A WHOLE WORLD AGAINST US
AN ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR WILLSON WOODSIDE
September 27, 1934
MR. DANA PORTER, President of The Empire Club, introduced the guest speaker, MR. WILLSON WOODSIDE. PRESIDENT: Lord Acton in his lectures on the French Revolution said, "It is not a meteor coming from the unknown, but it is the product of historical influences which by their union are efficient to destroy and by their division, powerless to construct." It may be, some day, that the historian, writing about the German Revolution will make some similar generalization. In doing so, however, he will have read a great many contemporary accounts of the events which we are now facing and among those chronicles he might find some personal records, written by our guest today, Mr. Willson Woodside. The historian of the future will be up against the very great difficulty of deciding, among all these various records that are placed before him, which are to be believed and which to be discredited. He will probably have to reject most of the records which are inspired by the German public of today.
We have with us today one who not only has come back from Germany as recently as this very month and has been in Germany during the events that have happened there and which are of world wide significance, but he also visited Germany regularly for the last three summers. He is a man of very acute observation, one who is accustomed by his profession to approach knowledge from the scientific point of view, so that his observations, his impressions, his conclusions will be of very great interest to us and, possibly, of very great interest to those who have to deal with this subject sometime in the future.
It is with very great pleasure that I introduce Mr. Woodside.
Mr. WILLSON WOODSIDE: Mr. President, and members of the Empire Club:
Mr. Porter has, I assure you, far over-rated the value of my chronicles of Germany and the Nazi Revolution. It has been my singular good fortune to have been able to be in Germany before, during, and after the Hitler Revolution, with a return to Canada each time for mental re-adjustment.
For these are a people without a sense of humour, and good, plain common sense. They are the people who greeted each other in the morning, during the last war, with: "Gott strafe England!"; the people who on any occasion would sing the Hymn of Hate. It could only have been in Germany, surely that a person could be locked up for six months, as a feminine friend of mine was this summer, for replying to the common salutation of "Heil Hitler!" with "Heil drei Liter!" (which means "Heil! three glasses of beer," but rhymes very nicely!)
There was a little humour about Germany in this, but it was a grim sort of stuff. Someone told me, for instance, of two brothers, Hans and Karl„ who had disappeared from home for three months. Finally a letter arrived from a concentration camp. It was from Karl. "I like this place;" it went on briefly, "the food's fine. Hans complained about conditions here; he's dead now."
Then a Blackshirt friend told me that the day after the 30th June "Clean-up," when the Bown Shirt comrades were re-appearing, somewhat shaken, on the streets, the greeting between them was not the salute and "Heil Hitler!", but "What! You still alive!"
It was a summer with plenty of opportunity for adventure. Why! the second day I was in Germany I met a man who was carrying on the Communist underground propaganda work for North Germany. We were to go out for a paddle on the lagoon the next Sunday in his Peterborough canoe, but when I arrived at his lodgings
I found he had been arrested the night before. I was told afterwards that I had just missed a second visit of the Secret Police by twenty minutes.
I met another Communist in a bookstore in Berlin--Berlin and Hamburg seemed to be full of them. We were talking together at the back of the store, pretending to thumb through some books, when a high Police officer, stern-looking, with monocle in his eye and sword by his side, walked in. My companion's heart must have risen in his throat; "Oh! A Visitor." He had to assume a calm air and go and ask the Police Officer what he could do for him. The Officer only wanted a book on Bismarck!
That day I was to have lunch with three very high Storm Troop officers, in a fashionable Berlin hotel. When conversation had opened up properly, after lunch, I told them the experience in the bookstore. It amused them heartily! Scarce a fortnight later two of these companions were shot dead, and the other placed in a Concentration Camp!
During this big "Clean-up" of June 30th I was living in one of the large German cities most affected by it, with a trooper of the Black Guards. He was the finest young German I had ever met, I think, and had actually once spent a year at College in America. On June 30th he was one of a party ordered to shoot three Brown Shirts, in a house only two doors removed.
I left this Germany of mass executions only to arrive in Vienna in time for the Nazi uprising there and the assassination of Chancellor Dolfuss. It was a mad time, with soldiers camped in the main squares, armored cars patrolling the street, policemen with fixed bayonets, even the postmen and street car conductors carrying rifles.
The curfew rang at 8 o'clock and everyone had to be o$ the streets, except with a special police permit. It is a strange sight to see a great city utterly empty and dark at nine or ten on a summer's evening.
From Vienna I went to Salzburg, to the Music Festival. It wasn't very festive; music flourished indifferently in such an atmosphere of unrest. As soon as the guests had taken their places inside the Festival Theater a cordon of police would be quietly moved up. Back and forth they would patrol, watching the neighboring windows and roofs for bomb throwers. Then as the music-goers re appeared, they would quietly melt away. While Salzburg's guests watched "Everyman" in the Cathedral Square that afternoon, I had seen a group of Nazi rebels hustled into prison only 50 yards away!
I used to love Germany very much, but I am sure that as I crossed the border the next day I looked balefully at the patrol of Black Guards loafing about Freilassing station. Perhaps that is why I had several unpleasant experiences in Munich and was finally turned out of my hotel; I might have had a chip on my shoulder. One thing I know, I would not salute, and there seemed many memorials and celebrations in Munich which required saluting. However on my last evening I met a splendid German couple, had hours of good comradeship, and made two new friends for life. I had to set myself once more to distinguish between blustering, bullying Nazism and the Germany of friendly, hospitable people, of music and fairy tales, of the Rhine and Heidelberg. It was with very mixed feelings that I left the country.
My next stop was in the Saar. It was as if the clod: could be turned back; you were once again in the Ger many of pre-Hitler days. Here was a German city, with German signs everywhere and German kiddies about--but never a Brown uniform in sight, no Dictatorship, no bullies. One thought: How lucky these Saarlanders are ! But it is likely their German blood will triumph over everything else when the Plebiscite finally comes. And so at last I came to Paris and sanity.
Enough for reminiscing; now I should like to try to interpret to you the feelings of the average little German man in this year 1934. Does he want war, and does he still support Nazism? After these twenty long years all he wants is real peace at last, some rest and security. But he is the victim of the Government's unremitting, dangerous and often vicious propaganda. It's keynote is simple, and borrowed from the early days of Bolshevist Russia: "The Whole World Is Against Us." The German Fatherland is surrounded by an international clique intent on denying it a chance to live. The world is filled now, as it always has been, with an envy and hatred of everything German„ and loses no opportunity to slander us.
To the German people as a whole,, who are taught to believe rather than to think, and to the young men in the Storm Troops especially, this seems plausible enough. Consider this sum of a lifetime's memories, related to me this summer by a Trooper of 25, a fine, clean young boy with whom I have hiked and camped in better days "My first memories, when I was five years old, are of my father marching off to war. Later, in the school, the teacher would tell us of how the whole world was united to kill little Germany. Then came those terrible years of hunger, when I was 8 and 9 and 10; it wasn't enough to fight the men in the trenches, now they were going to starve helpless women and children, too. How we hated the world then!
"I remember, when we would be out playing, seeing my little sister fall down in the street weak from lack of food. At school we could only have an hour's classes, and then half an hour's recess, because the children were so weak. At night we cried ourselves to sleep, we were so hungry.
"Then came the defeat. The soldiers straggled home dispirited, there was revolution and shooting, Germany seemed to be breaking to pieces. Now the French marched into the land, and brought coloured troops, to watch over German men and women. That is something we can never forget. Still we were hungry, but the Allies took away cattle and oxen and horses, our ships and our railway trains. They cut the Fatherland into two pieces, so that Germans had to go through enemy territory to get from one part of their country to the other.
"The Poles rushed in and tried to cut off the whole of Upper Silesia, while we were disarmed, and prevented from defending ourselves. The French came in and occupied our Ruhr. Then came the Inflation-that awful time; we lost everything, everybody seemed to lose every thing; the world had gone mad. It was worse than the War.
"For a few years afterwards we had a sort of prosperity, but it was not a happy time for good Germans. Morals became worse and worse, foreign money was buying out our industries, everyone was looking after himself, and no one seemed to care about Germany. Soon came the World Crisis, millions of Germans were thrown out of work, but still the Allies demanded Reparations. The banks crashed, Communism grew rapidly, there was fighting in the streets every night ... there was no hope for poor Germany ... Then Hitler came, and called on us young fellows to get together, to clean all this up, to develop new, fresh strength and make Germany a fine country again."
There is the driving force behind Hitlerism--defiance of the world which caused them all this. These are the feelings upon which Hitler and Goebbels play so easily with their incessant propaganda of the outside world which envies and hates them. It starts early; let me translate for you from a book which I have here, telling the "history" of how the War started; it is intended for all young Germans of 7 to 8 years old:
"Many years ago, before you were even in the world.. Germany was a rich and mighty land. Everyone had his work, his home, enough to eat. The people were happy, and proud of their German Fatherland., in which every thing was run so properly. Now around Germany there are other countries ... In the time about which I want to tell you, when everything was so fine and wonderful in Germany, the French began to fear our cleverness, and became jealous. The English and the Russians became jealous, too.
"Often in those days the newspapers would print, 'A German has invented a new machine, which is especially good', or 'A German has built a factory, which makes things that are wonderfully fine and precise'. In the papers one could read, too,: 'The Germans have built ships which sail wonderfully, and much faster than the others'. This, particularly, made the English angry, and they said 'But we want to have the best ships!'
"And so, children, they decided that they would kill Germany. And how may, one kill a big country? you may well ask. Ah! my young ones, that is something terrible. That is what one uses war for. Truly, so it came about: Because Germany was so industrious and so clever and had so many great and famous men, who made all kind of inventions, and created many beautiful things, because of all this, our neighbors became anxious, and said: 'We won't bear that Germany should be finer than we. We won't stand her being richer and greater and happier than we. We must kill her!'
"So all around us they brought their soldiers and cannons, and were all ready to shoot in on Germany. But our German soldiers were fine and brave; quickly they hurried to the borders, and never let the enemy in. They shot--which was all they could do--on the French and the English and the Russian and all the rest who had banded together to bring Germany down...
"Oh! Our soldiers were brave ... For, children, the enemy brought ever more and more help. The Italians fought with them, and the Americans, and when these weren't enough to conquer Germany, they brought blackmen and brownmen from every corner of the world... But our soldiers built trenches, and never gave in an inch. They won many battles, and never once let the enemy in the Fatherland.
"Then a terrible thing happened. A bad spirit went about Germany, whispering in people's ears: 'Do you want to keep on fighting this war forever? You can never conquer so many enemies! Do you want to go on hungering forever, and sacrificing your husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers?... You are guilty of this war; you started it. Therefore you must stop it.' That was a lie, of course... But many poor tired Germans believed it... And when the Bad Spirit made them stop, they received many fine promises, but afterwards only terrible misfortune.
"Then the enemy went about the world shouting 'We have won'; you Germans are guilty; therefore you must give us...."
From this point on, our fabled history becomes quite heart-rending. There is however a bright spot some pages further on, where it has occasion to mention the Fanco-Prussian War. 'Those were glorious days! When the Germans pushed the French back in a brilliant campaign, and marched into the capital city, Paris.'
Now you can better understand perhaps why Germany's youth, nurtured on such stuff, look upon Hitlerism as a great "freedom movement". Hitler is to them the Liberator of the Fatherland from Versailles. Forgotten and carefully buried from them is the fact that Stresemann secured the early evacuation of the Rhineland, Bruening the end of Reparations, and the Papen-von Schleicher regime the admission of German equality.
It is easy to understand how young people would be affected by such appeals to their emotions, but let me tell a story of how older people take it in too. A fortnight after the 30th June Clean-up I was in Upper Silesia making a study of the division of the territory under Versailles; I wrote an article entitled: "The Crying Injustice Of Upper Silesia." One evening I was sitting in a sort of Y.M.C.A. restaurant, having dinner with half a dozen gentlemen whom I had met about the place. The talk drifted in a friendly way from Canada to the N.R.A. and finally ended up on the partition of their Upper Silesia. Just at this point Goebbels was announced on the radio, and began a poisoned attack on the foreign press "who come here, ingratiate themselves, enjoy our hospitality, then go away and write a mountain of lies." Before he had began this attack it seemed that I had formed half a dozen new friends; now our little Entente was smashed. My "friends" shuffled uncomfortably in their chairs and busied themselves lighting up cigars, with not a word more to say. There was nothing for me to do but to excuse myself and go.
The Nazis' main purpose in this campaign is to prepare the moral basis for re-armament. Properly speaking, this is already done. For the past year maps like the one I have here, showing all Europe in arms, ranged against a defenceless Germany, have hung in schools, in newspaper offices, in empty show-windows. There is one showing how the aeroplanes of Germany's neighbors menace her, another showing all the cannons of Europe pointed at her. Of course Germany is shown to have none of these.
I have here a poster which I brought from Berlin, showing the French airfleet darkening the sky over Berlin; the city is red with flames. I witnessed a realistic and terrifying demonstration to a large crowd at an Exposition, of the effects of modern incendiary and gas bombs. Is it any wonder that Germans back the Government's re-armament, demanding that they, too, must have "security"?
For any difficulty which the Nazi leaders have in their commercial relations or foreign policy, the same simple formula of a "whole world against us" is used. In no field has it been more used than in foreign trade. The Jewish boycott, the growing difficulties in penetrating foreign markets, the clearing arrangements used to make Schacht pay his commercial debts, the falling gold reserve-each and all I have seen laid to the "ring of enemies which would deny us a chance to live." Most particularly the raw material shortage is played us as an attempt by the world "to bring Germany to her knees."
It was after the 30th June mass execution of old Party leaders that Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister and Press Dictator, manufactured the wildest rumours and stories of the machinations of a certain unnamed foreign power. The murdered men, it was said, were about to sell Germany out to this power. I remember sitting in a third class railway compartment shortly after the terrible affair and hearing a travelling salesman enlarging on these rumours.
He was telling three women passengers that he had "heard"--and he touched his Party badge--that if Roehm and his associates had succeeded in their "revolt", that France was to have had the Ruhr, Poland was to get East Prussia, and Czecho-Slovakia a piece of Upper Silesia. The women were wide-eyed, and one said fervently: "Ah! how much we owe to the Leader. How the man sacrifices himself for his people! If we would all only sacrifice like that!"
It was later on, in August, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of German, Mobilization for the War, that the Nazi leaders had a priceless opportunity to use this propaganda. For as you have seen, according to Nazi history teaching, Germany had no responsibility for the World War, which was caused rather by the envy of German cleverness bringing her neighbors upon her. The German of course does not want to believe that he started the War; he would much rather accept these new stories.
This propaganda will play a very important role in domestic developments in Germany. In any predictions of the future it will be as well to take it into account. It induces the people to accept sacrifices as inevitable. It strengthens the Governments hand in their scheme to make the country self-sufficient in food supplies, and in as many raw materials as possible. They say: "You remember the starvation of the last war? Well, we are going to prevent that happening again, at all costs."
The German, people is a wonderfully patient people--almost irritatingly so sometimes--but it is scarce to be thought that they will bear forever the sacrifice in living standards which the Nazi self-sufficiency, war-preparation program will entail. This Nazi policy is ruining Germany's export; why! there are even Nazis in the highest posts who say that Germany doesn't want any export.
The facts speak otherwise. Seventy-five years ago here was an agricultural population in Germany of 22 millions; it supported a city population of 15 millions. Today Germany has the same farm population of 22 millions, and apparently has not room for appreciably more, and the urban population has grown to 43 millions. These extra millions were justified, and supported, by a growing industrial life, and an increasing export trade. Without it Germany cannot buy the essential products which she lacks; there will be substitutes, and privation.
How much will they suffer? Can National Socialism come through the winter? They have perhaps seven-eighths of the food they had a year ago; they are perfectly organized, better now than they were in the wartime. Already grain and dairy produce is under full government control. These people are clever and courageous and will suffer. We don't know how far, but a long long way. The German, despite his technical progress and scientific leadership, has remained politically away back.
When will the break come? This year they have three-quarters of the necessary supplies, next year supposing they have eleven-sixteenths, and a month or so after something less; it is not easy to say just if or when a collapse would come. Hitler still has a great personal following-in spite of the 30th of June-who believe in the myth that he is a great, honest German. "He wants to do all he can, but he can not do everything alone," they say. He still has this large following among the people, but he has destroyed his own personal following of Storm Troops through the 30th June. That was a very significant event.
It is my belief that Hitlerism will not last through 1935 in its present form and under its present leaders. There are several strong forces in Germany today, jockeying for power. In place of the Storm Troops Hitler still has his Labour Service, most National Socialist of all forces in the country. There is the Army, three times as strong as it was a year ago. Army sentinels now guard Hitler's palace, not Storm Troopers. In all his speeches now, Hitler turns and refers to the Army. He does not exactly say: "With your permission I should like to say this," but the Army, if they are not running the show, are at least being consulted every day. (Now, this Army is much more of a force to hold Germany from falling into chaos than it is a threat to the Peace of Europe at present.) Gradually Hitler and the Army will be ruling together. First Hitler may tell the Army what to do, then after a while perhaps, the Army will tell Hitler what to do.
There is, too, always the possibility that Hitler may be removed by death. An attempt on his life was said to have taken place a week before I left.
If Hitler is removed, is it possible that the Army--which has no General of outstanding character which it could put in the Chancellor's chair--could recall Bruening, and raise up a moderate Germany again? Is it possible out of all this emotion, defiance, excitement and hatred to set up a new moderate Germany? Or will the turmoil go further in Europe?
Perhaps a German sort of Communism, such as Nazism once promised to be, will come out of this. It is very bard to predict.
However I am convinced that in the end the natural strength and ability of the German people will bring them to a better place. I have a great sympathy for the little German man, and would like to enlist yours, too, for him, if not for his Nazi leaders. Thank you. (Applause.)