THE NEW GERMANY
ADDRESSES BY COUNT VON LUCKNER AND PROF.
VICTOR LANGE, PH.D.
Tuesday, November 29, 1932
LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, President, introduced the speakers.
COUNT VON LUCKNER : I am happy and delighted to see you. I am a sailor, and I am not a great speaker. I am here on a mission of goodwill, to destroy ill will caused by the war, and get closer relations and better understanding. (Hear, hear.) When a boy of thirteen, I ran, away from home because I had difficulty in passing examinations in school. My father wanted me to become a lieutenant, but my teacher assured me I would become a bum. (Laughter.) Well, that I could not understand. I tried my best to learn, but I could not, so one day I read a book in which I found the dream of my boyhood. It was a book of my hero, of that great pioneer, Buffalo Bill. (Laughter.) In this book I read of the old adventures and the pioneer spirit of this country. I learned much about self-made men, and the great people they were without passing examinations in school, and so I thought, by jove-(laughter) if there be a country which gives me a chance to become a great man without examinations" I go over to America; I want to meet Buffalo Bill. (Laughter.) So I ran away from home on a sailing ship. I could not sail on a German ship, and I had no permit from my parents to go on a ship, and I had no papers. On account of my name I could not risk sailing on a German ship, so I changed my name and assumed the name of Schuyler. That Russian ship was not bound for America, but for Australia. Well, I thought, never mind, the world is round. I could not understand. Their language on that Russian ship, so I had to take all the dirty work, and when we arrived at Australia I ran away. I started as a kitchen boy in a hotel.
Now, when far away from home I thought of my dear, good mother and my father" and. I recalled the promise I had given my father to become a lieutenant. Well, by jove, I managed to become a lieutenant in the army. One day I met the Salvation Army-(laughter); I didn't know what kind of army it was(laughter)-but never mind, they had lieutenants-(laughter)-and so I thought, by jove, here I have a chance to fulfill the promise to my father, to become a lieutenant. So I joined the Salvation Army as a private. You know the Salvation Army; they are good people-(Hear, hear) they do lots of good, but it took me too long a time to become a lieutenant, and so I left the army. They helped me to get a ship again. They did not want me on the ship, because I was too young, and they put me on a lighthouse (laughter)-as assistant lighthouse keeper. You know it was a very lonely life-all alone on some island; but that lighthouse keeper had a daughter named Eva; she loved me-(laughter)-and I liked her--(laughter)--and that was the reason why I had to leave my lighthouse. (Laughter.)
Well, since the start of my life I have been sailing many years under the Union Jack, under the Stars and Stripes, the Scandinavian flag, and even the Russian flag. I returned home eight years later. I had made $1,500. T was made a lieutenant in the navy, and I could tell my father, "My dear father, I am here, I have fulfilled my promise, I am a lieutenant in the navy." A year later I got a commission from the Emperor because of my medals for life-saving. I have the most medals for life-saving in my country" and I am proud of that. (Applause.) Two I got from sailors whose life I saved, one in Australia and one in Germany.
When the war broke out my place was at the Battle of Jutland, with more than 500 ships there. They fired 300,000 pounds of steel every ten seconds, and 3,600 torpedos were fired during those battles. It was the spirit of a true nation, but the ships fight as men fight, and we are proud today to meet such great masses of fellows with such grand traditions at sea. In 1916 we were in an awful position. The British had tied up everything in a blockade; no ship could get out or in without their control. That was the reason why we could not get any nitre. You know , nitre is the most important stuff to make powder with. Nitre comes from Chile, South America. Our nitre was almost finished; we could not get any powder, and you know it is an awful feeling, being at war without any powder. (Laughter.) There was only one possibility, to send out fast cruisers and sink light ships carrying nitre, to make sure of obtaining it. But they could not do it because they had no fueling stations out at sea.
One day I spoke to the Admiral; I said, "If you have no fueling stations, make yourself independent of fuel; turn a sailing ship into a raider; all you need is wind, and you realize that wind is neutral. (Laughter.) So I got command of an old sailing ship, a full-rigged ship. I selected the longest night. I had only two allies; one was the pitch dark night which would shield me against the inquisitive eyes of the British, and I wanted a long dark night, so I selected the longest night of the year, the 21st of December. And the other ally I had was a hurricane. You know what a hurricane will do for a ship. The hurricane filled my sails and gave me the speed to run through that passage, no matter whether crowded with cruisers or dreadnaughts, on the 21st of December. The temperature was falling, the southwest wind was setting in, and in the hurricane I broke through. I was carrying 36,864 square feet of sail. We were through to the south of Ireland on December 25th, in the morning at 8:30, and the .ship was stopped by the
British cruiser "Adventure". I was examined by the British. I had no arms to defend my ship. I was in disguise as a Norwegian skipper; I had a beard. (Laughter.) I had no arms, and wrong papers, but a clear conscience. (Laughter.) You don't know what it means to raid with a clear conscience, but having wrong papers. (Laughter.) It would take a long time to tell my experience with a gramophone; I had it play, "ft's a long, long way to Tipperary"-to raid with a clear conscience. (Laughter.) It would take a long time to tell of the various examinations I had to pass, and the doctor visited me five months ago in New York" and he is my closest friend today. I would not have been fooled if I had been in his position, but he could not know a sailing vessel becoming a raiding vessel. But the sailors I had were regular fellows-fellows that could raid with clear consciences. (Laughter.)
My mission was to destroy ships carrying nitre, knowing that every thousand pounds of nitre I destroyed I saved 10,000 lives of my countrymen. But after my sailing as a raider I did not feel like a warrior; r felt like a sailor. The war had all its propaganda, but it could not convince me of a sailor being my enemy. Well, I have been sailing under those flags, and sailors are ever ready to help each other; nobody on the shore is able to help us, only the sailor helps his fellow sailor, and we don't ask what nation he belongs to if he is in distress. When I was out, I have never had a closer contact with my good mother; I felt here prayers; and the one human being that I consider truly international is the mother, no matter what country she belongs to. The tongue we talk is the mother-tongue; the country we were born in is the mother country; we were brought up by our parents to love our nation; we fought for our country, with all its propaganda" and we had to fight for the country, ands a man will fight for his family if it is in danger, for he loves his family, and the sailor loves his country, and the man he fights he will never hate, because love is better than hate. What makes the mother great on this earth is her mother-love, and the man who loves is greater than the man who hates. (Applause.)
I have completed my mission. I have destroyed 100; 000 tons of shipping with that old sailing ship that was built in 1864(laughter)-with 9" cannon balls of 1200 range. I had 600 prisoners through the war, including 34 dogs and 144 cats. (Laughter.) r broke through the British blockade with a clear conscience, knowing that no father, no good mother, no wife, no child, had ever lost a tear through my warfare. I know that every sailor of whatever nation would have acted the same as I did. (Loud applause.)
PRESIDENT DREW: I shall now call upon a very brilliant young German, Dr. Lange, who left Germany a few months ago to join the University of Toronto, who will speak on The New Germany.
PROF. LANGE was received with applause, and said: A new generation, a new mentality, a new regard for the world within and without has arisen in Germany after the revolution of 1918. And if you have asked me to speak today about that new Germany it must be not only an explanation of recent events but it must amount, I believe and I fear, to nothing less than a self defence, for no country in Europe, no country in the world, presents today such irritating, terrifying and puzzling aspects as Germany. If Germany has always been a country with a mentality too intricate, too complex, too unintelligible to be pressed into one spiritual formula" this incalculability has grown during the last months to a degree which is almost unbelievable. No wander that abroad, where public opinion rests more or less exclusively on the scarce and not always complete information of newspapers and journals-no wonder that abroad one feels inclined somewhat angrily to put aside all those puzzling German problems until that country presents again a clear and distinct political face. And yet, it seems to me, those very last months have crystallized certain tendencies which, if they continue, will establish a great meaning and significance to the movements which are at work at present.
If those of you who visited Germany ten years ago had at that time felt the amazing intensity among the German workmen or among the impoverished middle class, among the intellectuals or among the officials of the country, a conviction that the revolution of 1918 had given us a new and more or less permanent form of political life, a democracy, a republic; a strong social movement and all those surprising but sincere forms of a new cultural belief; in brief, if they felt that a socialistic, pacifist, internationalist but friendly Germany had grown, and if the following eight years seemed to give them every right to believe that such a form of life had actually penetrated the present German generation-they began, to feel a little doubtful about the accuracy of their own judgments when, after September, 1930, they heard of dictatorship, of fascism and of growing militaristic tendencies in Germany.
Let me take you back to those years after the war, years of distress and poverty, of utter despair and hopelessness for almost every German; the time of the inflation of German currency, when a loaf of bread cost nearly of billion marks, and when the occupation of German territory by French troops caused a complete breakdown of our industry. Let me take you back to the time when the hatred of a large section of the people against their own government, which would and could do nothing but fulfill the demands of foreign creditors and foreign politicians, when that hatred led to the assassination of a great German statesman; Walther Rathenan. Let me remind you of the years in which Gustav Stresemann, with his supreme realistic sense for political cooperation, achieved at least in 1925, at Locarno the recognition of Germany as an equal partner in the European; council, and when, at last, in 1926, Germany entered the League of Nations as a permanent member. Let me remind you of those years because they bear in themselves the germ of the sudden and amazing swig to a new but only apparently opposite tendency since September, 1930. At that time elections for a new Reichstag brought the surprising evidence of a growing concentration of the young and proletarian voters around Adolph Hitler. Hitler had attempted a coup d'etat in 1923, had failed, had been in prison and after his release set to work again for a formation of a new party: the National-socialists. The program which he published showed a revolutionary and violently anti-parliamentary tendency. His party, small in, the beginning, grew rapidly; for the keynote of his intention was radical change of the present unsatisfactory conditions. Hitler was an Austrian, but so close are the cultural aims of Germany and. Austria that nobody objected to Hitler as a foreigner interfering with our own politics! Millions of unemployed and thousands of students, professors and business people joined the Nazi movement; and when he actually reached a stage where he could act as a politician with a mandate from several millions of voters, he endangered the working of the political machinery so decisively that, in 1930, Reichs chancellor Bruning had to resort to direct methods and, although never without or against the representative body, the Reichstag, he had to deal with the most vital matters by emergency decree: i.e. Article 48 of the German Constitution provides the possibility for the President of the Reich to settle immediate political or economic questions without previously consulting the Reichstag. The apposition of Hitler to such dictatorial measures from a system against which he fought with all his vigor, was violent: elections for the Prussian diet and the presidential elections in 1932 showed phenomenal gains for his party. But they gave ample evidence of .the growth not only of nationalist but also of revolutionary feelings.
At about the same time the Bruning cabinet, in its endeavour to solve the critical unemployment situation, evolved plans for the settlement of thousands of unemployed on the almost bankrupt estates of the old Prussian landowners, or Junkers. Von Hindenburg, the eighty-five year old president, who enjoys unrivalled prestige and who is undoubtedly the most amazing, the most venerable figure in present day European politics, felt that he could no longer ignore the growing demands of certain nationalistic groups. Although Bruning had just received from the Reichstag a vote of confidence, the president did not see himself in a position to give him full support for his negotiations at the forthcoming conference at Lausanne. Bruning and his cabinet resigned and Franz von Papen was appointed chancellor, a man, who from the very beginning met with the instantaneous opposition of all parties. His cabinet of "national concentration" issued a manifesto which declared that in "these critical times the country needs a government independent of political parties; but such a government needs the trustful cooperation with the Riechstag in order to proceed with the restoration of Germany by way of regular legislation".
And here begin, for the foreigner the difficulties for an understanding of the situation. What does it mean,
"a government independent of political parties which needs the cooperation of the Reichstag"? What does it mean" "the restoration of Germany"
As you will remember, Hitler, an August 13th, was invited to cooperate with the von Papen cabinet. He refused to participate unless the chancellorship and the fullest responsibility would be given to him. In the course of a few weeks the Reichstag was dissolved and the elections of November 6th again brought no substantial change in the constellation of the political parties, so that after the formal resignation of von Papen and after several attempts to form a coalition cabinet have failed, there is, at present, apparently no other way out of the difficulties than a new "appointed" presidential cabinet which has the backing not of the popular representation, but of the Reichs President and that fatal but indispensable article 48 of the constitution,.
The situation which I have outlined very briefly and insufficiently is puzzling enough, and I know that the questions which you would ask me might be these: How is it that a cabinet of presidential appointments, the members of which are not even members of the Reich-stag, can govern a country so entirely against the will of a large, perhaps the largest, part of the nation, against the strongest party in the Reichstag-and what has that cabinet or that form of government achieved to justify its existence? But you will, perhaps, with the greatest astonishment ask me: How is that the liberal, democratic Germany of 1920 could suddenly turn towards a fundamentally different form of political existence? These questions are difficult to answer. They are not mathematical problems with a possible but necessary solution, ,nor are they simple historical facts which need only a little light to appear clearly; but you can only understand these problems if you attempt to understand the complex and startling German mentality.
It is difficult to give a foreigner an adequate picture of the violence and intensity of political strife in Germany. A nation, disunited within, discontented, under the heaviest economic pressure, a pressure infinitely, incomparably more severe than that of this country; through fifteen years restless and disappointed-what does it want? Peace and living! Between five and six million men out of work, and if you consider that not only those individuals but their families depend on the dole, you realize that nearly every fourth German lives today on public support! The von Papen cabinet has done a great deal for the alleviation of unemployment or" to state it more accurately, for the rehabilitation of business. Its program has several essential parts
First, employers are to receive a loan in the form of promisary notes equivalent in value to 40% of their tax on turnover, industrial property and land, industrial profits and transport due from October 1st, 1932 to September 30th, 1933. These notes will be accepted in payment of taxes other than income tax in the financial years 1934-38. Their total value is estimated at about 350 million dollars and they are to bear 4% interest. The second part of the program provides a bonus to employers who take on more workers. And, thirdly, twelve and a half million dollars are to be made available for building and other housing repairs.
But let us from unemployment turn to the small struggling business man in the country-let us turn to the millions of university students. There is no hope, not the slightest, for any of them being appointed as teachers or as lawyers. For more than ten years our higher schools are supplied with teachers-and yet thousands of passionate, hard-working students go through their terms, starve themselves through their terms-hopeless, depressed, discontented" on often less than $25 a month, and yet with a burning intensity. Everywhere literary activities mirror the political division so that almost every writer of novels or poetry cars be classified according to his political rather than his artistic creed. And instead of having one association of ex-soldiers we have the steel helmet group with its conservative, nationalistic tendency, and the republican Reichbanner which will defend the state for which it fought during and after the war. Everywhere a desire for activity, for action, political, religious-activity against something-against what-and here is the central question for anyone who wants to understand that new Germany of which I have spoken to you-against what?
Two slogans-precise and yet misleading if you do not understand the position; of those who utter them-two slogans you will always hear in a discussion between, two hostile German politicians. "Germany awake" "Against the system"! The cry of Hitler's friends, and "Against the reaction" you will hear frown the Left from the communists arid socialists.
But those two slogans are by no means merely political catchwords; they embody two philosophies of life, and if you survey the confusion among the German political parties you will always have to remember that each of those fifty political groups that applied for a place in the ballot in the last election had its own infallible panacea and its own inflexible and uncompromising idea of how the world ought to be organized.
Let us look at those parties. There were twenty-nine on the last ballot and some fifteen are now represented in the Reichstag, parties from 200 to two representatives; the strongest of them all being that of Adolf Hitler, the National-Socialist German Workman's Party or, in short Nazis. An amazing movement undoubtedly, which you have to trace back, if you want to understand it, to the time of the inflation with its political and commercial outrageousness, with its graft and bribery, with its profiteers and nouveau riches against whom the violent hatred of all those young men turned, for whom the war meant not more than a dim recollection, but the years afterwards, all the bitterness and despair in the world, the years from 1920-25 with their socialistic governments, with their policy of fulfillment, with their ever increasing economic difficulties.
Hitler, whose extraordinary oratorical gifts organized in no time one of the most surprising movements in our history' gathered all dissatisfaction with the prevailing "system", not only with its present conditions,, under the black swastika of his red and white flag. I remember a meeting of the Nazis in the Berlin Untergarten. 250,000 people had gathered, thousands of brown shirts listening to the extraordinary vigor of Hitler's speech. Violently cheering, raising their hands to greet the leader. The meeting dissolved into small groups of perhaps a hundred people and you could see them marching through the Berlin streets, stopping at street corners and enthusiastically, well disciplined, shouting like a chorus their "Germany awake!" Shouting, until with a shrill, sharp warning whistle a police car drove along and in no time chased them away. And yet Hitler has not, until very recently been able to declare his unconditioned readiness to cooperate with the other parties. He has failed to prove his statesmanship and leadership. But thirteen million people declared themselves at the last election for a radical change in governmental practice, thirteen million people have joined that crusade for Hitler's National socialism, for it cannot be called a party any more its lack of precise political plans, its unwillingness to limit its radical demands will decrease its actual political influence. But a crusade, a creed it is. One hundred and twenty socialists, 100 communists, nearly 70 members of the Catholic centre party and some fifty Nationalists stand against it in the Reichstag. The socialists, still a strong block of workmen and bourgeois elements, 100 communists, surely as convinced of their logical victory, if not more so than the Nationalists, as radical and as sincere, as desperate and determined, as the followers of Hitler. Those 70 members of the Centre Party, still, in their readiness for a coalition with left or right, are the key to any attempt to continue the parliamentary mode of government which has been,, during the last 15 years, the aim of every coalition cabinet.
But, gentlemen, you will ask how can a cabinet, where-ever it may come from" how can it ignore the popular representation, how can it disregard the constellation of the parties in the Reichstag? The theory underlying the present movement is that Germany has had enough of party politics. The idea of the party state has in Germany proved to be wrong or, at least, in a state with, at present, fifteen active parties, most highly dangerous and unpracticable. A government above those fifteen parties, not subject to party pulling and hauling, is necessary. The idea of the neutral state, the authoritative state, not the party state, is the theoretical foundation on which the recent developments in Germany have been based. It is, as I said before, characteristic of the Germans that they must have a philosophical basis for their actions; but the shortcomings of parliamentary government in Germany have, no doubt, supplied practical reasons as well for a new political tendency.
A new political tendency there is, and if I have succeeded in convincing you that this new, conservative Germany has nothing terrifying, nothing fearful, nothing dangerously militaristic about herself, this short account of the present situation will not have been in vain.
Do not believe those who threaten you with the immediate return of a monarchy in Germany (the monarchy might come, not the last Kaiser will return, but for the German temperament a monarchist constitution might prove to be the most adequate), but our problems are at present too urgent to allow us to think of the roof of our house before the foundations have proved to be solid enough. Do not believe those who, in vague terms, speak of a dictatorship in Germany or, in even less careful language of the erection of a bolshevist rule.
But do believe and do understand what it means if I say that there is a strong conservative and national movement growing and growing, and that whatever the next few weeks will bring they will have to reveal the underlying conservative forces. I am not using the terms liberal or conservative in any relation to existing party conditions, merely as indicating two views of life. I do not mean to say that, as it might happen in England or in America, a natural reaction against the liberal forces in the state will bring the conservative elements into power again. It is something infinitely more radical, more profound, more complete. It is, in brief the return to-metaphysically speaking-the idea of mutual ties and order, an opposition to the liberal tendencies of the French Revolution and to the half digested vague Socialism of the early twentieth century.
What happens in Germany at present is far from being a "reaction" in the common usage of the political term. In its most general aspect the political situation tends towards a consolidation of values and activities. The concentration of the parties shows encouraging progress with every election. It will never amount, I am afraid, to a reduction of those fifteen parties which we have at present to the two or three or four in England. The German politician is an eminently theoretical being. You must, therefore, never judge Germany from without, from your own, different point of view, but try to grasp the intrinsic characteristics and necessities of her own political life.
Hindenburg and Hitler are at present the great factors of power and decision in Germany. You will say that Hitler has twice missed his chance-you will object that Hindenburg's venerable age might take him away at any moment from the political life. But whatever you say, this you will be told by every German, young or old, that our life has taken a new turn since those two men appeared on the historical scene. However small Hitler's actual political influence may be, or how small his qualities as a leader may be, his historical significance cannot be questioned. He aroused the consciousness of a new conservative attitude, not only among the bourgeoisie but particularly among groups of young people who had seen during the past fifteen years the futile attempts of helpless liberal coalitions to establish political and cultural stability. Hitler, indeed, awakened millions of uncertain voters to the fact that their ballot, given to a national party would not be lost altogether. Hitler's political importance, seems to me, is dangerously overrated in foreign countries; but his victory in 1930 started,, as a cultural even. more than a political awakening, that process of the liquidation of the Weimar liberalism and the defeatist attitude, which, in the terminology of the German Nationalists, means nothing less than, the beginning of a "Conservative German Revolution".
You are perhaps inclined, gentlemen,, over here to attach a certain meaning of old fashioned .pre-war spirit to the repeated assurance of national tendencies. What does this new nationalism mean? We have outgrown the years and evils of pre-war mentality. We have cast aside all jingoistic and bellicose patriotism. But we have, in short, tried to reach during those last years an assimilation of the after-war socialism to the necessities of a specific German national temperament.
Hitler's program, incomplete and contradictory as it may be, is nothing but the temperamental fusion of the social experiences after the war with our German mentality. Political discussions, therefore, assume, in Germany, inevitably the form of a discussion of broad cultural issues. Many a young German, many of my own friends, whether their tendencies are radical towards right or left, are now turning away from political activities altogether arid confine or' if you like broaden, themselves to the more general questions of our civilization. Our internal as well as our foreign policy suffer from this fatal apotheosis of the "idea". A new constitution, embodying the conservative tendencies of the last 20 years will be presented to the Reichstag as soon as possible, a reform of the internal relations 'between the lands and the Reich will clearly outline the new federal tendencies. But whatever the discussion within may be, it is clear that any German government, whatever its political conviction may be, will have to convey to the world that peace and cooperation are the two principles of our international aims. The temporary withdrawal of Germany from the disarmament conference, after years of patient but profoundly disappointing discussions at Geneva, meant nothing else but an appeal to the world to clearly indicate whether they want to go towards destruction and a repetition of 1914 or towards peace. There is no truth in the repeated newspaper assurance of Germany's will to rearm. Germany asks of the world, not only equality and political recognition-but what we young people want is something more difficult to give and something less easy to ask for-understanding.
One must misunderstand us if one applies the principles of other national and political forms to our own our history is different from yours, gentlemen, our country has always been the battlefield of ideas and enthusiastic theories rather than of practical" straightforward decisions. I do not need to remind you of that sign post at a cross road: the one arm indicating the way to heaven, the other to a lecture on heaven-all Germans will take the way to the lecture on heaven!
Political fight is with us a fight between philosophies of life it is as violent and as irreconcilable as you will never be able to believe. We need, and only such a policy has creative strength, we need in Germany a political creed broad enough to unite us within and clear enough to be the foundation of a cooperation with the world outside. But we cannot cooperate, gentlemen, we cannot give our share to the common end, we young people of a new Germany, if we feel that we are isolated, that we are not understood, that we are measured with the eyes of a prewar generation. I have attempted, briefly and insufficiently, I am afraid, 'but with all the sincerity I have, to explain, to you the intricate and complex forces which guide us today, but it depends on you now, gentlemen, on the public opinion of your country and the world, to understand the temperamental difficulties within us, difficulties against which we have to fight ourselves; it depends on you to decide whether there are not noble efforts behind our desperate struggle, and to accept the ready and willing hands of my young Germany for our common task.
THE PRESIDENT voiced the thanks of the Club to the speakers for their interesting addresses.