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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1935

Nazi-ism and the British Temperament

page 59

Nazi-ism and the British Temperament

Germany is not Italy! This was the attitude adopted by the German Social Democrats in the face of a menacing Fascist revolution. With a blind stupidity they persuaded themselves that the German people were too intelligent to be deceived by the Nazi leaders. Fascism is foreign to the German race! So day by day the Social Democrats betrayed the workers to the brutality of the Nazi dictatorship. They ignored the lesson of Italy; they retreated before every advance of Nazi-ism; they dishonoured that trust which the mass of the German workers had placed in them. Too late did they realise their blunder: the Nazi dictatorship had started its butchery. Germany is not Italy!

England is not Germany! The British Labour Movement, ignoring the mistakes made by the Social Democrats on the Continent, adopted a similar attitude. Not only does it ignore the Fascist tendencies of the National Government, but it has also refused every offer to form a united front against Fascism.

The leaders of the British Labour Movement, however, are not alone in expressing their conviction that the great British people would never submit to a Fascist dictatorship. With monotonous regularity, the cable brings us news that Mr. Stanley Baldwin (that fine old English gentlemen with a cherry-briar) has implicit faith in British Democracy. The barbarisms committed by the Nazis are foreign to the British sense of justice and fair play, and (like the British Labour Movement) he declares that the great British people would never submit to a Fascist dictatorship.

It is therefore interesting and enlightening to inquire whether Nazi-ism is as foreign to the British temperament as Mr. Baldwin and the Labour Party believe. The "civilised barbarisms" committed under the Nazi regime in Germany have been numerous and varied, but perhaps the one which has aroused the most disgust and indignation in New Zealand is the persecution of political and national minorities in concentration camps. The general opinion is that such brutality would not be tolerated in this country. Yet it is only seventeen years since Mr. Hewitt, S.M., presented his damning report on the treatment of conscientious objectors in the Wanganui Detention Barracks. An extract from the report reads:

"Generally speaking, 'breaking in' was accomplished in this way: A weighted pack was put on the prisoner's back, and a rifle fastened to His side by means of handcuffs and a piece of cord. . . . The prisoner was then ordered to march, and if he did not march he was pushed from behind and helped along by the arms round the yard. When he came to a corner he was pushed so as to bump against the wall, often so that he would strike it with his head; at times he was punched and thumped on the back and on the neck, and his heels were trodden on. In some cases he was kicked ... a rope was used by which to pull him around, water was thrown on him while on the ground, and he was dragged for some distance along the floor of the yard. . . ."

Is Nazi-ism un-British? This extract from the Magisterial Report may be compared with a book review in John O' London's Weekly (June 29, 1935) of Herr Wolfgang Langhof's Rubber Truncheon:

"The author is a German actor, neither Jew nor a politician who was arrested in 1933 and left for thirteen months without trial. No reason was given for his imprisonment, no notice was taken of his protests. . . . His unvarnished account of the beatings and diabolical savagery to which he and his fellow-prisoners were subjected makes one sick with horror. They were beaten with truncheons, laths, fists, and whips. They were kicked, they were put to bestial indignities. . . ."

Is Nazi-ism un-British? These two authoritative extracts clearly show the falsity of the beliefs of Mr. Baldwin and the British Labour Movement. British Imperialism, when its security is threatened, never hesitates to employ the methods of the Nazi thug; and when the emergency is over the authorities white-wash the brutalities that have been committed. Thus in the Wanganui Goal case the Court found J. W. Cramp-ton, lieutenant, who was in command of the goal, not guilty on the whole eleven charges, and "honestly acquitted him." It is difficult to reconcile this verdict with the following extract from the Magisterial Report:

"I have been able to discover little or no exaggeration in the statements of the prisoners. So far as I have been able to check them they page 60 are fair and truthful .... on the other hand, I am satisfied that many of the statements made to me by members of the Barracks' staff were untrue."

The action of the Government in ignoring Mr. Hewitt's report, and setting up a court-martial that was merely a piece of white-washing machinery to save Lieut. Crampton's position, can only be rivalled by the Nazis' "trial" of Van der Lubbe to shift the blame for the burning of the Reichstag.

Is Nazi-ism un-British? It may be with fairness stated that it is not.

* * * *

The Wanganui Gaol incident is but one example of Nazi-ism in New Zealand. Remembering the tragedy of Germany, students should fight the slightest Nazi tendencies in this country, and realise that their welfare is closely linked with that of the working classes.