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Mussolini_Prepares_for_War

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 2:3 ILENE PREMMIS2 HERBERT JOHNSON'S CARTOON “IT'S TIME TO QUIT PLAYING COPS AND-ROBBERS !" GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, Via Radio. THE war in Europe has knocked most preconceived notions for a row of loops. Events have kicked the props out from under people with neat minds, who tried to divide the world into sheep and goats, into this and that ideology. Such people never doubted that when war came Hitler would be against Stalin, and that Mussolini would be with Hitler. Instead they find Stalin making a deal with Hitler—and where is Mussolini? In Paris during the first weeks of the war I heard men of all nationalities asking that question. Was the Italian dictator bound firmly to Hitler's chariot wheel? If so, then France must fight on her southern front against Italy and, perhaps, also against Spain. Or would Mussolini remain neutral and, if so, what kind of neutrality would that be? Would he proclaim neutrality only in order to help Germany or would he be truly neutral? All sorts of wild rumors were repeated in Paris: " Laval is in Rome, striking a bargain with Mussolini," or, contrariwise: "French troops have entered Italy and are already on the Brenner Pass." These reports were all by word of mouth. The censored French press and radio were absolutely mum about Italy, which increased the feeling of citizens that secret and wonderful things must be happening beyond the Alps. Anxiety became so great in. Paris that the official French broadcaster felt compelled to announce, "If we don't say anything about Italy, it's because there's nothing to say." But few people believed this announce- ment, and private rumors continued. I finally decided that the only way I could hope to learn about Mussolini's real intentions would be by going to Rome. The Paris which I left behind that cool autumn evening had been in a state of war for several weeks. It had lost a third of its inhabitants, mobilized or evacuated, while those who remained had grown accustomed to carrying gas masks and keeping an eye out for the nearest cellar in which to seek shelter from air raids. This was no war of flying flags, blaring bands, marching men and cheering crowds. Only closed shops everywhere, and deserted streets, as though plague rather than war had descended upon France. The Simplon- Orient Express, usually so rapid, departed from Paris several hours before its regular schedule, so that it might creep out of the dark city with curtains 'drawn to conceal its own dim blue lighting. Beyond the Alps Lies Italy MHE next morning we awoke in Switzer- land. The Swiss were at war with nobody, hadn't been for more than a century, and hoped never to be. Yet neutral Switzerland was mobilized almost as thoroughly as France. Every man between the ages of twenty and sixty was in the service of his country, drilling to fight if invaded, guarding Alpine passes, moving food reserves to hide-outs in remote 733y. DZREARNIE re.S00 mountain gullies. My own home in Europe is Geneva and I possess a permit required by the Swiss government to live in that country. But now, merely to pass through Switzerland en route from France to Italy, I needed a special transit visa for the journey. Considerably behind schedule, due to the retarded running time and extra passport, customs and currency inspections, we at length reached the Simplon Pass and entered the longest tunnel in the world. Mile after mile we rode through a great black hole in the mountain—and then, suddenly, we emerged into Italy. We had arrived in another world, a world so sunny and peaceful that it hardly seemed possible we were still on the war-torn continent of Europe: Could anyone have imagined, even an hour before this strange war started, that Fascist Italy would become the most tranquil spot in Europe? The blue Italian lakes were just as serene as when I had last seen them several months before, and the Italian people seemed no less calm and unconcerned. We changed trains at Milan, and as we walked about in the handsome new railway station we found ourselves delighted at the sight of so many little children. We had scarcely seen a child in Paris for the past month. We reached Florence at nightfall and were happy to see again the city of lights. In Paris all had been darkness. Those first peaceful impressions persisted during the weeks which followed in Rome. The inhabitants of the Eternal City seemed to be following the tragic rush of European events (Continued on Page 61)


Mussolini_Prepares_for_War
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