Skip to main content
Read page text



VOL. 172 No. 5130



IN T i n s ISSUE


A Study of “ Mein Kampf” and after GERMAN RACE FRONTIERS

Impressions of Switzerland and Alsace by Edward Quinn


By E. R. Roper Power


By Reginald Jebb Full List o f Contents on page 292.

THE WORLD WEEK BY WEEK The Heritage of the Past

The Czech-German crisis o f the hour has its roots very deep in the past.

The Danube Basin has been, throughout the history o f Europe, a border country, the final plains upon which successive peoples from the East have settled themselves. Through the heart of modern history, from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth, it lived always under the imminent threat, and for more than a century, as to most o f its area, under the dominion o f the Ottoman Turk. The defence of Europe was conducted under German leadership ; there were episodes which form the high moments of Serbian or Hungarian or Polish history, when those peoples threw up great leaders and bore the brunt of the struggle. But on a large view o f history, it is the explanation of the Holy Roman Empire and o f the Habsburg dynasty that the varied peoples needed a minimum o f unity, and found it in that German strength which could prevail upon the Danube because it reposed securely on the Elbe and the Rhine. The German domination, like other feudal forms in Europe, maintained its authority and its privilege long after its military justification had ceased. The Reversal of Roles

The immediate history which is the background to the critical events o f September, 1938, is the sustained Germanization o f Bohemia through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Czech reaction and the growing movement from 1848 onwards o f Czech nationalism, a movement which came twenty years ago into good fortune such as its protagonists had never dared to envisage. The men who worked for Czech autonomy, who dream t o f and schemed for some form o f constitution which should lift them from under the Austrian heel, thought, as Polish patriots thought before 1914, that a general war would be the making o f them, because they rightly judged that the outworn structure o f the dual monarchy would collapse in an age of fierce racial feeling. But they expected to find their chief assistance in Russia. In the event, Russia failed them altogether,

while they obtained in the years o f war a far more wholehearted support in France, Britain and America than they had ever expected. I t was the wholeheartedness o f that support which sowed those future mischiefs which trouble the world today. The Making of a State

Some twenty years ago the old, deep-rooted, genuine and reasonable national movement o f the Czechs took definite shape in Paris as the highly artificial and overambitious composite State, introduced to the world as the Republic of Czechoslovakia. It had a population twice as numerous as the Czechs themselves, they were some eight million, but their country was fifteen million. Its boundaries were drawn, less from considerations o f race than o f power politics. Woodrow Wilson’s abstract and not very intense desire to let people settle their forms o f government for themselves was made to yield to the French determination to construct a State strong enough, politically and economically, to endure, and to fulfil an essential role as an obstacle to any revival of German expansion down the Danube. The same allied reasoning which forbade the Germans of Austria to jo in themselves to the Germans o f Germany when they sought to do so on the break-up o f the old Austrian Empire, forbade the Germans o f Bohemia when they sought to jo in themselves to the Germans o f Austria. Self-determination was made to take second place, the over-riding consideration was to secure a map of Europe which should hinder and not favour the resurgence of German strength. It is those decisions taken in 1918 and 1919 which are being challenged today.

The Czechoslovak crisis is misconceived when it is stated, as it is too commonly stated throughout the British Press, in terms o f a minority with grievances and complaints, and a majority which is asked to be reasonable and conciliatory in meeting them. The first essential is to realize th a t the Czechoslovakian Republic is a synthetic compound with nothing sacrosanct about its present constitution or frontiers, although there are some good, serious, arguments fo r them.

My Bookmarks

Skip to main content