The Charlotte News

SUNDAY, JUNE 6, 1937


In Books, In War:

The Arrogant Fritz

--Note On Kultur, By W. J. Cash

Site ed. note: Cash analyzes the German mind and finds its undoing in its insistence on carrying through any idea to its ultimate conclusion based on its sheer might and imagination, regardless of the rationality of doing so and the ultimate inevitable consequences to Germany. This was an easy leap for Cash, having assiduously studied for nearly a decade the same inevitable fault in the Southern mind that led to the Civil War.


THERE is a curious streak in the German national character, quite visible in the national literature, which when it is carried over to the realm of political action turns into downright stupidity. I mean the insistence on carrying an idea through to the last ditch--the absolute belief in the complete validity of theory--the impulse to make every idea into a complete system, admitting of no exception and no compromise. Whoever has looked into Kant or Hegel or Fichte or Schelling or Nietzsche will understand my remarks immediately.

For everyone of these philosophers, none of them without some little truth in him, has taken that little truth and erected it into such a structure as no longer bears any possible relation to reality. The same want of imaginative perspective and the same intellectual arrogance (for such it comes to, of course) can even be discovered in the men of pure literature--can even be discovered in Goethe, despite the general largeness of view which was his. Indeed, the only German writers who did not pretty often fetch you up before the vision of an enormous square-headed bull in full charge are the German Jews such as Heine.

The result in the purely intellectual realm has surely been disastrous enough. For it is undoubtedly the explanation of confusion and general muddle-headedness which all observers are agreed are the prevailing characteristics of German life.


But in politics--. We may observe the thing in action in the decision of the German general staff to go to war in 1914. That staff knew quite correctly that it had the finest war machine that had ever existed. It knew it had an infinitely better war machine than Bismarck had had in 1870. It knew that, on the other hand, the French war machine was relatively no better than that of Napoleon III. It knew it could throw a million men upon French soil within two weeks--a million men backed by ample supplies for two years, and that it would be at least six months before the French could bring their cumbersome, badly organized and inadequately supplied machine into effective shape. It knew that the British could not possibly put a disciplined army of any size in the field for at least a year. It knew that its navy was powerful enough, without ever allowing things to come to decisive showdown, to keep the British navy fully occupied. And it knew that it could smash the old-fashioned forts which stood in its way as though they were made of tissue.

It knew, in short, that on paper, it was absolutely sure to do what Bismarck had done in 1870, land in Paris within a month or two, and dictate the terms of peace. And characteristically, it took the paper absolute for a factual absolute--struck--and was absolutely astounded when the long gathering fury of the French and the incalculable resolve of English clerks halted it dead upon the Somme. So amazed was it, indeed, so sure its theory must somehow be right, that it took it more than two years to realize that, its drive having been stopped, the war was irretrievably lost upon the land--and that the only chance left lay upon the sea.


And when it did finally realize that, it showed more glaringly than ever its characteristic fault. There was not the slightest sense in its destroying of the Lusitania in 1916. For, granting that the ship was carrying contraband, it was clearly carrying too little to matter in the aggregate. And on the other hand, it was perfectly certain that the murder of sixteen hundred 1 innocent passengers, many of them Americans, was going to greatly arouse the horror and anger of the American republic, and it was perfectly certain, was known to be perfectly certain by the best heads in Berlin, that if the American republic went to war with any seriousness, there could be but one outcome. There was not the slightest sense in its rigid insistence on applying submarine warfare to every ship whatever, whether passenger carrying or not. For, though in the first half of 1917, it destroyed four million tons of British shipping, not more than 200,000 tons of this represented passenger-carrying ships. It might have heeded the American protests without any considerable damage to German interest and so kept the American nation off its neck. But no, it must be absolute. And pay for it with the German nation's present dismal estate.

Well, has the nation learned from its experiences? Plainly not. Having seized on the fascist idea for itself, it must anyhow ram it down the throat of Spain; having got the notion that it needs Spanish raw materials, it must go along trying to seize them by force--and all this before the obvious fact that if it persists it is sure presently to find itself at war with France, England, and Russia, with the chances at least a hundred thousand to one that it will emerge from that war totally smashed--reduced to the rank of a fifth rate power for a hundred years to come.


Or again, having got the notion of abolishing free speech within its own borders, it must come swaggering into the state department at Washington with the demand that the American government reverse its historic and well-known policy and then suppress the right of free speech in its citizens, too--that nazi law be made the American law also. It must come swaggering in so, and get the news of that insolent demand plastered on every front page in America, set the blood of every honest American to singing in his head, and turn the national dislike of America for the nazi regime into blazing hate for Germany as a whole. It must come swaggering in, rigid and absolute in the pursuit of of its notions. In face of the manifest truth that every time it does it makes it that much more certain that, when it does finally make war, it will have to deal not only with England amd France and Russia but once more with this American republic as well--that it will emerge from that war, not a fifth rate power but a tenth rate one.

1 The actual number of dead in the sinking of Lusitania was 1198, 128 of which were Americans.

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