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The Rhythm of Liberty

ISSUE:  Autumn 1942

Nazi Conquest of Danzig. By Hans L. Leonhardt. University of Chicago Press. $3.50. Tornado Across Eastern Europe. By Josef Hanc. The Grey-stone Press. $3.00. Underground Europe. By Curt Riess. The Dial Press. $3.00. Europe in Revolt. By Rene Kraus. The Macmillan Company. $3.50. The Nciv Order in Poland. By Simon Segal, with an Introduction by Raymond Leslie Buell. Alfred A. Knopf. $3.00.

An essential factor of winning the war is a knowledge of the enemy and his methods. Judged from this point of view “Nazi Conquest of Danzig,” by Hans L. Leonhardt, offers an important contribution. In the words of Dr. Leonhardt, “Danzig was a German Microcosm. In Danzig events in the Reich were repeated in slow motion.” Therefore, to quote from Mr. Quincy Wright’s preface, “The process of fifth-columnist infiltration into institutions and organizations, of propaganda and corruption, of intimidation and persecution under color of law, and finally of extermination of opposition by naked force—the process by which the Nazi party subjugated first Germany and then Europe—can be here observed in every phase.”

Danzig is an international problem, the study of which should furnish valuable data for the organization of the post-war world. It is situated in that region whose importance for the peace of Europe and of the world is only slowly being grasped. This region, a belt of small and medium sized countries from the Raltic to the Aegean, many of which were established as sovereign states after the first World War or restored to independent statehood after long periods of partition or subjection, forms the subject of Josef Hanc’s comprehensive study. “Tornado Across Eastern Europe” supplies a penetrating introduction to the history of the tortuous years of the post-Versailles era and presents a picture, discouraging at times, of the manifold problems, racial, linguistic, historical, cultural, religious, and social of the nations whose destiny it has been to be wedged in between Germany and Russia. Nevertheless this region, for which the Germans have coined the negative term of Zwischenraum, shows many unifying elements and the nations inhabiting it prove by their resistance that they have no desire whatsoever to be included in the “new order” of the Nazi conqueror. Many of the “A-B” (Aegean-Baltic) nations had struggled for decades or even centuries against Czarist Russia, Imperial Germany, the Habs-burg monarchy, or all three of them, to preserve their national individuality and cultural integrity. They will continue to oppose any attempt to become a pawn of power politics and to be handed over to the “leadership” of any power for whom the area in question is a “natural” sphere of influence.

There is no doubt that the reorganization of East-Central Europe must be undertaken along federative lines. The Polish and Czechoslovak governments-in-exile have already taken the first step in that direction by signing, on November 11, 1940, an agreement pledging close collaboration between the two countries after the war. A similar agreement was concluded in J anuary, 1942, by the Yugoslav and Greek governments in London. Even before that the delegates of the Polish, Czechoslovak, Yugoslav, and Greek workers, employers, and governments had issued a joint declaration at the International Labor Organization Conference in November, 1941, outlining the common aims and aspirations of their four nations. Since then the Central and Eastern European Planning Board of the four countries has been established. The nations of Eastern Europe have their specific responsibilities in planning and building permanent co-operation and stability in their region. Hanc points out in the conclusion of his book, that “their takings will to a large extent be dependent on their givings. Their specific task will be to convert their region, in co-operation with like-minded nations of the world, to a region of political stability, economic prosperity, social justice, national and individual freedom, and universal usefulness. They owe this to Europe, they owe this to themselves.”

The essential prerequisite to such organization is obviously the winning of the war. With respect to the peoples of the European continent temporarily subjected to the Nazi yoke this means, in the first place, the struggle for physical and spiritual survival and the preparation of armed uprising when the proper time arrives. How this struggle is being waged and who are its heroes and protagonists is eloquently told by Curt Riess in “Underground Europe.” Underground is the new kind of warfare, underground is the new front. Mr. Riess’s book is packed with incidents and examples of the struggle which, if their authenticity were not vouched for by the Allied government sources that supplied the author with information, could be easily mistaken for fiction. It is an encouraging book, for from it the American reader will learn that in spite of all enemy propaganda to the contrary the desire for freedom cannot be suppressed by any methods of brutality and ruthlessness. The underground army continues to fight. “Young and old, rich and poor, all different classes and professions—no matter what their political opinions and divergencies—went underground.” The underground movement “is a military factor that cannot be overlooked. Nobody knows that better than those on the other side: the Nazis.”

The same subject is covered in Rene Kraus’s “Europe in Revolt.” It is a very timely and comprehensive volume describing the European situation on the basis of material diligently gathered. Mr. Kraus first shows the new order at work with its terror, its Germanization, and its economic “squeeze,” and paints a rogues’ gallery of masters and lackeys. He next depicts the struggle of the churches against Nazism, the failure of the anti-Soviet crusade in the occupied countries, and conditions in the ghetto. Finally, he discusses resistance in France, Belgium, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Balkan nations, the Baltic states, and Russia; he fails, however, to make a single reference to the resistance of the Dutch. Combined with the fact that in the chapter on the fighting church no mention is made of the manifold instances of religious resistance in Holland, such as the many pastoral letters denouncing Nazism by the Dutch bishops, the declarations of the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church, and the refusal of the Catholic church to bury Dutch Nazis in consecrated ground, this is a strange omission. The catalogue of Nazi crimes as listed by Mr. Kraus is abominable. The reports of the treatment of women “are so repulsive,” says Mr. Kraus, “that they cannot be retold.” Nevertheless he does quote some of the reports emanating from Poland, where the Nazi rule is particularly odious.

An objective presentation of this rule of savagery and banditry is furnished by Dr. Simon Segal’s “The New Order in Poland.” Dr. Segal’s book is an important addition to the study of Nazidom. It has particular significance because, to quote from the introduction by Dr. Ruell, “Poland is serving as a laboratory for experiments which the Nazis will extend to the whole of Europe and the world if they win this war.” The book is well documented and is based not only on official sources of information but also on many hitherto unpublished sources, such as conversations with representatives of the underground movement and reports from persons who have been able to escape from Poland. It is made clearly evident that what Germany is introducing into Poland is colonial exploitation. The Poles are the slaves who are being kept alive only to serve the German master-race. Therefore Polish cultural life is completely suppressed, books by outstanding Polish authors are banned, and the universities and secondary schools are closed.

Of particular interest is the chapter devoted to the underground struggle. In that struggle the Poles have the long and heroic tradition of their fight against czardom. In the manifesto of freedom issued by the underground movement as early as November, 1989, the objectives and aims of the movement are outlined. According to it, the decisive factor in the new Poland will be “the great popular masses, the peasants, the workers, and the intelligentsia.” The Polish underground movement feels itself inseparably linked with that of the rest of Europe and of the world. An eloquent evidence of this spirit of community and unity is found in a statement of one of the most important underground papers, The Tribune of Peoples: “An independent Poland is impossible unless France, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, and Holland are also restored to their independence. The whole problem of Europe must be solved. The problems of the European nations add up to the common European problem. There can be no return to prewar Europe.” The same realization of the community of the struggle is evident in the opening lines of the “Manifesto to the Peoples of the World” issued by a secret convention of representatives of 2,000 groups of workers, peasants, and intellectuals from all parts of the country: “Our struggle, like the struggle of other oppressed nations, is carried on by united effort to a common end: freedom and social justice in our own land and a better order in Europe.”

Such is the trend of mind of the oppressed and subjugated, but unconquered peoples of Europe. As is amply proved by the material presented in the books under discussion, militant, revolting, underground Europe is an indisputable reality. The belief expressed by Dr. Leonhardt that “no government can prevail for long which is inspired by such principles as those of Nazidom” is the common conviction of all those who are temporarily crushed under the Nazi heel. The conqueror sees nothing but hatred and contempt around him and the “rhythm of liberty,” described by Mr. Riess, is heard unceasingly.


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