12 APRIL 1940, Page 11



AFEW days ago I returned from a tour in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Holland. My main object was to visit the English chaplaincies in those countries, but in the course of my journey I was able to meet a great number of people of the most diverse kinds and to exchange ideas with them on the situation of Europe. I realise that this gives me no title to be regarded as an expert, but perhaps the impressions of one who was an interested, and to some extent a privileged, passenger may be worth recording.

I found two things in these countries which I had expected to find. First, it was evident that they share the same traditions of freedom with ourselves. One had not to adjust one's mind to a new set of values when speaking to the citizens of these States ; we talk the same language. This is no small thing. In how many countries of Europe today can one assume that freedom is good and that it means what we have taken it to mean? The people of these nations are our spiritual allies. Secondly, I found that the Christian Ecumenical movement was strong. The war has not killed the idea of the Una Sancta; it has made men understand the urgency of its claims. It was my privilege to meet several men who are doing what they can to keep Christian fellow- ship alive, even across the frontiers of nations at war. In Utrecht I was permitted to take part in a great Ecumenical service in which Frenchmen, Belgians and Dutchmen also joined. The development of the war, we must hope, will see the growing power of the Ecumenical idea.

I had not known how deeply the world is under the dominance of fear until I went to neutral countries. Fear seemed to encompass one like an atmosphere. I learned that every utterance of statesmen, journalists and even private individuals had to be interpreted in the light of this haunting apprehension. One of my purposes was to give information about the state of religious opinion in Britain, and I prepared a lecture which consisted largely of quotations from respon- sible persons and bodies. Being "factual," it was, I thought, innocuous, but, though I succeeded in giving it almost every- where, it was often with some difficulty, not because people did not want to hear it, but because they were afraid it might be regarded as " unneutral." I suppose no nation ever tried so hard to be neutral as those which I have visited.

When the news of the capitulation of Finland came I was in Oslo. It was a staggering blow to the public confidence. I am sure that very few people either in Sweden or Norway had any idea that the end was so near. Two days before I had met a man who was organising volunteers from Sweden, and he obviously had no conception that his work might be in vain. It was generally 'believed that the crisis would come in May. After the Finnish collapse the state of fear in- creased, and, rather strangely, the sympathy for the Allied cause suffered a setback, though there could be no question that the overwhelming majority still earnestly hoped for a victory for the Allies. I do not believe that the Altmark ' incident lad any effect on public opinion, except perhaps a favourable one. A trivial incident illustrates the feeling. In the train I encountered a Norwegian seaman, who at first took me for a German and was inclined to be rude ; when I asserted that I was British he shook hands with the utmost cordiality.

There is no need to explain to the citizens of these nations the evils of Nazi Germany ; they know them better than we do ; but we are sometimes tempted to forget that Russia is as much a menace to them as Hitler. They see more clearly than we that the two tyrannies are really one and the same evil. Thit only awkward question which I was asked in public was, why, if we were so devoted to freedom, we tried to make a pact with Stalin.

I had the great good fortune to meet several groups of university professors and lecturers, as well as some students. I found that there was profound disgust at the destruction of academic freedom in Germany, mingled with apprehen- sion of the fate which might be in store for their own universities if the Nazis won. The sentimental regard for the German universities, in which many of the professors had studied, hardly survived the evidence that their spiritual substance had been annihilated. I think of my kind hosts in the University of Oslo, and wonder what is happening to them now.

A fortnight ago—I do not know whether they have changed their minds since—I met several excellent Christians who seemed to make neutrality into a moral virtue. They believed that by being strictly impartial they might help towards a compromise peace. There was no lack of en- couragement from Germany of a somewhat dubious kind. Mysterious documents, alleged to have some vague approval in high quarters, came out of the Nazi camp, but I fear that those who put any faith in them have been disillusioned.

I found that many people were anxious to understand the deeper issues of the war. It was readily admitted that the result of the conflict would determine the future of civilisa- tion; and further, there was a general agreement that the Christian elements in our civilisation would hardly survive a Nazi victory.

It has been said that the Scandinavian countries are the most civilised in the world, and I would agree that they have built up a society which is humane and cultured. It has social services and education which are truly admirable. The people have been accused of being "materialistic," but I could see no ground for the assertion except that, like all reasonable human beings, they want to live their lives in peace and modest comfort.

Fundamentally they are religious, and their society has been deeply influenced by Christian values. My conviction is that they are, in most respects, like ourselves—slow to start a quarrel, reluctant to believe that it is necessary to fight, but, once aroused, tenacious and indomitable. The one question in my mind is, will these splendid peoples have leaders worthy of the critical times and of themselves?