GERMANY AS A HUMAN PROBLEM
By PHYLLIS BOTTOME The Anti-Vansittarts, I fear, need a more drastic cure. They must try to realise that they are dealing with a nation that has often fallen into the same malady before, and has now got its most severe attack of homicidal mania ; and that until a permanent cure has been obtained—as it may very well be under competent treatment—we dare not treat Germany as sane. We cannot, as even Dorothy Thompson—with ali her understanding of the German nation—hopes we can, nor as some of our best and kindest Bishops feel we must, let Germany be her own guide or her own teacher until this illness of hers is cured. We left her to her own education last time. We asked for trouble, and we got it. Next time, maybe, we shall have no voice left even to ask for trouble.
Germany, which I believe to be when sane, a good, conscientious, honest and reliable partner in the European firm, as well as—which always specially appeals to Anglo-Saxons—a clean and punctual Partner, has in her attacks of mania frozen herself into a rigid, strait-jacket of crime—crime on a scale so wholesale and so ,dis- gusting, so cruel and so repulsive, that Alexei Tolstov's description of the tricked slaughter of 6,000 Jewish men, women and children, from their captured Russian cities, unbelievable as it sounds of any human beings, can, alas! only too easily be believed of the Germans. Not only one man gave that order ; there must have been many German officers and soldiers who gave it and carried it out. It took more than fourteen hours to shoot 6,000 people. They found it easiest to lead away the little children by the hand, these kind German fathers, into the open fields, before they blew their brains out.
There are those who tell us that the German people could not control Hitler's rise to power, and are therefore not responsible for what he has done since. But I, who lived in Munich at this time, can assure such apologists that they have been misled. I used to watch the May Trains of 1933 garlanded with flowers, mobbed by happy crowds, singing their hearts out ; and over all the country was a similar wave of passionate religious joy. It is not easy to arrive at truth by quoting statistics. But the percentage of Germans who went to concentration camps and asked for death by resisting Hitler's rise to power was pitifully small. In Bavaria, where most opposition to the Dictatorship was expected, not one man died for the soul of Germany. I do not say that many men and women were not ultimately shot, or tortured to death, because they would not accept crime as a law ; but not one man stood up arid died as a volunteer for the soul of Germany when Hitler came to power ; yet countless Storm Troopers cried "Heil Hitler" when they died; as they knew by Hitler's order, in the July massacres. The Germans have great qualities—a dauntless courage, a con- scientious passion for what they believe to be right, and an un- flagging industry in carrying it out. They use these noble qualities to support crime, because they will not learn that man must choose what is right, and not accept it from the lips of another. No dis- interested observer living through those days of the German Re- volution could fail to believe that the Germans wanted Hitler, and that is why they got him. That it was soon made equally out of their power to get rid of him is perfectly true, but I doubt whether if Hitler's way had led to victory through crime, many of those 8o per cent. of Germans who are said to be against him, and whom we hear so much about, would not have been heart and soul with him. I can believe in ten sane persons out of a mad Germany ; but not—had Hitler proved victorious—any more than ten.
We are responsible for our choice—that is the price of being sane. A wave of some mysterious discouragement attacks the German spirit from time to time—the immensity of Anglo-American sea- power for instance, the brilliance of the French intellect, or the proximity of so large a population as the Russians, and they go mad in order to protect themselves. Their inferiority-complex has made it seem to them that they dare not compete except in the one role, in which they have time after time succeeded, as warriors against the terror of a superior civilisation.
In mortification at not being thought the highest type of man, the German at special moments of historical discouragement becomes the lowest type of brute. Even this might not be so devastating for the rest of the world if the Germans did not become brutes with a good conscience. The Japanese know they are doing wrong ; the Italians do not know, and never have known, under Mussolini, what they were doing ; but the Germans sin with a good con- science, or else they would become saints.
What terrible crimes have been and are being committed by those starry-eyed people who tell us: " I would never have dreamed of doing it if I hadn't known I was perfectly right." But until a
man has weighed his conscience against the common standards of mankind—until he has wrenched personal desire away from fact—
how dare he believe he is right? Our duty is what, in the ac-
cepted opinion of mankind, will be most likely to benefit all men; these self-erected altars play no. part in real morality. From the
moment the Germans attacked the Jews on racial grounds, for which they had no scientific authority, their homicidal mania was proved ; and the rest of the civilised world should have become their keepers. There are geographical, historical, linguistic and personal differences between peoples, but racially—in spite of Adam's palette of mixed colours—they are only human beings. No sane person really doubts Thomas Jefferson's supremely competent sentence: " We hold these truths to be self-evident ; that all men are created equal ; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ; and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
It is the richness of human nature that there are such great dissimilarities between nations and individuals ; and we should be wholly impoverished if any country, including our own, were able to fix the whole world in any one image or superscription. This is the main reason—conscious or unconscious—for which we are fighting ' this war. The Germans, the Japanese and the Italians have pointed out to us that this is not what ,they want. They believe in forcing their own small rigid pattern upon the universe. What is right for them is right for all. "Neurotics," someone once said to the late Alfred Adler, " sometimes go very far ; look how many geniuses have been neurotic." " They do indeed go far," Alfred Adler replied, " but the direction in which they all go is towards the nearest lunatic asylum."
So long as the Gentians had a free press, and any form of Parlia- ment where dissent was possible—and retained the right to visit other countries—they were not inaccessible to sanity. These doors, closed one by one by the Nazis, made of a people already highly neurotic, and following the dangerous direction of force as a god, downright mad. The trouble was so few of us were sane enough to see it. Lord Vansittart was_ sufficiently sane. He suffered from eight years' enforced silence, so that it is hardly stirprising with the padlock now removed from his lips, he should lapse occa- sionally into over-emphasis. But the really important point is for us to remember that he was right before, and may be right again, if the proper precautions are not taken. We must begin now, as a part of our approaching victory, to study this problem of Germany's future, as plainly and clearly as a democratic people desire and deserve to study all their main problems.
The most dangerous of the anti-Vansittarts are the " liberal " economists, because they persist in imagining they can manipulate people as if they were figures. Economic solutions only come from human beings who desire them. It is no use trying to keep Germany as a pet bee in the economic bonnet. The economist will only get stung, and, worse still, the German bee will escape more infuriated than ever from this confined space, and sting the rest of us again.
Kultur is what the Germans fight and die for—and with even more avidity—fight and kill for. The Germans do not like life, they make too heavy weather of it. As Clemericeau so truly said of them:
" Unfortunately for other countries, the Germans are in love with death." Kultur has nothing to do with the multiplication-table ; but it is a thing the Germans really have, nor is there any reason why they shouldn't have it, so long as they do not seek to impress it forcibly upon the rest of the world. It has nothing to do with blood Of soil, raw materials, or open spaces or menaced Aryanism. It has a great deal to do with moral and physical order. Waste-paper baskets at every corner ; no stolen cherries on open country-roads ; the presence, not so much of more policemen than we possess as of a people genuinely anxious to behave as if more policemen were there. " In Germany," the Austrians used to observe, " everything that is not allowed is forbidden, In England everything that is not forbidden is allowed. In Austria everything that is forbidden is allowed." Before the war you could not get lost in Germany, not even when you wanted to be lost. There were always sign-posts or people to tell you which way to take before you had made up your mind that you really wanted to take it. Being in the right is an obsession with Germans ; Hitler simply turned morality upside down, and said wrong was right. He ordered crime, and those who loved obeying orders sucked up crime as if it were the Ten Commandments.
Our own people cannot readily understand the German nun-like gaiety of obedience. We have none of that deep inferiority-sense that pricks this powerful country of Germany towards superfluous rearmament. Our chief blunder is that we are never afraid enough, and therefore disregard all reasonable and sensible precautions, as do our cousins across the water. The sea, " Which serves us in the office of a wall, Or of a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of unhappier lands," is probably largely responsible for this boundless optimism. Still, a little foresight is essential to the wearer of rose-coloured spectacles. We cannot get rid of the Germans if we would, so what we must do is to help them get rid of their homicidal mania ; and when they are rid of it, it is my firm belief that we shall be looking into the eyes of good and powerful friends. But we must first try to understand our friends, for part of the treatment of mania is not to provoke it by a -certain instability in ourselves. We must remem- ber that it almost kills the German to be disliked, disapproved of, even disagreed with. People whose conceit is ingrained, like our own, are not sensitive to criticism. Those who only practise virtue every now and then do not want to fight about it. The Germans are passionately anxious to do right, and tram themselves fanatically into any course of action they believe to be right, however wrong. I cannot say I thought my countrymen as a whole particularly anxious to do right during the pre-war years. Even less did I see them training themselves in any direction at all.
The Germans suffer from a conscience so good that it is being the death of them. But it is well to remember that extremes meet, and that to have no cor.scieuce at all is equally fatal. Let us make sure that we have, by agreement with the United Nations (including powerless but highly civilised nations such as Norway and Switzer- land) a united standard of morality which we intend to observe whether it is personally inconvenient to us or not. We are com- mitted to such a policy by the Atlantic Charter, but that docu- ment is not a very clear statement, and some of its clauses appear
rather in the light of safety-exits in a bomb-shelter. This Govern- ment has gone about with lips as sealed as Mr. Baldwin's upon
what the Atlantic Charter really does mean, so that this country, remembering what was behind Mr. Baldwin's sealed lips, has a right to feel uneasy.
If we do intend to follow the Charter " in spirit and in truth," how are we to educate the German nation to do the same? Dorothy Thompson, who is a real expert upon the German people, but not necessarily upon human nature generally, believes that we should leave the Germans to teach themselves. But Stalin is also, an expert upon the German people, and he has begun to educate them already, by training them in the creed of Soviet Russia, a very forceful creed, very likely to impress them after Hitler's.
It is not really probable that people broken by prolonged suffering, crushed by defeat, forced under vicious standards, taught that crimes can be transfigured into heroic virtues, is capable of giving itself useful lessons. The German people, in what will then be " occupied Germany," may not even be capable of receiving them. No doubt the best German teachers will be those who best, and in the most friendly way, understand Germany. Dorothy Thompson herself might well be one of these teachers, for she has long understood the sane and real Germany. Thomas Mann and the best of the German refugees in our own country and America might start a committee to choose from the United Nations a series of picked teachers who understood the German language, and held the ideals proclaimed by the United Kingdom.
This is a Total War, and we hope for a Total Peace, therefore as there will only be a few Germans in or outside Germany ready and spiritually equipped to become such school-teachers, there should be bands of specially trained and equipped teachers from our own and other Allied and occupied countries ready to help our German comrades. Are we training such bands, or are we leaving it entirely to Stalin? It would not cost the Treasury as much to train them as a new war. We may have for a long time to help re-train such a mentally sick country as Germany, but we must not—while we are re-training it—penalise this sick patient or deprive him of the same goal as the normally healthy person, which is ultimate freedom.
Nor must we ever again expose Europe by lack of armed control to a fresh outburst of mania, on the part of Germany or any other country. The problem of Germany's change of goal is a difficult one, but it is not insuperable, as if we were trying to alter a race.
We have to persuade Germany that it is neither safe nor profitable for her to follow the force-motif. Universal brotherhood, rather than universal bloodshed, must be her new goal, and if it is to be hers it must also be ours. Docility, which is the chief German vice, works two ways. People who find it easy to follow evil when it is turned into a law, may find it equally easy to follow'' good under the same conditions. But we must remember that the Germani are a proud people—they are docile to themselves, not to others.
Therefore, the lead must come as far as possible from their refugee leaders, or those foreigners trusted and liked by the Germans themselves ; and it must be a lead that everybody else in Europe is following with them.
We are told by St. Peter both " to seek peace and ensue it." It is along this path that we may persuade the German people—cured of their force-mania—to accompany us.