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What to Do With Germany

ISSUE:  Spring 1944

Germany after Hitler. By Paul Hagen. Farrar and Rinchart. $2.00. What to Do tvith Germany. By Louis Nizer. Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. $2.50. Germany Will Try It Again. By Sigrid Schultz. Rcynal and Hitchcock. $2.50. The Next Germany. By a group of anti-Nazi Germans. Penguin Books. 25 cents. How to Treat the Germans. By Emil Ludwig. Willard Press Company, $1.00.

The question of what to do with Germany after she is defeated militarily lies at the heart of the European problem. The United Nations are facing here formidable tasks concerned with both the treatment of the Germans in the immediate postwar period and with the reintegration of future Germany in the political and economic system of the old continent. Being a cunning enemy, Germany will have to be treated with great resourcefulness, determination, and a good deal of patience.

It looks as if the people of the United Nations agree on certain broad principles of the treatment of the Nazis. No one with any sense seems to deny that the Nazis must be punished for the crimes and atrocities committed against innocent victims, or that the Nazi party organizations must be suppressed. However, unity of opinion is lacking in regard to concrete terms of the peace settlement. The governments of the leading Powers among the United Nations are reported to be engaged in the study of these problems and one can only wish that they reach a joint and united decision with as little delay as possible. A negative attitude alone is hardly sufficient. Washington, London, and Moscow owe to their people and to one another the definition of positive measures to be taken if they are to see the emergence of a world that would be commensurate with the war sacrifices and postwar promises.

In the meantime, the conditions of future peace are being privately advanced in steadily growing numbers. For instance, the Commission on a Just and Durable Peace of the Federal Council of Churches has recently advocated “curative and creative, not merely repressive” responsibilities. Ambassador Lord Halifax called for “enlightened re-education” of Germany, but he failed to enlighten his listeners as to how that re-education should be carried out. Lord Vansittart would favor a twenty-year military occupation of the Reich and the execution of the Nazi leaders. George Bernard Shaw regards the plan for the total German disarmament and for the punishment of war-criminals as “cowardly rubbish, thoughtless, impudent, pretentious, and wicked.”

In some respects, the five books referred to in this review are not so far apart from one another. Fundamentally, their authors are in agreement that Germany will try it again if she is not forced into unconditional surrender and if effective steps are not taken to limit and keep her within just proportion to her size and population. When it comes to specific methods, however, their opinions vary considerably both in premises and in conclusions.

Paul Hagen, an Austrian-born anti-Nazi, has no liking for Vansittartism. “Germany after Hitler” is a strong plea on behalf of a German democratic movement. The author makes a valiant though not entirely convincing effort to prove that there are two Germanies in unremitting conflict: one with roots deep in the democratic movements and the other of predemocratic, archaic absolutism. Hagen believes that a German revolt against Hitler is imminent and warns the United Nations not to interfere with that democratic revolution for fear of endangering law and order. When the revolution comes, there will be a shortage of leaders. The first organs of government will be hastily formed from liberated political prisoners, the underground workers and members of factory councils, surviving members of the pre-Hitler labor and youth organizations. At the beginning, a decisive role will be played by foreign interventionists. This should be reduced to a short-term occupation to be followed by “some type of joint international control” and the restitution of democratic forces with limited sovereignty. According to the author, the conflict of interests between the victorious powers will rule out dismemberment and long-term occupation. Forces which are supposed to operate toward the establishment of long-term freedom in Germany are classified rather vaguely. Among the specific issues are the restitution of the right of self-determination for Hitler’s victims as well as for Germans, eventual plebiscites for Austria and other German-inhabited regions, and German responsibility “for meeting reasonable reparations obligations.” Under favorable contingencies, postwar Germany might thus emerge with more territory than she had before Hitler’s aggression. Obviously, Paul Hagen writes as a German, pleading in substance for a soft peace.

Louis Nizer in “What to Do with Germany” has no illusions about the nature of German democratic forces. “All the powers of the German democracy were exerted on behalf of its military caste.” “In 1918, Germans would have been more impressed by a pitiless victor than by a charitable one.” Unlike Hagen, Nizer does not admit the dual character of Germany. To him the first step must be an unflinching realization that the problem is the German people as a whole, and that they cannot be separated from their leaders and military caste. The question, “What shall we do with the German people?,” can be answered by the consideration of four problems: punishment of the violators of international law, prophylactic precautions against the recurrence of German militarism, an economic and financial policy of reconstruction, and eradication by means of education of the poisonous doctrines of Pan-Germanism. Each of these four problems is dealt with in the lucid, matter-of-fact language of a lawyer. In some places the solution is too ambitious to be practicable. The author brings a novel suggestion that in addition to the national courts, two kinds of international tribunals would be desirable for dealing with the Axis war criminals. One would consist of military representatives of the United Nations, and to the other would be assigned the most important offenders from among the civilian criminals. Nizer’s “affirmative” program for German economic reconstruction includes stripping or demolishing all plants engaged in the production of war material and physical or managerial control of machine tool and other strategic industries. Mere inspection of factories could not be relied upon. Instead, the international trustees should control the permitted production at the source, approving all personnel, contracts, investments, and all foreign transactions. The problem of German re-education is most intimately connected with the eventuality of the “next war.” “We cannot rely on German self-education any more than the German self-imposed disarmament, or German self-rule generally.” The entire educational system of Germany should be scrapped and replaced by one devised by the educators of the victorious powers working together with German liberals and democrats whenever they are available. Contrary to Nizer, Miss Sigrid Schultz, the American author of “Germany Will Try It Again,” insists that “real reform cannot be imposed from without.” Actually, and in this Miss Schultz supports her views by referring to what she had heard directly from the underground workers: when victory is within reach, the United Nations should surround Germany by occupying the countries along the western and the eastern borders and within that cordon sanitaire, let the Germans fight it out among themselves. During the period of internal cleansing, the United Nations forces with air superiority over Germany would run no extraordinary risk. The author believes that in the absence of open occupation of the country, the decent German elements would have a better chance to take over governmental responsibility with a certain amount of prestige. Anything remotely resembling foreign regimentation will arouse resistance. Such resistance might simplify reclamation of power by the Nazis who might still be undiscovered but who would be no less ambitious. Sigrid Schultz’s narrative is sincere, based on personal experience in the Reich, and it may therefore appeal to many readers. However, full occupation of Germany seems to have become one of the unalterable conditions of the armistice. There may be certain advantages in abstaining from too much interference, but the United Nations’ war and peace strategy necessitates the occupation of the Reich as one of the tangible proofs of German defeat and a prerequisite of a realistic settlement.

The group of Social-democratic anti-Nazi Germans who wrote “The Next Germany” operates with arguments which are more or less similar to those of Paul Hagen. The war is not between the German and the non-German people, but between the Nazis and the anti-Nazis. Consequently, peace could be made exclusively between allies, non-Germans and Germans, both victors over the Nazi regime. The enemies conquered by these allies will be destroyed and the German people reintegrated with Europe. The authors believe, or rather wish to believe, that there is a real anti-Hitler home front in Germany despite the fact that so little has been heard of it. There is a real possibility of a German revolution, provided that no premature actions are taken in the open which would be mercilessly crushed in blood. The anti-Nazi opposition is not a mass movement and it has no coordination. The smashing of the swastika will be carried out by the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, peasants’ and block councils, and the revolutionary tribunals to be created by them. One of the immediate measures must be the arrest of all “active” Nazis. “Active” Nazis are those who hold prominent local, regional, and central offices. Trial of war criminals should be left to the Germans themselves through national courts as a means of political re-education, All other Nazis should be registered and deprived of the ordinary civic rights such as the right to vote or to hold any public office. They should also pay a special atonement tax. The authors believe that “democratic institutions of government cannot be introduced in the future Germany, unless the local processes of administration have previously been subject to democratic control.” The initial regime of the revolutionary councils, presumably not unlike those in the early period of the Russian revolution, would take care of the transition period. The most potent ally in the defeat of the Nazi regime will be the sense of impotence and frustration, the feeling of inertia and fatigue, which allegedly has already seized masses of the people. The same reaction will be the most deadly enemy of the constructive revolutionary forces as soon as the Nazi regime collapses. The re-education must be carried out almost exclusively by those Germans who lived in Germany through the Nazi rule and not by outsiders. The coming German revolution must destroy the Nazi terror machine. Above all, however, it must eradicate the economic and social roots of aggression by dispossessing those ruling classes who have been and who are the carriers of the German imperialist virus. In other words, Germany must become a socialist state, with dual administration—local self-government, combined with decentralized national government—and a planned economy. The occupational authorities should not interfere with the German revolution and they should especially refuse all co-operation with the ruling classes under the Nazi regime, Germany should remain one unit within the framework of European security. In conclusion, the authors deny that the non-German peoples of Europe should have any cause for fear that by virtue of her numerical strength and economic resources postwar Germany would attempt to acquire a position of predominance in a European commonwealth.

One may well appreciate the point of view of the authors. Nevertheless, the European peoples will make no mistake in taking every precaution against the revival of German expansionism in whatever disguise. The least they must do will be to wait to see which is which.

This is also the view of Emil Ludwig as expressed in his recent little book, “How to Treat the Germans.” Ludwig, himself a German-born emigrant, appeals to the democracies not to trust all the anti-Nazis. He would discharge probably eighty per cent of all German professors, for many of them taught Nazi ideals long before Hitler. “Their record is such that attention should be paid neither to their claims nor to their promises.” Richard Wagner’s “Ring of the Niebelungen,” a “seductive work that has spread the German ideas of world-domination more than the world is ready to admit,” should be banned from the German stages for at least fifty years. Germany should be given a new flag, preferably a plain white one. For at least five years, no German should be permitted to leave the country. This advice by Ludwig runs counter to numerous proposals of some rather naive planners who would have as many as 10,000 German students come to the United States immediately after the war to have them indoctrinated by the American democratic ideals. Ludwig is particularly bitter against the German businessmen, who helped Hitler to power and who are now busy in re-establishing in neutral countries connections with their old Anglo-Saxon friends in order to be able to resume business friendship.

In dealing with the Germans, one point was left out of consideration in these books; namely, the probability, if not certainty, that whatever terms are going to be dictated to the Germans, they will resent them. Both a hard and a soft peace settlement have their particular weakness and dangers and the enemy will try to evade or exploit them. It is, therefore, highly desirable that the preservation of the unity among the United Nations be regarded as the cardinal precondition of peacemaking. No issue connected with the fate of postwar Germany should be permitted to provide the ground for breaking that unity.


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