Hitler Dupes the Vatican/Chapter III
The Munich agreement was that Germany was to have those towns and districts on the fringe of Czecho-Slovakia in which there was a German majority. The self-determination of peoples is an admirable principle, but in application it needs to be watched carefully. If either priests or statesmen or, as in the case of Italy and Germany, both demand a full birth rate of their people so that the over-crowded population will ooze over the frontiers into neighboring countries and multiply there until they become the majority, as Mexicans might in parts of the southern States and Japanese in parts of the eastern, they have no right whatever to either autonomy or special privileges. A member of Wilson's staff at Versailles told me how that statesman, baited and exhausted by the French, clinging to his ideal of self-determination and dazed by, names of Hungarian, Bulgarian, Polish, etc., towns about which he knew nothing, was dragged into the blunders of that fateful treaty. Over-population, deliberately encouraged, was one of the chief pretexts—it was in this case not true—used by the arch- criminals to reconcile their own people to the idea of aggressive war and to secure the sympathy of muddle-headed humanitarians of the George Lansbury type abroad. Lebensraum ("space to live in") for the noble German people was the cry—until the time came when the mask could be abandoned and it was changed to Grossraum, which practically means Empire.
Since this encouragement of the birth rate was the second chief point—the first was the suppression of freedom or glorification of authority—on which the policy of the Vatican coincided with that of the Axis we shall have to consider it later. At this stage it thrusts itself upon our notice because it explains why about one-fifth of the total population of Czech-Slovakia was found in the relatively small area of the Sudeten provinces and another fifth in the very backward conditions of Slovakia. The Czechs of the large and progressive central region were fully in line with modern civilization and controlled their birth rate. It was this prosperous central region that Hitler coveted, for he had now, ind seeing the inertia of the western democracies, gone far beyond his original idea of uniting all peoples of Germanic blood in a powerful empire and securing the Ukraine as their granary. He and Mussolini, who had lied to Runciman with all the glibness of his type, proved this immediately by cynically ignoring the Munich agreement and Chamberlain and robbing Czecho-Slovakia of its vital defensive resources so that he could take it over when the time was ripe.
The essential evil of the surrender at Munich was that in practice it left to Hitler and Mussolini to settle what parts of Czecho-Slovakia were to be handed over on the sacred principle of self-determination. In theory this, and all questions arising from the settlement, were to be decided by representatives of the four powers. Russia was, of course, ignored as a low-caste nation which could not expect to sit at table with pure-blooded Nordics" and the descendants of the Caesars; and Britain and France further stultified themselves by agreeing to this. They very quickly found that they had betrayed Czecho-Slovakia and, as it proved before long, the cause of civilization. Hitler's military draftsmen included in the territory to be ceded the powerful fortifications and big guns and, as they saw Chamberlain still playing with his "Scrap of paper", robbed the country of its equipment, air-force, military resources, and chief industrial enterprises. Catholic Poland and Hungary seized their opportunity and, like dogs attacking a mortally wounded deer, tore pieces out of the flanks of the distressed country, with the cordial approval of their priests. One of the most sturdy democracies in Europe, with a large and splendidly equipped army, a great arsenal, and an eagerness to cooperate with Russia, was disarmed.
But Hitler hesitated for months to take over the helpless country. One of the foulest features of this modern imperialism as compared with its historical predecessors is that, while it mouthed about the tonic of war and its invincible legions, it hypocritically denied until the last moment that it had any imperialist ambitions and covered every move it made with a ragged mantle of respectable pretensions and mendacious pretexts of law and order. In this (in Austria, Abyssinia, and Spain) it had had the close cooperation of the Black International; the 'moral' force which professed to have the task of exposing all such immoral conduct in every part of the world. Hitler now found a still more useful ally in the Black International.
Pacelli was crowned Pope on March 12, 1939. This was, as I said, the day on which the Jews were, with terrible loss and suffering (which he never condemned), expelled from Italy. It was also the day on which Hitler sent a German plane to Slovakia to bring to Berlin the Slovak priest who was to sell Czecho-Slovakia to him for thirty pieces of silver.
One reads in the biography of the new Pope by Ransom that during the week after his coronation Pacelli was so beset with problems that he gave only three hours to sleep every night. What the problems were we do not know, but the problem that was then agitating the whole civilized world, the problem on the solution of which the peace of the world depended in the opinion of all thoughtful men, was not one of them. Ransom devotes 100 pages of his little book to the work of the overburdened Pope that year, but he never mentions Czecho-Slovakia, though it was upon the conduct of a priest, a prelate (or monsignore) of the Church, a man in a position of particular interest to the Vatican, that the world- crisis mainly depended. It, indeed, depended so vitally that three days after the Pope's coronation statesmen concluded that a European war was inevitable. Stalin began that intensive armament of his people for which the world is now profoundly grateful. Britain—it has since transpired—began its organization to meet a German attack, drafted the scheme of several costly war- ministers, ordered hundreds of thousands of card-board coffins for the victims of air-raids and vast hospital spice, and even began in a quite gentlemanly way to create a war-industry.
Slovakia, with its almost illiterate priest-ridden population was, as I said, the weakness of the Czecho-Slovak combination, and now that Bohemia had lost a third of its industries and two-thirds of its coal-mines, this poorer province had risen in importance. Since Benes had had to fly for his life before the fury of Hitler a blight - in large part a clerical blight—had fallen upon the unfortunate land. Hacha had been appointed President and he surrounded himself with priests and Catholic politicians. Democracy was already dead. On February 10, 1941, the New York Times quoted this passage from the leading Czech Catholic paper.
"There is no Catholic in Europe who would shed a tear to see the collapse of democratic political disorder and who would not sincerely welcome the fall of economic Liberalism, which has been denounced by the Pope's Leading ideologist because it misuses the working people in favor of a few capitalistic exploiters."
The Pope's leading ideologist in America had been engaged for twenty years in assuring the public that the democratic institutions and economic forms at which the writer jeers are not merely in accord with the teaching of the Church but had actually been inspired by the great moral theologians centuries ago. We will consider some time the encyclical of Pius XI, one of the first fruits of Pacelli's guidance, on which this Catholic Fascism was based. It is enough here that, though the above passage was written two years after the disaster of 1939, the change from the fine old Cultural order inspired by Masaryk began in 1939.
Hacha and his colleagues at least realized that it was vital to keep the three national elements of the State—Bohemia-Moravia Slovakia, and Ruthenia—together, and the priest, Father Hlinka who was the oracle and leader of the Catholic Slovaks, agreed. They wanted, in order to protect their faith from the decay which it suffered amongst the Czechs, some sort of autonomy or Home Rule while remaining within the national unity. But Hlinka, the mediocre kind of political priest which such a country would produce, though an honest man, died in August (1938), urging his followers and his successor with his last breath to cling to the union. This successor, Msgr. Tiszo, who became well-known in the world-press in 1939 and 1940, was the second Quisling—the Catholic Seyss- Inquart of Austria being the first—in the long line of Papalist traitors who have served the Axis during the last three years; and he was a priest, in fact a monsignore—a rank between a priest and a bishop in the Roman Church—not a Catholic layman whose action might be repudiated, when this was desirable,"by the Black International.
Tiszo was the son of a Slovak peasant who had been taken up by the Magyar bishop of the district and educated for the priest-hood in Hungarian colleges. At that time, tinder the old Austro- Hungarian Empire, Slovakia was under the control of the Magyars. Whatever may be the truth about his morals—Catholic parents made serious charges against him in connection with a girls' college in which he taught for a time—he identified himself very zealously with the interests of the Hungarians until their yoke was rejected by the Slovaks in 1918. He then became a patriotic Slovak and in time attached himself to Hlinka. The Czechs accused the clerical epicure—at least he was far from ascetic—of chronic political duplicity, and he certainly duped Hlinka. He succeeded to the Slovak leadership and became Premier of the autonomous province, and he proceeded to stir up a dangerous demand for separation and independence. Hitler wanted disorder in Czecho-Slovakia, the usual hypocritical pretext for taking it over. Tiszo provided it.
Hitler knew that he was at last regarded with suspicion and that Russia, if not the western democracies, was very industriously arming, but he still had faith in their dread of war and their willingness to accept any sort of plausible excuse for his actions. His agents got into touch with Tiszo and the plot was concocted. Since the establishment of a virtually Catholic government at Prague Slovak grievances had relented. Tiszo raised the cry of independence and assured his followers that Hitler would prevent Prague from interfering with them. The news reached Prague, and Hacha deposed Tiszo from the Premiership and dissolved his cabinet. Tiszo, as Premier, had taken an oath to observe the Constitution, but such oaths were always open to interpretation by a skilful theologian. It was rumored that March 15 (1939) was fixed as the date of the declaration of Independence.
Prague sternly resisted, and in the intense agitation of the country there was certainly some disorder. Tiszo appealed to Hitler and, as I said, a plane was sent to bring him to Germany. There is an impartial summary of the events in Keesing's Contemporary Archives (March 18) in which these details may be read. Seyss- Inquart, the Catholic model of the Quislings, is said to have been sent in the plane to fetch Tiszo to Berlin, where he saw Hitler and Ribbentrop, while the controlled German press groaned with stories of outrages by the Czechs, as it would presently groan with charges against the Poles. Tiszo telephoned from Berlin to his friends that Hitler promised to support them in a declaration of independence, and the sordid story entered upon its last chapter. The wolf began his complaints that the Czech lamb was muddying the water for him.
Hitler, with that air of a Persian monarch which he had now developed, summoned Hacha to Berlin; and, with their usual felicity of coincidence, the Catholic Hungarian government, which was equally docile to Hitler and to the Pope, demanded that the Czechs should give up Ruthenia. Hacha was received with military horrors at Berlin at one in the morning, and four hours later (March 15) Hitler ordered his troops to take over Bohemia and Moravia if Hacha did not sign away the independence of his country. He would, he said, if Hacha refused, order 700 bombing planes to raze the noble city of Prague to the ground. The story of greed and treachery was over. With pathetic gloom the New York Times announced "the twilight of liberty in Central Europe." The world-press except the Italian, which exulted, expressed the gravest anxiety about the future and had no illusion about the Protectorates which Hitler made of the three sections of the old Republic.
What did the Vatican think of it? The murder of Czecho- Slovakia was a worse crime than the conquest of Spain or the annexation of Austria. It was not a question of taking sides in a civil war or of extending the German flag to a German-speaking people. It was worse than greed, the seizure of the wealth and resources of Czecho-Slovakia. Careful observers saw it as the first step in the enslavement of alien peoples in the service of Germany, the first move in a European war. But the Pope said nothing . . . Yes, to be sure, he continued to tell the world that peace is a very beautiful, desirable thing and war is hideous. How any Catholic of normal mentality can imagine that these utterances of the Pope taught the world something which it did not know or did not vividly appreciate one cannot understand; still less how this message of peace every Easter and Christmas was consistent with the summons to the world during the rest of the year to make a bloody end of Socialism in Russia and Mexico. Was it necessary for the Pope to use the word "bloody"? No one even suggests any other meaning of his words.
To Roman Catholics I am a pariah, a man beyond redemption, a writer whose corrupt gospel must not be mentioned in the press, yet I have seen and denounced the drift of the world for the last six or seven years. The only moralist who has any place in modern life is the man who does not merely tell it that there is a law of justice and that peace is precious, but points out which actions are unjust or effectively threaten the peace of nations. That is just what Pacelli-Pius has never done. Here was an appalling crime, the shadow of worse things to come, perpetrated in the very first year of his pontificate and he was dumb. A body of Catholics muttering "the Pope of Peace" is on exactly the same psychological level as a crowd of Nazis in the Sports-palast chanting "Heil Hitler" or of Fascists chanting "Mussolini Solo": the psychological level of the performing dog.
Ought we to go further and say that the Pope did not condemn what happened in Czecho-Slovakia because he cooperated in it by instructions to the Black International of the Sudeten, provinces, Prague, and Slovakia? It is one of those points which I leave open, and the reader must please himself. But in the name of common-sense let no Catholic suggest that the Pope was so busy, or happenings in Czecho-Slovakia were so remote and obscure, that little attention was paid to them at the Vatican.
There was during the few years before the war a persistent rumor in London that the government defied the warnings of its own Foreign Office. However that may be, there was no such friction after Munich. After the outbreak of war the Times had indication's every week of plans that had begun to take shape immediately after Hitler and Mussolini had cynically violated their Munich agreement. There were plans of new and vast aviation-works; rich mansions and hotels, colleges in the country were put under contract to take government departments when war broke out; a body of leading journalists had a secret consultation with the government. But these things are now well known. Any statesman who did not see spurts of blue flame and jets of sulphurous smoke issuing from the pit after the gross violation of the Munich agreement . . . But there was no such statesman. Did those things escape the notice of that wonderful intelligence-service of the Vatican City and the eagle eye of the new Pope?
To say so would, in view of the terrible specter that rose on the horizon, be ludicrous even if Czech-Slovakia were at the other side of the world. But the question's that arose in Czecho-Slovakia were just of the kind that calls for ecclesiastical intervention. The Vatican has, besides its Secretariat of State, a number of "congregations", with large staffs, which correspond to the departments (trade, education, etc.) of ordinary countries. To these congregation's questions from all parts of the Catholic world are not only permitted. They are encouraged, for the business helps to maintain the Pope's vast revenue and the swarm of Italian clerical parasites who fatten in Rome. Some of them must have had a busy correspondence with Czecho-Slovakia since 1918, when the reaction against Austrian tyranny and the scrularization of the new state started the disintegration of the Church. As I have said, it lost at least a fourth of its members in ten years. But the paramount questions were political, especially the question whether the solid Catholicism of the Sudetens and the Slovaks should be saved from the influence of the anti-Papal government at Prague by securing autonomy or, in the last stage, separation. I will tell presently how the Pope's Nuncio (ambassador) at Prague was expelled—an extra-ordinary occurrence in a Catholic country—for publicly supporting the political demands of the Slovaks. Was Pacelli, a thorough student of German affairs, likely to take little notice of these affairs which in any case supremely concerned the Secretariat of State?
Beyond question the Vatican was following the course of events with the closest attention, and it would be ridiculous to suppose such priests as Hlinka and Tiszo were not in complete accord with their higher ecclesiastical authorities and through these with the Vatican. The action of the Nuncio sufficiently proves this. Some day, when the great-hearted Czechs are restored by the civilization which betrayed them the full truth will be known. Meantime I venture upon this suggestion of Vatican policy. It was uncertain on the question of the Sudeten Catholics and as in the early days of Sinn Fein in Ireland, left the business to laymen. It was far from clear whether it would be a gain or a loss to transfer a couple of million Catholics, who were entirely free to have their Catholic institutions and schools under the Czechs, to Nazi control. It would please Hitler, but what was the worth of his promises? In regard to Slovakia the policy was clear. The dense mass of ignorant or illiterate or semi-literate Catholicism must be protected from Czech culture and progress by autonomy or, when this coincided with Hitler's policy, separation. But whatever one may think of this speculation the main fact does not share its uncertainty. The Black International vitally helped Hitler in taking the final preparatory step for his crime against civilization.