- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Jun 1947, p. 1-15
- Drew, Colonel The Honourable George A., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
The speaker's recent trip to Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. The regard with which Canada is perceived. A report on Western Europe, particularly Germany. The situation in Britain. Britain far from finished as a great power. India on the threshold of becoming a member of the Commonwealth. What is going to be the fate of Germany? The future of Western Europe and to a very considerable degree the future of every one of us, resting upon the answer to that question. The destruction witnessed by the speaker in Berlin. The shattered city as a symbol today of the tremendous problems with which the victorious powers are confronted. What life is like in Berlin. The Chancellery itself as the symbol of Nazi rule. The speaker's belief that Berlin should never be rebuilt, but should stand in its present shattered form as a reminder to other dictators. The present task of keeping its three million people alive and in some measure of actual human comfort and human decency. The added complication of the division of the city into four parts under Russian, British, American and French control. The constant fight being waged daily in Berlin between Communism and Democracy. The Russians at arm's length compared to the cooperation between the British, American and French. The boundary of the Russian Zone in Berlin and where it lies in relation to the democracies in Western Europe. Understanding the sense of fear in Holland, Belgium and France. The hostile Russian attitude. Examining the consequences of the Russian military occupation of Germany extending so far to the west. The terror and suppression by the Russians. Allowing Germany to be forced to submit, against their will, to another equally cruel and dangerous form of dictatorship not in the interest of Canada, Britian, or any other free country. The year of 1947 a year of the most fatal decisions ever confronting mankind. The possibility of an enduring peace if the democracies remember the lesson they learned in 1939. Russia's military situation. The hope for peace dependent upon the firmness with which all the democracies deal with Russia. The business of every person in the world today to keep the freedom won. "The choice is still ours." The way that Democracy can work.
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- 4 Jun 1947
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- Full Text
- THE PRIME MINISTER REPORTS
AN ADDRESS BY COLONEL THE HONOURABLE GEORGE A. DREW, V.D., K.C., L.L.D.
Prime Minister of Ontario
At a joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada
and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Chairman: The President of The Canadian Club of Toronto, William H. Clarke
Wednesday, June 4, 1947
The members of the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto are honoured today in the presence of the Prime Minister.
You will recall that shortly after his election he made his first visit to Britain, in his official capacity, to reestablish Ontario House. Through its excellent facilities the Province of Ontario was able to extend hospitality to tens of thousands of Canadian service--men and women who were in Britain during the war years. Ontario House also became the centre for information about Canada for the thousands of British men and women who are interested in emigrating to Canada when they are able to do so. It has provided, too, the means for continuous consultation between businessmen in Ontario and businessmen in the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister's frequent visits to Britain since 1943 are some indication of the very great value the Government places upon our relations with Britain in post-, war reconstruction and in the re-establishment of trade. In that connection the P.M.'s recent sponsorship of a drive to send food and clothing to Great Britain, who during the years of dire extremity emptied herself of her resources in a supreme effort for victory, has had the enthusiastic support of all parties of the Province.
Colonel Drew brings to his high offce many great qualities, not the least of which is his unflagging energy, which has sent him to discover at first hand whatever might be of value and interest to this Province.
I have the honour to present our indefagitable Prime Minister, The Hon. George Drew.
Mr. Chairman, Your Worship and Gentlemen
First of all, may I thank your Chairman for the very kind reception and introduction he has given me and may I thank all of you for coming out in this way on a day when those who could have spared the time might well have been tempted by this wonderful June day.
In accepting this invitation I did so with a very real feeling of appreciation of the compliment you paid me by these two great Clubs arranging for a meeting of this kind after the end of their regular season.
In recent weeks I have been in Britain and France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Each of those countries presents a very different picture, but in each I found one thought in common which I would like to mention at the outset and which I would like to repeat to every one who lives in this country. If any Canadian has any doubt about Canada's great future, I can assure you from many, many contacts, that doubt is not shared by the people of any of those countries I visited. They regard Canada as the land of brightest hopes and greatest opportunity in the world today. A very large percentage of them would move here tomorrow if they could.
It is not, however, of Canada that I intend to speak, but rather of Western Europe and particularly of Germany. I know you will forgive me--in fact, you will be very glad when I do not attempt in this one speech to cover the whole field of a fairly active few weeks, thinking that it was better to deal with a particular aspect of the subject. It is not my intention to discuss those subjects which I will be placing before the Ontario Legislature when we meet again in the near future, and I will refer to Britain only briefly today and that mainly for the purpose of removing any thought that I share the gloomy opinion expressed in some quarters about Britain's future place in world affairs.
The people of Britain have had a tough time and those I of you who were in Britain during the war, and there are many here who were, know just how tough that time was in many ways. They have had an equally tough time in the two years of peace, without the uplifting knowledge that they were taking part in a great common adventure of sacrifice. This year the flood and unprecedented snows have brought disaster to many thousands of farms and will bring even more severe food rationing next winter to the whole country. It is very hard for us to visualize what is happening. The loss of four and a quarter million sheep, more than three million cows, and the lost production of many thousands of acres of Britain's richest lands which were still flooded last week, constitutes a major calamity with the certain reduction of meat supplies and also clothing because of the great loss of wool.
Gentlemen, their spirit is very good, however, and in the flooded areas once again I saw that same smiling fortitude which carried those fine people so splendidly through the stern test of war. You saw there under trial the fibre of the people, tough and strong and ready to take whatever comes in the years immediately ahead.
Britain is not finished as a great power. Far from it! As we read today the terms which have been accepted by the Hindu and Moslem leaders of India, we know that the teeming millions of that great country would not have chosen Dominion status within the Empire, even temporarily, if they had regarded Britain as decadent and worn out.
If, as now appears likely, the Indian Dominions march forward as partners in our world-girdling democratic. Commonwealth, then yesterday will forever be a date of great achievement in the free fellowship to which we Canadians are so proud to belong. In any event, it marks the first occasion in the long history of mankind when Western Democracy has been adopted by any nation of the East as their chosen form of government. That is not the accomplishment of a nation lacking in vision or in vigour.
Britain has once again done a very good job and all of us will join with them in hoping that a year from now the new Indian Dominions will choose to remain within the Commonwealth and Empire of their own free will, bringing to themselves and to all of us new strength and new confidence in the great advantages of membership in that strong partnership of nations. In any event, whatever happens, I am sure that Britain is not finished as a great and wise leader in world affairs. The senior member of the old British partnership will still be carrying on business under the same name and at the same stand for many long years in the future. It is still for them, and I think for us in truth a "Land of Hope and Glory".
Like all the Western World, the people of Britain are looking anxiously across the channel to their neighbouring democracies and to that uncertain distant beyond. France, Belgium and Holland each have their own problems to face in their own way. Each, however, is confronted with the same question in trying to chart a clear course for the years ahead. Each of them is asking the question, and to some extent must resolve the question; "What is going to be the fate of Germany?" Upon the answer to that question rests the future of Western Europe and, to a very considerable degree, the future of every one of us.
When I flew to Berlin less than two weeks ago, I had the good fortune to arrive on a brilliantly clear day. As we circled very low over what had been the third largest city in the world before the war, it was evident that with the exceptions I will mention later, there is not a single building in Berlin proper which has not been destroyed by bombing or completely gutted by fire. It is one thing to read about it--it is another thing to see it. The outlying suburbs which are separated from the city itself by green stretches have not suffered so badly and some houses in that outer perimeter are still intact. Those are the ones mostly that are used by the Military Missions which are there today. Inside the city, however, is a scene of destruction and desolation on a scale which has never been known in the world's history. It is almost like Pompeii, multiplied a thousand-fold.
That shattered city is symbolic today of the tremendous problems with which the victorious powers are confronted. In a city where four and a half million people lived before the war there are still three million people living in all that indescribable wreckage. Where they live it is hard to imagine, even when you walk through the streets and are right beside them. Some of them have rigged up small huts by creating some sort of a covering in the corner of two standing walls and then closing this in with stones, bricks or rubble. Others in great numbers are living in what remains of the basements of the buildings in the city. Others are living in what are merely caves in the rubble itself-nothing more than primitive caves. It is true that they have restored the sewerage system and the water, system to a considerable extent, but little imagination. is required to realize that in both cases very limited opportunities are available to make use of either of these systems. Some lines of the underground have been opened and are operating with the few cars that are available. Surface trams without any glass are also moving along those tracks which it has been possible to repair. It is only the skeleton of a city in which human beings are living under conditions which can only increase month by month the utter. hopelessness which hangs like a dark and oppressive cloud over all of them.
No matter how much we may hate what they have clone, it is not a pleasant thing to see human beings on the verge of starvation and far beyond the verge, and living under conditions in which human beings have seldom lived before. It is not a good thing for the rest of Europe that people should continue to live under conditions in which some measure of decency and self-respect cannot possibly survive.
I had known Berlin fairly well in the years before the war. Today it is almost impossible to recognize some of the famous buildings of those days. But from the shattered Brandenburger Tor, along the Unter der Linden, it was only one block to the famous Wilhelmstrasse where Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, and all that evil crew had their homes and offices, such a comparatively short time ago. The balcony from which Hitler harangued the crowds still juts out from the face of what remains of his residence. Around the corner, the enormous Chancellery, built of massive stone blocks, stands as a reminder of the pretentiousness and pretence of the terrible period in history which he represented.
Nothing could be more symbolic of Nazi rule and of the arrogant fiction of German supremacy which they sought to create than the Chancellery itself. The building was so massive and so strong that it would have stood for centuries, perhaps for thousands of years. Inside was one of the longest halls in any building anywhere, designed to impress and doubtless to create fear in the minds of those who called upon Hitler. He stood at the distant end, so that his visitors were compelled to walk the whole length of that vast hall between the long rows of massive columns. His office was in reality a large hall. It was all a theatrical display designed to awe those who visited him. But with all that elaborate construction and with all the luxuries the building contained, there was a pretence which expressed the fundamental weakness of that and every dictatorship of the same kind.
The marble floors were not marble. The mosaic in walls and around the sides of the floors were a cheap sham. Either of those could have been obtained from their Axis associates, Italy, at that time, but that would have been an admission that Germany could not make anything, and that was an admission they were not prepared to make. The marble therefore was a composition with an artificial marble surface. The mosaic was the cheapest form of coloured glass. In the wreckage of that enormous building today, no pretentiousness remains, and its pretence strikes you as you walk through it.
Going through the Chancellery into the bomb-torn park behind and on the the Bunker where Hitler died, I could not help comparing in my mind the scene at Doorn where I had been only a few days before. There an earlier German ruler, not so long ago, defeated by the Allies, lived his last days in comfort and died in peace. The difference in those two ends measures the difference in two types of war, and I think also measures the determination of peace-loving people to identify with the ghastly consequences of war, the individuals who are the cause of such senseless destruction.
No building has been done in Berlin. It would be hard to imagine where that would start. Before any new buildings could be erected it would be necessary to pull down the shattered walls of those which still stand in their gaunt desolation. My own feeling is, and it is only a passing individual opinion, that Berlin should never be rebuilt, but should stand in its present shattered form through all the centuries as a reminder to other dictators and those who support them, of what happens to rulers and to nations which seek to achieve world domination tinder any name.
Whatever happens to Berlin in the future, the present task of those who are charged with the heavy responsibility of keeping its three million people alive and in some measure of actual human comfort and human decency is truly enormous. Divided into four parts under Russian, British, American and French control, even the very minimum of municipal administration and municipal organization is extremely difficult to carry out. It would be difficult under any circumstances, even if the Allied Control Council were able to work in complete harmony and with a common purpose. But unfortunately that is not the case. It would be utter pretence, it would be nothing but utter pretence for anyone to come from Berlin and to leave any impression that the Russian administrators have the same purpose or seek to bring about that real measure of local freedom which is the object of the representatives of the three democracies.
There is an old German proverb which says that "Wherever there are three Germans there are always four opinions". Today that proverb hardly explains the situation, confused though it is. No matter how many Germans there are, there seems to be three clearly defined opinions. There are those who believe in Democracy and have learned their lesson and-are trying to make it work. There are those who still believe undoubtedly in German dictatorship, and there are those who through fear, or otherwise, but mainly from fear, are prepared to accept the Russian form of dictatorship.
In Berlin a constant fight is being waged day by day between Communism and Democracy. Recently this had a very interesting result. Because of the interdependence of such municipal services as still exist, it was agreed that there would be one municipal council for the whole of Berlin. The Communists used every propaganda device, including posters, the press and the radio. The posters were still there, spread very generously over any convenient wall. Nevertheless, under that joint administration, where a free vote was possible, the Mayor-she .was a lady, Mr. Mayor--the Mayor who was chosen was a Democrat and she was chosen by a very substantial majority. The Russians since then have not yet decided whether they will accept that result, so far as it affects their part of the city.
On all sides you see the Russian propaganda. That hits you in the eye wherever you go. The huge white stone Air Ministry has been completely rebuilt to serve as the headquarters of the Russian Occupation Forces. They spared no effort on that. It is precisely the same as the old Air Ministry, and I say that for those who have seen it, except for one thing, that along the face of the old Air Ministry were the faces of famous German Generals-the men upon whose military judgment at that time they placed considerable weight. The Russians have carefully chiselled those objectionable faces from the wall. The only other reconstructed building in the Russian sector is the large headquarters of the German Communist Party, the S.E.D., prominently situated on the south side of the Unter den Linden. While I said there had been no rebuilding, I was excepting these official buildings and the very simple and unobtrusive buildings which are used by the British, American and French military officials in their sectors.
One other significant structure has been built, and I think a very significant structure, within the past year. On the Charlottenburger Chausee, in what was the famous Tiergarden, but where there is no park today, stands the only war memorial erected by the victorious powers. This is the Russian war memorial. It is of a beautiful and simple design in white stone. Seven great square columns support a plinth upon which stands the large bronze figure of a Russian soldier. It is done in good taste and it is extremely impressive.
What did strike me as somewhat surprising, however, was that this memorial is in the British sector, and that Russian soldiers are standing guard in front of it at all times. Every two hours those guards are changed with great formality and, Gentlemen, with a surprising similarity in drill to the guards who were constantly mounted in the years before the war in front of the Nazi memorial in Munich. It will be recalled that there are no armed guards at the Cenotaph in London or at the war memorial at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, or at any of the other great memorials in the democracies, so far as I am aware.
Now, these, Gentlemen, are only surface symbols of something which goes very deep and extends far beyond the boundaries of Berlin. The British, American and French are working together in a spirit of friendly cooperation. True, the have their differences of opinion, are the best of friends always do, and they iron out those differences in a friendly way. But it is only too obvious that the Russians are constantly at arm's length and have no desire for close association or common action in dealing with any of the problems they face.
I do not think it is generally realized--I confess I did not realize that Berlin is an isolated city, and island, in fact, under international control, far within the Russian Military Zone of Germany, and accessible from the democracies only by narrow and rigidly defined corridors which are policed as though Russia regarded us as enemies and not as Allies carrying out a joint occupation by the victorious powers. I would strongly urge that everyone in Canada and elsewhere study the map of Europe, carefully, and see where the western front of the Russian Army of Occupation has been drawn. The western boundary of the Russian Zone lies some one hundred and twenty-five miles west of Berlin at its nearest point, and much farther along most of the line.
What is more important still is where that boundary lies in relation to the democracies in Western Europe. When you examine that, when you pass it, when you see where it is you understand why there is the sense of fear in Holland, in Belgium and in France again today. At the north and western line of the Russian Zone of Occupation where there are vast numbers of Russian troops, is only 20 miles from the largest German seaport, Hamburg, and only 70 miles from the open stretches of the North Sea. At its nearest point it is only 130 miles from Holland and 155 miles from Belgium and 135 miles from France. Russia is no longer a distant eastern power. Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are within a few hours march of those three neighbouring democracies which lie across a narrow stretch of water from the British Isles. In terms of time, they are not so very far from us either. I can't help remembering and still with fascination, the fact that last Friday morning I had breakfast in Scotland and was here in my own home in Toronto the same night before eleven o'clock. It is in this compact and ever contracting world and all that it implies that our thoughts must be adjusted.
If the Russian attitude were friendly and were really that of an Ally there would perhaps be little reason for concern about their armed proximity to the western democracies. But they are not. If you go to Berlin by road you must follow one designated highway and only one, which runs straight west from Berlin. You are not permitted to leave the highway for any reason from Berlin to the borders of the Russian Zone, 125 miles to the west. You are not even allowed to stop the car, and if you do without a very good and obvious explanation, you will be taken under the tender care of the N.K.V.D. Just to show you what the atmosphere is, when a car going into that road starts its trip through the narrow corridor, the control authorities immediately telephone to the other end and if the car hasn't arrived there within what seems to be a reasonable lapse of time, the military police go out immediately in search. If you fly to Berlin the situation is similar. You must follow a rigidly marked 20-mile corridor. When you go west from Berlin you fly straight within that corridor to a control point before you vary your course. If, for any reason you stray outside that 20-mile corridor, you are likely to be engaged by antiaircraft fire.
Now, that, Gentlemen, is the atmosphere in which international relations are being conducted by our Russian Allies in Germany, and it is in such an atmosphere that we must examine the consequences of their military occupation of Germany extending so far to the west.
You have read of the extent to which the Russians are stripping the factories of eastern Germany and sending the machinery to Russia. They are doing the same in their zone of occupation to the west of Berlin. Every day great river barges pass through Berlin, carrying to the Danube and to Russia heavy machinery of all kinds removed from the factories to the west of Berlin. It is not difficult to realize that German recovery, even under the most severe restrictions and under the most rigid control, is not possible under these circumstances.
What is equally important is that this leaves the in escapable conclusion that Russia does not regard her occupation of the Eastern half of Germany as a temporary measure and that every act of terror and suppression regularly employed by the N.K.V.D. will be used to make eastern Germany another Soviet State. In that case the Soviet frontier would be along that line I have described, running from a point within 70 miles .of the North Sea to a point in the south only 135 miles from the French border.
When I speak of terror and suppression, please do not think I am using speculative terms. Thousands of Germans have been deported to Russia from every part of their Zone of Occupation during the past year without trial, and without any information to their families as to where they now are. Unless there is a complete reversal of their present course there is not much doubt about what will happen in that zone. The vote in Berlin which was held under joint control can be taken as no indication of what will happen in the area where Russia has complete control. If past experience can be taken as any guide, expressed opposition to the Soviet plans will result in immediate deportation, or worse. The Germans have already learned from their own similar dictatorship what a convincing political argument that can be to any one who is only human. What has happened in these last few days in Hungary, where less than ten per cent of the people supported the Communist Party should leave no doubt in the mind of any thoughtful person what the plans of Russia really are in Russian Occupied Germany.
It is not consistent with our purpose during the war in Canada or Britain or any other free country, or with our security in the future, that the democracies should permit Germany, which has been so heavily and so properly punished for the actions of one dictatorship, to permit their to 1>e forced to submit, against their will, to an equally cruel and equally dangerous form of dictatorship, of y another kind.
Now, is this misplaced sympathy for Germany? I have no reason for kindly feelings toward the Germans. I have seen what the Germans did in Britain. I have seen the results of their arrogant brutality in Rotterdam. They deserve all they got, and they got it in full measure. I flew a week ago Sunday over the Ruhr, on another clear bright day over Cologne, Essen, Dusseldorf, Hamburg. Gentlemen, words don't describe the complete and utter destruction of those cities. They stand as a tremendous tribute to the gallantry of our young men, on the accuracy of the bombing and the bravery of the Air Forces of Empire and of Canada and of the United States. Make no mistake about it, it has been punishment which not only remains as punishment but will remain for a very long time. There is perhaps no stranger sight than to look down from a few hundred feet at Cologne and see that ancient, historic cathedral standing, structurally undamaged, and for miles around, complete, utter waste. It is one of the strange unaccountable things of the war that has passed. They have had severe punishment, and they deserved it. But their punishment must not go on forever, unless they are to become a fatal cancer in the heart of Europe. Above all, they must not be permitted to become, if we can help it, part of a still more powerful and arrogant dictatorship which has established its treacherous Fifth Columns in every nation as part of a settled plan--of world conquest.
Gentlemen, you can't see what is happening there without believing that this year of 1947 is a year of the most fatal decisions ever confronting mankind. There can still be peace, enduring peace for long years to come if the democracies remember the lesson they learned in 1939. We all said then we would remember that lesson and that never again would the word "Appeasement" be written in letters of blood across the face of the world. We all said then in our wisdom after the event, that there would have been no war with Germany if we free countries had stood together and said with one free, united voice, "What you do in Germany is something which Germans themselves must determine, but you are not going to impose your evil power on other nations, and, above all, we are not going to supply you with the material and machines of war to make that possible."
That is what we all decided we should have said, and we all agreed if we had said it and acted in accordance with that statement, that war would have been prevented and that Hitler would have been compelled to retreat within his own boundaries without a shot having been fired. Surely we are not so soon going to forget that costly lesson.
Today Russia is immensely strong in men. Russia is hopelessly weak in the air and at sea. Russia does not want war. Of course Russia does not want war. Russia wants the fruits of war without actual combat, and Russia has carried forward aggression in Europe to a stage far beyond anything that Germany had succeeded in achieving in the days before September, 1939. Russia is no stronger relatively than Germany was when the first aggressive move was made in 1935 across that famous bridge at Cologne that so many Canadians remember. But Russia will be strong only a few years from now if we Canadians and the people of the United States and the Empire of Britain supply them with the generators, the dynamos, the machine tools, the construction machinery and all those things which they can't make themselves, but which will build up for them a powerful war potential in a very few years.
If the lesson we said we had learned in 1939 is still correct, then the hope for peace depends upon the firmness with which all the democracies tell Russia this year, by November, or when the Foreign Secretaries meet again, that the people of the world, of the free world, do believe in the principles laid clown in the Atlantic Charter, and subscribed to by Russia as well as the free democracies, and that those free nations do want to assert, just as strongly as Russia, the right of Russia to determine their own course within their own bounds, but that they are also insistent that Russia shall not impose by force its form of government upon any other nation against its will.
Having come in contact so very recently with the same fears being expressed today in Holland, Belgium and France as were expressed there in the years before the war when they looked toward the German frontier to the east, so short a distance away, I am convinced, Gentlemen, that we face the very same issue, but with another dictatorship, the same issue that confronted the free nations in 1935.
Gentlemen, the time is short, but there is still time. This is not just things to be discussed by men in ivory towers remote from ordinary men. This is your business. It is my business. It is the business of every person in the world today who doesn't want to see repeated on a wider and more ghastly scale the war which came to an end only two years ago. The freedom we won; our security as a nation and, most important to every one of us, the future of our children, depends upon the decisions made by the free people of the world everywhere in this year 1947. Along one firm path lies the sure road to peace. Along the path of appeasement lies certain war. The choice is still ours. It is the choice of people who can speak and express their opinions everywhere throughout the world. Those who have really seen what is happening have no right to refrain from telling what they have seen and interpreting it to the best of their ability. Those who can speak have the duty to speak. For Russia and for ourselves peace depends upon the truth, the cold, clear truth, and upon strong and courageous decisions in keeping with the truth.
That, Gentlemen, is the way Democracy has worked. That is the way Democracy can work now. The peace of the world depends upon the extent to which the people of the world who can speak make this their business.