June 26, 2017

1941. Nazi Political Warfare Pushes for a "New Order"

Hitler Plan for Britain
Adolf Hitler, playing a game with Death, overlooked by a portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II (Sidney Strube, 1941)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism. In 1941, German writer Hermann Rauschning wrote about Adolf Hitler's plans for a "New Order."

From The New York Times, March 25, 1941:
He Is Believed to Desire to Confront Britain With Peace Consolidating 'New Order'
This Involves Avoidance of a War That Will Regenerate British Staying Qualities
Adolf Hitler's possible choices of campaign plans for 1941 are further examined here by an eminent German writer who was high in the Nazi party's inner circle until 1935, when he broke with Herr Hitler and left Germany. He is the author of "The Revolution of Nihilism" and "The Voice of Destruction." He is now in London.


Adolf Hitler and his generals are not ignorant of the weaknesses of the German situation. His efforts will therefore be directed toward a fundamental change in the situation rather than strictly limited objectives.

But it is open to question whether the German High Command can effect this fundamental change by purely military methods. Even today its actions are dictated by the enemy, and so Herr Hitler may be compelled to undertake against his own will actions that offer a doubtful prospect of success.

He may therefore attempt to effect the fundamental change by political methods in preference to military ones. Before the "Blitz" campaign he always achieved his greatest successes with his policy of faits accomplis. It would be conformable to his trend of thought to conceive the idea of a fait accompli of peace.

It might be possible, he would imagine, to render Great Britain's war against "the new order" in Europe useless by inducing all allied and occupied countries, and those already drawn into the Nazi sphere of influence, to agree to his peace terms and declare their acceptance of a European solidarity of interests from which all extraneous powers would be excluded.

Will Sow Doubts About War

Herr Hitler's political warfare, with simple but effective slogans, broke the morale of the French forces and civilian population. The political premises for his new disintegration attempts will be found in repetitions of his willingness to conclude a negotiated peace. They will find fruitful soil in easily awakened doubts concerning the necessity and possibility of continuing the war and in cleavage of public opinion on this point.

An attack on Russia, for example, could give him a good start, because the surprise at this unexpected turn of events would cause many people to revise their opinion of him. If Herr Hitler is really our bulwark against bolshevism, they would argue, why make war on him?

But even this dramatic move would be unnecessary for his purpose, since the present situation affords him possibilities of effective peace propaganda. He has repeatedly sought to make it clear to neutral diplomats and other distinguished visitors that he has never desired war with the British Empire and would regard its destruction as a world calamity. His proposed readiness for peaceful cooperation with the British Empire on such a basis would always find new channels of communication.

There is a grain of truth in Herr Hitler's statement that he has never sought war with the British. This is not merely due to the fact that his backers made it a condition that he should avoid complications with Britain and the United States, when they advocated the Chancellorship for him, and likewise not because he fears the inexhaustible resources of the British Empire. The real reason is rather to be sought in the desire of leading circles in Germany to eschew any enterprise likely to hold up the disintegration of the British Empire, which they deem inevitable, and lead to a regeneration of the British nation.

War Held a Regenerator

To understand this trend of thought aright, we must remember that it was not only the Prussian military cast, but the Swabian Schiller who extolled war as a regenerator of life. A war—so argue others besides the Nazis—would regenerate all the power instincts and martial virtues of the British nation which appeared to have degenerated before the outbreak of hostilities. Far from hastening the breakup of the British Empire, a war would tend to strengthen it and prolong British hegemony, at least for another two or three generations. In well-informed circles—and not merely German ones—the life of the British Empire was estimated at another generation.

It is not inconceivable that Herr Hitler would win over the small States and also Italy, France and Spain to this project and strengthen the two latter countries in their antagonism to Britain. As long as the present French regime remains in power there can be no question of any similarity of British and French war aims. If France does not become an actual opponent of Britain, she will be resolved to pursue a more independent policy. There can be no further question of a common entente policy.

We might, indeed, interpret the situation in the sense that the three Latin powers are vitally interested in seeing that neither Herr Hitler nor Britain should win a decisive victory over the other. Europe is a balance of great cultural powers which gives scope for various combinations. And if the line of the new French policy is opposed to a German or Russian hegemony of Europe, it is equally antagonistic to a British one. Hence the new points of contact with Italy and Spain. Moreover, this policy is the only one that gives Premier Mussolini a chance to save something for his regime.

Whether such a policy will serve the real interests of France is another question. It is also doubtful whether it can be realized. French policy now seems to assume some resemblance to the Russian policy in favoring a draw in preference to the victory of one or other opponent. But that is just what Herr Hitler desires, and therefore he will raise no objections to this Latin bloc. On the contrary, he will be able to use it for his own ends.

It would be quite in accordance with Herr Hitler's trend of thought to force a peace on Britain against her will. His estimation of public opinion in Britain and the United States leads him to conclude that a moderate peace, achieved by negotiation, would revive the isolation tendencies latent in both Anglo-Saxon powers. Moreover, Nazi circles closely in touch with the Reichsfuehrer are largely inspired by the idea of a revolution in the United States.

What Herr Hitler really desires to achieve by a fait accompli peace is the basis for a new propaganda campaign that would disintegrate Anglo-Saxon morale as surely as his slogans broke the French morale last year. The weaknesses of its ruling classes made the dissolution of this "artificial creation" inevitable. Why, then, provoke a revival of life and resistance power by a war? That is the real meaning of Herr Hitler's declaration of friendship for Britain!

The one focus point of his policy is therefore his belief in the irrevocable passing of British world supremacy and the call to Germany to assume the inheritance. His other focus point was and still is the elimination of his continental rival, Russia, with whom a Germany rising to a position of world power could never remain in permanent alliance, because there can be only one supreme power in control of the Eurasian Continent. While Britain can therefore be left to a gradual process of disintegration, the Slavonic race must be destroyed by force before it becomes a real menace to German world domination.

Peril in the British Collapse

The sudden collapse of such a great institution as the British Empire would also contain certain dangers for the victorious destroyer. The aim of Nazism is not the negative one comprised in the destruction of the British Empire, but the positive extension of its own domination over its essential component parts. A military overthrow would not exclude the possibility that some of the key points would fall into foreign hands.

In the event of a break-up of the British Empire, Russia, Japan and the United States would be in a position to annex valuable territories. Probably Nazism would be forced to yield most of the overseas territories to other powers, in which case Germany would be thrown back into her constricted continental situation. It is possible that in the early stages of his development Herr Hitler may have thought only in continental terms, but by now it has become clear to him that world domination implies territories abutting on the ocean and domination of those oceans.

Herr Hitler desires a world empire and not merely a continental empire. Germany can grow only slowly to such a position. She can best gain a footing overseas by participation in overseas interests. That is the significance of the much discussed slogan of a "junior partnership."

Similar consideration formerly prevented Nazism from attempting a spectacular "march on Berlin" and induced it to substitute the notion of gaining power by means of a backdoor assumption of government and a slinking into key positions from which partners could be ousted at a convenient moment.

During this present conflict, Herr Hitler has still clung tenaciously to his idea of avoiding war to the knife with Britain and employing political means to wriggle out of hostilities by a fait accompli of peace. If the process of the British Empire's disintegration can be thus continued, he will argue, in a way in which will let its fruits fall into his lap, and if this process can be hastened, then it would be better to employ political methods that would tempt British commercial instincts rather than military means that would awaken the British sporting spirit.

June 25, 2017

1949. The Berlin Airlift's First Anniversary

The Airlift Continues After the Blockade
"Watching Berlin Airlift flights arrive at a West German airfield for reloading provides local residents with a close-up look at history in the making in June, 1949" (Photo by Gordon Curvan - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 25, 1949

Today ends the first year of the Anglo-American airlift, an event marked by an almost miraculous escape from death this morning when a four-engine C-54 airplane stalled and crashed at Tempelhof airdrome just as it was preparing to land.

The right wing of the aircraft touched the ground, the plane turned over and caught fire. Rapid action by German crash crews put out the flame. The three-man crew escaped without serious injury, and although the aircraft is a complete loss, the cargo of ten tons of coal was saved.

West Berlin is celebrating the anniversary by dedicating the square in front of Tempelhof airdrome to the fifty-one American and British fliers who have lost their lives in the airlift.

All attempts to get rail traffic moving into the city have stalled this morning. The Russian-controlled rail management turned down an American request to send in a locomotive and crew to take one of our military trains through the Soviet zone to Hamburg. This request was made last night after the striking rail workers had put the elevated system in shape to operate an emergency service for zonal traffic but still keep the strike on the elevated system operating inside Berlin.

The striking independent union moved to extend its traffic shutdown to include a strike blockade of the entire Russian zone. They asked the rail workers' union in the Western zones not to handle trains into the Soviet zone as long as the Berlin strike is on. The Western railroad workers' union said they sympathized with the anti-Communist strikers here and would make a decision on Monday whether or not to boycott eastbound trains.

The American, British, and French commandants are meeting at this moment in another attempt to find a solution to the Little Blockade.

The Communist press is teeing off again on the United States. American world imperialism and capitalism is now taking its last gasp, according to the Eastern propaganda. The proof of the end of our decadent culture is the fact that we are now reverting to boogie-woogie, jitterbugs, bad literature, and criminal movies.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 24, 2017

1949. Tragic Accidents in Prüm and the Airlift

Explosion in Prüm as Airlift Sees More Casualties
A crashed Douglas C-54 Skymaster during the Berlin airlift (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 16, 1949

A tragic explosion and the crash of another airlift plane mar the news from Germany this morning.

In the German city of Prüm, in the French zone, an estimated 15 persons were killed, 60 injured, and one quarter of the town destroyed last night when an ammunition depot blew up. Casualties are still being counted as rescue workers search the wreckage. The tragic thing about this incident is that the casualty list need not have been so high.

A fire broke out in the depot yesterday evening. The townspeople were warned to leave, but few of them did. At 9:30 PM, between 500 and 600 tons of old German ammunition stored in a Siegfried Line bunker went up. The Prüm hospital and post office were destroyed. Fires broke out in the town. All telephone and telegraph communications were cut. Prüm was badly damaged in the war, but today the townspeople are saying that this explosion was worse than anything experienced during the fighting.

Here in Berlin, five Royal Air Force airlift fliers were killed at 9:00 AM this morning when their Hastings aircraft crashed and burned at Tegel airport. The plane was taking off for the northern corridor out of Berlin when its engines failed at about 50 feet and plunged into the ground. This is the second fatal airlift accident this week. Last Tuesday an American Air Force C-54 crashed in the Russian zone, killing its crew of three. These fatalities bring the Operation Vittles death toll to 59 killed.

The Berlin Communist organization on the other side of town has become a kind of ideological catch-all for reports and rumors of what is going on behind Russia's Iron Curtain. The other day I heard this detailed report that I am passing along only as the sort of dialectical gossip now circulating among comrades.

This rumor says that Romania's foremost woman Communist, Foreign Minister Ana Pauker, is about to lose her high place in the party and possibly her job in the Romanian government. She is charged with opposing the Kremlin policy of forcing exclusive trade with Russia, thus banning all commercial contracts with the West. Also, Ana Pauker is accused of having a large bank account in Switzerland, but thus far it is all rumors.

My informant says that no action on the Pauker case is expected for another three months. It's interesting to note that these rumors started to spread shortly after an unofficial "Little Cominform" meeting held when Europe's Communist bigwigs met during the funeral in Sofia of Georgi Dimitrov.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 23, 2017

1944. The Second Battle of the Odon

British Second Army Captures Six Villages in Normandy
"Infantry watch Churchill tanks moving up for a dawn attack towards Evrecy," July 16, 1944 (source)
From the Daily Record, July 17, 1944, pp. 1, 8:

British forces have captured six important villages on either side of the Caen-Villers-Bocage highroad.

Reporting this last night, Bill Downs, C.B.S. broadcaster, stated that the British 2nd Army is again on the move, broadening and deepening its wedge southwest of Caen by more than a mile on a six-mile front.

This drive, striking south and west, should not be termed a full-scale offensive, says Downs, but British forces threaten the entire enemy flank south of Villers.

Later in the day the Germans awoke to the danger and counterattacked several times.

North of the Odon the British captured Brettevillette. The troops north of the Odon and those south of the river are now only 1½ miles apart.

Bitter Fighting

After a day of dusty and bitter fighting between the Odon and Orne all British gains have been consolidated and our positions improved despite counter-thrusts in which the enemy suffered casualties in infantry and armour, says Doon Campbell.

Over 100 prisoners were taken before 1 p.m. British gains include Esquay, Gavrus, Bougy, Hill 113 and Cahier.

The Germans still hold Évrecy and Vendes, where some of the heaviest fighting has taken place.

All reports speak of "heavy German casualties."

Minor counter-attacks by Rommel against the British at Hill 113 were broken up.

Nervous jabs cost the Germans at least ten tanks. The attacks came from Évrecy and were aimed at Hill 113 and the general direction of Esquay. Tiger and Panther tanks supported the German infantry.

The Germans did not succeed in making any infiltration or gain one yard of ground.

General Satisfied

The British General commanding the opposition is satisfied with the progress made.

British infantry, flanked by tanks, were consolidating their gains and digging in on the sunny slopes of Hill 113 overlooking Évrecy late this (Sunday) afternoon.

The advance from the north continued towards Noyers, about two-thirds of the way from Caen to Villers-Bocage on the main road linking the two towns.

Shortly before noon, an attack, supported by armour, was thrown into Vendes, which was by-passed on the drive south.

The roar of massed artillery supporting the infantry has continued all day.

Many Germans have been killed and many more wounded. Our own casualties are described as "well on the right side."

Lessay Doomed

The battle for the River Ay raged along a front of nearly seven miles to-day in the area of Lessay, while to the east American troops fought stubbornly for the approaches to St. Lô (reports William Stringer, Reuters special correspondent, writing last night from 1st U.S. Army H.Q.).

With Lessay flanked on three sides patrols twice drove against the Ay last night under heavy fire, but withdrew slightly when, in the words of a spokesman, "It got too hot for them."

Lessay itself is doomed. American troops reached its outskirts more than 24 hours ago and patrols were reported moving forward this morning.