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Editorial – “Total” War

1 March 1941

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 01 March 1941

“Total” War

We have now something like an official declaration of policy on the difficult question of reprisals.

Although, in spite of numerical inferiority and strategical disadvantages we have, by concentrating on military objectives, done more damage to Germany’s fighting power than the Germans have done to ours, this has not been accomplished without some execution on civilians. The loss of life and destruction of domestic and municipal property which has resulted from the fierce British raids on Germany and German occupied territory is not comparable with the slaughter infected on us by the indiscriminate bombing of our towns and villages since the invasion of the Netherlands and the capitulation of France brought the German bombers within range.

But it has been serious and is an increasing source of worry to the Nazi leaders, whose impotence to protect the deluded German people from attack by air is now revealed. Hitherto our striking force has been compelled to conserve its strength, and reprisals for wholesale destruction here have been ruled out by military necessity. In all that weary and woeful time we have had to rely on our superb A.R.P. services and the toughness of our people to maintain morale under terrible bombardment. Whether or not reprisals were right, wise or expedient, they were ruled out because they were not possible without relaxing the campaign against German war industries and preparations.

Now the case is altered and it is time to convince the German people of our capacity to wage “total” war. For unless and until they are satisfied of our power to inflict on them suffering greater and more grievous than that inflicted in their name and with their approval, they will remain callous to every appeal to cast out the evil spirit which has entered and defiled them. So far as we can judge, the best of Germans have acquiesced indifferently in the horrible methods by which their political and military forces have conquered and subdued helpless and inoffensive neighbours; the worst of them have de- lighted a nd exulted in those methods.

The prospect of “Weltmacht” and of the domination of the “Herrenvolk” has entered into the dark soul of Germany. Not until Germans are convinced of its impossibility will they give up that dream. Not until they suffer in their own persons the cruelty and misery which German arms have poured out upon all Europe will they turn and repent. Until then they will continue to follow blindly men who delight not merely in war but in the foulest warfare. Therefore, in all sadness, we agree with Sir Archibald Sinclair that there is no way open to us now, on the eve of the grimmest and ghastliest phase of this grim and ghastly war, but to “be copy to men of grosser blood and teach them how to war.”

A Burnt Sacrifice

Hitler has again spoken, and so has Mussolini. The Italian dictator’s audience consisted of Fascist leaders who are deeply involved with him in the crime with which his name will be imperishably associated; all have sinned beyond pardon against civilisation and against the fame, integrity, and peace of the Italian people. Small wonder, therefore, that whatever he chose to say should be mechanically applauded by his incriminated confederates. For all its shoddy bombast it was a sorry tale he had to tell of disaster to Italian arms in every element. The only ray of hope for the Italians is in the might of Germany; the only crumb of comfort the thought that the Italian intervention, so disastrous to Italy, has shielded the Germans for some months from some part of British might. The jackal has been given the unexpected honour of a mauling and a mangling instead of his principal.

Mussolini‚Äôs plea, underlined by Hitler, is that he was, after all, no match for the British in his own sea, his own air, or his own empire. but that his sacrificial participation had value for his German master who will “in the spring” rescue him and in the higher summer of German victory reward him.

No Italian, from Mussolini upward, can be under any illusion as to the nature of the reward which a defeated and discredited Italy will receive from a triumphant Hitler. It will suffer at those hands the fate of all broken and helpless things.

Hitler, in a speech unannounced and furtive as are all his proceedings to-day, said nothing new and said it badly. There may or may not be significance in his avoidance of the topic of invasion; or his renewal of the threat of U-boat warfare on a horrific scale. Hitler’s wild and whirling words will not dismay us; we are concerned only with deeds and we know well enough how fierce is the ordeal that lies before us. It is for us to look to our defences “and having done all, to stand.” We have to deal, not with Hitler, but with his wretched victims who live or die at his foul decree.

The real enemy lurks behind this ranting ragdoll, and it is against that enemy that we keep ceaseless watch and ward.