BILL: Have you seen the American speeches urging us on to help the Czechs against the Germans?
Francis (gloomily): Yes. But I only wish they would do some stopping the Germans themselves It's all very well for them.
Bill: But most of the intellectuals say we ought to be firm and say No to Hitler.
Francis: True. But they will be conscientious objectors if there's a war. Think of the people who will have to fight it: ordinary unideological men to whom Czechs and Germans mean nothing. In my opinion there could hardly be imagined a more empty and uninspiring war.
Bill: But wouldn't we be fighting for democracy? Not, I mean, that I want a war. But if it happened . . .
Francis: No, we would be fighting against democracy. We would be fighting to prevent Germans, Hungarians and Poles from joining the countries they feel patriotic towards and want to join.
Bill: Surely not. The Czechoslovakian State was happy and contented until Hitler came along and with his propaganda...
Francis: Don't you believe it. For fifteen years Central Europe has been a foul
mess. For fifteen years Czechoslovakia has been full of peoples who have awaited their revenge on the Czechs. The day Czechoslovakia is dismembered there will be bonfires of joy from Innsbruck to Debreczen, from Szegedin to Warsaw. Hitler didn't cause this, though he may
make use of it. It was made because people want to join their own country.
Bill: Oughtn't Hitler to make concessions for world peace?
Francis: I don't stand for Hitler. But I do know that there is no European people which would have acted differently in similar circumstances. The Germans are only no exception.
Bill: But why did Hitler need to threaten war?
Francis: Isn't the course of events, the appalling catastrophes threatening Europe, an explanation of Hitler's behaviour? Whoever would have bothered about the Germans or the Hungarians in Czechoslovakia if there hadn't been the threat of war? Who would have even heard of them? How many people have learnt for the first time that Czechoslovakia isn't a homogeneous State—when they learnt we might be going
to war about it? For fifteen years the leaders in Czechoslovakia and the League of Nations let this sore fester. And, largely because of this, people have come to think that it's only by threatening force that you get anything.
Bill: So you are against the League?
Francis: I am not against a League, nor is any reasonable man. But I was appalled several years ago when at a public meeting —and of Catholics—I brought up the agony of minorities: and a prominent League of Nations man sat on me, brushing it aside with a laugh—" Oh, we all know there are minorities." Everybody else laughed, except a Hungarian. Minorities have been an agony, but people couldn't realise that you can't sit on a dynamite heap for ever. There are millions upon millions of central Europeans who have silently felt for fifteen years what I am saying.
Bill: If you believe in Plebiscites you agree with Mussolini. But anyway the Catholic press is in the pay of the Italian embassy. " Mussolini is always right."
Francis: Mussolini is not always right: but he is not always wrong. There are fanatics who will always take the side against the dictators, or for them. But let them be sure of the justice of their cause before they march to war. Morally such a war for the Czechs might be an unjust war. Hitler may, in this case, have justice largely on his side.
Bill: I can't understand how you can say this. Hitler persecutes your Church.
Francis : Hitler's persecution of my Church may be revolting to me as a Catholic. But surely only a few of these French Catholics could consider Catholics should oppose him over the Sudetens for this. Moreover I think what I have said makes for the only chance of European peace. But on one condition: that if the Germans in Czechoslovakia are granted what they want, the Poles and the. Hungarians are given satisfaction too. Supposing England guaranteed new frontiers which were just another compromise, just another patched. up job, then sooner or later Czechoslovakia will give to the Europeans a big war. And England, having guaranteed such frontiers,
won't be able to get out of it. It's that that frightens me.
Bill: There is bound to be war in the end. Why not now?
Francis : Because every European who loves Europe, who loves all Europe, blushes for you. We must struggle to the bitter end for peace. We must be prepared to offend the so-called pacifists, the democrats, or the totalitarians. We may be voices crying in the wilderness, we true peacemakers, but with us alone will you find a stable horror of war amongst the Europeans. For we love Europe. •
Bill: You are an out and out fascist.
Francis : Call me what you like. But let God witness who loves peace more, you or me.