The Pittsburgh Press/December 5, 1935
by Westbrook Pegler
Good Old Days’ of 1916, when Britons Believed Every Story of German Atrocity, Recalled as Pegler Hears 1935 Propaganda
The arrival in Italy of your correspondent, who was a buck-toothed American reporter in England in the spring of 1916, has been a stirring but very sad reminder of those days.
The Polish at that time were engaged heart and soul in the patriotic work of hating Germans. They hated them in print, they hated them by word of mouth and they hated them in mass and each one apart. German music was a disgusting noise; German scientists were fakers; German merchandise was junk.
Within a year a great English patriot, who later died crazy because of his mistake, read the word “kadaver” in a captured Germany military document and offered the English people the “information”—which they were by then only too eager to believe—that barbarian Germans, in their dire necessity, were now boiling their own dead to obtain grease for their motor transports. “Kadaver,” in this case, referred to dead horses.
This national fury seemed silly and pitiful, but there was no sense in pointing out that the English had thought enough of Germany in the past to import some German royal blood; that their own scientists and intellectuals had found much to admire in Germany; and that many an old personal friend of forgotten days before August, 1914, was now fighting on the other side. It only made them wilder to remind them of these things.
Easy to Be Traitor
They were doing without food, lights, train services, private automobiles, and an English merchant who offered for sale an article from his pre-war stock bearing the loathsome inscription “Made in Germany” would have been tossed into jail as a traitor to the brave boys who were dying in the mud along the Somme.
The League of Nations, in meeting at Geneva a few weeks ago, voted to impose a boycott on Italy for her plain violation of the League covenant in moving into Abyssinia with an army. There’s no doubt about the violation, but there’s no doubt, either, that the Italian expedition is a worse threat to Great Britain than to the Ethiopians, who have only their independence to lose but many modern conveniences to gain, including shirts, trousers, gold teeth, Salvarsan treatments, jitney buses, movies, plumbing, taxes and parades.
Neither is there any doubt that the Italians were gypped by the British and French in the distribution of old German colonies after the war to end war. The Italians had a contract with the Germans to fight on their side, but made a secret agreement on the side to help the British and French instead, in return for which help they were to get theirs. Just pals, you see. And then the British and French gave them a royal trimming in the distribution of loot. Again, you see, just pals.
They Got What Was Left
Italy lost more than 600,000 men who thought they were fighting for king and country, and in the end got a few rotten islands and some other odds and ends, but none of the colonies which had been promised her by the nations with whom Americans finally palled up under the sentimental slogan of “No annexations, no indemnities.”
It’s less difficult to understand the psychology of American racketeers as they change their mobsters and form new alliances, compromising old grudges. Most of them are of Old World origin or stock, and if they had stayed at home they might have been eminent statesmen with medals to wear on their shirtfronts and titles to their names.
Italians have been fighting, if you could call it fighting, a lot of tattered, disorganized, barefoot tribes of no centralized loyalty. The enemy they hate is not the enemy they are fighting. They hate England. They hate England almost as intensely as England hated Germany in 1916. They believe in their hearts that England put the League of Nations up to the job of voting a boycott.
In this they are more right than wrong for the English, with their muddling-through exterior, were shrewd traders, and they have put themselves on the side of peace and justice and rights of small nations in this case.
An Englishman in Italy today is regarded as an enemy, although Italy has no formal war with England. Americans, because they speak English, are regarded with evil suspicion and subject to insults. It is unwise to carry an English newspaper. On the train from Genoa to Rome today a waiter in the dining car was not inclined to be civil until an Italian officer from the steamship Rex whispered to him that those were not English at the next table but Americans.