England and Germany
In regard to Anglo-German relationship there has existed no reason for complaint during the last twenty years. The Germans have made a number of approaches with a view to establishing a better and closer understanding but all without avail. There is no evidence to show that these German approaches were not made honestly and fairly. I will quote only two examples from a number of such statements. The first is the relative passage in the Führer's speech of April 28, 1939, when he stated:
England has given the world many great men, and Germany no fewer. The severe struggle for the maintainance of the life of our people has in the course of three centuries cost a sacrifice in lives which far exceeds that which other peoples have had to make in asserting their existence.
If Germany, a country that was for ever being attacked, was not able to retain her possessions, but was compelled to sacrifice many of her provinces, this was due only to her political misdevelopment and her impotence as a result thereof. That condition has now been overcome. Therefore we Germans do not feel in the least inferior to the British Nation. Our self-esteem is just as great as that of an Englishman for England. In the history of our people, now of approximately two thousand years standing, there are occasions and actions enough to fill us with sincere pride.
Now if England cannot understand our point of view, thinking perchance she may look upon Germany as a vassal state, then our love and friendly feelings have indeed been wasted on her. We shall not despair or lose heart on that account, but - relying on the consciousness of our own strength and on the strength of our friends - we shall then find ways and means to secure our independence without impairing our dignity.
I have heard the statement of the British Prime Minister to the effect that he is not able to put any trust in German assurances. Under the circumstances I consider it a matter of course that we no longer wish to expect him or the British people to bear the burden of a situation which is only conceivable in an atmosphere of mutual confidence. When Germany became National Socialist and thus paved the way for her national resurrection, in pursuance of my unswerving policy of friendship with England, of my own accord I made the proposal for a voluntary restriction of German naval armaments. That restriction was, however, based on one condition, namely, the will and the conviction that a war between England and Germany would never again be possible. This wish and this conviction is alive in me today."
Secondly, in Mein Kampf there are many long references to Great Britain, and all of them are couched in tones of great appreciation. Hitler says that if German statesmen had had sufficient foresight to conclude an alliance with England early in the twentieth century, as Japan did in 1904, there would have been no Great War. Another important mistake made by German diplomats was to underestimate the fighting strength of the British Empire. Britain's total effectives were calculated in the basis of her standing army, a most fatal mistake. In this connexion Hitler writes:
England has always had the armament which she needed. She always fought with those weapons which were necessary for success. She sent mercenary troops to fight as long as mercenaries sufficed; but she never hesitated to draw heavily and deeply from the best blood of the whole nation when victory could be obtained only by such a sacrifice.
And in every case the fighting spirit, dogged determination, and use of brutal means in conducting military operations have always remained the same.
But in Germany, through the medium of the schools, the Press and the comic papers, an idea of the Englishman was gradually formed which was bound eventually to lead to the worst kind of self-deception. This absurdity slowly but persistently spread into every quarter of German life. The result was an undervaluation for which we have had to pay a heavy penalty.
The delusion was so profound that the Englishman was looked upon as a shrewd business man, but personally a coward even to an incredible degree. Unfortunately, our lofty teachers of professorial history did not bring home to the minds of their pupils the truth that it is not possible to build up such a mighty organisation as the British Empire by mere swindle and fraud.
The few who called attention to that truth were either ignored or silenced. I can vividly recall to mind the astonished looks of my comrades when they found themselves personally face to face for the first time with the Tommies in Flanders. After a few days of fighting the consciousness slowly dawned on our soldiers that those Scotsmen were not like the ones we had seen described and caricatured in the comic papers and mentioned in the communiqués."
Soon after the War there was a widespread movement in Europe which had as a leitmotif the liberation of India. On this point Hitler writes in Mein Kampf:
A few Asiatic mountebanks, who put themselves forward as 'the champions of Indian Freedom', then began to peregrinate throughout Europe and succeeded in inspiring otherwise quite reasonable people with the fixed notion that the British World Empire, which had its pivot in India, was just about to collapse there. They never realised that their own wish was the father of all these ideas.
Nor did they stop to think how absurd their wishes were. For inasmuch as they expected the end of the British Empire and of England's power to follow the collapse of its dominion over India, they themselves admitted that India was of the most outstanding importance for England.
Now in all likelihood the deep mysteries of this most important problem must have been known not only to the German-National prophets but also to those who had the direction of British history in their hands. It is down right puerile to suppose that in England itself the importance of India for the British Empire was not adequately appreciated. And it is a proof of having learned nothing from the World War and of thoroughly misunderstanding or knowing nothing about Anglo-Saxon determination, when they imagine that England could lose India without first having put forth the last ounce of her strength in the struggle to hold it.
Moreover, it shows how complete is the ignorance prevailing in Germany as to the manner in which the spirit of England permeates and administers her Empire.
England will never lose India unless she admits racial disruption in the machinery of her administration (which at present is entirely out of the question in India), or unless she is overcome by the sword of some powerful enemy. But Indian risings will never bring this about.
We Germans have had sufficient experience to know how hard it is to coerce England. And, apart from all this, I as a German would far rather see India under British domination than under that of any other nation."
March 7th 1936, a Most Important Date
Both in Germany and in England accounts have been published of the drafting of the Treaty of Locarno and what happened afterwards up to the fateful day of March 7th 1936. Both parties have quoted selected documents and both have produced a convincing case in favour of quite opposite conclusions. The patriotic Englishman is bound to accept our statement without question and the patriotic German is equally bound to accept the German statement. Germany's opponents will always say that she broke the Treaty of Locarno without justification and without warning. The German reply which is equally convincing is that by signing the Franco-Russian Treaty, France destroyed the Treaty of Locarno, and had full and fair warning of the view Germany took.
These discussions lead nowhere. It surely could not be expected that a rearmed Germany, arriving once more to a proud and free national consciousness, would long tolerate a frontier undefended and lying under the French guns of the Maginot line.
We have only to imagine ourselves to have been defeated by a French coalition, and as a result being forbidden to have any ships of war in the Channel, which was permanently occupied by the French fleet. I fear that whatever treaties we had signed, if we saw the opportunity of a surprise recovery we would take it and always glorify that day though we had broken the most solemn of treaties.
There are situations which collapse almost by a law of nature and ordinary rules and regulations are swept away.
It is evident that the humiliating Treaty of Locarno signed by an unarmed Germany, helpless under an armed France, could not be accepted for all time by an armed Germany, nor would they have tolerated long a ruler or a government that took no steps to occupy the neutral zone.
To appeal to France, Belgium and the League for the right of Germany to defend her own frontiers was useless. I believe the people of this country if appealed to would have responded, but the Foreign Office would have refused and the obedient Press supported them.
To denounce the Treaty of Locarno and announce that on a certain day German troops would march in, inevitably meant war, but what would happen if possession was taken without notice and Europe woke up one morning to an accomplished fact?
The risks of the plan adopted by Hitler were enormous. Only a formal occupation was possible and he could not know how many soldiers France had concealed in her underground forts, while the guns of the forts themselves could cause appalling destruction.
The German army was neither trained nor equipped up to the French standard, and it was known that the French military command had been urging the Government to make a "preventive war" on Germany, to annihilate her half trained troops and settle the German question for all time.
To move large masses of troops up to the edge of the neutral zone would have attracted attention, and therefore it had to be a formal occupation with a few thousand men whom France could at once have overwhelmed. The risks were so great that I believe only one man in Germany had the courage to put it in practice - the Führer.
The plan having been decided on it was essential that the utmost secrecy be preserved. If it had leaked out prematurely France would at once have sent troops into the neutral zone. Therefore no preparations were made for the reception of the troops in the frontier towns. The success with which the secret was kept - which must have been known to hundreds of people - speaks highly for German loyalty and discipline.
The people of the Rhine towns had endured for years the hard rule of the French officers and the black troops. Only in our section of occupation were the people treated with decency and humanity.
That terror was gone, Germany was rearming, the message of hope had been received. National Socialism was triumphant, their boys were being called up proud to be trained to defend their Fatherland, but they still lived in a no man's land, dominated by the French guns and the armies of France that in a few hours could ravage a defenceless people.
The whole situation is so remote from our experience, surrounded by the sea, that it is difficult for us to realize what it meant to live in the undefended territory so recently freed from the troops of France. Across that field, at the end of that road is France, armed France, and we are here defenceless. We can imagine their fear, knowing that concealed in those innocent looking green fields are the colossal siege guns waiting ready to blow to pieces their cities and villages.
Without hope and never free from fear the days drag on and no deliverance comes. What is the Führer doing? Is the watch on our beloved Rhine never to be renewed? And then comes the memorable day to be for all time glorious in German history - the 7th of March. There is the tramp of feet, the gleam of the sun on bayonets, soldiers are coming. Can it be the French? But no they are coming from Germany, we see the Swastika banner. It is impossible, it is unbelievable, they are our soldiers, and that night German sentries looked down once more on the sacred river, the Rhine.
And then after joy came the terror of suspense. What will France do? At any moment we may hear the scream of shells from the Maginot line. At any moment French troops may come harrying, burning, destroying.
I often wonder how Hitler endured those hours. He had thrown down a challenge to all Europe. He had played with the dice such a game with fortune as had never been played in the history of the world before. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon he had his armies with him, but Hitler occupied the neutral zone with a mere handful of men, in face of the French army of 500,000 men on a Peace footing. He won and not one shot was fired, one shot that would have set all Europe in a blaze.
All Germany waited in an awful breathless suspense. Then came the news that France had appealed to the League, and in 24 hours the central point of European politics passed from Paris to Berlin. Hitler had secured the initiative and has held it ever since.
What happened during those hours is still a profound secret, but there can be no question that according to the articles of the Treaty of Locarno Germany had committed an act of "flagrant aggression" and if asked by France we were pledged to war. It is also equally certain that if the Baldwin Government had attempted war in such a cause they would have been out of power in a week.
Hitler chose the occasion of the occupation of the neutral zone to make a speech on the Foreign Policy of Germany, and this is the most important state document since the Treaty of Versailles.
The speech which I print as an appendix* will be found to be a very broad and statesman-like treatment of the whole situation in Europe.
The definite offers made to France and Great Britain would, if they had been accepted, have secured the peace of Europe. Hitler suggested a neutral zone on both sides of the frontier, and a peace pact between Germany, France and Belgium to be guaranteed by England and Italy, and an air pact to prevent the danger of sudden attacks from the air.
He also offered non-aggression pacts with the states bordering Germany on the east, and stated his willingness to rejoin the League of Nations.
These offers were rejected by the governments of France and Great Britain, our reply being the forming of a military alliance with France against Germany, and the questionnaire.
As none of these offers were accepted, they are no longer binding on Germany, and Germany will not now rejoin the League until it is completely reformed and Article 16 abolished.
The good understanding with the Czechs which Hitler offered has now been accomplished. From the first Hitler has said that he had no quarrel with the Czechs but only with Benes. If Benes had accepted Germany as his natural ally from the beginning, for which there were ample geographical and economic reasons, instead of allying Czecho-Slovakia with France and the Soviets against Germany, the whole history of Czecho-Slovakia would have been different.