German Delegation at Genoa Keep Stinnes in the Background

Ernest Hemingway

Toronto Daily Star/April 28, 1922

Genoa.—Germany’s position at the Genoa Conference is a very difficult one. She did not want to come to Genoa as she believed that she had nothing to gain and everything to lose. She believed that M. Poincare’s flat statement that France would have nothing to do with the conference if the question of reparations was brought up, or the revision of the Versailles treaty raised, killed any good Germany might get from Genoa.

Dr. Chancellor Wirth’s speech at the opening session was a masterpiece of tact and kindliness-but it did not say anything. It merely meant that the Germans had come to make a good impression by their behavior, to hope for the best and expect the worst, and perhaps through the aid of the neutral countries to try and obtain a reduction of reparations. France says she will leave the conference if the question is raised-so there you are.

It is very significant that there is no representative of Hugo Stinnes, the sinister peacetime kaiser of Republican Germany, on the commission. Walter Rathenau, who is an enemy and business rival of Stinnes, is one of the heads of the German delegation and his presence may explain the fact that Stinnes is absent.

Another explanation is that it would be very hard for the conference to put up with Stinnes. He so completely destroys the illusion that is being built up by the sentimentalists of Germany as a sweet, friendly long­suffering and forgiving country. It is very hard for that picture to hold together when Hugo Stinnes is around. He, the most powerful factor in Germany today, seems to spoil the picture somehow. It invariably embarrasses the present crop of Germanophiles when Stinnes’ name is mentioned. They want to forget him.

Hugo Stinnes is the industrial dictator of Germany today. He has a Lord Northcliffe hold on the press also and when he snaps the whip the editors jump through the hoop. He is one of the richest men in the world and he is a valuable asset to France in that he is making Germany work—and if she works she can pay. But he is not kindly, forgiving, Christian or sentimental.

It was Stinnes who made the plan for the destruction of the industries of northern France and who advocated the creation of a zone of complete industrial devastation of the manufacturing part of France. With a com­plete attitude of detachment, or even with a pro-German view, it is not nice to picture what Stinnes would have done to France if Germany and not France had been the victor in the war.

So they are keeping Herr Hugo Stinnes with his black derby hat and his ready-tied neckties, his celluloid collar and the meanest face in Europe well out of the Genoa Conference. It seems the better plan.

Germany is represented by the kindly, south German Dr. Wirth and the coldly intellectual Rathenau with his polished billiard-ball head—but somehow the shadow of Stinnes passes over occasionally and gives you the same sensation as seeing the black eagle on the flag that hangs over the German consulate at Genoa.

(Source: William White, ed. Ernest Hemingway: Dateline: Toronto.Simon and Schuster, 2002.)

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