Gareth Jones

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Looking to the Friendship of Italy 


            (By Mail)

“THE murder of Dollfuss is the most tense moment in European history since the shot rang out at Sarajevo in July 1914. 

As the  night express speeds along on that fateful stretch from Paris to Berlin I reflect upon these words of a French friend of mine. 

The scene for these reflections is the most suitable in all Europe, for looking out of the window I have watched the wheat stacks of Northern France just as they were in the July days which shook the world. 

Names of towns and places which once had little paper flags stuck into them in thousands of maps in Britain flashed past as we sped by: “Saint Quentin!  Le Cateau!  Compiège!”  

The train has now stopped in a city which, 20 years ago, was destined to enjoy only three or four days of calm before hearing the thud of shell-Liege. 


The lights of Liege and the name of the next station-Namur-bring vividly to mind my boyhood impressions of shock and excitement at the events which occurred exactly two decades ago, and I seek to sum up my thoughts in Paris during the last few days of diplomatic activity. 

By a grim coincidence the streets of Paris have heard again the same whispers of “C’est la guerre!” the same dread of the future has been visible as people have read the news, and the rumblings of the approaching storm have resounded from the same easterly direction as they did in 1914. 

There is one fundamental difference, however, between the Paris of 1914 and the Paris of 1934.  Whereas in 1914 the terror of the near future struck the rulers of France as deeply as the people, to day the people are alarmed, but the soldiers and the politicians are calm. 

“There will be war,” say the waiters and the barbers and the shopkeepers. 

“There will be no War soon,” say the officia1s and the diplomats. And I am convinced that the latter are right. 

Why will there be no war soon? 


The French, with their usual logic and reason reply that Hitler is in too weak, a position internationally.  He is isolated and has the armed forces of France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia encasing him like a steel strait-jacket. 

The French rubbing their hands with glee see that Hitler’s foreign policy has been a whirlwind of blunders, retreats, cajoleries, threats, flirtations, embraces and gestures, culminating in catastrophe.  They feel malicious pleasure in the discomfiture of the little man with the Austrian accent, whose one dream-to unite his humorous, lackadaisical, and lovable fellow-countrymen with the more disciplined millions of the German Reich - has by the failure of the Vienna coup been converted into a nightmare of the most terrifying order. 


How can Hitler make war, the French argue, when he is faced by millions of workers crying for bread-by even potatoes going on strike and the wheat stalks refusing to obey Goering’s orders? 

And their eyes twinkle at the idea that, however much the Nazi Brown-shirts may shout their commands, and however much the Ministry of Propaganda may broadcast inspiring orations, Mother Earth will be as recalcitrant this harvest as any Communist, and refuse to Germany the gifts she is accustomed to bring. 

If in a moment of argumentative obstinacy one still pursues the question and asks: “Will not Hitler declare war to rally the nation around him?” the intelligent Frenchman will nod his head in negation and say, “knows that a war means the end of his régime.  He remembers that war brought Bolshevism to Russia and that it destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  He is fully aware of the strength of Communism in his own country.  Thus we French who are in the know are calm.” 

This calmness is re-assuring, but it is only the calmness of the man who fears no storm to-morrow, but dreads an earthquake in a few years’ time.  The independence of Belgium, the lights of whose towns I can see from the train window as we leave Liege, has given way as the main cause of war to the independence of another little land - Austria. 


Perhaps the violation of the Belgian frontier was a dangerous forerunner of a European war fought for the independence of Austria.  Will we ever hear the familiar strain of “Gallant Little Austria?”  And if Germany got control of Austria by external force or internal revolution, would France march? 

Upon this question depends largely the peace of Europe.  All countries have been lavish in their declarations to defend the integrity of Austria, but these have sounded very much like the promises of candidates for Parliament. 

Would France really fight if Austria became united with Germany?

I asked that question of many friends in Paris, and their replies reminded me of Bismarck’s statement that the Balkans were not worth the bones of single Pomeranian soldier. 

“Spill my blood for some hundreds of thousands of Viennese waltzers?  Certainly not!” cried one Parisian, almost spilling his coffee with indignation. 

“We will fight to the death if we are attacked,” said another, “but we will not go to war for the independence of Austria, even though it be one of the main columns of our foreign policy.” 


And the third touched the crux of the matter when he said: “Let Mussolini do the business. We’ll stay out.” 

This last remark, I believe, hints at the main reason for the calm of the French

Foreign Office.  With what delight the French read the vituperative attacks which the Italians are making upon the Nazis!  How they chuckle when they repeat aloud an article in the Rome “Messagero,” said to be inspired by Mussolini, which states: “You cannot deal twice on terms of moral, equality with someone who has broken with such cynicism the laws of honour!” 

They see that the spectre of a German-Italian alliance has fleeted away and that the Nazi-Fascist honeymoon has in a short time led to separation after scenes of violence and hate. 


They realise that Italy will be forced to seek the friendship of France and that, hey presto! those quarrels about battleships in the Mediterranean; those sharp words about Italians in Tunisia, and those suspicious glances at troops massing on the Italo-French frontier will all melt like the snow on the Alpes Maritimes.  Soft compliments between Rome and Paris will fall deep as the leaves in Vallambrosa.  

Thus, grave as are the events of Austria, they have their compensations to politically-minded Frenchmen.  But these compensations-such as the friendship of Italy-are still not enough, and France will not rest until she has built up a collective system based on armed force which will secure her against war.








Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.


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