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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(23 March 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 12, 23 March 1940, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Allies are getting another dose of Hitlerite diplomatic blitzkrieg.

The Soviet-Finnish peace prevented the Allies from establishing a northern front in Scandinavia. Hitler is now moving to make southeastern Europe an equally closed preserve. If he succeeds, he will have assured his northern and southern flanks and his rear, and will narrow the theater of actual military conflict to the west. From that strategic position he will try to dictate terms of a negotiated peace.

Such a negotiated peace, as the Allies fully understand, would be equivalent to Hitler’s victory in the war. Because they realize this and because for the moment they seem frustrated in all efforts to turn some hapless neutral into a battlefield on which they can get at Germany, there is a distinct atmosphere of half-hysterical confusion in the Allied capitals.

In the week since the signing of the Soviet-Finnish peace, Nazi diplomacy has moved to knit Rumania and Italy into its desired pattern. Over Rumania he holds the threat of Stalin and although Carol is still trying to balance himself on the narrow path he has had to tread since the war began, it is evident that the Nazi pressure is producing results. Liberation of the imprisoned Iron Guards is evidence of this.

Around the Brenner Pass meeting between Hitler and Mussolini on March 18 rumor has spun an opaque web but it seems clear enough that Mussolini is to play the role of Mediterranean menace on the one hand and advocate on the other of the latest Hitlerite “peace” plan.

Perhaps most interesting of the many reports current of Hitler’s forthcoming offer to the Allies, is the report that the Nazi dictator is once more offering the allies the chance of a four-power bloc, based upon recognition of German supremacy in Central Europe and the isolation of the U.S.S.R. If this is not agreed to, he holds out the threat of “total war” and a German-Italian-Soviet war bloc.

Through this maze has walked Sumner Welles, emissary of President Roosevelt, who has been closer to the developments of the past ten days than any other important neutral diplomat in Europe.

On his second trip to Paris – en route from London to Rome – he delivered another message to Premier Daladier which can’t this time be passed off as a mere greeting – and was in Rome when the Hitler-Mussolini meeting was arranged. He saw Mussolini upon his return from Brenner Pass and sails back with the report of negotiations which will undoubtedly have the most fateful results for the American people but of which they have been kept in darkest ignorance.


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