17 APRIL 1936, Page 14


Commonwealth and Foreign

[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] Sin,—In Kalimegden Park near Belgrade a monument was unveiled six years ago. It bears the words " May we love France as she showed that she loved us during the years 1914- 1918." What has become of these tender feelings for the great ally and protector ? At Christmas, 1935, the Belgrade Vreme, which is presumed to be the mouthpiece of the Yugoslav Premier, wrote : " We Southern Slays are no longer a dinghy forced to steer in the wake of a great Power. We are a liner under its own steam, cruising free and unattached on the high seas. If we were not too modest, we might say that the nations were tumbling over one another for our friendship."

In 1930 Yugoslavia was still a client-state of France ; in 1935 she could proclaim the independence of her foreign policy from the house-tops. She could, and did, demonstrate, that independence by a new policy of rapprochement with Germany. Yugoslavia has grown up. Like Poland, she has shaken off the French leading-strings and is a little self-conscious in her pride of being able to walk alone. Like Poland, she has acquired an undeserved repute for double-dealing because she chooses to be on good terms with Germany without denouncing old engagements. What follows may show that she had little option in the matter.

The old close ties with the French were gradually weakened - by a succession of accidents and blunders. Franco-Italian tension had been the root of Franco-Yugoslav friendship. When in 1932 France made gestures towards Italy while the Italian Press was carrying on a furious anti-Yugoslav cam- pakm, Belgrade was puzzled and resentful. When, later on, France advised the Yugoslays to follow her example and come to terms with Italy, they took the advice but never forgave France for pressing it. The applicationof sanctions ruined the Yugoslav-Italian understanding ; it did not recreate Yugoslav friendship for France. Of other conflicts it is sufficient to name the stillborn Four Power Pact and the rickety plans for saving Austria through a Habsburg restoration. All these were, in Yugoslav eyes, so many unhealthy children of Italian malice and French levity. Moreover, many Yugoslays had been offended by France's ostentatious backing of King Alexander's dictatorship ; all Yugoslays were shocked by the murder of King Alexander on French soil and, even more, by what they felt to be undue leniency towards the conspirators.

Thus for some time Yugoslavia has felt that she could no longer count on France. She was heart-free and ready to listen when Germany appeared as a suitor for her friendship. Germany, unlike France, took care not to tread on Yugo- slavia's toes. She moved with due regard for the self- conscious pride of a young people. In 1933, German tech- nicians, workmen, engineers began to pour into Yugoslavia. They rigidly abstained from political talk but made their influence felt through quiet efficiency. The next step was the opening of a " painless " propaganda campaign. " The Society of Friends of Germany," the " German-Yugoslav Union " and similar bodies were formed to cultivate German ideas. Germany has many friends in Belgrade. The retired General Yovitsich acts as the connecting link with the army ; several prominent journalists procure good weather at the Court. And Germany does not consider expense..

Thousands were spent on cultural propaganda. For instance, every hotel, restaurant and café in Yugoslavia has for some time been receiving a free copy of the Breslauer Neueste Nachrichten, a German newspaper which publishes a daily supplement on " Trade with the East." Every 'Yugo- slav doctor with the smallest interest in heart disease has been presented with an important work on cardiology worth about 50 marks. Hardly a doctor's or dentist's waiting7rocm in Yugoslavia is without its German propaganda leaflets. For years the " German Academy " in Munich has been sending " scientific " publications regularly to all the Balkan countries.

. Some further examples of German methods in other fields. A poor Yugoslav student had obtained a scholarship for study at a French university. He applied to the French and German legations for free railway tickets. He got a polite refusal from the French ; the Germans sent him a friendly letter of good wishes enclosing a first-class ticket for his passage through Germany. For some time the Belgrade broadcasting station has been receiving a weekly parcel of German gramophone records free of charge, accom- panied by a request that they should be broadcast with a reference to the German source. This was done. Interested circles advised the French authorities to emulate the example. A parcel of French records actually arrived ; but they were marked " reproduction interdite " Another case. Some Yugoslav schools intended to buy copies of Daudet's La Petite Chose. A French publisher submitted an edition which was rejected on account of unsuitable illustrations ; another quoted a price which was thought too high. A German publisher stepped in, offering a German translation at half the price. Now Serb children are reading Daudet in German.

Anti-Semite propaganda has also made its appearance.

Dr. Goebbels' speeches on the Jews have been circulated to all State officials. The • Stitrmer has been widely dis- tributed. A Serb translation of the Protocols- of the Elders of Zion has been published in an edition of 100,000 at Novi Sad. Examples of this kind might ''be '"easily multiplied. The visits of General Goering, and the more frequent visits of lesser Nazi chiefs, have served to fortify the impression left by years of patient German effort.

Finally, Germany has won a strong economic position in Yugoslavia by buying largely and paying only -,in her .own goods. She is now the largest single purchaser of Yugoslav agrarian products. As in other South-Eastern countries, Germany has allowed her trade debt to run up until the creditor State, afraid of losing everything, is almost forced to divert its orders to German firms. The German trade debt to Yugoslavia stands at over two million pounds. Negotia- tions have just taken place at Zagreb with a view to 'reducing the amount by placing large orders in Germany. Thus Krupps have received two contracts for the reconstruction of the State-owned iron works at Zenitsa and for the building of a 4,900 feet bridge ; more than one-third of the total debt Will be repaid by these contracts. The German Govern- ment directs and pushes Germ,an-Yugoslay trade through the BOX trading agency at tielgmde, which is modelled on the Soviet trade delegations abroad and deals with every German speciality from tooth-brushes to railway material.

It would be an over-statement to say that Yugoslavia has been drawn into the German orbit. She remains attached to the Little Entente. But she regards this body as what it originally was, a defensive alliance against revisionism in Hungary or Austria. She is as resolute as ever against the restoration of the Habsburgs. But she is not at present inclined to stretch her commitments to the point of opposing Germany whenever France, or even Czechoslovakia, wishes to oppose her. Like Poland, Yugoslavia is waiting to see on which side the scales will come down. It is only fair to add that in recent months she has been impressed more with the strength of Germany than with that shown by the Western Powers.—I am, Sir, &c., A Cortaishoximxi IN BELGRADE.