26 JULY 1940, Page 4

THE CHALLENGE OF ANTI-CHRIST I T is immensely to the

good that, as the war moves towards its supreme crisis, so far as this country is concerned, the issues in the balance should have been defined by speakers on either side and neither with a clarity which presents them as a challenge that can be neither mistaken nor evaded. Herr Hitler demands that Britain, as the price of temporary retention of her Empire, shall acquiesce in the rape and enslavement of two-thirds of a Europe bent with ruthless brutality to the conqueror's will. The British Foreign Minister, in the unimpassioned language of a man dealing not with the turmoil of crisis but with enduring and eternal values, recalls the nation he is speaking for to a consciousness of its heritage, and de- monstrating the utter impoverishment all life must undergo if the freedom Britons enjoy to live that life according to their lights and their desires were bartered for the respite from attack offered by a man whose aim is power for the luxury of exercising it, whose chief purpose is subjugation and for whom broken faith is the prime instrument in his campaigns of domination. And from across the Atlantic President Roosevelt, neutral in official policy though making no pretence of abdicating his power of moral judgement, has proclaimed in arresting words what those ideals are which free men must fight for to the death or renounce for ever.

Germany appears to be expecting an answer to Hitler's speech. It required none and deserved none. Lord Halifax may be held by some to have done it too much honour as it is. As a piece of reasoning it was utterly crude and patently transparent. Hitler's uniform aim has been to secure his victories without war, and failing that with as little war as possible. He rose to power in Germany with- out civil war, except for his abortive putsch in 1923, and through the controlled Press, the controlled radio, the con- trolled film, the controlled pulpit, the Gestapo and the concentration-cathp, he brought his own country first under. hif; relentless heel. Next Austria, whose independence he had pledged himself to respect, was annexed. Czecho- Slovakia, with which he had declared he would have no further concern once the Sudeten question was settled, was invaded. Poland, with which he had concluded a ten-years' treaty of peace, was attacked without declaration of war because its Government had not complied with an ulti- matum it had never been allowed to see. After Poland Norway and Denmark. After those unoffending neutral countries neutral Holland and neutral Belgium, to which in accordance with the routine contemptuously and cynically pursued the usual assurances of peaceful and honourable intentions had been given. To us, finally, the assurances are extended. No cause remains for further war in Europe. Hitler will keep the continent, we can keep our Empire. If the struggle continues the responsibility for all the immeasurable consequences is ours alone. It was Britain that declared war on Germany, not Germany on Britain.

Those charges are not worth answering except to make the contrast between evil purposes and just complete.

Great Britain did not begin this war. It began with the unprovoked and treacherous attack by Germany on Poland, to whom we had given a bond there was never idea or intention of dishonouring. It is that war that is being fought today. In the endeavour to avoid a conflict with Germany we had already gone not merely to the limit of reason and honour, but, as many Englishmen thought, well beyond it. Now Hitler, having won his relatively easy victories, thanks largely to the unsuspected demoralisation of Prance, would prefer to break off hostilities for a time, He needs a respite to organise his conquests. In every country that his legions have trampled down he may be feared but he is hated more. Not one of them, not even the still dazed France, is willingly submissive. The sight of one unconquered and unyielding country defying the conqueror through the North Sea mists keeps the spirit of resistance and the spirit of hope alike alive. Hitler knows that well. It is that first and foremost which dictates the inevitable peace-offer he so crudely outlined in his Reichstag speech last week. But deferred activity against Britain would in any case be part of his technique. He never departs from the one set method. Assure Austria that her independence is safe, till the time has come to tear that independence to tatters. Make a treaty with Poland till the moment is ripe for crushing her. Protest now to Britain that there is nothing to fight about, till the final 'subjugation of the conquered countries is complete and an enemy credulous enough to be duped by a perjurer's promises can either be crushed by overwhelming force or reduced to poverty and probable revolution by exclusion from a German Zollverein reaching from The 'Hague to Bucharest. That is what the peace-offer means. The instinct of self-preservation alone compels the continuance of resistance in the form of an inflexible defensive till the day when a victorious offensive is practicable dawns.

But that is not the only consideration that must weigh with us, and not the highest. We cannot and we will not acquiesce in the triumph of unmitigated evil. We cannot be false to the smaller nations who have looked to us for help, and whom so far we have failed to save, largely because they failed to save themselves by concerting the measures of salvation with us when they might. This is not a war between nations, it is a war between ways of life. It is a war between one nation dominated by an evil man whose rule is undisguised enslavement, and one still free, which lives by those virtues of justice and truth and freedom which Hitler could never honour because he could never so much as understand them. Between those ways of life there can be no compromise and no truce. So far as Germany stands for the doctrines Hitler preaches Hitler is right in saying that either the British Common- wealth or Germany must be destroyed. It is because the ideals of democracy which guide our steps are fatal to the doctrine of enslavement on which his dictatorship rests that any nation professing democracy must be overthrown, either now or at a more convenient date, lest the infection of its ideals spread till the dictators' subjects feel the impulse to freedom stirring them again. Actually we neither seek nor desire the destruction of Germany. There was a Germany we could live with before Hitler gained power to pervert her. There will be such a Germany when Hitler's doctrines have been repudiated by decent Germans. Meanwhile Hitler could no more make lasting peace with us, as he knows well, than we could with him.

The fight then, goes on. We stand on the alert. We believe our defences to be sound, though _Germany's superiority in the air may give her temporary advantages greater than we always recognise. But superiority in quality tells in that material sphere, just as faith in something greater, than the material tells in that sphere of the spirit by which human effort is actuated and fulfilled. Lord Halifax on Monday spoke of Hitler's words and deeds as presenting the fundamental challenge of anti-Christ, and he did not hesitate to claim, in language that carefully voided the repr-sch of arrogating the support of God or our national interests, that in the stand we are making e are resisting things that cannot be according to God's 11. That is undeniable. Whatever our conception of od, the one thing we cannot conceive of in Him is olerance of any single article in Hitler's desolating creed. e striking words in which the Foreign Secretary clothed s thoughts on this point merit close and reflective tudy. We hear such language rarely from a leading litician; and such language, indeed, should not be lightly

used. But it cannot be left to the leaders of the Church alone to declare that we are fundamentally a Christian nation. If it is true the men who order the nation's out- ward affairs must show that they believe it too, and we may be grateful to Lord Halifax for doing that. But every profession of faith has its necessary implications. If under that standard we are to maintain the fight against anti-Christ, till under that standard we prevail, we can never forget that both within our nation and in a world of nations it pledges us to fellowship and to sacrifice.