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Post-War Germans (Education)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Major Sir James Edmondson.]

The time of the House has been taken up all day with matters concerning Scotland, and I should like now to transport the House to Germany, for we have reached that period in the war when the representatives of the people in this House should begin to make up their minds on what they consider the major victorious Powers should do with Germany after the war. There are already so many schools of thought in this country that unless there is a fair measure of agreement before this war ends, Bedlam will break out when the time actually comes to deal with this immense problem. How much less likely are the major victorious Powers to agree on a policy if we in this country have not agreed among ourselves.

It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Sir J. Edmondson.]

If we ourselves have neglected to debate and sort out our ideas in good time before the peace, the net result could be disagreement between the Allies when Germany could emerge the main beneficiary. Germany is the cauldron of world trouble. In less than a century she has been responsible for five major wars. Again and again when the world was settling down to happier times, everything has been upset by the inbred aggressiveness of the Teutons. In her inglorious history Germany has demonstrated that the reason for her existence is war. The German Empire always has been, and always will be, thoroughly bad and a menace to civilisation.

There is a growing school of thought in this country, a particular school of thought led by Lord Vansittart, whose realisation of this is as practical as their solution is impracticable.

I am coming to that in a minute. Their policy of preventing the Germans from starting yet another war is to educate them so that they will be good boys in the future. I appreciate the fact that the Minister of Education is here to-day, and I am hoping that he is at this stage thinking about who is going to educate a matter of 80,000,000 embittered people. What a fantastic job, to attempt to educate a whole race to be peaceful, a race that for centuries has had the instinct for war deep down in its nature. That instinct was even further ingrained by the humiliation and desire for revenge after the last war. How much more will it be ingrained after their defeat in this war. I believe it would be much easier to educate 80,000,000 baboons to give up baboon instincts.

If the tables were turned, do these Vansittart wishful thinkers imagine that the Nazis would be able to eradicate British instincts from Britishers? The Nazis were not going to be such fools as to try anything so impossible. They have the simpler plan of making the British Empire a part of the German Empire, when Germans would rule us and be constantly on the spot to see that no major trouble was caused. There is yet another school of thought to which I desire to draw the attention of the House, which concerns itself with post-war Germany. It has recently come into the limelight. It is made up of a group of Members of both Houses of Parliament, and, although Lord Vansittart is supposed to be connected with the group, I have not noticed that his name appears in their manifesto, with that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) and other responsible sponsors. I also notice that this group avoided stressing the policy of "educating" the Germans. One is further heartened by hearing from them in that manifesto that
"a condition of peace must be the certainty that Germany shall not be in a position again to launch aggressive wars on the world."
The group's main plan for ensuring that comes, so far as I can see, under the following heading:
"Germany shall be allowed no Army, Navy or Air Force until the Allied Nations decide otherwise."
That looks very fine in print; but what happens if in, say, 20 years' time we get a Government in this country which, oblivious to the lessons of the past, weakly decides that the poor Germans shall no longer be suppressed; and if at that time, or even earlier, America gets bored by her European commitments, or it the Russians happen during that long intervening period to be at variance with the English-speaking nations? It is no good for an hon. Member to say that that is absurd, because it is exactly what happened after the last war, and if it could happen then, there is no reason why it should not happen again. Therefore, I feel justified in saying that there is only one reasonably certain way of preventing Germany from starting another war, and I am very relieved to see that the group to which I have just referred has already take a big step in the right direction. They are already prepared—again according to their manifesto—to take away from Germany East Prussia—for they say it never should have been a part of Germany—and a large part of Western Germany—understandable because that territory is made up of all those strategic Rhine Provinces. I wonder whether there are many Members of this House who noticed that only the other day Mr. J. E. Davies, a former United States Ambassador to Moscow, who I believe is there now, who is considered by a great number of people to be one of the greatest authorities on Russia, and who is esteemed by many Russians, said:
"After the war the Russians would naturally want back the territory that had been taken away from them by force after the last War."
I would ask the House to notice those words, "after the last war," for I find that there is considerable ignorance as to the extent of the Russian territory which was lost to them after the last war. Alhough I am aware that the majority of Members of this House would know about it, it might interest quite a number of people outside to learn that territory Russia lost after the last war comprised practically the whole of Poland. Therefore, I think one is entitled to say, "If the Russians insist on that, what then is going to happen to Poland?" The Russians have already hinted in no uncertain way that after this war there is nothing to prevent Poland from being resurrected —that is to say, the major part of Poland —on former German territory. Actually the term used was, "The Poles could go West." But as that expression has a rather different meaning in this country very likely from what it has in Russia, I choose to put it in another way.

Anyhow, we have to face up to this situation, that it may come to this, that unless at the end of hostilities we intend to fight the Russians, we may have to take their advice about Polish frontiers. Assuming that something like that which I have envisaged comes about—

The hon. and gallant Member said that most of Poland was taken over by the Russians. I thought that Poland was allotted practically equally between Russia and the dual Government of Austro-Hungary and Germany.

I think that the hon. Member very likely misunderstood what I said. What I was attempting to convey to the House was the fact that it has been suggested that Russia would desire to have back those territories that -she possessed before the last war, and I was pointing out to the House that if all the United Nations agreed to that after the war, it would mean that practically all that territory which between the last war and this had been Poland's would go back to Russia.

If that occurs, such a slice out of Germany which would have to take place if the Poles were compensated in the manner suggested, together with the cutting off of East Prussia and a large portion of West Germany, as suggested by this influential group of British politicians, would not leave very much of Germany. I believe it has been demonstrated by the hacking up after the last war that if one takes away the limbs of a country, it is more humane, and it is certainly safer in the case of Germany, to obliterate the trunk as well.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—and I seem to feel that there were not many Members of the House who noticed it, otherwise there would have been some question in the House—said, recently, according to the Press:
"Whatever else was the result of this war, let us make sure there will be no more German nation."
I say quite deliberately that, in my opinion, he is right. Why not this time make a thorough job of it? Let us stop playing about with these theoretical and complicated palliatives which have been put forward by these various well-meaning groups of idealists. I personally am concerned about my two young sons, and I know there is only one sure way of preventing Germans of the future killing our children, and that is, by adopting the simple and straightforward policy of "No more Germany, no more war." I am filled with apprehension, for I see these idealists in our midst getting dangerously busy again. May I remind this House that it was a mixture of idealism and complacency that encouraged us after the last war to get slack with Germany? Our weak tolerance at that time has been rewarded by an exhibition of ruthless barbarism unprecedented in the history of the world. There have been mass murder from the air, the organised starvation of whole communities, bestiality towards little children and wholesale massacres. Germany—and I stress as a country—must no longer exist. This war is the culminating, grandiose atrocity by which she has not only forfeited her right to nationhood but has forfeited any right to a place in civilisation. This time we cannot afford any weakness; this time stark realism must guide us.

It is a curious kink in our Constitution which enables any hon. Member to occupy the time of the House and keep the whole machinery of House of Commons business in train for half-an-hour after-it might normally cease in order to give other hon. Members the benefit of such inane and inadequate views as have been presented to-day by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid).

Has anybody asked the hon. Member to make the kind of speech which he obviously intends to make?

The hon. and gallant Member has made his speech in his own way, and I propose to make my speech in my own way.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman comes here and makes a speech which cannot have anything but the worst possible import. What he says in this House goes out to the world. Every phrase he uses about postwar problems is sent by various means of publicity, through the ether maybe or the Press, to the Poles in this country and to the Russians in Russia—to many peoples occupied with their various problems and who may be distraught beyond measure at the progress of the war in this or that direction. Yet the hon. and gallant Member thinks he can come here and give the House a dissertation in armchair strategy and by doing so seek to ameliorate present or future conditions. I would like to ask him, How dare he come here and make the type of speech he has just made?

Because he is a Member of Parliament and has the right to make the kind of speech he likes.

Certainly he has the right to make the kind of speech he likes, but at any rate he is most unwise and wholly wrong in coming down to this House to get the tremendous publicity with which is associated any speech made in this Chamber and making the kind of speech he has just made and giving vent to the sort of views he has given vent to.

The hon. Member has asked me how dare I make such a speech and I retort, How dare he make an undiluted personal attack?

Just because the Noble Lord is bare of any constructive ideas of his own, is that any reason why he should resent the constitutional rights of other Members or try to prevent them from putting forward what they sincerely believe to be the best for the country? That is my answer. I have as much right to speak in the House as he has to get up and criticise me. I notice that he did not deny just now that he was asked to get up on this occasion by someone else in order to criticise me.

I repeat that it is sheer waste of time for a Member of the House, in the totally insignificant position that he holds—

—having taken a course of action in the war which is universally condemned, having left the country at a critical time and gone off to gallivant in. Honolulu—

I would ask the Noble Lord not to proceed along that line of argument.

In my submission, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has by his inane action shown himself entirely unworthy to address the Chamber on a subject of such grave import to many gallant fighting peoples. It may be that he has sought to give us another quarter of an hour of speech-making at a time when the House might well have adjourned, in order to provide material for a forthcoming pamphlet, It is to be noticed that every two or three months a new pamphlet is to be seen by the hon. and gallant Gentleman for sale on the bookstalls.

I must confess that I have not yet invested in any copy, but one cannot help observing them in their flaming colours at various times for all to see and, no doubt, for a few misguided folk to buy,

I hope the Noble Lord will adhere to the subject matter under discussion.

Just now the Noble Lord had something to say about my war record. I should like him to tell the House something about his war record, and I ask him, as he takes exception to my war record, whether he knows anything about it at all and whether he would not have been wiser to have first looked into the matter. In the meantime let him tell the House about his record.

I will take a suitable opportunity with the indulgence of the House. This is not the moment. I do not desire to stand any further between the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the President of the Board. Obviously he wants to have some sort of reply, and we shall all await with great attention what my right hon. Friend has to say.

I do not want to say anything about personalities. I merely want to urge the right hon. Gentleman to repudiate most vigorously these attempts, which I regard as mischievous and ignorant attempts, by apparently influential groups in his own party, and other people, to prejudge what must surely be a matter for the whole of the United Nations to decide, and I want him to endorse the very wise attitude towards Germany, the German State and the German people which has been expressed on a number of occasions by Mr. Stalin.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman who raised this matter gave notice of his intention to do so to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who is unfortunately not able to be present, and, in view of the fact that one of the matters to which he wished to draw attention related to the question of education on the international plane, my right hon. Friend asked me if I would say a few words on the subject in reply to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman had to put forward. In regard to the exchanges that have taken place and some of the wider observations on world events and strategy which have been brought up, I had better adhere to my own subject and leave those questions either to personal conflict afterwards when we rise or to the wiser deliberations of the statesmen who are responsible for those particular subjects. I should not regret reverting for a moment to those happy pursuits which used to engage me when I was at the Foreign Office, but I had better adhere now to the studies in which I am engaged. My own particular responsibility in this matter has been to take the chair at a conference which I called of the Allied Ministers of Education to examine the question how far education can help us in the immense tasks which lay before us at the conclusion of the war. The four meetings we have held so far have shown that there is a great opportunity for education to enlarge its sphere and to lay some of that basis of understanding without which any superstructure, either political or economic, cannot in future be properly erected. I think that some of our misfortunes and difficulties before were due to the fact that we were not based on proper foundations. That is why this subject of international understanding and the possibility of cultural conventions or treaties of understanding between nations being precedent to political understanding, which I am exploring with my colleagues the Ministers of Education, is one which I think may have fruitful results. If as a result of the hon. and gallant Member's initiative I can acquaint the House with these attempts, I shall have done something useful. We shall continue in our work, but we cannot do so in a hurry. When we come to the question of the re-education of Germany, we come to a subject on which I have time to say a few short and sharp words. In my opinion and in the general opinion of my colleagues, the best way to start the reeducation of Germany is to show the enemy what things she cannot do. That can best be done by the imposition of an overwhelming military defeat upon Germany so that she may learn once and for all that those evil doctrines which have inspired her philosophy and her leaders for so many years and have had such terrible results shall not be able to occur again. Therefore, I would say without hesitation that as a preliminary to the question of how to re-educate an enemy country, and in particular Germany, there is no hesitation in this country or among the United Nations in saying that a complete and unconditional surrender must precede any such attempt. While we should teach first of all that war does not pay, we should also be wise to realise that the re-education of the people comes better from inside that people themselves. When I examine such excellent documents as the First Report of the Joint Commission of the London International Assembly and the Council for Education in World Citizenship, I would only draw that document to the attention of the House and ask it to study it. But I would warn the House that it would be advisable, in considering the question of imposing an external educational régime upon a defeated country, rather to approach the question from the angle in which I have approached it, namely, that we have to teach that nation that the philosophy of war, the philosophy of the Herrenvolk, does not and never will pay. We have then to attempt to eliminate within that country the evil forces, evil doctrines and evil influences that have brought about that philosophy. We may then hope eventually to start such a leaven within the country that a real self-education and re-education arises. I believe that is the only way, starting with an overwhelming defeat, to ensure the re-education of an enemy country.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.