Disgrace Abounding

Disgrace Abounding by Douglas Reed 

 

 http://ia341207.us.archive.org/1/items/DisgraceAbounding_113/disgrace.pdf

 

http://www.archive.org/details/DisgraceAbounding_113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

published: March, 1939 

CONTENTS 

 

 

(click on a title to go straight to that chapter) 

 

 

Preface 

 

 

01.  Journey Resumed 

02.  Island Lament 

03.  Bird’s-Eye View 

04.  A Coloured Handkerchief 

05.  David Undaunted 

06.  Portrait Of A Gentleman 

07.  Hungarian Summer 

08.  End Of A Baron 

09.  Hungarian Idyll 

10.  Swastika Over Hungary 

11.  Blue-Faced Venus 

12.  Half A League 

13.  Better The Devil … 

14.  Hungarian Tragedy 

15.  War In The Air 

16.  And Thou 

17.  Boy King 

18.  Fly, Fly, Fly Again 

19.  Blockmarks And Balkan Markets 

20.  Nature Of The Beast 

21.  Out Of Joint 

22.  The Little Rocket 

23.  How Odd Of God 

24.  Long, Long Trail 

25.  In Town To-Night 

26.  Little Girl From Nowhere 

27.  One-Eyed Outcast 

28.  Make Thee Mightier Yet 

29.  Christmastide In Prague 

30.  Reds!!! 

31.  Christmas Day In Chust 

32.  Carol And Codreanu 

33.  Magyarland Again 

34.  Belgrade Burlesque 

35.  Bohemia In Bondage 

36.  Looking At England 

37.  The Twilight Thickens 

 

 

 

Postscript 

 

Appendix: Mort De Bohème 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preface 

All the fictions in this book are characteristic. None of the characters is fictitious, though some are 

disguised. A multitude of opinions is expressed. They may be poor things; in any case, they are 

mine own. 

If the book were to have a dedication it would be, in the words of the furniture removal man, to you 

– from me. 

While I was finishing the book, Insanity Fair, to which this is a sequel, events began to move so 

fast, and myself with them, that I never had time to go through the proofs with a microscope for the 

misprints of others and the mistakes of myself. 

The first thirty-odd impressions thus contained a large but dwindling number of slips. That they 

dwindled was largely due – I hardly stopped running about in the subsequent nine months for long 

enough meticulously to examine a single chapter – to readers in many countries, who wrote to me, 

or even called on or telephoned to my publishers, to point them out. To them my most cordial 

thanks are due. 

The same thing may happen, in a lesser degree, in this book. If it does, I tender thanks in advance. 

Those spacious and leisurely days are gone when a writer, at any rate a writer in my field, might sit 

in a quiet house, looking over green English wealds, weigh and apportion his words in long and 

tranquil meditation, and with measured gesture dip his quill pen into the ink and transfer them to 

paper. 

A writer of my type, in the mid-twentieth century, is always rushing off to catch a train or 

aeroplane, to keep abreast of the rush of events, and between journeys has quickly to tap his 

thoughts on paper. 

He who runs may read. To write, you have to run still faster. 

Possibly some of the things I have written about will begin to happen before the book is out. I shall 

not alter it if they do. I think, by leaving it as it was written, you get a more plastic view of the 

march of events. 

The direct form of address, ‘You’, is intended in most cases for British readers.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One 

JOURNEY RESUMED 

I wrote a book, Insanity Fair. This book begins where that one left off. I thought of calling this one 

The Picnic Papers. Insanity Fair, about Europe; The Picnic Papers, about England. It seemed to 

express the picture I had in my mind. There a lunatic fun-fair, a mad ride through the haunted 

house; here a crazy picnic of inertia and apathy, ignorance and arrogance. There ruthless dictators, 

marching armies, bright swords, glittering prizes; clear ideas, something men can understand. Here 

fear, irresolution, class prejudice, bewilderment, property mania, icy cynicism, fogged ideas – litter 

blowing about the land that once was green and pleasant, so they say. Storm over Europe. Litter 

over England. 

The Picnic Papers, the book will remain for me. But others, good judges, tell me that the title is a 

bad one, that it does not convey the idea I have in mind; also, though I did not know this, it has 

been used before. So The Picnic Papers becomes, for you, Disgrace Abounding. I like that one, too, 

and think it better. But for me, this book is The Picnic Papers

I wrote Insanity Fair as a member of a generation that was led out to fight for an ideal, and now 

sees that ideal being crucified while old politicians, who were old politicians when that war began 

which we now know has never been ended, cry ‘Crucify it’ and their Adam’s apples run up and 

down like the car of a cable railway. But, being realists, they don’t say ‘Crucify it’ nowadays; they 

say ‘Non-intervention’, or ‘The sacred principle of self-extermination’, no, I don’t think I’ve got that 

one quite right, but you will probably remember the phrase I mean; anyway I am a member of that 

generation that finds no peace nor any brave new world, and I was sick of describing this daily 

parade of treachery and humbuggery in the anonymous shroud of ‘Our own correspondent’. 

I wanted, by book or by crook, to clear away some of that litter, and I don’t know why I should 

have thought that I could do that, but I had to try or burst, so I wrote Insanity Fair, thinking that I 

would for this once speak freely and then sit back, close my mind to this Hogarthian pageant of 

brutality and covetousness and lust, don again the hooded shroud of ‘Our own correspondent’ and 

write eloquent summaries of trade statistics, emasculated descriptions of the daily scene in our 

contemporary Europe. 

But book, God help me, leads to book. While the binders were glueing the covers on to Insanity 

Fair, making it ready for its appearance on All Fools’ Day 1938, while the bells of St. Stephen’s in 

Vienna were ticking off the last seconds of my forty-third birthday, March 11th, 1938, German 

armies had already begun to write the sequel in iron caterpillar-tracks that came down from the 

frontier to Vienna, crashed through the Ringstrasse, and turned off to the right where the road leads 

to Czechoslovakia, barely an hour away. 

That self-same night or later, I knew, they would march on into Czechoslovakia, and England, 

producing from behind her back yet another wreath with the words ‘We deplore the methods used’, 

which means rather less than ‘Yours very sincerely’ at the end of a letter dismissing an employee of 

thirty years’ standing just before he qualifies for a pension, England would sit back and read with 

relief letters in the newspapers from an archbishop, two retired ambassadors, an oriental potentate, 

four peers and five university professors, proving that England had in her magnanimity given 

Germany yet another Fair Deal, and we must at all costs continue in the path of collaboration with 

Germany, and God is on the side of the big Italians. Especially, we must continue ‘to establish 

personal contact’ with the dictators, this being the modern name for that process by which one party 

supplies the pants and the other party the kick, the first party repeatedly practising the ancient 

Christian principle of turning the other cheek. 

But I knew, on that night, that Austria meant Czechoslovakia, and that Czechoslovakia meant 

Hungary, Poland, Rumania; that these meant Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia, the whole of 

Danubia and the Balkans, German invincibility – and, ultimately, you. I quickly wrote a few more 

chapters for Insanity Fair to say this, and six months later a Swiss newspaper, the Basler 

Nachrichten, took up the book, reviewed it, and said, ‘It must be a bitter comfort to the author that 

his prophecies have been so far fulfilled.’ 

No. Bitter, not a comfort. Comfort there would have been if they had been proved wrong, or if they 

had found in England wide enough belief to get something done. To be a true prophet of woe is no 

satisfaction. 

So The Picnic Papers (that is, Disgrace Abounding) became inevitable. I could not go on for ever 

writing new chapters for Insanity Fair. You have expanding bookshelves, but you can hardly have 

an expanding book. If you could, I would write one as long as a concertina. The little book might 

go on for ever. Perhaps a loose-leaf book will be the solution of the writer’s problem in these 

galloping times, when he cannot dip his pen into the ink quickly enough, or tap the keys of his 

typewriter fast enough, or speak into the recording machine rapidly enough, to keep up with the 

rush of events, the hurtling advance of roaring mechanized armies, the flight of fugitives, the tears 

of women and the crying of children, the shattering of idols and the betrayal of ideals, the erasion 

of old and the limning of new frontiers. 

Why write at all, for that matter? The old saw, that the typewriter is mightier than high explosive, is 

demonstrably absurd. But, somehow, I must, as long as the light holds, and that will not be very 

long. The twilight of our gods, the gods that stood for humanity and justice and the right of men to 

speak and write for these things, is thickening fast. Soon a right venerable gentleman, applauded by 

the overwhelming majority of a House elected to protect small nations against greedy great ones, 

may tell you that ‘a national emergency’ exists and present you with some noble- sounding Act, ‘for 

the tranquillization of public opinion’ or what not, and you may wake up to find that you are gagged 

and bound, that you may not criticize the latest Fair Deal that has been given to Germany, in Spain 

or lord knows where, that the voice of the people may be raised only in one grand sweet song of 

admiration for the achievements of the government. 

Somebody wrote about Insanity Fair, ‘There ought to be a law. There ought to be a law preventing 

foreign correspondents from writing any more now-it-can-be-told memoirs.’ 

There probably will be. Be of good cheer. 

But for the nonce we may write, comic little men who go tailing about after lost causes, and the 

voice of Insanity Fair rings loud in my mind calling for its mate. The Picnic Papers (I mean, 

Disgrace Abounding). I hope time at least remains for that happy union to be consummated, and I 

even see in imagination the features of their first-born, A Tale of Three Cities, Vienna, Prague and 

Budapest, and how they all became German provincial towns, and after that The Decline and Fall 

of the British Empire – but you have heard that one before and you don’t care for it, you are not 

bemused, and how right you are. 

Before we start on this picnic I think you have a right to know something about your host. I wish I 

could tell you just who and what he is. I find that many different opinions exist about me. I am, as I 

read, no Red, an extreme anti-Fascist, a bitter critic of the British Left, a British Tory, a man who 

will be called prejudiced more by persons belonging to the political Right than the Left, and other 

things. 

I regret this diversity of views about me, because I don’t like to think that you don’t know where I 

am. An intelligent man should be born into this world alive either a little Liberal or a little 

Conservative, and having chosen his watertight compartment, he should stay there. All the good 

and noble ideas must obviously be in one of those compartments, the red one, or the true blue one, 

or the brown one, and then you have your label. When you have people gadding about who think 

they find something good and something bad in all the compartments, the time has come for stern 

action: hold them down and pin a label on them – Red, for preference. 

But in this matter of political hue, I have decided to declare war. I have sought out the most 

repulsive colour I can find and have decided to give its name to anybody who disagrees with my 

opinions on any subject. The colour is puce. Any individual who disagrees with me is a Puce. Any 

body of individuals who disagree with me are Puces. I expect in time to found a national movement 

against Puces, who are the cause of all that is wrong in England. I even expect in time to find anti- 

Puce States banded together to save the world from Pucery. 

So you know just what I am against. What I am, what I am for: these are more difficult things to 

state. I only knew one other man in my case, and he was the hero of an enthralling human drama 

that I found in a volume of German statistics, which are far stranger than truth. In the section 

devoted to the number of German strikes and Lockouts in a certain year (yes, that was before 

Hitler) I found, in a column headed ‘Number of strikers’, the numeral ‘I’, and in the next column, 

headed ‘Working days lost’, the figure ‘187’, and in the column headed ‘Result’, the words ‘No 

agreement’. 

I scarcely dared believe my eyes when I found ‘I’. Men had sought for centuries the secret of 

making gold, the Saragossa Sea, the stone of wisdom, the sunken city, and a cure for baldness, and 

had failed. I had found something rarer than them all – The One Man Strike. Somewhere in 

Germany a working man had struck, and struck for more than half the year. Spurning all 

inducements, braving all threats, picketing the works to keep himself from blacklegging, daily 

growing thinner and colder and hungrier, he had struck and struck and struck, and at the year’s end 

he was still striking and ‘No agreement’ had been reached. 

A stupendous, a Homeric, an immortal conflict! To my last day I shall regret that Hitler then came 

to power, abolished strikes, and prevented me from reading the next instalment of that enthralling 

tale in the next volume of statistics. But I looked back through earlier volumes, for previous years, 

and, believe it or not, ‘I’ was always there. ‘I’ had struck, for longer or shorter periods, for several 

years. He was unconquerable. Every year he was there, striking, striking, striking. 

A kindred spirit. The One Man Striker, the incorrigible sales-resister, the professional rebel, the 

champion of a lost cause. 

So now you know, approximately. 

Let’s get down to that picnic. Unpack your hamper, bring out the potted arrogance, the bottled 

ignorance, the tinned snobbery, the upper, middle, and lower class sandwiches; make yourselves 

comfortable on your patent inertia cushions; I hope you have brought the aspirin with you, in case 

those troublesome pains in your apathy come on; play something on the gramophone that tells of 

England and Englishmen and the things that England stood for and stands for. Strew the litter 

about. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Puces and anti-Puces, The Picnic Papers

Or rather, Disgrace Abounding.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two 

ISLAND LAMENT 

May 1933. I wandered about London champing with impatience to be back in Central Europe, 

where the moving finger was writing another act of the tragedy of faith betrayed along the banks of 

the Danube, railing savagely in my heart at England for this smug self-complacency, that nothing 

but high explosive seemingly can disturb, on the eve of disaster. 

Insanity Fair. It was apt, that title that I hit on one sunny day at Montreux two years before. A 

colleague, one Shakespeare, had the same idea a few hundred years earlier – a mad world, my 

masters. Somebody else, soon after the War Called Great, put the same idea into American – this 

cockeyed world. 

May 1938, in London. A mad and merry month, my masters. The buds were fighting their 

springtime battle against the coaldust-laden air. Everywhere the road-builder was at work; no 

avenues were being left unturned. Mr. Victor Gollancz had announced a Christian Book Club. As I 

wandered, seething, along the Edgware Road, a bareheaded woman with lilac hair and a long 

cigarette holder in her mouth passed in front of me, and by 1940 I expect they will be shaving their 

heads bald and painting them green with pink spots and chewing betel nut, and very decorative that 

ought to be, and very good for white prestige, and as long as we can keep it up the black man ought 

to be proud to carry the white man’s burden. 

At the Oval or Lord’s or somewhere somebody had made hundreds or thousands of runs, I don’t 

know which; he had been at the wicket for days and days, good old Thingummybob, and this put 

everybody in good humour, so that clerks and shop assistants and stockbrokers smoked their pipes 

with greater relish in the homeward train to Wimbledon and Brixton and Harrow and felt their 

hearts warm within them as they hosed the garden. Good old Thingummybob. We shall win the 

Ashes. 

Ashes, ashes, thought I, what the devil are the Ashes, and who cares about them, anyway? How 

many Englishmen know where Asch is? – which is much more important now. The wind and the 

dust swirled round the corners and gave me headaches, which I cured by going to the enormous 

picture theatres, where every prospect was vile but the air was pure ‘and dust-free, for it had been 

passed through some machine. This is not a joke: to get a breath of fresh air in our London, where I 

was born, you have to go to the pictures. 

I went to the theatres. I saw that slick and amusing play George and Margaret, in which George 

and Margaret are always just about to appear but never do, and I loved Jane Baxter, her looks, her 

figure, her acting, her enunciation. I liked the other players, the clean finish of their performances, 

the way they played to each other. This was a merry evening, an oasis in the desert of London. But 

Joyce Barbour had played a scurvy trick on me, I felt. Only a few months before, as it seemed to 

me, just about the time that I began gadding about Europe, I had admired her as she led Mr. 

Cochran’s young ladies on to the stage, and now here she was playing the matronly mother, and as I 

had not altered in the least, between these two occasions I was vaguely perturbed. 

The vast changes that a world war and twenty-five years had brought to the English stage amused 

me. Not long before that war, I think, the word ‘bloody’ was spoken for the first time on a London 

stage, I believe in one of Mr. Shaw’s plays. Now the word ‘bloody’ occurred at least once in all 

plays of this kind, as inevitably as the butler who brought in the letter. The new thing was that the 

leading young lady had to speak at least once about sleeping with a man, and at this point she either 

dropped her eyes to the stage or fixed them glassily on a point in the auditorium just above the 

heads of the people in the last row of the pit. The procedure used apparently depended on the 

Feingefühl, on the nicety of feeling, of the producer. What, I wondered in awe, would we be 

hearing on the London stage after another generation? 

I went to see a play of Noel Coward’s and watched the stalls chuckling comfortably at the quartette 

that sang ‘The Stately Homes of England’. This was the kind of satire, like that of Evelyn Waugh, 

that they liked. It did not hurt, and was properly respectful of the Old School Tie. And there on the 

stage, praise be, I saw Fritzi Massary. Paris has its Mistinguett, and now London had its Massary, 

and I was glad that London would no longer be deprived of that which Berlin and Vienna had so 

long enjoyed. 

For that matter, many of the theatres and picture theatres I went to in England seemed suddenly to 

have decided not to withhold from the public any longer talent of which Berlin, Vienna, Budapest 

and Prague had previously had the benefit. 

This London. As I wandered around it, in my disgruntled way, in May 1938, I asked myself, 

‘Where are the Englishmen?’ 

Gradually I found them. A few of them are sitting in the clubs around Pall Mall, thinking that all is 

for the best in the best of all possible clubs and God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.’ 

Some of the others you will also find in that Central London. They are selling newspapers, serving 

socks and ties, standing in lackey’s uniform outside picture theatres, while inside, near the cash 

desk, hovers The Boss, a foreign-visaged man with a glistening white shirt-front. Many others are 

sitting, packed together, in the trains homeward bound for the packed-together houses in 

Walthamstow, Wembley, Pinner or Putney. The Slaves of The Job. Pipe-between-teeth; umbrella- 

hooked-over-wrist; evening-newspaper-between-the-hands; atop, the black hat that shows that all 

Englishmen are ultimately equal, even if they haven’t an Old School Tie. 

By the way, don’t mind if I keep on about the Old School Tie. I see that somebody said he could not 

understand how or why I could squirm when I see one, but the explanation is simple. I don’t squirm 

for myself, because I have had a break and shaken off the shackles. I squirm for England and the 

things that this system of privilege and protection and preference has done to England. Why abolish 

purchase and pocket boroughs if you are going to reintroduce them in another form – the Old 

School Tie? 

If you don’t believe me, about London and England, read what Kurt von Stutterheim of the Berliner 

Tageblatt says about it:  

England’s foundation … is in worse case than France’s. In England the early change- 

over to pasture, together with centuries of emigration of farmers overseas, has led to 

a thinning-out of the native peasant element, which every sensible Englishman 

regards with deep anxiety. In the South, particularly, a peasant family in the 

Continental sense has become a rarity. Instead of working on the family farm, the 

peasant girl is serving cakes and lemonade in a near-by tea-room, while her brother 

is occupied on a sports ground or at a filling station. 

That is photographically accurate, but to get the whole of the picture you must look at the London 

scene, as I have shown it. 

Central London, largely a cosmopolitan settlement of parasites who live by selling goods and 

services that London could well dispense with – expensive but inferior food and drink, betting 

agencies, gambling machines, bottle parties, nude revues, lunatic advertising, and the whole 

process of selling nothing for something. Outer London, the wilderness where the Slaves of The 

Job live in houses that repeat themselves in endless monotony, like incurable hiccoughs. Beyond 

that, England, now given over to the cult of the thistle, the stately home, the ring-fenced park, the 

prosecution of trespassers, the tea-room, the filling station, the mushroom factory. 

When I was last in London I went to a revue, one of the best and wittiest I have ever seen, at the 

Little Theatre, and there two players, a man and a woman, sang a song about England. The picture 

on the stage was a living reproduction of Ford Madox Brown’s ‘The Last of England’. They sat 

behind a circular opening in a dark drop-cloth, so that they looked like two figures in a miniature. 

Behind them you saw the rigging of a ship and the sea. They sat looking steadily and sadly before 

them, at England that they were leaving for ever, and only their lips moved as they sang. They sang 

well, and with feeling. They sang of English fields, of English friends, of the spring in English 

woods, of their youth in English lanes, of the smoke rising from English chimneys, of red English 

roofs, of their grief at leaving these things. 

Ah, if only I, who have so often looked back at England, had a picture like that in my mind. Then 

this song could bring me back from the ends of the world, back from the grave itself. But am I, 

when I die of a bomb or a fever in some corner of a foreign land, to exclaim with my dwindling 

breath, ‘Brondesbury, my Brondesbury’, to summon before my glazing eyes a picture of Number 21 

Streatley Road? If only England were like that song. If only London were like the Lambeth Walk. 

England could be like that, if you had men who cared for England, instead of men who only care 

for their own class. But drive along the coast road from Worthing to Eastbourne. Take a walk down 

the Lambeth High Street. 

When I was last in London my friends reproached me for my views about England. ‘You really go 

too far’, they said. ‘You take too gloomy a view. After all’, they said, ‘my country right or wrong, 

you know, don’t you know.’ 

‘Oh, yeah’, said I, ‘I know what you mean, I know that one. My country clean or dirty. My country 

slummy or unslummy.’ 

The English people are sound, I think. But what has been done to England in these last hundred 

years, and more especially in these last twenty years since the World War is mortal sin. 

Yet the arguments of my friends gave me to think. Was it possible, I asked myself, that the jaundice 

was in my own eye, that Shoreditch and Shoreham and Bethnal Green and Bermondsey were in 

reality all bright and beautiful places filled with sturdily independent British workpeople? I 

determined to set out in search of ‘This England’ of the railway companies’ and newspaper 

advertisements, ploughmen homeward plodding their weary way, sheep sleepily ambling through 

dappled sunlit lanes, cows lowing in the meadows, venerable piles, dignified debates in ancient 

halls, a race of men and women ‘dauntlessly courageous and doggedly determined’, as the good 

Simon said in putting across a rather bitter-tasting budget. 

I drove about Sussex in a car, but these fair scenes eluded me. I saw, or thought I saw, a ravaged 

countryside, a land where every prospect displeases and only beans are bile. Bungalows. Thistles. 

Ye Olde this and that, with men standing outside them in uniforms apparently meant to recall that 

green and pleasant England which we all know from the coloured prints but which has now been 

spoiled and defaced, as I fear, beyond repair. 

Villages where the children looked unhealthier than the town children, and believe it or not but I 

learned in these villages, with cows on all sides, that the children have to be reared on tinned milk 

because all the fresh milk is bought by the cities, and that is a thing that couldn’t happen in any 

other country I know. Little arty shops. 

As for the lads and lasses of this England, I found them where Kurt von Stutterheim found them – 

working at filling stations and sports grounds, in tea-rooms and picture theatres. 

The appearance of my countrypeople often surprised and perplexed me. So many of them had a 

hungry, caged and care-worn air which I attributed to sex repression until I learned, from diligent 

perusal of the advertisement columns in the newspapers, that it was due to night starvation. Why, I 

wondered, did so many of them go about looking as if they feared that they were about to be 

accosted by someone to whom they hadn’t been introduced? Why did they laugh in an embarrassed 

fashion when you told them a joke, unless it was a smutty one, and then you all roared together in 

corners. Why did they begin every sentence with a deprecatory cough and ‘Er – well …’ 

Still in search of British Institutions, I visited the Mother of Parliaments and spoke, in a committee 

room, to two or three score Members, of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, of what was coming 

in Europe, of the things of which I understood a little. Left of me sat a General who was of 

progressive mind and broad and humane ideas. Over against me sat a Duchess, a woman of 

enlightenment and feeling. Right of me sat an Admiral, a die-hard of the truest deep-water blue. 

The others, predominantly Conservatives, were men of similar type. The great majority of them, as 

I judged from their questions and manner, were well-informed and intelligent people. But I felt 

despondent as I contemplated them. They seemed to be the prisoners of a party machine from 

which they could not or would not break away even when it dragged England, and therewith 

Europe, from one disaster to another. Elected by an enthusiastic country to enforce peace against 

peacebreakers, they were now docilely following the Government in the opposite direction, in the 

policy of taking steps – long ones – away from the peacebreakers every time they became truculent. 

I went to Another Place, to the Museum at the Other End of the Passage, to the House of Lords. It 

was a great and historic occasion, perhaps the best possible occasion on which to study this British 

Institution. 

A Bill had been introduced to transfer to public ownership the coal that lies beneath England’s once 

fair countryside and to pay compensation to those great landlords beneath whose acres it is found. 

You all know, or possibly you don’t, the part that the discovery and mining of coal has played in 

making England what it is, in disfiguring the face of England and undermining the stamina of the 

people in the last hundred years. 

On the one hand, it made England prosperous as she was never prosperous before, and if you care 

to go and look at large areas of the coal country and the slum areas of London to-day you may 

murmur, ‘If this be the price of prosperity, Lord God we have paid in full’, and you will be right. 

Read any trustworthy account you like of housing conditions and the standards of living in those 

blackened wildernesses called Special Areas, and you will never feel quite the same again towards 

the lump of coal you pick up in the tongs and put on your drawing-room fire. 

Anyway, this Bill hit the coalowners, some of whom are said never to have seen a coal-mine, 

because they lease the coal rights to the colliery owners, right in their principles and pockets. 

London, on this May day when I went to the House of Lords, was in the morning full of peers 

anxiously asking the way to Westminster. London at all times, if you stay in that little London of 

the clubs, seems full of titled people, a city of dreadful knights, but on this day there were more 

than at any time since the coronation. Not that I have anything against titled people. They fulfil a 

useful part in our economic life. What would our advertisers of face cream do without them? 

The House of Lords was hushed and dim. At first I only saw rows of white blobs, the faces of 

England’s peers, whose sombre garments merged indistinguishably into the surrounding gloom. 

They were all there, row on row, Lord Coalmine, Lord Whisky, Lord Blueblood, and Lord Beer; 

Lord Tobacco, Lord Purebred, Lord Coalmine, Lord Newspaper and Lord Bookstall; Lord 

Pedigree, Lord Battleaxe, Lord Motorcar, Lord Readymade, Lord Wholesale, Lord Party, and Lord 

Coalmine; Lord Abraham, Lord Israel and Lord Isaac. 

Bald Heads in the gloaming; the stately domes of England. A solemn occasion. The Archbishop of 

Canterbury had in resonant tones pronounced the word Expropriation. Ah, that dread word. I 

remembered it in Germany, when Brüning wished to foreclose on great estates hopelessly insolvent 

and indebted to the public exchequer and, in fulfilment of Hindenburg’s promise, settle ex- 

servicemen smallholders on them. Bolshevism, the squires had called it there, and they overthrew 

Brüning and brought Hitler to power. 

You couldn’t call it Bolshevism here, because a Conservative Government had brought in the Bill, 

but Expropriation was enough. A dreadful word. 

As I watched, a faint murmur broke the hush and I saw that the lips of one of the blobs were 

moving. The Primate had painted a pathetic picture of the loss which the funds of the Ecclesiastical 

Commissioners would suffer from this Bill, a thing which I hope my miner friend, Herbert Hoggins 

of Durham, sufficiently appreciates, and the debate was joined on this point. A noble lord gently 

intoned his regret that ‘the poor clergy who are already not sufficiently well paid in this country are 

going to lose £120,000 by this Bill’, and mentioned in passing that the royalty owners might lose 

£2,000,000 a year. Another noble lord, apparently an outsider who had gate-crashed, said he had 

never been a miner or a royalty owner but intervened ‘to remind your Lordships of a side of this 

Bill which is in danger of being forgotten – the welfare of the miners themselves’. These cads, he 

said, were not unwilling that complete justice should be done to the royalty owner but they also 

wanted justice to be rendered to the coal hewer – you know, that little man down in the bowels of 

the earth who scratches and drags the lumps of coal out of the earth and has never been to the 

House of Lords. 

Then another noble marquess rose and made a speech which, as a powerful and reasoned defence 

of the rights of property, was the most convincing thing I ever heard. It was unanswerable. 

Nobody would deny, he said, that any man who owned land was entitled to quarry gravel or sand 

from it ‘and there is no reason why coal should be treated differently from gravel or sand’. You dig 

a small hole in the ground, he said, and get something; you dig a little farther and get something 

else; you dig still farther and get something else again; ‘how on earth can it be suggested that those 

commodities should be treated in a different way?’ 

How? On earth? 

If the noble marquess had a fault it was, in my opinion, that he showed something of that reluctance 

boldly to claim the full measure of his rights which unfortunately marks so many Englishmen in 

our time. He did not go far enough. Australia belongs to him – if he only digs far enough. But why 

only that which lies below the earth, why not that which is above it? The moon, during its passage 

across the acres which belong to Lord Coalmine, is his. 

His argument is irrefutable. The land and all that is on or under it belongs to you who own it. You 

try it, you who have a semi-detached house and an eighth of an acre in Brixton; dig down a mile 

and see what the local authorities say to you. 

By the way, have you heard the one about the ‘Access to Mountains Bill’? Do you know that there 

is an ‘Access to Mountains Bill’? Men have been trying to make it law in one form or another for 50 

years, and always it has been shelved by some manoeuvre. In England you have to pass a law to 

have ‘Access to Mountains’ Somewhere in England there are derelict areas, there is a Black 

Country. Not far away are hills, to which the workers, the miners, the unemployed, the destitutes 

would fain repair on Sundays to get a little air into their clogged lungs. They cannot get there, 

because everywhere are keep-out notices, trespassers-will-be-prosecuted boards. 

So you have an ‘Access to Mountains Bill’, which does not get to the Statute Book, and the 

mountains remain inaccessible. 

But back to the House of Lords. The noble marquess laboured under such emotional strain, as he 

upheld his rights, that he twice nearly raised his voice. Telling of an experience almost too horrible 

to relate, he said he himself was a member of the Assembly of the Church of England, at a meeting 

of which a proposal was ‘actually’ (hold on to your seats) made that the Church should refuse to 

receive any more rents from coal because it was immoral to do so, and that, he said warmly, was 

not just. ‘Either you believe in the sanctity of private property or you do not.’ There were, he added, 

‘disadvantages in the democratic principle and one of these was apparent now’. 

So now you know just what is wrong with the democratic principle – not the slums, not under- 

nutrition, not unemployment, not bad health, but irreverence for the sanctity of private property. 

Now you know just why you ought to have a dictatorship. 

But try to uphold the sanctity of private property if you are a small property-owner, not a big one, 

and you may have very unpleasant experiences, like that Devonshire poultry farmer who twice 

asked the local fox-hunters to keep off his land and threatened to shoot the hounds if they did not. 

His complaint was treated as ‘silly, futile and unreasonable’, and when the hunt came across his 

poultry farm again and he shot a hound he was prosecuted, fined £5, and ordered to pay £6 8s. 6d. 

costs. You may put up ‘keep-out’ boards against unemployed, but not against fox-hunters. You may 

forbid English workers to have access to mountains, but you may not forbid English fox-hunters to 

have access to poultry farms. 

Then another noble lord, who had inherited his coal from a long line of ancestors, defended ‘private 

enterprise’ in coal-mining. One of the best of all forms of private enterprise, in England is to inherit 

a coal-mine. 

Somebody may say that in these quotations I have been ‘tearing passages from their context’. The 

answer is, yes I have, and so what? 

These men were all so rich, and their languid wrangling about whether they should debatably 

receive a little less or not seemed so stratospherically distant from the plane on which the millions 

live and work and have their being that I grew bored with it. 

But I was irritated by their windy and paralytic English, that exasperatingly futile English of the 

after-dinner speaker, the bazaar-opener, the letter-writer-to-The Times

‘My Lords, I do not think that anybody who has listened to the debate on this Bill can fail to be 

impressed …’ How, for the sake of grammar, does a human being fail to be impressed? 

‘My Lords, I ask your Lordships’ indulgence for a few moments’ (three-quarters of an hour) ‘in 

order to make certain observations … I am not certain that the speech which we have just heard 

from the noble Marquess has not really disposed of any reasons for passing this Bill at all and has 

not in fact shown that the same results which the Government may have in their minds would have 

been quite well achieved in another way.’ 

How many negatives, and how little affirmation! 

‘My Lords, in venturing to follow the two very powerful speeches to which we have just listened I 

feel I ought to apologize to the House for taking part in the debate …’ 

‘My Lords, this is the first time I have ever spoken in your Lordships’ House and I crave that 

indulgence which is always so readily granted by your Lordships to those who are inexperienced in 

the art of debate’ (nice young fellow, that). 

‘My Lords, as one of the oldest members of your Lordships’ House I hope I may with great respect 

be allowed to congratulate my noble friend the Duke of Cucumberland on his very effective maiden 

speech.’ 

‘My Lords, before addressing your Lordships for a few minutes’ (half an hour) ‘on this Bill I should 

like to join my tribute of congratulation to those that have been made to the noble Duke who made 

his maiden speech to-night. I think it must be a matter of congratulation to your Lordships as well 

as to himself that in his case the principle of heredity is so finely maintained by nature and that 

there have descended to him the great qualities that from generation to generation have always 

distinguished his family.’ 

My aunt! My maiden aunt! My maiden speech! In 1938, with Mussolini in Abyssinia and Spain, 

Hitler in Austria and almost in Czechoslovakia! Can’t you hear the simpering Regency dowagers in 

the Pump Room at Bath? Why, in the name of prose and prolix, all this begging and craving and 

venturing and apologizing and indulging and respecting. Why not say something? What is this 

blight that has come upon us? Why must we call derelict areas Special Areas, war a Possible 

Emergency, lavatories Cloakrooms? What are you afraid of? 

Eventually the debate was adjourned. Before it was resumed 79 miners had been killed in an 

accident at Markham Colliery. 

Continuing my study of British Institutions I went to the Tower of London. Teas. Beefeaters. The 

Crown Jewels. Sightseers goggling and giggling at a brass-plate where somebody had been 

beheaded; how long a time has to elapse before an execution becomes funny? In one of the towers 

some armour and uniforms. I could not capture here the feeling of community with the past, of 

history in stone, that I have had in ancient buildings in other countries. 

I left the Tower of London, and walked across Tower Bridge, and a hundred yards down the road 

and turned to the left, and there I found a British Institution, at last. Bermondsey. Go and see it. 

Little narrow streets, little narrow alleys, little narrow courts. Dark and tiny rooms. Lavatories? 

Bathrooms? Find them if you can. Basement windows about a foot above pavement level, just 

enough to admit a very little light, and in the dungeons behind these windows men and women and 

children live, three and four and five in a room. On the outer walls decaying paper crowns, faded 

fragments of Union Jacks. The Coronation, for once in a generation, brought a little colour and 

merrymaking to Bermondsey, which had no representative, unless it was a member of parliament, 

in that berobed and becoroneted and bediademed throng. Round the corner you will find a tablet on 

the wall of the little Church, with many names on it, English names this time. They died – for 

Bermondsey. If you search for it you may find a Slum Clearance Scheme. In the course of the next 

five years they may contrive to pull down and rebuild a dozen of these streets; there are hundreds of 

them in Bermondsey. 

I have seen their like in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch and Whitechapel and in a dozen other 

places. Go there some time. Instead of getting off the bus at Piccadilly or the Bank, go on to the end 

of the run. Take a look at London. 

Consider Bethnal Green. I walked through the streets of Bethnal Green with my good friend. We 

compared impressions. She had never been there before. She knew the poorer districts of other 

great cities, Moabit and Ottakring and Ferencz Varos and Belleville, and she had, some years 

earlier, seen the West End of London, and now lamented the changes she found there: the tawdry 

and trashy little shops that are springing up there, the disappearance of the last remnants of the solid 

English characteristics that still lingered until a few years ago, the international gang of tricksters, 

smart guys, professional emigrants, cheap jacks, procurers, share pushers, pimps, confidence men, 

quack doctors, flashy dentists, cheats big and little, that now prowl round the happy hunting ground 

between Piccadilly and Oxford Street. 

But she had never seen Bethnal Green, and we explored it together. It lies in the heart of the 

greatest and richest city in the world. It is monstrous. 

In that same street we found one butcher’s shop, one fishmonger’s, one grocer’s, one baker’s, one 

greengrocer’s next to another, and all packed from floor to ceiling with food. We had never seen so 

much food, and it was all relatively cheap and of excellent quality – good red meat, good bacon, 

butter and eggs, good fish, good fruit and vegetables. You cannot see so much food, such good 

food, such cheap food in the working-class districts of any big city that I know. 

Somebody must buy this food. The sale of food must be immense, or the shops could not afford to 

carry such stocks, all fresh. Therefore, we argued, the people of Bethnal Green have enough to eat. 

They must have money for food, whatever else they lack. There were even dozens of catsmeat, and 

dogsmeat stalls, a thing you will see nowhere else, and the inhabitants of Bethnal Green must have 

food for themselves if a man can make a living by selling the meat they need for their household 

animals. 

So the people were well fed. I had previously had the impression that, by and large, a man who 

meant to could earn enough money in England to buy enough food for himself and his dependants, 

and what I saw seemed to confirm this. Then why did the people look so haggard, so harassed, so 

drawn, so careworn, the children so unkempt and often so unhealthy? 

We discussed this, my good friend and I, as we wandered through the side streets that lead off 

Bethnal Green Road, or for that matter any other High Street in any mean London quarter. We 

looked at these streets and thought we had found the answer. 

The houses and the living conditions. These people have food, but they have nothing else. These 

miles and miles of dingy boxes that the jerrybuilder, in his blindness, has made of wood and stone. 

The fetid and smoke-laden air. These people are the prisoners of an era of indiscriminate building, 

on a low level of intelligence and forethought the like of which no other great city that I have seen 

can show. Beauty in their homes, beauty in their surroundings, is beyond their dreams, and what is 

the use of wages that will only buy food? 

Even fresh air is beyond them. The city, sprawling ever farther and farther afield, cuts them off 

from the countryside save on rare bank holiday sorties by charabanc, and even when they get there 

it is all littered with random building and filling stations and golf clubs and keep-out-of-here 

notices and don’t-go-there notices and big private parks, and at the end they fall out of the 

charabanc into a pub, from lack of any other place to go, and afterwards they fall out of the pub into 

the charabanc and go home, having had a jolly day in the country. 

If you study the advertisement columns of The Times, from which you can learn a great deal, you 

will from time to time see a notice that reads something like this:  

Bill and Lizzie calling. 5s. will send us to the seaside for a day. 

I know of a charwoman in Germany who in the summer of 1938 made her second trip to Norway, 

not as the guest of Lady Bountiful, but in her own good right, under the auspices of the National 

Socialist leisure-time organization for workers, Kraft durch Freude. 

You still could do something about Bethnal Green, and you could even do it under democratic 

government, if you could only oust the old men and the old idea that Power and Office are things to 

be kept circulating among a small group of people, all interconnected through marriage and Old 

School and University associations. 

Not the merits of the man, his experience, his qualifications, his energy, his enterprise count, only 

that you knew him in this House at Eton or that College at Oxford and his niece, Flanella Prune, 

married your nephew, young Ian Hopscotch, and he has an embattled stronghold in the hierarchy of 

the Party which gives him an unanswerable claim to office. So you take this man, who may have 

started life as a lawyer or whatnot, and one day you make him Foreign Minister, and the next 

Minister for Air, and the next First Lord of the Admiralty, and after that Minister for Public Health, 

and apparently no specialized knowledge is needed for these posts, they just pass round, and that is 

why you have Bethnal Green, which, like Czechoslovakia, is one of those places you know nothing 

about. 

Office for the sake of office, not for the good of the people. 

Look at these Lordly Ones, as Peter Howard once wrote, in 1938. Of twenty-two Cabinet Ministers 

more than half were either lords, sons of lords, or married to lords’ daughters. Two-thirds of the 

junior Ministers were Lordly Ones. One in ten of them might have become members of the 

Administration if they were commoners. Be in the peerage or marry into it is the golden rule. 

England seems to have been made safe for plutocracy. 

Look at England. Is England a good advertisement for this system of the ruling class? The few men 

that break through to the top only do so by submitting to the golden chains of this class. What does 

Ramsay MacDonald look like to-day in retrospect? An elderly and bemused ex-Socialist standing 

between a white shirt and a diadem on the steps of Londonderry House. The same fate befell all 

those who went his way. But in doing so they destroyed the Labour Party, which might have 

reinvigorated England. There is no salvation from that party to-day, if I am any judge. 

From Bethnal Green to Belgravia seems a long way, but actually a relationship exists between them 

– that of cause and effect. If you had some great specialist in municipal administration, in housing 

and health, as Minister for these things, Bethnal Green could never have happened. Bethnal Green 

has come about because in England family, class and party, rank and influence are the 

qualifications for office, not specialized knowledge or experience or energy, and the ultimate aim 

of this system is to keep the sweets of office rotating among a small inter-linked class. You may 

have, somewhere in England, a civic genius, a man who could build you cities to compare with 

those of Greece and Rome, who could give your workpeople sunshine and light and air and health 

and beauty. What means has he of reaching a post where he can do these things? If he has not an 

Old School Tie it is still remotely possible that he may induce some local Conservative 

Association, if they think him docile enough, to put him up as candidate at an election. Arrived in 

Parliament, he disappears among the crowd of back benchers, threatened with boycott if they vote 

against the Government on any issue. 

So you have Bethnal Green, on which I rancorously turned my back that May day, when I had seen 

enough. I came back through the city and the newspaper placards told me, in great flaring letters, 

‘Czechs Mobilizing’. I forgot Bethnal Green and thought of Prague and Eger, of German armies 

thundering into and over Vienna. Now British bombers, heavy, cumbersome craft, laboured over 

the City. Men standing at a corner looked up at them. One said, ‘What price war to-morrow?’ and 

the others laughed. Typists were putting their heads out of windows and looking anxiously 

skyward. It was Friday, May 20th. I was due in a few days to go back to Central Europe. ‘Will it 

come before I get back?’ I asked myself. For the first time I felt in London, even in London, that 

leaden feeling of apprehension that had held me in the last months before the annexation of Austria, 

that had borne upon me with redoubled weight when I saw that lightning mechanized invasion. 

The next day, as the first of my farewells to England, I went to see the Naval and Military 

Tournament at Olympia. I wanted to see how much that show had changed in twenty years, what 

sort of an impression England’s armed forces made now that Germany, rearmed, was the mightiest 

military nation the world had ever seen. 

It had not changed much. There was the unidentifiable Somebody in the Royal Box, taking the 

salute after each item. There were the sailors and stokers from Portsmouth and Chatham hurling 

themselves and their field-guns over bottomless chasms and back again. There was the officer of 

the day announcing each item through the microphone, and there, I swear, was the same joke about 

the Dear Old Lady who, being shown the gun used in this hair-raising performance, said, ‘I knew 

there was a catch in it; it’s hollow’. Ah, those Dear Old Ladies, those Elderly Parties, those 

Frenchmen who mispronounce their English and on their return from a shooting party announce, ‘I 

have two braces to my bags’, or something screamingly funny of the same kind, those plumbers’ 

mates, those ill-bred self-made men! What a gallery of comic figures. Thank God for our sense of 

humour. 

Then came the Scots Greys, cantering tinnily round to the music of American jazz, the Royal 

Inniskilling Dragoons waltzing and curvetting and prancing to ‘The Lambeth Walk’. Have the 

English no sense of the congruous?, I asked myself. If they respect tradition so much, in uniform, 

why not in the musical accompaniment? 

But for that matter, why those uniforms of fifty or more years ago? Why do soldiers cling so grimly 

to the past, but only to the recent past? Even the Germans, who cherish their military traditions just 

as much as you do, and perhaps more, have made no attempt to restore pre-war uniforms. They 

have fully accepted the implications of progress, of mechanization. Their soldiers look just as well 

in the modern uniforms. Why send the Scots Greys out looking like Lady Butler? If you love the 

past and its uniforms so much, then do the thing properly. Send them out in powdered wigs and 

three-cornered hats. Or in armour and battle axes. Or dress them in skins, paint them with woad, 

and give them clubs. But why these Crimean or Afghan or South African uniforms, or whatever 

they are? 

Tin soldiers, trotting round the tan arena. Even the public that day felt the lack of reality; only two 

months before, roaring petrol-driven hordes had crashed into Vienna, outside the placards were 

telling how the Czechoslovaks were manning their frontier defences. Languid applause followed 

the red coats as they jingle-jangled out of the arena. 

Then the big doors were flung open wide and with a zipp and a roar the motor-cyclists raced in. 

Goggles. Crash helmets. Screaming exhausts. Flying dust. The audience sat up as if it had had a 

dose of strychnine. Here was the spirit of our contemporary times, the man on the machine. This 

was real, this they understood. Speed, noise, the smell of petrol, dust-clouds. This was 1938. The 

electric feeling which quickened pulses impart to the air, filled the great hall. A volley of cheering 

followed the riders as they sped out and the doors closed behind them. 

A faint noise as of seagulls, swelling as the big doors opened again to a music that grew and grew 

until it filled every nook and cranny of the hall and the massed bands of the Scottish regiments 

marched in. Here were uniforms that had history woven into their tartans, music that told of battle 

and siege and victory and death and Scottish hills and valleys, men who looked straight bred and 

marched with a step and a swing that held and fascinated the eye. 

How have the Scots contrived to keep their costume and their music and their traditions and their 

feeling of nationhood intact, while the English have lost all these things? 

I can find no answer to the question, but as I came away I regretted that it should be so. Why does 

our England give her children none of these things? I did not know. But I set to packing my bags, 

and on a sunny morning started out once more for the places I knew and understood – the lands 

along the Danube, where the Czechoslovaks, and behind them the Hungarians, the Rumanians, the 

Yugoslavs all stood with their faces turned anxiously or expectantly towards Germany, implacable, 

resolute, mighty, urgent.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three 

BIRD’S-EYE VIEW 

I packed my grips, and tipped the Irish maid, and what ages of challenge lay in those dark eyes of 

hers, and left the bed-sitting-and breakfast-room, opposite the pretentious multi-storied Jew-and- 

emigrant-hive, that I had rented during my stay in London. 

I went down the narrow stairs. I loaded myself and my bags into a taxi and in the early morning 

hours found myself for the umpteenth time, ah, how many times since back-to-the-front in the war, 

bowling through Hyde Park Europewards – and don’t write and tell me that England is in Europe, 

because it isn’t. 

Somewhere in Westminster my bags were weighed, my tickets checked. A woman was there, 

crying, while her married sister, married in England, tried to cheer her. The tears of women, the 

theme song of our time. She was a Jewess and was going back to Prague and she didn’t want to, and 

she envied her sister who was comfortably married in England, farther away from the bombs. 

Then, in the airport bus, we drove and drove, for hours as it seemed. London was a dead city of 

shuttered and blinded shops, as if people with closed eyes lined the route; once again, by some 

chance, I was leaving England on a bank holiday. For those of you who don’t know England I’ll 

explain that in England they call public holidays bank holidays, and there’s a moral somewhere in 

that, if you can find it. 

On we went and on and on, and just as I saw a green field and rubbed my eyes the bus turned off to 

the right and I wandered through a draughty hall with a bookstall that said to me, ‘Good morning, 

have you read Insanity Fair?’ and then the engines were roaring in my ears and the smell of petrol 

was in my nostrils and I felt myself again a cub lieutenant in the Air Force in France and the next 

moment England lay beneath me. 

England. I urged you to take a look at London with open eyes, to see what manner of men are 

having their hair oiled and their hands manicured in the marble basements of Piccadilly, what sort 

of people are expensively cultivating their dyspepsia in the foreign restaurants between Soho and 

the Green Park, what kind of citizens live around Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, 

Shaftesbury Avenue and Leicester Square, what breed of human beings conduct your picture 

theatres, your nude revues, your bottle parties, your slot-machine orgies, your brothels, your 

poached-egg-on-chips palaces. 

Now take a look at England from the air. Contemplate the leprous and scabrous landscape where 

once all was greensward and pleasaunce, if you can believe your poets, your painters and your 

prints. 

London sprawled endlessly behind me, featureless, meaningless, random and unplanned. Even 

from the air you could not see the end of it. Beyond that turgid mass lay blobs, the ‘estates’ and 

‘parks’ of the merchant adventurer of 1938, the jerrybuilder, as if the great splash that was London 

had cast a few drops farther afield. Everywhere were the scars of the builder, newly made or not yet 

healed. As we drew clear of the last outcrops I saw great footprints all over the countryside: a giant 

had been walking about England while England was wet. These were the bunkers of the golf 

courses. 

Here and there were the rare signs of health, the good green and brown of growing crops and 

ploughed fields, but everywhere they were threatened by the nondescript grey of uncultivated land, 

of waste acres, of no-trespass areas, of unkempt woodland. 

Trains seemed to be running along the roads; but as I peered closer I saw that they were motor-cars 

in endless procession, moving slowly towards the delights of Margate and Ramsgate, and as the 

great wing of the aeroplane slowly cleared the coast and a strip of blue appeared behind it, I saw 

thousands upon thousands of ants, all jumbled up together, crawling about those sands. London was 

making merry, London was having its day at the seaside. 

I turned and looked out to starboard and saw with a feeling of wonderment that the wing of the 

aeroplane had hardly cleared Dover before the French coast appeared beneath it. The strip of water 

between the two was so narrow that there seemed barely room for the little steamer that was just 

passing between them. For the ants down there on the sands France and the French were things 

almost as far away and as foreign as the moon. From up here you felt that you could lean down and 

join them with a piece of stamp-paper. 

Then I turned again and looked out to port and had another shock. The French and English coasts 

fell away so steeply that from this side I could see neither of them. Strange atmospheric conditions 

prevailed. A cloudless blue sky and a motionless blue sea were mated by a blue haze that raped the 

horizon. You could not see where sea left off and sky began, what was sky and what sea. They 

were all one. There was nothing, above, below, around, but a blue something. Nothing to measure 

height by. Nothing to measure movement by. Nothing but blue, and the roar of the engines to say 

that we were living beings still belonging to a world that had vanished. Nothing but that blue and a 

golden sparkle in it that you could not locate, but which told you that the sun, somewhere, was 

finding something in that blue emptiness and gilding it. 

A man could go mad if he set himself to think about that endless emptiness, inexplicably coloured 

blue. Think of it as a coloured glass bowl, as most of you do, and you are all right; ‘the blue vault of 

heaven’ is a warm and comforting conception. Take away the glass bowl, try to apply your human 

understanding to the infinite, and you need to hold your scalp on. And why blue, anyway? Not what 

is to come after worries me, as it seems to worry so many people, but what was before. In the 

beginning was … well, all right, if that satisfies you. But before the beginning, you had to have 

space, and who put space there? 

As I hung there, an infinitesimal fly on an endless blue wall, I thought of these things until it hurt. 

On my left – this. On my right – Margate. Hurriedly I took a last look at that stupendous, beloved, 

terrifying blue and sought refuge in my morning paper. When I looked again the sun, groping 

through the haze, had picked up a faint white filament that was the sands of the Dutch coast, and I 

was glad. 

Rotterdam. Ships in the trim and busy harbour. A fine green field. Bright and cheery citizens, come 

out to watch the air-liners come and go. A cup of coffee. The roar of engines again. 

The wing of the machine slid slowly across the frontier and I was looking at Germany once more. 

Germany, that is always with us, the men of my generation, and seemingly will stay with us from 

the cradle to the grave. In my childhood all the talk had been of warlike Germany and her plans to 

destroy England. I had spent my younger manhood fighting against Germany for four years and had 

had a German bullet in my leg. In my later manhood I had spent seven years in Germany, and after 

that I had spent three years in the other Germany, Austria, and seen German armies come roaring in 

again. Now I was going to Czechoslovakia and soon, I knew, I should see the German armies there. 

After that, I also knew, I should see them in other places. As long as I lived they would give the 

world no rest, unless the world chose to capitulate before them. I wondered whether, given the 

choice, I would choose another time to live in. I answered, No – I can’t say why. 

Slowly and smoothly an invisible hand drew a flat and lifeless map beneath me, a harmless, 

amusing thing of browns and greens and yellows, with towns and roads and railways hatched upon 

it, and after two and a half hours it was gone. Could this, I asked myself, be the country before 

which all the world quailed, this coloured inanimate sheet with its toylike towns and no sign of life 

save tiny puffs of smoke from stations and factories? This big field across which you could fly in 

an hour or two? Could this page out of an atlas be the thing that continually formed and reformed 

all my life, that repeatedly changed all my plans, that from my nineteenth to my forty-third year 

had always intervened when I thought to map out the route of my future, and seemed likely for the 

rest of my days to intrude between myself and the places where I wanted to live, the things I 

wanted to do? 

From the height at which we flew – at which we had to fly, for Hitler was at work night and day on 

his concrete retort to the Maginot Line, and foreign air-liners had been warned to keep above 

10,000 feet – all that ant-like activity had become invisible to the human eye. But I knew that down 

there, while France was busy with her eternal cabinet crises and England was languidly discussing 

whether she ought to make some kind of preparations for defence against air raids, down there 

Hitler could with a stroke of the pen take a million men overnight from their daily occupations and 

set them to work building fortifications, that those tiny puffs of smoke, in all that placid map the 

only signs of human activity that reached up to where I was, meant that a greater air fleet, mightier 

legions of tanks and artillery than the world has ever seen were being built. 

The contrast with the face of England was immense. Here the ploughman, the sower of seed and 

the woodsman had etched the land in oblongs and squares and triangles of green and brown and 

gold. On every inch of it something grew to feed man or serve him, save where the towns lay, and 

they were orderly settlements, built to plan. Their suburban outgrowths picked their way cleanly 

and carefully into the surrounding countryside. No scars, no scabs, no blots and blobs. Everything 

tidied up and left trim and shipshape. 

At last the aeroplane crossed the Czechoslovak frontier and I reflected, as I had often reflected 

before, that the German air fleets of 1938 needed about a quarter of an hour to reach Prague. While 

I was still thinking about this, Prague appeared beneath us, and a few minutes later I was bowling 

into the city in the airport bus, glad to be back and full of curiosity to learn how Benesh and his 

people, whom I had last seen in January, were bearing the strain now that Austria was gone and the 

battering ram of Germany’s urge to expand had slewed round from Vienna and was pointing 

menacingly at Prague.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four 

A COLOURED HANDKERCHIEF 

I was astonished at what I saw in Prague. The people of this small, isolated and beleaguered 

country, surrounded by enemies, unable to count on any of their friends, living under the hourly 

threat of a danger before which even the imagination quailed, were unafraid, calm, in good spirits. 

They held their heads high. A few days before, on the night of May 20th-21st, Benesh and the 

Government, fearing a lightning German swoop on the Austrian model, had mobilized the army 

and manned the defences. Now, at least, Czechoslovakia could not be taken by surprise. If the 

Germans attacked they would find men waiting to resist them. Czechoslovakia, if she perished, 

would perish fighting. 

I was astounded by the spirit and tranquil resolution of the Czechoslovaks in those early summer 

days. I admired them, but I feared for them. They thought that, outnumbered ten or twelve to one, 

they could resist for days or even weeks. After what I had seen in Austria I did not believe it. They 

thought France, England and Russia would come to their aid if they could hold out a little while. 

After what I had seen of British policy in the five years since Hitler came to power I did not believe 

it. 

I thought they would be deserted at the last moment, and had said so in Insanity Fair and in articles 

I wrote many months before. Here was a little country faced by the imminent threat of brute force, 

and British policy all over the world in recent years, in China, in Abyssinia, in Spain, in Austria, 

had been to retreat before the aggressors, even to help them to their successes. I did not believe that 

this policy would be changed in the case of Czechoslovakia. On the contrary, I thought that it 

would be pursued even to the capitulation of England herself, and I think you will see this. 

So, once more, I walked about a great city feeling like the one-eyed man in the country of the blind 

and with compassion in my heart for these people who so stoutly turned their faces to the future. If 

they had been despondent and overawed I should have found it easier to bear. But, in spite of all 

that had happened in the world, they still had their faith, they still believed in the victory of that 

cause for which the World War was said to have been fought – the right of small nations to live 

their own lives. The thought of the shock that this faith was going to receive overclouded those 

glorious June days, for me. 

Just before I left London, in May, I had given a cocktail party and among the people who came to it 

was the managing director of a Prague newspaper. He asked me if I thought there would be war, 

and I said no, Czechoslovakia would disintegrate without war because she would be faced with the 

threat of overwhelming force and would be deserted by those who alone could help her to resist it. 

He thought this a wild opinion and said that, even if deserted, the Czechoslovak army would never 

retire without fighting; he had not seen, as I had, the growth of the new German army, and its first 

employment, in Austria. When he returned to Prague he looked up all the reference books and told 

me triumphantly, when I saw him there in June, that frontiers had never in history been 

substantially altered without war. When I saw him in October he said to me, ‘You are a prophet.’ 

Who wants to be a prophet? 

I was glad to have had those summer days in Prague. I felt that I should not often see that Prague 

again. The more I see of it the more I come to think that Prague is one of the loveliest of all the 

cities I know. It has not the incomparable surroundings of Vienna, it has not the peerless river front 

of Budapest. But the Hradschin, with St. Vitus’s Cathedral, dominating the city; the Moldau curving 

by beneath its ancient Charles Bridge; the lovely old winding streets and houses, still unspoiled; the 

narrow alley where the alchemists sought the secret of making gold; the ironworkers and 

woodworkers and leatherworkers and glassworkers, almost the last craftsmen in Europe; all these 

combine to make a city of inexhaustible beauty. I never take a walk in Prague without the pleasant 

feeling that I have a minor adventure before me. 

The city was packed with young men and girls in the loveliest peasant costumes that Europe can 

show or in the dress of the Sokols. Long ago, about the middle of last century, when Czechoslovak 

independence seemed but a vain and distant dream, these Sokol gymnastic societies were founded 

to keep alive the idea of nationhood under the rule of the Austrian Emperors. When the World War 

came the young men who had trained and hardened their bodies in the ranks of the Sokols formed 

those fine Czechoslovak Legions which fought with the French, the Russian, the Italian armies 

against the Central Powers. After the war they came back and built the army of the Czechoslovak 

Republic, that army which now, in June 1938, was standing on guard at the frontiers. 

The Sokol rallies, displays of gymnastics and physical exercises on a stupendous scale, were great 

events in liberated Czechoslovakia and united Yugoslavia after the war. They were held every six 

years and chance had ordained that the greatest of all was held in this fateful summer of 1938, in 

the big stadium outside Prague named after the President-Liberator, that Thomas Garrigue Masaryk 

behind whose coffin I had walked only a few months earlier. 

It was an unforgettable pageant of Slav costume, colour, music and physical fitness, that mass rally 

in the Masaryk Stadium, with mortal danger overhanging the city. The young men and girls you 

saw in Prague in their red and grey uniforms, with the falcon’s feather in their caps, were the living 

proofs of the progress that the free Czechoslovak Republic had made in nineteen years. 

Its twentieth birthday, on October 28th, was at hand, and these people confidently looked forward 

to it. Prague might be in ruins, they knew, and they calmly accepted that thought. The one thing 

they did not foresee was that Prague might be a vassal city, reduced without a fight. 

As I strolled down the Wenceslas Platz I saw an old lady in peasant costume with odds and ends of 

embroidery in her basket, lovely things among them. I had sometimes bought from her on earlier 

visits. Now I saw that she had in her basket printed coloured handkerchiefs, produced to 

commemorate the coming twentieth anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s independence. There was a 

map of Czechoslovakia printed in bright colours on the silk; around the map pictures of 

Czechoslovak infantrymen and aircraft and cannon and tanks; beneath it Masaryk’s motto, ‘Truth 

prevails’; in the top left-hand corner ‘1918’ and in the bottom right-hand corner ‘1938’. 

This was June. Not quite five months until October 28th. If things were going the way I expected, 

Czechoslovakia would never celebrate that birthday, and this handkerchief would make a useful 

addition to the little collection of memory-laden things I have picked up on my travels and surround 

myself with whenever I have the luck to be able to make myself a home somewhere for a month or 

two. 

I bought it. The old lady remembered me and smiled a greeting. I told her I should be frequently in 

Prague during the summer. But then I think she fell ill for a time and I did not see her any more. 

When I did encounter her again in the Wenceslas Platz my handkerchief had become a historical 

curiosity, and, although it was not yet October 28th, she had no more of them in her basket. She no 

longer smiled. She looked older and careworn.  

*** 

Chapter Five 

DAVID UNDAUNTED 

I sat with Count X in his mansion not far from Prague. A lovely old baroque house built around a 

courtyard. In front of it the village, which belonged to Count X. Behind it the park, which belonged 

to Count X. Beyond, as far as the eye could see, smiling in the June sunshine, fields which 

belonged to Count X. 

Count X was tall, of good physique, easy-mannered. He sat among his pictures and treasures and 

acres and complained incessantly. He had all the wealth and land that a reasonable man could want, 

I thought, as I sipped the vermouth which an obsequious serving man brought at his master’s call. 

But far away, beyond the reach of the naked eye from the great baroque mansion, were other fields 

that had been taken from him, against compensation, when the Czechoslovak Republic was formed, 

and given to the landless peasants, those serfs who had lived for centuries without rights or land or 

liberties under the rule of German or Hungarian noblemen until the War Called Great freed them. 

Hewers of wood and drawers of water for the German and Magyar magnates they had been until 

then. They were not even the bondmen of tyrants of their own blood. The Czech nobles had been 

exterminated by the German armies at the Battle of the White Mountain, near Prague, three 

centuries before, when three-quarters of the Czechs were killed or driven from Bohemia, when 

Catholic nobles came in from Austria, and confiscated the lands of the dead Czech aristocrats. 

Count X had never forgotten or forgiven the loss of his distant fields, never been able to look 

without loathing across to those distant acres where a few Czech peasants were now wringing a 

scanty living, as freemen, from their native soil. Until Austria collapsed he, like nearly all the other 

landed nobles in Czechoslovakia, had longed for the return of the Emperor to Vienna, hoped for 

Czechoslovakia’s return to the fold of the Habsburg Empire. Now that Austria was no more, and the 

Reich had declared young Otto, vegetating in Steenockerzeel, to be an outcast and criminal, he had 

given up that hope and was for Hitler. 

Bear in mind that the rich men in all countries are helpers of Hitler, and you will understand a good 

deal of what has happened in Europe. You never found rich and titled Englishmen, in any number, 

ostentatiously visiting Prague in the twenty years of that free Republic. 

You did not find them rallying to the cause of Czechoslovakia when that little land of freemen was 

confronted with the threat of extermination. You will find their names at the foot of many 

documents signed, during these twenty years, to demand ‘justice for Hungary’ – where millions of 

peasants, to-day, are landless serfs. You could have seen them, in large numbers, at Hitler’s dinner 

table, at the Nazi Party Congress at Nuremberg. You will see their names beneath letters in the 

newspapers appealing for ‘a fair deal’ for Germany, for ‘magnanimity for German’, for ‘a better 

understanding with Germany’. 

Bear in mind that the rich landed noblemen of East Prussia brought Hitler to power. Some people 

say they regret it now that they are being progressively squeezed out of their estates, deprived of 

their power, shorn of their lands. I am sceptical. The rich men in other countries would not so 

surely plump for Hitler, if it were so. 

Count X languidly but incessantly complained, as he sat among his collections and books and 

looked out through the windows to his smiling acres, and the servile and slippered steward brought 

us vermouth. He had a new grievance. The Czechoslovak army was mobilized. The defences were 

manned, from the inner ring round Prague to the first line at the frontier. The air squadrons, to 

throw enemy bombers off the scent, had left their home landing-grounds and were standing on open 

fields, ready at a moment’s notice to take to the air. 

One squadron of bombers and fighters was lying behind the tall trees that fringed his park. Some of 

the officers and men were billeted in a remote wing of his mansion. In the old clock tower on the 

roof two soldiers sat day and night and kept watch on the northern sky. This annoyed him. 

Muttering complaints, he led me through a long corridor to that distant wing where he had had to 

give up a few unused rooms. He had had chests and cupboards built, barricade-like, across it to shut 

out the unwelcome sight of his visitors. We squeezed through, and visited the Czechoslovak 

soldiers. They saw Count X coming, jumped to their feet, saluted him, gave smiling answers to his 

genial questions. How genial he was, suddenly. One good Czechoslovak to another. 

We went out through the park, saw through the foliage of the tall trees the aeroplanes hiding, 

bombs and machine-guns ready. Officers and soldiers, stripped to the waist, lay in the grass under 

the warm sun, lazily waiting. Their commander jumped up, clicked his heels in greeting, cordially 

but respectfully welcomed the German lord of this Czech manor. Big, blond, well-built, simple, 

honest fellows, ready, ardently ready, to go and fight Goliath. Count X was all smiles and geniality. 

We went on. Count X grumbled. Behind some bushes the soldiers had built a field lavatory. In their 

visits to it they had trodden flat a narrow path through the rank grass, uncut these hundreds of 

years. Count X complained. A peacock screamed, stalked across the path in front of us. The sun 

blazed through the leaves and gnats danced in the dusty beams. 

I left Count X to his complaints and drove over to his neighbour Count Y. On the way I talked with 

my chauffeur. A quiet fellow who weighed every word, who kept himself decent and worked hard 

for a frugal living. He was diligently learning English, the better to ply his trade. He had no 

complaints. He was filled with a quiet exaltation. He was partly German, but he was a loyal 

Czechoslovak to the core. He was a working man and knew what the free Republic meant. Count X 

had looked down on him with suspicion from one of the windows and said gloomily, ‘I suppose 

your chauffeur will report in Prague that you have been to see me.’ 

As he drove me across that lovely countryside – the loveliest lands for me are those where good 

crops are growing, growing, and men and women work in the fields from dawn to dusk – Jan 

Czech, my chauffeur, spoke with quiet fervour of the mobilization. The world had not thought the 

Czechs had it in them, he said, but the Czechs had known. Late on that Friday night the postmen 

had gone racing round with the mobilization notices, he said, and by dawn on Saturday the frontier 

defences were manned, the men had gone with joy in their hearts to defend their country. He had 

not yet been called on, he said, but when the word came he and every man he knew would go by 

the quickest way they could find to fight for this State. Germany could not take them by surprise 

now, swallow them at one gulp as she had swallowed Austria. His mother was a German, and he 

had relatives up there in the German frontier districts. But he was a Czechoslovak and, he said 

quietly, his life was of no value. Czechoslovakia must live. 

As we drove to Count Y, I saw the signs of that lightning mobilization, that astonished military 

experts the world over. Compare it with the utter confusion that reigned in England in that 

September week when war seemed at hand. Here I saw, hiding behind a farmhouse wall, the great 

tin ear-trumpets of the listening machines, behind another the glistening eyes of the searchlights, 

alongside a hedge the muzzles of the anti-aircraft guns, in fields the bombers and fighters waiting 

ready to spring, on bridges the newly dug holes with the dynamite fuses and soldiers lounging by 

them, ready to touch them off. All got ready in a night. 

Count Y was sitting on his terrace and I had a late breakfast with him, drank coffee, ate toast and 

marmalade and listened to his tale. He, too, had lost some distant acres; he, too, had awakened that 

Saturday morning to find the aeroplanes squatting on his fields. But no soldiers had been billeted 

on him, so that he was feeling better than Count X. Count Y also had the misfortune to have a little 

Jewish blood in him, so that the course of his political allegiance lay less clearly before him than 

before Count X. But he shared with his neighbour the lack of feeling for the Czechoslovak state, a 

feeling that seemed to diminish as your property and wealth grew, unless you happened to be a 

Czech, and this was rare, because the relatively few very rich people in the Czechoslovak state 

were nearly all Germans or Hungarians or Jews. 

I left him, and drove on to the German-populated districts and the frontier. The flat Czech plain, 

where the peasants worked so hard for a frugal return, where the Czechoslovak state had done such 

wonders in building roads and schools and hospitals in these twenty years, gave way to the lovely 

mountains where the Germans live. You only had to travel this road to see why the Czechoslovaks 

could not give up the Sudeten lands and remain independent. It was like a walled city; give up the 

walls, and how could you defend what lay within? 

In Reichenberg, where once, only three-years before, I had seen Nadya dancing and found a quiet 

town full of contented people, were all the signs of things to come that I knew from the last days of 

Austria. Hitlerist uniforms and badges were forbidden, but the young Nazis knew the way to get 

round these bans. The young men wore white stockings and shorts, the girls Dirndl dresses, and all 

saluted each other with the upraised arm and ‘Heil’, leaving out the Hitler for the time being. The 

word had been passed round that ‘He’ was coming soon. 

I sat on the balcony of the hotel in the market square and drank coffee with Jan Czech, who insisted 

on paying for his own. The waiter, the guests, looked askance at us. Here everybody knew 

everybody, there was a grape-vine system of unspoken inter-communication between the Germans 

that you could feel like a living thing. They knew that we did not belong, they had seen the Prague 

number plate on our car. 

On the car, too, was a token from the Sokol Congress in Prague, and the Nazis hated the Sokols. 

Outwardly orderly, they were already working on the nerves of the Czech minority, in the manner 

they have perfected by practice in Germany and Austria, with dark hints of what was to come, of 

concentration camps and beatings and vengeance generally. 

Jan Czech took no notice at all of these things. Unruffled, he looked down from the balcony, and 

seemed not to see the hostile and menacing glances, the muttered words exchanged. Only once did 

they succeed in stinging him. We were looking for the British Consulate and, stopping the car, he 

asked a woman politely and in perfect German if she could tell him the way. ‘British Consulate?’ 

she answered challengingly. ‘No, but I can tell you where the German Consulate is if you like.’ 

Jan Czech slipped in the clutch and drove on, a little red in the face. ‘Ach, ja, Deutsch,’ he muttered, 

and then his lips closed again and his face regained its resolute serenity. I saw that same expression 

on the face of the Czech policeman, quietly directing the traffic, on the faces of the few Czech 

officers and soldiers, lonely men in a hostile town, who were in the streets. 

Then we drove on, through one German village after another, to the frontier. The Nazis, who had 

been making trouble everywhere in order to give the pretext for German intervention, and had in 

the streets been spitting at Czech officers who had been ordered at all costs to avoid clashes, had 

been abruptly checked by the mobilization. They saw now that intervention would mean heavy 

fighting in their own country. They were perfectly orderly. 

In all that drive I saw only a handful of troops, and yet the frontier defences were fully manned and 

ready. At a spot where the road fell steeply on one side and rose steeply on the other, so that tanks 

or mechanized divisions could not make a detour, the road was mined and through the trees you 

could see two or three soldiers, with a little tent, smoking and talking as they waited for the order. 

Near the frontier, concrete barriers had been built across the road, to check the progress of tanks. 

Sometimes, in a field of growing corn, you saw the humped back of a concrete machine-gun post, 

with a solitary Czech soldier watching your car through field-glasses to see if you were taking 

photographs. At the frontier itself two or three Czech gendarmes and customs officials, stranded out 

here in a hostile countryside, far from their fellows. 

Down the road, a kilometre distant, I saw, for the first time since they marched into Austria, the 

Germans. Little toylike figures in the distance, standing about the customs barrier in the sunshine. 

All around, placid, abundant, sunlit fields, with peasants working in them. Beyond, rolling, well- 

tended hills, with not a hint of menace in them – Germany. 

I drove back to Prague with Jan Czech. That evening I ate at Manes, on the wooden veranda, with 

its coloured lights, overhanging the Moldau. Music, and coloured spirals in the water. A crescent 

moon over the Hradschin. In all Europe that I have seen I know of no lovelier place to dine. All 

around me young and carefree people or quiet and solid elders enjoying an evening meal in this 

fresh air, at once cool and warm. 

As I sat there white fingers stabbed into the sky and probed about and fastened together upon a 

glittering moth that came humming down along the Moldau. They held it and held it and then let go 

and it vanished into the night. Half an hour later it came again, and again they groped about for it 

and found it and followed it and let it go, and a third time, and a fourth. 

It was the symbol of the menace that hung over Prague. I watched it and then turned and watched 

the people round me. They raised their heads from their conversation and looked at it, gravely, 

without fear or surprise, then turned back to each other, made some quiet remark, and began to eat 

again. They were unafraid and calm. I sat as long as I could, until the last of the guests had gone, 

watching the moon fall behind the Hradschin, the lights go out and the water darken.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six 

PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN 

I walked across the Charles Bridge, up the hill, lost in my affection for these winding streets, these 

unspoiled squares, turning ever and anon to look back over Prague and the Moldau, and went past 

the sentries, in their French uniforms, into the Hradschin, to see Benesh for the last time – in 

Prague. I knew that it would be the last time. Did he? Right up to the end, to that last broadcast of 

his, he professed that unvarying optimism that I could never understand. 

In the outer office I spoke again to the official who spoke perfect English. He had fought with the 

British armies, as the Legionaries outside had fought with the French, the Italian, the Russian 

armies. 

Inside was Benesh, earnest, honest, hard-working, truthful as ever, the man who was to miss the 

good ship Success, that fine new liner in which all the best people travel nowadays, and stand 

forlornly on the quayside waiting for the old tub Honour, which has long since been laid up. He 

came to shake hands, with the silken and satin Habsburgs watching in the background, those 

Habsburgs who were Kings of Bohemia as well as Emperors of Austria and Kings of Hungary and 

this and that, until Masaryk and Benesh took their places in 1918, and we walked over to the 

windows to look at the city spread-below. 

We turned and sat down, and as Benesh talked, laboriously picking out the phrases from the 

English he had taught himself, I looked back along the years and then into the future and felt my 

heart heavy for this man and his State. Not yet twenty years since Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, with 

his devoted American wife, and Eduard Benesh, exiles triumphant, had proclaimed Czechoslovakia 

an independent state, amid the thunderous plaudits of the Allies, at Washington and returned to 

Prague to take over the country that those allies had set free. Now Benesh sat before me, his eyes 

earnestly fixed on mine, and once more professed confidence in the future, against all the 

overwhelming odds of 1938. 

I have just read a book by somebody who says it is a good thing for journalists that the things they 

wrote yesterday are soon forgotten, that their mistakes and their false forecasts are buried in the 

yellowing flies. I happen to know that if the forecasts, not only of experienced journalists but also 

of experienced diplomats and professional students of foreign affairs, had been believed, and the 

policies they advocated pursued, Europe and the world would not be in the plight they are to-day. 

Given the determination to amend just grievances, but also the determination to mobilize 

overwhelming force against any attempt to remedy these grievances or to subjugate small nations 

by force, you could have had peace in Europe now and for long to come, and your journalists, your 

diplomats and your students could in 1933 have told you, and did tell you, just what was coming in 

1938 and what to do about it. 

For my part, I like to read, with the eye of the craftsman, an article I wrote which was published in 

the New York World on May 28th, 1938. These are extracts from it:  

Benesh holds the stage: the spotlight of history is full on him … He is the next prey 

of the dictators … Already the end of free Czechoslovakia is at hand. Isolated, 

remote from apprehensive allies and lukewarm friends, held like a nut in the grip of 

the mighty German nut-crackers – look at the map – Benesh has only the choice of 

two evils left to him twenty years after the liberation of his countrymen from 

German (Austro-German) rule. Either he may try and save something from the 

wreck of Czechoslovak independence and capitulate to all the German demands, 

cancel his French and Soviet alliances, become completely subservient to German 

orders, make arms and munitions for Germany – and possibly be allowed to remain 

as vassal President of a little rump Czechoslovakia bound slavelike to the chariot of 

the German conquerors. Or the Germans will march in, Czechoslovakia will 

disappear entirely, Czechs and Slovaks will form labour battalions for the German 

army in a new European war, the efficient Czech aircraft and armaments industry 

will be swallowed up by the already mighty German military machine. There is no 

other choice, in 1938. I saw the invasion of Austria and do not now believe that the 

Czechs, brave and efficient as they are, could resist this enormous might for long 

enough to shame France or England or Russia into intervention. 

 

France has sworn to come to the aid of Czechoslovakia if she be attacked. But will 

France? Can France? 

 

England longs to keep out, and only dreads that France may intervene. One of her 

junior Ministers, on the morrow of the German invasion, practically invited Hitler 

to take Czechoslovakia. 

 

Benesh’s tragic destiny is written in his face. His neighbour, Kurt von Schuschnigg, 

crying ‘God Save Austria’ into the radio as his last words to his countrymen, has 

disappeared into captivity. The spotlight relentlessly swivels from Vienna to 

Prague, probes the windows of the Hradschin, fixes on Benesh, as he sits at his desk 

among the painted Habsburgs … His is the tragedy of the man who put all his eggs 

in one basket – that of loyalty. Europe is full of slick premiers who make up to the 

dictatorships while blandly professing that this in no way diminishes their loyalty to 

their old friends … Benesh is impatient of such methods. They are dishonest, he 

says, and mean that in the long run everybody will be let down. His policy, and 

Masaryk’s, was that of friendship and collaboration with the countries that had 

befriended Czechoslovakia and helped to liberate her: of collective resistance, with 

them, to aggression. 

 

He will follow that policy, he has told me, to the end. If he is wanted. But if he is 

not wanted … why, then, he would make terms with Germany and Czechoslovakia 

would go all the way with her. But he must know. He must know. 

 

But they will never tell him. They will leave him there, caught in the jaws of the 

German pincers, to seek his own salvation, and if he can at this last moment save 

something by coming to terms with Germany, which I doubt, he would be wise to 

do it. 

Of all sad things of tongue or pen, the saddest is this. I told you so. It is as comfortless as a bad 

cheque, as cheerless as an empty grate in winter. But as a last word on behalf of a hard-working 

class of men, the British newspaper correspondents who told you for years what was coming, I 

want to say it. 

We shall probably not be allowed to tell you much longer. It was our job to study foreign countries, 

to inform you about them, to tell you what they meant to you, what their future actions would be. 

Doing our job, we have come to be people ‘who foul their own nests’, doubting Thomases, irritating 

scribblers who make relationships with the dictatorships difficult, and soon we may be suppressed. 

The people who know better, not from knowledge but from intuition or divine revelation, will be 

freed from this encumbrance. Lord Halifax has spoken of the British distrust of people who claim 

to know too clearly what is going to happen. 

Why have specialists? Why have experts? There is a post vacant in the cabinet, the Ministry of 

Antarctic Exploration. Give it to old Sebastian Broadacres, who has spent ‘a lifetime in the service 

of his country’; he was at Eton and Balliol, he served a term as ensign in the guards and was 

honorary attaché for three years in the Legation at Sofia, he was a member of the Governor- 

General’s staff in New Zealand and has sat for two decades as member for Oblivion-in-the-fields, 

he did awfully well as British Commissioner during that plebiscite in Bechuanaland and is now 

Chairman of the Artificial Ice Trust, the very man. And that reminds me, I must say a sharp word to 

the Editor of the Antarctic Gazette about that carping fellow who claims to have spent years in 

Antarctica and keeps on writing those annoyingly critical articles. 

These were the kind of thoughts that kept fluttering round, bats-in-the-belfry-like, as I sat and 

listened to Benesh. Two unimportant little men, of rather similar origins, for we had both acquired 

our positions, in their vastly different spheres, by hard work and the laborious acquirement of 

knowledge, not by inheritance. This was especially bad for Benesh. He would have done better, in a 

class-ridden world, to be born Graf Benesh with an estate in Transylvania. For my part, if I were to 

have any regrets, they would be that I did not somehow contrive to become a painter or musician, a 

doctor or possibly an engineer, because you could then close your mind to our contemporary times 

and yet put your feelings for humanity on to paper or canvas, into your work for your patients or 

into a big bridge. But for a British journalist, dearly as I love my craft, the day seems to be drawing 

to its end. 

I fixed a picture of Benesh in my mind, as I saw him that day, with the bewigged Habsburgs behind 

him. He showed his working-class and peasant origin. He was rather short, his features were 

commonplace, but his eyes and expression, his carefully chosen words and the manner of speaking 

them all told of an honest purpose and a clean character. I have seen many men in high positions, 

and know how to judge them. He was healthy, in mind and body, untheatrical, hard-working, full of 

energy. He had, unless I was deceived this time, faith. He still believed in the victory of justice, in 

Masaryk’s motto, ‘The truth prevails’. In spite of everything, he still believed. 

Why did he not rat, in the age of the rat, when ratting is foreign policy, when everybody’s doing it 

now? I am not even sure whether it would have been ratting. Perhaps he owed it to his country- 

people to change his policy, and not, in 1938, to continue steadfastly in pursuit of the mirage 

honour. For years he had been urged from many quarters – not from France and England – that he 

was on the wrong tack, that he would be let down, that he should make his terms with Germany. 

His Little Entente associates urged him repeatedly to do this. In Yugoslavia Prince Regent Paul and 

his Prime Minister, Milan Stoyadinovitch, had seen the red light two years earlier, when the French 

passively accepted the German seizure of the demilitarized Rhineland zone and therewith the 

closure of their only path of succour to Czechoslovakia. From that day on, anxious voices from 

Belgrade had continually urged him to make friends with Germany at all costs. ‘Do it now,’ they 

said, ‘or France will let you down.’ 

Benesh would not. He thought that this was treachery, that these were untrustworthy allies who 

gave such advice. He anchored his hopes to France and England, to that magnificent principle of 

collective resistance to an aggressor that England had betrayed in Abyssinia. He could have hitched 

his Czechoslovak wagon to the German star on good terms, and would not. He was wrong, bitterly 

wrong. He should have done this. 

I had seen him last in December 1937. For three and a half hours he had earnestly explained his 

motives and intentions in that painstaking English, and as he is now gone from the political scene I 

think I can repeat some of the things he said. This conversation seemed to me of such historical 

importance – I was already convinced that Czechoslovakia’s fate was sealed – that I took a 

shorthand note of it and still have the account, word for word. 

The whole burden of his tale was that he would not and could not change his policy unless France 

and England told him that they did not want him, that they regarded Czechoslovakia as a liability 

rather than an asset. Repeatedly he said, ‘I must know, I must know.’ 

Read these words:  

If Germany takes the question of minorities as a pretext for attacking 

Czechoslovakia, where they are better treated than in Poland, Hungary or Italy, for 

instance, British opinion must understand that this is done, not because the situation 

of the minorities is bad in this country, but because we have not been submissive to 

German foreign policy in general and have resisted. 

 

I could also very easily make peace with Germany if I had cared to make the same 

equivocal policy as Monsieur X or Monsieur Y. I could make the same peace as 

Monsieur Z has made with Italy, if I wished to accept German influence in our 

general foreign policy. 

 

All this German campaign against us – if only this could be understood in England – 

is not on account of the German minority and its treatment, but because Germany 

thinks she can force us to adopt a different foreign policy – to abandon France, 

England, collaboration with Western Europe, and to submit to German influence. 

 

I put this question to every British citizen, especially to British politicians: 

 

Do you think that we should continue to maintain this extremely important 

geographical position in Central Europe for a general European policy and for the 

maintenance of peace and democracy, or should we abandon it and yield to German 

pressure and accept German influence? 

 

Yes or No? 

 

Is that a matter of importance to Great Britain or not? 

 

I don’t ask the help of England or France against a German attack, because I can’t 

ask for help on my own account. I understand that every country must defend its 

interests. I understand that Czechoslovakia is not imprinted on the hearts of British 

citizens. They do not know where Czechoslovakia is. 

 

I understand that perfectly. 

 

But I say, if to-morrow this position which we have here and are maintaining should 

have to be abandoned; if Germany ‘becomes again the master of this country 

directly or indirectly – because we shall be probably independent but under German 

influence, as Austria will be, as Hungary will be – what will happen after that to the 

interests of England and France? 

 

I say that the international position of this country is of the greatest importance for 

Western Europe. I know very well that England does not like to undertake 

commitments in a part of Central Europe which is not understood by the man in the 

street. 

 

But I am convinced that if we abandon this position and if we do not resist the 

influence and pressure of Germany we shall in a few years have war again – not 

against us, but against France and England, as we did in 1914. Czechoslovakia 

would have to fight again for Germany, as in 1914 for Austria. 

 

My conclusion from this is not that England must come to the help of 

Czechoslovakia, but that England has the greatest interest to maintain the status quo 

and the present situation in Central Europe. I have never asked for a treaty with 

England. I have never asked help from England. I always accepted the point of view 

of England, that we must proceed in such a general way that we should not give a 

pretext that would enable us to be accused of provoking a war. 

 

But on the other hand I ask from England comprehension, understanding of the 

situation here, in the sense that if we are destroyed the history of 1914, in one form 

or another, will repeat itself. 

 

Just as in 1914 Germany, through Austria and Turkey, menaced the Mediterranean 

and the route to India, so will it come again. 

 

Therefore I say that Prague and Czechoslovakia form one of the most important geographical 

situations in Europe. If we are abandoned by Western Europe we can do nothing else than make an 

agreement with Germany. 

 

England should understand that I do not wish to be hostile to Germany. We wish to 

agree with Germany. But we wish to do so together with France and England. 

 

I wish not to abandon, in this fight for general peace in Europe, France and 

England. I wish to do it together with them because I think that peace can only be 

durable if made in this way. 

 

If, on the other hand, I am obliged to make a bilateral treaty with Germany, entirely 

independent from England and France, that means that Germany is master of the 

whole of Central Europe. 

 

The consequences of a British policy of disinterestedness in Central Europe would 

be really disastrous for Europe, in my opinion. 

 

Germany wishes to force us to change our policy, to abandon Western Europe, and 

to bring the whole of Central Europe under German influence, in order to fight for 

the colonial question, in order to prepare its new world situation. Germany thinks 

that when she has broken completely the resistance of these small states, Austria 

and Czechoslovakia, everything will be at her mercy. 

 

She does not wish to make war. When she has the whole of Central Europe under 

her influence she will be in a far better position towards the Great Powers and the 

same policy will begin again as in 1914 – Atlantic and Mediterranean, colonial 

question, rivalry of the Great Powers. 

 

One object of the World War was to establish in Central Europe independent states 

in order to give them exactly the same position as Belgium and Holland, to prevent 

the small states from becoming the instruments of Germany. If England is not 

disinterested in Central Europe this means that England will help us to maintain our 

independence and to fulfil this mission of the little states in Central Europe, to help 

to maintain peace. 

 

If we are put again under the direct or indirect influence of Germany we shall be 

exploited against the other Great Powers. 

 

I repeat again – I am not anti-German. We do not wish to make an anti-German 

policy. I do not wish to be the instrument of another power against Germany. I wish 

to maintain my own independence and liberty. I wish to collaborate with Germany. 

I recognize that Germany, being in the neighbourhood of Central Europe, has great 

economic and other interests in Central Europe. 

 

But I do say that Germany is not the only state which has interests in Central 

Europe, that other states like England and France have also interests, and therefore I 

wish that the negotiations of the states simply give to every great power in Central 

Europe its real place. 

 

Germany has only one aim – to put Czechoslovakia in a position of complete 

neutrality in any European conflict. Germany would give us every imaginable 

guarantee to-morrow in exchange for that. I put the question – if this is so, what is 

the point of view of the French and British Cabinets? 

 

In practice this would mean that in any war Czechoslovakia would be obliged, not 

to remain neutral, but to help Germany. I have told Hitler: ‘I am prepared to make a 

treaty with you but if I negotiate with you I shall immediately inform the Cabinets 

of Paris and London.’ 

 

Germany is manoeuvring our German minority in order to force us to change our international 

policy. We are in our view contributing in an extraordinary degree to the general peace by resisting 

German pressure and maintaining democracy here and by preparing in collaboration with England 

and France to save all Europe. 

 

But if the loyalty of Czechoslovakia to France and England is regarded by certain 

quarters in England as something that may be an obstacle to a general agreement, 

that is a complete misunderstanding of the whole Czechoslovak policy, and would 

have to be considered by Prague as a completely hopeless situation. 

 

Czechoslovakia would be forced to realize that she is completely misunderstood, 

that Great Britain does not appreciate the contribution she is making to general 

peace, and that she is being pushed to a policy which would force her one day to go 

into the arms of Germany and against England. 

 

It is a tragic misunderstanding. 

 

Again I say, if you think that we are of no use in maintaining this extraordinarily 

important geographical position in Central Europe, on which all European peace 

rests, that means that finally our interests will be to agree with Germany and to go 

with her in all German conquests. 

 

We are at the crucial point in the negotiations of Europe. We must choose. I must 

know what France and England want. If France and England wish that 

Czechoslovakia, as the last democracy in Central Europe, should separate herself 

from them, they must tell us. 

 

Then we shall know what to do. 

 

That is the point. 

So spoken by Benesh, and noted by me, on the evening of December 19th, 1937. Before, long 

before, the seizure of Austria. 

As I went down the hill that night, into a damp and foggy Prague, I thought drearily to myself, 

‘They will never tell him. They will lead him to think that they stand with and for Czechoslovakia, 

that he is right in fighting for his democracy, right in resisting Germany, right in adhering staunchly 

to the system of collective resistance to aggression that they themselves devised. Then, when he is 

face to face with the German army, they will leave him to it.’ 

That was what I thought, that December evening, and that was why I wrote as much in an 

American newspaper in May 1938, and why I wrote, in Insanity Fair, ‘Czechoslovakia is finished – 

for us. You will see this, and soon.’ 

I never had a heavier heart than when I wrote those words, for I saw in my mind’s eye a prophetic 

picture – homeless refugees huddling in unheated huts, terror-stricken women and children trailing 

along wet roads, despairing people weeping in the streets of Prague. The reverse of that shining 

golden medal, peace with honour. 

On this sunny June day I took leave of Benesh again, shook his firm hand, received the usual warm 

invitation to come again, any time. I knew I should never come again to see him in the Hradschin. I 

went down the hill and said good-bye to Prague. The streets were full of cheery and smiling people. 

At the frontiers stood their fathers, sons and brothers. They did not mind: they were prepared to 

perish, so that Czechoslovakia might survive, truth prevail. 

When I next came to Prague Benesh was a broken man. A few days after my arrival I saw him, 

almost alone, driving to the airport to leave his country. As I write he lives in a villa in Putney. 

I meant at first to call this chapter ‘A man of no importance’. On second thoughts I altered it to 

‘Portrait of a Gentleman’. In our time these are coming to be interchangeable phrases. 

Incidentally, the question whether Benesh ‘was right or wrong’, from the point of view of his own 

country, of Europe, and of a wider humanity, is one to which the answer cannot yet be given; in a 

year or two you will know it.  

*** 

 

 

Chapter Seven 

HUNGARIAN SUMMER 

With rancour in my heart I came in the dawn to Budapest, drove to a hotel, booked myself a room. 

I had left behind me Prague, where all the newspaper-men were gathering, where the next act in the 

European tragedy was being played. All my American and British friends were there. They had 

been jollying me about a book I had written in which I had said that Czechoslovakia was finished, 

for England, that England and France would deliver her up to Germany, that Czechoslovak hands 

would in coming years be making weapons for Germany and probably bearing them for her in the 

next war. 

I was too sure in my forecast, they said. But I knew, I had watched this thing taking shape for 

nearly six long years, from that day in January 1933 when Hitler came to power, and I was certain I 

was right. England and France were firmly set on their Gadarene policy, nothing that one man 

could say would alter it. 

Now I wanted to be in Prague and see it happen. I was Central European Correspondent of my 

paper, responsible for all the countries of the Danubian Basin, and all the other Central European 

Correspondents, after the end of Austria, had automatically moved to Prague. I had been ordered to 

go to Budapest, a news cemetery. ‘Other arrangements’ had been made in Prague. I was resentful, 

but not surprised. I had put down in black and white what I thought was going to happen to 

Czechoslovakia, and, if I was right it was logical that the description of the tragedy would not be 

wanted from a man who felt so strongly about it as I did. Raging, but held back by some inward 

pull from immediate resignation, I went to Budapest. 

I am thankful now to that inner voice, for I would not have missed that Hungarian summer for 

anything. I was able, at my free week-ends, to make flying trips to Prague on my own behalf, to 

peep through the window at the progress of that historic siege and enforced capitulation, the most 

terrible thing, in my view, that has happened since the World War and the most disastrous in its 

results. You will see this, and soon. 

But I thank my stars for those summer days and nights in Hungary. Here I found again, for a few 

brief weeks, the rest and happiness which I had just found when the German armies crashed into 

Vienna, when Insanity Fair shattered the tranquillity that, after so many years, I had found within 

the massive walls of the old house in Vienna where I had my rooms. 

There is going to be no peace for us who only want to work and build a world where the poorest 

have a right to sufficient food, to light and air and sunshine in their homes, to dignity and beauty, 

where weak nations have the right to protection against predatory great ones and where a majority 

of nations is ready at any time to combine against the pirates and despoilers, the slave-traders and 

tyrants. 

You could have had that world, but now we who think like that are on the run again, the darkness is 

thickening once more. I myself, a tiny unit in the mass of human beings whose lives had already 

been changed or ruined by the first raiding forays of the new hordes of Armageddon, had for 

months been constantly on the move, travelling thousands of miles by car and train and aeroplane, 

living in suit-cases in hotels and bed-sitting-rooms, trying, while the cyclone of events howled 

about my ears, to plan a new future. I had not expected to find any rest at all in this summer of 

1938. 

I was the more grateful to Hungary for those sun-laden days, those starlit nights, for that little 

sheltered dwelling among the trees that was mine for nearly three months, for the balcony where I 

sat and talked and drank wine while the twilight thickened and the lights came palely out on the 

Schwabenberg and the scent of the flowers came up from the garden where the janitor was hosing 

the grass and singing softly to himself haunting Hungarian songs. 

Outside, the world was mad and lecherous, and brutality and the lust for conquest were once more 

on the march, and fear was flying before them, with its few goods and chattels, homeless, 

despairing, hungry. The four horsemen were on the prowl again. I looked into that world when I 

flew to Prague, when I flew to Geneva. It poked its foul head even into my dwelling when I 

touched a switch, and the radio blared into the room the raving, ranting voices of the new Caesars. 

But when I came back from my flying excursions, or turned the knob and silenced that 

blasphemous box, there was a peace, in that little refuge in a green corner of Budapest, that came to 

you like a warm and fleecy blanket in a bitter cold night. I loved it. Always there was, far at the 

back of my mind, the thought of that outer world, the thought of the future, the rage that men of my 

vintage must feel, if they have any feelings, when they look at the wreck of their hopes, at the 

shambles that 1938 has made out of 1918, when they think of the men who have committed these 

things or those old, rich men, more guilty still, who have omitted to prevent them, or did not want 

to prevent them. 

But on those afternoons and evenings in Budapest this cankerous anger was only like the faint and 

distant clangour of an alarm bell in a still night. Here was peace and beauty. I loved my books – not 

mine, but mine for the nonce – I loved those quiet and starry evenings on the balcony, when we 

threw a rope of hopes into the air and sent the cherub of our imagination skimming up it, when the 

lights spattered on the black bowl that was the Schwabenberg grew brighter and brighter, the wine 

better and better, when the cheery German landlady brought coffee and sandwiches and retailed the 

talk of the town, when the moon rose higher and higher and the barking of the dogs filled the night 

and then gradually dwindled and was hushed, the last omnibus clattered by at the bottom of the 

road, the yellow windows blackened one after another – when Budapest went to bed and we sat 

there, talking quietly of the things that had been and were to come. 

Unforgettably tranquil days and nights, stolen from Babel. 

I must make an honest man of myself about Hungary. In Insanity Fair I included a chapter about 

Hungary, too hurriedly strung together and filled with the irritation that Hungary often inspired in 

me, because I saw, or thought I saw, there a country in the van of those that, nose-led by a small 

and covetous clique, lead our Europe from war to war and simultaneously oppose, with relentless 

consistency, the betterment of the masses. Because this small group, that kept power in its hands in 

much the same way as the ruling class in England, was interlinked by blood or acquaintance or 

common class prejudice or mutual interest with people of the same type in other lands, and because 

it employed a feminine skill in the exploitation of these relationships abroad, Hungary – its little 

Hungary – enjoyed particular sympathy in some other countries, particularly among the ruling class 

in England, which was coldly denied to countries where more plebeian rulers had done much 

greater things. 

In England, for instance, several score Conservative Members of Parliament had once signed a 

manifesto calling for justice for Hungary, a small country that most of them knew nothing about. 

When the question arose of justice being done to another small country that they knew nothing 

about they were as silent as the grave. I saw in these things the influence of that class-antagonism 

which knows no frontiers, which ultimately caused England to connive at the rape of Abyssinia, to 

favour the Fascist cause in Spain, to compel the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia to the 

advantage of Germany and of Hungary, and which is now going to lead England to all sorts of 

queer places. 

Bear this in mind, remember that Czechoslovakia took some of their acres from the great landlords 

and gave them to the landless peasants, that in Hungary agitation against ‘the great estates’ was an 

offence punishable by imprisonment up to 1936 or 1937, and that millions of peasants there own no 

land, bear in mind that Germany and Italy have both suppressed working-men’s parties and 

organizations but have never encroached on the property either of the big industrialist or the big 

landowner, that the net result of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia is to isolate Soviet Russia 

and give Germany a free hand in that direction, and you will begin to see the outline of things in 

Europe, the reason that events happen which continually take you by surprise, because you do not 

see this scarlet threat of cause and effect running through them. 

In Hungary, as she was ruled, I could find no justification for the greater sympathy that was 

lavished on her by the class of people that rules England, and I suspected the motive. I knew that 

most of them, as I wrote in another book, did not know Hungary at all, though they might have 

been lavishly entertained in the restaurant of the Duna Palota Hotel, shown the excellent baths on 

the Margareten Island, taken round the night-clubs. The history of political entertainment in 

Hungary since the war, is one of those books which will unfortunately never be written. 

But in the other Hungary that these people did not see, did not want to see, I found the peasants 

poorer, the workers worse off than in the other Danubian countries I knew, three of which had after 

the war gained territories previously under Hungarian rule. In Czechoslovakia I found insurance 

against unemployment and sickness and old age well rooted and thriving, roads, schools, hospitals 

being built, a country moving ahead fast and steadily raising the standard of the people’s life. In 

Yugoslavia I found a movement, not yet so far advanced, but still firmly set on that path. Rumania 

was still farther behind, but still moving in that direction. In all these countries the peasants owned 

their land, and that is the priceless thing, that gives an entirely different look to the country, a 

different feeling to the very air you breathe. 

In Hungary life seemed to have stood still since the war. It had stood still for decades and decades 

before that. Here you found, if you ventured out into the countryside, the still and lifeless 

atmosphere that springs from poverty and the peasant’s land-hunger. With scarcely an effort, after 

the Rumanians had put an end to the brief, and predominantly Jewish, Communist regime of Aaron 

Cohen alias Béla Kun, the Hungarian ruling class had reimposed its iron grip on the country. Your 

charming Hungarian hosts often tried to discourage you if you told them you thought of spending a 

month or two deep in that uncharted countryside. If, nevertheless, you went, you found bitter 

poverty, primitive houses and roads, workers living in squalor, social institutions in their infancy, 

backwardness general. 

Yet the Hungarians had lorded it for centuries over their neighbours, and the whole motive and 

keynote of Hungarian policy after the war was not to improve domestic conditions, but to regain 

those lost territories, where new rulers were making many improvements, and lord it over them 

again. 

The Hungarians themselves have changed beyond recognition in the thousand years they have been 

sitting among the Carpathians and you will be a very clever man if, among the most interbred 

people in Europe, you can to-day put your finger on a Hungarian and say, ‘This is a Magyar’. The 

aristocracy and middle classes, those very people who most delight your ear with their stories of the 

thousand-year-old Hungarian Kingdom and the close resemblance between Hungarian History and 

English History and between the Hungarian Constitution and the British Constitution, are in their 

origins largely German, Jewish, Czech, Slovak, Croat, Italian, Serb, Rumanian, Greek, French, 

Irish, and Turkish. 

It is extremely difficult for you, bless your innocent hearts, to realize this, because they all bear 

romantic Hungarian names, and successive governments for long enough have encouraged this 

process of name-changing, but you would have a shock if you knew that practically every Magyar 

or Arpad or Istvan you meet is Schmidt or Cohen or Popovitch. 

One of the recent governments, that of M. Darányi, was popularly said to contain one minister who 

was a true Magyar. The tale is that when this story got round to M. Kánya, the long-standing 

Foreign Minister, who is by way of being a wit, he said, ‘What? Who is it? Show him to me.’ 

I see nothing to object to in this, indeed, it is another of the points of resemblance between Hungary 

and England. I myself am half Irish and half English, the Irish being, as I think, the bigger half; my 

English Jekyll frequently shudders at the things that my Irish Hyde writes. 

But the astonishing thing is the way this cosmopolitan people has, in one respect, retained the chief 

characteristic of those raiding Asiatic horsemen who came, killing and plundering, from the Don 

and the Volga to the Carpathian lands a thousand years ago. Hungary in 1939 is like an enlarged 

photograph of Vienna before 1938. The blood of a dozen races is inextricably mixed here. Go east 

from Budapest and you come to German and Rumanian settlements. Go west from Budapest and 

you come to German settlements. Go south from Budapest and you come to German and Serbian 

settlements. Go north from Budapest and you come to Slovak settlements. And in Budapest itself, a 

third of the population is Jewish and the rest is a compound of which the ingredients defy analysis. 

Yet they retain, unfiltered, that main characteristic of the nomadic Magyar horseman so well 

described by an Arab trader of the ninth century:  

The Magyars are a race of Turks and their leader rides out with 20,000 horsemen. 

They have a plain which is all dry herbage and a wide territory … They have 

completely subjugated the Slavs and they always order them to provide food for 

them and consider them as their slaves … These Magyars are a handsome people 

and of good appearance, and their clothes are of silk brocade, and their weapons of 

silver encrusted with gold. They constantly plunder the Slavs. 

Leave out the silk brocade and the gold-encrusted daggers and there you have it after 1100 years, in 

1939 – the proverbial predilection (I have taken this quotation from G. A. Macartney’s Hungary) for 

plundering Slavs. In November 1938, as a pendant to the honourable peace of Munich, about 

350,000 more Slavs were handed back to Hungarian rule. 

Compare that old Arab’s judgment with the genial description of his class given by the elder Count 

Andrássy about the middle of last century:  

We Hungarians are noblemen, who make politics; for our labourers we need 

Slovaks and Germans, for our business affairs the Jews, who buy our wheat and 

wool, not to forget the gipsies, to make music for us. 

The remarkable thing about the Hungarians is that, although the Magyar blood has thinned down to 

vanishing point and they have not in recent centuries been able to indulge their ‘proverbial 

predilection’ by means of conquest, as those ancient warriors did, they have been able repeatedly to 

maintain their privileged place among the Danubian peoples by the astute exploitation of 

favourable circumstances. 

In 1867, for instance, they were able to exploit the defeat of Austria by Prussia to obtain from the 

Emperor Francis Joseph, who until then had consistently gainsaid their demands, and even called in 

Russian help to suppress them by arms, a privileged position within the Habsburg Empire, and 

became the Overlords of Slovakia and Croatia. Those cads the Czechs had even offered to help the 

Austrians against the Prussians and been rudely rebuffed with the words, ‘This is a war of Germans 

against Germans’. The Hungarians sent a corps of volunteers to help Prussia. The Czechs had a 

foretaste, in 1867, of the bitter dose they were to be made to swallow in 1938. ‘Those nationalities 

which support the Government suffer and those that oppose it prosper’, wrote Count Lützow then. 

He was right. The demands of the Czechs that the ancient rights of their Bohemian Kingdom 

should be restored were ignored. The Hungarians were made full partners in the Austro-Hungarian 

Empire. 

So in 1938. ‘Those nations that support the League and democracy and collective resistance to the 

threat of force suffer and those that oppose it prosper.’ Czechoslovakia was dismembered: Hungary 

profited. 

Even in 1867 Hungary might not have come so well out of the mix-up but for that uncannily astute 

exploitation of circumstances. The lovelorn Francis Joseph might even then not have been won 

over to make Hungary a full partner in the Habsburg concern but for the passionate appeals, from 

Hungary, of his Empress Elisabeth – who did not love him, and who had been won over by the 

handsome Count Andrássy. 

That is how Hungary looks to me when I contemplate our Europe, and I shall watch with great 

interest to see if, once again, Hungary is going to grow great and strong in Europe by such strange 

chances and devices, and whether, while that goes on, her peasants will continue to hunger vainly 

for the land, and her workers for social progress. 

But I still have to make an honest man of myself about Hungary. I admired and respected Germany, 

though I think that the present rulers of Germany have an obsession of self-aggrandizement and 

self-commiseration, and lust for conquest and contempt for the rights of those weaker than 

themselves, which is going to bring inconceivable suffering to our Europe in my generation. I loved 

Austria, although I felt that the extermination, by Italian-inspired Fascism and the Roman Catholic 

Church, of the free Republic there in 1934 was one of the first of the crimes that have implacably, 

inevitably, led Europe to the edge of a very steep place. 

So with Hungary. The guilt is not all on one side. Too much was taken from her, and some of it 

should have been given back years ago, but only as the price of an armour-plated and indestructible 

arrangement, which you then could have had, to confront any violent peacebreaker with 

overwhelming force. That much being said, it is equally true that her rulers, belonging to a small 

and exclusive class, have consistently pursued a policy that puts her at the side of those opposed to 

domestic progress and international peace. 

But these processes are spread over many years, and in between there are so many days to be lived, 

and I know few countries where you can live them better than in Hungary. A man of my mind and 

generation, who sees all the ideals of humanity and social progress and freedom that a million 

Britishers died for being tossed contemptuously away as each day passes, can only be exasperated 

when he finds a country, socially backward, that still aspires to rule over freemen of other races, 

that still occasionally talks in terms of Extra Hungariam non est vita – ‘Outside Hungary there is no 

life, or if there is a life, it is not like ours.’ 

But it is nevertheless true, as Macartney wrote, and I cannot better this phrase, that there is, and 

probably always was, a peculiar beauty and abundance in Hungary. I do not agree with him that it 

‘removed the temptation to wander’; I know too many Hungarians who long to wander. But the 

peculiar beauty and abundance are there. The abundance lies in the land, although it often does not 

yield the men who till and plough it enough to eat. The beauty lies in those Hungarian suns and 

skies, in those endless plains, as featureless as the ocean itself, in the charm that the people can so 

effortlessly exert, when they will. 

These things are always with you, when you are in Hungary. The others do not so consistently 

obtrude themselves on you, especially if you are a foreigner; you have the good things of Hungary 

and do not feel the bad ones. 

I was glad that I had, for a little while, lived in Hungary, and that I was able to see and feel and do 

so much in that short time. It was long enough to get the feel of the water. I did not find the people 

incessantly thinking about their frontiers, hating Czechs. They wanted the great landlords to be 

forced to relax their grip on the land, the Jews to be forced to relax their grip on the cities. They 

wanted to live as freemen. But their ruling class, while paying a little lip-service to these longings, 

actually did next to nothing about them, and once again sought to divert the thoughts and emotions 

of the people from these things by an incessant campaign about the injustice of the frontiers and the 

iniquities of the Czechs. Once again, the great game of politics between the big powers seemed 

likely to bring in its trail success for the ruling class in Hungary, at any rate for a time. 

Meanwhile, I lived in that quiet and secluded corner, watched the great conflict from my sheltered 

alcove, enjoyed to the full my Hungarian days and nights. This was only a respite, I knew, a 

noontide rest upon the grass, in my eventful journey through Insanity Fair, but a pleasant one, that I 

shall never forget.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight 

END OF A BARON 

I sat on a café terrace in Budapest and read one of those Jewish emigré publications in which you 

find a great deal of Inside Information about Germany, much of which I advise you to read with a 

cold and critical eye, and a certain amount of actual news which you will not find anywhere else. 

As I read a paragraph leaped out of the page at me:  

BARON VON KETTELER’S BODY FOUND 

A body recovered from the Danube at Hainburg has been identified as that of Baron 

von Ketteler, the secretary of Herr von Papen, who has been missing since the 

German annexation of Austria. After Herren Bose and Jung, he is the third of 

Papen’s collaborators to have met a tragic end. 

I put the paper down, and leaned back in my chair and thought, and looked back along the years. 

I saw a young man, outwardly calm but with the hunted look of the fugitive at the back of his eyes, 

standing in the Bendlerstrasse on June 30th, 1934, the day of the great killing in Germany. I saw 

the same young man, now in relative safety but still with the same curious, veiled look in his eyes, 

receiving me at Papen’s Embassy in Vienna, moving in evening dress among the guests at Papen’s 

receptions. 

He always seemed to be looking for something, always made me feel as if he kept his nerves in a 

strait-jacket. He always seemed to be expecting the touch on his shoulder. I saw him sitting behind 

a newspaper in Meissl and Schaden’s in Vienna. I had a glimpse of a motor car passing mine in the 

Kärntnerstrasse, and of Ketteler sitting in it. 

Then I saw another picture – Hainburg, one of the many Danubian towns that I love. There I had 

sat, in a vine-clad courtyard, and drunk wine with my good friend, while strolling musicians played 

Austrian songs and through the open gateway I could see the Danube flowing past. There I had 

seen the relay runners bringing the torch that was lit at Olympia to Hitler’s Olympiad in Berlin, and 

the Nazi demonstrations that I saw then first convinced me that the end of Austria was coming 

soon. I often went out to Hainburg on summer evenings, from Vienna. It lay at the gates of 

Czechoslovakia and Hungary and was picturesque. The Danube was lovely there. I liked the wine 

gardens. 

Not quite four years, Ketteler’s race had run, from that day in 1934. For nearly four years he had 

been travelling with the baying of the wolves behind him, looking over his shoulder for them. Now 

he had been pulled out of the Danube, at Hainburg. 

A curious thing. I had hardly known this man, personally, and he had hardly known me, and yet for 

four years I had followed his fate with keen interest, understood what was passing in his mind, 

watched him as you might watch the electric hare, with the greyhounds straining after it. 

It all began on that red day, June 30th, 1934, when Hitler had his bosom companion Röhm, and 

dozens of the Brown Army commanders, and General von Schleicher and his wife, and the 

Catholic leaders, and the reactionaries associated with von Papen, all put to death. In Insanity Fair

told how I drove past the Bendlerstrasse on that day and saw a friend, a Spanish Catholic journalist, 

talking on the pavement to a young man I recognized, a young diplomat who was a collaborator 

with Papen, how my Spanish friend came and told me that Bose and Jung had been shot and asked 

if I could take and hide the young man he was talking to. 

My interest in Ketteler, the other man on the pavement, began that day. He was a member of 

Papen’s ‘Brain Trust’, a group of brilliant young men whom he had gathered about him and who 

were all, save possibly one, a thought too brilliant, for they put all their money on Papen. 

They devised those tortuous schemes, those fantastically ingenious intrigues, to bring Papen back 

to power which eventually gave Germany to Hitler, which later cost three of them their lives and 

brought Papen near to losing his. They, when Schleicher had overthrown his own protégé Papen 

and taken the Chancellorship on himself, worked for the revenge that is sweet and brought about 

the reconciliation between Hitler and Papen, in order to overthrow the traitor Schleicher; but their 

calculation, that Hitler would remain the prisoner of the President von Hindenburg and his Vice- 

Chancellor von Papen, miscarried. 

They, when Hitler was hesitating whether to take office on these terms and risk disaster, prodded 

him to the decision by telephoning to a British newspaper correspondent that the villain Schleicher 

was again secretly negotiating with the other villain Gregor Strasser, Hitler’s discredited chief 

lieutenant, who had earlier thought to split the National Socialist Party and lead half of it into a 

Schleicher-Strasser coalition. They advised the British newspaper correspondent to telephone to X, 

one of Hitler’s closest confidants, and ask him if he had heard of this report, so that X on the 

telephone roared, ‘WHAT? Hold on a minute’, and then went away, and came back a minute later 

and said, ‘The Führer thanks you’, and that, if it had not already been prepared, was the death 

warrant of Kurt von Schleicher and Gregor Strasser. 

They, sixteen months later, in May 1934, thought that the exasperated Army was about to turn on 

that band of loud and swaggering interlopers, the Brown Army, and rend them, and that was why 

they put Papen up to make that speech at Marburg on June 17th attacking the Brown Army 

commanders and the extremer spirits of the National Socialist Party, that speech calling for the 

removal of ‘the wrong men who have been put in the wrong places’. 

They thought that the Brown Party and its army were about to be crushed, and that Papen would be 

the next Chancellor. They expected to play the part of der lachende Dritte, the smart and smiling 

guy who stands aside until the free-fighters have wrecked the saloon and then steps in and clears 

the till. They were too clever. Hitler appeased the army by killing off the most objectionable Storm 

Troop commanders, but he struck at the same time at those who thought they were going to step 

into his shoes. 

A bad day for the Brain Trust. Jung was taken from his dwelling and shot. Ketteler escaped across 

the frontier and, when the barely-escaped Papen a month later was made Minister in Vienna as ‘a 

gesture of conciliation’, much praised by the confiding outer world, he joined his chief there. Count 

Z was taken and had his head shorn and thought he was going to be shot, but they let him go, and 

he disappeared to some distant foreign clime. Bose was shot in his office in Papen’s ministry. 

Ulrichson – let us call him – heard the shots, put on his coat and withdrew to his ante-room, where 

he sat, hat in hand. SS men came in with revolvers in their hands and asked the old janitor, at his 

desk in the corner, ‘Where’s Ulrichson?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said woodenly. ‘I haven’t seen him.’ They 

turned to Ulrichson. ‘What do you want here?’ they said. ‘I’m waiting for Herr Ulrichson,’ he said, 

‘but I seem to have come on a bad day.’ They went. Ulrichson went down the stairs. At the entrance 

SS men, with levelled revolvers, stopped him. ‘This is the end’ he thought. Behind him, down the 

stairs, came the first SS men. They looked at him and said, ‘He’s all right, he can go.’ Ulrichson 

walked out into the sunny Wilhelmstrasse. A few days later, smoking a fat cigar, he walked across 

the Czechoslovak frontier in a misty dawn. 

Not quite four years, I thought, as I looked unseeingly at the Andrássy Ut, and now they had caught 

up with Ketteler. Another ant crushed by the machine, that was devouring more and more lives 

every year as it moved, faster and faster, to its final orgy. 

I had spoken to him twice, in Vienna, at receptions, just a few words. He never showed that he 

remembered me, never referred to that request that was made to me on his behalf on June 30th, 

1934, to shelter him under my roof. Yet the circumstances in which I had first looked at him with 

an especial interest caused my thoughts even now to quicken whenever I saw him. 

An inexplicable young man, moving doggedly, and yet with that hunted look in his eyes, to his 

doom. And why? This was the question that puzzled me and caused me to think about him so 

much. What loves, what loyalties, what convictions, what motives of self-interest prompted him? It 

was a question without an answer. 

For Ketteler, now prompting his chief Papen in Vienna as he had done in Berlin, had not made his 

peace with the avengers who had been after him since June 30th, 1934. 

I knew another German who had also fled to Vienna at that time, we’ll call him Dettlevsohn, a good 

friend of Ketteler’s, and he, in the course of the years, had somehow managed to reinstate himself. 

Now he no longer feared the advent of Hitler. 

With this man I lunched the day after Schuschnigg had paid his fateful visit to Hitler at 

Berchtesgaden. The day when he agreed to hand over the Austrian police to Hitler’s nominee, the 

day when the fate of Austria was sealed. 

We lunched in the Italian restaurant in the Neuer Markt and it was part of my craft on such 

occasions to warm the innards and loosen the tongues of my guests with wine. Conversation is a 

flower that blooms best in a wine-wettened soil. The reluctant petals readily unfold and disclose 

within the honeyed secrets that the bee-journalist seeks. This harmless little device is not only used 

by those who write. Past masters in its employment, in my experience, are British military attachés 

in foreign countries. As the evening wears on, and the glasses fill and empty, fill and empty, 

nothing more than a rosebud flush mantles those well-shaven cheeks, nothing more than a certain 

fixity of the glance creeps into those genial blue eyes. Articulation remains perfect, bearing 

unconstrained, and when the evening ends and the other man is under the table or thereabouts you 

feel that a retentive mind has held a true impression of all that has been said, ready for transfer the 

next morning, in compressed form, to a diary. 

On this day my plans went astray. I plied and plied my German with brandy and all went well up to 

a point; that is, he unfolded and we talked with complete frankness of the things that interested us, 

and I confirmed the view I had already formed two days before, that the end of Austria was at hand. 

But then I suddenly made an alarming discovery. I, and not my guest, was drunk, and drunker than 

I had ever been. I had sacrificed myself in the cause of duty. I had overdone it. 

I do not know to this day how it happened. I had been working at enormous pressure, day and 

night, tearing round the town from government department to legation and from newspaper office 

to coffee house, and writing long dispatches, and snatching hurried meals, and racing against time 

betweenwhiles, sometimes until the dawn broke, to get a book finished that events were already 

overtaking, and all this under great nervous strain, and now, for once, I had overtaxed the engine. 

Anyway, there I was, at five o’clock in the afternoon, with the evening’s work ahead of me, 

completely out of control. I stepped out into the February air, which gave me the finishing touch, 

and found a high sea running in the Neuer Markt, so that the houses rose and fell and swivelled 

round and I wondered desperately how I should get home, only to find the next moment, to my 

surprise, that I was on my landing, with the door in front of my nose, trying to find the keyhole, and 

then, by some miracle, I had all my clothes off and was lying in a bath full of ice-cold water 

thinking ‘I must get my head clear, what day is this, is it night or morning, what was it that I was 

going to write about?’ and fixedly resolved, for some mysterious reason, at all costs to go to the 

British Legation, and I did later arrive there and ask some questions and about eight o’clock I was 

back in my rooms with the keys of the typewriter swimming before me so that I missed them 

repeatedly and tapped away on the table and then I was in another room trying to read what I had 

written into the telephone in a voice full of swishing sounds, like the sea breaking on the shore. 

Believe it or not, that dispatch was one of the best I ever wrote. In those uncharted moments, 

soaring on wine-dark clouds, I cast away most of the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘well-informed circles 

incline to conjecture that’ and ‘in quarters where things are believed it is believed’ and other lifebelts 

of contemporary journalism and wrote clearly and concisely what I believed. I wrote ‘Austria is 

finished’ and somehow the sub-editor at the other end let it through and it brought me three leading 

articles full of grave reproof from the Catholic Reichspost, which had another month to live before 

it was stripped of its black coat and forced into a brown one. 

But the interesting thing about all this is that the next morning I had a perfectly clear impression of 

all that we had said in the Italian restaurant, and particularly remembered my German’s references 

to Ketteler. Ketteler was in a bad fix, he said, and the evening before, when they had met, he had 

broken down completely, tough though he was. They were after him and now that the end of 

Austria was at hand they would get him. ‘But why doesn’t he clear out now?’ I asked. No, Ketteler 

was tough and would stay. 

In the weeks that followed, the picture of this man, whom I hardly knew, was always in my mind. I 

felt what he was feeling. I was working harder than I had ever worked, yet the thought of him 

recurred and recurred. The thing was a complete puzzle to me because I knew that Ketteler, the last 

of the Brain Trust, had helped to concoct that scheme, for luring Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden, 

which helped Hitler to his greatest success, up to that time, the bloodless capture of Austria. A 

friendly talk with Hitler, the amicable elimination of misunderstandings in a fireside chat at his 

comfortable Bavarian chalet: that was the picture that Papen dangled before Schuschnigg. Only in 

the train on the way there did Papen tell him that the generals and air marshals would be there 

behind Hitler, only when he got to Berchtesgaden did he discover that he was to be confronted with 

the threat of invasion. 

The idea in Papen’s and Ketteler’s minds was the rehabilitation of Papen through this great coup, of 

Papen who had been coldly and summarily dismissed from his Ambassadorship a week before. 

Now the coup was about to succeed. Papen ought to be able to count on rehabilitation, I thought.[1] 

So should Ketteler. What was Ketteler afraid of. Why had he worked for this thing if he knew that 

it would cost him his life? 

In the stormy month that followed I thought continually of Ketteler with the net closing around 

him. On Saturday, March 12th, when the German troops were already in Austria, Himmler and his 

secret police already in Vienna, Dettlevsohn telephoned to me. He was no longer the humble 

refugee of 1934, 1935 and 1936. He had made his peace with the Gestapo, was safe, and was 

already much broader round the chest. He was already tasting with gusto the sweetness of being a 

German in this age of Germany’s might regained, when the world was quailing before Germany’s 

arms once more. 

‘Well, how do you feel now?’ he asked, and already the ring of the boaster was in that friendly 

voice. ‘Fit, thanks,’ I said, ‘and, by the way, how is Ketteler feeling?’ ‘Ah, that’s another story,’ said 

Ketteler’s bosom friend, and rang off. 

The hours and days that followed were so filled with the howling of crowds, the roar of aeroplanes, 

the thunder of mechanized armies, the rush of events, that you would expect my mind to have been 

full of them to the exclusion of all else. Yet even in those days I thought repeatedly of Ketteler, the 

mystery of the little part he had played in this stupendous drama, the mystery of his fear, that lurked 

always at the back of his eyes, tough as he was said to be, and indeed seemed to be, for he had 

stayed and faced the wolves. Was he hiding somewhere? Had he escaped? Had they got him in 

prison, in a concentration camp? 

I often asked myself these questions, when I was in Switzerland, in England, now that I was again 

in Central Europe. 

Here, in the Andrássy Ut, I found the answer. The scene around me dissolved. I saw Hainburg, that 

pleasant garden, the Danube flowing by.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine 

HUNGARIAN IDYLL 

We drove out of Budapest on a sunny Sunday in the early morning and followed the road to 

Belgrade for a while and then turned off and travelled between the rich nurseries of the Bulgarian 

gardeners, through a German and then through a Serbian village, deep into the heart of the 

Hungarian countryside until we came to, let us say, Dunapatay. 

Janos and his wife Ilka were excited, because they hadn’t been home for a long time and they 

looked forward to seeing their people, Janos’s parents and Ilka’s in-laws, and the little farm they 

hoped to inherit one day, only that Janos’s mother, who rather disapproved of Ilka, seemed at 

seventy-five likely to live to be a hundred and Janos’s grandmother, who was already ninety-nine 

and bedridden had been declared by the doctor to be good for another ten years, so that this 

business of inheritance moved slowly, and meanwhile Janos and Ilka lived frugally in Budapest and 

thought longingly of that little farm. 

After an hour we turned off the rough road into a still rougher one, and drove for a few minutes 

through tall kukuruz fields, and then the view opened out again and there, remote and peaceful, was 

Dunapatay, with Janos’s father waiting at the entrance to the village for the approaching cloud of 

dust that would bring his son with it. They seldom saw a motor car in Dunapatay and when I turned 

into the little farmyard, with the buildings standing round it, the village lads and girls came in 

afterwards and looked at it and touched it, and opened the door and sat in it, and when I began to 

take small parties for trips round the village there was great excitement and one octogenarian lady 

sprang in like a kitten and thoroughly enjoyed herself. 

A great day. A wonderful tranquillity reigned in that farmyard, with the geese clucking about in one 

corner and the pigs snuffling in another and a patch of grass under an acacia tree where there was a 

table and wine. In the kitchen Janos’s mother, who from behind looked like a girl of eighteen, so 

trim was her figure, so youthful her gait, prepared the midday meal, with the help of three or four 

other women, near or distant relatives, who had been pressed into service for the great occasion. 

The whole village was related, and cousins and uncles and nephews and aunts, all forewarned of 

the visit, kept coming in and drinking my health, and I theirs, until I realized that a test of my 

endurance lay before me. 

I was glad to sit there at peace with the world and be proudly shown off and warm myself in the 

sun and drink that home-made wine, which we fetched from the cellar, with lust and gusto. Janos’s 

father was not wearing so well as Janos’s mother, and mortgages and foot-and-mouth disease and 

heavy labour were clouding his old age, but now he warmed up with the sun and the wine and his 

pleasure at seeing Janos and in having a guest, and when Ilka, a born tyrant, told him he ought not 

to drink so much wine, it only brought on those griping pains, he told her roundly to be still, to 

drink water gave him a frog in the stomach and he would drink wine as long as he lived and when 

he could no longer drink it he didn’t want to live. Then he went and looked at the car, inspecting it 

with curiosity, chuckled, sat down on the grass and said this was a good day, he only wished his 

father were there to enjoy it. 

I studied Ilka with much interest in these surroundings. She did not belong to this village, she was a 

German girl from one of the German settlements near Belgrade, and Janos had met her somewhere 

and married her, his second wife, and brought her home to his father’s farm, which he waited to 

inherit. 

But he had caught a tartar. In Budapest Ilka was a very humble person whom you would never have 

noticed. But in this village she was important. She spoke three languages, German, Serbian and 

Hungarian. Nobody else could speak anything but Hungarian, save the one Jew; he and Ilka could 

talk together without anybody else understanding what they said. She had seen the world, she knew 

Belgrade and Budapest. She soon felt herself powerful and important. She would be the queen of 

this little community. 

But Janos’s mother, though she had never been outside Dunapatay and spoke only Hungarian, was a 

woman of character. She thought Ilka a humbug, not a real peasant at all, and indeed she wasn’t, for 

some strange reason, although she had been born and bred in a village: she was a typical town 

product. Janos’s mother was determined to be mistress in her own household as long as she lived. 

That was why Ilka and Janos were living in Budapest. 

Now I saw how swiftly Ilka, that working girl whom you would never have noticed in Budapest, 

put her spell on the women of this remote village. In deference to a tart remark of her mother-in- 

law she did bind a kerchief round her bare head. But she did not belong. 

The midday meal was ready. With great ceremony we went into the house, into the cool room with 

the great open hearth and chimney that the hams used to be smoked in. But now they didn’t use that 

splendid chimney any more. They had had a cheap iron stove put in. The factory-age has stamped 

its ugly and ruthless imprint on the remotest cot and hamlet in Hungary. 

In the guest room stood the guest beds, piled high with mattresses and pillows. On the walls were 

photographs of Janos as a boy, Janos as a soldier, Janos as a young farmer, Janos at his wedding – 

his first wedding, but the figure of his bride, that wanton who had sullied Janos’s good name and 

still lived somewhere in the village, had been scratched out, even to the hand on his arm, so that his 

arm seemed to have a hole below the elbow. 

The meal began, served to the menfolk and to Ilka by Janos’s mother and her host of helpers. That 

meal! My buttons protest when I think of it. First came soup, of which I partook amply, and then 

some stewed meat with potatoes, of which I also took my full share, for I thought this was the end 

and was hungry. But then plates full of roast chicken appeared, and the worst offence you could 

give was not to eat, so I had a good deal of that too, and they were followed by plates full of baked 

chicken, and after that an enormous apple tart, and I could only keep up at all by drinking lashings 

of wine and the room swam round me. That was followed by a large chocolate cake, Ilka’s gift, 

brought from Budapest, a thing that brought all the women hurrying into the room, for stewed meat 

and chicken and apple tart were things they knew, but a town-made chocolate cake was a thing they 

tasted only once in six months, if then, and they ate it with zest and licking of the fingers. Ah, that 

was good. 

Then I was shown the bedroom, with its three beds and I looked casually round and then had a 

shock for somebody was in one of them. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked Ilka. ‘Oh, that’s the old one,’ she 

answered, and went over to her and bent down and spoke loudly, and the figure stirred and 

laboured over and looked vacantly up and said something in a voice like that of a young child. It 

was the grandmother, ninety-nine years old and good for another ten, the doctor said. 

Until she was ninety-seven she had done her daily chores. For two years she had been lying there. 

Her wits were failing her and she could not hold a spoon, so that her daughter had to feed her, but 

in wind and limb, the doctor said, she was as sound as a bell. 

Now her daughter brought her a piece of that chocolate cake and fed it to her. That she could still 

understand. She ate it avidly. Afterwards she said, ‘That’s good, you can eat that.’ 

So even at ninety-nine, when your mind is clouded and you lie all day and all night in bed, and 

wake when the others are sleeping and complain fretfully about something, you know not what, in 

the darkness, even then there is still something you want, something that warms you, something 

that pleases you, I thought. Sweetmeats. And she was going to lie there ten more years like that, I 

thought, with nothing to live for but, at intervals of many months, a piece of chocolate cake. 

Perhaps, before she died, another world war would come and go. Its echoes would not reach to 

Dunapatay, at all events not to this room, with the old woman in the bed in the corner. If they told 

her about it she would not understand. But she would, until the last of those 3652 days understand 

chocolate cake. 

When we sat again outside, at the table under the acacia tree, and drank more wine, my thoughts 

returned continually to her, in that chill room. 

The evening came and we rose and went out through the village to the little inn, where there was 

music and dancing. Istvan, one of Janos’s many cousins, came with us. In the course of the 

afternoon he had come into the farmyard, lifted his hat, bowed to me and smiled with a flash of 

white teeth. He attracted me at once. He was a man of about forty, but with the figure of a youth, 

plentiful white hair, a brown face, perfect teeth, an eager, friendly smile. He talked to me in 

Hungarian, I to him in German, neither of us understood the other, but we laughed and toasted each 

other, he was of those men whom you instinctively trust and like. I noticed that every time we 

drank, and I took a full-sized pull, he only sipped, and put his glass down. His wife was among 

those helpers in the kitchen, and I thought I noticed her eye on him. Perhaps that was why? 

Something had come loose in my car; smiling he went running off for tools, came back and mended 

it. 

A thing that I noticed without thinking was that he had a curious fixed stare. He had fine grey eyes, 

but kept them wide open and seldom blinked, fixed them on you with a gaze full of fidendliness but 

strangely rigid. 

We came to the open common land at the end of the village. It was twilight, and here was a picture 

like an old coloured print of England. A wide green expanse, with cows in the distance, poplars and 

elms against the evening sky, rooks tumbling round them, and in the middle a little inn, with lights 

and the sound of music. We went in. The young men sat all at one side, the girls at the other, all in 

cheap frocks that became them ill. Among them was a group of girls who had come in from the 

Serbian village, and the Hungarian girls kept apart from them and looked askance when the 

Hungarian lads asked them to dance. 

The band struck up, the lads and girls stood up and danced the Czardas, drumming the feet, tilting 

the shoulders, faster and faster, the girls’ hands on the men’s shoulders, the men’s hands on the girls’ 

hips. I sat with Istvan and talked with him, through Ilka. Yes, he thought a new war was coming, 

but he would not go this time, he had had enough in the last one. And as for Hungary, the whole 

trouble was that the Kaiser was gone. The Kaiser must come back, then the good times would 

return and all would be well. 

Alas, poor Istvan, I thought, anyone can see that you live at the back of beyond. There will be no 

Kaiser in your time. 

The evening grew late, and I had to get back to Budapest. We rose and went out and my flagging 

spirit nearly failed when I found that before I started for home I had to pay a round of return visits 

to all those relatives who had called to be presented to me in the afternoon. Through the dark lanes 

we went and turned in at a house here, a house there, and in each one there was the obligatory table 

round, the menfolk sitting at the table, the womenfolk standing dutifully in the background, the 

wine, the cold meat, the wine, the cold chicken, and the wine. I must have drunk between three and 

four litres of wine that day and went from strength to strength. 

The last house was Istvan’s. Again I drank with him, again he only sipped, while his wife stood in 

the background. I expressed interest in his wartime souvenirs, particularly some plates with the 

pictures of Kaiser Wilhelm and Kaiser Francis Joseph printed on them. Immediately he gave me 

two and would not be denied. His wife gave me a lovely old brocaded kerchief and would also not 

be denied; I certainly knew somebody who would care for it, she said, and they all laughed. For 

fear I should thirst on the homeward way Istvan gave me a bottle of wine to take with me. 

I went and fetched my car, said good-bye to Janos’s father and mother, promised to come again, 

Janos and Ilka climbed in and we started for Budapest. A marvellous day. 

As we drove through the village the moon was up. At Istvan’s house a figure stood in the garden 

waving, there was a flash of teeth. He had been waiting there to see the last of us. We waved back 

and I settled into my seat for the run to Budapest. 

I thought a good deal, on the way, about the people I had been with. For the first time I had found 

real Hungarians, the people who ploughed and tilled this fertile land, and how good they had been 

to me. Particularly Istvan. He was a sympathetic and gallant looking fellow, and I was rather 

moved that he should wait in the garden to wave good-bye to a stranger. I often thought of him and 

the hard life he had, to wring a modest living from his few acres there in Dunapatay.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten 

SWASTIKA OVER HUNGARY 

On August 20th, 1938, I stood on the hill in Budapest and watched the Regent, Admiral Horthy, 

lead the historic procession, bearing what is alleged to be the right hand of St. Stephen, to the 

Coronation Church. On August 20th, 1038, Saint Stephen died. He was that first crowned King of 

Hungary who received the title of King from the Pope himself, together with the Holy Crown 

which the crowds, in this anniversary year, had been flocking to see in the Palace at Budapest. In 

that Crown the whole tradition and ancient claim of Hungary, so long overrun by the Turks, so long 

ruled by the Habsburgs, to be an independent kingdom were vested. 

Hungary, the land of St. Stephen’s Crown, is a Crowndom rather than a Kingdom; that, at any rate, 

is the theory which the Hungarians expounded to you, and you always wondered, privately, just 

how far they believed in it. 

Nevertheless, that Holy Crown, with the crooked cross atop of it, with the two venerable Hungarian 

noblemen who are its Keepers, with its own special Bodyguard, in gorgeous uniforms, is a bauble 

of some interest, as it lies in its special strongroom in the Royal Palace at Budapest, and if half the 

things that are told about it are true it must be one of the most famous jewels in the world, so I had 

better give you a brief account of its adventures. 

The Holy Crown – not quite this crown, but half of it – was given to Stephen’s emissaries in the year 

1000 by Pope Sylvester II. When King Stephen died it lay, on his head, in his sarcophagus for 

forty-five years, and was then taken out again. King Bela fled with it before the Turks to Dalmatia. 

Only those crowned with it at Székesfehérvár by the Archbishop of Esztergom, Primate of 

Hungary, were rightful Kings of Hungary, and as kings are sticklers for the law, and liked to stand 

well with the Pope, this led to fierce competition for it. 

Good King Wenceslas wore it, and took it to Prague, but, despairing of obtaining recognition for 

his claim, he sent it to his cousin Otto of Bavaria, who came riding down from Vienna, with the 

Holy Crown in a wooden casket fastened to his saddle to claim his Hungarian throne, only to find, 

when half-way, that he had lost it; riding back in haste, he found it in the mud at Fischamend, 

where on summer’s evenings, when I was in Vienna, I used to drive out to eat fish suppers in the 

little inn by the Danube, with its leafy and flowery courtyard, and very good they were. 

A bold and bad Transylvanian baron, Apor, king-maker by inclination, captured Otto and took the 

crown from him. The result was that the Pope’s candidate for the Hungarian throne, Charles of 

Anjou, though he was crowned three times, was not accepted by the Magyars. Not even a Papal 

anathema on the stolen crown could shake their reverence for it, and ultimately a Papal Legate had 

to go to Transylvania and induce Apor, somehow, to give it up, so that Charles could be crowned a 

fourth and last time and made an honest king. Next Elisabeth, Queen of the first Habsburg King 

Albert, stole it to make sure that her newborn son, and not a rival Polish prince, should be crowned 

King of Hungary, as he duly was, whereafter his mother took the crown to Vienna. 

When the Turks crushed the Hungarians at Mohács the Crown remained safely in the fortress at 

Vishegrád, about thirty miles from Budapest on the Danube, and was even shown to the Sultan 

when he came down from his bivouac near Buda to see it; in jocular mood he tried it on the head of 

some of his attendant pashas. 

After many adventures in succeeding centuries Francis Joseph came to the throne in Vienna and 

was refused recognition by the Hungarian Government of Louis Kossuth, whereon Austria called 

Russia to her help and attacked Hungary and the crown was removed and buried in a wood near 

Orsova. Several years passed before Baron Kempen, Chief of Police in Vienna, found a man who 

knew where the crown was buried and was willing for a price to tell. Kempen’s emissary met him 

in Trafalgar Square, paid the money and returned triumphant to Vienna. The crown was disinterred, 

and after Austria had been defeated by Prussia in 1866, Francis Joseph, urged on by his unloving 

Empress Elisabeth, who had fallen in love either with Hungary or with a Hungarian, made terms 

with Hungary and came to Budapest to be crowned with it. In 1919 came the Bolshevist regime of 

Béla Kun and an advertisement offering the crown for sale cheap was inserted in a German 

newspaper. 

To-day you see the Holy Crown, in image, everywhere in Hungary – on the Royal Palace, on the 

coins, on the postage stamps, on the letter boxes, on uniform buttons and badges, everywhere. It is 

not to-day as it was when it was sent to Saint Stephen by Pope Sylvester. The lower part, they say, 

is a coronet sent by the Greek Emperor Michael Dukas to King Géza I, and the Holy Crown, which 

had suffered in the burial of Saint Stephen, was altered and superimposed in cupola shape on this. 

A golden cross was fixed on top of it, like that which surmounts many a cathedral dome, and this, 

apparently from faulty workmanship, later became loose and crooked. By last century, when none 

remembered ever to have seen it straight, it was fixed so. Thus are traditions born, and Hungary 

became the Kingdom of the Crown with the Crooked Cross. 

This gives you a broad idea of the involved theory of Hungarian kingship. The Holy Crown, which 

has gone through so many adventures since Pope Sylvester sent it from Rome, has a mystical status 

superior to that of its wearer. The territory of the Hungarian Kingdom is formed by ‘the lands of the 

Holy Crown’. The lands belong to the crown. The crown is more than the King. 

It is fortunate that this should be so, because the wearer of the crown has sometimes been pretty 

roughly handled. The last wearer, that unhappy Emperor Charles who succeeded to the venerable 

Francis Joseph during the Great War and whose son Otto is the present claimant, was twice chased 

out of Hungary by the present Regent, Admiral Horthy, when he tried to return, and soon after died 

on the island of Madeira, whither he had been removed by the British Navy. 

On that August morning, the nine hundredth anniversary of the death of King Stephen, the founder 

of the Hungarian Kingdom, I thought of these things as I watched Admiral Horthy and tried to sort 

out the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. A Kingdom without a King, and little prospect of receiving 

one! A Holy Crown without a wearer. A Regent without a reason. An Admiral without a navy. It 

was all very difficult to understand. But in Insanity Fair not inappropriate. 

I studied Horthy Miklós as he passed before me. Here was another of those remarkable men who, 

on the stage of our contemporary Europe, play so many parts. A Hungarian aristocrat, brought up 

on the broad Hungarian plain. Naval cadet at Fiume, on the blue Adriatic. Naval officer, world 

cruises, a command at Constantinople in the days when the sick man on the Bosporus lay dying. 

Naval aide-de-camp at Schönbrunn to his Emperor Francis Joseph, whose successor he was to 

expel by force of arms from Hungary. Naval battles in the war. Last Commander-in-Chief of the 

Austro-Hungarian Navy. Embittered retirement, during the Károlyi and Béla Kun regimes, to his 

Hungarian estate. Entry into Budapest, at the head of the national forces, after the Rumanians had 

driven the Bolshevists out. Regent of Hungary. 

And now, here he was, passing before me. Only a few months before, I had seen him in the old 

Imperial box of the Vienna Opera between Schuschnigg and Miklas. Now Schuschnigg was a 

prisoner, and Horthy’s Austria, where he had seen such great events, was no more. On the evening 

of this very day, the nine hundredth anniversary of King Stephen’s death, he was due to leave on a 

State visit to the new arbiter of Hungary’s destiny, Adolf Hitler, together with his Prime and 

Foreign Ministers, Béla de Imrédy and Coloman Kánya de Kánya. 

I studied them, too. These three men were trying to do what Hindenburg and Papen had tried to do 

and failed in Germany, what Miklas and Schuschnigg had tried to do and failed in Austria, what 

Benesh and Hodza were trying and would fail to do in Czechoslovakia – to keep their country 

independent of Hitler in its foreign affairs and to repress Hungarian National Socialism, to retain 

power for the traditional governing classes. Would they succeed? 

Imrédy was bald, thin, hatchet-faced. His admirers said he looked like Savonarola, the Nazis said 

he looked like a Jesuit. He was a devout Catholic, he had won many decorations in the war and was 

entitled to call himself vitez, or hero. His name, Imrédy, was the Magyarized form of Heinrich, 

which indicated Germanic origins. A curious trio: Horthy Hungarian and Protestant, Imrédy 

Germanic and Catholic, Kánya of mixed breeding and agnostic. Imrédy had been a successful 

banker and Finance Minister and early in 1938, when the annexation of Austria showed that 

National Socialism was at the door of Hungary, he had been called in as the last hope of the anti- 

Nazis. 

Kánya, too, was an interesting figure to study. A wary, wily and aged diplomat, seasoned in the 

Ballhausplatz at Vienna before the war, in the period of tortuous Balkan intrigues and Balkan crises 

that led up to the Great War. He had been in the Press Department of the Vienna Foreign Office 

when that bloodcurdling story was put out, that afterwards proved to be untrue, about the Austrian 

Consul who had been castrated by the brutal Serbs. From the Legation in Mexico he had watched 

the collapse of the Empire he had served. As Hungarian Minister in Berlin he watched, from 1925 

until 1933, the rise of Hitler and the re-entry of Germany, with steaming nostrils, into the European 

bull ring. Now he was Hungarian Foreign Minister. Silver hair. Wary eyes in a wrinkled brown 

face. Tightly clamped lips. The largest ears I ever saw on a man, but lying back close to his head, 

not protruding handle-like. 

These three men, about to go to Germany, were the last hope of the monarchist aristocrats, the 

Catholics, the Jews, and any others in Hungary who dreaded the advent of National Socialism in 

any form. Would they succeed in their task? I asked myself, as I watched them on that August day. 

After the things I had seen in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, I thought not. 

When I went to Hungary, in June 1938, I had immediately noticed a vast change in the atmosphere. 

The air felt quite different. I had last been there in the preceding January, when Schuschnigg was 

there, the Roman Entente of Austria, Hungary and Italy was still in existence. 

Since then Austria had been-annexed. Budapest looked just the same, to the casual visitor. But for 

me, who have a sensitive skin nowadays for political temperatures, all was different. I felt, in the 

air, the same suspense, the same foreboding, the same nervous expectation, compounded of hopes 

and fears, that I remembered in Vienna before the annexation. 

The feeling of the air in Prague was quite different. There, too, was suspense, but without fear. The 

people knew that an ordeal was coming, but thought it was to be ordeal by fire, and were not afraid 

of it. In Budapest people knew intuitively that a change was coming in Czechoslovakia and that any 

change there meant changes in Hungary, but they could not foresee what these changes would be, 

or how quickly they would come; one part of the population hoped against hope that they would yet 

be avoided, the other part dreaded that they would not come; and thus you had, once more, that 

indescribable feeling, the chill that is thrown by the shadow of clouded coming events. 

The annexation of Austria, and the appearance of German armies at the Hungarian frontier 

overnight, but an hour or two distant from Budapest, had sent an electric shock through the country 

and put the Jews in Budapest almost in panic. Now, in the summer, they were calmer again. 

Imrédy, they told themselves, was using a firm hand. The leader of the ‘Hungarists’ (the Hungarian 

National Socialists), Major Franz Szálási, was in prison with a three-year sentence before him, 

noisy demonstrations in the streets had been checked, perhaps all would yet be well. 

For my part, I doubted it. Imrédy was trying to do just what Papen and Schuschnigg had tried to do 

– to take the wind out of the Hungarists’ sails by doing a little of the things they demanded. The 

method had failed elsewhere and, with a new German success impending in Czechoslovakia, I 

could not believe that it would succeed here. Under the surface there was, I found, a very strong 

body of Hungarist feeling; was it conceivable that Germany, riding on the crest of a wave of 

success, would fail to foster it when she thought the moment ripe? 

The Hungarists were campaigning among the people with three main cries: land for the landless 

peasant; out with the Jews and Jesuits; collaboration with Germany and Italy to recover Hungary’s 

lost lands. These made great appeal in a country where the peasant is so poor and so much of the 

land held by the nobles and the Church, where the urban workman is so badly paid and the social 

services so backward, where the Jews are so numerous and so wealthy, where the real ruler, in large 

tracts of the countryside, is the gendarme with his heavy hand. 

Would the Hungarists, if they achieved power, really take land from the great estate-owners and 

give it to the peasants? That was a question. The same thing had been promised in the parent 

country of National Socialism, but not carried out after the attainment of power. But the Hungarian 

peasant, if he knew that, did not bother about it; he was poor and landless and desperate and ready 

to grasp at any straw of hope. 

The thing that surprised me was that many of the more extreme men of this mind were ready to 

think, not only in terms of Hungarian National Socialism in Hungary, but in terms of Hitler in 

Hungary, and this made me a little sceptical about the mystical power of St. Stephen’s Holy Crown. 

Had the national spirit of the Hungarians been watered down by cross-breeding and poverty to the 

point where masses of the people were indifferent about ‘Hungary’s independence’, where all the 

talk about ‘the thousand-year-old Kingdom of St. Stephen’s Crown’ was just a cliché of the better- 

to-do few, devoted to the God-of-things-as-they-are? 

It almost looked like that. I found that large numbers of people wished for nothing better than for 

Hungary to go hand-in-hand with Germany in international affairs and to run her domestic 

household on the National Socialist system, and the more impatient ones simply clamoured for 

‘Hitler to come here and clean things up’, by which they meant to put them in power and drive out 

the Jews. 

They derided the minor cleaning-up measures which Imrédy took. His Bill to restrict the Jewish 

share in all business undertakings and in the professions to twenty per cent of the whole they 

dismissed as a bluff, prepared in concert with the Jews to delude the public into thinking that 

Jewish influence was to be restricted whereas in reality nothing would be done, and indeed the 

visible effects of this measure were hard to perceive, the visible preponderance of the Jews in 

Budapest remaining what it had been. With the same derision they received the announcement of 

land reform measures which, on paper, looked drastic; ‘land for the landless’, they said, had been 

promised times without number and nothing was ever done, nothing ever would be done until this 

reactionary, clerical, Jewish regime was removed. 

It was extraordinary to me, who had watched National Socialism triumph in Germany and Austria 

and move to its triumph in the Sudeten-German lands now, to watch it at work among people of 

another blood and to find that not a word or a phrase had been altered. The barrier of racial 

independence, which I had expected to find, was not there. The Hungarists said the same things, 

word for word, as the Nazis in Germany, in Austria and in Bohemia. When I listened to their 

leaders I might have been listening to Hitler in 1930, to Seyss-Inquart in 1937, to Henlein in 1938. 

They threatened the same kind of vengeance on their opponents – ‘We’ll have them cleaning the 

streets yet’. Their badges and flags were almost copies of the Nazi emblems, their programme and 

organization were completely attuned to those of German National Socialism, their leaders from 

time to time visited Germany, were honoured guests at the annual Nazi Rally at Nuremberg. 

These Hungarists, sitting round a table, were friendly and smiling people, just as the Austrian Nazis 

had been, they did not bark or thump the table or go red in the face. But I formed the opinion that if 

Hungarism comes to full power in Hungary, there will be at the beginning a period of explosive 

violence and vengeance probably worse than those that Germany and Austria experienced. 

To make the parallel with the development of German National Socialism complete, the Hungarists 

had their martyr, their imprisoned leader, Major Franz Szálási, whose incarceration they were 

honouring by self-imposed abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, with occasional lapses. He and 

they, like the German, Austrian and Sudeten-German Nazis, always declared that ultimate victory 

was as inevitable as the rising of the sun, that their oppressors only strengthened their cause by 

oppressing them, and that they would in due course pay for it. 

Major Szálási, a former staff officer with two brothers serving as officers in the Hungarian army, 

always professes a mystic faith in his mission that recalls Hitler’s oratory and after being sentenced 

for seeking to overthrow Parliament and ‘the thousand-year-old Hungarian Constitution’ and 

establish a dictatorship, replied, ‘you say my ideas are confused and incomprehensible, but God 

created the world out of chaos’, and on another occasion he said that the progress of mankind 

towards God was achieved by stages, and if a new stage could only be reached by bloodshed, then 

this blood would be spilt in the cause of God. 

Major Szálási’s imprisonment did not seriously hinder the work, which I found busily in progress, 

of organizing the Hungarists. His deputy, Koloman Hubay (Hubay is the Magyarized form of 

Hübner, so that M. Hubay seems also to be of Germanic origins) was efficiently taking his place. 

They had another breezy young leader in Count Louis Szechenyi, a member of a famous 

aristocratic family who was spoken of with much contempt by most people of his own class in 

Budapest, possibly because they thought that he was acting against the interests of that class. I 

found him by no means unintelligent and he may play a part yet. But if he were my political 

opponent I should know just how to disarm him: I should collect several of the best gipsy violinists 

I could find in Hungary, and send them to him, with instructions to play continually to him, because 

when he has them before him, playing the tunes he loves, he passes out completely and politics 

mean nothing to him. 

Wandering about Hungary in the summer of 1938 I came to the conclusion that great changes 

impended here too and that if Czechoslovakia should disintegrate without war, as I expected, the 

ultimate victory of German influence, if not of the Hungarists, would be certain. Another patch on 

the map of Europe would need to be coloured brown, another small state would become the vassal 

of Germany. 

One fine day, when the fate of Czechoslovakia was in the melting-pot, Admiral Horthy, Béla de 

Imrédy and Coloman de Kánya all dashed off to Germany to see Hitler. They wanted to make sure 

that, if the German lion were going to have a meal, the Hungarian mouse should be given some 

crumbs. At night, with the lights flickering on the hills around and a searchlight blazing a white 

trail down the landing-field, they came back, Imrédy and Kánya in the special aeroplane that Hitler 

had sent for them. He was already the master of Danubian Europe; if you wanted anything you 

went to him. The aeroplane landed smoothly, Imrédy and Kánya stepped out of it. I saw that they 

were smiling happily. 

‘Hitler’s promised them something,’ I thought. 

On the landing-field was a man I knew, assistant editor of a Hungarian National Socialist 

newspaper. I happened to look at him now, as he eagerly pressed forward to listen to Imrédy’s 

announcement about his visit to Hitler. I was to see him again, not long afterwards, in very different 

circumstances.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven 

BLUE-FACED VENUS 

A dismal Douglas Reed, the very wraith of a journalist, wandered about that peerless Danubian 

riverfront in Budapest. I love that vista of the Danube from the Gellert Hill, I love every inch of the 

river from the source to the mouth, including many inches that I seem unlikely to see again, but 

particularly I love that superb stretch where the Danube runs beneath graceful bridges between old 

Buda and new Pesth. I can watch it for hours, animated by the changing light, from that hill, and I 

love to travel on it in the little river-steamers, and let it revolve around me, so that it seems that I 

am waltzing and Budapest is my buxom partner. I would like to build a one-roomed cottage for 

myself in a certain spot that I know on the hill from where the view is best and I would like to have 

a window running round three sides of the room and there to live and write and write. 

But I pined and was disconsolate in Budapest, for all that I loved it and would love to live there, for 

it was just off the news map and I longed to be in Prague and see the end of the tragedy that was 

being played there. True, the suspense that hung over Prague was just as heavy in Budapest, for 

German domination in Czechoslovakia meant German domination in Hungary, but it was a reflex 

and not a direct suspense, and I wanted to be in the centre of the drama, in Prague. So, on that 

sweltering summer day, I dragged forlornly about and wondered how I could take destiny by the 

ears and shape any future as I wanted it. 

The bookshops were selling Insanity Fair, but as I passed by them, and paused to look at it in the 

windows, and re-read the reviewers’ commendations on the cover, I felt somehow that it had 

nothing to do with me, that it must have been written by somebody else. I was getting letters about 

it, from all manner of people and places, but these communications seemed to me like voices from 

some remote world that I once had known, having no direct relationship with this dejected 

journalist who trapesed around Budapest and wanted to be in Prague. 

It was blisteringly hot. I sat down at a café terrace facing the Danube, read the papers, drank my 

coffee, wiped my streaming forehead, and was bored. On the other side of the road people who 

came and went were stopping to lean over the railings and look at something in the river. I always 

go the other way when I see crowds looking at something, but I was bored. Listlessly I got up and 

went across. 

The dead woman, tethered to the quayside like a boat, lay face downward in the water. She wore 

something green, an undergarment, and her swollen shoulders strained against the straps; she had 

been some time in the water. Black hair streamed about her head and the Danube as it passed 

rocked her at the end of the rope, so that her head lolled to and fro and knocked on the stones of the 

sloping quayside wall. 

The river, that had taken her life, mocked her by giving movement to her stiff limbs. Her body, 

grotesquely sprawling, seemed to express the feelings with which she had gone into the water: 

despair and hopelessness and grief and impotence. A living woman, come to the end of her hopes 

and dreams, might have lain so and beat her head on the stones, oblivious of all around her. She 

seemed, in inconsolable sorrow, to be rocking herself to and fro, her head upon her outstretched 

arms. 

Somebody had found her and made her fast to the quayside until the police and the mortuary car 

should come. Now she lay, a scrap of green in the sandy yellow Danube, that swept by in a broad 

and stately curve. A flaming sun hung over the city, burnishing the turrets of the Parliament 

building as they stabbed the cloudless sky. The great royal palace, with St. Stephen’s Crown atop of 

it and the inexplicably crooked cross atop of the crown, lay heavy in the heat on the heights of 

Buda, sleepy behind the lowered blinds of its unpeopled rooms. 

The pleasure boats plied to and fro. The motor cars of the foreign tourists stood parked before the 

great hotel, each with a different number-plate – GB for England, F for France, D for Germany, CH 

for Switzerland, I for Italy. These pleasure-makers from near and far were splashing about in the 

baths, that outdid Caligula, behind the hotel. 

To the right Mount Gellert climbed up to the fortress, and on its green slopes men were hosing the 

flowerbeds and lawns, so that flashing silver jets of spray rose and fell. Half-way up the hill was a 

chapel built in a grotto, a palace of mumbo-jumbo with cunningly contrived niches for illuminated 

saints and virgins, and from this came the sound of voices singing. On a projecting crag above it 

stood a great cross, sharply silhouetted against the sky. From where I stood I could see among the 

people in the chapel a very dirty beggar in a kind of monkish dress. He was always there, praying 

and praying, and when he knelt to pray you saw the blackened and gravelly soles of his bare feet. 

On the edge of the quay, their legs dangling over the sloping wall, sat children. They had got there 

first and waited expectantly. Behind them stood young lads and girls, men and women, workmen, 

clerks, soldiers, officers. There was a policeman, his little shako set rakishly askew, his trousers 

tightish, his hands in white gloves, the sword of authority at his side. He looked at the woman at the 

end of the rope sternly, as who should say, ‘Now then, you, what’s all this `ere about’, but suffered 

the crowd to stand and gaze at her until the mortuary car should come. 

Above, where the roadway ran, a second crowd of people, young and old, leaned on the railings 

and watched her as she lay, her head knocking on the stones, her haunches bobbing in and out of 

the water. Twenty yards from her a fisherman sat and intently watched his float, an old man with a 

battered brown hat, and braces suspending his ancient pants. His mind was given entirely to his 

fishing and he alone of all the people there did not turn his head to look at the drowned woman. 

Probably the sight had no interest for him; if he often fished at that spot he would have seen enough 

corpses fished out of the Danube. 

In her lifetime the woman in the green slip, I thought, had never had so much attention bestowed on 

her. About two hundred people stood looking at her. In their tones I heard neither horror nor pity, 

and in their faces I saw no compassion, but only curiosity, and even something like contempt. 

Women said something to each other and smiled and chatted. A man near me made a jest and 

others laughed. What had he said?, I wondered. Perhaps that the woman was lucky to be dead, such 

jests come easily to the lips of men in crowds. Then came a man selling newspapers and he looked 

casually over the railings and said something facetious and others laughed, but one man turned 

angrily on him and objected loudly, and there was a noisy altercation with the two of them 

swearing at each other, and then he went away and everybody turned to look again at the woman in 

green, who went on bobbing about. 

For fifteen minutes, for half an hour we watched, and from time to time the people craned over the 

railings to look upstream at the bridge and I guessed they were looking for the mortuary car. This 

was nothing new to them; they knew the direction whence it must come. Presently there was a stir 

and a pointing of fingers and a nodding of heads and I saw a black closed car come across the 

bridge, disappear, and then reappear beneath us, driving along the quayside wall. 

Now the policeman, with his white gloves, bestirred himself and started moving the crowd, so that 

it split into two parts, drifted off right and left, and reassembled fifty yards away on either flank, 

and into the space thus cleared the mortuary car drove up and two men got out. They wore overalls 

and the inevitable shako of State employment. One was young and talkative; the other old, with a 

bloated red face and the manner of a man whom nothing can disturb or hurry. 

They gave a professional look at the woman at the foot of the steps, the kind of look a prizefighter 

runs over his opponent or a farmer over the cow he thinks to buy. In that cursory glance they sized 

her up, how long she had been in the water, how heavy she would be, and all the rest that they 

needed to know. Then they turned their backs on her and lit cigarettes and chatted to the policeman 

and the driver, and the woman in the water seemed to go on lamenting and the crowd watched. 

For another fifteen minutes she jigged at the end of her rope and then another car drove up and the 

Police Commissioner got out, pulling his well-fitting tunic down with one white-gloved hand and 

managing his sword with the other, and after him two plain clothes officials and there was saluting 

and hat raising all round at the head of the steps. The two mortuary attendants sprang to life and 

prepared for action. The Police Commissioner and his two colleagues and the policeman who had 

been first on the scene took out pocket-books and pencils. All was ready for that sacred rite, the 

taking of the protocol. Not life, not death, matters, but the protocol. 

The Commissioner gave a sign. The two mortuary men, rubber gloves on their hands, ran down the 

steps, turned the woman over, took her under the arms, and laboured backwards with her up the 

steps. Her stiff legs bumped from step to step. At the top they laid her down, moved back for the 

Commissioner and his colleagues to look at her. I saw her face. 

It was blue-black and the size of a football. No passing sculptor would have tarried to take a death 

mask of this unknown woman from the Danube, no poet to weave about her as she lay on her slab 

in the mortuary a melancholy tale of loving and losing. A few days more or less in the water make 

a deal of difference. Yet she was not much older than that other unknown woman who was taken 

from the Seine. Her face and shoulders were swollen and discoloured, but her body and her legs 

had not yet suffered, and they were those of a young and beautiful woman. 

So she lay on the quayside, with the sun sweltering down on her, and she was dressed in her green 

shift, green knickers, cheap silk stockings and one red shoe. The fish or the river had had the other 

red shoe, I supposed, but I wondered about the rest of her clothing. Would a woman who meant to 

commit suicide take off her dress first? Could she have been murdered? 

The Commissioner made notes in his pocket book and then said something to the two mortuary 

men, pointing with his pencil at the woman. Briskly they stripped her of her shift, examined it for 

markings, found none, and told him so, He made a note, they put the shift in the black box which 

was waiting for her, he gave another order, and they quickly tore off her knickers, examined them 

with like result, and put them down. Another order, and off came one stocking. The Commissioner 

made his notes and bent down to examine her and spoke to his two colleagues and they nodded 

sagely and all three wrote something else in their pocket books. The protocol was growing. 

So there she lay with one stocking and one red shoe, and then he gave another order and off came 

the shoe and the stocking, and she was naked and lay there with her legs astraddle and her stiff 

arms outstretched and her purple and swollen face upturned, on the quayside by the Danube, with 

the trams clanging by and the fisherman stolidly fishing and the crowd watching, and on the other 

side of the street the expensive foreign motor cars coming and going before the great hotel. Behind 

me a woman said something: I turned and saw that she was asking me to make a little room for her 

child, who could not see. In the chapel on the hillside they were singing. 

Sing, I thought savagely, sing for her immortal soul, you, corpulent priest, and you, dirty monklike 

beggar, praying and singing is your trade, but isn’t there any man jack of you to spare her mortal 

body this final indignity. Because she was poor and desperate and jumped into the Danube, or was 

thrown, must she lie there like that, naked, obscene, helpless, having her bits of clothes torn off her. 

If they had found a coronet embroidered on her shift they would not have let her lie there like that. 

The devil take your ranting about humility and charity and immortal souls, I thought, if you can 

treat even the carcass of another human being like that. 

Then they slumped her over, looking for marks or injuries, and with a shock that was like a stab I 

saw the Rokeby Venus lying there on the quayside before me. The pose was exact, the small waist, 

well turned legs, good hips; a young and shapely woman. Then they slumped her back again, and 

one of her legs fell across the other as if she were alive, and her blackberry pudding of a face came 

into view, with its distended and staring eyes. 

They dumped her in the black box and drove her away. 

That night I sat on the terrace of a villa high up on the Schwabenberg, behind Buda. A terraced 

garden, with tall trees dressed back on either side to make a frame, fell away beneath us and 

between the trees lay the lovely night scene of Budapest, with the Danube shining between the 

bridges and the lights flickering like fireflies. I sat and talked to compatriots, English people who 

were making a leisurely way by motor car about the Continent and had for the first time come to 

Budapest. One of them, a woman, said to me, ‘Do you know, I think Budapest is even lovelier than 

Venice.’ 

I looked contemplatively down at the picture spread between the trees. It was indeed a lovely city. 

Later I drove homeward and stopped on the way to go to a bar, a place, that is, where you drink and 

dance and watch girls dancing. Perhaps I had a glass of wine too many, for I seldom go to bars, 

night-clubs, bottle-parties, or any other of those exasperatingly dull places where girls try to make 

the men buy them champagne in the interest of the proprietor and the men comply in the hope of 

favours to follow and comes the dawn and the men find themselves, much poorer than they were, 

waiting in the grey street outside while the girl has left by another entrance with the gigolo, whom 

she is keeping. 

I can understand a straightforward brothel, like those you see in Marseilles or Port Said, but I don’t 

understand these places where the intention is to mulct the inebriated male by flashing before him 

the picture of that which he expects to find in a brothel and then playing the three-card trick on him. 

Also, I don’t much care to see young girls of anything from sixteen years upwards posturing nearly 

naked before more or less drunken males. This always seems to me like the shop window of a 

brothel and if these places were avowedly brothels, with specimens of the wares on display, I 

should have no objection to them, but as they pretend to be something quite different I loathe them. 

This particular bar, which would have called you out if you called it a brothel, paraded the female 

form unclothed on a scale and at a pace that staggered even me. Mechanically the place was a 

marvel of perfection, and it was more like the conventional conception of hell than anything I have 

seen. The performance was on a circular stage, raised about two feet from the ground and round 

this, their faces upturned like animals waiting to be fed, sat the guests. Leggy women with lots of 

bust came up through the floor and down through the ceiling and appeared in alcoves in the walls 

or in miniature reproduction on tiny moving-picture screens incessantly, while the lights changed 

from red to green and blue and yellow and back to red and the smoke rose and drifted about. They 

danced, these grinning girls, they floated overhead, they disappeared into unexpected apertures in 

the walls and reappeared through others, they performed acrobatic feats, they were whirled round 

by the rotating stage, they vanished into the depths and were shot into the heights, they tied 

themselves into knots on trapezes, they posed in suggestive, red-illuminated tableaux with almost 

naked male partners, and finally they flew round overhead on a kind of merry-go-round, so that you 

should see the only thing you had as yet missed, the soles of their feet. 

For me, each of them had a blackberry pudding for a face. Somehow, I was sure that the woman I 

had seen was one of these, that the answer to the questions I had been asking myself about her was 

to be found in such a place as this. But she was beautiful. 

I went, swearing never to come to one of these exasperatingly stupid places again. The next 

morning I sat again on the little café terrace over against the Danube, the same terrace from which I 

had seen the people across the street craning their heads over the railings as I drank my coffee. 

Now I drank coffee again, and read the Pester Lloyd. In an obscure corner I found a little item, 

headed, ‘Three bodies recovered from the Danube’. It began like this:  

Yesterday afternoon the body of a female person aged from 20 to 25 years was seen 

near the quayside before the Technical High School and was recovered. The body 

was partly clothed, but no clue to its identity could be found. 

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve 

HALF A LEAGUE 

I had to lecture at Geneva, so I stepped into the evening express at Budapest and travelled 

uncomfortably through the night, for I had malaria on me and sweated incessantly, and the next 

morning I stepped into the aeroplane at Prague and held my breath, as I always do from old force of 

habit, until the wheels were well off the ground. 

I now fly frequently but I don’t suppose I shall ever, after those wartime crashes, be able to step into 

an aeroplane with the blissful unconcern of the normal traveller. 

This day the flying weather was perfect; if this had been an open machine – I detest the closed-in 

air-liner – it would have been an exhilarating flight, I should have recaptured the feeling of keen 

enjoyment that I had sometimes had, in similar weather, in the open cockpit of an RE8. Now, from 

boredom, I began to study my fellow-passengers. They were nearly all Jews. 

Insanity Fair has brought with it a new aerial game – playing leapfrog across Germany. Before the 

little men down there started making history again all the trans-European air-liners, as a matter of 

course, landed somewhere in Germany. Now, many travellers do not care to land in Germany, the 

air companies have opened all kinds of new services that hop across the Reich – Strasbourg-Prague, 

Rotterdam-Prague, Prague-Zürich, and so on. 

Slowly, from that great height, I saw Vienna and all Austria pass beneath me and then the Lake of 

Zürich glittered in the distance and came nearer and I could even identify the Bahnhofstrasse, 

where we had bought red tulips, and the Hotel Eden au Lac, where we had found such peace after 

tumult, and I thought of that other journey that I had made, along this very route, but down below, 

so long ago. How long was it? Years, I thought. I reckoned backward. Five months. 

Just as the aeroplane is changing all our ideas of distance, so does the rush of events alter our sense 

of time. We crowd into a few weeks, in this helter-skelter age, the experiences and emotions of a 

normal lifetime. Hopes and fears, laughter and tears, follow after and tumble over each other so 

quickly that you never get them sorted out. You are always running a race with time – or at any rate, 

I am – always trying to make plans for the future and execute them before the next surprise bursts 

upon you and you have to pack your grips again, leave everything, abandon your plans and 

hurriedly make others, keep just one move ahead of the four horsemen. 

I thought a great deal that day, as I looked down on the same scene from above, of that March 

journey that I had made from Vienna to Zürich, of that transition from pandemonium to perfect 

tranquillity. It gives a picture in little of the lives of many men in our time, save that the unlucky 

ones do not reach that longed-for peace; just as they are within sight of it the pursuer spurts and 

touches them on the shoulder. 

Now I spent half an hour at Zürich airport, one of the pleasantest in Europe, and then we were off 

again and soon the great Lake of Geneva lay beneath us. 

I would have liked to take a parachute and jump out. Here, below me, lay another station in that 

race with time, and one that I had failed to make. Ever since that summer in 1936 I had been 

planning to come back here, where I had first been able to satisfy the longing that had been in me 

ever since the war – to get really fit. I had planned to come in 1937, and then I had felt that 

irresistible impulse to write a book about the things I knew and foresaw, and had had no holiday at 

all, but had worked night and day in my rooms in Vienna and used up a deal of those reserves of 

sun and air that I had stored within me at Montreux. I had consoled myself with the thought that I 

would at all costs go there in 1938 and drink some more of that marvellous wine from the Château 

Chatelard, row to and fro across the lake, wander about the lovely old castle of Chillon, laze on the 

bathing beach at Villeneuve, eat in utter peace of mind at the little hotel there, rest my eyes on the 

serene and reassuring Dent du Midi, climb the hills … 

Then came March 1938, and the invasion of Austria, and now the summer was already waning and 

I was dashing to and fro and working harder than ever and this was the only glimpse I should get of 

Montreux this year. Would I at last contrive to get there in 1939? I saw the places I knew and loved 

loom faintly out of the blue-gold haze below, and then recede into the haze again. 

As the airport bus rolled into Geneva I saw that it passed over a place in the road where fresh 

concrete had been laid, with metal slots in it. Anti-tank obstacles! Even here, in this farthest corner 

of Switzerland, the hoofbeats of the four horsemen had been heard. 

Again the peace of a Swiss town. But not for me. An hour or two to spare, just long enough to 

prepare that lecture, tip-tap in a hotel bedroom, quinine tablets. In the back of my mind, always, 

that angry question, why cannot I, who in all conscience have worked hard enough in my life, stay 

here awhile, in this peaceful place? – why must I gad about? neither myself nor anybody else is the 

better for it, who on earth wants to hear this fatuous lecture? is there anything else, save space, so 

limitless as sweating – how am I going to lecture, with a head like this? 

Then a garden, familiar faces, cocktails – one, two, three. The fighting spirit revives, time passes 

quickly, I find myself on a platform in the old League building, with some hundreds of seekers 

after knowledge, of many nationalities, before me. They want the best forecasts, I have them. I tell 

them what is going to happen to Czechoslovakia. Does this do any good? Any harm? Who knows? 

We go on and on, as a great man once said. The cocktail is the friend of man, in such a moment. I 

am as full of spirit as a fighting cock. When it wears off I shall try the tail of the cock that bit me. It 

was a good lecture, as lectures go, and if people like listening to lectures, then why not? I avoid 

them, for my part. I have often wondered whether the world would not be better without lectures, 

even without newspapers. I have tried to picture a universe in which the Observer would cease 

observing and the Garvin garve no more. Why can’t I stop sweating? 

Applause. Questions. An emptying hall. I look around me. I am almost alone. 

This place is full of ghosts. Austen Chamberlain, good-looking, clear-minded, well-informed, stalks 

past; why the Neville hasn’t his half-brother his personal knowledge of European problems at this 

juncture? Briand, brilliant in senility, dodders by. Stresemann, clear-minded, unhealthy in the flesh, 

swollen-necked, with his small eyes flickering to and fro. Benesh, earnest, diligent, bond-slave of 

an optimism that does not show at the back of his eyes. Laval, saturnine, inscrutable. Titulescu, 

monstrous, flamboyant, gesticulating, fluent. 

The Negus, cloaked and bearded, moving with the dignity of a panther. Stephen Lux, the Jew, 

putting the muzzle of a revolver to his head. At the end of that spectral procession, doing the goose- 

step, comes Greiser, the Nazi from Danzig, with his fingers to his nose, cocking a snook. 

A tragedy? A comedy? A harlequinade? 

History will give the answer, say the letter-writers to The Times. History is a nitwit, that never 

learns anything from history. If history is our hope in years to come, good Lord deliver us. 

The night air is cool. I go to the bar where all the caricatures are of those men who used to come to 

Geneva and try peacefully to settle the quarrels of the world. How meaningless they are to-day, 

those pictures, like studio portraits of Victorian grandfathers and grandmothers, with their necks 

and limbs in iron rests, with the aspidistra in the background. 

A bad night, more quinine than sleep. The next morning I have four or five hours before I catch the 

aeroplane for Prague, start gadding about again. I take a look at the League. 

The offices of the permanent foreign delegations are forlorn and lifeless. The great League building 

itself is an empty marble hall, full of despondent echoes. The permanent officials are writing their 

resignations, looking about for new jobs. They, too, are packing their grips, trying to plan new 

futures that will keep them ahead of the pursuers. There was once – my hat, there still is! – a 

Disarmament Section, with a numerous staff. For years old Arthur Henderson presided over it. 

Agnides, the new head, is resigning, Zilliacus, one of Henderson’s secretaries, too. About fifty 

senior officials, in all, are going. The lesser lights, the interpreters, the archivists, the librarians, the 

girl typists, who once thought they would perhaps end their days in Geneva, are all getting ready to 

go. 

I look back from the aeroplane on the white mass of the League building, framed among green 

trees. The tomb of so many hopes. There you should bury your unknown soldiers, together with 

their hopes. Dig them up, in Paris, in London, in Rome. They don’t belong there anyway, now. 

Transplant them to Geneva. 

The League was killed by England on that day in 1935 when the world was summoned to give 

combat to a predatory Great Power that had attacked a weak one – its own protégée in the League – 

without any intention really to lead the nations in resistance to that power, Italy. The intention 

already existed to allow Italy to dismember Abyssinia. It was merely electioneering policy. As soon 

as the election had been won, and the back benches of the House filled for years to come with an 

overwhelming majority of docile followers who would support the government in the surrender of 

one small state after another to brute force, the pretence was dropped that England meant to lead 

the world against the aggressor. 

To win an election! Show me, in the pages of your precious history, an act as cynical, as infamous, 

as disastrous in its consequences as this. The great majority of the states of the world were ready to 

respond to that inspiring call, after so many centuries, to confront brute force with overwhelming 

force. Even within the countries that were outside the League hundreds of thousands of men would 

voluntarily have offered themselves for this cause. You could then have mobilized a force, in the 

cause of humanity, of justice, of idealism, the like of which the world has never seen. Since that 

day the hopes of these men, of the men in all countries who stood in that camp, have been humbled 

and humbled, until to-day they lie in the dust. To-day you can no longer mobilize that shining 

army. 

Men, like myself, who have seen this tragedy take shape from day to day, seen the men who acted 

in it, seen the places where its acts were played, feel this more bitterly than those who were distant 

lookers on. To us it is more plastic. 

To win an election! It is blood guilt that England has taken on herself in these three years. 

I looked back once more at the white roofs of the great building among the trees. Not even half a 

League! 

 

*** 

Chapter Thirteen 

 

BETTER THE DEVIL … 

I walked with an American friend through a street in Prague and we saw, in a passing motor car, 

Lord Runciman. My American, an embittered democrat and a staunch friend of the Czechoslovaks, 

looked lugubriously after him and shook his head. ‘I don’t like this Runciman business,’ he said. ‘I 

think it means that the Czechs are going to be urged in a gentlemanly way down the steep slope of 

concession and given a sharp push when they are near the bottom. They are too naive to see the 

catch in this. The military danger they understood and, since they mobilized on May 20th, they 

have been ready to meet it and, if need be, to perish fighting. This, in my view, is a greater danger 

to them. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.’ 

‘I saw neither horns nor tail,’ said I. 

Lord Runciman, his golf clubs atop of his ample baggage, an English milor called in his seventieth 

year from a yachting cruise on some sunny sea to produce a rabbit from the Czechoslovak hat, to 

make a nice cup of tea out of the devil’s brew that was boiling in Danubia, had reached Prague a 

day or two before. My American friend was not quite right. Some of the Czechs did see what this 

meant for them. ‘Are we now to commit suicide?’ asked one paper. ‘Must we sacrifice our 

democracy to make Germany master of Danubian Europe?’ asked another. 

That was exactly what they were required to do. 

The few weeks that Lord Runciman spent in Prague, studying a question that has kept Europe at 

loggerheads for centuries, now seem as remote as Queen Victoria’s jubilee, but as his report was 

seemingly taken as the basis for the surgical operation performed at Munich on a small country that 

we know nothing about, and as this is going to have incalculable results for the British Empire, the 

Runciman mission deserves a little space in this book. 

My Czech acquaintances complained that Lord Runciman spent too much of his time in aristocratic 

households, a thing they disliked because the aristocracy of Czechoslovakia is almost entirely 

German, and in its sympathies is either for Hitler or for Habsburg, and Habsburg is a dream that has 

faded. Their attitude towards the Czechoslovak state was also unfavourably influenced, apart from 

these old allegiances, by the fact that it took from them, against compensation, part of their land 

and gave it to the landless peasants, the serfs of the past. 

The Nazi Völkischer Beobachter published on September 13th, a few days before the surgeons met 

and decided on the operation, a photograph of Lord Runciman giving what appeared to be the 

Hitler salute at a march-past of Hitlerist Sudeten Germans. Was some fortuitous movement of Lord 

Runciman’s right arm caught by the Nazi photographer? Who knows? It looked bad for an honest 

broker. You need to keep your right arm down on such occasions, if you wish to count as impartial. 

Lord Runciman’s report was taken as the bible which Mr. Chamberlain, Sir John Simon, Lord 

Halifax and others invoked, after the dismemberment, to make many statements, two of which are 

particularly important as examples of the muddled mis-information which is given to the great 

British public on these occasions, of the lullabies with which its conscience is put to sleep. 

The first is the Lord Chancellor’s statement that Czechoslovakia was ‘a state which should never 

have been created’. If this was meant to make the public, with its blissfully short memory, believe 

that the boundaries of this state were set at Versailles it may have been successful; it is also absurd. 

These boundaries were mostly settled in the early Middle Ages. You cannot have an independent 

Bohemian state without these boundaries; it is like razing the walls of a walled city. The Germans 

who live inside them came after the Czechs. 

The second was the statement of Lord Halifax and Lord Runciman that these areas would never 

have been given back to Czechoslovakia even after the most victorious of wars. What? After a 

victorious war you would take from one of the victors land that had formed the historic frontiers of 

her state, in independence and in subjugation, for many hundreds of years? Even within the 

German-ruled Habsburg Empire these were the frontiers of the Bohemian Kingdom. 

Then there was the statement that the principle of ‘self-determination’ demanded the surrender of 

these areas. But areas containing only fifty per cent of Germans were handed over, and if only one 

of these fifty Germans desired to remain outside the Reich ‘self-determination’ demanded that this 

district should not be transferred. Not self-determination for the Germans, but the principal of 

German racial unity prevailed, and that meant self-extermination for Czech independence. Areas 

predominantly Czech were handed over. What has this to do with self-determination? The principle 

is that Germany must have what she wants. It need not, will not, stop there. On this principle you 

must hand over the rest of Bohemia, because a few more thousands of Germans live there, you 

must hand over Hungary because 600,000 Germans live there, Rumania … 

But the most striking and most important thing of all in Lord Runciman’s report was that part to 

which Lord Davies called attention in the House of Lords on October 4th:  

… that those parties and persons in Czechoslovakia that have intentionally 

encouraged a policy antagonistic to the neighbours of Czechoslovakia should be 

forbidden by the Czechoslovak Government to continue their agitation, and if 

necessary legal measures should be taken to put an end to their agitation. 

If you want to know what is likely to come to you in England, read these words of a Liberal 

politician in the year of democracy 1938. Read Lord Davies’s comment on them:  

As far as I can understand, this means that all free speech in Czechoslovakia should 

be suppressed, that no Czechoslovak should in future be allowed to criticize the 

policy of other countries which happen to be the neighbours of Czechoslovakia, or 

even to comment on it. That appears to me to be the quintessence of totalitarianism. 

It is synonymous with the denial of all democratic ideas, and it is by far the most 

unfortunate idea put forward in this report … 

The things that Lord Runciman advocated have happened. He and those who think like him need 

not fear. All parties antagonistic to Germany have been suppressed in Czechoslovakia, all criticism 

stilled. Czechoslovakia will go with Germany in peace and in war. Those carping critics in 

Czechoslovakia, who to the last man would have gone with a song in their hearts to fight for 

England if England had been attacked, are silenced. 

I have before me a letter of Lord Runciman, written after Munich to the Federal Council of the 

Protestant Churches in Czechoslovakia. ‘Be of good cheer’ is its general tenor. In one place he says, 

‘I believe that, if peace prevails, a happy and free Czech nation can live in the centre of Europe – 

faithful to its old traditions and its best ideals. That this may be so is my most earnest prayer.’ 

Well, well. Prayer, I fancy, will not now avail much. ‘If peace prevails.’ Well, perhaps it will: I see 

no reason why war should come as long as the supply of small states lasts. But ‘a happy and free 

Czech nation, faithful to its old traditions and its best ideals’. How can that Czech nation be happy 

and free if it has to submit its whole life to the totalitarian doctrine of the mighty Hitlerist Reich? 

And how can it be faithful to its old traditions and best ideals if an alien system is thus imposed by 

force upon it? 

Lord Runciman may know the answers. Anyway, there he went, all on a summer’s day. My 

American friend and I looked after him and then resumed our stroll. The sun was shining. The 

streets were full of people who were not only unafraid, but who seemed even to find an uplifting of 

the spirit in the thought of the fearful ordeal they expected soon to undergo. They thought their 

friends would be at their side and that was the only thing they really cared about. 

The Sokol Rally had sent their spirits soaring to the highest altitudes of self-faith and patriotic 

fervour. The Association of Czech Officers, fearing the new development, issued a manifesto:  

We officers, standing in the front rank of those consecrated to death, in full 

responsibility claim the right to raise our warning voice. The authority of the State 

must not be diminished or degraded, neither by one deed more nor by one word 

more. There must be no retreat from this position. Within it we can live and work, 

defend ourselves and fight. We can die, but we cannot yield, not a single step. 

Do you know that these men would have fought the whole German Reich, without a single friend at 

their sides, but for that final blow that broke their spirit – the knowledge that the Poles and 

Hungarians would be against them too. 120,000,000 against 14,000,000. It was too much. 

But on that sunny day the Czechs, blind to their fate, still believed in their star, and Lord Runciman 

drove by to his hotel.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen 

HUNGARIAN TRAGEDY 

Three horsemen rode slowly along the road past the house, their horses’ hooves stirring little puffs 

of dust. Three horsemen out of a fairy-tale, with close-fitting red boleros and long, flowing white 

sleeves, embroidered white skirts beneath which their tall boots showed, green, white and red 

ribbons round their broad-brimmed hats, and plumes of puszta grass waving from them. 

Three gallant mounted figures, moving with the peculiar grace that a good seat on a horse gives a 

young man. Behind them came farm wagons, bedecked with flowers and foliage, and sitting in 

them the village girls, in tight red bodices and white embroidered skirts with red aprons, and red 

diadem-like headdresses framing their faces. 

Behind them, again at a little distance, came the clowns, macabre figures with black stockings 

pulled over their faces, performing clown-like antics in the dusty road, and behind them again, at a 

respectful distance, came all the little village boys, running after the clowns. Every now and again 

the clowns turned round, pretended angrily to discover the little boys and ran menacingly towards 

them, and then the whole cloud of little boys, looking fearfully over their shoulders, turned round 

and ran away, until the clowns gave up the chase and went after the procession again, and then all 

the little boys turned again and ran after the clowns. 

Bringing up the rear, as if drawn by an invisible string of curiosity, came platoons of geese, 

waddling, squawking, their necks elongated, their beaks open. 

I stood in the garden of Istvan’s house with him, and watched the pageant go by. This was the 

festival of the wine harvest, and I had come by special invitation to see it. As I watched it I envied 

Hungary the customs and costumes, the unspoiled village life that she had kept. Yet I knew that this 

was in reality only a museum-piece. 

All those young men and girls had their lovely costumes, that they automatically put on once or 

twice in a year, for such occasions as this. But they always put them off again with relief. The 

young men, who made such gallant figures in this dress, were always glad to get into their cheap 

suits and look like corner boys. The girls pined for the tawdry pink and blue frocks, from the 

Jewish shops in Budapest, that so little became them. They were already beginning to conform to 

the mass-produced type of woman, sleek as a balloon and as empty, all with the same eyebrows and 

mouths and smiles and hair, that Hollywood showed them in the little hall that was a cinema once a 

week. 

When they had gone, Istvan, with the pride of a father, showed me his farm. The mare had foaled, 

and with flashing white teeth and real affection he showed me the baby, that looked shyly and yet 

trustfully as he came in, suffered him to stroke its shining neck and flanks. His dog lay basking in 

the sunshine, among the noisy geese; suddenly, like a policeman who feels that the crowd is getting 

above itself, he raised himself to his feet and hurtled round the farmyard like a rocket, scattering 

them in all directions, pretending to snap at them with vicious jaws that really held no malice, only 

the determination to assert his authority. Satisfied to have shown off before us, he returned to his 

place and lay down again, looked about him, laid his head on his paws. 

In a corner of the farmyard sat Istvan’s wife and his daughter, feeding the geese. They sat with their 

legs across the bird’s body and held its neck, just below the head, in one hand, so that the beak 

opened, and with the other hand they stuffed it continually with maize. Forcible feeding, an 

unpleasant custom, is the thing that makes the geese vicious, so that when somebody approaches 

them they stretch out their necks like battering rams and waddle at him, squawking angrily. 

But it makes their livers big and they fetch a better price and the peasant longs, more than anything, 

for a little cash. His life is labour, labour, labour, always with the earth, his friend and his enemy, 

beneath his eyes. In good times he has enough to eat, he can kill half a dozen chickens for his 

Sunday meal if he has a guest coming and think nothing of it, he makes his own wine from the 

grapes he grows, and often this is his only consolation, but money, coins, those metal disks and 

pieces of paper, these are hard to come by, in Hungary, in these times, and when he gets them he 

usually has to hand them over to the Jewish banker in the market town, who holds his mortgage, or 

the tax-collector, who leaves him little rest. 

Then we went to the little inn again. It had been transformed for this festival of the wine harvest. 

The walls and ceiling had been strung with vine-leaves, so that it was a bower, and among the 

leaves, put there by the girls, giggling together, were many little packets, containing a sweet or a 

cake or some small gift. The young men continually tried to secure one of these packets without 

being seen, but they would have been annoyed if they hadn’t been detected, because that meant 

arrest by the girl, or girls, who saw them, and indictment before the judge of the festival and his 

wife, who sat in a corner, and payment of a fine – and a dance with the girl. 

Then there was the rite of the dance with the judge’s wife, who was only his wife for the purpose of 

the festival. The young men continually presented themselves for a dance with her, and the judge, 

by tradition, became very angry, and sent them about their business and warned her to mind hers, 

and then in the end she told him saucily that she meant to have a dance anyway and he, with his 

false nose and whiskers, pretended to be furious, but she was off and away, stamping her feet in the 

Czardas, her arms on the shoulders of a stalwart young man and everybody very jolly, with the 

music playing faster and faster, and the couples dancing quicker and quicker, and the wine flowing 

freely and smoke rising to the ceiling. 

A merry evening. Round about, while those lads and girls danced and danced, the very picture of 

what a village festival should be, what village festivals perhaps once were in England, if that merry 

England ever existed, sat the older men, with their wives sitting dutifully a little behind them. I 

talked and drank with Istvan, while Ilka translated. Again, I noticed, he only sipped, but a little 

more freely this time, and suddenly he began to sing, his strangely staring eyes full of friendliness 

and merriment, and again I noticed that his wife’s eye was on him, and that he remarked it and 

didn’t care. 

Afterwards we walked through the quiet village, where one of those gaily dressed and gallant 

couples sometimes passed us in the darkness, the man’s white sleeve just discernible about the girl’s 

waist, to Istvan’s house. As I sat at the table I heard Istvan’s wife, in the next room, say something 

to him, heard him answer angrily back, heard her retort more fiercely still. There was an altercation, 

I guessed that she was telling him not to drink any more, then silence, and she came into the room, 

composing her features into a smile, followed by her daughter. 

I did not care for her. I saw that she had the worst of all feminine wickednesses, that she was a 

scold. I had seen that Istvan, after a very little wine, became very wild, a completely different man, 

but why not? He laboured like a slave in his vineyard and was obviously a herzensguter Kerl, a 

man with a heart of gold, industrious, who was devoted to his home and family, loved his horses 

and his land, had very little reward for all his pains, and why should he not, once in a long while, 

drink a little wine. 

Constraint fell upon us, in spite of the pleasant smiles, the wine, the cold meat, Ilka’s fluent stream 

of conversation. Istvan did not come in. We talked and talked. Still he did not come. I was puzzled, 

for I would have staked my life that Istvan, in or out of wine, was a man who would never forget 

his guest. I asked Ilka where he was, she spoke rapidly with Istvan’s wife, and to me, ‘She says he 

has probably gone back to the inn’. 

I was very much surprised. At last Istvan’s wife got up and went into the other rooms, looking for 

him. He was not there. She looked into the outbuildings, went into the farmyard, called. No Istvan. 

Ilka suggested that we go and fetch him from the inn. Again we went through the dark village 

towards the little pool of light on the common, where the band was still playing, the boys and girls 

still dancing. No, said the innkeeper, Istvan had not been back there. We made a round of calls on 

neighbours. He was not there. Istvan’s wife was getting worried. 

At last we went home again. The house was empty, as we had left it, with the wine and meat on the 

table, but without Istvan. We sat down again. Suddenly Istvan’s wife told her daughter to go 

upstairs and see if her father was in the loft. We heard the girl mounting the stairs, heard a scream. 

We rushed up after her. 

Istvan was hanging from a rafter, his head on one side, his booted legs stupidly dangling, his eyes 

staring. I understood that stare now. With the help of his wife, who was as strong as an ox, we got 

him down. He was long past our help, this friendly and merry Istvan. He would not fight in the next 

war, never see the Kaiser come back. Somewhere, in another house in the village, the old 

grandmother was lying awake, staring into the darkness, muttering plaintively, thinking confused 

thoughts, listening to the clock tick out the seconds of her hundredth year. At the inn the boys and 

girls were still dancing. 

I left Dunapatay in the darkness and drove soberly to Budapest. I had spent very happy hours there, 

hoped to come again often, even to live there for a little while, sometime. Now I knew that I should 

never come back again.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen 

WAR IN THE AIR 

I sat with a glass of wine and a book in my quiet retreat in Budapest. The windows were wide open. 

The September night was warm. Faint footfalls sounded in the street: I raised my head and looked, 

and a couple, the man’s arm round the girl’s waist, passed beneath the street lamp and were gone, 

the footfalls dwindled. Moths flew in and out. The dark hillside opposite was spangled with lights, 

among them one that moved – a motor car, too far away for me to hear its engine. 

On such a night as this … 

Reluctantly, I bent down and turned the knob of the radio, searched among the stations as it came to 

life. Immediately the stillness was shattered. Hoarse, raving, choking, a maniac voice broke 

crashing in, the peace was gone, the darkened room was full of envy, hatred, malice and all 

uncharitableness, beating the air with their foul pinions like carrion crows.  

Wir haben vierzehn Jahre gekämpft … Der Oberlügner Benesh und seine 

Mordbanditen … Unsere deutschen Volksgenossen, diese armen und gequälten 

Kreaturen … Die feige tschechische Soldateska begeht Meuchelmord an unseren 

Volksgenossen … Wir wollen den Frieden, aber … 

Hitler. Henlein. Some Sudeten German speaker at Dresden. No matter who, they were all one, they 

all raved in that same obscene voice, all used the same obscene threats.  

When we get hold of them we’ll lock them up until they turn black … And take good 

note of this, you Czechs who are listening now at the loudspeaker, shaking with 

fear, for every slight and injury that you have done us in these twenty years we will 

take vengeance tenfold … 

A roar, a howl of cheering, like ten thousand hyaenas on the trail. Bared fangs, slobbering jaws. 

This was the stuff they liked, this they understood, this warmed their hearts and hit the bull’s-eye of 

their emotions. Overwhelming might; a weak and helpless adversary; brutality without fear of 

retribution; hit him, he’s got no friends. 

So it went on, day by day, week by week, in that September, in a rising crescendo of lust and 

hatred. It inflamed the mind, the nerves, the imagination to bursting point. I thought back to the 

World War, its atrocities, its propaganda; what an affair of gentlemen was that compared with this. 

This new instrument of warfare was, to me, worse than all the others, worse than high explosive, 

bullets or poison gas. Hard words can never hurt you? Perhaps not, but this animal exhibition of 

human baseness could destroy your last vestige of faith in the race. 

Then I turned the knob, and another voice, grating and guttural, took up the tale. ‘Achtung, hier 

Moskau. In der Tschechoslovakei haben heute die braunen Morbdanditen …’ Then a woman’s 

voice, announcing another item of anti-Fascist news: ‘Achtung, hier Moskau. In Spanien haben die 

Franco-Fascisten …’ On and on it went, first the man’s voice and then the woman’s, venom 

alternating between bass and falsetto, telling how the murdering Fascist thugs were blowing women 

and children to bits in Spain, putting anti-Fascists in concentration camps in Austria … 

I turned the knob again and another hate-laden voice filled the room. It spoke Czech. ‘Pravda 

vitezi.’ ‘Truth prevails.’ Now we shall hear the Czech version, I thought. But the voice took up the 

chorus of Czech iniquities, how the terrified German population of the Sudeten lands was being 

pursued from village to village by Czechs painted red and with horns and tails and cloven hoofs 

and all the other drivel. 

Vienna, broadcasting in Czech. With satanic ingenuity they had borrowed Masaryk’s own motto, 

Pravda vitezi, for this hymn of hate. Ye Gods, I thought, if only Ernst Lissauer had been alive to- 

day, and hadn’t had the misfortune to be a Jew, how he would have enjoyed himself shouting into 

the microphone:  

We will never forgo our hate 

We have all, but a single hate 

We love as one, we hate as one, 

We have one foe, and one alone – 

                              CZECHOSLOVAKIA! 

Once more I turned the knob and got Moscow in English, an extraordinary performance. Again a 

man and a woman. The man spoke East Side American with some kind of additional accent, the 

woman Wigan English with adenoids and a sniff. The blood-curdling anti-Fascist items sounded 

ludicrous in these tones. 

A turn of the knob, and a cultured voice saying reasonable things in good clean English came on 

the air. What now, I thought? It can’t be England; the English is too good. It wasn’t. It was Prague 

broadcasting in English. I don’t know who prepared the material, but it was the only thing worth 

listening to, a reasoned refutation of anti-Czech propaganda, chapter and verse given, delivered in 

an unemotional but sympathetic voice. 

Again the knob, and some of the most extraordinary English I have ever heard filled the room. 

After listening for some time I decided that it must be English, and after considering the 

announcements, which were all about the sins of the Chinese and the prowess of the Japanese, I 

decided that it must be Tokyo’s English Hour. 

Then another loud voice speaking in German, but giving a version of German events which had 

clearly not been passed by Dr. Goebbels. Who could this be? The list of stations gave no clue; my 

radio was like that. At length I decided for Radio Strasbourg. 

Then an English voice which promised light entertainment but infuriatingly broke into an 

advertisement for some purgative; a ranting voice in bad French which was telling the French- 

speaking world about the murderous Czechs from Berlin; the English Speaker, oh so refaned, 

cursing the Czechs from Rome; Republican Spain defending the Czechs from Barcelona or 

somewhere in weird German; America putting in a terse and colourful (poidon me, colorful) word 

about both sides from New York; and finally back to Dresden, where the tumult and shouting was 

still going on and that Henleinist speaker was shouting at the top pitch of a voice grown hoarse but 

still willing about the things he was going to do to the Czechs. 

In a new war, or at any rate in the first stages of it, until the population gets inured to these things, I 

think all governments will have to do what the Czechoslovaks did during the crisis and impound 

radio sets. No human nerves can, without a transition period, stand this infernal cacophony of lies 

and hatred, beating about the ears at all times of the day and from all parts of the earth. 

Listening to it, I had an idea which seems to me to have the seeds of great things in it. Why has no 

military genius employed noise as an instrument of warfare? just noise, amplified and amplified 

and amplified, growing louder and louder and louder until everything cracks and quails before it. 

Try it for yourself sometime. Get Hitler on the radio and then make it as loud as you can. Imagine 

that noise amplified a hundred or a thousand times. 

I hope somebody will try this out, I think there is something in it. 

On this night, physically and emotionally exhausted by this devil’s concert, I tried to get London. It 

was the most difficult of all stations to reach, on my radio. But I diligently sought and sought. Here, 

I thought, I should find something restful. 

At last I found it. 

All the little pansy voices. 

I’m in love with my dear wife, are you?, yes eye-yam. 

I do like er little bit er snuff. 

Good naight. 

– 

Good naight. 

My God!  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen 

AND THOU 

I halted my car at a place, on the road from Budapest to Belgrade, where tall acacias stood round a 

green and shady wayside grove, an ideal place for the midday meal, sheltered from the noon-tide 

heat. The sun was high and burning, a vast blue Hungarian sky spread over a green plain where the 

gooseherds and goat herds, little boys and girls barefooted and in reds and blues, tended their 

flocks, where occasional white farmhouses stood, each with its frame of trees and its well. 

Again I had pulled up for a moment on that mad ride through the Haunted House which is the lot of 

our generation, a thing of shrieks and surprises and explosions and glimpses of skeletons and being 

flung hither and thither, and found myself utterly at peace, the sun above me, the grass under my 

back, the leaves making patterns on the sky. 

This was that very September day when men were digging trenches in London parks and sending 

trainloads of children away from Paris and in Prague the people walked the streets with their gas- 

masks at their side and in Germany the great war-machine was lumbering into its gigantic stride, 

the day when all seemed lost, when in the afternoon the House of Commons became a bedlam of 

cheering and laughing men, because Mr. Chamberlain was about to fly, fly, fly again. 

My heart was in Prague, but I had had an imperative order to go to Belgrade, and here I was, while 

men and women in so many countries trembled for the morrow, while an intolerable nervous 

tension lay on all the cities I knew, lotus-eating on the Belgrade road. 

A jug of wine? We had that, and very good it was, drunk from those Hungarian drinking cups that 

we loved so well. A loaf of bread? We had that too, and meat and cheese to savour it, and those 

meals, beneath the bough, are the ones you remember longest; I would not trade them for magnums 

of champagne and pounds of caviare, in marble halls. A book of verse? For that we had our 

thoughts, our talk, our hopes, the things we had seen, the times we lived in, the best of all books. 

A wilderness? This was no wilderness, but a green and pleasant land, but you made it so. Singing? 

Your voice, as I often told you, was a thing between Marlene Dietrich and the croaking of a 

bullfrog, when you sang, but I liked to hear it nevertheless, this was only the kind of joke that we 

were wont to make, in our good companionship. There was music in your voice, for me, whether 

you sang or talked, and staunchness and truth and loyalty and courage and loving care, all the 

things that are so rare in our time, that men strive after and so seldom reach on their journey 

towards the gold-mine in the sky. You were as good as gold, and as blonde, and what could be 

fairer than that? 

Beside me? That was the best thing of all. Unafraid, smiling, always at pains to make life more 

pleasant for me, always laughing at the setbacks, rejoicing with me in the victories, never desiring 

more than that good companionship. I always knew that we should only go a short part of the way 

together. Something tells me these things. 

I knew it, somehow, at the beginning of that companionship, one day when we stood on a hilltop, a 

glorious March day, as warm as June, and I chanced to look at you with your native Danubian hills 

and fields behind you, with the Danube curving by below, and the invigorating call of spring was in 

all the air, and yet my heart was sad, for in that moment I knew that the road along which we 

should go together was short. 

You asked me what I had – Was hast du denn? – and I said nothing, and I never told you that, you 

who will never read this story of our noonday rest beneath the bough. You sometimes asked me 

afterwards what had ailed me in that moment, and I never told you. Why should I? Why fret about 

them? … But fret I did, on this day too, on the Belgrade road. I thought then of that other day. 

On that other day, as I looked at you, I saw all that Danubian landscape, that I loved so much, in 

your eyes. What colour were they? Now, I do not know, for that landscape was blue for the sky, 

and brown and green for the hills, and grey for the Danube, and yet your eyes seemed to match it 

all. I know that I found them beautiful. 

You were a child of the storm, as I am. Your earliest recollection was of your uncle, in his sky-blue 

uniform and on his horse, riding off to war through the marketplace, and how gallant and handsome 

he was, and how you admired him, and after that all your life, like mine, was shaped and moulded 

by the war and the things that came after it. No brave new world, no tranquillity. 

You, when you dreamed, had only modest dreams, as I had, of the things to which other 

generations were able to aspire: a white house with a green vine by blue water, a little air and 

sunshine, if possible the mountains near at hand and the rustle of the fir-woods like the music of the 

sea, hard work from dawn to dusk. 

Instead of that, a Europe where men are hunted like rats, where the free man is on the run, where 

the nepotist, the sycophant, the cheat and the brute grow fat, where the tyrant has again come into 

his own and there don’t seem to be any lampreys to-day, or if there are they don’t eat them, and 

there is practically nothing to hope for from a surfeit of spinach. 

We were companions on the way long enough for you to teach me again that truth and faith do 

exist and cannot be quite exterminated even in an age of treachery and lies. You sometimes gave 

me things, worth much more in the thought behind them than in themselves, but you never gave me 

anything so precious as this. You saw that I frequently lost my papers, and you gave me a leather 

wallet for them, so that I never lost any more. One time, when I had a contract to sign that might 

mean much or little for me, you gave me a golden fountain pen, with orders to use it first only to 

sign that contract and it would bring me luck. Another time, when I had a succession of letters all 

bringing bad news and all the other letters that I hoped for didn’t arrive, so that I hated the sight of 

the postman, I found on my table a tiny golden envelope with a tiny golden missive inside it – ‘Keep 

smiling’. Soon, the post did change its tone, and golden news came. But your other gift was the best 

of all. 

These were the thoughts that played in my mind that day, as we lay beneath the acacias. I was 

completely happy save for that tiny regret that never quite left me, the regret that we could not put 

this peace in a cage and keep it by us, that we could never stay more than an hour in the oases we 

found, that no white house but only an endless open road lay before us, that a turning in the road 

would soon come where our ideal companionship would end. 

The sun had made a long stride towards the west, the shadows were already lengthening a little. 

Reluctantly we packed the drinking cups, left the acacia grove. A long, long journey lay before us. I 

looked at you again, silently, and thought of that other day on Danubian hills. You caught my 

glance and asked again, ‘Was hast du denn?’ 

‘Nothing,’ said I, ‘come on, let’s go.’  

*** 

Chapter Seventeen 

BOY KING 

I came over the Danube bridge to Belgrade, and another car, leaving the city behind it, passed me, 

with a bareheaded young man sitting beside the chauffeur. I looked and saw that it was young King 

Peter. 

What changes, in him and in Yugoslavia, since I had seen him last, four years earlier almost to a 

day. Then, a bewildered and shy-looking child, glancing with big eyes and a nervous smile at the 

wailing and weeping crowds that lined the streets, accompanied by a tall woman shrouded from 

head to foot in black, his mother, he walked through this same city behind the coffin of his 

murdered father, Alexander, shot at Marseilles with the French Foreign Minister Barthou by the 

Macedonian assassin Vlada Gheorghieff. 

Punch at that time published one of its solemn pictorial comments. It showed little King Peter 

being fondled by a large and motherly woman in flowing robes and, probably, a helmet, I don’t 

quite remember, who said to him, ‘You will need all your father’s courage, my boy. You have the 

sympathy of the world’. I think the allegorical matron symbolized Europe, but this is just force of 

habit; if I were to create an allegorical figure, ‘Europe’, to-day it would be that of a man in a top-hat, 

with a Hitler moustache on his gas-mask, an upraised Mussolini arm, a red shirt, a tricolour sash 

and an umbrella. 

Anyway, in October 1934, from Bouverie Street, it looked like that. In October 1938, when I met 

young King Peter crossing the bridge, many things had changed. He had changed a great deal. At 

the age of fifteen he was already very tall and mature. He is going to be the tallest king in Europe, 

taller, I should expect, than the tennis-playing Mr. G. But when another three years have passed, 

and he enters into his kingdom, many more great changes will have occurred, the outlines of which 

you are only just beginning to see before you. 

How quickly the fortunes of a country can alter, in this mid-twentieth-century Europe of ours, when 

the politicians have thrown away every opportunity of ensuring peace beyond the frontiers and 

goodwill towards the men who live within them. 

In 1934, when Alexander was murdered, Yugoslavia was, indeed, in desperate plight. At home 

there was the bitter strife, which had led to the murder of the Croat leader Stephen Raditch in the 

Belgrade Parliament and after that had only been hidden by the iron safety-curtain of the King’s 

dictatorship, between the Serb unionists, who wanted Yugoslavia to be a centralized kingdom 

firmly ruled from Belgrade, and the Croat federalists, who clamoured that they had not thrown off 

Hungarian rule and joined the Yugoslav Kingdom only to be ruled by Serbs and demanded home- 

rule for their Croatia. 

The young state, thus weak within, was surrounded by enemies. Hungary and Bulgaria both 

claimed the return of territory she had taken from them. Italy claimed to be rightful owner of a strip 

of the Yugoslav Dalmatian coast (promised to her by generous Allies in the war, when many 

promises were being made). On the southern Adriatic coast Albania, under complete Italian 

tutelage, was a pistol thrust permanently into the Yugoslav side. Astraddle the Adriatic, Italy could 

at any moment close it and prevent French or British naval succour reaching Yugoslavia. 

Yugoslavia at that time was in the position of Czechoslovakia in 1938 – isolated, surrounded by 

hostile neighbours, remote from lukewarm friends. She, like Czechoslovakia later, tried to obtain 

from them binding promises of support if some new predatory peacebreaker in Europe should 

attack her. She failed. England, who in 1935 was to summon the world to combine against the 

Italian aggressor, was telling France, ‘Make your peace with Italy’. France told Yugoslavia, when 

she asked for the conclusion of a pact of immediate and automatic mutual help against aggression, 

‘Make your peace with Italy’. 

Alexander, far-sighted king, unluckiest of men, probably meant to court the friendship of the great 

dictatorships when the thickset gunman, Vlada the Chauffeur, sprang on to the running-board of his 

motor car in Marseilles and shot him, just in the place where his shirt of mail would have protected 

him if he had not omitted to put it on that Tuesday. Already in 1934, long before the Abyssinian 

fiasco and the later fiascoes, he seems to have foreseen that the great democracies did not really 

mean the things they were so loudly saying, that they lacked either the determination or the will to 

compel peacebreakers to keep the peace, that their mutual-aid, collective-security, all-together- 

boys-against-the-aggressor structure was a house of cards, erected to delude their domestic opinion, 

that would collapse at the first puff of a war wind. 

He had indicated so much to Barthou, when Barthou was in Yugoslavia, and the good Barthou, 

who himself may have believed that the ring-a-ring-a-roses game of the peace-loving powers 

around the tigers would end without their all falling down, received a severe jolt. It gave him 

furiously to think, and he invited Alexander to come to France and talk things over. 

Before he went Alexander had had a secret meeting with Hitler. He was the first of Europe’s rulers 

to make that modern pilgrimage, and when you consider that this was in 1934 you will realize how 

very far ahead he saw. He had made up his mind that the game of pretending to bind with silken 

chains of peace great powers which were being allowed to rearm faster than anybody had ever 

armed before was farcical and dangerous for his country, and, as he could not count on the eloquent 

but empty promises of his friends, he was out to get on good terms with the others. 

Perhaps he could have convinced the French, who knows? But just at that moment all the enemies 

of Yugoslavia joined hands and struck him down. The gunman was a Macedonian, he and his Croat 

terrorist accomplices received training in a camp on Hungarian territory and some of them travelled 

with Hungarian passports, others came from and afterwards fled to Italy, whence they were not 

extradited. France did everything she could to kill the remaining affection that she enjoyed in 

Yugoslavia by her dilatory fashion of bringing the murderers to trial. If you ask ardent Serb 

patriots, they will swear that international Jewish Freemasonry, centred in Paris, had a hand in the 

game too, having learned of Alexander’s secret meeting with Hitler and of the innermost reason of 

his visit to France. 

Another year, and Alexander would have been safe, because by that time the line-up had entirely 

changed and all those enmities were on the run or putting on the masks of friendship. Italy, scared 

by the combination against her of a sanctionist world, and especially by the naval alliance against 

her in the Mediterranean formed by England and the small Mediterranean states, preoccupied by 

her Abyssinian conquest, disturbed by the new threat of a German advance southwards towards the 

Adriatic and the Balkans, threw her policy into reverse and courted Yugoslav friendship. The 

Bulgarian and Hungarian hounds were called off. Germany, bent on the subjugation of 

Yugoslavia’s ally, Czechoslovakia, assiduously courted Yugoslavia too. 

Thus young Peter, when I saw him for the second time on that September day crossing the bridge 

below Belgrade, Peter who had succeeded his murdered father on the throne of a country that had 

lived for years in mortal fear, with enemies on all its frontiers, was king of a country that had 

nothing but friends. 

A few days before – the day when the hilarious House of Commons roared its applause of the news 

of the third visit to Hitler – I had come through Novi Sad, and there the Yugoslavs were 

demonstrating in the streets against Hitler and Mussolini, against aggression, for England, France, 

the League, Czechoslovakia and democracy. 

The Government, which ever since Alexander’s death had consistently pursued the policy of 

making friends all round, shook in its shoes that evening. If England and France had stood by 

Czechoslovakia and resisted the threat of force its whole policy would have been discredited. It 

would have been swept away, for the hearts of the Yugoslavs were still with their wartime allies, all 

the blood in them rose against the thought of a new age of military oppression of small states in 

Europe, they longed for democracy. 

How silly they looked, these people, a day later, when, Czechoslovakia was humbled in the dust, 

when the Great Powers were all handing each other posies at Munich, when their own Government 

was able to say, ‘We told you so’. The Government, thankfully reassured and sure of its triumph, 

quickly ordered a snap election. 

In Belgrade there was an exhibition. ‘Three years of Dr. Stoyadinovitch’s Government’. In pictures 

and diagrams and graphs it showed you all the progress that had been made in those three years, the 

building of roads, the rise in foreign trade, the increase in savings, the conversion of foreign 

enemies into friends. Among the legends on the walls you did not see one reading: ‘If we had 

hitched our foreign policy to England and France, if we had done what France, who rebuffed us 

when we wanted the promise of succour in 1932, wanted us to do in 1937, if we had made a pact of 

mutual aid against aggression with France and Czechoslovakia, we should have been in 

Czechoslovakia’s plight to-day, or at any rate next in the dentist’s waiting room.’ But that was the 

unwritten moral of the tale. 

The best possible recipe for a Balkan Prime Minister’s success is for him to take office at a moment 

when events in the outer world are causing the foreign foes of his country to revise their policy and 

court its friendship, astutely to calculate the relative armed strength and moral determination of the 

groups of Great Powers, and to hold office during a succession of good harvests. 

Lucky Milan Stoyadinovitch did all these things. Working in full understanding with the Regent, 

Prince Paul (pedantically I ought to call him The First Regent, but nobody ever hears anything of 

the other two, so he is actually The Regent), he had increased the strategic security and the trade of 

his country. 

An interesting figure. Herculean, virile, smiling, with the constitution of an ox. Extremely pro- 

Stoyadinovitch. A good lusty Serb ‘he understands men like Goering, can outsit them at table, 

knows their minds, knows his own. He has to keep his end up among the politicians of Belgrade, 

and that is a hard school of experience. They shot at him once in the Skupshtina, as I wrote before, 

but they didn’t rattle him. I have a treasured photograph of the Government leaving the Skupshtina 

that day; all you can see is a row of behinds above the desks, they couldn’t bend down quite far 

enough. But Stoyadinovitch didn’t go out bending, he remained unconcerned and walked out 

afterwards, cool outwardly, inwardly raging, but fearless. 

Foreign friends have been trying to get him up to Belgrade golf course – the construction of this 

course is one of the few triumphs of western diplomacy in the Balkans – but I don’t think they have 

had much success. The Serbs have not yet reached this Himalayan peak of civilization. Anything 

more ridiculous than a real he-man of a Serb fiddling about with a stick and a little white ball I can’t 

imagine. In Serbia they work hard, eat hard, drink hard, live hard. 

In Stoyadinovitch you see again a man whose career is a panorama of our times. Do not imagine 

that he likes the policy he has had to pursue – the memory of centuries of Turkish and Germanic 

oppression is in all Serb blood. Do not imagine that he does not see the danger of vassalage for 

Yugoslavia. He had to pursue this policy – because the Great Powers with whom Yugoslavia would 

have preferred to pursue a better one were too weak, too irresolute, too confused, too 

untrustworthy. Small Balkan states have to pick their steps carefully. They cannot pursue an 

independent policy, they are too small, they have to watch the big shots, and take care not to offend 

the biggest. 

On the one side they see strength in arms and strength in intention; on the other they see weakness 

in arms, and intentions proclaimed but actions constantly belying them. They draw their inferences, 

and act on them. That is why the rulers of every Danubian and Balkan state have been, this year of 

1938, to see Hitler. You have not always learned of this – but they have visited him. 

Stoyadinovitch, a successful business man and Finance Minister, was chosen by Prince Paul for 

Prime Minister in the summer of 1935, just when all these things were in the lap of the gods. He 

came to office a democrat and a friend of what are miscalled the great democracies. He hoped to 

restore democracy in Yugoslavia, to keep Yugoslavia in the happy family of the democratic 

nations, all united in the determination to keep out or kill the burglar. 

He soon found that he was wrong. Prince Paul had been appointed First Regent by the will of 

murdered Alexander. At the time, many people wondered why. Prince Paul was little known, he 

had always been kept in the background, in the army he had never been given a higher rank than 

major. You will know him well, now, in appearance, because his wife is the sister of your Marina, 

your lovely Duchess of Kent; otherwise he would be little more than a name to you. 

Prince Paul was even slightly unsympathetic to the Serbs, because he had been educated abroad, at 

Oxford, because he had not fought at the front, like Alexander, because he had an aristocratic 

mother. 

Soon Milan Stoyadinovitch came to realize why Alexander had chosen Paul for Regent. The dead 

King, who had seen so far ahead, had imparted his views to Paul, who fully shared them. In the 

spring of 1936 Germany marched into the demilitarized Rhineland zone, took back without a by- 

your-leave the last pledge for her future peaceful behaviour. A year before, at Stresa, after the 

proclamation of German conscription, France had told England and Italy of her fears that this 

would be the next German swoop, never mind Hitler’s solemn obligation that he would always keep 

the pledges of the Locarno Treaty, and what about it? England and Italy had answered, publicly, 

that ‘we formally reaffirm all our obligations under the Locarno Treaty and declare our intention, 

should need arise, to fulfil them’. That meant, to help France if France tried to throw the Germans 

out. 

Now the Germans marched in, England and Italy were at loggerheads, France remained silent and 

passive. This date was decisive for Paul, trustee for the dead King and his son, and for 

Stoyadinovitch, watching from Belgrade. France and England, they argued, would never oppose 

anything that Germany did. They might always say they would, but they would never do it. If they 

meant to, this was the best, the ideal opportunity, the last opportunity offering hope of quick and 

relatively cheap success. 

They shaped their course accordingly. They wrote Austria off, they felt sure that they would have 

to write Czechoslovakia off. In September 1938, for a day or two, they kept a breathless watch on 

Paris, London, Berchtesgaden, Godesberg. Had they been wrong after all? Even if they had, 

Yugoslavia was still free to come in with the stronger coalition. 

Then came Munich. They nodded. They had been right. They had done the best thing for 

Yugoslavia. She stood outside the storm area, the friend of all, the enemy of none; she had broken 

no word, offended nobody, betrayed nobody, incurred the hatred of no mighty raider. 

So young King Peter, now three years from his majority, drove over the bridge at Belgrade, two 

days after Munich, with a clear sky before him, a clear sky but for one distant cloud, much bigger 

than a man’s hand, but still distant. 

The policy had been right – for the present. A few years gained are a few years gained; so much 

may happen before they have run their course. 

But on the horizon was that distant cloud – the unsolved quarrel with the Croats in the north, who 

claimed that as long as they were denied their home rule the very word Yugoslav, or South Slav, 

was a fiction, that there were only Serbs and Slovenes and Mohammedans and Croats, and 

dissatisfied Croats at that, within the boundaries of a state which at its birth had been called the 

state of the Serbs. Croats and Slovenes, but which King Alexander, the Unifier, had re-named 

South Slavia, to give it the appearance of a united empire of the Southern Slays. They were not 

South Slavs, said the Croats, or at any rate not as long as they were ruled from Belgrade instead of 

their own capital Zagreb; they were oppressed Croats. 

The Serbs in Belgrade used to accuse them of treachery, of an unconfessed longing to see the 

Kaiser back on his throne in Vienna, to return to his fold. The Croats, they said, had always been 

called kaisertreu, Kaiser-true, in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, and some of these Catholics 

wanted nothing better than to fawn again before a Catholic Emperor. 

But now Austria was gone, and the Kaiser could never come back to Vienna, and where Austria 

had been was Germany. What now?, thought the Serbs, as they contemplated the Croats. 

Here is the distant cloud. About the time that young King Peter was driving over the bridge a 

German map-maker, one Dr. Friedrich Lange, was publishing, with official National Socialist 

patronage, a new map of ‘Middle Europe’. It now hangs in all German schools, universities and 

barracks. Red islands, of German-speaking inhabitants for whom the right of self-determination 

might be claimed one day, are spattered over Croatia and Slovenia, Zagreb is given its old German 

name of Agram, and the accompanying text remarks that ‘Serbs and Croats are regarded by many 

people, in spite of their common literary language, as distinct races’. 

After Munich, a German-Italian award at Vienna gave a large slice of Czechoslovakia to Hungary, 

a country that long proclaimed its territorial claims against Rumania – and Yugoslavia. About that 

time Milan Stoyadinovitch, electioneering in the countryside, declared, in allusion to this 

development, that Yugoslavia ‘would never yield a foot of territory’. In respect of Hungary 

Yugoslavia can with ease make good that statement. But Germany? 

I am convinced that the Reich will one day advance to the Adriatic. Nobody who has not been there 

can understand the pull that the call of the sea exercises on a nation that feels itself so strong, the 

magnetic attraction of the thought that there, only a few miles away, are great new harbours for 

your mercantile marine, new bases for your warships, so that they can reach the Mediterranean in a 

quick spring, without having to steam all round the coasts of Europe. 

So this cloud, of the suppressed but unsettled dispute with the Croats and of the pressure from the 

mighty Reich in the north, hangs in the distance over the blue sky of peaceful and thriving 

Yugoslavia. 

This domestic quarrel is a sad thing for those who love, and who cannot love, Serbia and 

Yugoslavia. While it lasts the country is kept in stern subjection by the police. 

The police intrude upon your gaze more in Yugoslavia than in most countries, and this fact means 

something if you know the situation. When the population of Belgrade takes its daily promenade 

along the main street, the throngs pass between two lines of policemen, stationed at intervals of 

about twenty yards, who carry a bayoneted rifle slung over one shoulder, wear a revolver at their 

belt, and suggestively finger a truncheon with their free hand. In the environs of Belgrade, where 

the road passes the extensive grounds of the Royal Palace, already inhabited by the heavily armed 

Royal Guard, police are seen at all times of the day and night standing behind trees and bushes. 

The hunger for power of politicians who have now been for years in the wilderness, the dispute 

with the Croats, and the controversy about the right foreign policy for Yugoslavia have led to the 

most extraordinary political mix-up that I have ever encountered. You never read anything about it, 

even in the country itself, with its Press censorship and rigid police control; it is largely a thing of 

whispers and handbills, and I am not sure that it means much more than the bitter rivalry for power 

of various groups, but it is there, and it may produce unexpected results some day, so that it is 

worth watching. 

In Croatia you have, unchallenged spokesman of the Croat claims, Dr. Matchek, who succeeded the 

murdered Raditch and would in normal times be the voluble leader of the Croats in Parliament in 

Belgrade. But the Croats to-day say there is no good in taking their seats in Parliament, they might 

be shot at again. So they stay away. 

Matchek always wears a collarless shirt, apparently to stamp himself as a man of the people, likes 

riding on a white horse, and has organized an army of Croat Storm Troops. His claims resemble 

those which the Slovaks have succeeded in realizing through the dismemberment of 

Czechoslovakia – loyalty to the Karageorgevitch dynasty, a united Yugoslav foreign policy, but 

beyond that full home-rule for the Croats in Croatia, with a parliament in Zagreb. The Belgrade 

Unionists always reply that this would mean changing King Alexander’s Unionist Constitution, and 

that the only man who can do that will be the new king, young Peter, when he comes of age. They 

really mean that, in their opinion, the state can only be held together by firm rule from Serb, 

Nationalist, Orthodox Belgrade, and that they are not going to weaken it. 

In Belgrade, arrayed against Matchek and his Croats, you have at the head of the Government 

Milan Stoyadinovitch, the confidant of Prince Regent Paul, who in his turn is the executor of King 

Alexander’s strong-hand unionist policy. Minister of the Interior, Milan Achimovitch, was formerly 

Police Chief of Belgrade, so that the police may be counted on to rule the country with a firm hand. 

Also in the Government is Mehmed Spaho, portly and red-fezzed, the prosperous modern 

representative of the simple Mohammedans, who mostly live in Bosnia. Until recently the Minister 

of the Interior was also the representative of Slovenia, Anton Koroshetz, a stout clerical politician, 

Habsburg-bred, who was to Slovenia what Seipel, Dollfuss and Schuschnigg were to Austria, 

Brüning to Germany, Hlinka to Slovakia. When Austria was annexed he expressed loud-voiced 

fears for his Slovenia, which lies on the Austrian border and has many Germans and some German 

towns; and these misgivings, which did not accord with the complete confidence that Belgrade 

expresses in Berlin, may explain why he was dropped. 

Thus the Government is a Serb-Slovene-Mohammedan ring to contain the fourth major element in 

the State, the disgruntled Croats. Or it would be if Stoyadinovitch represented Serbia. But there’s 

the rub. Stoyadinovitch is a man of giant physique, iron nerve, keen brain; he has been to America, 

knows the western world, knows his Germans and Italians too. But he is no orator, is little known 

to the masses, is detested by the politicians in Belgrade because he has been in office and they out 

of office too long, and he is pursuing a policy which, in view of the weakness of France and 

England, is the only one for Yugoslavia but which strikes no responsive note in the mind of the 

people. 

It is the policy of collaboration with Germany and Italy. In January 1939 I watched the arrival in 

Belgrade of Mussolini’s son-in-law and Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, and marvelled at the 

changes that four years can bring in European politics. About four years before I had watched the 

coffin of King Alexander arrive at this same station. 

Some of his murderers had been trained and paid in Italy, and after the crime the leaders fled to 

Italy, who refused to extradite them. The highest personages in Italy must have known what 

impended in Marseilles on that October day in 1934. 

Now, Count Ciano travelled through Yugoslavia in his special train, the same peasants who then 

came weeping to watch the dead king pass came smiling to offer bread and salt to the honoured 

guest. Dr. Stoyadinovitch’s green shirts and blue shirts cried ‘Long live the Duce’ and ‘Long live 

Ciano’. 

In politics memories are sometimes very long and sometimes very short. 

The mind of the people is not for Germany and Italy. Yugoslavs have not forgotten Austrian 

domination, German occupation, the murder of the King, the Italian claims to Dalmatia. But 

reasons of State produce curious changes and, since the day when France passively accepted the 

German reoccupation of the Rhineland, the rulers of Yugoslavia have seen the best hope of safety 

in friendship with Germany and Italy. Tactically, the position is a fairly good one, because the 

points of weakness in the Berlin-Rome partnership lie in Yugoslavia. As long as the partnership 

pays the partners such good dividends, it is in their interest to keep it strong – and not to push their 

ambitions in Yugoslavia to the point where they could clash. Germany, undoubtedly, feels drawn 

towards the Adriatic, and when she appears there Italy will begin to tremble before her partner. 

Italy, undoubtedly, has only shelved, and not forgotten, her claims to Yugoslavia’s Adriatic coast. 

But as long as the partnership remains valuable to Berlin and Rome, that coveted coast is likely to 

remain neutral ground, and Yugoslavia may deftly play off the partners against each other. It is her 

only hope. 

So Prince Paul and Milan Stoyadinovitch pursue an unpopular policy, hoping against hope to keep 

the country intact against dangers from without and within until the young King comes of age, until 

some unlooked-for event occurs to change the European line-up to Yugoslavia’s advantage. 

But the future is full of menace. The Croats are well organized and solid behind Matchek. They see 

frontiers changing all round them, they see Slovaks and Ruthenians gaining ‘home-rule’ at the 

command of Germany. The murder at Marseilles showed what results can spring from such a centre 

of disaffection, if a foreign power chooses to lend a hand. At the moment, no foreign power does 

this, for reasons of greater international policy, but the situation might change at any moment. The 

Croats have been setting up their own ‘National Assembly’ at Zagreb, threatening to refuse payment 

of taxes, threatening that no Croat would obey a mobilization order. 

After Munich, Milan Stoyadinovitch held a snap election, his message to the electors being ‘Look at 

Benesh – and look at me. Look at Czechoslovakia – and look at Yugoslavia’. 

The Government obtained its majority – the electoral law strongly favours the government – but the 

election showed a very strong body of opposition in the country, in spite of the triumphant 

vindication that Munich gave to the policy which the Government has pursued. 

There you have young King Peter’s kingdom, a going concern, that foresaw bad times, cut its 

overheads, reduced its stocks, improved its sales, and can show a good balance sheet. Difficult 

times still lie ahead of it, but times less difficult, perhaps, than those that await some of the rest of 

us. 

In three years King Peter will be ready to ascend his throne. He is a rather shy and delicate-looking 

lad, who has been kept closely cloistered, has had less opportunity of seeing the outer world than 

cousin Michael in Rumania. He was at school in England when his father was murdered; now his 

English tutor, Mr. Parratt, schools him and has a villa near the Royal Palace. His father, Alexander, 

grew up in a rough school. King Peter has grown up in a sheltered one. In three years he should 

mount the throne. A formidable and almost awe-inspiring task lies before this young man, if at the 

age of eighteen he is to be pitchforked into the world of Serbo-Croat politics, of Belgrade intrigue. 

The Europe we know to-day is very different from the one we knew three years ago. Another three 

years will bring far greater changes. ‘A king must learn each change and turn if he means to keep 

his crown.’ 

I wondered, as he passed me on the bridge, in what sort of Europe he and I would live three years 

later, when the time came for him to receive that crown.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen 

FLY, FLY, FLY AGAIN 

I sat in a room of a British Legation in a foreign capital, one September day, and told the man I was 

with, ‘I’ve just heard on the radio that Chamberlain is flying to Berchtesgaden to-morrow to see 

Hitler.’ 

‘WHAT?’ he said. 

That was what everybody said then. It was a new idea, for a British Prime Minister to fly to that 

Bavarian mountain retreat. It set a fashion. Everybody’s doing it now. 

Personally I have nothing against it. Lord Baldwin’s subsequent effort in the House of Lords – 

‘When people talk as if there were something unclean in having face-to-face discussions with a 

dictator I wonder if they realize that one of the greatest difficulties throughout the last five years 

has been to get into contact with the dictators’ – was just one of those phrases by means of which 

the dear old British public is continually thrown off the trail. I have no objection, and I do not 

believe any Englishman objects, if British Prime Ministers visit dictators every week-end, if more 

or less strong men, though they come from the ends of the earth, stand face to face every day. But 

what they do when they meet – that is a very different matter. I would give Mr. Chamberlain the 

fullest marks for the flight. But the outcome of it? That is the point at issue, and don’t let yourself 

be bluffed. 

Now my acquaintance in that British Legation said, ‘WHAT?’ 

‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘just that.’ 

‘I must tell the Minister,’ he said hurriedly. He lifted the receiver, touched a button, repeated the 

news – and a noise like a Mills bomb bursting far away rang through the room. 

It was the Minister, at the other end of the telephone, saying, ‘WHAT?’ 

As I write, the list of Herr Hitler’s most important visitors since that day, when the fashion was set, 

is: the British Prime Minister (three times), the French Prime Minister, the Italian Dictator, the 

King of Bulgaria, the King of Rumania, the ruler of a Balkan country which shall be nameless, as 

the news of the visit was not made known, the Polish Ambassador in Berlin, the Hungarian Regent, 

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, the Slovak Premier, the 

Ruthenian (or Carpatho-Ukrainian, or Carpatho-Russian, this rather depends on Herr Hitler) 

Premier, the South African Minister of Defence, and many other minor lights. 

But on that day the British Minister in that distant capital said, ‘WHAT?’ 

The atmosphere in that city was laden with fear. Men who did not want to go to war were being 

called up: sitting in a little café in a town on the Danube I saw them, unsoldierly in their 

unaccustomed uniforms, leaving by bus for the regimental depot, their womenfolk crying as they 

went. Those tears! The porters of apartment houses were being supplied with brass gongs, with a 

few sacks of sand, and this, for some reason hidden from me, was supposed to be a precautionary 

measure against aerial attack. There was an air raid rehearsal one night, and a treasured memory of 

these days, to me, is of the other inhabitants of the house, who were without exception Jews, going 

down to take shelter in a cellar to which the smallest bomb would have penetrated; they were not 

quite sure if that rehearsal was only a rehearsal, and not the real thing. I have a vivid mental picture 

of one gentleman prepared for the ordeal; he had a hamper of provisions, a large thermos flask, a 

gas mask, a raincoat and a cap, and he sat in the cellar until dawn broke. 

The next day I sat, in the early evening, in the room of a British friend and listened to the radio. The 

papers had been telling us that Mr. Chamberlain was expected to stay at Berchtesgaden for several 

days, for a nice, long, quiet talk with Hitler. Now, we did not believe that. Most of the people in 

that room knew Germany, knew Hitler, knew Hitler’s method. The one thing we could not conceive 

was that he would sit in an arm-chair for days on end, talking to Mr. Chamberlain and being 

sweetly reasonable. His method, as we knew, was to demand a quick signature on the dotted line, 

or else … 

While we waited we discussed Sir Horace Wilson. Most of us had never heard his name before. 

Why, we wondered, had he been chosen to accompany Mr. Chamberlain, who himself had no 

personal experience whatever of foreign affairs, of foreign countries, of foreign dictators, on a 

mission which ‘might decide the fate of Europe? We asked one of our number who was an official 

in British service. ‘Don’t ask me,’ he said rather bitterly, ‘I hardly know his name. I believe his 

official capacity is that of “Chief Economic Adviser to the Cabinet”.’ 

‘But what are his qualifications for foreign affairs?’ we asked. 

‘This is the new diplomacy’, he answered. 

While we waited, the radio announced that Mr. Chamberlain, after a few hours, was already on his 

way back to London. We smiled, ‘I told you so’, at each other. A little while later, and we heard the 

landing at Heston, Mr. Chamberlain saying into the microphone, ‘I have come back rather quicker 

than I expected …’ 

‘Oh yeah?’ we said, but not quicker than we expected. 

At Berchtesgaden Mr. Chamberlain, who had expected several days of quiet conversation, in his 

own subsequent words ‘very soon became aware’, when he was closeted with Herr Hitler and the 

indispensable interpreter, ‘that the position was much more acute and much more urgent than I had 

realized’, that Hitler, if he did not get his way immediately, ‘would be prepared to risk a world war’. 

Yet for six years British journalists abroad had been foretelling this. But Mr. Chamberlain was 

taken by surprise. 

Now with relief, we heard, ‘I am going to have another talk with Herr Hitler, perhaps in a few days.’ 

That at least was a respite. We were all in the same boat, should war break out; we should be lucky 

if we managed to get out before the frontiers closed, lucky if we ever got back to England. 

Then we heard the concluding sentence: ‘But this time Herr Hitler has told me that it is his intention 

to come half-way to meet me; that he is to spare an old man such another long journey’ (cheers.) 

Again I heard with despondent discomfort the voice of a man who did not know the man with 

whom he had to deal. If Hitler was going to meet Chamberlain half-way next time, I told my 

companions, it was certainly not from compassion for his age. It was to speed up the drama. 

Four years earlier, on a June night in 1934, in a little Rhineland town – it may interest you to know 

the name of that town, Godesberg – Hitler had given the order for the mass execution of hundreds 

of political enemies of all ages and in all camps, and among them was a certain General von Kahr, 

who was seventy-eight years old and whose only crime was that in 1923, eleven years before that, 

he had suppressed Hitler’s first attempt to march on Berlin. 

At the age of seventy-eight General von Kahr, who had long been living in retirement, was taken 

out and shot. Hitler did not spare him that journey, on account of his age. 

Mr. Chamberlain was always taken by surprise. I don’t know what analysis of the situation Sir 

Horace Wilson had given him, or anybody else. I can say this, quite certainly. Any experienced 

member of the British diplomatic service, any experienced foreign correspondent, could have told 

Mr. Chamberlain, months and years before, exactly what Hitler wanted, exactly what he would 

threaten. 

For my part I wrote it in a book which was published six months before that day, and in dispatches 

and private reports years before. I was one of scores who had been saying this for years. Then why 

did Mr. Chamberlain not know what was coming, why was he always surprised? I have already 

given the answer. If you are a tailor you cannot expect to make boots, you must order them from a 

bootmaker. If you want to deal in foreign affairs you must learn them. 

But, for that matter, read what Chamberlain said – Chamberlain! – more than two years earlier, on 

April 1st, 1936:  

What attitude shall we take if Austrian independence be threatened or destroyed, 

whether by an attack from outside or by a revolution fostered and supported from 

outside, like that which caused the death of Dollfuss? If we mean anything at all by 

the declaration that our policy is founded on the League and that we shall fulfil our 

obligations, possibilities of this kind must give food for thought to every British 

citizen. For we may have to intervene at any moment. The independence of Austria 

is a key position. If Austria perishes, Czechoslovakia becomes indefensible. Then 

the whole of the Balkans will be submitted to a gigantic new influence. Then the 

old German dream of a Central Europe ruled by and subject to Berlin will become 

reality from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, with incalculable 

consequences not only for our country but for our whole Empire. 

Could you have clearer foresight than that? Is there any possible justification for being unready, for 

being taken by surprise, when you see things so clearly and so far in advance? 

Not Neville Chamberlain said that, but Austen, his half-brother, who had studied in Germany in his 

youth, knew the Germans, knew Germany, knew foreign affairs, warned his father Joseph what to 

expect. Did he not warn Neville? Did Neville think he knew better? Or was it his opinion that 

Czechoslovakia was not worth saving? If so, why was Benesh not told, Benesh who had asked 

often enough for a clear lead, Benesh who could have made honourable terms with Germany. 

Read what that other Chamberlain, who knew Germany, said on July 27th, 1936:  

I know of no parallel case of a government which expresses the wish for peace and 

friendly relations with another government and nevertheless displays so complete a 

contempt for friendly relations. That is a bad omen for these new negotiations. The 

more conciliatory we are the more does Germany bluster. The more we show our 

readiness to give, the greater become her demands. Is it not better, especially when 

you have to do with a government with such a past, clearly to say what you mean? I 

venture to put it to the House and the Government thus: negotiations cannot be 

brought to success by the encouragement of vague, elastic, expansive hopes. The 

point is this: to know yourself how far you are ready to go, and to let the other man 

know that you are ready to do everything possible within these limits, but not to 

overstep them … It has never been my experience that negotiations are promoted by 

the encouragement of unrealizable hopes and for my part I am not only of the 

opinion that we have no right to give our mandated territories to any other than their 

inhabitants, so soon as they are capable of defending and governing themselves. I 

go further and say that I could not take it on myself to place other human beings 

under a Government which in its own country refuses the rights of citizenship to its 

own people and makes slaves of them. 

But now Mr. Chamberlain, surprised, flew back to London to confer, as he said, with his 

colleagues, and especially with Lord Runciman. 

The annals of foreign affairs make relatively few references to Lord Runciman in the twenty-five 

years before he appeared in Prague, there to recommend, after studying for some weeks one of the 

most ancient problems in Europe, the cession of the Sudeten German territory, and therewith of 

Czechoslovakia’s ability to maintain her real independence, to Germany. But such references as I 

find suggest that Lord Runciman was one of the earliest members of the Fair Dealers. 

Lord D’Abernon in his memoirs describes an interview with W. Lloyd George at Genoa in 1921, in 

which he reports Mr. Lloyd George as saying that he had during the World War found nearly all 

economic theories to be wrong, that Lord Cunliffe had rightly said, ‘It was a blessing for England 

that during the war two men were responsible for English finances who understood nothing of 

finance, Lloyd George and myself’, that Mr. McKenna repeatedly produced proofs that England 

could not financially stand more than three years of war, that Mr. Runciman agreed with Mr. 

McKenna, but Mr. Lloyd George and the others, who understood nothing of finance, believed him 

to be wrong and proved it. 

In 1916, when Mr. Asquith’s Government was overthrown, Mr. Runciman went with his chief into 

opposition and joined the ‘Lansdowne Group’, which was for early negotiations to end the war. 

In February 1918, says Prince Max of Baden, ‘Mr. Runciman again advocated negotiations during 

the debate’, and the then German Chancellor, Count Hertling, speaking in the Reichstag on 

February 25th, 1918, also approvingly quoted ‘a Liberal member of the English House of Commons 

and former Minister, Mr. Walter Runciman’, as expressing the opinion that ‘we should be nearer to 

peace if accredited and responsible representatives of the belligerent powers would get together in a 

small circle for a mutual exchange of views … For the present it does not appear that this 

suggestion of the English parliamentarian has prospect of realization’. 

You know what happened when Mr. Chamberlain returned to London. Lord Runciman reported his 

proposal that the Sudeten German areas should be ceded to Germany; the French Government 

agreed on condition that the new frontier should be fixed by an international body and guaranteed 

by France and Britain; Czechoslovakia was presented with these proposals, by France and England, 

and told that neither her sworn ally nor the ally of her sworn ally would help her if she refused; in 

Prague Dr. Hodza’s Government accepted under ‘unbelievable pressure’ and resigned. The British 

Government had presented to Prague, in imperative form, on September 19th, the proposals which 

it had officially disowned when they were first ventilated by The Times on September 7th. On 

September 22nd Mr. Chamberlain was again with Hitler – at Godesberg of sinister renown. 

In Prague, in the early hours of that day, men and women were laughing and weeping in the streets. 

The laughter was hysterical. ‘Look at this,’ cried a man, waving in the air a copy of a special edition 

with the flaring headline ‘Absolutely Forsaken’, ‘now we’re all alone, with the Germans, Poles and 

Hungarians against us, and not a soul with us.’ A roar of laughter went up. 

In a club two Czech women sat with an Englishman. When the news came, of the Franco-British 

ultimatum and its acceptance, they exchanged comments about faithless friends and began to laugh, 

and laugh, and went on laughing, they couldn’t stop, until the tears ran down. The Englishman 

squirmed in his chair. These had been the happiest people in Europe until a few hours before. 

In the streets, in the houses, others were weeping. An old woman, a flower-seller, wept at her stall 

as The Times correspondent passed her: ‘I had two sons killed in Italy fighting for Czechoslovakia,’ 

she said. ‘I don’t know what it all means, but I am sure we didn’t deserve this. What have we done?’ 

Everywhere you saw crowds, laughing, shouting, arguing, crying, gesticulating. 

‘Our allies and friends have dictated to us sacrifices without parallel in history,’ said the Propaganda 

Minister, Vavrecka, into the microphone. The crowds surged through the streets, bewildered, 

shouting, ‘Long live Benesh’, ‘Down with Benesh’, ‘Long live the army’, ‘Down with the Jews’, ‘No, 

no, don’t sacrifice Czechoslovakia’. In all history there was nothing to compare with such a transfer 

of territory from a country not defeated in war. Far into the small hours the tumult of despair and 

faith betrayed resounded over the city that with a calm spirit had faced its great ordeal. 

The agony of Prague was still at its height when Mr. Chamberlain, at midday, reached Cologne. He 

had expected a shorter journey. Actually, by the time he had travelled by car to the Petersberg, 

hurriedly lunched there, then travelled by car to the Rhine, and then by ferry to the hotel where 

Hitler had been comfortably resting, it was as hard a journey as the first one. 

Mr. Chamberlain, whose chief companion was again the Chief Economic Adviser, was again 

surprised. What he found, once more, was entirely different from his expectations.  

I do not want honourable members to think Herr Hitler was deliberately deceiving 

me. I do not think so for one moment, but, for my part, I expected that when I got 

back to Godesberg I had only to discuss quietly with him the proposals that I had 

brought with me and it was a profound shock to me when I was told at the 

beginning of the conversation that these proposals were not acceptable and that they 

were to be replaced by other proposals of a kind which I had not contemplated at all 

… Honourable members will realize the perplexity in which I found myself faced 

with this totally unexpected situation. 

Ah me, these surprises, these expectations, these ‘profound shocks’, this perplexity. Not even the 

Chief Economic Adviser could foresee them. We foresaw them, the little group of Englishmen who 

had lived abroad and heard that one about ‘sparing an old man’ on the radio. We knew that the 

British Prime Minister was due to get a severe jolt when he paid his second visit. We knew the 

method – don’t give your opponent a second’s rest, get him groggy, pile blow on blow, bewilder 

him, drive him into his corner so that he can’t duck under your arm. Any one of your specialists, 

any single Englishman who has lived for a number of years in Germany, could have told you what 

to expect. But you will not listen, you know better. 

So Mr. Chamberlain found, instead of a quiet chat about the manner of carrying out the surrender 

of territory which had already been forced on Prague, ‘an ultimatum’ going far beyond those 

proposals, demanding the evacuation and occupation of the whole area forthwith. He thought it 

would ‘profoundly shock public opinion in neutral countries’, he ‘bitterly reproached the Chancellor 

for his failure to respond in any way to the efforts I had made to secure peace’. On the other hand, 

he was informed ‘with great earnestness that this was the last of Herr Hitler’s territorial ambitions in 

Europe, and that he had no wish to include in the Reich people of other races than Germans’. He 

had ‘no hesitation’ in saying that ‘after the personal contact I established with Herr Hitler’ – through 

an interpreter – ‘I believe he means what he says when he states that’. 

Is it worth while repeating, once again, all the things that have been said, all the things that have 

been without hesitation believed? Perhaps it is. Here goes. 

On May 21st, 1935, Hitler said:  

The German Government will scrupulously respect every treaty voluntarily signed, 

even if concluded before its entry into power. It will therefore in particular respect 

and fulfil all obligations arising from the Locarno Pact so long as the other 

signatories are ready to stand by this pact. 

The Locarno Treaty was torn up on March 7th, 1936. 

On May 21st, 1935, Hitler said:  

The German Government will unconditionally respect all other clauses of the 

Versailles Treaty affecting the mutual relations of the nations, including the 

territorial clauses … 

On March 7th, 1936, Hitler said:  

We have no territorial claims in Europe. 

On January 30th, 1934, Hitler said:  

The assertion that the German Reich intends to overpower the Austrian state is 

absurd and can by no means be proved or substantiated … I must most sharply 

refute the further assertion of the Austrian Government that any attack against the 

Austrian state will be undertaken or is even contemplated. 

On May 21st, 1935, Hitler said:  

Germany has neither the intention nor the will to interfere in domestic Austrian 

affairs, to annex Austria, or to unite Austria with the Reich. 

On March 11th, 1936, Hitler said:  

My offer of non-aggression pacts in the east and west was made without any 

exceptions. It holds good therefore for Austria also. 

On May 1st, 1936, Hitler said:  

Once again lies are being spread about, that Germany will fall upon Austria to- 

morrow or the day after to-morrow. 

 

 

On July 11th, 1936, Hitler signed the German-Austrian treaty acknowledging:  

the full sovereignty of the Federal Austrian State [and declaring that] the question 

of Austrian National Socialism is a domestic Austrian affair which the German 

Government will neither directly nor indirectly seek to influence. 

On March 7th and March 11th, 1936, Hitler stated that he was ready to conclude a pact of non- 

aggression with Czechoslovakia. 

On March 14th, 1938, in the House of Commons, Mr. Chamberlain stated that, among a number of 

other cockle-warming assurances:  

the German Government has assured the Czechoslovak Minister in Berlin that 

Germany considers herself bound by the German-Czechoslovak arbitration treaty of 

October 25th. 

(When the Czechoslovak Government in September, confronted by the Franco-British ultimatum, 

said, ‘What about the German-Czechoslovak arbitration treaty?’, its question fell on deaf ears.) 

As a result of the unpleasant surprise at Godesberg, not completely sweetened by the assurances, 

the British and French Ministers in Prague were instructed to inform the Czechoslovak Government 

that their countries could no longer take the responsibility for advising Czechoslovakia not to 

mobilize, and on Friday night, September 24th, 1938, the mobilization order of President Benesh 

was broadcast to the nation, in Czech, German, Hungarian, Slovak, Ruthenian, Polish and Finnish.  

Citizens [it said] the decisive moment has arrived. Keep calm, be brave and faithful. 

Your struggle is for justice and your Fatherland. Long live free Czechoslovakia. 

This was the most inspiring moment in post-war history, even more inspiring than England’s call, 

so soon denied, to the world to rally against the aggressor in Abyssinia. The Czechs were born 

again. At the last moment, they thought they were going to be allowed to fight, that they would 

have good friends at their side. They knew that half of them would perish, but thought that the 

remnant of the nation would rise again, free men in a free world. 

The world never heard the full story of that magnificent mobilization, of a small nation doomed to 

the sacrifice and exulting in its fate. Czechoslovakia was already isolated, the telephones and cables 

and posts and trains had already ceased to function, and, for that matter, a good many newspapers 

in the outer world were already censoring anything that could arouse too much sympathy for the 

Czechs. 

Europe has probably never seen the like of that midnight mobilization. As the radio broadcast the 

order waiters in the cafés and restaurants calmly peeled off their white jackets, put on their street 

clothes, shook hands with the guests and went. Men who were already in bed got up and quickly 

dressed, and their womenfolk and elder male relatives accompanied them in pyjamas and dressing- 

gowns to the stations and tramcars. 

Guests in the wineshops called gleefully for a bottle of champagne to celebrate this great occasion, 

toasted each other quickly and hastened off to report. The great crowds in the streets melted away 

as the men dashed home to collect their belongings. Taxi-cabs and motor cars, requisitioned, 

disappeared as if by magic. In no time at all lorries full of soldiers in uniform or civilians bound for 

the depots were careering through the streets, wildly cheered. Even the weeping women were 

proud, happy in the regained gladness of their men. ‘Better die than decay,’ said one group of 

soldiers to The Times correspondent, ‘but we shall win. We shall not be left alone.’ 

For many, many years to come Czechs, when they meet together, will speak of that night. When 

they speak to you about it to-day the bitter gloom leaves their eyes, their faces light up. ‘We’ve only 

had one happy day in two months,’ said one of them to me, weeks afterwards, ‘and that was the day 

of the mobilization.’ 

Another, a Legionary, a homeless and destitute refugee when I saw him, was like a man re-born 

when he told me of that night. ‘We only wanted to fight’, he said, ‘we only wanted to fight’, and then 

the light left his eyes, and he looked round him at the bare room, with the palliasses, in which he 

was existing, and his shoulders slumped and he closed his mouth and shrugged, bitterly. 

As far as I can remember there is no example in history of a small nation that was not only ready, 

but clamorously eager, to fight one far mightier than itself for an ideal going beyond frontiers, 

deliberately to sacrifice itself in the greater cause of a greater humanity. The Czechoslovak army 

was, in proportion to its size, the finest in Europe, its morale far better than that even of the German 

army. To have cast away this ally is worse than a crime – the crime, if any, was a French crime – it 

was a gigantic mistake. 

So Mr. Chamberlain and the Chief Economic Adviser flew back to London, with the unpleasant 

surprise in Mr. Chamberlain’s pocket, and the world prepared for war. 

By this time I was sure that we were not going to have war, for I happened to be listening to the 

radio on that Saturday, September 24th, and heard that Signor Mussolini in a speech had stated that 

Herr Hitler had given until October 1st for his terms to be accepted. Now that was a full week, in 

which the Czechs might improve their defences, and as soon as I heard that I felt convinced that the 

fate of Czechoslovakia was already in the bag and that an enormous bluff was in progress. For 

Hitler, if and when he makes war, will strike like lightning. He will not declare it eight days in 

advance. He may give you six hours, not more. 

Therefore I watched the great world crisis of the following days with a certain scepticism, which I 

still retain. It was increased by two passages in that national broadcast of Mr. Chamberlain’s on the 

evening on Tuesday, September 27th, a broadcast calculated so to wring the withers of the British 

people that they could only be the more hilarious and grateful the next day, when they heard that 

Mr. Chamberlain was to fly yet again.  

… a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing. 

I would not hesitate to pay even a third visit to Germany if I thought it would do 

any good. 

Comparing these two significant utterances with Signor Mussolini’s announcement that Herr Hitler 

had given eight days for the matter to be arranged, I felt strongly of opinion that Czechoslovakia 

was doomed, that there would be no war, and that the real aim of the manoeuvring, in the minds of 

Hitler and Mussolini, already assured of victory, was that it should be achieved with the maximum 

of triumph for themselves, with the maximum of humiliation for the others, and, beyond all 

possible doubt, as the result of the threat of war, and not as the fruit of friendly negotiation. 

Meanwhile England was getting ready for another world war and another class war. Trenches were 

being dug in the parks, and children were being sent away from London, and the people to whom 

they were being sent were writing to Whitehall, as Sir Samuel Hoare later stated, to complain about 

‘dirty little children from the London schools being billeted in our houses’. 

Everybody was trying to get hold of a gas mask, and this is the most lunatic thing of all, and 

inexplicable to me when I think how many men must be alive in England to-day who were in the 

last war and who know that if you take the numeral I as your chance of being gassed in an air raid 

your chance of being hit by a bomb is 1000. 

Give me a bomb-proof shelter and you may keep your gas mask. But in England there were only 

gas masks, and not many of those, but no bomb-proof shelters, though in your underground 

railways you have the finest raw material for bomb-proof shelters, if anybody would take the 

trouble to have them adapted for that purpose, of any city in the world. You could put hundreds of 

thousands of people in them in perfect safety, you could have food and water and everything you 

needed down there, if you ever could be moved to do anything about anything, but muddling 

through is awfully jolly and British, and how too British we British are, aren’t we? 

What an incredible scene of confusion and chaos that was, after six years of constant warnings. On 

the outskirts of London, Aircraftmen struggling to get a few balloons into the air, many of which 

broke away, as who should say, ‘Include me out of this farce, will you?’, and drifted off into the 

blue. Somebody making a deal of money from transactions in sandbags. In the parks, anti-aircraft 

guns from the last war – the last war! – being brought into position. Gas masks being distributed that 

lacked essential parts. 

In the city with the most money and the most people in the world, after six years of warnings!  

We are not prepared; we have hardly begun to prepare; we do not know how all the 

failures that occurred during the crisis can be avoided next time. 

What do you think of that, after six years of warnings? Mr. Eady, of the Home Office, speaking, 

about those passive measures of defence against air-raids (as distinct from air-fighting), default in 

which means, according to the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, that ‘2 000,000 or 3,000,000 

people will be blown to pieces in London alone’. These passive measures comprise gas masks, 

trenches, bomb-proof shelters, evacuation. 

The more important measures are the active ones – anti-aircraft guns, fighting aircraft. Do you think 

we were readier in these things? On November 4th your Secretary of State for War confirmed some 

of the worst fears that had been expressed about useless anti-aircraft guns, deficient transport, 

wrong ammunition. But not the Government was at fault, the culprits were the people who had 

been crying for years to have these things remedied, for the Government to fulfil its own promises. 

His anxiety had been ‘not lest the full equipment should come, but about those who kept stressing 

the lack of full equipment’. 

Indeed, these people, who only pressed for the Government to do what it had declared to be 

necessary, courted unpopularity and even persecution. Duncan Sandys, M.P., from the day he 

joined the Anti-Aircraft Brigade in April 1937 ‘never ceased to hear complaints and expressions of 

alarm and anxiety at the shortage of guns of any type and of reliable up-to-date instruments’. He 

was dismayed when a speech of the War Minister seemed to indicate that Mr. Hore-Belisha was 

under the impression that the anti-aircraft units had their full recruitment of guns, his fellow 

officers and their men ‘were astonished at the War Minister’s speeches and parliamentary answers 

to questions’. When Duncan Sandys, M.P., prepared a question to put to the War Minister he was 

threatened with a court martial. 

You see how democracy works, under such leaders. Three and a half years had passed since the 

Government announced its resolution to make the country’s armaments adequate for its own 

protection and for the fulfilment of its obligations. This was no sudden, new, unexpected 

emergency. Ever since 1936 the nation had been called on for ‘sacrifices’, for ‘intensive efforts’. 

There had been shadow factories, recruiting drives, a huge air programme, a Minister for Co- 

ordination of Defence, income tax at 5s. and 5s. 6d. in the pound. For years and years before 1936 

we had spent more than £100,000,000 a year on armaments. 

What happened in all those months and years? Where did the money go? What waste, and what 

undue profit, was there on contracts? Why were Ministers who allowed this chaos to develop not 

dismissed? Why were Ministers who were responsible for this appalling mess allowed to rise, 

serene and unruffled, in their places, and indict as the villains of the piece those who had called for 

these evils and abuses to be remedied? They were the cause of all our troubles, of all the Gadarene 

deterioration in the state of world affairs, of the standards of humanity, justice and decency; they 

left a red trail behind them leading from Manchuria and Abyssinia to Spain and Czechoslovakia. 

In 1933 all its experts in Europe had warned the Government what was coming. In 1936, on paper, 

British rearmament at last got under way. Is it really under way now, in 1939? Why was it not 

begun in 1933, in 1934? Stanley Baldwin, answering this charge that the Government failed to 

make preparations in 1934, said in November 1936 that ‘from my point of view’ it would have 

made ‘the loss of the election certain to tell the country “Germany is rearming and we must rearm”.’ 

By waiting until 1935, ‘We won the election with a large majority’. 

Now you know the stuff that elections are made of. In 1935 you were told, again by Baldwin, that 

Germany was not approaching equality with you in the air, that in 1936 you would still be twice as 

strong as Germany in the air, in Europe. In 1936 You were told, again by Baldwin, that the aim of 

British air policy was to maintain an air force as strong as the strongest within jumping distance of 

British shores. In November 1938 your Air Minister gave figures in Parliament which mean that the 

relative strength of the British and German air forces is as one to three. You cannot make good this 

gap; simultaneously you have sacrificed allies who would have helped to make it good. 

Germany at this September crisis, when you thought that war was coming in a few days, had an 

enormous air force, perfectly equipped, an air raid defence organization without its like in the 

world, which only needs the pressing of a button for every man, woman and child in the country to 

go to an appointed place, she had the biggest and best-equipped army in the world. 

In England, to quote a good judge, Lieutenant Commander R. Fletcher, M.P., writing in the Daily 

Telegraph, you had the advantage only in one arm – the Navy. The Navy was our stay in ages past. 

Perhaps it will be again. You cannot bank on this. It is a thing that has not been tried out since the 

development of gigantic modern air navies. 

In everything else – in the mechanization of the Army, in air raid precautions, in anti-aircraft 

defence, in fighting aircraft, in your balloon barrage, in food storage, in merchant shipping, in 

arrangements for the switch-over of industry from peace to war production, you were so far behind 

that you were barely perceptible. 

You now have only two possibilities of saving yourself, and as these were very well put by 

Commander Fletcher, I quote him:  

A national effort can be made by orders imposed from above upon a nation 

deprived of all freedom, i.e. upon a slave population. 

We do not want this in England; it is not necessary; and I am not sure that Hitler would now permit 

it, he may already be strong enough to veto it.  

Or [the second alternative] a national effort can be made under the guidance of a 

Government truly interpreting the national will, especially in foreign policy, caring 

equally for all sections of the population, demanding proportionate sacrifices from 

all in the attainment of security and attacking our internal discontents – bad housing, 

under-nutrition, unemployment, social insecurity, derelict areas – as resolutely as 

our external dangers. 

That is what you want. But your Governments will not do it. They do not ‘care equally for all 

sections of the population’, they are inspired by feelings of class antagonism and in the last analysis 

their actions, both in home and in foreign policy, can only be explained by the grim resolve to 

perpetuate class barriers and the evils they bring. They have announced as many programmes to 

mend bad housing, under-nutrition, unemployment, social insecurity, and derelict areas as they 

have announced programmes for rearmament – and they have lagged as far behind in the one as in 

the other. 

Now you must be constantly on the watch for a new attempt to misuse your longing, the longing of 

the masses of English people, for these things to be remedied. You must be on the watch for a new, 

inspiring call for a ‘national effort’ – as in the case of Abyssinia – which will be used to storm your 

humane feelings and your patriotic sentiments, snap an overwhelming majority at a quick election – 

and then institute some form of class dictatorship or semi-dictatorship the real aim of which would 

be to restrict your liberties, muzzle criticism of past mistakes and prolong those very evils which 

you would, in your millions, vote to abolish. 

For my part, the exposed plight of my native city, London, to air attack in 1938, in spite of repeated 

warnings since 1933, made me shudder when I was there in the spring of 1938. In my case, too, I 

found that, for some reason which I begin to find sinister, I only courted unpopularity and rebuffs 

by telling people in high places in London of the mortal danger that overlay London and urging that 

drastic measures be taken, at long last, to put our defences in order. 

After the invasion of Austria, where I saw the new German army and air force in actual movement 

for the first time, I wrote from Zürich three urgent letters, one to the editor of a London newspaper, 

one to a man socially well placed whom I thought possibly able to bring influence to bear, one to a 

high Government official, telling them: ‘Now you must at all costs do two things, and you only 

have a very little time left to do them: get your factories at work day and night on the production of 

aircraft, anti-aircraft guns, and munitions; get your anti-air-raid organization, especially your bomb- 

proof shelter and evacuation arrangements, into perfect order.’ I had one answer, which urged me to 

go into the country and take a long rest. 

So that was the picture of England when Mr. Chamberlain, Monsieur j’aime Berlin, the man with 

the umbrella, flew for the third time, to swastika-bedecked Munich, to the meeting of the Four Just 

Men at the Sign of the Double Cross, to the surgical operation on the small country far away where 

people quarrel about whom we know nothing. 

What a gathering. I don’t know what the moron history will say about it, but I know what I think 

about it. Adolf Hitler; Benito Mussolini; Edouard Daladier; Neville Chamberlain. It was perfectly 

true, none of them knew anything about Czechoslovakia – none of them had ever been there. 

Czechoslovakia, which had rejected the Godesberg demands, which Chamberlain himself had 

found impossible of acceptance, was not present; Czechoslovak ‘observers’ had asked if they might, 

please, attend, and were waiting somewhere, ignored, in an ante-room. Of the four men round the 

table three represented countries for whom and with whom the Czechs, now jubilantly preparing to 

go into battle, had fought. One, France, had declared four days before that if Czechoslovakia were 

attacked France would come to her aid; England had simultaneously declared that she would 

support France if hostilities broke out. 

Among the men gathered to dismember the small country they knew nothing about was one, Benito 

Mussolini, who had been making speech after speech in Italy about Czechoslovakia, always with 

the text ‘Crucify Czechoslovakia’. 

Benito Mussolini possibly did know just a little about Czechoslovakia, and about the crucifixion of 

Czechs. For in the year 1918 an Englishman, one Oliffe Richmond, who afterwards described this 

experience in The Times, was ‘shown, by Italian officers, through binoculars from a mountain 

above Lake Garda, a crucifix in a field within the Austrian lines, on which the body of a Czech 

soldier had been left to hang’. Italy, added Mr. Richmond, ‘was as deeply interested then as were 

any of the other Allies in the birth of a free Republic and had as much responsibility as the rest for 

the drawing of a natural frontier for it’. 

The Czechoslovak Republic, Mr. Richmond proceeded, with truth, ‘has not used coercion upon its 

minorities in any degree so harsh as that practised by Italy upon the Tirolese Germans and the 

Slovenes’, and he asked ‘all Italians who may chance to read this to recall that symbolic morning at 

Padua not yet twenty years ago and to ask themselves by what conceivable right they can condone 

action which is designed to go beyond all claims of self-determination to the crucifixion once again 

of the whole Czech nation that they helped to free’. The symbolic morning at Padua to which he 

referred was one in December 1918, when he saw ‘two divisions of the new-born Czech Army 

parade before King Victor Emanuel and his generals in the Piazza dell’ Arena at Padua’. 

But since Czechoslovakia is, or was, a small country that you know nothing about, I should like to 

tell you something of it, as it was until September 1938. 

It was the last free Republic, the last people’s state, the last country where democracy had any 

meaning, in Europe east of the Rhine. In twenty years, after centuries of alien dominations they had 

accomplished marvellous things. They did not want to leave the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they 

did not ‘break up’ the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as you are so often told, it broke up within itself, 

and when they saw it collapse they formed their own state. 

They took part of the land, against compensation, from the great and wealthy nobles, and gave it to 

the peasants. They built roads and schools and hospitals and sanatoriums, and children’s homes. 

They created the finest army, and the best-equipped, of any small state in Europe; militarily, they 

were a Great Power. This was the only army in Europe in which the fiery ideal of 1918 still burned, 

it panted to be at an enemy that ten times outnumbered it. 

In this state every field was farmed to the last inch; a thriving industry grew and prospered. The 

ditches, the hedges, the trees, the woods were tended to the last blade and twig; here there were no 

keep-out boards, the land was the people’s and you could go where you liked. The bulk of the 

population clung to that state with a burning love; an English Minister, seeking to vindicate 

Munich, said that when the state was dismembered it was already breaking up from within. He, too, 

knew nothing about this small country – and he never said a more arrantly foolish thing in his life. 

The people in this state felt that it was theirs, they had not much money, but they had a small- 

holding or a small job, and felt themselves freemen in a free land, after centuries of serfdom. 

You can see the things they did to-day. Drive from Prague to Brünn, from Prague to Reichenberg, 

from Prague to Saaz, compare these rich fields, these tidy factories, these well-tended towns with 

your own land. When a part of this land was surrendered to Hungary, an immediate crisis broke out 

there, because in the regained lands men owned their farms and had been cared for by the state, 

while in Hungary the peasant was poverty-stricken and landless, gendarme-fodder. In this land all 

minorities had seats in Parliament – members in the Government, if they wished – in exact 

proportion to their numbers; budget expenditure was apportioned on the same plan. The Sudeten 

Germans had a free press and could say what they liked about the Government. 

The people felt that this state belonged to them, not they to the state. This was the land that was 

destroyed, cast once more in chains. 

You know what was done at Munich. Peace with honour. Peace in our time. The peace that passeth 

my understanding. 

You were bluffed again. You were told that, when a strip of Czechoslovakia, containing the 

defences, had been torn off, as you might tear the perforated counterfoil from a cheque, a right 

little, tight little Czechoslovakia would remain, guaranteed by England and France. What’s wrong 

with that? you thought. What could be fairer than that? Mr. Chamberlain explained in the House 

that this guarantee was one of the respects in which Munich was so much better than Godesberg. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in the other place, said the guarantee ‘made an immense difference’. 

You were told that four safeguards for Czechoslovakia were gained at Munich, and it was probably 

because of these four ‘pledges’ or ‘guarantees’ or ‘assurances’ or whatever you like to call them – 

none of them meant a thing – that you were so stupendously relieved, that you mafficked in 

Whitehall, that you believed a real peace with honour had been achieved. 

I have been living in Czechoslovakia, a country I know something about, since the dismemberment. 

I can tell you that the guarantee means nothing at all, that it is an illusion, that it cannot be 

enforced. I do not believe it was ever seriously meant. I cannot conceive that any politician could 

be so ill-informed as to believe that it could be made effective. 

Indeed, by November 1st you learned that it was no guarantee, for Mr. Chamberlain said:  

In speaking of a guaranteed frontier the right honourable gentleman is mistaken. We 

never guaranteed the frontiers as they existed. What we did was to guarantee 

against unprovoked aggression – quite a different thing. That did not mean that we 

gave our seal to the existence of frontiers as they were then or at any other time. 

Our guarantee was against unprovoked aggression and not the crystallization of 

frontiers. The right honourable gentleman alternates between violent indignation 

and insuppressible amusement, but I do not think my answer could give rise to 

either of those expressions. 

Moderate your indignation. Suppress your amusement. If you know what has been guaranteed, 

write and tell me, because I should like to know that one. As I write, in a Prague hotel bedroom, the 

German frontier is within an hour of Prague, by road, two or three minutes by aeroplane. What 

would you do if Germany suddenly pocketed Prague, pocketed what remains of Czechoslovakia? 

Debate whether the aggression had been provoked? Marvellous. 

But it will not be necessary for Hitler, unless he is less clever than he seems, to do this. For, a few 

weeks after Munich, the Czechs were required to sign on the dotted line the gift-deed of a strip of 

territory, forty miles long and eighty yards wide, running clean across Czechoslovakia, for a great 

strategic and trade thorough-fare, German-built, German-owned, German-operated, German- 

controlled. It is a strip of Germany laid across Czechoslovakia, reducing Czechoslovakia to a 

German-guarded compound. It is completely extra-territorial. If a German commits any crime or 

offence in that zone he has to be tried by German, not by Czechoslovak, courts. 

Czech labour is building it. It is a Great Wall of China running across Czechoslovakia. There are no 

Czechoslovak frontiers to crystallize, to guarantee. The Czech lands are part of the Reich. I wrote 

in Insanity Fair that the Czechs would soon be subjects of the Reich, that they would be making 

arms for Germany in peace, and in war either bearing them for Germany or digging trenches for her 

– at all events, helping in some form to prosecute that war. In constructing that great road, clean 

across their own land, they are already labour-soldiers of the Reich. The most they can hope for is 

home-rule in their own lands. Hitler has said that he does not want Czechs to be conscribed for 

military service, and this is a very astute move, if he abides by his word. It means that, though they 

will have to perform every manner of other task for Germany, they will not be required actually to 

fight in the front line. 

So much for the guaranteed frontiers. Then you were told of a plebiscite. That is a word that always 

makes appeal to Englishmen. You saw the British Legion, in their blue suits and peaked caps, 

marching in the roads about Olympia. They, you thought, would see fair play. 

There was, of course, no plebiscite. But that is not the point. The point is that any plebiscite would 

have been a farce. What do you expect from a plebiscite, from a British Legion who go to see fair 

play? It is not the fear of being assaulted at the polling-booths that makes people vote this way or 

that, it is the fear of what is going to happen to them afterwards, of losing their jobs, of being 

marked men. A million men of the British Legion cannot protect them against that. 

But nevertheless I regret that the British Legion did not come to Czechoslovakia. They might have 

found time to come on to Prague and visit the British Legion there. It had about sixty members, 

Private Czech of the Essex and Lieutenant Czech of the Anzacs, Corporal Czech of the Buffs and 

Sergeant Czech of the R.A.S.C., and they have been meeting once a month for some years, at a 

little inn, and singing the old songs: ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag’, ‘It’s a long way to 

Tipperary’, and the like. In a drawer at the British Legation you might of late even have seen some 

British war medals, some Distinguished Conduct Medals and Military Medals, returned to sender. 

Then there was the third achievement of Munich, that Hitler, instead of occupying all the territory 

he claimed by October 1st, took it in stages between October 1st and 10th. You probably know 

what came of that. The last zone was taken on November 24th, the total territory occupied was 

much larger than that even demanded at Godesberg, and about a million Czechs, in the name of 

self-extermination, now live under German rule. The other achievement of Munich was the ‘right of 

option’, for Czechs left in the German areas, for Germans left in rump Czechoslovakia, By the time 

you read this book you will probably have been able to decide for yourself how this has worked 

out. There is a ‘right’ for the Czechs, at whatever loss to themselves, to migrate to the Czech 

territory, nothing else. 

So Munich came to its triumphant end, with the bells pealing in Berlin, Paris, London and Rome, 

with weeping and dumbfounded crowds in Prague. I do not need to describe this in my own words. 

I will let a man speak who was there, waiting in an ante-room for the sentence, one of the two 

Czechoslovak ‘observers’ who had been allowed to come and learn the fate of their country, Dr. 

Hubert Masarjik, of the Foreign Office in Prague. 

Dr. Masarjik reached Munich soon after 4 o’clock in the afternoon of September 29th – when 

Hitler’s eight days had nearly run their course – went to the Regina-Palast Hotel, ‘had difficulty in 

establishing contact with the British and French delegations’, but at 7 p.m. did contrive to see Mr. 

Gwatkin, a member of the British delegation. 

Mr. Gwatkin was ‘agitated and very silent’ but from his reluctant indications Dr. Masarjik ‘gathered 

that a plan was already prepared in broad outline and was much worse than the Franco-British 

proposals’. Dr. Masarjik directed Mr. Gwatkin’s attention to the ‘domestic, economic and financial 

consequences of such a plan’. Mr. Gwatkin thought that Dr. Masarjik did not realize ‘the difficult 

position of the Western Powers’ and the difficulties of negotiating with Hitler. He then returned to 

the conference. 

At 10 p.m. Dr. Masarjik and his companion, the Czechoslovak Minister in Berlin, Dr. Mastny, were 

led to the room occupied by the Chief Economic Adviser. There, ‘in the presence of Mr. Gwatkin 

and at the wish of Mr. Chamberlain’, Sir Horace Wilson handed them a map on which the areas 

were outlined which were immediately to be occupied. To Dr. Masarjik’s objections ‘he replied 

twice, formally, that he had nothing to add to his statements. He paid no attention to our remarks 

about towns and districts that were important for us. He then left the room.’ 

Dr. Masarjik and Dr. Mastny continued to plead and argue with Mr. Gwatkin.  

As he again began to speak of the difficulties which had revealed themselves in 

negotiating with Hitler I said that all depended on the readiness of the Western 

Powers. Mr. Gwatkin answered in a solemn tone: ‘If you do not accept you will 

have to settle your affairs with Germany quite alone. Perhaps the French will tell 

you this in a pleasanter form, but believe me they share our wish … they disinterest 

themselves.’ 

At 1.30 a.m., Dr. Masarjik and Dr. Mastny were led into the conference room, where Chamberlain, 

Daladier, Wilson, Léger and Gwatkin awaited them.  

The atmosphere was oppressive. The verdict was to be pronounced. The 

Frenchmen, visibly agitated, seemed to be thinking about the effect on French 

prestige. Mr. Chamberlain, in a long introduction, mentioned the agreement that 

was to be reached and handed Dr. Mastny the text, so that he might read it aloud … 

Mr. Chamberlain showed that he expected the execution of the proposals to be 

accepted by us. While Dr. Mastny discussed secondary matters with Mr. 

Chamberlain (who yawned uninterruptedly and without embarrassment) I asked 

MM. Daladier and Léger if they expected an utterance about or an answer to the 

agreement from our Government. Daladier, visibly agitated, did not answer. Léger 

on the other hand answered that the four statesmen had not much time. He added 

hurriedly that no answer on our part was expected, as they regarded the plan as 

having been accepted, and that our Government on the same day, and at the latest 

by 5 p.m., must send its representative to Berlin to the sitting of the International 

Commission … He spoke to us in a sufficiently ruthless manner; this was a 

Frenchman who delivered a verdict without the right of appeal or possibility of 

alteration. Mr. Chamberlain no longer concealed his fatigue. After the perusal of the 

text we were given a second map, with small corrections. The Czechoslovak 

Republic, as defined by the treaties of 1918, had ceased to exist. They were finished 

with us and we might go. 

To add any word of mine to that would be time wasted. 

The Dictators and Prime Ministers departed, after posing for the photographers, the tumult and the 

shouting of rejoicing rose in Berlin, Rome, London and Paris. Prague? Let us draw a veil over 

Prague. 

I can understand that pandemonium of relief in Paris and London. In both countries inefficient 

governments had for years failed to put the defences of their countries in such a state that this crisis 

could have been faced with calm and confidence, this monstrous crime prevented. Now, the 

populations knew that they were delivered up to massacre. They had been ready for it, they would 

have fought and triumphed, but now the relief, after that nervous strain, was too great. They 

thought it was an honourable peace, perhaps, and they mafficked. 

I have those pictures by me now, of the crowds in Downing Street and Whitehall, their faces big 

with smiles, their mouths big with cheering. Obscene, when you compare it with the truth, but still, 

understandable. In one of those pictures, taken in Downing Street, is a figure that interests me very 

much. The Prime Minister is leaning out of the window, smiling and waving. Ministers are 

climbing on the railings of Number Ten the better to see the fun. All around hysterical people. In 

the centre, near the doorway of Number Ten, stands a single man apart from the tumult, his hat on 

his head, his face set and grim, his eyes turned without emotion on the Prime Minister, his hands in 

his pockets, unmoved, unresponsive, critical. He looks like a man of about my age. Perhaps he was 

in the war. Perhaps he saw this thing clearly even on that hilarious night, the maddest and merriest 

night that London had known since Mafeking or the Armistice. Look back on Mafeking and the 

Armistice now. 

Prayers of thanksgiving were offered, as prayers had been offered for peace. 

You do not need to pray for peace if you are prepared, at the eleventh hour, to force a small and 

gallant country to its knees, compel it to surrender. You can have peace. You cannot have allies, 

when your turn comes. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury called Mr. Chamberlain the Happy Warrior. The Poet Laureate 

compared him with Priam, King of Troy. Mr. Burgin, immoderate in his transports, called him ‘the 

greatest character in the world’. From The Hague a large floral tribute was sent by air. A 

correspondent of The Times suggested that 2,000,000 souvenir stamps should be printed and the 

proceeds, £50,000, presented to him. General Smuts said, ‘We are grateful to the four leaders of 

Europe … A great champion has appeared in the lists, God bless him’. In France a subscription was 

opened to buy Mr. Chamberlain a château. Somebody suggested that the Nobel Peace Prize, which 

consists of I don’t know how many pieces of silver, should be divided among the Four Men of 

Munich. The Swiss Canton of Neuchâtel decided to send a gold chronometer. A Lisbon newspaper 

opened a subscription for a monument to commemorate Mr. Chamberlain’s ‘heroic action in 

defence of peace’. The Times said, ‘No conqueror returning from the battlefield has ever come back 

with nobler laurels’. Herr Hitler, eloquently thanking Germany’s ‘only real friend’, that great man 

Benito Mussolini, casually threw in a word of appreciation for ‘the other two statesmen’ who made 

this agreement possible. Mr. Chamberlain received over 20,000 telegrams of thanks, wagonloads of 

flowers. 

The Times also said that at Munich Mr. Chamberlain had given the first example of the 

Führerprinzip – the theory of personal leadership, untrammelled by popular control – as applied to 

British policy. 

The first example in history of the Führerprinzip was on a famous Gadarene occasion, when one 

ran before and many others ran after. I found it sinister that during this crisis people in England 

were served out with besnouted masks. 

This was not the first occasion on which the Führerprinzip had been put into practice in England. In 

your alleged democracy, where the people are supposed to exercise, by free discussion and the 

vote, control over the major actions of the State, action has actually been taken in every crisis either 

without reference to the people or in the opposite direction to the course of action which the people 

had approved. In the Abyssinian crisis your Government, having one intention in mind, obtained an 

overwhelming vote from the country in support of the opposite course, and then followed the one it 

had predetermined. After a brief tempest of protest the people lethargically concurred; all that 

happened was that one Minister resigned, for a short while; he is likely to be your next Prime 

Minister. The abdication of a King was effected without any consultation of the people; the people 

subsequently approved it. In the Czechoslovak crisis the country solidly supported the Government 

in the course it had proclaimed; when, without any reference to the people, it took a completely 

different course in the summit of the crisis, the country, bamboozled by the manner in which the 

thing was presented to it, fell into line behind. 

Your Government has repeatedly rallied the country on the cry of resisting the grab-dictatorships, 

and has consistently yielded to them. The signs that your Government privately sympathized with 

them are becoming too many to resist. Your Government has repeatedly appealed to the country for 

support in vast programmes of rearmament to enable it to withstand the grab-dictatorships; they 

have obtained the support, they have not rearmed, the grab-dictatorships have always had their 

way. 

What is the answer? 

On this Munich occasion, a few still small voices, in small countries, were raised on a note 

disharmonious in that great chorus of rejoicing. 

In Yugoslavia, Samouprava said that ‘the small countries had had a cruel lesson’. 

In Denmark, which was beginning to thank its stars that it had at least abstained from the vote in 

that League of Nations Council meeting at Geneva in 1935 when Germany was condemned as a 

treaty-breaker, the National Tidende said:  

That state which England and France formed and drew the borders of is now 

learning from the same powers that they have signed its death warrant without even 

asking it – in order to save peace. But it is difficult to imagine a more effective 

appeal to lesser states to seek safety in agreement with Germany than the 

acquiescence of France and England to Herr Hitler’s ultimatum. 

In Norway the Speaker of the Storting, C. J. Hambro, said:  

A British Foreign Minister, Sir Austen Chamberlain, did more than any other man 

to consolidate the political prestige of the League of Nations and to create 

confidence in the goodwill of the Great Powers. His brother Neville Chamberlain 

has done more than any other to undermine that prestige and destroy that goodwill. 

His policy in the last month has dismayed the small democratic states and aroused 

the worst fears for their future. Not the solution of the Czechoslovak question, but 

the manner of its solving must be described as an act of violence without its like in 

civilized history. England and France created Czechoslovakia, Benesh was the 

pioneer of their policy; they urged him on and praised him at every opportunity – 

and now they sacrifice his country by selling it behind his back. It is 

comprehensible that during the last League Assembly in Geneva people were 

saying, ‘There will be no war as long as a small state remains that the Great Powers 

can sacrifice’. 

Now we know where we stand. My country is so small that England would not even 

waste the cost of an aeroplane passage on a flight to Berlin to save us. Among all 

the small powers the fear is now growing that they will one day be dismembered, 

without being asked, if this suits the book of the Great Powers. A certain progress, 

however, is perceptible: Poland was partitioned in the eighteenth century by its 

worst enemies, Czechoslovakia in the twentieth century by its best friends. 

Which is right? Was it noble, heroic, splendid? Was it contemptible, craven, base? 

Why was that noble and good on September 29th which was disclaimed on September 8th? If this 

action was noble and heroic, why was it not taken long before? Why was not Benesh told? I have 

shown you earlier in this book the question he asked for months and years: tell me, if you don’t 

want me, if you will not support me, if you want me to make terms with Germany. Why was it 

noble and heroic to leave him in doubt and then at the last moment to dismember his country, under 

the ruthless threat of desertion, without even asking him? 

To me it seems that at that table in Munich there sat on the one side a cold cynicism, on the other a 

ruthless ferocity, that make men lose their last vestige of faith in their contemporary world. Hodza 

received in May 1937, through the mediation of Yugoslavia, which had long foreseen the worst and 

had no faith in France, an invitation to discuss matters with Hitler. If Benesh had accepted this 

invitation, if he had done what Poland did, the entire French Press would have been at him like a 

pack of hounds, yelping ‘Traitor’. In complete loyalty he informed his ally, and the friend of his 

ally, of the offer and of its refusal. 

Why was it heroic and noble on September 29th to force this small state to its knees, which on 

September 23rd you had promised to succour? 

The Times on October 1st, the day after the triumph, said:  

The loss of the Sudeten territories had long been unavoidable, nor was it desirable 

that it should be avoided. 

This, apparently, was the view of the British Government, since the British Government acted in 

this spirit. Then why was the suggestion officially repudiated on September 7th, when it was first 

launched by The Times? Why was Benesh persistently misled? 

If you search for motives, after all that has happened, you are driven to suspect depths of callous 

cynicism hitherto beyond imagination. 

I am not proud of Munich, nor of the part that England played there. But France! France, who was 

strictly bound by treaty, whose darling child was Czechoslovakia, who would have foamed at the 

mouth if Czechoslovakia had made a bid for Hitler’s favour! 

No words can fit the betrayal. When I lived in Prague, in that grey and discontented winter that 

followed Munich, I saw Czech playgoers break into loud applause when, on the stage, a German 

peasant in one of Romain Rolland’s plays called his French captors ‘You swine’. I heard Czech 

soldiers singing bitter songs about the trollop, Francie, who betrayed them when they marched off 

to war. The officers of the French Military Mission, which had been in Czechoslovakia for twenty 

years, since the birth of the Republic, were folding their tents and stealing away as silently as any 

Arabs. The French Legation was receiving sackfuls of trinkets with green-red and green-yellow 

ribbons – Croix de Guerre, Medailles Militaires.  

Where is your French tact? [wrote Pavel Vilémský in Pritomnost] Keep your 

hollow compliments. We Czechs are no bushmen. We do not need your polite 

confirmation of the fact that we behaved as civilized people. Not one French 

Minister resigned, not one French patriot rose in Parliament to speak for us save de 

Kerillis. Your Paris Soir, a newspaper with a circulation of 2,000,000 copies, has 

opened a subscription for ‘a national gift to the creator of the peace’. Our ‘holy 

sacrifice’ has not been worth 250,000 francs to France. There is only intoxicated 

enthusiasm for the gentleman with the umbrella. From England we expect such 

things. ‘Quiet breakfast, quiet lunch and quiet sleep’ – that is England’s programme, 

as one of Chamberlain’s newspapers wrote in the first days of October. But France! 

As for England, the bitter resentment of the Czechs was tempered by the fact that one British 

Minister resigned, and he a man who had never particularly pleaded the cause of Czechoslovakia, a 

man from whom Czechoslovakia had no reason to expect anything. They remembered, too, that 

England had no treaty with them. They put it to England’s credit that England contributed towards a 

large tip for Czechoslovakia, before proceeding to business as usual. 

For England the thing was finished, as I wrote some months before that it would be, with a debate 

in the House, enlivened with jolly little pieces of repartee here and Shakespearean quotations there. 

Mr. Chamberlain spoke of plucking the flower safety from the nettle danger; Mr. Greenwood 

retaliated with another quotation from the same speech in which the excruciating words ‘Ho, 

Chamberlain!’ occurred; Mr. Butler, as a promising junior Minister, came back with one about 

‘Under the Greenwood tree’, and it was all very matey. 

The best one of all came from Mr. Burgin, who they say is Minister of Transport, and who found a 

perfectly delightful metaphor, on October 5th, for Czechoslovakia, ordered to be dismembered on 

September 29th. ‘If there had been a war,’ he said, ‘and Czechoslovakia had been overrun, you 

could never have put humpty-dumpty up again.’ 

I think that’s awfully funny, don’t you?, and I do hope. Mr. Burgin will remember that one when 

England’s turn comes to be confronted with the threat of overwhelming force, because I always 

think that a really good one stands telling just twice. 

For my part, I was in Belgrade when the news of Munich came through, in a gathering of Serbs, 

who had all long since foreseen it and said things about France and England that made my ears 

sting, and laughed and said, ‘Our turn next’. But one of them said a thing that shook all my ideas to 

their roots and that has been disturbing me ever since. I have continually thought of it, and never 

found an answer. 

He was a stout fellow, a patriotic Serb, which means a very great deal; he had fought in the war and 

left his health there, had been partly educated in England, retained much affection for England and 

did his best to promote feeling for England among Serbs, detested France because French soldiers, 

when he was a young Serb soldier flying through Albania from the enemy, found him hidden in a 

lifeboat, in which he hoped to stow away as far as Marseilles and then fight for France, lifted him 

out, and dropped him in a barge, so that he nearly broke a leg. 

‘If you ask me,’ he said, ‘I would sell any country, even this country, for peace.’ 

I looked at him speechless. You have to know Serbs to understand just what that means, from a 

Serb. I am still not sure if he really meant it. He seemed to. I have been puzzling over it ever since.  

*** 

 

Chapter Nineteen 

BLOCKMARKS AND BALKAN MARKETS 

I climbed one day to the top of Mount Avala, which lies about ten miles from Belgrade, and on the 

summit the Serb conscripts were finishing Ivan Mestrovitch’s black marble tomb for the Yugoslav 

Unknown Soldier. In the grandeur of its design and in its situation, this is the finest of all the war 

monuments I have ever seen, and one of the finest of all monuments that I know. 

Reflect that you have to come to the Balkans to see it and you will revise your ideas about the 

Balkans, if you still think of them as lands hopelessly backward, the home of the analphabetic 

peasant, the haunt of the friendly flea. They are putting that behind them fast. 

They have a lot of ground to make up. You still will not find in all Belgrade a moving picture 

temple in the style of ancient Babylon, a milk bar, a greyhound racecourse, a dirt track, a public 

house that closes during the morning, the afternoon, and the late evening, a queue waiting for 

theatre seats, a coronet at the opening of parliament, a case of night starvation, a publication given 

to the humour of the double bed and the double meaning, a family that has found wealth and 

happiness in the use of Soapo, a woman with purple hair, a title, or an old school tie. 

I suppose these things will come, but for the nonce Belgrade is backward. Yet you have to come to 

Belgrade to see Ivan Mestrovitch’s monument to the Yugoslav Unknown Soldier. 

The site was there, but the choice of it, and the design of the temple to surmount it, where the bare 

summit rises from the tree-clad slopes, were genius. In immeasurable vista Serbia lies spread before 

you, with the roofs of Belgrade in the middle distance. Here, in this lofty loneliness that somehow 

is not lonely, a soldier who knew that he was going to die so that his country might be free would 

be glad to rest. A remarkable thing about this remark able monument is that conscript soldiers 

hewed every block of stone, save for those that came from Ivan Mestrovitch’s own workshop, 

assembled them, built the steps, wired the torches, planted the groves of young firs round about. 

Mestrovitch himself, incidentally, is a Croat, and a most Croat-conscious Croat at that. 

I love that hilltop and that tomb, and only hope that it will retain its meaning, that Yugoslavia will 

continue free and peaceful and become a land where all its citizens will happily live, so that the 

grave on Mount Avala can become a place of glad pilgrimage for all Yugoslavs. I should he sorry if 

this lovely temple, which in some way contrives to express the courage of men and the sorrow of 

women and sacrifice and triumph, were ever to become an empty symbol, like the grave of the 

Czechoslovak Unknown Warrior, like the grave of another unknown warrior I know, like the 

Palace of the League of Nations at Geneva, shells from which the soul has fled. 

On November 11th, 1938, when I was once more far away from England, I thought of the 

ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. In 1937 I had been in London on that day and, with the 

knowledge in my mind of the things I knew to be coming in Europe, I could feel no response in my 

heart whatever to that ceremony that once had moved me, nothing but cynicism. In 1938, when 

some of those things had already begun to happen, I found it almost blasphemous. I was glad to see 

that some English newspapers had begun to give voice to this feeling, that the blah about the 

fluttering of pigeons’ wings in the silence and the muffled sobbing of women was giving way to a 

more honest and less humbugging kind of account, in which the suggestion peeped through that, as 

conditions are in 1938, we should best express respect to the million British dead by abolishing this 

commemoration of 1918. 

In the early summer of 1938 there was an earthquake somewhere in Belgium, I believe. In my 

opinion it was caused by those British dead, all turning in their graves. 

Back to Avala. When I had finished with the monument and the view I went down to the little hotel 

and on to the terrace, for it was a warm early autumn day, and there you could sit in the sun and 

take your midday meal and still divide your gaze between the temple on the summit and the great 

panorama below. 

At the hotel the German flag was flying. Nowadays I met it everywhere – on Danubian barges, on 

the rudders of aeroplanes flying over Balkan cities, on hotels where German envoys were staying. 

That strangely disquieting, Asiatic-looking swastika flag! I thought of my early days in Germany, 

when it was forbidden, of later days when it was permitted but scarcely ever seen; it was then the 

emblem of an insignificant group of adventurers, and then later still, during elections in Berlin, you 

saw one here or there among the masses of Republican and Monarchist tricolours, and then there 

were more and more, and one day there were only these swastika flags, a few in every street, and 

large gaps where the Republican and Monarchist colours had formerly flown, and then these gaps 

were filled and every house, every hut, every flat, every villa and mansion and palace and museum 

and ministry in Germany flew that flag, and now I saw it everywhere I went in Danubian and 

Balkan countries, more and more and more swastika flags, and in the course of the next year or two 

that flag is going to be planted in places which you thought yesterday, perhaps still think to-day, to 

be far beyond its reach. 

Now I found it on Mount Avala, and wondered in whose honour it was flying, as I ordered my meal 

and turned to enjoy the view. To find it here, at this tomb of a man who twenty years before had 

fought with British and French comrades to put an end to militarism and despotism in Europe, was 

disturbing; its fluttering ruffled the silence of that eyrie, its angry red broke up the peaceful 

harmony of the sky, the autumn foliage, the hushed black temple on the hilltop, the warm brown 

plain below. 

Up the hill, tramp, tramp, tramp, came the sound of marching men, and a company of Serb soldiers 

emerged from the trees, halted in the car-park beneath the terrace where I sat, and stood at ease. 

Some of the finest fighting-men in Europe. I thought sadly, as I looked at them, that no more would 

these men fight with and for us. ‘To Hell with Serbia’, shouted the obese swindler Bottomley in 

1914. ‘To Hell with Czechoslovakia’, shouted men of the same fry in 1938. Well, they were having 

their way, these prophets. The Czechs were finished – for us. The Serbs were finished – for us. 

Ten years before, an Englishman, at this spot, would have been an honoured and fated guest. To- 

day, the red carpet was run out for the Germans. How many Englishmen have been to Mount 

Avala, to pay their respect to the Yugoslav Unknown Soldier? 

Leaning against the wall, near me, was an enormous wreath, beribboned with the German colours 

and the swastika. 

Down on the plain, far away, I saw a long procession of motor cars, like tiny insects, creeping 

along the road from Belgrade. They passed out of sight behind the shoulder of the hill. A few 

minutes more of waiting, and you heard them approach. The Serb officer called his men to 

attention. One after another the sleek and shining limousines, flying the German and Yugoslav 

colours, came out of the trees. They stopped. The Serb officer shouted a command, the bayonets 

flashed in the sun as the soldiers presented arms. A man in a morning coat got out of the leading 

car, raised his arm in the Hitler salute, passed along the ranks. Behind him a deferential morning- 

coated and top-hatted throng, German diplomats, Yugoslav Ministers, officials, officers. 

He was a bejowled man of a fair corpulence. Walther Funk, Hitler’s Minister of Economics. I had 

first known him six years before, when he was a little-known journalist on the staff of a Berlin 

financial newspaper strongly Nationalist in politics. When Hitler came to power he was suddenly a 

big man, head of the Reich Government’s Press Department. Rundfunk, we had been wont to call 

him, in honour of his contours, as we had called Sahm, the gigantic Mayor of Berlin, Langsahm, in 

honour of his height. 

Now he was a very great man. Everywhere he went in the Balkans, at Belgrade, at Sofia, at Athens, 

at Ankara, they turned out the guard for him, paid him the honour due to the representative of the 

mighty Reich that was daily extending its domains and its power. 

Trade follows the flag? No, that one is old. The flag, the swastika flag, follows trade. In Germany 

they have found an entirely new system of doing business, a system which makes German foreign 

trade the handmaiden of German foreign policy, trained to promote its aim of expanding the 

German Empire. First make the small states dependent on you for their livelihoods, and their 

political dependence follows, stage by stage, as you tighten your hold. 

He was a buyer and seller on a colossal scale, this Walther Funk. He could buy up a whole harvest, 

a whole series of harvests, and give you in exchange – cash? No. Squadrons of aeroplanes, 

battalions of tanks, a factory, a strategic road. You always had the uneasy feeling, at the back of 

your mind, that there was a catch in this somewhere, that in the last analysis you were promoting 

German interests more than your own, mortgaging your house to your supplier. And you were 

right. 

The magnitude of German aims, and the way in which political policy, economic policy and 

strategic policy are all co-ordinated, like the several parts of a gigantic but smoothly-running 

machine, to serve this dominant purpose, is magnificent and terrifying. You cannot understand it by 

taking up your newspaper at the breakfast table and reading, one day, that Germany has pocketed 

more territory, the next, that she has made a trade agreement with a Balkan state, the next, that she 

is going to build a road through one of these states. You have to study it as a whole, with a big map 

before you, some understanding for military strategy, and some information about German needs 

and trade. Then you will gain a picture of men who are thinking in terms of continents and who, by 

perfect planning and timing, are realizing their aims with meticulous precision. 

Take the military and strategic position of Germany first. Eight years ago the outline of Germany 

was that of a ruined fortress, with great breaches in the walls through which the enemy could at any 

time give battle to the garrison. The largest breach was in the west; a foreign army of occupation 

stood on German soil in the Rhineland, where a part of German territory was by treaty debarred 

from fortification. Another breach in the western wall was the Saar, which was under League of 

Nations administration. In the south was a great breach where Austria, a land inhabited 

predominantly by men of German blood, lay under a Government potentially hostile to the Reich. 

In the south-east, a very big breach, the western half of Czechoslovakia bit deep into the fortress. 

By 1938 every one of those breaches had been repaired The Rhineland had been evacuated, the 

demilitarized Rhineland zone had been reoccupied, the Saar had been regained, Austria had been 

annexed, the German fringe of Czechoslovakia seized, the western front had been made 

impregnable by great fortifications, built by men working day and night whom you just took from 

their normal occupations and used to serve your paramount aims; there great rows of concrete teeth 

ran from northern to southern frontier, ready to rip open the bellies of tanks, deep marshy pits, 

covered with a layer of innocent-looking grass, waited to drown them. 

One breach remained. The western half even of rump Czechoslovakia still bit deep into the fortress. 

By agreement with the now submissive Czechoslovak Government, whose part in the agreement 

was to sign on the dotted line, you began to build a German road clean across Czechoslovakia from 

Breslau to Vienna. You calmly prolonged the frontier of the Reich across the country whose 

frontiers you had undertaken to guarantee, making the western half of that country a province 

within the Reich. You remember how Germany wailed for years about the ‘Polish Corridor’, the 

bleeding wound in Germany’s side? Consider the German corridor through Czechoslovakia. 

Now look at your map, after the last of those operations, and see how the first part of the great 

strategic scheme has been completed, with time-table punctuality. Your Reich is now a fortress 

without any gaps, its frontiers – its walls – are practically square at all points of the compass. The 

last chink in her armour has been closed, she is impregnable within those mended, four-square 

walls. 

The time for the sortie approaches, for the conquest of the land lying outside those invulnerable 

walls. The countries around fear that sortie. Especially the small countries lying to the east, who 

know that they have all the things Germany cannot grow within her fortress walls, the things she 

needs to be in certain possession of before she approaches the greatest aim of all, the subjugation of 

her greater rivals, the paramount powers in the world. 

Hungary and Poland, while she was carving up the western half of Czechoslovakia, tried to close 

ranks, to divide the eastern half between them, to put a barrier against her eastward drive. They 

failed. She kept a narrow corridor of land open there, pointing south-eastward. There is the sally 

port, from which she may reduce Poland, Hungary and Rumania to submission, and Rumania has 

the thing she wants most of all – oil. Motor fuel for her tanks, her aeroplanes, her mechanized 

batteries, her lorries. Relatively few are the Germans in Rumania; she can hardly invoke the call of 

the blood, the need to liberate them. But oil is thicker than blood, a quite especial juice. 

Consider this brief outline of events, with a map, and you will see history taking shape before you, 

not as a thing of sudden and baffling and recurrent surprises in your morning newspaper, but as the 

organic development of a great plan, stupendous in its conception and as yet superb in its 

execution. You can do a great deal when you have the power, by pressing a button, to take a million 

men from their daily occupations and put them to building fortifications, when you can press 

another button and have thousands of newspapers, thousands, of radio speakers, thousands of 

picture-theatres, all shouting the same thing, when you can by pressing a third button divert 

millions of pounds of trade to some particular country which you wish to make dependent on you. 

Yet it is entirely wrong to think that you can only do these things under a dictatorship, and not 

under a democracy. The greatness of Hitler is not his own greatness, it is the sum of the littleness of 

the men who have opposed him. 

In England, under democracy, you do not put experts in charge of your affairs, but distribute your 

favours among men of a small class without especial qualification for the posts they receive. This is 

the misuse of democracy in the interest of a class, the betrayal of democracy, and it is the cause of 

our woes, past, present and to come. The enthusiasm, the energy and the ability are there, but you 

do not use them, you delude and misuse them. 

Dictatorship is not necessary to choose for urgent national tasks men who are especially competent 

to achieve them. In Germany every major post is occupied by an expert. Goering knows a great 

deal about soldiering and aeroplanes; he was perfectly equipped to fulfil Hitler’s order to ‘build me 

the greatest air force of all time’. 

Todt, the Reich Inspector-General for Road-Construction, is the Vauban of National Socialist 

Germany; as a great expert he was perfectly qualified to build the great network of motor-roads 

which are the arteries of Germany’s strategic plans, to supervise and carry out that stupendous 

operation of 1938, the building of the western fortifications. 

Goebbels knows more about propaganda than any man living; he believes that Germany lost the 

last war through maladroit propaganda, is determined this time to outshout the others in the 

accusations of atrocities, of women-raping and nigger-beating, of Hunnishness and Vandalism. He 

has already achieved this: that British journalists are working under censorship while German 

journalists can write the most scurrilous things they choose about England, that the German Press at 

this moment is carrying on the most violent, campaign of vilification against England that has ever 

been known, while British Ministers try little niggling dodges to placate him, like telephoning to 

the American Minister to have Wickham Steed and A. J. Cummings deleted from a newsreel film. 

Robert Ley was a workman and knows the mind of workmen perfectly; what Conservative Minister 

ever came from Shoreditch or worked in a factory?, what old-school-tie politician could have built 

up anything to compare with that great leisure-time and holiday organization for workers, Kraft 

durch Freude, which is the achievement of Ley? 

You do not need dictatorship to do these things. That is the politician’s get-out, and the get-out of 

the politician who fears public resentment of the mistakes that have been made, but has no will to 

mend them. 

You need the will, and a feeling for the poorest of your fellow-men, and determination to improve 

their lot. How can you ever get anything done if the primary qualification for office is membership 

of the peerage, education at this school or that university, inter-relationship and the established 

privileges of a small class? 

This system is the rape of democracy, not its honouring. 

But now consider the third handmaiden of German policy. The first two are military strength and 

foreign policy. The third is economic policy, and another expert, Walther Funk, is in charge of it. 

The Reich, shorn of gold, shunned by foreign lenders and investors, cannot earn enough foreign 

money through the sale of its goods and services abroad to pay cash for the things it needs abroad, 

and has in great part gone over from cash-trading to barter. That, at least, is the theory of the 

economists, and for all I know it may be true. 

The inference is that the process was not intentional, but unavoidable, and I wonder, in view of the 

vast political importance for the Reich of this barter system, whether this is so. I am certain that the 

Reich has a gold reserve somewhere, ‘for an emergency’, as they say in England, and in Germany, 

however distressing the state of the country to a distant economist buried in columns of statistics, 

money seems to flow more freely for urgently necessary things than in many other countries. 

‘Sound finance’, as I have seen it operate in England, Austria, Hungary and other countries, is a 

thing to be regarded with the deepest distrust. Wherever I have seen it, it meant a beautiful paper 

budget, with a balance that warmed your heart, stacks of gold buried deep in the vaults of the 

national bank, cash passing freely to and fro across the frontiers (especially in ’emergencies’, when 

some of it passes backwards and forwards between London and New York and Zürich and Paris 

and Amsterdam with the speed of a hunted fox seeking safety), millions of unemployed, beggars in 

the streets, and slums. 

The finances of the Reich, I believe, are deplorably unsound; they can’t even afford the beggars, the 

slums and the unemployed. 

This again is not the fault or virtue of democracy or dictatorship. It lies with the men who rule, who 

have grown up in a tradition that they are too old, too indolent or too callous to change. In 

Switzerland and Holland, in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, under democracy, you have well- 

ordered and well-balanced communities, a decent standard of living, good housing and public 

health organizations. 

Do you really imagine that democratic and parliamentary England would rise as one man and rush 

to the barricades to overthrow a Government that asked for authority to take gigantic measures 

against unemployment, undernourishment, lack of air and sunshine, the slums and derelict areas, 

public ill-health, bad teeth, adenoids, the disfigurement of the countryside, and British institutions 

generally? 

But I mean gigantic measures. Not, for God’s sake, another committee. 

The economic policy of the Reich is to make certain that Germany, in a future war, cannot be 

defeated on her home front, that is, by inability to obtain the essential things she needs to prosecute 

the war. The theory of Hitler, the theory that has now found acceptance in Germany, is that the 

Reich was not defeated in the field in the last war, but through starvation in foodstuffs and raw 

materials which she could only get from abroad and which were intercepted from reaching her by 

the British naval blockade. She is determined that that shall not happen again. She began, 

immediately after that war, to increase the area under grain, and has become almost self-supporting 

in some of the things she needs. 

But she can never produce, within those fortress walls, all the things she needs if she is not to be 

starved out. The countries east and south-east of her have them nearly all – oil, grain, animal fats, 

livestock, ores, raw materials. That is why German foreign, military and economic policy all bear, 

for the present, towards Danubian and Balkan Europe. 

Early in the process of transition from cash to barter she turned towards these countries, Hungary, 

Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey. She began to buy vast quantities of their products. 

She did not pay cash for them, or for more than a small part of them. The purchase price remained 

in Berlin, in blocked marks which could only be used to buy German manufactures. 

Finance Ministers in all these countries grew nervous as the frozen balances in Berlin swelled and 

swelled. They introduced import licence systems. Their importers might import nothing from 

abroad without a licence, and the licence, more and more, was granted only for German 

manufactures, so that the Finance Minister might have a respite from the thought of that alarmingly 

large balance of blocked marks in Berlin. But Germany increased and increased her purchases. The 

Finance Ministers had to increase and increase the number of licences for imports from Germany 

which they distributed, and correspondingly to reduce and reduce the number of licences for 

imports from other countries. 

The Danubian and Balkan countries did not much care for this system. They would have preferred 

to receive cash, which they could use as they wished – for instance, to finance new industries, for 

all these countries pine to catch up with the West, get away from field-tilling and make their own 

machines, their own bathtubs, their own bicycles, their own silk stockings. 

But they had no choice. They were already the prisoners of a most astute economic scheme. They 

were being forced to remain peasant countries, to grow food for Germany and to take from 

Germany, in exchange, the things that German workmen made. They were already moving again 

on the road to alien domination, to political dependence, to vassalage. Their lands were to serve as 

granaries and larders and fuel-tanks for the mighty militarist Reich, their sons as hewers of wood 

and drawers of water for her. The Treaty of Bucharest, which would have given the Rumanians that 

status in perpetuity, but that Germany was afterwards defeated, loomed up again on the horizon. 

Thus began that beautiful process which you can see in operation to-day anywhere you choose to 

go on the Danube – at Vienna, at Budapest, at Belgrade, anywhere. Upstream labour the barge 

convoys, laden to the waterline with grain for Germany, the swastika flag fluttering at the mast. 

Downstream come more swiftly the other barge convoys, laden with German tractors and 

machinery for the Danubian and Balkan states. On the quayside you will see the German motor 

cars and lorries and manufactures of all kinds, unloaded from the barges, waiting to be delivered to 

the German agent. 

It is, say the Germans, the most natural and perfect process in the world. Germany is one of the 

greatest manufacturing countries in the world, the Danubian and Balkan states are predominantly 

agricultural, the blue Danube links them all on its journey between the Black Forest and the Black 

Sea, each can supply what the other needs, each wants what the other can supply. It is the 

reconstruction of that almost perfect economic unit, the Austro-Hungarian Empire – save that 

Austria is now Germany. 

A difficult argument to refute! But at the end of the process lies, once more, political dependence, 

the loss of national freedom, for the small states, the destruction of the last gain of the World War. 

When I saw Walther Funk that day, followed by the obsequious throng, Yugoslavia was taking 

about fifty per cent of all her imports from Germany and sending about thirty-five per cent of all 

her exports to Germany. Approximately similar figures, with a small margin either way, hold good 

for Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey; Rumania has lagged a little but will soon be brought 

into line. 

These proportions will increase until Germany holds almost a monopoly of Danubian and Balkan 

trade. A great give-and-take economic unit is being built within which customs barriers, ultimately, 

will inevitably fall. You will have your great German Customs Empire, and this will become a 

Political and Military Empire. The power of applying pressure that Germany has is becoming 

irresistible. 

Soon the whole Danube will be under German rule. At present it is an international river, 

navigation on it controlled by an International Commission which is one of the last wan children of 

the Peace Treaty. Before the subjugation of Czechoslovakia Germany proposed to the Danubian 

states – Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Rumania – that they should leave the 

International Commission and form, with her, a ‘purely Danubian Commission’. This meant that 

England and France would have their seats on it deftly taken from beneath them, that in effect a 

‘purely German Commission’ would reign on the Danube, since the small Danubian states, with 

Germany at the head of the table, would have no other function than to sign their names on the 

dotted line. At that time Czechoslovakia, besieged but unsubdued, refused, and that let out the other 

Danubian states, which much preferred the International Commission. Came Munich, and they can 

refuse no longer. 

In the background looms that other gigantic scheme, which defeated Charlemagne and Napoleon 

but which the Hitlerist Reich is quickly accomplishing – the Rhine-Danube canal. Germany will be 

master of a great waterway reaching from the North Sea to the Black Sea. 

Already the note of authority may be heard in Germany’s injunctions to the Danubian states. In the 

summer of 1938 England, in the usual belated effort to catch the disappearing bus, set up the usual 

committee to study means of increasing trade with the Danubian and Balkan states. In all the 

Danubian and Balkan capitals German Ministers appeared at the Foreign Offices and stated 

trenchantly that any ostentatious diversion of trade to England would be considered an unfriendly 

act towards Germany. Nothing more was heard of the committee. In London, by the autumn, the 

official voice was proclaiming benignly that England had no wish to bolt the door against German 

trade in Danubian Europe. 

Bolt the door? Just you try bolting that door. Of all the fatuous phrases. This is the kind of talk with 

which the great British public is continually and continually bamboozled. How can you bolt the 

Danubian door against a country which already holds half or more than half of Danubian trade in 

its hands? The point is, that you should try to prevent the door from being bolted against yourself, 

that you should try and keep what little trade you have there, that you should not allow yourself to 

be quite squeezed out. What, in the name of import and export, does your Prime Minister mean 

when he says, ‘We have no wish to exclude Germany from these countries or economically to 

encircle her’. 

This is as if the man who owns the little sweet-shop near Selfridge’s were to say to Mr. Gordori 

Selfridge, ‘Sir, be of good cheer, I have no wish to exclude you or economically to encircle you’. 

The point is that British traders cannot compete in the Danubian and Balkan countries, can no 

longer get the small share of trade they used to have, because the methods used by Germany make 

competition impossible. Not German trade, but British trade, is being squeezed out. It is not very 

big, but it all tells. Just as the British newspaper correspondents are having to give up the contest, 

so are British business men in these countries wondering where they can move to next, so are the 

Commercial Secretaries at British Legations shaking despondent heads and making despondent 

reports, so are the British representatives on international commissions casting about for a new 

career, like the League officials at Geneva. These are all Englishmen, and this is only the beginning 

of a process. 

One day, in the House of Commons, Mr. R. S. Hudson, of your Department of Overseas Trade, 

said:  

Germany was not discriminating against British goods in Germany. Our complaint 

was that Germany was by her methods destroying trade throughout the world. 

That is much nearer to the truth than:  

We have no wish to bolt the door against German trade. 

Proceeding, Mr. Hudson said:  

It is difficult to get exact information of the way things are done, but in Central and 

South-Eastern Europe the basis of Germany’s hold is that they pay to the producer 

much more than the world price. They obviously do that at the expense of their own 

people. It is a matter for the German Government how they treat their own people, 

but it does affect us. 

Germans, in their country, are not less well cared for than English people in theirs, but better. 

The Germans, said Mr. Hudson, were paying over £10 a ton for wheat at a time when Manitoba 

wheat, No. 1, was selling at £7 on the London market. The same thing applied to barley, eggs, 

wool, cotton, hides meat, poultry, oilseeds and cereals. Owing to this action the exports of mohair 

from Turkey to England had decreased from £190,000 to £24,000. The Rumanian or Bulgarian 

peasant received more for his sales to Germany than he would receive as a result of his sales on the 

world market. 

That is true, and the Rumanian or Bulgarian peasant is indifferent whether he receives his ley or 

levas direct from the foreign buyer or from his own Government, whether the ultimate result is that 

his Government becomes politically subordinate to Germany. He has more cash in his pocket. 

Germany, said Mr. Hudson, had contracted to buy Polish harvests ‘for nine years‘ – for nine years, 

in advance – at well above world prices. Poland obtained her goods on credit and paid a low rate of 

interest.  

By these methods Germany is obtaining an economic stranglehold on these various 

countries at the cost of her own people, raising the cost of living of her own people, 

and exporting her goods at less than cost price. 

‘An economic stranglehold over these countries.’ 

That is true. The remainder of the sentence is of debatable truth. It depends on your basis of 

comparison. Germany has few unemployed, no slums in our understanding of the word, no need for 

an ‘Access to Mountains Bill’, no chronic under-nutrition of children. Germany may be raising the 

cost of living’ for her people by ‘these methods’, but what of the standard of living, in the things that 

really matter? That is the point. 

Not the price that the people have to pay for a suit of clothes or a joint of meat is decisive, or not 

alone that. Can they have health, and good houses, and sunshine and light and air, and access to the 

countryside? These are the essential things. 

Then, Mr. Hudson asked, what was the solution, what should England do about it?  

No one wants to introduce similar methods. We do not want to see the cost of bread 

increased in England because we buy in competition with Germany wheat from 

Rumania at over the world price. But clearly we have to meet this competition in 

the case of Poland, and the Government has made a survey of all the possible 

methods. The only way the Government sees is by organizing our industries in such 

a way that they will be able to speak as units with their opposite numbers in 

Germany and say, ‘Unless you are prepared to put an end to this form of 

competition and come to an agreement on market prices which represent a 

reasonable return, then we will fight you and beat you at your own game’. 

That is not an answer, unless you improve the conditions of your workpeople. It is not enough to 

say that you will at all costs defend the profits of your manufacturers – unless you are 

simultaneously prepared to raise the standard of living of your workpeople.  

Clearly [said Mr. Hudson] this country is infinitely stronger than, I was going to 

say, any country, but certainly Germany. Therefore we have a great advantage, 

which would result in our winning the fight. 

At last, at long last, and after so many years of warnings, the danger seems to have been realized. 

But you will have to gird your loins as you never did before, if you are really going to win this 

fight. You are faced with a country immensely strong in arms and immensely strong in real wealth – 

not gold bars in the vault of the national bank, but industry, agriculture, the thrift and energy of the 

workpeople, and the conditions of life they enjoy. 

In Germany now they have a mighty organization, equipped with full powers, for improving the lot 

of the workpeople in factories and workshops. Their engineers and social workers and artists go 

into the factories and see what needs to be done. They say that a shower-room, a recreation room, a 

restaurant, a medical clinic, a dental clinic, is needed – and these are provided. They have a civic 

sense, a social conscience, a feeling of the community of German mankind – in spite of their bestial 

concentration camps – which you lack. 

I have just been reading how Dr. Goebbels one November day made a tour of the meanest streets in 

Berlin, those streets in East Berlin which lie round what used to be called the Bülow Platz and is 

now the Horst Wessel Platz. Here you have the nearest approach to an English slum or derelict 

area, mean houses with two or three courtyards, and the dwellings become progressively dirtier and 

darker as you go from courtyard to courtyard. 

Here he went from one poor home to another. In one he found damp and mildewed walls and said 

things about house owners which will set the house owners in that district painting and repairing as 

quickly as they can. In another he ordered that a new dwelling should immediately be provided for 

a man, his wife, and three children who were living in three rooms, and so on. 

It is propaganda. Dr. Goebbels is not beloved in Germany. But this is good propaganda. You do not 

even need a dictatorship to do it. Any British Minister with energy could do it, could direct public 

attention to housing conditions in a manner that would compel bad landlords to make the places 

they let habitable for man. 

The note of authority was distinct to hear in some remarks of Walther Funk at that time in 

Belgrade.  

It is important that the strengthening of German-Yugoslav economic relations 

should allow the increase of Yugoslav production, especially when Yugoslavia has 

completed the construction of her network of modern roads. Our economic relations 

will make possible not only the construction of these modern roads but the intensive 

exploitation of your mineral riches. 

That means: 

I came down here by car and your roads are really terrible and it’s about time that our Inspector 

General of Road-Construction, Todt, who has a clear strategic mind, was called in to give you some 

tips about road-building – he’s going to build one in Czechoslovakia soon – and after that we shall 

be glad to mine your ores for you.  

My visit to Yugoslavia [said Walther Funk that day] has no political ends. But one 

thing is clear – that economic policy cannot be separated from general policy. On 

the contrary, economic policy must adapt itself to general policy. Our economic 

programme comprises the augmentation of Yugoslav production and of that of all 

the countries of south-eastern Europe. These countries constitute the best market for 

German products. The economic structure of Germany and of these countries 

complement each other … We can guarantee good prices for the agricultural 

products of these countries. What is the use of devisen – [cash in payment, instead 

of blocked marks] – what is the use of buying power if the peasant cannot place his 

products? … We do not wish to force our ideas on the world, but we wish to give it 

a useful example. I am convinced that other countries will apply our methods and 

that general pacification in this part of Europe will thus be facilitated … World 

crises do not affect our commerce. We have freed ourselves from the influence of 

world economy, we are independent. We don’t take much account of devisen

money and credit. If labour and production are well organized, the prosperity of the 

people is assured. 

Your job is to increase your agricultural production. We will take it from you, build roads for you 

in exchange, exploit your mineral resources. Don’t pine after cash, you know your peasant only 

wants dinars, and doesn’t mind whether he gets them from his own Government or from Germany, 

if only the price is good. It is your job to make your importers take as many of our manufactures as 

possible, so that you can quickly and smoothly pay your peasant exporters. Your best course would 

be to introduce our methods. Then you will have tranquillity in these parts and all will be well. We 

are your biggest customers, and the biggest customer always has a word to say in the running of the 

concern. 

The note of authority! 

Walther Funk went down the hill again, while the soldiers presented arms. A few days later I went 

to seek solitude on Mount Avala once more. Again the German flag was flying there. Again the 

beribboned wreath lay waiting. Again the procession of motor-cars. 

Robert Ley got out, greeted and saluted, went up the steps, with the deferential throng behind him, 

to pay homage to the Yugoslav Unknown Soldier. He had a large staff of specialists with him: he 

was on his way to Sofia to tell the Bulgars all about Kraft durch Freude. 

I went down the hill pining for somebody in authority in England to awaken to the existence of the 

Balkans. But here, too, I fear we have lost too much ground.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty 

NATURE OF THE BEAST 

One day, just before the annexation of Austria, I walked through the Minoritenplatz in Vienna and 

saw Dettlevsohn, of whom I have already spoken, standing on the pavement. He did not see me and 

I did not attract his attention. I wanted to study him, quietly. 

He seemed bigger, broader, burlier, as if he had been puffed out with a bicycle pump. He had, 

indeed, put on weight, but that was not the only reason for the change. His inner man had grown in 

girth and stature. He felt himself, Dettlevsohn the German, to belong to the strong, who inherit the 

earth. His chest was expanding, his manner becoming more arrogant, his voice louder. As a 

German, in Vienna, soon to welcome Hitler, he was lord of all he surveyed, and his whole bearing 

proclaimed this. 

This change of spirit has been general among Germans in the last two or three years, but 

Dettlevsohn is a particularly interesting example of it and I have chosen him because, in 

contemplating him, you will see and understand that inner transformation, which is so important for 

yourself, more clearly. 

Dettlevsohn had known many ups and downs in his life; not long before, he had even been a 

fugitive, always looking over his shoulder; he had never expected in 1938 to find himself back on 

the summit of German self-esteem and self-confidence, filling his lungs with the good air that is 

there. I marvelled as I watched him standing there in the Minoritenplatz in his new overcoat and 

hat, broad-chested, prosperous, pugnacious, restored, at peace with the world. 

He is a very witty and intelligent fellow, and I had always liked him for these qualities, but when 

the Potsdam tone began to appear again in his careful English, the boastful and arrogant note, I felt 

a gulf widening between us. 

Before the World War Dettlevsohn had lived for many years in the East, say in India, among 

Englishmen, and had prospered exceedingly. He had learned to speak English perfectly and could 

pass as an Englishman. He seemed, when I first knew him, even to have acquired the ways and 

manners of Englishmen; only later did I perceive that he had not acquired them but only put them 

on. 

When the war broke out he was interned, his property confiscated. After the war he returned to a 

chaotic Germany. He got into politics, and on June 30th, 1934, the day of the great clean-up, was 

just on the wrong side, so that he narrowly escaped with his life, and for long enough lived in 

Vienna, looking always over his shoulder. Then, somehow, he made his peace with the pursuers. 

Now he was able to await the coming of Hitler to Austria with a quiet mind and the triumphant 

feelings of an average German. 

Just before Austria fell he described to me, in words that I shall never forget, the changes that had 

taken place in him in those twenty-five years. ‘Before the war, in India,’ he said, ‘I used to wonder 

whether I wouldn’t become a naturalized Englishman. After the war, when Germany was defeated 

and I had lost everything, I bitterly regretted that I hadn’t done this. Now, I’m proud to be a 

German, proud to be a German.’ 

And well he might be, I thought, and what would an Englishman say to himself, if he looked back 

along those twenty-five years? 

This same transformation I meet to-day everywhere, among Germans whom I knew in Berlin or 

elsewhere between 1928 and 1935. Men who then were friendly, modest and plaintive, envious but 

respectful towards England and Englishmen, are to-day cock-a-hoop, self-confident, brisker and 

louder-voiced, contemptuous of England. They may still be friendly, but already patronage is in 

their bearing. So it was true after all, they think, what Hitler always told us and what we never 

dared to believe, that strength is the one argument that England understands. Still almost 

incredulous, they contemplate the muddle and social backwardness in England, victorious, mighty 

and rich, and the thought grows in their minds: ‘And this country thinks it can rule the world?’ Their 

chests expand. 

In the Danubian and Balkan countries, in Prague and Budapest and Belgrade and Bucharest and 

Sofia and Athens, the change is astonishing. The German Legation, the German Travel Bureau, are 

the suns around which the social life of these cities revolves, the sources from which all blessings 

flow. Packed with councillors and secretaries and military attachés and air attachés and naval 

attachés, they are hives of bee-like activity. 

They spend money like water on entertainment, on exhibitions, on lectures, on propaganda in all its 

forms. German business men throng the hotels. The local Führer, the head of the Nazi organization, 

is one of the biggest men in the place. German Ministers, German specialists, continually come and 

go. The native officials spend half their time at or telephoning to the German Legation. The local 

Fascist parties regard it as their spiritual home. Support is always available for local friends of 

National Socialism. 

The British Legations, and the French, have become quiet and cloistered retreats with few visitors 

and little to do. Kings and Prime Ministers used to go to them for advice, they used to be better 

informed than any other. Now they often hunger vainly for information, they have to learn from the 

radio or the newspapers that the Prime Minister has suddenly gone by aeroplane to discuss affairs 

of State with Herr Hitler at Berchtesgaden, the Bavarian châlet from which Danubian Europe is 

ruled to-day. 

The numbers of British business men and the volume of business they do continually diminish. 

They will diminish still further. The German method, of buying ever-increasing quantities of 

foodstuffs and minerals from these states and liberating the Reichsmarks they earn only for the 

purchase of German manufactures, freezes the British exporter out. The process will continue. 

For British trade, in my view, this is an injury far greater than on paper it appears to be when the 

relatively small volume of British business with these countries is considered, for these are young 

and rapidly growing markets, hungry for foreign manufactures, and in a freely trading world their 

appetite for British goods would be very great. 

My own profession, which I know best, gives a good example of the trend. In all the Balkan 

countries there are not more than two or three professional British newspaper correspondents. They 

cannot work there. There should be several of these men in each capital, but they cannot work. If 

they wish to stay, they must transmit only official hand-outs. The slightest attempt freely to depict 

for-and-against currents in the domestic or foreign policy of that particular country brings 

expulsion. They can count on no support from the British Government or any other quarter. 

Without any specific charge whatever, their livelihoods can be wrecked, their homes broken up at a 

moment’s notice. Just ‘out you go, within forty-eight hours’, and that’s that. They may be given an 

official report which describes a protest meeting of bishops, priests and churchgoers as ‘a 

Communist demonstration’. If they suggest, in their dispatches, that this is a wrong description, out 

they go. 

This process began in Germany, under National Socialism, and has now extended to many other 

countries. In all these years, if I remember rightly, while one British correspondent after another 

was being expelled from Germany, only one real German correspondent, the London representative 

of the Nazi Völkischer Beobachter, was expelled from England, and unless the initials that appear 

under some of the London messages in that newspaper to-day are misleading, he has been allowed 

to return. 

But in each of the Balkan capitals there are ten, twenty or thirty professional German newspaper 

correspondents. They are well-paid and well-situated men, closely organized in their local 

association, which in its turn works in the closest collaboration with the German Legation; they 

write freely and do not hesitate to criticize the local government if tendencies unsympathetic to 

Germany reveal themselves. None of the Balkan Governments would dare, save in some very 

serious case, to expel any of these German newspaper correspondents. The German Minister would 

be at the local Foreign Office in five minutes if they did. 

British newspaper correspondents, lacking all support from home, are in effect coming to feel 

themselves, as I wrote once before, in the position of spies – people you must have, but from whom 

you turn your face if they are in trouble. 

You cannot expect men to go out to remote countries, as Englishmen used to do, to establish 

themselves there and apply themselves for years to the study of the country, its people, its, policy, 

its customs and its language, for meagre pay in such conditions. 

A classic instance was the expulsion from Belgrade of Hubert Harrison, after many years of 

residence there and after the recent award of a Yugoslav order, on the general ground that his 

reporting was unsympathetic to the government of the day. 

Here you have some of the reasons for the decline of British prestige in these distant countries, 

which may be small and poor but are strategically, politically and economically of importance. 

But while John Smith packs his bags, gives up his flat, and casts about for a new livelihood 

somewhere else, Johann Schmidt, busy, efficient, important, with the whole might of the Reich at 

his back, arrives at the station and takes possession.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty One 

OUT OF JOINT 

Suddenly, one day, I cabled my resignation to The Times. I had been slowly forming this intention 

for long enough, but sometimes my mind delays in making itself up, and in this case a big decision 

was at stake and extraneous things happened to complicate the issue. 

When I was writing Insanity Fair in 1937 I foresaw that it might alter my future, that instead of 

sitting tight on a comfortable post, acquired by many years of hard work, and looking forward to a 

pension, I might have to start again. On the other hand, a small possibility existed that the book 

would bring me substantial earnings which would partly compensate me for this risk. 

I wrote the book, which I felt I had to write, and the things I said in it came true, and it was read by 

many people and seemed to stir some. A clergyman, as one reader wrote to tell me, enjoined his 

congregation from the pulpit to read it, and that left me thinking que diable fais-je dans cette 

galère? As a warning it was either too late, or no warning can avail, or no warning is needed. A 

policy of ostrichism continued to be pursued which left London, in the autumn of 1938, an almost 

defenceless city of eight million people faced with the greatest catastrophe in European history; on 

the Continental mainland a vitally important small nation was thrown to the wolves; the process of 

deterioration in the standards of justice and humanity and decency continued at an accelerated pace, 

and England herself moved nearer to the loss of territory, probably under humiliating conditions. 

From that point of view, I might as well not have written the book. But, from the other point of 

view, that of earning enough money to keep me going for some little time if I had to start again 

from scratch, it promised well, when a stroke of bad luck befell me, something outside all the risk- 

calculations I had made. In America, where it was also finding favour, the publisher went bankrupt, 

and it seemed that, while my earnings receded into the distance, I was still bound to him for future 

books. 

Eventually that tangle was cleared up, but it took a long time, and this delayed me from doing what 

I wanted to do. As soon as I could see my way a little clear I took the plunge. 

It was a plunge, for I had been seventeen years with The Times, fourteen of them a member of the 

editorial staff, eleven years a correspondent in many parts of Europe. I had to live. There was even, 

for those who set store by such things, the consideration of pension rights. 

It was all one to me. The review of Insanity Fair in The Times treated a correspondent of long 

experience in Continental Europe as an overwrought babbler, found truth in the statement, in 

another book, that the idea of Hitler’s annexation of Austria was ‘a bogy of the English 

imagination’, and recommended me to retire to the country and read it, and from that moment I felt 

that I ought to leave The Times and was determined at the first opportunity to do so. That 

bankruptcy delayed me. 

Now, when I took from the hotel porter in Belgrade the letter containing the acceptance of my 

resignation, I felt like a man reborn. I was free to start again. With the hilarious feeling that new 

adventures and new struggles lay before me I went out and spent a happy evening in the restaurants 

and cafés of Belgrade. 

Don’t be the slave of that Job. When you feel it to be an intolerable servitude, give it up. The future 

will be full of disasters, but they will never happen. You will be the better for a change. You will be 

better still if you break free from jobs altogether and work for yourself. Far too many Englishmen 

work for other people and not for themselves. The strength of the Jews is that they realize that you 

can never find riches by working for other people. There are other things, more valuable than 

riches, that you can only find when you work for yourself. 

You ought at all costs to set up on your own, somehow. I was slow enough to realize this, and see 

now that I missed many earlier opportunities. I cannot regret it, because I contrived nevertheless to 

have a great time, but I do see how vitally important it is. It is appalling to think of the millions of 

slaves confined in the great galley London, all pulling monotonously on the oars of the job, coming 

into town each day to make entries in books that are the counterparts of other entries that other men 

make in other books, working long hours for a pittance which could not be much less, however bad 

the luck, if they were to try something on their own. 

A man feels quite different when he’s his own master; if he could only be his own mistress as well, 

life would be quite perfect. 

This dependence on the job saps men’s self-esteem. It would be different if you had rigid laws of 

employment, of dismissal, of pension, fixed by the State and binding for the employer. It is 

intolerable in the free-fox-in-the-free-henroost system, which binds men in servitude to the detested 

job from fear of that awful thing, the Sack. I can’t imagine why we set such store on the Empire, 

and don’t want anyone else to have it, when we are apparently incapable of curing these conditions 

in England. 

But these are random ruminations, marginal notes. I was speaking of The Times

Before the Great War The Times did what really seems, in the light of subsequent events, to have 

been a national service by continually focusing English attention on the war spirit that was being 

fostered in Germany and by calling for the necessary measures of self-defence to be taken in 

England. The then Berlin correspondent of The Times, Valentine Chirol, and his assistant Saunders, 

were men of great experience and knowledge and saw what was coming with a clear eye. After the 

war Chirol had the satisfaction of finding in a book of official German documents, I think, a pre- 

war memorandum saying that the men who were dangerous to Germany were the men ‘who really 

know us, like Chirol’. 

The moles were always at work against Chirol, just as twenty-five years later they worked against 

Norman Ebbutt. Kaiser Wilhelm, if I remember rightly, hinted to King Edward VII that Chirol’s 

removal from Berlin would be welcome. In those days British Governments protected British 

citizens abroad. Twenty-five years later the Berlin correspondent of The Times, Ebbutt, could be 

thrown out like a dog, without any charge being made against him, and all that happened was that ‘a 

deplorable impression’ was said to have been made on the British Government. 

Since then British Governments have spent much time deploring this and that, especially in 

deploring ‘the methods used’ in Abyssinia and China and Spain and Austria and Czechoslovakia, 

indeed so much deploring is done that I should think a Wailing Wall might be built for the purpose 

in Whitehall, but all this deploring doesn’t help either British correspondents abroad or small 

nations, and if these tears are inevitable I should think you might employ a tame crocodile to shed 

them. 

The consistency of The Times, before the last war, in calling attention to the danger that threatened 

England from Germany possibly did not do a great deal of good, for England was as unready as she 

could be when the war broke out and only survived destruction in it by the skin of her teeth. But 

this, as it seems to me, was due to the system of government in England, by which the sweets of 

office continually circulate among a very small class of people who have no outstanding 

qualifications but have a claim to high employment through membership of a sort of intangible but 

exclusive club, the conditions for admittance to which are not merit, but birth, money, inter- 

relationship, common interest, titles, and education at one of a few ring-fenced schools and 

universities. 

You cannot exclude the masses of the people from the government of the country and still have 

government in the interests of all; you cannot expect from such a system energy and a social 

conscience, but only indolence and decay, and the English scene to-day, with nearly two millions of 

unemployed, with slums and derelict areas that for soul-killing squalor have hardly their like in the 

world, is the proof of this. 

The lessons of the war, of the Somme and Passchendaele, have been forgotten. The opening of 

Parliament, to judge from your picture papers is a kind of mannequin parade of diademed 

dowagers; where, in these weird pageants, are the masses of England? Now that a new world war 

seems to be threatening, you are beginning it with a class war. The Women’s Auxiliary Territorial 

Service, one of those home-front formations which you are organizing ‘for an emergency’, is to be 

officered almost exclusively by women from the exclusive club, on the principle that ‘the right type 

of girl will more readily enlist under a woman of social position than one, however capable, of 

middle class or working-class origin’. 

Do you hear it? Do you remember its forerunner: ‘The British soldier will follow a Public School 

Man into hell, but not a ranker wallah’. Do you remember Raymond Asquith, writing from the 

trenches in the last war: ‘If you look at the honours lists it is always the same story: the Dukes have 

proved to be the bravest men of all, and after them the Marquesses’. 

‘However capable!’ Out upon your capable middle-class women, your capable working-class 

women. Gangway for the Duchesses! Of the sixty County Commandants of your Women 

Territorials, the petticoat generals, twenty-six are titled, many others are from titled families. You 

can imagine where this force will stand if Fascism is coming in England. 

But back to The Times. Before the last war The Times did this great service of informing its readers 

about the motives and aims of Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany. In those days it was owned by the John 

Walters, the family of professional newspaper publishers which had founded the paper nearly 150 

years before and had built its unique renown. During a period of financial stress the majority of the 

shares passed into the hands of Lord Northcliffe and The Times became, with nearly all other 

English newspapers, the mouthpiece of a millionaire. Afterwards the controlling interest passed to 

Major J. J. Astor, whose brother, Lord Astor, controls the leading Sunday political organ, the 

Observer

The power of the Press is a most debatable quality. I myself am in doubt about the power it wields. 

Its power in Germany is very great, not because of what it reveals, but because of what it conceals. 

In England, apart from the deification of the white tie, the diadem, the Mayfair wedding, the 

debutante, and the studious overlooking of the slums, which seem to be common to nearly all 

newspapers, you get every point of view presented to you, and I should imagine the clamour for 

and against cancels itself out and leaves the average man free to make up his own mind. 

But The Times is an exception. Relatively little read in England, it holds a unique position among 

the newspapers of the world. It is more attentively studied in foreign countries than any other 

newspaper. It is, in its own assertion, an independent Conservative organ. This means that it is not 

the submissive mouthpiece of Conservative Governments. 

It is not that. In my experience, it is something more important. In the last six years, since Hitler 

came to power, the foreign policy it has advocated has often been different from the official foreign 

policy of Conservative (or, if you take the word seriously, National) Governments. 

But in the event the Conservative Government has always done the things The Times advocated. 

Either Conservative Governments deliberately mislead you about foreign policy, feeling that you 

will not give them support if you are openly told what the real intention is and that in a moment of 

crisis you can, by playing the three card trick with your nerves, your fears and your emotions, be 

induced thankfully to accept some major action in international affairs entirely contrary to that 

professed, official foreign policy. Or The Times sees farther than the Government and knows that 

when the crisis comes the Government will be forced to do the things The Times has advocated. 

So read The Times if you wish to know what is actually going to happen, what a Conservative 

Government will do when the crisis comes. 

I can give you two good examples, in recent history, affecting the fate of Austria and of 

Czechoslovakia. 

In November 1937 Lord Halifax, British Foreign Minister, went to Berlin to see Hitler. Official 

British foreign policy, as stated in the House of Commons, was that ‘the continued independence 

and integrity of Austria’ were ‘an interest of British foreign policy’. 

On November 29th The Times published a leading article which, in reference to the relationship 

between Germany and Austria, then looming up as the next crisis-point in European affairs, 

carefully launched the suggestion that Austria’s destiny lay in union with Germany. 

At that moment, this was completely contrary to official British foreign policy. The article caused a 

minor panic in the Ballhausplatz, and a despondent official said to me, ‘After this I can’t imagine 

why Germany doesn’t march in’. Schuschnigg, a few days later, told me that the official news he 

had had from London about the Hitler-Halifax meeting was that ‘there had been no change in 

British policy about Central Europe’ and that England ‘would not permit any change in the status 

quo in these parts’. The Ballhausplatz officials became a little calmer after receipt of this news from 

London. When Schuschnigg, in February, went to Berchtesgaden, Hitler told him that Lord Halifax 

was in full agreement with anything he, Hitler, might do about Austria or Czechoslovakia. On 

March 11th Hitler marched in. Official British policy ‘deplored the methods used’. 

In this case the policy indicated by The Times was followed, not ‘official British policy’. But what 

was official British policy? If it had made up its mind that nothing could prevent Hitler’s annexation 

of Austria, why was Schuschnigg not told? He could have made good terms. He would not be at 

this moment, as I write, a nervous wreck in captivity in the Hotel Metropole in Vienna. The Negus 

of Abyssinia has a right to ask the same question. 

I have before me as I write a book giving an authoritative Czechoslovak opinion of the Hitler- 

Halifax meeting, at the time it happened.  

Lord Halifax’s visit to Berlin [says this book] was the subject of much speculation 

in the world Press, but no authoritative statement of results was published in Berlin 

or London. Observers saw two possible outcomes: one, an arrangement on the 

question of colonies, and the other a side-tracking of the demand for colonies by 

giving a free hand to Germany in Central and South-Eastern Europe. The latter 

seemed an utterly preposterous suggestion as coming from England, who had 

reason enough to beware of Pan-Germanism in a push to the south-east of Europe; 

yet it was known to have some support in the Cabinet itself and in not unimportant 

English newspapers. 

‘Utterly preposterous’! But if Schuschnigg had assumed the utterly preposterous to be the truth he 

would be a free man to-day. If Benesh had accepted the utterly preposterous as the actual fact he 

might to-day be the honoured ally of Hitler, sitting in Prague instead of Putney. 

Was Benesh misinformed about official British foreign policy? I find that I wrote in January 1937, 

fourteen months before the annexation of Austria and twenty months before the subjugation of 

Czechoslovakia, after a talk with him in Prague:  

He puts, or claims to put, entire faith in the determination of France, Yugoslavia, 

Rumania and Russia (of which countries only one seems to have even the physical 

possibility of rendering quick help, even if the will to help were present) to come to 

the aid of Czechoslovakia against an attack and is confident that England would do 

the same. This is the point where he seems to me, and most other people, to be 

almost unintelligibly optimistic, but this is his calculation. 

But was not Benesh, too, justified in his misjudgment, was he not persistently misled about the 

intentions of official British policy? He would have been wiser, if he wished to know what British 

foreign policy would actually do, to read The Times. This brings me to my second example. 

The official British foreign policy in respect of Czechoslovakia was that the ‘integrity and 

independence’ of this state must not be sacrificed to aggression or the threat of it. When that 

memorable Czechoslovak mobilization was carried out, against this very threat, in May 1938, the 

British Ambassador in Berlin, as Prague was officially informed and as official Prague informed 

me, was instructed most solemnly to tell the German Foreign Minister that England could not 

guarantee in all circumstances to remain neutral in a European conflict arising from the 

Czechoslovak dispute. The French Government declared its unequivocal determination to rally to 

the aid of Czechoslovakia against aggression, and Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons 

announced that full agreement to collaborate in all emergencies existed between the French and 

British Governments. 

What could Benesh think, as the head of the one small nation in Europe which was prepared to 

impale itself to the last man on German bayonets rather than yield its historic frontiers, if only its 

sworn friends remained at its side? When Lord Runciman was sent to Prague his mission, 

officially, was still to seek a solution of the German-Czech dispute which would leave the integrity 

of those frontiers and the independence of the nation within them undiminished. 

Yet the German Foreign Minister on August 31st, a month before the Munich meeting, was able to 

tell the British Ambassador through his Secretary of State, that he was absolutely certain that 

neither England nor France would raise a finger to succour Czechoslovakia. 

Herr von Ribbentrop was right. At that moment official British foreign policy, as expounded to the 

British masses, was quite different. Even well-informed men in the British diplomatic service 

thought that Herr von Ribbentrop was completely off the rails, that he was a dangerous man who 

from misunderstanding of British foreign policy and the British people was leading Europe into 

war. 

But he was triumphantly right. His advice to Herr Hitler was the best that any Foreign Minister 

could have given. Being ‘absolutely certain’, he was able to prepare and execute a vigorous and 

triumphant coup

On September 7th, three weeks before Munich, The Times in a leading article, launched a proposal 

for the cession of the ‘fringe of alien populations’ in Czechoslovakia to the Reich. More cautious 

suggestions in the same direction, but without mention of the actual word ‘cession’ or ‘secession’, 

had been made on August 29th and August 31st. 

British opinion, on September 7th, was not ready for the deed of September 19th. The suggestion 

produced a flood of protests. More important still, it produced in London the next day ‘the official 

statement that the suggestion in The Times leading article yesterday that the Czechoslovak 

Government might consider, as an alternative to their present proposals, the secession of the fringe 

of alien populations in their territory in no way represents the views of the British Government’. 

On September 8th! What could Benesh think? After all, it was his duty to believe what he was 

officially told to be the views and intentions of the British Government. Was information available 

to Herr von Ribbentrop that was not available to him? 

On September 18th a British ultimatum was presented to Prague in the sense of The Times 

suggestion of September 7th. 

If there are any more Beneshes and Schuschniggs in Europe they would do well to read The Times

It is not the organ of official British foreign policy, but it seems to tell you what will actually 

happen. 

I do not know where or how the foreign policy of The Times is born. I did not serve that paper 

before the war, but always gathered, from men I talked to, that its foreign policy in those days was 

the sum of the knowledge and experience of its correspondents abroad, as collated in London, and 

attuned to the paramount aim of British interests, by a Foreign Editor of even greater personal 

knowledge and experience of European problems. 

Such a man was Harold Williams, who died some eight or nine years ago. Since his death there has 

been no Foreign Editor. Correspondents abroad have in many cases, as I know from experience, felt 

the lack of one, of a man who personally knew Continental Europe, its peoples, its problems and its 

languages. They would have felt happier to have in London a man with whom they could discuss 

these things on the common ground of intimate knowledge. 

Foreign affairs, in my view, are a trade, just like making boots. You need to know your leather, 

how to cut and stitch it; you may order a pair of boots from your grocer, but he won’t make good 

ones. The idea, so prevalent in England, that any man can be an expert about foreign affairs seems 

to me to be fallacious. The consequences of some action in the field of foreign affairs may affect 

the lives and happiness of millions of people. It seemed to me extraordinary that at the Munich 

Meeting, the scene of a most momentous and remarkable piece of map-making, England should be 

represented by a Prime Minister who has no personal knowledge or experience at all of the 

manifold problems of Central Europe and who at his dissection of a country ‘which we know 

nothing about’ was supported by – the ‘Chief Economic Adviser’ to his Cabinet! 

I think the foreign policy of The Times is one which has been wrong in the past and must continue 

to be wrong if pursued in the future. The devil of it is that to put England’s foreign policy right now 

is a thing of almost superhuman difficulty. My own feeling is, though I am not quite sure of this, 

that it is too late, and that we shall pay the bill. 

If The Times, with its enormous authority, had insisted from the day, at the beginning of 1933, 

when this became indispensable for England’s safety that England must not allow Germany to 

outarm her, all would have been well. 

To say, as successive Governments have said, as The Times has said, that there must be no yielding 

to force when force is repeatedly yielded to, while that superior force grows continually stronger, 

seems to me to be vain. In 1933 I would have been for putting our former German colonies into a 

common pool of appeasement. Only on that basis would we have had the moral right to demand the 

sacrifice of territory from Czechoslovakia. But even that should only have been done within the 

framework of a completely watertight organization for mutual action against any peacebreaker, 

backed by the firm intention to rearm, gun for gun and aeroplane for aeroplane, as fast as the 

mightiest of the potential peacebreakers. Then you would have had no armaments race, no sudden 

realization, in 1938, that you have been so far outstripped in arms that you cannot pursue a foreign 

policy at all, even if you now have the determination. 

Always to plead for conciliation when you are being rapidly outarmed, when others openly express 

their contempt for conciliation and their belief in force, is vain, and leads to one humiliation after 

another, to an appallingly rapid deterioration on the European mainland in all the standards of 

decency and humanity to which men must cling if they are to retain any faith in their world at all. 

Why were these things done? Is the ‘utterly preposterous’ the real truth? Has the real intention of 

British policy – not the proclaimed official foreign policy – been the coldly cynical desire to divert 

the dynamic energy of the clamant militarist Reich southeastward, at the cost of no matter how 

many small states in between, and ultimately to let Germany use up her strength in a conflict with 

Russia? 

If that was the calculation, I do not think the sum will tot up like that. England, not Russia, is the 

real enemy. Is the statement true, which appeared in the Montreal Daily Star, which Sir Archibald 

Sinclair asserted in the House of Commons to be the gist of one made by Mr. Chamberlain in May 

to twelve or fourteen American and Canadian journalists, that the real aim of British policy is a 

Four Power Pact, a working arrangement between England, Germany, France and Italy ‘to keep the 

peace of Europe’ to the exclusion of Soviet Russia? What was Munich but that? But if that is the 

truth, why was the British public misled? Why were the Negus and Schuschnigg and Benesh 

misled? 

This seems to be the actual policy which a small group of very rich and influential people have 

been pursuing ever since 1933. It has never been the admitted aim of British foreign policy; indeed, 

official British foreign policy has been consistently proclaimed to be quite different. But actually 

the wishes of this group have, in the event, always prevailed. 

The League lies dying, Austria and Czechoslovakia are finished, the other Danubian and Balkan 

countries are becoming German vassals, the road to the golden Ukraine – and the hoped-for 

antagonism with Russia – lies open to Germany. I do not know what are the motives of these 

people. I think ultimately they are moved by fear of social unrest, a reawakening clamour for social 

reforms, the dread that one day they might only have one million pounds instead of two, and the 

wish, for these reasons, to see the zone of Fascist doctrine and methods spread as wide as possible, 

even to England. 

This foreign policy, actually pursued though never admitted, seems to me to have one mortal 

weakness – it is not foreign policy. For what is foreign policy? It is the adjustment of your relations 

with other states in such a way as to ensure the prosperity of your state in peace and its safety in 

war. 

But the policy that has, in actual practice, been pursued seems to me not to be dictated by those 

paramount British interests – but by class antagonism and property sense. 

There is, somewhere in the world, a state that has tampered with the laws of class and property. 

There is another state, there are two or three other states, which are or appear to be antagonistic to 

that state. Therefore you support them and do everything you can to make them great and weaken 

that third, outcast state. 

That is not foreign policy, but an old and familiar domestic policy. But where does it lead if you 

happen to be much weaker in arms than those states that you are supporting, and if you happen to 

possess the very things they want – pride of place in the world, colonies and dominions, control of 

the seas? 

It leads you to the point where, as you have abandoned your potential allies to them, you will not be 

strong enough to resist their demand for these things, when you must surrender these possessions to 

them, and co-ordinate your home politics with their wishes. Then you will have reached your 

heart’s desire, you will have been able to suppress all those people in your own country by whom 

you fear to be disturbed in your own private possession of wealth and privilege, in your game of 

shut-eye to housing and health conditions in England. But that is not foreign policy; it is home 

policy. In the outer world you will have sacrificed your plate and your territory to your hatred and 

fear of any awakening of the social conscience at home. You will have made England safe for 

slums, derelict areas, two million unemployed. But other people will be managing your overseas 

possessions for you. 

These are the things I feared from the foreign policy which British Governments have actually 

pursued, though never admitted, in the six years since Hitler came to power. I fear them still if this 

policy is further pursued – and why should it not be further pursued? Spain is next on the list, 

Czechoslovakia, by the time you read this book, will be in complete vassalage, new patients, 

Hungary, Rumania, Poland, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, will be assembling in the dentist’s waiting- 

room. 

In England the same group of people who have fathered this policy seem to be preparing the way 

for its inevitable child – some form of disguised Fascism in England. They will be telling you that 

‘democracy has failed’. It has not failed. They have let you down. They have failed you. 

If England had been told the facts, a national response to any summons would have been 

forthcoming. You saw this – in the Abyssinian episode. There the call was uttered, the nation-wide 

response came, immediately. A few days later the whole thing proved to have been an election- 

winning trick, and the spirit of England collapsed like a pricked balloon. 

The same trick has been played again and again. First, for years, you were never told the truth 

about German and Italian rearmament. The truth ‘might have lost an election’. Then you were told 

of gigantic rearmament programmes, given stratospheric figures of their cost. When the crisis came 

there were no armaments. What has happened to that money? 

Repeatedly you were told that the British Government held this view on that particular issue of 

foreign policy. When the crisis came a diametrically opposed course was taken, the particular issue 

was written off in the foreign policy ledger with the entry, ‘We deplore the methods used’. Spain – 

‘strict impartiality’, ‘non-intervention’ and the like. Now you are told ‘Signor Mussolini has always 

made it clear that he is not prepared to tolerate the defeat of General Franco’, and, in the same 

breath, ‘Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini assured us at Munich that they had no intention of setting 

up a Fascist state in Spain’. 

Do you believe even this one? 

The Labour Party, since its leaders, in another of those bluff-crises, went over to The Old Firm, has 

been in an inextricable tangle and cannot rally the public opinion of England to that effort which 

would have compelled governments to change these methods. 

The only other force which could have achieved this was The Times, with the great power that it 

wields. As one of its correspondents abroad I felt for long that it was a disaster for England that The 

Times did not make a strong stand against this policy. Europe to-day would offer quite a different 

spectacle if it had. 

In the years before Hitler came to power The Times, as you will find if you look through its files, 

published a steady stream of articles, in the right-hand column of its leader page, from its 

correspondents in the main Continental capitals. These articles were regarded in all countries as the 

best and most authoritative accounts of what was happening and forecasts of what would happen 

that were to be found anywhere. They were always accurate and politicians everywhere used to 

read them for guidance. 

In recent years the number of these articles from its own correspondents in the main European 

capitals which The Times publishes in that ‘turnover’ column has steadily diminished, until 

nowadays they are relatively rare. But in the correspondence columns of The Times masses of 

letters about foreign policy are published from all sorts of people – bishops, professors, retired 

ambassadors, peers, and so on. 

The bulk of these people are not experts on foreign affairs, and some of those letters, read in 

retrospect, give a comic picture of their qualifications to express an opinion or advocate a policy. In 

the famous ‘turnover’ column the place of the article contributed by the newspaper’s own 

correspondent is now increasingly taken by articles from a variety of authors whose views seem to 

be presented as authoritative, but whose qualifications are open to many questions. Probably very 

few newspaper readers realize the difference between the article written by the man who knows the 

country thoroughly and the other kind – but it is a very big and important difference. 

For instance, on the morrow of the most important event in foreign affairs in recent times – the 

Munich meeting – The Times published, on October 3rd and 4th, two articles, entitled ‘A Picture of 

Germany’, from a correspondent who was not named but who was described as ‘A detached and 

experienced observer who was travelling throughout Germany during the recent crisis’. The 

anonymous author claimed ‘to consider the present currents of German feeling and the conditions, 

on either side, of a permanent understanding’. 

These articles contained statements about Germany which an experienced resident correspondent, 

in my view, would not have made, for either in their content or the way they were put they were 

bound to lead the poor old British public up the same old garden path – only be nice to Germany, be 

understanding, be magnanimous (why did no Englishman ever plead for magnanimity towards a 

small and defenceless state?), and all will be well. For instance, this statement:  

A plebiscite for or against going to war to succour the Sudeten Germans would 

have resulted in a crushing defeat for war-makers. 

I suppose this was meant to make readers believe that Germany would never have gone to war; I 

can’t find any other meaning in it. In any case it is wrong, it is misleading, it is fatuous. If Hitler 

ever intends to make war, in any cause, he will not hold a plebiscite about it. If he were to, the 

result would be 99.9 per cent for war. There would be no other possibility. The question would be 

put in approximately this form:  

Are you in favour of going to war to save your oppressed German brothers in the 

Sudeten lands, who are being mown down in swathes by the most inhuman brutes 

of all time, or are you in favour of going to war? 

Take this statement:  

The contrast in physique between Englishmen and Germans between the ages of 15 

and 25 is amazingly in Germany’s favour and will continue until there spreads again 

through England that spirit of willing personal discipline in pursuit of an ideal 

which is planted and cultivated with such supreme adroitness by Nazi 

propagandists. 

Do you see the serpent’s head? The first half of that sentence is completely true; the poison is in the 

second half. Not the rulers of England, not the ruling class, not the little exclusive governing 

coterie, are to blame for the slums, for two million unemployed, for derelict areas, for under- 

nourishment. No. NO! The unemployed, the under-nourished, the slum-livers, the derelicts are to 

blame – because they are not Nazi. Then do not pursue an adroitly planted ideal – oh queen of 

metaphors – in a spirit of willing personal discipline. Adroitly plant your ideal, get them pursuing it, 

and all will be well. You just put brown shirts on to the present ruling class, make labour conscripts 

of your derelicts. They, pursuing that stationary ideal, will presumably be where they were and you 

will be where you were. 

Not we have failed, but the rulers. Let’s kennel the under-dogs, in case they get snappy. The slums 

may stay, awful examples of the faults of democracy; it wasn’t disciplined enough to make us do 

anything about unemployment. 

But the writer is on his guard. It occurs to him that you might see through that one, so he produces 

another one:  

It is well to remember [I always distrust phrases beginning like that and wonder 

whether ‘it’ really is ‘well’] that Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Baldwin and men like 

them, had they been Germans, would have been excluded from public life since 

1933, for they could not thinkably have acquiesced in Nazi morality. 

Oh yeah? And just what does that one mean? I am ready to agree that in all probability Hitler 

would not have made either Mr. Chamberlain or Lord Baldwin, had they been Germans, Foreign 

Minister or War Minister in his Government. Nothing more unpleasant need have happened to 

them. As for that ‘acquiescence in Nazi morality’, did we acquiesce at Munich, or is there visions 

about? 

Here are two more which I should like you to store up in your minds and re-examine in a few years’ 

time:  

So long as the German people believe that Britain’s greatest interest in Europe is to 

see justice done, her moral power beneath the surface in Germany is immeasurable. 

Does that mean that we ought to do a Munich on somebody every six months?  

Herr Hitler knows his people well when he says that Alsace and Lorraine are not 

coveted. 

What does Herr Hitler himself think about Alsace and Lorraine? That is the important thing; 

whether his people covet them or not is less important.  

Provided Britain will demonstrate a more continuous and intelligent interest in 

European difficulties and show that she is equally prepared to rebuke any of 

Germany’s neighbours for wrongdoing as she is to rebuke Germany, she need not 

fear for her prestige in that country if she sets her moral and material strength 

against the methods of the bully; and in that way realization is likeliest to come that 

there are conditions to be fulfilled on the German side also if the two countries are 

fully to understand each other. 

This sentence formed the conclusion of the two articles. It was the summing-up, the definition of 

policy to be pursued after the facts for and against Germany had been set down on paper and duly 

considered, the pointer showing the way you should go. Written, apparently, with the ink on the 

Munich agreement still wet. Read it again, and see if you now know what you ought to do about 

Germany. ‘Set your moral and material strength against the methods of the bully’? On the morning 

after Munich, which the articles seemed fully to approve, that is an exceptionally good one. 

A few days later The Times published two more pronouncements on foreign policy, one a letter and 

one a full-dress article, from the Aga Khan, who as far as I know is an oriental potentate, is 

indescribably rich, leads in Derby winners, and has a French consort, all very good things, but do 

they help in European affairs? 

The Aga Khan, whose article was headed ‘Peace or Truce: A look into the future; The bases for 

world security’, began like this:  

Peace prevails, thanks to the wisdom of the Prime Minister, and those who loyally 

supported him in the Cabinet and the country. What about the future? The 

foundation of world peace is an Anglo-French alliance by which all the resources of 

Great Britain would be placed at the disposal of France in the event of an 

unprovoked attack on that country and vice versa. One bears two opinions whether 

or not Germany and her Chancellor can be trusted to keep the peace. The question 

of trust is irrelevant … 

I think one might hear two opinions about that one, if one listened hard. But I, with my doubting 

mind, wondered whether the Aga Khan’s voice in European affairs was one of the first authority, 

whether he really knew his Germany and his Germans, whether he had plumbed and knew to their 

depths the minds of the men who live in Shoreditch and Hoxton, in Jarrow and Durham, in 

Wapping, Wimbledon and Wandsworth. Because they, as it seemed to me, ought to have something 

to say, sometime, in the shaping of England’s destiny. 

I ought to quote briefly from a letter headed ‘Blessings of the Aeroplane’ which was published in 

The Times about this same period. It said:  

May it not be that the sun rose upon a new era when Mr. Chamberlain took off from 

Heston? Thanks to the aeroplane, war has become so humanly intolerable that the 

hatred of it is everywhere becoming more powerful than the forces which promote 

it and all humanity is beginning to rise in revolt against its continuance. May it not 

be, again, that war has begun to commit suicide? 

May it not? ‘Alas,’ added the writer, ‘the bombs are still dropping in China and in Spain.’ 

Yes, the blessed aeroplane doesn’t seem to have done much towards making war commit suicide 

there. 

The Times. A good newspaper, because in its foreign news columns – as distinct from the article, 

correspondence and leader columns, which I have previously discussed – it gives adequate and 

well-apportioned space to the reporting of events, a thing due to the long tradition that has come 

down to those real arbiters of a newspaper’s fate, the sub-editors. 

I was for many years happy to write for The Times because I felt that on that particular paper you 

could more than earn a living, you could render your countrymen valuable service by outlining for 

them the shape of things to come in Europe. In the course of time I lost some of this feeling, and 

with it much of the pleasure in my work, and for these reasons I was in the end glad to get that 

letter in Belgrade, accepting my resignation, and to start out on a new career.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Two 

THE LITTLE ROCKET 

It came into my life in the summer of 1933, that eventful first summer of Hitler’s reign over 

Germany. I stood waiting on the pavement of the Halmstrasse with the first car I had ever had, an 

ancient Fiat which I had bought second-hand and in which I had travelled long distances (most of 

them at the end of a tow rope), and it came round the corner with two young men in it and they got 

out and shook hands and took over the ancient Fiat and drove it away and I was left alone with The 

Little Rocket. 

I looked at it with disfavour, at first, and after the ancient Fiat with sadness in my heart, for it was 

my first car and, bad as it was, I loved it. I did not like this little new thing, with its funny gear, like 

the handle of a door, and its two puny cylinders. I wondered why I had bought it. Well, it had only 

cost £100, and £20 off that for the old Fiat. 

I little knew then what places we should visit and what things we should do together: 40,000 miles, 

in five years, I travelled in that car, in Germany, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary, in 

Yugoslavia. I drove it into deep snowdrifts on Thuringian mountain tops and had to be hauled out 

by a woodman and his patient horse. I drove it into deep sand in Mecklenburg, while trying one day 

to follow up the local volunteer fire brigade, a fine but weirdly dressed body of men, to a lonely 

farm that had been struck by lightning, and thence I had to be hauled out by about fifty hilarious 

village boys. 

I drove it, having a little drink taken, into the back of an omnibus in the Kurfürstendamm, and it 

looked like a concertina. You would have thought that car had finished its career, but no, I had it 

hauled to the workshop and there two strong men took hold of it and pulled and it came out straight 

again, almost as good as new. It was one of those cars you put on, instead of getting into. 

I hated it and loved it by turns. For years I did not know what the initials on its bonnet stood for. 

One day I asked. They meant The Little Rocket. 

From that day on it was The Little Rocket for me. Sometimes, when it sputtered and hissed and 

slowed down on a Balkan road fifty miles from anywhere, I called it a little something else, but 

sooner or later, somehow or other, I always managed to get it moving again, and when I felt it 

pulling I relented and thought of it affectionately as my Little Rocket. 

If anything is indispensable in this world, a car of some sort is indispensable to a foreign newspaper 

correspondent. Without it he is just a resident of a foreign city, and never gets below the skin of the 

country he lives in at all. To get outside the city, to get to know the people, mean long time-wasting 

and energy-consuming journeys by bus or tram or train, and in the end he gives it up and just jogs 

to and fro between Unter den Linden and his flat in Berlin West. 

But if he has a car he can use every free half-hour to get outside the city, to explore in an ever- 

widening circle the countryside around it, to visit the distant cities and provinces, the hills and 

valleys. By that means he can in three months learn more of the country than in three years without 

a car. 

So, through The Little Rocket, I came to know, not only Berlin and Vienna and Prague and 

Budapest, but Germany and Austria and Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It was the ideal car for town 

use, quick as a whippet and almost as small. I could rush in where Rolls-Royces hadn’t a chance. I 

saved, I should think, months of time in the innumerable daily journeys a newspaper man has to 

make in a town, from office to legation, from ministry to coffee house, from dwelling to office. 

On longer journeys The Little Rocket was not so good. It was not made for some of those roads, 

and I, though I had a good seat and hands, never had the least idea of what went on beneath the 

bonnet of The Little Rocket. I never knew what was in its mind. I had scraped through my 

examination for a German driver’s licence because I had learned, parrot-wise, the answers to the 

few routine questions on the guts of a motor car that the examiner was wont to ask. Also, I never 

had any tools. I frequently had no spare wheel. I drove off into the blue with an airy nonchalance 

that I can no longer understand, and I am amazed when I think how often I got through, how 

seldom I was irretrievably stuck. 

When The Little Rocket began to hiccough and stagger I changed the plugs. If that didn’t work I 

was done. This was the limit of my mechanical knowledge. After four years, and on the advice of a 

friend, I did buy a spanner and a pump to clear petrol stoppages; I had thrice been left sitting on a 

country road through the sudden failure of the petrol supply. 

But The Little Rocket had a chronic complaint that was beyond me. When I had two or three 

hundred miles before me and had already travelled too far to turn back, it would begin to cough. 

The needle would waver, the coughing would stop, the needle would steady up, then the coughing 

would begin again, more violently, the needle would go back, the coughing would get worse, the 

needle would sink to twenty and fifteen and ten kilometres an hour, and eventually I would labour 

up to a blacksmith-mechanic in some remote village and he would look at The Little Rocket and 

shake his head, and I always knew what he was going to say. Ach, die IGNITION! 

A dread word. Pronounce it Ig-nits-ee-yone. My heart always sank when The Little Rocket had one 

of its attacks of Ig-nits-ee-yone. I never could learn what you did about that, and mechanics who 

knew how to cure it were rare too. Many of them put it right for long enough to get me another 

twenty kilometres, and then it began again. There was one man, and one only, a marvellous 

mechanic in a mean street somewhere in Vienna, who once put it right for a whole year, when I 

came back from that nightmare ride to Budapest that I told about in Insanity Fair, but as soon as I 

left Vienna it began again and I never found another man who could cure it for long. 

Yet, somehow, I travelled over large areas of Europe with The Little Rocket. An extraordinary car. 

I grew to think of it as a living being, as a queer sort of friend, whom you couldn’t help liking in 

spite of, or perhaps because of, his strange ways. 

There was the time, for instance, when The Little Rocket would only start when it was cold, not 

when it was warm. I left it standing in the street every night of the winter of 1936-37, and some of 

those nights were pretty cold in Vienna, but when I came down the next morning I had only to tread 

lightly on the starter and The Little Rocket was off like a greyhound. But if I then drove ten miles 

and by mischance stopped the engine The Little Rocket wouldn’t start again and I had to wait an 

hour until it froze, then it started at once. 

Then there was the time, on top of the Semmering, when the wheels wouldn’t go round and I had to 

stay the night there, and I don’t to this day know what on earth was the cause of that. By this time I 

had begun to suspect The Little Rocket of human intelligence and was careful what I said when it 

was within hearing. I think it wanted to stay on the Semmering that night. I was glad, afterwards, 

that it did, because that was the loveliest night I ever saw, with the moon rising into a crystal sky 

above the sawlike edges of the firs. 

But the next day, haring down the hill to get quickly to Vienna, two urchins with a sledge shot 

across the road just in front of me, and I trod on the brake with all my weight and felt the wheels 

slithering on the icy road and thought, ‘This is the end’, and the next thing I knew was a great bump 

and The Little Rocket, with me in it, was lying on its side in a field. 

I climbed out, like a sailor climbing through the conning tower of a submarine, felt myself all over 

and found I was all there, and prepared to say a last farewell to The Little Rocket. But then two lads 

on bicycles came by and dismounted, and we all gave a heave and the next moment The Little 

Rocket was back on the road and I trod, without hope, on the starter and the engine responded and I 

drove carefully a few yards and that was all right and eventually I found that the only damage was 

to the tail-light, the glass of which was smashed. A foot of snow in that field had saved us. 

I treated that car badly and it was right to get its own back on me. I see that now. But I did resent, 

and still resent, the period when the horn began to go off on its own at odd moments and nobody 

could find what caused it. Waiting in a traffic block at a crossing, with the red lights holding us 

back, it would suddenly start, and policemen would look sternly round and taxi-drivers would make 

the remarks that taxi-drivers make and lady drivers would get hysterical and go into reverse when 

they wanted to go forward, and altogether it was most unpleasant. 

There is a limit, and this was a scurvy trick of The Little Rocket. But even worse was when it did 

this in the middle of the night, as I was driving home, and policemen would stop me and ask what I 

meant by it, and I would try to explain that I couldn’t prevent it and at that a knowing look would 

come over their faces and they would say, ‘Oh yes, I’ve heard that tale before’, and would produce a 

large book from some hind pocket. 

In Vienna, too, I had to learn to drive The Little Rocket again. For two years I drove it with an 

international licence that had expired, and this was the sort of thing you could do in that easy-going 

Vienna, but one day the authorities remonstrated and said, look here, you really must take out an 

Austrian driving licence now. The next few days I spent going from this department to that 

department, and filling in forms, and then one morning, about the crack of dawn, I had to present 

myself for a medical examination. 

This was another strange experience which I owed to The Little Rocket. I was ushered into a 

cubicle, told to strip naked, and given a glass vase. I thought for a moment that I had got into the 

wrong medical examination. Perhaps I should emerge from this room, I thought, a soldier in the 

Austrian Army, or something of that sort, one of those historical figures the mystery of whose 

disappearance is never really cleared up, like Kitchener or Gustav Hamel or Johann Orth. 

Afterwards I re-entered the room to find myself one of a large company of gentlemen all naked and 

all holding glass vases. However, it was all right, I passed easily, they seemed to think I had the 

stuff in me to make a motorist of the first water. 

Then came the awful ordeal – the technical examination. This time I was stumped; I had not learned 

the answers parrot-wise. As soon as the examiner began I saw there was only one thing for it – to 

pretend ignorance of German. Once he got me pinned down to differentials and carburettors I was 

done. So I looked blank and wrinkled my forehead and shook my head and in the end he gave it up 

and said, ‘Let’s go out and drive a bit’, and then all was well, because in actual driving I understood 

The Little Rocket perfectly, and I got my ticket. 

The Little Rocket and I, we had our great moments, when we held the public gaze. We appeared in 

print and in pictures, on the occasion when the brakes failed and I rammed another car from behind. 

But even more public notoriety came our way one unforgettable, day in the Ringstrasse, Vienna’s 

main thoroughfare. 

A day or two before, while I was driving a friend about, I backed into a parking place without 

noticing that a lamp-post was there and hit it a fairly good thwack. But I thought no more about it 

and did not notice that the trunk built on The Little Rocket behind was badly damaged. 

Then, driving down the Ringstrasse that famous day, I heard strange noises and saw grinning faces 

and gesticulating people and turned round to find that the trunk had fallen off and had strewn its 

contents along the Ringstrasse for about a hundred yards. It was midday, when the Ringstrasse is 

most crowded. 

The contents of that trunk were, on a large scale, like the contents of a schoolboy’s pocket. There 

were odd tools, old newspapers, an empty petrol can, an ancient raincoat, two candles, rusty snow- 

chains which I had once bought but never used, some long-forgotten sandwiches, and a bottle, now 

broken. They lay in a long line along the Ringstrasse, with the oncoming traffic playing in-and-out 

with them, policemen putting on their what’s-all-this-‘ere-about faces. The collection of these things 

was one of the most unpleasant tasks I ever had. 

The Little Rocket now looked in a very bad way. It had a fabric-covered body, and this is not good 

for a car that has to go through what The Little Rocket had been through. The covering had long 

since begun to come off and reveal the skeletons in The Little Rocket’s cupboards. With increasing 

wear and tear more and more of it came away, until The Little Rocket looked like a half-peeled 

banana. Now, with that ragged and yawning hole behind where the trunk used to be, it was the 

shabbiest hobbledehoy of a car you ever saw. The evil day could be put off no longer. I realized 

that I should have to buy The Little Rocket a new suit. 

So we drove out on a day to a pleasant yard somewhere in the backwoods of Vienna, a yard where 

men once had made broughams and victories for the daily parade in the Prater and where there was 

now a good honest smell of shavings and petrol. 

When The Little Rocket came back I hardly recognized it. 

It was better than new. It was green and glistened. I used to stand at the window of my room and 

admire it, waiting for me there in the street outside. A new and better time began. I now honoured 

all my responsibilities to The Little Rocket, kept it clean and warm, and it was duly grateful and 

behaved perfectly. This was a happy time, good to look back on, a part of that almost ideally happy 

period in my life that was so short. A new relationship arose between us, one based on mutual 

affection and esteem. The three of us, we explored all the Wienerwald. We seemed likely to live 

happily ever after. 

Alas. In Insanity Fair neither I nor The Little Rocket were to find that peace we craved for. Hitler 

came marching into Austria and I, for the reason which I have not yet told and which nobody else 

knows, went marching out of Austria. The Little Rocket, by a tragic mischance, was having a 

massage and manicure and I had to leave it behind. 

That was in March. All through the spring and summer, when I was in Zürich and London and 

Bognor and Prague, I thought sadly of my Little Rocket. At last I was able to make arrangements to 

have it sent to me. I came home one hot day in Budapest and there, its honest face shining with the 

joy of reunion, stood The Little Rocket. 

But it was never the same again, after the Anschluss. Who knows what it had been through, during 

those few months? Any odd cars that were going were wont in those days to be confiscated by 

young men in jackboots. The Little Rocket had a few thousand more miles under its bonnet than 

when I saw it last. One door handle had been torn off. There was a hole in the roof, which looked to 

me as if somebody with a bayonet had been sitting on it. Worst of all, The Little Rocket was 

seriously ill with its old complaint, Ig-nits-ee-yone. The doctors doubted whether they could save 

it. 

I did what I could for it. The covering of the seats was mouldy and gangreney, and small 

mushrooms were trying to sprout in the cracks. I cleaned them and had new green covers made, to 

match the bodywork. The Little Rocket looked almost young again. But its constitution had been 

undermined beyond hope by the strain of those four months in Austria after the Anschluss. Its Ig- 

nits-ee-yone got worse and worse. But it had the heart of a lion and bore up bravely. Panting and 

puffing, it took me all over Hungary. When I had to go to Belgrade I thought compassionately of 

having it put out of its misery, but it looked at me so reproachfully that my heart failed me. It 

carried me there, it carried me for many miles into the Serbian countryside, over roads that made 

my heart ache for it. Then came the day when I set my face again towards Budapest and Prague. 

Would The Little Rocket stay the course? 

I looked at it. It looked gamely back at me. I put it on. 

I had not gone fifty miles when I knew that I must expect the worst. I had two hundred and fifty 

miles of some of the worst roads in Europe before me and The Little Rocket was mortally ill. It was 

coughing its life out. Ig-nits-ee-yone was claiming its prey. 

I staggered into Novi Sad and found a doctor who shook his head gravely but thought he could 

physic The Little Rocket, laden down with luggage, so that it would reach Budapest. He did what 

he could. In the late afternoon, nursing The Little Rocket as best I could, sparing it as far as was 

possible, I reached the frontier, breathing thanks, for beyond it the road was better. Perhaps, I 

thought, The Little Rocket would make it. 

We passed through Szeged and fate dealt us another blow. That nice level main road was closed, a 

man with a red flag directed us along a miserable by-pass, little more than a field track. I had 

travelled the main road not long before and knew that it was perfectly good; this meant, not road 

repairs, but fortification-building, which was the fashion on all frontiers at the moment. But for my 

Little Rocket it meant toiling along a rutty and unmade track for twenty kilometres. 

When we reached the good main road again The Little Rocket was coughing once more. The 

needle went back and back, to forty, to thirty, to twenty, to fifteen kilometres an hour. Would we at 

least reach Kecskemet, I thought desperately, where I should have a chance of getting The Little 

Rocket doped again? 

It was dark. We coughed and coughed along. Suddenly an enormous sow lumbered out of the 

roadside ditch and waddled across the road dead before us. The Little Rocket hit her broadside on. 

With a shriek she fell over, scrambled to her feet, and lumbered off into the night, unhurt. I 

breathed again. 

But the Little Rocket was finished. It lay there all lopsided. This last blow was too much. That axle 

had gone at last. 

To die there like that, on the Budapest road, in the dark night, I thought, as I looked at it. It gave me 

a last look of recognition and devotion and then its lights went out. 

Perhaps it was better so, I thought. Better this sudden end than to cough and cough and peter out 

miserably, coughing. With a heavy heart I turned and went in search of a peasant.  

Chapter Twenty Three 

HOW ODD OF GOD[2] 

When I was in London in the Spring of 1938 I went one day to see a high official in Whitehall. As I 

arrived half an hour too soon I went into a teashop, the only thing you can do in London when you 

arrive anywhere half an hour too soon, and ordered a cup of the wet, brown and warm stuff which 

they call coffee, and then I heard a voice call ‘Reed’ and turned round, and corpulent as ever, in a 

corner, was my acquaintance whom we will call Blumenlevy. 

I knew him first in Berlin, some years before Hitler came to power. Then he was well-to-do and 

important, and nobody, least of all himself, seemed to recall he was not a German. He was part of 

Berlin and looked likely to end his days there. But then came Hitler, and Blumenlevy moved to 

Vienna and suddenly he was Austrian-born and a great Austrian patriot and was all for defending 

Austrian independence to the last drop of anybody else’s blood and fervently admired Mussolini, a 

dictator, true, but not then an anti-Semitic one, because he had mobilized troops on the Brenner 

when Dollfuss was murdered and had declared he would not tolerate the rape of Austria. ‘Why do 

you English quarrel with this great man?’ Blumenlevy asked me. ‘It is madness.’ 

But then Mussolini became Hitler’s friend and Blumenlevy, all at once, was a red-hot Austrian 

monarchist and was for bringing young Otto back to Vienna forthwith, for only so could Austrian 

patriots count on the continued independence of Austria. 

A few days before Hitler marched into Austria, and sent his telegram to Rome, ‘Mussolini, I shall 

never forget what you have done for me to-day’, I ran into Blumenlevy in a coffee house. He had 

been to see an Austrian monarchist leader, A, he said, and had urged him to arm the monarchists, 

but A was a feeble fellow and hadn’t felt equal to it. ‘I would do it,’ said Blumenlevy, ‘Ich bin ein 

Draufgänger – I’m a stick-at-nothing chap.’ 

I looked at him, fat, wheezy, and aged. Oh yeah, I thought. 

Now Austria was finished, and here he was in London, already waiting on an appointment with 

somebody in a high place, already half-way to becoming an Englishman, naturalization papers 

looming ahead, and soon he would be urging the British to go and fight Germany. We shall 

probably have to do it anyway, but I thought, as I contemplated Blumenlevy, that the Jews, if they 

want to fight Germany, should urge others less and enlist more. 

That is one picture, painted without malice. Look at this one. 

I stood, in the heat of that September crisis, in a newspaper office in Budapest and talked with a 

young Jewish journalist. ‘I am for war,’ he said loudly, ‘this is the moment to stop Germany.’ ‘You,’ I 

said, ‘but what would you do in this war?’ ‘Oh,’ he said airily, ‘I intend to survive it.’ ‘Then why call 

for war, if you are not going to fight?’ I asked. ‘What can I do?’ he said, ‘I am a Hungarian subject, 

that would mean fighting for Germany.’ ‘Why not go to Republican Spain and fight there,’ I 

answered, ‘or to Czechoslovakia, and fight with the Czechs?’ ‘That would be difficult,’ he said, 

fidgeting. He too was thinking of a war between Gentiles for the purpose of exterminating anti- 

Semitism. 

Look at this picture. 

I sat, during that eventful and fear-laden summer, in a coffee-house in Prague, and a Jewess came 

in whom I had known in Vienna. She had always laid stress on her Austrian patriotism, on her love 

for Vienna. She was the daughter, she repeatedly told you, of an officer in the old Imperial Austrian 

Army, and she longed to see the Kaiser back. 

Now she came and sat by me. ‘Are you homesick for Austria?’ she said. ‘Yes, I am,’ I answered, 

‘and I shall always be.’ ‘I’m not,’ she said gleefully, ‘not a little bit. I hate it. I have no feeling left for 

it at all. I feel myself reborn to be away.’ 

I considered her. I could understand perfectly what she felt. Yet I knew that if I, an Englishman and 

a Gentile, had been born an Austrian and a Gentile and had had to fly from Austria, when Hitler 

came, for this reason or that, I should nevertheless have loved and longed for Austria until my last 

day. 

There was a difference, deep, eternal, ineradicable. 

These are three portraits from the gallery of 1938. I could show you a hundred others. 

I belong to those cads who put loyalty among the human virtues, and I have not forgotten Jews 

whom I knew in the British Army during the war. Those Jews, long-established in England, were 

all right; but the great mass of new Jewish immigrants that we are getting now are mortally 

dangerous to us. 

I, with all the horror I have of National Socialism and the dread I have of Germany under National 

Socialism, shall say some hard things about the Jews. I have watched and studied them now, all 

over Europe, for many years and know my subject. 

In England the fashion is to profess complete incomprehension of the movements in progress in 

Europe to restrict the influence of the Jews. This attitude towards the Jews is the sheet anchor, in 

their continual claim to be humane, of those English people who put a screen of self-complacency 

between themselves and everything that is wrong or needs changing: how can the foreigner be right 

in saying we are perfidious or arrogant or class-ridden or inhumane when we have this tolerant and 

magnanimous feeling about the Jews? We feel ‘a generous indignation’ about the treatment of the 

Jews. We may not care a fig about Spanish women and children being blown to bits by German and 

Italian bombs. But our British love of fair play is revolted by the treatment of the Jews. 

For us, these people say, there is no Jewish problem. For them, the favoured followers of the God- 

of-things-as-they-are, on whose own corns the Jewish problem does not tread, there is similarly no 

slum problem. There are, somewhere, slums, about which you occasionally feel a generous 

indignation. Is there a Derelict Areas problem? No, there are Derelict Areas. Is there a German 

problem? No, there is Germany. 

There is a Jewish problem. Like the slum problem and the German problem you will leave it until it 

devours you. 

I wrote various incidental passages about Jews in Insanity Fair. Because many people either could 

not understand or did not accept the things I said, I am going to make myself crystal clear this time. 

One British newspaper and two American ones spoke reproachfully of my anti-Semitism. If you 

discuss this question at all the welkin immediately rings with the yelping of ‘Anti-Semite’, often 

from people who have nothing more than a languid indifference about it, but like using phrases of 

this sort because Englishmen always play cricket, don’t you know, and hang it, play the game, sir. 

I had a letter from a reader in Palestine who said, ‘You have written a good book, save for your 

appallingly ignorant and callous attitude towards the Jews’. This did not convince me, because 

many people said similar things about Insanity Fair. The Communists thought it was good save for 

the part about Soviet Russia, the Fascists liked it apart from its references to Germany and Italy, the 

Old School Tie Brigade thought it would have been a good book but for its allusions to the public 

school system in England, and these, as the literary critic of a journal mainly devoted to pushing the 

sale of women’s underclothes wrote, indicated ‘a regrettable tendency towards Left ideas’. The close 

connection between the manufacture and sale of camisoles and true-blue, die-in-the-last-ditch, 

backs-up and chins-to-the-wall, down-with-the-Reds, up-with-the-good-old-flag-Blimpery is a 

thing I shall investigate one day. 

I had two letters which made me think, long and carefully, which made me take out my knowledge 

and feelings and convictions about the Jews, put them under the microscope, scrutinize them 

meticulously for the microbes of prejudice or ignorance. After that long examination I was 

satisfied. I decided to take these letters as my text when I came to write again about the Jews. 

The first was from a young American Jew, an earnest request for information. He had read Insanity 

Fair twice, with great interest, he said, and it had left his mind simmering with questions about the 

Jews, to which he could not find the answer himself, so that, rather pathetically, he wanted it from 

me. What did I really think about them? I seemed to think their troubles to some extent were of 

their own making. Did I believe that? He thought the Jews were just buffeted about. For his own 

part he had lost all feeling of Jewish cohesion. 

I do think this. But I do not believe there is any Jew, anywhere, who has lost all feeling of Jewish 

cohesion. Many wish they could, but none do. 

The second letter came from a Jewess in South Africa. She wrote in deep distress about events in 

Insanity Fair. Up to the last, she wrote, she believed that England had something up her sleeve, but 

now, ‘the strong arm that England used to wield lay withered beneath the poppies in Flanders 

fields’. But the book had been a comfort to her in this mental agony that so many people are 

experiencing in our time: it was, she said, in a shell-burst of superlatives, magnificent, gallant, 

terrible. Then she asked, ‘You write repeatedly of your Jewish “acquaintances”. Have you never 

had a Jewish friend? What have you in your heart for the Jews? Is it pity?’ 

Stimulating sentences, that acted on me like the cue that prompts an actor to his lines. 

The word ‘acquaintances’ was carefully chosen. I have never had a Jewish friend. I never shall. I 

could, if Jews were Jews, subjects of a Jew state, avowedly foreigners in other lands, not 

professedly Germans, Englishmen, Hungarians, Austrians, Poles. 

I have sharpened my wits on the conversation of Jews, I admire their quick-wittedness. If there 

were a Jewish nation I would make it an ally of England because I believe that, for their own cause, 

the Jews would fight like lions. I know that many of them fought in the armies of Germany and 

France and England, I know that each of these Jews wanted his side to win. But I also know that 

they had less to fear if their side lost, that they prosper in defeat and chaos. I saw this in Germany 

and Austria and Hungary. 

I distrust the fiction that these Jews are Germans or Frenchmen or Englishmen, when I know that 

they are in all countries closely welded communities working, first and foremost, for the Jewish 

cause. Walk any Saturday evening along Oxford Street or Regent Street, contemplate those 

thousands of hatless young men, of carefully dressed and arm-linked young women coming up 

from the east to go to the great film theatres round Piccadilly and Marble Arch, to invade the 

chocolate-sundae corner palaces. Do you believe these are English people? Do they? 

Will they help us to re-make England into a sturdy and well-found land of craftsmen and farmers 

and sailors? Do they not rather stand for cheap and tawdry frocks, and their corollary, sweated 

labour (if you have the energy, go down into the East End and visit the people who cut and sew 

those frocks), for gaudy Babylonian film temples, for your blasted Glamour Girls, for trashy 

imitation jewellery, for spurious marble halls at the sign of the fish-and-chip? 

But that is another question. No penny-in-the-slot machine could produce its response more quickly 

than that question brings the answer from me. I know the answer. 

‘What have you in your heart for the Jews? Is it pity?’ 

The answer is: ‘What have you in your heart for Gentiles?’ 

That brings you at a stroke to the root of the matter. Not anti-Semitism was first, but anti-Gentilism. 

You have heard a lot in recent years about Hitler’s Nuremberg anti-Jewish laws, with their ban on 

intermarriage, which the Germans call race-defilement. 

A most intelligent and cultured and open-minded Jew in Budapest said to me, ‘After all, the 

Nuremberg laws are only the translation into German of our own Mosaic laws, with their ban on 

intermarriage with Gentiles’. 

Race-antagonism began, not with the Gentiles, but with the Jews. Their religion is based on it. This 

racial lunacy which you detest in the Germans has possessed the Jews for thousands of years. When 

they become powerful, they practise it; as they consolidate their position in one trade after another, 

in one profession or another, the squeeze-out of Gentiles begins. That was why you found, in Berlin 

and Vienna and Budapest and Prague and Bucharest, newspapers with hardly a Gentile on the 

editorial staff, theatres owned and managed by Jews presenting Jewish actors and actresses in 

Jewish plays praised by the Jewish critics of Jewish newspapers, whole streets with hardly a non- 

Jewish shop in them, whole branches of retail trade monopolized by Jews. 

Jews, if you know them well enough and understand these things enough for them to talk openly 

with you, will admit this. They cannot deny it. 

In the beginning was anti-Gentilism. This, not the perfidy of the Gentiles, prevents the assimilation 

of the Jews. This prevents them from ever becoming Germans or Poles or Italians. This keeps them 

welded together as alien communities in foreign lands, communities ultimately hostile to the 

Gentile. 

It is their religion? Good, but it is the reason why they cannot be assimilated. 

In the defeated countries the Jews did not use the great power they achieved to promote and 

accelerate assimilation. They used it to increase the power and wealth of the Jews, and their 

intensive mutual collaboration, in that era to oust non-Jews from professions, trades and callings, 

was the outward and visible sign that anti-Gentilism remained within them. The race barriers that 

had existed against the Jews were broken down, every path was open; but the race-barrier within 

themselves still existed, and thus you had the misuse of this freedom and those grave signs of its 

abuse, the exploitation of cheap labour and of young non-Jewish womanhood, which were so 

repugnant a feature of life in Berlin and Vienna, and still are seen to-day, as I write, in Budapest 

and Prague. 

These are grave things, which need to be understood. 

The inner knowledge of this seemingly unbridgable gulf causes many Jews to take on protective 

colouring, to change their names, to outdo their Gentile neighbours in vocal patriotism, to obscure 

the fact that they are Jews. Some, a few, marry Gentiles; to the main body of Jews they are 

renegades who have ‘married outside the faith’. Some, a few, have themselves baptized; but they 

remain Jews. 

In three Central European capitals that I know the baptism of Jews, since the annexation of Austria, 

has become an industry. The step is taken in all cynicism, as a business proposition, a means of 

getting into countries which have banned the admission of Jews, a device to tide over the years 

until the anti-Semitic wave subsides again. The Jews joke about it among themselves, and the Jews 

I know, who talk frankly with me because they know that I understand the racket, joke about it with 

me. One Jew, discussing it with me, told me of an acquaintance who, to his annoyance, found that 

he had to pass through a period of instruction in the faith he was about to acquire before he 

received the coveted baptismal certificate, and how he cut short the priest’s explanation of the 

immaculate conception with the words, ‘Schaun S’, ich glaube Ihnen sämtliche Sachen’ (Look here, 

I believe everything). This was thought very funny and sent a roar of laughter round the table. In 

one of the capitals I speak of, several hundred Jews were baptized as Church of England Christians 

in the summer of 1938, and by a trick they succeeded in predating the baptismal certificates, so that 

the reason for the conversion should not be ‘too apparent. The convert is usually re-converted to the 

Hebraic faith when the anti-Semitic period passes. 

These baptized Jews, who have no belief whatever in Christianity, join the community of ‘non- 

Aryan Christians’ for whom your Church leaders constantly appeal. 

An industry has also grown up around the very distress of the Jews, namely, the industry of 

marriages bought and sold. All English readers have seen reports of cases where foreign Jewesses 

have paid foreigners to marry them in order to acquire another nationality and be beyond the reach 

of immigration bans and business hindrances. The most coveted of all passports – the passport, not 

the nationality or the husband, is the coveted thing – is the British. I was told by a Jew in Prague, 

‘Any young Englishman could earn a million Kronen by marrying a Jewess from here’. His table 

neighbour commented, ‘He wouldn’t need to be young’, and much laughter followed. 

As I write, the Prague newspaper which makes a speciality of brothel advertisements is earning a 

large revenue each day by publishing the announcements of emigrant Jews who have their papers 

in order and offer to take a wife with them, if she has a sufficient dowry; of Jewesses who seek a 

foreigner or a passage-booked emigrant as a husband and offer large financial inducements; and of 

foreigners who offer to marry Jewesses, and give them the benefits of another nationality, at a high 

price. These are some of the advertisements in current issues: ‘American is prepared to marry 

Jewess’; ‘I seek, for my brother, who is about to emigrate to South America, a wife, Jewess; not 

over 24, dowry essential’; ‘Marriage of convenience offered by respectable Yugoslav’; 

‘Distinguished Englishman offers name-marriage to Jewess’. 

No Jew ever mistakes the man he is dealing with. He knows at once whether the other man is a Jew 

or a Gentile; it is the first question he asks himself. 

How many Gentiles know when they have to do with a Jew? How often have you heard, ‘Is he 

really a Jew? The thought never occurred to me. He doesn’t look like one’. 

The feeling towards Gentiles that is given the Jew when he comes into the world and is fostered in 

him within his family circle, is that the Gentiles are people, more stupid than the Jews, who can be 

used to bring profit and advantage to the Jews. 

It is a fundamentally hostile attitude, the strength of which is that the Gentiles, by and large, do not 

realize its existence. All the means of protective colouring are used to further it. Outside that family 

circle the Jew is a matey, hail-fellow-well-met brother citizen. That is not in his heart, nor in his 

eyes, if you look into them. You are a man against whom he has to pit his wits, to outdo his 

potential enemy. The basis of it lies in his religion. It is all very good if both sides realize what is 

afoot. But it makes assimilation impossible. 

There are two bitterly antagonistic schools of Jewish thought. One is for assimilation, for ignoring 

that unbridgeable gulf fixed by the Jewish faith, for settling in the midst of the Christian 

communities and the various nations, and taking on their forms of life and characteristics. 

If you have a young and sturdy race and set a low limit on the number of the Jews, this works fairly 

well – as for instance, in Serbia. The Serbs were too virile for the Jews to reach disproportionate 

influence among them – and there were not many Jews. But when a new influx of Jews begins, 

under the influence of wars or an anti-Semitic movement elsewhere, the trouble starts. 

The other Jewish school of thought is for boldly accepting the truth, that Jews are Jews and 

unassimilable, for setting up a National Jewish state somewhere of which all Jews should be 

subjects. 

It is, in my view, the solution and ought at all cost to be done. Then the native citizen of other 

countries would know with whom he had to deal and what motives he might expect in that citizen 

of a foreign state. It would put an end to the Jew who constantly steps across the frontiers and 

repeatedly changes his language, his nationality, and his professed allegiance, who is a German to- 

day, an Austrian to-morrow, a Hungarian the day after, and next week an Englishman, who claims 

a privileged place in the world that is open to no other race or faith, who, in the name of love for 

that particular country in which he happens at the moment to be, works bee-like for war against the 

anti-Semitic state that he has left. 

Here you have the ruling idea of the dummer Christ again, the stupid Gentile who can be egged on 

to fight the other Gentiles in order to exterminate anti-Semitism. Organized international Jewry 

ought, in the name of dignity alone, to put a stop to this. Protest and fight against anti-Semitism as 

much as you like, but do not expect the nations to go to war about it. 

I spent many years in Germany, both before and after Hitler came to power, and there had the 

opportunity to study the Jews in the heyday of their power. They were still almost debarred from 

the army, but apart from that might attain to any post in Germany. The period of opening freedom 

and opportunity which began in the eighteen hundreds had reached its golden climax. Every door 

was open. 

How did they use this freedom? To work for Germany? From what I saw, I do not think so. No 

man’s hand was against them, but they used it to increase and fortify Jewish power and wealth to 

the detriment of the non-Jewish community. 

The Jews are not cleverer than the Gentiles, if by clever you mean good at their jobs. They 

ruthlessly exploit the common feeling of Jews, first to get a foothold in a particular trade or calling, 

then to squeeze the non-Jews out of it. I have chosen journalism for my first example, because I 

know a deal about it. 

It is not true that Jews are better journalists than Gentiles. They held all the posts on these Berlin 

newspapers because the proprietors and editors were Jewish. The opinions of these newspapers 

were quoted abroad as samples of German opinion. They represented the Jewish interest 

exclusively, in their attitude to both foreign and domestic affairs. If another country was friendly 

towards Jews, they were friendly towards that country: if it was anti-Jewish they attacked it. 

I remember a case, when a Lord Mayor of Berlin was detected taking bribes from a Jewish 

contractor. His wife had received an expensive fur coat, of Nerz, which I think is mink, and the 

scandal stank to heaven, so that the street boys were singing a parody of a then popular song, ‘Wenn 

du einmal dein Herz verschenkst, dann schenk’ es mir’. They sang: ‘Wenn du mal einen Nerz 

verschenkst, dann schenk’ ihn mir’. I remember how the Jewish newspapers tried to whitewash that 

scandal, to divert attention from the fact that the firm of contractors was a Jewish one. I observed 

this same attitude, on the part of Jewish newspapers, towards an endless series of financial scandals 

and criminal trials in which Jews were concerned, in Berlin and in Vienna. 

In Berlin, in those days, Jewish newspapers, which had their exact counterparts in Vienna, 

Budapest and Prague, gave daily space in their small advertisement columns to brothel 

announcements, blatant and unashamed, with address and telephone number. In Berlin and Vienna 

this has now been stopped. About Budapest I am not sure. In Prague one of them continues to do 

this to the very hour in which I write. I have to-day’s issue before me. It has a dozen 

announcements of this kind:  

Charming young Frenchwoman desires to let a beautifully furnished room to a well- 

to-do gentleman visiting Prague. 

An attractive young lady has comfortably furnished rooms to let. 

Body culture. A strict young lady imparts instruction in the new crawling- 

gymnastics. 

And so on, through the whole alphabet of procuration. 

What journalism is this? Is this ‘being cleverer than we are’? Of course you can make money like 

that, by publishing advertisements that other newspapers will not accept, but are you a better 

publisher, a better newspaper man for it? Or a less scrupulous one? 

In Vienna, in 1937, it was even possible to read in one of these newspapers an advertisement for a 

virgin, the price offered being a holiday by the sea. The advertisement read:  

Young man seeks the acquaintance, as the first friend [Freund, in this sense, means 

accepted lover] of her life of an attractive young girl, for a holiday in Italy together. 

He will pay all expenses. Three weeks in fairyland! Afterwards, loving friendship. 

The only comment which this advertisement aroused, in the Vienna of that time, was a mild 

reproof, ‘This is really going a bit far’, from the Catholic Reichspost

In the Berlin of yesteryear most of the theatres were Jewish-owned or Jewish-leased, most of the 

leading film and stage actors were Jews, the plays performed were often by German, Austrian or 

Hungarian Jews and were staged by Jewish producers, applauded by Jewish dramatic critics in 

Jewish newspapers. 

Was superior talent the explanation for this Jewish predominance? In my view, it was not. It was 

due to Protektion, a word that opens every Jewish door between Hamburg and Constanza. 

This is the system. You are a Jew, you encounter another Jew. He does you a small service or you 

do him one, usually something a little irregular by strict standards. On that basis an enormous 

superstructure of Protektion, of ramificatory and interlocking acquaintanceships and 

recommendations, is built up which reaches across all frontiers and unites the whole Jewish world. 

Do you think superior talent enables a Jewish actor or actress smoothly to step from leading parts in 

Berlin to leading parts in Vienna, when Hitler appears, and again from leading parts in Vienna, 

when Hitler appears there, to leading parts in London? Do you think non-Jewish talent would find 

the same open-armed reception from film and theatrical and operatic producers in London, in Paris 

and New York? Do you think it is a whim of nature that Jews from Poland, Russia, Galicia or 

Central Europe are needed to put English history on the screen, to portray famous figures of 

English history, a British officer, a Tudor prince? Do you imagine no Englishmen are available? 

Some of these cases are simply fantastic. The Jew, in such a plight, has a long lead on the non- 

Jewish fugitive, who faces a world in which he has no single friend, in which he must begin again 

from scratch, in which his chances of even getting across the frontiers are infinitely worse than 

those of the Jew, because he has not that Protektion in the outer world. 

In Berlin, one day, there was a Jewish journalist, a member of the staff of one of those snappy, 

sensational, bedtime-story sheets. Came Hitler, and he retired to Vienna, and joined a newspaper of 

the same sort there. Came Hitler, and he retired to Prague. Came Hitler, to the Sudeten German 

lands. 

This man could by no stretch of imagination be called a German, an Austrian, or a Czech. He was a 

Jew, born in some place that once was Russia and now was Poland or Lithuania or Estonia or 

heaven knows what. He had supplied ‘the German view’ from Berlin, ‘the Austrian view’ from 

Vienna, ‘the Czechoslovak view’ from Prague. 

Now I saw him, day by day, in hotel lounges, deep in conference with well-meaning but ill- 

informed English people who had come to ‘help the Czechs’. He poured a heart-rending tale into 

their ears, threatened to commit suicide. This was no destitute fugitive, but a slick fellow who was 

always well-fed and well-dressed and stepped smoothly across the frontier into another land every 

time that anything happened to make him move on. 

By these means, he was one of the first to get away. I don’t think this was what English people 

meant by ‘helping the Czechs’, But within a few weeks he was in London. A week or two later he 

wrote to another Jew in Prague in this sense: ‘I am having a wonderful time. I am staying in the 

household of an English lord, who is most kind to me. If you wish to send your wife to England, 

just let me know; I can arrange it immediately. I have good prospects of getting on to the English 

Press.’ 

Soon this man will be giving the world ‘the English view’, writing about the intense indignation that 

English people feel at the things that Germany does. It is fantastic. If England encourages this sort 

of thing, England is a lunatic asylum. 

I was present when the contents of that letter were read out. Another Jew who was present said: 

‘The next letter you get will tell you that he is now the English lord, and that the English lord has 

been pushed out in the cold.’ Followed a roar of laughter. 

The admission of these people to England is a thing in the free gift of the Government, save for 

such checks as, for the nonce, public discussion, and such part of the Press as remains immune to 

Jewish influence, may put on it. Already a barrage of intimidation is touched off against any man 

who tries to expose the danger to England of this new Jewish immigration. 

I have seen this same system at work in Berlin, in Vienna, in Prague, in Budapest. As soon as a 

man’s name gets the label of anti-Semitism tagged on to it, the grape-vine gets to work, the moles 

get busy. Yet this is not anti-Semitism, but self-protection. 

Mr. Herbert Metcalfe, the Old Street magistrate, who through the particular scope of his court has a 

great deal to do with Jewish immigrants, in dealing with a particularly bad case, said the way 

stateless Jews were pouring into England was an outrage, that the right policy would be to punish 

them sternly, not merely take them by the scruff of the neck and throw them out, and gave three of 

them six months hard labour apiece for having got into the country without permits. 

I know this type of Jew, and in my view Mr. Metcalfe was about right. But immediately a drumfire 

of invective and recrimination against Mr. Metcalfe opened. 

Do you believe this campaign sprang from the Englishman’s innate humanity, sympathy for the 

under-dog, love of fair play? No, it was partly the balm with which the Englishman of to-day 

soothes his conscience, mainly the result of Jewish instigation. How many Englishmen to-day 

would be prepared to admit five thousand non-Jewish, anti-Hitler Germans, skilled workers, men of 

peace and goodwill and democrats, with their wives and families, to England or the Dominions? 

No, they are Reds. They are not ‘Germans’ or ‘Austrians’, they are ‘Reds’. 

You Englishmen, who know how hard it is for an Englishman, without family influence, without 

money, without the Old School Tie to break through the iron ring of privilege, of preference, of 

nepotism, of wealth, of class-hatred, consider these things. Look at your Englishmen, in Durham, in 

Jarrow, in Shoreditch, in Hoxton. Do something about them first. 

When I was last in London I saw many faces I knew, many people of a type that I knew, and was 

not cheered by what I saw, in the streets, in the picture pages of the Press, in the reports of criminal 

trials. 

If you have eyes to see, take a look at this London of yours, the greatest city of the world, in 1939. 

Go, with open eyes, from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner, along Piccadilly to Leicester Square, 

down the Strand to Fleet Street and St. Paul’s, from there to Holborn Viaduct and back along 

Oxford Street. It is as if a drag-net had been cast over Berlin and Vienna and Budapest and Prague 

and Naples and Paris and Warsaw and Cracow, and the catch dumped down here in this paradise of 

gilt, chromium, plush and neon-lighting, where Shakespeare once mustered his players, where 

Milton and Chaucer walked, whence Drake and Raleigh sailed in search of new worlds, where 

English craftsmen once, long ago, made gates of good wrought iron and chests of good oak, where 

Englishmen once served Englishmen with beef and beer, and where Englishmen now sit in 

imitation marble halls eating poached eggs and drinking coffee. 

Put your heads through the doors of the restaurants, Petit Paris, Klein Berlin, Mañana’s, 

Hoggenstein’s, Posenovitch’s, Umpsky’s, and all the others, and see who is eating, who is serving, 

there. Stroll through the lounges, accursed word, of the cheap but splendiferous hotels round 

Piccadilly, the Strand and Marble Arch, and see what manner of people are reclining in those 

cushioned depths. 

 

Take up your newspaper and read the small advertisements on the front page:  

This is to certify that Ignacio François Wienerwaldski has applied for naturalization 

and that if any know just cause or impediment … 

Or:  

I, Aloysius Ibrahim Espagnolovitch, hereby give notice that I have changed my 

name to Arthur Etonharrow … 

Turn over the page and look at the ‘Situations Required’.  

Three Viennese sisters (Jewish), who do not wish to be separated, seek positions in 

an English household. 

Young German (refugee) seeks post as tutor. 

If you have any acquaintances who have engaged such applicants, ask them how long they 

remained in their employment after reaching England, how soon they left to set up a little business, 

whether they found a way to bring their sisters and brothers, sons and daughters to England too. 

Your newspapers, if you read them diligently and with discernment, carefully study the names and 

the pictures, give you a good picture of your London. Consider the following items collected from 

The Times

First, these, about two young Englishmen:  

Albert Smith, a van boy, 18, of Forest Gate, was sent to prison for a month at West 

Ham Police Court yesterday when he was charged with stealing 1s. from a cash till 

of a shop in Forest Gate. 

At Thames Police Court yesterday John Brown, 19, pleaded guilty to stealing ten 

shillings from his employer and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. 

Now look at these items, all taken from The Times in that same month:  

A Financial Shark. Bankrupt Dutchman sent to prison. Before Mr. Dummett, at 

Bow Street Police Court yesterday, —-, a Dutch subject, was charged that he, being 

an undischarged bankrupt, was concerned in the management of a company without 

the leave of the Court by which he was adjudged bankrupt … In 1935 he was 

adjudicated bankrupt, with liabilities amounting to £3,549 and assets 10s. 11d. Mr. 

Dummett sentenced —- to four months imprisonment. Notice of appeal was given. 

Woman’s Wanderings through Europe. Smuggled into Britain in Ship’s Bunker. At 

Bow Street yesterday —- … After the advent of Hitler, said defendant, she fled to 

Poland, then went to Antwerp, where a sailor said he would help her to get to 

England for £10 … On the third day the sailor came and said, You are safe now, you 

are in London’ … The magistrate said this was one of those distressing cases. He 

would make a recommendation for deportation, but the chances were that nothing 

would be done … A nominal fine of 10s. was imposed. 

Foreign Criminals Imprisoned. Three aliens, two men and a woman, were charged 

at Bow Street yesterday with landing in this country without the consent of the 

Immigration Officer. [I ought to explain to you that this means that they were 

smuggled in, against payment, and that only a few of those who do it are caught.] 

They were —-, a Russian; —-, a Russian; —-, a Peruvian. Detective-Inspector 

Muscle, of the Flying Squad, said he saw and arrested the accused in Limehouse. 

The woman —-, told him she had arrived in London an hour before, having landed 

in England at a port she did not know. She had paid a Greek sailor £5 and was put 

on board a boat she did not know. —- had been convicted twice in this country and 

recommended for deportation, while in 1934 he was convicted in Detroit, U.S.A. — 

– had no recorded convictions against her in this country, but the Berlin police 

stated that she was known to the Paris Police under another name. —- had 

convictions against him dating from 1911 in Dresden, Vienna, Warsaw, Milan, 

Copenhagen and Zürich; he had been expelled from Denmark and Italy and 

deported from this country. Detective-Inspector Muscle described the accused as ‘a 

gang of dangerous international criminals’. Sentence was passed. Detective- 

Inspector Muscle then stated that he had just received a telegram from the Paris 

police, who had identified —- by fingerprints as a woman named —-, who was 

sentenced for theft in Paris in 1934. 

These in a few weeks. The drag-net has caught a few small fish from the shoals that are swimming 

about in London. Now go through the West End, for your edification, with an open eye, and see 

what you have in London. When I was there I sometimes thought I was back in the 

Kurfürstendamm, the Kärntnerstrasse, the Andrássy Ut, the Wenceslas Platz. Here they were, 

neither toiling nor spinning, but flashing the diamond ring on their little fingers, occupying all the 

most prominent seats in the lounges of the cheap hotels, reading the papers in half a dozen 

languages, that pestiferous gang, with their well-manicured hands, their ever-roving eyes, their 

oiled hair, their natty suits, their aggressive manners, that I had seen in the main streets and cafés of 

half a dozen capitals. 

I first had my attention called to these things when I came back to London after the annexation of 

Austria. I had not been there for many years, save for a day or two, and now I was staggered by the 

change for the worse. London seemed to have taken over the human bad debts of half Europe. I 

began then closely to study the publications on the bookstalls, the people in the cheap but gaudy 

hotels, in the restaurants around Piccadilly, in the film-theatres, in the bottle-parties, in the 

massage-and-manicure halls, the newspapers, the brass plates, for the things I knew I should find. 

These people are the dregs of the emigration. Our police, as far as I can judge, cannot keep them 

out. They come in again and again, and when they are arrested in Whitechapel High Street they 

blandly protest that they have only just that moment arrived there, really don’t know how they got 

there, have none but the best of intentions, are sentenced to a few weeks’ imprisonment and 

deportation – and six months later they are there again. They have found a Greek sailor, a convict 

without a penny in his pockets. 

Almost every day now in your newspapers you may read items like these:  

German Refugee in Terror. A German dentist, —-, who was smuggled into England 

by motor-boat from France, stated yesterday that he had been living in terror and 

pleaded not to be sent back to Germany. Constable Smith, of the Aliens 

Department, said, —- paid a man in France 500 francs to bring him to England. 

Refugee Imprisoned; Appeal to Press not to Publish Name. A watch dealer, —-, 

described as of no nationality, was charged at Bow Street yesterday with having 

landed without the leave of an immigration officer. Police Constable Brown, of the 

Aliens Department, said the man arrived on Monday, having stowed away on a 

boat. 

If you closely follow these items, which you will generally find in obscure corners of your 

newspapers, you will see that the names of defending counsel in them are generally Jewish. Jewish 

welfare officials attend the courts. Any magistrate who expresses concern about the evil is liable to 

be pilloried in the Press and in Parliament. What eventually happens to these people, no man 

knows. You usually read that ‘the question of deportation will be carefully considered by the 

authorities’ or ‘a recommendation for deportation was made’. My own belief is that the majority of 

these people stay; you only have to look about you to see them. 

As long as you have a stable number of Jews, restricted by law from attaining undue power, in any 

particular land you can in course of time make those Jews so nearly natives of that land that the 

difference doesn’t matter. 

But as soon as you take the restrictions off, open every door to them, keep no safeguards for 

yourself, allow unlimited immigration, the trouble begins. 

You nearly had that state of affairs before the war; after the war you did have it; and that is the 

reason for all the trouble now. If you could stabilize the Jews in the world within the frontiers 

where they now live, and still build barriers against their disproportionate acquisition of wealth and 

power – for the Jews in prosperity are as ruthless as the Germans – all would be well. But you can’t, 

because of that great flood of migration, surging hither and thither, and in England you should as 

quickly as possible build barriers against the formation of yet another privileged class. 

That is what the Jews become, if they have full freedom. Held together by that cement of fellow- 

feeling, they are a compact and well-organized minority within the community, working with the 

co-ordinated rhythm of a great machine. I don’t mean that it is a plot; that depends on what you 

understand by a plot. It is possibly just a feeling of common belonging-together, that the surest way 

of reaching the desired end is by close mutual collaboration. 

But don’t forget that the acquisition of wealth and worldly goods and the power they bring is for the 

Jew a sign of divine favour, a thing that entitles him to the respect of his fellow-Jews. For most of 

us, the rich man is, in our hearts, rather a creature of contempt. He, too, by his closed guilds, keeps 

us enslaved; we work for him, pay him tribute – but not respect. The very rich Jew is for the poor 

Jew an object of esteem and admiration. 

I wrote that the Jews, when you give them full equality, use it to become a privileged group, not to 

become equals. A small example of the system at work was that case of the Jew newly arrived in 

Harley Street, who got his fellow-Jew in Berlin to write to a prospective English patient and warn 

her against the English doctors. That is how it begins – the squeeze-out. Imagine that in 1938, with 

one of the greatest countries in the world suppressing the Jews, with England taking its place as the 

haven where they fain would be! Imagine how it would work in a time when no anti-Semitic 

feeling existed, how it worked in Germany before anti-Semitism boiled up. Where is the feeling of 

gratitude to the country that has given you sanctuary? 

I know a newspaper in a Central European capital where the entire editorial staff – the printers and 

packers and typists and porters and drivers and runabout-boys were mostly Gentiles – were Jews. 

When anti-Semitism began to loom nearer, a new editor was appointed – a Gentile. He was one of 

those charming Hungarians, that is to say, he was a Croat or Slovene or a Ruthene or a German or 

something by origin, but he was a great Hungarian patriot, and a Christian. He knew Jews perfectly, 

he said: all non-Jewish Hungarians think that, and that is why the Jews are stronger in Hungary 

than almost anywhere. 

With a charming smile he told me that he knew exactly why he had been appointed and what his 

position was to be – the Auslage Goy, or shop-window Gentile. When the sun shines and you re- 

dress the window, you take that particular dummy away; it is old-fashioned. But why did that 

Jewish newspaper engage only Jewish journalists? Was this chance? Or was it anti-Gentilism? 

In Berlin, in Vienna, as I knew them, this system of the squeeze-out was always at work, 

relentlessly. In the main shopping thoroughfares a non-Jewish shop was a rarity. Do you know that 

in the Regent Street of Berlin, the Kurfürstendamm, Jewish shops were in the riots of November 

1938 in the overwhelming majority, that on that day you could count the unwrecked, that is, the 

non-Jewish shops, on the fingers of your hand? In some trades – the clothing trade, the leather trade, 

the fur trade, the gold and jewellery trade, the coal trade – a Jewish monopoly prevailed, in Vienna, 

and a Christian who tried to set foot in them would have had about as much chance as General 

Ludendorff at a Freemasons’ meeting. 

When times become bad that extraordinary grape-vine system of inter-recommendation continues. 

It is not confined, in so far as favours are asked, to Jews. The machine of Jewish wits is set to work 

to foster the sympathy, to enlist the help, of the Christians. The smallest service rendered is the soil 

in which that seed of Protektion is planted, and once it takes root a beanstalk of betterment starts 

climbing to the skies, with Jack Jew shinning up it. 

Hungary is a particularly good example of the country which produces the Jew who is a good 

Hungarian to-day, good Englishman to-morrow, good German next week, good Chinese next 

month, and which in my view still affords the best example to-day of a country where the Jew, by 

this method of squeeze-out collaboration, rises to heights of influence and affluence far beyond his 

deserts and his numbers. 

Hungary produced the classic example of that kind of Jew – Trebitsch Lincoln. Consider Trebitsch 

Lincoln. He was born a Jew, in Hungary. His parents came from Poland or Russia or Lord knows 

where – from ‘behind God’s back’, as the Magyar proverb says. You, if you had been writing a 

paragraph for your English newspapers, would in your objective, fair’s-fair way have written ‘A 

Hungarian has been born’. 

In his early manhood, if I remember rightly, he was a priest of one of the Christian confessions, in 

Canada, I think! Here was your ‘non-Aryan Christian’! A little later he was making a deep 

impression on those loving souls, the Quakers, in England. A little later still he was a good British 

patriot, a Member of the House of Commons. 

A few more years passed, the World War broke out, and Trebitsch Lincoln proved to have been a 

spy – for Germany, a country to which he owed no allegiance. But to what country did he owe 

allegiance? If any, then, I should say, to England. But allegiance was not in him. 

Oblivion for a few years, and then came the Kapp Putsch in Germany, the first of the Nationalist 

conspiracies to overthrow the democratic liberal regime that was so kind to the Jews, and reinstate 

the big business men, big landlords, monarchists, militarists, in the seats of the mighty in Germany. 

Who was a leading figure in this short-lived seizure of power? Trebitsch Lincoln, now a German 

die-hard. Among the other sympathizers was a relatively unknown man, one Adolf Hitler. Trebitsch 

Lincoln on the side of the anti-Semites? Of course, he was a Christian. 

Let me here interrupt my story of Trebitsch Lincoln for a moment to say that when the discomfited 

Kapp troops, after their brief reign, withdrew through the Brandenburger Tor at the top of Unter 

den Linden they fired, just from exuberant geniality, on the crowd, many people being killed and 

wounded, while others ran, and I saw a photograph of this incident which has never left my 

memory. 

In the foreground, with the running, crouched or prostrate figures for a background, is an old 

woman with a child. The child huddles into her skirts. She holds it, her body between it and the 

bullets. When you look at that picture you can almost hear the rat-tat-tat of the machine-guns, the 

frightened crying of the child, the beating of the old woman’s heart. Madonna, child and machine- 

gun, a pleasant symbolic picture for our post-war Europe. But nobody has bothered to paint it. 

Back to Trebitsch Lincoln. Again a few years of oblivion and you heard of him in China, where 

men were fighting. By now he was either a good Russian Bolshevist or a good Chinese Nationalist, 

I forget which. Then, again, a few years of silence. Then, again, news that Trebitsch Lincoln was a 

Buddhist monk, and the tardy post brought pictures of him in his little silken cap, his silken tunic, 

his funny pants. 

A man without truth, without honour, without faith, without loyalty? No, you are wrong. Now 

something happened that touched the one spot in Trebitsch Lincoln where you could find loyalty. 

In England he had a son, and this son was a soldier in the British Army, and if you can beat that one 

please write and tell me, because I should like to know. The son was convicted of murder, the date 

of execution set. In far Tibet, or wherever he was, Trebitsch Lincoln heard the news. He came 

speeding across the world to see his son before he died. Here was his one loyalty, the loyalty of the 

Jewish family. He arrived, at Southampton, I think, a few hours before the execution. He was not 

allowed to land. He steamed away again, resumed that endless journey … 

What a figure. I wish sometimes that I had another medium than words, those pale and empty 

sounds and symbols. I would like to tell a tale in acid, in poison, in vitriol, in fire and brimstone, a 

tale that would scar and singe and scorch and curl up the pages as you read them. 

If you open wide the doors of opportunity to this kind of Jew you are asking for your house to be 

despoiled. Remember that he uses all the methods of protective colouring. Baptism. Me a Jew? No, 

I am a Christian, even a Christian priest. Language. What, Mr. Lincoln a foreigner? But he speaks 

perfect English. Name-changing. What, Mr. Lincoln a foreigner and a Jew? But he has a good 

English name, is a Member of Parliament, and his sentiments are irreproachable. You are mad. Out 

upon you. 

There is no limit for this kind of Jew. If you doubt me, think of Trebitsch Lincoln leading the anti- 

Semites down the Wilhelmstrasse to the seat of power. But I can show you the modern counterpart 

of Trebitsch Lincoln, and I don’t mean those pro-Hitler Jews who were said by rumour to have 

marched round Berlin in the early Nazi days carrying a banner with the legend ‘Hinaus mit uns!’ – 

‘Chuck us out!’ 

In Budapest, while Hitler, the Jew-killer, was conducting his siege of Czechoslovakia, was a 

newspaper conducted almost entirely by Jews. All the Jews on that newspaper were hoping that 

Hitler would fail, that Czechoslovakia, which had given liberal shelter to Jews from Germany and 

Austria, would survive, that Germany would be discomfited in peace or crushed in war. Otherwise 

the anti-Semitic Reich would advance a step-nearer Hungary, the day of anti-Semitism in Hungary 

would loom nearer. 

But rather than forfeit their posts or risk the suspension of their paper by the Government, which 

was anti-Czech, the Jews on that newspaper wrote the bitterest things about Czechoslovakia each 

day, called the Czechs tyrants and rogues and scum, applauded Germany’s resolve to bring 

Czechoslovakia to her knees. 

The problem is not simple. 

Hungary is the most instructive country in Europe for the study of the Jews, because they are there 

more powerful than in any other country I know, and yet the innocent abroad never even suspects 

this when he spends his pleasant days and nights in Budapest and thinks he is getting to know the 

Magyars. 

I once sat on a café terrace overlooking Budapest with a Jew, an exceptionally intelligent one. He 

looked reflectively over the city. ‘Isn’t it lovely?’ he said. ‘You know, this, and not Vienna, was the 

Jews’ paradise.’ I had never thought it out quite as far as that, but as soon as he said it I knew that he 

was right. 

In Hungary you had, as that old Magyar nobleman said who I quoted to you earlier, a ruling class, 

the nobles and magnates, who chose to pretend that business was beneath them and used the Jews 

for all matters of buying and selling, banking and moneylending, accounting and manufacturing. 

By doing this, as they went out hunting or sat by the fireside and in a lordly way commanded the 

gipsies to make music for them, they delivered the country to the Jews and surrendered their own 

mastery of it to the Jews. 

The Hungarians, the masses, the people who lived on and from the land, noticed little difference. It 

was a change of bond-masters. They remained plough-fodder and factory-fodder, but it was an age 

when the number of factories and chimneys, of which the noblemen understood nothing, was daily 

increasing, and the number of shops, fed by the factories, was increasing in like ratio, and the 

power of the Jews grew and grew, and even on the land, as the indolent noblemen, with their flashy 

phrases and their stupid acts, went bankrupt or signed more and more bills, the number of acres in 

Jewish ownership grew and grew likewise. 

It was the age of the machine, and the Jews slipped slickly into that gap between the lords of the 

manor and the serfs and soon monopolized all the functions that neither understood: the one class 

because it was too arrogant and lazy, the other because it was too downtrodden and kept in 

ignorance and serfdom. It was a golden age for the Jews, and Hungary in that half century before 

the World War became, as my Jewish acquaintance said, the Jews’ paradise. 

Then came a thing you should remember when you read that lamentable outcry: What, oh what on 

earth is to become of the Jews, in ten years, at this rate? They will all have been exterminated. 

There came a Communist regime, almost exclusively Jewish: a reactionary regime with a brief but 

fierce anti-Jewish period; and then – another period of glorious Jewish prosperity. This is what 

makes Hungary so very instructive, in studying the Jewish problem: it is the only country in 

Europe, save Germany, where you have had violent anti-Semitism since the war, and within a few 

months that was all forgotten and the Jews were as powerful and as comfortable as ever, and have 

remained so to this day, when the clouds are gathering again in the north-west. 

This is the story. In 1919 a Red Republic was proclaimed in the land of the Magyars. Of the 

Government, of the twenty-six People’s Commissars, eighteen were Jews! The Jews had 

untrammelled power in Hungary, and they packed the administration, so that the Jews, in that 

period, were not a powerful though camouflaged class, but overtly the ruling class. 

They had a straw man, an Auslage Goy, as President, the good master-bricklayer Alexander Garbai, 

but he had nothing to say. Theirs was the Hungarian Kingdom, the power and the glory. Aaron 

Cohen (Béla Kun), Josef Pogany, Tibor Szamuelly (Samuels) and the others reigned unchallenged, 

and did some very unpleasant things. Their fingers were no whit less quick on the trigger than those 

of Ad Hitler or Al Capone. 

Many people are puzzled by the leading part that the Jews play in Communism. How can the Jews, 

who love money, be for a doctrine which denies the right of private property, the right to amass 

wealth?, they ask their little selves. The answer is that there is always money at the top, and at the 

top is a thing that attracts Jews more than money – power. Hungary had given the Jews everything 

they could desire. One Jew, Ludwig Hatvány, wrote:  

The old Hungary gave me everything: wellbeing, security, rank and title. The 

university and the academy stood open to me. 

He was of those who supported the Bolshevist regime and afterwards fled into exile. 

The Rumanians chased Béla Kun out of Hungary. He failed to do the one thing which could have 

given him any hold on the people – take land from the big landowners and give it to the landless 

peasants. Instead, he nationalized all the land. But to give land to the peasants was a thing not in the 

hearts of these men; they were as ruthless as any other tyrants. Hard on his heels came Admiral 

Horthy; quickly the old regime reinstated itself in power; Hungary after a world war was exactly as 

she had been before it. 

Inevitably, there was a rabid anti-Jewish outbreak. Officers, with improvised detachments, 

rampaged the land and hanged some Jews, and were not always careful to choose the right ones. 

That was in 1919. By 1920 anti-Jewish feeling was already dwindling, by 1921 it was dead, and the 

Jews were moving to another period of increasing influence and prosperity. A remarkable thing, 

when you think of the want that stalked Hungary, of the passions that had been aroused. 

At first, to dissociate themselves from the Red regime and to escape the vengeance that seemed 

likely to follow it, masses of Jews had themselves baptized: in 1919, 7146; in 1920, 1925; in 1921 

only 827, thereafter a very small number annually. The need for protective colouring was 

diminishing. The number of re-conversions, from Christianity to the Mosaic religion, rose steeply. 

Seventeen years later, in 1938, the Jews in Hungary were richer and more powerfully established 

than ever before. The memory of the Béla Kun regime seemed completely to have faded; anti- 

Semitism, but for the ominous rumblings from the north-west, would have been a dead letter. On 

paper, as always, the proportion of the Jews to the population was very small – about 600,000, or 

6.5 per cent of the total, including confessing Jews, baptized Jews, and half-Jews. 

In this matter of the Jews, figures are great prevaricators, for the actual picture that Hungary 

presented to the human eye was a completely different one. It was a picture of Jewish 

predominance, in very many walks of life, out of all proportion to their numbers, even assuming 

that these were much greater than the statistics showed. They were – they are, as I write – a group 

with a standard of wellbeing and power far above any other in the country. 

They owned 46 per cent of all industrial undertakings. They manned 70 per cent of the boards of all 

companies representing big business. On the boards of the leading banking houses their share was 

between 75 and 80 per cent; 67.2 per cent of private brokers and 36 per cent of banking clerks were 

Jews. They had even gained possession of 11.7 per cent of all land in Hungary – against the urgent 

warnings of a Zionist leader, who many years before had told them:  

You are making a fatal mistake in acquiring landed property. You already own 

more than half of the immovable property in this land. The people cannot in the 

long run tolerate such a conquest. Only by force of arms can a minority, which is 

alien to the people and is not historically renowned like the old aristocracy, 

maintain its hold on such possessions. 

Of the bigger estates, 17.6 per cent were in Jewish hands; 34.4 per cent of all doctors were Jews, 

49.2 per cent of all lawyers, 31.6 per cent of all journalists. In Budapest, the capital, where between 

a quarter and a third of the entire population is Jewish, the proportion was much higher. The 

publishing and printing trades were almost exclusively Jewish, all privately-owned theatres were 

Jewish, and 40.5 per cent of film theatres. 

To get a clearer picture of this almost monopolistic control take the boards of the twenty leading 

industrial undertakings in Hungary in 1934-35. Of 336 names 235 were Jewish; 290 of the biggest 

industrial concerns in Hungary were under the control of the ten biggest banks. Of 319 names on 

the boards 223 were Jewish. 

In 1936, 19 newspapers in Budapest employed 418 editors, journalists and contributors; 306 were 

Jewish. 

Now leave the figures and look at Budapest, at the retail trade, the mightiest of all the Jewish 

strongholds. Here the Jewish preponderance is clearest to the naked eye, because it is behind the 

counter, not upstairs in the board-room. In Budapest there are miles of streets where you may 

search vainly for a non-Jewish shop. It is very difficult, if you wish to buy anything, not to buy it 

from a Jew. 

The contrast between this strongly entrenched Jewish community, all its units earning a good 

living, and the poverty of the workers in outer Budapest, of the peasants in many parts of the 

country, is striking and depressing. Most of the workers work for Jews and, when they get their 

meagre pay envelope, hand it to their wives, who trot along to the Jewish shopkeeper and give it 

back, and so the money, like the music, goes round and round and comes out – where? Nowhere 

where the worker or the peasant can get at it. 

It is, in its way, a new tyranny, comparable with that of the nobles and the Church in the Middle 

Ages, the tyranny of money-power instead of the tyranny of inherited privilege, and it needs 

remedying just as much as those other tyrannies, which still linger on. 

This is the problem that has to be solved, as it seems to me: that the Jews, given full equality of 

opportunity, use it to oust the others and acquire the status of a privileged class. 

Come with me on a few journeys through the Hungarian countryside and watch the system at work 

there. 

Come to Mezökövesd, where the tourists are taken on Sundays in charabancs, because on Sundays 

the peasants put on their pretty costumes and all go to church, and this delights the tourists, who 

feel they are really getting to know Hungary, lunch well at the restaurant round the corner, which is 

decorated in the Hungarian-operetta style and is especially put there for tourists and has about as 

much relation to life in Mezökövesd as the Berkeley Buttery has to the good old English life of 

Bethnal Green, and are whisked back to Budapest in their charabancs. 

But we will go to Mezökövesd not on Sunday, but on Saturday afternoon. The peasants and 

villagers are at work; they are not wearing those picturesque costumes. They are at their daily 

grind, which lasts from dawn to dusk. They are bitterly poor. Money is a rare thing to them, even 

small coins. They think themselves lucky if they have enough to eat. 

On all sides of you you will see these faces lined and wrinkled by toil and care and weather, these 

figures warped by heavy labour. But go a little farther and you come to the village square, a place 

where the church stands and the road widens and there are a few shops and women sit by piles of 

pumpkins – the village meeting-place. If Mezökövesd were London this would be Piccadilly Circus. 

All those shops, every one of them, has a Jewish name above it. It is Saturday afternoon, and the 

owners are not working. They, too, stand about the market-place, or at any rate, the young men; the 

older men and the women sit in the shops, talking. 

If you close your eyes to the market-place and only look at those young men, this is London, this is 

Piccadilly Circus. They are just the same Jews that you see there. They wear natty suits, close- 

fitting shoes, new hats on carefully-barbered heads. They are well-to-do. They are the lords of this 

remote little town, with its dusty and rutty road, with the geese running about, with oxen-hauled 

wagons passing to and fro. 

The rest, the church, the lean and hungry peasants, the mean cottages, is just backcloth. On the long 

winter evenings those peasant women spend hours, by the dim light of a paraffin lamp, stitching 

and embroidering, stitching and embroidering, stitching and embroidering. Round the corner is a 

shop, where a well-dressed Jewish gentleman sits reading the Pesti Naplo. From him you may buy 

those attractive hand-worked bedspreads and tablecloths, the products of so many midwinter nights’ 

work – at a price, a high one. The peasants sell them to him – at a low one. In Budapest there are 

many of these shops, all Jewish-owned, where the arts and crafts of Hungary fill the windows and 

the foreign tourists pause with little cries of pleasure at the pretty things they see. 

Next time you pass one of those shops think of the people who make these things. Try and get 

someone to take you to the homes of the people who make them, watch them at work. 

In Czechoslovakia the peasants sell these things direct to the buyer – in the market-place, in the 

street. Why not in Hungary? Is it forbidden? By whom, and for whom? 

Come to Esztèrgom, the cradle of Hungary, where the first Hungarian kings had their palace on that 

craggy eminence overlooking the Danube and the bridge which, until recently, took you into 

Czechoslovakia, but now the land on the other side is Hungarian again. Come there, too, on a 

Saturday afternoon, see exactly the same thing happen there in the tiny market-place. Perhaps in a 

hundred years Esztèrgom will be a great and rich and populous and important town. That little 

market-place will be growing into a local Piccadilly Circus. Sites there will be the most valuable in 

all Esztèrgom. They are all owned by Jews. All the shops bear Jewish names, first modest ventures 

in gilt, chromium, nickel and neon-lighting are being made. The young Jews, in their town clothes, 

stand about, talking. The town lads run about barefoot, beg watermelon-rinds from the greengrocer, 

gnaw them till the light shows through the husk. 

Come to Kecskemet. This is a town, quite a big one. Here they make that excellent apricot brandy 

which the Prince of Wales discovered for the Hungarians – so the Hungarians say. Here is a big 

square. One of the biggest buildings in it is the synagogue. A deal of money, such a synagogue 

costs. All round the square are the glittering Jewish, shop signs. The countryside around is poor, the 

peasants harassed by want. Out of the synagogue come the Jews of Kecskemet, important, well- 

dressed, talking in gesticulating groups – a people apart. 

Go where you will in Hungary, in every town and every larger village you will find the synagogue 

among the most prominent buildings, the banks, the shops, the picture theatres, the filling stations, 

owned by the Jews. 

Go where you will in Hungary and you will find that the native craftsman and handworker is 

almost extinct. Where he still exists he makes lovely things, but he is almost impossible to find. 

The few shops in the village market-place are a replica in miniature of Budapest – cheap china, 

shoddy and ready-made, trashy jewellery, artificial silk stockings, tawdry frocks, the harvest of a 

young Jewish-controlled industry working to the lowest possible level of taste and material. 

I once went to a great fair on the outskirts of Budapest and was staggered by the nightmare 

assortment of cheap machine-made goods that I saw there, that the peasants, come in from the 

countryside, were avidly buying. At one stall a Jew was selling the most hideous collection of 

cheap oleographs of the Christian God and His prophets that I ever saw, all in gilt frames. I 

ransacked that fair for something that I wanted to buy, something that, when I was in other lands, 

would give me pleasure to look at and remind me of Hungary, that lovely Hungary of the abundant 

fields and the peasants working in them, not this Hungary of inferior machine-made wares. 

At last I found a man who sold jugs and vases and cups that he had moulded and baked and painted 

himself. At last, something echt, something genuine, something Hungarian. He had a few drinking- 

cups, bottoms-up cups that you have either to hold in your hand or empty and put down, you can’t 

stand them on the table and sip. They were lovely. I bought four, and only wish I had bought the 

other two that he had. I never look at them without delight. They cost sixpence each. To me they 

were beyond price. 

‘The Jews’ paradise’, my Jewish acquaintance had called Hungary. I had taken a good look at it and 

agreed with him. I was not convinced that the Jews had been good for Hungary. If you want to 

study this question, which is playing so large a part in our time, Hungary is a good place to begin. 

I was impressed in Hungary, as I had been in Vienna up to the very moment when Hitler marched 

in, as I was later in Prague, by the apparent unconcern of the Jews. England, France, America and 

the whole of the outer world were ringing with the tale of Jewish persecution, yet in these cities, 

with Hitler at their very door, they went their way seemingly unperturbed, made no change in their 

mode of life or their way of enjoying it, predominated, just as they had always done, in the showier 

cafés and restaurants and hotels and bars and night-clubs. This continues at this moment, as I write, 

in Prague, in November 1938. Only a few miles away, at this very moment, synagogues are 

burning. Thousands of Jews have been turned out, neck and crop, from Germany into Poland; 

hundreds into Czechoslovakia. Here in Prague the Jews are eating, laughing, dancing as if they had 

no cares. Of all the prevalent misconceptions about the Jews the worst is that they are cowardly. 

They are most courageous – for a cause that is their own. They are also irrepressible. 

Many people were puzzled by something I once wrote about the Jews – that when Hitler had passed 

away they would still he trading in the Kurfürstendamm, in the Kärntnerstrasse. You seem to be 

right about some things, they said, but you are clearly nuts about this. The Jews are being 

exterminated. Soon they will be no more. 

Don’t believe it. You are fooling yourself if you do. Try and realize that the great majority of the 

Jews who were in Germany when Hitler came to power are there now, that the majority of the 

shops in such main shopping thoroughfares as the Kurfürstendamm are Jewish – I write this in the 

knowledge that they were wrecked yesterday, and I wonder how those British insurance companies 

are feeling about it – and this mass of Jews will stay there. 

Of course they will go through bad times, but they will stay there and survive them. Hitler should 

live, say, another twenty years, or thereabouts. From Vienna the Jews were banished ‘for all time’ – 

a favourite phrase of the Führer – in 1422, and subsequent clearances were made in 1554, 1567, 

1573, 1575, 1600, 1614 and 1624. In 1670 they were banished for all time again. All through the 

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in spite of periodic banishments, their influence increased. In 

1879 the last strongholds – State service and university chairs – fell to them. In 1937 Vienna had 

more Jews than ever before and they prospered exceedingly. 

I don’t think the Jews made good or fair use, on the whole, of the flinging-open of all doors to them, 

and they are now descending somewhat from the peak of power and affluence to which the World 

War brought them. A new period of restriction has begun. No one can foresee at this moment how 

long it will last or how much damage it will do them. That it will relax again, sometime, is as 

certain as that the sun will rise to-morrow. 

For my part, I am convinced of one thing, and I know that many Jews in their hearts agree with me 

about this: that the relaxation, when it comes, should not be used, for instance, to make Berlin again 

at some future time what Berlin was before 1933. For this reason I find some of the things that I see 

in London to-day sinister and ominous. 

The Jews have a part to play if anti-Semitism is to be killed. In London to-day they are doing just 

what they did in Berlin. They are deserting the East, flooding the West, flooding Hampstead and 

Maida Vale, squeezing-out, flaunting. 

There are nearly two million unemployed in England, millions of English people are living in 

conditions that disgrace the richest country in the world, and it isn’t good enough. The theory of the 

free fox in the free henroost has got to be exploded. 

Why have I written all these things, at such length? First, because I know something about the 

matter and because I, who have helped many Jews by word and deed, like to say just what I think 

when somebody yelps ‘anti-Semite’ at me. 

Secondly, because I believe the only way to settle this eternal wrangle to everybody’s satisfaction, 

including the Jews, since the Jews will not change their anti-Gentile religion, would be to found a 

National Jew State for them, and if I were Hitler I would do that: what a sweet revenge, to be the 

man who solved the Jewish problem and put an end to anti-Semitism! 

Thirdly, because I believe that if you cannot have your Jewish state, then you must resolutely close 

your frontiers to any more Jews and apply yourself diligently to assimilating those that you have, 

but in this case you must safeguard yourself against their rise to disproportionate power and 

affluence through methods which, in our code, amount to unfair competition. 

At a railway station in Prague I watched a trainload of refugees move out into an unknown future. 

They were all men. They were all Germans, from the Sudeten German lands that Hitler has 

annexed. These were Socialists and Communists, men whose lives were in peril. They were bound 

for England and, after that, somewhither, none knew. 

Their womenfolk and children stood on the platform weeping, not knowing when they would see 

their husbands and fathers again. The men, good, sturdy German working men, stood at the 

windows and watched them. They said hardly a word. Their faces showed resignation and 

dejection. They just stood and looked at their wives and children on the platform. 

Among them was one Jew. On the platform stood his mother and sister, different from the working- 

class women around, better dressed. The Jew, alone of all those men, had something to say. ‘Wir 

kommen wieda’, he announced loudly, to the waiting crowd at large, ‘We’ll be back’. The other men 

remained silent and expressionless; they knew that they would not be coming back. The Jew spoke 

again, to his sister. ‘Trachte, dass du bald nachkommst’, he said. ‘Try and get out soon.’ Why, I 

wondered, if he thought he would be back. 

The train moved out. The men at the windows looked silently at their people on the platform, 

nodded sadly with their heads, made no other movement. The Jew leaned out of the window, cried, 

loudly, ‘Wir kommen wieda!’ The crowd gazed after him, made no response. The other men still 

stood silently at their windows, nodding their heads in farewell. The Jew raised his arm, fist 

clenched, in the workers’ greeting. On the little finger a diamond flashed in the light of the lamps. 

Now, why? I asked myself, as I came away. He simply is not of those men, those working men, 

neither he nor his ring nor his rather theatrical cry nor his mother nor his sister. They are all quite 

different, they belong somewhere else. Then why was he there, and what were his innermost 

motives? 

I could find no answer. He was just different.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Four 

LONG, LONG TRAIL 

Chance had it that when I came to write about the Jews, as I meant to after the criticisms that had 

been made of Insanity Fair in this respect, I spent much time in places where the wave of anti- 

Semitism was approaching, and I had opportunity to study them in adversity. I have been in 

countries on the borders of the anti-Jewish Reich where the Jewish fugitives were gathering, where 

the native Jews were preparing for the new dispersal. I have seen them in no-man’s-land. I have 

seen them, in thousands, conferring together in hotels and cafés, thronging airline and steamship 

offices, besieging influential foreigners, newspaper offices and consulates under the banner of 

Protektion

I have just read the statement of one of these Jewish emigrants, now comfortably situated in 

London and writing for anti-Nazi newspapers in several countries, ‘Wir Juden sind 

Stehaufmenschen’. 

You know those toys that children play with, the little men with the rounded and weighted base 

whom you cannot knock over, they always bob up smiling? It is an exact description. While people 

in England are lamenting the fate of the Jews in Germany, they do not notice that the Jews in 

England are becoming more powerful than ever before. 

Everything I have seen has confirmed the opinions I had formed during eleven years of wandering 

about the Continent, and I have had these opinions confirmed to me by Jews themselves. Now all 

these Jews are making plans to go to England, to the British Dominions, to America. 

It is not a solution; this new emigration will bring with it the same deterioration of standards in 

those countries, the same disproportionate and unjustifiable rise in the level of prosperity in the 

Jews above that of the native population, the same conditions that have played their large part in 

bringing about the present outburst of anti-Semitism throughout the territories of the German Reich 

and of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. These were the promised lands of the Jew, especially 

Germany, for which all Jews who have lived there hunger to-day. They cannot think to-day of 

Berlin and Vienna, Frankfurt and Mannheim, without longing and regret creeping into their voices 

for the countries in which those cities are situated. Were they not largely to blame if they threw 

away, by immoderate lust for display and wealth and power, the things those lands promised them? 

Listen to Benno Israelovitchsky, a rich man who was born in Russia, who lived for ten years in 

Berlin, for three in Vienna, for eight in Trautenau in the Sudeten German lands, for five in The 

Hague, for two in Paris, and who, when I talked with him a few hours before writing this, was still 

a rich man in Prague, preparing now to set out again on the long, long trail of Ahasver and pitch his 

tent for a while in Reval. Incidentally, he has the passport of a South American Republic, though he 

has never been there, and this gives him the Protektion of the Legation and Consulate of that state 

whenever anti-Semitism gets too near him. 

Benno Israelovitchsky is one of the few Jews I have ever met who drinks a good deal; ninety-five 

Jews out of a hundred never drink more than a glass or two, because they think, ‘If I get drunk my 

soberer neighbour will be astuter than I, and in any case why drink beyond the point where I know 

just how much stimulation and wittiness and good humour I am getting for my money?’ 

Benno Israelovitchsky, in wine, became expansive beyond his wont. He spoke of Berlin after the 

war, with me and with a second Jew, also Russian-born, who had made the familiar life’s journey 

from Kieff to Berlin, from Hitlerist Berlin to Vienna, from Hitlerist Vienna to Prague, and was now 

preparing to quit Prague, before the approach of Hitler, for Paris. 

‘Ah,’ said Benno Israelovitchsky, in the lamenting tone which the Jews to-day use when they talk of 

the spread of anti-Semitism, the diminishing circle of their activities, ‘I am an anti-Semite. Berlin 

after the war! Ah, what a time, what a life that was! And who was to blame for what happened? 

Think back’ – he was addressing his fellow-Jew – ‘think back and recall how our young people 

behaved then. If they had conducted themselves differently we should never have had Hitler. That 

is what makes me an anti-Semite.’ 

The other Jew nodded noncommittally. ‘Perhaps you are right,’ he said. 

Benno Israelovitchsky was right. I knew that Berlin, and he was right. I knew Vienna of those 

earlier days too, and he would have been right to say the same thing about that city. 

The major issue, for Englishmen, of our contemporary times needs to be made clear in a vital point. 

If we are, one day, to fight Germany again, it must not be to put the Jews back on their cushioned 

pasha’s thrones there. If we want to help the Jews we cannot do it by letting the least valuable of 

them into England, so that they can make London in 1939 look like Berlin in 1929. If we want to 

help the Jews the only way is to help them to their National Jewish State – but not by giving them 

machine-guns to kill Arabs. 

I contemplated Benno Israelovitchsky. He was a man nearing sixty. In the offing sat his twenty- 

three-year-old amie, the usual blonde harem-piece in a fur-coat, discovered somewhere in the 

provinces of Belgium or France or Germany or Austria. I wondered why he had taken such pains to 

discover that I was in Prague, to make my acquaintance. From curiosity I had agreed to meet him. I 

had asked him, why? He said he had read something about me and some forecasts I had made in a 

Czechoslovak newspaper, admired their accuracy. That, I knew, was not all of the truth. A deeper 

reason existed, somewhere. 

As the evening wore on, and the fourth bottle of champagne (gold foil and a popping cork are 

wonderful things, and Czech champagne costs little more than nothing, so, well, I mean to say) had 

gone, headless, to join the dead men, I found out. I had saved Benno Israelovitchsky his fortune. I 

had written my book from very different motives, but this had been one of its results. 

Back in the early days of 1938 he was a worried man. Was Hitler about to swallow Austria?, he 

asked himself day and night. What would happen to the Jews there, and their belongings? What 

would happen after that, to Czechoslovakia, to the Jews there, to their belongings? 

He read newspapers, listened to the radio, asked friends and acquaintances what they thought. But 

he could not make up his, mind. Then, one day, soon after the end of Austria, he read in a Prague 

Jewish newspaper that I had in Insanity Fair foretold the end of Austria and foresaw a similar fate 

for Czechoslovakia. 

Benno Israelovitchsky began to convert his holdings into cash, to export them and get them tucked 

away safely in small neutral countries, to sell his immovable property and withdraw his movable 

property from the German-speaking districts of Czechoslovakia. Before the autumn crisis came he 

was all set, his house and furniture sold, his affairs in order, his financial lifebelts waiting in 

Amsterdam and Zürich and New York; he and amie were living in an hotel, passports visaed and 

everything regulated. 

Around him Jews who had been slower on the draw were wringing their hands. Direktor (as he 

always called himself) Benno Israelovitchsky walked the streets of Prague, the model of a man who 

had seen the storm coming and made everything shipshape. ‘The only thing I have lost,’ he said to 

me that night, ‘is an old typewriter. Hitler can slide down my back.’ 

The German language only knows one expression more contemptuous than that. It is snook- 

cocking in words, an invitation one degree less derisive than that habitually proffered by Götz von 

Berlichingen. 

Benno Israelovitchsky, with the fondness of such men for Latin tags, during the evening used more 

than once the phrase in vino veritas. Now, in wine, he had told me the truth. As he did this I looked 

at the other Jew, who listened with veiled, expressionless eyes. He never drank. He said that none 

of the men of his family had drunk since the day, centuries before, when a remote ancestor, a 

Rabbi, in liquor cursed his wife and, being told of it afterwards, put into his will a clause 

commanding his male descendants in all perpetuity to shun alcohol, which had for three hundred 

years been strictly obeyed by them. I don’t know if this was true; from my experience of the force 

of Jewish family laws and relationships I think it may have been. 

As I listened to Benno Israelovitchsky, and heard his bitter comments on the young Jews of post- 

war Berlin, I looked around me and thought, ‘If he thinks that, and knows that, and sees that, why 

does he come here?’ 

We were in the most expensive dance-bar in Prague. On this Saturday night it was packed. Nine out 

of ten of the males present were young, expensively dressed Jews. Perhaps three out of ten of the 

women were Jewesses. The others were harem-pieces, useless, stupid-faced, bleached bedtime 

accessories of the kind that you could in earlier years see in thousands in the dance-bars of Berlin 

and Vienna. The only woman in the place who was doing a job for her living was the singer, and 

she was called Princess Capulet, or something equally romantic, but she was a Jewess from 

Warsaw, and she sang a curious song, the words of which I could not understand; put down 

phonetically it sounded like this, ‘Dooin te Lambet Vork’, and as she sang it all the young Jews and 

their Partners laughed and did a kind of strut round the room and clapped their hands and patted 

their knees and cocked their thumbs over their shoulders and shouted ‘0i’. 

An hour from Prague lay the new German frontier. The glow of burning synagogues in the sky, a 

few nights before, could almost have been seen from Prague. Jews were being driven across the 

frontier. The outer world was receiving every day a withers-wringing tale of Jewish misery. Here, 

in Prague, I saw once again the picture that I had seen so often before – in Berlin even for some 

time after Hitler came to power, in Vienna until a day or two before he arrived there, in Budapest, 

in Bucharest, in Belgrade. 

In the weeks that followed, my English newspapers, every day, were filled with outraged cries 

about the maltreatment of the Jews, with appeals to help them. You would have thought, to read 

these papers, that Jews everywhere were on the run, being beaten up, robbed, murdered. Here in 

Prague, an hour from Hitler, I saw them every day and every night, dancing in the more expensive 

bars, lolling in the arm-chairs of the more expensive hotels, thronging the cafés, enjoying life, no 

wit less aggressive, monopolistic, loudly self-important, than they had ever been. Is London 

different? It was not when I was there. 

The contrast between these two pictures, the one I saw with my own eyes and the one my 

newspapers gave me, was very great. My English newspapers hardly spared a crumb of compassion 

for the Czech and German refugees from the Sudeten lands, whose numbers were twenty times as 

great as those of the Jews, and showed little concern for the continued murder of women and 

children in Spain and China. 

I began to suspect the motives for the outcry about the Jews. Here, it seemed to me, was the fellow- 

feeling of privileged classes at work again. I was glad when, as one still small voice in all this 

deafening chorus of generous but ill-apportioned indignation, The Times published a letter from a 

man who had been its Special Correspondent in China under the heading ‘Brutality and Suffering – 

The Inconsistencies of Compassion’. 

This letter said that the German Government’s measures against the Jews had ‘revolted the world’. 

This time, added the letter, the world, so often revolted, had expressed its feelings in action – for 

once. The British Government was finding territorial asylum for refugees, the American 

Government had recalled its Ambassador from Berlin, and so on and so on. 

But, said the letter, this made it difficult for people who looked farther afield than Europe to keep a 

sense of proportion. The sufferings which Hitler had inflicted on half a million people were terrible; 

but they were negligible compared with the sufferings which the Japanese army was inflicting on 

the Chinese people. In China nearly a million men had been killed or disabled – killed or disabled, 

nearly a million men – and the Japanese had butchered several tens of thousands of civilians, and 

had rendered destitute and homeless some 30,000,000 more. It would be surprising if 2,000,000 or 

3,000,000, mostly old people and children, did not die in the winter of 1938-39. The cases of rape 

and beating were scarcely worth mentioning in this holocaust. 

The obligations of the British Government, by the written word and in the name of humanity, were 

the same in the one case as the other, said the writer, and he found the world’s conscience ‘a 

puzzling organism’.  

Does it regard [he asked] 100 dead or destitute Chinese as equivalent to one 

persecuted Jew, and may we then expect, when Japan’s victims top the 50,000,000 

mark, to see Ambassadors withdrawn from Tokyo and international action taken to 

make life possible for the refugees? Or is it simply that the Jews are near at hand 

and the Chinese far off and yellow at that?’ 

That is the question asked by this man, who knew his subject, on behalf of millions of Chinese, and 

it is the question I ask on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Czechs, Germans, and Spaniards. 

Just as the Jews tend to monopolize the callings and professions into which they penetrate, when 

there is no anti-Semitism, so did I find them monopolizing compassion and succour when there was 

anti-Semitism, and as their numbers are small compared with the great mass of non-Jews who are 

suffering from brutality and persecution in our times, I thought this to be the old evil, the squeeze- 

out of non-Jews, breaking out in a new place. 

The organized Jewish communities in the countries where anti-Semitism exists, or which it is 

approaching, have complete command of the technique of enlisting foreign help and sympathy. 

They understand it; this looking across the frontiers is in their blood. If a group of twenty Jews is 

put into no-man’s-land, the British and American Legations and Consulates in the nearest capital 

are stormed, the British newspaper offices too, the next day the entire British and American Press 

rings with the story, photographs appear, bishops write letters, committees get busy, soon the Jews 

are released and are on their way to a new land. 

Not far away 300 or 400 non-Jewish refugees may be starving in a hut. They have no organized 

community to care for them, to raid the Legations and newspaper offices on their behalf, nobody 

visits them, nobody knows that they are there or cares about them. They may rot. 

I have seen a great deal of the 250,000 refugees in Czechoslovakia, of whom about 15,000 are 

Jews, and have been dismayed by the way the small Jewish group, containing a fair proportion of 

comfortably situated people, contrived almost to monopolize foreign attention, while the outer 

world never heard a word about the young non-Jews, skilled workers and craftsmen, whom I would 

have paid to go to our colonies, but who were stagnating in hopeless desperation, without any 

prospect of emigration to a new country or chance of beginning a new life. 

I thought of these things on the evening I spent with Benno Israelovitchsky, in that dance-bar where 

all the young Jews were enjoying themselves. A very strange thing happened there. These young 

men were of the type which, as Benno Israelovitchsky had said, had helped to cause anti-Semitism 

in Berlin. Because he had said that, I wondered that he himself spent so much time and money in 

these places, behaved so ostentatiously. Was he any different, I thought? 

By chance I was able to answer that question. Benno Israelovitchsky, having a little drink taken, 

was in high good humour, danced with his friend, and, as he passed the violinist, slipped into his 

hand what seemed to be money, a twenty or fifty kronen note. The man bowed his thanks, unrolled 

it – and found a blank piece of paper. It was Benno Israelovitchsky’s little joke. As he came 

waltzing round again the young man said quietly to him, ‘Only a Jew would do that’. 

Immediately there was a fierce altercation. The manager came and separated the two men. Benno 

Israelovitchsky went off with him to his office. When he returned he said triumphantly, ‘I’ll show 

him. His contract is going to be terminated at the end of the month. “Only a Jew would do that.” 

And how often have I given that fiddler fifty crowns?’ 

With the synagogues burning an hour away! 

Benno Israelovitchsky often telephoned to me after that. I was never at home. He may have 

wondered why. 

A few days later I went to L., a Czechoslovak town hard against the new German frontier, to see 

the refugees from the area seized by Germany. On my many expeditions to the refugees, most 

miserable of human beings, I always noticed the same thing. As you approached the area an 

implacable funnel took hold of you and led you straight to the Jewish refugees. 

On this occasion I was led at once to the Jewish refugees. There were thirteen of them. They were 

in a miserable plight, but their number was thirteen. In that same town were thousands of Czech, 

hundreds of German refugees. Their plight was in many cases worse, because nobody cared about 

them. Nobody ever went to see them. No foreign newspapers raised a clamour of protest and appeal 

in their behalf. No bishops prayed for them. They and their children were left to almost-starvation, 

to tuberculosis and scrofula, to death. Only with diligence and perseverance did I succeed in 

finding them. 

Listen to my talk with Pan Julius Malychek, the head of the Jewish community in the district. 

Julius Malychek told me of the lot of the Jewish emigrants. On the evening of the synagogue- 

burning day a group of twenty had been dumped down in no-man’s-land, between the provisional 

new frontiers, that peace-time no-man’s-land, with its hunted and fear-haunted human beings, 

which is the achievement of peace-with-honour at Munich and of our shining contemporary 

civilization. 

As soon as word came that they were there, the Jewish organization in the neighbouring town 

sprang to life like a well-tended motor when you step on the starter. Tents, straw, blankets and 

provisions were sent out to them and Julius Malychek spent every moment of his waking day in his 

efforts on their behalf. He contrived to gain German permission for their return to their homes and 

relatives. A few days later a second group of about twenty was dumped down at the frontier. The 

Germans were implacable and would not take them back. Julius Malychek, tireless in his efforts, 

succeeded in gaining the permission of the Czechoslovak authorities for them to be brought in 

across the frontier and be given a few days’ asylum in Czechoslovakia until Germany allowed them 

readmittance or they could be sent to some other country. When the term of their asylum was up, 

and no solution had been found, they suddenly disappeared one night, and are now somewhere in 

Czechoslovakia, unnoticed aliens. ‘Am I a policeman?’ asked Julius Malychek of me, spreading his 

hands. 

Then came the third group. This time the Czechoslovak authorities – the local Police 

Commissioner, whose humanity had been invoked to get the second group that temporary respite, 

was about to lose his post and pension because of the disappearance of the second group – refused 

to let them in. Julius Malychek was bitter about this inhumanity. 

This is the background of Julius Malychek’s reflections about the Jewish problem, which are the 

really important thing. After he had described these events to me I saw on his table an illustrated 

booklet about the progress made by the Jews in building a modern Jewish settlement at Tel Aviv, in 

Palestine. I turned the leaves over, admired the pictures of healthy and happy young Jews hard at 

work building a brave new world, and asked him, ‘What do you think about that?’ 

At once he was all enthusiasm. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘if only the men who have the power to solve the 

problem would realize that this is the only solution. We could settle from seven to eight million 

Jews there, if a way could be found to placate the Arabs, satisfy their grievances, open the land to 

us. There are at the outside twenty million Jews in the world’ – this is the figure he gave; I think it 

an under-estimate – ‘and the problem would exist no longer. Those who wanted to stay in the 

countries where they then were might be allowed to, on condition that they took its citizenship and 

the full duties of citizens. 

‘Their number would then be too small for the evil to rise again. Such a number would be 

assimilable. Those who felt the pull of Jewish cohesion strong within them and preferred to become 

avowed citizens of the Jewish National State, Judea, or whatever you like to call it, could go there. 

The wealthy Jews of the world should be made to help in financing this. 

‘But the present position is impossible. The Jew is neither assimilable, nor can he go anywhere that 

belongs to him. His family may live for centuries in this country or that, but suddenly one day he 

wakes up and finds that he is not a Czech or a Slovak or a German or an Austrian or a Pole – but a 

Jew, and a Jew with no home. Assimilation is impossible, for all the Jews. What you are doing to- 

day, once more, is only to plaster over a wound that needs a surgical operation. I myself assert that 

I am a Czech’ – he did not say ‘I am a Czech’, as I noticed – ‘for my family has lived here for a 

hundred and fifty years, I fought in the war first with the Austro-Hungarian armies, then with the 

Czech Legions in Russia against Germany and Austro-Hungary, for the freedom of the Czech 

nation. I can understand now that anti-Jewish feeling is rising among the Czechs. How could it not, 

after all that they have been through? As long as they were free they gave us everything. Now they 

are no longer free themselves, hatred and bitterness against everything is fomenting within them.’ 

This was a cry from the heart. On this basis I could have given my hand to Julius Malychek and 

said ‘Sir, you are my friend and brother, go and live peacefully within the borders of your Jewish 

state and I should like to think that you would be among the allies of my own country, to fight as a 

volunteer in your army if some predatory successor of the Turk attacks you. But here, at this 

moment, you are doing everything you can to monopolize the compassion and contributions and 

help of the Christian outer world in the interest of your fellow-Jews while a far larger number of 

non-Jews, within the confines of this your home-town, are in far worse plight. You say you have 

nowhere to go, but this is not quite true, because the Jew in adversity can always count on the 

immediate and abundant help of Jews in a neighbouring country, as you yourself are proving at this 

moment. The non-Jew, in like case, is the most pitiable of creatures, hunted from concentration 

camp to prison and to destitutes’ home, and with not one single soul in all that outer world who 

cares the faintest damn about him, and I have just been seeing this with my own eyes.’ 

I did ask Julius Malychek about the non-Jewish refugees in that town, but he immediately lost 

interest, said he now had to go and renew his efforts to melt the hearts of the local authorities, and 

looked after me with some irritation as he saw that I went away, to visit some more of those 

destitute Czechs and Germans, in the company of a widow, a most Christian soul, who gave all her 

time to them. Yet he had asserted that he was a Czech. 

Alas and alack, I see no man or men great enough to realize, accept and boldly state these truths 

and put an end to what Julius Malychek, in his little Czech town, in a despairing cry, called ‘dieses 

Ahasvertum’ – the wandering of the Jews, and the destruction of Gentile ideals which it brings with 

it. 

Hitler could do it, and become the idol of the Jews and turn the tables on those muddle-headed and 

not really compassionate people in the world who feed their self-esteem, varnish their tarnished 

reputations for humanity, with loud outcry about the persecution of the Jews. But I don’t think he is 

great enough to see the opportunity or grasp it. His present greatness, as it seems to me, is only the 

sum of the littleness of the men who, in many countries, happened to be cast for the other leading 

parts when he advanced to the front of the world stage. 

Meanwhile the new dispersal is in progress. The Jews are straining every nerve to get from the 

countries where anti-Semitism is rising to those where it does not now exist or is only latent. Do 

not think that they have any greater love in their hearts for those countries, or that they will love 

them when they get there. 

Czechoslovakia, as long as it was free, gave them the most liberal sanctuary. I have not found 

among them feelings of love or thankfulness for Czechoslovakia. They feel that the time is now 

come to leave Czechoslovakia and go somewhere else, but somewhere else lies in a world which in 

its entirety is potentially anti-Jewish, where the same things may happen one day that happened in 

friendly and lovely and tolerant Germany and Austria. To make hay in those other countries as long 

as the sun of tolerance shines, but never to forget that the night of anti-Jewish repression will 

follow, that your hosts of to-day are your potential foes of to-morrow, is the innermost feeling of 

men who have years and generations of wander, wander, wander in their blood. The one place 

where they could go, when tired of wandering, and settle for ever, and know certainly that they 

were at home there and that no enmity to them would ever arise – this one place is denied them. 

All kinds are needed to make a world, but the English world, as it seems to me, has too many of 

one kind – the under-nourished, unemployed, underpaid, under-housed, unfit and uncared-for – and 

is for these reasons lopsided. You will not improve this world by allowing hordes of people from 

abroad to come in, without any safeguard against their activities in your country. If you are really 

humane and compassionate, as you pretend, mend these conditions first, of which I have nothing 

further to say for the moment save that they are monstrous, criminal, revolting, and, in the richest 

country in the world, a bloodstained scandal. 

Or perhaps, as my own language is apt to be timid, colourless and inadequate, I may borrow the 

words of a correspondent of Hitler’s paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, who said, in writing about 

England:  

In this country the contrasts between inconceivable wealth and appalling poverty 

are greater than in any other European land, with the single exception of Spain. 

That is the truth about the richest country in the world. 

I would complete the picture by saying: ‘In England the contrasts between vociferous protestations 

of humane feeling and cold-blooded inhumanity are greater than in any other European land, 

without exception.’ 

If you want to check that, look at any mid-December issue of The Times, read in one column the 

tearful appeals for the Jews, in another the appeals of the ‘genuine humanitarians’ for the Spanish 

war to be quickly ended by starving out the Spanish Republicans, who have fought against two 

Great Powers and an army of Moors for nearly three years, and by compelling their submission to 

the Generalissimo who has threatened mass reprisals when he has them in his power. 

Is it wrong, is it anti-Semitism, for an Englishman, in these times, to think these things? Decide for 

yourself. 

This inhumanity of Englishmen to Englishmen makes me perplexed when I look at England and 

see the great outburst of indignation, the mass meetings of protest, against the treatment of the Jews 

in Germany, the appeals for money to succour them, the opening of our doors to their children. 

What is the missing link in this chain of humanity? Why are English people being led once more up 

the same old garden path? We were told that we must sacrifice Abyssinia, to appease Italy; no 

compassion for Abyssinians. We were told that we must sacrifice Czechoslovakia, to placate 

Germany; no compassion for Czechs. We are receiving broad hints that we must sacrifice Spain, to 

satisfy Germany and Italy; no compassion for Spaniards. 

Then why compassion for Jews? After the anti-Jewish outbreak in Germany that followed the 

murder of vom Rath in Paris by the young Grynzspan four members of the British Cabinet, of that 

same Cabinet which had abandoned Abyssinia and Czechoslovakia and had implicitly accepted 

Mussolini’s warning ‘that he will not allow the defeat of General Franco in Spain’, these four British 

Ministers spoke in a quite different tone. One, Lord De La Warr, said, ‘There is a deep and growing 

feeling that there is nothing we can do that can satisfy the Germans’. Sir John Simon said, ‘the 

world has been deeply shocked and stirred’. Lord Zetland said he had cherished the hope – 

inexplicable to anyone with knowledge of foreign affairs – ‘that the conference of Munich marked 

the opening of a new chapter in human history, but now I am obliged to confess that my hope has 

been rudely shaken by the events in Germany of the past week’. Sir Thomas Inskip said, ‘The Prime 

Minister’s effort has undoubtedly met with a sad check … I find it difficult to believe that the 

German people approve the appalling treatment of innocent persons.’ 

Why? What of the appalling treatment of innocent persons in Spain, who are hundreds of miles 

from Germany, who have never done anything to Germany? Why does that not ‘deeply shock and 

stir the world’? Why, if we are to placate the grab-dictatorships by delivering up to them the 

Abyssinians, the Czechs and the Spaniards, all for the sake of peace, why are we not to placate 

them by ignoring what they do to the Jews? Why not make a gentleman’s agreement about it? 

I think that English people have a right to know the answer to this question. 

Especially at this time, for at this very moment, when England is ringing with the cry of 

compassion for the Jews and their children, England, as it seems to me, may be moving towards 

another piece of inhumanity so monstrous, so discordant with this chorus of humane indignation, 

that the whole picture of England, contemplated from afar, again becomes blurred and inexplicable, 

save by the basest of motives. 

The democratic Governments, unless their public opinion at last bestirs itself, will unite to deprive 

the Spanish children of their last hope of life. No compassion for Juanito. No compassion for the 

hundreds of thousands of Spanish children in like case. No compassion for the two-weeks-old baby 

that I saw in a Czechoslovak refugee camp. No compassion for English children in the slums. 

Starve the Spaniards into submission. Another peace with honour. 

But ‘save the Jewish children’. While this maddening tragedy of inhumanity was going on in Spain 

your Press was monopolized by the clamour for compassion for the Jews. No great British leader 

arose to plead the cause of those children in Spain. They are Reds. Let them rot, like the children in 

your own slums. Once some Spanish children were brought to England, away from that Spanish 

hell, by a committee of English people. Immediately another committee was formed, to get them 

sent back. An endless and infuriating wrangle arose. What eventually happened to them, I don’t 

know. 

But now arrangements were made to bring ‘50,000 Jewish children’ to England. 50,000! Lord 

Baldwin, in a national broadcast, said that those 50,000 Jewish children must be got to England. 

The first hundreds or thousands have already arrived. You saw their pictures, in the newspapers. 

These were no starving orphans, with months of bomb-explosions ringing in their ears. These were 

the children of well-to-do parents, well-fed, well-tended. 

These children will in the next few years grow to manhood and womanhood. If a new war comes, 

they will not be liable for military service. They will get jobs, open businesses, in England, while 

Englishmen are at the front. When the Englishmen come back the Jews will be as paramount in 

England as they were in Germany after the last war. The squeeze-out will be on. They will not be 

living in the English slums. 

Some Jews themselves recognize that if they make room in their offices and businesses for foreign 

Jewish refugees by dismissing English employees, they will in the long run be raising a wave of 

Anti-Semitism in England against themselves and the very people they are trying to assist. 

To get a seat in an aeroplane going from Prague to London you had to book weeks in advance: 

even there, the squeeze-out was on. They had no feeling for England, they had no hope or wish to 

become ‘Englishmen’; they wanted, above all things on this earth, ‘a British passport’. You have to 

travel about Europe a great deal to realize the enormous importance of this piece of pasteboard and 

paper; the passport is much more important than the man. A waster with a British passport has the 

whole world open to him, all countries are free for him, he may go where he will, trade as he 

wishes, call on the protection of the British Embassy if he be in trouble. An honest, hard-working, 

useful citizen without a passport is the lowest creature on God’s earth, hunted from frontier to 

frontier, dragged from prison to prison, denied any legal existence; he is not a human being. How 

often have I heard, from despairing refugees, this cry: ‘We are no longer human beings, we are less 

than dogs.’ 

That England, which will not care for its own people, which in the last six years has with fair and 

holy words betrayed the cause of humanity and justice in one foreign country after another, should 

now throw open wide her gates to this one particular class of suffering humanity, and only to this 

one, is sinister and menacing. 

Among the people I have seen leaving Czechoslovakia for England since the dismemberment the 

majority were Jews, a large minority Germans, hardly any were Czechs. They carry with them 

grave dangers, for England and English people. 

The Jewish question, misunderstood as it is in England, clouds what would otherwise be a fairly 

clear issue for English people. The great influence that organized Jewish communities in England, 

France and America have over the Press in those countries helps further to cloud it. You must not 

forget that when you read in your newspapers outbursts of indignation about the treatment of Jews 

you are sometimes, and not infrequently, reading material inspired by Jews, whose innermost 

thought is that you should fight Germany, not for your own sake, but to exterminate anti-Semitism. 

This is an intolerable muddling of issues and you need to be awake to it. 

I was in Budapest during the great September crisis of 1938 and I do not forget how the Jews there 

bought up foodstuffs so that some of the shops in the districts where I was living looked as if a 

cloud of locusts had passed through them. I myself saw one woman spend over 200 pengös, which 

is a large sum for a Budapest suburb, with my local grocer, who happened to be a Jew. My humble 

and hard-working charwoman could not get butter or sugar for her husband’s supper. I heard similar 

accounts from an acquaintance who lives in Ireland and travelled at that time in a ship going to 

Ireland which had many Jews among its passengers, all of them laden with provisions. 

During that September crisis I knew several Jews who were elated at the thought that war was 

coming, though they themselves would not have fought in it. They intended, as my Jewish 

acquaintance in Budapest told me, ‘to survive’, to reap the subsequent harvest of a peace planted on 

the grave of anti-Semitism. This, to me, was a very grave and disturbing thought. It makes me read 

with the greatest scepticism all comment on the international dog-fight which I know or suspect to 

come from Jewish sources. 

You should bear this in mind when you read books on the contemporary struggle in Europe, and 

not forget that those authors who are presented to you as Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Americans or 

what-not are in the majority of cases Jews, who are arguing the case, though this fact is concealed 

from you, from their own standpoint and not from yours. There is no limit to the methods they use 

to whip up international opinion against anti-Semitic Fascism, but if you want to fight anti-Semitic 

Fascism you should do so for your own sake, in your own interest, not for theirs. 

The question of to-day is, are you going to let this thing drag on, from waves of Jewish oppression 

to waves of Jewish domination, or are you going to solve it? If you choose the second way you 

ought to found the Jewish National State, though not at the cost of Arab suffering, and strictly limit 

the number of Jews who live outside it. The Jews themselves know it. ‘Polish Jew’ was the term of 

supreme contempt and dislike in the mouth of a German Jew whose family had long been 

established in Germany. But the successive waves of migration wash out all the good that the long- 

established communities of resident Jews have done. 

Soon you are going to see anti-Semitism in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary, in Rumania, possibly 

farther field. The problem grows, it does not get smaller. The pressure of Jewish immigration in 

England will increase and increase. And these are, in the majority, just the people you don’t want, 

and cannot afford to have. Everywhere I have seen them they have been the presagers of bad times 

for the native population. 

‘Anti-Semitism is one of the things that have rather upset the balance of his judgment’, said, of me, 

a writer who knew nothing of this subject. 

This was valuable to me as showing how the standards of literary criticism remain stable through 

the ages. I believe a contemporary of Chaucer reproached that Englishman with anti-Semitism after 

the publication of ‘The Prioress’s Tale’. By a rare chance, also, I have among my treasures a 

fragment of parchment on which is inscribed the opinion of a dramatic critic who attended the first 

performance of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, and he, antagonized by the portrayal of Shylock, 

wrote, ‘Master Wm. Shakespeare hath suffered his judgments to be warped by His unlove off the 

Jews’. Then again, I have a yellow clipping from a number of the Morning Mercury, published 

many years ago, in which a critic wrote of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, ‘We much regret that 

Mr. Dickens, in conjuring from the gallery of his imagination the repulsive character of Fagin, has 

allowed his distaste for the Jews to tilt the scales of that nice judgment which in all other respects, 

we confide, will find universal commendation.’ 

Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens. Reds, anti-Semites, all three of them, unbalanced and biased 

scribblers, men without ‘judgment’, men whose hearts were filled with inhumanity. Thank God we 

don’t produce Englishmen of that kind any longer. To-day we are full of the Christian virtue of 

toleration. We tolerate everything, but particularly slums, derelict areas, starvation, the use of 

coloured troops against Spanish working people, China, Czechoslovakia – everything.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Five 

IN TOWN TO-NIGHT 

I am an enthusiastic Bummler. I love, after a day’s work, to go into the town and stroll about and 

taste its pleasures, to wander here and there, and presently to stop at an inn or a garden and refresh 

myself with wine and music and then to go on again until I feel that I want to sit awhile in another 

tavern, another garden, drink some more wine, hear some more music. 

To bummeln – a word untranslatable in English, unless you care for pub-crawl. A lunatic idea used 

to prevail that the French language had no word for home, and this was supposed to be most 

significant, like the other national delusion that in England you are innocent until you are proved 

guilty and in other countries you are guilty until proved innocent. But in English, as far as I know, 

and I have racked my brains, there is no equivalent for bummeln, no one word to describe that 

delightful and elegant manner of closing the day. 

It means the aimless pursuit of pleasure, without a definite destination; in most countries that I 

know you do not need to have a definite destination, for the wayside is full of places where you 

may fall. In my native London, lackaday, that is not so. You may only do that which is described 

by the word pub-crawl. Bummeln. Pub-crawl. Now that, I think, is really significant. 

When I consider all the cities that I know I think that Vienna, even the Vienna of decline and decay 

that I knew, was the most delightful to bummeln. You had two things there that you can find 

nowhere else: the wine-gardens on the surrounding hills, and the Viennese songs, those 

incomparable songs of the Heurigen, all variations on a common theme – wine, and the reflections, 

sad or tender, melancholy or gay, that it inspires. 

The best companionship in the world you found at those rough tables beneath the fruit trees. The 

stranger at your side was your friend, for as long as you stayed. The boy and the girl across the 

table loved and laughed and kissed and sang as naturally as children playing in a meadow. 

If I had a regret it would be that I did not live in Vienna and in Austria in the time of their 

greatness, in a time of tranquillity, when a man could make his plans for the future without the 

ever-present fear of the morrow, could look forward to a long series of tomorrows all filled with 

work and leisure and the people and books and pictures and pleasures that he loved. But perhaps 

the very uncertainty of our Insanity Fair lends zest to the pleasures one has during the short time 

that one may enjoy them. 

I seem to have lost all my loves – England, Brenda Mary, Austria, and faith. Bummeln I still may. 

But I can never go on a Bummel without thinking of Vienna. Those incomparable songs, under the 

walnut trees, ‘Ich weiss, auf der Wieden, ein kleines Hotel’; ‘Wien, Wien, nur du allein’; ‘Lass dir 

Zeit, wenn du ein Mädel frei’st.’ 

And best of all that one about women and wine and the changing places they hold in a man’s 

affections as he grows older:  

Fein, fein, schmeckt uns der Wein 

Wenn man zwanzig ist – und auch die Liebe 

Fein, fein schmeckt uns der Wein 

Wenn man dreissig ist – und auch die Liebe 

Wenn man vierzig wird, man noch gerne küsst 

Besonders wenn man einst sparsam gewesen ist 

Wenn man älter wird, cin wenig kälter wird 

Bleibt allein – nur der Wein. 

Which you may approximately translate, in order to keep the lilt of the music, like this:  

Fine, fine and warming is wine, 

And so is love – when you’re twenty years old; 

Fine, fine and warming is wine, 

And so is love – when you’re thirty years old; 

When you’re forty years old, in love still you’re bold: 

Especially if you’ve been thrifty of old, 

But the older you grow, the colder you grow, 

To warm your heart – you’ve only wine. 

A great song, sung in a garden with lanterns around and the wine flowing, and the gnats dancing in 

the beams. But don’t, if you go to Vienna, call for the Fiakerlied, the Coachman’s song, as so many 

tourists do. The Viennese dislike it, they think it smarmy and Jewish and un-genuine and un- 

Viennese, a typical product of the Vienna of the Hungarian operetta and the Hollywood film, and 

when they hear it they raise their heads and look round to see the foreigner who has ordered it. 

The Austrian marches, too, are the best marches in the world, just as the pre-war Austrian uniforms 

were the best uniforms in the world. I sat once, just before Hitler seized Austria, in a hall where a 

German-Austrian fraternization festival was in progress; the people present were all Nazis, and 

Germans and Austrians sat all mixed together and wondered what to say to each other. Then an 

Austrian regimental band struck up the Deutschmeister March, and an Austrian next to me leaned 

over and said confidentially in my ear, ‘The Germans may conquer the world, but they can’t match 

that’. 

He was right. I have not been back to Austria and am unlikely to go, but I am prepared to wager 

that Hitler, though he paint the whole country brown, can never abolish, emulate or outdo those 

Austrian songs. The Austrians have them in their blood, and only they can sing them. It is painful 

to listen to a German who tries. One day in Budapest, on the radio, I heard a German military choir 

singing the Austrian Kaiserjaeger March, and it was excruciating. As the Austrians used to sing 

that, it was a lovely lifting tune to which a man might march but which did not drum, drum, drum 

footbeats into your ear:  

Mir san’ die Kaiserjaeger 

vom alten Regiment. 

This is how the Germans sang it:  

Wir sind 

die Kai 

ser jae 

ger 

vom al 

ten Re 

giment. 

One-two, one-two, left-right, left-right, pick up your feet there, get into step that man, left-right, 

left-right, left-right. It was awful. That tune was meant for marching, not goose-stepping. As the 

Germans sang it you could see the sergeant-major. 

Another time, in Budapest, I dined in a little restaurant where, in one room, there was a gipsy 

orchestra, and in another a Schrammelmusik, an Austrian band of violin, zither and concertina. and 

a woman singer. I went into that room. 

The only other guest was a Hungarian who had once been an officer in one of the Kaiser’s cavalry 

regiments, and longed with all his heart for those great days in Vienna before the war. There was 

myself, an English journalist who had lived in Vienna in the bad days after the war and loved it just 

as much as he. There was the singer, who had never seen Vienna, whose mother was Viennese and 

whose father was a Serb, but at her mother’s knee she had learned those songs and sang them like 

any Viennese. We were, you might say, three typical Viennese. 

She began with the Erzherzog Johann Lied, that lovely song of Styrian hills and valleys, of yodels 

and trills, and sang it as if she had spent her whole youth there. The Hungarian ex-officer and the 

English journalist both began to get sentimental, and to cheer themselves up with wine. She went 

on from one song to another, from ‘My mother was a Viennese’ to ‘In the Prater the chestnuts are 

blooming’ and from that to ‘I want to see Grinzing once more’, and we all became more and more 

homesick, the three of us who had no homes in Vienna, and the wine flowed more and more freely, 

and then she sang:  

Draussen im Schönbrunner Park 

Draussen im Schönbrunner Park 

Sitzt ein alter Herr, sorgenschwer. 

Out there in Schönbrunn 

Out there in Schönbrunn 

Sits an old man, bowed with care. 

It is the song the Viennese made about Francis Joseph, against whom few of the older ones will 

hear a word even to-day. 

In it you can hear the whole tragedy of Austria, for his life was the tragedy of Austria, and the 

Viennese, in singing to him and about him, were really singing of their own fears and cares. All his 

battles lost, all his kinsmen and kinswomen dead by their own or another’s hand or by some tragic 

act of God, his lovely and beloved but unloving Empress always globe-trotting until the assassin’s 

stiletto put an end to her journeying, his Empire cracking and crumbling around him from the first 

day of his long reign to the last, he was a figure of tragedy, the living embodiment of Austria’s 

decline, but the Viennese loved him:  

Lieber, guter, alter Herr 

Mach’ dir doch das Herz nicht schwer. 

It is almost untranslatable. Say, roughly:  

Dear, good and trusted friend, 

Bear up, don’t be downcast. 

It is as if the Viennese stood beneath his window at Schönbrunn and sang it to him. 

The sound of it now, in that little Budapest restaurant, completed our vinous self-commiseration. 

The Hungarian thought of himself, a subaltern in a gay blue coat, strolling with lovely ladies in the 

Prater. The singer thought of the Vienna of which her mother had painted such golden pictures. I 

thought of the Vienna I had known, how I had found a brief happiness there and had worked in my 

quiet rooms and hoped and hoped and desperately hoped that, somehow, Vienna and Austria could 

find salvation without being swallowed up and how I had always known, in my heart, that this 

would not be, that Austria would fall, and that, in the interest of the majority, it deserved to fall, for 

there were conditions that needed to be changed and which the old rulers would never have 

changed. 

It was, indeed, the last chapter in a period of decline and fall that had begun a hundred years before 

and moved to its inevitable end because of the very things that you see in England to-day – 

appalling conditions which clamour to be changed, power in the hands of a small class which will 

not change them because its own nest is well-feathered. Inertia, selfish interest, indolence, the 

stubborn refusal of the aristocracy, the Church, and the Jews to accept anything less than the status 

of a favoured and privileged class, to improve the conditions of the poorest classes, killed Austria. 

As the song finished we, the three exiled Viennese of whom one had never seen Vienna and none 

had been born in Vienna, felt that we had sung a mass for that old Austria that we all loved so well, 

though only the officer had known it. 

Here in Budapest, for a rosy hour, I found Vienna again. Budapest, too, is a great city for a 

Bummel. I think, of all the capital cities I know, I would put Vienna first, then Budapest, then 

Belgrade, then Prague, then Berlin, Paris and London, in that order, for a Bummel

In Budapest, in summer, you have an almost inexhaustible choice of good little restaurants with 

terraces outside, of gardens where you may drink your wine. I don’t include those high-kick-and- 

splits palaces on the Margaret Island, but if your soul yearns for that kind of Bummel you have a 

large choice in Budapest; they have there several of these establishments, including a dance-bar 

built in some ruins four hundred years old, and this is perhaps worth visiting once, as a curiosity, 

because the ruins you usually find in these places are not more than forty years old at the utmost 

and pass for twenty-five in a subdued light. But if you only want to spend four or five pounds on 

champagne and legs why go to Budapest? why go anywhere? stay in London, you have them in 

quantities there. 

But that is not my idea of a Bummel, and I ought to make this clear, because the kind of Bummel

am describing only costs five or ten shillings and would not appeal to you in the least, it only 

sounds attractive when I tell you about it. 

What can the poor man do in London? Go to the pictures. Go to the pub. Go to the dogs. To visit a 

bottle-party and study the cultural life of the moneyed classes is beyond his purse. But bummeln he 

cannot, like the man of his type in other countries. 

A garden where he may find music, good food and wine cheaply in summer, an inn where he may 

find the same things cheaply in winter: these are things he has never heard of. In all German and 

Austrian and Hungarian and Czechoslovak and Yugoslav cities the restaurants and cafés have 

terraces where you may sit in the open air and drink your cup of coffee; in the outskirts of all these 

cities are innumerable gardens where you may go in your leisure hours. In many of these places 

you may take your own food with you: you only pay for what you drink. In Germany, until recent 

years, I don’t know how it is now, you used to find in these garden and woodland cafés and 

restaurants a sign ‘Hier können Familien Kaffee kochen’. For a penny or two they would even give 

you boiling water and crockery for the coffee you had brought with you. 

Belgrade is one of the dullest of cities by day, I know few places where the streets less repay a 

stroll. For a daylight Bummel Prague is quite different. To wander through those winding alleyways 

of stout and well-built old houses, over the river and up the hill to the Hradschin is an experience 

that, for me, never palls; the houses are grouped together in the friendly way that you see in 

medieval prints, the towers beneath which you pass remind you that once all this was enclosed by a 

stout wall, the view of clustering roofs changes with every yard that you ascend, the shops are full 

of things you want to buy. Belgrade has practically no native industry or handicrafts, the shops sell 

only the cheap foreign manufactures for which the heart of the peasant, and the heart of his son the 

official, and the heart of his grandson the minister all crave. The streets in this architectural Bedlam 

are boring, the views have been spoiled. 

But at night Belgrade is a very good place for a Bummel. Every third house seems to be a café or 

restaurant, with chairs and tables on the pavement in front where you drink little cups of sweet 

Turkish coffee or little glasses of rakia, and in the windows three sucking-pigs are rotating on a spit 

over a tray containing red-hot charcoal, turned by an unshaven menial with a cigarette hanging 

from his mouth who sits inside and continually gives the wooden spit a twist. Next door three or 

four chickens are turning on another spit. 

I am not very fond of sucking-pig, but the sight of that crackling skin growing browner and 

browner does induce hunger, and once I went into such a little restaurant to try some. It was empty 

and the waiter said that the sucking-pigs were not yet ready, I should have to wait half an hour. So I 

waited, and as I waited all the other chairs and tables in the place filled. 

The people were curiously silent, and I wondered why. A hush hung over the room. We waited and 

waited, and at last the proprietor went over, looked with an expert eye at the sucking-pigs, decided 

that they were ready, had them off the spit, took up a large chopper – and you never saw three 

sucking-pigs disappear so quickly. In a moment they were gone, the waiters rushing hither and 

thither with the plates and the diners setting-to with gusto, and all at once the room was filled with 

talk and I realized why that silence had been. 

Then you can go on from café to café and listen to Serb and Bulgar and Greek gipsy girls and 

Turkish girls singing, always with the tambourine held near one ear as if this amplified the sound, 

and you will have to become used to this singing, it is mostly a sort of wailing that rises and falls 

through half and quarter tones, and it is impossible for a foreigner to guess whether the song is 

about love or war, whether it is gay or sad, because they all sound the same, but in course of time 

your ear begins to like them. 

If you want music that you can understand there is a Russian dance-bar, where you sit among 

carpeted divans and slender-waisted, high-booted, bedaggered ex-Grand Dukes, sez you, and listen 

to the Russian émigré girls singing, and they are lovely. How lovely they are, these Russian girls, 

fiery and yet feminine, alluring, invigorating, slender, with well-shaped heads; it makes you dislike 

the Bolshevist Revolution and the ring-fence that has been put round Russia. 

Or, if you prefer it, you can go to the very low dives, where four or five women, real relics of the 

Balkans, sit in chairs against the wall on a raised stage, and from time to time get up and sing a 

song about Mustapha Kemal, now no more, for the benefit of the Turks in the audience. Or they 

stretch their arms above their heads, snapping their fingers like pistol shots, and allow their 

stomachs to go round like wheels, and this is called the stomach dance and is extremely popular 

with the bawdy Turks, who hope for a heaven just like that. 

From too much of this kind of dancing, I suppose, they become over-developed in the part of their 

anatomy which performs the dance, and for my part I prefer the feminine figure to go in there, but I 

suppose they can’t avoid it. 

In one of these places I saw two peasants, probably prosperous cattle dealers or something of the 

sort – there is a boom in Yugoslavia at this moment – sitting at a table in the corner, completely deaf 

to the music and blind to the stomachs and all else that went on around them. Each keeping a corner 

of his eye on the other, they counted wads of hundred-dinar bills which they brought out from 

successive pockets. Collarless, wearing the rough clothes of the Balkan peasant, hats tipped on the 

back of their heads, scrubby, cunning-eyed, these two men each drew out from a breast pocket a 

packet of notes about as thick as he could hold, and they counted them bill for bill against each 

other and at the end each put a figure down on a piece of paper. This surprised me very much, 

because of late years, in the countries I have been in, cash has been very scarce, particularly among 

the peasants. In Austria or Hungary, for instance, you would provoke a riot if you displayed such 

amounts of money in public, among poor people. A hundred-schilling or hundred-pengö note, in a 

mean street or a humble tavern, is already provocation. 

I was flabbergasted when these two men, after they had counted their wads, put them back, 

produced from another pocket wads just as thick, counted them, put them back, produced other 

wads from other pockets, counted these, and repeated the process four times. They must have been 

carrying on them about 200,000 dinars, which in Yugoslavia means very much more than the eight 

hundred-odd pounds sterling which it is worth in English money. The sight confirmed my previous 

impression, that the astute are to-day making a deal of money in Yugoslavia, but there is 

nevertheless a mass of wretched and scabrous poverty there and it was staggering to me to see men 

openly display so much money. 

I am always glad when the evening comes in Belgrade and I can bummeln. With ten shillings in my 

pocket the night is mine, I can eat and drink as much as I want, listen to music, enjoy myself. I 

wouldn’t recommend you to try it, because I think you would be disappointed; time is needed to 

adjust your ideas of enjoyment. 

But be of good cheer; if your way ever happens to lie through Belgrade I think there are at least two 

dives there where you can buy your drinks much more expensively, sit on plush, watch the Split 

Sisters, who first made each other’s acquaintance in Favoriten six months ago, display their curves, 

and listen to ododeodo. 

Berlin? Ah, Berlin. There a Bummel, in the earlier years of my stay, meant a tour through haunts of 

depravity and sexual perversion that vied with the brothels of old Herculaneum or modern Port 

Said. They’ve cleaned that up now, and thank any gods that exist for it. It is revolting to think of the 

lot that awaited young girls and boys from the German provinces, too ignorant to know anything of 

these things, when they came to that Berlin. It is revolting to think that men and women of the type 

that did these things, sometimes the selfsame men and women, are at large in London to-day, to 

read in my English newspapers the tale of their activities, which to you who live in England means 

little, but to me who have seen these things means a great deal. Read this, from your daily paper of 

November 23rd, 1938:  

London County Council has decided to tighten regulations on employment agencies 

for theatrical and other artists to prevent the possibility of their being used to cover 

White Slave operations. Mr. C. W. Gibson, a member of the council, said, ‘We have 

proof up to the hilt that a large number of women enticed into accepting situations 

abroad by agencies licensed by the L.C.C. have found themselves in the worst 

possible position a woman could find herself in … The Public Control Committee, is 

seeking means to tighten the regulations, particularly by raising the age limit from 

sixteen to eighteen, below which age permission to send girls abroad will not be 

granted without strict supervision. This country is almost the only first class country 

where strict control over private employment agencies is not exercised. The 

Government have been asked to inquire into private employment agencies but they 

have thrown the ball back to us. 

I wish I could draw aside a curtain and show you the picture behind that paragraph. Anyway it 

means that nothing will be done: the Committee ‘is seeking means’ to raise the age at which these 

girls can be dealt in like joints of meat ‘from sixteen to eighteen’. ‘Are you over eighteen?’ ‘Yes.’ 

‘Righto, then, here’s your passport.’ 

How can you call any country ‘first class’ which does not exercise ‘strict control’ over brothel touts, 

for that is what the men and women are to whom this paragraph alludes. The general trend of life in 

London is appallingly reminiscent of Berlin, Vienna and Budapest in recent years. 

For the kind of Bummel that I like Berlin was always dull. There are too many enormous beery 

Edens, too few small and friendly wine-gardens. 

Prague. That is a good town for a Bummel, especially in summer, when you may begin it by dinner 

at the riverside restaurant, and then go on, from little tavern to little tavern, under ancient archways, 

through quaint streets, up to the little, French restaurant on the hilltop for a final coffee. 

London. Well, well. What can you do? What can you do? You may dine, early and expensively, go 

to a theatre, expensively, come out and sup, expensively, with just enough time to have a drink 

before night closes down as relentlessly as the black cap on a judge’s head. Unless you go to the 

one place which, for some reason unknown to God or man, has been allowed on that particular 

night to stay open an hour longer. Unless you dive into a mildewed cellar, distribute largesse 

lavishly among the hordes of foreigners there, and go through the grotesque farce of ordering a 

bottle from a neighbouring wine-merchant. Unless our palate pines for the poached egg and you 

care to go to one of the establishments, usually Jewish, which have the privilege of remaining open 

all night. You hardly do any of these things without transferring your British money to men of alien 

blood. 

But if you cannot afford those things you drift, as surely as a river to the sea, to the pictures. I never 

in my life saw so many pictures in a few weeks as during the time that I spent in London. 

I tried desperately hard to bummeln in London. I found it impossible to bummeln without spending 

a pound or two, which spoiled the evening anyway, because I don’t think I got value for the money. 

I dined at the Ecuadorian Restaurant, the Liberian Restaurant, the Albanian Restaurant, the Indo- 

Chinese Restaurant, the Sumatran Restaurant, the Lappland Restaurant, the Nicaraguan Restaurant 

and all the other weird places where the people who live in London – I didn’t see many English 

people – alone seem to find enjoyment and recreation. I paid large sums and ate exotic dishes which 

I didn’t like, but the only alternative seemed to be the poached egg, for the food at the one good, 

sturdy, roast-beef-of-old-England restaurant which I tried was foul. Believe it or not, and I know 

you won’t, it is not to be believed after all the millions of words which have been written on this 

subject, but they offered me a triangular piece of compressed seaweed, with the water still dripping 

from it, when I ordered GREENS! 

In the end I found one small haven, an Austrian restaurant, where, as in the Viennese restaurants I 

used to frequent, I was about the only Englishman in the place. But there they played, occasionally, 

a Viennese waltz, and played it well, and I was able to dance again the dance I liked most. 

I like nights that are filled with music, but in London they are difficult to find and too expensive. I 

was glad, when I was once more far from my native city, to be able, at the end of the day, to go out 

without any particular plans, without changing my clothes, without filling my wallet with money, 

and stroll along, knowing that when I had had my fill of walking I could just step aside and sit 

awhile, with a glass of wine, listen to music, pay my modest bill like any other average citizen, and 

then go on and drink another glass of wine or go to bed, just as I chose. 

As long as I wanted to go on, inns and gardens waited to entertain me at a price I could pay without 

irritation; when I had had enough I could stroll quietly home and had not far to go – for only in 

London are distances so great that you are always the prisoner of the underground train, the bus, or 

the taxi-driver.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Six 

LITTLE GIRL FROM NOWHERE 

An agitated and tearful voice from Czechville said to me over the telephone, ‘Do please come down 

here to-morrow and see for yourself. The plight of these people, stranded out there in no-man’s-land 

between the German and the Czechoslovak frontier guards, camping in the open fields in this 

October weather, not allowed to go forward or back, is beyond description. Do please come and 

write something about it. We are taking supplies out to them to-morrow at 1 o’clock. Please come 

to Czechville by then and visit them with us.’ 

‘Yes, but how?’ I asked, ‘It’s already 10 p.m., and there’s no train to Czechville to-night or even to- 

morrow morning that will get me there in time to come out with you.’ 

‘Perhaps you can take an aeroplane,’ said the voice. 

‘Well, I don’t know about that,’ I said, ‘aeroplanes cost money, you know. But I’ll see what I can do.’ 

‘But you must come,’ said the tearful voice. ‘Hire a motor car. The world must know what is 

happening here. These people will die if something isn’t done soon.’ 

At the time of this conversation I was already a little sceptical about Jewish appeals for help. The 

lot of the Jewish fugitives was pitiful, but not more pitiful than that of non-Jewish fugitives; they 

could always look for immediate help from the organized Jewish communities; and yet their 

campaign to enlist foreign sympathy and help tended to monopolize the attention of the world, to 

the exclusion of the non-Jewish fugitives. 

Apart from that, I had found that the Jewish organizations, in their eagerness to promote their 

cause, were sometimes ready to paint the picture blacker than it was, to give out false statements, 

and to misuse conscientious foreign correspondents, who accepted them in good faith, for the 

dissemination of these reports. I had already had my humane instincts misused in this way once or 

twice and was feeling very sore about it. 

For this reason I listened with some mental reserve to the voice from Czechville. The vision of 

those Jews marooned in no-man’s-land was a terrible one, but, I asked myself, was it by any chance 

exaggerated? 

Now the voice became more urgent. ‘Listen,’ it said, ‘I have just heard that to-day one of those 

women out there in the fields has given birth to a child, a baby girl, beneath the open sky, without 

medical help.’ 

‘WHAT?’ I said. My humane feelings had in recent years been outraged so often that they had 

become a little numb, but this stung them to new life. I had a glimpse of that woman, sitting by the 

roadside, crouched and rocking with pain, a cold October wind blowing, a grey and rain-laden sky, 

in the distance well-wrapped German guards, their hands deep in their greatcoat pockets, their rifles 

slung over their shoulders. I heard the whimpering of a newborn child … 

‘I’ll come at all costs, somehow,’ I said hurriedly. ‘Count on me, I’ll be with you at one o’clock and 

drive out with you.’ 

Now accompany me during the thirty-six hours that followed and see something of the conditions 

under which the men work who try, in these times, to collect accurate news for your breakfast-table 

and, in doing this, their job, to help as far as they can to reduce the mass of human suffering which 

they find in Insanity Fair. 

I quickly telephoned to London a brief report of that monstrous event in no-man’s-land, and a few 

hours later it was humming over the cables of half the world. I cannot think of it even to-day 

without exasperation, for this was one of the very few incorrect messages I ever sent in many years 

of reporting. The news of that birth was grossly exaggerated. But this is anticipation. 

By the time I had telephoned and run round the town looking for means of transport to Czechville 

and learned that a bus would leave Prague for that city at five o’clock in the morning, midnight had 

long since struck. At five, cold and breakfastless, I climbed into the bus. At nine we were stranded 

on an icy-cold hilltop, shrouded in cloud, while the driver tried to mend his engine. At ten we were 

stranded again, a little farther on. At midday we had travelled a little farther and the bus was broken 

down again, in a small town. Czechville was still seventy kilometres distant. 

I saw that, in spite of all my efforts, I should reach Czechville too late to join the party that was 

going to the frontier, too late to help that woman and her baby. I thought continually of this child. I 

was determined not to return without bringing at least the mother and the baby back with me. 

What an extraordinary infant this was, I thought, as rare as the Dionne quintuplets. Miss 1938, the 

manger-child of our times. Little Miss No-man’s-land. The little girl from nowhere, nowhere at all, 

without a birthplace, without a nationality, without any legal existence. Born in the mile-wide strip 

of land that the Ambassadors at their table in Berlin, on the orders of the Four Just Men of Munich, 

had put between the vanguard of the German army and the Czechs. 

Cold and hungry, but determined to reach Czechville somehow, I scoured that little town for a car. I 

found one. The driver made a hard bargain, but I contrived to reach Czechville at about 1.30 and at 

the offices of the Jewish organization found the rescue-party waiting for me. 

Harrowing tales of Czech implacability. Tears. Another long, long drive. Negotiations with Czech 

officials in a market town. Yes, we might go to the frontier, visit the marooned Jews. Yet another 

drive. The afternoon was well advanced. At last, two Czech frontier guards. Behind them, on the 

open road, an amazing encampment. 

About eighty Jews were there, men, women, and children of all ages. Behind them, again, farther 

down that bleak road, was a bridge, and on it half a dozen German soldiers and customs officers, 

watching. Behind them, again, the roofs and spires of the town where these Jews had their homes, 

from which they had been driven out. 

An extraordinary scene, in Europe in 1938, twenty years after the war to save civilization. They had 

been drummed together one day, some of their furniture loaded into lorries, and then they and their 

furniture had been taken out of the town and put down on the open road, a few yards from the 

Czechoslovak frontier. They had stacked the furniture together, beds and wardrobes and chests-of- 

drawers, in a series of three-sided compartments, and then the Jews from Czechville, having heard 

of their plight, sent out supplies of tarpaulin and they had made rough tents and were living there 

like that. Picture to yourself that you are dumped down on the Brighton road with a bed, a 

wardrobe, one or two chairs and chests, and that you then roof and wall-in the whole with tarpaulin, 

and you will have the scene before you. 

They were in a cruel plight, the Germans behind crying forward and the Czechs in front crying 

back. But the Jews in Czechville had come magnificently to their help, they had sent out bedding 

and fuel and cookers and clothing and ample supplies of food and by the time I saw them, when 

they had already been there several days, they had the worst of their immediate cares behind them – 

save for their tragic and extraordinary plight, stuck there between the frontiers. But that, as I knew, 

could not last long (later the Czech authorities allowed them in and a grant from a foreign refugee 

fund was made to put rough quarters for them in a habitable condition) and their bodily welfare was 

being cared for. They were in no danger of starvation or epidemics. 

I talked to them all and promised to do everything I could to make their plight known and get them 

quickly freed from it. They were, as you can imagine, full of bitterness and hatred, not only for the 

Germans, but, as I thought, for a Christian world in which they saw only enemies. Their attitude to 

me, who had taken a deal of trouble in their behalf, interested me. One elderly woman, after 

inquiring who I was, said contemptuously, ‘Oh, a journalist. What can you do to help us? Write an 

article, I suppose.’ 

In the event, I think the things I wrote helped to get them out of no-man’s-land quicker than they 

would otherwise have escaped from it, but let it pass. 

I asked several of them, ‘Where is the woman with the baby?’ and they all looked vacant and said 

they knew of none. I had already asked my woman companion from Czechville, she who had given 

me this harrowing story on the telephone, where was the woman with the baby and noticed that she 

gave evasive answers. I now asked her again, direct, ‘Where is the woman who, as you told me last 

night, gave birth to a baby here in no-man’s-land?’ ‘Oh, she’s not here,’ she said, ‘she must be at 

some other place on the frontier. But just look at these people. Isn’t it terrible? What will become of 

them?’ 

‘Look here,’ I said, ‘where is that woman with the baby?’ 

‘Well, there’s another group some miles from here,’ she said, ‘perhaps she’s there.’ 

‘Then lead me to her,’ said I. 

Another long drive, in the deepening dusk. At last we found the second group, of about twelve 

people They, too, had been dumped down in no-man’s-land. Their furniture was still there, stacked 

beneath tarpaulins in a little wood. But they were living in relative comfort. A Czech railwayman 

had a cottage at this spot and he, one of the greatest heroes of peace-in-our-time, of whom I had 

been told nothing, had taken them all into his house. They were there, packed close together in two 

rooms, but safe from wind and weather, warm, well-fed. 

‘Where is the woman with the baby?’ I asked. 

‘The woman with the baby?’ they said, ‘We’ve no baby here. Perhaps you mean this woman, she’s 

going to have a baby some time.’ 

I looked at the woman they indicated. The room was dark, I could not see her well. She did not 

look to be anywhere near her time. 

‘Why do you do this sort of thing?’ I asked the woman from Czechville. ‘The plight of these people 

is bad enough, you don’t need to exaggerate it. You know perfectly well that the Germans are 

always accusing you of spreading Greuelmeldungen, atrocity stories. Why do you play into their 

hands? And what is more important, why do you use me, a hard-working newspaper man with a 

carefully acquired reputation for accuracy, to put a story about that isn’t true?’ 

A flood of excuses. I was tired and sore and listened to them impatiently. It is extremely difficult to 

put misinformation over on me, but if anybody wants to make an enemy of me for life he only has 

to do it, successfully, once. Now it was already dark, and I wanted to get back to Prague, at least six 

hours away, in time to telephone an account of what I had seen. ‘Come on, let’s go,’ I said, ‘but as 

you induced me, by appealing to my compassion, to make this long and arduous journey, at least 

find me, in Czechville, a car that will take me quickly and cheaply back to Prague in time to 

telephone to London.’ 

Oh yes, she said, of course, of course. The very car in which we travelled, which belonged to a 

member of the Jewish community, would take me back, and his son would drive it. 

Two hours more on the road, and we were in Czechville. If we had a clear run, I thought, we could 

make Prague by midnight. But suddenly there was a hitch. The young driver asked me to wait in a 

coffee house; he must go and ask father. After half an hour he reappeared. He was sorry, but father 

had forbidden him to drive to Prague. But he had a friend, who would do it. Here was the friend. 

Another young man presented himself, bowing. He was not sure whether he could do it, he said. 

First, the cost. It would cost 700 crowns. Good, said I, let’s go. But no, he must first go and ask 

father. He went. Then came the first father. I would understand that he could not allow his son, a 

young man who had an exhausting day behind him, at this hour to drive to Prague. But he would 

certainly arrange for a car to take me. It would be expensive, but after all I was travelling not at my 

own cost; my firm would pay. 

‘Sir,’ said I, ‘who pays is my business. I came here at the urgent appeal of the Jewish community in 

Czechville to see Jewish fugitives and to do what I could to make their sufferings known and get 

them alleviated. Now all I want is a car that will take me at a reasonable price and quickly to 

Prague, so that I can telephone my message. I do not want to go to the first taxi-driver, because he 

would exploit the situation and charge more than the journey is worth.’ 

‘Ach, so, so,’ he said quickly. ‘Yes, of course, I can arrange that. Let me see,’ he turned to his son, 

‘telephone to Oozy Goldschmidt and ask him if he can lend his car and chauffeur. Of course,’ he 

resumed, turning again to me, ‘a taxi would cost you more than 700 crowns. There is the petrol, and 

the return journey, and the chauffeur’s time, and his lodging in Prague, and …’ 

I looked at the clock. It was already nearly nine, and I saw that there was no longer any hope of 

reaching Prague in time to telephone. 

‘Let’s leave it at that,’ I said. ‘I am now going, to an hotel, where I hope to be able to get a call 

through to London and to snatch a few hours’ sleep and in the morning, at five o’clock, there is a 

bus to Prague which I intend to catch. Good night.’ 

I did get a few hours’ sleep, making a total of six or seven hours in the two nights, and at one 

o’clock the next day rolled again into Prague, with thirty-three hours of almost uninterrupted travel 

behind me, a sadder and, once more, a wiser man. I had had a non-existent baby planted on me, and 

was very sore. 

A few weeks later, however, I did find Miss No-man’s-land, or a baby very nearly deserving that 

description. 

She was two weeks old. She had been born, with the help of a midwife, no doctor, in a hall where 

293 Czech and German refugees were living. They all ate, lived and slept in that one hall – men and 

women, boys and girls, children down to the age of the two-weeks-old baby. I don’t know whether 

you can imagine at all what it was like, but try. 

She had been born a little before her time, because the Storm Troopers had pushed the pregnant 

mother about when they paid a call on the family. Five German soldiers had interfered and the 

family had managed to escape into Czechoslovak territory: the father, a young German working 

man, his wife, her two children of six and four years, and the child she was about to bear, which 

was afterwards born in that refugee camp. 

The father, the two brothers, and the brother-in-law of that young German had all been caught and 

put in a concentration camp. His only surviving relative in the Sudeten town which he had left 

behind him was his mother, who had one arm and was ailing. He could look forward to no future at 

all. Nobody visited him, nobody found a place in an emigrant transport for him, nobody paid his 

passage to England or the colonies, he was living in fear that he, his wife and three children would 

have German nationality automatically and inescapably bestowed on them under the Peace of 

Munich and that they would all be shunted back across the frontier. 

The baby was two weeks old. It was not getting much milk. Other children in the hall were 

coughing, were ill. 

Later, several of these non-Jewish children died, one, a year old, on Christmas day. Nobody cared 

about that. 

In view of these things, which I saw in October, I was sorry to read in November Sir Samuel 

Hoare’s statement in the House of Commons that Jewish children would be admitted to England in 

any number, without any limit whatever, ‘if they were sponsored by responsible bodies and 

individuals’. 

‘Without any limit.’ Ten thousand, twenty thousand, fifty thousand Jewish children. Not a word 

about the non-Jewish children, so much more numerous. 

When I read this it seemed to me, who had seen those non-Jewish children, a clamant iniquity. 

Hardly a week after that speech the first transport of those Jewish children – 208 – arrived in 

England. They were the vanguard of thousands of others. A Daily Express reporter, Mr. 0. D. 

Gallagher, was sent to report their arrival. He had seen other refugee children – 2000 Spanish, non- 

Jewish ones, with whom he had travelled from Bilbao to France. They had ‘blank faces, dead eyes, 

drooping mouths’. These Jewish children, when he saw them in ‘Dovercourt’s £60,000 holiday 

camp’, were in good condition, physically and spiritually, well fed and full of play. ‘A rich London 

Jew’ had sent to Dovercourt 300 pairs of shoes, 300 raincoats, 300 woollen jerseys for the 208, but 

the new clothes ‘were still in the boxes; they are not needed’. Those 2000 Spanish children, when he 

travelled with them, could only talk of one thing – pan blanco, white bread, and the joy of eating it 

again. When he told ‘black-haired Reuben, aged thirteen’, ‘There is a good breakfast waiting for you 

when you leave the ship and arrive at the camp, porridge, bread and butter, and …’, Reuben ‘held his 

tummy, smiled’, and said, ‘We cannot eat now. We have eaten too much.’ 

This foreign-compassion-emigration-and-foreign-succour business is being worked by the Jews in 

exactly the same spirit as, in the times of their power and prosperity, they use their position in 

business and the professions – to squeeze out the non-Jews. Even in adversity, the spirit of racial 

antagonism drives them. They cannot help it, it is in them, they work like bees to get the best for 

their own people. If the non-Jews allow it, they are to blame. But it is monstrously unjust to the 

non-Jews who are in want and distress. 

I was depressed, when I was in Czechoslovakia after the dismemberment, by the way this process 

worked. There was only one fair method to distribute foreign compassion, emigration facilities and 

financial help – to apportion it among the refugees in proportion to their numbers, the degree of 

their want, and the danger in which they stood. That did not happen. The intensive collaboration of 

the Jews, the unremitting siege which they began of all men who might in any way conceivably 

promote their cause – foreign diplomats, foreign newspaper men, benevolent foreign visitors, 

foreign philanthropic and relief organizations – and the manner in which they painted the picture 

blacker than it was and succeeded in monopolizing the foreign Press for their side of the problem, 

all enabled them to gain for themselves far too large a share of foreign compassion, of facilities for 

emigrating abroad, of foreign financial help. 

In Prague a young non-Jewish refugee, who saw no hope of ever getting away, said bitterly to me: 

‘If I were a Jew I should have been out of this long ago.’ I could not challenge him. I knew this to be 

true in very many cases. 

I had seen far larger numbers of non-Jewish than of Jewish children, in a worse plight, uncared for, 

with no organized community of sympathizers in the nearest town, with no one to enlist foreign 

sympathy on their behalf, coughing, breaking out in scrofulous sores, developing tuberculosis. The 

only hope they had was a far distant one of being admitted to some British colony or dominion, but 

this hope was so remote that it was hardly perceptible. By the time this book appears we shall be 

able to see what has happened to them. I knew English people who carried the banner of humanity 

about with them but seemed unmoved by the lot of these non-Jewish children, who were so much 

more numerous and no less deserving than the Jewish ones. Their active compassion seemed only 

capable of being awakened for Jews. 

With the thought of that two-weeks-old baby in my mind, I found it incomprehensible. I could 

explain it only by hypocrisy or by muddle-headedness beyond cure. 

For my part, knowing how these things are done, I was glad that the Sunday Express on December 

11th exposed ‘the myth of the branded Jewish baby refugee’. This ‘extraordinary story that a Jewish 

child refugee from Germany had arrived with the swastika branded on its back’, said the paper, ‘was 

being whispered from one end of Britain to the other’. By diligent inquiry, by questioning hundreds 

of people, the Sunday Express was able ‘after a fortnight of searching investigation to assure the 

many thousands of people who have been horrified by this story that there is no vestige of truth in it 

whatever.’ 

I know. Next time you read a story of that kind, think of the little girl from nowhere, and be frugal 

with your credulity. 

POSTSCRIPT 

I am glad to add, as this book is about to appear, that the German, non-Jewish refugees in Czecho- 

Slovakia, thanks to the untiring efforts of a few people who knew the facts of their appalling plight 

and to an arrangement which the British Government eventually agreed to make, were at last, many 

months after Munich, allowed to emigrate and were thus saved from being sent back to Germany. 

Among them was the Little Girl from Nowhere, for whom public sympathy was aroused in England 

by an article of mine, Manger Child 1938, that the News-Chronicle most kindly published about 

Christmastide of that year. 

I had the pleasure of seeing her, with her parents and her brothers and sisters leave by air for 

England, and I was particularly glad that at long last a helping hand was held out to these, the most 

deserving and the most useful, as they had been the most neglected, of all the refugees.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Seven 

ONE-EYED OUTCAST 

He came rather doubtfully out of the fragile summer-house in the allotment where he was living, 

the allotment where the wet brown leaves were already rotting into the mud beneath a cold 

November sky, where the decaying skeletons of flowery plants straggled dankly about, where the 

black and weeping trees stood around like mourners at a funeral, and he looked at me with his right 

eye. 

It was alive, could still mirror hope and fear and cold and hunger; the other was dead, an ill- 

matched glass thing, ill-fitting in the distended socket, that stared in another direction while the live 

eye looked at you. His wife came out after him and stood behind him, silent, hopeless, downcast. 

They stood together in the flimsy porch of the matchwood box in which they lived; to them it was a 

warm and lovely haven; their dread, day and night, was that they would have to leave it, take to 

their heels again, have to sleep again on damp straw in icy schoolrooms, be arrested, expelled … 

A criminal type, you would casually have thought, if you, warm and well-fed, had on your way to 

some important destination passed this man in the street. Hatless, and his dwindling grey hair 

unkempt. His clothes in tatters, muddied all over, his collarless and only shirt dirty. That distorted 

gaze, half-dead, half-alive. That bruised and broken mouth, full of unnaturally white and gleaming 

teeth. That scarred forehead. 

But if you looked at him in profile, on the side with the live eye, you saw the remains of a fine- 

looking man. A good forehead, nose and jaw. He was now starved, but his thews and muscles, 

though marred by the branding iron, were still like the trunks of young trees. 

You have seen, often enough, those heads of ‘The New Germany’, those fine, fit, blond and smiling 

young men, with the wind playing in their hair. The flappers love them, the do-be-nice-to-Germany 

aunties point approvingly to them. 

You should take a picture of this man’s head and put it in the gallery of ‘New Germany’ types. It is 

also representative. Death in the one eye, the fear of the hunt in the other, the scars, the false teeth 

that have taken the place of the ones that were knocked out. For background, the hut in the 

allotment, a winter sky, a foreign land. 

I found him by accident. I had been wandering round the outskirts of Czechville, a town within a 

stone’s throw of the German lines. You couldn’t speak of a frontier, in November 1938; when you 

looked out of your bedroom window in this town one morning and saw the familiar hill a mile 

away, and the next morning you looked again and in the night the Germans had quietly taken it, and 

it was Germany, and you hoped and hoped that they would leave your town, your Czech town 

where barely a single German lived, and you looked at the little river between yourself and the hill 

and gradually that river came to mean Land’s End, World’s End, for you, and you thought each 

morning, each night, desperately, ‘If they will only stay on the other side of the river, if they will 

only stay the other side of the river, once they cross the river our town, too, will be in Germany’. 

This was a town of 12,000 people, and there were 8000 refugees in it. Think of that. Or rather, don’t 

think of that. It is a billion miles to the moon, we are spending a million pounds on armaments, a 

hundred thousand Chinese have been killed in China, a thousand Czechs have fled before the 

advancing Germans, a hundred Jews have been driven into no-man’s-land – what do all these 

noughts mean to you? Nothing. 

See and talk to one man in all these thousands and millions and you will begin to understand; 

multiply a hundredfold all that he tells you, tag a string of noughts on to that tale of human misery, 

and your brain will reel. So come with me to Czechville. 

Here, in the company of the widow lady, who had lost her husband in the spring and now spent all 

her waking hours in the single-handed effort to mitigate, a mite here and a mite there, this 

mountainous mass of suffering, I visited the refugees, Czech and German. 

In empty schoolrooms, in barracks, in barns and outbuildings and cattle trucks, I found them, the 

Czechs, and Slovaks, a few of the hundred thousand that had fled before the Germans, the Poles 

and the Hungarians. There they were, the Legionaries, the men who had fought with the Russian 

and French and Italian armies against the Germans, who had battled and shot their way right across 

Siberia to Vladivostok, there to take ship and travel all round the world to France, so that they 

could fight again with the Allies, men who wore British and French and Italian decorations. A few 

weeks before they had been school-teachers, officials, postmen, workmen in steady employment. 

Now they lay, three men, three women, two boys, in one small room, each with his or her pallet. 

No work, no money, hardly anything to eat. Beaten up by the Germans, expelled by the Germans, 

fled from the Germans – a Legionary was a marked man. The future? A labour battalion, stone- 

breaking on the roads, perhaps. Perhaps a job – A Job! – one day, when the rump Czechoslovak 

state had succeeded in reducing chaos to order. 

‘The Lord Mayor’s Fund?’ ‘What’s that?’ they said, ‘we never heard of it, you are the first foreigner 

that’s been to visit us. We need fuel, and underclothes, and food, and a little money.’ 

Then, with the widow, I went out to the allotments, each with its ramshackle hut. Here the Germans 

were living, the German working men who had given their allegiance to the Czechoslovak state 

because they hated Hitlerism, because they felt freer and letter [ed: better?] men in the free 

Republic. 

Now they lived in these huts, that belonged to Czech working men – ‘The poor people are the only 

ones who help,’ said the widow – and counted themselves lucky to be there. Three men, two women 

and three children, in a hut the size of a toolshed. Take a look at the toolshed at the bottom of your 

garden. November. Cold. Wet. December coming, January, February … A mile away – you can see 

them from the bottom of the allotment – the Germans. Perhaps they will be here to-morrow. 

Damp in the hut. Potatoes cooking on the stove. The widow, indefatigable, has begged and 

borrowed some potatoes, but the neighbours are already beginning to shake their heads and say 

they can’t give any more. 

The children – three, four and six years old. Merry and laughing; it’s great fun camping-out in the 

allotment. Their faces are breaking out in sores – scrofula. Lack of meat, of vegetables, of milk, 

damp surroundings. These children will never be quite sound again. They will be rachitic and 

tuberculous. 

The widow is the only friend these people see. Nobody comes to bring them coal and wood and 

clothing and meat and vegetables. Nobody puts their names down on emigration lists for England, 

the British Dominions, America. They are Germans; not even the Czechs, in their bitterness, feel 

kindly towards them. They rot. Two working men, one dental mechanic, two wives, three children – 

Reds. 

As we went away, the widow and I, we passed a little cottage, with an old woman leaning out of an 

upper window. She spoke to the widow. ‘Can’t you get some milk for those children?’ she said, ‘I 

gave them all I could this morning.’ ‘How can I? Where can I?’ said the widow. ‘We have no money. 

We have had one grant of 3000 crowns’ (say £21) ‘but we used all that for medicines. I don’t know 

where to turn.’ They talked, and as they talked tears trickled from the eyes of the old woman at the 

window. The widow saw them and said to me, ‘Look, she’s crying,’ and then tears came from her 

own eyes and she called to the old woman, ‘Yes, we are all crying now,’ and we went on. 

We went down the rutty, muddy path to the corner, where a car waited for me, and as I was about 

to get in I saw another woman come out of a hut and stand at the gate, looking at us. She looked 

without expression and made no sign, but I felt that she was looking to us with some faint hope 

stirring in her heart and asked the widow, ‘Is she a refugee, too?’ 

‘Yes,’ said the widow, ‘all these huts are full of them.’ 

‘I’d like to talk to her,’ I said, and we went across. 

She said she would fetch her husband and went in and he came out, with her following him. He 

looked at the widow, and his one live eye was grateful, and then at me, and it was questioning and 

scared and doubtful. 

I looked at that eye, at the scar on the forehead, at the misshapen mouth full of glistening false 

teeth, and considered his general demeanour. I knew the symptoms. KZ. is the name of this disease. 

Pronounce it Kah-Tsett. It means Konzentrationslager. Concentration camp. 

‘What happened to your eye?’ I asked. 

‘Oh, they knocked it out,’ he said, reluctantly, looking from the widow to me, only half-reassured. 

‘And your teeth?’ 

‘My teeth, too,’ he said, ‘but I am in a very difficult situation and don’t want to make things worse 

for myself. If they get me again I am lost.’ 

His wife reassured him and told him to show his arm and when he did not she herself pulled up the 

sleeve and showed the brown stripes of hot irons, like those that you see on your grilled sole, and 

on the other arm a deep scar from a boot heel. 

‘What were you – a Communist?’ I asked. 

‘I was in the Party until 1924,’ he said, hesitatingly, ‘and played a leading part in it then, in our 

district, but in 1924 I lost faith in it and left it and then in 1933, one day, I was working in my plot 

and the SA came and took me -‘ 

‘After nine years?’ I asked. 

‘After nine years,’ he answered, ‘they hadn’t forgotten, and then they took me off to an SA home and 

got me in the cellar there and beat me up with steel bars and truncheons, and that’s how I got this’ – 

he touched his eye and his misshapen mouth – ‘and they kept on telling me to reveal the names of 

Communists in the district and I kept on saying I didn’t know them and each time they set about me 

again, and then they brought the hot irons, and at the end they left me nearly dead, and when I came 

to I couldn’t pass water, but they wouldn’t let me have a doctor, and my stomach swelled and 

swelled and I tried to open my artery with a fork’ – his wife silently turned up the sleeve again and 

showed a red scar – ‘but they noticed it and brought a doctor and now I only have one kidney and 

am always ailing, and then they put me in a concentration camp and I was there for two and a half 

years …’ 

As he told this story his wife stood silently by him, her eyes on the ground, and I saw the tears 

creep out of them and run down. She did not wipe them away. The women I have seen weeping in 

Europe of late never do. They just let them run. How many women have I seen weeping, and how 

many more shall I see weeping in these years to come, more and more and more, like a river in the 

rainy season, a trickle, a stream, a river, a torrent, a flood, and no hope of stopping it, that I can see, 

in these coming years, but only more and more tears. 

‘And then I got across the frontier into Czechoslovakia,’ he went on, ‘and I got another little plot of 

land and I’ve been working that for a year or more and then came the Germans and I had to clear 

out again and here I am.’ 

He looked, with his one eye, over my shoulder, through the branches of the leafless trees to the hill 

beyond, a mile away, that the Germans had occupied one night, while he lay there, trying to keep 

warm in the summer-house. 

‘Have you anyone at all to interest himself in your case?’ I asked. 

‘Me?’ he said. ‘No one. That’s the joke of it. I left the Party in 1924, fourteen years ago. If I had 

stayed in it I should be on the books now, I should be able to apply for help, possibly to get my 

name on to some emigration list. Now I belong nowhere, to no country, to no nation, to no 

organization. What I’m afraid of is that they will make me shift from this shanty. I can keep warm 

here, but if they put me in another schoolroom, on the bare boards, in the icy cold, me with my one 

kidney, I’m finished.’ 

As I left him, this humble working man, this member of the ever-growing Legion of the Lost, I felt 

a rage and misery in me greater than ever before and that is saying very much. 

A few days before I had read in my English newspaper of a London magistrate who said to the two 

contestants in a case that came before him that he would like to put them in concentration camps. 

I don’t know what sort of picture this name, Concentration Camp, conjures up to anybody who 

hears it in a London club, but I will say that any man who should ever introduce them in England 

would be a conscienceless traitor and a sadistic black-guard and less than the scum of the earth, for 

there is no crime that you can commit worse than this. The soul of the man who murders his 

grandmother for half a crown is white and shining compared with that of the man who puts his 

countrymen in these places. 

Hitler and National Socialism have done magnificent things for Germany. They have done many 

things that I would like to have done in England, that ought to be done in England. They care for 

the health of their people, for the housing of their people, they see to it that the countryside is not 

ruined and ravaged by self-seeking manufacturers, speculative builders and dog-in-the-manger 

landowners, they make sunshine and air available to the masses, they fight unemployment and 

under-nourishment and slums. To attain such ends, even rigorous methods against political 

opponents might be justified. 

But the bestial brutality of the concentration camps, practised not in the white heat of revolutionary 

fanaticism but in the coldest of blood, upon helpless people, is a thing awful beyond the power of 

description. 

It is not even necessary. The times in which such things were formerly done, we have always been 

taught to think of as The Dark Ages. Even to talk of establishing such places in England, at a time 

when the country enjoys the completest civic peace, when English people have even become 

apathetic to the social crimes that they see around them every day, unemployment, under- 

nourishment, unfitness and ill-housing, when they make no more than faint protests against the 

obscene wealth and luxury that flaunt and parade in the midst of so much misery, even to talk, from 

a comfortable place, of establishing concentration camps in England at such a time ought to be a 

penal offence. 

Is the crime of being poor, of being unemployed, of being under-fed, of being ill-housed, not to be 

punished by incarceration in concentration camps? Is that the argument? There are no revolutionary 

mobs in Whitehall. Among all those millions of poor people none seeks to interfere with the few 

who live in cushioned ease. They are too apathetic, too leaderless, even to raise their heads above 

their own squalor, even to hope for an end to it. And on top of all that, you would put them in 

concentration camps? Or are the concentration camps to be reserved for the wealthy, the leisured, 

the lapped-in-luxury? 

Only one thing can be worse than the thought that such things are possible in Germany – the 

thought that there are people in England who would like to make them possible there. 

With these thoughts raging like a tempest in my mind, I came away from that leaky hut on the edge 

of Czechville and turned, as I went, for a last look at the man I had left. He was standing, looking 

after me with his one good eye. Behind him, in the middle distance, I saw the misty outline of the 

hill that the Germans had occupied in the darkness, a night or two before.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Eight 

MAKE THEE MIGHTIER YET[3] 

Don’t leave it to God to do that. He won’t. If you want to make England mightier you must do it 

yourself. God didn’t make the Peace of Munich, for all you prayed for it and gave thanks for it. You 

made it, and sacrificed Czechoslovakia to make it. Perhaps it was worth it. I don’t think so. 

Personally, I don’t want to see England mightier, or her bounds set wider. I would like to see, 

within those bounds, a cleaner, decenter, more humane, less class-ridden England. But as we are 

talking about bounds and England’s might, let’s talk about bounds and England’s might. 

Since I wrote Insanity Fair, which foretold the end of Austria and of Czechoslovakia, I have gained 

a reputation for second sight. People ask me, by word or by letter: how did you know?, what is 

going to happen to us now? 

This is nonsense. I only wrote what all men knew who had lived long in Europe and studied the 

Germans. You could find the same story hundreds of times in the private files of newspaper offices 

and of Whitehall, if they were open to you. Your Government was informed of what was coming 

years in advance, but either wouldn’t believe it, or wouldn’t act on the knowledge, or wanted things 

this way. Perhaps you wanted things this way – or were you just bamboozled? This is one of the 

answers that I don’t know. 

You will have no respite in coming years. Every year since 1933 has been filled with more and 

more alarums and excursions, more and more wars, more and more crises, more and more 

territorial swoops, more and more sudden surprises – which should not and would not surprise you 

if you were informed. 

This process will not slow down or stop. It will continue, at an accelerated pace, in 1939 and 1940 

and 1941, unless your big war comes in those years, the war of which no man can foretell the 

outcome. Whether that war will come or not I cannot tell you, because it depends on you, because I 

no longer understand my countrypeople enough to know which of their only two alternatives – war 

or capitulation – they will choose, or at what point they will choose it. 

These are your only two alternatives – war or capitulation. Capitulation means for you just what it 

meant for Czechoslovakia – the surrender of territory, the surrender of your domestic liberties, an 

alien race in occupation of strategic points on your soil. 

There is a case to be made out for the surrender of your overseas territory and the surrender of your 

domestic liberties, for the reasons I indicated in broad outline in Insanity Fair and will explain in 

more detail here: that you do not use your overseas territory, and that in England a small and selfish 

group has now learned so to manipulate your domestic liberties that the result is not to safeguard 

your liberty, but to perpetuate a form of slavery – slums, derelict areas, ill-health, bad-housing, 

under-nutrition. But these things could be altered, if you had an awakening of the public mind in 

England and enough men of enough energy to lead the movement, under a democratic system. If 

there is no energy in you, somebody else will do it for you. 

In Europe you will see the frontiers of the German Reich expand and expand. If you believe that 

stuff about ‘Germany has no further territorial ambitions in Europe’ you are beyond hope. 

For some reason, a number of your governing politicians pretend that they believe it. You will see, 

very soon, Hungary pass completely into German vassalage. This means that the living and 

working conditions of the workers will be improved and some land found for the peasants, that the 

hold on the land of the Church and the Jews will be loosened, that the Hungarian army will become 

part of the German fighting-machine. 

As there are 600,000 Germans in Hungary, and many of these live in the western part, along the 

banks of the Danube, I expect to see at least a strip of Hungary along the Danube pass, in some 

form, into the actual possession of Germany. This may happen in disguised form at first – for 

instance, by the building of a German-owned road to Budapest, then to be connected by another 

German-owned road across Czechoslovakia to Breslau. But it will happen. 

This will not be a mortal blow for Hungary, as it was for Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia the 

masses of the people felt that they owned the state, the workers had good working conditions, a free 

vote, their own parties, their own Press, trades unions; the peasants owned their land; the result was 

a nation of freemen which burned to fight for its land and its liberties. 

In Hungary the position is quite different. There the masses have never had this feeling. When a 

part of Czechoslovakia was given to Hungary, at the order of Germany and Italy, the result was an 

immediate political crisis in Hungary, because in those recovered areas the peasants owned their 

land and the few workers had known freedom, so that the entrenched ruling classes in Budapest felt 

this to be an attack on their privileges, while the suppressed Hungarian National Socialists hailed it 

as the coming of the dawn. 

They wanted to raise the rest of Hungary to the level of the newly won areas; the embattlemented 

ruling class wanted to bring the new areas down to the level of the rest of Hungary. The masses in 

that Hungary have never known freedom. The only changes in their conditions of life for centuries 

have been a change of masters – from Turk to German, from nobleman to the lesser gentry, the 

Church and the Jews. If the new master is to be called Hungarian National Socialism, and this 

master is to be the lieutenant of German National Socialism, they do not greatly mind, if only their 

conditions of life are improved at long last. 

For you, the importance of this is that the Hungarian army will become part of the German 

fighting-machine and that all the foodstuff wealth of Hungary will be at the disposal of Germany. 

In Czechoslovakia, as you will see if you look at the map, the easternmost part of the Rump 

Republic, after the German road has been built across the waist of the land, remains outside the 

frontiers of the Reich – a tongue reaching out towards Rumania, Poland, and the Ukraine. Within 

the German wall are the Czech lands, Bohemia and Moravia; outside it remain Slovakia and the 

easternmost province of Czechoslovakia, that little backward, seldom-heard-of country which was 

called Ruthenia. 

Inside the wall Czechia, as I write, is in complete subjugation to the Reich. It is a German-guarded 

compound, a concentration camp on the colossal scale, but its domestic regime still retains (as I 

write) the traces of its love for democracy, parliamentary politics and constitutionalism. The love of 

the Czechs for these things is so great, that they will be difficult to root out, though they will grow 

less and less, and some form of Fascism will take shape. Knowing that Czechia is in any case 

securely in its hands, the Reich may let them play with these things. 

Slovakia is already Fascist, with a monopolistic party, Storm Troopers, beatings-up, a concentration 

camp for Marxists, and the like. The Catholic lands always yield more readily to this system than 

those with a Protestant tradition; the Catholic Church has often been among the cruellest and most 

ruthless of the oppressors, and Catholic parties, in all such countries, avidly grasp at the chance of a 

strong-hand regime when one offers. 

It is an illusion to think that the antagonism between National Socialism, Fascism or whatever you 

like to call it and the Catholic Church, in those countries where clericalism is a major political 

force, is based on a clash between the ideal of humanity and the doctrine of inhumanity. It is a clash 

between self-interested groups each avid for political power. In Slovakia, incidentally, where there 

is a fairly strong and well-organized German National-Socialist minority, particularly in the capital 

Bratislava, the two are at present working hand-in-hand, reconciled for the nonce in the division of 

the spoil. 

Remains that tiny, easternmost tongue of land called, in the old Czechoslovak state, ‘Ruthenia’. At 

the moment it is called either ‘Carpathian Russia’ or ‘Carpathian Ukraine’, which, is not quite clear, 

though the difference is important. The difference is, broadly, that some of the inhabitants consider 

themselves, culturally, part of the great Russian family beyond the Carpathians, and want their own 

little Republic within the Czechoslovak state. The others feel that they belong to the Ukrainian race 

of 40,000,000 People, now lying partly under Polish and partly under Russian rule, and they dream 

of a great Ukrainian state under German tutelage. The respective strength of these groups – the 

‘Great Russians’ would sooner belong to Hungary than to Ukraine – and what they want does not 

matter much, because the aims and interests of Germany will decide the issue. 

This is why the remote Carpathian Ukraine, let us say, with its half a million marooned 

mountaineers, is one of the most important strips of land in Europe to-day. It is the springboard for 

Germany’s future eastward jump. When Czechoslovakia was being dismembered, Poland and 

Hungary both demanded, clamorously, that Carpathian Ukraine should be divided between them, 

so that they should have a common frontier. 

This was an anti-German move. It meant that the ruling classes in both countries saw the German 

eastward drive coming and wanted to join hands and put up a barrier against it, in their own 

interest. When Czechoslovakia appealed to Italy and Germany to arbitrate, Italy, the friend of 

Hungary and Poland, did succeed in forcing Germany to give Hungary a substantial slice of 

Carpathian Ukraine, namely, all the arable land in the south, the big towns to which the plain 

peasants in the south used to bring their foodstuffs, geese and pigs to market, and the east-to-west 

railway connecting them all. Remained half a million woodsmen and mountaineers in valleys 

separated by a chain of north-to-south mountains, like the ribs of a spine with no inter- 

communications, no markets, no rail connection and only the scantiest road connection with the rest 

of Czechoslovakia. 

Economically, as these people would have starved unless kept alive by artificial feeding, they might 

as well have been given to Hungary too. It was not Herr von Ribbentrop’s wish, at Vienna, to give 

those big Carpathian-Ukrainian towns and railway centres to Hungary. He showed the Carpathian- 

Ukrainian envoys a map on which they were marked as remaining with Carpathian Ukraine. The 

pressure of Italy, trying to assert her position as the protector of Catholic-Fascist Hungary and the 

friend of Catholic-Fascist Poland, was too great. He had, for the nonce, to give way. But Germany 

was determined, at all costs, to keep that tiny corridor to the east open, and she succeeded. 

A village of 20,000 people, Chust, suddenly found itself the capital of Carpathian Ukraine, with the 

spotlight of world publicity beating on it. You will hear a good deal about Chust in coming times. It 

was the remotest place. It had a shoe-factory, a pork-butcher’s shop where you could buy for three- 

halfpence a pair of smoking hot and remarkably good sausages, a barber’s with Tussaud-like busts 

smirking behind the dusty window, a few gipsy taverns with gipsy girls, the friend of man in Chust, 

and wailing music, a main street where the inhabitants surged languidly to and fro during the 

afternoon promenade. 

The only sign of our modern times in Chust were the great foursquare concrete schools and public 

buildings which the progressive Czechoslovak Government, in the twenty years of Czechoslovak 

independence, had built, and in front of them geese quackled to and fro, ox-drawn peasant wagons 

slowly passed. Where the Premier of Carpatho-Ukraine has his office a brown bear was shot in the 

winter of 1918. 

Suddenly, with raiding Polish and Hungarian bands still infesting the northern and southern 

frontiers, which you could almost span with your hand, German envoys arrived in Chust, a German 

Consul, half a dozen German newspaper men, Ukrainian émigré patriots who had lived for ten 

years in Berlin and seemed well supplied with funds. 

The Great Power game had found a new field – the village of Chust. 

Now look at your map and see how the game works out. Through that tongue of land, joined up 

with the great trans-Czechoslovak German motor-road, which in its turn leads to the great inner- 

German network of strategic roads, called Autobahnen, will soon come another road, built under 

German supervision, German-controlled. 

By it Germany will dominate Southern Poland – the Polish Ukraine – and Rumania. Will her might 

alone be sufficient to detach that rich and golden land and form an independent Ukrainian state, 

ruled by those Berlin-trained émigré patriots, of which Germany will be the master? Will war be 

needed? Will Poland fight? 

Poland will be in a bad jam. Poland, as I think, is a misjudged country. Contemptible treachery, it 

seemed, when Poland, partitioned three times by predatory great Powers, jumped on 

Czechoslovakia’s back during the September crisis and took her little bit. But if everybody had 

joined hands to resist Germany Poland would have come in against her too. 

In 1933 Marshal Pilsudski told the Western Powers, ‘You must stop Germany now or never. You 

can do it now with a minimum loss of life and time and treasure. You can do it in five minutes. 

Later will be too late.’ When they turned a deaf ear to him he made his ten-year pact with Germany. 

Now that pact, too, is going to prove a double-edged sword, that wounds its wielder. But what 

could Poland have done? The source of all evil is the feebleness of the Western Powers, afraid of 

their own victory in a world war. Now Poland, too, is in danger of losing territory. 

Down there in Carpathian Ukraine Germany will be at the door of Rumania too, Rumania who 

holds the one thing she craves after above all others – oil. You can put a match to oil, to prevent 

your advancing enemy from having it. They did it in the World War. Do you think Germany will 

take that chance again? 

You will see Germany at least in domination, probably in physical possession, of these invaluable, 

resources of foodstuffs and fuel – the only thing so mighty a military power needs to make her 

invincible in Europe for long to come. 

Now comes the greatest question of all, the vital question for you and your Empire, the question 

whose answer will decide your and your children’s lives. 

If I guess the mind of our rulers rightly, the calculation has been that at this point Germany will 

come into conflict with Russia. She will try to do the impossible, to accomplish that which has 

defeated every bold adventurer in history. She will spend her time, her men, her strength, her 

treasure, in fighting the colossus Russia – in fighting nature. Nazi dog, that you fear but sneakingly 

like, would eat Bolshie dog, that you detest, or both would die. You would be left in peace. Social 

unrest, and the hateful necessity for curing social evils, would be banished for a century. You 

would with an easy mind go back to your golf. 

Will Hitler do this? I cannot tell you. If he does, the old men may have been right, I and the others 

wrong. 

It all depends whether you believe that Hitler means what he says – that Bolshevist Russia is his 

mortal enemy. It is not true. Russia has never done anything to Germany, Russia was beaten to her 

knees by Germany, a peace treaty far transcending Versailles in vindictive cruelty was imposed on 

Russia, Bolshevism was sent to Russia by Germany, in a sealed railway compartment. 

The mortal enemy is England. Not Bolshevist Russia has what Germany wants – world power and 

overseas possessions – but England. Germany has an enormously long bill against England, no 

single item of which has been forgotten. They are all stored up in the minds of men whose 

memories are as long as their thirst for revenge is insatiable. If they have their way, and they are 

near to attaining it, they will make you repay every penny of reparations, recoup to the last farthing 

and more the value of the German property you confiscated in the war you won – and then lost – 

they will take all their former colonies and more. 

Do you want proof’? Think of the tone of Hitler’s references, of Goering’s references, of Goebbels’s 

references to England after Munich. Already they are within an ace of sending you a six-hour 

ultimatum if you choose for Prime Minister a man they do not like. They are not quite so far, but a 

few more riots in France, a few changes in Russia, and they will be so far. You are in mortal 

danger. 

I am writing less than two months after Munich, when men shouted, ‘Three cheers for Germany’ in 

Whitehall and a man shouted, ‘Heil Chamberlain’ Unter den Linden. Do you really imagine that 

these cheers were for peace? Would you not cheer a man who enabled you without war to conquer 

another country? If you wish to know what Hitler thinks of Mr. Chamberlain read his contemptuous 

reference, in Berlin on November 6th, five weeks after Munich, to ‘umbrella-carrying bourgeois 

types’. 

As I write, less than two months after Munich, there is in Germany a deadly campaign to inculcate 

hatred of England, the like of which has never been seen. It is kept out of your newspapers, save for 

scanty references which mean nothing to you. There has never been anything so sustained, so laden 

with hatred, in the world. In almost every newspaper he picks up, in almost every newsreel he sees, 

in almost every radio programme he hears, the German has this hatred dinned into his soul. It is 

done at the order of a single man. He has pressed the button, and the whole gigantic machine has 

sprung into life. Why, if there is eternal peace and goodwill between us? 

Why? They mean to be first this time with the ‘atrocity propaganda’, with the baby-killing stories. 

They are doing it on a scale we never dreamed of, even in the worst days of the war. 

Listen to Goebbels, speaking in Berlin on November 23rd, 1938. He first quoted a letter written by 

a German author, Max Halbe, to German Imperial Headquarters during the war. Halbe expressed 

grave anxiety about the superiority of the enemy in propaganda. The strength of Germany’s 

enemies, he said, was that they were prosecuting the war as a moral crusade; why did not Germany 

use this weapon of the appeal to the spirit? He received, a non-committal answer. 

Said Goebbels: ‘Now you know why we lost the war. And you can also imagine why the 

propagandist side of National Socialist policy is a thorn in the eyes of the other Powers. The others 

are gradually beginning to see that Germany is also taking a hand in the game. We, too, have 

mastered the technique of propaganda, and we have men who are clever enough to exploit it.’ 

Now look at some of the results of this campaign and remember that no German, man or woman, 

young or old, can read a paper without seeing this sort of thing sooner or later: 

The Völkischer Beobachter, the leading and official National Socialist organ, on its front page on 

November 24th, 1938. A long article from one of its own correspondents in Jerusalem, whose name 

is given, about ‘The Shame of England’. It is about British methods in Palestine. The shame of 

England is the concentration camp. The article says that about 2000 beings are confined in these 

concentration camps, that the Law of Suspect suffices ‘for English justice in Palestine to deprive the 

citizens of the mandated territory of their freedom for months’. The sanitary conditions in these 

camps ‘are beyond description’. A prisoner told the correspondent that in Akko ‘there are three 

closets for 500 prisoners’, no means of washing. The closets ‘are closed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.’ In the 

room in which the prisoners are kept during these twelve hours ‘there is no possibility of relieving 

natural necessities’. ‘Frightful conditions prevail.’ ‘Thrashings are daily occurrences, although the 

English deny this.’ One case, concerning the son of a respected family, ‘has been established by 

documentary evidence’. But the main attack of the ‘mandatory lords’ is directed against the civilian 

population. ‘Revolting details’ of the methods by which the population is terrorized will be given in 

the next report. 

The next number of the Völkischer Beobachter, for November 25th, 1938, contains the second 

article about ‘The Shame of England’. It says the chief weapon of British terrorism against the 

civilian population consists in domiciliary visitations. ‘Domiciliary visitations mean destruction’. A 

town or village is surrounded by British troops in the dawn, suspected persons are taken off to 

concentration camps, cases have been established where persons desired to be incriminated have 

had weapons ‘planted’ on them, ‘during the raids thefts by British soldiers are daily occurrences’, but 

‘not only gold and jewellery’ are stolen. In the old town of Jerusalem two hundred horses were 

stolen, an Arab journalist had four pounds stolen from his pocket. The poor possessions of the 

people, a few sticks of furniture or stocks of food, are destroyed, ‘for the British military authorities 

are obviously resolved to break the resistance of the civilian population by starvation’. The want 

and distress of the people ‘is terrible’. More and more cases are occurring where ‘captured and 

fettered Arabs are shot during transport’. There was such a case in Jaffa, ‘where a suspect Arab, 

who was handcuffed, was made to run the gauntlet between English soldiers and was finished off 

by revolver shots’. 

In this British-ruled territory, too, says the correspondent, the fiendish trick of pretending that a 

dead prisoner was shot ‘while trying to escape’ has been introduced – together with concentration 

camps. ‘A second case was established on the Haifa-Djenin road, where two captured Arabs, who 

had been put in handcuffs, and were to be removed by a motor car, were shot, allegedly because 

they had tried to wrest the rifles from the three British soldiers escorting them.’ ‘Just imagine’, says 

the correspondent, ‘two handcuffed prisoners try to overpower three fully-armed guards and are 

shot. In the official communiqués these cases are reported as “shot while trying to escape”.’ 

The ruthlessness of the British soldiery, he proceeds, is shown by the repeated cases of Arab 

women being raped. ‘In the village of Silluan, where two Englishmen had been shot, seven Arab 

women were raped.’ Such occurrences, says the correspondent, ‘are daily events, but are hushed up 

by the Arabs concerned in the interest of their family honour’. During the operations in the old town 

of Jerusalem the number of ‘old men, women and children allegedly killed by stray bullets’ was just 

as great as that of the Arab irregulars. ‘England’ the correspondent concludes his report ‘is making 

of the Arab population of Palestine in truth a people of martyrs.’ 

Take the Völkischer Beobachter of November 26th, 1938. A whole page about England, 

reproducing from French newspapers of 1898 pictures of British atrocities in South Africa. There is 

a quotation from a report of Lord Roberts, containing the words, ‘it is touching to see with what 

consideration and care the Boer women are treated’. Above this is a picture of a British soldier 

kicking a pregnant Boer woman in the stomach. 

Another quotation, from an official report of the British War Ministry during the Boer War: ‘The 

traffic communications have been restored and the railway is operating normally; the accidents so 

frequent a few months ago have ceased.’ Above this is a picture of a British armoured train with a 

Boer woman and two children lashed to it to deter train-wreckers and sharpshooters. 

At the foot of the page an article entitled ‘The bloodbath of Amritsar’. It begins: ‘We are by no 

means of the opinion that General Dyer, who on an April day in Amritsar mowed down two 

thousand human beings with machine-guns and without warning, was a bloodthirsty man. We 

should speak no ill of the dead, and in any case a colonial officer must be regarded in the first place 

as the product of a long line of teachers and predecessors whom he had before his eyes during his 

whole life. Dyer of Amritsar seems to us to be the type of Anglo-Indian officer, not better and not 

worse than the average …’And so on, and so on. 

This is not in wartime, but in what passes for peace in our time. It is not sporadic, or confined to a 

small section of the Press as in Wilhelmian days, or accidental. It is the result of an order, to which 

the entire German publicity machine, press, radio and film, immediately responds. At a given 

moment the man in command may choose, for this reason or that, to take his finger off the button. 

At another given moment, he will press it again. This particular outburst comes less than two 

months after Munich. If you had stood firm at Munich you would not have had this, you would 

have had a respectful German Press to-day, you would have had a large body of grateful opinion in 

Germany, you would have had the thanks and support of the world. The more you give, the worse it 

will get. While this is going on your Government privately approaches the American Ambassador 

and begs him to have the contributions of Wickham Steed and A. J. Cummings cut from a 

newsreel, for fear that it might annoy Germany. 

Any British newspaper correspondent in Germany who wrote a fraction of the things about German 

concentration camps and the rest that that German correspondent in Jerusalem wrote about England 

would be thrown out like a dog, and he would have no support at all from his Government. 

This is what I mean when I say that, by 1939, the process has gone so far that British newspaper 

correspondents are working under censorship while German newspaper correspondents may say 

what they like. The British Press to-day, with only two or three last exceptions, suppresses or 

obscures things you should know, either from class-feeling or from pressure. 

The days are gone when the Völkischer Beobachter was the dullest paper in Europe. Now its 

foreign news is most instructive. Its correspondents already feel themselves proconsuls in the 

countries they inhabit and I strongly advise you, particularly if you want to know what is going to 

happen in the Danubian and Balkan countries, or if you want to know what feeling towards 

England Hitler wishes to imbue in his people, how much respect he wants them to have for 

England, whether he wishes them to think that England is a contemptible and decadent country, 

unworthy to occupy the top place in the world and easy to overthrow, to read it every day. 

To come back to the great question of our times – Russia, and what Hitler will do about Russia. 

Nobody can tell you this, because only he knows. The great game of European chess is approaching 

the decisive gambit – and I think you will know the result in 1939, a year which is going to give you 

no respite from suspense and uncertainty. 

In the answer to this question lies his fate, I think. If he goes against Russia his doom may be sealed 

– ultimately. At the end he might lose all he has gained. If he goes against Russia he will make 

possible the one combination still strong enough to beat him – England, France, Russia and 

America. He will give you time to pull yourself together, to recover your wits, at last to get on with 

rearmament, to find leaders who have feelings and understanding. 

Will he? The answer will be found here, where I am writing, in Danubian Europe, and that is why it 

is so enthrallingly interesting. 

His obvious move now, his master move that would give him game and make him world champion, 

would be to join hands with Russia. There is nothing in the Russian people to prevent it, no deep- 

rooted German-Russian hatred, no irreconcilable territorial quarrel. Together, the world would be 

theirs. National Socialism and Bolshevism are not worlds apart, but close together. 

There is one great obstacle. Stalin had or has – I am not sure how matters stand at the moment – a 

Jewish wife. The Jews are powerful in Russia, numerous in the Bolshevist administration. I can 

perfectly well imagine an alliance between National Socialist Germany and Bolshevist Russia, and 

people who say this is inconceivable are vapouring. I cannot imagine an alliance between National- 

Socialist Germany and the present regime in Soviet Russia. If you see signs of a change of regime 

in Russia, of the exclusion of the Jewish element, you may book that passage for the Bahamas, for 

all is lost. 

If that does not happen, there will still be plenty of trouble coming, but I should think in the very 

long run Hitler would lose. In the meantime he would overrun large areas of Europe, and for ten or 

twenty years would rule the Continent, but at the end, probably, he would succumb to a European 

coalition. 

That is the vital question, which everybody understands so well in Europe and hardly anybody in 

England. The French and the Czechoslovaks saw it nearly four years ago, when Germany began to 

tear up treaties and proclaimed her intention to rearm. If jungle law is again to rule in Europe, they 

thought, if tooth-and-claw are again to decide, we will get in with the strongest pack. First inviting 

Germany, who refused, to come into an all-in non-aggression-and-joint-action-against-an-aggressor 

pact, they made their pacts with Russia. 

Now you have compelled Czechoslovakia to withdraw from that combination, to go with Germany. 

France? Is France still the ally of Soviet Russia? You may search me, but you won’t find the 

answer. 

That leaves Russia in the air, a German-Russian alliance, the greatest menace to European peace 

that you could devise in a century of hard thought, a possibility. Immediately after the fall of 

Czechoslovakia the rude references to Soviet Russia began to disappear from Nazi speeches. Polite 

references to ‘the Russian people’ – not that Jewy regime, but ‘the people’ – began to appear. 

Now the great game is on. Can Hitler find a way, as he found a way with Czechoslovakia, to 

compel the submission of Poland and detach Poland from Russia, or can he bring about changes in 

Russia which will enable him to detach Russia from her, partition Poland, and turn his face to – the 

West? 

These are the questions to which you will soon see the answers. Already Germany is well on her 

way to complete mastery of the south-east, the Balkans. She has to find some way of cutting that 

eastern deadlock. Then she is ready. 

The Eastern problem – unless Hitler commits the unimaginable folly of attacking Russia – is only 

one, for Germany, of covering her rear. The things she wants are in the west – the gateway to the 

oceans of the world, to overseas possessions, to world power. 

For your part, I expect to see you give back the former German colonies, and without fighting. 

During the debate on Czechoslovakia I read that a Conservative member of Parliament stated that 

he would oppose this until his last breath. I expect nevertheless to see those colonies given back 

and to find him still breathing. 

Hitler told Chamberlain that this question of the colonies ‘remained’, ‘was awkward’, but was ‘not a 

question to be settled by war’. I think he is absolutely right. He will very probably get them without 

war; he is strong enough. A few years ago, and in return for real pledges, reclaimable at a moment’s 

notice, not for ‘assurances’, I would have voted for giving them back. I was sorry, then, that we had 

ever taken them. 

The spectacle of England handing over Czechoslovakia to Germany and then protesting about 

‘defenceless natives’ being handed to Germany does not appeal to me. Do not think that the German 

demand for colonies can be fobbed off with a small piece of malarian Central African jungle called 

Bungaloo, or something like that. It means Tanganyika, and nothing less – the most cherished of all 

German colonies. Do not think, either, that it can be stilled by giving Germany somebody else’s 

colonies – those of Belgium, Holland or Portugal. She would take them, of course – and use them as 

bases for the recovery of her own colonies. 

There is no hope, and you can believe this, of a bargain about the colonies: ‘We give you the 

colonies, and in return you give us that watertight arrangement about keeping the peace that we 

long for.’ 

If you hope for this you are deluding yourself or being deluded. The same old carrot is being 

dangled before your nose. You can never get your teeth into it. 

Hitler will not ‘negotiate’ about the colonies. He has, times beyond number, before and after 

Munich, said that there is nothing to negotiate about. I am using the word ‘negotiate’ in the sense in 

which you understand it. Of course, Hitler is prepared to ‘negotiate’ in the Munich sense – that you 

go to him, he tells you what he wants and means to have, under the threat of a world war, and you 

give it to him. If that is what you understand by ‘negotiation’ you can have it. You cannot have 

anything more. 

Hitler has publicly stated that he does not understand what British politicians mean when they 

speak of an ‘understanding’ about the colonies. He wants the colonies. The only basis on which he 

will negotiate is that they shall be given to him, without any counter-service. They rightfully belong 

to Germany. ‘If we do not demand our rights by negotiation we demand them and obtain them in 

other ways.’ 

Lord Hailey, addressing the English Speaking Union in December 1938 about ‘the German claim 

for colonies’, said: ‘There are two conditions for any return of the German colonies. First, the 

certainty that by returning them we can avoid a war on which our resources at the time will not 

permit us to enter. Secondly, the assurance that we can by this means, and this means alone, secure 

an agreement of which we can believe, on solid and substantial grounds, that it will make a radical 

change in securing peaceful relations in Europe.’ 

Still that mirage! 

You can return the German colonies, unconditionally. How on Saturn can you, by returning them, 

make certain that you can avoid a war on which your resources will not permit you to enter? If 

Hitler knows that you are not equal to making war, why should he give you the certainty that you 

will be spared it? He would only do that if he knew that you were strong. As to ‘assurances’, ‘solid 

and substantial grounds’, ‘radical changes in securing peaceful relations in Europe’, it is almost past 

belief that these phrases should still be current coin in political discussion. 

In my view, you will return those colonies unconditionally, without any certainty that this will save 

you a war, without any ‘assurance’ that it will give peaceful relations in Europe. 

I imagine that when this question of the colonies becomes acute it will develop approximately in 

this manner. The propagandist campaign will be released, the first rumblings of the distant thunder 

will disturb your tranquillity, it will swell to its tempestuous climax. Suddenly, Germany will not 

be able to exist a moment longer without colonies, no German will be able to sleep at night for 

thinking of the intolerable injustice that was done to Germany when they were taken from her. 

In England a great outburst of public resentment will follow, and men will say, ‘We’ve had enough 

of this, let’s stop this guy, we’ll fight’. At the peak of the crisis, when you are all keyed up to fight 

and nevertheless dreading war, a still, small voice, probably in a newspaper, will venture a gentle 

suggestion: ‘After all, is it worth the lives of millions of men? Why not give the colonies back to 

Germany, whose Führer, who means what he says, has solemnly assured us that after this Germany 

will have no further claims of any kind, anywhere, anytime, anyhow, anyway, if we can in return 

have some binding pledge – say the return of Germany to the League of Notions, a pact of mutual 

admiration, and the limitation of armadillos under international control?’ 

The proposal would be officially disavowed, your statesmen would gravely but fearlessly avow that 

they were almost beginning to commence to fear whether there might not be a spirit abroad in 

Germany which was not conducive etc. etc. etc., and England, though at the table of international 

and amicable discussion she might be prepared to consider the transfer of mandates over certain 

territories to Germany, would never submit to the threat of force etc. etc. etc., and we don’t want to 

fight but by jingo if we do etc. etc. etc., and we should be prepared to pay even a third visit to 

Helsingfors if we thought it would do any good etc. etc. etc. 

Then one day the bells of Helsingfors would peal out the glad news of peace with honour and you 

would wake up to find that you had transferred your Colonies to Germany, rather more colonies 

than you had ever expected and under rather worse conditions, but in return you had a brand new 

pact of Mutual Admiration, and Germany would consider, under certain conditions and at an 

unspecified later date, a return to the League of Notions, and universal limitation of armadillos was 

to be introduced – (News item from Berlin, From our own Correspondent, it is reported from Essen 

that 1,000,000 armadillos escaped last night and have not yet been traced) – and the natives were to 

have the right of option, and you would frolic and rollick in Whitehall,’ or perhaps you wouldn’t 

next time, I’m not sure. 

The trouble is that you – no, not you, your politicians – have allowed Germany to get too strong for 

you, and your only hope of curing that mortal ill now, if they have at last learned, is that Germany 

will get into a tangle with Russia and her Eastern policy in general which will give you time to 

close the gap a little. 

That reminds me of something I have been meaning to say, and continually forgotten, since the 

beginning of this book. 

That phrase about ‘war is inevitable’. Your politicians, who have brought you to this pass, are 

always getting up in the House of Commons and saying, ‘I strongly deprecate the view, so often 

expressed to-day by the professional pessimists, that war is inevitable’. This phrase is a sure winner, 

and invariably brings down the House. For cool cheek, it is unsurpassable. 

Who ever said that war is inevitable? All men who knew something about foreign affairs said that 

war would be inevitable if we failed to rearm when Germany rearmed, that this policy which has 

been pursued for six years, against all the warnings of men who knew, would make war inevitable. 

Perhaps we were wrong; after all, there is always capitulation, but at the time we didn’t think of that 

one. 

War is never inevitable, unless you make it so by allowing those who want what you have to 

become overwhelmingly stronger than yourself. I would never admit to myself that it was 

inevitable – even now. There is always time – until it breaks out. Is the time being used, even now, 

after six years, after all that has happened? 

You must try and understand the men with whom you have to deal, how inflated they are with 

success, how ruthless, how strong, how resolved to take what you have. 

Read this:  

It does not often happen that the earth is divided up anew; that is a historical rarity. 

When this fact becomes perceptible, that the hour is ripe for the goddess of history 

to come down to earth and sweep mankind with the hem of her garment, the 

responsible men must have the courage to grasp the hem of her garment and not to 

let go of it again. I have the impression that we are living in such an historical hour. 

Goebbels speaking, on November 20th, 1938. ‘Divide up the earth anew’ you notice. 

Listen to this:  

Slowly but surely the old world is sinking. No agitation, no calumny, no terror … 

can arrest the course of Germany. What will come one day out of the collapse of the 

old social order in the other countries, what will arise on the ruins of this old, 

crumbling world? We do not know. 

Ribbentrop, speaking on November 17th, 1938. 

What they say is very nearly true. The people of England are instinctively awake, they see the evils 

in their own land that need changing, they see the foreign dangers that threaten them. But they are 

in the iron grip of a small class which will not mend the one and seems to foster the other, from 

motives which can only be either criminal inertia or class antagonism. 

Consider the state of England after seven years of Ramsay (On-and-up) MacDonald, Stanley 

(Trust-me) Baldwin, Neville (Eat-my-hat) Chamberlain, potentially to be followed by a further 

period of Samuel (Hoare-Laval) Hoare. 

Before those seven years you had a rising Socialist Party in England, a party, built up in years of 

struggle from small beginnings, which might have come to power and made England safe in 

foreign affairs while mending the social evils at home. When it was within grasping distance of 

power, there was the usual swift and slick manoeuvre. ‘A national emergency’ you were told, which 

demanded that all good men, without regard for party, should come to the aid of their country. The 

good men, without regard for their party, went to the aid of their country. 

That is to say, the Socialist leaders went over to the Tories and formed a ‘National Government’. 

You may have forgotten it, but that ‘National Government’ rules you to-day, so that you can assess 

the results. They were the façade, these Socialist leaders, for a new decade of rule by class 

antagonism. Class antagonism, you thought, how can anybody talk of class antagonism when the 

foremost Socialist leaders are in the Government? 

These men were the tools of the ruling class. One of them went to the House of Lords and died. 

Another was long Prime Minister, without power, a figure-head, and resigned eventually after his 

speeches in the House had long become incoherent and incomprehensible, so that his colleague, 

who had gone to the House of Lords, spoke of his ‘constitutional inability to make any clear and 

understandable statement on any question’ and advised the Cabinet ‘to look into the case of the 

Prime Minister not only in his own interest but in that of the country, for it is a positive danger to 

the country that its affairs should be in the hands of a man who every time he speaks exposes his 

ignorance or incapacity.’ 

I met that Prime Minister myself, once, at Stresa, and talked to him alone. I was amazed and 

depressed beyond description. His speeches are still available to anybody who cares to read them 

and form his own picture of the man. 

The third of these foremost Socialist leaders left the House in circumstances which are in most 

people’s memory. 

That tragedy of 1931 wrecked the great Socialist Party, which might have reinvigorated England, 

made England a land belonging to all its people, not only to a few, which might have made it 

invincible within its frontiers, humane and happy at home. 

There is no hope in that party now. The health has gone out of it. It has been out-manoeuvred at 

every, turn, it flounders about this way and that, always out of its depth in foreign policy, impotent 

to get anything done in England about slums, unemployment, under-nutrition, bad housing, and ill- 

health. 

There are many men on the other side of the House who keenly feel these things, who see the 

dangers and the evils, but apparently the iron clutch of the Party Machine, which relentlessly rends 

any man who votes against The Party on any major class issue, intimidates them. 

Those events of 1931 represent a major tragedy in British history, and if England returns to the 

Dark Ages they will mark the beginning of the process. 

Now see what happens to a man who tries to enlighten you. For eight years L. MacNeill Weir was 

Parliamentary Private Secretary to the man who, tragically, was at the head of the Socialist Party in 

that historic hour, Ramsay MacDonald. In nearly every country this tragedy was repeated – the 

great Socialist Parties that forced their way through oppression and victimization to within reach of 

power in the second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, threw up leaders 

unworthy of themselves. 

Mr. MacNeill Weir tried for three years to publish a book giving the history of that momentous 

crisis. Here are his words:  

I had thought that if one had a case to put before the British public it would be 

possible to put that case. I had thought that the freedom of the Press and of 

publication had been won. I was mistaken. I found that the publication of such a 

book was a difficult and even dangerous adventure. The character of the book 

became known to several people interested, and they recognized that it was an 

exposure of the ‘National Government’ and that its publication must be prevented. 

Persuasion was first tried. Certain friends of mine were approached with the object 

of persuading me not to publish the book. Later, persuasion developed into 

coercion. Although there is nothing in the book that comes even remotely within the 

scope of the Official Secrets Act, my ignorance of the Act was presumed and I was 

warned that I would be prosecuted under this statute. They could not prevent the 

author writing such a book but they could set about to prevent its being printed and 

published. A publisher or a printer could be intimidated by threats of legal action. 

This bane of publishers and editors, the law of libel, was invoked. Even subsidiary 

characters in the story were approached, shown the chapters and pages where 

references to them occurred, and urged to threaten the publishers with legal 

proceedings if the allusions were not deleted. Several interesting communications 

resulted. One came from a famous member of Parliament not even mentioned by 

name and not otherwise readily identifiable, who was persuaded to write a letter 

threatening proceedings unless a certain paragraph were deleted. A London editor, 

inquiring why there was so long delay in publication of the book, was told that the 

publication had been abandoned.[4] 

Now do you see how the machine works? There is no censorship in England. Oh no. There is an 

Official Secrets Act, which you thought was meant for spies. There is a law of libel, the most 

ferocious in the world, which you thought was for the safeguarding of honest citizens against 

dishonest slurs on their character. If you criticize the Government, with affairs in their present 

mess, you are ‘fouling your own nest’. An unwritten law says that you must not ask questions about 

a Permanent Official. Another unwritten law protects the dead. 

These are the reasons why you are where you are. 

Let me give you four instances of the way the machine works, under your free-speaking 

democracy: 

(1) A London magistrate, addressing a Fascist accused and two witnesses who seem to have been 

more or less Red, said: ‘I should like to see you get a dose of your own medicine and all of you put 

into concentration camps for five years and made to study history.’ 

The charge was a trivial one (‘being found in an enclosed yard for unlawful purposes’, which meant 

that the accused man had smeared Fascist slogans on walls). The magistrate may not have meant 

what he said but, to anyone who has seen a concentration camp and men who have been in ones 

this was a disgraceful statement. It seems to me a matter of great public interest. A question was 

asked in Parliament. The answer returned was the usual stereotyped one that ‘No public interest 

would be served by discussing, and so on and so on …’ 

I once lunched with a Junior Minister who, when asked what he would drink, said primly, ‘Please, 

either water or a very small whisky. This afternoon we have questions, and I need to be alert.’ 

I should have thought alertness was the last quality needed for the kind of answer they give in the 

House of Commons. ‘I am unable to add anything to the statement made by my right honourable 

friend on the Umpteenth of Bumbleberry.’ ‘I must have notice of that question.’ ‘The answer is in 

the negative.’ ‘I have no knowledge of the incident to which the honourable member refers and shall 

be glad to have any information in his possession.’ ‘It is well known that foreign help is being used 

by both sides in Spain.’ 

(2) Mr. Mander, I think, once asked a question about an interview alleged to have been given to 

twelve or fourteen Canadian and American journalists by a British Prime Minister which gave an 

entirely different picture of British foreign policy from that officially proclaimed and officially 

presented to the dear old British public. The answer, if I remember rightly, was that he was ‘a 

mischief maker’. Yet this seems to me a matter of the most vital interest to every Englishman. 

(3) During the height of the crisis about Czechoslovakia a British Minister, Lord Winterton, that is 

to say, he is Chancellor of the Duchy, and if you have any earthly meaning what duties are 

described by that title I hope you will write and tell me, made an ironic statement about Soviet 

Russia, suggesting that she either did not offer or would not have given help to Czechoslovakia if 

that country had been attacked. Soviet Russia’s treaty obligation, which she had categorically stated 

that she would fulfil, was to go to the aid of Czechoslovakia if France did so. 

Now, it seems to me to be a matter of the most vital interest for every Englishman, in such a crisis, 

to know what other Great Powers would do. The Soviet Ambassador in London, M. Maisky, 

immediately called on Lord Halifax to protest that Lord Winterton’s statement was in flat 

contradiction to the public and official declaration made, a few days before it, by the Soviet 

delegate to the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva. Lord Halifax told M. Maisky that ‘it was 

inevitable at a time of crisis that many rumours should be in circulation and there was little profit in 

recriminations’. 

What on Mars does this mean? Soviet Russia made an official statement of her intentions, Lord 

Winterton told the British public something quite different. When the Soviet Ambassador protested 

he was told, ‘Why recriminate?’ 

What was the truth? That the British Government wanted its public to believe that Russia was 

backing out too? 

The dear old British public, however, still did not know the facts. About six weeks afterwards a 

question was asked in the House, to elicit them. The questioner was rebuked by Mr. Chamberlain 

for ‘trying to make trouble between two friendly Governments’. Not Lord Winterton, but the 

questioner. Pressed, Lord Winterton himself got up and said the Russian Ambassador had been 

good enough to say that the incident was closed ‘and he could not think it would be in the public 

interest to add or subtract anything from the statement made by the Prime Minister’. 

So now you know what the public interest is – to know nothing, to be told something that is not 

true, and then not to be told that it was wrong because that is not in the public interest. 

(4) A question was asked in the House about Sir Horace Wilson. He, as you know, accompanied 

Mr. Chamberlain on his three journeys to Herr Hitler, he made a fourth journey in between as Mr. 

Chamberlain’s emissary, he was Chief Economic Adviser to the Cabinet, he read the ultimatum to 

the Czechoslovak ‘observers’ ‘stating formally that he had nothing to add’, and, as it seems to me, it 

would have been a matter of the most enormous public interest to know what Sir Horace Wilson’s 

qualifications were in foreign affairs, for assisting at the carve-up of Czechoslovakia, and for a 

leading part in the process of altering the map of Europe. 

The answer given was that it was the practice of the House not to mention the name of any 

permanent official and we deprecate any departure from the usual practice. 

We deprecate. We deplore. The usual practice. Mischief-making. Not in the public interest. Fouling 

your own nest. 

Do you see how you are fobbed off and bamboozled and have dust thrown in your eyes and are 

duped? What in the name of Demosthenes is the advantage of a democracy manipulated like this 

one? 

Insanity Fair brought me a letter from an American reader. This is an extract from it:  

I have come to the reluctant conclusion that England is in fact no friend of 

democracy and while in fact pretending to be such a friend is in fact a friend of the 

Fascist countries, Germany, Italy and Japan, and would destroy the power and 

prestige of democracies rather than have these Fascist countries defeated and 

discredited. It seems to me that, notwithstanding that the English people are 

democratic at heart, they are actually ruled by a small group of Tories who would 

sacrifice democracy and the whole British Empire rather than see real democracy 

and liberalism supreme. They seem to fear that if the radical and democratic 

countries become more powerful, it will encourage radicalism in their own country 

with the inevitable conclusion that their own power and wealth will be diminished. 

The evidence that England is dominated by such a group who would sacrifice the 

interest and principles, even the life of the British Empire, for their own selfish 

interests seems to me to be borne out by a plethora of evidence that is conclusive 

and overwhelming. It is manifest that Hitler could have been curbed long ago when 

he had no armaments and army and it was just as obvious then, when he first got in 

power, that if he were not curbed he would do exactly what he has been doing; 

increase his military strength with a view to doing exactly the things that he has 

been doing. Even a child with the most rudimentary understanding of the motives, 

purposes and objectives of the present German Government knew that Hitler would 

do exactly what he has been doing if given the chance. The impression seems to 

prevail that England, no matter what the provocation, does not wish to take any 

serious action against the Fascist countries under any circumstances. While the 

rulers of England make a great pretence at being shocked at the violations of 

international law and decency on the part of the Fascist countries, this pretence is 

done only for home consumption and perhaps for the benefit of other democratic 

countries of the world, but is entirely insincere. No one takes seriously the thesis of 

the ruling class of England that they have done what they have done to prevent 

being involved in war; in fact the evidence is quite persuasive that they have been 

doing the only thing that will make a war inevitable … I would certainly welcome 

any information from England that would have a tendency to convince me that the 

rulers of England are more democratic and less Fascist than I think they are, and 

that they would not destroy the British Empire and democracy the world over 

merely to save or protect the holdings of a few of the wealthier Tories in England. 

I have studied and studied that letter from that American and cannot find any hole to pick in it. I 

cannot find any evidence that would have ‘a tendency to convince’ him that his opinion is wrong. I 

think it is right. On the eve of 1939, after all that has happened, with all that is about to happen, the 

evidence in favour of his opinion is overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is most unfortunate that what 

would otherwise be a clear-cut issue for Englishmen is clouded and obscured by a third issue – that 

of the Jews. Englishmen would fight again to make their country and the world free and happy. 

They do not want to fight to make Berlin safe for the Jews. 

Consider the facts. The Duchess of Atholl Conservative member for fifteen years for Kinross and 

West Perth, thinks that our foreign policy is leading us to disaster. She disagrees with the 

Government. Not even a Duchess may do that with impunity. Immediately the Party Machine gets 

to work, she is disowned by her local Conservative Association. Not even a Duchess – not even a 

King – may challenge the little coterie that rules us. 

Duff Cooper resigns. Immediately a letter appears in The Times castigating him as a renegade. He 

was elected to support the National Government. How dare he oppose it? 

Do you remember on what appeal this Government was elected? To succour a small country 

against a mighty aggressor? As soon as the election was won the small country – which could have 

made good terms, as Benesh could have made good terms, if it had been told in advance – was left 

completely alone, face to face with one of the strongest military powers in the world. Then the 

same thing happens to another small country. A Minister resigns. He is the traitor, not the 

Government elected on that very issue. 

It is impossible to believe that the people who have done these things did not know what they were 

doing. The long, long trail from China and Abyssinia to Spain and Austria and Czechoslovakia was 

plain to see in advance, and they were told about it long in advance. Immediately after the Peace of 

Munich the way was cleared for the ruthless subjugation of another small State – Spain. 

For nearly three years Republican Spain has held out. Do you think a government could have done 

that, against 80,000 Moors and 80,000 Italians and masses of German and Italian aeroplanes and 

artillery and tanks, if it hadn’t the people behind it? Your Lord Chancellor speaks contemptuously 

of the ‘so-called Government of Spain’. Does this not show you the trend of the wind, the real state 

of your Government’s mind? Immediately after the Peace of Munich the latest Gentleman’s 

Agreement with Italy, cherchez le gentilhomme, was brought into force, by the docile Conservative 

majority of the House of Commons. Nothing has changed, to justify its honouring. Italy has not 

withdrawn her troops. They are bombing Spanish women and children every day. We need to be 

‘realist’ about it. 

Ah, if I could be a realist. Life is real, life is earnest and things are not what they seem. To me, a 

dead child in a Madrid street, killed by an Italian or German bomb, seems to be a dead child in a 

Madrid Street, killed by an Italian or German bomb, killed by men from a country which, in the 

name of sanity, if there is such a thing, cannot have any right to kill children in Spain, to be in 

Spain at all. What has Spain ever done to them? 

But to a realist that child is a Red, deservedly done to death by Franco’s gallant Christian soldiers, 

the Moors, the Germans, the Italians. The rich men in all countries, the Church, the Royalists, all 

applaud. 

Nothing has changed in Spain to justify the ratification of that agreement. Mr. Chamberlain said 

one thing had changed, the thing that had prevented him from ratifying it sooner – ‘the Spanish war 

is no longer a danger to European peace’. 

How is it less or more a danger to European peace now than then? Because you are going to 

increase your support of Franco, help to starve out the Republicans? But look out for yourselves. 

Not long ago, on the east coast of England, you saw the flashes of gunfire – off the east coast of 

England! They came from a Franco ship that was shelling a Republican ship. Look out! A little 

while, if you go on like this, and you will be seeing those flashes again, but the shells will be falling 

on English soil. 

Lord Halifax has told you that ‘Signor Mussolini has always made it plain from the time of the last 

conversations with the British Government that, for reasons known to us all, whether we approve of 

them or not, he is not prepared to see General Franco defeated’. 

There you have it. There you have the definition of ‘non-intervention’. Franco must win. You have 

sanctioned the victory in advance. The Non-Intervention Committee, that grisly and ghastly 

tribunal, may still be sitting for all I know. It should have a coat of arms – the three monkeys, see 

nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. But even that wouldn’t be honest, because it does see, does hear, 

does know. It knew all along what it was for – to let Franco win. Only one monkey: say nothing. 

What will become of Spain, if Franco wins, and what will it mean to you? Listen to Mr. 

Chamberlain, and read his words again after Franco has won:  

Some honourable members with that eternal tendency to suspicion which I am 

afraid only breeds corresponding suspicion on the other side (loud cheers) persist in 

the view that Germany and Italy have a design of somehow permanently 

establishing themselves in Spain and that Spain itself would presently be setting up 

a Fascist state. I believe both these views to be entirely unfounded. When I was at 

Munich I spoke on the subject of the future of Spain with both Herr Hitler and 

Signor Mussolini and both of them assured me most definitely that they had no 

territorial ambitions in Spain … I am perfectly clear in my own mind that the 

Spanish question is no longer a menace to the peace of Europe. 

If you are prepared to hold Republican Spain down, as you held Czechoslovakia down, of course it 

is not a menace to the peace of Europe, it never was, and Columbus alone knows what such words 

mean. 

But consider the rest of that passage. If Mr. Chamberlain believes that you are in more than mortal 

danger, you are lost. Under such leadership you must be lost. 

What is this war in Spain about, why are the Germans and Italians helping, why is Franco using 

80,000 Moors, 80,000 Italians and 13,000 Germans to kill his own countrymen, if not to set up a 

Fascist state? I will eat my steel helmet and gasmask if Franco, providing that he wins, does not set 

up a Fascist state – by which I mean a state with concentration camps for Spanish workpeople 

(Marxists), beatings-up, one monopolistic political party, storm troopers, no freedom of the spoken 

or written word, no trades unions, and in foreign policy an alliance with Italy and Germany if those 

two countries are then still allies. Franco himself has declared that he will take vengeance on two 

million people – TWO MILLION PEOPLE – when he wins. There will be a reign of terror far 

worse than Germany ever knew. 

It is almost beyond belief that such things should be told the British Public by Ministers of the 

Crown. 

‘No territorial ambitions in Spain.’ What are you meant to believe by this? That as soon as Franco 

wins all the Germans and Italians will retire to Germany and Italy? It is not true. That they won’t be 

there in fifty years I can believe, but what English people presumably want to know is whether they 

will be there after Franco’s victory and what this might mean to England. 

The facts are these. Big German guns, in large numbers, have been mounted on both sides of the 

Straits of Gibraltar since 1936. If war breaks out they can at the worst keep your navy out of the 

Mediterranean altogether; at the best cause you the loss of many costly ships and valuable lives. 

These guns will not be dismounted if Franco wins. They will stay there, German-manned, a deadly 

menace to you. A most important piece in the war game has already passed out of your hands. 

In the Mediterranean itself Italy has established air bases in the Balearic Islands. These islands 

intercept the communications of France with her African colonies, Algeria and Tunis, on which she 

counts for large numbers of coloured troops in case of war. These troops will not be able to pass. 

Italy will not withdraw from these bases if Franco wins. Franco cannot refuse the countries that 

have helped him to power the use of these bases’ 

In Spain, especially in the north, nearly all the aerodromes are in German hands. German artillery 

and German fortifications are there. France is just across the border. Is France still your ally? The 

Germans will not give up these aerodromes, these guns and forts if Franco wins. 

Such is the picture of your position in the world. And still that docile majority in Parliament troops 

into the lobby and says Aye to everything that is done, still those completely misleading speeches 

come from the Government benches, still the great British public flounders about in a quicksand of 

misinformation. Since I wrote last, a year ago, the position has changed so much to your 

disadvantage that I hardly see now how it can be saved. 

Now look at the picture at home. This is from The Times, under the heading ‘Growing up in 

Shoreditch – squalor and ill-health – five in a bed’. 

The facts are taken from a report of the Shoreditch Housing Association. They reveal, says The 

Times, ‘conditions of almost unbelievable squalor, overcrowding, insanitation, lack of open spaces, 

ill-health, and poverty in the East End of London’, and this total picture, says The Times, is 

‘disquieting’. 

Ah, that disquiet. It keeps you awake at nights. 

The report is based on the examination of 400 children. It says that about 75 per cent of the houses 

in which they lived are bug-infested, and many of them are very damp, causing among other things 

a high incidence of rheumatism, which affects children as well as adults. One child in six suffers 

from one or more of the following diseases: rheumatism, anaemia, weak heart, bronchitis, otorrhea, 

and chorea. During school age these diseases are noted and treated; after leaving school these 

Londoners, citizens of the richest city in the world, ‘receive the minimum of medical attention’. 

‘Very few children get a holiday away from home, except perhaps for a week-end trip … The whole 

picture is one of drab monotony.’ The report gave ten sample cases. In one, five children slept in 

one bed in a back-room, in which cooking, washing and eating also took place. In another case an 

entire family slept in one small room, except the eldest girl, who used two chairs in the living room. 

Mrs. X, one of the samples, was ‘very bitter’. None of her children had what she considered a 

decent job though three were working. The eldest boy had a tumour on the brain and was rapidly 

going blind. One girl, was bedridden, crippled and hopelessly misshapen, with rheumatoid arthritis 

in arms, legs and body. The youngest girl had a tubercular hip.  

The lack of privacy, the constant noise and the inability to rest peacefully drive 

many growing boys and girls to spend their leisure hours away from home, often 

walking the streets at a loose end and an easy prey to undesirable habits. The 

children have nowhere indoors to play, for the congestion of people is always 

accompanied by a terrifying congestion of furniture … They are also forced into 

constant contact with their elders and generally acquire at an early age habits such 

as swearing and gambling. Two-thirds of the school-children normally play in the 

streets. The borough of Shoreditch, one square mile in area, contains only nine 

acres of open spaces and nearly half this area is churchyards. The insanitary state of 

many of the homes is demonstrated by the frequency with which lavatories are 

shared by several families and even more by the appalling lack of washing 

facilities. The only tap is out-of-doors in one-third of the cases, in over a quarter 

every drop of water has to be carried upstairs from the tap to the rooms in which the 

family lives, and in two-thirds there is neither a bath nor any suitable substitute for 

it. 

I mix these two things up – the plight of England in the world and the plight of people in England – 

because they seem to me to hang together. I can only explain the behaviour of England in world 

affairs, and the pass she has come to, by contemplating Shoreditch. Then I think, either the people 

who rule us are so inferior and callous that they cannot even abolish Shoreditch (the equivalent of 

which you could not find in a certain small country you know nothing about, Czechoslovakia) and 

their inefficiency explains the mess we have got to in the outer world; or they know about 

Shoreditch and are determined to keep Shoreditch like that and are pursuing a foreign policy 

deliberately calculated to bring about Fascism – and immunity from criticism – in England. 

One of these two explanations is right. Both are frightful. 

What are you going to do about it? I don’t see any hope from Fascism if Fascism in England is 

going to be run by the very same people who have allowed Shoreditch, Hoxton, Stepney, Bethnal 

Green, Bermondsey, Jarrow and hundreds of other like places. That simply means the same people 

– and no criticism. Not that criticism seems to have achieved much yet. But I don’t see why they 

should be spared it. 

That is the awful thing – if you have a war, and Hitler wins, that means Fascism in England, 

probably in the hands of the same people. If you have a war and Hitler loses, the same people 

remain in power in England. If you don’t have a war the same people remain in power in England. 

What can you do about it? Neither the Conservative nor the Labour Party offers any hope. There is 

only one hope – a new party. Not a Churchill-Eden-Duff Cooper party, because that simply means 

the same class of man once again. They happen to have been right about foreign policy, but they 

are no nearer to the people than the others. You want a new party with some men like that in it but 

also with the younger men from the Socialist Party in it, with young men from all classes in it, and 

at least half from the working classes. But not doctrinaire trades unionists – I have seen these 

bureaucrats at work in half a dozen countries and they never get anywhere. You want young men 

who will at last mend these intolerable evils in England, clear away these intolerable slums, put an 

end, at once, to these intolerable housing and health conditions, see that every English child, 

somehow, has a right to good health and enough food and light and air, get that intolerable 

unemployment figure down somehow. 

If you could take care of the people, foreign policy would take care of itself. If you cannot make 

England safe for the people, then England deserves what it gets. 

I was criticized, when I wrote Insanity Fair, for seeing only despair and never saying what ought to 

be done about it. I don’t think the criticism was right. At the end of the war I thought we should 

have inflicted a complete military defeat on Germany, but I was only a young officer and couldn’t 

give orders to Lloyd George or Foch. Later, when I went to Germany, I was confirmed in my view; 

I couldn’t see the use of sacrificing a million Britishers if you were afraid to consolidate your 

victory. When Germany began rearming, I felt, desperately, that we ought to rearm so fast that she 

couldn’t outarm us and rob us of the fruits of victory. I wrote this, as far as I was allowed, in my 

dispatches, as did most of my colleagues, and in private reports and letters, and when I was in 

England hammered away at every important man I could find, but nobody would take any notice. 

Mr. Chamberlain, after Munich, said there had been a spiritual revival in England. I cannot see one. 

A spiritual revival must have some source, and from what source does this one spring? From the 

dismemberment of Czechoslovakia? From the thought that Franco is going to win in Spain? From 

the thought that Shoreditch is still Shoreditch? 

If you want a spiritual revival you will have to stop throwing small countries to the wolves and do 

something about Shoreditch. 

So there it is. You will see, soon, further German expansion in Europe. You will, in my opinion, 

return your colonies to her. Not your bounds will be set wider, but Germany’s. At the end lies – war 

or capitulation. But if you go to war, it should be, not for the Jews, but to make the masses free and 

healthy in England and in other countries. You cannot be expected to dethrone one system of racial 

antagonism in order to enthrone another. 

Now, the first tenet of your foreign policy must still be rearm, rearm, rearm, but I fear that it is 

already too late, that you have been too far outarmed. Also, the events of recent years have given 

good ground for suspicion that those arms might be used, not to defend democracy but to defeat it. 

We should have been better off if Germany had won the war in 1914. The world to-day would have 

been groaning under the German yoke – but that is coming anyway, and we should have saved 

millions of lives. 

So long as Shoreditch is like that it’s nonsense to talk about mother of the free, anyway.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Nine 

CHRISTMASTIDE IN PRAGUE 

On a December day I watched the third President of Czecho-Slovakia – spelt with a hyphen now – 

drive from the Parliament building, after his election, across the Moldau and up the hill to the 

Hradschin, the castle of the Kings of Bohemia on the hilltop. A few minutes later the Presidential 

standard ran up the mast, bare for two months, and fluttered again at the top. After the crowds had 

cleared away, the Hradschin, loveliest of palaces, looked exactly the same as it had looked a month, 

a year, ten years before, save that the Czech Legionaries, doing sentry in the courtyard, now wore 

Czech uniform: they could not be induced any longer to wear the French uniforms they had earned 

in the war and worn ever since, and the Italian and Serbo-Russian uniforms had been 

simultaneously withdrawn. 

A picturesque little cortège trotted up that most picturesque of hills before the car of the new 

President, Dr. Emil Hacha. In front cantered Czech dragoons, their red breeches vividly slashing 

the white horses on which they were mounted, the soldiers of one of the finest armies in Europe, 

though a small one, beaten without a battle, subdued by an array of overwhelming force. 

But the little cortège went up the hill between silent crowds. Dr. Hacha, as they knew, as he knew, 

was the President of their vassaldom, of a new era of tutelage. All he could do was to do his best. 

He would never be President of a nation of freemen. His not to reason why; his but to sign on the 

dotted line. Only a patriot would have accepted so thankless a task. 

Up this hill Masaryk and Benesh had driven, amid thunderous cheers. Down this hill I had followed 

Masaryk’s coffin, between silent and weeping crowds, that felt in foreboding, if they did not 

foresee, what was to befall them. Now Dr. Hacha drove up the hill. ‘History’, as the morons say, 

‘was being made.’ 

This was the last spadeful of earth on the grave of the free Czechoslovak Republic. In the present 

lay submission to a foreign race that for a thousand years had repeatedly overrun the Czechs. In the 

future, near or distant, but probably remote, lay only the hope that the Czechs would one day 

experience a glorious national resurrection. After centuries of battle and struggle, after the loss of 

untold millions of lives, a nation of freemen had at last been planted here in the Bohemian lands, in 

the heart of Europe, where the tyranny of kings, the tyranny of dynasties, the tyranny of nobles had 

long held sway. That one achievement made the whole World War worth while. Now this too was 

gone, and the dragoons cantered up the hill. Another twenty years, another half century, another 

century, more centuries of alien domination and class antagonism lay before Europe. For this, a 

million Britishers had died. This, England had helped to bring about. 

I was glad to spend a great part of the winter in Czecho-Slovakia, because I wanted to watch the 

decline and death of this isolated democracy. Death, in the sense of the loss of freedom, which is 

death. A tiny spark of life remains, a faint pulse-beat survives, in the unquenchable longing of men 

to be free again, if not themselves, then their sons, or their sons’ sons. 

These Czechs were free in a sense that Englishmen are not free. They owned their land, or could 

own it if they wished. If they had leisure, the whole land was open to them. They were not the serfs 

of a plutocracy, the minions of millionaires. You nowhere saw a keep-out notice; if you wished to 

climb a mountain you might do so. There was no ruling class, entitled to rule by position and not by 

merit; the politicians sprang from the people. There was no officer caste; the officers, too, were of 

the people, travelled in tramcars with them, sat at the next table to them in modest restaurants. This 

was a people’s state. 

Take a brief glance at the history of the lands which the Czechs inhabit, which we may call 

Bohemia and Moravia. Just about a thousand years before Dr. Emil Hacha drove up the hill, in the 

year 925, Prince Wenceslas, finding the superiority of the Germans in numbers and arms too great 

to resist, made an agreement with them. He said, ‘I will become part of your realm, as an 

independent Czech Prince, and I will pay you yearly 120 oxen and 300 talents of silver’. This 

tribute was, indeed, paid for centuries. For Prince Wenceslas, as for the Czechs in 1938, there were 

two possibilities: war or peace. He made peace. He was killed a few years afterwards by Czech 

patriots – by his own brother, for that matter. 

Prince Wenceslas surrendered the liberties of the free Czech nation as the lesser of two evils, and 

with the thought in his mind, ‘One day the nation may become free again; if I do not make peace 

now, it may perish altogether’. 

Dr. Emil Hacha, before he drove up the hill, was presented by the Cardinal-Archbishop of Prague, 

on the steps of Parliament, with the skull of that Wenceslas, which he kissed. A symbolic gesture, 

meaning, ‘I herewith absorb the wisdom and inherit the tradition of Wenceslas’. 

But after that submission an interminable quarrel began between Germans and Czechs about the 

measure of that ‘Czech independence’ which had been guaranteed. Guarantees, in 938 as in 1938, 

were things as difficult to hold fast as a soaped eel. The Czech seditionists (do you know this word, 

it is often used by Anglo-Indian colonels about Indians?) always had their own ideas about the way 

to govern their country and about foreign policy. The successors of Wenceslas made alliances with 

Poland and Hungary – ‘the barrier against the German drive to the east’. 

However, the Czechs asserted themselves, and by 1212 the Princes of Bohemia were Kings of 

Bohemia and by 1348 the King of Bohemia was Holy Roman Emperor and ruled over the Germans 

from Prague. In Prague, indeed, was the Central Chancery of the German Empire, and from it the 

development of the modern German language began. Here Martin Luther found his inspiration for 

the translation into German of the Bible. Perhaps this is what the Germans mean when they say that 

Prague is a German city. Charles IV was Kaiser of the Holy Roman Empire, and his son Wenceslas 

IV – your Good King Wenceslas – was also Kaiser. 

Then for a time the Czech kings were completely independent of Germany until Czech 

independence perished at the Battle of the White Mountain, near Prague, in 1618, which was a 

victory for the German nation and the Catholic Church over the Czech nation and Protestantism. 

Incidentally, James I of England was at that time the ally of the Czechs and had promised help in 

such an emergency. There were even two Runcimans sitting in the Castle at Prague and telling the 

King of Bohemia that their King was his father and mother and would help him, and that was how 

the Czechs lost their independence, and you see that everything then was very much as it is now 

save that umbrellas had not been invented. 

Bohemia remained a Kingdom, but without the braking power of the Czech nobles, who in feudal 

times represented a democratic element against the autocratic authority of the king. The Czech 

nobles were killed in the battle or driven out, and their lands and privileges given to Catholic 

German nobles. Nevertheless, those historic frontiers of the Kingdom of Bohemia remained as they 

always had been. In 1938, when they were a thousand years old, ‘an eminent English jurist’ 

discovered that even after a victorious war it would be impossible to put them together again. The 

Emperor in Vienna was for centuries ‘King of Bohemia’, of the lands contained within those 

immemorial frontiers, which the Czechs had first inhabited and fought so tenaciously to retain. 

Within those historic frontiers, the oldest in Europe, three waves of Germanization followed each 

other in the course of the thousand years: 

(1) During the glorious period of Bohemian history, German handicraftsmen were brought in and 

settled by the invitation of the Czechs in the border districts. This was a friendly proceeding. 

(2) After the Battle of the White Mountain, the lands of the Czech nobles were given to the 

Catholic German nobles; this was aggressive and violent Germanization. 

(3) In the mechanical and industrial age of the nineteenth century, industries were deliberately 

settled in the northern part of Bohemia. There was a reason for this. After 1866, when Prussia 

defeated Austria, a prospect of eternal peace stretched ahead between the Emperor in Vienna and 

the King (subsequently Emperor) in Berlin. It was the age of the Berlin-Vienna axis, in the eloquent 

language of our time. This being so, Northern Bohemia, midway between Berlin and Vienna, was 

the safest place for Austria-Hungary to put its industries. The Polish, Italian and Hungarian 

provinces were much too exposed to the danger of war. Moreover, Northern Bohemia was 

especially well suited for industry; it had the timber and coal and water-power that industry needs. 

From these two ruling ideas, strategic and geological suitability, the industries of Austria-Hungary 

were planted in Northern Bohemia. A very large proportion of this industry was Jewish, and 

financed with Jewish money. The Jews, who prefer the big battalions, were all heart and soul for 

the Emperor in Berlin or the Emperor in Vienna; what chance had a Czech Jew of becoming a 

General or Hofrat? They compelled their Czech workmen to send their children to German schools. 

Thus Bohemia lost millions of its Czechs. In the areas handed to Hitler, as a result of Munich, were 

towns where the population was preponderantly for Germany, but the names on the stones in the 

churchyard were all Czech. Henlein himself had a Czech mother. Czech peasants were transformed 

into German workmen and miners. The peak of this period of Germanization was reached with the 

famous Austro-Hungarian census of 1910 – used by the Four Just Men of Munich as the chart for 

their amputations. At that time the Governor and the whole administration of Czech Bohemia were 

German. High native-born Czech officials had to speak German with other officials senior or junior 

to them. The Czechs retained nevertheless their longing for freedom, but even their Parliament was 

dissolved in 1908, and remained dissolved until the World War, because the Czechs, from 

democratic conviction and fellow-feeling for the Slavs in the South, opposed the annexation by 

Austria-Hungary of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even then they saw the coming war. The dissolution 

of their Parliament was part of the preparation for it. Another part of it was the memorable census 

of 1910, when men were asked, not ‘What is your mother tongue?’ but ‘What language do you 

customarily use?’, and as they were compelled anyway to speak German they answered ‘German’ 

and were inscribed as Germans, and this census was used, twenty-eight years later, and after a 

world war, at Munich. 

On this basis, of knowledge and justice, the ancient Czech frontiers were destroyed. 

These were the three waves of Germanization which successively broke upon this small but 

unconquerable nation in the heart of Europe. In 1938 Dr. Emil Hacha, kissing the skull of Saint 

Wenceslas, resumed perforce the ‘policy of fulfilment’ practised by that Bohemian Prince. The 

‘policy of fulfilment’, as you may not remember, was a phrase used much by Germany after the 

war, until the shackles had been broken. 

I came to Czecho-Slovakia to watch the fourth wave of Germanization, for history shows that, 

when the Germans have the Czechs in their hands, they generally seek to Germanize them. And 

Bohemia is now the bird in the German hand; close the fingers and it is crushed. Hitler has said, 

‘We do not want any Czechs’. He took over territory containing nearly a million. He is building a 

wall round the rest. 

Now come with me and watch Germanization in practice. 

At Munich four things were supposed to have been saved for the Czechs, four safeguards which 

justified the Franco-British ultimatum to them and the desertion of them, which entitled Mr. 

Chamberlain to claim that he had brought back ‘Peace with honour’. They were (1) International 

guarantee of the new frontiers; (2) plebiscite; (3) right of option; (4) orderly and progressive 

occupation by stages between October 1st and October 10th. 

There has been no international guarantee. As I write, the Czechs are pressing for it, not because 

they have any illusions about its effectiveness, they know that they are held in the hollow of Hitler’s 

hand, but because they think the Great Powers which ordered their dismemberment should at least 

make good their promises. Whether an international guarantee will be given or not, I do not know. 

It would be the greatest hypocrisy. Only Germany can guarantee the frontiers-now. 

There was no plebiscite. Any plebiscite would have been a farce. 

There is no right of option for Germans to become Czechoslovaks. All Germans in the occupied 

areas become automatically Germans. For those who do not want that, there is only a right of flight, 

which every man has without a Treaty of Munich. 

Now we come to the occupation, which continued by a creeping process – the Czechs had been 

ordered by the Ambassadors in Berlin always to fall back – until the middle of November, when 

much more territory had been taken than the British public was ever led to expect, including large 

areas almost entirely Czech. I saw some of the last slices being carved off, and this is where you 

may watch Germanization at work with me. 

In the extreme west of Czecho-Slovakia is a small frontier district which arouses in the heart of 

every Czech the same feelings that the thought of Waterloo or Trafalgar cause to an Englishman. 

Or even deeper feelings. Those battles gave us another century of freedom from invasion. This little 

frontier district is the cradle of the Czech nation, it symbolizes for the Czechs a thousand years of 

struggle against foreign invaders, the survival of the Czech people and the Czech language against 

all odds. There is not a German in this area. About half of it now lies in Germany. This is the story. 

About the year 1100 Prince Bratislav settled peasants in the neighbourhood of the town of 

Domadzlidze, the centre of the district which I am describing. Either they had inhabited that part of 

the country from the beginning of history as we reckon it, or they were imported Eastern Slavs 

from the Polish or Russian frontiers; their dialect has points of resemblance with Ukrainian. 

These few men had an especial task and especial privileges which have made them renowned in 

Czech history. They were the Guardians of the Frontier, of that historic frontier, where magnificent 

forests run over romantic Bohemian hills. They were exempted from all taxes, given the right to 

bear arms, they owed labour to no lord. They were freemen in the noblest sense of the word. Their 

emblem, the dog’s head, you may see everywhere to-day in that district; they themselves were 

known as the Dogs’ Heads. 

In return for these rare privileges, their duty was, like that of the Cossacks, to watch and guard the 

south-western frontier of Bohemia, where the Golden Road led in that brought the salt from 

Salzburg. They had to guard half of the Böhmerwald, the Bohemian Forest, and the passes leading 

into it. 

Fourteen villages round the town of Domadzlidze, the Dogs’ Heads built, and all through the 

centuries they lived in them and kept their breed pure. The district is called Chodsko, from a word 

meaning to walk or patrol, and the people are the Choden. Their duty was to patrol the frontiers and 

keep a look-out for the raiding Germans, and when they saw them to light a beacon, which was 

repeated by other watchers on the next hilltop and the next, so that the alarm spread like quickfire, 

and the peasants from all the villages hastened to Domadzlidze, where the King’s Captain organized 

the defence until the King’s soldiers should come to their aid. 

The rights and privileges of the Choden were respected by every dynasty and every king until the 

Battle of the White Mountain. Then the villages were given by the German Emperor to a German 

noble, who built a castle and imposed his laws on these freemen. There was a peasant rising against 

him, and the Choden sent deputations to Prague and Vienna with the parchment charters of their 

ancient rights – 300 years later, when I was in Domadzlidze, the Mayor had just made an equally 

vain journey in the same cause to Berlin, to try and see Hitler – and many of the baron’s soldiers 

were killed, but in the end numbers prevailed, the Choden leader Kosina was captured and hanged 

at Pilsen. 

From that time, the Choden lost their privileges. But the centuries of proud tradition were deep in 

their bones, the instinct of the frontiersmen strong in their blood, and when everything was 

Germanized this, somehow, remained a purely Czech country, pure in breed, pure in spirit, pure in 

patriotism. 

Here, in this little corner of Bohemia, you could see, in the flesh, what it means to have the blood of 

freemen in you. These fourteen villages produced the finest stock in all Bohemia, the best poets, the 

best doctors, the best teachers and professors and priests. This was the cradle of the moral strength 

of Czechoslovakia. It is the one corner of Bohemia where the lovely old costumes are still in daily 

wear. The physique of the people is splendid, here you see young men and girls of rare beauty. 

This district was more than entirely Czech. It was Bohemia. To take this district was to spill vitriol 

on an open wound. Of the fourteen villages, freed again in 1918, the Germans in 1938 took seven. 

Why? That is another interesting story. 

The German nobleman who was given these Choden villages after the Battle of the White 

Mountain bequeathed them to his son and in course of time they passed, apparently by inheritance, 

to an Italian nobleman, and then, I suppose again by inheritance, to a German noble family which 

owned them when the World War ended. Then the Czechoslovak state was founded, the Choden 

found themselves again under Czech rule and freemen – and a part of the German nobleman’s land 

was taken from him, against compensation, to provide land for those peasants who had been there 

for a thousand years. 

The German nobleman still had vast possessions, but they did not satisfy him. Now you know why 

those seven villages were taken by Germany in 1938. Now you have perhaps some idea how 

Germanization works, how Germans may be made. You only need another census in 1940, another 

Munich in 1950, and more ‘predominantly German areas’ will be ready for handing over. I have 

described this incident for the particular benefit of those fair’s-fair people who during the 

Czechoslovak crisis threw up their hands in perplexity and just couldn’t understand why ‘the 

German areas’ were not given to Germany and all would be well. 

This particular incident seems to me to be most important, because it indicates the real motives that 

are behind some actions in international politics – not ‘self-determination’, not patriotism, but the 

very old motive of personal greed and grab, of class antagonism. In this case German National 

Socialism, with its proclaimed respect for race, its professed belief in the system of the land- 

owning peasant and the inalienable family farm, was the friend of the great German landowner and 

the enemy of the small Czech peasant, the friend of the bondmaster and the enemy of the freeman. 

An episode, but a highly significant one. Consider everything that has happened and is happening 

in Europe, not as a clash between country and country but as a clash between class and class, not as 

an inter-state war but as a class war, and much becomes clear that previously seemed inexplicable. 

I first became convinced, in 1936, that Czechoslovakia would be thrown to the wolves because of 

the hostility to that state which I observed among certain British representatives. At that time I 

thought they were biased or ill-informed. Looking back I feel convinced that their unfriendly 

feeling to that state was a thing rooted in class antagonism, and that the feeling was shared, from 

the same motives, by influential people in England who at the decisive moment pulled a deal of 

weight. That taking of land from the big landowners was the thing they couldn’t forget. The 

liberation of the masses meant nothing to them. There were foreign millionaires among those great 

landowners who lost some of their acres to furnish peasants with farms. 

In my view, then, the hostile spirit that I observed among certain British representatives was but the 

reflection of a hostile spirit that prevailed among some people in high places at home. I mentioned 

this spirit in a chapter of Insanity Fair, written long before the fall of Czechoslovakia and said that 

it showed which way the wind was blowing. The people I had in mind allowed themselves an 

outspoken unfriendliness about the state in which they dwelled, which would have brought them 

immediate recall in any neighbouring state, and their attitude was implicitly friendly to the 

neighbouring, anti-democratic state which was besieging Czechoslovakia. 

Thus I was not surprised when, immediately after the annexation of Austria, a junior British 

Minister made a speech which was tantamount to an invitation to Hitler to go ahead with 

Czechoslovakia. Afterwards he made a bashful withdrawal, saying he couldn’t think why he had 

done it, he was just a simple sort of chap and didn’t understand these things at all, really, actually. 

To me, that didn’t seem to help much. First, I had the feeling that in his big, clumsy, bless-the-lad 

way he had blurted out the truth; and secondly I gathered that not to know anything about anything 

was a great qualification for Ministerial office in England anyway, so why apologize? 

Assume this motive of class antagonism to be present among those who rule us, assume them to be 

possessed by the idea that the Fascist dictatorships are the enemies of the working-class masses and 

the friends of the wealthy classes, and must therefore not be destroyed, and you can understand 

everything that has happened in Europe. No other explanation fits. 

Take that one, and the right-about-turn, immediately the 1935 election was won, in the Abyssinian 

affair becomes explicable. Mussolini must be allowed to win. Apply that explication to the Spanish 

affair, and it becomes comprehensible. Franco, the protégé of Mussolini and Hitler, must be 

allowed to win. Apply it again to Czechoslovakia, and it fits again. Hitler must be allowed to win. 

The Fascist dictators have never tampered with private property; if they were discomfited you 

might get peasant and working-class movements springing up here and there. 

Apply another test. Among the ruling classes in England there is, as far as I can discern no 

compassion for Abyssinians, none for Spanish women and children machine-gunned as they wait in 

a bread queue, none for destitute and hopeless Czech and German refugees. Express a word of 

compassion for such people and a dozen bishops, peers, baronets and colonels will write to the 

newspapers to prove that they are ‘Reds’. After a letter, to which I have already alluded, appeared in 

The Times pleading that 50,000 dead Chinese ought to be worth more compassion than one 

persecuted Jew a colonel replied that ‘the Chinese after all can capitulate’. My daily newspaper, as I 

write, tells me that Franco has announced his intention to bomb 200 defenceless towns, has been 

machine-gunning those women in the bread queues; in another corner I read of an air raid which 

has killed dozens of Spanish children, and the newspaper comments, ‘Our moral faculties are 

becoming numbed by the long-drawn-out horrors or war … We are no longer shocked in our souls 

when we read of inoffensive civilians being slaughtered’. 

Then why, if England has become indifferent to ‘the slaughter of inoffensive civilians’, why is there 

a nation-wide outburst of indignation and compassion when Hitler persecutes a Jew? He has not 

been slaughtering Jews. He has been depriving them of some of their property. When he does that 

the archbishops, the bishops, the ministers, the baronets and the colonels burst into a furious chorus 

of protest. Ministers who can see in Abyssinia, in Spain, in Czechoslovakia, in the German 

concentration camps, nothing to impede friendship with Germany, begin to say, ‘It is hopeless, we 

shall have to give up trying and prepare for war.’ 

Why? These people do not protest about the concentration camps, which are primarily for 

Germans, not Jews, or about the things that go on there: it took about five years to kill Ossietzky. 

They do not protest about atrocities in Abyssinia. They do not protest about the bombing, that has 

been going on now for nearly three years, of women and children in Spain, in China. They are as 

silent as the grave about tens of thousands of homeless Czech and German refugees, who have lost 

every farthing they ever had. 

But touch a Jew, take some of his possessions, put him into no-man’s-land, and the whole British 

Press is filled with the clamour of angry protest. 

And this is compassion, generous indignation? In my opinion, it is the voice of money talking. The 

Jews belong to the wealthy classes in England, an attack on them is an attack on The Rights of 

Property. Persecute a Jew, and your bishops will call for prayers, write letters to the newspapers, 

get up on the platform at protest meetings. Try to get these people to call for prayers the next time a 

hundred women and children are killed by bombs in some Spanish town, urge them to write to the 

Press about it, invite them to raise their voices on public platforms – and see what answer you get. 

These were some of the thoughts that filled my mind when I watched those seven Choden villages 

being taken over by the Germans, thought of the great landowner again becoming overlord of these 

Czech peasants. 

In Domadzlidze I saw those peasants. the descendants of the Dogs’ Heads, streaming in from the 

fourteen villages, just before the annexation of seven of them, to protest against the thing that they 

knew was impending. A perfect picture of an unspoiled medieval Bohemian town, is Domadzlidze. 

The market place is a page out of a fairy-tale. On both sides stretch long rows of houses with 

arcaded fronts and walls a yard thick, some of them many hundreds of years old. 

They gathered round the old fountain in the middle of the square, some two thousand of them, and 

one of their number harangued them. The mayor was sent for, and came in a car. This was he who 

had been to Berlin, as his predecessor three hundred years earlier to Prague and Vienna, to try and 

save the Chodenland. He too was hoisted on to the fountain, spoke to the crowd. ‘We are doing 

everything we can’, he said, ‘we here, and the Government in Prague. But if Germany wants this 

land, we can do nothing. We can only hope.’ 

The crowd listened silently, and then sang the national anthem. A few days later the Germans took 

the seven villages. The German nobleman was able to re-enter into possession of those freed farms. 

Once more the Choden in them were bondmen. 

I shall never forget that scene in Domadzlidze – the looks and physique of the people, the beauty of 

their costumes, the loveliness of their town, all the products of a thousand years of noble tradition, 

in freedom and in bondage. 

In England no archbishop or peer, no retired diplomat or minister wrote to the newspapers about 

them. This didn’t count as persecution. This was all perfectly normal and natural; honour had been 

done to The Rights of Property, The Right of Self-Determination. Set a debate about this subject in 

the House of Lords, and one noble lord after another would warmly argue that no free Englishman’s 

conscience need be in the least disturbed by what happened in the Choden district, this is a small 

country far away that we know nothing about and we should mind our own business. 

But let the Germans put twenty Jews into no-man’s-land anywhere near the Choden district – 

indeed, this actually happened – and the compassion of the wealthier classes immediately boils 

over, your newspaper men are sent rushing to the spot to describe the scene, the back pages of your 

newspapers are filled with photographs of them, the letter columns are full of the clamour of 

generous indignation, telephone and telegraph cables hum as the appeals for help flash to and fro, 

emissaries constantly appear with provisions and fuel, disused factories are hurriedly and 

expensively converted into habitable quarters. 

The same motive shows through every time. It raises a very big question for Englishmen, the 

biggest possible question. They fought one war to save their own skins and, at the same time, to 

liberate enslaved masses in other countries, and they succeeded. Now, everything that they helped 

to gain has been lost, their rulers do not oppose but connive in the process, but nevertheless they are 

told every day that they must rearm and rearm again, that another war may come. 

What is that next war to be for, if it comes? Is a false ideal again to be dangled, carrotwise, before 

the nose of the men who go out to fight? Will the rulers of England have in their hearts a motive 

directly opposite to the one in whose name the idealism and energy of the nation is kindled – as in 

the case of Italy and sanctions, as in the case of Spain and non-intervention, as in the case of 

Czecho-Slovakia and self-determination? 

Will that next war, if it comes, be fought to put the Choden back again, twenty years after, under 

alien rule, to have them deprived of their farms? Will it be fought to enable the poverty-stricken 

masses of Spain once more to be bloodily reduced to serfdom by Moors, Germans and Italians? 

Will it be fought to make England safe for non-access-to-mountains, for Shoreditch and 

Bermondsey, for under-nutrition and unemployment and jerrybuilding, for white shirts and tiaras, 

for imported smut on the stage and the bookstalls, for the sacred rights of property reaching down 

even to the bowels of the earth, for the Jews in England and to put the Jews back where they were 

in Berlin? 

If that is to be the issue I should hope that Englishmen would not fight. And that seems to be the 

issue, as things are going now. Try to pin your rulers down to another issue, a clear issue, and they 

will wriggle away, they will fog you with indignant protestations and resounding but meaningless 

phrases. 

While I was in Czecho-Slovakia in that winter the Poles and Hungarians each received their crumbs 

from the rich table of Munich. The Poles took theirs. The Hungarians were given their piece at the 

order of Germany and Italy. The award of large areas of Slovakia and Carpathian-Russia to 

Hungary was a particularly bitter pill for the Czechs, because in a straight fight with Hungary they 

would have won in about five minutes, and now they had to hand over areas in which they had 

spent millions on development works to a country renowned for its dogged backwardness in social 

works. By doing so, they probably hastened the end of the reactionary regime in Hungary, but that 

was small comfort to them. 

For the last time their bitterness flared up. ‘They’ve taken nearly everything’, said a Czech friend to 

me, ‘the richest towns and the richest lands and the most valuable factories. Let them take 

everything. Let them take our trousers. What does it matter now?’ 

I went down to Slovakia about that time, and there, in a prison dormitory, I met my Hungarian 

acquaintance, the patriot-journalist, whom I had last seen waiting on the aerodrome for Imrédy and 

Kánya to return from seeing Hitler. 

A strange encounter. In that prison were over 300 Hungarians, in raincoats and plus-fours and 

rough clothes, with a fortnight’s growth of beard on their chins; you never saw such a crowd of 

hobbledehoys. They looked like tramps. But these were Hungarian officers and soldiers, put into 

plain clothes and sent over the frontier, with arms in their hands and their pockets stuffed full of 

bribe-money, to try and bring about such chaos in the coveted area that Poland and Hungary could 

nip in and share it out between them. 

Never was there such a fiasco. My acquaintance X was the commander of that band. Led across the 

frontier in the night by a local guide, he penetrated without difficulty deep into Slovak territory. It 

did not occur to him that that was just what the Czechoslovak troops meant him to do; his 

knowledge of tactics seemed to be elementary. The next morning the Czechoslovaks sent troops 

and armoured cars, as they did every morning, along the frontier, to close it. X was in the net. As 

the grey and chilly dawn broke, X and his men, bivouacked in a wood on a hilltop, found they were 

hungry and cold, and X paid a peasant, whom he took to be a good Hungarian, 500 crowns for 

grapes and wine. The peasant gratefully pocketed the money and went off to tell the Czechoslovak 

troops what he had seen. A little later X, peering out of the trees, saw tanks circling round and 

round the hill. A little later he and his 300 men, minus a few who had been caught by tank bullets 

when they tried to make a dash for freedom, but without firing a shot themselves, were in that 

prison. 

Seldom have I seen such aggrieved men, such artless dupes. They would never have harmed a 

kitten, said the gigantic X to me with eloquent gestures and a charming Hungarian smile. They had 

just been told that revolution had already broken out across the border and that they were to go in 

and restore order; the surrender of the area had already been agreed. Then why did they go in the 

dead of night, in civilian clothes, with rifles and bombs, with their pockets full of money? 

X charmingly confessed his simplicity. None of these things had struck him at the time as being 

sinister. He kill a man? ‘I am a journalist like you,’ said X, ‘I am a colleague and a gentleman and an 

officer. I would never harm anybody. I was an officer in the Great War, too, but do you think I 

would ever have killed a man? No. Now, do try your best to get us out of here. It is too bad that we 

are kept cooped up here and treated as common felons.’ 

The Hungarians have the most elegant manners and can turn on charm like a tap. They could 

disarm Satan himself with that friendly smile. But I should be reluctant to fall into their hands if I 

were a Slovak or a Croat. Indeed, some very unpleasant things happened in the first days of their 

occupation of the ceded territory. 

At last it was all over, and Dr. Hacha drove up the hill and Dr. Franz Chvalkovsky, who had been 

Czechoslovak Minister at the three corners of the anti-Comintern triangle, Berlin, Rome and 

Tokyo, and had long warned against implicit reliance on France and England, became Foreign 

Minister, and the new Prime Minister, Rudolf Beran, an old enemy of Benesh, in his first national 

broadcast stated that, after Munich, Germany was obviously dominant in Europe, that it would be 

foolish and disastrous to ignore this, and that Czecho-Slovakia, for the sake of her present and 

future generations, would plump for ‘open collaboration with our mightiest neighbour’. Beran’s 

newspaper, Venkov, stoutly supported Germany’s claim for colonies – those colonies which free 

Czechoslovakia would have fought to help England retain. 

Czecho-Slovakia returned, perforce, and after a thousand years, to the policy of Prince Wenceslas. 

Here let me give you a glimpse of the enormously superior position, in tactics and strategy, that 

Hitler held during the Great Power manoeuvres that led to the subjugation of Czechoslovakia. 

When the crisis was approaching its climax Benesh was in frequent telephonic communication with 

his Ministers in London and Paris, Masaryk and Osusky. It is now known for certain that every 

word he said was recorded on gramophone records in Germany. The international cable was tapped 

on German territory. Later Hitler, thanking German journalists at Munich for their collaboration in 

the great crisis, lifted a corner of the veil. He knew, he told them, everything that passed between 

Benesh and London, Benesh and Paris. When he heard Benesh one day express misgivings about 

the French attitude, he gave the order for the German Press ‘to turn on the drumfire’. When he heard 

Benesh, on another day, express still greater misgivings about the attitude of the French, he ordered 

‘the drumfire to be increased’. 

This gives you an instructive glimpse behind the scenes of the vociferous, deafening, eardrum- 

bursting German Press and radio campaign that played so great a part in the Czechoslovak crisis. 

Do not make any mistake about the feeling in the hearts of the Czechs. They long to be free, 

because they know, from a thousand years of experience, that German domination means servitude, 

that Germany will encroach and encroach upon their home rule, until it is a tattered shroud, until 

Prague is avowedly ‘a German city’, until a German governor sits in Prague. 

But they will faithfully pursue ‘the policy of fulfilment’, they will go with Germany in peace and 

war, because no other course is open to them; they are harnessed to the German juggernaut and you 

have forged their chains. Many of them will loyally pursue this policy. Many of them fought 

loyally for Austria-Hungary, in spite of everything, in the last war. Few of them wanted the 

disruption of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They only wanted home rule, equality of status with 

the Hungarians, the coronation of the Emperor in Prague as King of Bohemia, a Czech 

administration in the Czech lands. They did not want to break up the Austro-Hungarian Empire; 

they did not break it up. It broke up from within, in those stormy autumn days of 1918, and they 

took the only possible course – they formed their own state. 

Now you come to a very interesting thing – the pledge for their vassaldom. This is the great German 

road across Czecho-Slovakia. 

It is a strange thing that the meaning of this road seemed to escape the understanding of the outer 

world. It is the belt of the strait-jacket into which the Czechs have been forced. It is of the utmost 

strategic, military and political importance. 

In those November days, before the Germans would agree to a fixed frontier with rump Czecho- 

Slovakia – the ‘creeping’ process was then going on daily – the Czechs were made to sign on the 

dotted line the gift deed of a belt of territory, eighty yards wide and forty miles long, running across 

Czecho-Slovakia at the narrowest point from Breslau, by way of Brünn, to Vienna. On this is to be 

built a German road, linked up with the great inner-German network of Autobahnen. 

The track of the road is sovereign German territory, a strip of Germany laid across Czecho- 

Slovakia just where the hyphen comes. It means the prolongation of the German frontiers across 

Czecho-Slovakia, the enclosure of the Czechs within the Reich. If a German commits any crime or 

offence on that road he is not subject to the penalties of Czecho-Slovak law; he may be judged only 

by German courts. 

I think this is an entirely new device in map-making, in the Great Power game. Do you see what it 

means? It means that the Czech lands are a concentration camp. Formerly you had concentration 

camps in Germany for political opponents of the regime. Now you have concentration camps on the 

colossal scale, bat on to the frontiers of the Reich, for the internment of foreign neighbours whose 

good behaviour is not quite sure. 

Strategically it is genius. Germany has not interfered with the national independence of the Czechs; 

they may rule themselves, in their own lands. But they are contained in a German compound; their 

territory can be occupied within an hour or two if need arise. 

By this extraordinarily astute device of the innocent-looking ‘motor-road’, the whole problem of 

ensuring the subjugation of the Czechs was solved at a stroke of the pen. When, a year ago, I was 

writing about the subjugation of Czecho-Slovakia, I wondered how this complete security could be 

achieved without the actual occupation of the whole country. I could not find the answer. I knew 

that Czecho-Slovakia would be reduced to servitude; I also knew that nothing less than complete 

security about this would satisfy the Germans. Only military occupation of the country seemed to 

offer that entire security. That was why I wrote, ‘I think – I hope I am wrong about this – that the 

Germans will sit in Prague’. 

Now the Germans have found that method, that I could not guess, of interning the Czechs without a 

military occupation. They do sit in Prague in the spirit, of course, and will appear there more and 

more in the flesh. But, given that road, they do not need to occupy the country. The bird is in the 

hand. 

The bold and gigantic strategic conceptions of the Germans command admiration. 

Read what Arthur Seyss-Inquart, electioneering in the Sudeten lands, says about the Czechs, Seyss- 

Inquart who, as I remember, before he appeared on the stage told me that in his opinion the 

frontiers of his native Bohemia should remain as they had always been:  

National Socialism, which derives all its strength from the nation, does not wish to 

oppress foreign nations. But the Czechs must bear in mind that it is impossible for 

them to be enclosed in the Germanic territories and nevertheless to act against the 

laws of these territories. 

I have discussed at length this new idea of the strategic road through foreign territory, because it is 

capable of indefinite extension. It is a marvellous means of bringing small neighbour peoples 

within your frontiers and under your domination by sleight of hand. 

Soon a great road will run eastward from the north to south Breslau-Vienna road through narrow 

Carpathian-Ukraine to Rumania. If Germany demands from Hungary the right to build a road from 

there to Budapest, Hungary cannot refuse. In Yugoslavia, as I wrote earlier in this book, Walther 

Funk, German Minister of Economics, has been laying emphasis on the need for good roads, on the 

German talent for building them. You may get a road from Budapest to Belgrade, from Belgrade to 

Zagreb, from Zagreb to the Adriatic. The areas contained by those roads would be under German 

domination. The land within them would be ‘enclosed in the Germanic territories’. In all these areas 

there are large and well-organized German minorities. 

What does it mean to live under German domination? I spent winter months in Czecho-Slovakia to 

find out. We are too such the prisoners of phrases, and too seldom take the trouble to think out just 

what they mean. They sound magnificent or terrible, but we take them too much for granted. 

I remember once, at the Montreux Conference, somebody gravely said to me that if Soviet Russia’s 

claims were granted this would destroy the ‘balance of power in the Mediterranean’. For days I went 

about feeling that something precious to me was in imminent and mortal danger. I had a gloomy 

feeling that something I loved was to be done to death. Suddenly, sitting out on the calm lake and 

contemplating the Dent du Midi, I realized that I hadn’t the faintest idea what the balance of power 

in the Mediterranean was and that for all I knew it might not matter a hoot to me if it were knocked 

head over heels. 

Since that day I never allow myself either to be lulled to sleep or to be stirred to anger by a phrase – 

‘non-intervention’, ‘the sacred right of self-determination’, ‘loyalty to the League and the principle of 

collective action against aggression’, or what not. I tear them asunder and try to get at the truth, 

which is often revolting and nearly always quite different. 

What does it mean to live under German domination? I studied it in Czecho-Slovakia, where the 

domination is only beginning. 

First of all, it means practically no difference at all for a nation that would or could, for a man who 

would or could, put all thoughts of nationhood out of its or his mind and accept the idea of a 

peaceful and possibly prosperous existence on one immutable condition – submission to German 

wishes, the abandonment of all opposition to German aims. Peace and happiness in the 

concentration camp. The Pax Germanica. 

Take an individual case, a Czech who is, let us say, a butcher, a baker or candlestick-maker. If he 

has no feelings about national freedom, he may have just as good a life under German as under 

Czech rule. If he is an egoist, if he only wants to live well and earn as much as he can and find a 

pretty wife and go for week-end excursions into the countryside, why should he not? There always 

were Czech butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers; there always will be. To such a man it does 

not matter very much whether a German Governor sits in the Palace, whether somewhere, fifty 

miles away, a German road runs across his country. 

Is not this, perhaps, the better philosophy, for a nation as well as for an individual man? 

I watched Prague preparing for Christmas. Gaily decorated and illuminated Christmas trees in the 

main squares, with collection boxes beneath them for the poor. The shops full of Christmastide 

wares. Surging crowds of parcel-laden people. The children watching with big eyes the Christ 

Child, in electric lights, coming to Prague. A picturesque and happy Christmastide scene, a far 

prettier one than London offers at that season. Peace on earth and goodwill towards Hitler. Good 

King Wenceslas might look out on a Prague under German domination. 

As I watched, I thought, but for Munich this might all have been smashed up. Surely this is better. 

But, somehow, men will not accept this, possibly better, philosophy. The Czechs did not want this 

Christmas at this price. Even now, when the portraits of Masaryk and Benesh were being removed 

from public offices and schoolrooms, when the stamps with Benesh’s head were being withdrawn, 

most of them only made the reproach against him that he did not fight, against no matter what odds. 

You cannot root out that feeling in the hearts of men who want to be free, they will not, strange as 

this is, look upon life solely as a material undertaking, from which each man must extract the 

maximum of monetary profit and physical well-being for himself. They yearn for things of the 

spirit, and you cannot stop them. Imprison their spirits, and their Christmastide may look the same 

to you, but it is not the same to them. 

Nevertheless, a great possibility of the near future is that large areas of Europe and large numbers 

of its people will have to submit to this German peace, this Pax Germanica, for long to come. That 

being so, I could not help but rejoice for the Czechs, even though they did not rejoice for 

themselves, as I watched them prepare for Christmas. Tens of thousands of refugees were huddled 

in cattle-trucks and camps, others were in the uniform of labour conscripts, making roads, prices 

were rising, their currency was slumping, their country was at the mercy of Germany. But they 

have withstood the shock marvellously well. They had passed from agonized despair to 

indifference, with bitterness hidden deep within themselves. 

I now felt that, in the long run, Munich might be good for them. When the storm broke, they would 

be outside its fury; others would bear the full brunt of it. They had not wanted it like that; the others 

had compelled them. But because of that they would survive the storm and one day, in the far 

future, they, who deserved to be freemen, because they used their freedom well, might be free 

again. They had found such troubled peace as lies at the centre of the storm. 

What was even a century to people who had fought for more than a thousand years? They had 

ardently desired, as their officers said, to be ‘in the front rank of those condemned to death’. They, 

with a spirit now almost impossible to find in Europe, had rushed to impale themselves, in a 

common cause, on the sword of a Goliath adversary. With a cynicism cold enough to freeze boiling 

oil, they had been left alone at the last moment, or not even left alone, but held down by their 

friends. 

In the storms that are coming the great Czechoslovak crisis will soon seem like a tea-cup tempest. 

A remote speck in the receding distance. But it was the decisive test. Your real troubles date from 

it. Here you had the last chance to stop aggression, to ensure peace in our time. Possibly, I do not 

know this for certain, you had not even that chance because you were too far behind with your 

armaments; but after six years of warnings, that is your look-out. Now you have the briefest of 

breathing-spaces and no more. You were told that all would be well – as you have for six years been 

told that all would be well – if Germany were given just this one positively final satisfaction. If it 

were not so, your rulers would eat their hats. 

In Czecho-Slovakia you missed the last bus. 

In a Czech family gathering I celebrated the festival of Saint Nicholas and his knave Rupprecht, 

alias Krampus, alias the devil. Czech children are luckier than English children in that they have a 

foretaste of Christmas on December 6th. Saint Nicholas is the equivalent of our Father Christmas; 

at Christmastide the chief part is played by the Christ Child. 

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the things that had happened in October and November, the 

Czechs celebrated this feast with great honour. For days beforehand the children were as good as 

gold; they washed their hands and necks, kept their nails clean, did their homework, remembered to 

say their prayers. 

I watched them that evening, with eyes like saucers, waiting for Saint Nicholas, with his rosy 

cheeks and kindly eyes and mitre and long white beard and sack of gifts over his shoulder, to knock 

at the door. Frontiers meant nothing to them, nor motor-corridors; Nicholas meant a great deal. I 

was thankful in my heart that they could, in 1938, again greet their Nicholas as if nothing had 

happened. 

Came the knock at the door, its opening, and the appearance of the good Nicholas; behind him, 

awe-inspiring, red-clad, horned Krampus, with his birch. Then began the questions to the children 

before the distribution of gifts: had they been good? The meddling Krampus put in his word: ‘It’s 

not true, Herr Bishop, that child blotted its copybook only last Tuesday’, and then terrible wieldings 

of the birch, but Nicholas always placated Krampus in the end and the child got its gift. 

I loved it, though I thought a great deal about the refugee children in the huts, especially about that 

two-weeks-old baby. No Nicholas for them. 

A great deal of money was subscribed in England for those refugees. I saw little, in Czecho- 

Slovakia, of the results of that subscription. I often asked, when I visited the refugees, if anyone 

had been to see them and at one place they said yes, some time before the British Consul had been 

there, and at another place they said yes, the Lord had been there several weeks earlier and 

measured them for clothes, but none had arrived yet, and in both cases I found, on closer inquiry, 

that the visitor had been one of the few representatives of The Lord Mayor’s Fund. 

I believe blankets and things had been provided, but the condition of those refugees was nearly as 

miserable as it could be, nevertheless, and by Christmastide the realization of the one hope on 

which they lived – that they would be enabled to emigrate to a new land and start a new life – 

seemed very far off. I most sincerely hope that by the time this book appears their lot will have 

been alleviated and that I shall be able to write a postscript in that sense. 

As I came away from that Festival of Saint Nicholas and the crowds of excited children I walked 

along the street of the 28th October. This was the day on which the free Czecho-Slovak Republic 

was born. On October 28th, 1938, it would have celebrated its twentieth birthday. By October 28th, 

1938, the name of the street had lost its meaning. 

But I was glad, as I walked along it, to see those Christmas crowds, to see the moon rising into a 

clear sky above towers and turrets and spires and steeples still intact, to see the children eagerly 

dragging their elders to the shop windows. 

I walked across the Charles Bridge, the loveliest bridge in Europe, as I always do when I have a 

few minutes to spare in Prague, looked over the side at the Moldau flowing beneath, up the hill at 

the peerless silhouette of the Hradschin. At the farther end of the bridge, in a little open place, was 

a Christmas market of peasant china and earthenware. Gaily lit booths in the dark little square. 

Figures hurrying to and fro, bargaining. 

I went down and walked around. Some of the loveliest and cheapest things in Europe, the Czech 

and Slovak peasants make. The Slovak pottery is exceptionally attractive. I bought, for a few 

shillings, a great hand-painted platter, a really beautiful thing, the sort of article you only find in 

countries where the peasants are free and sturdy and are able to practise, even in the age of 

clockwork and tin, the native handicrafts that have been handed down to them from generation to 

generation. 

It came from the Choden district, from one of those seven villages which now lay behind the 

German frontier. Again, by chance, I had picked up one of those memory-laden things with which I 

fill my room when I have one. When I look at them I see all Insanity Fair, with its brassy 

bellowings, its tricksters, its showmen, its strong men, its dazzling lights, its mazed and surging 

throngs.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty 

 

REDS!!! 

 

I have a file, swollen and bursting, of cuttings about ‘The Reds’ collected from many newspapers in 

many countries during the past ten years. Hundreds of newspapers – some already defunct, like the 

Morning Post, or the Prussian Diehard Kreuzzeitung, or else gleichgeschaltet, like the Catholic 

Reichspost of Vienna – supplied these thousands of cuttings, with their millions of words, in which 

vigilant writers of a dozen nations exposed the plottings of the Reds. 

 

You certainly were warned! No detail of Boishevist devilry was so small that it escaped the infra- 

red vigilance of the anti-Red writers. In all that vast collection of yellowing clippings, slowly 

moving to its next incarnation – dust to dust and wood-pulp to wood-pulp – my choicest piece, 

which I shall never destroy, is this report from General Franco’s lines in Spain, published one day 

by the Reichspost

 

During an attack on the right flank of the Franco troops near Villavent, the Red 

Militia used large wild wolfhounds, trained to attack men, as fighters. These dogs 

crept noiselessly up to the Nationalist sentries and sprang at their throats, and in 

many cases succeeded in injuring their victims and putting them hors de combat

The attack itself was repulsed, but through the use of these wolfhounds the 

militiamen were able temporarily to push forward to the Franco front line. The 

majority of the dogs were killed in the battle; the few survivors noiselessly retired at 

a gesture from their commanders and trainers, who were apparently Russians. 

 

No other story of the Spanish conflict so vividly portrayed the horrors of a modern civil war as this 

one of the noiseless Red dogs, trained to do or die in a silence uncanny and uncanine by their 

apparently Russian instructors. 

 

Hundreds killed in Almeria by shells from a German cruiser, hundreds killed by German bombs in 

Guernica, hundreds killed in air raids on Alicante or Barcelona, the Catholic Basques conquered by 

Moors, Italians and Germans: these things were slightly disturbing, but did not deeply offend the 

world’s sense of propriety. 

 

But those companies of wild dogs, recently arrived from Moscow! Could devilry go further? 

 

Another cutting from my collection about The Reds tells of a statement once made at the annual 

meeting in Glasgow of the Scottish Liberal National Association by a Chief Whip, Lieutenant- 

Colonel Charles Kerr, about a Red Plot to overthrow the Government. Colonel Kerr had inside 

information about the plot. He was present at a meeting of the conspirators ‘at a private house in 

London, where three men were present who had been working in Communist organizations in the 

country’. He went there to watch their activities. 

 

I can express nothing but horror at what I was told at that meeting. You would 

hardly credit the terrible, low-down, wicked efforts that are being made to 

undermine everything we hold dear. There are people in a very big way in this 

country who support Communism, though not outwardly. There is a lot of money 

behind this, and I regret to say that a great bulk of the people working in that 

direction are of the Jewish race. 

 

‘But why,’ asked Colonel Kerr, ‘is this plot not exposed?’ 

 

In my mind an echo answered, why? Why did not Colonel Kerr expose it, since he knew all about 

it? 

 

It was puzzling. It made me think of an acquaintance of mine, a cynical man called Marmaduke de 

Bunker, who has lost many friends in the society he frequents by arguing, in a surly manner, that 

there is no Red Plot, but that Red Plots have become an indispensable part of their emotional diet to 

many people in England. The same instinct that drives the Lower Classes to the switchback 

railways at the fun fairs – a titillating fear of breaking their necks – drives the Upper Classes, he 

says, to their little daily dose of Red Plottery – a titillating fear of losing their property. 

 

Perhaps he is wrong. Perhaps the Zinovieff plot to overthrow the British Empire was concocted by 

Zinovieff, now mouldering in his grave with a Bolshevist bullet in his brain, if I remember rightly, 

and was not a trick to win an election. Perhaps those rabid Red wolfhounds led the attack on 

Franco’s patriots. Perhaps Colonel Kerr saw the Red Plotters. Perhaps the rabbit-trapper was right 

who wrote to the newspapers to complain that Red money was behind the agitation against the kind 

of trap he used in his profession. 

 

But the facts seem to me to speak against Red Plots. The Bolshevist Revolution is now twenty-one 

years old and in that time, as far as I know, nobody outside Russia has suffered any harm from the 

hands of Russia. In those twenty-one years Communism has not succeeded in bringing about a 

major revolt, far less a revolution, in any country, and in the European countries where I have 

travelled in the last eleven years it has never given serious anxiety to the police. It never had any 

hope of attaining power by the ballot-box; and police forces in all countries were well able to deal 

with it if it tried violence. The parent country of Communism, Russia, invaded no foreign country 

in support of its doctrines. 

 

On the other side of the ledger, the Fascist dictatorships have by force of arms annexed Abyssinia 

and Austria, reduced Czecho-Slovakia to servitude, and at great cost of life and money are trying to 

enforce a Franco victory in Spain. 

 

So if you look at this thing from the point of view of British national interests alone, without any 

ulterior thought in your mind, you have, on the one side, the Red Plot, including the Red 

wolfhounds in Spain. 

 

On the other side, German-manned and German-mounted guns on both sides of the Straits of 

Gibraltar, German air forces on the southern frontier of your ally France, Italian air forces in the 

Balearics, athwart the sea-routes of your ally France. 

 

The balance of this sum seems to me to be a direct menace to the unity of the British Empire and to 

the security and independence of England. I do not see any direct Russian or Red menace. 

 

Nevertheless, the bulk of feeling among the rulers of England seems to be favourable to Franco and 

to approve all that he, the Moors, the Germans and the Italians have done, on the ground that they 

are fighting The Reds. What is the motive, since The Reds do not threaten us? That The Reds have 

no proper respect for private property? But in that case, let us take the thing to its logical 

conclusion. Are these same people prepared to bring foreign and coloured troops to England to 

suppress The Reds there? You may not see any Reds. But they do – everywhere. 

 

What is the answer to all this? That if the Red Plot is rubbish, if Germany is the country we fear 

and against whose menace we are rearming, then we ought to look about for the most valuable kind 

of armaments – allies – and enlist the help of the European king-piece, Russia. 

It is too late for that, now. It would have been a good move until recently, because by it you could 

have prevented war, and therewith you could have banished the only danger of Communism. You 

could have given Germany her Fair Deal, but at the same time, by confronting her with superior 

force, you could have made her keep the peace. In peace Communism cannot come; you could have 

used Russia to defeat Communism. The lesson of the twenty-one years that have elapsed since the 

Bolshevist Revolution is that, in peace, Communism cannot spread, that in its parent country it was 

likely to broaden down to some bourgeois form of life comparable with the development in France 

after the revolution there. But in any protracted war, which brings misery and suffering to the 

civilian population, you will get, in large areas of Europe, the very thing you feared: Communism, 

anarchism or some indescribable mass upheaval. You would probably have in Germany an 

efficient, well-organized, successful and imperialist Communism that would be far more deadly 

than Russian Communism. 

 

If the avoidance of war was really the paramount aim, as your rulers always tell you, it could have 

been achieved by combining with Russia to confront Germany with overwhelming force if she 

threatened war. This was the only way. Now, it is too late. The development has passed that stage. 

Now the only question is whether Hitler will attack Russia or make terms with Russia, before 

attacking the west. England, by supreme maladroitness, has so closely associated herself with the 

organized campaign of international Jewry against Germany that collaboration with Russia to-day 

would mean asking Englishmen to march under the Semitic flag and make Berlin safe again for the 

Jews – after the Chinese, Abyssinians, Spaniards and Czechs have all been sold without a word or a 

blush. 

 

That would not be good enough. So do problems grow bigger and more complicated if you have 

not the courage to grasp the nettle safety [ed: safely?] in time – or am I mixing this quotation? 

 

Fear of The Reds, of a threat to private property, brought us to this plight, and prevented the people 

who had power from taking the one course that could have banished any reason to fear them. This 

fear is so deep in some of our rulers that it blinds them to England’s danger, to the desire to know 

the truth. It produces even noble lords who, in defiance of facts that can be ascertained by any man 

who cares to look for them, state in the House that ‘it has been proved to my satisfaction that Russia 

began the war in Spain’. 

 

I think I express the feeling of many Englishmen of my generation when I say that I am embittered 

by the way English people of high position, condone and approve the daily massacre of Spaniards 

by airmen and artillerymen of alien races, apparently because a starving and tormented 

revolutionary mob, whose sons and brothers and fathers had died for and with us, seized power in 

Russia twenty-one years ago, under a leader sent to them from Germany. We never foresaw this 

and would never have believed it. If we had known we would most conscientiously have objected – 

as did some of the men who to-day are applauding these things. 

 

But now we know. The people of Almeria, of Guernica, of Alicante were not Bolshevists. The 

Abyssinians were not Bolshevists. The Cantonese were not Bolshevists. The Czechs were not 

Bolshevists. But the Red Herring has been drawn across the trail of straight thinking in England, 

the country that once took up the cudgels for oppressed Armenians and Greeks and persecuted 

Magyars and crippled cobblers and the underdog everywhere. 

 

Now, because of a few old ladies who see a Red under every bed, we are in a devil of a mess. The 

German guns covering the Straits are real. The Red wolfhounds are not. We have been told for 

years that the Red Plot is real, that the Germans guns are not. 

 

What are we to be asked to do now? 

 

Now the moving finger is writing, and you can no longer dictate what it shall write, only watch it. 

  

Chapter Thirty One 

CHRISTMAS DAY IN CHUST 

Pronounce it Hoost, the H guttural like the ch in Loch. Who would ever have expected to be 

bothered with the name of this remote Ruthenian village? But Great Power politics lead to the 

strangest results. 

I made my way to Chust by way of Slovakia, the second of the three provinces of Czecho-Slovakia. 

Under German tutelage Slovakia, since Munich, has become a home-ruled Fascist statelet. It has its 

Slovak Storm Troopers, the Hlinka Guards, who wear a black uniform akin to that of the Italian 

Fascists. Only the Germans, in Slovakia, enjoy full political liberty. When the Hlinka Guards 

parade, a detachment of German Nazi Storm Troopers appears at their side. The pledge for the 

good conduct of the Czechs is the German road which is being built across their territory. The 

pledge for the good conduct of the Slovaks is the fact that the Danube bridge alone separates their 

capital, Bratislava, from Germany. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bratislava – Pressburg, to the 

Germans – was to Vienna approximately what Windsor is to London. Soon after Munich Herr 

Hitler appeared at the other end of the bridge and cast a look full of meaning at Bratislava. If the 

people of Bratislava had any doubt what that look meant it was probably removed by the enormous 

notice, plain for them to read, which soon afterwards appeared on the German side:  

‘Heil Hitler! We will fetch you home. Heil victory! Pressburg was, is, and will 

always be German. One realm, freedom and bread. Death to the Jews! Brothers, 

hold out. We shall come and liberate you! Heil Hitler! 

So the Slovaks, with only the bridge between them and the Germans, are likely to be well behaved. 

With memories of Vienna, a few miles up the Danube, in my mind, I took a last look at Bratislava 

and then went on to Preshov, in East Slovakia, and there, on Christmas Eve, I set out by the only 

means of transport – an antiquated bus – over the long, mountain road for Chust, the capital of rump 

Ruthenia, the tiny home-ruled state now called Carpathian Ukraine. 

In the luggage-hold of that bus I had, of all unlikely things, a miniature Christmas tree. My mind 

was full of memories of Christmas 1937 in Vienna, which was the happiest time of the brief period 

of tranquil happiness which I found, within the four thick walls of my quiet rooms there, in the 

months before the annexation. Then I had had a Christmas tree decked all in silver and white, a 

vision lifted straight from a snowbound forest, and that tree was the last thing I saw, through the 

double doors of my sitting-room, when I went to bed at night and the first thing I saw when I 

awoke in the morning, and so lovely was it that I could not bring myself to dismantle it on Twelfth 

Night but kept it for nearly three weeks. I should have been a happy man if I could have looked 

forward to a succession of such Christmases, but they were not for me, in Insanity Fair, and now, 

on Christmas Eve, 1938, I was bumping and rattling over the Carpathians by the only road that led 

to Chust with a miniature Christmas tree, two feet high, an artificial but pretty thing, ready- 

decorated, that I had bought in Prague to remind me of that other tree. 

Late at night, after an eight-hour journey, while the bus and my fellow-passengers disappeared into 

the night, I found myself dumped with my bags and my Christmas tree in the muddy cobbled 

square of a small village – Chust. In the light of two or three flickering street lamps I could see the 

faint outlines of houses, and in one corner was a primitive electric sign which, on close inspection, I 

found to spell the name of the hotel I had been told about. 

I have slept in many strange places, but in few so strange as this little hostelry, where 

accommodation was sold by the bed, and not by the room, so that a deal of bargaining was needed 

to obtain a very bare room, with a single electric bulb that did not give enough light to read a paper, 

for myself. I undressed, contemplated my muddy shoes, asked the first man I could find if it was 

safe to put them out for cleaning, and he answered cheerfully, oh yes, of course, and then, tired out, 

I lay down and went to sleep. 

When I awoke, on Christmas Day, heavy snow was falling and I blessed it, because it hid the 

dreariness of Chust. I contrived to shave and wash with a small jugful of cold water, dressed, and 

opened the door to look for my shoes. They were not there. I had half expected this. So I went in 

search of someone in authority and found a sleepy and half-dressed youth who, questioned about 

my shoes, answered ‘Well, after all, if you leave your property about like that, what can you 

expect?’ 

So then I tried an old trick. I stood with him in the corridor and stormed at the top of my voice and 

presently two other menials appeared and then a waiter and a cook and a frowsy chambermaid and 

they all stood around, understanding nothing that I said, and I stormed louder and louder until they 

all began scurrying about and looking in other rooms and registering great indignation and 

sympathy and interrogating other guests, and suddenly my shoes were there, having been found 

tucked away behind the closet. 

Then I went out and looked at Chust, mercifully cloaked in white, and took train for the two show 

villages of Carpathian Ukraine, Rachoff and Jassina, about three hours away, and you have to travel 

through Rumania to reach them, so complicated are communications in this remote and truncated 

statelet. In Rachoff I had my Christmas dinner and by chance it was turkey, and very good, and 

here I found the only moderately prosperous people in all this miserably poor region, peasants with 

attractive costumes living among lovely wooded hills on the banks of the Tisza, a good place for 

winter sports if it were not so remote, and in the evening I took train back to Chust and lit the 

candies on my Christmas tree, and sat, and thought of Vienna. 

Plague take this demented Europe and these demented times, I thought, as I compared this 

Christmas with that and thought that, if the map continued to be remade at the present rate, I should 

spend my next Christmas in Baghdad or somewhere, and then I thought I would see if a bottle of 

wine were to be had in this benighted village, which lived in a permanent black-out, and I rang and 

a new chambermaid answered, and by great good fortune she was a remarkably good-looking one, 

a Hungarian girl who spoke German, and she made saucer-eyes at my Christmas tree and helped 

me to eat the things that were on it, and to my astonishment there were about eighty of them, 

though they looked like twenty, and then she fetched a bottle of wine and bashfully drank a sip of it 

and gradually conversation began to flow and she told me about herself and I told her about myself 

and so this intolerable Christmas evening, an evening on which the most hardened of nomads 

cannot shut out thoughts and memories, passed, and I bade her good-night and went to sleep, 

saying thank Mahomet that this day is over, anyhow. 

The next day I began to study Carpathian-Russia, alias Carpathian-Ukraine. When Czechoslovakia 

was dismembered, as I wrote earlier, the best thing for this easternmost province, if the welfare of 

its inhabitants alone were considered, would have been to divide it between Hungary and Poland, 

since otherwise the few marooned mountaineers who were left could hope for little better than 

starvation. But this did not happen. Italy did succeed in getting for her protégé, Hungary, the fertile 

plains to the south and the only two towns of any size, Ungvar and Munkacs, together with the 

railway. But Germany insisted that a narrow strip, consisting mainly of mountains and intervening 

valleys running, rib-like, north and south, should remain independent; and this became the home- 

ruled statelet of Carpathian-Russia. This is the official name for it, but actually the members of the 

two-man Government are both Ukrainians, and the little state is currently spoken of as Carpathian- 

Ukraine. 

Why? Why were these few hundred thousand half-starved mountaineers cut off from their only 

chance of making even a meagre living – the Hungarian plain – and given an unwelcome 

independence? 

In order that the name ‘Ukraine’ should be printed on the European map. Poland, which has 

between 4,500,000 and 7,000,000 Ukrainians, Russia, which has from 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 

Ukrainians, both deny that there is a great Ukrainian nation pining to be liberated. But the 

champion of the principle of self-determination, Germany, has put the word ‘Ukraine’ on the map. 

The sight of this little self-governed Ukrainian state is supposed to fill the Ukrainians in Poland, 

Russia and Rumania with longing. 

When Germany, after Munich, enforced the creation of Carpathian-Ukraine it did look very much 

as if the ‘Great Ukraine’ would be the object of the next German coup, and that was why I made that 

dreary journey, over the one remaining road, to Chust. Germany had already liberated the Ukraine 

once, during the World War, and put in a Hetman there, and the idea of the German-controlled 

Ukraine, with its great mineral and agricultural wealth, was a pet one of many German 

expansionists. 

For the last twenty years Berlin has been the home of emigrant Ukrainian leaders. The present 

claimant to the Hetman’s throne lives in Germany, and is said to keep his crown there; he is even a 

colonel in the German army. Immediately after Munich masses of propaganda about the ‘Great 

Ukraine’, printed in Berlin, London and New York, began to be distributed. I have even seen a map 

showing that in the seventeenth century a Great Ukrainian state did exist, comprising the territory, 

now in Polish, Russian and Rumanian possession, that the Ukrainian patriots of to-day claim for it. 

But, for that matter, in the seventeenth century nobody questioned the historic frontiers of 

Bohemia. These were mutilated for the first time in history by the Men of Munich; it would be 

strange if an indirect result of their work were to be the restoration of the original frontiers of 

Ukrainia as they existed in that same century. 

So everything, after Munich, seemed to point to the Great Ukraine as the direction of Germany’s 

next great coup. But when I went to Carpathian-Ukraine I became rather doubtful about this, or at 

any rate about the possibility of using Carpathian-Ukraine as a suitable basis for the erection of the 

Great Ukraine, or as a springboard for the great Ukrainian swoop. 

For one thing, there is only the one road, at present, leading to Carpathian-Ukraine. It goes up hill 

and down dale for some hundreds of miles, and would need a deal of improvement before it could 

be used for major military operations. For another, the population of this remote statelet only 

amounts to about half a million people. The evidence of the eye would suggest that about half of 

these are Jews; actually a sixth is probably nearer the truth. The remainder comprise some of the 

most miserably poor and racially mixed people in Europe; most of them do not themselves know 

what they are, but they do know that they have nothing to eat. Many of them speak two, three, four 

or five languages or dialects, and have been successively told in the last twenty-five years that they 

are Hungarians, Ruthenians, and, now, Ukrainians. The proportion of them who have any 

knowledge of what a Ukrainian is is very small. This is not very important; the only thing that is 

important for these people is that they should be lifted out of the misery in which they live, and if 

anything happens to achieve that, whether it be called the Great Ukraine or what not, it will be 

welcome. 

Never have I seen such poverty as reigns in Carpathian-Ukraine, although I believe rather similar 

conditions existed in Ireland, before the war, before the Irish took their affairs into their own hands, 

in the days when the land was at the mercy of the absentee landlord. Here, in these remote 

Carpathian hills and valleys, the peasant has a house without a chimney, without flooring. He 

builds his fire on the stamped-earth floor and the smoke just rises and filters through the roof. 

Geese, pigs and goats, if he is lucky enough to have any, share the one room with him and his 

family. For food, he has insufficient quantities of maize bread, which is only just edible. If he has 

half an acre of land he may pull a rudely-fashioned plough across it himself, or turn it over with a 

spade. 

Money he never sees. He thinks with regret of the great days when he could at harvest time at least 

go down into Hungary and work on the big estates and bring back, as his wage, a side of bacon for 

the winter. That was wealth, to him. 

These peasants, their wives and children, live like animals. Even that is an under-statement. In 

many districts they are animals. I can see hardly any difference between their life and that of an 

animal. In one district, round the villages of Svalava and Verezky, where there are a few small 

factories, inter-marriage and the drinking of methylated spirits has produced a stunted race of 

deformed and mentally inferior people. Their life is so hard and their wages so small that their only 

solace is drinking spirits, and as they cannot afford pure Schnapps, at 36 kronen a litre, they buy 

methylated spirits from unscrupulous dealers at 5 kronen a litre. It brings intoxication and 

forgetfulness of hunger in half an hour. 

Carpathian-Ukraine is a good place to study the persecution of a non-Jewish community by the 

Jewish one. Here, for the first time, I saw the Eastern Jews in their native habitat. By the time they 

reach Budapest, Vienna, Berlin or Prague they are already Westernized. Here, as in Poland, you 

have the raw material of your Hollywood film producers and screen stars, your international 

bankers, your slick Jewish journalists – for here, in Carpathian-Ukraine, they are learning English, 

too. 

Here you have a peasant population that has been plundered and bled white in centuries of 

exploitation, that has passed from one tyranny to another, Czars, kings, nobles, the Church, Russia, 

Poland, Hungary, and is now completely in the thrall of the Jewish community, which according to 

statistics only comprises about 15 per cent of the whole, but which controls all the money-power, 

the trade, commerce and banking. It is a grip far more subtle but as vice-like as that of any 

dictators. There is no escape for the peasant. 

In Carpathian-Ukraine you are far more acutely aware of the Jews than in other countries, because 

they wear the uniform of black hat, caftan, ringlets and beard. In every town and village you enter 

they thus thrust themselves on your gaze, and your first impression is that they must be numerically 

predominant, that there must be more Jews than non-Jews in the place. This is not the fact. The 

reason is that they own all the shops and house-property in the main square and in the centre of the 

town generally. The non-Jews live in the meaner streets and remoter quarters. 

The way to test this is to go through one of these towns on Friday evening, when the Jewish 

Sabbath begins. Nearly all the shops in the place are closed; it is difficult for the non-Jewish 

population to buy anything on Friday evening or Saturday morning. The squeeze-out of the non- 

Jews is complete. Only large and financially powerful concerns, like Bata, can hope to compete 

with the Jewish traders, and perhaps a non-Jewish shopkeeper here and there who keeps going 

chiefly on what he earns on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The non-Jewish small trader, 

with little capital, almost invariably goes bankrupt before very long. The Jews quarrel a good deal, 

and violently, among themselves, but at the approach of a non-Jew they close their ranks with a 

solidarity impossible to find among any other people in the world, unless it be some remote race in 

Tibet. 

The wholesale trade is almost exclusively in the hands of the Jews, and the downfall of the non- 

Jewish interloper is achieved by supplying his Jewish competitors with goods at prices which 

enable them to undersell him. If any Jew fails to fall into line the services of the rabbi are enlisted 

and heavy punishments may be enforced against him; he may be refused access to the ritual bath, or 

the Jewish slaughterer may be ordered not to kill his chickens for him. 

The peasant is entirely in the hands of the Jews. If he has any money and wishes to buy anything, 

he must buy it from a Jew. If he has no money, and needs to borrow some for his taxes or his 

mortgage, he must borrow it from a Jew. If he has something to sell, he can only sell it to the 

Jewish dealers. If he wishes to hire a plough, he must hire it, at a high rate, from a Jew. Most 

sinister of all, if he wants a drink – and spirits form his only solace – he must go to a Jew for it, for 

the great majority of the alchohol licences are in the hands of Jews. If he goes to law, he puts 

money into the pocket of the Jewish lawyer – for in Carpathian-Ukraine only 19 of the 160 lawyers 

are non-Jews. To litigate against a Jew, in these conditions, is for him an almost hopeless 

proceeding. 

It is an iron ring, from which there is no escape. It is often said that there are many poor Jews in 

this region. The non-Jews are all poor. There are many Jews who look poor, very few who are poor 

in the sense that the peasant is poor. 

All in all, I came to feel dubious, after looking at Carpathian-Ukraine, about the imminence of the 

Great Ukrainian coup, under German leadership. Carpathian-Ukraine did not seem to me a good 

basis either for major military or for major political operations. 

Only a few score people, in the little Government and administration, feel Ukrainian and pine for 

the Great Ukrainian state. The real Ukrainians, the potential Ukrainian nation, live under Polish and 

Russian rule, and how are you to get at them, without war? After Munich, Poland and Russia 

seemed to be moving together, against this threat, but after that again came Franco’s progress in 

Spain, and suddenly you found Colonel Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, at Berchtesgaden, and 

Herr von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, in Warsaw, and it looked to me very much as if 

Germany found the prospects in the West and in the Mediterranean improving so much that she 

was turning her eyes in that direction and shelving the Ukrainian project for the present, as if she 

were telling Poland, ‘Now, just behave well if anything explodes in Western Europe and nothing 

will happen to you’. 

The only signs of the Great Ukrainian movement that I could find in Chust were the German- 

backed Government, headed by a cleric, Mgr. Voloshin, and his one Minister, M. Revay, who both 

count as Ukrainians, and the Ukrainian Storm Troops, the Karpatska Sitch, of whom I saw a few 

here and there in their grey-green uniforms. A German officer or two had passed that way, a 

German geologist or two, a German road-surveyor or two. But on the whole, the signs were that 

Germany was not signalling full-steam-ahead in the Ukraine, for the present. 

The Great Ukrainian iron is a good one to have in the fire, and with the creation of this little state 

the iron is there, ready for use one day. But I fancy the fire will need a good deal of stoking, the 

iron a good deal of heating. In any case, one Great Power, Russia, and one almost Great Power, 

Poland, are involved, and I cannot see how Germany can for the present get over that. 

For the moment, Hungary and Rumania seem to offer less certain prospects of resistance to German 

expansionism, I thought, after looking at Carpathian-Ukraine. So I burned the remains of my 

Christmas tree in the little iron stove, packed my bag, and boarded the ancient bus again. 

The Carpathians were already deep in snow, as we rattled, hour after hour, along the winding and 

sometimes precipitous road to Preshov. In the omnibus it was bitterly cold. I had ‘flu, and shivered. 

Soon ice formed on the windows, so that the countryside was hidden. Then darkness fell and I 

could hardly see the figures of my fellow-passengers, fifty of them packed into an omni- bus made 

for twenty. 

Darker and darker it grew, as the rattling box on wheels lurched and bumped along. Of the outer 

world I could see nothing, of the interior of the omnibus hardly anything. A crash, in that black and 

crowded box, on that lonely and snowbound mountain road, would have been hell itself. I felt like 

Jonah in the belly of the whale, so dark was it and so violent were the movements. To heighten the 

vividness of this illusion, the only things I could see were the ribs in the roof of the omnibus, just 

perceptible in the gloom. Hour after hour we rattled on. At last the bus stopped; exhausted, frozen 

and stiff, I got out, found myself in Preshov, found an hotel where I could get a decent bed, and fell 

immediately asleep.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Two 

CAROL AND CODREANU 

The train travelled slowly through Rumania towards Bucharest, a long journey, and I sat at the 

window, train-sick, and watched the snowbound countryside move dawdling by. As I watched, the 

clean white snow took on a faint tinge of pink, that deepened and deepened until the land was 

covered with lurid red snow, and at the back appeared a core of fire, blazing and painting the land 

and the heaven crimson, a strange and arresting spectacle. It was not sundown, because the sky was 

covered with clouds that were still dropping powdery snow. Was it, I thought, a house burning. I 

asked. It was oil, an oil well, or some stray deposit of oil, that had long been burning, and they 

could not put it out. 

Oil, I thought, as I watched. Oil, the juice that made Rumania an important piece in the European 

game. The Skoda Works, the great arsenal inherited from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 

predestined Czecho-Slovakia, in vassaldom, to become a gunsmith’s shop for the Reich, once more 

on conquest bound. Czech workmen, among the best in Europe, were marked down as a labour- 

reserve for Germany. Hungary, with her abundant fields, similarly destined after the fall of Austria 

and Czecho-Slovakia to pass inevitably under German domination, was to be the granary and 

poultry-farm. Rumania, next door, was the only European country that had enough oil to feed the 

mechanized armies of a great Power set on achieving European supremacy either by the use of her 

armed might or through the fear of it. 

I had watched Austria fall and Czecho-Slovakia in subjugation and had seen the process beginning 

in Hungary, and now I contemplated, with thoughts of the past and the future in my mind, this 

blood-coloured glow that suffused the Rumanian countryside. Burning oil. I have heard of a man, a 

technical expert, who was once employed to extinguish a burning oil well. For two years, I think, 

he fought that blazing and roaring monster. He lost several of his best men in the battle. At the end 

he was unnerved by the days and weeks and months of combat, by the noise and glare and strength 

of this fire-spitting dragon, laired in the bowels of the earth. When I heard this story I wished I had 

been there to write it; it seemed to me as well worth telling as that of any seaman’s fight with the 

storm, any peasant’s fight with famine, or any explorer’s fight with the eternal snows. 

Slowly, as the train lumbered on its way, the crimson world paled again into pink and then into 

white and once more the silent snowfields lay beside the line, with the sagging grey clouds above 

them. But I was glad that we had passed through that zone of reddened snow. As long as we were 

in it the wheels of the train said oil, oil, oil, oil, oil, and that, I knew, was the appropriate refrain, for 

a student of our contemporary times, in Rumania. 

A little while later, on the Orthodox Christmas Day, I stood in a Bucharest street and watched King 

Carol go to the ceremony of blessing the waters. A heavy hussar’s busby almost hid his eyes. The 

voluminous white cloak of the Order of St. Michael the Brave, with its black cross, fell about his 

shoulders. In his hand, a field marshal’s baton. At his side, as always, his son Michael, who has 

already once been king and yielded the throne to his father when King Carol made that spectacular 

return to Rumania. 

Another strange scene, for the album of our contemporary Europe. In the streets through which 

King Carol passed, the civilian population had been drained off as if by a pump. No Bucharesters 

cheered him as he went; a few of them could be seen, in the far distance, down the cordoned-off 

side streets. The windows of the houses were closed, by order, and, I suppose by order, no faces 

appeared at them. The cafés and restaurants on the route were closed, and no-one was allowed to 

enter them. After the religious ceremony in the little church, the King and the Prince, followed by 

the little group of priests and ministers and officers and officials passed through troop-lined but 

otherwise empty streets to the little river Dambavitza, a trickle like the Fleet River, that has already 

disappeared beneath the roadway for a great part of its journey through the city. 

The King, in his long white cloak, went down the steps and threw the traditional wooden cross into 

the muddy stream, and four men in long white smocks jumped in it up to their knees and recovered 

the cross and kissed it and brought it back to the King, who gave it back to the Patriarch, and the 

waters had been blessed, and the white cloak went up the steps again and the king looked upstream 

to where, several hundred yards away, behind lines of soldiers, his Bucharesters stood, and raised 

his field marshal’s baton in salute. No responsive cheer came. Perhaps they were too far away to see 

the gesture. So he saluted again and still there was silence, all round, and he climbed the rest of the 

steps and went down the roadway to a spot where a little dais had been built and there he took his 

stand, with the few score military attachés and ministers and officials grouped behind him, and 

reviewed his troops, who came marching by. 

If you can imagine King George reviewing the Guards in a Piccadilly from which the civilian 

population has vanished, you will have some idea of the scene. The only sounds that broke the 

silence were the music of the bands and the tramp of soldiers. In their strangely varied uniforms 

they marched past. King Carol has a Hohenzollern-like weakness for uniforms, and all the armies 

of the world seemed to have contributed something to this little pageant, in a still and deserted city. 

There were soldiers who looked like pre-war German cavalrymen and infantrymen. Others who 

looked something like French Chasseurs Alpins. Others who resembled the Italian Bersaglieri, with 

their feathered bonnets. Others who, with little knobbed shakos, seemed like 1870 French 

infantrymen. Others, with peaked caps and broad-striped trousers, who came somewhere between 

American Marines and West Point Cadets. Others whose furry hats recalled Crimean Grenadiers. 

Others, again, khaki-clad, who looked like war-time British infantrymen. 

I don’t know what the state of Rumanian armaments is – it is said to be backward – but the raw 

material inside these uniforms, I thought, was first class. I saw straight features, well-built bodies. 

In an all-together-against-an-aggressor war the Rumanian army, I think, could have played a very 

useful part. That dream has faded. Now any odds that Rumania might have to face would be too big 

for this little army to achieve much. 

When the last companies had gone, the King stepped into his car and was whizzed away, through 

those deserted streets, to his palace, with motor-cyclist outriders flanking him and police cars 

before and behind. Half an hour later Bucharest came to life again, the inhabitants surged forward 

into the main streets, faces appeared at the windows, the cafés and restaurants opened, the normal 

city scene returned. 

The tide of events, having passed over Austria and Czecho-Slovakia, is lapping at Rumania. Hence 

this little parade-in-a-vacuum, the closely-guarded King, the segregated population. Those empty 

streets, those closed windows, those deserted cafés and restaurants, those legions of police and 

plain-clothes men meant – Corneliu Codreanu, The Iron Guard, Germany. 

I told in Insanity Fair how the kings of Rumania reigned with the problem of Germany ever 

peering from behind their throne; how the first king, Carol’s great-uncle, saw the best hope for 

Rumania in alliance with Germany, the country from which he had come and whose triumphs in 

1864, 1866 and 1871 he had never forgotten; how he failed, in 1914, to induce Rumania to follow 

him in that course and how his successor, Ferdinand, brought Rumania in with the Allies so that, 

after disaster in the spring of 1918, she rose triumphant from her ashes in November 1918, doubled 

in territory and population. 

Now, twenty years after, King Carol is coming face to face with this same eternal problem. But for 

him it is no longer a straight choice – with Germany or against Germany. For Rumania it may be 

that. But for King Carol the issue has been complicated. Between him and it stand two figures, one 

spectral and one flesh-and-blood – Corneliu Codreanu, the dead Fascist leader, and Madame 

Lupescu, a Jewess, for many years his companion and confidante. 

I wrote in Insanity Fair that anti-Semitism in Rumania was highly dangerous for Gentiles. Many 

people thought that this was just a smart crack. It was written in all seriousness, and it is true. There 

have been no pogroms in Rumania, but for several years now Gentiles have been killing each other 

there in the dispute for and against the Jews. The Rumanians are a gentle-natured people, averse to 

violence, and political murder had not been known in the country for seventy years before these 

killings started. 

This will show you how bitter are the feelings that have been aroused. Do not think that they are 

entirely unreasonable, or you will be wrong. In at least three European countries there is, beyond all 

dispute, a Jewish problem – in Poland, Hungary and Rumania. That is to say, in these countries 

there are too many Jews and they have too much of the money. Their wealth and influence in these 

countries is far greater than it ever was in Germany. When the wealth and power of the Jews passes 

a certain point – and this nearly always happens in countries where there is widespread and 

wretched poverty among the native population – a bitter and surging resentment begins to form 

among the non-Jewish inhabitants which may long be repressed but must ultimately break through. 

It is the age-old instinct of self-preservation. 

Now, Rumania is to me one of the most interesting countries in Europe, because here two smashing 

blows have been dealt against anti-Semitism; the first blow was felt as a setback and the second as 

a deliberate affront by Germany; and the King’s companion is Madame Lupescu. This is a situation 

which, as I think, is one day likely to produce dramatic consequences. 

The first blow, as I wrote in Insanity Fair, was dealt against Octavian Goga, the Prime Minister 

whom King Carol put in power, in response to the rapidly growing strength of the Iron Guard and 

the clamant public desire, to introduce moderate restrictive measures against the Jews. 

M. Goga’s moderate anti-Semitism was disastrous, as always in Rumania, to himself. What a Great 

Power might do, a small power might not. America, France and England formed a diplomatic 

battle-front against Goga. 

Octavian Goga was the first man to feel the full weight of the international Jewish counter- 

offensive. He was overthrown with effortless case. Put into office by the King to do certain things, 

he was dropped cold after six weeks of doing them, and went, saying bitterly, ‘Judah has won’. A 

few weeks later he died, on the Riviera. 

Germany regarded that event as a political setback. Just as she considered Czecho-Slovakia, in 

alliance with France and Soviet Russia, to be a potential military danger to her, so did she consider 

Rumania, after the Goga episode, as a Balkan stronghold of the Jewish front against Germany, the 

main centres of which, as she thought, lay in France, England and America. 

But worse was to come. 

At this point, you need to consider Madame Lupescu and Corneliu Codreanu. In Insanity Fair

deliberately abstained from discussing Madame Lupescu. Men’s private lives are their own, and I 

had neither any personal interest in this matter nor did I think it politically important enough to 

demand mention. But now things have changed, and you cannot discuss the European line-up, from 

the Rumanian angle, without mentioning Madame Lupescu. 

I have never seen Madame Lupescu. Few Rumanians have seen her. All know about her. I cannot 

make any categorical statements about her. What is known about her, for certain, is that she has for 

many years been the King’s confidante, that she is the only person with whom he completely 

relaxes – and that she is a Jewess. The agitation of the Iron Guard, and of many politicians outside 

the Iron Guard, was directed against her. I cannot say from personal knowledge what influence she 

wields. People in Rumania who should know say that if a Rumanian official wishes to advance 

quickly in his career, or a business man in his undertakings, he is more likely to do so if Madame 

Lupescu is well disposed towards him. If you ask them about her political influence, they either say 

that they do not know or that they doubt whether she has any (this with the exception of the 

opposition politicians). 

But even this, as it seems to me, is not of paramount importance. The decisive thing is that Madame 

Lupescu is a Jewess, that she stands at the King’s side, that the King’s major problem is to keep his 

relations sweet with a fanatically anti-Jewish Reich – and that only in Rumania has an anti-Jewish 

pro-German leader been killed. Bear in mind that the Reich does not believe in the theory of 

unpremeditated and sporadic acts of Jewish vengeance, but believes that every Jew throughout the 

world is working to bring about war between the anti-Jewish Reich and the Powers that are not 

anti-Jewish, and you will begin to see the great difficulties that lie ahead of King Carol. 

This brings us to Corneliu Codreanu, son of a Polish father and a German mother, leader of the Iron 

Guard, a dark and fanatical figure, whose followers throughout Rumania looked to him with the 

same mystic adoration that many Germans have for Hitler. Up to the time of Goga’s Government 

the Iron Guard was gaining ground day and night. At the polls, it might in the end have swept the 

country. When King Carol dismissed Goga and suppressed political parties, Codreanu seemed to 

think the game was up, or he thought his life to be in danger, or he decided on a bluff. 

He announced that he would retire from politics and withdraw to Italy. He was not allowed to leave 

the country. Instead, he was arrested and put on trial for treason. Evidence was produced that he 

was in German pay. A man who was present at the trial – a Jew, incidentally – told me that he was 

dubious about that evidence. It consisted of an incriminating document said to have been found on 

Codreanu’s desk – and such men do not leave treaties with foreign powers lying about. No doubt 

exists about Codreanu’s sympathy for Hitlerist National Socialism, about his wish to introduce a 

Rumanian form of it in his own country. 

He was sentenced to ten years penal servitude, which, as such rigorous confinement goes in 

Rumania, he was not expected to survive. He disappeared into prison. 

Now came the dramatic sequel, a thing unlooked-for and extraordinary, that overclouds all 

German-Rumanian relations and will yet bear sinister fruit – the killing of Codreanu. This infuriated 

Hitler and was regarded by National Socialist Germany as the second great victory for the 

international Jewish counter-offensive, as a Jewish-inspired blow at Germany and the friends of 

Germany. Nothing will ever make those German leaders believe, if I know anything of them, that 

this was just a domestic Rumanian episode, a thing done in the sole interests of inner-Rumanian 

law and order. That may be the truth, who knows? But they will not believe it, and that is the 

important thing. 

When a Gustloff is killed in Switzerland, a vom Rath in Paris, a Codreanu in Rumania, they feel 

themselves directly menaced – and it makes them furious. Behind the revolver they do not see a 

half-crazed Jewish youth, or a Rumanian king determined to be master in his own house: they see 

the Jews of the world, working unremittingly for the downfall of the anti-Jewish Reich. 

You will remember how King Carol came to London just before Christmas 1938. You will 

remember that Guildhall banquet, the great reception at the Rumanian Legation. 

Then King Carol went on to Germany, visited Hitler at Berchtesgaden. The pictures showed a most 

affable Führer welcoming the King on the steps of that historic Bavarian chalet. Rumania was then 

thought to stand high in the good graces of Berchtesgaden because, while the jackals were busy 

with Czecho-Slovakia, King Carol had refused to listen to Polish and Hungarian proposals for the 

complete partitioning of Ruthenia, a small strip of which Germany wished to remain between 

Poland and Hungary. 

Who knows what passed at that interview? Only two or three men. Did Hitler say to King Carol, as 

he said to Schuschnigg, ‘The domestic conditions of Rumania, your Majesty, are no concern of 

mine’? For just at that moment the domestic conditions of Rumania were boiling up. With the 

obvious intention of embarrassing the King while he was in London and Berchtesgaden, the Iron 

Guard, to show that they still lived and were strong, had been burning synagogues, breaking shop 

windows. At Corneliu Codreanu’s trial the evidence had been produced which purported to show 

that he was in German pay. Shadows overhung the Berchtesgaden interview. 

If Hitler did say that, he meant, ‘I shall not say what your Majesty is or is not to do about the Iron 

Guard. That is your Majesty’s own affair, and I should never dream of interfering in the domestic 

affairs of another country. Of course, if your Majesty wishes for my friendship, your Majesty will 

know what not to do.’ 

King Carol returned to Rumania. He was met, with full reports about the Iron Guard’s exploits, by 

his Minister of the Interior, Armand Calinescu. 

What did the King say, at this second interview? ‘Take what measures you think fit,’ perhaps. 

Again, only two or three men know. 

Codreanu and his men were shot. While trying to escape. In all the circumstances, a staggering 

thing. They could have been condemned to death by a court martial, earlier, and shot, after trial. 

But now? Immediately after Berchtesgaden? For a few days the German press was non-committal. 

You could almost hear, in that silence, the Propaganda Ministry in Berlin asking itself ‘What on 

earth? What can have happened at Berchtesgaden? Is it possible that – no, perish the thought. What 

shall we tell the papers to say?’ 

Then the storm broke, an outburst of furious anger against the King, against Madame Lupescu, 

against the Jews. 

There you have the background of that parade in a vacuum, the closely guarded streets, the 

shuttered windows. 

The Iron Guard is crushed. For the first time, resolute men had shown that a Fascist leader, with his 

halo of infallibility and almost immortality, was but a man like other men. It was a knock-out blow. 

Codreanu, as he told in his book, had shot the Police Chief of Jassy, whom he held to favour the 

Jews. He was shot. Three of his followers had been sentenced to lifelong imprisonment for 

murdering the Liberal Prime Minister Duca, whom they held to favour the Jews. They were shot. 

Ten of his henchmen had been sentenced to imprisonment for murdering one of his own former 

chief lieutenants, Stelescu, whom they held to have turned traitor to the cause. They were shot. 

Only oxygen administered from outside the frontier can revive the Iron Guard. Will it be given? 

King Carol means to be master in his own house. The whole lesson of what has happened is that if 

any Great Power wishes to negotiate with Rumania, it must negotiate with him, not with this or that 

Leader of the people. All things are possible in politics, and it may be just possible that, if Rumania 

falls into line, the shooting of Codreanu will be forgotten. But, from what I know of the German 

leaders, I think it doubtful in this particular case. They felt it too much as a direct challenge to 

themselves. 

If anyone still thinks of Rumanians as weaklings, he is wrong. Consider Armand Calinescu. 

Theorists say that very small men try by great energy to prove themselves greater than their stature. 

They may be right, I don’t know; I am small myself. Armand Calinescu’s story goes to support their 

theory. 

He is very small, always smiles, and for some reason wears a dark monocle over his left eye. It is 

very difficult to know what a man is thinking who always smiles and of whose eyes you can see 

only one. But he has certainly given many proofs of resolution. He smashed Communism, what 

there was of it, in Rumania. He sent troops, in 1932, against sit-down-striking Bucharest 

railwaymen, and made them sit up; about thirty, if I remember rightly, were killed. At the trials of 

Iron Guard leaders, when other politicians were hedging and risk-covering by pleading for 

understanding and talking of patriotic motives, he, a lawyer in his beginnings, delivered a smashing 

attack on them. He spoke openly, as none other dared to do, of help being given to the Iron Guard 

by foreign powers. 

And now? Now, a camel might as easily pass through the eye of a needle as an unauthorized visitor 

into the building where the Minister of the Interior sits, guarded by police and soldiers and plain- 

clothes men. 

Great decisions, great changes loom ahead for Rumania, and King Carol approaches his most 

difficult times. As his latest attempt to weld the State together, he has introduced a semi-Fascist 

system – as Schuschnigg did, as Hungary is doing – with one monopolistic party, uniforms, Fascist 

salutes, greetings, and all the rest. But these systems, to function successfully, have to grow out of 

the people, they cannot be grafted on from above. If King ‘Carol’s problems were only domestic, 

the future would be clear; but his problem is external, and it is called Germany. 

Germany is angry, about Codreanu. She has many means of squeezing Rumania, if Rumania does 

not fall into line. She could support Hungary’s claim to Transylvania, Bulgaria’s claim to the 

Dobrudja. She could work through the large German minority in Rumania, which has already 

claimed and obtained a privileged place, under its local Henlein, the former Austro-Hungarian 

officer, Fritz Fabritius. She might, but whisper this, administer oxygen to the Iron Guard. If 

Germany decided to embark on the Great Ukrainian project, this would threaten Rumania too, 

because a small part of that phantom state now belongs to Rumania. German domination inevitably 

lies ahead. What is King Carol’s place in it to be? 

The Jews have seen the red light and are learning English, transferring their money to England, 

preparing in a hundred ways to try and get to England. As yet, nothing has happened to them, apart 

from insignificant local measures which have made practically no impression on the major 

problem. The King and his Government are seeking to solve the problem by humane and 

reasonable measures, by bringing about the emigration of one or two hundred thousand Jews and 

thus redressing the balance to some extent. Strangely, the Jews will not help in such measures as 

these. While I was in Bucharest a meeting was called of about thirty of the richest Jews in 

Rumania, under the chairmanship of a Jewish banker, to discuss means of collaborating with the 

Government in this aim. The basis of the discussion was that restrictive measures were sooner or 

later inevitable and that the best thing, in the common interest, would be for the Jewish community 

to work with the Government in devising, financing and organizing the emigration of a substantial 

number of Jews. To this end, the banker proposed that the wealthy Jews should contribute ten per 

cent of their fortunes. If they did not, he said, anti-Jewish measures would ultimately come anyway, 

and it would be better to take the edge off them by collaborating with the Government and getting 

the thing done in a creditable and efficient manner. 

The proposal was turned down flat. None of his hearers would consider it. 

Unlike Czecho-Slovakia, which since Munich has come to despise France, unlike Yugoslavia, 

which distrusted France years ago and acted accordingly, the heart of Rumania is still with France. 

Still, French newspapers and periodicals outnumber all others, still the Galeries Lafayette and 

Hachette’s and the Arc de Triomphe and the Haussmann-like boulevards and the miniature Bois tell 

of distant Paris, still the little society of Bucharest speaks French when it goes to dine in the 

evening at Capsa’s. 

But how little relationship has this life of Bucharest to that of outer Rumania, where the peasant 

masses live in poverty often abject. Of them, the world never hears. Their lot, like that of the 

English slum-dwellers, the English unemployed, the derelicts in the English distressed areas, the 

peasant masses in Hungary and Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, the peasants and workers in Spain, the 

submerged masses in France, this is the thing you should shout about every day and seek to alter. 

Instead of that, you waste your substance on the irrelevant and infuriating yap for or against the 

Jews, that goes on and on for ever. 

It is a transition period in Rumania, with the shadow of Germany looming ever larger and nearer. 

When I left Bucharest I travelled by night. The snow was nearly gone, in the darkness the 

countryside, dazzlingly white when I came, was now black. But as I watched, a faint pink glow 

spread over it, and this deepened and deepened until a flaming red glow lay over it all, with a ball 

of fire at the back, and the wheels of the train said oil, oil, oil, oil, oil. 

POSTSCRIPT 

Since I wrote this chapter, the war between Gentiles about anti-Semitism has produced further 

casualties. Codreanu’s chief lieutenant and successor, the university professor Vasile Cristescu, who 

escaped from transport to a concentration camp during the summer of 1938 and for months 

afterwards conducted the Iron Guard’s campaign from hiding, was located in a house in Bucharest 

and shot by police, after killing one and wounding two police officers. His deputy and potential 

successor, the lawyer David Mircea, also died, and was stated to have committed suicide. A 

Rumanian army lieutenant, Nicolaus Dumitrescu, who was serving at the Military Chemical 

Institute, was arrested with seventeen Iron Guards, on a charge of manufacturing flame-throwers 

for use in civil warfare, and he too was said to have died by his own hand.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Three 

MAGYARLAND AGAIN 

On a January day I sat in a train bound for Budapest and my eyes wandered at random about the 

carriage I was in. It was an unusually comfortable and pleasant one and the seats were upholstered, 

not in the dreary and nondescript browns and reds and greens that usually exhaust the resources of 

the railway-carriage decorator, but in a pleasant grey stuff with a flowered pattern on it. Something 

in that pattern fixed my attention. Where had I seen it before? It was a pattern of three flowers, red, 

blue and white. Suddenly I remembered. It was the national device of Austria, something far more 

fitting as a national emblem for that country than the red-white-red flag which it was wont to hoist 

on high days and holidays. Gentian, edelweiss, almenrausch. Everywhere in Austria you had seen 

that motif, on china and glass and textiles, and everywhere you went in Austria you saw those three 

flowers. I well remember the joy with which I first found them growing, in Austria. 

Then I looked about the carriage and saw, on the white cushion-covers, the letters O.B.B. – 

Oesterreichische Bundesbahnen, or Austrian State Railways. Here, by chance, I had found a little 

piece of old Austria on wheels. 

Old memories sprang to life. I thought of Vienna, of my rooms, of my office, of Linz, of the 

Wienerwald, of the Salzkammergut. With a shock, I remembered that a year before, almost to the 

day, I had been in Budapest, and Schuschnigg had then been there too, still as Austrian Chancellor. 

Schuschnigg! The name now seemed like a dim echo from a remote past. 

I thought, as I looked at those three flowers, how much had happened in less than a year. Germany, 

with a sword in one hand and Mein Kampf in the other, was going ahead fast, too fast for the old 

men in other countries who would not listen to warnings, who thought they knew better. England, 

with an umbrella in one hand and Mein Gamp in the other, was moving as fast to disaster. 

Never, I thought, as I contemplated the gentian, the edelweiss and the almenrausch, had a great 

empire been put in jeopardy with such levity and irresponsibility. The plight of England, at the 

beginning of 1939, reminded me of that of the drowning Frenchman, who could not master his 

English tenses, and cried ‘I will drown, nobody shall save me’. England, or at all events England’s 

leaders, seemed implacably bent on self-destruction. 

Thinking this, I took up my paper, which told me that Franco was at the gates of Barcelona. It 

seemed – though in Spain you could never be certain – that nothing could now prevent Franco’s 

victory. With a feeling of hopelessness, I reflected that England’s influence, from the beginning of 

that war, had been exerted to bring about his victory. 

In the name of ‘sanctions’, arms had been withheld from the Abyssinians. In the name of ‘non- 

intervention’, arms and food had been withheld from the Spanish Republicans. In the name of ‘self- 

determination’, the Czechs had been forced to capitulate. England’s leaders said every day that 

England was in danger, that she must rearm and rearm, and yet they forced ally after ally to 

capitulate. 

It was beyond rhyme or reason. I gave it up, and turned my thoughts to the three flowers, and to 

days in Austria. I thought of myself, bare-kneed, bare-headed and bare-throated, wandering through 

Austrian woods, climbing Austrian hills, tobogganing with wild halloo down the run on the 

Semmering, lying anchored to a boulder in a shallow but swift-running mountain stream, singing in 

a wine-garden heavy with the scent of flowers. If I had been born in another age, I might have 

known many years of that. But now, I sat in a railway carriage, with only those three flowers, 

woven into the cloth, to remind me of all that, and travelled towards a future that held little cheer 

for any Englishman. 

I was glad, at the next halt on that journey, to dip my spirit for a few days into the beauty of 

Budapest, so that it revived a little. Vienna; Prague; Budapest. These are, for me, the three best 

cities in Europe. The old Austrian Empire was the only one that ever made a success, for long, of 

governing large areas of Europe, of reconciling peoples of a dozen races and tongues. The wrong 

empire was broken up, or broke itself up, after the World War, but its legacy still lives on. 

What started that process of decay which began with the coming of Napoleon and ended with the 

coming of Hitler, and why was it inevitable, or was it inevitable? I don’t suppose it was inevitable. 

The war or the humiliation to which England seems to be moving is not inevitable; only the 

irresolution, the apathy, the obstinacy, the class-obsession, the dogged refusal to do anything about 

anything, of England’s leaders make them inevitable. It was the same with Austria. The condition of 

England and the Empire to-day are appallingly reminiscent of Austria before the war, as I wrote in 

Insanity Fair. But history teaches no lessons, the old men, armoured in their conceit, go their way 

and mistake the plaudits of a packed House, the praise of autograph-hunting letter-writers, the hear- 

hear of a well-wined Guildhall audience, for the verdict of the world that they are right – until 

disaster proves them wrong, and even then they don’t admit it. 

What stirring of the emotions, what fluttering of the dovecots, I found in the Budapest to which I 

returned. I wrote in Insanity Fair that if Czechoslovakia went, Hungary would go too, and earlier in 

this book I wrote of the feeling of suspense, akin to that I knew in Vienna, which I found in 

Hungary after the fall of Austria and before the fall of Czecho-Slovakia. 

Now Munich lay far behind and in Hungary, although the placid and lovely outer scene remained 

unchanged, hopes and fears and passions were beating against each other below the surface. 

Germany was at the gates. 

At the dictate of Germany and Italy, Hungary had recovered a large area of territory from Czecho- 

Slovakia, and you might have expected that this would have strengthened affection for Germany in 

Hungarian hearts. You would be wrong. I never found in Hungary so much anti-German feeling. 

Why? Well, the Hungarians, if they have a fault, tend to give too little and ask too much, and they 

were very angry that Germany had not given them the whole of Ruthenia, and therewith the 

common (and anti-German) frontier with Poland, and that Germany had occupied two Hungarian 

villages on the outskirts of Bratislava, the Slovak capital and the only Czecho-Slovak Danubian 

port, which before the war had been under Hungarian overlordship. 

The clear meaning of this move was that if Bratislava were in future to pass from Slovak into 

foreign ownership, the new owner would be Germany, and not Hungary, and this made many Hun 

arians very angry. For Hungary, though not unprepared to be swallowed by Germany, counted on 

occupying a privileged place in the stomach of the Reich, as she had in that of the Habsburg 

Empire, with rights of overlordship over Slovaks, Croats and others, and now this expectation 

seemed likely to be disappointed. 

So Hungary, though she had obtained a large piece of territory free, gratis and for nothing and 

without any personal effort at all, was feeling disgruntled with Germany, and as the first mark of 

this feeling the veteran Foreign Minister, Kánya, had to go, one of the trio, Horthy, Imrédy and 

Kánya, of whom I told you earlier, and to whom the aristocrats and the church and the Jews looked 

to save them from Hitler. He was succeeded by Count Stephen Csáky, a dapper little ex-naval 

officer with a bristling moustache and a genial smile, who immediately paid the orthodox visit to 

Herr Hitler. There he was placed in that familiar, rather uncomfortable chair in the middle of the 

room, while around him, in deep and comfortable chairs, rather like a board of examiners, sat Hitler 

and Hitler’s advisers, and they turned on the beat, as the saying is, and Count Csáky came back to 

Budapest, and Hungary joined the Anti-Comintern Pact. 

To sit in that chair in the middle of the room, with the third-degree men around you, is an 

experience that I don’t envy any Foreign Minister of a small state. Soon after, Dr. Emil 

Chvalkovsky, the Czecho-Slovak Foreign Minister, went through it. You feel rather like the lemon 

in the lemon-squeezer; the pressure increases and increases, and the pips squeak and squeak. 

Eventually, what Germany wants from these states is a full military, political and customs alliance, 

and she will get it. That means that they must fight for Germany in war, work for Germany in 

peace, and support all German policy. 

With that adherence to the Anti-Comintern Pact, Hungary has already taken a decisive step. 

Politically and militarily, she is already in the position of a German province. But in her home 

politics, her domestic affairs, the German influence has as yet hardly begun to make itself felt, and 

this is a thing that interests me very much. I am quite clear that Germany will insist on and obtain 

full control over these countries; that is, she will have a monopoly of their products and markets, if 

she wants it, and the use of their armies. But how far will she insist on the application of National 

Socialist political doctrine and methods within these countries? Will she leave them a certain 

freedom in this matter, or will she demand the rigorous introduction of the anti-Jewish laws, the 

abolition of all political parties but one, and the like? 

That is not yet clear. In Czecho-Slovakia, Germany has been pressing in this direction, and the 

slowness of the Czechs in yielding was the cause for several delays in Dr. Chvalkovsky’s visit to 

Berlin. In Austria, the Germans seem to have made all the traditional German mistakes. They have 

never flattered the Austrian tradition or the great achievements of Austria, never admitted that the 

Austrians were a separate Germanic people, done none of the things that would have appealed to 

the Austrian heart. The whole burden of the German song was that the Austrians were indolent and 

inefficient, that they were Germans, not Austrians, and must learn to be exactly like the Germans in 

the Reich. The iron hand! With these methods the Germans may breed a mass of subterranean 

antagonism to themselves which in the long run – but only in the long run – will be dangerous to 

them. 

While Hungary waited to see what Germany would demand in these directions, a remarkable thing 

happened in Hungary. Béla de Imrédy, the Prime Minister, another of the trio I have just 

mentioned, came out with a Hungarian patriotic and racial movement. He called it ‘Hungarian Life’, 

as far as the title can be translated, and the inaugural meeting was just like a Hitlerist meeting 

translated into Hungarian. There were the banners, the Hungarian national colours with the sacred 

stag of old Hungarian mythology superimposed. There were the Storm Troops, with befrogged 

jackets and gold-betasselled black ties and white shirts and knee boots and feathered hats. There 

was the newfangled salute – the hand on the heart, rather a good one this, it’s at least a change from 

the upraised arm. 

And there, on the platform, was The Leader, Béla de Imrédy, with a programme of land for the 

landless, and work for the workless, and social betterment for the poor, and the cultivation of the 

military spirit and Hungarian patriotism and anti-Semitism. Beside him was Andor Jaross, the 

leader of the Hungarians from recovered Upper Hungary. He, too, was a thorn in the side of the Old 

Regime in Budapest. In Upper Hungary, under the Czechs, the peasants had been given land, the 

workers social insurance. Jaross himself, in his campaign against the Czechs, had been the ally of 

the Henleinists, of Hitler’s Nazis. He bluntly intimated, when he came to Budapest, that the 

liberated Upper Hungarians did not want to be depressed to the level of the masses in Trianon 

Hungary; they wanted the masses in Trianon Hungary to be brought up to the level of the liberated 

Upper Hungarians. 

A shiver and a shock went through the embattled Old Regime in Budapest, which had so 

effortlessly re-established its hold on Hungary after the World War. Their bitterness vented itself 

particularly on Imrédy, who had been called to power as the last hope of saving Hungary from 

Hitler, and was now coming all over Hitler, and was beginning to have a very good press in 

Germany. Six months before, they had said ‘We put our money on Imrédy’, and in reference to his 

rather aquiline features said that he looked like Savonarola. Now, they went about saying that he 

was a Jew! 

This led to a most interesting development. I wrote earlier in this book that Imrédy is the 

Magyarised form of Heinrich, and that this indicated Germanic origins. Accused of having Jewish 

blood, Béla de Imrédy, on the public platform, produced wedding and baptismal certificates for 

three generations back, which showed that his origins were indeed predominantly Germanic. His 

paternal grandfather was a Heinrich, his maternal grandfather was a Zenger from the Palatinate, his 

maternal grandmother was a Nepomuk from Herr Hitler’s home country, and so on, and, a comic 

touch, the baptismal certificate of his maternal grandfather, made out in Vienna more than a 

century ago, bore the remark ‘Valid only as proof of Aryan origin’. 

So you see that some of Hitler’s ideas are not so newfangled. 

Hungary is a strangely remote country, in some ways, and I found some amusement, in a grim 

world, in the stupefaction with which the Old Regime in Budapest regarded this new venture of the 

man who was to save them from Hitler. Imrédy, they now said venomously, was feeling the call of 

his German blood. But actually Imrédy was trying to do only what Papen had tried to do in 

Germany, Dollfuss and Schuschnigg in Austria, what Goga had failed to do in Rumania and what 

King Carol was now trying to do there – to steal the thunder of the extremists, and retain his hold on 

power, by doing some things they clamoured for, by making some concession to the undoubted 

public desire for these things. 

It is a device that has always failed until now, but who knows? In Hungary the ‘Hungarist’ 

movement (National Socialism on a Hungarian basis) is strong. Its Leader, the ex-officer Major 

Franz Szalasi, still lies in prison, and since I had left Budapest Count Louis Szechenyi, detested of 

his class, had gone to join him there. If the fight remained a purely domestic Hungarian one, if the 

ring were kept, ‘Hungarism’ was crushed, as the Iron Guard was crushed in Rumania. Oxygen 

administered from beyond the frontier alone could revive it. Would this be given? There, again, you 

have the question, how far will Germany go in insisting on the co-ordination of domestic political 

life, in the countries she dominates, with her own? Coming months will give the answer. 

Meanwhile the Old Regime – doughty foes, who have kept their hold on Hungary through thick and 

thin since Hungary was born, with comparatively recent reinforcement by the Jews – were girding 

their loins to meet the new challenge to their rule. The main opposition to Imrédy came from the 

Jews, but they did not appear in the open. The visible champions were aristocrats and big 

landowners, like Count Stephen Bethlen, and clerical publicists. With one accord they raised the 

cry that racial theories must not be introduced in the land of the Holy Crown and in the thousand- 

year-old-Kingdom and in Liberal Hungary and this and that. What did the landless peasants in the 

countryside and the poverty-stricken workers in the towns think about it? Ah, echo answers, what? 

Surveying the affluence and influence of the Jews, and their monopolistic hold on the trade and 

commerce of the land, they might have thought, if they thought at all, that theories of racial 

exclusiveness had already been introduced in Hungary. But their voice is never heard. The battle 

was joined in Budapest. 

When I went back to Budapest, in January 1939, the second anti-Jewish law had been introduced. 

The first, as I wrote earlier in this book, on paper restricted the share of the Jews in business and 

commercial undertakings, and in the professions, to twenty per cent. The second purported to 

reduce it to six per cent, but, when I was in Budapest, seemed likely to be vetoed by the Regent, 

Admiral Horthy. In practice, nothing had happened to the Jews, who continued to dominate the 

scene. The power of the Jews is so great that when some mild anti-Jewish law, of little practical 

effect, is passed in this or that country, the entire world press starts shouting at the top of its voice 

about ‘Anti-Semitism in Hungary’, ‘Anti-Semitism in Rumania’, or the like. In this exasperating and 

misleading din, the things that ought to be discussed and need to be remedied, like the lot of the 

poverty-stricken masses in these countries, are completely lost sight of. 

I have told you earlier in this book that the pity-the-poor-Jew cry is becoming a dangerous racket. 

Hungary provides the best possible illustration that I can give you of this. The first anti-Semitic law 

was introduced in the spring of 1938. It had many loopholes, which you would hardly have noticed 

at all unless you were a student of these things, and it was in any case due to take effect only after 

four years. Immediately a worldwide shriek of ‘Anti-Semitism in Hungary’ went up to heaven. 

Nothing at all happened to the Jews, and long before the first anti-Semitic bill could take effect, 

long before it was possible to see whether it was meant to have any effect (for I may tell you, in 

strict confidence, that it was actually prepared in collaboration between the Government and the 

Jews), it was cancelled by the second anti-Semitic bill. Immediately a worldwide shriek of ‘Even 

more terrible anti-Semitism in Hungary’ arose to heaven. Nothing happened to the Jews. As I write, 

the bill has not even got through its committee stage and when it reaches parliament seems certain 

to be emasculated, if not vetoed, by the Regent, Admiral Horthy, himself. 

Whether anything ever really happens to the Jews in Hungary depends entirely on Germany, and 

whether she demands it. Left to herself, Hungary will pass ten anti-Semitic bills, and nothing will 

happen to the Jews, though the world, instructed by the Jewish press, will grow hoarse in shrieking 

‘Anti-Semitism in Hungary’. 

The fact that the new anti-Jewish bill in Hungary was the second caused the Jews to make 

preparations to leave. If this was the second bill, they argued, a third bill may come, and a fourth, 

and at the fifth or sixth something may happen to us. So they were besieging the foreign legations 

and consulates, and getting acquaintances in England to write them letters inviting them to England 

for ‘a month’s visit’, and the pengo had slumped on the black bourse from 30 to 60, 65 and 70 and 

more. 

You may not understand this last cryptic remark. Let me explain. The Jews in all these countries 

have been transferring their money abroad, particularly to England, in recent months. They think 

that Hitler is coming and they are getting ready to go. But the transfer of their money abroad is 

illegal; all these countries have introduced legislation against it. A way has to be found. A foreigner 

is sought, say an Englishman, who has payments to make in Budapest, or Bucharest, or Prague. He 

is given for his sterling, say, 35 pengoes, instead of the official rate of 26. In return, he credits the 

sterling equivalent to his Jewish acquaintance’s account in London. But the competition is great, 

another Jew offers more, and so the rate rises and rises. In Budapest, as I write, pounds can be sold 

for 70 pengoes instead of 26, in Bucharest for 1700 lei instead of 850, in Prague for 450 kronen 

instead of 140, in Belgrade for 310 dinars instead of 250, and so on, and so on. 

By this means, you may lose some of your fortune, but you pave a golden road to England, where 

you may quickly make good the loss. 

I sat in Budapest and talked about these things with a Hungarian nobleman, a charming and 

cultivated man who was in the van of the opposition to Imrédy, who hated the thought of a 

Hungary in vassaldom to Germany. Under the new law, which provided that Jews and half-Jews 

should hold a separate miniature election and return six per cent of the members of Parliament, 

bishops and priests would have to vote, he said, as half-breeds at the Jewish election. The priest of 

his own parish, he added, was a full-blooded Jew. How could you introduce racial theories in 

Hungary, he asked? In the aristocracy the blood of a score of races was inextricably mingled. His 

own family was an example. ‘I don’t care much about Jews’, he said, ‘but all my humane instincts 

revolt at the thought of this discrimination. Where could you find a pure-blooded Hungarian, a pure 

Magyar? Only in the villages, if at all.’ 

Now that is absolutely true, and I have written something of the sort earlier in this book. The 

Hungarians have become inextricably crossbred. As far as pure-bred Hungarians exist, they are 

among the poor peasantry. But it seems to me that the original inhabitants of the land ought to be 

the first, not the last, to have a claim on compassion and consideration. Nobody ever thought of 

protesting when discrimination was exercised against them. Serfdom and bondage were things 

which revolted nobody’s humane feelings – and they are still scarcely free of them. 

A restless, surging, bewildered Hungary, that I came back to in January 1939. The shape of things 

to come was not yet clear. German domination? Yes, that much was clear. But the Hungarian 

household itself, the landless peasants, the poverty-stricken workers, the rich Jews, the entrenched 

landlords, the powerful Church – what was going to happen about them? Were changes, 

improvements, better times coming at long last for the submerged masses? Or would the ruling 

class, as in England, by some deft trick keep power in its hands, smother the distress of the masses 

for another decade, another fifty years, another century? 

The answer lies in the hands of Germany, and will soon be clear to see. 

With much regret, I came away. If I may not live in Austria, I would like to live in Hungary, at 

some little Danube-side town, between Budapest and Esztergom. I love those Hungarian skies, 

those Hungarian fields, now that I know them. 

But in Insanity Fair you never can stop anywhere long enough to pitch your tent. The four 

horsemen, war, famine, pestilence and death, are already on the prowl, accompanied by their girl 

friends, the four horsewomen, envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness. Not more tranquil, but 

more turbulent years lie ahead. At the end of them-what? As far as I can see, some quite different 

order of society from that we have known. But in the near future, quite certainly, turmoil, 

turbulence, tumult – Insanity Fair at its craziest. No time for Danubian dreams, Danubian idylls, a 

white house with a green vine. 

POSTSCRIPT 

As this book approaches publication, one of the strangest things has happened that I have ever seen, 

even in Insanity Fair – the resignation of Béla de Imrédy from the Hungarian Premiership because 

of his discovery that he has Jewish blood. I have told in this book how Imrédy, a man of 

predominantly German descent, was called to power by the aristocratic-landowning-clerical-Jewish 

regime as the last hope of saving Hungary from some form of National Socialism; how in course of 

time he himself came to feel strongly that land-for-the-landless, work-for-the-workless, and 

restriction of the Jewish influence were essential for Hungary; how he then attempted to call into 

being a movement, ‘Hungarian Life’, to bring about these things; and how the Old Regime in 

Budapest, which had effortlessly reimposed its rule on Hungary after a world war, turned on and 

prepared to rend him. 

One of the weapons they used against him was the suggestion that he himself had Jewish blood, 

and I have also told in this book how he disproved this by producing birth and baptismal 

certificates for his parents and grandparents. The rumours, however, were not stilled, and a month 

later Imrédy announced that he had made further researches and had discovered that his maternal 

great-great-grandparents were actually Jewish and had been baptized Christians with their son, his 

maternal great-grandfather, in the year 1814. Imrédy stated that he still firmly believed the policy 

he had advocated to be essential for Hungary. But in these circumstances he would not pursue it 

further himself, and he resigned. His overthrow, like that of Octavian Goga in Rumania a year 

earlier, was the result of the powerful Jewish opposition, in Hungary and abroad, and was another 

setback, for how long cannot yet be foretold, to the German desire to see restrictive measures 

against the Jews adopted in other countries. By a strange freak of chance, the first man who ever 

tried seriously to tackle the Jewish problem in Hungary had himself Jewish blood, three generations 

back.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Four 

 

BELGRADE BURLESQUE 

 

I stood in a little pavilion in the Kalimegdan Park, in Belgrade, and watched Count Ciano, the son- 

in-law of Mussolini and incidentally the Foreign Minister of Italy, the man who had acquired a 

reputation for military valour by bombing Abyssinians, the man who, with his wife, Edda 

Mussolini, was regarded by the diplomats as the mainspring of the stand-or-fall-with-Germany 

group in Italy. Young, ruddy-cheeked, energetic, with an artificial strut and an artificial glower, as 

becomes the son-in-law of a dictator and the representative of a successful Fascist state. 

 

Prince Regent Paul and Milan Stoyadinovitch were there too. They were all smiles and affability as 

they greeted Mussolini’s son-in-law. The little pavilion in the Kalimegdan Park, where Ciano was 

to open an exhibition of Italian literature, was completely cut off from the population of Belgrade 

by cordons of police and gendarmes and plain-clothes men, and not one Belgrader in ten thousand 

saw his country’s honoured guest. But within the little pavilion itself all was most bonhomous and 

genial. Somebody had had a brilliantly original idea: a little girl with a bouquet (‘How sweet!’) 

greeted Count Ciano and said a piece in her childish lisp, and he in his deep and manly tones said 

‘Grazie’, and all the stern, we-are-the-men-who-count ministers and officials standing round broke 

into friendly mankind-loving smiles, and Count Ciano transferred the flowers to one of his 

bodyguard, and the Fascist babies, of both sexes, saluted and hailed him, and Prince Paul and Milan 

Stoyadinovitch accompanied him into the hall to open the exhibition. 

 

A few yards away from the pavilion, in the same Kalimegdan Park, was another building, and in 

this you could see the motor car, an ancient and unprepossessing vehicle, in which King Alexander 

of Yugoslavia was murdered at Marseilles just four years earlier. Normally used, before that time, 

for bringing the higher-grade swindlers and more expensive trollops of Marseilles to police 

headquarters, it was apparently the best the French were able to find for their royal guest on that 

October day in 1934, and as its highest speed was twenty miles an hour and the chauffeur had been 

instructed to keep it in first gear anyway, and it had a convenient running board, Vlada the 

Chauffeur, the gunman, who had been waiting among the crowd with his pockets bulging with 

bombs and revolvers, had no difficulty in carrying out his mission, and now that old motor car rusts 

in the museum in the Kalimegdan Park and you can see the bloodstains. 

 

A fitting sideshow in Insanity Fair, I think, the two buildings in the Kalimegdan Park, with the 

murdered King’s car in the one, and Count Ciano, Prince Regent Paul, Milan Stoyadinovitch, Italo- 

Yugoslav friendship, in the other. 

 

For some of the assassins, as I have already suggested, were trained and sheltered in Italy, and the 

chief of them retired to his villa there after the murder, and the request for his extradition was 

refused. When an outraged Yugoslavia brought her case before the League Council at Geneva, she 

was browbeaten by England and France into keeping out of it the name of Italy, whose foremost 

leaders must have known what was afoot, and the matter was written off with a rebuke to Hungary, 

who had played a comparatively minor part in the affair. For England and France were then 

determined that nothing should come between them and their efforts to placate Italy and keep her 

out of the German orbit, and the rights or grievances of a small state like Yugoslavia meant just as 

little to them then as the fate of Czechoslovakia meant to them four years later. The good Laval 

sidetracked the demands for justice of the outraged Boshko Yeftitch, the Foreign Minister who 

accompanied King Alexander to Marseilles, with the same effortless cynicism that was 

subsequently shown at Munich. 

 

‘Make friends with Italy,’ was the urgent advice to Yugoslavia. 

Well, four years have passed, and what have you now? Italy is not with France and England, but 

solidly in partnership with Germany. Yugoslavia, having tasted isolation, having tasted desertion, is 

the friend of Italy and Germany. She has followed the advice that was given her. She could do 

nothing else. During the sanctions period she made her last effort to keep in with England and 

France. At English invitation she joined the group of Mediterranean Powers pledged jointly to 

resist Italian aggression. Mussolini never forgot that, either, and when Abyssinia was conquered he 

set about to win the friendship of Yugoslavia, to ensure that he should never again be ringed about 

with foes in the Mediterranean. 

 

He has succeeded. Do not think that Prince Regent Paul, Milan Stoyadinovitch, or anyone else in 

Yugoslavia likes the policy which Yugoslavia is now forced to pursue. She can hope for no succour 

from the west, she is isolated between two great martial dictatorships, her only hope of survival is 

to be their friend. Thus does the Gadarene Gallop go on, that inexplicable sequence of blunder 

leading to blunder that has brought England to her present plight. 

 

Italy is now sure of the neutrality, at least, of her eastern neighbour, once the ally of France, in any 

European conflict. Simultaneously, she is helping Franco, her western neighbour, nearer and nearer 

to his victory in Spain. If and when that happens, the Mediterranean will probably be closed, in 

war, to England and France. I cannot see how France, if that happens, can make good her bold 

undertaking to keep Tunis, which Italy wants, by arms. She will be exposed to attack on three sides, 

instead of one as in the World War. Italy will sit athwart her troopship routes to and from Africa. 

The stage, if Franco wins, will be set for a joint Italo-German onslaught, by bluff or by arms, on 

France and England, which France and England may be too weak to resist. 

 

This favourable development in the Mediterranean may be the reason why, as I write in the early 

weeks of 1939, Germany seems to be soft-pedalling on her Eastern policy and turning towards the 

West. 

 

As I came out of the pavilion, the Kalimegdan Park was dark and empty, peopled only by the 

lurking figures of police and plain-clothes men. The adjoining streets were empty, too. The rulers 

of Yugoslavia, perforce, were making friends with Italy, because they had no choice. The people of 

Yugoslavia still had no affection for that policy, and did not see the causes which made it 

necessary. The police were taking no chances with their distinguished visitor, and the population 

was kept at a distance. Count Ciano, who told a little hand-picked audience that he had come to 

Yugoslavia to speak to the whole Yugoslav nation, saw very few Yugoslavs as he was escorted 

through the country inside a ring of police. 

 

But that was not important. The Kalimegdan Park might be empty, the neighbouring streets too, but 

Reasons of State were making policy inside the little pavilion among the trees, and the Reasons of 

State were the weakness of France and England and the strength of Germany and Italy. 

 

As this book goes to press Milan Stoyadinovitch has been overthrown by a group of his own 

Ministers, who resigned on the ground that he had not solved the Croat dispute, which I have 

discussed in Chapter 17 and which potentially threatens the existence of Yugoslavia. Their action is 

in itself an admission that the Croat crisis is serious, a thing they have always denied, but whether 

they will do anything about it is quite another question. For Stoyadinovitch became Prime Minister 

by exactly the same method: he overthrew his then chief, Boshko Yeftitch, by leading a group of 

Ministers who resigned on the ground that Yeftitch had not solved the Croat dispute. But in the 

event they themselves did nothing to solve it. Whether Belgrade now really sees the red light in 

Croatia, or whether this is just another redistribution of the sweets of office in Belgrade, is the 

question which the future will answer.  

*** 

Chapter Thirty Five 

BOHEMIA IN BONDAGE 

I drove out of Budapest, in my hired car, on a foul winter’s day, with the roads oozing mud and the 

rain trying to turn into snow, and set my course for liberated Upper Hungary, for Bratislava, Brünn 

and Prague, a long, long run, and I was shivering with half-cured influenza, and the fields which 

had looked so warm and friendly in the summer were now black and brown and bare and hostile, 

the horizon beckoned no invitation, beshawled peasants trudged along, bent before the wind and 

rain, the long, straight road lay before me like a muddy canal. 

I came to Komarom. The little town lies athwart the Danube, a bridge joining its two halves, and 

here, until the map-makers of Munich got to work, the frontier had run, the northern half of 

Komarom had been Czecho-Slovakia, and the southern half Hungary. 

I drove across the bridge and looked at liberated Komarom and found myself asking the old 

question, who whom? Who has liberated whom? Here was no free and laughing town. Here were 

the familiar signs of keep-your-mouth-shut, of gendarme-rule. In the little dining-room where I 

lunched, a large portrait of Admiral Horthy had been hung, I suppose in the place where Masaryk’s 

picture had formerly been. I asked the waiter, what languages are spoken here? He looked at me 

with suspicion at the back of his eyes (‘Is this a spy?’) and said non-committally, ‘We used to speak 

Slovak, Czech or German; now we speak Hungarian’, and hurried away; he had no wish to be 

questioned. 

In the streets the shopkeeper Alexander Klein, good Magyar, had changed the name over his 

windows to Kiss Sándor. Oh yeah, I thought. The shops of Bata, the great Czech shoemaker, had 

changed their name to Citka, and I wondered casually whether they had just been expropriated or 

bought out. A heavy and oppressive atmosphere lay over the town. The people, if you asked them a 

question in German, replied that they only spoke Hungarian, and needed a deal of friendly suasion 

to admit that they understood you. I thought of Czecho-Slovakia, before Munich, where there were 

dozens of German-language newspapers, where the Germans had their own German schools in 

every German district, where the Germans had their own party, were able to demonstrate and meet 

and discuss. I looked at Hungary, where no German-language newspapers were allowed, though 

some 600,000 Germans lived in the country, where there were hardly any German schools, no 

German political party, no political liberty for the Germans. 

Yet Hitler had crushed that Czechoslovakia, made this Hungary greater, restored large areas of 

Slovakia and Ruthenia to Hungarian rule! A strange world. 

I drove on, through one of the most desolate countrysides I have ever seen. True, it was a flat and 

barren land, a despondent winter’s day, with the dusk already lurking behind the surly clouds. But 

apart from all that, the place had a graveyard look. Suppression, oppression, repression, it said to 

me, as I bumped through it, my car rattling over the potholes, jets of mud spurting from beneath the 

wheels. The villages were few and far between, you hardly saw a soul. The Hungarians had taken 

down the Czech name-plates at the approaches to each village and had not yet replaced them with 

Hungarian ones. They had also taken down the Czech signposts. Presumably they would in time 

put up new ones, but for the nonce you drove through a nameless countryside. In the villages you 

saw shuttered shops, and I suppose they were those of Czechs, of Slovaks, or of Jews who had 

come to these districts from Czecho-Slovakia; the Jews from Hungary had been left alone. 

In the villages, too, groups of youths and men stood about, unprepossessing, muttering. I asked the 

Jew who filled my petrol tank why they were there, if some meeting or demonstration were afoot. 

He answered briefly ‘No work’, and busied himself with the pump to avoid further questions. 

With relief, as the dusk fell, I came to the frontier. I did not know at first that it was the frontier. It 

looked like a military outpost in Siberia, or something of that sort. The frontiers of Munich and 

Vienna are not being given much dignity; men do not seem to think they will last long. 

The figure of a Hungarian soldier, calling me to stop, loomed up on a long stretch of featureless 

road flanked by bare fields. I looked at him questioningly, wondering whether some new frontier 

brawl was in progress. Then he told me that he was the frontier. He had another soldier with him, 

they lived in a mud-and-log-cabin beside the road, and they were the frontier. 

I came then to the Slovak frontier, a real one, with an orthodox customs house, and beyond that, 

with much relief, I found another world, tidy and prosperous villages, clean and well-built houses, 

people bustling about, children skating and sliding and tobogganing, lights. This was Czecho- 

Slovakia, that had been destroyed in the name of ‘self-determination’; how much respect, I thought, 

have our rulers for phrases like ‘non-intervention’ and ‘self-determination’ when they advance the 

cause of great and predatory militarist states, and how little respect they have for other phrases, like 

‘the League of Nations’, ‘collective resistance to aggression’, ‘loyalty and honour’, when these 

threaten to stay the prowess of the grab-dictatorships. 

But as I drove on, hoping to reach Bratislava, the Slovak capital, in another half hour, I began to 

wonder whether I was dreaming, or whether I had by some mischance crossed the wrong frontier. I 

asked myself if it was possible that I had come to Germany, for I drove through a village called 

Mischdorf and then through two or three others with German names, and the swastika flag flew 

from every second or third house in them; Germany was celebrating some Hitlerist festival on that 

day, and these people were honouring it too. 

I was, to all effect, in Germany. I did, in another fifteen minutes, come to Bratislava, but these 

villages on the outskirts, where many Austrians live, as I subsequently learned, were in effect Reich 

colonies on Slovak soil. Imagine Italian flags flying from every house in Clerkenwell, or 

Palestinian flags flying from every second house in Hampstead, and you will have a picture of that 

scene – with the important difference that the parent state, Germany, is here only a mile or two 

away. 

By the occupation of the Danube bridgehead, and by the presence of these German villages on the 

further side of Bratislava, between the Slovak capital and Hungary, the Germans hold Bratislava in 

the hollow of their hand, just as they hold Bohemia and Moravia through the construction of the 

trans-Czecho-Slovakian road. Bratislava is the next downstream key-position on the Danube after 

Vienna, and the Hungarians hoped to get it after Munich. That dream has faded. It was ludicrous to 

me, after seeing those staunch German colonies around Bratislava, to think that the Hungarians 

should seriously hope to obtain it. 

I could not help but think, as I drove through those German settlements, independent Hitlerist 

islands in a foreign land, how good it must be to be a German to-day, to feel that your country 

watches over you, wherever you may be, that you have at your back a rock of granite. 

So I slept for a few hours and started out again, before dawn, for that long overland journey to 

Prague, and as I went I again felt admiration rising and rising in me for all that the Czechs had 

achieved in the brief twenty years of national freedom, after so many centuries of struggle, that was 

vouchsafed them. The best road, to Brünn, had been partly taken by the Germans, and I travelled 

over the second-best, but even at that it was a marvellous road, perfectly maintained and marked. It 

ran between vast fertile fields and well-tended forests, nowhere a keep-out-of-here board to be 

seen, through hamlets and villages and towns and cities each one of which vied with the other in 

the signs of prosperity and tidiness and thrift and progress. Hodonin, Slavkov, Brünn, Iglau (a 

German island), Kolin – nowhere in Europe, outside Germany, have I seen towns so well-found and 

well-stocked and well-built, and even in Germany I have not seen better. 

That this state, of all states, should have been sold into bondage by France and England is a crime 

beyond repair. These people had earned and deserved their liberty, in twenty years they had done 

more to vindicate it than England in centuries. Here men were free, as men are not free in England, 

because freedom was used for and not against the people, and still the good air of that freedom 

lingered on. Given another twenty or thirty years the small states of Danubian Europe, with 

Czechoslovakia in the van, would have been so firmly founded that the age-old rivalry of the 

predatory great powers to possess them would have ceased, we should have had our brave new 

Europe, for which so many millions died. Now they are to be reduced to the status of Central 

American republics, more decades, more centuries of darkness lie ahead, at Munich the light was 

put out. 

I came into Prague, and to the Wenceslas Platz in the dusk, and again my senses quickened in 

response to the beauty of that cityscape, the noble lines of the Platz – how well the Czechs built and 

build – the lights, the throngs of people, the teeming traffic. 

Again I found that strange paradox – a nation with bitterness buried deep in its heart, a city busier 

and more prosperous than any other in Europe east of the Rhine. The hotels were full, the shops 

packed, the streets filled with people. As yet, I cannot tell whether this is a passing phase, a 

clearance-sale boom, or whether Czecho-Slovakia, by some strange working of the unfathomable 

laws of trade and commerce, is going to wrest material prosperity from spiritual prostration. 

It is, as I write, a mystery, the solution of which will later be seen. Czecho-Slovakia was before 

Munich, and still is, one of the most abundant countries in Europe. In no other east of the Rhine 

have I seen, since the creeping paralysis of dictatorship and self-sufficient economies began to 

spread over Europe, shops so full of good and cheap food, poultry, the pig in all its posthumous 

forms, cheese, butter, milk, eggs. Slovak liquor is among the best and cheapest in Europe. In quite 

small towns you could – and as yet you still can – buy English cigarettes, French wines and brandy, 

Scotch whisky, things long since unprocurable in the neighbouring states, great and small, save in a 

few luxury shops mainly supported by foreigners. In no other country that I know were clothing, 

boots, furniture, glass and china so cheap and good. The Czech workman is one of the best in the 

world, and his needs are modest. 

It seemed to me that Czecho-Slovakia, under German domination, was due to be plundered, that in 

course of time the same blight would fall upon the shops that I had seen in other countries, and this 

still may happen. Butter in Czecho-Slovakia costs twelve crowns and in Germany six marks, which 

is equivalent to seventy-two crowns – and Germany is very short of butter. The same holds good for 

other foodstuffs of which Czecho-Slovakia has an abundance. Already substantial supplies, payable 

only in block marks, had been virtually commandeered for the Reich, German troops had casually 

crossed the border from neighbouring garrison towns to buy supplies of things they could not 

obtain at home, and this process was likely to continue. But as yet it had left no mark, as yet there 

was no lack of butter and foodstuffs in Czecho-Slovakia, no great rise in prices. 

For the nonce, business was thriving in Prague. One reason was that Prague had become a clearing- 

house for the Jewish emigration. Jews from all parts of Czecho-Slovakia and from other countries 

were coming to Prague, as the first stage of their journey to England, America, the British 

Dominions, or South America. They had even begun to publish, and this is a remarkable instance of 

their insuppressible energy, a newspaper, Overseas, devoted entirely to questions of emigration, 

and in one of the first numbers of this I found the sinister statement that the British Home Office 

had ‘loyally’ refused to publish figures of the number of immigrant Jews in England, ‘probably 

because the immigration is far from finished’. 

Loyalty? To whom? To the population of Britain? I do not think so. 

These Jews, as a means of exporting some of their capital, were buying everything they could lay 

hands on in Prague – a dozen suits, twenty pairs of shoes, fur coats, jewellery, everything. This, as 

far as I could find, was the main reason for that hectic business activity. 

When I came to Prague again, 1939 had got well into its stride, Munich already lay months behind, 

and the process of squeezing Czecho-Slovakia into complete serfdom, at the unspoken threat of 

open annexation, had progressed further. Indeed, it had gone so far that the German technique for 

reducing these countries is now clear to see, and you may make a fair picture of what will happen 

throughout Danubian Europe. It is a skilful process of always asking for more, of relentless 

pressure relentlessly maintained, of squeezing until the pips squeak. 

I think you can find the definition of this process in Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf – not in the English 

edition, perhaps, but in the edition the Germans read. I read in an English newspaper that a London 

bookseller, at Christmas 1938, said that Mein Kampf was to-day the best-selling book in England. 

This means, I suppose, that the English are seeking after knowledge, and rightly so. 

In the German edition you will find these lines: ‘A clever victor will always impose his demands on 

the conquered in parts … He can then reckon that a people will feel no sufficient cause in each of 

these single oppressions for seizing arms again.’ 

This theory was being applied to the Czechs. Every day was bringing them more and more 

demands, without any return. After Munich, they thought that they would, as the price of their 

capitulation, at least be left to live in peace within their frontiers. They were wrong. The first 

demand was for the cession of a strip of territory for the building of the German Corridor through 

Czecho-Slovakia. They resisted, they did not want to sign on the dotted line. They were told that 

the Germans had desired to prove their friendliness by giving them the opportunity to sign an 

agreement about the road; whether they signed or not, the road would be built. So they signed. 

Incidentally, I see that you are once more being led up that dreary garden path in the matter of this 

road. I suppose it is a waste of time to state the facts, but I will do so once again. 

‘Sir John Simon stated that the new road would remain part of the territory of Czecho-Slovakia, but 

he had no doubt that the road itself would be the property of some German company.’ 

The road will not remain part of the territory of Czecho-Slovakia, it is a strip of territory formally 

ceded to Germany. The road will not become the property of ‘some German company’, but of the 

German Autobahn Company, which is the German State, which is Hitler. 

The road will be a strip of sovereign German territory laid across Czecho-Slovakia, whether 

Czecho-Slovakia likes it or not, and by it the Czech lands are brought within the frontiers of the 

Reich. 

After signing that agreement, the Czechs thought that they would now at least be given the 

guarantee of their frontiers – not the English and French guarantee, which they knew to be an 

absurdity in the circumstances, a thing never sincerely intended because it could never have been 

fulfilled, but the German guarantee; Herr Hitler’s undertaking to give this was another of Mr. 

Chamberlain’s achievements at Munich. 

The Czechs were wrong again. They had expected to send their Foreign Minister to Berlin, to bring 

home that German guarantee, but now they found that his visit was repeatedly postponed, that new 

demands rained on them day by day. They must give the Germans in Bohemia full liberty to 

organize their National Socialist Party, their Storm Troops, their Hitler Youth, and the like – but 

they must speed up the abolition of all other political parties. They must ban all foreign and home 

newspapers of an anti-German or anti-Nazi complexion. They ought to hurry along with the 

reduction of the Jewish influence. 

The Czechs fought every inch of the way, but they had to yield, and gradually the land came under 

the German thrall. At last the Foreign Minister, Chvalkovsky, was permitted to go to Berlin. He 

was coldly received, and was made to understand, at once, that he was not there to ‘negotiate’, but 

to receive orders. Why had not Czecho-Slovakia given notice to terminate her alliances with France 

and Russia? (after Munich, these had become meaningless scraps of paper, but the Prague 

Government had not formally denounced them). Why had not Czecho-Slovakia joined the anti- 

Comintern Pact? 

Chvalkovsky answered that Czecho-Slovakia would do these things if Germany would guarantee 

those frontiers. He was out to save the last thing the Czechs had in the world – to preserve Bohemia 

from a German occupation. 

He was immediately made to understand, by that ring of grim-faced men about him, that the part of 

Czecho-Slovakia was not to make conditions, but to do what she was told. 

By the time you read this, I suppose, Czecho-Slovakia will have done the things demanded of her. I 

doubt whether she will get anything at all in return. More and more will be demanded from her, the 

iron grip will close ever more tightly on this small, brave, hard-working people, their reduction to 

serfdom will be made complete. 

In Prague the German-language university has already been transformed into a Hitlerist citadel. 

Every day brings some new German move, some new German order, to show that Czecho-Slovakia 

is a German colony. Hitler is ‘imposing his demands on the conquered people in parts’. One day an 

order is issued that German motor cars crossing into Czecho-Slovakia no longer need to carry the 

international papers necessary to enter the territory of a sovereign state. The next day an agreement 

is signed giving German troops right of way on railways passing through Czecho-Slovak territory. 

Czecho-Slovakia is a German province. The older generation of Czechs will never become 

accustomed to that, never overcome the bitterness that is in their hearts. But the younger 

generation, contemplating with relentless logic the way Czecho-Slovakia was sold into bondage by 

her friends, are beginning to think differently. They say that the Czech destiny, the only hope of 

Czech happiness, lies in full acceptance of German domination. In a few years they will come to 

rule the state. Many of them will work with Germany in peace and fight for Germany in war, not 

from compulsion, but from conviction. They have seen that the words ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, 

‘honour’, were lies, invented to dupe them. They have seen the fiasco of the states that claimed to 

stand for these things, they have seen the rise of the dictatorships, they have seen their own 

desertion. 

At this point I should like to interpose one last word on behalf of truth and reason. 

Mr. Chamberlain, speaking in the House on February 1st, 1939, uttered his familiar rebuke to the 

doubting souls who do not believe the promises of the grab-dictatorships. 

The same Mr. Chamberlain, speaking on March 14th, 1938, told the House that the German 

Government had given ‘assurances’ that it considered itself, in its relations with Czechoslovakia, 

bound by the German-Czechoslovak arbitration treaty. 

On January 30th, 1939, the day before Mr. Chamberlain rebuked the doubters, Hitler himself stated 

that he gave, on May 28th, 1938, the order to prepare a military invasion of Czechoslovakia on 

October 2nd, 1938. 

The Germans may yet sit in Prague. In Austria, the Austrian-born Nazi leader for Vienna, 

Globocnik, has been dismissed, the German-born Commissioner, Bürckel, put in his place. A 

German Governor in Vienna! As I know them, the Germans will find it hard to resist the temptation 

to sit in Prague. They call it ‘a German city’. Have they changed? Is Hitler cleverer than his 

predecessors? Is the lack of resistance to him so complete that he does not even need to do these 

things? This may be. 

Now the rulers of England have awakened to the fact that something is moving in the world. They 

are telling English people, as if a divine revelation had been granted them, that all is not well, that 

they may be attacked ‘suddenly and continuously’, that they must rearm, rearm, rearm. 

You may double and quadruple your armament factories, set them working day and night for ever – 

but you cannot make good the loss of your most valuable armaments, allies. Czecho-Slovakia and 

Spain. Why, if England is in danger, have these two small nations been sacrificed, why are 

Englishmen to be sent to be killed in the most unfavourable circumstances possible in any new war, 

why has everything been done in advance to reduce the chances of victory and of life itself for this 

new generation of Englishmen that is being told to prepare for the slaughter. 

An obscene farce. In the meantime, watch Prague.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Six 

LOOKING AT ENGLAND 

I sat in the dingy station restaurant at Budapest and read my English newspaper, and as I did so the 

lights suddenly went out and in the darkness somebody banged twelve times tinnily on a tea-tray, 

and then the lights went on again and the white-capped cook came in, holding under his arm a 

squealing sucking-pig, and he took this animal from one guest to another for each to pluck a bristle 

from it and pull its tail, and pocketed his tip at each table, and I realized that 1938 had died and 

1939 was born. It was a lugubrious imitation of a merry New Year’s eve, for but half a dozen guests 

sat in that ill-lit restaurant, and they were only there because the express from Germany, for which 

they were waiting, was late – for some mysterious reason trains from Germany are getting more and 

more unpunctual – and they were champing with impatience to leave this dreary place and be gone. 

So that was 1938, I thought, as the squeals died away, and I took my mind back to the previous 

New Year’s eve, and thought how happy I had then been, in Vienna, and how my good friend and I 

had seen the New Year in beneath the tall arches of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and then all the events 

of 1933 passed in review before me, Hitler’s swoop on Austria, the publication of my book, idyllic 

weeks in Budapest, Bedlam once more, fly, fly, fly again, that noontide rest beneath the bough on 

the Belgrade road, Prague in vassalage. Well, I thought, 1938 had brought the things I feared in 

Insanity Fair, and now, here I was in a station restaurant in Budapest, with 1939 before me, and 

small promise of good cheer it held, and I wondered, where should I be when 1939 died? 

There is small profit in such wanderings, nowadays, so I took up my English paper again and began 

to look at England, where the British Empire was in course of being lost on the playing fields of 

Eton. My paper showed me a reproduction of Mr. Chamberlain’s Christmas card – just a simple 

picture of that aeroplane and the proud words ‘Munich, September, 1938′. 

Well, well. Perhaps it was a famous victory. Mr. Chamberlain seems in danger of ultimate 

ennoblement as Lord Chamberlain of Munich. But I fancy that English people will before long look 

back with little affection on that famous flight. 

For eleven years before that New Year’s Eve in Budapest, and during the weeks that have since 

elapsed, I have been looking at England from some remote corner of a foreign land, from towns in 

Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, Switzerland, 

Hungary. I would have liked to carry the British flag everywhere, but it is difficult. Everywhere I 

go people long to hear about England, to have some sort of contact with England; centuries of 

looking to England lie in their blood, as love of England, that England which treats its own people 

so scurvily, lies in mine. But England becomes ever remoter from them. They no longer understand 

England. England no longer fits into the picture they formed in their youth, at their parents’ knees. 

They regard me, because I speak some of their language, understand their problems, like to sit and 

eat and drink and talk with them, as a strange creature. ‘You don’t seem like an Englishman’, they 

always say. They are right: I do not feel like the kind of Englishman they know, who usually 

approaches them with a transparent raincoat of bonhomie over an impenetrable hide of repression, 

whose smiles never have any real nourishment in them (as one of George Belcher’s charwomen 

said), who always looks as if he fears that you might ask him for some favour or bore him with 

your troubles. Their troubles enthralled me. If I had been an important Englishman, I would have 

spent much time among these peoples; there would have been none that I knew quite nothing about. 

If I had been a German or Italian I should have gone to these people with my colours flying, as the 

representative of my nation, with the whole weight of my Embassy and Press behind me. As an 

Englishman, I am a lonely wanderer, playing a lone hand. My zest in this life grows and grows; I 

am not so old as I used to be, and I enjoy it. But I am never more, to the people I go among, than a 

stray Englishman. When they ask ‘What does England stand for, what does England think of us, 

what will England do for us?’ I tell them that I don’t know, or refer them to Munich, of which 

England seems to be proud. I can only tell them what I stand for, what I think of them, what I 

would do if I could. 

Yet, how much we could learn from them, how much they could do for us. 

To look at England from abroad you must do so through English or foreign newspapers. The 

foreign newspapers which are now most widely read abroad are the German ones, which constantly 

draw attention to the worst side of English life, and their circulations are steadily increasing. But 

even the few English newspapers, to the critical eye of a foreign reader, give an appalling picture of 

wealth, inhumanity and cant on the one side, and of poverty, hopelessness and destitution on the 

other. 

The picture of England has never been so revolting and incomprehensible as in these recent 

months. Day by day my English and foreign newspapers have shown me British unemployed lying 

down in Oxford Circus – removed by the police; unemployed in Downing Street – removed by the 

police; unemployed at the Palace – turned away by the police; unemployed at the Monument – 

removed by the police; unemployed at the Labour Minister’s home – removed by the police and 

charged ‘with insulting words and behaviour’; unemployed at the Ritz for tea – turned out by the 

police; unemployed at Victoria Station – removed by the police. 

Always the police, the police, the police. I have before me a picture of an unemployed man who 

took part in a demonstration at Victoria when Mr. Chamberlain went to Rome. He is being ‘led 

away’ by the police. That is to say, two policemen have hold of him, as if he were a criminal 

maniac, three others are all round him, and behind rides a mounted policeman. He is hatless, ill- 

clad and underfed; but his thin raincoat has been torn to ribbons by the police. 

Then I turn to my German newspapers and read mocking and contemptuous articles about the way 

England treats her own people. ‘According to official statistics England has about 1,800,000 

unemployed, who with their families form approximately a fifth of the population of Great Britain’, 

begins one such article. 

When these men try, by spectacular but still orderly methods, to draw attention to their lot, the 

police are set at them. 

I have been collecting cases from English newspapers during two or three weeks. I have hundreds 

of them and meant to print some here, but now, in writing, I have myself grown sick and cannot go 

on. How is England to get out of this slough of despond? The people themselves, after centuries of 

it, seem to have lost the will or the wish to lift themselves above it. The forces against them are too 

strong. But minds are stirring and surging in the whole world, and because of these things, which 

you would not mend, you are soon going to see a volcanic movement of anger and despair in 

England. 

What will happen then? I think I can tell you that too. The same people who have sold the Czechs 

into serfdom, who are trying to do the same with the Spaniards, who are allowing the Jews to enter 

England in thousands, who find money and compassion and sanctuary for the Jews, will send 

soldiers with machine-guns against their own kin. This is the inevitable inference of all they have 

done in foreign policy. Why, if we are so gravely behind in armaments, if we are in mortal danger 

from some great power, did they sacrifice so valuable an ally as Czecho-Slovakia? Why are they 

sacrificing Spain? 

Class-antagonism is the only possible answer, and these people will be just as ruthless towards their 

own countrymen. 

As I write, the Spanish tragedy seems at last to be finishing. Perhaps this is wrong, perhaps 

Barcelona will prove to be another Madrid, but it seems unlikely. After nearly three years the 

Spanish people seem to have been forced to their knees by the Italians, the Germans, the Moors. 

Franco now seems within reach of victory. Soon you will see what Non-Intervention meant – that 

Franco must win. Before Mr. Chamberlain went to Rome it seemed that England and France, to 

ensure his victory, would at last grant him belligerent rights, enable him to starve out the 

Republicans. As in the cases of Austria and Czechoslovakia, this was contrary to official British 

foreign policy, but on the eve of the journey to Rome The Times launched the usual cautious 

suggestion that this should be done. That it was not done seems to be due to the fact that it was not 

necessary; apparently Franco can now win without belligerent rights, unless another miracle 

intervenes. 

As in the cases of Abyssinia and Czechoslovakia, the British influence has been decisive. The 

French, seeing the deadly danger to themselves of a Franco victory, might at the last moment have 

opened their frontier and allowed arms to reach the beleaguered Republicans. England prevented 

this. Mr. Chamberlain deterred the French by informing them of his latest ‘assurances’ from Signor 

Mussolini – that Italian troops would not remain in Spain ‘after the victory’. 

So you see what non-intervention meant. After the victory – and you can believe this – Franco’s 

Spain will become the docile ally of Germany and Italy, in peace and war. Franco Spain will be an 

entirely Fascist State – in spite of former ‘assurances’. You have seen what happened in Czecho- 

Slovakia: the Skoda Works have passed under German control, they are making arms and 

munitions for Germany, the Czech army will fight for Germany in any new war. Exactly the same 

thing will happen in Spain, if Franco wins. Italy will not give up those Balearic Islands. 

When Franco wins, your strategic position will be desperate. After Munich, after that unblushing 

French repudiation of a written pledge, you can no longer count on your French ally. Even if you 

could, your strategic position would still be desperate. You will be without friends, you will be 

soon confronted with an imperative demand for the surrender of territory on the most humiliating 

terms. 

I have just seen in a newspaper a picture of Spanish children, each of whom had lost a limb, in 

flight before Franco over the mountains to France. 

In flight? I have used the wrong term. They only had one leg apiece, and a crutch in place of the 

other. Each was led by a grown man. There was a little girl, about the age of my daughter, with one 

leg. A little boy, about the age of my son, with one leg. Behind them other children, each with one 

leg, each with one crutch, hobbling over the mountains, hurrying to get to France. 

Suffer little children! Oh yeah? Not these little children. These little children are insufferable. They 

are the children of peasant-class, working-class parents, Reds. Blow their remaining legs off. Send 

the Moors, the Germans, the Italians, to do it. Applaud Franco. Onward Christian soldiers. 

Suffer little children? Not these little children. If they were the well-fed and well-clad children of 

well-to-do German Jews, you would turn out your mayor and his corporation, his gold chain and 

his band to welcome them, press reporters and photographers in scores would describe and depict 

their daily doings for you, your warmhearted women welfare workers would hasten to them, your 

love-your-fellow-man students from Oxford would take train to Dovercourt to pet and pamper them 

and tuck them up. 

But these other little children, with one leg apiece, hobbling over the mountains? Oh no. No 

primates or prelates burst into protest about this. No Elder Politicians, no peers gathered on 

platforms to appeal to the conscience of the world about this. No newspapers opened their columns 

to subscriptions for this cause. 

No, this is what the England of 1939 likes to see, this procession of one-legged children, hobbling 

over the wintry hills to France. These are Reds. Out upon them. Franco, Hitler and Mussolini are 

saving us from Bolshevism. 

At Munich the greatest victory in history was converted into the greatest defeat. We English people 

of to-day either fought in a war in which a million Britishers were killed or we are the sons and 

daughters of those men. We did not win that war: it is not finished, as we now see. We granted our 

enemy an Armistice, and now, twenty years later, he is stronger than we are; either hostilities will 

be resumed in conditions more unfavourable to ourselves than those of 1914 or we must capitulate. 

This was not necessary. We could have had the victory. We could have outarmed the rearming 

adversary, or we could have found allies with whom we should have been stronger than he. We 

gave our million British lives to save the nation, but also for a wider ideal – the right of poor men to 

live as freemen, and of small nations to live as free nations. 

One after another, all these things have been cast away. We neither have our brave new England 

nor our brave new world. We have an England more class-ridden and with more slums than ever. 

We have a world again at the mercy of military adventurers. We have governments that tell us they 

stand for the old ideals, but in moments of crisis they always betray these ideals. They tell us for 

years that we have nothing to fear when mortal danger is approaching our door. 

For what are we to live, for what to die? We have been sold and betrayed. 

You might think there was something foul in the state of England. But no, all is well. We still have 

an Upper Class, and that is all that matters. Lady Londonderry, the political hostess, writes in a 

book, ‘There is still, what shall we call it, an Upper Class, its ranks diminished and impoverished by 

the war. They still wield a certain influence behind the scenes and in times of crisis their presence 

will still be felt, something solid and very British.’ 

In the countries I know, politicians have attached much importance to that little coterie behind-the- 

scenes which is so solid and British in moments of crisis. But any attempt to identify its members, 

to reveal how they work, is sternly repressed, produces loud cries of indignation. 

For years I have followed the activities of that little group, of whose impoverishment I have seen 

little trace. For years I have known that they favoured the relinquishment of Austria and Czecho- 

Slovakia and the other Danubian countries to Germany, the victory of Franco in Spain, and 

although official British policy, as proclaimed in Parliament, has always been against these things, 

they have always had their way in the end. 

For long enough, this powerful group was known to foreign newspapers and foreign legations and 

foreign governments as the Something Clique. But this was apparently an illusion, because one day 

a non-member of this non-existent Clique wrote to a British newspaper to say that it never had 

existed. It was just a Communist Plot. Until then the belief was widely held in foreign countries 

that it did exist and was powerful enough, in moments of crisis, always to tip the scales in favour of 

Germany and Italy. 

This was important, because the responsibility for the bewilderment and spiritual despair of English 

people to-day would have been borne by the Something Clique – if only it had existed. It would 

have been responsible, for instance, for the change in British policy between the eve and the 

morrow of Munich – the eve, on which the Prime Minister said, ‘If I were convinced that any nation 

had made up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force I should feel that it should be 

resisted’, and the morrow, on which Lord Halifax said, ‘The German claim was in fact advanced 

and pressed under an overwhelming show of force, which was impossible to reconcile with the 

spirit of what we believe must be the basis of international relations’, the morrow on which Dr. 

Goebbels said, ‘We were ready to fight had we not got what we wanted’, the morrow on which Herr 

Hitler said, ‘This success was only possible because we were armed and determined to use our 

might if necessary’. 

I think this shows you how the little group works. Its members, as far as I know them, are rich, not 

impoverished, and if disaster falls on England I expect to find that they have vanished to estates in 

America, South America, the Riviera, or Lord knows where. The logical end of the policy they 

have pursued would be the submission of England to Germany – and why should they not succeed? 

They seem to achieve much in foreign affairs. I do not perceive that they achieve much in 

improving our defences or in improving the lot of our under-dogs. In the matter of defences, you 

will remember the last-minute spade, bucket and sandbag chaos in September. In the matter of our 

under-dogs, you have but to read your daily newspaper with a discerning eye to see how much is 

done to better their lot. 

While England was moving to that gloomiest of all festivals, the British Christmastide, Mr. 

Chamberlain told some five hundred odd, no, not odd, I mean more than five hundred guests at a 

Foreign Press banquet once more what he intended to do in foreign affairs. As some sign of 

appreciation for his services at Munich, the German Press, in a body, boycotted the banquet. The 

Germans had been provoked into remaining away by the following brutal passage in Mr. 

Chamberlain’s speech:  

I must deplore the present attitude of the German Press which in one case has not 

scrupled to pour out its vituperation against our most respected statesman, himself 

only recently the Prime Minister, of this country, and in few cases has shown much 

desire to understand our point of view. 

There we are, deploring again. Would you believe it? It’s just political hay fever.  

Once more 

We deplore 

We deplore 

And abhor 

The German attacks on our worth. 

It is cheek 

But the meek 

Turn the cheek 

Ev’ry week 

And hope to inherit the earth. 

But nowadays we may not even deplore. Could German barbarity go further? Soon our last 

occupation will be gone. What is left to us if we may neither deplore nor deprecate? A world 

without a wailing wall. 

Mr. Chamberlain also said that the year 1938 had been one of progress in the direction of peace- 

making and that he was astonished at the pessimism of some critics of the Government. 

The destiny of Mr. Chamberlain is to be astonished. He further said that he had chosen his own 

course and that if he were ultimately to fail ‘it would be no consolation to myself or anybody else to 

be able to say that I had followed the advice of others instead of relying on my own judgment’. 

That can be put another way. If Mr. Chamberlain fails, the ‘responsibility will be his, all his, and 

nobody’s but his. When he took office time still remained to stop the rot. He had no personal 

knowledge or experience of foreign affairs. Did he lend ear to those who had? Seemingly not. 

Following ‘his own judgment’, he took on his own responsibility decisions, in great international 

crises, of incalculable importance to the world and to his countrymen. The result of these decisions 

will show itself very soon now. The bulk of expert and experienced opinion in foreign affairs was 

against them. The professional makers of garments did not approve the way this cloth was being 

cut and stitched. Mr. Chamberlain followed his own ideas. They were also those of the small but 

influential inner circle, inexperienced in foreign affairs but obsessed by fear of The Reds, that pulls 

so much weight in England. 

If Mr. Chamberlain succeeds all the glory is his. If he fails the whole responsibility is his, but that 

will not help England. 

But anyway, the brain reels before a claim that a policy of peace-making achieved progress in 

1938. Look at your world, now. You have arrayed against you three of the greatest, if not the three 

greatest, military nations in the world, threatening you and your empire from every point of the 

compass. Peace? Peace-making? Eradicating the causes of war? In China a tragedy is in progress 

the like of which our world, since we began to keep a record of it, has hardly ever seen, something 

almost as far beyond human understanding as space itself. Nobody knows how many Chinese have 

died, but already more than those who died in the whole four years of the World War! Try to 

imagine the entire population of England, Scotland and Wales scrambling for the Hebrides, and you 

have a faint idea of what is happening in China. After two thousand years of slow progress towards 

humanity you have that gigantic catastrophe in China. In Europe you have minor tragedies, major 

ones impending. 

In London, on the same day that Mr. Chamberlain deplored, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald told, the 

Constitutional Club, ‘Of course, one has to look at the possibility that in our own lifetime this great 

Empire will crumble and go to pieces’. 

You will have to look for that very soon, unless you change your methods, unless your politicians 

stop playing golf and going to those ridiculous banquets, unless you can compel them to get to 

work, put your defences in order, mend your social conditions, stop fobbing you off with red- 

herring statements. Time still is left. Time always is left, until the clock strikes too late. But if no 

will exists, if prejudice and privilege and preconceived opinions and property-obsession are to 

outweigh experience and enthusiasm and energy and knowledge and patriotism, then it is too late 

before the clock strikes. 

Where are you now? Italy is demanding territory from France, Germany will soon be demanding 

territory from England. How do we stand with France? France has declared that she will ‘yield no 

inch of land to Italy, even if the refusal means war’. Then why, in the name of offence and defence, 

did France sacrifice Czechoslovakia, with its magnificent army. But where does this leave us, the 

English? Will we, won’t we, go to the aid of France, if France is attacked? Will France, won’t 

France, come to our aid, if we are attacked? Who knows, to-day?’ 

What does Mr. Chamberlain think about it? 

On a Monday he said England was bound by no pact or treaty to go to the aid of France if she 

became involved in hostilities with Italy. 

On a Tuesday he said that England’s relations with France were so close as to pass beyond mere 

legal obligations, since they were founded on identity of interest. 

On a Wednesday he said an Italian attack on Tunis ‘could not count on the disinterestedness of 

England’, that the dear old Anglo-Italian Gentleman’s Agreement, the ratification of which was one 

of the rare and refreshing fruits of Munich, and by which Italy undertook to respect the present 

territorial arrangement in the Mediterranean, ‘self-evidently applied to Tunis also’, and that ‘any 

action which might be undertaken against the agreement would naturally cause the greatest anxiety 

to the British Government’. 

Which means, I suppose, that we should deplore and deprecate it. But do you now know what you 

would do if France were attacked? Do you know what France would do if we were attacked? The 

Germans and Italians have largely succeeded in their greatest operation of political strategy: to 

weaken Anglo-French collaboration to a point of paralysing uncertainty, so that in a great crisis one 

of the partners is likely to desert the other, and to shake domestic confidence in France and England 

to the foundations. 

This England. We have travelled a long way from Chaucer, Milton and Bunyan, from Shakespeare 

and Bacon, from Ralegh and Drake and Nelson, from Dickens and Florence Nightingale, from our 

once green and pleasant and staunch and sturdy land to the country of ring-fenced mountains, 

slums, keep-out-of-here and don’t-go-there, two million unemployed, under-nourishment, and the 

new Jewish immigration – to the England of 1939, the land of a bewildered, leaderless, alarmed and 

cynical people. The spirit of the English is to-day capable of greater things than ever before, but 

with this leadership – we are finished. 

To find consolation in the picture of England to-day you must either have strange standards of 

judgment or be very comfortably situated yourself, with your nest-egg safely tucked away 

somewhere and your little house all ready far from the madding bomb. 

How are we to get out of this rat-trap into which we have been led, always to a chorus of solemn 

reproof to the people who doubted the wisdom of the way? This is the question I ask myself when I 

look at England from afar. Distance lends no enchantment to this view. Do you know that in 

foreign countries politicians and diplomats already openly discuss the possibility of the transference 

of the Court to Canada, envisage a rump of British Empire grafted on to the United States by some 

strange process of political surgery? 

I doubt whether it will long continue possible for an Englishman who knows something of these 

matters to write and tell his countrymen about them. Everywhere I see the threat of the suppression 

of free speech and free writing lurking between the lines of the British Press. Lord Castlerosse, a 

peer who happens also to be a brilliant journalist, impassionedly wrote against this and implored his 

‘fellow craftsmen to remember that “We must be free or die, who speak the tongue that Shakespeare 

spake …”‘ 

But this, though sincerely meant, is not true, in England to-day. We are not free in England, or our 

freedom is being misused to destroy us. You have only to stand back a little and look at England to 

lose your belief in this freedom. If freedom is a synonym for slums, the under-nourishment of the 

under-dog, the repression of unemployed demonstrations by the police and sanctuary for foreign 

Jews, it is not worth preserving. What is the virtue of freedom to write against these things, as 

Englishmen have written for centuries, if they are never mended, but always get worse? 

But the great danger is that even this freedom will be taken away from us only in order to 

perpetuate these age-old evils in England and to prevent any public discussion of them. Even then, 

suppression and censorship, if they come in England, will come at foreign dictation, they will be 

the pledges of our servitude to alien domination. 

England! How much that name stood for, how little does it stand for to-day! 

To-day, England and France look to me like the babes in a very dark wood, and I dimly perceive 

the figures of the wicked uncles. The babes go on, willy-nilly, clinging to the hands that guide 

them. What was the end of that tale? If I remember rightly, winged creatures in the sky dropped 

things on them as they lay.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Seven 

THE TWILGHT THICKENS 

We’ve had our picnic, with thunderstorms rumbling in the distance and sometimes drawing near 

and almost bursting overhead and then receding a little, so that always a little blue remained 

overhead, and you looked up and said there was probably still enough to make a Dutchman a pair 

of trousers, but somebody, somewhere, was certainly getting wet, and over there, in the distance, 

the lightning seemed to have struck, something was burning, but you were still dry and picnicking. 

Now the clouds, heavy, black and threatening, are all around. That thunderstorm just will not 

withdraw, for all your wishing. Everywhere about is the picnic litter. You don’t know whether to 

stay and clear it up or make a dash for shelter. 

It’s getting dark. Salvoes of approaching thunder. Lightning stabbing from a darkening sky. 

The twilight thickens.  

*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postscript 

DEATH OF A NATION 

As my forty-fourth birthday approached, I felt restlessness and apprehension growing in me, and 

thought continually of that other birthday, my forty-third, which I told about in Insanity Fair, the 

birthday that began with red tulips and ended with German armies roaring into Austria, with the 

destruction of the short-lived tranquillity and happiness that I had found there after many years of 

wandering and many hopes disappointed, with the packing of my bags and the resumption of a 

nomad’s life. 

Ever since that forty-third birthday I had looked forward uneasily, for some reason, to my forty- 

fourth. When we, my good friend and I, toasted ‘the coming year’ in my rooms in Vienna I 

wondered, as I wrote in Insanity Fair, ‘where I should be at the end of it’. Now that the day was 

drawing near again, I wondered more than ever, for once more the pandemonium of Insanity Fair 

was rising around me. I hoped against hope that I should be able in peace and quiet at least to 

celebrate that particular day, which held such exceptional memories for me. But, as the time 

shortened, I knew that this would not be so. I was living in Prague, and my inward voice told me 

that the Germans were soon going to make their next jump, that this would take them to Prague. So 

I wrote in the News Chronicle on March 8th that the coming week would show whether what 

Munich had left of Czecho-Slovakia was about to split at the hyphen, or whether it would continue 

to enjoy a vassal independence by the grace of Hitler, and that Germany would decide. And on 

March 11th I wrote in the same paper that Germany had weeks before threatened the Czecho- 

Slovak Foreign Minister, Dr. Chvalkovsky, ‘to be in Prague not in forty-eight but in eight hours’ if 

Czecho-Slovakia did not hasten her complete and abject submission to the Reich in all matters of 

her national life, and I added that Prague now feared the moment to be imminent when that threat 

would be made good. 

For my part, I am convinced that the decision to annex Czechia was made months and years before. 

I was convinced of it when I wrote Insanity Fair, and for that reason said ‘I hope I am wrong in 

this, but I think the Germans will sit in Prague’. When I was writing this book, in the autumn of 

1938, I wrote ‘The Germans will yet sit in Prague. Watch Prague’. When the proofs came to me I 

altered ‘will’ to ‘may’ in a moment of weakness, thinking ‘Well, perhaps I, who know, am wrong, 

and perhaps these morons, who do not know, are right with their blather about The Policy of 

Appeasement and We Deplore That Eternal Tendency To Distrust The Dictators Which Only 

Breeds Counter-Suspicion and Hush A-Bye Baby On The Treetop and Don’t Listen To The 

Jitterbugs.’ 

But I was always certain that the Germans would do this, and possibly Hitler, in some future 

speech, will admit that he gave orders to occupy Prague six months before, about the time he was 

saying ‘We don’t want any Czechs’, just as he revealed after Munich that he had given orders for the 

invasion of Czechoslovakia in May 1938. The only reason that Prague and the rest of the Czech 

lands were not taken at the time of Munich was that it was better strategy to wait. At Munich the 

Czech defences were handed over to Germany, so that the annexation could be carried out in an 

hour or two at any time, anyway. The five months of life which were permitted to rump Czecho- 

Slovakia gave time for the preparation of the total annexation, and as yet Hitler’s superlatively 

skilful method has been never to take too much at once. 

Being convinced that Germany would do this thing, and wishing to test my theory, I sought and 

found an opportunity to live and work in Bohemia after Munich. When I hear British politicians or 

diplomatic representatives say, or hear that they have said, that they did not expect the annexation, I 

know that they are either stating an untruth or they are culpably unsuited to their jobs and are a 

danger to their people, for their own best experts told them from the moment Hitler came to power, 

six years ago, that this would happen, and no man with an ounce of brain and personal experience 

of Germany in recent years could have doubted it. If you could look into the files of the Foreign 

Office and of newspaper offices, you would find exact forecasts by the score of what has happened. 

But the men who have been the leaders of England in this time, unwise in their degeneration, seem 

determined to get you into those besnouted masks and line you up for the Gadarene Gallop. You 

are now witnessing the far-retching consequences of The Policy of Abasement – sorry, that’s a slip, 

I am transcribing these notes from shorthand and the outlines for Appeasement and Abasement are 

very much alike. 

But that is by the way; I was talking about my birthday. As March 11th approached, and from the 

tingling of my political skin I knew that another major crisis was at hand, I became anxious about 

my birthday celebration and wondered irritably whether somebody had told Hitler about the Ides of 

March and he had developed an obsession about this particular season of the year. I was determined 

not to be cheated of my birthday a second time, and at last, feeling that the sands, if you have not 

heard this one, were running out, I decided to anticipate it and to hold the feast on Monday, March 

6th, which, in the light of events, I think was pretty close budgeting. 

So in my hotel bedroom in Prague on that Monday I reconstructed my little festival of March 11th, 

1938, in Vienna. If I waited, I thought, I might be too late, and the rush of German armies might cut 

short the hour I wanted for myself. I had, once more, the great cake, with one more candle this year, 

the circlet of flowers, the tulips, and the bottle of champagne, from which, on the last stroke of 

midnight, I drank to absent friends, and then I sat and thought of the year that had passed and of all 

the things that had happened during it. That hour, at all events, I had in peace, but I had to take time 

by the forelock to achieve it. 

For on Saturday, March 11th, I knew at last the answer to the question I had been asking myself 

ever since March 11th, 1938, ‘Where shall I be at the end of the coming year?’, and to all the other 

questions I had asked. I was in the train bound for Bratislava, the cauldron was boiling up again, I 

felt in my bones that the end of Czecho-Slovakia was at hand, that I would soon see yet another 

German invasion, that Hitler was now irrevocably launched on the Napoleonic period of conquest, 

and that for my own country the choice I had so long foreseen – war or capitulation – was drawing 

very, very near. 

Now that this great question has been answered – the question, would Hitler stop at the German 

racial boundaries, as our good leaders always professed to believe, or would he go on and enslave 

foreign peoples – I ought to interpolate here a brief sketch of the methods which were used, in those 

five months, to prepare the first annexation of foreign lands. You need to remember one thing 

before you read it: that you now have for the first time a clear picture of the methods that will be 

used to enslave other peoples and that will be employed against yourselves. 

After Munich, as I wrote earlier in this book, the dope with which you were spoon-fed was that a 

right little, tight little Czecho-Slovakia now existed, which had satisfied all the grievances of 

neighbour powers and would be allowed to live in peace, its defenceless frontiers guaranteed by the 

four Great Powers which had dismembered it. 

This new Czecho-Slovakia was a Federation of three home-ruled States or Statelets – the Czech 

lands, Bohemia and Moravia, with the capital in Prague; Slovakia, with the capital in Bratislava; 

Carpathian Ukraine, with the capital, save the word, in the hamlet of Chust. Each of the three had 

full home-rule except that the army, foreign policy and finance remained the province of the joint 

central Czecho-Slovak Government in Prague, in which all three were represented. 

As the Czechs were by far the most powerful of the three partners and predominant in the army, 

and as the Federal capital remained in Prague, the Czech influence continued to be paramount in 

the State, and after Munich the Czech politicians set to work to adjust their relationships with 

Germany. 

In the months that followed, the Germans never allowed them to get to grips. They continually 

warned the Czech Prime Minister, Rudolf Beran, and the Foreign Minister, Franz Chvalkovsky, 

that they were going neither far enough nor fast enough in their domestic rearrangements for the 

German liking, but they would never say exactly what Germany wanted. When Chvalkovsky went 

to Berlin, after his visit had been several times pointedly postponed, he was shown a Czech 

newspaper that expressed some regret for what had happened to Czecho-Slovakia and some hope 

that the disaster was not final, and told that if ‘this sort of thing continues’ the Germans would be in 

Prague in eight hours. 

Broadly speaking, the things that the Germans demanded, without ever going into specific detail, 

were political subserviency, military submission, and tribute. As pledges of these things they 

demanded that the Czechs should denounce their treaties with France and Russia, which had 

become scraps of paper but had not been formally torn up. They demanded that the rest of the 

Czech army should be ‘reduced’. They demanded that the Czechs should hand over part of their 

carefully husbanded gold reserve, though they did not say how much, to cover the Czech notes 

taken over in the Sudeten German areas; in Germany the Reichsbank notes have practically no gold 

cover. 

The Germans never said exactly what they wanted – because they meant to have everything. When 

Beran and Chvalkovsky asked for the fulfilment of the promised frontier guarantee, in return for the 

new sacrifices they were required to make, the German answer was ‘First put your house in order’. 

Hitler in his speech on January 30th made a similar allusion; he hoped for better relations with 

Czecho-Slovakia, he said, when that State had readjusted its domestic arrangements in accordance 

with the spirit of the times. 

But the Germans simultaneously did everything they could to disrupt the Czecho-Slovak house. I 

can testify that Czecho-Slovakia survived with extraordinary resilience the shock of Munich and 

within a few weeks was busily at work organizing the new State. This new State was just as orderly 

and well ordered as the old one; during the few months that it endured I was continually surprised 

at the way it had emerged from the terrible ordeal of Munich, at the way the people buried their 

bitterness deep in their hearts and sturdily set themselves to make the best of their lot. 

There was nothing to put in order in Czecho-Slovakia. After and in spite of Munich, it continued to 

be what it had always been, one of the best-found and best-ordered States in Europe, diligent, 

thrifty, clean, the living vindication, and about the last living vindication, of the principles for 

which the World War was fought, and of the Treaty of Versailles. Its merits were so clear that for 

long I wondered whether Munich might not have been good after all. If only these people could be 

left alone within their reduced boundaries, I thought, left alone in this little State that they had made 

with such love and care, then perhaps even Munich would be justified. But I always knew in my 

heart that they would not be left alone, and that is why Munich, which deprived them even of the 

chance of fighting, was so contemptible an act. 

By January the thing that impended was clear to foresee. The Germans had stopped the work of the 

commission they had appointed to fix the new frontiers. They gave no reason. They claimed, in 

addition to the trans-Czech corridor, right-of-way for all German motor traffic on five main trans- 

Czech roads. The Czechs could only sign on the dotted line. The Germans demanded the Czech 

gold, and the Czechs agreed to hand over about a third of it. The Germans kept on complaining 

about the Czech army, and the Czechs began to reduce it from twenty peacetime divisions to ten. 

Nothing availed. The Germans would say neither what they wanted nor whether what was done 

satisfied them. They refused all discussion of the frontier guarantee and continued to demand that 

the Czechs ‘put their house in order’. Then they disrupted the house through the German minority 

and through some of the more purchasable Slovak politicians. 

The Slovaks, after Munich, had signed the new Czecho-Slovak Constitution, which left the army, 

foreign affairs and finance in the hands of the Central Government in Prague. Hardly was the ink 

dry before they were agitating for a separate Slovak army, for a separate Slovak National Bank and 

finance. Their Ministers paid visits to Berlin without troubling to inform the Czecho-Slovak 

Foreign Minister in Prague. The German Press, which desired the Czechs to put their house in 

order, supported the vendetta of these Slovak leaders against Prague. In Slovakia, which had 

received home-rule from the hands of Hitler, all parties other than the Slovak Nationalist Party, 

founded by the late Father Hlinka and now led by another priest, Father Josef Tiso, had been 

abolished. Hitler had in effect put into power there a little Catholic-Fascist regime strongly 

reminiscent of the Dollfuss and Schuschnigg regimes in Austria, or even of Brüning’s Centre Party 

in Germany. But he only used these Slovak priest-politicians; they will not last any more than 

independent Slovakia will last. 

When the crisis broke, the flight of these Slovak politicians to Germany, their appeal to Hitler to 

liberate them, showed who was behind the Slovak separatist campaign and who wanted the 

Czecho-Slovak house to disrupt. 

Meanwhile, Germany accompanied her support of the Slovak politicians by continual demands and 

complaints, demands and complaints, in Prague. Why had no restrictive measures been taken 

against the Jews? Why was this or that newspaper allowed to write favourably about Benesh? The 

Germans remaining in Czecho-Slovakia had not enough rights; why were they not allowed to wear 

Nazi uniforms, organize their own Nazi Party, demonstrate and so on? The Leader of the few score 

thousand Germans in the rump Republic, Herr Ernst Kundt, made menacing speeches, threatening 

the mutilated State with some new but unspecified fate. In the small German-speaking islands in 

Czechia and Slovakia, such as the Iglau and Zips districts, little organized Nazi communities began 

a vendetta against the Czechs. 

Desperately the Czech leaders tried to keep pace with demands and intrigues that were only meant 

to be unacceptable and to destroy them. Beran and Chvalkovsky made speeches imploring the 

Czechs not to nourish hopes of a return to their past freedom or ‘a second disaster’ might befall 

them. They knew, these two Ministers, of the German threat to be in Prague within eight hours. The 

people did not. They preserved until the end an almost childish faith and hope that the worst would 

be spared them, that they would be left to live in peace in their own Czech lands now that 

everything else had been taken from them. 

Then the storm broke, on the eve of the birthday which I had fortunately anticipated. On Friday, 

March 10th, President Emil Hacha and his Prime Minister Beran in Prague, knowing that the 

Slovak politicians were planning imminently to declare Slovakia independent, to disrupt the house 

which Hitler said he wished to be put in order, acted swiftly in the night to avert the danger. The 

Slovak priest-premier, Father Tiso, was dismissed, and Karel Sidor, commandant of the Hlinka 

Guard, who had previously counted as a leading separatist but now enjoyed the confidence of 

Prague, was put in his place. Professor Bela Tuka, the chief separatist, who had spent many years in 

prison in old Czecho-Slovakia for conspiring with Hungary, was arrested, together with many other 

separatist leaders. Czech troops and gendarmerie were sent into Slovakia to maintain order. There 

was little need for them. Once the separatist leaders were out of the way, Slovakia was a picture of 

calm and order. 

The news was telephoned to me in the early morning of Friday, March 10th, and I felt at once that 

this was the end of Czecho-Slovakia. My paper had suggested that the best place for me to watch 

events would be Bratislava, and I answered that I doubted this, because if Germany wanted the 

Czecho-Slovak house put in order and refrained from interference, the crisis was already over, but 

if Hitler meant to march in, as I thought, Prague was the place for me. But as Saturday was 

technically a free day, with no evening telephone to worry about and no next day’s paper to prepare, 

I seized the opportunity to dash down to Bratislava on that day, and that is how I came to be in the 

train on my birthday, filled with thoughts of the past and the coming year. 

When I got to Bratislava, my last doubts vanished. It looked just as Linz had looked a week before 

Hitler marched into Vienna. There were all the signs of the period immediately preceding a 

Hitlerist triumph. The Czechs were not to be allowed to put their house in order. One of the 

dismissed Ministers, Durchansky, was already in Vienna, and from the radio station there was 

broadcasting incitements in Slovak to the population to refuse obedience to the new Government. 

Now it was clear who was behind the crisis. The German newspaper in Bratislava, the Grenzbote

was publishing fantastic tales of a Slovak countryside that was being laid waste by Czechs horned 

and cloven-hoofed – that same placid countryside through which I had travelled. Not only that, the 

Prague Government’s action was being described by this newspaper, and at mass meetings by Herr 

Karmashin, the Nazi Leader of the Germans in Slovakia, as one directed as much against the 

German minority as against the Slovaks. 

From Bratislava I could see that the death-agony of the Czechs was at hand. I walked down to the 

Danube and looked across at the other bank, where a great illuminated swastika stood. Germany! 

You could almost have tossed a stone across. You could cross the bridge there in a minute. On the 

bank young men, Germans and Slovaks, were shouting in chorus ‘Come and liberate us! Help us! 

Give us weapons’. 

I walked through the town and found, once more, that indescribable feeling in the air, compounded 

of fear and excitement and animal passion, that precedes a Hitlerist triumph. There were the young 

men of the Hlinka Guard, in uniforms resembling those of the Italian Fascists, marching about with 

rifles and bayonets, entitled to arrest and maltreat. The police, with Hlinka armbands on their 

sleeves, were no longer the guardians of law and order. Like the Vienna police a year before, they 

now contented themselves with directing the traffic and looked the other way when the armed 

Storm Troopers went by. There were German Storm Troopers, too. Their headquarters, the German 

House, facing the Danube, was full of armed men, and they, not the Slovak Hlinka Guard, were the 

real rulers of the city. The Hlinka Guard were a kind of auxiliary formation, the apprentices of the 

Storm Troopers. 

In the Carlton Hotel, where the Little Entente had once locked me in the lavatory, where a few 

weeks before I had found in the dining-room a strong clerical fragrance and seen the Slovak 

politicians who were now acting as Germany’s instruments, affably chatting with their 

acquaintances among the richer Jews of Bratislava, in the Carlton Hotel I found the old, familiar 

picture of secret police agents, of closed lips and covert glances, of apprehensive people standing 

about and waiting, waiting. I walked through the ghetto and saw the synagogues barricaded, the 

Jews whispering together at their doors. Then in the town I saw the Storm Troopers, German and 

Slovak, marching about and singing, heard the crash of breaking glass, and saw a street of Jewish 

shops wrecked. 

At nine o’clock there was curfew and everything was closed; none might go out save at the risk of 

being chased by some lunatic youth with a bayoneted rifle. So we sat in a bedroom of the hotel, 

myself and some colleagues whom I had known in Berlin and Vienna and Budapest, and talked of 

times past, present and to come, and outside the town was still save for the occasional tramp, tramp, 

tramp of the Storm Troopers and for mysterious shots and explosions. 

We heard that Father Tiso had appealed to Hitler, and the next day he went to Berlin, telephoned 

from Hitler’s office to Karel Sidor in Bratislava instructing him to call the Slovak Diet for the 

proclamation of Slovak independence and, with the might of Germany behind him, returned, 

together with the other Ministers who had fled to Germany, to become President of a Slovak 

Statelet under German protection. 

Many men in our time play one part – that of the appellant to Hitler – and the good Father Tiso, with 

his comfortable corpulence, takes his place among them. I don’t know how high he stands in the 

favour of the Vatican, nor does it concern me, nor is it of any importance, in my estimation. He has 

passed from the scene, to all effect, and his Slovakia was never more captive than it became in the 

moment when he liberated it. The people of Slovakia, who are far more important than Father Tiso, 

knew twenty good years and are now about to experience some lean ones, and it was all very 

glorious, and Father Tiso will occupy his little place in the Slovak hall of fame. 

So, for the last time, and feeling that it would be the last time, I travelled through Czecho-Slovakia 

from Bratislava to Prague, to see the end of the Czechs, and when I got there I wrote ‘It is now clear 

beyond further doubt that some new German territorial aggrandisement immediately impends, at 

the expense of the Czechs’. 

I was glad afterwards that I made that journey, because it enabled me to form my own impression 

of Czecho-Slovakia on that day, and I never saw a more peaceful countryside. The only unusual 

thing about it was that the Germans living in it were enjoying a special status unknown to any other 

minority in any other country, and as the annexation of Austria was in process of commemoration – 

I sometimes think our only hope of peace is for Hitler to annex a large number of other countries, 

because then the German calendar will be composed entirely of national holidays – the Germans 

had all beflagged their houses. Thus a stranger coming into Brünn might almost have thought he 

was in a German city, and in isolated villages and hamlets too I saw lonely German settlers gaily 

flying the swastika. But when I got to Prague and read the German newspapers, I learned that 

Germans were being chased about all over the country and put to the torture by mixed bands of 

Czechs and Jews, that a ‘Benesh Putsch’ impended, and so on. 

Once again, Prague staggered me by its calm. Only two days of life remained to it, and yet I believe 

the majority of the population only realized the awful thing that had happened to them when they 

saw the first German soldiers pass along the street before them. A dying city that did not know it 

was dying! 

Yet all the signs, those old familiar signs, that a new change in the map of Europe was at hand were 

there, plain to read, for those who know how to read them. In the London office of The Times, for 

instance, somebody was writing, for publication on Monday morning, March 13th, some thirty-six 

hours before the invasion, ‘If anything distinguishes this year from its predecessor it is the 

knowledge that Germany has completed those demands upon her neighbours which, by their own 

professions, they were unable conscientiously to contest … In that respect alone there may be said 

to be a fresh starting-point in foreign affairs. Mr. Chamberlain’s policy stands and deserves support 

from its critics …’ 

In the editorial office of Punch, a cartoon was being printed, ready for publication on March 15th, 

the day of the invasion, that showed John Bull waking upon the morning of March 15th and 

yawningly exclaiming ‘Thank goodness that’s over’. Just to make sure that you didn’t miss the point 

of this one, which I think was extremely subtle, almost bad enough for – well never mind about 

that; anyway, Punch published an explanatory footnote: ‘Pessimists predicted “another major crisis” 

in the middle of this month.’ 

In the editorial office of the Daily Couéist, a little piece was being prepared on these lines: ‘There 

will be no crisis and no war this year, next year, some time, ever, and don’t listen to the jitterbugs.’ 

In the Prime Minister’s office, about five days before the invasion, an ‘authoritative statement’ was 

prepared and issued to my dearly beloved old British public, to the effect that, thanks to Munich, 

Europe was approaching a new dawn, that the Government was in good hopes of getting an 

agreement for general arms-limitation from Hitler, and that in general the world had seldom looked 

more promising than it did that day. This statement (which, as I may tell you, in confidence, nearly 

induced apoplexy in the Foreign Office) led the Evening Soother to the following paroxysm: 

‘Bursting optimism breaks through the clouds. It comes direct from the Foreign Office and it is 

founded on a solid array of facts.’ 

So you see that, for anybody who knows how to read such British periodicals, that is by holding 

them upside down and looking at them in a mirror, the signs that something awful was about to 

happen in Europe were plain enough. When things founded on solid arrays of facts come bursting 

through optimistic clouds, the time has come to inquire about your ticket for the Hebrides. 

But few Czechs read the British Press, and those that do and those that do not are alike of a 

strangely childlike and confiding nature and tend to believe what they are told, and that is the 

reason for their troubles. 

On these two days, Monday and Tuesday, March 13th and 14th, 1939, when Prague was dying and 

did not know it, I spent a deal of time in the hall of my hotel, which was on the first floor and had a 

glass wall on the street side. From there I was able to watch the final act in this tragedy of an 

unsuspecting people. 

It was fantastic. All day long the Pragers went busily about their normal occupations as if nothing 

untoward were afoot. The trams clanged unconcernedly to and fro before the hotel, at a spot that I 

never passed without thinking of a morning when the waiter brought me my breakfast and said 

‘There’s a man without a head lying in the street’, and I looked out of the window and actually a 

headless man lay there; one moment he had been one of those thousands of busy Pragers, running 

for a tram, and his foot slipped and the next moment he lay in the Wenceslas Platz without a head. 

As the tragedies of individuals, for some reason, register more deeply upon our limited human 

emotions than those of massacred masses, I carried with me always a picture of that decapitated 

man and thought of him every time I passed the spot, just as I thought of the blue-faced Venus 

whenever I passed the Gellert Bridge in Budapest. 

Now I sat at my window and watched the busy daytime scene give way to the afternoon 

promenade. Between what we call tea-time and supper-time, the Wenceslas Platz fills with quietly 

strolling crowds, mainly of young people; the lads try to pull and crush their cheap hats into the 

shape of those worn by Robert Taylor, and the girls come fresh from the hairdresser with their hair 

in the strangest shapes, and they stroll up and down, up and down, and a camel might pass more 

easily through the eye of a needle than a guest from the hotel who wishes to reach the roadway 

through this turgid stream of chattering, laughing, ogling pedestrians. 

Sitting in my elevated observation post, I marvelled as I watched these strolling crowds and thought 

how different Vienna had been the night before the annexation, how different Bratislava a few days 

before. Either the Czechs are the most unsuspecting people on earth, or they have nerves of iron. 

On the Monday night I could detect hardly a sign of anything unusual. The German papers were 

climbing to their familiar crescendo of complaint about Czech terrorism and German suffering; 

here before me lay one of the brightest and most peaceful cities in Europe. Only one small sign of 

what was coming caught my eye. Here and there in the crowd I saw the German Nazis, young men 

with waterproofs over their kneebreeches and topboots, or wearing the white stockings and 

Austrian hats that betold the Nazi. By their demeanour I could tell that they had been given the 

order to be truculent; they were in ständiger Bereitschaft, in a state of permanent readiness. 

But the confiding Czechs did not realize what the appearance in their midst of those glowering 

young men meant. They still thought, on that Monday and Tuesday, that, the whole trouble was 

only about Slovakia, that the worst that could happen was Slovakia’s secession, and that was the 

least of their worries. The Catholic-Fascist Slovak politicians in Bratislava, a town on which the 

Czechs had spent millions, had treated them so badly since Munich, by inciting the people against 

the Czechs and classing the Czechs with the Jews, that many Czechs would have welcomed the loss 

of Slovakia. 

On Tuesday afternoon – when the German mechanized armies across the frontier were already 

filling their tanks and massing – the Czechs’ who were kept in ignorance to the last moment by their 

press and radio, first gained an inkling that something was afoot. They were not told that Germany 

was already demanding the complete disbandment of the army, the withdrawal of all Czech troops 

from Slovakia, the surrender of more gold, and so on, but they were told, by special editions of the 

newspapers issued in the afternoon, that their President, Emil Hacha, had gone with his Foreign 

Minister, Franz Chvalkovsky, to see Hitler in Berlin. 

I watched, from my vantage post, the crowds tearing the wet sheets from the hands of the 

newsvendors. They ran their eyes over the news, discussed it with each other for a few moments, 

and resumed their strolling. 

But on this Tuesday evening their stroll was interrupted. From my window I was able to see just 

how ‘bloody Czech terrorism’ is manufactured by the shrieking German propaganda-machine. 

Suddenly, among the strolling crowds, appeared those young Nazis, in groups of ten or twelve. I 

saw them, moving along with the rest, just like any other Pragers taking their evening walk. 

Suddenly, I saw one of them knock a man’s hat off. The man looked round, bewildered, not sure 

whether the thing was an accident or an affront. He opened his mouth to expostulate, and was 

smacked in the face. Immediately he hit back; immediately the ten were all round him, piling blows 

on him. Another instant, and they had vanished into the crowd, leaving a flabbergasted Prager to 

complain to a policeman. The policeman listened non-committally, shrugged his shoulders, moved 

away. The police had been told at all costs to avoid any kind of friction with the Germans which 

could be used by the German Press to bolster up stories about ‘Czech terrorism’. All over the 

Wenceslas Platz I saw similar groups of struggling, shouting, gesticulating men, little groups that 

formed and dissolved, formed and dissolved. After half an hour, the Germans vanished like driven 

snow. They had carried out their orders. 

Prague is a city of a million people. It contains a few thousand Germans. For the first time I saw, in 

Prague, the terrorism of the million by the few thousand. You can do so much when you have 

behind you a Reich of eighty millions with the greatest army and air force in the world.