Perspective 20th century part 3 of 5
Great depression of 1929 in America had a huge back lash on German economy causing unemployment, inflation and chaos. By 1932 over three million Germans were out of jobs .Germans were as such looking for a scapegoat “Whom to catch for the defeat of WWI and their present day misery?” Was the feeling in public. Hitler had promised to build military might. Therefore the military had hope that Hitler would create a big Army. The industrialists knew that a big army will help them make profits as this would mean huge defence production which will give them opportunity to earn big money. The common man who was looking for jobs was being promised jobs by Hitler. So all of them looked at Hitler as their saviour and saviour of Germany.
In the second election of 1932 Nazis had lost votes and Hitler wanted to gain votes in the coming elections in 1933. He wanted to fix the communist party and hence it is said that Hitler set the Reichstag building on fire through his ‘Brown shirts’ using kerosene oil and put the blame on the communists. They already had made a list of communists who would be arrested-even before the fire was set up! Hitler was lucky as his storm troopers had discovered a man who happened to be a member of the communist party and used to brag that the only way to change the government in Germany was to set fire to the government buildings. Hitler made him-scapegoat witness and Germans thought that communist were the culprits. The communist party man was arrested, tried and executed!
Hitler had demonstrated an immense sense of taking responsibility for his actions. He never put blame on anyone else in Nazi party. He showed tremendous power of negotiation with the president Van Hindenbers and the then chancellor of Germany- Eranz Van Papen. He was prepared to take risk by storming into meetings-not even sure of the outcome.
“In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power, it was in the first instance only the Jewish race that received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the state and with it that of the whole nation and that I would then among other things settle the Jewish problem…but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevising of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”.
Adolf Hitler — Speech to the Reichstag — 30th January 1939”
On 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. His party SA and SS led torch light parades as a demonstration of power and celebration. He soon consolidated his position by eliminating all opposition and seized absolute power. The stage was set for the shift of the European political tectonic plate! The Second World War.
The Second World War
The Geo Politics of Second World War
The Second World War went on for exactly 6 years( starting September 1, 1939 with Germany attacking Poland and finishing on September 2, 1945 with the surrender of Japan). It was till date the most complex wars which was played at two levels- political and military. Unless one understands the way the war was orchestered at political level and the way military operations were conducted, it will be difficult to understand the level of leadership as well as statesmanship during these six dark years of mankind. Hitler and most of the political leaders got involved in the politics of war as well as operations of war. How so much was managed by those in power- political or military- and constantly for six long years is something which needs to be appreciated.
“I speak in the name of the entire German people when I assure the world that we all share the honest wish to eliminate the enmity that brings far more costs than any possible benefits… It would be a wonderful thing for all of humanity if both peoples would renounce force against each other forever. The German people are ready to make such a pledge.”
Adolf Hitler — 14th October 1933
Germany was mentally and operationally ready for war. Hitler’s government which had done just over six years in power was dreaming of a vast new empire (Reich) in the Eastern Europe. They wanted a big “Living Space” (Lebensraum) in the Eastern part of Europe. The nation was as if ‘raring to go’. The possibility of German dominance in Europe they calculated would require war. Hitler wanted to keep Russia out of it, so went into non aggression pact with the Russian in August 1939. This was a clever move. As the war progressed, the politics gradually moved the whole world into two camps (countries joining in different camps at different points of time); the axis power lead by Germany had Japan, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. Major military powers were Germany and Japan. The allied forces that opposed the axis power had the British Empire, the United States and the Soviet Union as major countries known as the “Big Three”. France was also a part of it till it was defeated by Germans in 1940. In addition it had thirteen more countries including Australia, Canada and Belgium.
“Germany has concluded a Non-Aggression Pact with Poland… We shall adhere to it unconditionally… we recognize Poland as the home of a great and nationally conscious people.”
Adolf Hitler — 21st May 1935
An all out attack was launched on Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain and France declared war on Germany within next two days! Hitler and Germany was expecting this retaliation and were prepared for it. Poland was run over within a month. Germans didn’t make another move for some months. In 1940, Germans took Norway, Denmark and began to assault on Western Europe including France. Germans even attacked Belgium and Netherlands which had taken a no war stand or a neutral position. Soviets attacked the Baltic States. Italy which was a member of axis power (countries allied with Germany) joined the war in the middle of June. During 1940 Germans attacked Britain and waged a major air war which they lost — it was known as the Battle of Britain.
“In the East, the vastness of space will… permit a loss of territory… without suffering a mortal blow to Germany’s chance for survival. Not so in the West! If the enemy here succeeds… consequences of staggering proportions will follow within a short time.”
In politics, there are permanent friends or enemies! In 1941, Germany occupied Greece as well as Yugoslavia. This was the time when Germany (Hitler) decided to break the treaty with the Soviets and invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Germans faced a stiff resistance and could never capture Leningrad and Moscow- the two key cities of Russia. End of December ,the Soviets launched a counter offensive and pushed back Germans from the outskirts of Moscow which was a victory for Russians. On December 7, Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, Hawaii which humiliated United States (still out of war) and thus US declared war against Japan immediately. It was obvious that Germany and Italy would then declare war on the United States. In 1942 was the year of retaliation by the allies as British started bombing cities of Germany. It was now time for being offensive rather than defensive.
“Never in the field of human conflict, has so much, been owed by so many, to so few!”
Winston Churchill — September 1940
In addition Allies won significantly in the North Africa. Germans again launched offensive on Russians. Soviets resisted valiantly and launched a counter offensive in the early months of 1943. A whole German sixth army surrendered and tasted a humiliating defeat. Allies by 1943 July had invaded Italy.
A major landmark in the Second World War- and a turning point for the allies- was the launch of a military operation code named “overlord” on June 6, 1944 to liberate frame. France was liberated after a fierce fighting by September 1944.
“This war is not an ordinary war. It is the war of the entire Russian people. Not only to eliminate the danger hanging over our heads, but to aid all people groaning under the yoke of Fascism”
Josef Stalin — 22nd June 1941