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Betrayal by Experts

ISSUE:  Spring 1939

Betrayal in Central Europe. By G. E. R. Gedye. New York: Harper and Brothers. $3.50.

A pochryphal or not, there is significance to the story that on the eve of the Munich conference, an official English committee was horrified to discover that there were not enough coffins in London to receive the carefully estimated toll of the first raid by German bombers. At the same time, an English journalist in Prague exulted in the fact that, at last, after Berchtesgaden and Godesberg, England was standing firm. Mr. Chamberlain returned from Munich to be greeted by the same cheering crowds that had sped his departure by shouting “Stand by Czechol”— their happiness now presumably increased because there was no further need to worry about Englishmen being buried without proper coffins; the Englishman in Prague then learned that it was dangerous to speak English on the streets of that betrayed capital.

That English journalist was G. E. R. Gedye, who had been stationed in Vienna from 1925 until the incoming Nazis found that he was not receptive to their friendly counsel on the correct procedure for handling news. Expelled from conquered Austria, he moved to Prague, to continue his graphic reporting of the success of gangsterism in Europe. Americans who have followed his day-to-day accounts in the New York Times may now read his full story of the annexation of Austria and the partitioning of Czecho-Slovakia in “Betrayal in Central Europe.”

Mr. Gedye makes no pretense at an impossible impartiality, and he does not hesitate to give “statesmen” the epithets they have earned. The book, of course, has faults: it was hastily written and edited, it is too long, often needlessly involved, and is possibly open to correction in details. Experts might demur as well to the occasional use of anonymous sources for authoritative information. But the book as a whole is testimony that cannot be impeached.

In his account of how Austria lost her independence, Mr. Gedye fixes the guilt upon the clerical chancellors who wanted to take Austria back to the days of rule by the aristocracy: Seipel (the “Cardinal without Mercy”), Dollfuss (“Millimetternich”), and Schuschnigg. Because of their blind refusal to see through the “protection” of Mussolini, and because of their Jesuitical hatred of the Socialists, whom they subdued with artillery when parliamentary procedures proved unavailing, Austria was delivered into the hands of the Nazis by her own rulers. Throughout the brief and tragic history of Austria runs the thread of official Red-baiting that ended indeed with the conquest of the “Reds”—in company with those who prayed daily for their downfall.

Czecho-Slovakia was conquered not by her enemies but by her allies. Mr. Gedye intimates that, in Neville Chamberlain, England is enjoying her first Fascist Prime Minister, and he makes important additions to the wealth of proof, already accumulated since Munich, that convicts Mr. Chamberlain of deliberately fostering a trumped-up war scare in order to force down English throats the Godesberg ultimatum of Hitler. He describes in detail the treatment accorded Czecho-Slovakia’s uninvited delegation to the Munich conference, the terrific personal pressure brought to bear on Benes, the hushed-up inefficiency of the German armies of occupation in Austria and Sudetenland, and the public falsification, by the French, of Russia’s willingness and ability to fulfill her treaty obligations.

Although the general outline of “Betrayal in Central Europe” is hardly fresh, there is sufficient hitherto unpublished material and documentation in it to rank it as one of the most important books dealing with recent events in Europe. Its total impact is an overwhelming indictment of the England that connives with Germany and Italy and the France that follows abjectly to her own ruin. It should be required reading for everyone who thinks that Mr. Chamberlain is merely a tired old man, an innocent lamb desperately trying to placate the wolves until the shepherd has been able to load his gun.


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