September 24th, 1938
FROM THE ARCHIVES:Neville Chamberlain has gone down in history as the British prime minister who fatally tried to appease Hitler by abandoning Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in 1938. At the time, however, he was widely lauded for his efforts to avoid war, as this editorial indicates. – JOE JOYCE
THE ISSUE is between peace and war; and it rests upon a knife’s edge.
Mr. Neville Chamberlain has the sympathy and admiration of the whole civilised world, because he has done more than any other individual to save mankind from another war.
There can be very little doubt that, if he had not gone to Berchtesgaden [to meet Hitler] last week, the Powers of Europe already would have been at one another’s throats; and, if the world’s peace is maintained in spite of the sinister omens, Mr Chamberlain will be the man to whom all the credit will be due.
When that has been said, it must be remembered that Mr. Chamberlain is the Prime Minister of England. He represents not alone one of the mightiest Powers in existence, but also a Commonwealth of free nations whose writ runs in five continents. Herr von Ribbentrop [German foreign minister] may believe that the people of the Commonwealth are decadent; that, because they do not strut about in uniforms and preach the gospel of force to their children, they are inferior to the race-conscious Germans.
There is an old man in Doorn to-day [former German Kaiser] who was convinced that the British were unfit to fight 24 years ago. Wilhelm of Hohenzollern learnt his lesson, and what was true in 1914 is true in 1938. No man in the British Commonwealth wants a war. Mr. Chamberlain has shown by his actions that the British people are prepared to go to almost any lengths to avert such a disaster.
Mr. Chamberlain has done what no other statesman in Europe would have the courage to do. He has gone twice to Germany to plead with Herr Hitler in the service of peace, thereby placing his own political career on the hazard. If he has failed, it has been a glorious failure, and Neville Chamberlain’s name will go down to history as that of a man who dared all to save mankind from calamity. [...]
We are convinced that once Herr Hitler realises that France and Britain are united in their resolve that Czechoslovakia shall not be wiped off the map, he will call a halt. We refuse to believe that a man who was blinded in the last war will send millions of Europe’s young men to the slaughter, and condemn his own country, for which he has done so much constructive work during the last five years, to a defeat which would be as complete as it would be inevitable.
The prayers of every God-fearing man and woman to-day will be for peace. Throughout the British Commonwealth the people will stand, as one man, behind Mr. Chamberlain. They know that the future of democracy is at stake; they know that, if democracy is doomed, all that they hold dear will perish in its wreck.