It Is Russia to Which We Owe Much


By DR. MONROE E. DEUTSCH, Vice-President and Provost of the University of California

At the meeting held in behalf of Russian War Relief at Scottish Rite Hall, Oakland, California, December 19, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 218-221.

THE United States have been in the war only twelve days but it seems like twelve months or even more. In part this is because so many of us saw long in advance how inevitable the struggle was between the Axis powers and their present opponents. We were not neutral in our hearts from the very day the war began in September 1939—no, the shadow of war fell over us long before that, as we saw the forces of aggression more and more daring in their acts, more and more contemptuous of the world's democracies.

So in a certain sense the blow that was struck on December 7, sudden and unexpected as it was in many ways, was more to be anticipated than would have been a Japanese offer to withdraw from China.

The blow has fallen, and with such force and such outrageous treachery that it has welded the American people into a unity, a determination that would have been deemed impossible but a few days before. We stand together, united in a resolve not merely to vanquish the Japanese but to trample in the dust the three regimes which are one in essence and which boldly announce that their aim is to destroy democracy.

This is not just a war to bring about the surrender of the opposing military and naval forces; it is a war which in Mussolini's own words will decide whether it is to be "We or They." We cannot live in the world with them; they would ever menace our very existence.

And in this war let us never forget that the real enemy, the leader of the pack, is Nazism. Mussolini furnishes today but the spectacle of a moving picture lion, whose claws havebeen filed away. And Japan, while not to be under-estimated, is obedient to the crack of Hitler's whip. What does the emblem on their flag look like to you? To me it resemble most a balloon such as a child owns, fully inflated and ready to burst at any moment.

Seriously speaking however, let us never forget that Hitler and his followers are our real enemy; it is they who have engineered the construction of the Axis, they whose ambitions made the war a world war. Were Germany to be over-thrown, the keystone of the arch would be removed and it would all fall.

Nazi Germany is the enemy, and the war will not end till the Swastika is wiped from the face of the earth.

And to that end we today find actively in the struggle the armies of Great Britain and her children of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the forces of the Chinese Republic, the troops of our own country and the armies of the Soviet Union. To these must be added the soldiers whose countries have been overthrown by the Nazi but who are fighting under the banners of their own free governments to liberate their soil from the tramp of the German invader. Free French under the far-seeing, gallant leader, General de Gaulle, free Poles, free Greeks, free Norwegians, free Danes, free Czechs, and free Dutch, whose ships and men are giving such a magnificent account of themselves in the East Indies—all these play their part in the fight against the Axis. To these must be added those men and women who in the territory policed by the Germans are single-handed or in groups raising the banner of revolt, at the risk—and far too often, at the cost—of their own lives.

Jugo-Slavs, Czechs, French—one cannot name them all. They are martyrs in the cause of liberty.

And in this epic struggle it is the heroism of the Russians that we are recalling tonight. Men and women alike, soldier and peasant, the army that so many previously despised has held out already for six months since Hitler with a treachery in which the Japanese faithfully imitated him, invaded Russia. It was but to be a few weeks till Moscow and Leningrad were to be captured and all Russia prostrate. The Russian planes were so few and inferior; I wonder who it was that said that.

But today Moscow and Leningrad are still undefiled and the German army is being pushed back, back; it is well-nigh a rout.

And to achieve this the Russians gladly gave their lives by the thousands; they destroyed works which had cost them years to build. They were determined that their land should not fall to the Nazis. And in doing this they have performed a service that we recognize as of inestimable value to the world—and to us.

Had Hitler carried out his plan in Russia, he could then have turned upon England with the supplies of all Europe under his control, unharmed by the Atlantic blockade; the grain of the Ukraine, the oil from the Caucasus would have been his. He would have willingly sacrificed a million or more men to win that little isle. And if he had it securely in his power, does anyone think he would have left us immune? No, when he was ready, when he had made all preparations, he would have struck—and struck a sudden and wholly unexpected blow.

It is Russia to which we owe much—as safeguarding the rest of the world and as safeguarding our land and our way of life.

Russia is not alone in forming the dam that keeps the waters of destruction from overwhelming us. England and her people have shown a dauntless courage that makes one's heart beat with pride at such bravery. Dunkirk and Coventry exemplify their ability to take it—and north Africa shows how they can give it.

And the people of China for four long years have held out against the infinitely better equipped forces of Japan. They have courage, they have endurance, and they have Chiang Kai-shek.

Now our armies take the field. We admit the first blow was serious—but remember they struck when we were not yet at war! When Uncle Sam gets into the stride of production and his sons on sea and land have a chance to meet the enemy in open combat, we know what the result will be. The power of our country with its 132,000,000 people is stupendous; the mechanical ingenuity of the Yankee has always been notable; and certainly the American soldier and sailor have never lacked courage and boldness—a gay, debonair disregard of danger.

So we stand side by side—British, Chinese, Russian, American—supported by all free peoples of the world either actively or in spirit. All know that a German victory means the end of freedom for all. Self-determination would be no more.

And in that line that is confronting the Axis, Russia is of key importance. We who are here tonight realize this—and are determined to show our admiration and our appreciation by no mere words—but by sending medical supplies and other forms of relief to the civil population and the soldiers who are most surely fighting our battles in the icy snows of Russia, who are destroying what they have laboriously created that the enemy may not seize and use it.

Their foe is our foe, the foe of mankind, of humanity and justice. Whatever we do for any people fighting Nazism,we do for ourselves. We are as keenly interested in the battles near Rostov as in those at Singapore or Hong Kong. For it is a single war, a war from which we sought to hold aloof but into which the clutches of the Axis dragged us. No more did Russia seek to enter it; she was assailed as we were. The same technique was employed against both of us.

And so each nation realizes how important her sister nations are in the struggle. The line must not break at any point; all must hold fast.

These are no days for nation to cast recrimination against nation for any act pertaining to this war. What has been done, is of the past. Whether this should have been done or that was a mistake—let the historians debate such questions in the year 2,000. We are living today in 1941, and our problem is a single one—to win the war and extirpate Nazism and its twin sisters, Fascism and Japanese militarism —the three witches of Macbeth who together cried: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair."

Neither Russia nor the United States nor the British Commonwealth of Nations nor the Chinese nor the French, nor assuredly the Greeks, the Danes, the Czechs, the Jugoslavs, the Norwegians, the Belgians, the Dutch, the Poles sought this war.

We ourselves have entered it with no illusions as to what war means, but seeing clearly that it is only through war that we can protect and preserve what we possess and our ancestors created.

History does indeed repeat itself. Let me read you a portion of President Woodrow Wilson's address at the time the declaration of war against Germany was adopted in 1917. He said: "We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no security for the democratic government of the world. We are now about to accept gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and the liberation of its peoples, the German people included; for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience." How accurately these words of Wilson's describe the present combat!

It is indeed a struggle between man's right to select and follow his own path and brute force in the hands of a Fuhrer seeking to drive men into slavery.

The struggle is on an epic scale. More truly than any war ever fought is it a world war. It is being fought in Europe, Asia and Africa—and has approached the shores of America. In it are taking part men of white, black, yellow, brown and red skins. Men are fighting mid Arctic snows and ice, as well as in the heat of the African desert. In a very real sense whole nations are participating. I believe it would be difficult to find a part of the world, however remote, which has not been affected somehow by the combat. It is a world war in its activity—a world war in that its outcome will determine the kind of world men and women will inhabit perhaps for centuries after its close.

So much hangs on the issue. Does this not make it the more imperative that each of us realize the crucial nature of the combat and think no sacrifice too great to make? And in like manner we must aid in every possible way our brothers-in-arms and support them in their magnificent fight. Send all the help you can to British, Dutch, Chinese and Russians; together we shall win. Their heroism deserves more than praise; it merits the means to carry on the struggle.

The letter V is our emblem today. Do you know all that it stands for? It expresses the vileness of the treachery of Nazi, Fascist and Japanese. It stands for the victims of their brutal cruelty. It stands for the vampires who suck the blood of others. It stands for the violators of every pledge and every treaty. It stands for the voiceless of their own lands and the lands they have overthrown. It stands for the vassalage into which they seek to reduce mankind. But above all it stands for the Victory over the Swastika, the fasces and the rising sun that will surely come. And in that song ofvictory will be joined the voices of British and Chinese, Russians and Americans, French and Dutch, Greeks and Danes, Czechs and Belgians, Norwegians and Poles and Jugo-Slavs, On that victory let us together build a world resting on justice, not force; truth, not treachery; mercy, not cruelty, But all such aspirations and hopes are futile and empty unless we all summon every ounce of strength, muster all our courage, submit to any sacrifice, toil till we can toil no more to the end that the dark shadow may be removed from the earth. Then in the hour of victory shall our hearts be full of gratitude to those who suffered and died in heat and in snow, to bring to mankind Victory.