Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 30 December 1939
This Year of Fate
And so draws to its close this year of fate, 1939, in which the forces of civilisation and barbarism began to join issue and to contest for the soul of the world. In this year we saw the active principle of evil clothe itself, take shape, and go to and fro in the earth like Satan. The catastrophic clash between the Western democracies and Nazi Germany became inevitable in March when Hitler seized Czechoslovakia and revealed nakedly his real aim, which was not the protection of Germans outside the Reich, but the suppression of liberty and independence in all lands within the power of the Reich. His Sudeten policy of extending the sheltering arm of the Fatherland to German minorities under alien domination was miserably and abjectly reversed at the behest of States like Soviet Russia and Italy, which were sufficiently powerful by circumstance to browbeat and blackmail Hitler into calling home the Germans of the Tyrol and the Baltic States. Hitler, being what he is, felt no doubt a fierce joy at the swift and savage overthrow of Poland.
What must have been his mortification at the mass withdrawal of Germans from lands which they had colonised in the best sense, by peaceful settlement and exemplary thrift and industry. As his infamous pact with Bolshevism was a ridiculous denial of every article of the creed set out in “Mein Kampf,” so his repatriation of Germans from the Baltic and the Tyrol is an abject recantation of all his declarations of the sacred rights of Germans throughout the world. It is not to be supposed for a moment that this haughty villain would have accepted such a humiliation save under dire necessity of imposed tactics.
Neither Russia nor Italy can have the slightest illusion that these mass migrations are anything more than temporary expedients. They must realise that if the fortune of war favours Hitler he will not only return his Germans but will seize and hold the territory from which he was compelled to withdraw them. The triumph of Hitler and his awful philosophy would be a great disaster for the world, a disaster which neither Italy nor Russia would survive. None of the European states have more to fear from a German victory than Fascist Italy and Bolshevist Russia. The Soviet Republic has no intention of permitting the final triumph of German arms. Stalin, in spite of his crime and blunder in Finland, where he hoped for a cheap conquest under the shelter of the German pact, is shrewd and far-seeing. The final defeat of Germany is vital to him, he relies on it, and the time may come when he will have to exert his whole force, for what it is worth, to ensure it.
Meanwhile he is feeding the flames of war in order that all Western Europe may be consumed and Russia left intact and dominant beside the blackened ruins. Italy is still playing with the dangerous idea that a German triumph at worst will open the way to Italian domination in the Mediterranean. Repeated declarations of Italy’s intention to be guided in this war by her own interests, and to shape events to her own end, can have only one meaning. Like Russia, she awaits the exhaustion of the belligerents, or, alternatively, the moment for re-insurance, when the issue of the war is beyond doubt and she may safely join the winning side and gather cheaply and safely her share of the spoils. It is a fond and foolish dream from which Italy may awake too late.
Meanwhile, let Mussolini look to the Brenner Pass. If he does not bolt and bar and seal it he may live to lament his negligence in the day when the tide of war turns his way. After four months of war. Great Britain and France have reason to be satisfied with their strategical position. By land, sea, and air, they have the Germans at an increasing disadvantage. Nowhere in the West can Germany strike without the certainty of devastating reprisal, and with every day that passes the hazards of a German offensive increase. In the East, the whole strategic situation has passed out of Hitler’s control.
A move toward the Balkans, necessarily by agreement with Russia, would raise up new and powerful foes, and close to Germany the last effective source of supply, besides reviving the danger of a war on two fronts. Russia has caught a tartar in Finland, and is in no condition to take on the Turk as well, or to raise a Balkan hornet’s nest. The year 1940 will almost certainly see the war brought to a crisis and a decision; or else the war will change its whole character and Hitlerism dissolve in Bolshevist anarchy.