"Hitler on Americas"
|"The Great Hall of the Berghof was the scene of Mr. Cudahy's interview with Adolf Hitler"|
From LIFE Magazine, June 9, 1941, pp. 34-36:
HITLER ON AMERICAS
LIFE Correspondent Interviews Führer on War and the Future
by JOHN CUDAHY
(This spring LIFE commissioned John Cudahy, former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, to go to Berlin and write a series of articles about Nazi Germany and its war aims. Two weeks ago he was accorded an interview with Adolf Hitler—the first the German dictator has given an American press correspondent in a year. Herewith LIFE publishes what the Führer told Mr. Cudahy about a German invasion of America, the future of German trade, German treatment of occupied countries, etc.
LIFE is well aware of its grave responsibility in printing this article at such a critical time. It does so because it is confident its readers can intelligently recognize this interview for what it really is—an essential part of Hitler's political strategy of "softening up" the U.S. with large denials of aggressive intentions.
LIFE suspects that Hitler chose this particular time for his interview because he hoped it would undercut the President's speech. In LIFE's opinion the President's speech contained an annihilating answer to Adolf Hitler's "honeyed words." This answer is printed immediately following the interview.—ED.)
"Convoys mean war," Adolf Hitler told me quietly on the afternoon of May 23 as we sat in the famous living room of his Berghof at Berchtesgaden. International legal precedents were well established, he said, that escorting munitions, war materials and deadly weapons to an enemy with armed naval forces was a warlike act. These precedents had been determined by Anglo-Saxon maritime powers for a long time, were thoroughly well known and understood by all legal authorities.
At my side was the celebrated interpreter Herr Schmidt and, across the big round table, Walter Hewel, liaison officer of the German Foreign Office. Through the largest bay window I have ever seen, the snow-sheeted Alps seemed startlingly close and white as antimony in the spring sunshine. Far down, the green valley was polka-dotted with spring flowers. The distant silhouette of Salzburg looked vague and fluttering against a cumulus cloud embankment, like a phantom city.
I told the Führer that the primary cause of opposition to Germany in the U.S. was based upon the sentiment that the security of the Western Hemisphere was threatened by German aggression. People argued that German conquest might go on and on and the next logical field for German military adventure was the two American continents. He laughed and refused to take me seriously. He said the idea of a Western Hemisphere invasion was about as fantastic as an invasion of the moon.
I replied that, fantastic or not, an eventual attack by Germany on the Americas was feared by a large number of thoughtful American people. He could not believe it, he persisted, because he had too high an opinion on the intelligence and good sense of Americans. He said he was convinced this invasion story was put out by warmongers against their better knowledge, men who wanted war in the belief it would be profitable for business—an erroneous conception since the last great war had demonstrated that war was ruinous to business.
He said that the German High Command considered an invasion of either American continent to be as wildly imaginary as an invasion of the moon and he was confident that Army and Navy chiefs in the U.S. shared the same views as the German military authorities.
"Why," he asked, "do not the British send more troops to Greece and North Africa?" He answered his own question by saying it was because sufficient transports were not available although the distances were comparatively short. The combined shipping tonnage of Britain, the U.S. and Germany would be hopelessly inadequate, he insisted, to transport an army of millions which would be required for a successful conquest of the Western Hemisphere.
The German Army, he went on, was not concerned with military expeditions for the sake of showing off or in order to demonstrate that nothing was impossible for German arms. At present these armed forces are concerned with an attack of 100 kilometers over open water, in the case of Crete. And England is separated from the continent by only 40 kilometers of open water. If the Crete enterprise has seemed difficult, he said, an attack over 4,000 kilometers of open water, as would be the case with the U.S., is simply unthinkable.
He said he had never heard anybody in Germany say that the Mississippi River was a German frontier in the same spirit that the Prime Minister of Australia had referred to the Rhine as a frontier of that country. But, since the Rhine was their frontier, he had decided to send some Australian prisoners to that famous German river so that they might acquaint themselves with frontier atmosphere.
He assured me that Germany had too many serious problems in Europe to ever give any thought to an American invasion. I told Herr Hitler that many people shared his view that the Atlantic offered too formidable a military obstacle to be surmounted at present, but the same people who expressed this opinion believed that a German triumph would mean economic disaster to the U.S. The reason for this belief, I said, was because of a lower standard of living for workers in Germany and disciplinary methods imposed upon German labor which would never be accepted in the U.S. Therefore American industrial output could not compete with that of Germany.
He replied that he did not think the living standard of German workers was so low. The controlling purpose of National Socialism, he said, was to improve living conditions for working people. This effort the war had interrupted, but it would be renewed with redoubled force when peace came, and he had great ambitions for the common man in Germany. Among other things he hoped to see him own an automobile.
He reminded me that Germany with a population density of 140 persons to the square kilometer had risen out of depression and provided jobs for all so that there were no longer any unemployed while the U.S. with only eleven per square kilometer was unable to cope with a very serious unemployment problem. He asked me why the German nation was singled out as an economic menace to America when Germany had an area of only 600,000 to 700,000 square kilometers and a population of only 85,000,000 while the British Empire had a population of 400,000,000, Japan 100,000,000, Russia 170,000,000 and other nations of the world 500,000,000. He inquired why, if German competition was so greatly feared, her colonies had been taken away from Germany, and said that development of the colonies would have presented a great outlet for German industrial output.
He asked further why the U.S. was opposed to the organization of Europe so as to provide markets in Europe for German goods, thereby lessening the probability of competition with the U.S. Southeastern Europe was, he said, a natural complement to German economy for the Balkan countries had a surplus of agricultural produce which they could exchange for Germany's industrial products. That was, he insisted, the "iron rule of trade." No country could buy from another unless it could also sell, and how, he asked, could the U.S. with its great agricultural surpluses offer to take farm produce from Southeastern Europe in payment for American manufactured articles?
I inquired whether or not he envisaged a trade union for Europe with suppression of quotas, tariffs, currency restrictions etc., etc. He replied that he thought all commercial relations between countries could be assured by long-term trade treaties guaranteeing to both partners a profitable arrangement and suppressing the element of speculation which has always been cursed business. He saw no future in trade relations based on loans because, he told me, loans have to be paid back and the end of borrowing is often bankruptcy.
The future trade of Germany, he declared, would not be based upon paper but upon exchange of commodity for commodity with an absolute exclusion of speculation. Professors had scorned his economic theories but in 20 or 30 years, he predicted, they would be teaching them in universities.
I asked about gold and its function in the future international trade of Germany. He said that Germany had been deprived of all its gold by the necessity of paying reparations and had been forced to devise a system of international trade without gold. Yet he recognized the usefulness of gold in providing a more elastic method of mercantile dealing between nations and as a basis of credit.
I then turned to countries occupied by German military forces and asked the Führer if he could indicate in broadest outline his disposition with reference to such nations. I told him frankly my question was inspired by a belief among many Americans that German domination of Europe meant suppression of native national languages, customs and institutions.
His reply was that Germany had not commenced this war. War had been declared against Germany be France and England. It was strange, he said, to hear the British discourse on world domination when they held in oppression millions of subject Indians, Egyptians and Arabs.
"We shall settle relations with our neighbors in such a way that all will enjoy peace and prosperity," he summarized.
I returned to the case of Belgium, explaining that my interest had a personal angle because I had lived in that country. His answer was that his formula for the future of Europe was "peace, prosperity and happiness." Germany, he said, was not interested in slaves or the enslavement of any people.
At the conclusion of our discussion, Herr Hitler, stating that he had tried to answer all my inquiries with clarity and candor, expressed scepticism of any beneficial results from this interview. He said that time after time he had tried to emphasize that the position of Germany and his plans were not inimical to the U.S. but that his efforts had always proved futile.
ROOSEVELT ON HITLER:
What started as a European war has developed, as the Nazis always intended it should develop, into a war for world domination.
Adolf Hitler never considered the domination of Europe as an end in itself. European conquest was but a step toward ultimate goals in all the other continents. It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the Western Hemisphere will be within range of the Nazi weapons of destruction.
Your government knows what terms Hitler, if victorious, would impose. Under those terms Germany would literally parcel out the world—hoisting the swastika itself over vast territories and populations, and setting up puppet governments of its own choosing, wholly subject to the will and the policy of a conqueror.
To the people of the Americas, a triumphant Hitler would say, as he said after the seizure of Austria, and after Munich, and after the seizure of Czecho-Slovakia: "I am now completely satisfied. This is the last territorial readjustment I will seek." And he will of course add: "All we want is peace, friendship, and profitable trade relations with you in the new world."
Were any of us in the Americas so incredibly simple and forgetful as to accept those honeyed words, what would then happen?
The dictatorships would be forcing the enslaved peoples of their Old World conquests into a system they are even now organizing—to build a naval and air force intended to gain and hold and be master of the Atlantic and the Pacific as well.
They would fasten an economic stranglehold upon our several nations. Quislings would be found to subvert the governments in our republics; and the Nazis would back their fifth columns with invasion, if necessary.
Now, I am not speculating about all this. I merely repeat what is already in the Nazi book of world conquest. They plan to treat the Latin American nations as they are now treating the Balkans. They plan then to strangle the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada.
The American laborer would have to compete with slave labor in the rest of the world. Minimum wages, maximum hours? Nonsense! Wages and hours fixed by Hitler. The American farmer would get for his products exactly what Hitler wanted to give. The whole fabric of working life as we know it would be mangled and crippled under such a system.
Even our right of worship would be threatened. The Nazi world does not recognize any God except Hitler; for the Nazis are as ruthless as the Communists in the denial of God. What place has religion which preaches the dignity of the human being, of the majesty of the human soul, in a world where moral standards are measured by treachery and bribery and fifth columnists? Will our children, too, wander off, goose-stepping in search of new gods?
The war is approaching the brink of the Western Hemisphere itself. It is coming very close to home.