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IV WARNINGS OF DANGER 1933-35
Secretary Hull's Conversation With the German Ambassador
On November 2, 1933, in a conversation between Secretary of State Hull and German Ambassador Luther on the related questions of disarmament and world peace, the Secretary said that "the outlook in Europe at this distance for disarmament or for peace" did not appear very encouraging; that "a general war during the next two to ten years seemed more probable than peace"; that this country "had exerted itself in every way possible in support of the latter [peace] and against the possible recurrence of the former [war]", but that frankly he felt discouraged.
The German Ambassador quoted Hitler's statement to the effect that Germany would not seek the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine, and that in his opinion this should quiet French apprehension. He added that the Saar question was an entirely separate one.
Consul General Messersmith's Report From Berlin
The United States Consul General at Berlin, George S. Messersmith, who had been at that post since 1930, reported frequently to the Department of State during this period on the menace inherent in the Nazi regime. Mr. Messersmith expressed the view, in a letter of June 26, 1933 to Under Secretary of State Phillips, that the United States must be exceedingly careful in its dealings with Germany as long as the existing Government was in power, as that Government had no spokesmen who could really be depended upon and those who held the highest positions were "capable of actions which really outlaw them from ordinary intercourse". He reported that some of the men who were running the German Government were "psychopathic cases"; that others were in a state of exaltation and in a frame of mind that knew no reason; and that those men in the party and in responsible positions who were really worthwhile were powerless because they had to follow the orders of superiors who were suffering from the "abnormal psychology" prevailing in Germany. "There is a real revolution here and a dangerous situation", he said.
Consul General Messersmith reported further that a martial spirit was being developed in Germany; that everywhere people were seen
drilling, including children from the age of five or six to persons well into middle age; that a psychology was being developed that the whole world was against Germany, which was defenseless before the world; that people were being trained against gas and airplane attacks; and that the idea of war from neighboring countries was constantly harped upon. He emphasized that Germany was headed in directions which could only carry ruin to it and create a situation "dangerous to world peace". He said we must recognize that while Germany at that time wanted peace, it was by no means a peaceful country or one looking forward to a long period of peace; that the German Government and its adherents desired peace ardently for the time being because they needed peace to carry through the changes in Germany which they wanted to bring about. What they wanted to do was to make Germany "the most capable instrument of war that there has ever existed". ( )
Consul General Messersmith reported from Berlin five months later, in a letter of November 23, 1933 to Under Secretary Phillips, that the military spirit in Germany was constantly growing and that innumerable measures were being taken to develop the German people into a hardy, sturdy race which would "be able to meet all comers". He said that the leaders of Germany had no desire for peace unless it was a peace in complete compliance with German ambitions; that Hitler and his associates really wanted peace for the moment, but only to have a chance to prepare for the use of force if it were found essential; and that they were preparing their way so carefully that the German people would be with them when they wanted to use force and when they felt that they had the "necessary means to carry through their objects". ( )
President Roosevelt's Address December 28, 1933
In an address delivered at Washington on December 28, 1933 President Roosevelt stated that the blame for the danger to peace was not in the world population but in the political leaders of that population. He said that probably 90 percent of the people in the world were content with the territorial limits of their respective nations and were willing further to reduce their armed forces if every other nation would agree to do the same thing. He said that back of the threat to world peace were the fear and possibility that the other 10 percent might go along with a leadership seeking territorial expansion at the expense of neighbors and unwilling to reduce armament or stop rearmament even if everybody else agreed to non-aggression and to arms reduction. He believed that if the 10 percent could be persuaded "to do their own thinking and not be led", we would have permanent peace throughout the world. ()
Acting Commercial Attaché Miller's Report on the Nazis
Consul General Messersmith transmitted to the Department of State on April 21, 1934 a report by Acting Commercial Attaché Douglas Miller on the situation in Germany. The Consul General noted that the conclusions of the Attaché had been arrived at independently and that they accorded entirely with his own appraisal of the situation.
Mr. Miller stated that the fundamental purpose of the Nazis "is to secure a greater share of the world's future for the Germans, the expansion of German territory and growth of the German race until it constitutes the largest and most powerful nation in the world, and ultimately, according to some Nazi leaders, until it dominates the entire globe". He expressed the view that the German people were suffering from a traditional inferiority complex, smarting from their defeat in the war and the indignities of the post-war period, disillusioned in their hopes of a speedy return to prosperity along traditional lines, and inflamed by irresponsible demagogic slogans and flattered by the statement that their German racial inheritance gave them inherent superior rights over other peoples. As a result the German people, who were "politically inept and unusually docile", had to a large measure adopted the Nazi point of view for the time being.
The most important objective of the Nazis, according to Mr. Miller's analysis, was to retain absolute control of the German people. This control, he said, had been gained by making irresponsible and extravagant promises; by the studied use of the press, the radio, public meetings, parades, flags, uniforms; and finally by the use of force. He said that the Nazis were at heart belligerent and aggressive; that although they desired a period of peace for several years in which to rearm and discipline their people, the more completely their experiments succeeded "the more certain is a large-scale war in Europe some day".
Mr. Miller warned that we must not place too much reliance on Nazi public statements designed for consumption abroad, which breathed the spirit of good-will and peace and asserted the intention of the Government to promote the welfare of the German people and good relations with their neighbors. The real emotional drive behind the Nazi program, he said, was not so much love of their own country as dislike of other countries. The Nazis would never be content in merely promoting the welfare of the German people; they desired to be feared and envied by foreigners and "to wipe out the memory of 1918 by inflicting humiliations in particular upon the French, the Poles, the Czechs and anybody else they can get their hands on". Hitler and the other Nazi leaders had capitalized on the wounded inferiority
complex of the German people and had magnified their own bitter feelings "into a cult of dislike against the foreign world which is past the bounds of ordinary good sense and reason". Mr. Miller emphasized that the Nazis were building a tremendous military machine, physically very poorly armed, but morally aggressive and belligerent. The control of this machine was in the hands of "narrow, ignorant and unscrupulous adventurers who have been slightly touched with madness from brooding over Germany's real or imagined wrongs". Mr. Miller stated that the Nazis were determined to secure more power and more territory in Europe; that they would certainly use force if these were not given to them by peaceful means. ( )
Reported German-Japanese Entente
Throughout this period indications were received by this Government from various sources that Germany and Japan were drawing together in closer relations. The two countries were in similar situations in that each had left the League of Nations and each was already engaged in preparing militarily and otherwise a program of national expansion. In May 1934 the United States Military Attaché in Berlin, Lieutenant Colonel Wuest, reported that evidence was accumulating which tended "to show the existence of unusually close and friendly relations between Germany and Japan even to the extent of a possible secret alliance". This report stated further that these friendly relations between the two countries were dependent entirely upon self-interest; that the Germans usually expressed themselves to the effect that "we are encouraging close and friendly relations with Japan because it is to our advantage to do so but we must never forget that we are white people and they are not". ( )
Shortly thereafter, United States Consul Geist at Berlin reported to the Department of State that the German Government was bent on recovering Germany's military prestige and then seeing what could be obtained from the rest of the world. He said that German rearmament was concentrated upon power in the air and motorization of attacking forces; that the young Nazis were enthusiastic with regard to military prospects; that they spoke of gas war, bacteriological war, and the use of death-dealing rays; that they boasted that airplanes would not pass the German frontiers; and that they had fantastic ideas about Germany's invincibility in "the next war”.
Mr. Geist emphasized that the youth of Germany were being inculcated with an unprecedented, conscious, and deliberate love of militarism; that one of the amazing things of modern history was that the government of a great power should definitely teach children to cherish ideas of valor, heroism, and self-sacrifice, "unrelieved by any
of the virtues which modern civilization has come to place above brute force". The Consul said that war might not be imminent but it was difficult to foresee "how the bellicose spirit here can be restrained and directed into permanent channels of peace towards the end of this present decade". ( )
Addresses by Secretary Hull
In an address at Washington, May 5, 1934, Secretary of State Hull warned of the dangers in the international situation. He said that dictatorships had sprung up suddenly in place of democracies; that nations everywhere were narrowing their vision, their policies, and their programs; that each was undertaking more and more to visualize only itself and to live by itself; that numerous nations were "feverishly arming", taxing their citizens beyond the limit of ability to pay, and in many ways were developing a military spirit which might lead to war. He warned that it "would be both a blunder and a crime for civilized peoples to fail much longer to take notice of present dangerous tendencies".
Secretary Hull stated that international cooperation to promote understanding, friendship, and reciprocal benefits and conditions of peace was indispensable to the progress of civilization; that these international relationships had been practically abandoned; and that the entire political, economic, social, and moral affairs of most parts of the world were in a chaotic condition. The Secretary said that every Christian nation had an obligation to itself and to humanity to promote understanding, friendship, and peace. The civilization of the time was amply capable of meeting the unprecedented challenge which existing conditions offered and which must be met successfully unless the world was to be threatened with "another period of long night-such as the Dark Ages". He appealed to every individual to awaken and come to a realization of the problems and difficulties facing all and of the necessity for real sacrifice of time and service. ( )
In another address of June 11, 1934 at Williamsburg, Virginia, Secretary Hull again warned of international dangers. He said that abroad there was reason "for the gravest apprehension"; that armaments were being increased; that the theory seemed to be abandoned that nations like individuals should live as neighbors and friends. He stated that the Government of the United States was striving to the utmost to make its fullest contribution to the maintenance of peace and civilization. ()