Reed Douglas - Nemesis ? The Story of Otto Strasser

Author : Reed Douglas
Title : Nemesis ? The Story of Otto Strasser
Year : 1940

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Preface. This book is about a German, Otto Strasser; having elbowed myself to the front of the stage in two books, I take the part, in this one, of compère - the man who opens the show, is often seen lurking in the wings while it progresses, and from time to time, between the scenes, comes to the front of the stage to remind you that he is there, that he holds the show together, and that it would not be complete without him. Now that war has come, and the great question which engrossed our thoughts for many years has been answered, new thoughts crowd to the foreground of our minds, and foremost among them, the question, 'What Germany will come of this war?' In the search for the answer to it, Otto Strasser, of whom few people in Britain had heard till war came, becomes a figure of importance. He may play a great part in answering this question. I say may, because war is less predictable than peace; it is the high-tension cable broken loose, thrashing about in all directions, you never know where, how, or whom it will strike; the switchboard is no longer in control. Many writers have shown that the events leading to this war, and the war itself, could be exactly foretold: it was their trade, and they were as well able to do this as a doctor is able, from specific symptoms, to foretell the course of some diseases; and Lord Halifax, though he expressed in this phrase the average state of mind of many Britishers, only clothed a fallacy in words that sounded convincing when he once said 'We distrust people who forecast precisely the course of coming events'. This is a useful phrase to justify procrastination and non-exertion, nothing more. Politics, in peacetime, are an exact science - to those who know politicians. War, 'the pursuit of politics with other means', draws a smoke-screen across the future. But this much I would wager now, at the dawn of 1940: that Germany will not emerge from this war a State ruled in absolute authority by Adolf Hitler and victorious over all enemies. Coming months or the next year or two will bring changes in Germany, and new men will begin to take a hand in the leadership of the Reich. That will not be the end of our troubles - perhaps only their beginning. Otto Strasser has many qualifications and some chances, if he seizes them. Not many years ago Hitler, enthroned to-day on the lonely peaks of power, was obscure; Otto Strasser to-day is a littleknown exile, but before long he may tread the upward path. After reaching manhood - which for my non-stop generation meant the first outbreak of the present war, in 1914 - I lived longer, at one stretch, in Germany than in any other country, including my own. The study of that strange Jekyll-and-Hyde country, the bane of our times, engrosses me. Some months before the present instalment of the war broke out, feeling that it was certainly coming, I began to think about and read about Otto Strasser, for I believed that when it came that lost legion of the Germans, the exiles, would immediately begin to grow in importance, and among the most important of them was this Otto Strasser. At that time my mind was already browsing on conjecture about the Germany that would succeed Hitler's Germany; but at that time the British public mind did not look so far forward, or this book might have appeared earlier. When the second outbreak of this war came, his name was, in fact, at once heard, stimulating my interest even more, and an idea became an intention. In evening strolls through subdued, but not blacked-out Paris streets, where shuttered shops showed the way that war, for the third time almost within living memory, had drained the city of its manhood; in quiet meals in Paris restaurants, among elderly gentlemen who wore fine natural tonsures and were accompanied by fur-coated blondes; in long afternoons and evenings of unremitting work in hotel bedrooms I studied and questioned and debated with Otto Strasser, learned of his struggles in the past and his plans for the future. The result engrossed me and left me with an ungovernable itch to write. Not entirely on account of Otto Strasser's political beliefs and plans; not entirely, even, on account of his personality, though I was happy and stimulated in his company, and got along very well with him, as I often do with individual Germans; but on account of the content of his life, which aroused in me all the instincts of the teller-of-tales and made me impatient for my typewriter. I lived again, in those Parisian hours, the life of a man of The Other Side; a life far more adventurous than my own, which has not been dull; the life of another man of our raging contemporary times, buffeted by all the winds that blow. A life, to me, far more absorbing than Hitler's life. With and through him, I felt again the pulse of that seething, turbulent Germany that gives us all no rest, of that repellent and fascinating land where I spent many years. The tale is told in this book. Otto Strasser's adventures and his political thought interest me alike. It is for me a new undertaking to write another man's life and explain another man's mind, for I have so much to say myself. I shall probably have to restrain myself by force from rushing on to the stage from time to time and elbowing the chief player aside. Somebody wrote of an earlier book of mine that my great fault in it was to shake the fist of my personality in the reader's face, and that probably was its chief merit. Nevertheless, short of an apoplexy, I shall achieve some measure of self-effacement this time. The tale I have to tell is an important one. Hitler has nearly played his part. He long has curdled our blood. He has been like a Silly Symphony Napoleon with a live bomb in his pocket; it was as if the grotesque child of some comic artist's pen had suddenly stepped out of the screen and advanced upon a spellbound audience, firing real bullets from his gun. A few more melodramatic postures and gestures and harangues, and he will be gone. From the wings already peep the candidates for the succession, chief among them two men: Göring, fat, Falstaffian, Neronic, ruthless, cunning, world-famous; and Otto Strasser, poor, unknown, outlawed, undaunted. They both mean you, just as Austria and Czechoslovakia and Poland meant you. I wrote that in Insanity Fair and Disgrace Abounding, and it has come true. This is just as true. Your courage, your resolution, your this-and-that, will not help you if your rulers lose the peace. If they do that, your last state will be worse than your first, the going of the man Hitler will not profit you, your sufferings and your sacrifices and courage in this new war will be in vain, even your victory in it will be in vain, the next twenty years will be even worse than the last. The peace-tocome is even more important than the war, and in your own lives you now have seen what it means to lose a peace, or rather, wantonly to throw away a victory, just from dislike of exertion and of a stitch-in-time, from putting your trust in a burglar out of fear of a bogyman. This is the importance of the tale that is told in this book. ...

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