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The Militant, 11 April 1942

William J. Burns

How Can Hitler’s Hold on German Soldiers Be Broken?

Says Program of Militant Is Not Practical

A Sailor Describes the Attitude of German Prisoners

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 15, 11 April 1942, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A Letter to The Militant

In an editorial, Why Germans Are Not Surrendering, in the March 7th issue, you say that to class German soldiers as fanatical Nazis is to identify the people with Hitler’s clique. You say that the Red Army has but to propagandize the German soldiers with promises of a “Socialist United States of Europe” and these soldiers would not only surrender but join the Red Army for that purpose. I’m afraid you’re all wet. I wish you were not.

I have just returned from the Red Sea. While there I paid a visit to Cairo (not far from port Suez). Here I had an opportunity to see these much publicized German soldiers being led thru the streets as prisoners of war. Their only answer to onlookers was a sneer. Their attitude toward British soldiers was one of contempt – the contempt that one who considers himself superior to others might show.

Later, I talked with British soldiers, asking them about the morale and attitude of German prisoners. They told me that these fellows refuse to work in prison camps (they would be paid if they did). They rarely, if ever, talk to anyone but fellow prisoners. But what is most important – to me, at least – is the fact that the longer they are imprisoned, the more sullen they become. The Nazi salute to British and colonial troops is a popular form of insult. This should prove their morale.

Attitude to Hitler

We have to remember that Hitler’s war program put German capitalism on its feet. Jobs were everywhere after his appointment. German industry soon gave the people a much higher standard of living than they had known. And jobs and a better living are the best morale builders everywhere. And let’s admit that the German workers looked to Adolf Hitler as the direct cause of all this. War and easy victories soon put him on a level with Christ in the minds of everyone – farmers and workers alike.

So in the face of all this let us not try to fool ourselves that a mass of pamphlets, promising a “Socialist United States of Europe,” can ever change the opinions of millions of soldier’s – who do not care, much less realize or understand, what a Europe of this kind could mean to them. The German people and soldiers will have to undergo a lot of suffering before they will listen to any propaganda whatsoever. And while we’re waiting for this change to come about, what of Russia? She certainly has not the arms to hold off much longer!

All of this convinces me that the degenerate Communist Party, in its endeavor to create a second front in Europe, has the only practical solution towards helping Russia; it is a lot more practical then pamphlets. The fact that the United States is in the war and that there seems to be no labor opposition ... seems to me all the more reason for the “Second Front” idea. One of your dearly loved sports is to quote Lenin. One of these quotes is that Lenin once said that all wars are imperialist in character and that workers everywhere should damn them. And I agree. But let us remember that Lenin was not speaking of a war in which a Socialist nation was under attack.


William J. Burns,
Sailors Union of the Pacific, N.Y.C.

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