Comments

  1. says

    The really frightening thing is, if you look at Germany before 1914, there seems to be no evidence that it was less-civilized or more-anti-Semitic than any other European country….the Dreyfus affair happened in France, not Germany, for example. And as recently as the 1920s there were significant numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe moving *to* Germany as a refuge.

  2. Charles Martel says

    I remember reading about Soviet atrocities against German soldiers toward the end of the war. Red Army soldiers, incensed at the way the Germans had treated civilian Russians, would eviscerate dead German soldiers and then shove the heads of their wounded German comrades into the cavities, then sew them in to suffocate.

    In that small way, the Wehrmacht reaped what it sowed.

  3. SADIE says

    Never did underestimate the beasts, never will and will never-ever forget.
     
    Sadie story without too many details because:
     
    Found a passport that belonged to my father in the late 1950′s. I asked my mother why did he have a passport (my parents at the time had never traveled outside of the US other than to Canada). My mom, shrugged it off – something about a trip to S. America that didn’t happen. I never asked my father directly, but when he was diagnosed with brain cancer 30 years later and knew his days were short, he filled in the details. There were beasts in America, too (they didn’t all go to S. America). Their names were not Eichmann, but they had the same ugly resumes.

  4. Danny Lemieux says

    Unfortunately, I suspect that each and every one of us has a potential Nazi dwelling deep within our souls, ready to burst out given the “right” kinds of circumstances. What many today don’t realize, in my humble opinion, is how thin that veneer of civilization really is. It is illuminating that Book posts these two links so shortly after our discussion thread on Africa.

    These stories are one reason I never trust pacifists – they don’t recognize what humans (including themselves) are capable of and how they enable the truly evil amongst us. 

    The Nazis, Japanese and Russians (think Katyn) heavily trained /brutalized their soldiers to dehumanize them and encouraged them to perform atrocities. They believed that turning soldiers into berserkers made them better soldiers. It didn’t.

    In the end, that sheer brutality boomeranged upon them. They were soul dead and their countries paid the price. I do wonder if any of them, in their later years, ever did rediscover their souls and their humanity.

  5. Charles Martel says

    I have always been partial to the advice one statesmen gave the Germans in the early 1950s (I paraphrase): “After what you’ve gone, why don’t you shut the f*** up for the next 500 years so the rest of us don’t have to hear from you?”

    I’d say that goes for the Japanese, Russians and Chinese, too.

  6. says

    Naziism could have been stopped at relatively low cost in 1936, when Germany violated the Versailles treaty by moving troops into the Rhineland…at this point, the French army was far more powerful than the German, and with a British naval blockade clamped around Germany as well, the regime would have quickly fallen. The arguments that were raised *against* such actions have a strangely contemporary ring:
    “There is no more reason why German territory should be demilitarized than French, Belgian, or British,”said one (British) newspaper editorial…this sentiment was echoed almost perfectly by an NYT editorial about Iranian nuclear weapons a few years ago.
    The French politician Flandin was concerned about the lack of “multilateral” support. “The United States will accuse us of imperialism.” He was also  concerned that “The hate of the Germans for us will increase.” Another French politician, Deat, asserted that “If, this very night, two months before the elections, a general mobilization is decreed, we shall be swept out of Parliament…And we shall have given the world the hateful spectacle of war-mongering. Abandoned morally by all the great Powers, we are risking, moreover, if we answer back, the worst of moral and material disasters.”
    In reality, of course, the “moral and material disaster” that lay ahead was of a level that few people could have imagined in 1936.

     

  7. says

    Danny…and, of course, a desire for peace was very understandable after the horrible slaughters of WWI. And in fairness, the leaders in 1936 did not have the benefit of what WE know…how their appeasement efforts actually turned out.
    One other interesting aspect of the failure to take action in 1933 is the role played by the French military structure. Everything was oriented around a massive mobilization plan, which would involve the calling up of a high % of the French male population, the requisitioning of vehicles, etc. There has never been development of an alternative plan which involved mobilizing only, say, 50% of the full force, and it was believed to be impossible to design such a plan on-the-fly…so General Gamelin demanded an all-or-nothing decision, and the politicians were not willing to push the “all” button.
     
    Andre Beaufre, then a young Captain on the French staff (later a general) described all this in his well-written book France 1940:
    “The die was cast. We had let slip our last chance of stifling at birth the rise of Hitler’s Germany…Through idleness, stupidity, political blindness, or simply frivolity, general opinion lived through these grave events, the result of which was to be a great and catastrophic war, in a kind of sonambulism on which it is necessary to dwell at some length, because it shows how fate deals the cards of history and lulls to sleep its chosen victims.”
     
     

  8. says

    Sadie…”The quote above could just as well be applied today.” Very much so. Another Beaufre quote that has contemporary resonance, describing his experiences when he first joined the General Staff:
    “I saw very quickly that our seniors were primarily concerned with forms of drafting. Every memorandum had to be perfect, written in a concise, impersonal style, and conforming to a logical and faultless plan–but so abstract that it had to be read several times before one could find out what it was about…”I have the honour to inform you that I have decided…I envisage…I attach some importance to the fact that…” Actually no one decided more than the barest minimum, and what indeed was decided was pretty trivial.”
    This describes many American bureaucracies today, with “forms of drafting” usually taking the form of the expected PowerPoint style and format…
     

  9. SADIE says

    Agreed, David Foster. The bureaucrats have devolved into a war of words and power point presentations. Our enemies have not. The pen is not mightier than the sword, unless you can use it to gouge their eyes out!

  10. jj says

    History has provided some oversimplification, too.  There were many in England – and in this country, too – who had spent the previous decade fairly disgusted with French behavior, and their insistence on grinding Germany’s face in the mud via reparations, etc.  Churchill himself – contrary to most accepted teaching – didn’t spend the thirties warning about Germany, and was more than a little ambivalent about Germany/Hitler’s rebuilding.  And there were plenty of people outside the confines of Europe who looked at that continent and found themselves wondering who really were the biggest bozos on the bus – and plenty of them saw the seeds of WWII sprouting right beside the railroad car.  (The French have a way of wallowing in their self-righteousness that, ultimately, pisses off practically everybody.)
     
    And that is one of the reasons that is not much mentioned in the discussions of why nothing was done through the thirties.  A fair amount of world opinion had seen too many pictures of people in Berlin pushing wheelbarrows of money to try to buy a loaf of bread, and a sizable proportion of people – this country in particular – had turned away in disgust from the spectacle.
     
    It is not much taught – hardly taught at all in this country – that America, in the wake of WW-I was completely disgusted with Europe.  In the wake of that war, England added over a million square miles of territory to the empire – and nearly ten million peasants – and France did pretty well in the help yourself to the spoils department too.  There was a large body of opinion in America that American boys had not fought and laid down their lives so England’s empire could get bigger – but somehow that’s what happened.  We have forgotten how determinedly fed up with Europe we were – as I said, it isn’t much taught.  People have wondered how we could stand by and watch the goings on in 1938, the beginning of the war in 1939 – and do nothing for years.  It was easy – the American people had zero use for anybody in Europe at the time.
     
    Flandin is giving you the benefit of after the fact thinking.  He couldn’t possibly have been worried that the United States would consider France imperialistic at that point: we’d already been considering them that – and sleazy, and greedy – for twenty years.

  11. says

    JJ, you are probably correct that the terms of the Versailles treaty, and particularly the way these terms were enforced, were too harsh. During the 1920s and early 1930s, moderation of some of the terms might have made a difference (and indeed some moderation *was* put in place via the Dawes Plan and later the Young Plan, though probably too little, too late.) After 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, it was time for Brits to forget about any feelings of guilt and focus on re-armament.
    I doubt if the Flandin quote reflected hindsight: the source for that was Paul Reynaud, very much an anti-appeaser, who was there at the time and had no love for Flandin. Even if we already considered France imperialistic–and I agree that many Americans did–it was possible to make the argument that intervention would have made us consider them even *more* imperialistic, just as leftists today often argue that action “X” will cause groups of people who pretty much already hate us hate us even MORE.
     
     

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