DANZIG FREE PORT
A STRANGE REGIME
ITS OWN STAMPS AND VARIED CURRENCY l
Danzig, four years after the Treaty of Versailles, presents an interesting study from four main angles, all of them incomplete, -writes Oswald Frewen in the "Daily Telegraph." It is independent, it is German, it is the port of Poland, and it is a miscrocosm of Gepnany. i But it is too' small to stand alone, and its independence, is -dependent on the' League of Nations; it is German in sentiment without being incorporated in Germany; it is the port of Poland, but retains two-fifths of the revenues for its own purposes,.and.both hates and fears the country of which it is the port; and in its reflection of the conditions in Germany it i, reflecting a transient nightmare. Situate at the north-east end °-V •,, sh corridor> it is in touch territorially with ;East Prussia by a frontier; running to Marienburg but this connection has been rendered nugatory for .practical purposes by the inclusion ■mi .Polish territory of parts-of the main railway, line between Marienburg and Danzig railway station, and the terms' on which the Danzigers and Poles now stands do not admit of this section of the Ime being used save with full frontier and Customs' formalities. The alternative is three changes and several hoim journey by branch lines, or two. hours motor run, or aeroplane flight. lne Konigsberg-Berlin air line calls at IWig. daily, but the machines are restricted .in size by the Treaty to fourseaters,- and their" number so curtailed that should one .'plane be out of action there is no spare o.ne to replace it. This eventually occurred recently, the Berlin machine failing to arrive. No seats were available for the next few days by any other. There were four, or five Russian machines roosting at Konigsberg, but they could not be borrowed to fill the gap^as they.are not permitted to land .in IJanzig. I had accordingly to motor across the Vistula on an archaic ferry to Marienburg to catch one of the specially exempted trains that/would permit me to cross the Polish Corridor to IJerlm without formalities. These trains do not run to Danzig.; CURRENCY VAGARIES. The free city of Danzig has its own stamps, but uaese German currency, or American, English, or Dutch. The price of the room in my hotel is given in shillings, and there .is still a cautjonaty notice-posted up.to the effect tHat the management wiM not hold itself responsible for any uninsured property above the v«»ae of 1000 marks— at the present rate of exchange less than a hundredth part of a penny! An' amber necklace in the town was quoted to me in guineas, -shoes in gold marks and ladies' apparel to dollars and in gulden. The horse-cab taximeter registers in marks and pfennigs, and the driver multiplies ' the fare (aloud) by whatever figure is necessary to reach the J desired sum in German paper marks at the'- current exchange. ' ■ ":A* *n' e present moment the skilled operator of a steam hammer in the great shipyard gets the equivalent of 22s a month, which is sufficient to feed and Tiouse him, rents being low, but leaves . :no margin for clothing. One is tempted to. wonder how much unemployment there would be-at Home if the British -working man were content to accept monthly in wages wJiat he now draws weekly in '"dole;" The comparison is rather staggering, and is the more >so when one realises that the'jGerman working man pays .away 10 per cent, of his earnings in income-tax. ." >"
Of course, everyone speaks of "Der Communismus." It is coming.. That ig certain. As certain as that someone else is going to bring it, and not the speaker. No one -wants it; no one believes religiously in it. The country says the towns will produce it. The towns look, somewhat wistfully, to Russia for it. Now and again in a food shortage a few individuals collect cnd. drift together towards food-shops. They are dispersed by force of arms, and "Der Communismus has been, averted by timely sternness." Actually a few perfectly respectable, citizens, with too' much diecip-' line bred and drilled into them to admit of their looting a house without -first wiping their feet on the mat, have been put beyond/the reach of famine. The latest German.view with regard to Communism is that'the crude shoot-the-bourgeois type is dead, that the class suffering most keenly at present is the professional—the lawyers, doctors, professors—and that these are joining the Communist* and will shortly evolve a "scientific Communism," more deadly because better thought out than the Marxian.
In the meantime, awaiting the advent of "Der Communismus," whether Marxian, Russian, or • Scientific, the workers better their condition, or try. to, by the old-fashionei means of- strikes. . Danzig has just ended one, which at a certain moment looked quite tigly, with ma-chine-guns in motors ranging the streets. But the High Commissioner under the League announced his intention of calling in the Poles to restore order in case oi. trouble, "and Danzig at the threat ceased from agitation as suddenly and completely as does a moth on entering a killing-bottle. -
I For Poland, covets Danzig as David ', never coveted Bathsheba. She is incomplete without it; she is cut off from the i ocean. Of what use to her the irritating' Polish corridor when it ends in a •j.e'ity that is notPolish? To the German I Danzig is German. Of more moment to the Danziger Danzig is German. But to the Pole^Danzig must be Polish, because this is a necessity of being to Poland, and if Danzig remains outside j Poland, Poland will sooner or later cease Ito exist as a State. Unfortunately for I Poland, "self-determination" is the ' shibboleth of the League of Nations, and Poland is not strong enough to defy the League. She must cajole, and hitherto her efforts have been without avail. A STRIKE SUPPRESSED. Danzig boasts a suburb', filled with » great vitality, especially at night, which is almost as much coveted by Poland as the port itself, and to which-she might establish'a far better claim. Zop- , pot on the Sea is the only thing in Danzig State not passionately anti-Pole. It has all the appurtenances of Monte Carlo.' And one is told that half the money made in Poland is spent in Zoppot. Poland officially requested from the League at Geneva the surrender of Zoppot. "For what reason?" "Zoppot is a menace to Poland." "In what way?" "To,our morals." The League .was unsympathetic. It is rumoured that i the other, arguments adduced for the inclusion of Danzig as well as Zoppot in Poland were lengthy to the point. of tedioußness, but to her. other menaces Poland must still add the morals of Zoppot. Whether, she would close the casino and cabarets, turn off the plashing fountains and demolish the pier, if she got the place, are questions which presumably the League considered "do not arise." . .
I walked to this disturbing frontier between Zoppot-of-Danzig and Poland, this frontier .that will, infallibly bo fought for ere even this generation
passes. THe Gilbertian situation ""and gestures are but a cloak, and .an uncouth one at that, over a foolish and grim- tragedy that will presently come to the birth. I found, iii a beautiful, peaceful wood, a purling brook running put on to child-loved sands. Two toddlers with wooden spades, by throwing a toy dam across it, would divert :its course and add to the territory of a martial republic or of an ancient city. On, either bank stood an enlarged milestone,'" each bearing the legend, "Versailles, 1919." By each stone stood a patient German, one. in a Danzig uniform, one in a Polish. They had no appreciation of the beauty of their surroundings; their duty was to watch by these stones, set up by aliens whom they had "never known.- Later their duty will be to kill each, other in a war also originated by aliens whom they have not known by men who were not Germans, and, wore neither Danzig nor Polish uniforms but who had not the courage to decide wlie- , ther Danzig was to remain German; u she is ethnographically, or to become .Polish, as she must if Poland is to survive. - ™-
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Evening Post, Evening Post, Volume CVII, Issue 3, 4 January 1924
DANZIG FREE PORT Evening Post, Volume CVII, Issue 3, 4 January 1924
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