The Charlotte News

Wednesday, February 9, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Martin Niemoeller, the subject of "Trial by the Nazis", had a checkered history when it came to Hitler, German nationalism, and the Nazi Party. He was a successful U-boat commander in World War I. He supported the Nazi Party from 1924 until the mid-thirties, when their activities against the church, in which he had been ordained in 1929, found his concern, stimulating such adroit criticism from the pulpit that Hitler had him arrested, tried and imprisoned for insurrection to the Reich. Though he volunteered for the German navy in 1939 at the outbreak of the war, he spent his time thereafter instead at Dachau, his execution at which was interdicted only by the end of the war. Although heavily criticized after the war for his wavering views on Nazism and failure adequately to condemn the atrocities, he became in the ensuing decades a voice for world peace. He also warned of the perils of apathy in the face of injustice to others, that ultimately seeking solace in such silence leads to a society in which no one is safe--"...When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out."

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A State Steps Out*

South Carolina's Legislature has put itself on record for a maximum 40-hour week for textile workers. No bill has been agreed upon yet, but both houses are committed to the principle of the 40-hour week and doubtless will ratify when the time comes.

The danger is, of course, that South Carolina will leave its textile industry, whose tax payments largely sustain the State, out on a limb, helpless before the competition of those mills in states which have no limitation upon the work week. And for that reason the law, when it takes form, ought certainly to contain a provision whereby hours could be lengthened if it was found that the industry was losing business to its unregulated competitors.

But, in any case, South Carolina's experiment will be interesting, and perhaps painless. The critics of Federal hour-regulation are disarmed, since there is a state that essays it, and the mills, for the most part, already have instituted the 40-hour work week and are asking no quarter from their competitors.

Trial By the Nazis

Three Lutheran clergymen who had been permitted to be vpresent at the trial of Dr. Niemoeller in its beginning, have been barred from further attendance. Hereafter only official observers--which is to say Nazi Party men--will be allowed.

In short, we gather, the trial of the cleric is to be conducted in about this fashion.

"Ah, now, Niemoeller," says the Nazi prosecutor, "is it not true that you have committed treason against Germany?"

"Why, no, I--"

"Quite enough, Niemoeller, quite enough. I must ask you to stick to the point. Is it not true, Niemoeller, that you are a traitor to Germany?"

"Why, no. I do not think so. Once upon a time I commanded a submarine--"

"Have a drink of water, Niemoeller, and you'll feel better. It is regrettable, to be sure, that the Storm Trooper had to strike a man of the cloth. But he is a loyal man as you are not, Niemoeller. And you simply must stick to the point so that justice may be done. Now once more, Niemoeller, is it not true that you have uttered treason from your pulpit? Come, come, fellow, speak up for yourself. This honorable court waits patiently to hear your side of the case..."

Experts and Morals

A writer in our letter column yesterday laid down the proposition that ministers are "experts in morals," and proceeded to draw the conclusion that a mere layman was therefore bound in common sense to give way to them in the matter of Blue Laws. And another writer in that column today carries the argument even further, and proceeds out and out to make ministers to be experts in morals just as a doctor is in bodily ailments and matters of public health--and to suggest that their dictums about the Blue Laws ought to carry all the force of a diagnosis by the medical man.

But medicine, if it is not strictly an exact science, is continually moving toward becoming an exact science; and, moreover, it is essentially the same the civilized world over. Whereas, morals are so little an exact science to be mastered by study, so much a matter of opinion and contention, that they vary with time and geography.

Up in Pennsylvania, for instance, a Dunkard holds it to be immoral to wear buttons, because the wearing of buttons is somewhere forbidden in the ancient Jewish law. A woman in Alaska thinks it shockingly immoral to show her face, unveiled, and is not particularly shocked at exhibiting her body. Twenty years ago, it was immoral for a woman in Charlotte to use lipstick. We have people in our hill country who hold it immoral for a woman to wear less than seven skirts, all of them hiding her ankles. And--according to the books of discipline, it is immoral for a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, even to wear gold jewelry of any sort, whereas a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Northern, can wear them in the calmest assurance of being entirely moral.

Moral and Murderous

While the Blue Law storms blow about us and our leading citizens exercise themselves lest somebody should do something so sinful as viewing a ball game on Sunday, the City Health Department reports, we observe, that Charlotte had seven murders in the month of January.

All the victims, to be sure, were Negroes. And, of course, it doesn't much matter to us white people in Charlotte what goes on down in Brooklyn and Black Bottom. Not much. Only so much, indeed, as to how safe we may be in walking the streets of the town.

Still, for statistical purposes, the report seems to us to have its uses. Last year one of our "firsts" was lost to us. In 1936, we had a grand total of 58 murders and non-negligent homicides, the highest, in proportion to population, of any town in the nation--a fact which we did not fail proudly to record. But in 1937, we had only 27 or 29, according to whether the Police Department or the Health Department may be right about it. Strike a balance and say 28, and we have the fact that we have already had in one month a fourth as many murders as we had all last year. In short, the prospects seem very good, that this year we shall again recover our distinction as the town in the these States which is at once the most moral and the most murderous.

The Accommodating Giant

For sheer industrial greatness, which the New Deal distrusts, U.S. Steel is an outstanding example; and for economic royalism, the masters of Big Steel have always been famous. Even by the standards of friendly administrations, Big Steel's labor relations have not been of a kind to boast about; and even by the uncertain definition of still more uncertain anti-trust acts, Big Steel has sometimes come dangerously close to trespassing over into outright monopoly.

Yet it is this gargantuan, hard-handed, at least nigh-monopolistic organization of steel makers that is setting a beautiful example of up-to-date labor relations in this sixth year of the New Deal. In this demonstration it has had, to be sure, the exemplary co-operation of Big Labor--John L. Lewis's and Philip Murray's Steel Workers Organizing Committee. It was particularly fortunate in having Mr. Murray to deal with instead of Mr. Martin, for instance, of the United Automobile Workers. But it remains everlasting to the credit of Big Steel and Big Labor that both have settled their differences around the conference table and not on the picket line, and that argreements once reached have been scrupulously lived up to.

And the most remarkable part of it all, of course, is that Big Steel, which stands for so much that the New Deal despises, should be foremost in putting into practice something that the New Deal specially esteems.

Mr. Taliaferro*

To anyone who knew him, the simple words, "Walter Robertson Taliaferro, 82," will set in motion a train of reflection. To begin with, the astonishing fact that Mr. Taliaferro was 82 establishes the date of his birthday as 1856, and that would have made him five when the Civil War started, ten when it was over. Well, the Confederate cause lost, by the lack of a very few years, one of the most wholehearted scrappers there ever was.

But that is only a fragment of the biography contained in the phrase, "Walter Robertson Taliaferro, 82." Those few who reach 82 are old, old men, for the most part, all too conscious that they are living on borrowed time. But it was not until the very last of his life that Mr. Taliaferro lost a liveliness in behavior and outlook that men a score of years younger must have envied. The course of public events was always a personal, not an abstract, thing to him.

And yet, though he never had to sacrifice his individuality, it was not as an individual, primarily, that Mr. Taliaferro flourished. It was as the husband of an understanding woman, who was by his side when he died, and as the father of seven children, six of whom survived him, and as the grandfather of their children. It was this widening family circle, in all probability, that kept him young in spite of the encroachment of many years. Certainly he and his beloved wife were always the center of it.

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