HITLER HOLDS ALL EUROPE
AN ADDRESS BY PERCY JAMES PHILIP
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Sanderson.
Thursday, October 23, 1941
MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Gentlemen: Our speaker, Mr. Percy James Philip, is no academic arm chair newspaperman. As you know, last year he escaped only by a few ticks on the clock from being killed when Cambrai station was bombed; and then the very next day he again escaped with his life, only because when he was going to be pulled out of a train as a suspected parachutist invader he insisted on having time to put on his boots.
For twenty-three years he was in France. For twenty-one years he was the French correspondent of the New York Times. After the fall of France he came to Canada, and is now in Ottawa as the representative of that great newspaper. It would be a fair thing to say that what Mr. Philip writes in the New York Times not only influences American opinion and Canadian opinion directly, it also influences those people who in their own turn influence public opinion. The New York Times is not merely read on this continent, it is cabled abroad, and it is quoted and used even in the enemy countries themselves.
The Empire Club of Canada therefore feels that it is particularly fortunate today in having Mr. Philip come and talk to us. His subject: "Hitler Holds All Europe." Mr. Percy James Philip. (Applause.)
MR. PERCY JAMES PHILIP: Gentlemen: When I had the honour to address your Club eleven months ago,
I began my speech by saying: "I am sure we can win this war". But having said that I went on to qualify my statement in this way: "It is however going to be a long, very grim business. Nobody should take it for granted that we will win. We are not engaged in any little war. This is one of these major earth movements which shake humanity into new patterns. It will leave no man's life unaffected. If we lose, there will be an end to law and liberty in the world as we have known them, as there was when the German hordes swept down on the Roman Empire and plunged Europe into the Dark Ages".
At that time, I think, some of you felt that I was taking a gloomy view. It was almost heresy then to use such a phrase as "if we lose". Although France had been defeated, our gallant airmen had just beaten back the enemy attempt to secure the mastery of the air over the Channel. Our columns were pushing along the Lybian coast, past Bardia and Tobruk, towards Bengasi and Tripoli. The Greeks were putting up a splendid resistance against the Italians. In the United States Mr. Roosevelt had just been re-elected for a third term, and his election gave rise to hopes which were perhaps exaggerated.
Finally, Canada was beginning to get into her stride in armaments production, and the Commonwealth Air Training scheme was beginning to pour out air crews in such steady stream as to assure that we would soon be able to take the offensive in the air.
Some of you felt that we could afford to be optimistic. That was a year ago. I stand where I did on the statement: "We can win this war". I have as yet seen no reason to change. Where are we now?
Let us consider the credit side of the situation first. We have held the sea. That is much. It is magnificent. During the last few months, and especially, for one reason or another, since the American patrol of the Western half of the Atlantic was begun, our shipping losses have been considerably less. Our convoys with their unbeatable sailor-men cross and recross the ocean in such relative safety as to assure the constant supply of food and ammunition to Great Britain. The Pacific and the Indian Ocean have been, for the present, rid of raiders. We are building up great forces in the Far and the Near East. After some agonising days-perhaps the most agonising ever lived through-by the British Admiralty-(what days and nights they must have been, with Winston Churchill constantly barking down the telephone: "Get her") we "got" the Bismark. It was nip and tuck, with everything we had, Catalinas, destroyers, air-craft carriers, submarines, cruisers and our newest battleships all out against that great and gallant enemy ship. If she had not been sighted, shadowed, challenged by the Hood, chased, lost, caught again, crippled and finally sunk, there is no doubt that the Bismark would have raided your Canadian coast, bombarded Halifax, and probably sunk a dozen or more ships before she slipped home again through the northern mists to prepare for another and even stronger raid.
In the North Sea and in the Mediterranean we have taken heavy toll of enemy shipping of all kinds with comparatively little loss to ourselves. The Italian fleet has been shattered and driven back to port every time it has dared to come to battle and now it does not greatly dare. We have struck at it in port from the air as we have struck at the German ships in French ports and everywhere we could find them. On the surface of the sea we can legitimately claim to have won a steady ascendancy. I shall add that, to that ascendancy and as assurance for the future, the privilege we secured of being allowed to repair our ships in American yards has been of the greatest value. I should also like to say a word of praise for the work that has been done here.
Under the forceful guidance of your Munitions Minister, Mr. Howe, and your shipping director, H. R. Macmillan, you have begun building a grand fleet of cargo vessels. I was present at Montreal two weeks ago when the Fort Ville Marie was launched and nothing I have seen here has given me a greater thrill of pleasure, for I know what it takes to build a ship. There are 150 plants in Canada engaged in making components-and the Fort Ville Marie is only the first of a great fleet that will shortly be ploughing its way carrying food and munitions of war.
None of the immense contributions you have made to the war, none of the long-sighted policies you have followed, has seemed to me more valuable than this, for ships are the first essential if we are to hold that last outpost of liberty in Europe which our islands have become, and ships for trade will be the most important of all your war-time productions when the war is ended.
The second great achievement on the credit side has been our steady progress towards mastery of the air. There also Canada has contributed splendidly. I do not wish to detract from the enormous work that has been done in the old country--for over there, although people are apt to forget it because we don't brag very much, we are still turning out more airmen, more planes, and more of everything else, than anybody anywhere else. Yet I shall say this, that without the Air Training scheme, without the pilots and planes which you have produced and are producing here, we would not yet, and possibly never would, have been able to overtake the German production and secure that narrow margin of superiority which has enabled us to take the offensive and give back bomb for bomb and more, and to raid the enemy's coasts and cities so constantly that there at least, as at sea, we can claim to have shown the right aggressive spirit without which there can be no victory.
Incidentally, I should add that, during these summer months (and thanks largely to Germany's preoccupation in Russia) the people in England have had a little respite from bombing. They have been able to sleep with more assurance in their beds.
But, when we have said that, what more remains on the credit side except our courage and determination to go on? We have perhaps improved our position in Iran and Irak but Turkey remains an enigma. We have advanced from Cash-and-Carry to Lease-Lend in the United States but, although the Germans and the Japanese are helping us, progress towards further participation in the war is being fought there stubbornly by a well organized, very vociferous section in Congress, in the press, and throughout the country. While being thankful for what has been done and promised, we cannot yet place all our trust on what will happen south of the border. We of the British Empire must realize that we can depend only on ourselves. We have tidied up Mussolini's Ethiopian Empire but of our quick conquest of Lybia there remains only that stout-hearted outpost of Tobruka kind of Torres Vedras, an Ypres salient--a pledge which we must redeem or be unfaithful to ourselves and to these gallant men who have held it through the heat and misery of an African summer. I shall return to that issue later.
Meanwhile, let us look at the other page-the debit page. Against these credits of ours we have to admit that it is heavily charged. It is frightening. Hitler holds all Europe from the walls of Moscow to the Pyrenees. He is master of fourteen formerly independent capitals. Including the vast area of Russia which he now controls and more than half of France, he rules over more than 300 million people, two-thirds of whom have been conquered-those that are still technically free, as his satellites.
I repeat: it is frightening. And what have we been able to do to prevent it? Despite her glorious resistance against the Italians and the belated, inevitably insufficient help we sent her, Greece was over-run, crushed, almost annihilated, before she gave up, by the airplanes and tanks and armored cars and swarming motor-borne infantry that Hitler poured against her the moment it suited him. He always picks his adversaries off-one by one. As was the case in Belgium in May last year, we were beaten to the punch and fought a losing battle from the outset, the battle of a light-weight against an opponent a hundred pounds heavier and in perfect training. We failed also to win the diplomatic struggle in the Balkans. Bulgaria and Rumania after Hungary, more or less unwillingly, but, nevertheless finally, threw in their lot with the Axis Turkey is still an uncertain ally.
In June Hitler attacked Russia. What excitement there was that Sunday morning! Everybody was busy revising his opinions of the Bolsheviks, many were eating their words, and some were secretly dreaming the old dream of the Russian steam-roller. For four months we have been watching the most stupendous series of battles ever fought, and watching them for the most part like a football crowd. We have been alternately elated and depressed, but because the fight was between Nazis and Communists we have felt detached. But let us look at the situation frankly. It has taken Hitler four weeks longer than he expected to reach where he is, and these four weeks may make an enormous difference, but he has conquered all Poland, the Baltic countries, and a huge slice of Russian territory and the Black Sea. The Russians have fought magnificently. They threw millions of men and enormous quantities of tanks, guns and planes into these gigantic battles. They held their ground tenaciously. They are still fighting. But even they with their immense resources in man power, in material and in spirit are near exhaustion. For God's sake let us face that brutal fact and not play ostrich any longer. Hitler has over-run Russia! He has not perhaps yet reached Moscow or taken Leningrad but he has occupied or is nearing all the richest agricultural and industrial parts of that vast country. The oil fields are only just beyond his grasp. We are all feeling a little cheered up today because Moscow has not yet been taken-but perhaps Hitler has decided that he holds enough capitals. He is after other things-oil and steel. The help that we and our friends in the United States talked about sending, and that we at least did actually send, is arriving too late. Too late, as we were in Norway; too late, as we were in France; too late, as we were in Greece. I repeat: while we and the Americans are talking about what we are going to do, Hitler has occupied all Europe from Moscow to the Pyrenees, from the Arctic to the Aegean Sea. He has conquered and occupied territory five times the extent that Germany was when the war began, and he holds it in an iron grip. He and his ally Mussolini still hold a strip of North Africa. He is pushing towards the borders of Asia -and in the Far East his Axis partner Japan is tremblingly edging towards "making a diversion" in the Pacific.
That in plain words is the debit side of the situation. Let us examine it a little closer. During these past months we have cheered ourselves daily with the headlines and the assurances of the radio commentators that the Russians were inflicting "terrible losses" on the Germans. The German material, we were told, was being used up at a tremendous rate. I hate that kind of nonsense. Why can we not be frank and truthful? Of course material was being used up--what else is it for--of course the Germans had losses--perhaps very great losses. But they have won.
Do we expect to win this war without losses? Their losses in men and material were, from their point of view, gloriously worth while. They won. We lost both men and material in Norway, in Belgium, in Greece, in Crete, in Lybia, and had nothing or next to nothing to show for it. And these Germans had both men and material to lose. While we are still counting our tanks and planes by scores and hundreds, and flattering ourselves what nice reserves we are building up, they are using theirs and building more. What booty they will get from Russia as they got from France! Let us stop talking and thinking wishfully and get it into our minds that we have still to meet on the battle-field an enemy who has conquered fourteen countries, who commands all the resources of Europe, who can send far more millions of highly trained war-hardened men into battle than we can muster, who is ingenious and tremendously hard-working, who has a real war plan and is utterly ruthless in pushing it through, and who has such a fanatic determination to win as we have not yet begun to feel or to show.
Gentlemen, you must excuse me for putting the situation in this way, brutally. As you know, I saw the defeat of France, and if I permit myself to speak to you with warmth, perhaps passion, it is because I do not wish to see my own dear country and yours and all the things that we stand for and love defeated, crushed, and evil dominant as it is in Europe.
Hitler holds all Europe. That is the central fact in the situation. We cannot get around it. We cannot talk ourselves out of it. "Ah," some of you may say, "but America is still safe. There is the Atlantic and there is the Ogdensburg agreement." That was the way we used to talk about the Maginot Line, about the Kellogg Pact outlawing war, about all these treaties of mutual assurance and protection. Where are they now?
Let me recall to you who still put your trust in these things the words of Winston Churchill: "If we fail, all fail; if we fall, all fall". He spoke these words about England, from England, in a message to the American people, and, as always, he spoke in measured well-reflected terms. Do not, I pray you, think that that statement is just oratory. It is tragically true. If these islands of ours go under, this continent of yours may not be immediately attacked, but it will surely not escape. Either you will have to fight here along your far-stretched shores or, in the tremendous upheaval and change that would follow our defeat, you will be dragged where you do not want to go. Either way-by any other way than victory-you risk ceasing to exist as a free self-governing country. The hope and pride by which you have lived and grown great would change and be absorbed and die. Canada would become like Hitler is trying to make Poland, and Czechoslovakia and so much else in Europea place on the map and not a nation.
In the present situation I consider such a hypothesis justified. We have got to prevent it becoming a reality or even near a reality. Two years ago, even one year ago, its suggestion might have seemed fantastic. But Hitler has crept nearer and nearer. Do not let us, now or later, blame anybody except ourselves. It is a waste of time. Let us pack all our emotion-that emotion that is so essential for winning the war-into fighting instead of into criticising and blaming others. I hate these people here and in America and in England who are always seeking to make an alibi for themselves out of what others do or do not do, blaming Chamberlain, the Russians, and especially the French, putting all the blame on Marshal Petain and Pierre Laval. Have we not also made mistakes? I sometimes wonder if we don't have weak sentimental Petains, crooks like Laval, and thwarted ambitious Darlans among us and next door, all waiting anxiously to climb to power through defeat. Of incompetents we certainly all have our share.
When I think of France now, I prefer not to think of the Vichy Government and that part of the country which is technically unoccupied, and is asleep, but of those scores of Frenchmen who in these last weeks have faced the Gestapo firing squads because they had the courage to try to do something to help, or were known to sympathise with those who had, by murder or sabotage, sought to do what we are doing by bombing raids, shake the nerves and resistance of the invaders. We may not approve of murder and sabotage. We may not approve of the faith in which most of these saboteurs have acted-for most of them are Communists or Russian and not English sympathisers. But we cannot refuse our admiration to brave men and we cannot hide from ourselves that their acts, the blood which they have shed and their blood poured out in sacrifice, are among the finest, most promising items we have on the credit side of this lamentable balance sheet.
It tells us that the conquered peoples, the peoples of France, of Belgium, of Holland, of Poland, of Czechoslovakia, are still on our side, perhaps more than ever on our side, in active revolt against the Gestapo, against Hitler's ideas of what is good for them, against lies and injustice and the driver's whip. All that they need is arms.
Complacently we stick a V for Victory, three dots and a dash, on our shop windows, our tramcars and our automobiles. But over there in Europe it means death to make the sign, if one is caught. Life is no milk and water business there, platitudinous and banal, with little restrictions and much talk of sacrifice. It is raw, mean, brutal, fierce, and splendid. Those people in Paris and Prague and Warsaw who are hungry and ruined but are still fighting are the real heroes--they are our allies. But what can they do? We have got to give them arms.
There are some among them-human nature is like that-who may believe that it would be better if we gave up the struggle, for then, perhaps, they think, they would
be able to reach something like a state of peace which would give Hitler a chance to experiment with his New Order, to see what he could do with it, perhaps to beat it by peaceful means. In Vichy before I left they used to talk that way about "Victory by the spirit".
But for us that is a counsel of defeatism. It is the road along which people travel to degeneracy. If we want to live we must fight. It is the law of life. It is the law by which mankind has risen throughout his rather pitiful but still passionately interesting career. Those who do not believe in themselves, in their civilization, in their religion, in their "way of life" as it is called, strongly enough to fight for it, must perish. There is no middle way, no easy way. We must_ fight and win or go under. Hitler knows that. His ideas may he mean and twisted as his life has been. They may be utterly incomplete and thwarted and cruel, as they inevitably must be in a man who has never conquered or succumbed to a woman, who has never known love and ease and gentleness. But this outcast from society, who has set out pervertedly to dominate the world, at least knows that he must fight to win or he and his people will go under. There are many strange mysterious forces at work in this war--supernatural forces--none of us yet know their real nature. We are all just groping after something. And there are many of these mysterious forces on Hitler's side. It is not without significance that he and his Alfred Rosenberg should be seeking to banish the Church, the Cross, and the Bible, and substitute for them the Nazi temple, the Swastika and Mein Kampf. I am no mystic but I sometimes feel that Hitler is being pushed by a multitude of demons and that is why he in turn drives his people like a demon.
How long can they stand it? That is one of the questions that are constantly being asked and the optimists set great store on German morale cracking. I am told that the men mutinied on the Bismark in the last hour as they mutinied on the Graf Spee. You remember how they cried "'Kamerad" in those last three months of the last war or whenever they were cornered. You remember how they whined and cringed when they were near defeat and defeated.
But this generation is a tougher generation raised in a harsh school. No sign of any crack has yet appeared and it is far too soon to count on it. We've got to fight. Even though all Europe may be seething with revolt, even though we hold the seas and keep pounding the enemy from the air, we haven't really begun to fight. We don't even know where, when, and how, we will fight. It is folly now to think we have anything like a stranglehold on an enemy who has conquered a whole continent. We've got to fight. The angels won't be on our side until we do.
Will we wait for that oft threatened invasion attempt? Hitler has promised it as soon as Russia is out of the way and he has always kept that kind of promise. I am told we are ready. Churchill has assured you Canadians that, when it comes, your men will be the first hurled into the battle, where it is most vital, where courage and skill and tenacity and ferocity are most needed. It may be on the Sussex Downs that these lads of yours will find their Vimy Ridge.
What seems certain is that Hitler will spend all winter preparing. This is our last respite. Let us make full use of it. When the attack comes it will be planned down to the last detail and pushed home with that same ferocity of onslaught as broke the French and has pushed the Russians back over hundreds of miles.
In my fantastic newspaperman's way I have imagined a parachute descent en masse on some corner of Kent, or a gas attack, as cover, while Hitler's engineers push through the last few yards of a secretly built tunnel below the Channel and Nazi tanks begin to roll out into England. It isn't impossible. Nothing is impossible or, at least, no possibility must be overlooked. We can only guess at what will be attempted and at what other schemes are afoot--in the Near East, in the Far East--schemes to divert our attention to other seas and shores, to prevent supplies of food and arms from reaching us, to spread the war to the four corners of the earth, while that pounding blow is being delivered on the heart.
I am told that our people are ready. I put the question to the British High Commissioner, Malcolm MacDonald, when he returned last week, and he answered for my own people and yours over there: "They are full of fight-eager to get at it." That is heartening to hear. There may be something in being a late starter. We take time to get worked up but we stay longer. Yet I, like you, like the English people, like your Canadians in England, have grown impatient of this waiting. I want to see us attack, with the power to attack successfully, and to take a leaf out of Hitler's book and attack at the weakest point. Again I have a plan. Tobruk, gallant Tobruk, comes back into the picture. We have largely cleared the sea and the air in the Mediterranean and we have kept supplies from reaching the enemy. Can we there, from sea and air and across the desert, make a new tremendous drive that will push the Italians and Germans out of Lybia, make all Africa securely ours, try to get the French in Algeria and Morocco on our side?
That is my dream campaign--a very personal, probably very ill-informed amateur campaign. Yet, it has such attractive possibilities. I am sure we could get a million Frenchmen to our side if de Gaulle could land, like Napoleon from Elba,--and if we could give them arms. I am sure that Italy with a vast sigh of relief would turn from her Axis associates to our side. Those gallant Serbs would leap to fight again. Oh, how exciting it is to dream! But what is the good? We must have more men, more munitions than we have even now and, above all, we must have the offensive, attacking, dominating, spirit instead of the defensive, almost apologetic, spirit we have shown until now. I repeat: more men, more munitions, more determination.
What was the witches' advice to MacBeth? "Be bloody, bold, and resolute". That is the spirit we will need to have if we are ever to win this war.
I know that you will excuse me if I have seemed a bit gloomy. I would recall to you that I saw France defeated and I know what defeat is like. I know also that it is the worst kind of mistake in war to lean back and depend on somebody else. We've got to fight. In speaking as I have, I have reverted to my Scottish Presbyterian type and preached to you the dangers of Hell fire so as to try to lead you to the green pastures. Yet I think it is far better to be pessimistic than complacent, so long as such pessimism does not become a chronic excuse for inaction. It should be administered as a stimulant and it is in that form that I offer it to you, to all who are listening and to those whose grave responsibility it is to lead us in these times.
Hitler holds all Europe. The fact is there--not to depress us, but as a challenge.
One word more and I have finished. I have not said, and I shall not say, any word of criticism of any Government, yours or mine, and I shall not try to tell you what you should do. That path is fraught with perils, even for the Canadian born. But I shall say this. The war we are engaged in is a people's war. It cannot be won by Governments without the eager support of their people. It cannot be won by the peoples unless their Governments inspire them, guide them, and drive them as well. I shall add that it cannot be won by theorists or political parties, or civil servants, or bankers, or control boards, or newspapers, or employers, or labour, alone, although many of these think that they could do and are doing the whole job. It cannot be won by words without deeds, by restrictions without creative emotion, by munitions without men.
It can only be won by all of us, all together, in a common faith and courage, helping, pushing, inspiring, fighting. This is our war; all of us, "we the people", and every one of us, will have to go all out if ever we are to save ourselves and loosen the iron fist of the man who holds all Europe.
I shall end as I began. "We can win". Whether or not we win depends on ourselves and on nobody else. May I hope that, if you ask me to speak to you again a year from now, I shall be able to give you a more cheerful message, to tell you that we are winning. And even if we have not then reached that turning point, let us keep on saying to ourselves, "we can win", and let us keep on fighting. We are not fighting just for ourselves. We are fighting for all humanity against the monster of Nazi state control, and these are the things for which we fight: our personal lives with their dreams and their ambitions, and I, who cannot now go home to my apartment and wind up my clock and then go to bed, know what I mean when I say "for our personal ambitions, our little habits and ways". I think of those millions and millions of people who have been driven from their homes, whose homes and lives have been shattered, to whom life no longer has any meaning. It is to redress that situation that we are fighting. And we are fighting for our personal lives with their dreams and their ambitious; for family life with its love and sweetness; for good laws and social order-things that don't exist in Germany, where there is only one law, one order, and neither good; for honesty and fair dealing in business,--you can't do business with Hitler; for the right of the human soul to fantasy, to poetry, to art, to beauty, to nonsense; we are fighting for hope and joy and laughter and freedom. (Applause.)
MR. C. R. SANDERSON: For many years Mr. Philip was interpreting France to the rest of the world through the columns of his newspaper, the New York Times. I still remember when last year France was such a puzzle, reading a phrase of his where he said: "Petain was inspired with a love of France; Laval was inspired with a hatred of England." It is that kind of summary that illuminates a whole picture.
At present his prime job is that of interpreting Canada to the rest of the world through his contributions to his newspaper. But in his magnificent address today he has been interpreting us to ourselves. As he spoke we could feel his shrewd analytical mind actually at work. He has driven home a lesson that we must not be beguiled by one day's news, but that we must take the long view; that it is not any question of aid for Britain, but that we are fighting for ourselves; that Hitler has in fact overrun all Europe. It may be true, as Churchill has said that next year the front will stretch from the Caspian to the Nile. If, on a fair-sized map, we spread our fingers from the Caspian to the Nile, it is just a good span; and next year the world may be divided, on that line, fighting to the very death. What does this mean to us?
Sir, you said that you might be thought almost pessimistic in what you had to say. But facing realities is not pessimism. Facing realities is the foundation for optimism. I would like to sit down right now and read through this address of yours again, quietly, with time to think about it as I read. It has been a vivid analysis of the whole position at this moment, one which we should absorb in detail and ponder over. It must have made an arresting impression, not only on your immediate audience but on everybody who has been listening on the air. For all of us I say, "Thank you, Sir", most gratefully. (Applause--prolonged.)