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What Nazi Methods Mean

ISSUE:  Winter 1942

No Other Road to Freedom. By Leland Stowe. Alfred A. Knopf. $3.00. Prance on Berlin Time. By Thomas Kernan. J. B. Lippincott Company. $2.75. Pattern of Conquest. By Joseph C. Harsch. Doubleday, Doran and Company. $2.50. Men of Europe. By Andre” Simone. Modern Age Books. $2.50. My New Order. By Adolf Hitler. Edited by Raoul DeRoussy de Sales. Reynal and Hitchcock. $1.89. The Myth of the Total State. By Guenter Reimann. William Morrow and Company. $2.75.

During the two years of the current war, American public opinion has often been confused and disoriented. Our own society weathered the Great Depression with what, viewed on any sane comparative basis, were after all only minor changes in its economic and social order. It has not been easy, therefore, for Americans to understand the origins, the implications, or the perils of the revolutionary system which has brought within its grasp so much of Europe, and which offers a fundamental challenge to other ways of life and other ideals throughout the world. Many persons, in discussing the present conflict, keep harking back to comparisons with 1914-1918, whereas it is practically impossible to appreciate contemporary issues unless one understands how much more far-reaching are the implications, and how much more portentous will be the consequences of the mighty contest in which the nations of the world are now engaged. To Americans who still think in traditional terms, the sheaf of books reviewed here will be an extremely useful means of education. It is worthwhile to read again Hitler’s speeches, collected in “My New Order,” if only to verify for oneself one’s impression of utter faithlessness, fanatic zeal, and brilliant tactical genius as the outstanding qualities of the Fiihrer; in “Pattern of Conquest,” by Joseph C. Harsch, “No Other Road to Freedom,” by Iceland Stowe, and “France on Berlin Time,” by Thomas Ker-nan, we have interesting accounts by trained observers of what Nazi methods mean; Andre Simone provides, in “Men of Europe,” a rather talky-talky background; and Guenter Reimann’s “The Myth of the Total State,” in language not free from Teutonic involvement, but none the less in a fashion more profound than any other of these books, pro* vides a philosophical background.

The first thing to be said about the National Socialist regime at war is that no one ought to depreciate its paralyzing and ruthless efficiency, or its skill in preparing the ground in advance for its conquest. Leland Stowe was in Oslo in April of 1940, when the Germans came in. Within twenty-four hours of the occupation of the capital with a bare 1500 troops, the Quisling regime had been installed in power, the press subjected to censorship, a German proclamation against the English printed and distributed, German currency forced down the throats of the Norwegians; within another twenty-four hours seven German transports were in the harbor, disembarking thousands of troops; the procedure and the organization were marvelous; and we know how soon a decisive result was achieved.

But the picture of France under conquest is even more impressive. No one of these books deals with the military campaign; but in both “Pattern of Conquest” and “France on Berlin Time” we get a clear picture of Nazi methods in plundering the subjected country with a degree of skill and refinement that makes the reparations demands of the Allied governments in 1919 look modest in substance, and abysmally inept in execution. By virtue of German paper money, forced upon the French at the rate of twenty to one, a “legal” way was found to divest the French people of whatever it suited the German purpose to take; the Bank of France was taken under German control within a month of the entry into Paris; Jewish accounts were confiscated; and these measures were only a beginning. German managers were installed in the larger French businesses; French corporations were forced to issue stock, to be snatched up by Germans; and all this was done with devilish regard for the forms of law.

Thus, in a short time the way was paved for France to become an economic province of Germany. But this was not all. Alsace-Lorraine was, of course, re-annexed to Germany, and the industries of that province were drastically expropriated; one wonders whether the inclusion of the two great industrial districts in the north, the Pas-de-Calais and LeNord, in the German military administration for Belgium, is the prelude to a Belgian-French industrial area under the direct control of the Reich.

But the German treatment of the French has been tender compared with their treatment of the Poles. Reimann gives some interesting figures, official figures, too, on the rates of compensation for Poles in the Gouvernement General in Poland. These rates are sometimes only fifty per cent of the rates for Germans; they are, on the average, perhaps, two thirds; they never rise above three quarters; and they shed a good deal of light on the kind of “collaboration” that the Germans are likely to expect from those who come under their iron heel. Reading them, and reflecting again on German rule in France as pictured by Kernan, on Leland Stowe’s account of affairs in Rumania and in Greece, on the recent reports that come from Yugoslavia, one finds some reason to believe the assertion that the conquerors have already failed in reconciling the conquered to their rule.

But there is a second deduction to be drawn from these volumes, a deduction fully as significant as any concerning the ruthlessness and efficiency of this new revolutionary power. Can it stop? Can it organize peace as it organizes war? Guenter Reimann, who deals with the subject at greater length than any of the other authors cited above, is fairly clear that the thing cannot be done. “The transformation of the industries of Western and Central Europe into one State trust, directed by the General Headquarters in Berlin, with Eastern and Southeastern Europe as an impoverished agrarian hinterland, deplenished of its foodstuffs in order to feed the biggest army in history, makes the autocratic dictator a prisoner of the machine he has created. . . .” And again, on a European scale the Nazis are now repeat-ing the policies they started in Germany. Their plan for transforming the economic structure of Europe, if successfully carried out, is destined to create a military machine so large that Europe will be unable to provide for its economic needs. Thus, should the Nazis conquer and hold Europe, they must inevitably involve themselves in a further aggressive and expansionist policy. On a wider scale they are imitating the policy of Napoleon, whose armies lived to a great extent on the countries they conquered. Napoleon’s misfortune was that he always needed more “lebensraum for the mere support of his army, and so could not limit his military aims. Even more than Napoleon, the Nazis will be unable to satiate their hunger for foreign conquests.” These words were written before Adolf Hitler initiated his attack upon Russia, but they are given added point by the campaign in the East; and while there is no reason to give to them the validity of dogma, they are the views of a thoughtful and relatively objective student of the Nazi system. There are people today who talk about a negotiated peace; do these persons think Hitler would or could give up his conquests; and do they think that if, by “negotiation,” he were left in control, that there would be an end to his necessities?

One other impression becomes strong, and yet stronger, as one reads these various volumes. It is that the defense against National Socialism has to be made also in fields other than those of arms. It is Hitler himself who teaches us this. He boasts of positive exploits in the field of re-employment, in the democratization of German ways of life; and in one of his speeches he states a truth that is compelling when he declares that an economic system that does not work is no economic system at all. The history of France, too, in those painful years that led up to the war is full of lessons. We need not and should not be misled, even under the heaviest pressure of events, into imitating the gross violations of hut

man dignity that make up part of the doctrine of National Socialism. But we need not think that we can look upon it through the lenses of disgust and hate alone. If France, in 1940, went down before the legions of Hitler, this may have been the result, in part, of the purely technical superiority of the German military machine. But behind this fact there lay the disorganization of French opinion and French effort. And the evils that France failed to avoid are all too clearly marked. Pacifism was one of them—the comfortable belief that war was unlikely, if not impossible—or the equally corrosive doctrine that war was a greater evil than submission could possibly be. Class division was another; it made united action impossible, and sapped the authority of the democratic system itself; that class division was equally the responsibility of a labor group that could not gear its aspirations to the realities of industrial statesmanship, and of a capitalist class that was timid, inefficient, and bourbon in its attitude towards change. Party maneuvering was another; the pestiferous spirit of partisan advantage dominated action when what was needed most was unity.

Americans read about these things, and think, perhaps, how superior they are to such weaknesses; but the omens of the day are not all favorable, and the times call less for complacency than for self-correction. For in the presence of this formidable power across the Atlantic, a challenge arises more compelling than any other of our generation. Out of the old order, which, as Guenter Reimann so truly says, will never return, Hitler hacked and hewed his way by the prostitution of individual intelligence to the service of the state, and by the creation of a voracious military machine whose immediate product was full employment, whose objective is plunder, and whose success is the promise of a better life for the German people. What is America’s formula? Will we find a better way? Will we be strong enough, tolerant enough, united enough to use free intelligence instead of propaganda; will we know how some day to build for peace as Hitler built for war in a world organized on some more rational and generous principle than that of plunder; will we be able to organize our great industrial machine not through coercion, but through co-operation? Will we have the opportunity to do these things? Are they possible at all in a world where this ruthless power exists, unchastened and not yet satiated? Or is the defeat of National Socialism the necessary prelude, if not the certain promise, of a better era? Americans who read these six volumes will, I think, be likely to answer “Yes” to this central question of our times.


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