sometimes half a dozen drafts are necessary before the final form is completed. The result of this striving after perfection is something as near approaching perfection as one[164] can find in the works of any writer of, what I might call, inspired history. I remember once a conversation about Churchill’s writing ability with Alexander Woollcott. I thought I had been as appreciative as one could be, but Aleck broke in: “No, Knick, you haven’t said enough. Churchill is the greatest master of the English language since the men who wrote the King James version of the Bible.” There is a nobility and grandeur about Churchill’s oratory which no literature I know outside the Bible can approach. On July 14, 1940 when Hitler’s army had swept all before it save the British Isles, Churchill said: “And now it has come to us to stand alone in the breach, and face the worst that the tyrant’s might and enmity can do. Bearing ourselves humbly before God, but conscious that we serve an unfolding purpose, we are ready to defend our native land against the invasion by which it is threatened. We are fighting by ourselves alone; but we are not fighting for ourselves alone. Here in this strong City of Refuge which enshrines the title deeds of human progress and is of deep consequence to Christian civilization; here, girt about by the seas and oceans where the Navy reigns; shielded from above by the prowess and devotion of our airmen—we await undismayed the impending assault. Perhaps it will come tonight. Perhaps it will come next week. Perhaps it will never come. We must show ourselves equally capable of meeting sudden violent shock, or what is perhaps a harder test, a prolonged vigil. But be the ordeal sharp or long, or both, we shall seek no terms, we shall tolerate no parley; we may show mercy—we shall ask for none.”

Can this language be matched except by the adjurations of the prophets of old? And what could surpass the fiery blast of his invective turned upon Hitler? “This wicked man,” he said, “the repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatred, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which[165] will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed. He has lighted a fire which will burn with a steady and consuming flame until the last vestiges of Nazi tyranny have been burnt out of Europe and until the Old World—and the New—can join hands to rebuild the temples of man’s freedom and man’s honor, upon foundations which will not soon or easily be overthrown.”

It is interesting to catalogue the various words Churchill has used to describe Hitler, and to note that he prefers the simplest descriptives, “wicked,” “evil,” and “bad.” What other speaker could use the childish adjective “bad” and make it so effective as did Churchill on April 27, 1941 when he said: “In February, as you may remember, that bad man in one of his raving outbursts threatened us with a terrifying increase in numbers and activities of his U-boats....” And again on February 9: “We must all of us have been asking ourselves what is that wicked man whose crime-stained regime and system are at bay and in the toils, what has he been preparing during these winter months?” And earlier on October 1, 1939: “How soon victory will be gained depends upon how long Herr Hitler and his group of wicked men, whose hands are stained with blood and soiled with corruption, can keep their grip upon the docile, unhappy German people.” Once he calls him a “cornered maniac,” and in the same speech of November 12, 1939 says: “I have the sensation and also the conviction that that evil man over there and his cluster of confederates are not sure of themselves as we are sure of ourselves; that they are harassed in their guilty souls by the thought and by the fear of an ever approaching retribution for their crimes, and for the orgy of destruction into which they have plunged us all....” On March 30, 1940 he refers to “Hitler’s murderous rage,” and says, “In his frenzy, this wicked man and the criminal regime which he has conceived and erected, increasingly turn their malice upon the weak.”

Constantly recurs the simile of bloodstained, foul hands, perhaps[166] best in Churchill’s speech of June 12, 1941 when he said: “We can not yet see how deliverance will come or when it will come, but nothing is more certain than that every trace of Hitler’s footsteps, every stain of his infected and corroding fingers will be sponged and purged and if need be, blasted from the surface of the earth.”

The most famous of Churchill’s epigrams is the one now known by the entire English-speaking world, about the Royal Air Force, delivered in his speech of August 20, 1940 on “The War Situation” in the House of Commons. I heard that speech and particularly noted the epigram, but I cannot now certify which of the two current versions he actually delivered. As I remember, he said, “Never in the field of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few.” But in the collected volume of his speeches edited by his son, Randolph, the sentence runs, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” I have seen both of these versions on placards in British stores and offices. Hansard must have the original version and it is possible Churchill or his son may have made an amendment in the volume of speeches.

Q. What are Churchill’s principal interests?

A. I am going to make an omnibus answer to this and include replies to a score of questions usually asked about Mr. Churchill. Roughly, in order of importance Mr. Churchill’s principal interests are England; the war, the Royal Navy; his family, past, present, and future; power; politics; the English language; public speaking; writing history and making it; writing journalism; reading history, biography, literature; the English-speaking people; Scotch whisky; good food, good wines, cigars; the French people; all other people; conversation; favorable publicity; unfavorable publicity; ceremony; painting; bricklaying; swimming (in younger days polo); six-pack bezique; his hats; his shoes; his clothes; and of course “that bloodthirsty guttersnipe.”


Compare this with Hitler’s interests: power; Hitler-Germany; the war; the German Army; barbarism; haranguing crowds in public; haranguing friends in private; propaganda; rewriting history; reading military history (and making it); suppressing journalism; the Jews; colossal architecture; the movies; vegetarian food; and of course “the warmonger Churchill.”

By this comparison I do not put the two men on the same level, for morally they cannot be considered as belonging to the same species, but it is interesting to note the contrasts that come out in such a list. It is not merely the contrast between the aristocrat who is striving to preserve free life for common men and the “guttersnipe” who is bent upon enslaving them all; it is a contrast of two worlds.

Churchill has a profound historical sense and the thought of himself as a part of the broad stream of the British people, flowing from the distant past into the limitless future, is never absent from his speaking and writing. He is never just Churchill, he is Churchill of British history, of the Marlboroughs, but now more than ever Churchill of the British people, with whom he has established a community of feeling seldom equaled in the relationship of leader to people. It has always been Hitler’s boast that “I am Germany!” An Italian journalist thinking to jibe at England during the tormented months of the Blitz said mockingly that the British Isles seemed to be inhabited by “forty million Churchills.” He was right, for under Churchill’s leadership the entire population has become animated with his courage and he is England to the same degree and by the same psychological process as Hitler is Germany. Hitler obtained his ascendancy over the German people by expressing their hitherto largely unconscious aspirations, for revenge, aggression, expansion, and conquest. At the height of the British people’s peril they turned spontaneously and unanimously to Churchill whom Providence seemed to have reserved for this critical hour, and they entrusted to him the fulfillment of their aspirations[168] to beat off the enemy, save their families, and win victory. I was there and for four months watched the British people and in particular the eight million Londoners endure the anxiety of expected invasion and the full blast of the greatest attack ever made on a civilian population in history and I know that their faith in Churchill was a most important factor in their endurance. Every Londoner thought as the bombs fell, “Churchill is there; he can’t be beaten; we can’t be beaten.” Churchill “became” England. This is the experience that has elevated him above himself, fulfilled his character, made him great. Today Churchill’s every faculty of soul, mind, and body is devoted to the service of the British Commonwealth. Today every soul and resource in the German Commonwealth is devoted to the service of Hitler.

Churchill actively directs the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force but his love is the Navy. One can tell from his speeches how frequently his mind dwells upon it. It remains his favorite branch of the services, despite the noble tribute he has paid the R.A.F. He reserves for it words such as he would use otherwise only to describe Old England herself. “Amphibious” is the term he likes best to define the power of Britain in arms. His conviction of the paramount importance of the Fleet was thus dramatically expressed: “On them, as we conceived, floated the might, majesty, dominion and power of the British Empire. All our long history built up century after century, all our great affairs in every part of the globe, all the means of livelihood and safety of our faithful, industrious, active population depended upon them. Open the seacocks and let them sink beneath the surface and in a few minutes, half an hour at the most—the whole outlook of the world would be changed. The British Empire would dissolve like a dream; each isolated community struggling forward by itself; the central power of union broken; mighty provinces, whole Empires in themselves, drifting helplessly out of control, and falling a prey to strangers; and Europe after one sudden convulsion passing into the iron grip[169] and rule of the Teuton and of all that the Teutonic system meant. There would only be left far off across the Atlantic, unarmed, unready and as yet uninstructed America, to maintain single-handed law and freedom among men.” That was written about the Royal Navy mobilized for war in August 1914 but with what melancholy accuracy it reflects the situation of today, except that this time the Teutonic might is such that Europe has already had its one sudden convulsion and has passed under the rule of a Teutonic system far grimmer than anything the Hohenzollerns would have imposed. And once again, after a score of years of warning, America still finds herself “unarmed, unready and as yet uninstructed,” dependent now for her very life upon the continued existence of that Navy which Churchill apostrophizes.

Now of course the war takes all of Churchill’s time, but in normal circumstances he has an enormous number of interests and activities. He concentrates fiercely upon each in turn, and everything he does he does at least well, some things he does excellently, and some he does superlatively. Fighting, speaking, writing, eating, drinking, sleeping, smoking, all are the source of intense satisfaction. He relishes every moment in his life. This war was made for him, because fighting is life itself to Churchill. In the last war he was a subordinate and could not thoroughly enjoy the fight when others checked his combat plans. Now he is unchecked by anybody except the British people, and they have shown they are only too glad to let him savor to the full what are to him the joys of responsibility in the greatest fight with the greatest consequences in the memory of mankind. Before the war the most exciting form of conflict was politics, about which Churchill once said, “Politics are almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous.” He takes the keenest pleasure in writing, but he would always give up his work on a book to go back into politics, as he did when this war began.

He was just finishing his monumental History of the English Speaking Peoples when he was called to the Admiralty. I understand[170] the History is to be in several volumes, but despite its size Churchill wrote the whole thing in a year, dictating thousands of words a day. He had worked on it, gathering material for many years, and such is the organization of his mind and so precise and comprehensive is his memory than when he once began he was able to dictate it almost as fast as he could talk. I have heard that the publisher has already set the book up but is waiting presumably for the end of the war to release it.

Today his prewar books, as My Early Days, are reprinted and have become best sellers. Even his prewar newspaper articles are eagerly dragged out, and reprinted both here and in England to sell at high prices. His books have been phenomenally successful and his income from them, from journalism, and from lectures has been for most of his life considerably higher than the $50,000 a year he receives as Prime Minister. It was always a financial sacrifice for him to go into office despite the comparatively liberal salaries of British ministers. He has no interest in money. His earnings have been large ever since he was a war correspondent in South Africa, but he has spent money as fast as it came, on his estate, his family, and on good living. One of his best American friends, Bernard Baruch, once tried to instruct him in the art of stock exchange speculation but nothing came of it. Churchill had for it the interest he has for everything in life, and wanted to learn it, but he lacked the indispensable requirement for amassing a fortune, namely an overwhelming desire to make money. The power given by the possession of money is so paltry compared with political power that none of the great statesmen, or even the wicked dictators, have exhibited any interest in it. What use has Hitler for money? I doubt that he has touched any for years.

Until this war began it was power that appealed to Churchill more than anything else in the world. It is ironical that now he possesses it to a greater degree than he could ever have dreamed of, power for its own sake he no longer wants. But that has not lessened[171] his aesthetic capacity to enjoy it. No stress of war, nor the imminence of awful danger, can prevent him from enjoying the power of his spoken or written word. You can feel his artistic satisfaction as you hear him in the House of Commons, delivering on a desperate day passages calculated not only to encourage, guide, and inspire, but to excite admiration for their felicity.

We American correspondents in London used regularly to attend the House every time Churchill spoke, although none of us need have done so, since the speeches were delivered into our offices almost instantaneously by ticker. We wanted to hear him in person not only for the stirring drama of it but because as journalists we wished to listen to the greatest living master of our craft. The trouble of attending Parliament was considerable, for the old House, now in ruins, was too small to accommodate even the Members if they all attended, and the foreign press was allotted so few seats it was necessary to apply days in advance to get a place. The narrow seats with too little space for knees and feet were uncomfortable, the acoustics poor, but the view from our gallery was perfect.

There sits the government, the bald head of Mr. Churchill shining among the Members with unmistakable authority. The benches are nearly empty until the time draws near for the Prime Minister to speak; a few minutes before he rises the House is jammed with Members sitting even on the foot of the Speaker’s dais. The Prime Minister rises. There is dead silence as Mr. Churchill lays before him a sheaf of what are technically called notes, as it is prohibited in the House for any member, even the Prime Minister, to read a speech. This rule is presumably to prevent a member from using a speech written by someone else. The familiar Washington ghost writers would have little employment in Westminster. Mr. Churchill would have about as much use for one as Shakespeare would have had. Mr. Churchill’s “notes” are in fact his completely written speech which he has memorized by rereading the final copy quickly[172] on the way to the House. He has worked on this speech for several hours a day for eight days, writing, rewriting, until he finally has it typed on sheets half the size of standard typewriter paper. Thereafter he never looks at it. He has it before him, and he automatically turns the pages, but his delivery is perfectly extemporaneous, and you would imagine as you sat there watching and listening that those incomparable phrases were conceived at the moment, and to the satisfaction of hearing them is added the illusion of being present at their creation. Mr. Churchill himself insists he cannot speak well impromptu and I have heard that his son Randolph, recently seated in Parliament, is considered a better offhand speaker than his father.

It is an extraordinary coincidence that this greatest orator of modern times should have an impediment of speech similar, we may imagine, to that of the greatest orator of ancient times, Demosthenes. Churchill has almost overcome the impediment. His delivery is not what we would consider the best. He depends not at all on gesture. Now and then he pauses to glance over the top of his spectacles with defiance or curiosity. His stance is determined, not graceful. For the most part he stands quietly in the same spot, and only moves a step backward or forward when he wishes to emphasize a passage. His voice is sonorous, strong, not the golden voice of a William Jennings Bryan, but also not the vulgar guttural of Hitler. Yet when Churchill speaks of Hitler there comes into his tone a note that promises to meet all the Nazi’s brutality and pay interest. Churchill’s voice is ideally adapted to the radio and the millions of Americans who listen to him on the air have heard him at his best. Many have exclaimed at his accent that he does not talk like an Englishman. His is the accent of Sandhurst, Britain’s West Point, which is nearer the American way of speaking than the curious upper-class cockney affected by some graduates of Oxford and Cambridge.

I do not know why Mr. Churchill avoids as much as possible[173] making extemporaneous speeches, unless it is his passion for perfection, because as a conversationalist he is without superior and he has few peers. One of them was his intimate friend, Lord Birkenhead, whose power of expression was almost on a par with Churchill’s, as I had the opportunity to observe once in Berlin when the then most brilliant lawyer in England attended a luncheon of the Anglo-American Press Association and dazzled us with his talk. I remember the answer he gave when someone asked what he thought of Mussolini. “Mussolini,” he remarked, “bestrides Italy like a Colossus, but to judge a rider one must consider the kind of horse he rides.”

I have listened to Mr. Churchill talk at the dinner table and he is as brilliant there as he is in the House of Commons. His conversational style has the same classical quality of his writing and public speaking. Every sentence is rounded and balanced; none is left incomplete, and I should think that ninety-five per cent of everything he says in talking with his friends could be taken down by a stenographer and reproduced without changing a syllable. At the same time there is no studied effect and the listeners have not the feeling they are attending a recitation or declamation. They are transported back to the time when, either in Ancient Greece or in eighteenth century Europe, men cultivated the art of speaking and especially of conversation. Who knows what effect it will have upon English education and English habits of conversation to have had as a Prime Minister during the war a master of the word such as appears only seldom in centuries. The oratory of Churchill must already have influenced the language standards of the English-speaking world, even though imperceptibly, for it is impossible that so many millions should have listened to him and read his speeches without having their taste improved. As a contrast it is interesting to observe what the effect has already been upon the German language to have had the apostle of illiteracy as the head of the German Reich for eight years; the language of Goethe and Heine has[174] been supplanted deliberately by a coarse vulgarization of German chosen for its appeal to the lowest instincts of the population.

Churchill attracted much attention when in a memorandum to all government offices he asked for a more effective and economic use of the English language in official communications and demanded the abandonment of the jargon currently in use by bureaucrats. He can be colloquial. The first time I met Mr. Churchill was at a luncheon given by Lady Colefax, who has done more to help American correspondents in London than almost anyone there. Present were Mr. Churchill, J. L. Garvin, the crusty, brilliant editor of the Observer and one-time editor of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Somerset Maugham, Mrs. Simpson, not yet the wife of Edward, Harold Nicolson, Peter Fleming, Jan Masaryk, and a number of others. The conversation was almost exclusively between Churchill and Garvin, and well it might be, for Garvin is one of the few who can talk on anything like equal terms with the master, and indeed on this occasion Garvin practically talked Churchill silent. It was just two years before the war, but the topic was even then the position of Russia, and Garvin exclaimed, “Do you mean to say you would throw in your lot with the Bolsheviks?” The Churchillian reply was, “I mean just that, old cock!” with a remark to the effect that when one had to face an enemy like Germany it would be only common sense to try for the help of any ally no matter how distasteful otherwise.

We can see from Churchill’s policy of helping Russia since the German attack how consistent he has remained. On the day after the Russians marched into Poland—and horrified the world of fellow travelers and caused all except party-liners and a few foresighted realists to draw back in aversion from this manifestation of Red Imperialism—I had a talk with Mr. Churchill, who had been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty a fortnight before. I asked him whether, since Great Britain had guaranteed the territory of Poland against aggression and had gone to war with Germany because[175] of the German attack on Poland, one could now consider that Great Britain was at war with Russia since the Russians also had attacked Poland? I am not at liberty to quote him, but he gave the answer in public a fortnight later when after the fall of Warsaw he declared: “We could have wished that the Russian Armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of as invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace.... I can not forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

Thus early and late Churchill maintained that it was desirable to attempt to bring Russia into arms as an ally against the Germans, and he was one of the few men in Britain who could advocate such a policy without being suspected of sympathizing with the Bolsheviks. Only Finland shook his resolution to do nothing to alienate the Russians and it is interesting now to recall his words uttered in the midst of the Russian assault on Finland: “Only Finland, superb, nay, sublime in the jaws of peril—Finland shows what free men can do. The service rendered by Finland to mankind is magnificent. They have exposed for all the world to see, the military incapacity of the Red Army and of the Red Air Force. Many illusions about Soviet Russia have been dispelled in these few fierce weeks of fighting in the Arctic Circle. Everyone can see how Communism rots the soul of a nation; how it makes it abject and hungry in peace and proves it base and abominable in war.”

His reaction of sympathy with the people of Finland fighting against “servitude worse than death” is only one of countless examples that could be named of the little-appreciated fact that he is an extremely sensitive man. His gruff way sometimes conceals it, but there is not a man in public life anywhere who feels the miseries of this stricken world with more compassion than Churchill. When eighteen months after these caustic remarks about the Communist[176] regime, Russia was attacked and Mr. Churchill expressed his sympathy with the Russian people, it is certain he meant it, although it was good politics too. Incidentally I am convinced that one of the reasons why he is loath to discuss detailed plans for what a victorious Britain would like the postwar world to be, is the problem of Russia. Certainly the vast majority of British people would like to see the Bolshevik government replaced by some democratic regime.

I am sure one reason for Churchill’s aversion to Bolshevism is his strong family feeling, and his repugnance for the Communist attempt to subordinate the family, if not to abolish it, as was originally attempted in the Soviet Union. For his family in the past, his noble and famous ancestors, he has profound respect and a feeling of proud affectionate gratitude which has led him to devote a good part of his literary labors to the biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, and to the massive life of the Duke of Marlborough. To his present family, his wife Clementine, his daughters Sarah, Diana, and Mary, and his son Randolph, he devotes more time and attention than most men with a fraction of his responsibilities. Randolph’s marriage to the beautiful Pamela Digby was a delight to Mr. Churchill. It represented the only chance of the perpetuation of the Churchill name, and when Winston Spencer, the first grandchild to bear his name was born, he became the favorite member of the dynasty.

Churchill’s aversions are just as strong and notable as his predilections. They might be listed, without order: Hitler, Mussolini, Trotzky, Nazism, Communism, the New Deal, Prohibition, hypocrisy, cruelty, thick soup, bores, mediocrity, cowardice, stupidity, sentimentality, bigotry, muddling, proletarianism, poor English, poor food, poor anything except poor people. He is intolerant of anything but the best. He is the perfect exemplar of a gentleman who never offends anyone except intentionally. His manners to his friends are of an old-fashioned courtliness. When he bids a guest[177] farewell Mr. Churchill comes to the driveway to see him off with a handshake and a Godspeed. His manners to his enemies are savage and the lash of his tongue is feared from Berlin to Whitehall. He can be wounding to a colleague who has failed to meet requirements. One Cabinet Minister complained that when Churchill dismissed him he “kicked me out as though I had been a servant.” As the war wears on and the duties of office become heavier, his patience has frayed and the single criticism one can frequently hear is that he has become short-tempered. He is particularly intolerant of Parliamentary inquiries which would require the Government to reveal facts of military value to the enemy. Constantly, naive Members ask such questions, and if Mr. Churchill chooses personally to reply he frequently makes his answer blister. Yet there has never been a Prime Minister with a more meticulous regard for the rights, functions, and ceremonies of Parliament than Mr. Churchill. This regard is such that he has sometimes been criticized for delaying action until all forms are duly complied with by Parliament.

Churchill’s restless energy is such that his associates are both inspired and compelled to work harder than they ever did with anyone else. Shortly after he went to the Admiralty I visited his office and chatted with his secretaries. They were obviously sincere in their hero worship of him, but equally sincere in their sighs of weariness over the strenuous schedule they have to follow. Rauschning describes Hitler as an essentially lazy man who “does not know how to work steadily. Indeed is incapable of working. He hates to have to read with concentration. He rarely reads a book through; usually he only begins it.” Could there be found a greater contrast than this with the habits of Churchill whose perpetual industry and powers of concentration are as important elements in his genius as intellect? As an illustration of his ability to concentrate I know no better anecdote than the one told me by Randolph. It was during the months before the war when Mr. Churchill was writing the History of the English Speaking Peoples, and every[178] day world without end, he turned out, generally in the evening, his stint of words from 2,000 upward. It made no difference what was happening in international affairs, or what other demands were made upon his time. No excitements or exigencies were allowed to disturb his writing. But events grew bigger and bigger and to the prescient eye of Mr. Churchill it became every day more clear that war was certain to come, and that a violent gesture by Hitler might precipitate it any moment. Suddenly Hitler marched into Prague, breaking the fresh vows he had made at Munich, deliberately insulting Britain and France, cynically strangling the rump state he had sworn to respect. Throughout Europe ran a shudder and the mind of every man was absorbed with anxious exploration of the possibilities. On that evening Mr. Churchill rose from dinner, and as he started upstairs to his workroom to write his stint, he exclaimed to his family, “It will be difficult for me tonight to concentrate my undivided attention upon the reign of King James II, but I shall do so.”

Another time I visited Chartwell with Randolph and as we walked through the garden I saw a new brick building and remarked that it had not been there before. “No,” Randolph explained. “Father just built it.” “You mean, had it built?” I asked. “Oh no, built it with his own hands.” I had heard about Mr. Churchill’s bricklaying but had no idea it extended to building whole houses. This one I found was his studio. He had laid every brick in the building, and evidently was expert as a professional. He particularly likes difficult jobs such as arches and corners and curves. The Brick-layers Union at one time admitted him to membership, but later called in his card on instructions from the central office which objected to the Union’s accepting a Tory politician as a member! This brick house, however, was not built by any honorary bricklayer. If Mr. Churchill ever falls upon evil times it may serve to recommend him for employment. While Churchill, without having to do so and merely as a hobby, became[179] a qualified artisan in the building trades, Hitler could not even out of dire necessity keep a job in the building trades. Churchill might earn a living also as a painter. The studio walls were hung from top to bottom with the product of his brush, signed Charles Morin. There were landscapes, seascapes, and every variety of scene, many of them recording vacations on the French Riviera, his favorite resort. Presently we joined Mr. Churchill swimming in the outdoor pool he had also personally constructed. Later he played cards with his wife. Six-pack bezique was the game. Guests had tea on the lawn in the shade of the trees.

These were the last peaceful days before the hurricane which it is fashionable to say will sweep away all that comfortable, easy, country-home England. I do not believe it will do anything of the kind. The war will certainly leave little of parasitic England. The vast accumulations of inherited wealth are being swept now into the hopper of war. It will no longer be possible for Francis Williams to declare that eighty per cent of the wealth of England belongs to six per cent of the population, and that nearly half of the national income goes to ten percent of the people. But Churchill’s type of good living, country house and all, will not disappear, for it is based upon his own labors, as we could see demonstrated before our eyes. After the card game Mr. Churchill went upstairs to his workroom and about an hour later came down with the manuscript of a 1,500-word article for the Daily Telegraph which he had just dictated. I read it with professional envy, for in only a few minutes he had produced one of his characteristic gems, informative, learned, witty, for which he would receive a remuneration about equivalent to the annual income of an average American newspaperman. He frequently surpasses this feat in economizing time. He used to write many of his newspaper articles on the way up to London in his automobile, dictating to his secretary.

Churchill has now by act of Parliament completely dictatorial powers and can order any British citizen to perform any service[180] or can confiscate any property, but he has yet to be criticized for ruling arbitrarily. He hates silly questions and will walk away from a bore, or cut a hypocrite down with an epigram. Whisky, he believes, is a boon to mankind, and he has never been the worse, but often the better for it. The two men he most abhors in our time are Hitler and Trotzky, both teetotalers. He is a gourmand, that is to say a man with a sensitive taste in food who likes a lot of it. Once he was in ill health and went to a noted specialist who, contrary to the fashion of the day and despite the patient’s well-upholstered body, advised him to eat more food. He follows the prescription enthusiastically.

One night, about eighteen months before the war, traveling from London to Paris, I had the good luck to be on the same train with Mr. Churchill. After he had finished his work he invited me to join him. All the way from London to Dover he had dictated to a secretary who was to return to London. This is the way he works, incessantly, never wasting a moment. Our train was run onto a massive ferryboat, a new system of crossing the Channel and this was Mr. Churchill’s first experience of it. It was bitterly cold. Mr. Churchill wore a heavy fur-lined coat. We started to explore the ferryboat. Word got about among the crew that Winston Churchill was aboard, and speedily men gathered to salute him and mention their service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, which he organized. The Captain invited us to the bridge. Steaming out of Dover harbor with an icy wind cutting our faces, we listened as the Captain pointed out the lights of two wrecks near the harbor and ventured the opinion that “You, Sir, I believe ordered those ships sunk to block the harbor entrance to submarines?” Mr. Churchill believed the skipper was right.

With unflagging energy Mr. Churchill led the way about the ship from the bridge to the hold, stopping now and then to exchange a few sentences with his admirers. Churchill had been out of the government then for many years, but he remained the best-known[181] figure in the realm and one could measure his popularity by the reception he received on the ferryboat. Toward midnight we climbed to the smoking room where Mr. Churchill as a nightcap consumed a large platter of thick slices of rare roast beef with the appetite of John Bull. As I watched him I thought to myself that this is the way he deals with life, he devours it. When during the quiet period of the war he made an intensive inspection of the French and British positions and the Maginot line, French officers were astonished at his ability to sit up with his hosts studying and discussing the problems of war and probably a hundred other things, including certainly the dry vintage champagne he likes so well, and then appear again a few hours later at dawn for a hearty breakfast with cigar! No Frenchmen and few of any other nationality smoke cigars for breakfast, but Mr. Churchill finds them invigorating. He is seldom without one in his waking hours.

The last time I visited him he received me at about 9:30 A.M. in the upper bedroom at Number Ten Downing Street. The Prime Minister was sitting up in bed, cigar in mouth, hard at work with a kind of bed desk in front of him to hold his papers, and pinned within easy reaching distance on the wall a rack for various colored folders to hold documents of different urgencies. This man who might justly be called the most industrious human being on earth, is a believer in the maxim of Mark Twain who did most of his voluminous writing in bed: “A man’s a fool who runs when he can stand still, or stands when he can sit down, or sits when he can lie down.”

For serious writing Mr. Churchill requires the stimulus of striding up and down, but he finds that for reading and working over state papers and for dictating letters and memoranda, there is no more efficient position than sitting up in bed. To sleep Mr. Churchill does not necessarily require a bed, for such are his powers of endurance that now in his sixty-seventh year he frequently when on tours of inspection takes his night’s rest in his[182] automobile. I remember saying good-by to him one afternoon before the Admiralty and as he was climbing into his car to drive to one of the great naval ports, his aide-de-camp asked him where he would spend the night. Mr. Churchill replied, “In the car driving back.” No Prime Minister has ever moved about his constituency so much, so tirelessly, and so dangerously as Mr. Churchill who travels day and night by blackout and under bombardment. He manages the total war effort of the Empire, but as he has repeatedly emphasized, the war will be won or lost in the British Isles, and inside this mighty fortress the Prime Minister gives the major part of his attention to his duties as Commander in Chief. He is incessantly on inspection.

Like the Captain of an old-time castle under siege, he roams from battlement to battlement, from the South of England to the North of Scotland, viewing the coast defenses, visiting naval stations, driving the newest tanks, witnessing test flights of the latest warplanes, cheering the R.A.F., the troops, the civilian population, sharing their dangers, striding through the dust of bombs, and always everywhere comprehending instantly, offering suggestions, giving the orders of the expert he is in every branch of defense. It is sometimes forgotten that if Hitler is indeed the Marshal in Chief of the German war machine, so is Churchill of the British war machine, and if Hitler has proved a military leader of intuitive genius, Churchill has incomparably more experience and scientific education in war, and certainly no less imagination than Hitler even in the narrow field of strictly military affairs. Hitler had four years of the last war as a private and corporal; has read military history; since he became Chancellor has had the counsel of the Prussian General Staff; and now has had two years’ experience of war. Churchill’s military education began with the exacting instruction of Sandhurst and for practical experience in old-fashioned combat he witnessed or took part in the Boer War, the River War in India, civil war in Cuba, and the Sudan[183] campaign. In the first World War he helped direct the struggle from one of its most important posts, the Admiralty, conceived the tank and numerous other new devices of war, fought in France as a colonel, and all the while before and since, studied and wrote about war until he became one of its foremost historians. These experiences and studies are those of a Doctor of Philosophy compared to Hitler’s grammar school course. In the long run, granting all of Hitler’s genius, I am convinced Churchill, given the tools, will win—but not without America.

You may object that it seems absurd to compare favorably the military abilities of a commander of forces which have constantly been on the defensive with those of the chief of troops so far ever victorious. But the war is a long way from its end, and before that goal is reached, the military qualifications of Churchill may prove their superiority over Hitler’s. Churchill has not yet had the opportunity to show what he can do as a war leader pitted with equal weapons against the enemy, because the war machine he inherited from the feeble hands of Chamberlain was for a long time capable of nothing but defense. Meanwhile as the British plus American war machine is growing, it is encouraging to remember that Churchill with his background of forty years of war, study of war and leadership in war, his youthful inventive mind and eager imagination, is capable of taking everything the Germans have devised or used successfully, and improving it until with the eventually superior resources he will command, victory will be certain, provided always that the United States enters the war in time.



Q. What are Britain’s war aims?

A. We Americans may still find it interesting to inquire “What are they fighting for?” but if we stood in the midst of the ruins of Westminster Abbey or the House of Commons, it would not occur to us to ask the question. Mr. Churchill has joined President Roosevelt in a formal statement, the so-called Atlantic Charter, but it seems to me that he has twice expressed himself far more eloquently and accurately than he did in the Eight Points. In those dread days when despair touched nearly every soul but his, and he had just accepted the responsibility of leading his country at the moment of its greatest peril, Mr. Churchill said: “You ask what is our policy? I say: It is to wage war by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory! Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the way may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

Simple survival does not seem enough for some comfortably situated critics in this country sheltered by British resistance, but that is only because it is so difficult for those who have not experienced the near threat of death to understand what life means. Mr. Churchill expressed the irritation at such questions that must seize anyone who has witnessed the effect of Hitler’s terrible force when in a discussion of Poland he exclaimed: “What a frightful fate has overtaken Poland! Here was a community of nearly thirty-five millions[185] of people with all the organization of a modern government and all the traditions of an ancient state, which in a few weeks was dashed out of civilized existence to become an incoherent multitude of tortured and starving men, women and children, ground beneath the heel of two rival forms of withering and blasting tyranny. Although the fate of Poland stares them in the face, there are thoughtless dilettanti or purblind worldlings who sometimes ask us: ‘What is it that Britain is fighting for?’ To this I answer, ‘If we left off fighting you would soon find out.’”

Q. I understand that, but after victory, what? That won’t be the end of the world; after we win we shall have a lot to do. What was the meaning of the Churchill-Roosevelt meeting and their eight-point declaration?

A. The meeting and its published result, which Churchill calls the Atlantic Charter, made an interesting commentary and answer to the demand for a statement of war aims. Its first importance lay in the fact of the meeting of the two men; its second importance lay in the confidential discussion of ways and means of beating Hitler; its third importance was a statement of war aims. I have not been able to understand why the statement was labeled in this country as an American statement, as though the President had imposed it upon the Prime Minister, or as though the principal ideas contained in it were characterized more by American unselfishness than by British hardheadedness. It may very well be that Churchill was reluctant to make any statement of war aims at all, but now that it has been made it seems to me to be hardheaded, and frankly Churchillian and not at all the sort of statement that American liberals had been discussing.

Q. Why not; is there anything not liberal in the statement?


A. Not to my way of thinking, but the average liberal argued there should be a statement of war aims in order first of all to impress the good German people that we are kindly disposed toward them and if they knew how well we intended to treat them after they were defeated they would give up now. What is the sense of the Atlantic Charter? Its chief meaning is that the main war aim and peace aim is to make the world safe against Germany. It names two ways of accomplishing this aim: A. By destruction of the Nazi power and disarmament of Germany and her allies. B. By restoration of the nations now enslaved. Does this constitute an encouragement for the Germans to give up? Hardly. Churchill and Roosevelt were too clear-sighted and too candid to fall in with the argument that the German people could be fooled by a dishonest statement of war aims. They knew that the Germans are bound to realize if they lose this war they will be worse off than if they win. War is Hell, but much more hellish for the defeated side. It is untrue that war never settles anything. It always settles something, whether for a short time, as for the twenty years following the uncompleted war of 1914-1918, or forever as the Third Punic War. The Germans know this better than almost any other people. But now they have had a crushingly frank statement of basic British-American war aims: abolition of German military power. This time they cannot complain they have been deceived.

Q. Wasn’t that true of Wilson’s Fourteen Points? Weren’t they a frank statement to the Germans of the terms they could expect if they surrendered?

A. No. In the first place, one great difference between Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the Eight Points of the Atlantic Charter is that Wilson acted alone, and issued his Fourteen Points to the world in January 1918, without consulting Britain or France, so that when the Germans in October finally in the extremity of defeat accepted[187] them, Britain and France were not bound by them at all. In the second place, the Fourteen Points declared there should be general disarmament, and not just a one-sided German disarmament, so that when as a matter of common prudence, the British and French insisted upon and obtained German disarmament ahead of their own, the Germans protested they had been betrayed by Wilson particularly and by the Allies in general. Hitler based his campaign for power in Germany largely upon his complaint that Germany had never been fairly beaten on the battlefield, but had been betrayed by the Fourteen Points. Now it is hard to see how any future Hitler can raise again such a complaint since the Germans are now given fair warning that when they are beaten their present government will be abolished, and their arms will be taken from them while the British and Americans keep their arms intact. This is a refreshing example of common-sense honesty. It seems almost as though Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s clear-sighted candor might finally brush away the mists of false feeling and thinking which have obscured our view of the war and of our own interests.

Q. You have named what might be called a negative side of the Atlantic Charter as being its most important side.

A. It is, if you call it negative to aim to destroy the power which has torn the whole world apart.

Q. Yes, but after that power is destroyed, or rendered impotent, what are we or the British going to do to consolidate the gains of victory? How are we going to be better off?

A. If you think we are going to be better off, or could be better off than we were before 1939, the answer is that we cannot be because no matter which side wins the world as a whole is going to be[188] very much worse off for a long time than it was before the war began. We are not offered the choice now of fighting in order to improve our present position. Our choice is, either to fight and save something of our most precious spiritual as well as material possessions; or not to fight and lose everything. The world as a whole is bound to be materially much poorer after this war no matter who is victor, although the United States ought to come out of it in better condition than any other country. Think of the immense demolition which has been wrought and is now being wrought in Europe. Just to name a few of the cities which have been bombarded and have suffered varying degrees of damage is to compile a roll of casualties never equaled: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth, Coventry; Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne, Duisburg, Essen, Dortmund; Warsaw; Belgrade; Leningrad, Moscow, Minsk, Smolensk, Odessa, Kiev; Alexandria; Nanking, Hankow, Chungking. From China to Egypt and from England to Central Russia, fire and high explosives have blasted scars it will take a century to heal.

The diversion of billions of man-hours from productive work to the making of war supplies, the loss of lives, and the dislocation of millions of human existences, and of the whole world economy, will impoverish us all for a certain length of time. Happily there are reasons for believing the United States will suffer less than almost any other part of the human family, provided only that we enter the war soon enough to ensure the defeat of the Nazi power and do not wait to face that power alone. We must keep one thing firmly in mind, that though our condition may be poor if we are victorious, it will be definitely better than if we are defeated, and though we may lack in goods and comforts as a result of our participation in the war, we shall be far richer and easier in body, mind, and soul after hard-won victory than if we attempted to purchase from the conquering Nazis a humiliating security.


Q. Why should the United States, as you suggested, come out of the war in a better economic condition than the others?

A. First, because if we enter the war in time to have any Allies, we shall probably be physically undamaged. That is, as long as the British Isles, our foremost fortress, persists in its resistance it is not likely that we shall suffer any important injuries by air bombardment or otherwise. You can see how important this factor is if you consider the condition of the cities of England now, and how much money, labor, and time it will take to restore them. Second, the economic structure of the United States can more easily be transferred back from war to peace production than most countries. After this war there will be an increase in the private use of airplanes comparable to the increase in automobile ownership after the first successful Ford. Our warplane production can be easily switched to the production of private planes, and many observers would not be surprised to see American private plane production go into six figures and then into seven.

The United States, as the most self-contained of the belligerent powers, at the end of the war will have everything necessary to resume its own economic progress and to help the world recover.

Europe will be starving and desperately in need of our agricultural products, our cotton, and of almost everything else we produce. If we wish decisively to influence the organization of the world, one powerful lever will be our economic power after the war, our ability if we like, to finance the reconstruction of Europe. With wisdom and far-sight in control of our administration we ought to be able to put back into circulation some of our monstrous hoard of gold, for our own good as well as that of the world. Sometimes when one succumbs to optimism, it seems possible that there may come after this war a marvelous opportunity to reshape the affairs of mankind into a happier pattern. We shall have an opportunity such as we have never had before, not even after the last[190] war, to make our hopes and aspirations practically effective, but only of course if we enter the war in time. There is a fourth reason why we should be economically or financially better off at the end of this war than at the end of the last one: we now have no war-debt problem. Who will deny now that everyone would have been better off after the last war if international debts, including reparations, had been canceled all around. This aspect of the Lend-Lease program may go down in history as Roosevelt’s cleverest device.

This sounds almost as though I thought the war would be a blessing to America, emerging undamaged, easily reverting to peacetime production, stored with goods for our own consumption and for export to clamoring millions abroad, and with no delinquent war debtors to confuse our financial affairs. Actually I do not think the war will be a blessing, except as it unifies us and does something to cleanse us of the scum of materialism. This view of America’s chances of coming relatively unscathed out of the war depends entirely upon comparison of our fate with that of other countries, maimed by bombardment, mutilated by the loss of millions of breadwinners, fiscally bankrupt, economically paralyzed, politically divided, and in the case of some, the prey of anarchy. Think what the problem of leadership will be in most of the countries of Europe. In Germany and Italy the tyrants have long ago executed, imprisoned, exiled or otherwise effectively removed from the political scene every possible candidate for office not in agreement with them. In France the demoralization caused by defeat and Vichy’s collaboration with the enemy has left few men with the initiative and courage to become leaders of a renascent republic. If, as so frequently happens, we become inclined to take an over-cheerful view of ourselves and our prospects, we ought to be sobered by the thought of our responsibilities in the postwar world. Whether we like it or not, and our isolationists to the contrary notwithstanding, the United States after this war is going to be compelled[191] to assume the leadership of the Western World, not only economically but politically. But we shall be able effectively to influence the peace only if we have effectively taken part in the war.

Q. What will the peace conference be like?

A. It might be more instructive in the first place to discuss what the peace will be like if Hitler wins. Of course there will not be any peace conference if Hitler wins. The Quislings and Darlans will be called to function for the states of Europe in the same way as Hitler’s rubber-stamp Reichstag functions for Germany. We know now what Hitler plans to impose upon the world. Let us begin with Europe. Europe is to belong exclusively to the Germans. They as a master race will occupy the top of a pyramid at the bottom of which are the Poles, Czechs, Serbs, and other “subhuman Slavs” who constitute the lowest class of slaves. Between these “untouchables” and the Germans will come all the other peoples of Europe, arranged in order depending partially upon their degree of racial kinship with the noble Teutons, but more on the degree of their subservience and “collaboration.” The Dutch and Scandinavians, for example, are considered by the Nazis to be semi-Teutonic cousins, but they will not be ranked as high as the French if the Vichy appeasers succeed in their policy of “collaboration.”

Now that Italy has proved an even feebler war partner than her worst detractors had imagined, Hitler obviously is considering the grant to France of the position of First Vassal instead of Italy. Spain, if she eventually enters the war, will be given a role perhaps second to that of Italy, chiefly because Spanish influence will be helpful in the conquest of South America. Sweden and Switzerland will of course be gleichgeschaltet, or “coordinated” into the Nazi system and given a rank corresponding to their servility. But all are slaves, including the Axis “allies” Italy, Hungary, Spain, and they[192] differ one from another only in the degree of their degradation. None of them will be permitted to bear arms capable of threatening their Nazi masters, and none will have a word in the formulation of the major laws which determine their lives.

Q. In what sense will the conquered people be slaves?

A. Politically, they will be disfranchised, without a vote, unable to influence their own fate except by humble petition to Berlin. For the most part they will be ruled by Nazi governors. States like Poland will also have Nazis ruling the smallest organs of government, as municipalities. States like France may be permitted to operate their own provincial and municipal governments under a Nazi Gauleiter fuer Frankreich.

Q. But Germans also have no vote under the Nazi system. How does the position of these other nationalities under the Nazis differ from that of the Germans themselves?

A. It differs as the night from day. Every ruling made and every action taken by the Nazi governors of the vassal states is intended to procure tribute for the Great German Reich, tribute which, scientifically extracted, will prove greater over the years than any amount of old-fashioned looting could have produced. This tribute, which is to be paid not merely for generations to come, but as Hitler modestly estimates, for 1,000 years, will go to elevate the standard of living of all Germans, and to depress the standard of living of all non-Germans. It makes no difference that most Germans have no voice in their government; every German will be under Hitler’s New Order, a slaveholder, and every non-German inhabitant of occupied territory is automatically a slave of the whole German tribe.


Q. How is this to be accomplished? Isn’t it difficult to extract tribute? Didn’t the Allies have trouble getting reparations from Germany?

A. The Allies were innocent children compared with the Nazis in the art of obtaining advantage from one’s beaten adversary. No one knows whether Hitler’s system will work for 1,000 years, or for ten or two years, but it certainly is a grandiose design without any parallel in the history of human conquest. First is the movement of populations. Hitler has moved upward of two million Poles from Western Poland, dumped them indiscriminately in Central Poland, and replaced them with Germans, some from the Baltic states, some from the Tyrol, some from the Reich. The Poles as a rule were visited by the Gestapo after midnight, given half an hour’s notice to leave their homes forever, allowed to take but a single suitcase with food for three days and the clothes on their backs. They were forbidden to take any of their own articles of value, not even a silver spoon from the kitchen or a rake from the barn. The German families moving in were fewer than the evacuated Poles, so that the Germans became wealthier per capita than the Poles had been. The Poles died for the most part, or else are still in process of dying from starvation and exposure; it was part of the German calculation that they should die. Similar methods were used to evacuate the French from Lorraine.

Other desirable parts of Europe contiguous to the Great German Reich will be evacuated of their native populations and settled by the Germans. This constitutes looting on a grand scale. Sir Norman Angell, profound thinker on war, once held in his Nobel prize-winning thesis “The Great Illusion,” that modern conquest cannot pay in this Christian day and age, because the acquisition of mere political control over an enemy’s territory, the advancing of the flag over foreign lands, does not pay even for the cost of the war. The usual incidental looting by the soldiery amounts of course to[194] nothing from the point of view of the nation’s economics. Sir Norman could not be blamed for failing to foresee the grand-scale looting practiced by the Nazis. There is an evident economic advantage to the nation if a million of its farm families are moved into rich, fully equipped farms robbed from the conquered and expelled enemy. But this sort of looting is only the beginning of Nazi total plunder. In France the major part of the productive apparatus in industry, trade, and the professions is being systematically taken over by the Nazis. This is only a step toward the huge permanent system of eternal tribute, which is based upon the exploitation of the labor power of Europe.

No conqueror since the Romans has ever been able profitably to exploit the labor power of his conquests, but the Nazis propose to do so and are doing so and boast they will continue to do so for centuries. The Nazis intend to concentrate all industry in Germany, and to convert the rest of Europe into an agricultural colony growing food and raw materials for the master state, the Great German Reich. The entire population of non-German Europe is to be turned and is already being turned as fast as possible into a vast army of coolies of the soil, toiling to supply the Third Reich. The coolies will likewise be required to buy all their industrial products from Germany. The price the Germans pay for the coolies’ agricultural products and the price the coolies pay for the German goods will be fixed by the Germans. Nice calculation will arrive at the precise prices which will bring the Herrenvolk the maximum advantage. The Germans with their traditional scientific acumen will certainly find it to their advantage to pay their coolies such prices for agricultural products as will enable the coolies to buy liberally of German manufactured goods.

Thus with a little reasonableness and spirit of accommodation on the side of the coolies, who ought to be happy to give up the responsibility of liberty, and glad to dispense with the obligations connected with free speech, press, assembly, and thought, Hitler[195] Europe might settle down into one great unhappy family, orderly as a penitentiary, quiet as a grave. It is important also to note that by turning their conquered populations into farm hands the Nazis make it much easier to keep their victims permanently disarmed, since only industry on a large scale can turn out tanks, machine guns, and warplanes necessary for insurrection against a totalitarian tyranny.

Q. But Hitler has not destroyed or removed the factories from France and not even from Poland, since we constantly read that he is obtaining considerable war supplies from the industrial plants in the occupied regions.

A. That is because the war is not over yet and Hitler has not had time to move these factories into Germany. He needs their products immediately for the war against England and Russia. After his conquest of Poland he kept many Polish factories, notably locomotive and freight-car plants, running in Poland with German supervisors, but after the fall of France, during that period when he was sure England would capitulate also, he ordered these factories transferred to Germany. Then after the British failed to surrender and as soon as it became plain that the war would last some time longer, Hitler countermanded the transfer of the Polish factories, and many of them are running today on Polish soil.

Q. Where is Hitler going to get the man power to run such a huge industrial machine, comprising the manufactories formerly owned in all the rest of Europe?

A. That is a question which closely concerns us all in America. Hitler will get the man power in part from his own partially demobilized armies, but in part also from the conquered coolies, millions of whom are not agricultural workers at all, but skilled mechanics[196] and technicians. German authorities admit, or boast, that today 2,000,000 prisoners of war and “others” are working in German factories, mines, and on farms. It is against the products of this essentially slave labor that American industrial products would have to compete if Hitler after conquering Britain offered merely to compete with the United States in foreign trade.

Q. Would we not then be at a great disadvantage? How could we compete at all?

A. We could not compete successfully. Under the Nazi system, precisely as under its twin brother, the Soviet system, all foreign trade is carried on by a foreign trade monopoly. It has a hundred different names in Germany but in reality every foreign trade transaction is a government transaction. Competition among Germans is thus eliminated and any foreigner attempting to compete with the Nazi Colossus has as much chance to succeed as a one-well oil producer trying to trade against the Standard Oil Company. No American manufacturer, no matter how big, including our automobile manufacturers, could buck the Nazi machine, because in addition to its slave labor prices, and its government foreign trade monopoly, it would have the advantage of terrific political-military pressure on all the states in the world not yet an integral part of the Nazi Empire. What South American state do you think would have the nerve to stand up to a Germany which had just finished off the whole of Europe and the British Empire? Which one of them would refuse to give Nazi goods favored tariff treatment over American goods notwithstanding any existing treaties?

Q. If these are Hitler’s plans for Europe, what does he intend to do with Africa, Asia, and America if he wins?


A. He intends to swallow piece by piece the entire world, but since he cannot do so by immediate, world-wide conquest, he would like to be allowed periods of negotiated peace during which he could allow his forces to recuperate while by soothing reassurances he lulls that part of the world not yet under his dominion, into a state of helplessness. If he could, after the conquest of Russia, make a negotiated peace with Britain and tacitly, with the United States, he would expect, after a breathing spell, to be stronger relative to the combined strength of Britain and America than he is now. When his superiority in strength had reached a certain point, he would attack again.

Q. How could Hitler expect to be stronger since we are now building our two-ocean Navy and our great Air Force and Army? Even if Hitler were now or soon to obtain negotiated peace, wouldn’t we continue to forge ahead and grow stronger? Wouldn’t we in the face of a Hitler-dominated world which would result from a negotiated peace be compelled to turn the United States into an armed camp, and wouldn’t we increase our armaments until we were invulnerable?

A. That is not at all certain. If we continue in our present state of complacency, we might take a negotiated peace to be a sign that we could disarm. The House of Representatives passed the bill extending the service of selectees beyond one year by a vote of 203 to 202. One vote preserved the existence of our embryo army. It was not a mere technical question of how long an army man ought to serve. The question was whether we were to have an army at all. In the midst of the war, when every qualified expert declared the United States faced mortal perils, the House of Representatives could find a majority of but one-tenth of one per cent in favor of maintaining or attempting to construct an effective army. I know the majority would have been larger if the administration[198] leaders had known the vote could come so close, but the fact remains that in this crisis of our national life, with the enemy rampant and untamed, the House took this complacent view of our defense necessities.

Now what would be the attitude of Congress if a peace should be negotiated? Would not our isolationists say this was a God-given opportunity to reduce our tremendous expenditures, whittle the Army down to police size, confine our Air Force to a few thousand planes, and stop building our two-ocean Navy? Certainly they would, and all the immense propaganda resources of the Nazis would be employed to encourage throughout the United States such a move toward “common-sense pacifism.” Now, the argument would run, the war is over, Hitler is satisfied, let us go back to normalcy. Whether we actually succumbed entirely to this temptation or not, there would be a strong isolationist campaign in favor of our disarmament, and this would surely slow up our defense effort. Meanwhile Hitler would be bringing his New Order slave states with their industries and agriculture into the service of the Reich, increasing his Navy, rebuilding his Air Force, re-equipping his Army and in general growing stronger relative to us. He would never want a negotiated peace unless he believed this would be its result.

Q. Have you any idea what kind of negotiated peace Hitler would consider acceptable? Would such a peace be as desirable for us as Wheeler and Lindbergh say? I notice Lindbergh recently urged that the only alternative to a negotiated peace was “either a Hitler victory or a prostrate Europe or a prostrate Europe and possibly a prostrate America as well.”

A. Fortunately Axis sources have given us a rather complete blueprint of what they would consider acceptable terms of a negotiated peace. Reduced to a few words, their terms are: Surrender[199] by Britain and America of control of the seas by reduction of the British and American navies to parity with the Axis and demilitarization of British and American naval bases outside home waters; German dominion over all Europe, most of Africa, and parts of Asia; Japanese control of the rest of Asia; and the United States to open the doors of Latin America to Axis enterprise.

Q. Do you mean that those are serious terms suggested for a so-called negotiated peace? What is the source of these terms?

A. It is the version put out by the Japanese Foreign Office through its organ the Japan Times Advertiser, April 29, 1941, as a trial balloon. It remains the most comprehensive statement of Axis terms yet issued. Since the British government ignored it, and the British and American press derided it, Germany dropped the idea for the moment, but you may be sure it has not been dropped for good. Seven weeks after its publication Hitler sent his armies into Russia. When he has attained his goal there, it seems highly probable he will again offer peace and when he does, the general outline of his terms will probably follow this statement. One has only to remember that since the issuance of this provisional peace text Russia has been stricken from the list of “the nations called upon to settle world peace” and has been added as a victim.

Q. But didn’t the meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt exclude the possibility of a negotiated peace, since they declared in their eight-point program that “final destruction of the Nazi tyranny” was the precondition to peace?

A. They did, but Hitler, though he may have little hope of actually achieving a negotiated peace, may offer it in order to appeal over the heads of Churchill and Roosevelt to those elements of the British and American populations he considers vulnerable to his[200] propaganda. There are few such elements left in England, but many here. Hitler knows by now that he has only to furnish the ammunition and Lindbergh and Wheeler will do the firing for him.

Q. Have you the text of these Hitler terms?

A. Yes, and it would be most instructive to compare it with the eight-point Atlantic Charter.

Joint Declaration

The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future of the world.

First: Their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second: They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned;

Third: They desire to respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth: They will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all states, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth: They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing[201] for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth: After the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh: Such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth: They believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.

Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Winston S. Churchill.

To this the President added in his message to Congress: “It is also unnecessary for me to point out that the declaration of principles includes of necessity the world need for freedom of religion and freedom of information. No society of the world organized under the announced principles could survive without these freedoms which are a part of the whole freedom for which we strive.” And Mr. Churchill made this significant comment in his broadcast: “There are, however, two distinct and marked differences in this joint declaration from the attitude adopted by the Allies during the latter part of the last war, and no one should overlook them. The United States and Great Britain do not now assume that there[202] will never be any more war again. On the contrary, we intend to take ample precautions to prevent its renewal in any period we can foresee by effectively disarming the guilty nations while remaining suitably protected ourselves. The second difference is this: That instead of trying to ruin German trade by all kinds of additional trade barriers and hindrances as was the mood of 1917, we have definitely adopted the view that it is not in the interests of the world and of our two countries that any large nation should be unprosperous, or shut off from means of making a decent living for itself and its people by industry and enterprise. These are far-reaching changes of principle upon which all countries should ponder.”

The Axis statement begins with the declaration that the day of small or weak nations is over, and no nation which cannot stand on its own feet may be permitted to exist.

“1. The strongest powers must have the greatest opportunities of developing the world and disposing of such questions as spheres of influence, resources, and type of government. This is the law of nature and attempts to maintain the status quo of dominant powers who cannot continue to function through their strength but only through alliances must break down.”

The reference here of course is to such colonial powers as France, Holland, Belgium, etc.

“2. The nations called upon to settle world peace would be Germany, with Italy as a junior partner, Japan, the British Empire, and the United States. Such a peace should include: a. Parity of naval strength of Britain and the United States on one hand, and the Axis powers on the other hand, with a naval holiday after this is established.”

This is the key to the intention of the whole peace. Since the British and American navies are about double the strength of the Axis powers, so long as the British hold out we together could[203] continue effectively to control the seas. If we were to consent to a naval agreement reducing our and the British strength to the strength of the Axis, and at the same time demilitarize our naval bases as demanded in other paragraphs, effective sea power would pass to the Axis.

“b. Demilitarization of such strongholds as Gibraltar, the Eastern Mediterranean, Malta, Aden, Red Sea, Singapore, and Hong Kong, as well as all United States bases in the Pacific and any projects in the Aleutian Islands reaching out toward Japan.”

This paragraph would complete the conquest of sea power by the Axis and would render defenseless all the British Empire’s Far Eastern possessions and our Philippines and Alaska.

“c. Complete withdrawal of the British Navy from the Mediterranean and joint Anglo-Axis administration of the Suez Canal.”

Withdrawal of the British Navy would give mastery of the Mediterranean to the Axis, which would automatically control the Suez Canal. To offer “joint Anglo-Axis administration of the Suez Canal” is a sop which only underlines the grotesque nature of a Hitler-negotiated peace.

“d. All North Africa from the Straits of Gibraltar to Somaliland to be placed at the disposition of the Axis, though France may be permitted to retain colonies under certain conditions of co-administration. Certain British and African colonies to be placed under German and Italian control. South Africa would be required to have complete independence and abolish trade preference tariffs.”

The last sentence means that South Africa should leave the British Empire. The fleeting, condescending mention of the French who may be permitted to share colonies is the only reference made to them. It ought to be noted carefully by the men of Vichy who pretend at any rate to believe that Hitler would not rob them if they abased themselves sufficiently. For the United States, the significant thing here is that Germany would control the naval, air, and military bases of Africa including Dakar opposite Brazil.


“e. Continental Europe to be organized into a corporate state under the Reich with domestic autonomy for unit members whose economic and political cooperation would be based on Berlin.”

There for all to read is the future map of Europe. The name of Europe itself will scarcely be needed any more, save as a geographical term once used to identify the continent now known as Great Germany. No more France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland. All will come under the Nazi yoke, even Spain and Portugal and the states which yielded without a struggle, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria. You ask, but isn’t this the unification of Europe we have all been hoping for? The answer is no, because what the world needed was a Europe voluntarily united in a United States of Europe, or whatever else you wanted to call it, for the purpose of promoting the mutual prosperity, health, and happiness of all its members. Hitler Europe’s avowed object is to confiscate and exploit the resources of the conquered states and to employ their man power as slaves for the exclusive, perpetual benefit of the “master race.” This is not a new Commonwealth of Nations; it is the first step in the Nazis’ program for the systematic degradation of the human race. The only parallel for it is in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. His robot human race was divided into Alpha masters and various classes of slaves, down to the Epsilon automatons who would correspond to Hitler’s Slavic serfs.

“f. The United Kingdom to remain the heart of the British Empire with a gradual transfer of authority to Canada.”

This seems to be a covert bid for isolationist approval in the United States, a hint that as the British Empire will not exist at all much longer, the United States may profit by absorbing Canada and whatever other vestigial remnants of the Empire may be granted Canada as the residuary legatee. This profit-taking by the United States has already been proposed by Lindbergh in his suggestion that we take over Canada.


“g. The German sphere of influence may go as far as the Sea of Marmora unless that were handed over to the joint administration of Turkey and Soviet Russia. But Germany may demand participation in the oil wells of Iraq and Iran.”

This paragraph has been rendered obsolete by the German invasion of Russia. Germany certainly hopes eventually to get all the oil of Iraq and Iran.

“h. The United States’ sphere of influence would be Canada, Central and South America, Newfoundland, and Greenland with islands and regional waters, but the United States would undertake not to form any hegemony over South America inimical to the Axis and would accord the fullest freedom and equality of opportunity to Germany and her Allies in that continental brotherhood. No American naval bases would be west of Hawaii, and that stronghold would be reduced in importance.”

How does it feel to an American to hear this sort of dictation? It is dignified treatment compared with what we would receive if we acceded. Never was a proverb more true than the old Russian one, based on the bitter experience of their vassalage to the Tartars. “A nation is never too poor to pay the first installment of tribute and never rich enough to pay the last.” We are asked to give up all our naval bases in the Pacific west of Hawaii, but there is no hint of Japanese reciprocity. The Japanese when the time came would move in and fortify the bases we had dismantled.

“i. In the Pacific the Netherlands Indies might be detached from the Netherlands and placed under an independent government with native participation, and British possessions would obtain increasing independence. Throughout all these Pacific islands, Japanese advisors would be admitted and entrusted with the duty of rationalizing forms of cooperation in the ‘co-prosperity sphere.’ French Indo-China would receive independence on the same terms.”

We see now what this “independence” is. Just twelve weeks[206] after the publication of these “peace terms” the Japanese took over Indo-China.

These peace terms are not even hypocritically polite. They simply assume the opposite “negotiators” are beaten, and that of course includes the United States, as we may see from our prominent position among its stipulations. Lindbergh declares we would be beaten from the start if we entered the war, and that a negotiated peace would be more acceptable than outright military defeat. But these terms, vouched for by the Imperial Japanese Foreign Office organ, show us that we would be treated as a conquered nation if we negotiated a peace.

“j. Australia would remain within the British Empire, but would eliminate immigration bars and allow Japanese settlement on terms of equality.”

The exclusively Japanese interests would be safeguarded by Germany in a negotiated peace only if Japan had earned it by following German orders. Japan, however, may disappoint her senior partner.

The next to last paragraph reads ironically:

“k. India would obtain self-government.”

We may be sure that if the Axis wins, India will not receive self-government. Both Germany and Japan want India. Somewhere in the path of this war appears the possibility of a clash between the Germans and the Japanese. Already Japan shows signs of being afraid that if Germany wins, Japan will suffer the same fate as Italy and Russia. Japan likewise shows signs of wanting to wait for better evidence that the Allies are going to win. Stranger things have happened in this war than that Japan should finally quit the Axis and go to war on the side of Britain and the United States.

But the most ironic paragraph of this peace offer is the last:

“l. Religious and political liberty would be enjoined throughout the world.”


That’s all. That completes the offer of negotiated peace.

Q. Why do they call it a negotiated peace?

A. It is not “negotiated.” It is a dictated peace; it represents a complete Hitler victory but that is the only kind of negotiated peace he would consider until he is himself defeated.

Q. But is it possible that these are authentic, genuine terms of the Axis? It seems to me that the publication of such arrogant demands upon America was an undiplomatic step, contrary to the interests of the Axis, since it would be bound to arouse our indignation.

A. It was a “semi-official” publication of the Japanese Foreign Office at the very time when the then Foreign Minister Matsuoka advised Anthony Eden that Japan was ready to mediate a negotiated peace if she were requested to do so. Its authentic character can hardly be questioned. If it is arrogant it is because the Axis is arrogant, and considers that Britain is already beaten and that the United States was beaten before she began to fight. As the Japan Times Advertiser put it: “These may be called victors’ terms but the Axis powers have achieved a dominant position permitting liberty of dictation.” These terms could not be worse if we had entered the war and lost it. They would mean that from now on until perhaps centuries later when the Nazis shall have become soft and self-indulgent and until some new, rougher race arose to oust them, the Germans would rule the earth. For of course if Britain or America were to be willing to accept such terms it would prove they really were beaten.

During the period immediately after the signing of the negotiated peace which would be used by the Germans to consolidate and strengthen their military position, we should probably be allowed to retain our nominal sovereignty, although we should[208] not be able to do anything in the realm of foreign politics or economics that was not permitted by Germany. During this period our Lindberghs would declaim that they had been right after all since we had not been invaded and we still elected our own president and still sang “God Bless America,” and still called ourselves the land of the free and home of the brave; and the Lindberghs would insist that the sacrifices we had made were far better than to have fought a war. But soon we should find that Hitler’s idea of “equality” in South America meant complete Nazi monopoly. Soon we should find we had lost all our world trade save that permitted us by the Axis with the Axis on Axis terms.

Q. Would the Nazi use of slave labor be an advantage? Can’t free American labor always produce better and cheaper than slave labor?

A. That is one of our popular fallacies. We proclaim this doctrine at the same time that we use tariffs to protect American industry from the products of foreign workers who receive lower wages than American workers. Japanese manufactured articles, the cheapest in the world because they are made by virtually slave labor, were able to flood our market in spite of our high tariffs. For ordinary mass production, for nearly every type of manufactured article save quality goods, slave labor is more profitable than free labor. If it is not so efficient, it makes up for that by being so much cheaper. If Hitler were to get his slave Europe organized, he could turn out products which would undersell anything we could make.

Q. Wouldn’t he try to make us take his goods also?

A. He would. We are talking now of the alternative to our going to war and defeating Hitler. We are visualizing the situation as it[209] would be after Hitler had won, and had made all of those arrangements with the rest of the world which we have described, and was now in process of adjusting his Empire to the United States, or rather of adjusting the United States to his Empire. We are discussing now how we would have to behave if we wished to continue to be at peace with Hitler. We would of course have to make some kind of trade agreement with him. What kind of trade agreement do you think Hitler would propose? We can suppose he would offer us the same kind of agreement he has concluded with other states before they fell, or before they volunteered to become his vassals—the sort of agreements he had with Jugoslavia, or Greece, and with Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria. These agreements provide that German goods may enter at lower tariffs than the goods of other countries or that tariffs on German goods are abolished altogether, and usually the country concerned must promise to take a minimum quantity of whatever articles Germany wishes to export. If we hoped to have any kind of trade agreement with the victorious Germans at all, it would have to be one like this. We should probably have to consent to receive German goods in such quantities and at such prices that our own industry would step by step be ruined. This would be the German aim. They intend to make German industry not only the only industry in Europe, but the master of the manufacturing world. They intend to wreck any industry they cannot control.

Q. But you don’t think we would put up with such treatment as that, do you? It would be better to go to war, wouldn’t it?

A. By that time it might be too late to go to war. Now is the time to go to war. Now is the time to avoid those calamities we have just discussed. If we had done nothing to protect ourselves while we still had the power to protect ourselves and still had[210] strong allies fighting in the field, what use would there be to try to resist Hitler after he had become master of the world outside America? We should then face the alternative of submission to Hitler or fighting an almost hopeless war.

Our isolationists like the Quislings and the Darlans and Lavals abroad, are working themselves into the position of the French collaborationists. That is, they are going so far out on the limb of isolation-appeasement that eventually they will not be able to withdraw. Even today they refuse to admit their error. If the worst came to the worst and we remained out of the war, and Hitler won, and all these things we are discussing came to pass, our isolationists would be bound to continue to contend that they were right, and they would have to advocate collaboration with Hitler, as indeed many of them do now. We can see what collaboration means in France. Ninety-five per cent of the French people are against it, and five per cent who advocate and practice it are now considered traitors. This would be the history of our isolationists also. When the alternative, war or surrender, was offered, their answer would be that war was hopeless, and the only sensible thing to do would be to collaborate with Hitler.

Q. But isn’t there another way out for us? Couldn’t we simply give up our foreign trade? In 1939 it amounted to only about six billion dollars. What is that compared with the monstrous expense of war? It is only one-seventh of the amount we have already agreed to spend for defense. It is only one-tenth of our national income.

A. Even if our total foreign trade represented only one-tenth of our total business activity, that would make it vitally important, for as you know, in an economy such as ours, ten per cent means all the difference between failure and success. Hitler said of Germany,[211] “we must export or die.” Our case is not that desperate, but it would be fair to say we must export or suffer a lower standard of living and increased unemployment. Witness the effect on this country of our war export business which has revitalized the entire economic system and practically wiped out unemployment. Before long the last of our unemployed ought to be at work, as they have all found jobs in England. Of course if we wished to crawl into a completely abject isolation, we could give up our foreign trade, recall our ships from the seven seas, seal our ports, and retire into a kind of hillbilly life, eating our corn bread and sowbelly, drinking our home-brew, and supporting a permanent mass of millions of unemployed.

Even if we attempted such a thing we would not be permitted to continue to live peacefully behind our imagined walls. The world wants what we can produce. Nazi Germany wants it. If we were to carry the isolationist argument to its final absurdity and really try to set up a complete autarchy and live within the continental borders of the United States, the Nazis would never let us do so. From within and from without the Nazis would attack us. Our own Nazis would labor to bring us into Hitler’s New Order, while the German Nazis would assume the role of our own Commodore Perry and as he broke open the Japanese closed door in 1854 the Nazis would smash the locks of American isolation.

We are discussing what would be a comparatively short period of time, the period between the end of the war with a Hitler-negotiated peace and the moment when he felt himself strong enough to resume the war, this time to conquer all that was left unconquered at the first truce. As soon as he had his machine in order and perceived that his strength had risen relative to ours to such a point that he considered victory certain, he, with Japan, would attack Britain, then America. If we had agreed to any such negotiated peace such as the one we have been discussing, we would be lost. Britain and America have held out so far because[212] despite the importance of air power, sea power is still paramount and we have had sea power. We would not have it after a negotiated peace.

Q. But aren’t these terms of a negotiated peace somewhat dated now since the German attack on Russia? Hasn’t the unexpectedly strong Russian resistance diminished Hitler’s feeling that he can already dictate as a victor?

A. No doubt Hitler’s arrogance has been reduced at least a little since the “scum of the earth” checked his warriors, but the Russian setback to Hitler has been only that, and it has not yet changed his long-range plans. He still aspires to conquer the world and he still believes he can do it, and any negotiated peace he may offer, whether it is the one whose terms we have just discussed, or some other terms more fitted to the moment, will be calculated to give the Germans a respite in preparation for resumption of the war. That, after all, is the important point to remember. Specific terms are at this juncture unimportant. It is only essential to remember that any negotiated peace with Hitler would not be a peace at all, but only a truce to which Hitler would never agree unless he believed he would thereby be strengthened for renewal of the war. We can never emphasize too much that there is no such thing as a peace with Hitler; there is no such thing as a peaceful Hitler; Hitler will either conquer or be conquered.

Q. But if Britain and the United States had agreed to the sort of negotiated peace offered through Tokyo, they would have surrendered practically everything, so why should Hitler go to the trouble of attacking us?

A. Because Hitler does not want “practically” everything; he wants absolutely everything. Also Hitler cannot stop making war;[213] it will take a greater Nazi than he to convert the German war machine to garrison duties and the Nazi hordes to peaceful production.

No conqueror ever stops conquering until he is stopped by some outside force. Alexander was just getting into his stride and longing for more worlds to conquer when he died of a fever after drinking too much. Hitler will never be stopped that way. Caesar was stopped by the assassin’s dagger. That could stop Hitler but it would be foolish to depend upon it. Napoleon was stopped at Waterloo by superior force. That we hope will be Hitler’s end. But never did a conqueror stop as our Lindberghs believe Hitler would stop, of his own accord, satisfied with what he had won. Far more true is the analysis by my old friend Douglas Miller, who during his fifteen years as United States Commercial Attaché in Berlin was the constant source of knowledge about the Nazis for all of us American newspapermen, and who now has written the wisest book about the Nazis to appear from the pen of an American, You Can’t Do Business with Hitler.

Miller puts the matter with hair-fine accuracy thus: “The essential sterility of the Fascist system is one explanation of its aggressiveness. The totalitarians are a group of bandits who have learned no useful trade or occupation but are well armed and have no scruples about attacking their neighbors. Germany has, under Hitler, thrown away her possibilities of peaceful trade and understanding with all the world and has no option but to go forward in the campaign of aggression. She must not, in Hitler’s words, ‘export or die’; she must fight or die. Under these circumstances it is completely useless to await any peaceful settlement of Europe’s troubles. The Nazis are not organized for peace. They are not prepared for it. They would not know what to do with it.”

But beyond these reasons for attacking Britain and America even after they had accepted such humiliating, emasculating terms as[214] those we have sketched, Hitler would have the same reason to attack the Anglo-American combination that he had to attack Russia. He attacked Russia partly to remove the remote possibility of a Russian attack while he was attempting to invade England, but he attacked Russia also to get complete control over the Russian resources which Stalin was doling out to him too slowly and meagerly. So it would be with the resources of the rump British Empire and of the United States. Hitler would not be satisfied with the necessity for negotiating or trading with Anglo-America. He would demand the power to dictate. So in the long run Hitler by achieving such a negotiated peace as is advocated by Wheeler, Nye, Lindbergh, and others, would have conquered America.

Q. What kind of a peace would we make if we win the war?

A. That is more difficult to forecast than to sketch the outlines of a Hitler world. His peace is engraved in his past and blueprinted in his program. We know what it is like, a simple pattern of masters and slaves. All we can say positively about our postwar world is that the British and Americans and the populations of Hitler’s conquered territory, wish it to be a world in which there shall be no masters or slaves; we want justice for everybody, and all the liberty possible, and we want to get rid of fear and want. We know we will not be able to get all this but the difference between us and Hitler is that Hitler does not even want such a world. If he could have such a world by merely asking for it, he would prefer to battle for his sort of world, because violent struggle and the infliction of pain upon others is an essential part of the satisfactions of the Nazis.

Q. What chance has Communism in a defeated Germany?

A. If Hitler is defeated it is possible that the Communists will be[215] the strongest party or political group of any kind in Germany. When he came to power Hitler dissolved all parties, and only the Communists continued a militant, underground organization. The bourgeois, democratic parties completely disappeared, and it is hard to imagine their revival. It is easy to imagine the revival of the Communist Party. It won six million votes at the last honest election before Hitler seized the government. A great many Germans who voted Communist entered the Nazi Party or Nazi organizations such as the SA Brownshirts and the SS Elite Guards. This confirmed the observation that between Nazism and Communism as systems there existed more similarity than difference. It would be easy for those who had been Communists before Hitler came to power to return to the Communist cause after Hitler fell. A Communist program promising immediate peace for the German people and vengeance on the Nazi leaders would appeal more and more to the masses of German workingmen as the war lengthens and shows no signs of ending. We should not forget that the Soviet government, or rather Joseph Stalin, unless he capitulates, will have something to say when the time comes to think about the kind of government Germany is to have.

Q. Well then, it seems to me that the first problem of our Peace Conference will be what to do with the Germans.

A. It is likely that an even more urgent problem, demanding the first attention of the Peace Conference, will be how to keep millions of people in Europe from starving to death; how to restore the railroad lines and other means of transportation; and how to prevent sheer anarchy, or gutter-communism from seizing the continent. In the period immediately after the Nazis collapse—and be sure of one thing, and that is that when Hitler cracks he and his regime will crack all at once in one frightful cataclysmic smash[216] beside which the German surrender in the last war will look like a fight to the finish—the likelihood is that throughout Europe law and order will disappear for a time at least until Allied troops arrive. For years the only law and order will have been the German troops and Gestapo. The former leading citizens of the occupied territories, Norwegian, Dutch, Czech, French, etc., will all have been either killed, exiled, or demoralized. There will be no firm group of strong men left to restore order anywhere in Europe. In Germany itself the disorder will reach its height as the Nazi masters flee and the German people take vengeance upon them. There will be throughout the continent a universal struggle, as of beasts, for the scanty food left. It is possible that more lives will be lost in the immediate postwar period than in the war itself. Therefore I say the most urgent problem before the Peace Conference will be how to give Europe the physical means and the police force to keep it alive.

Q. That is such a horrible picture that in spite of myself I must ask if it would not be better to let Hitler have his way?

A. It is natural for us to recoil from such horrors. But let us remember that whereas the agony of Europe and of the world, brought about by the struggle to expel Hitler from power, will be severe but brief, the degradation of all mankind which would result from the failure to expel Hitler, would last perhaps for generations, certainly far beyond the length of time it would take to restore order in a Europe purged of the Nazis. What did it cost to achieve liberty in the first place? Think of all the wars it has taken to enable each of us to stand up and say, “I am the equal of any man on earth.” If we are not able to face the prospect of fighting and suffering and starving and dying for liberty and if we are not confident enough in the righteousness of our cause to demand, not[217] request but demand, that our fellow citizens do likewise, then we do not deserve liberty, we deserve our place with the rest of Hitler’s slaves. Better that half the generation of men alive today go down to early death than that Hitler should enslave all mankind.

Q. Very well, I agree, but isn’t it understandable that we, away over here in America, should shrink from such a future?

A. Yes, but unless we learn not to shrink we shall surely die as a nation. How many Americans today understand and fully realize, emotionally as well as intellectually, that in order to retain our liberty and our national independence and make secure the lives of our children, we have to face now the prospect of years of war, hardship, and the loss of many American lives, and the wounding and maiming of many more? Certainly it is brutal, not my words, but the reality. It is unworthy of a nation of 130,000,000 for its leaders to suggest that all will be well if only we pass this piece of legislation or take that stand or appropriate another trillion dollars. Nothing will save this country except our own blood and our own tears. And please do not go away and say that I “blithely” recommended blood and tears. I bitterly declare there is no alternative.

Q. After we have been able, as we hope, to install temporary law and order and emergency rations throughout the continent, isn’t the problem of Germany next on the agenda of the Peace Conference?

A. It must be. There is a still larger, the largest problem, that of trying to reorganize the world into a scheme for living without war, for some kind of Federated Humanity, but for us in the Western World nothing can be done until we discover what to do with Germany. Here is a nation of 80,000,000 whose leaders,[218] clamoring for “living space,” shamelessly declare they intend to multiply into 250,000,000 within a century and use their superior force to exterminate or enslave everybody else. Here is a nation which thrice in the memory of living man, in 1870, 1914, and 1939 has launched its war machine against its neighbors, taken the lives of millions, and now has disrupted the civilization of the entire world. Here is a nation, distinguished in its past history by precious contributions to the arts and sciences, which today, led by the lust for conquest, has discarded Christ, truth, justice, and has debased a whole generation of its youth to the moral and ethical level of savages.

Here is a nation which is one of the most talented on earth in the theory and practice of the natural sciences, capable of world leadership in bending nature to the peaceful services of mankind, to the amelioration of suffering and the increase of prosperity, and what does this nation do? It devotes all its talents to the cultivation of the science of warfare, and becomes adept beyond all other nations in the arts of destruction. Why? What is behind all this evil? Never in modern history has any nation in the Western World displayed such incorrigible tendencies to raid, rob, seize, invade, plunder, conquer, and torture. Torture! For the deepest blot upon Nazi Germany is its dark love of torture, its base delight in pain endured by others, its cruel concentration camps. Never in any quarter of the globe at any time in mankind’s history has any nation revealed so determined a will and clever a method to exploit permanently as slaves the unfortunate victims of its martial skill. The problem then is, how to restrain Germany, or how to reform Germany, how, if possible, to bring her into our world family.

Q. Why not say the problem is how to destroy her or at least paralyze her?


A. For several reasons. First, because it is impracticable to destroy 80,000,000 persons even if we were Nazi enough to wish to do so. You can be sure that if Hitler as head of a non-German Alliance were faced with the German problem he would solve it precisely that way, by extermination of the Germans. But we are not Nazis, and even suppose some on our side were to advocate destruction of the Germans by mass emasculation, you can be sure that millions of Americans and Britons would arise and cry out in defense of the poor German people, misguided victims, innocent souls. Politically and morally this solution is out of the question.

Q. Is there no way we could render Germany impotent to do harm, no way we could deprive her of the possibility of attacking the world again?

A. There are two ways: military occupation or deindustrialization of the Reich. It is plain that if Germany is allowed the least opportunity, she would rearm and attack with the same swift ferocity she has just displayed. There must be physical restraint to keep her from doing so. Military occupation is the obvious, traditional method, but it has serious drawbacks. It is expensive and tiring. Nevertheless if the Nazis are defeated in this war, it will be imperative to occupy Germany far more thoroughly than after the last war, if only to preserve order. There are some advocates of deliberately allowing Germany a period of disorder during which it could be hoped that the Germans would themselves exterminate a great number of Nazis. This would only render more formidable the task which already appears staggeringly difficult, to re-establish a state of law in the Reich, where since 1933, law as we know it, has been abolished. Whatever permanent system of controlling Germany is eventually adopted, the first step will have to be military occupation. Theoretically, military occupation could be continued indefinitely. Actually it never is continued long, because the[220] occupying troops and their people at home grow tired of it. Even the French, who directly after the war were fanatically determined to secure their frontier by taking the Rhineland, and who did get in the Treaty of Versailles permission to occupy the Rhineland for fifteen years, even these prudent and wary French grew so tired of it that they evacuated the Rhineland three years ahead of time, in June 1930.

Six years later the Nazis moved in and constructed the Siegfried line along the very positions which had been occupied by the French troops. I know there were other reasons for the French to give up the Rhineland. The British had pressed them to appease the Germans. The Germans had agreed in the Young Plan to a new system of reparations and as reward received the Rhineland ahead of schedule. But the moment the last French troops left Germany the period of fulfillment of the war treaties came to an end, and Germany began the period of repudiation and revision which ended in this war and for France in her present national humiliation. Looking backward one can see that nothing should have moved the French to leave the Rhineland. That they did so is a classic example of how people grow so careless, lazy, forgetful and peace-minded that they become insensible to a threat to their very lives. That is the state of mind of America today.

Q. You mentioned a second possibility for physically retraining Germany and you used the word deindustrialization. What does that mean?

A. It is an ugly word but I know no other to describe the process of taking away a country’s factories and leaving it without industry. That of course would also leave it without the means of making war. This is what Germany plans to do to the rest of Europe, as we have seen. The civilized world would have every right to[221] impose the same treatment on the inventor of the scheme. Briefly the plan would be to occupy Germany militarily; to disarm her rigorously; to dismantle all her factories capable of making instruments of war; to prohibit the import into Germany of raw materials which could be used for making such instruments; to confiscate and turn over to Allied ownership and operation all German mines producing iron or other metals; and to appoint a permanent Inter-allied Control Commission to supervise these restrictions. It would be necessary to forbid all manufacture or use of airplanes by Germans in Germany.

Q. How does this proposal fit in with the fourth paragraph of the eight-point Atlantic Charter which reads, “They will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all states, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.”

A. There is the difficulty. Adherence to this paragraph would prevent any such solution as deindustrialization, because there could be no economic prosperity for a deindustrialized Germany. The first effect of it would be a widespread return to the land, as Germans would have no manufactured articles for export, and hence nothing with which to buy abroad, and hence would be forced to grow all their own food. The population would decline, young folks would emigrate if any country would take them, and in general it would be a very unhappy period for the Herrenvolk. Apparently Roosevelt and Churchill have rejected this solution in favor of simple old-fashioned military occupation.

Q. They said nothing in their statement about militarily occupying Germany.


A. No, but they said plainly they intended to disarm the aggressor nations. You do not suppose you could disarm Germany without occupying her, do you? It ought to be possible to devise something more effective and novel than the thousand-year-old method of sending in troops. One suggestion is that all German officers (there may be around 500,000 of them) should be exiled to an island under perpetual guard where they could make their own living and end their lives in contemplation of their sins. The German Army would be abolished entirely; not as in 1919 reduced to 100,000 men who were to become the cadre of the present seven-million-man machine. For a decade or more the Allies would have to accept the responsibility of policing Germany. All military manuals and textbooks would be destroyed. Aviation of all kinds and the building of airplanes would likewise be forbidden. These measures would be for the purpose of demilitarizing the population, and it is possible that, deprived of military instructors or any means of military instruction, the plan might work, as least for a time.

In any plan dealing with postwar Germany it is important to avoid vindictiveness. Nothing should be done as a punishment of Germany’s crimes in the past; everything should be done to restrain her from crime in the future. How much better it would have been if there had been no reparations imposed upon Germany after the last war, but the Allies had kept their Military Control Commission permanently in Germany while Allied troops permanently occupied the Rhineland. There is no use, however, in hoping for any such permanent resolution on our part. We have only one hope of being able to restrain Germany for any considerable period, by the humane means which are the only ones open to us.

Q. What hope have we of being able to restrain Germany?

A. It is the hope that while we occupy Germany with our troops, say for the next thirty or forty years, a new generation of Germans[223] would grow up which would forego its desire to conquer the world, forget that it was a Herrenvolk, and would gradually learn the habits of civilization. Meanwhile we would try to develop a World Federation or League of Nations under Anglo-American leadership to such a point of effectiveness that we could afford to allow Germany to become a member of it.

Q. But do you suppose our people or the British would put up with the trouble and expense of occupying Germany militarily for thirty or forty years? Wouldn’t there be an outcry on behalf of the Germans?

A. Many of our people would probably try to sabotage any realistic handling of the Germans. After the last war and at the beginning of this one you could hear many Americans remarking: “How could you expect the Germans or any upstanding, self-respecting people to tolerate being treated unequally, to put up with being disarmed while their neighbors were armed?” These remarks disclosed misapprehension of the German mind which will surely be duplicated at the end of this war by similar persons. That will not matter so much since the British will have a great deal to say about how the Germans are to be restrained, and this time the British will not be as shortsighted as they were after the last war.

You may remember that the French in 1919 wanted to occupy permanently various strategic points in Germany, including the Rhineland, but the British said no. They had two principal reasons for not consenting to proper restraint of the Germans and both reasons were, as we can see from our perspective of today, completely invalid. First, they did not want France to become too strong; they believed they had to maintain a balance of power with Germany, apparently leaving out of account the enormous, patent facts that there were 80,000,000 Germans to 40,000,000 Frenchmen, that the French birth rate was nearing the point of[224] racial suicide, that Frenchmen were concerned not at all with expansion but only to keep what they had in their beloved “security.” Second, the British people had failed during the war to suffer any of the pain and tribulation the Germans had visited upon the French, who had seen their towns and villages destroyed, their families blown to bits by German artillery.

Today when the British sit down to a Peace Table they will be a different people. In Britain today are upward of 44,000,000 persons who have been under bombardment for two years and have suffered a strain upon their courage such as has no parallel. They have witnessed the mutilation of their dear ones, the destruction of their monuments. They have heard the menace from their enemy that he intended to destroy England as Carthage was destroyed. Is it likely that when the British sit down victorious in a Peace Conference they will shrink from the application of methods, no matter how severe, to prevent the recurrence of this horror? We shall not earn the right to speak at all at the Peace Conference until we have borne our share of the heat of the day. I hope we shall not try to exercise our influence to obstruct whatever solutions may seem appropriate at the end of years of war, to solve this essentially insoluble problem of the Germans.

Q. Why do you call the German problem insoluble?

A. Because no matter what we do, short of destroying the Germans, which we have agreed is impossible, the Germans are likely to break out again on the warpath some time. Let us assume that we take the view that the Versailles treaty was too harsh, and this time we will avoid all the mistakes of harshness. We grant Germany a peace treaty which not only takes nothing from her, but allows her to retain a considerable quantity of the territorial spoils she has accumulated by violence. We agree to let her retain all the[225] territory inhabited for the most part by German-speaking people. Thus she is allowed to keep Western Poland whence she has so brutally expelled the native Polish population. She is allowed to keep the German Sudetenland, formerly Czechoslovakian, and until the men of Munich gave it to Hitler, never before a part of Germany. She is allowed to keep Belgian Eupen Malmedy; and even any part of Lorraine which may desire to opt for Germany. She is allowed to keep Austria. In short, Germany is allowed to keep all her 80,000,000 Germans together. More than that, in order to “right every wrong,” Germany is given back her old colonies, all of them. Thus there is no thought of dividing the country. There are of course no reparations. There are no punitive measures of any kind. Germany is invited to join the new World Federation as soon as it has been formed. Certainly this sort of treatment ought to mollify any people. This ought to be a perfect peace. But wait, there is a crucial point. Shall Germany be allowed now, at once, to bear arms again? Or ever again? And how many arms? What kind?

Q. Haven’t Churchill and Roosevelt already declared the aggressors would be disarmed?

A. Very well, the victors will insist that Germany is to have no arms at least for a period of years. Do you think that then the Germans, even with a treaty such as we have sketched, granting every conceivable amelioration, would be satisfied? No. If we restricted their armed forces in any degree, for example, by depriving them of offensive weapons, of tanks and bombing planes, you can be sure that the complaint of the Germans would be as great as though they had been stripped of half their population, the Reich divided into a score of puppet states, and their cities occupied by divisions of Senegalese.


Q. Aren’t the Germans merely demanding absolute, uncompromising equality?

A. They always demand absolute, uncompromising superiority. Look back on Hitler’s reign. He had several chances to stop this side of war, after having gained for his people not mere equality with his greatest rival, France, and not mere equality with the political and military forces of all his neighbors put together, but with real superiority in arms and in political power over all Europe. Look at the chances he had to stop short of war and build in peace, and perhaps go down as a greater man than he will appear after this bloody debacle is over. He could have stopped after he got the Sudetenland, and had finally united nearly all of his 80,000,000 Germans. He could have stopped after he took Austria; after he occupied the Rhineland; after he got the Saar back into Germany. The taking of the Sudetenland would have been a place to stop at the pinnacle. Suppose he had done that, and had used his power and talent to transfer his war machine into a peace machine, and had used his mighty prestige to bring Europe into a new economic order. Germany had attained practical “equality” with France by 1936 when Hitler’s troops entered the Rhineland, and they had “equality” with all the rest of Europe put together—as Hitler has now so disastrously proved—by 1938 when they got the Sudetenland. So the point is that the Germans never wanted equality, will never be satisfied with equality, but will always demand to be what they believe themselves to be, namely, the master race.

Q. Aren’t you confusing the Germans with Hitler and the Nazis?

A. No, the Germans have done that themselves. By their so-called plebiscites which document their uniformly spineless behavior since Hitler came to power, they have identified themselves with him[227] and permitted him uncontradicted to define himself as Deutschland.

There is just a chance that a combination of generosity and firmness may impress a minority of Germans which may grow and eventually bring the whole nation into our hoped-for World Federation. If, on the contrary, the Germans secretly arm, and prepare another ambush for civilization, our only hope is to find it out in time. We should have no hope at all if our sobbing societies succeeded in inducing the Peace Conference to give the Germans equality in arms. Let us remember that if we were all to disarm, including Germany, it would be just as disadvantageous for us as if we remained armed and allowed Germany to keep equal arms. For at any stage of armament or disarmament the Germans are superior to almost any combination of their opponents. Germany is not just another nation. It is a nation, not exceptionally numerous, but so highly talented in the mechanics, chemistry, and physics of warfare and so professionally skilled in the staff work of war, and so obediently brave in the practice of battle, that its military power is greater than that of any other single nation on earth, with no exceptions.

Q. What are we going to do with all the former nations of Europe, especially the fifteen or so which were conquered? Are we going to reconstitute them all as they were?

A. We shall try to reconstitute all those which are capable of maintaining a national life, but how can one foresee the fate of such unfortunate little states as Esthonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? The Soviet government, through its ambassador to London, Mr. Maisky, now declares that it approves the Atlantic Charter’s Eight Points, including the right of self-determination of all nations. This has been hailed as a great step forward; but I should prefer to[228] wait to see the Red Army evacuate voluntarily any territory it may hold at the end of this war.

The attitude of the Soviet government toward the rights of small nations is brilliantly illustrated by Stalin’s treatment of the Baltic States. First, he asked Britain and France for them to be handed him on a platter, as roast chicken. Having been refused, he waited until the war began, then forcibly occupied the three little states, which were among the more attractive and in many ways more admirable little countries in Europe. We have almost completely overlooked the grisly fate of the middle-class population of the Baltic states—virtually exterminated by Stalin’s gunmen in one of those side shows of horror which only the great war could obscure. The Baltic population is suffering an epic of agony. After Stalin’s G.P.U. had killed or exiled all the professional and business people and all those suspected of being Nazi sympathizers, and then after war had swept the three countries, the Germans and the Gestapo moved in and killed all the Communist and other labor leaders and anti-Nazis. Now that Stalin has been driven out of the Baltic states, and they are occupied by the Nazis, the Soviet policy is ceremoniously announced to be in favor of restoration of full national independence to all states.

That must ring bitterly in the ears of the pitiful remnant of the population of Esthonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Is there enough of them left to make it possible to resuscitate their nations? The experience of these countries shows how difficult it will be in our postwar settlement to give national independence to small states and at the same time allow them the possibility of national security. Many a small state will have to choose between the one or the other. If it stands alone, it may be devoured by a larger neighbor. If it enters a larger unit, it will have to sacrifice some of its sovereignty. All this points to the necessity of making the larger unit big enough to comprise all nations.

Whatever we do, the Soviet Union will present us with almost[229] as many problems as Germany. How can Britain and the United States confidently outline specific war aims as long as we do not know what the position of the Soviet Union will be at the end of this war? And if the Soviet Union survives in her present form and temper, and has not defected from the war, how is she to fit into our world peace organization? There are in it only two durable points of reference: the United States and Great Britain, and one great hope of success for the organization of peace, the firm friendship of the two countries, braced by their control of the seas. Our only chance of realizing such a peace is by cherishing between ourselves a mutual trust which will override our selfish ambitions, for there are many points and places on the globe where our material interests conflict. We cannot maintain this relationship until we Americans begin to carry our full share of the burden of the war and the British in turn make us feel we are welcome to the comradeship as well as the responsibilities of the war and the peace.

Q. Do the British want such a Pax Anglo-Americana which would divide their victory with us?

A. Let us not be sentimental about the British in spite of our partnership and friendship with them. The British would like nothing on earth so much as to be able to win this war without the United States’ help. They would dearly love to win alone and enjoy the fruits of victory alone. But they know now they cannot win alone. They know they cannot beat the Germans without our full, shooting participation in the war. And so they are resigned to accepting our companionship in battle.

Q. “Resigned to accepting our companionship in battle”? Is that the way the British feel? Well, then, I for my part....


A. Yes, I know what you are going to say: that you for your part would just as soon not help the British if that’s the way they feel about it. How many Americans there are left who still think in terms of “helping the British”! Cannot we finally understand that we are helping first of all ourselves, and that it would make no difference to us if the British were not human beings at all, but a race of perspicacious, pugnacious penguins?

So long as these penguins are fighting off our common enemy who would attack us if the penguins fell, is it not just good sense to throw our whole combat aid to the penguins, no matter what the penguins may think of us? If the British were to have a mental breakdown and declare they disliked us so thoroughly that they would accept no more help from us of any kind and would rather be beaten by the Nazis than win with American help, we should be compelled from our own vital self-interest to beg to be allowed to help them and then we should have to urge and even threaten until reluctantly the British made room for us in the battle line. It is good luck that the British are people who would be worth saving even if thereby we were not going to save ourselves.

Q. Will you recapitulate how you visualize the organization of peace?

A. First, a Pax Anglo-Americana, based on our naval control of the world. This may take one of several forms, including Union Now, Clarence Streit’s thoughtful plan for amalgamating the democracies. Its immediate purpose would be to unite the coercive power of the nations of good will to restrain those of ill will until time and repentance had made it possible to bring them into our second organization. This World Federation of some kind might be a resuscitated League of Nations, or it might have another name or form. All we know positively is that unless we organize for peace, we shall have war again; and we know now that the nations[231] of good will on earth are not strong enough without the United States to impose peace on the world. We know that if we stay out of the peace we shall surely be drawn into the succeeding war. Perhaps by the end of this present struggle we shall have learned our lesson and will never again attempt to withdraw into an illusory isolation which must always bring us into the very war it tried to avoid. Perhaps for the first time in our history we will with open eyes and clear plan enter the strength of the United States into the organization of peace with the same zeal we use to make war. If we do, who knows but that the peace established after this war could endure for longer than we even dare to guess at this melancholy moment.

Q. Is it a fact that because of the war England is becoming Socialist and will come out of the war with a government and social system just as repugnant to us as the Nazis’?

A. It is true that the government and social system of England have become Socialist but in the Christian and democratic sense of the word. British society has become a Christian collective. If they could maintain after the war as ideal a spirit of cooperation and love of their neighbors as they have today under fire, we might call it the first step toward the millennium. Far from being a government and social system we disapproved, they would be worthy of our emulation. To compare such a system of voluntary, democratic, unselfish devotion to the common good as exists today in wartime England with the Nazi regime is to compare good with evil. Beaten by the blows of war the British people have attained in a period of months a degree of social progress they would not have reached in decades otherwise.

Britain was forced to adopt a system of wartime socialism, if you want to call it that, because that form of socialism under the inspiration of life-and-death battle can produce so much more than[232] uncontrolled capitalism. Production is the materialist index of the value of any economic system. Under British wartime socialism, capitalists and workers genuinely pool their interests and restrict their demands to the minimum, while men and women of all classes risk and give their lives in battle for the community. Until we adopt such a system and are inspired by the same dire necessity which animates the British, our system of production, man for man, and unit for unit, will not equal British production. As for the Nazis, their system of Socialism, based on Terror and megalomania, aims to enslave the world; the British system of Socialism, based on free choice and democracy, aims to liberate the world. No, there is no possibility that any form of government should emerge in England after the war which would be “as repugnant to us as the Nazis’,” unless Britain is conquered and becomes a satrapy of Hitler.

Q. Is this British wartime Socialism not really equivalent to Communism? How does it differ from capitalism?

A. It is the sort of communism anyone would approve if it could work in peacetime, though it seems that it really works only in war. In wartime the motive that makes men work is defense of their lives, their families, their nation, against an enemy from without. This leads to a degree of self-sacrifice that is never even approximated in peacetime. Witness the invariable collapse of national morale after every war. One of the chief reasons, if not the chief reason, why communism in peacetime does not work, either in Russia or anywhere else, is because except under the duress of war, individuals primarily work for themselves. The Russian Bolshevik party tried for twenty-three years to make the Russians work for the community, but they never succeeded until now, when they have gone to war. No matter how the Battle of Russia turns out, when the war is over, if the Soviet Union is still Communist,[233] it will revert to its accustomed slackness and poverty. If the British were to try to continue their wartime socialism into peacetime, they would find it impossible. Strikes would break out; employers would begin to reach out for profits and soon the old-time, though modified capitalism would return, with many of its faults, but still far more productive than peacetime communism anywhere in the world. Capitalism in peace; collectivism in war appears to be the law for democracies in our time.



Q. Why did France fall?

A. Because the French people were hypnotized by their low birth rate; because their Maginot line had imprisoned their army; because, ignorant of the character and intentions of their enemy, they did not know why they had to fight the Germans and so preferred to fight among themselves; because they had no Churchill; because they were betrayed by a powerful group of their leaders including senior officers of the Army; and because the French were stultified by their debased and venal press.

Q. But I thought they lost chiefly because they lacked the proper weapons: airplanes and tanks.

A. They did not possess anything like the number of tanks and airplanes used by the Germans; but I would rank this deficiency at the bottom of any list of causes of the French defeat. If they had ignored their birth rate, been willing to spend lives, had retained the old offensive spirit traditional in the French Army, had known that they had to win or perish, had possessed a Churchill to inspire and lead them, and had had no traitors in their ranks, their comparative lack of weapons would not have mattered; they would still be fighting the Germans in France. The inferiority of their equipment consisted, as you indicate, in the lack of a sufficient number of planes and tanks, but if they had had the spirit to win they could have held the Germans until the deficiency could be made up.

Tanks cannot cross properly defended rivers, and there were[235] several sets of rivers which the French could have held if they chose: the Meuse, the Somme and the Oise, the Aisne, the Marne, the Seine, and finally the Loire, but they held not at all at any of these natural barriers. At most of these rivers I was present during the retreat, and it astonished all of us, including United States officers, to visit a French position along a river one day and observe how strong it was, and how difficult it would be to take, and then the next day learn the Germans had taken it within a few hours of our departure.

Q. But surely the reason was the German dive bombers who could fly across the rivers and drive the defenders away. I have heard that they were the principal weapon used to break the French who didn’t have enough pursuit planes to down them. It seems to me that if the dive bomber is anything like as lethal as it is said to be, you must put more of the blame for the French collapse on it than on the failure of French morale.

A. No, the dive bombers are not effective against brave determined troops. They are not as effective as artillery. I have an authority for that, General Charles Huntziger, now Minister of War of the Vichy government. I met him when he was Commander of the Second Army occupying the left wing of the Maginot line. It was about May 31, 1940 in the second week after the German break-through.

General Huntziger received me in his headquarters, an old fortress of Verdun. He explained that he had now taught his men how to meet the terrible German tank-plus-dive-bomber attack. He said that he had explained to his men that the dive bomber was not nearly so deadly as artillery, and that its effect was chiefly psychological, and that if the soldiers could master their first fright they could hold their ground and win. The great thing was to hold long enough to learn that your chance of being killed by dive bombers[236] was much less than your chance of being killed by artillery fire, since artillery shells may fall uninterruptedly for an indefinite time, while a dive bomber has only one or at the most a few bombs to discharge, and once it has dropped them, has to return to its base for more, and the number of dive bombers is limited.

He emphasized that French soldiers had never been afraid to stand artillery fire, so why should they run from the less dangerous dive bombers? He said he instructed all soldiers not serving antiaircraft guns to go under cover for the few seconds while the dive bombers dived, but to emerge immediately upon hearing the detonation of the bombs, and meet the advancing tanks. If they were small thinly armored tanks, and the French possessed adequate antitank guns, they should attempt to destroy the tanks. If the tanks were too large and heavily armored, the French should permit the tanks to go through and emerge in time to stop the German infantry following the tanks.

General Huntziger admitted that it had been extremely difficult at first to persuade his troops of the comparative harmlessness of the dive bombers and mentioned the fact that in the first thirteen days of the German attack his troops had been overwhelmed and he had lost fifty per cent of his effectives, more than ninety per cent of whom were captured, but he believed that now the troops were experienced and could not be frightened as they were at first. As we were soon to observe, the French troops never did get used to the dive bomber which is truly the most terrifying weapon ever invented. General Huntziger compared it to a locomotive with its whistle wide open falling upon you from the sky.

“You are certain it is coming just for you,” the General said, “and you believe it is not merely going to drop bombs upon you, but you are sure the plane itself is going to crash upon you and leave you smashed like a beetle.”

The noise of the dive bomber is its most terrifying quality. An ordinary airplane diving makes a loud rushing noise familiar to[237] everyone nowadays, but many of the German dive bombers were equipped with sirens attached to loud-speakers, so that when they dived each plane screamed with the noise of a score of ordinary diving planes. In addition to that they were often equipped with screaming bombs. General Touchon, commander of the Sixth Army, showed me one at his headquarters. It had four whistles, each about the size of a cannon cracker, in the vanes of its tail. They made each falling bomb sound as loud as four American locomotives with the whistles open. “But,” General Huntziger said, “all you have to do is to realize that noise doesn’t hurt anyone, and I have explained that to my soldiers and from now on they will stand firm.”

Huntziger gave me a copy of his orders of the day. I cannot read it even now without feeling the terrible weight of despair that settled upon all of us as we realized that the end of France was near. It is dated May 18, 1940 and begins: “The war has commenced,”—it was to be all over in exactly thirty days—“and, in order to win, the enemy always attacks your morale. In this first shock, his tactic, his ruses of warfare and his weapons have but one object, to demoralize you. The enemy is reckoning only upon fighting you with fright. It is necessary therefore that you know this.

“Know also that the massive bombardments of the enemy aviation, no matter how impressive they are, make few victims, as you may have already noted. You know the total lost; they are a minimum. Take refuge when the enemy aircraft passes and immediately afterward take up again your combat post. Never forget our aviation protects you. Even when you cannot see it. Know that our airplanes have knocked down more than a thousand enemy machines in less than eight days and that among the enemy our bombers are giving blow for blow.

“Know that against infantry the tank is not able to accomplish big things if you hide yourself and the tanks cannot see you. Let them pass without showing yourself, then fire on the guides who[238] accompany them. Without them the tank is almost blind; sooner or later it will have to abandon the field to refuel if our antitank guns have not already knocked it out.

“These guns are very efficient; they have given many proofs of it in the last few days.

“Do not allow yourself to be influenced by tales of parachutists but if you actually find some, remember that an armed man can always beat them. Guard yourself against imaginary dangers. As though you were in active combat, you have to defend yourself against false rumors which may be spread by a traitor or an imbecile seized with panic.

“If you listen to such tales they may be able to provoke serious defection. Listen to no one but your superior officers and those you know.

“A man can overcome his fear. It is his duty to surmount it and to combat the fears of others. If a man spreads fear he not only commits an act of cowardice. He commits treason.

“Know finally that the enemy is not so strong as some people think. Oppose to him your will. It is your will which will sweep the enemy away. Never forget what you are defending. If you let the enemy pass you will lose more than your life. You will be pitilessly separated from your families to suffer far from them a slavery worse than death.”

The intelligence and courage of Huntziger as displayed in these orders were of no avail, because he could not, as Churchill can, transmit his spirit to others. His soldiers listened to his talk and read his orders of the day but still they yielded to their fear. It must be seldom in military history that a commanding general has to devote his principal orders to adjuring his troops not to be afraid. The French Army was already panic-stricken.

Q. You say there was treachery among senior officers of the French[239] Army and among the government. Why do you say that and what proof of it have you?

A. There were both treachery and treason. High French officers and officials conspired to overthrow the Republic. Pétain himself was their leader. They were so fanatical in their desire to destroy the Republic that they fell into the German trap and acquiesced in what the Germans told them would be a fake defeat, after which they would set up the Fascist government which they did set up at Vichy. After that Hitler would withdraw his troops and restore France to all her old power and glory, an equal partner and friend of Nazi Germany. They were of course deceived and now most of them must realize they were deceived, and that Hitler has no intention of ever allowing France to be a great power again. But this awakening is too late and the guilty men, many of them now in Pétain’s government, have a life-and-death interest in preserving their secret, since in the present temper of the French people if the truth were known many another assassination would follow the attempts on Laval and Deat.

This is a rough outline of what I believe to have happened in France. I will be glad to give you all the evidence I have, admitting that it probably is not sufficient to win a verdict of guilty in a court of law, but maintaining that it is convincing to one who witnessed the debacle and was bewildered by the lack of adequate explanation. You see, after we had added up all the other reasons for the fall of France, there was still something lacking; something to explain the fact that the French Army of nearly five million men, with its centuries of glorious tradition, and its reputation among experts as the best in the world, never once held firm after the Germans broke through the Low Countries, never once stopped the enemy for as much as a day, but steadily, day by day retreated, crumbled, broke up, and at the end of five weeks ceased to exist.

Review our list of causes now and see if all of them put together[240] explain this phenomenon. Complacency and trust in the Maginot line and the softening effect of eight months of inactivity, comparative lack of leadership, man power and planes and tanks; lack of faith, anger, and the spirit to fight to kill; conflict between communists and conservatives. No, all these reasons together do not explain the conduct of the French Army between May 11 and June 17, 1940.

Q. But the thesis you present is too astounding. That French Army officers should have conspired with the enemy is almost beyond belief. Do you mean the French General Staff?

A. Yes, the French General Staff. Not all of it; only a few members were necessary. If you find it difficult to believe, remember that the French officers and officials concerned did not believe they were betraying France; they believed that Hitler would keep his word and restore France as soon as the Republic was overthrown. To make this aspect of the matter clear: suppose you were a young Frenchman today, would you think of it as treason if you worked to overthrow the Vichy government? Would you think of yourself as a traitor if you conspired with the British to throw out Pétain and reorganize a democratic government? No.

Well, in so far as one can credit such Fascists with sincerity, we have to admit that these men also thought they were serving the best interests of France when they conspired to overthrow the Republic. Remember that French officers as a class have generally been anti-Republican. Napoleon’s officers soon forgot Republican principles in their devotion to the Emperor. The hierarchy of the Army did not favor the equalitarianism of the French Republic. Aristocratic officers generally set the tone for the majority of the higher ranks. Time and again I was astonished to note that upper-class Frenchmen seemed to remember as though it had been yesterday[241] the bloody events of the French Revolution, and were more afraid of their own working class than of any foreign enemy.

I visited once the famous deep cellar vaults of the Bank of France where they kept the gold, and while walking through the doorway, piercing its twenty-foot thick steel and concrete walls, I asked why they needed such formidable and expensive protection. Was it against the Germans? It could not be, because if ever the Germans occupied Paris, as they do today, no underground fortification such as these vaults could prevent them from getting the gold, especially since the Germans would be holding as hostages the men with the keys. No, it was not against a foreign enemy; the vaults were built against the Paris mob, against revolutionaries, against another 1789.

This spirit was shared by many French senior officers, and it is ironic that their conspiracy to bring about a feigned defeat in order to overthrow the Republic was greatly helped by the defection of the Parisian Communist troops in Corap’s Ninth Army at the Meuse. The very workingmen who had most to lose by the fall of the Republic and the establishment of a Fascist France, helped bring about their own downfall under the mistaken guidance of Moscow. The treachery to France came from the two opposite poles of French society.

Q. How did this treason manifest itself in the operations of the army?

A. I will give you one example, from personal experience and the testimony of French friends. You remember the Germans, when they broke through the Low Countries and across the Meuse, dashed with their Panzer divisions for the coast, pell-mell, at top speed, not bothering or wasting time at first to widen their column of penetration, which was still only a few miles wide for much of its length when the first German detachments reached the sea at Abbeville. North of this thin German column was the strong[242] French Army under General Prioux, while south of it were the main French forces. It was the constant fervid hope of the French that their armies would cut across the German column, roll it up in two directions, and win not merely the battle of France but perhaps the war.

Military experts, foremost our own, thought it possible; some held it probable. This hope reached its climax after Weygand made an inspection flight to the Low Countries and returned to Paris. That day at the Ministry of Information as I was waiting in the office for Colonel Schieffer, in charge of American correspondents, the gaunt, one-eyed, black-monocled, fiercely patriotic Colonel came in with a bang, dropped his customary stillness and exclaimed: “Weygand says he won’t leave a German alive, not one. He’s going to cut the column and bottle them up and he says there won’t be left one living.” Like wildfire the word of Weygand spread through the building, through Paris, through France. It was the only bright moment in the whole Battle of France.

But it did not happen. Why didn’t it? A captain from General Prioux’s staff may have the answer. This is the story he told. “After the Germans reached Abbeville and cut us off from the South, General Prioux called us all together one day and said, ‘I have orders from General Headquarters that you must blow up your tanks and guns and retreat as speedily as possible to the seashore. I must tell you that personally I do not approve these orders. I am convinced we are strong enough to make an offensive southward and cut the Germans and reunite with our troops in France. However, orders are orders and one does not discuss orders. You will do as I have told you and I shall stay here where I am.’

“We did as we were told and Prioux became a prisoner of war. That was our last chance. The failure to cut the German column was the end of the Battle of France. We could have done it; we were ordered not to.”

Counterattack, always we waited for the famous French[243] counterattack, the fulfillment of the French Army tradition of aggression, à la baionette! but it never came. Orders stopped it.

Q. Who gave the orders? Pétain was not an active officer then.

A. No, but General George was. I want to give you my evidence in the form of a firsthand quotation from a French friend, but before I do so it is important to point out that between General Gamelin, commander in chief of all the Allied land forces, and General George, commander of the French armies fighting against Germany, there existed a jealousy so strong that it amounted to hatred, and their headquarters staffs became so permeated with it that they actually withheld information from each other.

Here then, were the principal elements and forces involved in the great conspiracy: First, Pétain, towering above all other figures and forces; then the Deuxième Bureau, the famous Second Bureau in charge of Intelligence of the French Army; General George and General Dusseigneur and Colonel Eugene Deloncle; the Cagoulards, that secret society of so-called Hooded Men, which most people considered merely absurd but whose importance turned out to be greater than that of any French secret society since the Revolution; the group operating the Fascist weekly, Je Suis Partout; and on the German side Otto Abetz, now Hitler’s ambassador to France, and the unlimited money and propaganda of Himmler’s Gestapo, Goebbels’ Ministry, Ribbentrop’s Foreign Office, and the Ausland’s Buro.

Now I shall let my French friend talk. This is his report: from here to page 262 he is speaking in the first person.

On June 17, 1940, I found myself standing outside a wayside tavern in France. I was one of the millions retreating southward from occupied Paris ahead of the German Army. I had stopped by the roadside because, through the open window of the inn, I heard[244] a radio broadcasting the pathetic voice of an old man. Marshal Pétain was telling the French nation that he had decided to ask Hitler to grant France an armistice.

Standing beside me was a young artillery lieutenant. As the last words of the old Marshal died away, he turned toward me, pale as ivory, and exclaimed: “Now I begin to understand! They forced us to retreat so that we would have to accept this armistice, so that the Germans could come in to do their dirty work for them!”

I didn’t dare understand. “How do you mean?” I asked him.

“Don’t be so naive!” he exploded. “Can’t you see what’s happened? Don’t you remember that handful of enthusiastic young fools who were always shouting ‘Pétain in power!’ Well, now he is in power. He can govern with the aid of German troops. He has opened the way for them to occupy the country. The Germans will make the arrests and carry out the executions, and when their opponents have all been put out of the way, Pétain and his friends will be in possession of the kind of Nazified country they like. Mark my words—this is not the end, but only the beginning. This is not war; it’s a domestic political maneuver!”

At that moment it seemed that only a man completely out of his mind could have believed what the young officer had just said. A higher officer who had been listening broke in to correct him. Pétain, he said, was very old and possibly not very intelligent. But he certainly could not be a traitor.

“His first consideration,” this officer went on, “will be to obtain reasonable terms from the enemy. I doubt very much whether he will give any time at all to internal political questions. All Frenchmen, all the legislators, all the people, will be behind him in his struggle against the Germans. What greater power could he gain by bringing about an internal political transformation?”

I said nothing but I was deeply anxious. Why had Pétain announced publicly that he had asked for an armistice before he was sure that honorable conditions would be granted? The mere fact[245] of an announcement’s having been made would complete the shattering of army morale and all hope of further resistance, and make it impossible, in case satisfactory terms could not be achieved, to reshape a fighting army and resume the struggle. Pétain’s radio speech seemed at the very least unwise—unless its object were to eliminate the slightest chance that the armistice might not go through. And in that case, the young officer was probably right.

Two dominant theories to explain the fall of France emerge: (1) France’s rapid debacle was due to complete unpreparedness, both physical and spiritual; (2) France was sold out, and what happened is to be explained primarily by the operations of treason. Both explanations are a part of the truth; neither of them is the whole truth.

There was a lack of matériel of all sorts—infantry weapons and artillery, ammunition, tanks, planes, etc. It was true also that production in the munitions factories was increasing slowly, and that the pace would have been insufficient if the intense warfare of the last five weeks had had to be continued over a long period. But the fact was that the period of intense warfare was very short; and it is hardly logical to say that France was beaten because she would have lacked ammunition if the war had lasted longer.

Some observers have imagined that France lacked munitions even for so short a war, for it has been established that there were shortages at many vital points. I talked with literally hundreds of soldiers and officers during the retreat of June. Infantrymen complained that they were given only three or four bullets per rifle; artillerymen said that whole batteries were left without shells; tanks ran out of gasoline at the very beginning of action and had no chance to refuel, and worst of all (everyone stressed this as having been the most discouraging factor), German planes had complete and undisputed freedom in the air. Again and again soldiers told me that during engagements, with hundreds of German planes above, on not one occasion did French aviation come[246] to the aid of the infantry. It was not surprising, under such conditions, that morale gave way, and that the army was psychologically prepared for the final collapse.

But was this lack of matériel at points essential to the defense the result of a general shortage or simply of failure to get existing munitions to the necessary centers? It seems indisputable that it was the distributing system which was at fault. And was this breakdown of the supply lines simply due to lack of organization, or to a much more serious cause—treason? Whatever the case, it is a fact that the retreating soldiers and officers, drawing their conclusions from such facts as they had been able to witness, were unanimous in exclaiming: “We have been sold out!”

Now listen to the story of a reserve officer, a captain of a machine-gun detachment, one of the many with whom I talked.

“Don’t tell me,” he said, “that our General Headquarters lacked experience in supply problems, or that they forgot to send us cartridges for our machine guns. In 1914-1918 they had no trouble of this kind. There were situations quite as complicated as this one again and again during that war, but the ammunition always arrived. This short action hasn’t exhausted our reserve of matériel. The depots are still full. Yet we at the front lines had to destroy our machine guns to save them from the enemy when we ran out of ammunition for them and had to fall back. The same thing happened all along the front, for machine guns, artillery of all calibers, and antitank guns. You can call it disorganization, if you want. I call it intentional disorganization—sabotage, directed, probably, from the same central point. But I don’t dare yet to try to form any conclusions, to understand why such sabotage took place. Perhaps one day we shall all understand.”

On the roads choked with retreating columns and fleeing refugees, where military trucks and civilian cars were inextricably mingled, soldiers talked of their misgivings during the waits, often hours long, for jammed highways to be cleared so that traffic[247] could resume its interminable southward crawl. Scores of times, caught in such blocks, I heard soldiers or officers say: “Why are we constantly ordered to retreat? We haven’t been in any real engagement since the Somme. We’re not afraid to fight, but the retreat orders keep us moving to the rear as fast as we can get over these encumbered roads. What is the cause of this continual flight? Aren’t they ever going to establish a line of resistance and order us to hold it?”

They never did. One June 16, two days after Paris had been occupied by the Germans, I found myself on the right bank of the Loire, at the Nevers bridge. My car, heavily loaded with the members of my family and all our luggage, had developed motor trouble. Our most urgent need was to get across that river; for we supposed of course, that the retreating troops would stop on the other side of the natural line of defense constituted by the Loire, which it should have been possible to hold for weeks, and possibly forever. Across that bridge, we thought, lay safety.

We tried to persuade passing cars to tow us across. All of them, civilian and military vehicles alike, passed us by. Their occupants intent on the pursuing Germans, had no thought for anything except to get across that bridge themselves. So we all got out except a young girl who took the steering wheel, and pushed the car over what seemed to be the longest bridge in the world.

We felt better when we got to the other side, with the wide river between us and the enemy. I found a colonel supervising the retreat of his troops, and asked him if he could direct me to the officer in charge of the sector, thinking that he could probably let me have a mechanic to repair the car.

“There is no officer in charge here,” the colonel said. “We are all passing through without stopping, so there is no organization at this point. I’m sorry I can’t do anything for you. You had better get out of here as quickly as you can. The Germans will probably be here in an hour.” From these words I realized with a shock[248] that the defense of the left bank of the Loire was not even being considered, and that the army was retreating indefinitely. I looked up and down the long banks of the river. There were no fortified positions whatsoever. I saw only one lonely soldier standing by the side of a machine gun. He seemed to be wondering whether he had been forgotten there.

South of the Loire, the bewilderment of the troops deepened, for all of them had expected that that line would be held. Time and again I heard the question asked: “Where are we going?” Those who clung to hope to the last declared desperately: “The generals must have a plan. Our orders are to retreat as quickly as we can. There must be reasons for it.” But most of them simply gave up the attempt to understand what was going on, and why no effort was being made to resist.

For three months after the armistice I remained in France. I wanted to find out the story behind the defeat. What I have to tell is not pure hypothesis. It is the only possible explanation which can be deduced from a number of unknown or little known facts which I took the greatest trouble to verify. Here is the story:

There has been ample occasion in recent years to observe Nazi propaganda tactics, among them the method which consists in selecting the most appropriate arguments to convince any group the Nazis wish to win over, even when those arguments are directly contrary to those used with another group. Such a procedure would seem on the surface likely to defeat its own aims; but it is the tendency of each group to believe what it wants to believe, that Hitler is telling the truth, while deceiving its adversaries. It is the same state of mentality which confidence men evoke in such tested swindles as the rosary game, in which the sucker is led to see himself as the accomplice in victimizing someone else and thus never imagines that he is marked for the role of victim himself.

It was in this fashion that Germany laid the foundation for France’s defeat by corrupting different groups of the population[249] in different ways. Agents of Berlin told the French Communists, for instance, that Germany was Soviet Russia’s ally, and that if Hitler won the war, he would not oppose a Communist Revolution in France. The new French Soviet Republic could then conclude an alliance with Germany, Russia, and Italy and take part in the totalitarian reconstruction of postwar Europe. French Communist leaders swallowed this propaganda, and the result was slowing down of production in munitions plants due to insidious Communist propaganda against which the Interior Ministry tried in vain to take effective measures.

There were many evidences that Communists believed they were working in accord with Germany. After the armistice, Communist factory workers in the occupied region on several occasions started the singing of the Internationale in the factories where they were employed with the idea that this would please their new masters, and were surprised that it didn’t.

During the war, the Communists had been given reasons for believing that they were on the side of the Germans. Some of the French Bolshevik leaders who deserted during the war fled to Germany. Findings of French radiogoniometric services proved that Communist short-wave stations broadcasting in French were operating from Germany. After the German troops reached Paris, several young French writers known for their Communist sympathies, who had remained behind when most other Leftists had fled, were immediately given important places, such as the editing of Paris daily papers, by the Nazi authorities. These incidents demonstrate that the Germans had succeeded in establishing relationships with French Communist leaders during the war; but it must be recorded that the majority of Communist workmen remained definitely hostile to the Nazis.

This failure to enlist the support among the Communist rank and file which had been found among the leaders convinced the German secret service early that there was no real chance of bringing[250] about the defeat of France by fomenting a Bolshevik revolution. If such a method had been feasible, Nazi Germany would certainly not have hesitated to apply it, just as Imperial Germany did not hesitate to send Lenin and his companions in their famous sealed railroad coach into Russia in 1917.

Under the circumstances, the Communist movement was taken advantage of by the Germans only to the extent of being employed to create as much unrest as possible among French workers, who did not even realize to what influences they were being exposed. The chief effort of German secret agents was concentrated on conservative circles, which, according to reports received at the Wilhelmstrasse, were in a much better position to exert effective influence on the outcome of the war.

There was nothing contradictory about this willingness on the part of the Nazis to cooperate with either the extreme Left or the extreme Right, or even with both simultaneously, since their object, whatever their dupes might think, was not to help them to victory, but to use them as a tool to weaken the unity and the power of the government. Nazi propaganda welcomed any loophole through which it might penetrate into the vitals of a foreign country with the aid of any resistance to the regime which might already exist there.

For years before the war, the Nazis had established contact with reactionary Rightist circles in France. One such circle which in America has been accused of having been influenced by the Germans and having perhaps contributed to France’s downfall is the Croix de Feu, at one time generally considered as the future Fascist movement of France. I must say that I could find neither proof nor indication that the Croix de Feu had played Germany’s game. On the contrary, the Petit Journal, published by Colonel François de la Rocque, the Croix de Feu leader, assumed a more courageously anti-German attitude after the armistice than did most[251] other papers published under the control of the Vichy government.

Two other less conspicuous, but perhaps more influential Right-wing groups were, however, definitely approached by the Germans during the prewar years. One of them was the secret revolutionary organization popularly known as the Cagoulards (the Hooded ones); the other was the group which published the weekly, Je Suis Partout. These contacts were established chiefly by Otto Abetz, infamous “special delegate” of Nazi Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, who was expelled from France shortly before the war. On his initiative, members of both groups undertook several trips to Berlin between 1937 and 1939 to discuss means of action.

The German secret service had a particular interest in these two groups because, while entirely independent of each other, they had one thing in common—far-reaching ties with the French Army.

The Cagoulard group was headed by French officers of high rank—majors, colonels, and even generals. General Dusseigneur was among those arrested when the Cagoulard movement was uncovered shortly before the war after it had planted bombs in Paris. The dissolution of the movement made its members more cautious, but its underground activities continued.

If any further evidence of German support for the Cagoulards had been needed beyond that already turned up by the French police, it was provided by the Germans themselves. When they occupied Paris, one of the first things they did was to demand that the French national police turn over the files on the Cagoulard case. From these files, the Germans learned the names of the police commissioners who had unearthed the Cagoulard plot, and immediately arrested those who were in occupied territory.

This was in striking contrast to the treatment of the arrested Cagoulard leaders, all of whom had been released by the French[252] government by the beginning of the war. Shortly after the start of hostilities I met in the train the brother of one of the Cagoulards who had been arrested. In the ensuing conversation, I remarked that I was astonished that responsible adults should have indulged at such a time in what then appeared to have been a somewhat childish imitation of a motion picture conspiracy. Nettled by my attitude, my interlocutor answered:

“You don’t understand how serious this movement was. It was organized by the Deuxième Bureau (the department of the army concerned with espionage and counterespionage). It was at the instigation of the military secret service that my brother and his friends organized the Cagoulards. That can’t be told now, of course, but the day will come when all the truth will be known, and my brother will be considered a hero for the time he has spent in prison.”

“The Deuxième Bureau!” I exclaimed incredulously. “Why in the world should the Deuxième Bureau want to foster a revolutionary movement when it’s already so near the power itself?”

“Ever since the 1936 elections,” he answered, “important members of the French secret service have been very much worried about the influence the Communist movement has gained in this country, and so they decided to take matters into their own hands. The Cagoulard movement was formed to do that. The Popular Front ministers got my brother and his friends put in jail, but you’ll see that they haven’t said their last word yet.”

Je Suis Partout, the weekly which was another outpost of German propaganda in France, belonged originally to the publishing house of Fayard, which put out books and another and more prosperous political weekly, Candide. Je Suis Partout was a money loser and publisher Arthème Fayard decided several years ago to discontinue it. When the news got out, Pierre Gaxotte, editor of the paper, proposed to Fayard that he turn the paper’s name over to him instead of giving him severance pay, since he thought he[253] might be able to keep the magazine going himself. Fayard agreed, and Je Suis Partout continued to appear without interruption, and so far as the public knew, without any change in its control. Circulation did not increase. Advertising continued low. The paper showed no signs of prosperity—but it did not show any signs of having financial difficulties any more either.

Pierre Gaxotte, as well as some other members of his editorial staff, had begun his political career in the Royalist Action Française movement, but had apparently decided to strike out for himself and cut his own political tracks. Under Gaxotte’s direction, Je Suis Partout assumed a definitely pro-German attitude, arguing that France and Germany should come to an understanding between themselves as the two great continental powers, leaving England out in the cold. Paul Ferdonnet, who won fame later as the “traitor of Stuttgart” delivering propaganda broadcasts in French from the Stuttgart radio station during the war (he is now supervisor of the French radio in Paris), was also on the editorial staff until he went to Berlin to establish his permanent residence and his own press syndicate there. From that time on, he was the secret liaison agent between the German authorities and Gaxotte’s paper.

The German sympathies of Je Suis Partout were apparent enough, but no one bothered much about it, for circulation was low and the paper’s influence was considered to be negligible. This must have been the viewpoint of the Daladier government also, for except for friendly arguments with the censors, the paper was able to continue publishing unhampered even after the war broke out.

When Daladier resigned and Paul Reynaud came in, he appointed Georges Mandel Minister of the Interior, and thus head of the French police organization. Although Mandel, zealous, patriotic, and uncompromising, like his master Clemenceau whose secretary he had been during the last war, undertook to hunt down[254] defeatists of all descriptions, Je Suis Partout continued to appear as usual. Mandel also apparently considered it too insignificant to be dangerous.

But one day a well-known French journalist brought to Mandel the proof that the principal members of the editorial staff of Je Suis Partout were simultaneously agents of the Deuxième Bureau. Mandel was astounded. He who knew all the undercurrents of French political life, who for years had kept secret files about all public figures, had not dreamed that any connection could have existed between this outspokenly pro-German magazine and one of the most influential departments of the French Army. He had put the editors of Je Suis Partout down as innocuous fools. He now realized that though the circulation of the paper was small, the private influence of its editors might have been both great and disastrous.

He did not hesitate an instant. He ordered immediately the arrest of five members of the staff. Among them was an obscure journalist, not generally known as a member of the staff, named Pierre Mouton, who some years before had founded a small press syndicate called Prima Presse in partnership with Ferdonnet. Mandel quickly obtained proof that the two men were still cooperating. Mouton, while maintaining permanent contact with Je Suis Partout, was also flooding the French daily press with cleverly prepared pro-German articles which were supplied to the newspapers free of charge.

With the known leaders of the Je Suis Partout group in jail, Mandel apparently thought that there was no immediate urgency for delving further into this particular case when so many other vital matters pressed for attention. The same attitude had been taken a few years before in regard to the Cagoulards, who seemed to have been set down as definitely muzzled because their figureheads had been imprisoned. Neither the stern and Spartan Mandel, who had arrested the Je Suis Partout group, nor the vivacious and[255] epicurean Albert Sarraut, his predecessor, who had handled the Cagoulard case, imagined that either of these two groups had achieved a real and lasting penetration into the high command—a penetration which seems to have contributed largely to the debacle of May and June.

Possibly the two cases had never been laid side by side so that the telltale fact that both times a trail led to the Deuxième Bureau had not been observed. Perhaps also the two Interior Ministers had hesitated each time before venturing to have civilian authorities investigate the most powerful of the military departments. The Deuxième Bureau of the French Army was sometimes called “a state within the state.” It might more exactly have been called “several states within the state,” for it was a complicated organism with its own currents and undercurrents, comprising a number of competing groups. Somewhere within this complicated office existed the only link between the pro-German Je Suis Partout and the German-inspired Cagoulards; but on the surface, at least at the beginning, no relation seemed to exist between these two separate activities.

The Cagoulard movement, although it had started in the Deuxième Bureau, soon succeeded through the interlinking relationships of high officers, some of whom supported its activities, in putting out tentacles into the first and third bureaus of the army as well—those concerned respectively with direction of operations and supplies—in other words the two departments which in June were responsible respectively for the orders to retreat and for the failure of the front-line troops to receive ammunition and aid from the aviation.

It may be noted also that several of these high officers who were sympathetic to the Cagoulard movement were in particularly close contact with Marshal Pétain who had his own devoted followers in the army, just as all other first-rank military leaders, like[256] Gamelin and Weygand, had also, whether they were on the active list or retired.

All this may seem incredible. It is difficult to believe that French officers of high rank should have acted in the interests of Germany during the war, thus contributing to bring about their country’s downfall. Even though the Cagoulards, an emanation of the Deuxième Bureau, may have maintained contact with the Germans several years before the war; even if unsuccessful newspapermen like Gaxotte may have made up for deficits by accepting subsidies from the Nazis, it still seems fantastic that the military leaders of France, whose patriotism no one has ever doubted, should have acted as traitors in time of war. It seems to be a moral impossibility.

The explanation is simple. Neither the Cagoulards, nor the editors of Je Suis Partout, nor the French officers who were in relations with them, ever believed at any moment that they were traitors. If history sets them down as having betrayed France, the verdict will be incomprehensible to them. They believed themselves to be patriots. It is our privilege, if we wish, to see them rather as pitiful victims of German Propaganda.

What happened was this: Long before the war, the Nazi secret service realized that both the Cagoulards and the staff of Je Suis Partout were worth cultivating because of their connections with members of the French General Staff, and with officers of influence close to such leaders as Pétain, among others.

Friendly relations were established, and the Germans hammered away with arguments like these:

“You Frenchmen consider that we Germans are your hereditary enemies. There’s no reason why you should think so. Our two peoples should be able to live and work side by side without friction. It’s true we’ve had trouble in the past, but why? Because England, who can only maintain her influence on the continent[257] if the continental nations are divided, has constantly stirred us up against each other.

“Besides that, we have not fought against the real France. Our wars were against the French Republic. For 150 years that regime has usurped the place of the real France. In 1789 the English provoked the French Revolution to weaken your nation, and since then your people seem to have forgotten its great destiny.

“The Revolution of France started in the lodges of Freemasonry, which were implanted in your country by England. The Freemasons operated with English and Jewish help; for the last 150 years, you have been under the control of the same powers. For the last twenty years these powers have been cooperating with international Communism and thus have brought another danger into your country.

“Wake up! Denounce the English alliance, expel the Jews from important positions, suppress Freemasonry, as we have done in Germany. The danger of Communism will be over, and there will be no obstacle to a happy and peaceful understanding between France and Germany.”

This bait was eagerly taken. It made no difference that this account was inaccurate, and might easily have been refuted. It was the sort of thing that right-wing Frenchmen of anti-Republican and antidemocratic leanings were ready to hear, and it provided a moral basis for cooperation between them and the Germans. Supplied with a patriotic motive for destroying their domestic political opponents, convinced that in so doing they would not open the way to the hereditary enemy but on the contrary make him a friend, these Frenchmen no longer had any scruples about accepting subsidies for the arming of the Cagoulards and the publication of Je Suis Partout from an ally in the common cause of continental peace and friendship.

The Germans had found the ideal sophism with which to gain friends within the French Army. They realized, of course, that[258] they could not hope to influence a majority of General Staff officers, but they knew also that an active minority, so convinced it is right that it is willing to use any methods to achieve its aims, can arrive at its objectives at decisive moments by obstructing the course of action decided upon by the majority. And among the officers whom German propaganda had reached were many so placed that they could easily block the complicated intermeshing gears of the army machine at the critical juncture.

Relationships between the Germans and their friends in France were maintained even after the beginning of the war through various neutral countries. Ferdonnet continued to communicate with Mouton and the staff of Je Suis Partout. Michelin, the big automobile tire manufacturer whose name was whispered all over France as that of one of the men behind the Cagoulards, sent frequent messengers to Switzerland. Pétain himself was French Ambassador to Spain, and several members of his entourage maintained contact with members of the German Embassy in Madrid. There were even rumors that Pétain had secret meetings with the German Ambassador, though this was denied. The theme the Germans were singing to their French friends now was a development of that which they had dinned into them earlier. It had evolved into this:

“We did not want this war. You yourselves did your utmost to avoid it. But now that it has come it is a fact which we cannot leave out of account. Both of us wanted to create a better understanding between our two countries, to be followed by an alliance. The war now prevents us from reaching our goal by direct means.

“If you concluded a separate peace with us, we could still become your allies. We know, of course, that you and your friends, who have the true interests of your country at heart, and can see into the future more clearly than the others, would eagerly accept this solution. But you have not the power to do it; and even if you[259] had, the people who have been worked up by war propaganda to hate us, would never agree to it. There is only one case now in which the French people would accept a separate peace; and that, unfortunately, is if France suffers a military defeat.

“It must seem monstrous to you even to envisage a French defeat. We understand that. We sympathize with you. But suppose you knew that it would not be a real defeat. Suppose we could arrange a simulated defeat, which would bring the French people to accept the idea of an armistice whether the English are ready to fight or not?

“We can give you a binding promise that if France can be apparently defeated in this manner, she will not be treated as a defeated nation. On the contrary, you will immediately become Germany’s ally and we will cooperate to build up a new order in Europe. You have only to break definitely with England as proof of your good faith.

“Of course, a brief occupation of certain parts of France by German troops would be necessary to make the defeat look real and to persuade the population to accept it. One of the purposes of the occupation would be to purge France of the elements which you dislike just as much as we do, and which stand in your way in your task of resuscitating the real France from her torpor of a century and a half. But when it is all over, when our troops have been withdrawn, you will be in control of a new and reborn France which with the new Germany will impose upon Europe an era of strength and prosperity for both of us.”

Once again the bait was taken. Its effect was felt in extremely influential circles. I have personally been able to verify conclusively the fact that Marshal Pétain, having invited two highly placed Spaniards to dine with him in Hendaye in November 1939, said to his guests: “Do not judge France by its present appearance. Democracy is finished everywhere. Next spring will see a movement in France comparable to your own national uprising.”


Such a phrase in the mouth of a French Ambassador who was at the same time a French military leader was extremely significant. What other meaning could a revolt in wartime have except that its intent was to end the war? What other reason could there have been for waiting until spring except that this period was the best for a German offensive?

It was not necessary, as I have already noted above, to transform all or even a majority of the officers of the French General Staff, into accomplices in order to provoke a French defeat. If in a big business, a few accountants, an assistant cashier, the head of the sales department, and one or two keymen in the stock department took part in a conspiracy to ruin the firm, their simultaneous coordinated sabotage would inevitably achieve their aim—and with particular ease if the organization of the company were faulty.

There were some faults with the French Army, certainly. Was morale unsatisfactory? Was equipment inadequate? Undoubtedly, but the situation in these respects was not strikingly different from that of 1914-1918. The decisive factor seems to have been faults in the high command—important information regarding the movements of the enemy was not relayed in time, orders to army corps suffered considerable delays, the supply service left equipment and matériel of all sorts in the depots instead of sending it to strategically important points. From June 13 on, troops in good fighting shape received everywhere mysterious orders for retreat which puzzled them most of all, at the same time that French statesmen were hearing from French generals (most of them may have spoken with complete good faith), that all troops were fleeing in disorder. Confusion was so great and news of the retreat so unexpected that nobody thought to investigate the hidden causes of the disaster.

Shortly after the armistice, the same announcement was repeated in French by the Stuttgart radio several evenings in succession. It was this: “Frenchmen, in a few days we will give you the name[261] of an outstanding countryman of yours who was our principal agent in France, and who helped to bring about your defeat.”

Everyone in the French unoccupied zone either heard this broadcast or heard about it. There was naturally a good deal of guessing as to the name that would be given by the Germans. For my part, I made a bet that no name would ever be given by Stuttgart. My reasoning was this: That there was such a man or men I didn’t doubt for an instant. But I didn’t doubt also that he had not expected the terrible armistice conditions imposed upon France. He had led his country into what he had thought would be a fake defeat on the basis of his confidence in the honesty of the Germans. By then he had discovered that they were not honest, and that it was a real defeat that had been inflicted upon the country. He saw that the Nazis intended to treat the country with all the severity of genuine conquerors, and that he and his friends had been dupes.

I supposed then, that this man had tried to force the Germans to live up to their promises and to treat France as an ally. He would have pointed out that the new Pétain government had turned against England, as had been agreed. And he would have threatened to reveal everything if Germany did not hold to her bargain, thus ending the acceptance of defeat on the part of the French people by letting them know that they had not in fact been militarily defeated.

Germany’s answer was the Stuttgart broadcast. Her French agent had tried to threaten her. She simply returned the blackmail, reminding him forcefully that the Reich no longer cared whether the French people knew how it had been defeated or not, since the Army was disbanded, the strategic points occupied, and the people helpless to resume the fight. He was reminded also what his own position would be if the story came out. He saw that he had to keep silence to save himself, and the Germans, perfectly willing[262] that silence should be kept, never honored their promise to reveal his name.

It was on the basis of this theory that I expected in advance that the Stuttgart radio would not follow up its announcement. Since it did not, I feel justified in assuming that the reasoning which enabled me to arrive at a correct prediction was probably correct itself.

As if to confirm all this, Pétain himself later made a very mild speech in which he timidly asked the Germans whether they intended to accept the new France as a full-fledged partner in the reconstruction of Europe. France’s new rulers have kept all the promises they had given the Germans. They have cut off relationships with England, dissolved the Freemasons, attacked the Jews, delivered up anti-Hitler German refugees, fought the British at Oran, Dakar, and in Syria. They have slavishly obeyed Hitler’s commands and now they are naively surprised because Hitler has not kept his promise to free France and make her independent again. With the true psychology of a dupe they had believed that Hitler might fool others, but never themselves.

That ends the statement of my French friend.

Q. How would you sum up Pétain? Is he a patriot or a traitor, or misguided, or what?

A. He is first of all a very old, too-old man. Only a man who had lost his judgment could surrender his country to Hitler as Hindenburg did and as Pétain did, both under a profound misconception of Hitler. Pétain is intensely religious and identifies Communism with anti-Christ, the only enemy, failing to perceive that the most powerful foe of Christianity to appear on earth since Christ lived is Hitler. It is a mistake to call Pétain a Fascist; he is a medievalist. He believes the principal goal of life is to prepare for the other[263] world, and the man who can do that best is the man whose activity is closest to nature, the peasant, and the man whose mind is not confused by learning, the illiterate peasant. Therefore he wants a France of uneducated, devout peasants; he does not mind at all the plan of Hitler to abolish French industry.

He is a defeatist at heart; the affairs of this earth are not worth fighting for. It is on record that at Verdun he several times wished to surrender. As a defeatist he believes in superior force and can be as ruthless when he is in possession of it as he can be submissive when he has lost it. His suppression of the mutinies in the French Army was notoriously harsh; the statistics of the killed have yet to be published. He accepts the French birth rate as a fact of superior force to which France must bow and his experience of the bloodletting at Verdun reinforced his conviction that France ought not to try to maintain a predominant place in Europe.

As an old man his vivid memories are of the past, and Germany, though marching under the pirate swastika, remained for him in 1940 the Germany which let France off lightly in 1871. He once told a friend how impressed he was with the behavior of the German commander at Verdun who allowed French officers to retain their swords after one of the surrenders of Douaumont. In this venerable confidence that he was dealing with gentlemen, he gave up. The most pathetic words uttered in this war were those of Pétain when he addressed his petition for an armistice to Hitler with the words, “I speak as soldier to soldier.”

Q. Why was that pathetic; isn’t Hitler a soldier?

A. Yes, indeed, but the meaning of the old marshal’s words was, “I speak to you as gentleman to gentleman,” and that is the most pathetic sentence of the war, because it contains the utter failure of the French to understand that not only is Hitler not a gentleman, but Hitler would be the first indignantly to repudiate a title[264] he despises. The code of a gentleman is derived from the Christian code, which Hitler and his Nazi-Nietzchean followers despise. They curse Christ as a Jewish weakling whose religion is for slaves. They spit upon the elementary idea of fair play. A group of devoted young Nazis, a dozen strong, who have just beaten to death a crippled Jew, will be clear of conscience, joyful as though they had done a good deed, and utterly unable to understand the American or British notion that it is not even enjoyable sport to attack with odds of twelve to one. It is sport to them. Pétain had not the faintest notion that the sons of the Germans he had known had come to this. So with his eyes closed, and dreaming of the past, he accepted the promise of a position for France of junior partner to Germany.

Q. Is Pétain moved by personal ambition?

A. He is consumed by it. He did not accept with reluctance the post of “Chief of the Government” after Reynaud fell, but gladly, feeling that he had finally received the recognition denied him when Foch was made Commander in Chief. He does not consider himself a Fuehrer or a Duce. He is much nearer the position of his fellow clericalist, the caudillo, Franco, who never clearly understood the meaning of Nazism and was repelled by what he did understand.

Pétain does not understand Fascism or Nazism but only sees that they control the mob, and he wishes above all to see the mob controlled as an army, to be drilled and disciplined into hardworking, God-fearing Frenchmen, obedient in civil as in religious life. His religious feeling dominates all his actions. In Bordeaux, the day Reynaud resigned, I was told Pétain’s words as he heard the debacle was reaching its end: “France must suffer for her sins!” Mystically he surrendered, and mystically he still exclaimed a year later to a nation which had endured twelve months of[265] injury and abasement with no prospect of relief, “You are suffering and must suffer for a long time still because we have not yet paid for all our mistakes.”

To the old Marshal, France’s troubles began with the Revolution of 1789, and to cure them he wants to take France back to the Ancien Regime. He wants to do away with liberty, because liberty is synonymous with license and license with sin. Theoretically he is a monarchist, but now that he has become Regent, like Horthy of Hungary, he does not want a king. This period Pétain regards as France’s purgatory, which he gladly endures, confident of a better world. Many Frenchmen recognize Pétain’s good intentions but do not believe they will save him from Hell.

Q. Why, if the Germans have such a hold over Pétain, have they not forced him to surrender the French fleet and to give them the use of the North African naval and air bases? If Pétain is in fear of being revealed by the Germans as one who helped bring about the French defeat, why can’t the Germans get anything they want from him?

A. First, because Pétain is more useful to the Germans than the French fleet and the North African bases. Who else could lead so many of the French people to submit and collaborate as they are doing today under Pétain? Pétain does Hitler’s work for him. Pétain coaxes the plunder from the French people in the form of taxes and hands it to Hitler in the form of payment for maintenance of the army of occupation. If the Germans ever exposed him, he would lose his position and they would lose their most useful servant.

Second, the more time that elapses since the armistice, the less effective is the German blackmail threat on Pétain, because as time passes people become less interested in what happened, and as[266] experience with the Germans deepens, fewer people can be found to believe any German explanation.

Third, Pétain, with all his senility, must have realized that it is not nearly as certain now that Germany will win, as it was when he surrendered. The Russian resistance, much as Pétain hates and despises Bolshevism, must have made him think; and the growing belligerence of America must have had some effect upon him. As he becomes less and less convinced that Germany is certain to win he should logically become less submissive to the Germans. On the other hand, he is not likely to revolt openly until he is convinced Germany will lose; and the only way to give him such conviction is for the United States to enter the war.

Q. What would Hitler do if he finally tired of fooling with Vichy?

A. He would simply march in and occupy all of France. He could do it with a handful of divisions, since the French have been totally disarmed or at least as fully disarmed as it was possible for the Germans to do. But from then on he would have the trouble of administering the whole country and collecting the taxes which Pétain collects for him now. I do not think he is anxious to increase his responsibilities that way now. Pétain knows this too, and that stiffens the old man’s backbone a little. Essentially though the Vichy attitude will always depend on the question who is going to win the war. I should think that when the defeat of Hitler is assured, the Vichy government may be overthrown and another or Free French, de Gaulle government may re-enter the war on our side. Pétain and Darlan it seems to me are too compromised ever to do that.

Q. What about Darlan?


A. Darlan undoubtedly sees more clearly than Pétain, but he is less honorable; indeed I have heard highly placed Englishmen who knew him intimately curse him with concentrated bitterness as the vilest traitor of the lot. Few people would describe Pétain as consciously dishonorable. Few of the men around Pétain are spared the charge by Frenchmen who know them best.

Darlan has no respect from anybody. He has been all his life a political sailor, having had his start from his father, one-time Minister of Justice. His politics were consistently opportunistic. Today he helps head a government that has suppressed Freemasonry; yet he was a Freemason when to be a Freemason was an asset. He helps keep Leon Blum in confinement; yet he supported Blum when Blum was in power. He is now the fiercest advocate of fighting England; yet until Reynaud fell he supported the policy of moving the government to North Africa and carrying on.

He switched when he perceived the chance of becoming head man in the appeasement government. His change of heart was literally overnight. In London immediately after the fall of France, an old friend of mine, an officer of the French Navy whose ship had broken away and come to England, told me Darlan had issued an order to all vessels of the Navy that with the signing of the Armistice they should make for French African or other friendly ports and prepare to go on with the war; twenty-four hours later another code message from Darlan countermanded the order and directed all ships to make for French ports. In the interval Darlan had been promised a seat next to the Chief of the Vichy State.

Nothing in Darlan’s record indicates that he has ever acted except for the purpose of furthering his career; he is characterized by the French as the perfect careerist, and the word has even less flattering connotations in French than in English. The one instinct in him which seems to have persisted without variance is his hatred of the British, based upon the centuries-old rivalry of the French and British navies. While the French were in the war we Americans[268] forgot that the memory of Trafalgar is for the French Navy, or for its older officers anyway, stronger than the memory of the four years of Franco-British comradeship on the battlefields of 1914-1918.

In Darlan this feeling was always strong. At the London Naval Conference of 1930 he fought for parity with the British, but they refused it to him, with a prescience blessed by the event. Suppose the French had possessed as powerful a navy as the British when the French Army fell and Darlan had commanded a force able to challenge the British! After the Battle of Oran, July 3, 1940 when the British, rightly suspecting the intentions of Darlan, attempted to disable the French Fleet at Mers-el Kebir in order to prevent its falling into the hands of the Germans, Darlan led the outcry against the “perfidious” assault. The British are convinced that if ever the chance comes Darlan will use every means in his power to injure them. Whatever his motives may have been at the beginning for joining the capitulation, Darlan like most of the men of Vichy has by now so compromised himself with the French people that, as one French friend of mine expressed it: “If Germany is defeated the best these men of Vichy could hope for would be dishonorable, furtive retirement, but I think most of them would be killed.”

And if Germany wins? For a while Darlan and his colleagues seemed to feel confident that Hitler would be good to them, but now he exclaims: “If we do not get an honorable peace, if France is cut up into many departments and deprived of important overseas territories, and enters diminished and bruised into the New Europe, it will not recover and our children will live in the misery and hatred which breed war.” These words of the appeaser indicate that he has already discerned the outlines of the fate Hitler has in store for France; yet what is the alternative for him and those like him now? Free Frenchmen declare the alternative is death, as traitors.


Q. And Laval?

A. He is wounded but he is surely enjoying himself because for the moment he can say, “I told you so.” He is probably the world’s most delighted observer of the Battle of Russia. My last glimpse of him was in Bordeaux at the restaurant “Chapon Fin” the night France capitulated. The restaurant was crowded with the wealthy, the powerful, the noted and notorious of France. The door was locked; without an introduction from at least a Cabinet Minister or a millionaire nobody could get in. That night ten thousand refugees were pounding for admission to the restaurants of Bordeaux. Our Ambassador to Poland, Tony Biddle, unmarked from his harrowing escape across Poland under Luftwaffe machine-gun fire, and as fresh here at the collapse of the world as though he were attending a bridge party at home, rescued us and with a gesture which implied we were all ambassadors, requisitioned a table for our party of American newspapermen. From one corner Otto of Habsburg greeted us in his cordial democratic way. He was one victim Hitler would have liked to catch. I looked around the grotesque dining room, decorated as an artificial rock garden of papier-mâché and now populated by as queer a throng as ever assembled to dine at the funeral of a nation. Nearly every French politician I had ever seen was there, most of them drinking copiously of the wine for which the city was famous. There was no gloom perceptible; not among the Frenchmen. The atmosphere was excited, laughter was frequent and high-pitched. Perhaps it was bravery; the gay talk and conviviality sounded very courageous or else very frivolous at that moment. Who could have realized that there were Frenchmen there calculating to improve their careers by the fall of their country? We American newspapermen looked more depressed than any of the men whose motherland was about to be strangled. Presently a waiter brought me a note from Laval inviting me to his table. I had not seen him enter.[270] There he was, swarthy, ebony-haired, with his famous white string tie, presiding over a company of half a dozen friends, all talking, as everybody in the Western World was talking, about the fate of France.

Abruptly Laval asked, “What do you think, M. Knickerbocker?”

I spoke with all the emphasis I could muster and placing my fist on the table to help express my sincerity talked directly to him: “Mr. President, I think that if you give up, if you surrender, it will mean the end of France as a nation, the end of France forever unless another, outside power comes to your rescue. But Mr. President, if you go on fighting, if you refuse to surrender, even if you have to go to North Africa and base your government on Morocco, then France will live because she and her friends will win this war, however long it may take. But please believe me, Mr. President, when I say I know what the Nazis mean to do to France, and I know because I have lived for nine years in Germany as a professional observer and I know Adolf Hitler, and the Nazis, and the German people better than I know any politician, or political party, or people in the world, and I know they mean the utter destruction of France.”

There was dead silence, and to my gratification everybody at the table, all of Laval’s friends, nodded in agreement with me, but M. Laval himself, grave as a judge, leaned back and with that inscrutable Moorish air of his said, “No, M. Knickerbocker, you do not understand. Hitler does not want to destroy France; Hitler only wants to destroy the Soviet Union.”

That was Laval’s belief, and because this belief was shared by so many other Frenchmen, it became one of the principal reasons for the fall of France.

Whatever else one may think of him, Laval has guts and is no hypocrite. He hates democracy and says so. He is out to promote the fortunes of M. Laval and admits it. He calls himself a realist; and realistically he long ago estimated the strength of France as[271] inadequate to stand up against Germany. He learned to hate Britain during those long years when every French move to bolster their position against the doubly powerful Reich was checked by an imbecile British Foreign Office which continued to think that the balance of power required a stronger Germany and a weaker France. So Laval’s belief in the desirability of a Franco-German “understanding” was not born of defeat alone.

He was the first French Premier to visit Germany after the war. I was in Berlin when he arrived in the autumn of 1931 with the aging and feeble but still brilliant Briand, then Foreign Minister. Bruening was Chancellor and that farsighted benevolent statesman, whom the Allies could have helped suppress the growing menace of Hitler, wished to make the visit the foundation for a new era of Franco-German friendship. How futile his hopes were came to light as the train bearing the French ministers rolled in. I was standing with a small crowd of Germans at the foot of the steps of the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, and noticed that the streets had been cleared and roped off all the way to the Hotel Adlon. Masses of police manned the ropes but there was almost no crowd to hold back. Around the station were about five hundred people. I noticed they looked curiously alike, as though all from the same neighborhood, the same class. Presently I saw a friend, a plain-clothes man from Police Headquarters, all dressed up in his Sunday best, with gloves and a derby hat and the inevitable big detective’s shoes. I greeted him. He introduced his wife and children. A little surprised, I asked if he were such a great advocate of Franco-German friendship that he had brought his whole family to cheer the visitors from Paris. “Ja wohl!” he replied. “Orders, you see. They sent us all down here. Everybody here is from Police Headquarters, mit Frau und Kinder. Nobody else; no outsiders. We get a day off for coming.” Sure enough, that was the makeup of the entire crowd. They dutifully thronged around the steps and shouted “Hoch Frankreich!” Laval and Briand then passed through empty streets[272] to the Hotel Adlon where another group of policemen and their wives and children cried “Hoch!” again. And that was the length and breadth and depth of Franco-German friendship.

Q. Has Laval a chance to come back?

A. Yes, if the Germans win he has the best of chances. Laval today is the only master politician left in France; Pétain is senile; Darlan is ward-heel size; none of the others in the Vichy camp is even that large, and the politicians of the Republic are dead and buried. Laval is the best-hated Frenchman alive; the shots fired into him by Colette were cheered from one end of France to the other, but he is still the only Frenchman capable of ruling France as a dictator.

He is much like Stalin, an Asiatic, with more than his share of the Eastern blood of the Auvernacs. He has the psychology of the Oriental and like Stalin he has the Oriental’s lack of human consideration. As Stalin regards Russia without love, as an object, so Laval regards France. He has few real friends but possesses a marvelous power of extemporized comradeship and can talk the language of any man with whom he converses, including, as one of his enemies suggested, “even an honest man.” Once a friend of his exclaimed, “You ought to be dictator of a South American Republic!” “How did you know?” asked Laval, genuinely surprised. “Oh, just a joke,” answered the friend. “But no,” said Laval, “I am amazed, because when I was a boy that was just what I always dreamed of becoming—dictator of a South American state.” Perhaps he may get his wish yet, as the malicious wits of the Riviera have called Vichy France, “a banana republic without bananas.”

Laval’s hatred of England is extended now to America, because American support upholds Britain, and Laval will never be safe until Britain is defeated. He is still unwavering in his conviction[273] that Germany will win, but even if we entered the war and it became evident Germany would lose, Laval cannot now change his position. He is one of those so totally committed to the German cause that he stands or falls with it.

Q. You have said that we Americans were very much like the French; now in what way are we? Have we also traitors in our ranks?

A. No, we have not, I am convinced, any traitors among our officers, as the French had. There are many Nazi agents among us, and a few may have penetrated to positions of some importance, but I do not believe they could affect the issue of the war as they did in France. There are many Communists as well among us, probably more than there are Nazis, and we ought never to forget that whether they are native-born Americans or not makes no difference. Nor does the fact that Soviet Russia is momentarily engaged in fighting our enemy change the essential fact that Communists cannot be loyal Americans. Their loyalty is to Moscow alone, and if a change in Russia’s position should make it expedient for the Kremlin to order American Communists to sabotage America’s war effort, the order would be zealously obeyed.

Our chief danger of this sort lies in the wrongheaded activity of our isolationists who, whether they wish it or not, serve the cause of Hitler more effectively than all the paid agents of Germany and Italy and Japan could do if their numbers were multiplied many times. Consider carefully the account given you by my French friend of the way the Germans appealed to Parisian conservative circles, and ask yourself if their arguments do not sound remarkably like the speeches of Lindbergh and Wheeler.

Treason can be difficult to define. I had a French friend, whom I can call a friend no longer because he became one of the chief collaborationists with the Germans. I think—I am not sure—but I[274] think we have no one like him in America, but he was so representative of the group that betrayed France, that I want to quote a conversation I had with him just before the war began. I said, “Jean, you seem to believe profoundly that Germany is strong enough to win a war no matter how France fights to prevent it; and you also seem to believe that the German kind of National Socialism would be a good thing for the whole continent, including France. Now what would you do, believing as you do, if France were to be at war with Germany, and you thought defeat was inevitable, and you foresaw a long and bloody conflict, and you suddenly found yourself in possession of a military secret which would end the war immediately in favor of Germany if the Germans knew it. Would you give this decisive military secret to the Germans?” Jean answered, “Yes, of course I would.” “But wouldn’t that be treason?” I asked. “Not at all,” Jean answered. “It wouldn’t be treason to France; it would only be a blow at what I consider the treasonable government of the Republic.” Now I submit that even our rabid isolationists would reject a position like Jean’s, but we ought nevertheless clearly to see the fact that Lindbergh and Wheeler by their powerful discouragement of the whole war effort of America are doing this country the same kind of harm that came to France.

Q. In what other ways do we compare with the French?

A. It is astonishing to see how many points of similarity we can discover, beginning with the well-known Maginot line complex which we parallel with our Atlantic Ocean complex. I remember back in 1930 at a cocktail party in Berlin a German Lieutenant Colonel remarked to me about the Maginot line, which the French were just completing: “That line of fortifications will be the death of France. If soldiers have such an impregnable fortress to live in,[275] they will never willingly leave it to take the offensive, and without taking the offensive you can’t win a war. The Maginot line will give the French Army a permanent defense complex and out of its sense of security we will eventually defeat it.” Our complacency behind the Atlantic Ocean, which we fondly fancy could always protect us from attack, is precisely the same as the French had. The French also were brought down by their skepticism; they had ceased to have any faith in anything, whether the Republic, or democracy, or God, just as millions of Americans lack faith in anything and think it smart to deride any kind of ideals, particularly anything so old-fashioned as sacrifice for one’s country.

The French had up to the bitter end, so little primitive, full-blooded spirit that they neither sang on the way to battle nor cursed while in action; they harbored no anger toward the enemy, no hatred for him, and they had no will to kill. They were apologetic for being at war, until catastrophe was upon them, and it was too late. Most Americans feel apologetic about the war and behave as though they were not sure of the rightness of our cause.

Another curious and not unimportant item of coincidence is that there was a strong current of anti-British feeling in France at the beginning of the war, just as there is here. In France it was grounded largely in the argument, which had much truth in it, that Great Britain had been largely responsible for the war by her shortsighted support of Germany against France for so many years, and that the British would “fight to the last Frenchman.” This latter argument seemed silly to me when I first met it early in the Battle of France, at the front near Sedan where I picked up a little printed leaflet in French, dropped by German aviators.

It read:

“Where is Tommy? The units of the British army which had occupied certain sectors of the Maginot line were immediately withdrawn after the beginning of the German offensive.[276] They were transported as quickly as possible in the direction of the Channel. For political reasons it was necessary to conceal this movement, so it was carried out at night. Nevertheless the population of Lorraine could observe easily enough that the English were retiring, and in various cities and towns hostile demonstrations took place against them. Several times the police and French troops had to intervene to calm the crowds and suppress the demonstrations. French Soldiers! You see how the English are trying to get out just as they did in Norway. They are taking ‘English leave.’ They are leaving you alone on the battlefield. Are you stupid enough to die for those who are quitting you to save their precious skins? You had better give the English the answer they deserve for having betrayed you.”

Now there was not a word of truth in this propaganda about trouble between British troops and French civilians, and I thought the leaflet far too crude to have any effect, but I was mistaken; it corresponded to the unreasoning feeling of many Frenchmen that the French Army was bearing all the burden. They particularly resented the fact that whereas at the beginning of the war the French mobilized all men from twenty to forty-seven years old, the British at first mobilized only those from twenty to twenty-five years old. The British Fleet, the French knew theoretically, was just as important for beating Hitler as the French Army, but the British Fleet was far away and its actions were unobserved. Just so today in America we all know theoretically that the presence of the British Fleet in the Atlantic is imperative for our safety, but the British Fleet is far away, and so even when we are sending supplies to the British Fleet and other arms standing between us and our enemy, many Americans think of it as “aiding Britain,” and feel quite unselfish about it.

A minor group in America also persists in blaming the British[277] so heavily for their now amply admitted and fully atoned faults of the past, that some of them would almost rather see Munich revenged by German troops in England than have America defend herself there. Finally we have our anti-British Americans of Irish origin who consider Oliver Cromwell more blameworthy than Hitler, although all Irish-Americans are not so purblind by any means. Taking it all in all, however, I should say that there is an even stronger anti-British sentiment in America today than there was in France during the war, and this when coupled to the broader anti-Europe feeling of a great many Americans, increases the difficulty of our acting realistically against a powerful enemy who is taking every advantage of these enfeebling prejudices of ours.

Q. You have named so many similarities between ourselves and the French that it is discouraging indeed, but we have one undeniable advantage of a large population, and we surely are not obsessed by our birth rate.

A. It is true that we do not worry about our birth rate, although perhaps we ought to, but we suffer just the same from something very much like the French obsession with theirs. It was the French preoccupation with their inferiority in numbers, and their falling birth rate, which prevented them not merely from wasting lives, but even from using them thriftily on the battlefield, and the result was the debacle. During the Battle of France I seldom saw Colonel Schieffer, in the French Ministry of Information, that he did not exclaim, “We cannot bleed like this again. Twice in a generation is too much. We have only twenty million Frenchmen. This time we must make an end of the Boches so they can never empty our veins again.” The Colonel, who was personally most warlike, was under the impression we all had that the French Army was losing[278] lives heavily, and he was willing that it be done to prevent ever again such bloodshed in the future, yet as a matter of fact, the impulse to save French lives had already become so strong in the Army High Command that it governed all great decisions and contributed seriously to the defeat.

Now despite the fact that we are a nation of 130,000,000 we are obsessed to an equal degree with the fear of having to fight in large numbers; we have what amounts to a phobia against sending an American Expeditionary Force to Europe. We seem not to mind nearly so much the idea of American boys in the Navy or the Air Force fighting and dying abroad, but when it comes to the Army we recoil at the idea of an A.E.F. Why the life of an infantryman should be more precious than that of an aviator or sailor is not clear. The explanation of this attitude must be found in the comparative numbers of men involved.

A.E.F. brings up the idea of millions of American boys laying down their lives on the battlefield, and most Americans completely forget, if they ever did know, that although we had 4,355,000 men mobilized during the last war, the total number of them killed in action and died of wounds received in action was 50,475. This is roughly one-half of the number of persons killed by accident in the United States every year. We nevertheless erected in every village and city of the land large expensive monuments to our war dead, and the impression became indelibly fixed in the American mind that we had lost millions, or at any rate hundreds of thousands of dead. The vision of this mass sacrifice of American youth is what moves the American people to reject so violently the idea of an expeditionary force. We ought now to be adult enough to see that our penurious attitude toward our precious American blood reflects the same feeling as the French, with more justification, had toward their birth rate, and that if persisted in, this attitude will lead us to similar disaster.


Q. Aren’t there any encouraging differences between ourselves and the unfortunate French?

A. I am glad to say there are, and enough, I devoutly hope, to save us from their fate. We have a leader; the French had none. We are not divided as badly as the French were divided. Despite the fierceness of our political passions, it would be a very exceptional American indeed who would say, “I’d rather have Hitler than Roosevelt,” as so many Frenchmen used to say, “We’d rather have Hitler than Leon Blum.” We are physically a healthier people than the French. There is hardly one of the weaknesses now perceptible in the American people that would not be swept away by the fact of our going to war, but there is hardly one of them which can be removed by any other means.

The most encouraging difference between the French and American democracies is the quality and character of our newspapers. American newspapers bring to their readers today a greater volume of news, of greater accuracy, than has ever been delivered to an audience of newspaper readers in the history of the world. It has been my job for nearly two decades to study the newspapers of a score of countries, not superficially but with the businesslike object of gleaning news. I had to read thirty-two German newspapers a day when I was correspondent in Berlin; and a dozen or so daily in Paris. It is no exaggeration to say that the reader of the New York Times, or the New York Herald-Tribune, or the Chicago Daily News, or any one of half a dozen of our great metropolitan dailies, has more detailed and true information about what is going on in the world than if he were able by magic to accumulate all the newspapers published everywhere else on earth, and were able equally by magic to read them all in the original.

Often I am asked, “How can we know the truth? Everything is so confusing. Aren’t we fed with propaganda?” The answer is you can know the truth by reading your newspapers thoroughly and[280] exercising common sense in balancing the reports from the belligerent countries against each other.

No war has ever been fought in such a blazing light of information. Never has such a quantity of news been put before a people as we Americans have before us at breakfast every day and from then on until midnight. American newspapers are doing today the most superb job ever done by daily journals. But that is not their chief merit. Their chief merit is their honesty and incorruptibility and their sincere endeavor to be fair and objective. These qualities have enabled the American press, since the foundation of the United States, to be the equal in importance to the executive or the legislative or the judicial branch of government. It is the vigilant watchman over the functioning of the other three branches of government.

In no other country has the newspaperman the rights and privileges that he has here. He is as important for the preservation of our liberties and our security as any legislator, judge, or executive. One can almost formulate a law that one can judge the quality of a democracy and its expectancy of life by its press. By that standard France was doomed to fall. France under the Republic had the most venal newspapers on earth. As the American press is honest, so was the French press dishonest. The French government was a faithful reflection of its press, one might say almost a creation of its press. Some good Frenchmen even go so far as to lay the major responsibility for the fall of France on their newspapers whose editorial opinions for the most part were as plainly for sale as the vegetables in the market.

The reasons for their venality go back to the period at the end of the nineteenth century when all the states of Europe were floating government loans in Paris, the banking center of the continent. The French peasant, who kept his gold in his bas de laine, his woolen stocking, was the chief investor, and the French newspapers were the chief salesmen. Profits from the flotation were so enormous[281] that the governments concerned could afford to pay very large bribes to the French newspapers to recommend their bonds. The French peasants at that time believed their newspapers, bought the bonds, and the corrupt newspapers grew rich and content. This easy money made it unnecessary for them to go out and get advertising, and from that day to this French newspapers have lacked the economic foundation that American newspapers have. After the war, the bribes from financial quarters largely disappeared and the French newspapers, without advertising, and with the habit of venality, became more unscrupulous, because hungrier than ever. French newspapermen, worse paid than ever, were reduced to selling their services cheaper than ever before, and the corruption became almost universal.

One famous French correspondent was fired by his famous newspaper because he had taken a bribe from a foreign government—and had failed to split it with the managing editor. Hardly a newspaper in Paris would refuse a subsidy from a foreign government, but all this giving and taking of bribes became trivial when Hitler came to power in 1933. From then on the French press was inundated with German money, and from then on could be dated the certainty that France would fall.

I want above all things to emphasize that there were a few honest, capable, patriotic, and incorruptible French journalists. It is sufficient commentary on the Vichy government that most of them had to flee when the Germans came.

Q. Is there any hope for the French? Do you think they can come back?

A. Yes, because they have learned to hate; the Germans have taught them. I know it sounds most un-Christian to insist upon the necessity of hatred, but the thoughtful will remember that Christ[282] hated evil, and when he scourged the money-changers from the Temple he did it with fury. Who will dispute that Hitler is more evil than money-changers in a Temple, and that all the forces of Christianity ought to be ranged together to destroy his hateful power. You cannot win a battle, you cannot win a war, you cannot win any kind of fight that involves killing unless you have the spirit to kill. You cannot have that spirit unless you are convinced of the justice of your cause, and you know that God is on your side, and that God approves your killing your enemies.

The French never had any such spirit during the war, except perhaps at the very end, but they have it now. During the war they were all the time debating in their hearts whether it would not be better to quit and make friends with the Germans. They thought in terms of the last war. They thought of the Germans as the same sort of human beings as the Germans of 1870 or of 1914-1918. They simply failed to grasp the most important fact in the world of international affairs today, namely that the Nazi Germans under Hitler are a new species of creature never seen before in modern times, a deliberately amoral species of men who reject every tenet of Christianity or of any other religion which enjoins kindness, truth, and justice, and who are possessed of such unique talents for war that they could conceivably achieve their ambition to conquer the world if they were not stopped by a coalition of all the decent peoples on earth. The French above all failed to take seriously Hitler’s cool, considered statement that he intended to exterminate France as a nation.

Q. How about the treatment Hitler has given France so far; he hasn’t tried to exterminate them, has he?

A. No, but Hitler is not through with the French; he has not even begun to treat them the way he intends to ultimately. There are[283] several reasons why he has been comparatively lenient to France so far. First, he wished to end French resistance immediately in order that the whole force of the German Army might be thrown at England. Second, he wished to lull the French into a belief that by collaborating with the Germans they might obtain the “honorable peace” Pétain talks about. Third, he wished to make it appear to the British and eventually to the Americans that surrender to Hitler is not so bad. Finally, he wished to get from the Vichy government several important things he either did not dare demand or was refused at the Compiègne armistice, chiefly that the French should go to war against Britain or at any rate turn over the French fleet and naval bases to the Germans for use against the British.

Q. Do you imply that later on Hitler’s treatment of France will be different?

A. I do indeed. He will eventually fulfill the one principle which has guided his foreign policy more than any other; to destroy the power of France ever to threaten Germany again. How could any Frenchman forget the words of Hitler in Mein Kampf when he wrote: “We must at last become entirely clear about this: the German people’s irreconcilable mortal enemy is and remains France”? And again: “The political testament of the German nation ... must read substantially: See an attack on Germany in any attempt to organize a military power [i.e., France] on the frontiers of Germany, be it only in the form of the creation of a state capable of becoming a military power [i.e., France] and in that case regard it not only a right but a duty to prevent the establishment of such a state [i.e., France] by all means including the application of armed force, or in the event that such a one be already founded, to repress it.” So you see what the fate of France is[284] bound to be, now that she has given up her arms and her will to fight.

If left alone her fate will surely be that defined by Churchill in his address to the French people while Vichy still hesitated: “I tell you truly and what you must believe when I say this evil man, this monstrous abortion of hatred and deceit, has resolved on nothing less than the complete wiping out of the French nation and the disintegration of its whole life and future. By all kinds of sly and savage means he is plotting and working to crush forever the fountain of characteristic French culture and French inspiration to the world. It is not defeat that France will now be made to suffer at German hands, but the doom of complete obliteration. Army, navy, air force, religions, laws, language, culture, institutions, literature, history, tradition, all are to be effaced by the brute strength of a triumphant army and the scientific low cunning of a ruthless Police Force.”

This is true. This will be the fate of France unless the United States and Britain and Russia defeat Hitler. Of course so long as the French under the men of Vichy remain the strictly obedient vassal, Hitler will have no need for sharper measures until the time comes for him to shape France into her ultimate permanent role of coolie agricultural colony of the Reich.

Q. What did Hitler promise Pétain?

A. He promised that if Pétain would sign the armistice, very soon afterward he would give France a permanent and just peace, that German troops would evacuate France, and in the New Order of Europe Germany would help France become a free and independent partner. All this was, however, tacitly contingent on the defeat of Britain. The German excuse for not freeing France now is that the battle against Russia and Britain is still going on. France[285] meanwhile is compelled to suffer in a slavery worse than she ever suffered in her entire national history.

Q. What do you mean by the term “slavery”? The French people are not being driven about in slave gangs, are they, with an overseer carrying a black-snake whip and all that as in Uncle Tom’s Cabin? I understood the Germans were behaving very “correctly.”

A. It is true that only the prisoners of war, who still number about a million and a half, are in this literal, physical sense enslaved. The rest of the French people, though, are just as much the slaves of the Germans as if they were housed in slave pens and driven to work in chains. Why? Because they must give up to their German masters all the fruits of their labors except a bare subsistence. The French people have been paying the Germans an indemnity of roughly ten million dollars a day, or $3,650,000,000 a year, and with this money the Germans have been buying from the French, who are forced to sell, all the property of any value in the country, from objects of art to great industrial plants. Consider the size of this indemnity. The maximum yearly reparations payment Germany had to make after the last war was $600,000,000. That is one sixth of what the French have had to pay in the first twelve months of German rule in this war.

Q. How was this indemnity fixed?

A. In the armistice agreement which Pétain so trustfully signed, it was stipulated that the French would pay for the cost of maintaining the German Army in France. No sum was named. You can imagine the astonishment of the French when, after they had laid down their arms and there was no possibility of refusing, they learned they had to pay the Germans 400,000,000 francs, or roughly $10,000,000 a day. It will give you some notion of the[286] difference between the old-fashioned German conqueror and the new-fashioned Nazi to recollect that after the Franco-German War of 1870 Bismarck exacted a total indemnity of $1,250,000,000, or one-third of what the French of today are forced to pay yearly.

Q. How does this French payment compare with the total amounts Germany paid for reparation after the last war?

A. The maximum estimate of German reparations payments in cash and kind is about $5,000,000,000, which is almost precisely the amount of money Americans lent Germany and never got back. It is the literal truth that Germany paid no reparations. The United States paid them. I was a correspondent in Germany during all those crucial years from the French occupation of the Ruhr onward, and most of us who were on the spot agree that despite the dislocation of wealth in Germany the country as a whole had not lost wealth through payment of reparations, since for every dollar that went to France or England, an American dollar came in.

All critics of the Versailles treaty insist that its worst feature was the reparations, but if you keep in mind the fundamental fact that the Germans borrowed (and never repaid) every cent they used to meet the reparations claims, the Versailles treaty and the German complaints about it take on a very different aspect. This is so important that it cannot be overemphasized, because one of the principal reasons why the United States withdrew from the peace and why England and eventually France relaxed their vigilance and permitted Germany to arm and grow into the terrible power she is today, was the feeling that the Germans after all had been treated unjustly.

You could make a case for the argument that our own “guilt complex” about Versailles allowed Hitler to tear up the treaty and finally attack the world. Paul Birdsall has pointed out that this “guilt complex” received powerful encouragement from John Maynard Keynes, who correctly analyzed the economic impossibility[287] of the reparations clauses, but went on from there to condemn the whole treaty as a Carthaginian peace. It has taken Hitler, who climbed to power on his denunciation of Versailles, to show us how lenient a peace it was.

Remembering that the Germans actually paid no reparations, it is instructive to examine what they formally paid in comparison with what they are now extorting from the French. The Allies at the London conference in April 1921 fixed their demands on Germany for “damage done to civilians” at $33,000,000,000—which at the time was considered insanely high, but incidentally is $11,000,000,000 less than the $44,000,000,000 the United States has now appropriated and recommended for national defense. Isn’t this a startling confirmation of the mistake the American Congress made in repudiating the League of Nations and refusing to ratify the security treaty with England and France?

It is fantastic to realize that we could have paid the entire bill for the last war and if by so doing we could have prevented this war, we would still have saved money. We will eventually learn that the isolationists’ or appeasers’ program for America is not only the most dangerous but infinitely the most costly. France has certainly learned how true this is.

At the rate they are now paying, the French will have paid the Germans in about seventeen months an amount equivalent to all the reparations payments ($5,000,000,000) made by the Germans with American money in the twelve years during which the Germans pretended to pay. They stopped even the pretense of payment you remember after the Lausanne Conference in 1932, even before Hitler came to power. This immense indemnity the French are paying now is merely an interim payment for the alleged cost of maintaining the German Army. Actually the cost of maintaining the army is estimated to be not 400,000,000 but 125,000,000 francs, so that the Germans have a surplus of 275,000,000 francs or around $7,000,000 for their daily “purchases.”


Q. Why did the Germans select the figure 400,000,000 francs daily?

A. Because this was the amount the French were spending on the war. In their 1940 war budget they allocated 106 billion francs to the air force, 36 billion to the army, and 15 billion to the navy, making a total of 157 billion, which is roughly 400,000,000 francs a day. Hitler reckoned if the French could afford to spend this sum on fighting the Germans, they could spend the same amount to feed, clothe, transport, lodge, amuse, and otherwise support the Germans as they are doing now.

Q. But if the French were spending this much money on the war anyway, how are they economically worse off by continuing the same expenditure?

A. They are incomparably worse off because formerly the proceeds of this sum were consumed by Frenchmen; today they are consumed by Germans. The money formerly circulated throughout the French economic body as healthy blood; today it is sucked and swallowed by the vast German leech. Furthermore the French expenditure on the war did not cease with their defeat; they still have large expenses besides their tribute to Germany.

Q. What means do the Germans use to buy up French businesses? Why don’t the French refuse to sell?

A. Some of them do, but the Germans always have the power to force them to sell.

Q. Why do the Germans bother to go through the form of buying, if they can confiscate whatever they want?


A. Because they can get what they want with much less trouble and in better shape and be able to make better use of it if they go through the form of purchase. They had their whole system of plundering France worked out before the war. During the prewar period thousands of Germans crisscrossed France, as tourists or traveling salesmen. They located the most desirable industrial or other properties, nearly all, incidentally, in the rich Northern half now Occupied France. When the Germans came in they rushed a specially trained corps of experts to all the banks and business houses, embargoed banking transactions and ordered every security holder in France to give a list of his property. Soon they knew the precise financial position of every important corporation or individual in France. With this knowledge they were able to buy into the control of all the businesses they wanted. Sometimes if the French owner refused to sell, the Germans could make the owner’s bank foreclose on his loan and thus force the owner to raise money by selling a share of his business. The Germans were modest; usually they wanted only 51 per cent. Sometimes the Germans would withhold raw materials from a stubborn industrialist. Sometimes the German authorities forcibly confiscated the property; just often enough to remind Frenchmen that, if they liked, the Germans could take every machine, sack of flour, and stick of furniture in the country without recompense.

Another most effective weapon used by the Germans to force the French to sell their businesses is the German edict that all concerns, from shops to factories, must remain open and keep their full roll of employees. Since almost no business is being done, and most concerns would normally have closed, this rule drives most businessmen into bankruptcy, as it was intended to do. By these and other similar means, the Germans, using the francs paid them by the French, have gone far toward buying “legal” control of the most valuable property in France. With appalling swiftness[290] the French people are being pauperized and reduced to slaves in what used to be their own homes.

They are like the Negroes on a pre-Civil War plantation in our own South. The Germans, like the white folks, live in the big house, eat caviar and chicken, drink the wonderful wines of France, clothe their women with the creations of the great couturiers, and promenade the Boulevards while the French people, half-starving, broken, humiliated, work desperately hard to support their masters. The French are now not even being treated as well as slaves under a master considerate enough to wish to keep his slaves in good health and fit working order. I should think it would be fair to say that out of an eight-hour day the Frenchman today has to devote four hours to working for the Germans.

Q. If these are the interim armistice terms imposed on France, what will the final terms of peace be like?

A. You can be sure that the German demands will be limited only by the total wealth of France. We know Hitler intends the total productive wealth of the country to pass into German hands. Without waiting for peace, the Germans are, as we noted, already systematically stripping France of her movable valuables and taking them to Germany, and buying control of the immovable property they want. But if the time ever comes, when Hitler makes a so-called peace with France, we may expect that he will take pleasure in basing his demands partly on the Versailles treaty.

He will first demand that the reparations Germany paid after the last war be paid back; then he will demand full compensation for the German merchant and fishing fleets, and the railroad equipment, cattle, etc., turned over to the Allies after the last war to make up for similar items seized by the Germans; he will demand replacement of all the shipping Germany was compelled to build for the Allies to take the place of the ships sunk by the Imperial[291] Navy; he will bill the Allies for the coal Germany delivered the Allies to replace the coal taken from the mines of Northern France during the war. After the broad category of claims from the last war has been put down, Hitler will then ask for reparations for this war, and of course he can set any sum he likes.

Q. But why should Hitler take so much trouble to claim formal reparations? Since he obviously intends permanently to cripple his victim, why should he bother to go through the legalistic form of itemizing his claims?

A. Because that is the way Hitler and his Nazis always do things. The German, even the Nazi, is an orderly fellow. The first principle of all Germans is “Ordnung muss sein.” Aside from that, or above it, is the fact that Hitler, deeply conscious of the illegality of all his actions, beginning with the seizure of power, has always insisted on clothing everything he does with the appearance of lawfulness. When he seized power he did it by banning the Communist and then the Socialist parties from the Reichstag, and thus obtaining a majority vote in the Reichstag. Whenever he attacks a nation he announces a long list of reasons, backed sometimes by an extraordinary array of documents, many of them forged, to prove he not only had a right to attack but was compelled to do so.

This necessity for self-justification explains also one of the queerest Nazi practices in their torture chambers. When they have finished torturing a victim, they invariably make him sign a statement testifying that he had been well treated. One would think since the Nazi power is absolute, they would not care, or bother to take this trouble, but they seem to be under a profound compulsion to make this gesture toward the justice they have in practice abolished.


Q. What is the use of our maintaining diplomatic relations with Vichy? In view of all that you have said I should think we ought to withdraw our recognition of Vichy and transfer it to de Gaulle and the Free French.

A. I suppose the chief reason we do not break diplomatic relations with Vichy is the same reason why we have not broken formal relations with Germany: in both cases we wish to keep a diplomatic observer on the scene. That is understandable in the case of Germany, since we are only formally at peace with her, and are morally at war and all the world knows it. In other words, until we begin to shoot, it would not make much difference whether we broke relations with Germany or not. But in the case of Vichy, it would make a world of difference if we took our recognition away from Pétain and gave it to de Gaulle. It is true that de Gaulle is actually in control of only some central African French territory while Pétain nominally rules all France, but we have continued our recognition of all the governments in exile and refused any kind of recognition to the Quislings and Rexists, and in this spirit we ought to withdraw our recognition from Pétain. It would immensely hearten the Free French to have our recognition and if we extended Lease-Lend aid to de Gaulle’s forces it could have important military consequences. However, I suppose Washington is still hoping against hope that we may one day be able to gain some profit from having treated Pétain as well as we have. I personally do not believe we ever will.



Q. What is the greatest danger we face as a nation?

A. Our complacency. It is colossal, cosmic, suicidal.

Q. Can you still call us complacent after we have conscripted an Army, begun to create an Air Force, gone far toward building a two-ocean Navy, flung a line of outposts from Iceland to South America, appropriated and recommended fifty billion dollars for defense, and told our Navy to sink German fighting ships?

A. The very list you name reeks with complacency. All of that put together does not equal a week of what even the “despised” Russians are doing now. The bitterest thing yet said about us was: “Better a Bolshevik who kills Germans than a Democrat who kills time.” We still unwaveringly and unblushingly expect somebody else to do the job for us. Now it is Russia.

To begin with we said France and England would do the job; then Norway; then the Low Countries; then the Balkans; and now we sit back and actually rely on the Russians. We cheer the news that the Navy is going to fight but shrink at the idea of an American Expeditionary Force. Why? For the same reason that war with Japan has many more advocates than war with Germany, because we could leave a sea war to the professional fighting men of the Navy. We shirk calling things by their proper names. Never have we used so many weasel words. Conscripts are “selectees”; naval war is “hunting pirates”; hiring the British to do our fighting for[294] us is “lease-lend”; isolationists become “noninterventionists”; interventionists argue tediously for “all-out aid,” but few of them ever come out plainly and say we ought to go to war. All of this evasion stems from the refusal to face the supreme reality, namely that we have to go to war, that it is our war and was our war from the beginning.

Q. But haven’t we gone far toward recognizing that it is our war by our lease-lend appropriations of around thirteen billion dollars?

A. Do you realize that we actually delivered only $190,000,000 worth of goods in the first six months of lease-lend to Britain and China? That is only a little over one per cent of the total lease-lend money involved. If it takes us six months to deliver one per cent, how long will it take to deliver 100 per cent? Certainly, the beginning is slowest; certainly speed of deliveries will increase almost geometrically after the new factories begin to produce. But the fact is that we will never produce enough to win this war without going formally to war. As Donald M. Nelson, chief defense buyer, suggested, the only way to get capacity production for armaments is to make the program so big that civilian needs will be irresistibly pushed into the background, and every factory capable of producing armaments will be forced to drop its civilian business and go immediately to work on war materials.

What does “pushing our civilian needs into the background” mean? It means sacrifice; it means a lowering of our standard of living. Do you know anyone, have you a single person in your acquaintance in civilian life, whose standard of living has deteriorated as a result of sacrifice for our so-called defense effort? Leaf through your smart magazines, read the news of the shops, and ask yourself what the fighting folk of Europe would think of the war effort of a country whose rugged males in the bloody autumn of 1941 are asked in full-page advertisements: “Have you seen the[295] new brown diamonds for men? These interesting, subdued stones are rapidly becoming a major item in the well-dressed man’s wardrobe.” Would this make very good evidence against Hitler’s assertion that we are a “decadent, degenerate democracy not to be taken seriously in war”?

Q. But how can we expect to improve morale by criticism? Isn’t it true that if you tell a healthy man he looks ill, and tell him frequently enough, he may actually fall ill?

A. Yes, but if you tell an ill man he looks well, and he therefore fails to take care of himself, he may die. It is not fear that we need; it is awareness. What was the common cause of the death of the fifteen nations which have fallen to Hitler? It was lack of awareness of his threat to their national existence. From Poland to Greece they were all overconfident and hence for six long years did nothing to bring about that coalition which might have saved them. Overconfidence is our danger, not defeatism. The moment our Navy was given orders to convoy and shoot, one prominent voice was raised to suggest that now we might diminish our Army, as though the war were virtually won.

Q. Our morale is very bad, then?

A. No, that is not true. Our morale is high. That sounds like a contradiction but it is not. It is my conviction after talking to audiences all over the country that the American people are eager to find out the truth and when they hear it they are eager to act; that they are far ahead of their leaders in Congress, and even of the President; and that if the President wanted it, he could get directly from the American people, not from Congress, but from the twenty-seven million Americans who voted for him, plus many million more, approval of any measure he advocated, including a[296] formal declaration of war. National morale depends so much on leadership that a great figure, as Roosevelt in this country and Churchill in England, can influence it to great decisions with one broadcast.

But without leadership we soon sink back into smug apathy, and the kind of thoughtlessness which led Americans in the first six months of 1941 to buy 35 per cent more automobiles, 42 per cent more refrigerators, and 51 per cent more electric ranges than in the same period of 1940—all of these luxury articles being built of materials vital for our defense industry. The French too, right up to the collapse, went on eating tremendous meals, loafing behind their Maginot line, and reading illustrated magazines with pictures just like ours showing magnificent fleets of planes and tanks. An unwitting reader of some of our great periodicals would get the impression that we have one of the world’s most powerful tank armies and that our warplanes could darken the skies. We lay down the magazine with a sigh of content. Good old U.S.A. We knew we could do it. What was all that talk about unpreparedness?

Q. Haven’t we a tank army?

A. We have four armored divisions now being organized. We see them under such titles as “Uncle Sam’s Mighty Tanks Move Into Action,” and only the closest examination of the picture reveals that most of the tanks are armored cars. In 1940 we produced 20 light, no medium, and no heavy tanks a month; in 1941, 260 light, 130 medium, and no heavy tanks a month; and in 1942 we shall produce 390 light, 300 medium, and still no heavy tanks a month. I quote from an authoritative release of July 4, 1941: “None of the four existing armored divisions is regarded as complete and ready for combat on the European scale because medium and[297] heavy tanks have not arrived yet, and because coordinated practice with the air arm regularly attached to the divisions has not yet been possible and because much of the training time must be devoted to the basic training of new men.” There is the mechanized force of the United States of America in the third year of the mechanized world war. Our armored strength consists of light tanks only, completely useless against heavy or medium tanks. But most appalling is the revelation that this late in a war in which every victory has been won by the famous dive bomber plus tank team, we seem not to possess any such team at all, for that must be the meaning of the statement that there has been no practice of coordination between planes and tanks. These teams cannot be improvised. An army without them today is like an army would have been without artillery yesterday.

In effect we still do not possess an effective armored force and the production figures indicate we shall not have one in 1942 either, for until we have heavy tanks we cannot face heavy tanks. What have the Germans in the way of mechanized armament? We cannot tell what changes have taken place since the Battle of Russia began, but we know that their losses are constantly replenished from the industrial plants of all Europe now working feverishly for the Germans. At the Battle of France the Germans had ten Panzer divisions and it was these steel hack saws which cut the body of France into bleeding ribbons and ended the French nation in five weeks. The Germans captured from the French 4,000 or 5,000 tanks and since that time have produced incessantly until it is estimated that they entered the Battle of Russia with a total of 20 to 30 Panzer divisions and with at least 25,000 tanks. The German Army is obviously the army we are preparing to fight. Its armored strength is conservatively estimated about twenty-five times ours, and it has more than two years of battle experience. We not only have not got an army that could take part in modern warfare at all, but we are not even preparing to create such an army. We may get one. We will get one if we have time. We will get an army if we go to war in time to keep the British between[298] us and our enemy for the period it will take to build an army. We will never get an army so long as we are satisfied with what we have.

We American people have been like a neurotic who refuses to listen to bad news; who will not go to a physician for fear of what he may find out. We could afford to view the matter less darkly if it appeared that our production would give us an effective fighting machine sometime in the future, but this does not seem to be the case. Our gun production indicates that we expect to be ready to fight a modern army sometime around the 1950’s. It shows that in the middle of 1941 we had a production of 4 big, 29 medium, and 20 small antiaircraft guns per month. At that rate it would take a year to make enough antiaircraft guns to guard New York City alone. In mid-1942 we shall, if we are lucky, have a production of 22 big, 23 medium, and 300 small antiaircraft guns monthly. At this rate we should be able properly to guard the large cities of the Eastern seaboard in about ten years.

In 1941 we did not produce any 155 mm. cannon, but we will make fourteen of them monthly in 1942; just as we produced no 105 mm. cannon in 1940, but put out 22 per month in 1941 and in 1942 hope to make 155 a month. At this rate we ought to be able to finish enough artillery to match the German artillery in about 1951. We are still turning out 37 mm. antitank guns, although tests have shown that this gun will not penetrate the armor of the tanks it would have to meet. Even our famous Garand rifle apparently cannot be manufactured anything like fast enough to supply the growing army. In mid-1941 it was being turned out at the rate of 22,500 a month; and in 1942 it is due to be produced at the rate of 52,000 a month. That is only 624,000 a year. At this rate it would take well over three years to equip the two-million-man army which is our initial goal in the face of the fact that the forces it is being built to meet number upward of ten million.

In airplanes we have the one advantage that we came so late into[299] the field that we have few obsolescent types. The British and Germans have the immense advantage of daily contact with battle experience. In mid-1941 we produced 206 fighters and 60 bombers per month for ourselves and sent an average of 390 planes monthly to Britain. Our aid to Britain, “all out, short of war,” amounted to this, that after two years of war we were sending Britain about one-eighth as many warplanes as Germany’s production, believed to be around 3,000 a month. Even in 1942 when we shall have reached capacity production, we expect to send Britain only 650 planes a month, and to make only 600 bombers and 600 fighters monthly for ourselves. That is, even in the third year of war we propose to have a production of only about three-quarters the German production. We have pitched our sights far too low. We might as well quit if we cannot set the sights up.

Raymond Swing always tells me as he rakes in the pot, “Knick, it is not good hands that win in poker; it is better hands.” So it is in this war. We shall never win with a good army, navy, and air force; they have to be better than the enemy’s and bigger too. Before the Battle of Russia some military critics held that we did not need even the 1,500,000 men we now have under arms; that we needed only a highly mechanized force. Now we see that to win in this war an army needs mass as well as machines. As yet we have neither.

Q. Why haven’t we at any rate planned an adequate army of four or five million men with at least as many armored divisions as the Germans?

A. Because to plan an adequate army would indicate we intended to go to war. To make it big enough and well enough equipped to fight the Germans would indicate that we intended to fight the Germans. The consequence of our ostrich hypocrisy, our faint-hearted catering to the pacifist, isolationist-obscurantist bloc is that[300] we not only do not but we cannot build an army to perform the function for which it was called into existence: fight the Nazis. If we equip it to go abroad, up go cries of alarm from the Wheeler-Lindbergh crowd: “Foreign war! See, the President is going to put us into a foreign war!”

Q. But if we have nothing to fight with, how can we go to war?

A. Only by going to war can we guarantee the continued existence of the British fighting machine and the control of the Atlantic by the British Navy and our own. As long as the Atlantic is thus controlled we can arm ourselves in safety.

Q. But why can’t we arm ourselves, as we are now doing, without going to war, and after we are thoroughly prepared, then, if it is still necessary, go in and win? Wouldn’t that be more sensible?

A. No, because until we go to war we shall never arm ourselves adequately or send to Britain and Russia anything like the supplies we would send if we went to war. Second, if we do not go to war at once there exists always the possibility of German victory. Although the German Army is busy for the time being in Russia, Hitler knows he has to conquer Britain to win. He intends to return to the Battle of Britain. The Battle of the Atlantic is constantly going on. Events move with such lightning speed in this war that a sudden overwhelming Hitler victory is still quite conceivable. Beaverbrook only the other day said he was convinced Hitler still intended to try to invade the British Isles.

Q. Do you think Hitler could succeed in invading Britain?

A. If Hitler is willing to lose half a million or a million men in a super-Blitz—and we know that he is quite willing to invest that[301] many more German lives in his dream of 1,000 years of Nazi Empire—even British authorities admit he might get a foothold in England. The German tactics would probably be similar to the attack on Crete, except that against the British Isles they would try many more landings by sea. Everything would be on a gigantic scale. The air bombardment to precede the attempt would surpass anything experienced in the Blitz of the autumn of 1940 which I witnessed. In this super-Blitz the Germans would attempt to paralyze the R.A.F. They were not able to do it before. The R.A.F., as Churchill said, won the climacteric victory of the First Battle of Britain by knocking down three German planes to every one they lost, and in that fight the Germans outnumbered the British three to one. But if Hitler gets the airplane factories of Russia, to add to the production of the French, Czech, Belgian, and Greater German production, is there anyone who would undertake to prove that he could not concentrate in one furious attack more force than even the dauntless R.A.F. could repel?

The Germans can never beat the British but they might suffocate them. Hitler so far has never used more than 500 or 600 warplanes in a single attack on England. Suppose he uses 5,000. Why has he not done this before? Every aviation and military authority I talked with during the Blitz in England was baffled at this. There were scores of guesses. The most popular answer now is that the Germans did not have the airfields from which to launch so many planes at once. This is a limiting factor in air warfare which is now given great weight. It is pointed out that it takes a huge airfield to send off 100 planes. It is even argued that the British are bound to lose the war eventually because their island can accommodate only a restricted number of airfields, which fix an upper limit for their R.A.F., while the Germans can build an indefinitely large force. Since the First Battle of Britain the Germans have had plenty of time to build airfields from Norway to France sufficient to take care of the air fleets of all the world. We know they have built[302] many secretly along the coast of Northern France and the Low Countries. Hitler’s tactic of surprise would lead him to keep them in reserve for the great invasion. Few observers would exclude the possibility that the Germans may be able to use thousands of planes in the Second Battle of Britain where they used hundreds in the first.

Q. Why doesn’t Hitler use poison gas?

A. I am convinced he will use it whenever he becomes desperate. Why has he not used it before? The British know he has vast quantities of it. He may be afraid of reprisals. When he uses gas at all I should think it would be in a once-for-all storm. Imagine what the effect of a giant attack with a heavy gas might be on London where as many as 4,000,000 persons sleep in underground shelters. The English have virtually ceased to carry gas masks. At the beginning of the war not one person in a hundred appeared on the streets of London without one. Today not one person in fifty carries one.

Hitler would probably not use gas at all except as a part of a knockout blow so violent that the British would not have a chance to strike back. Whatever the outcome, it is possible that such a mass gas assault might kill hundreds of thousands in one night. While the gas attack was being poured upon the large cities, in the hope also of wiping out the government and other leaders in urban headquarters, swarms of flat-bottomed scows and other vessels would put out from the coasts of the Channel and the North Sea, to make for landings at perhaps a dozen different places, anywhere along the coast of both England and Scotland. Some of these objectives would be feigned to divert English defense forces from the real ones, which might number five or six. Meanwhile great numbers of parachute troops would be landed to capture British airfields and hold them long enough for troop planes and gliders to[303] land reinforcements, and these landings would also be attempted at the immediate rear of the coastal points where the German troops were coming in by sea.

British authorities admit that it would be a serious matter if the Germans could establish one or more such bridgeheads on the coast and land heavy tanks, for the British even yet are not satisfactorily equipped with this indispensable weapon. The British believe they could concentrate and recapture any points seized by the Germans, but who knows? Crete showed what could be done with air-borne troops, and although the British Isles would be in most respects more difficult to capture than Crete, they would not be in all respects. The Germans are much nearer the British Isles, and could concentrate many times the force they used on Crete.

If the invasion of Britain ever takes place, Hitler will doubtless make it a win-the-war or lose-the-war battle, on a scale of the highest concentrated violence. Neither side will hold back reserves, as the R.A.F. did even in the worst days of the 1940 Blitz, because they were waiting to use their last fighters and bombers against the expected invaders. The British Navy will drive regardless of mines or submarines through the narrow waters of the Channel to throw itself between the invaders and the island. The odds would still be on the British to win, in my judgment. They are in an incomparably stronger position than in 1940 when after Dunkirk they were practically weaponless. Today they have two to three million first-class, well-equipped, and well-trained troops and over a million Home Guards on the island; their coast defenses, as I have seen on visits around the island, are formidable and deep; the R.A.F. is present in full strength on its home bases, and the British claim it is growing steadily stronger relative to the Luftwaffe; and the Royal Navy, sallying from its home ports, here has the protection of air forces which were not available at Crete. Finally, the British would be defending their homes, and this lends an astonishing extra strength to fighting men. I would not like to be a member of[304] the German Army trying to occupy and pacify England. At the school of Cad’s Warfare, run by Tom Wintringham outside of London, they have taught the old fellows and the youngsters in the Home Guard many odd and useful tricks, from the best way to strangle a German sentry from behind, to the best way to stab a German sentry from in front.

Even if the chances are in favor of the British, there are so many surprises in war, and especially in this war, that it would be folly for us to behave as though we knew Britain would win without us. If she falls, we must be prepared to meet the whole German war machine alone.

Q. Is it true that the Germans once tried to invade Britain and failed as we heard rumored here?

A. I am convinced those rumors were without foundation; I do not think the Germans have ever tried to invade the British Isles. I remember the September story. I was in England then and about mid-September I learned that the highest British authorities believed the invasion might come at any moment. With the invincible Virginia Cowles we went “Looking for Trouble” and motored to Dover and spent a week along the coast, in constant contact with the British military authorities. We heard not a whisper of the yarn about invasion until later in London when rumors came from the continent that the R.A.F. had broken up a fleet of German invasion vessels and drowned or burned with flaming oil on the surface of the sea thousands of German soldiers. Now it is perfectly possible that the R.A.F. may have surprised and thus treated German invasion vessels engaged in maneuver or in moving from one port to another, but it is out of the question that it should have been a serious attempt at invasion. When that happens there will be 500,000 Germans concerned, not 50,000, and there will be no attempt at concealment.


The decisive consideration is that if the Germans had tried an invasion and the British had beaten it back, the British would have been certain to advertise their victory as widely as possible. But British authorities never said anything about a repulsed invasion attempt. We may be sure that when and if the invasion attempt comes, there will be no question about what is happening; not even the most enterprising American newspaperman will be able to get a scoop on the story.

Q. Would the Germans first invade Ireland in order to be able to attack the British Isles from all sides?

A. Possibly, though not necessarily. The Germans might consider the disadvantages of taking Ireland greater than the advantages. The Irish Channel is as wide as the English; the Germans would be no nearer England than they are now. The possession of submarine bases in Ireland would be the most important gain for the Germans. Against this the Germans have to balance the cost of the operation, since there are strong British units in Northern Ireland; the time lost; the alarm given; and the effect on the Irish in America.

Q. Why doesn’t Ireland allow the British to take over for the duration of the war or at any rate let them use the Irish naval bases they need so badly?

A. Because the Irish still consider Oliver Cromwell a far more unpleasant fellow than Adolf Hitler. They still distrust and to a degree hate the British. Also they know they would be enslaved if Hitler won; but they do not expect Hitler to win. They expect Britain to win, but they will do nothing or practically nothing to help win. To be fair to the Irish, their attitude is based less on historical prejudice than on today’s life or death. If De Valera were[306] to give the British permission to occupy the Irish ports, the moment the news became known, the Germans would bombard Dublin and other Irish cities, and deliberately attempt to kill as many Irish men, women, and children as possible to punish them for siding with the English. This is the threat that so far has kept the Irish from allowing the British in.

Q. If the Russians hold the German Army long enough, won’t the time come when the German people will revolt? Why not wait for that?

A. Because it is extremely unlikely ever to happen unless we go to war. The German people will revolt only when, as Walter Lippmann expressed it, they feel that it has become more dangerous to go on with Hitler than to get rid of him. Such a time will come only when the German people become convinced that they are going to be defeated and invaded. It will not come merely because the German Army falls into a prolonged deadlock with the Russians.

There has to be the conviction that foreign troops are going to enter Germany itself, and that if the German people overthrow Hitler they will receive milder treatment at the hands of their liberated victims. The danger of going on with Hitler has to be very imminent and great to move the German people to revolt, because the crimes of the Nazis have been so atrocious that the Nazis know they will be killed if they are overthrown. There must be ten thousand Nazis who anticipate death if they lose their power either by revolt or by loss of the war. They will meet any attempt at revolt with the utmost mercilessness. In the last war there were no Germans who expected to be killed if Germany lost. The Nazi gang whose life and death hang on the outcome of the war is larger than the clique of the German ruling class which had an urgent, though not life-and-death interest, in seeing the last war to a successful[307] conclusion. Any hopes that a German revolt would end the war if the deadlock lasts long enough are based on wishful thinking.

Q. What makes you think Hitler would want to destroy us?

A. First, because he could not afford to allow any democracy, any free state, to exist in his totalitarian world. In his world there would be only one kind of freedom, the freedom of the German to do as he likes with all other varieties of men. If Hitler is not interfered with and has time to accustom his slaves to slavery, his dynasty of tyrants might last far beyond our lifetime, but not if a single democracy persists to tempt and challenge his slaves to revolt. Witness today how for a long time the subjugated peoples of Europe seemed sunk in abject apathy, but awakened to demonstrate against their despot the moment Russia’s resistance awakened the hope of eventual victory. If Hitler wins over the rest of the world, he must destroy us in order to be safe in his own Empire.

As long as a democracy exists on earth it will hold out before the eyes of hundreds of millions of Hitler’s subjects the vision of a place on earth where the body and soul of a man belong to himself and there are no masters and slaves. Especially dangerous to his rule would be a democracy which not only offered this vision but was potentially powerful enough to be a positive threat, as the United States. For this reason alone Hitler could not allow us to continue to exist, a free oasis in his vast helot Reich.

Second, Hitler could not afford to give us time to translate our potential into real strength. He professes two opinions of America. One is that we are negligible; the other is that as the last war was decided by America, this one may be. He once told a diplomatic official of his who still occupies a high post in this country: “The United States is a degenerate democracy in the backwash of civilization and too demoralized by pacifism to play any important role in the war to come.” He is truly contemptuous of our democracy,[308] as of all democracies, which he judges on the basis of those he has overthrown or conquered, from the German to the French. He concludes that we must be weak, since our democratic system dispenses justice, as far as humanly possible, to the weak as well as to the strong, and because since the conquest of the continental United States we have shown little or no interest in building an empire. To the Nazi heart justice to the weak is a proof of weakness; and to the Nazi mind only one thing prevents a human being from seizing the property of a neighbor, weakness. So Hitler on the one hand thinks us weak, but on the other hand he recognizes that we could become strong.

As he once told me that he admitted the entry of the United States into the last war had decided the struggle, so now when America is preparing to throw its whole weight against him, he shows signs of wishing to keep us out. By now Britain has taught him that even a democracy can become tough if it has time. Would Hitler, after he had crushed the British, willingly give us time to become morally strong enough to fight him as the British fought him? Could he afford to let us have the two years or more still necessary for the physical job of creating the cannon, tanks, airplanes, and naval vessels and for the training of the officers and men for an armed force strong enough to face his?

The third simple reason for his wishing to subjugate the United States is that he wants the loot of America, richest on earth, and wants us to pay tribute to the Greater German Reich as France and the other conquered countries are doing now.

Fourth, and not the least, important reason to believe that Hitler wishes to destroy the United States, is because he has said so. You remember his speech in the second year of the war when he said, “We shall destroy Britain and every country which has fed Britain.” To whom do you suppose he referred if not to the United States? And do you not think now that it is high time to pay attention to this no longer funny little man when he announces what he[309] intends to do? He is unique among conquerors, because he always, by one means or another, warned his victims of what he intended to do to them, and in most cases, the Lindberghs of the world have looked up appeasingly and archly inquired, “Oh no, Mr. Hitler, you surely don’t mean that, do you?”

As someone expressed it, Hitler has never kept a promise but never failed to carry out, or at least try to carry out, a threat. His threat to destroy us has been documented scores of times. Hermann Rauschning quotes Hitler as declaring privately to friends that he would conquer the United States first from within, with his Fifth Column, and Walther Darre, his Minister of Agriculture, has developed the topic thus: “I have been asked about my opinion of America, especially the United States, and the danger of this pseudo-democratic Republic’s possible attempts to hinder us in our historical development. There is no fear that this demoralized country will mix in this German war. In the first place, as in France and other countries, also in the United States, we have many of our compatriots and even more friends among the citizens of the United States. Many of the latter hold the most important positions in political and economic life and will not permit public opinion to allow something so senseless and insane as war against Germany.... The United States is at present so demoralized and so corrupted that, like England and France, it need not be taken into consideration as a military adversary.... The United States will also be forced by Germany to complete and final capitulation.”

Finally, as we discussed before, Hitler as every conqueror, cannot stop trying to conquer, and after he had finished with the Old World, his momentum would force him to attack the New.

Q. Haven’t we plenty to do at home, without getting into a foreign war? Why don’t we try to make a real democracy in America before we go out to try to improve the rest of the world?


A. This argument that we should pay no attention to the fire in the house next door because we are busy cleaning the windows of our house, polishing the floor, and cleaning up the kitchen has the same amount of logic and common sense as the doctrine that we ought not to fight on our enemy’s territory but only on our own. President Hutchins of the University of Chicago has put this argument of perfectionism in scholarly form. He maintains that we are going to war to establish throughout the world the Four Freedoms—of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear—but he says we have no right to crusade for them until we have established them at home. But we are not going to war to crusade for the Four Freedoms; as we have pointed out before, we are going to war to make the world safe for the United States, and at the same time or thereafter do what we can to establish the Four Freedoms elsewhere as well as in America. If we do not go to war, we risk losing even what we have of the Four Freedoms, even the small quantities of them measured by Dr. Hutchins.

Something of what he says about the failure of the Four Freedoms in this country to reach perfection is true; not all of it. He says we have freedom of speech to say only what everybody else is saying, but Dr. Hutchins will admit we have more of this kind of freedom than any other country at this moment. He will also admit that everyone else is not saying the things Dr. Hutchins is saying and yet he may say them without let or hindrance. He says we have “freedom of worship if we don’t take our religion too seriously,” but one must ask oneself what examples of religious intolerance have given rise to such a statement? Where are the persecuted religionists and to what country would they flee to escape from the alleged deficiency of freedom of worship in America?

Dr. Hutchins says that as for freedom from want and freedom from fear, so long as one-third of the nation is ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed, as Roosevelt says it is, we have no right to try to[311] establish these freedoms in other countries. Again, we can admit that the matter is precisely as President Roosevelt has stated it, and yet assert that the people of the United States have as a whole better food, clothing, and living conditions than those of any other country with comparable climatic conditions. He says that as for democracy, “we know that millions of men and women are disfranchised in this country because of their race, color, or condition of economic servitude.” But if by reason of the passive attitude toward the war advocated by Dr. Hutchins, this country should fall under Hitler’s power, whether directly, with der Fuehrer in Washington, or indirectly with der Fuehrer’s Gauleiter, chosen from the America First Committee as our President, all of America’s 133,000,000 men and women would be wholly disfranchised.

Dr. Hutchins says that we must abandon the Four Freedoms if we go to war, and that “We cannot suppose, because civil liberties were restricted in the last war and expanded after it, that we can rely on their revival after the next one.” Why not? If we cannot rely on experience, what can we rely on? In every war the United States has ever fought we have delegated to the executive the powers necessary to win victory and afterward we have always taken them back, but without even an argument, much less any forcible attempt to prevent such action. Dr. Hutchins says, “If we go to war we cast away our opportunity and cancel our gains. For a generation, perhaps for hundreds of years, we shall not be able to struggle back to where we were. In fact, the changes that total war will bring may mean that we shall never be able to struggle back. Education will cease. Its place will be taken by vocational and military training. The effort to establish a democratic community will stop. We shall think no more of justice, of the moral order and the supremacy of human rights. We shall have hope no longer.”

Why should these things happen to us if they have never happened in past wars? Because, says Dr. Hutchins, “this war, if we enter it, will make the last one look like a stroll in the park.” But[312] has the war done any of these things to Britain? On the contrary it is the unanimous judgment of observers of Britain in wartime that the British are more just, humane, democratic, and obedient to a higher moral regime than ever before in their history. The British are nearer their enemy and more deeply immersed in total war than we can ever be. Why should we be expected to fare worse than the British?

Dr. Hutchins expresses concern for “suffering humanity” and declares we could best serve it by staying out of war, and extending aid to Britain and China “on the basis most likely to keep us at peace and least likely to involve us in war.” Is it really helpful to suffering humanity in Britain, China, France, Russia, Norway, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium, Austria, yes and in Italy and Germany itself, to practice a policy directed solely to avoiding conflict with the author of the misery of half the world?

Aside from that, there is only one choice before America now and the choice is not between going to war or not going to war. The choice today is between going to war in time to win it, and going to war too late to win it. We can best serve “suffering humanity” by attempting with all the strength of our bodies and souls to destroy the prime, immediate mundane cause of humanity’s suffering. Finally, Dr. Hutchins declares that the argument that we should go to war now when we have Britain to help us, to avoid having to go to war later, when we should have to face the whole world alone, rests on the improvable assumptions that Britain must fall and that the totalitarian powers will wish to, and be able to, and will attack us. We could debate on these grounds and make a strong case for even this simplest, most direct form of possible events. But the argument for war now does not rest alone on this succession of possible events.

Germany may not be able to conquer Britain, but Britain may become so weary and so convinced that she cannot defeat Germany[313] without us, and so persuaded that we shall never come into the war, that Britain might make a negotiated peace. Such a peace would be as disastrous to us as a lost war; to prevent it is as strong a motive for our going to war now as is the motive of preventing the actual fall of Britain. Again, unless Britain falls or makes a negotiated peace, how is any kind of peace to come to the world? By Britain’s defeating Germany? No, if Russia falls or defects, Britain alone certainly cannot conquer Germany; no informed person thinks it possible. Does Dr. Hutchins think Britain could? Does he think it would be desirable to allow Bolshevik Russia the credit and opportunity of the land conquest of Germany, which by now is Europe?

Failing to enter the war, we have to face the alternatives; First: Fall of Britain followed by Axis economic, political, and military attack on the Western Hemisphere and probable American defeat by Nazis within as well as without. Second: A negotiated peace between Britain and Germany; followed by Nazi attack on the Western Hemisphere as before. Third: Defeat of Germany by Britain at sea and in the air, and by Russia on land; followed by Russian Communism throughout Europe. Does Dr. Hutchins believe this a desirable end, or that the United States would remain immune from its effects? Fourth: An interminable deadlock in Europe with the entire world from year to year slipping backward politically, economically, and morally with no prospect of anything except more ruined cities, more starving people, more dead from battle and bombardment, famine and pestilence. Is it helping suffering humanity to remain aloof and permit any of these alternatives to come to pass?

Q. Why do you think we ought to go to war with Germany today?

A. Because until Nazi Germany is defeated the world will never be safe for us to live in; because it will require the total war effort[314] of the United States and Britain and Russia to defeat Germany; and because our formal declaration of war would be worth more in the struggle against Germany than all the material aid we shall be able to send the Allies for the next year or more.

Q. But wouldn’t it be better to wait and let Hitler declare war on us?

A. It would best serve our interests if Hitler would declare war, but since he knows this is true, he is not likely to do so under any provocation. I should think he would hesitate to declare war even if we were to have a pitched naval battle and sink his ships and announce it. He knows that even if our Navy is fighting his, there is still a body of American public opinion which is opposed to the participation of our Army in an A.E.F. He knows that if he declared war it would help immensely to unify the American people. He might go into a fury and declare war, but it would be unlike him. Behind all his tantrums there is usually calculation.

Q. But isn’t our present state of “undeclared war” just as effective as being formally at war? Why would our declaration of war be worth so much immediately?

A. Because of its moral effect upon ourselves, our enemies, and our friends. We can talk all we like about being in a state of undeclared war, but until we are formally at war we will continue to behave as though we were at peace. Only by going to war can we discipline ourselves, our workingmen, and our employers to defeat the Axis in the battle of production. At this moment when Britain and Germany are devoting four hours of each working day to making arms, we are devoting thirty minutes to making arms. Only by going to war can our citizens’ army get the morale to be a fighting force.

On the Germans the effect of our declaration of war would be[315] catastrophic. Every German would say to himself, “Now we can’t win; we can hold on for a long time, perhaps, but we can’t win.” On the Italians the effect would be to depress their feeble efforts still further toward zero.

On the British the effect would be to give them what they lack and what they most need: the assurance of victory. The British are convinced that they cannot be defeated, but how are they going to defeat the Germans without the United States actively in the war?

Upon the Soviet Union the effect would be to strengthen the resolution of Stalin and the Russian people not to make a compromise peace nor succumb to any of the temptations Hitler may offer; and the longer the Red Army fights the Germans the fewer sacrifices will have to be made by the United States to help win the war.

To France our declaration of war would bring the will to live again. Belief in eventual German victory over Britain was the basis upon which the French surrendered. It was the foundation of Vichy’s policy. Our declaration of war might not change Pétain and his men of Vichy, for they are prisoners of their own deeds, and probably cannot withdraw from their fatal collaboration with the Germans, but it would move the people of France profoundly. Pétain does not represent the people of France. I believe far more in the spirit of my French friend who wrote me: “Soon we shall all be starving, but send no food. When we are starving will be a good moment to throw by parachute on every French farm and on the suburbs of Paris thousands of small machine guns, with the necessary bullets. Then the German Army will be in France as Napoleon’s Army was in Spain in 1813.” America’s entry into the war would be worth to Frenchmen like this more than machine guns. It would give them the certainty that France will live again. General de Gaulle’s army would swell by the tens of thousands.

We could reckon on the possibility of being able to occupy the strategic positions we need in North Africa and on any other[316] advantages within the power of the French to give us. We could for the first time anticipate serious revolt by the peoples of all the occupied territories when the time came; and help for the Allied Expeditionary Force which some day must invade the continent. All the enslaved peoples would be equally affected. The Nazi Terror works perfectly so long as its victims feel that it is hopeless to revolt. Revolt becomes possible only when the victims feel that they can afford to risk all, since freedom will eventually be the reward.

A very important effect of our declaration of war upon Germany would be the effect upon Japan. The Japanese mental processes are difficult indeed to understand but I venture to guess that if they saw us formally aligned with the British for the duration, they would be likely to take a milder rather than stronger attitude toward us. Needing principally smaller vessels in the Atlantic, we could base our main Battle Fleet on Singapore and confidently await any move Japan might make. Our declaration of war might well force Japan out of the Axis.

China, like Britain, would be given the most precious possession in warfare, the assurance of final victory. For even if Japan continued to fight China, once the Allies’ main task was performed and Germany defeated, the combined British and American navies could be counted on to bring Japan back to reason without much difficulty. On all the other countries, as neutral Portugal, non-belligerent Spain, encapsuled Sweden and Switzerland, the effect of our going to war would be revolutionary. Our South American friends would become even better neighbors. All over the world the conviction that now Germany will be defeated would become the decisive element in the policy of every government.

Q. But would we really go to work if we did declare war? Britain didn’t at first and neither did France. What makes you think we would?


A. You are right. It took Dunkirk to wake Britain up and France never did awake; she passed without regaining consciousness from deep sleep to death. Perhaps we too would not awaken even if we went to war, but we will never awaken until we do go to war. Most nations in this war have remained curiously apathetic until their first battle experience; this may be true of us. But the fact of our being actively belligerent would be bound to improve our spirit since it would put our moral position right. Ever since the beginning of the war we Americans have suffered from a divided personality. Half of our minds clung to the idea that we could keep at peace if we wished for peace hard enough, and this half declared: “It is not our war.” This half of our minds made the Neutrality Act. The other half of our minds realized all along that we should have been in the war from the beginning, that Hitler was fighting to conquer the world, that it was for us a matter of life or death to keep him from succeeding and that every consideration of self-interest, as of honor, urged us to take our full part in the world-wide struggle against the new Barbarism. This half was responsible for the Lease-Lend Bill, a half-measure, condemned by the very definition: “All aid to Britain short of war!” Our souls remained divided, and this division has made us an ailing nation, hypochondriac, complaining of low morale, nervous, and subject to fits of depression alternating with elation. We are unreasonably discouraged or cheered as the tide of battle ebbs and flows, and always we try to interpret whatever happens as a sign at last that we do not have to do our duty, that after all we can get out of this task, so onerous, so painful, and so unavoidable.

Completely opposite arguments are employed to prove that we may escape our obligation. If the British suffer a setback, up goes the cry: “The British are already beaten; there’s no use trying to save them now; let’s not throw good money after bad.” If the British win a victory, there is a rousing cheer: “The British are winning without us; thank God now we will not have to fight.”[318] When I came home from the Battle of Britain, it struck me as it had struck many others who have come to America from the war zone, that we were far more nervous and agitated than the peoples at war, even and especially more than those under actual heavy bombardment. Eve Curie, that admirable French patriot and gallant fighter for civilization, who was one of our group when we escaped from France, put it perfectly when she said: “There is no fear in the countries which are fighting. Extraordinarily enough, fear has gone somewhere else, to the countries which are not menaced, to the countries ‘at peace.’”

Is there any reason to suppose that our reactions would be substantially different from those of the peoples at war? Once we take a bold stand for the position we know to be just, right, and inevitable, we shall for the first time since this war began, lose our fear and become well, strong, hopeful, and proud. The sense of guilt which has made us nationally unhappy will leave us and we shall rejoice in a clear conscience.

Q. What effect would our declaring war have upon the morale of the Army, particularly on that of the selectees, which has been criticized so much?

A. Going to war would unquestionably cure all the troubles of the Army sooner or later. It is not our soldiers’ fault if today in peacetime they are restless and discontented at being compelled to do what must seem to them very like playing at being soldiers. Would the spirit of a football team be good if the team did nothing but practice football all day long, month in and month out, and never played a game, and had no games scheduled? What would be the spirit of a cast of players if they had rehearsals every day for months and never staged a performance to an audience, and had no performances scheduled?


Q. From your travel throughout the country have you formed any impression of what the morale of the Army actually is?

A. Yes, from personal observation, I have reluctantly had to admit the impression that many of the selectees, at any rate, do not understand why they are in the Army, nor why there should be conscription, nor why their period of service was extended. In a word, they have no desire to fight. Now this could be a most serious matter, since any nation is doomed if its youth, or any considerable number of them, are not willing to fight for it, yet this mood would vanish on our entry into war. The boys are not to blame. To blame are all the leaders who have confused and deceived them, the teachers who taught them pacifism and the isolationist politicians who do the work of Hitler. One of the elements most confusing in the Army mind is the promise rashly made in the presidential campaign that we should never engage in a “foreign war,” a promise no American should have made because nobody except Hitler had the power to fulfill it.

Now we are paying the penalty democracy always has to pay for hypocrisy and for deceptions in elections. The penalty is the state of mind exposed in a questionnaire taken at Camp Callan, San Diego, among selectees, and published with elation by an isolationist journal. The soldiers answered: (a) Should the United States go to war with the Axis immediately? Affirmative, 1 per cent. (b) Should the United States continue its policy of all-out economic aid to Britain and expand America’s military and naval forces in order to fight the Axis powers overseas if the Axis powers are not defeated by Britain? Affirmative, 25 per cent. (c) Should the United States guard the Western Hemisphere but send no military aid outside this area? Affirmative, 39 per cent. (d) Should the United States be strictly neutral and prepare to defend only our own territory and possessions? Affirmative, 37 per cent. These[320] answers would have distressed Count Leo Tolstoy if Tolstoy were an American living today.

Tolstoy, who was as great a student of war as he was a novelist, has a formula whereby he could interpret this poll and give us a rough estimate of the military effectiveness of an army made up of soldiers with the attitude revealed by this questionnaire. In War and Peace, his epic novel on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, he says: “In warfare the force of armies is the product of the mass multiplied by something else, an unknown X. X is the spirit of the army, the greater or less desire to fight and to face dangers on the part of all the men composing the army.” Note that Tolstoy says “desire to fight” not just “willingness to fight.” The emphasis is on the positive desire not passive willingness. This is another way to express the paramount importance of morale. What is morale? It is knowing what you have to fight about and having the desire to fight for it. But only one per cent of the selectees questioned indicated they knew what they had to fight about and desired to fight; one-third thought we ought to be “strictly neutral,” and three-fourths were against fighting anywhere outside of our hemisphere.

Q. The selectees evidently had been influenced by the arguments for passive hemisphere defense, but what do you think of the argument that we should never fight on foreign soil, but if we have to fight, let it be in America?

A. It reminds me of the Chinese and the Japanese soldiers at the beginning of their war. I saw the fall of Shanghai, and I couldn’t help but remark that while the Chinese soldier said, “I will die for China,” the Japanese soldier said, “I will kill for Japan,” and so for a long time the two got along perfectly together. For every American who may declare, “I don’t want to fight on foreign soil; if I have to fight I want to fight only at home,” there is a German who[321] declares, “I don’t want to fight at home; I fight only on foreign soil,” as the Germans have consistently done to the best of their ability for the last hundred years. May we never accommodate the Germans in this respect. Surely of all the isolationist arguments this is the least intelligent, to prefer that the fearful destruction of war be wrought on our own homes. It is an argument you will never hear in our Southern states.

Q. What should we do with conscientious objectors?

A. Reason with them. Many honest conscientious objectors can be converted by the right kind of reasoning, and the more honest they are the easier it is to straighten out their misunderstandings. If this fails then they ought to be given work to do at some enterprise of national interest, and be compelled to do it, as the government is now doing in its camps for conscientious objectors. If they refuse to register, they go to jail, as no government could afford to tolerate deliberate defiance of its laws. We as a democracy must observe the rights even of a minority which would bring ruin upon the country if its policies were to rule. This is something we can be proud of, something that marks us more than any other one thing as different from the tyrannous Nazi state where conscientious objectors and every variety of pacifist or obstructionist is put to death. We can afford to treat our objectors as we would defectives. Hitler has to kill his. He held from the beginning that pacifists were the greatest danger to the state, and from the moment he came to power he has sought out and executed every German pacifist who has revealed himself. Hitler thus proves he feels that pacifist doctrine would be dangerous to his regime, as it would.

The German nation is being led by Hitler in aggressive war. Opposition to aggressive war is a form of pacifism which makes sound sense. The war we and the British are called upon to fight, a war we did not want but are compelled to carry on in order to save our[322] national lives, is a war that even a pacifist ought to support. In this war the man who refuses to fight for his country is like a person in a lifeboat who refuses to pull an oar. In England a conscientious objector was asked at his examination whether he would do non-combatant war work. He answered, “No.” The Judge asked “Would you not help build an air-raid shelter?” The man answered, “No.” The Judge then asked, “But if there were an air raid on would you go into a shelter someone else had built?” The man answered, “Yes.” I wonder how many of the 1,800 young Americans who have been classified as conscientious objectors would contend that this is honest, and yet it is fundamentally the attitude of all conscientious objectors. The nation shelters the lives, liberty, and property of all its citizens. Everyone living in the nation is enjoying this protection. Everyone has a primary obligation to help maintain it. In England today, however, the government permits more than 40,000 registered conscientious objectors to enjoy the protection of the air-raid shelters, and of the Royal Air Force, Army, and Navy, without contributing to it. Is this not a tribute to the invincible liberalism of Anglo-Saxon democracy?

The conscientious objector had a better case in almost all other wars than he has in this one. The modern pre-Hitler war had a superficial course something like this: The victor occupied the vanquished country, made a peace treaty, collected an indemnity, then withdrew to his own country with what loot he could carry. A part of the vanquished country might be annexed to the victor. The defeated nation smarted under the humiliation but in time the population resumed its ordinary life, and within a few years a stranger could hardly find signs of any change as a result of the loss of the war. A pacifist might argue that under these circumstances it would pay not to resist since the loss by fighting would be greater than the loss by nonresistance, considerable though that might be. This is not that kind of war. Hitler does not intend to restore the sovereignty of the nations he conquers. All Hitler’s wars are more[323] or less Carthaginian. For as long as Hitler remains the master, his vanquished will be slave states, with their citizens chained to the Nazi machine, their women degraded, their religion persecuted, their schools closed, their books burned, and all this will continue until Hitler is overcome by force. It is not a choice between greater or lesser evils. It is a choice between life and death, for those who physically survive under the Hitler tyranny are condemned to a living death, as the Poles can testify.

Most of the great pacifist leaders have been converted by their observation of Hitler. Albert Einstein was thought of as the world’s greatest pacifist, but he abandoned the doctrine of non-violence after only a few months spent under the Hitler regime before he escaped to America. On his way here Einstein passed through Belgium and in an interview published in a Brussels newspaper declared: “If I were a young Belgian today, I would not refuse military service.” From a man who all his life had been a militant pacifist, taking part in world campaigns against war, this statement ought to persuade any young man. Britain’s leading pacifist, Bertrand Russell, has likewise been persuaded to give up his “isolationism” and to advocate that we give up ours, because the airplane, annihilating distances, has made it impossible for any nation “to secure peace for itself by isolation.” But Hitler is more persuasive, it seems to me.

Hitler writes that the Germans “will give what many blinded pacifists hope to get by moaning and crying,” namely, “a peace, supported not by the palm branches of tearful pacifist professional female mourners, but founded by the victorious sword of a people of overlords which puts the world into the service of a higher culture.” And again he wrote: “Indeed the pacifist-humane idea is perhaps quite good whenever the man of the highest standard has previously conquered and subjected the world to a degree that makes him the only master of this globe.” That is surely clear enough to convince the most conscientious objector that if everyone[324] refused to fight Hitler he would conquer the world, and as President Conant of Harvard says, men would have no more freedom than horses have now. It is not pleasant to have to agree with Hitler, but one must admit he defined the conscientious objector correctly when he declared the healthy, unspoiled boy would willingly give his life for his country and thus “obeys the deeper necessity of the preservation of the species, if necessary at the expense of the individual,” while the pacifist egotistically puts his interest ahead of the nation. The charge of cowardice is easy to make, and I for one shall not make it. I prefer to think of most conscientious objectors as men who have not thought the problem through. After all, one of them was named Sergeant York.

Q. Why don’t we have a department in our Army to tell the soldiers why they are in uniform?

A. We have a morale section in the Army but it cannot operate effectively until we are at war. It is forbidden to discuss “politics” with the soldiers and it would be “politics” now to explain that they are in uniform to fight the Germans. Yet nothing could be more valuable for our war effort than to have qualified men visit each army camp, and after a series of public lectures on America and the war, conduct a question-and-answer period, followed by individual conferences with soldiers interested enough to ask for them. Officers would probably benefit as much from such instruction as the men.

One of the most useful departments of the German Army is its morale section which teaches a recruit above all things to be proud to be a soldier, and that it is the highest honor for him to be permitted to fight for his country. It is my impression that we would have to be even more elementary than that. Some American youths need to have it explained that from time immemorial the young men of a family, a tribe, or a nation have been by nature required[325] to be its physical defenders; that the old men, women, and children have other duties to perform, but the young men are the only ones strong enough to go out and fight. Statements as simple as that are necessary after our last twenty years of pacifism and materialism. Too many times young men have asked me why they should fight for a society they do not approve, a society which does not provide them with good jobs and a comfortable life. The answer is that if they do not understand now, Hitler will provide a sufficient explanation later, as the pacifist students of the University of Paris found out when the Germans occupied their city and shot a score of them as a lesson.

Hitler will make it plain that this is no class war. Hitler will make it clear that it is a simple tribal war of a brute soldier-state bent upon the subjugation of all other states and peoples, good, bad, or indifferent, and of all classes. The English have learned this is no class war and every kind of Englishman, rich and poor alike, are united now in one great fighting tribe. Our youth could learn from the example of the youth of conquered Europe that if they do not successfully defend their country, imperfect though it may be, they will be conquered and cast into slavery.

It would be useful to point out that this generation of American youth is alive and enjoying the privileges of this country because other young men years ago and centuries ago fought and defeated the enemies of America. It would clear up many a young soldier’s difficulties if he were given an explanation in the simplest language of the origins and issues of the war. Many of them hardly know the bare facts of who is fighting whom. The American soldier has a right to be given the overwhelming evidence that Germany intends to destroy the American form of life, and subjugate us if she can; and that just now while Britain and Russia are absorbing so much German energy is the best time for us to defend ourselves by the only method of defense that has ever succeeded, by attack; by striking with all the power we possess at the enemy while he is still[326] far from our shores. The American soldier should understand that much as we may wish for it, there is little hope that Britain and Russia alone could defeat the mighty German war machine, built as it was during the nine years while we slept. He should understand that this means we must fight in Europe, help destroy the German Air Force, invade the continent, and finally occupy Germany; that this will require every available resource of muscle and money and brain and blood and several more years of war, but that the reward for this immense payment is the immense reward of freedom. The American soldier has a right to have outlined to him the kind of world Hitler would make if he won; and the kind of world we hope to make if we win. This is the ABC of war, and it is what our soldiers desperately need, but it is unlikely that they will get it until we go to war.

It takes a great deal of re-education to counter the last two decades of intellectual rule by our “Irresponsibles,”—professors, writers, artists, and scholars who debunked our past history and every ideal, taught that man’s economic life is all that matters, that soldiers are suckers, that we fought the last war for J. P. Morgan, and so on until bewildered American boys exclaimed: “My country owes me a living; I owe it nothing.” Yet that is not youth’s natural way. Hitler won the German youth not by offering them fun or comfort or material reward; he appealed to them to sacrifice themselves for their Fatherland, and they responded joyously, “like demons,” as Colonel Schieffer said. Nobody can persuade me that our American youth would not respond even more joyously to an honest appeal, but the appeal has to be clear, simple, ringing as the notes of a bugle in the morning. Let the cynics and the selfish jibe, but American youth will eventually respond to the call of President Roosevelt for the Four Freedoms, not just for themselves, but for all the world.

Q. But weren’t we suckers in the last war?


A. No, we were not suckers in the last war. By fighting and beating Germany in the last war, side by side with our Allies, we won twenty-three years of national independence.

Q. But didn’t we fight the last war to “make the world safe for democracy” and to “end all war”? We certainly failed to do either. Weren’t we suckers to have tried and failed?

A. Don’t you think it was worth while for us to gain the right to live in peace and freedom from 1918 to 1939 even if we failed to achieve our whole program? We did not fight the last war just “to make the world safe for democracy” or to “end all war.” We fought the last war primarily to make the world safe for the United States, and we succeeded in that for a good many years. The world has not been safe for democracy everywhere for a score of years, but only now do we find it necessary to fight again because only now has it become plain that the world is again no longer safe for the United States. In the last war we fought first to preserve America, second to make the world safe for democracy, and to end war. In this war we are fighting first to preserve America, second to establish the Four Freedoms everywhere we can, but we modestly refrain this time from announcing that we expect to end war. Instead we have much more practically declared that when we win we will disarm the nations that made this war.

Q. But what difference would it have made to us if we had not entered the last war at all?

A. It would have meant that the Germans probably would have won the war. The Commander in Chief of the Allies, Foch, and the actual Commander in Chief of the Germans, Ludendorff, both admitted that the American entry into the war was decisive. It was[328] not that America “won the war,” but that without us the Allies could not have won.

Q. Suppose the Germans had won the last war; what difference would that have made to us?

A. If the Germans had won, we should certainly have had to fight them thereafter and fight them alone. We may have had a few years respite, long enough for the German Navy to become strong enough to challenge ours. The general situation today is parallel with the one in 1914-1918, except that Hitler’s Germany is much more powerful and evil than Hohenzollern Germany. Nevertheless Kaiser Wilhelm had the same ambition Hitler has. He believed also that the Germans were a master race, with a divine mission to rule the world. The Germans came late to nationhood, too late to receive “their share” of the colonies. This helped give them a bitter sense of resentment against a world which refused to recognize their superiority. This German belief that they are superior to everyone on earth is unfortunately strengthened by the fact that in this industrial age they are among the most talented of all peoples, and in the natural sciences superior to most others. They have proved themselves incorrigible except by force.

Q. Some people argue though, that Hitler actually wants the United States to come into the war, so that we would keep our war supplies, instead of sending them to England and to Russia. Is this true?

A. How could it ever have been true, since Hitler always, at any moment, could have brought us into the war if and when he wished. He has only to order one or more of his transatlantic submarines to come over and sink a few American ships in our territorial waters and even a pacifist Congress would vote war. A score of other easy devices have always been at his hand if he wanted[329] war with us, but wished us to declare it. But why should he wish to bring against him the greatest single potential power, even if he thought that our entering formal war would cause us to withhold supplies from Britain and Russia? And what is there anyway to make anybody think that if we ever became sensible enough to go to war we would at the same time become so unintelligent as to cripple the war effort against our enemy? What point would there be in withholding supplies from Britain and Russia just because we had gone to war with Germany? Would we in the United States be in any more danger after having gone to war than before? No, we would actually be safer, since the safety afforded us by the British Fleet’s control of the Atlantic would now be augmented by removal of all limitation on the use of the extra power of our own Atlantic vessels. Suppose, however, that we thought it desirable for a time to curtail some shipments to the Allies while we filled in certain gaps in our own armament. Could this temporary diversion of strength outweigh the danger to Hitler of America’s strength in the long run?

I venture to say that this argument against our going to war has done as much harm as almost any other, and upon examination it seems it must have been of German origin, despite the fact that many a good American and even some good Englishmen have thoughtlessly repeated it. The person most competent to judge whether Hitler wants us in the war is Hitler. As I recently recollected when looking over some old clippings, Hitler in an interview in 1932 expressed it to me this way: “I was a soldier in the war and it was my conviction that without American participation on the side of the Allies, we would surely have won the war.” This is what he thought of America in the last war. You may be sure he thinks exactly the same of America in this war.

Q. But the Germans have frequently expressed not merely indifference but contempt of us, and have spoken as though they did[330] not care whether we entered or not. Isn’t it then an exaggeration to say that our declaration of war would have such a tremendous effect on their morale?

A. No, because the Germans have expressed indifference to whether we enter the war only because they were absolutely convinced that we would not do so; when we do enter the war it will be an even greater shock than if they had anticipated it all the time. Our official behavior for a long time, and the utterances of our isolationists all the time, led the Nazis to believe we were really for peace at any price; that nothing, neither injury nor insult, could move us to war. When the first Neutrality Act was passed in August, 1935, the Germans, as I have recently been reminded by a friend who was in Berlin at the moment, chortled with glee, and editorials boasted that now Europe could settle its troubles secure from the meddlesome Yankee. No one can estimate how much influence this surrender of American rights had upon Hitler during that critical time when he was weighing his strength against all his possible enemies. The Germans are convinced we are a money-loving people and when the Johnson Act was passed, forbidding credit to any nation in default on payment of its debt to us, they exclaimed: “Now the Americans will never go to war again because they can’t make money out of it.”

The Johnson Act almost persuaded some Germans that we had changed sides, and Nazis revived their chatter about the essentially Germanic character of America. We Americans may be wishful thinkers, but the Germans, fortunately, are even more addicted to the vice than we. Goebbels’ control of the press promotes it. Every isolationist speech made is printed at length in the German newspapers and the voice of Lindbergh is taken as the voice of America. The re-election of Roosevelt was the first warning the German people had that America might act to defend herself. Now sensible Germans are beginning to be frightened. I know how the[331] German people regard America. They call it the “land of unlimited possibilities.” It has always been the dreamland of the Germans, and if our immigration laws had permitted it, we should have had tens of millions of Germans coming to this country after the war. The tremendous size and economic power of America fascinate all classes of Germans; they have never forgotten the shock they received when, after the armistice in 1918, they learned for the first time what their government had concealed from them, that there were over two million American soldiers in France. Hitler tried to stamp out German admiration or regard for any foreign country, and doubtless German successes in this war have influenced the German attitude to a degree, but the fundamental element in German thought about America is their ineffaceable memory of the last war: “America joined our enemies; we lost. If America goes to war against us again, we cannot win.” It would be decisive.

Q. But where would we fight Germany? What is the good of America’s entering the war if there is no battleground?

A. We would fight her first where we are fighting her now, in the Atlantic and on all the seas. The difference between our naval action if we were at war and as it is under the President’s orders to hunt down pirates, would be considerable. At war we would fully collaborate with the British Navy in the critical waters along the coast of Europe and in the zone of greatest danger just west of England where the Germans sink about nine-tenths of their victims. The reason the Germans have been so much more effective in counter-blockading England in this war than they were in the last war is of course the airplane, which not only bombs and sinks as many ships as the submarine, but also provides the submarine with eyes in the air.

Our air force, and especially our naval air force, greatly augmented[332] after our entry into the war, would play a large role in cleansing the air of these German raiders. Eventually our air force operating with the R.A.F. and based wherever the R.A.F. is based would, we hope, become strong enough to dominate the air over the continent. That is the goal toward which all efforts lead; it would be the turning point of the war. Experts estimate that it will probably take two years to reach quantitative superiority over the Germans, and then only if we are not only formally at war but actually making war with all our might.

The site of the battlefields after the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic and the Battle of Britain, depends upon too many unknown factors to make more than a guess now. Possible landing places for an expeditionary force extend from Norway to the Spanish frontier, North Africa, the Near East, and the Balkans. There are also the immense possibilities opened by the Battle of Russia. In considering the possibilities of success for an expeditionary force to invade German Europe we ought not to be discouraged by the failure of the Allies in Norway, Greece, and Crete, because the German Army’s morale and strength will be quite different whenever the conditions for invasion of the continent exist. It was the German Air Force which, more than any other factor, defeated the Allies in these three early affrays.

When the Luftwaffe has lost control of the daylight air and the German Army is still further weakened by its colossal losses in Russia, and the German people are weighed down by the fear of ultimate defeat and apprehension of vengeance, and the population of conquered Europe, elated at the prospect of liberation, is revolting, the chances of success for an Allied Expeditionary Force would be strong. Military experts are agreed that it would court disaster to try it before these conditions are fulfilled. Ever since the Battle of Russia began, impatient groups in England have clamored for an immediate attempt at invasion of the continent, and one can imagine how painful it must be for the perpetually[333] aggressive Churchill to be forced to counsel prudence. He knows that if such an attempt were made and failed it could be fatal. On the other hand, if the Allied High Command waits for the favorable circumstances which are to be expected if we enter the war, we could justly hope not only to be able to invade the continent successfully but at low cost.

Q. Would United States troops be required for such an expeditionary force? Are we going to have another A.E.F.?

A. I should think so, although one must admit the bare possibility that the Battle of Russia could make our participation with land troops less necessary militarily, although the political reasons for our entry would be strongest if the Red Army were winning. If the Russians were to whittle down the German land army sufficiently, the British might become strong enough eventually to deliver the knockout blow alone, but I doubt it. There are just twice as many Germans as there are English, and numbers still count, as we observe in Russia. A cool appraisal of the future indicates that the chances are against our being able to win the war without sending an A.E.F. If we go to war, it cannot be with any reservations. We cannot make war on a limited liability basis. There are strong reasons also for us to want to be represented in the armies of liberation. By the time matters have reached the stage for contemplation of an invasion of Europe, the temper of America may have so changed that there may be a great popular demand for an A.E.F.

Q. What are the strong reasons for our wanting to be represented with the armies of liberation?

A. In order to be fully represented at the peace. There is no substitute for an army at a Peace Conference, and we may be sure[334] that, no matter what arrangements may be made between Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt, if we are not in the war we will not be in the peace. There were many jokes about the famous eight-point meeting to the effect that we were trying to get in the peace before we got in the war. I do not agree that that was the purpose of Mr. Roosevelt in meeting Mr. Churchill, but if it were, it is unlikely to succeed. We will have the influence we wish to have at the peace conference only if we have done our full share in making peace possible by beating Hitler. We ought not to deceive ourselves. We are unpopular enough as it is now. If we stay out of the war, and by a miracle not now foreseeable, Hitler were after all to be defeated, what do you think the victors would think of us? Do you think they would invite us to come in and tell them how to rearrange the world?

Yet if we do not look forward to establishing a peace which will postpone for a long time, if not forever, a repetition of this war, many Americans would feel too discouraged to act. We would be foolish not to fight the Germans now even if we were mathematically certain that we were going to have to go on fighting them once every twenty years for the rest of time. Nevertheless we do not want to face such a prospect; we want to rule out war for as long a time as possible, and we can do it only by repairing at this Peace Conference the errors made after the last one.

These errors were not what they have been represented to be, faults in the Versailles treaty. The mistake we made was that we dodged our responsibility for the peace after we had helped finish the war. First we invested our blood and treasure, and then after the victory, when we were about to gather the dividends of international security and prosperity in the League of Nations, suddenly, because everything in the peace did not completely please us, and because a few politicians hated the President, we withdrew and declined to collect our profits. This ruined the peace, made the League impossible, and another war certain.


Q. How much American blood and treasure did we spend in the last war?

A. Very little blood compared with our Allies. Out of our total mobilized force of 4,355,000 we lost 126,000 dead of all causes, or two and one-half per cent. Out of the total of 17,314,000 British and French soldiers, 2,266,171 lost their lives, or 13 per cent. If we had been compelled from 1914 on to fight as totally as our Allies, with our population more than double the combined French and British populations, we would have lost more than 2,000,000 dead during the time we were leaving the fighting to our Allies, from 1914 to 1917. We sent money instead; altogether our war loans totaled thirteen billion dollars. It is fair to say that this investment of money took the place of investment of lives. It cost us less than $7,000 apiece to save 2,000,000 American men’s lives. Any insurance company would call that a bargain, considering the American man merely from the point of view of what he is economically worth to his nation. Nevertheless we asked for the thirteen billion back. At the same time we put up our tariffs so high that the nations concerned could not pay, but aside altogether from the economic aspect of our war debts, consider what could have happened had we been wiser.

Suppose, at an appropriate period after passions had subsided, we had proposed to Britain and France that we cancel the war debts if they would cancel the reparations owed by Germany. There was a time when such a proposal might have succeeded. What would have been the probable, or at any rate possible, outcome? No war debts, no reparations, no inflation in Germany, no Hitler, no war now. Even if there were only a chance of such miraculous results, it would have been well worth trying, since the actual results of our unenlightened egotism were that we were never paid the money anyway, and the chain of reparations—inflation—Hitler—brought us to this war upon which we are planning already to[336] spend as a mere first installment four times as much as the whole sum we lent the Allies and lost in the last war. It is significant that the very men who urged that we press without respite for full payment of our World War debts, and thus helped make this war inevitable, are the very men who today continue to try to make America shirk her responsibilities.

Q. Do you think a new League of Nations could be successful, since the old one failed so miserably?

A. Yes, if we do our duty and make it possible for the League to work. We blew the old League up when we refused to join it, and rejected the Versailles treaty and declined to join France and England in a treaty of mutual guarantee. With us not participating, the League was doomed from the start. Our withdrawal from Europe upset the balance of power so heavily in Germany’s favor that France, and eventually Britain, had to make out of the League a coalition against Germany. This they did. Even so it failed to keep the peace because Germany was stronger than all the League members together. Had we stayed in the League we might have made collective security really work.

Q. How could America have made the League work?

A. There is a popular belief that Germany might have remained a good neighbor and respectable member of society if the Weimar Republic had been better treated by France and her Allies. I am not sure of that, but if it is true, let us ask why France treated Germany harshly throughout the life of the Weimar Republic. The answer is that France was afraid of Germany, and as we see today, with good reason. The French fear was based on the facts that there were twice as many Germans as French, and that these Germans had just about beaten France and all her Allies, including Great[337] Britain, until the United States stepped in. Obviously the French reasoned the United States’ protection was indispensable to French security. Without the United States in the League the French had to look for security elsewhere. They sought it in encirclement of Germany and conversion of the League into an anti-German alliance.

If you object that the League is impracticable, let us ask what there is to put in its place. I use the term League to indicate any association of nations for collective security. Isolationism was our policy from 1919 to 1941. Its failure has been cosmic. The group of Senators and Congressmen who killed the League by preventing us from joining it were as responsible as Hitler for the war today. Twenty-two years later the political successors of Wilson’s “willful men” made it appear to Hitler and Mussolini and the war party in Japan that we would never stir and that aggressors could leave the United States completely out of their reckoning. Many of these men in the Senate and the House are today, as the isolationists were in 1919, actuated chiefly by an ignoble hatred for their political opponent, the President.

Carlton J. Hayes, professor of history at Columbia, says: “We were the final determining factor in winning the last World War, but more than any nation, even more than Nazi Germany, we have been responsible for losing the peace and bringing on the present world war. We insisted on our rights and spurned our duties. Victim ourselves of a bad kind of narrow nationalism, we repudiated the League of Nations which our President had fashioned and we thus set the pace for all of its later floutings by other powers. Moreover we selfishly and shortsightedly refused to forgive the inter-Allied debts and thereby prevented any timely forgiving of the fateful German reparations. The result is that Germany now has Hitler, while we are accumulating a debt for national defense which makes the inter-Allied debts and the reparations of the last war seem trivial.”


Q. If we did defeat Germany, could we then return to the kind of peaceful lives we led before this war began?

A. No, but the defeat of Germany is the indispensable condition for us to have any kind of tolerable life again. After this war, which is likely to last many years still, we are going to be a different nation. We are going to be more united than ever before. We are going to have shared common dangers, hopes, and fears, and for the first time since the Civil War we are going to rise above our materialism and act for an ideal.

We have never had to face real trouble together since the thirty million new members of our family arrived between 1870 and 1930. We did not really suffer in the first World War; we never had a chance to test the strength of our arms or the temper of our spirit. How many times have we heard the question asked, whether we were “really” a nation? Now we shall have the chance to prove that we are. Now America will come of age.



Q. What makes Lindbergh the way he is?

A. I am glad you asked this question because Lindbergh is our greatest native individual threat to American safety and so deserves careful scrutiny by his fellow citizens who some day may be compelled to decide what to do with him. There is nothing to be gained by abusing him, nor is there any merit in arguing that his sincerity ought to protect him against the charge that he assists America’s Fifth Column.

Hitler’s most effective Fifth Columnists in every country have for the most part been sincere men, but their sincerity has not relieved them of the verdict of the fellow citizens they betrayed, nor of the verdict of history. The President of the United States has delivered that verdict upon Lindbergh already. In the most polite and restrained language he classified Colonel Lindbergh as a “Copperhead,” which was a Civil War name for a man in the North who sympathized with the Southern cause. Translated into today’s situation it would mean an American citizen who sympathizes with the enemy of America, Germany.

You recollect the President was asked why Lindbergh, who was given a reserve commission in the Army Air Corps after his flight to Paris, had not been called into active service. The President replied that during the Civil War both sides let certain people go; that is, did not call them into service.

He said the people who were thus ignored were the Vallandighams, and explained that the Vallandighams were the people who from 1863 on, urged immediate peace, arguing that the North[340] could not win the war between the states. The President’s reference to Vallandigham sent many to their reference books where they found that Clement Laird Vallandigham, an Ohio Congressman “in 1863, made violent speeches against the administration and was arrested by the military authorities, tried by military commission and sentenced to imprisonment. President Lincoln commuted his sentence to banishment and Vallandigham was sent into the Confederate lines, whence he made his way to Canada.”

President Roosevelt was choosing his word carefully, in order to get the precise shade of meaning attributed to it. The President apparently tried to find in American history as accurate a parallel to the Lindbergh case as possible. His choice was significant. It would be interesting to know if the President had in mind that when this country is formally at war with Germany we shall incarcerate or deport members of the community who for whatever reason and with whatever motives hinder the prosecution of the war. The expulsion of Vallandigham to the enemy’s territory raises the question of the physical possibility as well as the political expediency of deporting our Fifth Columnists to German-controlled territory after we are formally at war. Few of us will dispute the desirability of just such a radical solution.

Lindbergh replied to the President by resigning his commission in a letter saying, “I had hoped that I might exercise my right as an American citizen to place my viewpoint before the people of my country in time of peace without giving up the privilege of serving my country as an Air Corps officer in the event of war.” Thereafter many professional critics of the President accused him of having attempted to gag Lindbergh. But the very opposite is the case since if the President had wanted to shut Lindbergh’s mouth, all he had to do was to call him to active service where the rule is universal that serving officers may not make public political statements.


It should be remembered that Lindbergh, although a reserve officer, had violently attacked his Commander in Chief’s actions in the field of foreign policy, which naturally involves military affairs, and this could certainly be regarded as a breach of discipline in the spirit if not in the letter of the officers’ code. If President Roosevelt had wished not only to muzzle, but to discipline Lindbergh, nothing would have been easier than for the President to have ordered the Colonel to duty in some obscure, remote, or unpleasant post, a frequent method of discipline in the armed services of all countries. But the President did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, by accepting Lindbergh’s resignation he released the flyer from any hindrance to the free speech which he has since been exercising so vigorously.

But Lindbergh is far more dangerous to American security than was Vallandigham a danger to the Union in our Civil War. Lindbergh is already the avowed candidate of our enormous crop of Copperheads for the Presidency of the United States. He has the applause of the enemies of democracy and of the United States throughout the world. A Belgian businessman, a devout “collaborationist” with the Nazis, told a friend of mine recently, “Lindbergh will be the next President of the United States. He could get along splendidly with Hitler. We are all for him.” By “We” this Belgian meant the entire herd of Hitler followers, from his own disciplined legions to the servile rabble of Vichy France and the Copperheads of the United States. Whether Lindbergh welcomes it or not, he has the enthusiastic applause of the Nazi Bund, the Fascist societies, and of all the most violently antidemocratic groups in this country, from the followers of Father Coughlin to the most eccentric Kluxers.


Q. But are we being fair to Lindbergh in calling him a Copperhead and a Fifth Columnist? Didn’t you say yourself that there is nothing to be gained by abusing him?

A. Yes, I maintain there is nothing to be gained by abusing him, but there is much to be gained by identifying him. Nobody has done it any better than the country’s wittiest enemy of our enemies, Alexander Woollcott, in his “Voice from a Cracker Barrel” broadcast, when he said: “By the pledges of both candidates in the last election, by the testimony of every poll yet taken by Dr. Gallup, by the action of our representatives in Congress and of the President himself, we pledged full aid to England. Ex-Colonel Lindbergh now argues that this assistance be withdrawn.

“He wants us to break our promise in the matter, to run out on the British, and, so curious is his mentality, he thinks to encourage us in such base desertion by assuring us that England is going to be defeated. On this point he may be right. I would not know about that. Neither would he. If the words of our retired eagle ever reach as far as England, Mr. Churchill must derive some comfort from his knowledge that all fighters in a tight place have heard such talk since the world began. Among Washington’s discomforts during the long winter at Valley Forge was the repeated prediction from the Lindberghs of his day that he didn’t have a chance. Yes, Lindbergh keeps announcing the doom of England, and always his statement is received with cheers and bursts of applause. This gives you a rough idea of what kind of people bulk large in his mass meetings.

“For here is a fact which Lindbergh and his colleagues of the America First Committee must face. Whether they admit it or not, whether they like it or not, whether, indeed, that is any part of their purpose, they are working for Hitler. Have you any doubt—any doubt at all—that Hitler would have been glad to pay Lindbergh an immense amount, millions, for the work he has done in the past year?


“Indeed, if Lindbergh shares the opinion of Hitler held by the rest of us—on this point, to be sure, he has thus far been ominously silent—his heart must skip a beat when, in the still watches of the night, he realizes that if he had returned to this country as Hitler’s paid and trusted agent, his public activity would have been in every particular just what it has been to date.

“Now don’t get me wrong about this. I doubt that Lindbergh has taken or would take German money. It so happens that we do not know, and, thanks to the reticence of General Wood, have been unable to find out just who has put up all the money for the costly goings-on of the America First Committee. But I should be greatly surprised to learn that any considerable part of that money came directly or indirectly from Hitler. That does not alter the fact that they are all working for him. For they, like the rest of us, are trapped in a tragic irony. In this world today there is no such thing as neutrality. You are either for Hitler or against him. You either fight him or you help him.”

Q. Why can’t we put Lindbergh away somewhere now, so he can’t do any more harm?

A. It is certainly an index to the feelings of the vast majority of the American people that despite the fact that Lindbergh and Senator Wheeler can draw large crowds of their Copperhead followers, I have received hundreds of questions like the one you ask, and there seems to be little sectional, geographical difference in American feelings on the subject.

Just as many have made the inquiry in California as in Texas or Pennsylvania. The answer is that we cannot, and if we reflect upon it, we do not want to put any limitations upon free speech for American citizens in peacetime. Until we are actually at war it is the right of every American to advocate, if he likes, that we should ally ourselves with Germany and go to war against Great[344] Britain. The distinguishing characteristic of democracy is not merely that the majority shall govern, but that the majority should always give to the minority exactly the same rights and privileges as the majority enjoys.

We often overlook the fact that this is the essential nature of democracy. Rule by majority may obtain under any successful dictatorship. Hitler undoubtedly has a strong majority of Germans behind him and will probably continue to have it until he falls by force from abroad. But that does not make his rule democratic. He refuses to give the minority opposing him any rights whatever. He considers it contemptible weakness of the democracies that they should protect the rights of their minorities, and even of minority groups who, if they were to come to power, would abolish democracy.

Here is our central difficulty. We recognize that Lindbergh and his followers, the Nazis and Fascists, as well as that other antidemocratic group, the American Communists, would destroy America as we know it if they were successful in their policies. Yet if we suppress them for anything less than formally treasonable acts, we shall have violated the most precious tenet of democracy. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is a formally treasonable act, and we may take consolation in the fact that Wheeler and Lindbergh and their lesser associates are not likely to be able to continue after we have gone to war to render to Hitler the aid and comfort they now render him. At this moment, when we are not yet in a formal state of war, about the most effective control that can be exercised over Lindbergh and his associates is for the President to have identified him publicly as a “Vallandigham,” and for others to do what they can to expose his purposes.

Q. Why do you single out Lindbergh for special attention, since there are many others of equal prominence who are also helping[345] Hitler, such as ex-President Hoover, Senators Wheeler and Nye, Congressman Fish, and so on?

A. No, they are not of equal prominence, not even the ex-President, because Lindbergh had something that appealed so profoundly to America that he has not lost it all yet, and he towers in influence above our other isolationists, some of whom are plainly patriotic but deluded citizens. Lindbergh, however, is, I am convinced, mainly responsible for the long hesitation of this country to go to war to defend its life. I do not intend to impugn Lindbergh’s sincerity, but surely there is something wrong with a man who declares as he does that we should not go to war, among other reasons, because we are not united, then does his utmost to disunite us still further.

Mayor La Guardia, in his capacity as Director of Civilian Defense, pleaded at a mass meeting in Philadelphia for all Americans not in agreement with the Administration’s foreign policy not to do or say anything that might give aid or comfort to a potential enemy. Exactly twenty-four hours later, stepping on La Guardia’s heels, Lindbergh addressed another mass meeting in Philadelphia and attacked the President of the United States in terms so violent that they were widely interpreted as calling for a revolution against the Administration.

It was that famous speech which he was compelled to retract in part since it alarmed so many even of his followers. Mrs. Kathleen Norris, the novelist, a prominent member of the America First Committee, and present on the platform with Lindbergh, told reporters that afternoon, in answer to a question, that she could “swear that no member of the committee is mixed up with any subversive activity.” “Subversive” means “tending to overthrow, upset, or destroy,” which is precisely what Lindbergh’s speeches attempt to do to the Administration of the United States.

None of the isolationist crowd can compare with Lindbergh[346] in importance to the Fifth Column in America. From the point of view of American national security and the future of this country he is America’s Public Enemy Number One, because he was once so incomparably America’s National Hero of Heroes, and some American people still hope that now from their former idol, politically unbranded, apparently disinterested, they can finally get the truth and the light. For the most part, Americans do not realize what has happened to their National Hero, although fortunately throughout the country there is a deep-seated distrust of anyone who has taken up an attitude so palpably favorable to the nation’s enemies.

Q. What is the reason for the divorce between Lindbergh and the American people who used to worship him unanimously? The crowds he has at America First rallies may number thousands—mostly Nazis and their sympathizers, I take it—but Lindbergh used to have 130,000,000 Americans cheering him.

A. Yes, what is it that has happened to Lindbergh to cause such a radical change? In 1927 Coolidge called him “noble”; in 1941 Roosevelt said he was “not wanted.” What a contrast! I have just finished reading for the first time Lindbergh’s book called We, as he referred to himself and his airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, containing the story of his life and flight. It moves one to sadness to look back and remember the way that world of long ago reacted to the twenty-five-year-old American’s feat. Many of us have forgotten that the flight itself became secondary to the world’s intoxication over the event.

Lindbergh received a more spectacular ovation, attended by more persons, who were more excited, in France, Belgium, England, and the United States than had ever been given any human being in the history of the world by any of the multitudes which have welcomed conquerors and kings.


Consider the terms used by President Coolidge in referring to Lindbergh; “this sincere and genuine exemplar of fine and noble virtues”; “illustrious citizen”; “this genial, modest American youth with the naturalness, the simplicity and the poise of true greatness”; “this wholesome, earnest, fearless, courageous product of America.” And as if this were not enough, Coolidge read off a list of “some of his qualities noted by the Army officers who examined him for promotion, as shown by reports in the files of the Militia Bureau of the War Department:

“‘Intelligent,’ ‘industrious,’ ‘energetic,’ ‘dependable,’ ‘purposeful,’ ‘alert,’ ‘quick of reaction,’ ‘serious,’ ‘deliberate,’ ‘stable,’ ‘efficient,’ ‘frank,’ ‘modest,’ ‘congenial,’ ‘a man of good moral habits and regular in all his business transactions.’”

And then President Coolidge went on to say that “One of his officers expressed his belief that the young man ‘would successfully complete everything he undertakes.’ This reads like a prophecy.”

Heaven protect the American people if Lindbergh succeeds in his present undertaking, because he has undertaken now to keep America from meeting her peril before it becomes overwhelming. He wants us to wait until the only allies left in the world for us are stricken down and we stand by ourselves to face a combination of powers stronger than we and unappeasably resolved to destroy us.

He has undertaken this task apparently as a sort of crusade. We are assured that his father before him, Charles Lindbergh, Congressman from Minnesota, also possessed the Lindbergh sincerity as he declaimed throughout the last war against American participation. We recognize sincerity, persistence, and courage as admirable qualities when linked with a just cause, but the possession of them only makes the matter worse when they are associated with a disastrous and cynical policy.

You ask “cynical”? Yes, Hitler, for example is a sincere cynic, and so is Lindbergh. His policy shamelessly declares we should[348] withdraw aid from Britain, coolly watch her fall, and then as quickly as possible trade with Hitler and make what we can out of the defeat of civilization. Lindbergh genuinely sees nothing to be ashamed of in advocating such a policy, and that makes him deserve the title “sincere.” It is nevertheless as cynical as any Nazi could invent. We could stomach that if the cynicism were realistic. It is not. This would-be smart policy has no more chance to succeed than the would-be Machiavellian policy of Mussolini, who has given the world its least appetizing sight of the war: the avowed brute too feeble to be brutal.

Lindbergh’s personality is important to us all, since he has assumed office as a member of what they would call in England “the disloyal opposition,” and so it is not too minor a point to note that of all the qualities he was ever credited with, the quality of generosity is lacking. Witness his experience with France and England. To France and the French people he owed the beginning of the ovation which was to make his fame and fortune, and he acknowledged his debt this way in We: “The whole-hearted welcome to me—an American—touched me beyond any point that words can express. I left France with a debt of gratitude which, though I cannot repay it, I shall always remember.” That was the old Lindbergh, or rather the young one, still unspoiled.

Thirteen years later, when France stood more in need of a friend than ever in her long and troubled history; when a mere gesture of American solidarity with her cause might have put heart in her bewildered troops and kept the enemy at bay; when the word of a Lindbergh could have been effective in the awakening of American public opinion to our obligation not to let France fall, for our own sake as well as for hers; Lindbergh spoke. He spoke against America’s giving France any aid whatever. It was May 20, 1940 and the Germans stood on the Somme. Lindbergh’s broadcast summarized everything he has had to say since: “Years ago we decided to stay out of foreign wars. We based our military[349] policy on that decision. We must not waver now that the crisis is at hand. There is no longer time for us to enter this war successfully.”

I was with the French at that time and can testify that Lindbergh’s words struck France like a blow between the eyes. The famous Lafayette Escadrille announced that it had deprived Lindbergh of his honorary membership. Lindbergh’s response to England was identical. He took his child to England after he had suffered his great family tragedy in America, and in England he received everything he desired: quiet hospitality and all the privacy he has said he wanted. But when England stood with her back to the wall, and once again the American attitude to the war became decisive; and once again the voice of a Lindbergh could have worked powerfully to shake our people into the tardy realization that this time would be the last time and that if we did not awaken now we might never be given the chance again; when our people needed to realize that the fate of America was inextricably bound up with the fate of Britain, and that if Britain fell our hopes would all become forlorn; then Lindbergh spoke.

Now, he declared, we should cease to aid Britain in any manner, because Britain was beaten, Germany had won, and we had better make the best terms we could with the conqueror. With the total lack of shame which characterizes Hitler’s and Lindbergh’s political philosophy he declaimed in the same speech of June 16, 1940 that, “Fortunately, the wide wall of the Atlantic stands between us and the shooting that is going on.” It is, of course, the strong wall of the British Navy that stands between us and the shooting that is going on, but Lindbergh has never admitted that the British Navy plays any role in keeping the Germans from crossing the Atlantic; his implication is that the water of the Atlantic constitutes the sole hindrance to German passage.

This incomprehension sometimes reaches a degree which is puzzling to an observer convinced that “at any rate Lindbergh is[350] sincere.” Some obviously honest Americans argue that we can successfully hold aloof, but can any American really believe as Lindbergh said in his speech at the opening of the war, September 16, 1939: “These wars in Europe are not wars in which civilization is defending herself against some Asiatic intruder. There is no Genghis Khan or Xerxes marching against our Western nations. This is not a question of banding together to defend the white race against foreign invasion. This is simply one more of those age-old struggles within our family of nations.”

If Lindbergh believes this, he has failed utterly to understand what Hitlerism is, or if he understands it, then he must approve of it; and we surmised some months later with the publication of Anne Lindbergh’s The Wave of the Future, that he was indeed a convert. Surely it is not the color of Hitler’s skin and of his Nazi warriors that make the difference, nor their geographic home. Lindbergh implies that if they were yellow-skinned and came from Tibet, he would understand and perhaps not oppose our fighting them, but being white and living in Central Europe they cannot, he implies, be enemies of civilization. This and other examples of Lindbergh’s apparent naïveté, or as Raymond Clapper put it once, his childishness, are not the result of an obtuse mind, but the consequence of his having constantly to hide one element, the most important element in his political attitude, and that is his secret approval of the totalitarian idea and of the German Nazis’ right to conquer.

This is too unpopular an idea to admit publicly now, and the concealment of it leads to the most glaring discrepancies in his arguments. Only a person who approved of Hitler could deny that he is waging a war against civilization. Only Lindbergh can tell how far he approves of Hitler’s right to conquer. We can observe that in other countries, as France, men who talked before the defeat as Lindbergh does now, were elevated to power in Hitler’s puppet government.


I was in England when Lindbergh delivered the first of his broadcasts calling it “just another war,” and putting both belligerents on the same level. The British were hurt. They felt that a man whom they had considered a friend had let them down. They did not know that he had never been a friend, but beneath a serene, impenetrable demeanor had harbored an antipathy for England which has contributed to making him “the way he is.”

This antipathy he has more than once documented, as in the Collier’s article when he wrote the astounding sentence: “We in America should not be discussing whether we will enter the war that England declared in Europe.” Let those who set such store by the quality of sincerity ask themselves if anyone on earth, including a German, could sincerely define the present war as one “that England declared in Europe.”

Q. But you still have not explained why Lindbergh is the way he is. You have only defined what he is.

A. Very well, but this is merely a personal interpretation of what built his character and formed his motives. I believe in the importance of emotional causes for most of men’s attitudes, and so I should like to mention these causes first. The young Lindbergh, as one can discover from We, seems really to have been possessed of the virtues catalogued by President Coolidge. He became the Lindbergh of today only after his flight. First came the initial impact of the hysterical reaction of the world to his accomplishment. It is bound to have affected him, and it did, despite the fact that he appeared to the public as still the simple, modest, somewhat shy boy who carried with him on his flight an introduction to the American Ambassador to Paris.

It took the public a long time to learn otherwise, because from the moment of his landing in Paris until only a comparatively short time ago, Lindbergh was protected by the press of America[352] in a way that could happen only in this youthful country of hero-worshipers. When America has a hero, he remains a hero of purest ray serene, and no flaw may be found in him, and if any are privately discovered by newspaper reporters, or others, they are carefully hidden. This is our standard behavior toward heroes, but in the case of America’s hero of heroes the inhibitions voluntarily imposed by the press upon itself were Spartan.

In newspaper parlance a sacred cow is an individual who for reasons of policy must be protected from criticism. Every newspaper has its sacred cows. Lindbergh became the Supreme Sacred Cow of all the newspapers in America. Long after it became apparent to the working newspapermen who came in contact with him that he had succumbed to the adulation poured upon him and had completely lost that original modesty which had endeared him to the American public, perhaps above all his other qualities, and that he had, in fact, become impatiently egotistic, and convinced that he “knew it all,” he still was represented as the unassuming young man who aspired only to be left alone. He complained that the press would not let him alone, gave him no privacy, harassed him. Publicity, he declared, he hated worse than anything in the world. Newspapermen nevertheless observed that he and Greta Garbo appeared to have the same technique, and that he managed always to behave himself in such a way as to receive the greatest amount of public attention.

The normal cycle of publicity received by a celebrity of the type of Lindbergh was summed up by Sinclair Lewis. He and I were standing at the bar in the Adlon Hotel in Berlin a few days after Lindbergh landed in Paris, and the world had gone mad over him. It seemed as though never had such adulation been poured upon the head of any young man, and those who were not joining in the almost universal blaze of hysterical feeling were curiously examining the blaze, wondering what made the world go crazy.

Surely there had been more heroic exploits, even in the realm[353] of aviation. The flight of Bleriot over the Channel in the primitive machine at his disposal in 1909 has been estimated a more important feat; while the flight of John Alcock and A. W. Brown from Newfoundland to Ireland, June 14, 1919, although almost forgotten in the din of Lindbergh’s ovation, was not only the first transoceanic flight, but considering that it was made eight years before Lindbergh’s with a machine correspondingly less modern, should rank as a greater feat. All these things were subjects of discussion, but Sinclair Lewis settled the matter by saying: “It doesn’t matter. Lindbergh is the best-known man in the world today, but ten years from now he will go into a hotel in Detroit and sign the register, ‘Charles A. Lindbergh,’ and the room clerk will say ‘Lindbergh? Yes, Mr. Lindbergh, Room 502. Boy! Show Mr. Lindbergh his room,’ and the clerk won’t know him from Adam’s off ox. That’s the way it is with fame. He has come by his with incredible speed; it will go the same way.”

But it did not. Lindbergh saw to that by behaving so eccentrically at times that even his mother-in-law, Mrs. Dwight Morrow, has been heard to complain of it. I was in London at the time of the birth of his baby there. Lindbergh for reasons of his own withheld formal announcement of the birth until long after it had taken place and the fact was known to so many persons that eventually the newspapers, although with British reticence, carried the report and queried Lindbergh to his great annoyance.

“I said to Charles,” Mrs. Morrow exclaimed to a friend, “if you want to avoid being bothered by the press, why don’t you simply announce the birth of your child? After all he’s normal and born within wedlock.” Douglas Corrigan confirmed the judgment of Lindbergh’s mother-in-law.

“Wrong-way Corrigan,” who flew to Ireland in the alleged belief that he was flying to California, was a devoted disciple of Lindbergh. I met Corrigan in Dublin shortly after he landed, and I remember two things he told me which shed some light on Lindbergh’s[354] character. I was almost the first newspaperman to see Corrigan, and in our introductory conversation the little Irish flyer, whose flight in many ways was more remarkable than Lindbergh’s, said: “I’m not going to do like Lindbergh and be hounded to death by newspapermen. He refuses to see them and won’t say anything for quotation and makes himself so mysterious that they never have stopped going after him. If he had only opened up to them from the very first and never refused to see them, very soon they would have let him alone. That’s what I’m going to do—tell you anything you want to know, and go on seeing anybody who wants to see me, and pretty soon you will all get tired of it.”

Corrigan did just that and it all worked out exactly as he had planned. He was soon left in peace and never suffered from Lindbergh’s complaint. If Lindbergh had behaved as Corrigan did, there never would have grown up between American newspapermen and himself the secret feud that required all his prestige as national hero to keep under cover. You may say that Corrigan’s flight could not be compared to Lindbergh’s in its sensational appeal as the first solo flight across the ocean. Yes, but in another way the obscure little Irishman’s flight was the more audacious of the two. Lindbergh had a plane specially constructed, the finest money could buy. He had lavish financial backing, friends to help him at every turn. Corrigan had nothing but his own ambition, courage, and ability. His plane, a nine-year-old Curtis Robin, was the most wretched-looking jalopy.

As I looked over it at the Dublin airdrome I really marveled that anyone should have been rash enough even to go in the air with it, much less try to fly the Atlantic. He built it, or rebuilt it, practically as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates. It looked it. The nose of the engine hood was a mass of patches soldered by Corrigan himself into a crazy-quilt design. The door behind which Corrigan crouched for twenty-eight hours was fastened together with a piece of baling wire. The[355] reserve gasoline tanks put together by Corrigan, left him so little room that he had to sit hunched forward with his knees cramped, and not enough window space to see the ground when landing. It had cost Corrigan $325, saved nickel by nickel.

The inspiration for all of Corrigan’s sacrifice was his hero worship of Lindbergh. As a young mechanic Corrigan had helped build the Spirit of St. Louis in the Ryan Airlines plant in San Diego, California, and from that time on he had lived for but one ambition, to emulate his hero. The older flyer had millions of admirers but none could have been more fervent than the little mechanic who once wrote, “It was often necessary to work till midnight on the Spirit of St. Louis and then come back at eight the next morning, but everyone was glad to do that as they all seemed to be inspired by the fellow that the plane was being built for—Lindbergh.”

When Corrigan landed in Dublin, it was an event sufficiently sensational, and the “wrong-way” aspect of it so eccentric, that the world gave its attention and hundreds of cables and radiograms poured into the American Legation where the Minister, John Cudahy, had given Corrigan quarters. Every hour scores of congratulations were reaching Corrigan but he was visibly unhappy. I asked him what was the matter.

“No cable from Lindbergh,” Corrigan replied. “That was the thing I wanted most of all. Maybe it will come later.” It never did come. Lindbergh never found time nor inclination to send the single word which would have meant more to Corrigan than all the other applause and rewards he won. I have related this to friends of Lindbergh and their answer was, “Typical.”

After the first uproar over Lindbergh’s greatest flight had subsided somewhat, he made his good-will flights. His marriage to the gifted Anne Morrow, daughter of the brilliant Morgan partner, Dwight Morrow, linked him now with America’s greatest financial house, and put the Swedish immigrant’s son definitely in the category of those who have a stake to protect against social disturbance,[356] and the consequences of war. The fact that the marriage was a love match, and that his wife had every quality of a distinguished person and was a poet in her own right, helped establish Lindbergh even more firmly in the affections of the American public. The American feeling toward him had mellowed from hysterical hero worship to what seemed to be a love which would endure.

Then came the heart-breaking tragedy of the kidnaping and murder of his child. All fathers, all mothers, throughout the world suffered with the Lindberghs. Years later during the Spanish Civil War, when I was imprisoned by orders of the Gestapo in San Sebastian, with me was a Spanish workman who that night was taken from the cell and shot, and I remember how just before the door opened and he was summoned by his executioners, he was discussing the Lindbergh kidnaping.

The world-wide outpouring of sympathy with the Lindberghs during that woeful period of their lives was surpassed only by the intense, personal, national compassion of America for them in their pain. Now Lindbergh had become no longer just the national hero, but one for whom the nation felt the intimacy of suffering shared. He responded by leaving the country with his family to quit the scene of their sorrow, to find a sanctuary to heal their wounds, to escape public attention, and to find a safety for his children he felt he could not find in the United States.

This was the turning point of his relationship with his country. His country was ready to forgive because it felt it could understand his need for a refuge, but for Lindbergh his residence abroad was a true renunciation of democratic America, and this I believe to be the key to his subsequent political activity and his present defiance of the vast majority of his fellow citizens.

He found his sought-for refuge in England where he was given every consideration. The door of every home from Buckingham Palace down was open to him, but the British afforded him all the privacy he wanted. If it had been only privacy he sought, he could[357] have led a restful secluded life in the country home of Harold Nicolson, his father-in-law’s biographer, and could have remained at peace until Hitler disturbed it. Lindbergh spent just enough time in England to convince him that England was soft, England couldn’t take it, England would lose if it ever went to war. It was bad luck that Lindbergh should have lived in England during a time when it was soft, just as we are soft today. It was the England of pacifism, faith in the principle that if you want peace badly enough you can have it, just by refusing to fight. It was the England of the Oxford Union when the debating society boys voted not to fight “for King and Country.” It was the England which needed waking up, just as we need it today. It was an England that could get hard, if it had the time, just as we can get hard too, if we have the time.

But Lindbergh formed his opinion of England then, and from his public speeches he seems too stubborn to allow even the epic heroism of England today in battle to change his judgment. Nicolson, long-standing family friend of the Morrows, mailed Lindbergh a postcard every week during the Battle of Britain, when the people of England were persevering under a hurricane of bombs and were calling it their “finest hour.” Each postcard had the one sentence: “Do you still think we are soft?” Perhaps he still thinks so, long after the Germans have stopped thinking so. At any rate, he left England for a tour of the continent, and thereupon came the second turning point in the development of his political views.

When he left America he left it embittered by the tragedy of his child, and he left convinced that it would never have happened except in a corrupt, gang-ridden democracy. It was, indeed, one of the lowest periods in America’s public life, when kidnaping for ransom had become widespread for the first time in any modern civilized state, and the power of the gangs was a national humiliation. In a sense it was true that it was the fault of democracy, but the virtue of democracy is that slowly but almost always sooner or[358] later we correct the faults and bring under control the license which ever threatens democratic liberty. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, had not grown up when Lindbergh fled America.

He visited many places on the continent, but the visits to Germany and the Soviet Union were decisive. Here were crystallized the political ideas which had been fermenting within him ever since he felt the thrill that came with the first taste of power over the throngs of Americans gathered to adore him. In Russia he found the object of his political hatred: the poverty, squalor, dirt, inefficiency, and cruelty of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. He was treated well by the Bolshevik authorities, who as Russians regarded him as an artist, a genius of the air, a man who, like a great singer, could be considered outside of politics.

His political slate was up to that time blank. The Russians often welcome foreign celebrities supposed to be without politics. They gave Harpo Marx a cordial reception. Lindbergh was shown the Red Army, its Air Corps, the aviation factories, and no doubt the Bolsheviks thought he was impressed. A layman traveling through Russia is shocked at the wretched state of the people, their poor clothing, bad food, their brutal overcrowding. You may be sure that this was not the prime object of Lindbergh’s attention. Lindbergh is not interested in human beings. He is interested in machines. In Russia he saw the poorest machine he had ever seen. He observed that the ponderous Bolshevik society operated with an unparalleled waste of man power and with unmatched inefficiency. He saw the Soviet Air factories, and declared he detected the slovenly workmanship which mars all Soviet production. He reviewed portions of the Red Army Air Corps and registered his opinion that most of the planes were obsolete or obsolescent.

In Nazi Germany Lindbergh found the object of his political admiration, even affection, for here at last he had found the perfect machine. Not only was it the antithesis in every material respect[359] of the Soviet Union, a streamlined, chromium-plated, eighteen-jewel model of totalitarian clockwork, compared with the dilapidated Soviet jalopy, but the Nazi machine also promised to banish the Soviet menace from the face of the earth. Lindbergh had in Germany first an aesthetic delight in the efficiency of the machine, then a moral satisfaction in the thought that it would eradicate the blot of Bolshevism.

Finally a personal consideration came to him. The kidnaping and death of his baby could never have happened in Nazi Germany. Common crime was almost unknown in Nazi Germany. He failed to reflect that under the dictators crime is reserved as the monopoly of the State, and that from any normal human standpoint there is more crime committed in Nazi Germany in a year than in America in ten years of its most besotted gangster period, only in Germany it is all committed by the State. Lindbergh loved Germany.

He saw the great Army, then in the last stages of readying itself to spring upon Europe and set out to conquer the world. He saw the great Luftwaffe, and Goering himself “surprised” him by pinning the Service Cross of the Order of the German Eagle with Star on his breast before he could help himself. Lindbergh has not yet divested himself of his Nazi decoration. He laid down his commission because he quarreled with the President of the United States, but he has no quarrel with Hitler.

Lindbergh was so delighted with the whole atmosphere of this perfectly functioning totalitarian machine that he was contemplating making his residence in Berlin, where an American news agency reported that the apartment of a Jew, liquidated in the monster pogrom of November 1938, had been offered him. He stayed long enough to become convinced that the Nazis were the wave, which, whether we liked it or not, would eventually engulf the world. Lindbergh liked it. Here were no democratic gangsterism, corruption, private crime. Here were no Bolshevik slackness, squalor,[360] waste. Here was the New Order, of superior men, like himself, of tall, blond, blue-eyed Aryans, like himself, of Nordics, like himself. He felt among his own kind.

The Terror, the concentration camps, the murderous persecution of the Jews and political opponents, the suppression of free speech, of the press, of worship, even of thought and conscience! What of it! This was only the scum on the wave of the future, and as for the suppression of the press, that at least was no scum, that was sheer progress. The literal enslavement of a whole population! Well, they like it, don’t they? What of the fact that the entire machine and every part of it was built for war, and for war which if successful in Europe would eventually reach and thrust at the heart of America? Nonsense, the Germans could whip Europe all right, indeed Lindbergh declared his conviction they would, but they intended no harm to America. He knew, because hadn’t they been nice to him, an American? Anyway, he wouldn’t say anything about it in public, but if the truth be known, America could go a long way and do worse than by emulating some of the Nazis’ virtues.

Liberty? Bah, Lindbergh would take order and efficiency any day ahead of liberty and inefficiency. Besides, Lindbergh was one of the class of superior men, superior in talent, ability, and comprehension of what society needs, who in a totalitarian state would enjoy all the freedom he wanted since his ideas would conform with those of the rulers and he would belong to the company of masters of the New Order. He had nothing to fear from a Nazi conquest.

With these thoughts in mind Lindbergh returned first to England and told them they had better give up because the Russians were no good and the Germans knew it, and the Germans were strong enough to conquer all Europe, and the proof was in the air forces he had just inspected. His advice was believed to have had something to do with the disaster of Munich, when Britain and France,[361] convinced their cause was hopeless, lost a war without fighting it. In every point of his argument Lindbergh had agreed with Hitler, and in every point Lindbergh and Hitler were correct, save in one point. They made a mistake about England.

When England recovered from the shock of Munich, she began to throw off her weakness and get tough. But Lindbergh had left for America. He did not have time to see England recover the manhood which seemed lost when he was there. Lindbergh came home now bursting with a message, eager to lead, anxious to play a political role, and resolved as he has been all his life to be content with nothing less than the greatest role. “Lindbergh will be the next President of the United States. He is our man.” So said the Belgian friend of the Nazis. The British Lindbergh, Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, is on the political bottom; he is in Brixton prison. Mosley is no less sincere a man than Lindbergh. Vidkun Quisling is on the political top; he is Hitler’s man in Norway. The political future of Lindbergh will obviously depend largely upon whether Germany or our side wins the war.

Q. Why did Lindbergh attack the Jews?

A. Because anti-Semitism is an integral part of Hitlerism. If you are not against Hitler you are for him, and if you are for Hitler you will be compelled, sooner or later, and whether you intend it or not, to become an anti-Semite. Every country now under Hitler’s heel has officially sponsored and promoted anti-Semitism. It was easy to read Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism between the lines of his references to the “foreign” influences at work in America. He waited only until he thought the time ripe for his public announcement, but the results proved his calculation wrong. His statement against the Jews brought a roar of repudiation from all creeds and classes of the nation, and the only approval came from the group around Lindbergh who constitute what might be called the America[362] First’s Quisling Committee. Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism could be sufficiently explained on the ground of temperament. He admires, he understands, and loves only machines and he could hardly be expected to understand or appreciate, much less approve, the spiritual values which for thousands of years have upheld the Jews through adversities which would have annihilated scores of more numerous but less faithful communities.

Q. What is to be the fate of the Jews?

A. If Hitler’s power is not destroyed, if Hitler were to win, all Jews under his domination would be condemned to slow death. Why slow? Why doesn’t Hitler kill them all at once? Because he enjoys watching them suffer, has a sadistic pleasure in it; because he needs their labor power for the menial tasks to which he assigns them; and because he probably feels that until he conquers the whole world it would be wiser not to outrage what there is left of world opinion.

Besides, Hitler finds the Jews useful wherever he wishes to divide a conquered population, as in France where the hostages he shoots are for the most part called Jews or Communists. Every time he shoots a Jewish hostage he says to the non-Jews, “You see, if it were not for your Jews, you and I could get along perfectly together!” By this device of making the Jew the scapegoat, he works to arouse anti-Semitism among the vanquished and anti-Semitism in any form anywhere is the most faithful handmaid of Hitlerism.

Therefore, he has not completely eliminated the Jews from any part of his territories, but has allowed to remain, under conditions of the most abject servitude, 200,000 out of the original 660,000 in Germany proper; 40,000 out of the original 190,000 in Austria; 100,000 out of 380,000 in Czechoslovakia; 20,000 out of 156,000 in Holland; 30,000 out of 63,000 in Belgium; an estimated 380,000[363] native and foreign Jews in France, occupied and unoccupied; 750,000 in Hungary, including everyone with one-quarter Jewish blood; 300,000 in truncated Rumania; 97,000 in Latvia; 177,000 in Lithuania; 5,000 in Esthonia; and 100,000 in Greece. These figures are cited by The American Hebrew. Poland must come in a separate category since there Hitler has apparently set out to exterminate the 3,000,000 Jews without the restraint he seems to have put on himself elsewhere.

Nobody knows how many of the Polish Jews have died; their fate is only more dreadful than that inflicted upon the entire Polish population. Sober observers believe that twenty per cent of the Polish population as a whole have been killed or have died as a result of the two years of German and Russian occupation. If this is true, then of the 6,000,000 dead, one must reckon that at least 1,000,000 are Jews. Whether this figure is too high or too low, the obvious intent of the Germans in Poland is to wipe out the Jews altogether, and the wonder is that any at all are living today.

In Soviet Russia the 5,000,000 Jews are not subject to any official discrimination, but suffer as the rest of the population from the generally wretched conditions of life aggravated by the war. These conditions of life in the Soviet Union would be intolerable under normal circumstances, especially since the Jews, like other faiths, have been deprived of the facilities formally to practice their religion, but now that Europe under the Nazis has become a charnel house for Jews, the Soviet Union must seem like a haven of refuge. There seems to be no alternative for the Jews except that they suffer death at the hands of Hitlerism, or that Hitlerism be destroyed. It can be destroyed better with the outspoken, avowed help of the Jews of the world, and especially the Jews of America.

It is shocking, indeed, to observe the names of a few Jews on isolationist committees, and one wonders what mental processes have brought them there. Do they imagine that if America remains aloof and Hitler wins the rest of the world, that the Jews, or any[364] other Americans, will be safe? No, if Hitler wins the rest of the world, the Lindberghs of America will boldly put their anti-Semitism to work, and the fate of the Jews in America will approximate that of their brothers abroad. There is no choice for the Jews of America but to put all the strength of their bodies and souls and purses to work against the enemy of all mankind. There is no reason for them to apologize for fighting the universal scourge. The anti-Semite is a friend of Hitler. The friend of Hitler is the enemy of the United States.

Q. I would like to read you a passage from a speech of Lindbergh delivered shortly after the German invasion of Russia, and ask you what you think of it, as it is quite confusing to me. The passage reads: “The longer this war in Europe continues, the more confused its issues become. When it started Germany and Russia were lined up against England and France. Now, less than two years later we find Russia and England fighting France and Germany. Winter before last, when Russia was fighting Finland, the interventionists demanded that we send all possible aid to Finland. Now, when Russia is fighting Finland again they demand that we send all possible aid to Russia.... Finland and France are now our enemies; Russia our friend. We have been asked to defend the English way of life, and the Chinese way of life. We are now asked to defend the Russian way of life.... Judging from Europe’s record, if we enter this war, we can’t be sure whether we will have Germany or Russia for a partner by the time we finish it. We don’t even know whether we will end up with France or England on our side. It is quite possible that we would find ourselves alone fighting the entire world before it was over.”

A. The confusion is of Lindbergh’s own making. There is a simple key to all the apparent contradictions he brings out. The key is that Hitler Germany was, is, and will remain the enemy until[365] Hitlerism is destroyed. The correct way to express the relationships which Lindbergh has put so confusingly is: All nations fighting Germany are fighting on our side; all nations fighting on the side of Germany are fighting against us. When a nation, for any reason, switches sides, for or against Germany, it automatically switches sides for or against us. The question of friendship, of liking for any of these nations, or of approval of their “way of life” does not decide the matter. The matter is decided solely by the effect the particular nation is having on Germany’s war.

Let us examine each of Lindbergh’s statements in turn. He says the longer the war continues, the more confused its issues become. Not at all—the longer it lasts the more plain it becomes that the issue is: Germany against the world. Do not be confused by the fact that some countries which were fighting Germany, now come out on Germany’s side. As Germany conquers one country after another, she attempts to force them into fighting for her, as in the case of France. No matter what Hitler’s puppet government in France does, we know that the true France is no friend of Germany, but an implacable enemy. Napoleon at one time had half a dozen armies raised from among the peoples he had conquered, marching under his banners. But the moment Napoleon suffered reverses, they revolted. So it will be with Hitler.

Finland’s position is easy to understand if you reflect that she was so much subject to Hitler’s coercion that she had to behave almost as though she too had been conquered. It would have been suicide if Finland, resisting Germany’s demands that she join the German side, should have had to fight both the German and the Russian armies. That way Poland was torn to pieces. It would have been unthinkable that Finland, so recently mutilated by Russia, should have admitted the Red Army to her territories. It was inevitable that Finland should choose the lesser of two evils. And so we, understanding Finland’s plight, must classify her on Germany’s side and embargo goods to her. But we can still think[366] of her as a friend, and only as a technical enemy by force of circumstances.

The position of Russia is equally clear. Bolshevik Russia, the Soviet Union, is nobody’s friend, and never pretended to be. She, like Germany, is “against the world,” and by making the pact with Germany at the beginning of the war she expected to see the world eventually collapse and become her loot. Now that Germany has forced Russia to fight, Russia should enjoy every material aid we can give her. As long as she continues to fight Germany, we should do all we can to help her blows injure our enemy. So it is only in order to confuse us that Lindbergh phrases it the way he does: “Finland and France are now our enemies; Russia our friend.”

Lindbergh says we are asked to defend the English, the Chinese, and now the Russian way of life. It would not make any difference to us if the English, the Chinese, and the Russians lived like lizards, crocodiles, and alligators, so long as they were aiding directly and willingly as the British, or directly though unwillingly, as the Russians, or indirectly as the Chinese, to protect us by opposing our enemies. We are only helping ourselves when we help them.

Lindbergh ends: “It is quite possible that we would find ourselves alone fighting the entire world before it was over.” No, it is not just “quite possible,” it is absolutely certain that we will find ourselves fighting the entire world if we do not intervene to save some part of the world to fight on our side.

Q. In one of Lindbergh’s speeches he made the statement that “the only reason we are in danger of becoming involved in this war is because there are powerful elements who desire us to take a part.” Is this true?

A. There are powerful elements who desire us to take part, namely all the intelligent patriotic Americans who wish to defend their[367] country while there is yet time, but that is not what Lindbergh meant. He is using veiled language to express what his admirers, the Nazi Bundists, the Fascists, and the Kluxers say openly when they charge that America is being “driven into war by the Jews, the international bankers, and the armaments manufacturers.” It is a rule of the politics of this era, as Alexander Woollcott pointed out, that if you are not against Hitler, you are for him, and sooner or later, willingly or unwillingly you become lined up for all the things he stands for, some of which you may not have wished to embrace, as racial hatred, anti-Semitism, and the rule of the man with the gun.

The rich men in the America First Committee of Lindbergh and General Wood, fancy they are protecting their investments by lining up against beating Hitler, but if they permit him to win they will lose their wealth as surely as if they had helped run up the Red Flag.

Q. Can you give us a brief, objective resumé of Lindbergh’s argument against our entering the war?

A. Yes, he has set it forth very clearly in his “Letter to America” published in Collier’s magazine, where his principal ideas are summed up, without any omission save the fact of his contempt for the democracies and his admiration for the totalitarian system. It runs as follows: England and France have only themselves to blame for their defeat. (He takes for granted that England is defeated.) First, because they did not make a reasonable adjustment with Germany while there was still time. Second, because they made the Versailles treaty too harsh to appease Germany and too lenient to hold her down. Third, because when Germany rose under Hitler they did not take advantage of the last chance to stop him when they could, at his reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936. They were always too late, and now we in America are too late to stop[368] him. We are unarmed and unable to fight. We have not as many thoroughly modern fighting planes in our Army and Navy combined as Germany produces in a single week. “If we enter the war now, it would mean humiliation and defeat.” It is impossible for us to invade Europe. On the other hand, it is impossible for Germany to invade us. They cannot invade us by air over Greenland because it is too cold, nor by way of South America because it is too far, and the South Americans with our aid could prevent them from constructing landing fields. We can stay out of the war, make ourselves impregnable, and afterward force other nations to trade with us. That should be our policy.

Counterattacking, he demands to know if we enter the war, first, how are we to defeat Germany? Second, how are we to “impose our ideology” on our enemies? Third, what would it cost to win the war in American lives and how long would the war last? Fourth, what are our war aims? But he always comes back to the question: “How could we win the war if we entered it?”

Q. How can we win?

A. I have an answer. There are too many surprises in warfare—witness the German attack on Russia—for anyone, including the military experts, to be sure of anything, and I am not a military expert. But I should like to preface my reply to Lindbergh’s whole argument by remarking that he assumes we have a choice in the matter, and that we can avoid going to war if we want to. I do not believe we have any choice except in the matter of timing. I should like to ask Lindbergh if he believes that by adopting his complete program, even withdrawal of all aid to Britain, thus insuring British defeat, we could thereby induce Hitler to grant us better terms? Leaving aside all national honor and pride, suppose we were to switch our policy completely and not only abandoned Britain but like Vichy France made clandestine war upon her, or openly[369] stabbed her in the back with a declaration of war à la Mussolini. Even in that case can anyone believe we would receive any better treatment than Hitler has in store for Vichy France or his ally Italy? It is plain that all we should gain by such conduct would be an increase in the unbounded contempt he already has for us.

We have not the choice of war or isolation. We have only the choice of war or surrender.

Let us take his points one by one. First, that England and France have only themselves to blame for their defeat. But England is not defeated, and I am convinced that she can be defeated only by our defection on the lines advocated by Lindbergh. She was to blame for her refusal to see her danger in time, and for the same reason France was to blame for her defeat. I agree to this, but to waste time now in such recriminations is folly. Lindbergh says England and France were always too late and that now we in America are too late to save England. But it is our Lindberghs who are making us late. We are still not armed, agreed, but how can we win the time to arm? We can gain the time to arm only by upholding Britain, keeping her fighting, and keeping the Germans out of control of the Atlantic. We can do that now by going to war with Germany and reinforcing Britain with all the force at our disposal, which is adequate when ranged beside the present strength of Britain but inadequate to fight alone. Only our entry into the war now, before it is too late, can guarantee that Britain stands, and as long as Britain stands we can build our arms in perfect security until the combined British and American might is strong enough to defeat Germany. Lindbergh’s argument is that if we fight beside Britain now we lose; if we fight alone later, we win.

He says we cannot be invaded: “I believe that we can build a military and commercial position on this continent that is impregnable to attack.” But in the preceding paragraph he says that for us to win a war we must prepare for it “not for one year, or for two, but for ten years or for twenty as Germany has done.” Does[370] he imagine that Hitler would give us twenty years to prepare for war, or ten, or two, or even one after he had beaten Britain?

But they cannot get at us, says Lindbergh, citing the difficulty of air-borne invasion by Greenland or South America. Nobody imagines an exclusively air-borne invasion of America is possible. But if the British lose the war before we complete our two-ocean navy in 1947, sea power goes to the Germans. Lindbergh at no time discussed this all-important fact. Nor the fact that a defeated Britain, like defeated France, would be yoked into the Nazi war machine to be used against the last enemy, ourselves. Does he really believe that if this happens within the next year or eighteen months, much less in shorter time, we shall be able alone to repel a German attack on this hemisphere, an attack supported by all the navies and warplanes left on earth except our own? We have already set forth the fact that after conquest of Britain Germany would possess shipping to transport millions, twenty to thirty thousand tanks, five or six times the number of warplanes we shall be able to produce in eighteen months, and the most formidable army the world has ever seen, driven by the indomitable will of Hitler to conquer the globe or die.

Leave aside, though, the possibility of direct invasion of the continental United States, and let us discuss with Lindbergh the possibility of German invasion of South America. He declares this, too, would be impossible “in opposition to the armed forces of Brazil backed by our own Army, Navy and Air Corps.” But it is 4,258 miles from New York to Pernambuco, Brazil, the place nearest to us where the Germans might want to land, while it is only 3,847 miles from New York to London. Lindbergh advocates that we should attempt to defend Pernambuco though it is 400 miles farther from New York than London, which he says we should not defend because, among other things, of the difficulty of sending an expeditionary force so far. Does Lindbergh truly think Pernambuco easier and more worth while for us to defend than[371] London? Does he really believe after Germany had conquered Europe and Britain that Brazil or any other South American state would oppose Germany or invite us to help it fight Germany?

But he demands to know, how can we defeat Germany if we do go to war? He knows the answer to that better than anyone. We can defeat Germany only by obtaining mastery of the air over Germany, then destroying the German air force; once the Luftwaffe is destroyed, the impact of that blow alone may cause the first crack in the military and civilian morale of Germany and lift the morale of the conquered peoples to aid in expelling their conquerors. Let me reiterate that the conquered peoples will never revolt until they see the possibility of successful revolt and that will come only with the first serious military setback of the Germans.

Would we have to send an expeditionary land army? We probably shall have to send our best units, and do it quickly, to prevent German seizure of the West African ports and islands affording springboards to America. Our troops would be useful now in North Africa and the Near East. Wherever contact with the enemy can be had, we should be represented as strongly as possible. It is also likely that we shall need to send an A.E.F. to the continent, although not necessarily as large as in the last war. If we can get air superiority, it will mean the war is practically won. I should expect Germany then to crack up.

Even if she did not break down at once, the demoralization entailed by loss of control of the air would be so great that landings on the continent should be feasible at almost any place the Allies chose. Lindbergh persistently asks where we could land an expeditionary force. The answer is that if we get there in time we shall have an excellent base of operations across the seas, Great Britain. From there the coast of Nazi Europe presents hundreds of opportunities for invasion, once the Nazi air force is eliminated.

Lindbergh demands to know how long it would take to win if[372] we think, contrary to his judgment, that we can win. I should think it would take a minimum of three years after we enter the war, maybe four, possibly five or six. It can be accomplished only by expanding our present aircraft production program, which has orders now for 80,000 planes, to whatever dimensions prove necessary. This depends on how many planes the Germans are able to produce from their own and conquered factories, including all the facilities of their conquests in the East. We shall certainly have to think in terms of hundreds of thousands of planes. We and the British will have to supply the pilots and crews and ground crews for these planes, and it may be that our Air Corps will number upwards of a million before we are through. We have the men and the machines to do it.

“How much would it cost in American lives?” Lindbergh demands. Who can tell? We know only that until the Germans went into Russia the casualties in this war had been inconsiderable compared with the last war. As long as combat was confined to the air and the sea, the numbers of combatant lives lost were in the thousands compared with the hundreds of thousands of soldier lives lost in comparable periods in the land fighting of the last war. The bombardment of civilians has been ghastly, but the number of lives lost has been on the whole surprisingly small—41,900 persons killed in Britain from January 1940 to June 1941. It has even been asserted that in Britain, despite the hardships, war has so elevated the tone, the spirit of the population, that death by disease has declined until the gain has made up for the loss of life by bombardment. The relatively small number of deaths is explained by Mr. Churchill as the result of air raid precautions. After the bloodiest month of the Battle of Britain, September 1940, Mr. Churchill made a remarkable analysis.

“We are told,” he said, “by the Germans that 251 tons of explosives were thrown upon London in a single night, that is to say, only a few tons less than the total dropped on the whole country[373] throughout the last war. Now we know exactly what our casualties have been. On that particular Thursday night 180 persons were killed in London as a result of 251 tons of bombs. That is to say it took one ton of bombs to kill three-quarters of a person. We know, of course, exactly the ratio of loss in the last war, because all the facts were ascertained after it was over. In that war the small bombs of early patterns which were used killed ten persons for every ton discharged in the built-up areas. That is, the mortality is now less than one-tenth of the mortality attaching to the German bombing attacks in the last war....

“What is the explanation? There can only be one, namely the vastly improved methods of shelter which have been adopted.... Whereas when we entered this war at the call of duty and honor we expected to sustain losses which would amount to 3,000 killed in a single night and 12,000 wounded, night after night, and made hospital arrangements on the basis of a quarter of a million casualties merely as a first provision; whereas that is what we did at the beginning of the war, we have actually had since it began, up to last Saturday, as a result of air bombing, about 8,500 killed and 13,000 wounded.” This was after three months of the Blitz; today with the figure of 41,900 as the total dead, the Prime Minister’s point is all the stronger as he concluded: “This shows that things do not always turn out as badly as one expects.” Mr. Churchill might have been speaking directly to Lindbergh.

Q. But if air bombardment is as ineffective as these figures of Churchill indicate, how do you expect us to be able to beat Germany by winning air superiority and destroying the German air force? Isn’t there a discrepancy in your argument?

A. No, because Britain has come off so lightly precisely because the Germans never have gotten air supremacy over Britain. If they ever did, it would mean they would win the war, just as if we ever[374] get air supremacy over Germany, it will mean that we will win the war. Air supremacy means you can come over in the daytime, and bomb with precision. Antiaircraft guns are unable to prevent bombing. If there are no fighters to beat off the bombers, the bombers can do just about as they like. They can dive-bomb and destroy any objective they choose with about ninety per cent accuracy. If the Luftwaffe is ever destroyed, British and American planes can annihilate the entire German war industry and then what will it avail Hitler to be the conqueror of all Europe, or of Asia, too?

The R.A.F. has never been out to bomb civilians. The Germans have proved how useless civilian bombing is against a brave people. The R.A.F. has preferred the more difficult job of bombing military objectives and already it has affected the Reich’s war-making capacity. British bombs on the invasion ports had much to do with Hitler’s postponement of his trip to England. With the addition to the R.A.F. of hundreds of thousands of American machines, and with our own hundreds of thousands in the American Air Force, there is no reason to doubt that eventually the German military apparatus can be smashed.

Q. What damage have the Germans done to the British war machine; or to the buildings of London? Lindbergh insists Britain is already beaten to her knees.

A. Exactly! Well, you have seen the loss of civilian life, amazingly small. Now Mr. Churchill has given us an interesting estimate on the damage to London. He said: “Statisticians may amuse themselves by calculating that after making allowance for the working of the law of diminishing returns, through the same house being struck twice or three times over, it would take ten years at the present rate, for half of the houses of London to be demolished. After that, of course, progress would be much slower. Quite a lot[375] of things are going to happen to Herr Hitler and the Nazi regime before ten years are up.... Neither by material damage nor by slaughter will the people of the British Empire be turned from their solemn and inexorable purpose.” Does Lindbergh really think the British are beaten?

But you may object, surely we shall not have to suffer bombing of our civilian population. No, not if we enter the war in time to keep it on the other side of the ocean. The oddest thing of all about the Lindbergh policy is that it would wait for the war to come to us, so that the bombs should fall on our homes, not on the homes of our enemies. He represents precisely the fatal “Maginot line policy” which he so decries in the French. He advises us to sit behind our Maginot Atlantic and dream of our security until the Germans break through.

Finally Lindbergh demands that we “define our war aims,” and tell “how we are to impose our ideology on Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan.” We do not wish to “impose our ideology” on anyone. All we wish at the moment is to preserve our nation, keep from becoming slaves of the Nazis, and prevent Hitler from imposing his ideology upon us. We want only to make the world safe for the United States, which means also for the friends and allies of the United States, and if victory is ours we shall attempt to include in the circle of security all the nations of good will on earth. If this means “policing the earth,” let it mean that. The first step to organize common security was taken when men agreed to have a police force and for it sacrificed their individual right to exercise individual justice, and agreed to pay taxes for the protection. We are just now vigilantes trying to rid the community of bandits.

It is a troublesome matter and after it is settled we may have sense enough to organize at least for transient tranquillity and hope against hope that education may help us to permanent peace. I have not much hope of that myself, but if we, the United States of[376] America, were to put our heart into the effort, I would have hope. Unless we do there is no hope at all.

Q. But how many lives could it cost America?

A. Nobody can say how many lives it will cost us to preserve our liberty and independence. Maybe surprisingly few, maybe heart-breakingly many. But is this a matter for bargaining? Does Lindbergh ask us to say: “We, the United States of America will give so and so many American lives in order to preserve our national independence, our institutions, our children’s lives and our liberty, but we will give so many and no more? If it costs more, we will surrender! If it takes two years to win, we will make the trade; if it costs ten, we give in!” If that is our attitude, we are beaten before we begin. It is not America’s attitude. It was Vallandigham’s, but not America’s.




Transcriber’s Notes:

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

The one footnote has been moved to the end of its section and relabeled.

The following change was made:

p. 41: XIV changed to XVI (Louis XVI had)

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