29 JANUARY 1960, Page 10

From the Other Shore Frain SARAH GAINHAM BONN I WOULD like

to make some comments on Bernard Levin's interesting and enlightened analysis of the present outbreak of anti-Semitism in Germany, as it were, from the' other shore. It is true, thank goodness, that the new armed forces are unpolitical, include no Nazis and are con- trolled by civilians; but these facts have a reverse side. The nationalists—not the same thing as the ex-Nazis; a larger and vaguer group—reject these armed forces and refer to them as 'NATO mer- cenaries,' the foreigners' army' and suchlike phrases. It is an example of the dangerous cleav- age of public feeling on subjects, in this case national defence, which are generally supposed to be common ground to all parties and classes.

The outcry from abroad (however natural) against the new German army encourages this split; the nationalists are convinced.that Germany will never be really accepted and they argue that therefore she must always be an outsider in Europe. And in fact a country the size of Federal Germany with a long land border in common with a hostile Power must have an army—an army. would inevitably grow up secretly if it were not organised openly and in the framework of an Alliance, as happened after the First World War; not in the secret, Russian-helped planning of von Seeckt, but in the bands of disaffected young men who kept sporadic fighting going until well into the Twenties in Poland, East Prussia and the Baltic, and who drifted back to form the back- bone of the SA and SS. The survivors, now elderly, hate the NATO army, for its success means the last hope of a return for their kind is gone.

Not only do we need a German contribution to Western defence, however' much we may deplore that fact; but alliance is our best bet in the military field to avoid a secret renewal of mili- tarism in Central Europe. Sixty years of propa- ganda against Germany, justified and unjustified, true and false, has made it almost impossible to talk sense on the subject of a German army; except for sex there is probably more ignorant and subjective rubbish talked proportionately about the German army than any other subject of popular debate. For the fact is, until tigers coo like doves, European States must have armies and a German army controlled by civil servants and contained in an alliance is the best kind of army to have. The alternative—suggested by the rabid anti-Germans, whose dubious arguments sometimes sound just like those of their enemies the Nazis turned backwards—is that Western Europe should be defended at the Rhine; in present circumstances one only has to state this proposition to see its absurdity.

Mr. Levin would like to see student duelling and all other Germanic customs and myths swept away. But the roots of German folk-culture can no more be abolished than King Arthur can'be; and it would be a most dangerous thing to do if it were possible. One of the things that went wrong with the Germans, in the lateness and violence of their nationalism; was the loss of their spiritual roots. These cultural roots need to be wrested out of the hands of the nationalists who have succeeded in making them their own, more poisonously but similarly to the way old-fashioned Tories claim the ancient traditions of. Britain as a vested interest of their own. But one cannot blame Wagner for the use the nationalists put his music to nor find less pleasure in beer or The Merry Widow because they were taken up ideolo- gically by one special ex-corporal among thou- sands of harmleSs ex-corporals. Student duelling was corrupted into the symbol of nationalist students; to lose its corruption the Mansur needs not the complete outrooting which would make it legendary, but the shrugging half-smile which the violences of youth deserve.

Mr, Levin is on less firm ground when he demands wholesale purges of the administration and police, etc. Wholesale purges would have the effects of reducing administrative efficiency to a level where public unrest might develop and of creating a class of disaffected out-of-works. Both precisely effects to be avoided. In nearly all cases teachers, police officers and lawyers would toe the official line if they knew that Right-wing deviations from the. Constituticin would be as sternly dealt with as Left-wing deviations are now. Where a real purge could be effective, and is needed, is in the training professions—the police training units, teachers' colleges, senior university posts, legal schools. in these places ex-Nazis can and do cause much harm; directly in their in- fluence on students and indirectly in advancing those who think as they do, or who toady to them by copying them. (When I suggest that large purges ought not to be undertaken, I am, of course, not referring to persons in office or official jobs who committed definite crimes or are even accused of doing so. They should go, and swiftly.) Radical new legislation is not needed. Some alteration is needed to the laws against insulting behaviour, protection of young people and so on. to strengthen them; but the main need is for firm and consistent enforcement of the laws already on the statute books. The frighteningly unpleasant people who run some of the youth groups, for instance, could be dealt with now under the Law for Protection of the Young; and without new legislation, for they are clearly unfitted to mix with young people on simple moral grounds. This side of juvenile activity needs to be taken as seriously as films and alcohol now are. As for a law to protect special groups or minorities, it would be much to be deplored. Besides making the Jews more conspicuous than they are at present, and increasing the tendency to relegate them to a corner of their own, such a law would inevitably be used in moments of unrest against political opponents. And politics are rough enough in this country without making it easier for politicians to be legally dishonourable.

Finally, if I may make a quite personal com- ment—I do not for a moment forget or forgive the things which happened here under Hitler, and would not do so if I had the right to forgive other peoples' injuries for them. But blind hostility to all Germans is only going to play into the hands of the rabid nationalists. The Germans must clear up this mess now while it is still in its present rather ridiculous form of rebirth; it can only weaken their efforts to condemn them wholesale as outlaws.