The Charlotte News

Wednesday, September 28, 1938


A Question at Munich

The announcement that Lord Hitler has summoned Chamberlain, Daladier, and Mussolini to Munich for a conference is, of course, the most hopeful news that has come out of Europe since the breakdown of the conference at Godesburg. It shows pretty plainly that even Hitler is to some degree amenable to the opinion of the world. But how far remains to be seen. A conference is still not an agreement, and the possibility of agreement probably depends entirely upon whether Hitler can be persuaded to give up his demands that his armies be allowed to swarm into the Sudeten territory, while one million Czechs still live there, and that these Czechs be required to leave all their property behind without compensation, when they are removed into the new Czechoslovakia.

It seems incredible to us that the man should be obdurate about these grossly unjust demands in the face of the alternative that next week battle fields may actually begin to be filled with great hordes of the dead and dying and that the great old streets of London and Paris and Prague--yes, and let us not forget the streets of Berlin and Rome--may be turned into charnel houses.

If he makes this war under such circumstances he will be making it with a contempt for "decent respect for the opinion of mankind" which cannot be matched save in the annals of Genseric or Attila or Genghis or Tamerlane. Czechoslovakia, faced with the fact that war means death and pain for millions--men, women, and children--has made heroic sacrifice and offered to strip herself of her defenses and the great part of her wealth, to make herself a mere dependent of the German State. Simply she has refused to abolish herself altogether, and hand her citizens over to the systematic brutalities practiced on the Jews and the Austrians--which nobody can blame her for.

And in addition to the Czech concessions, the head of the great British Empire has put his pride and that of his proud people in his pocket, and begged for peace. The French, proudest of all the nations, have done the same. And twice the President of the United States has also entered his plea for negotiation and reason.

On the basis of the simple, uncensored facts, Lord Hitler today is hated in all the Western lands as bitterly as was the Kaiser after five years of unremitting propaganda.

And if he does make this war, he had better be certain he can win it--as the might of half the world says he can't. For if he makes it now and loses it, not only will Germany and Italy be destroyed past the making of any trouble for a hundred years to come, but he himself and all his gang, as well as Lord Mussolini and all his gang, will hang as high as ever men were hung.

Reason, common humanity, the true interest of Germany, and, in the last analysis, self-interest, call upon this man to heed to pleas that have been addressed to him, to lay aside his sadistic lust to get the helpless Czechs into his clutches and to seize the hegemony of Europe, and take what has been offered him peacefully. If it were certain that he were sane, it might be said with complete confidence indeed that he will recede from his demands and agree to a rational and orderly method of taking over his new territory. But alas no one can be sure that he is sane. If he acts the megalomaniac, the chances for the success of the conference are slim. Meantime, all we can do is to hope at least that it is not so.

Argument Through a Sieve

Mr. Hitler's reply to the President is obviously designed to the end of drumming up sentiment in this country by appeal to the principle of "the self-determination of minorities," which was the most important of Mr. Wilson's Fourteen Points. But unfortunately for that, there are great and glaring holes in Mr. Hitler's argument.

He leads off with the proposition that the German people laid down their arms in 1918 because of their faith in Mr. Wilson's ideals, and that they were shamefully betrayed in the settlement. The simple fact is that they laid down their arms because they were finally beaten and had no recourse but to surrender at discretion. And the terms imposed upon them were precisely such terms as they themselves had imposed on France in 1870, and such terms as nations defeated at war have always got. Unwise they may have been, but a betrayal of any promises or even any implied trust they certainly were not. And as a matter of fact, Mr. Wilson succeeded in making them a good deal gentler than they would otherwise have been. If grim old Georges Clemenceau had had his way at Versailles, Germany would not today be in a position to menace the peace of the world.

Mr. Hitler's case for "betrayal" here consists in the statement that Germany was robbed of the Sudeten area and its people, "although these lands have always been German:" and that the Czechoslovak Government has refused and continues to refuse "to grant the most elementary rights to the Sudeten Germans." Neither statement is true. The lands in question have never at any time belonged to Germany. They belonged originally to the old Czech kingdom of Bohemia, and after its destruction to Hungary. The Germans who dwell in them now are Germans who have filtered in from Germany during the last four centuries. Nor for that matter are these "Germans" really such save in language and culture. For the blood strains are everywhere predominantly Slavic.

And as for their being denied "the most elementary rights"--here is the record, according to our American correspondents. The Sudetens in Germany have always had the full rights to the Czechoslovakian ballot; they have and have had full representation in the Czechoslovakian Parliament; they have and have had equal school facilities; and many thousands of them have found jobs in the Czechoslovakian government service. What they hadn't was the right to name their own local officials and policemen, and the right to use German in their schools. Both rights were conceded under the Runciman plan accepted by Czechoslovakia.

But Mr. Hitler's case blows up even more decisively on something else. Monday at Berlin, he declared that the Godesburg memorandum was his final word on the Czechoslovakian question. And in that memorandum he makes two demands that are exceedingly interesting. One of them is that he be allowed to occupy the areas where plebiscites are to be held. He will, indeed, withdraw his troops in the days when the vote is actually being taken. But meantime--has anybody forgotten the well-known terroristic methods of his Storm Troopers? And does anybody believe this adds up to a proposition for actual self-determination?

The second demand is this: that, while the Czechs, one million or more of them, living in the ceded areas may remove to the new Czechoslovakia if they desire, they must leave everything they own behind them, without a penny of compensation. Self-determination? That? What would Mr. Hitler say if somebody proposed to him that since he is so devoted to the Sudeten Germans, that they will be given to him on condition that he remove them all to Germany and that they leave behind everything they own without compensation? Yet, the proposition is simply his own in reverse. And in fact, it would be definitely fairer, since the territory in question is historically Czech and not German territory.

Continents & Cows

They were fine, virtuous words that Chancellor Hitler used to reply to President Roosevelt yesterday--"the immeasurable consequences of a European war," the "shameful betrayal" of Germany's faith in accepting self-determination of peoples at the hands of the Versailles treaty-makers, Prague's denial of "elementary rights" to the Sudeten Germans--and they must have made some impression upon this country which is idealistic enough to believe in fair play among nations or realistic enough to know that there are always two sides to a question.

But a great many people, reflecting, must have come back continually to the least little clause in Hitler's terms for the surrender of Sudetenland--the stipulation that Czechs who wanted to stay Czechs would have to move out and leave their homes, their cows, horses, farm implements, and all but their most personal possessions behind them. And while it is generally recognized that nations enjoy a certain right of eminent domain which transcends individual rights, the exercise of this right in any such small way comes close to petty thievery. For the Chancellor of a great nation to demand a continent is one thing, but to demand the family cow is quite another.

Lawless Law Enforcement*

The County Commissioners censured the Rural Police yesterday for lax enforcement of the laws, yet the same paper that carried the report of it carried also two instances of overzealous enforcement of the laws--rather, lawless enforcement.

1. A search was made of a house in Biddleville occupied by two Negro women, and nine pints of whisky were found. The case was thrown out of court, however, because the search warrant taken out by the officer was unsigned.

[Any officer who shall issue or cause to be signed and issued a search warrant without first requiring the complainant or other person to sign an affidavit under oath and examining said person or complainant in regard thereto, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.]

2. Before the County Commissioners appeared a motor route carrier for The News to ask that tires shot by the police (Sunday at 4 AM when he was coming to work) be replaced. The police thought he was a hit-and-run driver they were looking for.


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