THE WESTERN MAIL,
February 8th, 1933
A WELSHMAN LOOKS AT EUROPE (ii)
[Click on picture for
detail -Caption reads:" What the King Conquered, the Prince Shaped, the
Field Marshal defended, the Soldier saved and united.]
GERMANY WANTS A NEW FREDERICK THE GREAT
By GARETH JONES
A crowd has
gathered in one of Bremen’s chief streets and is staring at a group of
pictures in a shop window. Two or three youngsters look with flashing eyes
at the scenes depicted.
photograph is of Mussolini-stern, with firm jaw. The German boys look at
one another, nod, and say: “That’s the kind of man we want here.”
photograph shows thousands upon thousands of Nazis meeting in Danzig in their
khaki uniform, carrying red banners with the swastika upon a white circle in the
middle. "Danzig shall remain German” run the words underneath.
“Thirteen years ago Danzig was torn from the Fatherland by the brutal Treaty
of Versailles.” The youngsters, I can see, are burning with indignation
when they look upon that scene.
photograph depicts French soldiers dragging a German policeman through the
streets of a German town. French cavalrymen are riding alongside, some of
them smiling scornfully. Underneath the photograph are the words: “The
attack on the Ruhr ten years ago. A despicable blot on France's honour. Germany,
youngsters look at each other, and one says: “To think that we Germans have
stood that disgrace for thirteen years! But we will stand it no longer.
Hitler will bring us honour again.”
reflects the feelings of a large part of Germany. The period of patient
waiting and of submitting to insults, the Germans feel, is at an end. Of
this passionate desire for equality of status and of this hatred of a
subordinate position in Europe I was soon to have proof, because ten minutes
after the train had steamed out of Bremen station towards Hanover and Leipzig I
entered into conversation with two German ex-soldiers. One of them was
pale and excitable; the other was a former sergeant-major, stout, tall, with a
red, scarred face.
excitable German said: “Germany can no longer suffer the disgrace it has had
ever since the Socialists stabbed us in the back in 1918. We were betrayed
then. That’s why we lost the war. The Republic has been the curse
of Germany. But I have kept my old Imperial flag, and it’s waiting for
the day when it will be unfurled and we can save Germany’s honour, which has
been trampled under foot.”
sergeant-major broke in: “Quite right. The day is bound to come. I
was in the war on the third day. I went through Belgium for Imperial
Germany. It was all in vain because of the traitors in Germany who have
ruined everything- those Socialists, who have no feeling for the Fatherland.”
“So you want a
Monarchy again ?“ I asked.
they both said.
?” I asked.
sergeant-major puffed at his cheap cigar and meditated. “No. He should
have gone out with the fleet in November, 1918, and died like a man. No.
Not the Kaiser.”
Crown Prince?” I asked.
“No, not the
Crown Prince. He had too good a time behind the lines while we were in the
front trenches. It will be a long time before we get a Monarchy, but
it’ll have to come some day. It will have to be another Frederick the
gave me a clue to the feeling in Germany today. Frederick the Great, the
Prussian King who struggled against almost all the powers of Europe in the
eighteenth century and built the military system of Prussia, is now the hero of
Attitude Towards Britain
The Germans feel
that when they are surrounded by the French, the Poles, and the Czechs, and have
their army reduced to 100,000 men, their honour and self-respect have
disappeared. They bear no personal rancour against Britain, but their
feeling against France, Poland, and also America, is often violent.
The pale German
said: “The British were honourable enemies and we respect honourable enemies.
But the French and the Poles have insulted us ever since the war and treated us
like insects. And the Americans, too. What right had they to put
their paws into the war in 1917 when it had nothing to do with them?”
conclusion that the two ex-soldiers came to-and the fellow-travellers in the
compartment nodded and muttered consent-was: “We must and we will again have a
big army, so that we Germans can hold our heads high again.”
That is what
national-minded German men are thinking. What of the women? I was
soon to learn one widely-spread point of view, for the train had come into
Hanover and I had to change for the Leipzig train.
The Good Old Days
compartment came a big, strapping woman in home-spun tweeds. “An
officer’s wife,” I said to myself. Almost her first words were: “We must
have big army. As a mother and as the wife of a landowner, I say that the
youth Germany is going to destruction. The young people have no
discipline, and it’s discipline we want. We will have the old army back
again. Let the lads earn only few-pence a day, as they used to in the good
old days before the war. We cannot afford to have our youngsters idle upon
the street. The Army would take half a million away from idleness.
“Then we people
who breed horses have to suffer because the young people, not having been in the
Army, know nothing about horses. Our Hanover horses are famous and have to
be specially handled, very quietly treated. But they are being, spoilt
because the youngsters have not been in the Army and thus know nothing about
horses. We must have the Army again.”
It is not only
the Nationalists who want a big Army in Germany, but also the Socialists.
I recalled a conversation with a former Cabinet Minister, a Socialist, who had
stated that a large Army was essential for Germany. He feared the
Reichswehr (the present professional Army of 100,000 men). “It is a
danger. It gives twelve years’ training and after that its soldiers get
preference everywhere. It also has too much political power.”
The Private Armies
large Army is a force for national unity. Germany is now split into
contending private armies which hate and attack each other. The Nazis
shoot at the Communists and vice versa. The Catholics hate the Protestants
and the Prussians loathe the Bavarians. If we had an army these would live
together and learn to get on with one another.
A large army
would be a force for peace. Today the army for German youth is a romantic
ideal. If the young people were grilled and cursed at, if they had to
sweat and have blisters, they would soon be against militarism.
Germany is bound
to have a great army again, I thought, as the lights of Leipzeig appeared and
the train entered the largest station in Europe. What effect would that
have on the peace of Europe and of Wales? The outlook seemed dark.