GERMANY WITHOUT PRUSSIA
By DR. EDGAR STERN-RUBARTH
THE Prussians are not Germans ; but Hitler, the Austrian of dark extraction, is the arch-Prussian, fanatical and exclusive in his Prussianism to the extent of a caricature —fanatical like all proselytes. He may not know it him- self, ruling as he does the larger German realm, embrac- ing in his megalomania the mythical " racial " nation, and dreaming of an even more mythical Nordic spell: world domination. But it is true all the same. He is the most virulent, fantastic, and, let us hope, last product of a speci- fic, unique national character, the components of which were the Slavonic mass-mind, the drab, vast eastern .plains, the inferiority-complex of a poor, hard-toiling and efficient people vis-a-vis neighbours of a rich civilisation, a thousand years older than their own, and the absolute predominance of an admired and respected army.
Neither the Nazi creed in general, nor its myth, the racial nonsense, nor its technique, the overpowering of peaceful neighbours by threats or violence, nor its organisation, aping State-Socialism for the benefit of a small ruling clique, are Hitler's invention. Yet in looking for their models we go either too far back—to the characteristics of the old Teutonic tribes—or not far enough, in looking for Fascist, Bolshevik or Wilhelmian traits in the Nazi picture. Frederick William I, Frederick the Great and Bismarck in politics, Fichte, Hegel and Nietzsche in philosophy, Treitschke and Spengler in historical teachings, are Hitler's intellectual background. Prussia, which inflicted upon the real Germany her predominance two centuries, her domina- tion two generations ago, is Adolf Hitler's model. She is camouflaged as Germany today ; but the truly German countries swallowed by Prussia during the Vienna Congress or after her predatory wars of 1864, 1866 and i870— the Rhinelands, Westphalia, Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, Schleswig-Holstein—are her victims exactly as in our days the Neo-Prussians under the Swastika victimised Austria, Czecho-Slovakia and Poland. Their populations, forced into vassaldom, were swelling the Prussian ranks exactly as now Austrians have to fight in the Siegfried line, Czechs and Poles to slave behind it.
They conquered the German spirit of their earlier victims no more than the national spirit of their recent ones. " Prussian " is still a term of invective, not only in Bavaria, where it is usually coupled with " pig," but all over the South, West and the Hanseatic North of Germany —everywhere where the citizen of the old Reich remained conscious of it all through the rule of the Prussian cor- poral, the Prussian schoolmaster, and the harsh, overbearing and—before superiors—cringing minor official of Prussian brand, who now shows through his disguise as a brown- or black-skirted Nazi " leader." They may often hail from truly German parts, or from that Auslanddeutschtum so judiciously flattered by the new race-wizards: their Prussian drilling and mentality classifies them among the conquerors from the East, immune to those teachings of the French Revolution which the South and West imbibed, and to the liberal ideas of Britain with which the North of Germany proper is penetrated. Hitler and his associates stupidly ignored not only all that, but abandoned in favour of a barbarous myth the whole historical past which Germany has in common with the western world, the Graeco-Roman, and later Christian, civilisation which had brought her into one fold with France, Britain, Italy and Spain ; which had inspired the brush and the chisel of her great masters, engendered the divine melodies of her famous composers, and laid the foundation of her lofty cathedrals.
Accustomed as we were to regard the Hohenzollern Reich as Germany and not as what it really was, a hydrocephalous deformity on Slavonic soil, diverging from the old German line of life, which ran in a north-south direction along the Rhine, from Flanders to Italy, and from Hamburg-Bremen to the Danube, to Vienna and into the Balkans and the Near East, we have permitted Prussia to thrive as the object of German imitation, till once more that Frankenstein mon- ster menaces the world. We—and millions of the best Germans with us—ask how to get rid of it once and for all. For even the downfall of Hitler and his set would in itself not prevent a resurrection under conditions similar to those of our days—unless Germany's evil spirit can be driven out.
It can be, and without " dismembering " Germany. For the evil is clearly Prussia, and Prussianism, as deeply antagonistic to the real, fundamentally humanitarian spirit of Germany as to that of the Western democracies, the Junker, that Slavonic master of Slavonic serfs who ruled unassailable in the Second Reich, the Prusso-German, who still holds all key-positions in the army, the diplomatic and the senior service of the Third Reich—all these must be driven back into the trans-Elbian Prussia whence under the Great Frederick he started his conquest.
Although even in the neighbourhood of Berlin 75,000 Wendes still go on living as Slays, nearly all of them ignorant of the German language, and hundreds of thousands of Cassubes in Pomerania, Mazurs in East-Prussia, Water- polacks in Silesia, &c., cling to their language and folklore, what little Prussian culture existed was extinguished during the eighteenth century—swallowed by the higher civilisa- tion of the conquered Germans. The Prussians share that civilisation today, and will continue to share it. But they should be confined to their own heritage ; Frederick the Great's realm east of the Elbe, perhaps including Mecklen- burg, the trans-Elbian part of Anhalt and a small area of the March west of the river, including Magdeburg and parts of the Altmark, as well as an outlet into the North Sea, a strip of land connecting with Altona or Hamburg. This would make a territory of 70,000 square miles, with twenty million inhabitants, within the frontiers of 1919. With 500 miles of the Baltic coast and such valuable ports as Stettin and Koenigsberg, with an excellent network of rivers, canals and railways, even without Danzig and Memel Prussia seems destined to become the serving-hatch for her Slavonic relations, reconstructed Czecho-Slovakia and Poland, possibly linked together with her in a Western Slav Federation, a Customs and a Currency Union.
Germany, purified, rid of the nightmare of a century, would then, by her own free will, receive Austria—for she would be her old Reich—and with 55 million citizens per- haps regain her former variegated cultural and artistic wealth. Reorganised on tribal lines with about eight or nine cantons of a certain cultural autonomy, free from Prussian militarism and Nazi despotism alike, her contribution to that occidental civilisation to which she fundamentally belongs would once more begin to flow. Whether Vienna, her old capital, or Frankfort, her coronation city, would be chosen as seat of the Government—whether that Government would be Republican or Monarchist, and whether the head of the State would be Protestant or Catholic, is of minor import- ance, and would have, as in the case of " liberated " Prussia, to be left to the people. With 29 million Protestants, 25 million Catholics and one million of other creeds Germany would, in that respect as in her economic composition, be well balanced.
If we could today take one of those American test-votes in Munich, in Hamburg, in Frankfort, in Stuttgart, in Cologne or in Vienna, unknown to the Gestapo, it is a safe wager that more than 8o per cent. of the people above twenty-five would vote for such a proposal. It is a good peke-aim that corresponds with the inner longing of the best, if not the majority, in the adversary's camp.