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AFTER the undeniable successes of the Third Reich's foreign policy during the year 1938, it might have been imagined that the Führer, gratified at having attained his chief aims without striking a blow and shown the world the superiority of Hitlerian methods, would have addressed himself to the task of easing the internal tension, and would himself have given an example of satisfied calm.
But, according to information received from trustworthy sources, this is not the case. Herr Hitler is again said to be going through a period of crisis. He is said to be nervous, agitated, a prey to sudden and violent outbursts of rage. It is said that he shuns his collaborators and lives in sullen seclusion. In the presence of those happy few who are received by him, he gives vent to angry complaints; he declares that he receives nothing but disappointing reports; that the carrying out of the Four Year Plan encounters new difficulties every day; that in many regions of the Reich, the spirit of the public is not what it should be; that in Vienna, Bürckel is struggling in the midst of scandals caused by the corruption and extortions of the Austrian Nazis; that Sudetenland is costing great sums of money; and that he is assailed with requests for credits and subsidies from every side.
From abroad, the Greater German Reich has not received the flattering consecration or reaped the tribute of respect and consideration that its victories had led it to hope for. In spite of the Munich agreement, Anglo-German relations have never been so strained. With Washington Berlin sees itself engaged, willy-nilly, in vain and fruitless polemics, at the very moment when, the bloc of a German or German-controlled Mitteleuropa being as yet unorganized, the National-Socialist economic system finds itself sorely in need of safety-valves abroad. To the proposals for a German-American armistice which the Propaganda service has discreetly issued through certain press-agencies, the only answer so far has been President Roosevelt's message in which he raised the problem of a "reconsideration" of the American policy of neutrality.
In the East and South-East the situation tends to become more complicated: the collapse of Czechoslovakia has suddenly revived national prejudices, hatreds and appetites; German-Polish friendship, not so long ago a fine subject for official toasts and the usual leitmotif of the Führer's pacific speeches, has cooled down considerably. Deceived in their hopes, the Hungarians have become recalcitrant and restless. Far from taking refuge under the triumphant Swastika, the small nations are sheltering behind a neutrality which is not always a benevolent one.
The Franco-German declaration of December 6 is one of the few clear patches in a cloudy sky. But the tension between Rome and Paris is placing the Reich in a delicate position towards France. Confronted with the Franco-Italian differences, Nazi propaganda adopts for the time being a watchful attitude, notwithstanding platonic protests regarding the solidarity of the Axis.
It would be an obvious mistake to assume that the Chancellor attaches much importance to these setbacks. Since the events of last year, his faith in his own genius, in his instinct, or as one might say, in his star, is boundless. Those who surround him are the first to admit that he now thinks himself infallible and invincible. That explains why he can no longer bear either criticism or contradiction. To contradict him is in his eyes a crime of lèse-majesté; opposition to his plans, from whatever side it may come, is a definite sacrilege, to which the only reply is an immediate and striking display of his omnipotence.
The Chancellor chafes against all these disappointments with indignant impatience. Far from conducing him to moderation, these obstacles irritate him. He is aware of the enormous blunder which the anti-Jewish persecutions of last November have proved to be; yet, by a contradiction which is part of the dictator's psychological make-up, he is said to be preparing to enter upon a merciless struggle against the Church and Catholicism. Perhaps he thus wishes to wipe out the memory of past violence by fresh violence. It is in Austria, henceforth turned into an experimental station, that the signal for anti-clerical measures might perhaps be given, doubtless because the unity and the spirit of sacrifice among the clergy is not so strong there as in the rest of the Reich, where the memory of the Kulturkampf is still alive. Certain articles in the Schwarze Korps already point to the possibility of a far-reaching confiscation of Church property in the so-called Ostmark.
Outside the Reich, German domination is weighing down Czechoslovakia more and more heavily. The conclusion of a customs and monetary union to the profit of the Reich might prove at the same time a most advantageous operation and the first stage on the road to the Ukraine.
Thus, at the beginning of the year 1939, the atmosphere in the Third Reich can best be described as tense: tension in all fields- political, economic, confessional and psychological. As happens with an overheated engine, the machinery of the Third Reich is strained to breaking point, but the driver of Berchtesgaden does not appear to intend to moderate the pressure.
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