Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 8. May 31, 1939
Sidelights on September — Views and Reviews
Sidelights on September
Views and Reviews
Britain breathed freely once more! The war scare had passed—Mr. Chamberlain had saved Europe! But at what a price! Czechoslovakia, the greatest strategic stronghold of democracy in Europe, surrendered to the tender mercies of the Nazis. On Mr. Chamberlain's return he was cheered by an hysterical mob, which, safe in the reflection that its own skin was saved, did not spare a thought for the tens of thousands or unfortunate Jews, Social Democrats. Communists and Liberals, who had been surrendered without a blow, to Herr Hitler. One of the really great peoples of Europe, who had fought through the centuries for the freedom they held so dear, to be bartered in a sort of diplomatic market to the highest bidder, after a short, fruitful and peaceful republic which had not quite gained its majority. Mr. Chamberlain stated that the new Czechoslovakia would enjoy a freedom it had never known before. Perhaps he meant the freedom apparently enjoyed by Thaelmann, Niemoller and Schuschnigg, The execution of Peter Forster was an excellent definition of Mr. Chamberlain's "freedom." Forster, a young Social Democrat, escaped with a companion from the worst of Germany's concentration camps, the Buchenwald, a task equal to that of escaping from the much-publicized Alcatraz Prison. His companion was captured, and as a penalty, for the knocking-out of a guard during the escape, he was immediately beheaded. However, Forster, after great hardships, carrying his life in his hands, as immediate beheading would be his reward if caught, managed to cross the closely-guarded frontier into Czechoslovakia. Germany demanded his immediate extradition, but Czechoslovakia was still a free country, and the German demand was refused—for a time. Forster paced the aerodrome at Prague. The plane which was to carry him to Switzerland and freedom was late. Terror stricken, Forster gazed at the empty horizon. But it was too late. A squad of soldiers rushed on to the field, Forster was arrested and entrained under heavy guard for Germany. The top-hatted executioner in the prison courtyard swung his axe, and one of the first of the victims of the Nazi terror met a ghastly fate. For Mr. Chamberlain had betrayed Czechoslovakia, had betrayed the democratic peoples of the world, at the "triumph of peace" at Munich,—P.A.M.
"If war had broken out last September Czecho-Slovakia would have been annihilated." is the boast of German leaders, and the explanation by English politicians of their lamentable action which caused the dismemberment of Czecho-Slovakia. But would this have happened?
The two nations were separated by a [unclear: mcwulalu] barrier, pierced by several passes. Thus lightning invention was impossible, Behind these mountains lay the main line of Czech defense— the Maginot Line. The invincibility of these fortifications against direct attack was amply demonstrated in teats carried out after the German occupation. Moreover the rebellious Sudeten territory lay in front of the Maginot Line. Full mobilization would furnish 1,000,000 troops, a figure which could be quickly increased in time of war. In this connection the semi-militarized Sokol organizations would have proved invaluable. The country had a reserve of arms and military transport unrivaled in Europe. She was particularly strong in artillery and mechanized units. Official statistics placed her air strength at 1600 planes.
Is it possible that a nation with [unclear: hese] resources would have crumpled before the German onslaught? Could not Czecho-Slovakia resist until France had launched an offensive across the Rhine, which would have successfully diverted German attention, for the Seigfreld Line was far from completion. Moreover Russian and Rumanian support would have been forthcoming. Remember that in 1914 a small, "contemptible" nation stemmed the German advance and enabled the Allies to mobolise. Under leaders like Savory and Benes and imbued with the fierce nationalism which has been born out of centuries of oppression, the Czechs could have halted the Nazi wave, and to perish fighting would have been preferable to slavery.
But all is not lost for these brave people, for some day out of the anarchy and chaos that was Europe they will rise again a free virile nation. Long Live Czecho-Slovakia!
We heard about the Munich crisis through the distorting glass of a B.B.C. broadcast and censored cable messages. Afterward our impression of it has been effectively confused by numerous "experts," all spouting different contradictory versions per medium of the capitalist press.
But last week a letter arrived in New Zealand which given us at last clear, first-hand, uncensored, information, written by a Czechoslovakian boy of sixteen to his pen-friend here. "Salient" is glad to print this exclusive message. The English is a little crude and the grammar faulty, but this, we think, serves to heighten the pathos. It runs:
"... So by now you will have, advanced from the school branch and are drawing salary, well, much Joy to you. My prospects are not so bright, as our Government, staggering under the burden of our national catastrophe, has decreed that no employees will be admitted for the next two years. The standard of living has been lowered down, while things have gone up in price. On the surface our life goes on as before, but if you should pay attention to the rumors, they are of the worst. The gangster demands one-third of our gold treasure what backs our currency (he has none and his mark is valueless). But the debt for the stolen territory only wants to pay with 5 per cent. He wants a third of our army to help him (irony, what he will never get). He is draining our country of commodities, what we have to sell at his price. We have 180,000 refugees we have to feed, house and try to create work for them. He stole our fortified frontiers, broke up our army, our locomotives, denuded the stolen territories of all the woods, what he cut down with the greatest haste. Now he ordered that we have to [unclear: op] all former German high schools, colleges, etc., and sent his Sudeten German students here in order to create a new German minority. So now we have more Huns here than before. And if there will be no war between the Democracies and the Dictators, so we will be swallowed up entirely. The impending war is our only hope.
"So you see, dear R—, how fortunate you are if you do live in that remote corner of the Earth. So our motto: Through war to independence. —George."
"I was greatly impressed by the manner in which the people of the United States idolized the British Prime Minister. Mr. Chamberlain, because of his efforts for peace during the recent European crisis." said Mr. L. C. Rolls, general manager of Williams and Kettle Ltd., wool and stock brokers. Napier, who returned from overseas by the Mariposa to day.
"All the people in the United States and Canada with whom I came in contact were unanimous in their praise of Mr. Chamberlain." Mr. Rolls said. "It makes one feel proud to belong to a nation which breeds men of his caliber. The general opinion is that the present British Government is the finest the country has had since the war."