Paul von Hindenburg, who has been very much like King Victor Emmanuel in the public eye, has had a birthday, and such birthday ceremonies as to make him once more a center of discussion and of speculation. One wonders just what Paul von Hindenburg thinks of Hitler, but senility and the admirable repression of his public utterance simply leave one wondering. There is, of course, the very strong possibility that he does not think of Hitler at all, that extreme age has so relaxed the fibers of his mind as in the case of the very late Victoria, that nothing but temperament remains. Admittedly this is not the romantic, or popular, view. The contemporary offshoots of Houston Stewart Chamberlain like to conjure him up as a natural Nazi, a nationalist and illiberal to the linger tips, an exponent of all the fireeating nonsense conventionally associated with the Prussian landholder and thus addicted to patting Herr Hitler on the head with many a foxy benison.
But there is an unfortunate obstacle to those of such persuasion; the fact that in the early post war days Paul von Hindenburg was of all the potentates of Europe the most resigned to Germans who talked of war, and said that Germany could not issue from a second war in degradation greater than the first, cannot have been so quickly dispersed. Hindenburg would probably agree with Hitler in his disgust for Communism, and as a Teuton would always cherish a secret dalliance with the idea of baiting Jews, but one is inclined to think that if he were still whole, he would rise in vigorous protest against the Nazis' ignorant and irritating foreign policy. Hindenburg may have been a general, and as a general might not have felt the private's horror for the carnality of conflict, but he was also a diplomat, and a stiff necked one, and thus privy to the disadvantages of negotiating a loser's peace. And even if his post war love of peace was the facile reaction of a spanked child, a whole Hindenburg would still know how to count armies, and that small armies cannot throw mud at big armies without a disastrous fight. But this much at least can be said: IIorr von Hindenburg has disintegrated sadly, or he is an immortal villian, insincere and stupid to boot. Until his brain is weighed and his letters published, the dilemma must remain.
Herr Goebbels, the Nazi minister for propaganda, has not been insensible to the possibilities of this situation. It has been his pleasant fancy to picture von Hindenburg as remarking at reviews of the German army that the Russian prisoners had indeed a military bearing, and as beguiling the tedium of his leisure hours with the games of the asylum. This may well be so. But, lacking as we must evidence of any positive nature, there seems more point to the view that von Hindenburg's collapse has been gradual, and is not yet consummate. There is certainly more hope in this view for the future of Europe and of the world. POLLUX.