THE REICH AND THE GERMAN MINORITIES
AN ADDRESS BY MR. KLAUS MANN
Chairman-Dr. F. A. Gaby
Thursday, February 9, 1939.
THE CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen of The Empire Club: It is my privilege today to introduce to you an outstanding literary man, the son of the famous writer, Thomas Mann. Klaus Mann is equally brilliant in his chosen career, and at an early age published several plays and several novels, among which was "The Symphonie Pathetique," which was published in London in 1937. At the present time he is writing another book and I understand it will be published shortly, which he is calling "The Escape to Life," dealing with the refugees of the various countries in Europe. When still under twenty, Mr. Mann lectured to German students in American Universities on the life and cultural progress of the day. However, his more important contributions are in the field of literature and journalism on the present German situation. In 1933 he took up residence in Amsterdam, a voluntary exile from the Third Reich, and up to this time he has been editing in that city the publication, "Die Sammlung," which voices the culture and art of the German exiles.
Mr. Mann is eminently qualified to deal with the subject of "The Reich and the German Minorities," through his intimate knowledge, close study and understanding of the political and social problems in Germany, having been born and having lived there the greater part of his life. I understand that in the future he intends to make his home in the United States and we no doubt will hear from him at other times. I have pleasure in introducing to you today Mr. Klaus Mann. (Applause)
MR. KLAUS MANN: Gentlemen, I am not a politician, but an author. Now, one of my most successful author friends happens to be Der Fuehrer and Chancellor of the Reich at this moment. His entertaining biography, "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle"), is much more popular in Germany than the cynical war novel. I think its circulation is even wider than that of the Holy Bible. I don't want to go into the question of whether the many millions of Germans who read Mr. Hitler's masterpiece are really voluntary, and whether all of them really enjoy their reading. To read books doesn't mean pleasure always, but to read certain books is important. It means instruction.
I am not inclined to overrate the literary qualities of Mr. Hitler's book. I think his style is quite poor. As a literary critic, I am forced to say it is quite rotten style and quite repulsive to anybody who knows anything about good German prose, but still the book is terribly important. Everybody who is interested in the future of Europe, which actually means in the future of the world, should read it. Its language, although slightly confused, is just clear enough. Without any false shame or modesty the author tells us everything about his political beliefs and convictions. More than that, he includes very significant statements concerning his political or demagogical tactics and, above all, we learn the whole truth and nothing but the truth about his political aims, his hopes, his plans, his ambitions. "Mein Kampf" really contains the Fuehrer's political programme in its entirety. Of course, it is only the complete edition of "My Struggle" you should be interested in. You couldn't get very much out of a version arranged for foreign readers. In the French edition of "Mein Kampf," for instance, the most fanatical outbursts of hatred against France are carefully omitted. What a pity for the French readers, who really should know what Hitler is actually thinking about them, and what he is preparing against them!
However, one of the main points of Hitler's policy, one of the basic principles, expressed again and again in "Mein Kampf," is the following: "All the countries where Germans are living must belong to Germany." We would ask the question, "Well, who is really German? What is German?" Herr Hitler would answer in his brazen and impressive manner, "Everybody is a German who speaks the German language."
If everyone speaking French would be a French person and should belong to France, for this very reason the Government of France would have the moral and political duty to send troops to Belgium, to the French part of Switzerland, or into French Canada, in order to liberate this unhappy, suffering people.
All the English-speaking people, including the Americans, should belong to one country, should be one nation, and Spain should defend once more its eternal rights in South America and in Mexico.
Herr Hitler doesn't care, however, that the order of the whole world would be disturbed and ruined if other countries, other leaders would accept his dynamic principles and would imitate his dangerous tactics. What he wanted was the greater Germany. Well, he has got it. He liberated Austria and the Sudetenland. Is he satisfied with his recent successes? Not at all. He demands the still greater Germany, the greatest Germany, the Reich which would embrace part of Switzerland, Holland, Lithuania, Russia and Denmark. There are German-speaking people in all of these countries. As a matter of fact, there are German people and German-speaking people dispersed all over the world. But Hitler doesn't want merely all of them to return to their Homeland. On the contrary, he prefers to have them abroad as active agents and propagandists for Nazi ideas and Nazi power. He won't allow them, of course, to become loyal citizens of a democratic state. They have to be organized Nazis, permanently watched and controlled by the Nazi officials. I think nobody seriously can believe that Mr. Hitler really loves all his sweet little German minorities like some good old dad would like his many children. He is very able to sacrifice them and to forget all about them, if necessary.
For quite a long time we didn't hear anything about the German brothers suffering in Fascist Italy-I mean the German-speaking population living in South Tyrol, which became Italian after the war. As a matter of fact they are treated there in a much worse manner than anybody was ever treated in Czecho-Slovakia. Herr Hitler doesn't seem to be very interested any longer in the destiny of these suffering brothers, since, for the time being, he is in brilliant relations with Il Duce.
For many years the arch enemy of all German Nationalists was Poland, even though there was a lot of noise about the intolerable situation of the German minorities under the Polish Government. Matters changed, however, as Poland almost became an ally of Nazi Germany for the time being. Certainly the destiny of the German minority in Poland wasn't interesting any longer to Hitler and his friends. Of course the agitation for these minorities made it convenient to start when the moment seemed fit and favourable to the Nazis. The Nazis can wait. They demand the spontaneous outburst of the popular fury of the German people just when it is convenient to them. They are very patient. That is one fault they have got, but they never forget what they really want.
There can't be any doubt that Hitler wants the Alsace, that he wants Strasbourg. No agreement he may make with France could ever change his determined mind. He has decided to get Strasbourg, sooner or later, but he is patient. He has his agents in Alsace, as he has them everywhere. They are not supposed to make too much noise just now because Mr. Ribbentrop is flirting with Monsieur Bonnet, which does not mean that his agents have stopped their activity. He never will renounce the part of Switzerland or Holland, of Lithuania or Denmark where the population is partly German. His agents are more careful or more impertinent, depending on their instructions, and their instructions depend on the political situation of the day, but his aim is always for the good of the greatest Germany.
The whole problem of minorities is nothing really, nothing but a pretext to aid the Nazis to attack other nations. Hitler, for instance, decided to destroy, to ruin Czecho-Slovakia, the last truly democratic country in the European East, the last faithful ally of France in the East. The suffering Germans in the Sudetenland were just a wonderful excuse for him to attack Czechoslovakia which seemed to him the last bulwark against the Nazi regime in the European East.
The minority slogan was nothing else but a slogan, but it was good enough to plan the shameless military intervention of Germany in Spain. Last summer, when I spent several weeks in Barcelona I interviewed some German pilots who had become prisoners of the Spanish Government. I asked these two fellows, "Well, do you really think it was a fair thing to do to bomb innocent women and children who hadn't done anything to you or to your compatriots?" Their answer was very significant. "Well," the fellows said, "we had to protect the German minorities in Spain against Bolshevism dangers." And they were sincere, they really believed it.
The German minorities. Hitler would be in quite an embarrassing situation without them. He wants to annex a country and he declares that the German minorities are suffering. "I have to liberate them." Napoleon had still to fight when he was eager to get some piece of land. Hitler is "liberating minorities," which is so much less dangerous and so much more convenient. It is questionable whether or not the Germans-peaking people in other countries really so very keenly desire to become citizens of the Third Reich. Do they really expect they would be happy in Nazi Germany? Well, if they do they will be bitterly disappointed. As a matter of fact, those who became German citizens during the last year are bitterly disappointed by now. In Vienna almost everybody is now deeply depressed--even people who used to be ardent Nazis under the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg era. It is now that they begin to realize what Naziism really means. Austria never belonged to the Reich. It was never part of the Reich. It would be more accurate to say that Germany, in a certain historical period, was a part of Austria when the Hapsburgs were ruling. The Austrians never liked the Prussians very much. On the contrary, the Austrians always despised the Prussians.
Now, Vienna, the old, proud city, has become something like a little provincial German place. It is understandable that a suicide wave is going through Austria. In the horrible days and weeks following March 11, 1938, the terrible work done in Vienna was much more cool, much more thorough than the work done in the Reich. Five years of experience had shockingly improved the technique of horror, of terror. Moreover, the seizure of power in Austria in 1938 was far better prepared than in Germany in 1933 by the Nazis. There was a selected list of names and doings of all the people opposed to the Nazi regime, and it must have been horrifyingly complete. Nobody was spared, not even Frau Dollfuss, the widow of the Chancellor, and Sigmund Freud, the most distinguished citizen of Vienna, who had to go into exile.
I know the "liberated" people of the Sudetenland are going to have the same dreary experience as the Austrians. Observers who have visited this country after its annexation by Germany confirmed the fact that there isn't a great deal of enthusiasm. It is a strange and utterly significant fact that all those Sudeten Germans who left the Sudeten after annexation by Germany were forced to return, were forced to become German citizens. They would have preferred to have remained Czech citizens--yes, even to live without any passport, rather than to become subjects of Nazi Germany. It seems the Nazi authorities realize this. That is why the Nazi officials didn't allow them to decide by themselves to which country they wanted to belong. Even the Treaty of Versailles was more human, more liberal. It gave the possibility to everybody to choose his citizenship, at least. The Germans living in the Alsace or in Poland were allowed to return to Germany and to take with them everything they possessed, if they wanted to do so. Many, many thousands of German refugees from the Sudetenland, faithful Catholics, Protestants, Jews, democratic Socialists, have to face now, as German citizens, concentration camps or even death. I wouldn't even be surprised to learn that Mr. Henlein, the Nazi Fuehrer of the Sudeten is disappointed by now. His real ambition was to become something like a Fuehrer. Well, now he is nothing-just some little German official without any influence or national power. That is not exactly what he expected. Everybody has to be deeply disappointed in the long run who tries to come to good terms with the Nazis, to make friends with the Nazis by making concessions to them.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, for instance, Cardinal Innitzer, hoped to save Catholicism in Austria by making friends with the Nazi regime, while his distinguished friend, the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, condemned Nazidom with stronger expressions than ever at the meeting of the Bishops in Fulda, and while the relations between the Vatican and Berlin had reached a point which was almost an official break, the Archbishop of Vienna went so far as to give his greeting "Heil Hitler" with outstretched hands. Do you think he was successful with this kind of careful tactics? He was insulted and injured by the Nazis. He became a martyr, a victim of Nazi terror, just as was his great and distinguished colleague in Germany, Cardinal Faulhaber, and the Protestant Neimoller.
The sad case of the Austrian priest should be a serious warning to several European statesmen, who, by the way, had plenty of other warnings of this kind before them. Nobody should forget this one most important, most decisive fact. The Nazis are not fighting against certain political, religious or racial groups. They are and will always remain the deadly enemies of our whole civilization. It is indeed human dignity itself they want to destroy. They despise the great spiritual heritage of Greek and Roman antiquity and of Christianity. In short, they despise these traditions which are really the foundation of the culture of the white race. The Greek conception of human dignity includes the conception of freedom and education. Only free and thinking human beings deserve the name "human beings." Christianity, for its part, has brought us the conception of sympathy and neighbourly love. Christianity teaches "Ye .are all equal in the sight of God. Humanity is one family. Since all human beings are children of God, and since the Saviour, Jesus Christ, died for them all." What then are the ideas most hated by the Nazis? The ideas of freedom and the ideas of sympathy and neighbourly love. The Greek and the Christian idea-the two great European ideas par excellence. The concept of democracy is a heritage of Roman and Greek antiquity and is compatible with Christian ideality. As a matter of fact, democracy is nothing but the logical political manifestation of Christianity. The racially pure state which the Nazis preach, the thought of one chosen and elected race, in this case the so-called Nordic race, is un-Christian and un-European. (Applause)
That this idea should be propagated and believed by the Germans, just as Germans, is funny to boot, for the Germans actually belong to a very mixed race. The Swedes, the Norwegians or the Danes would have had better reason to be proud of their pure blood of their race. If the German Fuehrers would be at all consistent they would say the world should belong to the Scandinavians, since they represent the Nordic race, but none of them has ever given utterance to such an idea. Quite the contrary, they say the Scandinavians too must belong to Germany because they are Nordic, for the ultimate aim of all Nazi ideality is that everything that is Nordic and Germanic should belong to Germany. Everything which is not Nordic or Germanic should be ruled by Germany.
No civilized person, of course, could come to any sort of understanding with people who harbour such ideas. No one can as much as carry on a discussion with them, nor would anything be gained by a discussion. This idea of the Nazis prevents any kind of a profound discussion. Finally, they refuse to give credence to any intellectual argument. The only thing they believe in is brutal force and actual power. There is no possibility to come to terms with them or to convince them. The only possible manner to gain any ground against them is to be neither weak nor fearsome, but strong and fierce, though civilized.
The one German minority which really needs and really deserves the sympathy and the active help of the world is the German minority opposition to Hitler. The Fuehrer does not represent the nation. The other Germany, the better Germany, the Germany of the good, great tradition is still alive. We just called it the German minority, and still we have certain doubts if this calculation is accurate, if it is fair altogether. However, the minority in question happens to be a highly important one. Maybe it is a minority, maybe it isn't a minority any longer, but has become a majority for quite a while, embracing the most various, the most different elements of the nation, intellectuals and working men, aristocrats and socialists, conservatives and pious Catholics, Jews, and pious Protestants. All of them have to keep silence for the time being. All of them are going through a very hard and cruel school. They begin to understand how precious liberty is after they have lost it. They didn't appreciate, they didn't love their liberty enough as long as they had it.
The Weimar Republic was given to the Germans as a result of the consequences of the military defeat. It never was really popular among the Germans and they never had enough self-confidence. The Republic was weary. It allowed the Nazis to excite, to confuse the minds of the German people with cheap but very efficient propaganda slogans. The really mighty influential people in Germany, the men of the heavy industries, and the set around the old General von Hindenburg have backed Hitler from the beginning of his career and this set of people really called him to power. The German people didn't call him. It is often also forgotten that the last really free election in the fall of 1932 was a very embarrassing failure for the Nazis. However, the German people accepted him. They believed his promises. They hoped everything would come better now.
Please don't think that just the Jews are suffering in the Third Reich. Of course the fate of this minority is a most intolerable one, but still, the Jews didn't expect anything good from Hitler, whereas the people who trusted him, who believed him, who expected the best thing from him are maybe suffering in an even more cruel way, because they are disappointed.
One little story is quite significant. On one of the main streets of Vienna a Jew is walking, crying bitterly. He meets a man he knows slightly, an Austrian citizen, who used to be an ardent Nazi in the Schuschnigg era. This Austrian citizen says to the Jew, "Well, my dear Mr. Cohen, why are you crying? After all, they didn't promise anything to you. It is we who have a right to cry."
Don't forget, Hitler's infernal hatred against the Jewish race-the one real, honest and consistent feeling, maybe, that he has got is highly significant in 'many respects. As his arch-enemy our great fighter needed a group of people which were not in a position to defend themselves. He wanted a helpless enemy. Besides, he never meant the Jews exclusively, when he was preaching his anti-Semitic nonsense. What he really hated was their intellect, their clear and critical thinking, represented to him especially by the Jews. Shrewd and intellectual means almost the same thing to the Nazis. Hitler attacks the Jewish religion but he really wants to destroy religious faith altogether. There should be only one god, the Fuehrer, and he has to be worshipped. Conceptions like that of the Nordic race involving the honour of the nation have become idols everybody is supposed to adore. The fanatical antiSemitism of the Nazis is nothing but an especially ugly phase of their ruthless paganism. Nazidom is directed against Christianity, above all. It really means another outburst of the old Germanic hatred against Christianity, an outburst of an especially cheap and perverted sort. It is significant that among the most famous victims of the Nazi regime are Catholic and Protestant priests, as well as Jewish socialists or pacifists or democrats. The Germanic pagans persecute every kind of humanitarian tendency, religious or socialistic. It doesn't mean much difference to them.
Certain events, for instance, like the persecution of the religious and racial minorities in Germany concern the entire civilization. They concern the civilized world, even if they happen abroad. Mankind is a unit and our civilization is based on a few very simple principles and ideals, most of them belonging to the spiritual heritage of Christianity. If one nation, one government, neglects and threatens the most important, the most sacred of those principles and ideas, the dignity and safety of mankind are endangered as well. The dignity and safety of mankind are matters which concern, which should concern everybody. Everybody should react most definitely against the aggressor who attacks and threatens these principles. There won't be any peace, no peace in honour, or no peace in our time, as long as organized brutality is ruling in the centre of the Continent.
This dreadful march of Fascism could still be stopped. The democracies if they stick together are still much stronger than the totalitarian states, which actually are much weaker than most people think. They are weak because they are not really loved by their peoples. The minority of thinking people is growing everywhere. People are not really so very eager to live under dictatorship, to become subjects of the totalitarian states.
There are significant, there are interesting cases. For instance, after the fall of Czecho-Slovakia, most political observers expected that now all the small countries of the Balkans would surrender and would accept the German hegemony without any further resistance. Now, there is much more resistance in the Near East than anybody expected. Roumania makes a very definite anti-Nazi policy. In Jugoslavia, the Fascist Prime Minister had to leave only a few days ago, just after the visit of the Italian Foreign Minister. Poland seems to be likely to change its attitude toward Germany and to make a more pro-French policy again. Then, in Hungary, which used to be an ally of Nazi Germany, a sort of resistance against Nazification is growing and the leader of the Nazi Party is still in prison in Budapest. There is resistance everywhere. Holland, the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, are definitely opposed to Nazification. So is Switzerland. The Swiss people seem to be decided to keep, and if necessary defend, their own independence. It is quite remarkable how energetic they act, if one thinks how much endangered their situation is with the dreadful neighbour they have.
Just a few months ago I heard a very well known and very popular Swiss author addressing a public meeting in Zurich, uttering the following statement: "If the Germans think we should become citizens of the Reich because of our German language, well, then, we will have to speak French," and everybody applauded.
I think the Nazi slogan and the Nazi propaganda is losing its power. It cannot confuse and impress the people any longer. As a matter of fact, the most impressive slogan the Nazis have, and it is propaganda that was used with a great deal of skill, was to say, "Of course Naziism has many wonderful qualities but above all we are a defense mechanism against Bolshevism." This slogan was repeated all over the world and still it is nonsense.
Whenever you pronounce the word "Bolshevism." of what are most of you thinking? Of the complete destruction of our entire civilization, and that is exactly what Naziism means. Every dangerous or bad quality you may think Bolshevism may have, Naziism has actually got. Naziism means really the destruction, Naziism means chaos.
Goebbels says, "After Hitler falls we will have the chaos in Germany. After Hitler, the chaos." That is another Nazi slogan, repeated millions of times and believed by many foreigners--"After Hitler, the chaos."
But why? It is not at all my intention to defend the German people, to excuse the German people altogether. I know they are guilty in many respects, but still isn't it somehow insulting against this nation to think they wouldn't have any more creative forces to make a new order, to construct a new state and a better state, when this wrong state, this bad order finally have vanished?
After Hitler's fall, the new order. The German Republic, not bolshevistic, but truly democratic, on good intimate terms with the minorities abroad, without misusing them as an excuse for imperialistic aggressiveness. The peace in honour, the peace in our time-after Hitler's fall. Yes, the German Reich can once more become a good industrious, reliable member of the family of nations. All decent Germans wish and hope for this. The reconciliation of Germany with the entire world will be possible only when those Germans who are today persecuted by the Nazis, the German friends of peace, freedom and justice, the good German minority-or majority-will once more be able to live in their own country without fear and without shame.
I thank you. (Applause-prolonged)
THE CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen, we are very much indebted to Mr. Mann for his very excellent address and for the vivid picture he has painted of the position of the minorities in Europe, and the explanation he has given of the views expressed in "Mein Kampf," the intent of the author and the objectives of Naziism. We, at this distance, have little opportunity under present conditions to obtain the views of both sides of this important subject, but the address that has just been given will enable us to appreciate more clearly the difficulties encountered by the minority in being heard. We will look forward to that new Republic referred to. We are grateful to Mr. Mann for his presentation of the problem of the minorities in Europe today. We thank you, Mr. Mann. (Applause)