The Charlotte News

Friday, December 1, 1939


Site Ed. Note: We include the Heywood Broun piece below, proposing a Christmas truce similar to that which occurred at several places along the front on Christmas Eve, 1914, the first of four consecutive Christmases spent in the trenches by those who survived the months of each year before.

The spirit of Mr. Broun's proposal was magnanimous and wholly appropriate. The problem with it, however, is manifest from history: Such transitory truces, as Broun concedes, such as those occasioned for burying the dead, while recognizing momentarily the humanity of each side, do little in the short-run to effect permanent truce. Perhaps, indeed, they only increase the anguish then of both sides in renewing the fighting again next day.

Perhaps in that, they actually then serve only to prolong a war which might otherwise be stopped more quickly by final elevation to consciousness, from the otherwise dull glaze-over, of the irretrievably and unremittingly grotesque figure of warfare, without a respite to remember some semblance of human commonality before that grotesque figure is painted so firmly in their minds in pooled blood and broken bone and disembodied flesh to be indelible and unforgettable, finally to end the warfare. Perhaps then again, the momentary respite from that dull glaze-over is sufficient to break the spell long enough better to come to that same recognition.

Regardless, we admire the spirit of Broun, problems with his proposal and all.

For Mr. Broun himself, he would never see this Christmas of 1939 as he would die in New York City of pneumonia a week before it. We shall therefore provide all of his last several columns printed in The News during these remaining days of his life.

Meanwhile, Joyeaux NoŽl...

A Season For Truce

By Heywood Broun

The most curious fact in the present war is the circumstance that up till now the bitterness has been more localized than is customary. As in most wars, international law has been torn to shreds; neutrals and innocents have suffered and the contending leaders have accused each other of all the crimes which can be imagined.

I am not neutral, and I have my own opinion as to the accusations which come most closely home. And yet, in spite of the true bill which can be drawn against Hitler, the hatred of the individual Englishman against the individual German, and vice versa, is far less than in the war of 1914. And that is perhaps the one hopeful sign in the present disorder of the earth. And gravely do I fear that it will not long obtain.


Sooner or later, if the war continues, the bombers will move all men to become sons of Cain, and even between civilian populations, which have no proper quarrel, all shred of fellowship will be gone. Action for peace should come before the day when rage has blotted out every civilized instinct all along the line. There ought to be a breathing spell, and I suggest that the dates on which a tacit armistice might be observed by common consent, could well be Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

If pressure came from all neutral executives and from religious leaders of all faiths, it might be possible to have Christmas and Christmas Eve observed on land and sea and in the air. A majority of them in the fight profess to follow the counsels of the Prince of Peace. The war will not be won or lost in any 48 hours, and so I think a gesture should be made to keep in part an actual fidelity to a faith which so many millions profess.


On the night before Christmas no city or town in any of the contending nations ought to be blackened out into sullen darkness. Upon that night in England, in France and Germany, candles should blaze and churches stand wide open for worshippers.

So why should there not be recognition of a joint commitment to a creed by which the many live and die? Nor am I suggesting this as a mere fruitless and sentimental truce. If two days passed in which no shot was fired and no torpedo or bomb loosed, there might be a return to sanity. Once a gun has been put down, it is hard even for the angry to raise it up again. In 48 hours the brand which marks the man who slays his brother, might miraculously grow dim or disappear. Even the shortest truce serves to underline the futility and the folly of war.


I was talking only the other day to a man who served at Gallipoli. "The Turks," he said, "were not such bad fellows. I remember once they sent a message over to our lines for a parley, and the communication which they wished to make was that their hospitals were filled with their own wounded and our own and would we agree to send British surgeons over while the firing ceased to minister to those who were in agony? The medical mission was duly sent, and for five hours our doctors attended impartially to the English and the Turkish wounded and saved such lives as they could and gave the drugs of easement to those who were beyond the hope of being patched up again.

"Under a white flag the mission of mercy returned into our lines, and from the Turks there came a message, 'Is everybody back safe into your own trenches?' We signaled an affirmative, and, wham, a shell came over and the war was on again. It did seem a little silly. Both sides had ceased awhile to snatch men back from death, and now both of us were trying to build up as rapidly as possible another waiting list for further treat-men. It just didn't make sense."

It didn't then nor does it now. And it will be a blasphemy if fighting men of the same faith must dig deep underground in their respective lines to join in celebrating the fact that once again the season of good will to mankind has come from heaven to a scarred and bleeding earth. We have the word. It can become the deed.

Site Ed. Note: In continuation of the long tradition examined by the first regular editorial offering of the day by Cash, the 2006 Deaconate boys deserve our congratulations for having just completed a fine season, their best ever as far as we can determine--earning them a nice trip to the Orange Bowl.

Lest they become over-bloated though, we must say that this particular bowl bid comes about only because the conference champion has an automatic bid to the thing, not the Deaconate boys' inherent rank or quality--but conference champions they are, in a year when the ordinarily blossoming Floridians found the freezer without fruit.

Our dear Spartans never went to the Orange Bowl, certainly not this year. But when they were conference champions a few times, there was no automatic bid in place like that for the Orange Bowl, you see. Gator bound then were they.

Now we cannot pass the matter without duly pointing, too, to the fact that the Deaconate boys' schedule was not one of the toughest in the nation, unlike that of the Spartans; hence despite the good record of only two losses, they merit only a 16th ranking by those who vote on such things. (Indeed, even the lowly Spartans this year, they beat but by a touchdown, the lowlier Trinity boys, officially the worst team in the country, by a measly point!) But, mere technicalities.

We only felt it fair, however,--seeing that they have been doing as much for the Spartans' good seasons for time immemorial--, to set the record in balance and straight--and that before all of le tissue de chalet de necessite available in Winston-Salem is utilized to decorate the campus environs in that nouveau-faux-snow motif which has become the Deaconate tradition over time, resembling more Tartarin than Tartarin.

Nevertheless, a season well done and due our congratulations. For a small preachers' school, not bad.

Incidentally, we are saddened to see the Spartans' coach dismissed. We believe he is a topnotch individual and a coach with a plan, not just for winning games, but for teaching his young charges something of the art of life. And, we believe, given time, that would have translated into better season records. But, winning, and winning now, it seems, has for time immemorial been the central issue, of course, when it comes to major college athletics. One mere break-even season of hurricanes among those Floridians, for instance, and that coach, too, with a national championship trophy, no less, to his credit just six years ago, is gone. They want those horrific hurricanes, you know--and undoubtedly shall get them.

Ah well, better than going to war...

...said Claude Bukowski...

...looking up at his hero...

David's Son

He Wisely Eschews The Honor Of Meeting A Grown Goliath

After yesterday's football game between Davidson and Wake Forest, the wisdom of discontinuing the 30-year-old Thanksgiving classic was clearly apparent as to all the spectators with a fellow-feeling for Davidson, at least. The score of 48 to 7 represented, in all probability, not only the difference in man-power between the two teams but the comparative emphasis upon football at the two institutions.

Indeed, to apply the score in one other way, it might be said, not at all disparagingly of the excellence of the Wake Forest athletes that it reflected the difference in the football investments of the two denominational schools. Not purely by coincidence we may be sure, has Wake Forest collected its Balionis, Galioviches, Horchaks, Kaprivas, and, John The Baptist Polanskis from Homestead, Pa., Vandergrift, Pa., Johnstown, Pa., and Buffalo, N.Y.

... And John The Baptist Polanski is only a sophomore...

It may be argued that the difference between the subsidization of football, at Davidson and Wake Forest is only in degree, and that Wake Forest is simply equipping itself to meet Duke, Carolina and its other subsidizing opponents on equal terms. We do not deny it, but we can continue to decry it. And in any case, unless Davidson is prepared to do likewise, no other course would be fair to the boys who have to throw themselves up against full grown men but to play in a lower league.

Fair Trial*

Bund's Lack Of Complaint Makes No Difference

That Fritz Kuhn, convicted of theft, got a fair trial, appears reasonably certain.

Judge Wallace leaned over backward to see that he got it. With the most painstaking care, he searched into the mentality of every candidate for the jury, threw out everybody what was in the least doubtful. And constantly during the proceedings he used his right to comment to drive home to the jury that their opinion of Mr. Kuhn's political and glamorous antics should not be allowed to enter into the equation--that the sole issue was whether or not he had stolen the money of the Bund. And in the end, he threw out five of ten counts against the fellow, intimating his belief that the indictment had been padded.

The cry will probably be raised, of course, that the Bund itself had no complaint, and that if it was satisfied everybody else ought to be--that the inquiry was prompted by purely political motives. But that is to overlook the nature of our law, which has it that the offense was committed against the "peace and dignity" of the state and not against the Bund or any individual or group of individuals. Granting that political motives did set off the inquiry--if inquiries so set off unearth genuine crimes, that is all to the good.

There is perhaps some slight danger that German-Americans, hitherto generally cool to the Bund, may be incited to more zeal for it, under the delusion that the fellow is a martyr. But it does not seem likely in view of the ridiculous figure he cut during the trial.

Site Ed. Note: Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Robert Sherwood would in 1940 have a run with There Shall Be No Night, his play about a Finn who stands up to the Russians invading his country and, as a result, is killed. As odd as it might at first appear, one could view this play, along with his 1935 play, Petrified Forest, and his 1938 Abe Lincoln in Illinois, as forming a kind of trilogy on humanity's heroic thinking individual whose signally effective sacrifice hurled against the horde will of human darkness finally reigns triumphant to reaffirm the positive spirit of humanity, that darkness personified in the first by Duke Mantee and his gang, in the second by the bitter division in the land over slavery preceding election night 1860, and finally the predation of the Nazi-Fascist-Communist totalitarian tide in Europe, in each play poised against the strength of thought formed in the romantic individualist, Squier, the arm-chair philosopher, Abe, the country lawyer, stump preacher, and finally, Dr. Valkonen.

The November 30 attack by Russia led to its being expelled from the League of Nations on December 14. Grossly outnumbered four to one in men and by an even greater disparity in materiel, the Finlanders held against the invasion during the so-called Winter War until March 15, 1940 when a peace treaty was signed ceding ten percent of Finnish territory to the Soviet Union along with a fifth of Finland's industrial capacity. The easy victory sought by Stalin, however, was not realized and the Russian army suffered a blow to its reputation which some historians contend encouraged Hitler to invade Russia June 22, 1941. The unsettlingly mixed results from the invasion of Finland, however, led to a quick modernization of the Russian army, changes in command structure which ultimately aided Russia, though finally reliant on the stout fortitude of the citizen foot soldier protecting home turf in Stalingrad and Leningrad, in withstanding the Nazi onslaught through the cruel and crucial early winter of 1941-42, eventually ending in Russia's eastern pincer, as the remainder of the Allies moved from the west, finally combining to crush the Berlin bunker madmen on April 30, 1945.

"'There shall be no coming to consciousness without pain,'" said Jung, as quoted by Sherwood at the beginning of There Shall Be No Night. So it is always, especially in matters of war and death.

Mr. Sherwood, incidentally, was, along with seventeen others, a member of the "Algonquin Round Table", (or "Vicious Circle", as its members preferred), a group of literati who regularly met during the 1920's to ingest both weighty and lightsome fare at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. Heywood Broun was also among its number.


Concerning Our Growing Apathy And Its Sources

It is significant of the thickening of our sensibilities to the fate of other people that our reaction to the Russian attack on Finland has been one almost of apathy.

This is the worst crime yet committed in Europe with the exception of the air attacks on helpless Spanish civilians by Nazi and Fascist planes.

It has none of the shadowy excuses which Hitler made out for himself in the case of Poland. Until three days ago the Reds had not even claimed that they had any grievance against Finland, and only an idiot will believe the tale that the Finns attacked Russia. It would be nonsense to try to pretend that Russia needs "living space." And the claim that the little country is necessary to the defense of Russia is simply grotesque.

What we have here is wanton aggression in its purest form, and wanton aggression carried out with the most cold-blooded brutality. Omnibusses, taxicabs, passenger automobiles, are machine-gunned from the air all along the roads of Finland in a brazen disregard of humanity which not even the Nazis have surpassed.

But we hardly bother to feel any twinges of anger. In part, that is the result of the continual onslaught upon our nerves--Ethiopia, China, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland--all in a few years. But in part it is also undoubtedly due to the feeling that by refusing to feel anger about it, we can avoid being involved in war.

Perhaps that is the wisest course, too. And yet--back in 1914 a German named Oswald Spengler wrote a book called "The Decline of the West," wherein he prophesied, on the basis of historical parallels, the early extinction of Western civilization and the return of the dark ages. First, he said, there would be a private renunciation of war on the part of the majority of the population in the great tired giant nations--a renunciation which inevitably involved a real though unadmitted willingness to become the booty of nations which had not renounced war. Then the great period of aggression would begin, with each nation refusing to become excited about what happened to others, so long as it did not immediately touch itself. The spirit of Alaric and Theodoric would revive in Germany--and the conquering hordes would pour forth to do their work.

It seems an almost uncannily perfect description of what is actually taking place in the world at this moment. The spirit of Alaric and Theodoric is back in Germany, all right. But Mr. Spengler, German-like, made one mistake--he neglected to foresee that Russia would take over the spirit, too.


British Losses In Present War And The Last One

It is unnecessary to deny the Nazi sea victories; they have had some considerable ones. To date they have sunk (1) one British battleship, the Royal Oak; (2) one British airplane carrier, the Courageous; (3) perhaps one British heavy cruiser of the London class, yesterday's bag, though England denies this; two destroyers; one submarine; and several auxiliary craft. In addition, they have damaged three other cruisers to some undetermined extent.

But it is necessary to maintain perspective on these losses. One way to do that is to look at the British naval losses in the last war. Here they are:

Aug. 6, 1914--War vessel, Amphion, sunk by mine.

Sept. 11--Cruisers, Aboukir, Cressy, and Hoyle, sunk by single German submarine.

Nov. 1--British squadron defeated and largely destroyed off Coronel, Chile.

Jan. 1, 1915--Battleship, Formidable, torpedoed, sunk.

Jan. 24--Warship, Blucher, sunk in North Sea.

March 18--Irresistible, Ocean, both battleships sunk in Dardanelles.

May 12--Goliath sunk--battleship.

May 26--Battleship, Triumph, torpedoed off Gallipoli, sunk.

May 27--Battleship, Majestic, torpedoed off Gallipoli, sunk.

Jan. 8, 1916--King Edward VII sunk by mine in North Sea.

Feb. 11--Warship, Arethusa, sunk by mine.

March 9--Warship, Coquette, sunk by mine.

March 12--Warship, Fayette, sunk by mine.

May 31--Battle of Jutland, British losses; three battle cruisers, three armored cruisers, eight destroyers.

June 5--Cruiser, Hampshire, sunk, with Kitchener on board.

July 9--Battleship, Vanguard, destroyed by internal explosion.

Aug. 19--Light cruisers, Nottingham and Falmouth, torpedoed, sunk.

Oct. 26--Destroyer, Flirt, sunk.

 Jan. 7, 1917--Seaplane carrier, Benmy-Chree, sunk.

 Jan. 9--Battleship, Cornwallis, sunk by submarine.

 Jan. 22--Destroyer torpedoed.

 July 30--Armored cruiser, Ariadne, torpedoed, sunk.

 Aug. 14--Destroyer sunk by mine.

 Oct. 2--Armored cruiser, Drake, torpedoed.

 Oct. 17--Destroyers, Mary Rose and Strongbow, torpedoed, sunk, with convoy.

 Oct. 23--Destroyer sunk in collision.

 Dec. 29--Admiralty announces sinking of three destroyers.

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