10 DECEMBER 1948, Page 12



THE Germans, without question, are a most ingenious race. In their long and arduous history they have become so accustomed to being deprived of necessities that they have developed a genius for make-shifts: they are the supreme masters of the Ersatz. A German friend of mine who is now on a visit to London brought with him one of the latest German experiments in book-publishing. It was one of Rowohlt's "Rotations " series, in which whole works are produced in the size and shape of weekly newspapers. There is no binding ; the sheets are folded but unsewn ; and for the price of one D. Mark one can obtain, in perfectly legible form, a book which, if produced in the ordinary manner, would take many weary months to issue and would cost many hard-found marks. I question whether the British reading public would for their part take very readily to this new, cheap and expeditious method of book- production. Undoubtedly these German sheets are of an incon- venient size ; if carelessly handled, the pages part company with each other, and much time, patience and skill are required to replace them in the correct order. Moreover when one has read and marked the book, there is no known bookshelf which can house such limp and disintegrating objects. In the best of circumstances book- shelves are a source of weariness and worry to any book-lover ; but if these spineless floppy productions are ever to be properly preserved the whole design of libraries will have to be altered. We shall have to return to the old columbarium system when books were rolled around a block of wood and placed in pigeon-holes with their titles dangling upon small labels. The Germans do not mind that sort of thing ; they enjoy difficulties ; they derive pride and pleasure from coping with the intricate and the inconvenient ; I sometimes feel even that they complicate matters deliberately in order to permit themselves an orgy of Tiichtigkeit.

* * * * I was glad none the less to be given this latest example of CRo-Ro-Ro, or " Rowohlt Rotations Romane," in the shape of the apologia of Dr. Schacht, entitled Abrechnung mit Hitler. Dr. Schacht in his life has drawn up countless balance-sheets ; many of them have been complacent and many ingenious ; but few of them can have been composed in such a frenzy of self- justification and self-praise. I have always been interested in Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, from the days when I first knew him under the Weimar Republic, to the day when I last saw him in the dock at Nuremberg. He is an agreeable person to meet, talkative and urbane ; his vanity is so ingenuous that it has become part of his charm ; he speaks so rapidly and well that one fails to notice the pose of omniscience. I do not know whether he is a financial wizard, since I know so little about finance ; all I know is that during the Weimar Republic he struck me as patriotic, reasonable and sane. I was delighted when he was acquitted by the Tribunal at Nuremberg ; I was distressed when he was thereafter badgered by a German denazification court. It was thus in a mood of sympathetic interest that I turned the enormous but floppy pages of the latest Ro-Ro-Ro. It is certainly a fascinating document ; and I am quite sure that a large part of it is strictly true. Dr. Schacht was an adventurer, in the best sense of the term ; the element of chance has played a dominant part in his career. It was by chance only that he was born a German ; his grandfather was in the Danish State service and his father, on the cession of Schleswig- Holstein to Prussia, emigrated to America rather than accept Prussian citizenship. Had his father math good in the United States (which he did not) Hjalmar Schacht might today be one of New York's leading bankers. But after six years' fruitless struggle in America the family returned penniless to Germany. A year later Hjalmar Schacht was born at Tingleff an der Eide. He was christened Hjalmar after one of his Danish ancestors, and Horace Greeley in tribute to the American journalist who had once stood as Democratic candidate for the presidency.

* * * * In his school days Schacht attracted attention by his immense self-assurance and his incompetence in arithmetic. He wrote poetry and contributed to popular newspapers ; he became public relations officer to the Dresdner Bank and subsequently an assistant director ; he was attached to the German. Governor General at Brussels, a job which in 1915 he lost in somewhat mysterious circumstances. It was on his return to Berlin that he met the real financial wizard, Jakob Goldschmidt ; he assisted him in the formation of the great combine of the Danatbank ; he attracted the attention of Lord D'Abernon, who recommended him to Dr. Stresemann ; he became the director of Germany's finances and a figure of international significance. During the days of the Weimar Republic, Schacht was widely regarded as a man of infinite ability and profound liberal convictions. It was thus with astonishment that in later years it became known that he had openly associated himself with the Nazi Party. It is this regrettable association which, in his apologia, he seeks to explain. He tells us how, in December, 1930, he first met Goering, and shared with him a simple meal consisting of pea soup ; how thereafter he sought to persuade Chancellor Brfining to admit some at least of the Nazis into his Cabinet, desiring thereby to give them some sense of responsibility and to identify them with the Weimar system. He does not, however, explain why it was that he himself, in October, 1931, attended the Nazi Party rally at Harzburg. There is a great deal that Dr. Schacht does not explain.


He contends—and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity—that once Hitler established his dictatorship, that once the Reichstag had been reduced to the status of " a mere choral society," he realised that Hitler's genius was not dynamic only but also daemonic. Why therefore did he not sever all connection with the party and leave the country ? Dr Schacht argues that it was so easy to run away ; so easy to escape and say thereafter, "But I wasn't there." Was it not the braver, better, thing to do to remain at the post of danger, to " defend every political, every spiritual, every moral position with tooth and claw " ? He remained in Germany because he believed that he might be able to prevent the worst from happening. He knew during those years that he was regarded by the Nazis as one of their most dangerous enemies ; he knew that he was being spied upon by the Gestapo ; yet such was his devotion to his country that he felt that any personal danger, all personal humiliations, must be subordinated to the great, the tremendous task of preventing a war by which Germany would assuredly be destroyed. He recognised quite clearly " that the Government of Germany had fallen into the hands of criminals." Why, therefore, did he not join one of the secret opposition groups :—the Gordeler- Kreis, the Moltke-Kreis or the Solf-Kreis ? "I was my own Kreis," he answers, with self-satisfaction. It was thus of his own initiative that he conspired to arrest Hitler with the assistance of von Witzleben, the Commander of the Berlin garrison. That plot, he contends, would certainly have been successful had not Mr. Chamberlain chosen that moment to fly to Munich and thereby to render Hitler's prestige unassailable. Dr. Schacht thereafter quotes the letter which he addressed to Goering in November, 1942, telling him that the war was lost and that peace negotiations must imme- diately be opened. It is a courageous document which does him credit. Thereafter he was arrested, and there follow the concentration camps of Ravensbriick, Flossenbiirg and Dachau ; and finally the cell at Nuremberg.

* * * Dr. Schacht speaks with respect, and even a touch of gratitude, of the handling of the Nuremberg trials. He allows himself one bitter and extensive philippic against Adolf Hitler. And he ends with the plea that the German people be not held guilty for the sins of a few adventurers but be allowed to work out their own future and to recover their own self-respect. For all its special pleading, Dr. Schacht's apologia is not lacking in dignity. I hope that many million Germans will read this Ro-Ro-Ro.