Reading Eagle (February 12, 1941)
DOROTHY THOMPSON SAYS –
Hitler’s lost war – No. 3
Col. Lindbergh’s conviction that Hitler is going to win the war is apparently shared by a number of people, whose views indicate that wishful thinking is not all on one side in this struggle.
But there is one person who does not share their confidence. His name is Adolf Hitler.
Are not the negotiations between Hitler and Vichy interesting? Why is Hitler negotiating? He did not negotiate with Dr. Schuschnigg, the Chancellor of Austria, nor with Dr. Benes, the President of Czechoslovakia, nor with the President of Poland, when all three of these countries had armies and institutions intact. He attacked, destroyed and has not negotiated since.
Seven months have passed since Hitler defeated France in the worst military disaster in modern history. Two-thirds of the country is occupied, and it all could be. Two million French prisoners are in Hitler’s hands. The country is weaponless at home. Why then does Hitler attempt to make another Munich in Vichy after defeat? If he wants the Mediterranean ports, why does he not take them? Could anyone stop him?
Is there not something comic in the spectacle of Hitler tossing Laval to Petain, and Petain tossing him back to Hitler, and Hitler tossing him back to Petain as though Laval were the flamingo who served as a live croquet ball in Alice in Wonderland?
Why does Hitler carry on like this?
In his last speech, Hitler said that in the last year he had made 724 mistakes and the British 1,824,000. The number of mistakes on either side, however, is not what is important. The political and strategic nature of the mistakes is what is important. Britain overestimated the military strength of France. But Hitler completely misestimated Britain. And he also overestimated the military strength of France. And these two mistakes have cost Hitler his war.
In April last year, I had a talk with an important neutral European statesman. The talk was confidential, and only the fact that the gentlemen has since died releases me from my confidence. He told me that he had had a talk with Hitler only a few days before the attack on Poland. Hitler had assured him that the British were bluffing. He confided in him that the Nazi intelligence service had intercepted the reports of Sir William Edmund Ironside to both the Polish and British governments and staff, from which he had learned that, in Ironside’s opinion, the Poles could only hold out for a matter of weeks. Arguing from this, Hitler concluded, first, that the Poles would not offer effective resistance, and second, that the British, once Poland fell, would withdraw from the war.
In the course of the conversation, Hitler said:
I do not want war with Britain. To avoid it is the very basis of my policy. Even if I won, it would be a world catastrophe. Germany is in no position to take over the role of Britain and neither is the United States. It would mean world chaos, in which Germany would suffer as well as everybody else. My representatives all assure me that Britain will not really fight.
When Col. Lindbergh, in the recent cross-examination before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said:
After all, it was France and Britain who declared a war.
….he made a most misleading statement. France and Britain were urging Hitler to settle his affairs by negotiation with Poland – with whom he had a non-aggression pact that he himself had signed. They said privately to Hitler and publicly to the world that a suspension of negotiations and armed aggression would automatically produce war with both of them.
Having once tried to save peace by giving in to Hitler, over Czechoslovakia, they now tried to save it by resisting him and making the consequences perfectly clear.
Hitler did not believe them and opened war by a lightning attack from all frontiers on Poland. For two days afterward, the Chamberlain government hesitated, and there were scenes in the House of Commons and Englishmen cried,
Speak for England! We have given our word of honor!
Chamberlain did not declare war. He took account of the fact that a state of war had been created by Hitler’s aggression.
Why does Col. Lindbergh attempt to mislead America by inferring that France and Britain were guilty?
Why did Hitler not turn from the short successful war on Poland, directly against France and Britain? Why did he wait from fall until spring? He still wanted to separate France from Britain!
Why, having knocked France down in the space of a few weeks, did he hastily conclude an armistice without demanding the surrender of the fleet or the capitulation of the colonial army? Because he thought Britain would withdraw.
Why did he not push right through and attack England at that moment, when the British Isles were completely undefended, and the army, escaped from Dunkirk, still disorganized for home defense? Because he does not want Britain as an enemy. He wants Britain as an ally. That has been the basis of his whole miscalculated policy!
Ludendorff would not have waged such a war. And Hitler, were he perfectly sure of himself, would not have waged such a war. For Hitler has said:
The slightest sign of vacillation is suicidal.
Fantastic as it may seem, the sudden collapse of France further set Hitler’s plans awry. History may yet record that the disastrous defeat of France, plus the miraculous steadiness of Britain, was the moment of Hitler’s Armageddon. For Hitler had counted on luring the whole British Army into France and pounding it slowly to pieces on rench soil. Then he would not have had to invade England, but England, deprived of her army and all her trained forces, would have had to capitulate. But neither the armies of Britain nor of France were pounded to pieces. For the French Army simply collapsed – and the British escaped.
Hitler’s haste to conclude an armistice was still made in the hope of getting England out of the war. Then he could make a “deal” with her. He misestimated England, therefore, before the attack on Poland, after the victory over Poland, and after the collapse of France!
Meanwhile, his hastily concluded armistice with France plagues him. His hope for a Nazi revolution in France is a dud. The rock upon which he must found his Nazi church on France is Peter, to be sure, but Peter (Pierre) Laval, a discredited old gambler of a politician, full of cynicism and personal ambition, and without a shred of a mass following. He has no weapon with which he can bludgeon France into relinquishing her navy. For France has Hitler already, so has nothing worse to fear; if he promises to release the prisoners – which he is really afraid to do – the French have no faith that his promises will be kept. Why should they? If he gets the Mediterranean ports, he has no ships with which to use them. And he negotiates because he needs France!
For meanwhile Britain, defending her on shores and at the same time fighting a brilliant campaign hundreds of miles from home, has, with the aid if Greece, knocked out Italy in Africa. There are no Germans or Italians in Africa for Weygand to surrender to, even if his government so ordered!
Two armies and two navies escaped from Hitler as the result of his sudden victory over France and as the result of the third repetition of his mistake about Britain.
Does Col. Lindbergh think that this behavior is either political or military genius? It is crass stupidity. It is a moral moron misestimating the strength of resolution and a word of honor.
But Hitler has another card to play. He is playing it. And his offensive during the last few weeks has been a political offensive – concentrated in Washington! There his friends, whatever kind word they may be saying about Britain, are playing his game as vigorously as they can. Stop aid to Britain! Force Britain to give in by reversing the American foreign policy! Save Germany the awful task of having to defeat a Britain supplied by the United States!
This is Hitler’s fourth attempt since the war began to defeat Churchill without having really to fight him. For Hitler knows that even if he should win, it would be a world catastrophe. He would have a situation on his hands with which he knows he is unable to cope.
If Col. Lindbergh loves peace so much, why is he not advising a defeated Italy to make peace with a victorious Britain? Why is he advising a completely undefeated Britain to make peace with Hitler instead?
Since the colonel has again elected to court the publicity that he pretends to loathe by playing high politics, it is the right of the American people to ask him a few straightforward questions.