The Charlotte News

Thursday, October 20, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Relative to "The Conqueror Demands", the French Ambassador to Germany, M. Francois-Poncet this date sent a memorandum to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Georges Bonnet, regarding the outcome of a meeting two days earlier with Hitler at Obersalzberg, his mountain castle hideaway.

The opening and closing remarks offer a candid inner glimpse to the personal life of a psychopath:

When on the evening of October 17, the German Chancellor asked me to see him as quickly as possible, he placed one of his private planes at my disposal. I therefore left by air for Berchtesgaden on the next day accompanied by Captain Stehlin. I arrived there towards three in the afternoon. From there a car took me not to the Obersalzberg villa where the Führer lives, but to an extraordinary place where he likes to spend his days when the weather is fine.

From a distance, the place looks like a kind of observatory or small hermitage perched up at a height of 6,000 feet on the highest point of a ridge of rock. The approach is by a winding road about nine miles long, boldly cut out of the rock; the boldness of its construction does as much credit to the ability of the engineer Todt as to the unremitting toll of the workmen who in three years completed this gigantic task. The road comes to an end in front of a long underground passage leading into the mountain, and closed by a heavy double door of bronze. At the far end of the underground passage a wide lift, paneled with sheets of copper, awaits the visitor. Through a vertical shaft of 330 feet cut right through the rock, it rises up to the level of the Chancellor's dwelling-place. Here is reached the astonishing climax. The visitor finds himself in a strong and massive building containing a gallery with Roman pillars, an immense circular hall with windows all round and a vast open fireplace where enormous logs are burning, a table surrounded by about thirty chairs, and opening out at the sides, several sitting-rooms, pleasantly furnished with comfortable arm-chairs. On every side, through the bay-windows, one can look as from a plane high in the air, on to an immense panorama of mountains. At the far end of a vast amphitheatre one can make out Salzburg and the surrounding villages, dominated, as far as the eye can reach, by a horizon of mountain ranges and peaks, by meadows and forests clinging to the slopes. In the immediate vicinity of the house, which gives the impression of being suspended in space, an almost overhanging wall of bare rock rises up abruptly. The whole, bathed in the twilight of an autumn evening, is grandiose, wild, almost hallucinating. The visitor wonders whether he is awake or dreaming. He would like to know where he is--whether this is the Castle of Monsalvat where lived the Knights of the Graal or a new Mount Athos sheltering the meditations of a cenobite, or the palace of Antinea rising up in the heart of the Atlas Mountains. Is it the materialization of one of those fantastic drawings with which Victor Hugo adorned the margins of his manuscript of Les Burgraves, the fantasy of a millionaire, or merely the refuge where brigands take their leisure and hoard their treasures? Is it the conception of a normal mind, or that of a man tormented by megalomania, by a haunting desire for domination and solitude, or merely that of a being in the grip of fear?

One detail cannot pass unnoticed, and is no less valuable than the rest for someone who tries to assess the psychology of Adolf Hitler: the approaches, the openings of the underground passage and the access to the house are manned by soldiers and protected by nests of machineguns....

The Chancellor received me amiably and courteously. He looks pale and tired. It is not one of his excitable days, he is rather in a period of relaxation. Immediately, he draws me towards the bay-windows of the great hall, shows me the landscape and enjoys the surprise and admiration that I make no effort to conceal. We exchange some compliments and a few polite phrases. At his order, the tea is served in one of the adjoining sitting-rooms. When the servants have left and the doors are closed, the conversation begins between the three of us; Herr von Ribbentrop intervenes only at rare intervals, and always to stress and emphasize the Führer's remarks.

After indicating his disappointment with Munich, Hitler proceeded to discuss the various proposals with regard to France, Spain, Hungary's and Poland's respective demands on Slovakia, including a tirade against Britain for sabre-rattling and assumption of superiority, a denial that this was justified for mistreatment of the Czechs who he claimed not to have mistreated at all, only protecting "Germans", his great desire for peace in Europe and recognition of existing mutual frontiers with France, a willingness to discuss a mutual non-aggression pact, an omission to ask that France dissolve its pact with Russia, a hedged willingness to discuss arms limitations as long as arms limitations meant Germany would retain superiority with respect to each of her several neighbors against whom it would otherwise be vulnerable to collusive attack, further complicated by his fear that any such agreement would suggest he was backing down in the face of British coercion, a willingness to agree to withdraw all foreign troops from Spain in the confident belief that Franco's forces would be victorious over the Loyalists, and that Hungary and Poland keep to the principle of ethnicity in drawing new boundaries out of Slovakia, just as he had done with respect to the Sudetenland, his concerns that the intransigence of the Hungarians and Czechs over this matter could lead to "most unpleasant complications", meanwhile congratulating himself for his and Mussolini's valiant attempts to reconcile the two sides to a less entrenched impasse. He spoke, said Francois-Poncet, in moments "as a European". Then:

He spoke of our "white civilization" as of a very precious possession common to us all, which must be defended. He appeared sincerely shocked at the persistent antagonism which has remained after the Munich Agreement and which the British attitude revealed to his mind with great clearness. Obviously, the possibility of a coming crisis and the eventual outbreak of a general war are ever present in his mind. Perhaps at heart he himself is skeptical as to his chances of preventing this tragedy? In any case, he seems willing to attempt to do so or he wishes to feel he has made the attempt so as to calm if not his own conscience, at least the conscience of his people. And it is through France that he thinks this attempt must be made.

I have no illusions whatever about Adolf Hitler's character. I know that he is changeable, dissembling, full of contradictions, uncertain. The same man with the debonair aspect, with a real fondness for the beauties of nature, who discussed reasonable ideas on European politics round the tea-table, is also capable of the worst frenzies, of the wildest exaltations and the most delirious ambitions. There are days when, standing before a globe of the world, he will overthrow nations, continents, geography and history, like a demiurge stricken with madness. At other moments, he dreams of being the hero of an everlasting peace, in which he would devote himself to the erection of the most magnificent monuments. The advances that he is prepared to make to France are dictated by a sentiment which he shares, at least intermittently, with the majority of his countrymen, namely the weariness of an age-long contest, and the desire to see it end at last; this feeling is now strengthened by the memories of the Munich interviews, by the sympathy that the person of President Daladier aroused in him, and also by the idea that our country's evolution tends to make it easier for her to understand the Third Reich. But at the same time we may be certain that the Führer remains true to his wish to disintegrate the Franco-British bloc, and to stabilize peace in the west, so as to have a free hand in the east. What plans may be revolving already in his mind? Is it Poland, Russia, the Baltic States which, in his thoughts, will be called upon to pay the cost? Does he himself even know?

Be that as it may, Hitler is one of those men with whom one must never relax one's utmost vigilance, and whom one can only trust with reservations. Personally, I do not draw the conclusion that we should not listen to his suggestions. In these circumstances, as in many other previous ones, I hold that the main thing is that we should know exactly where we stand and with whom we are dealing. But it does not follow that an attitude of abstention and negation is the right one. Dr. Goebbels said recently, and not without reason, that one cannot win in a lottery if one does not take at least the risk of buying a ticket. It is our bounder duty not to neglect a single one of the ways that lead to peace. If it so happens that Herr Hitler, either as a feint or as a deliberate plan, engages himself far enough on that path, it is possible that he will end by not being able to turn back again, even if he wished.

Besides, who could predict the astounding changes of front of which this dictator, impressionable, mutable and abnormal, may be capable, and what will his personal destiny and that of Germany be tomorrow ?

After the Munich conference, it was normal and necessary that one should think of expanding the results of an agreement on which public opinion had pinned such high hopes.

As matters stand to-day, Germany is expressing a wish to take the initiative; Germany is trying to work out a formula and a plan.

If we were to turn a deaf ear, we would, to our detriment, be providing her with the alibi which she wishes for perhaps in order to cover her future enterprises.

Besides, the contracts she appears ready to enter into have only a limited scope.

If these promises are kept, they will contribute in a large measure to the lessening of tension in Europe.

If they are broken, the guilty party will assume a moral responsibility which will weigh heavily on his future position.

France should, therefore, undertake to consider the proposals without fear...

A month later, on November 23, Hitler would inform the new French Ambassador to Germany, M. Coulondre, "These relations I wish to see peaceable and pleasant, and I see no reason why they should not be so. There is no cause for conflict between Germany and France."

Perhaps, in lieu, France should have sent M. Cash.

Peace At Any Price*

Mr. Lonnie Sides undoubtedly had the best of that argument.

Yesterday Mr. Sides proposed to his fellow Councilmen that the City Attorney be instructed to secure a copy of a recent Supreme Court decision on a Blue Law case at Elm City, whereunder it was decided that the privilege of running a filling station on Sunday didn't carry with it the right to sell soft drinks and so forth.

Mr. Sides is no friend of Blue Laws, despite his record for uneasily sliding back and forth across the fence. It is probable that he wants the law applied by way of testing how real is Charlotte's fervor for the Blue Law. For all that, the law is the law. And if this ruling applies to Charlotte, then it is the sworn duty of the Council to find out and see that it is enforced.

But, just as we predicted, the closed-Sunday faction on the Council objected strenuously to any mention of the subject. What they esteem is the status quo, be it good, bad, indifferent or plainly unlawful. Ain't that sump'n!

Essence Of Heroism

It is of such acts of routine heroism as EAL [Eastern Air Lines] Pilot Hissong's, who brought his ship down with his right engine fallen out and flames in the control cabin, that traditions are built. Such traditions are strong where human lives and safety are the direct responsibility of other human beings, generally uniformed in order to impress their obligations upon them. Long years have inculcated this code into men of the sea, and it holds for railroading, too, though they are not often called on for heroism.

As a matter of cold fact, Pilot Hissong's deed was no more than the simple performance of duty. The ship had to be brought down; he brought it down. The really notable part of it was his, and the rest of the crew's, valued cool headedness in the face of extreme danger. It is not enough to have a hero's impulse. The essential quality is to have a hero's calm. And that he and his fellows quietly exhibited to a striking degree.

The Missing $20,000,000

Farmers who spend half their time in the field and the rest on their AAA paperwork are going to have to do some more figuring in connection with the claims for crop control made by E. F. Arnold, Secretary of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation. Urging the farmers to vote again for control in the December referendum, Mr. Arnold cites tobacco as an instance in point. "I think it is not too much to estimate," he says, "that if it were not for this law tobacco would today be selling for ten to twelve cents per pound." (Let that pass for the moment, but make a note of it.) "If this is true, tobacco is selling at ten cents per pound higher because of" control.

"If," he proceeds, "estimates made by the Department of Agriculture that North Carolina will make this year 539,800,000 pounds of tobacco, then the law has brought to North Carolina $53,980,000."

Whoa! The gentleman's arithmetic is all right, but farmers gripping the plow behind some jarhead will have plenty of free mental time to discover that he has left out a step in his syllogism. If the tobacco crop had been 730 million pounds instead of 539, the price, to be sure, might have dropped to ten cents. But the extra production would have represented by no means a total loss. The growers would have had the extra 200,000,000 pounds, you see, which even at ten cents is worth something.

The Conqueror Demands

Precisely as everybody predicated, the surrender at Munich has Mr. Hitler's egomania swollen practically to the bursting point. His tongue throughout the whole proceedings has been that of a Napoleon who has just won a war and who is laying down terms that the beaten are powerless to resist. But nowhere has he more adopted the tone of the conqueror than in his proposals to France yesterday--to France, the nation which, as he has often said, his ultimate aim is to humble in the dust.

Those proposals were:

1--The ignominious acceptance of a second-rate position by France and the placing of her cities in the same status as Spanish cities--helpless before Hitler's whim to murder their population--by agreeing that he is to have the superiority in the air.

2--The return of the colonies which Germany lost after taking a terrific beating the last time she had a fit of idiotic superiority and undertook to give France a kicking.

3--The further rendering of herself helpless before him by abrogating the Soviet pact and agreeing not to oppose him anywhere in Central Europe.

And in return for that, he was to give? Simply a promise not to attack France! It is a promise not to do what immediately he cannot and dares not do. And it is a promise which, by the record, would be totally worthless once he ever got himself in position to dare to violate it. And, of course, the things he demands are precisely calculated to make him able to violate it!

The Closing Breach*

Down at the First Methodist Church today the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, is beginning its last meeting as such. When next it convenes it will meet as a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, will be only a memory. So will end a division that began 93 years ago when the Southern delegation left the General Conference at Philadelphia--as the culmination of a long controversy over the fact of a Louisiana Bishop who held slaves in contradiction of the rule of John Wesley and the early policy of the church in America--and went to Louisville to found the Southern church.

Well, it is all long ago and faraway now, and it no longer matters who was right or who was wrong when the division began. They were all good, well-meaning men on both sides, no doubt. And the division was natural enough in view of the war that was coming and which was perhaps inevitable. But it is encouraging that the old wound is healed at last. It means that the nation is now more than ever solidly one, and that sectionalism is coming to count for less and less, which in most matters--and certainly in religion--is a most desirable thing indeed.

Time Is Running Short*

How many days it is to Christmas we haven't figured out yet, but the days until the general election November 8 can be counted on the fingers and toes. Each day that passes without agreement on the Democratic nominee for Congress in the eighth district, a controversy which the Supreme Court remanded again to the lower court yesterday, means more votes for the Republican candidate, who is standing by demurely and amiably. To save our lives we can't help a little feeling of jubilance at the woes of the Democratic Party. They arise, as everybody knows, best of all the party stalwarts, from unmitigated electoral frauds which the party has tolerated as between Democrats because of their great usefulness as between Democrats and Republicans. And it would be a test of Jovian quality if the very instrument itself, the absentee ballot law, were to slip and injure its manipulators.

It is unlikely to happen, we suppose, for the simple reason that there are more Democrats than Republicans in the eighth district. Besides, the Democrats still control election machinery. But if it should happen, it would serve them right and perhaps bring about what reason, morality and simple justice have not been able to accomplish--the repeal of the law that gives full play to fraud.


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