By Gregory Clark, December 12, 1925
“No Truck or Trade With the Germans,” May Be Fine Patriotic Sentiment, But Look at the Trade Figures -To-day Germany is Canada’s Third Largest Customer and the Two Countries Are Participating in the Briskest Kind of Business Relationship
Canada right now is selling to Germany eight times the quantity of goods she was selling the year the war broke out.
Germany is now Canada’s third largest customer in the whole world.
In return Canada is buying from Germany this year about half the value of goods she was buying in 1914. During the war Canada made new trade connections with the United States and Japan in those lines of goods formerly got from Germany.
Germany is rapidly getting back her old connection.
At Toronto’s biggest commercial hotel about one hundred commercial travelers and trade representatives have registered from Berlin, Frankfort, Munich and other German cities in the past twelve months.
At least an equal number of Toronto men have visited German cities in the past year on business.
Whatever resentment and bitterness may still burn in Canadian hearts against the Germans, Canadian business men have succeeded pretty well in forgetting and forgiving. Two of the largest businesses in the city of Toronto have now more representatives in Germany, on buying work, than they ever had in their history before.
This Christmas between one-third and one half the enormous number of toys that Canadian children will receive from Santa Claus will be of German manufacture. Santa Claus, that genial saint, seems to have been one of the first to forget and forgive.
In 1914 Canada sold to Germany – her highest year up to then – four million dollars’ worth of produce. The year just closing Canada is selling thirty-five millions to Germany!
That year the war broke out; Canada bought fourteen millions in goods from Germany. This year she buys nearly eight millions from Germany.
“No truck or trade with the Germans” is a patriotic sentiment. But it has no relation to the facts. Germany is right now Canada’s third largest customer in the world, to the tune of thirty-five million dollars’ worth of Canadian produce and goods.
Germany’s come back in trade with Canada has been slow but sure. In 1920 she only sold Canada forty-five thousand dollars’ worth of foods. Then –
These figures approximate. The way she has cut into the United States and Japan in recovering her lost trade with Canada is shown in these figures comparing 1920 with 1924. Toys first –
United States $1,038.844 $831,810
Japan 158,804 64,998
Germany 3,200 318,673
Come-back of German Toys
Nobody, it seems can make toys as good and as cheap as the Germans. Of course, the highest class of mechanical toys, dolls and expensive toys generally still come from the United States. But according to the managers of toy departments in Toronto between one-third and one-hall the toys sold in Toronto this Christmas are German toys. These toys are all clearly marked “Made in Germany.” and no effort is made by the merchants to erase or conceal the made in Germany trade mark. The number of persons who make any protest about these toys does not average one a day. The public has accepted with perfect equanimity the German toy for their children to play with.
“When we do have a kick,” said one manager, “it is from an emotional person who protests loudly. All we can do is show them the toys made in other countries. For competition has decidedly put the German toy back on the market for keeps.”
This manager showed two identical toys, a well-known child’s game. They were identical, except that the workmanship in the German one was unquestionably the better. The German toy sold for twenty-five cents, the American for sixty-five. The manager shrugged his shoulders.
“What on earth can we do about it? The public want them.”
In the case of pocket knives, Germany has cut enormously into the United States trade and to a very considerable extent into the British trade. The figures for pocket knives for the same two years are
Britain $229,942 $177,474
United States 192,883 36,589
Germany 3,347 206,883
Germany’s increase is greater than the United States’ loss.
In chemicals, scientific equipment, lead pencils, fancy goods and small ware generally the Germans are coming back at a tremendous rate.
The goods Canada is selling to Germany are largely wheat and food products.
Hatred was surely mutual during the war. Whether Germans hated Canadians as wholeheartedly as Canadians hated Germans would be a hard question to settle. Do Germans gag at Canadian wheat, bacon and butter?
Canada in some respects seems at this stage of affairs to be more British than Britain. While Toronto’s board of education constructs a tremendous row over the purchase of German drawing paper Oxford University plays a game of rugby football with a team from Frankfort university. While some of our local statesmen are making the heavens ring with their denunciation of Germans forevermore, British statesmen are staging the love feast of Locarno.
Oxford University even went the length, some two or three years ago, when wounds were still bleeding, of including on her roll of honor the names of German Rhodes scholars who fell in battle in front of British and Allied guns!
Most significant and dramatic of all occurrences was the rushing – at the request of the British Admiralty – from the German naval base in Kiel of a salvage crew to help locate the British submarine M-1 which sank off Start Point. There, over a submarine, darkest symbol of those long years of hatred, British and German sailors struggled frantically together, shoulder to shoulder.
Britons do not make any two-faced pretense at forgetting and forgiving. If they forgive, they do it in a downright way.
Strange Dilemmas of Peace
What will smooth the path of peace between Canadians and Germans? Business is doing it. Scores of Canadian business firms have entertained Germans who have come to Toronto on business. Toronto clubs have had them as guests, perhaps unwittingly. They have been guests of Toronto homes, and some of those homes had every reason to be filled with unforgiveness.
A Toronto importer received in his office a German with whom he had been corresponding and doing business for two years. They got on fine. Both were elderly.
“Look here,” said the Toronto man, “nothing would please me more than to take you to my home to dinner to-night, but as a matter of fact -er- it might be painful for us both, because I lost a son in the war, and – my wife, you know!”
The whiskered German suddenly filled with tears.
“Stop, please,” he said. “I too, lost my son and my only other son is a cripple for lite in bed. What helpless creatures we are, after all! I would not enter your house, my friend, for my own sake and for yours.”
But these two men did dine together over the Toronto man’s table. And the mother sat with them. But they did not talk of war or of sons. And one photograph that stood in the place of honor in the living room was hidden. Here is only one of the strange dilemmas of making business and making peace.
The writer has had his experience. In the rotunda of Toronto’s largest hotel, he was hailed by a friend.
“Here, I want you to meet a friend of mine,” I was introduced to a tall, good-looking follow.
“You two ought to know each other,” said the friend. “You have been pretty close to each other often enough, but I doubt if you ever met.”
The tall fellow whose name I didn’t catch smiled.
“You were both on the Avion front at the same time,” continued the introducer, grinning mischievously.
“Oh,” said I. “What unit were you with?”
“Two hundred and umpty ump Bavarians,” said the stranger.
My confusion was so comic we all had to go up to the German’s room, where we spent over two hours talking over the war from two sides of No Man’s Land.
“Where,” was one of the first questions I asked him, “did you have those internal whizz bangs that used to plaster us from short range somewhere right in the ruins of Avion?”
The German infantry officer chuckled.
“We had a couple of guns on an elevator in a mine shaft. We’d pop ’em up and loose off half a dozen rounds and then pop down again. But you got those guns at last, you know.”
“Glad to hear it!” says I.
“But tell me,” asked the German, “what the blazes were those mean, little, soft, creepy shells that used to whisper in with a sort of trickly sound and explode with an awful bang?”
“Four-five hows, I guess,” said I.
“Well,” said the German, “those shells we hated more than all the rest of your guns put together. You couldn’t hear them coming in, and there was the most awful, unexpected crump….”
Moving Picture Patriotism
Yes: he said crump. So there was the war fought over for two hours from opposite sides. And the more we talked, the more the sameness of experience grew upon us. He admitted that he hated the Canadians best of all, because we never stayed put, always raiding or patrolling, strafing and cutting up rough. I had to admit that Bavarians were livelier than the far-famed Prussian Guards, at which he looked proud and recounted some of his regiment’s most spectacular deeds. Then I told over Vimy, Passchendaele, and the famous Hundred Days. We wrangled. We disagreed. We agreed. We agreed that “how could man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods?” (Neither of us having died.)
This experience is befalling more and more. In the harbor of Montreal not long ago, a German ship lay loading a cargo of Canadian grain. In the same slip lay freighters from Britain, Holland, France. The sailors were lounging about the wharf, smoking, chatting, laughing, Canadians amongst them. Many of these men had seen war service on the sea, as enemies. There was no war there, and no sense of it.
Canada’s trade with Germany is not a thing of early post-war years, when Germany was in dire need of foodstuffs. The greatest increase has been this year. In 1923 Canada sold Germany twelve millions; last year, twenty millions: this year, thirty-four millions. What appears to be a valuable and permanent trade connection has been made. Germany has to pay for this year’s Canadian goods in thirty-four million dollars’ worth of something – money or goods. In the opinion of the super-patriots, is German money less tainted than German goods?
So far, no board of education or other Canadian body has published a resolution that Canada cease selling goods to Germany.
After all, in only one respect is the sentimental hatred of Germany expressed in Ontario: and that is, that no motion picture film of German origin can be shown in Ontario. The Tor onto censors, under the Provincial treasurer, do not even look at German films. Ontario is the only province in Canada that prohibits German films. It is probably the only British unit in the empire that refuses to accept German films.
German newspapers and books have free access and come with every mail to Canada. German travelers are arriving in larger numbers each month.
In business the war is really over except in certain public respects connected with the public vote.
And the outcry against German goods occurs – as anyone might have predicted – about six weeks before voting time.
Editor’s Notes: The “love feast of Locarno” would be the Locarno Treaties signed on December 1, 1925 that normalized relations with Germany. It was likely the inspiration for this story.
Whizz Bangs were slang to describe any German artillery in WW1, while “four-five hows” would be British QF 4.5-inch howitzers.