I often wonder how people described experiences and situations to each other prior to the advent of television and movies. Nearly daily in my life I encounter events that are easily explained by comparing them to a TV show or movie. These mediums provide a common reference point for most people so they can quickly grasp an idea when you say it reminds you of that Seinfeld episode or that part in Star Wars. (If what you are talking about cannot be referenced to Star Wars, it’s probably not worth talking about.) I think the same theory applies to World War II. It’s as if every conceivable issue humanity would ever face was crammed into this short period to provide real life examples for study.
There are several parts of the war I think are relevant today, but let’s start with the question…”Why did the war start?”
The simple answer is Hitler.
Without Hitler, there would have been no Nazis; without the Nazis, Germany would never become so aggressive and started invading their neighbors.
Hitler is the simple answer, but what is the complex answer?
If you dig just a bit deeper into the coming of Hitler, you find that nearly every event that led to his rise was related to the First World War. The Great War, as it was known, has largely been forgotten by our current generation, overshadowed by its even more horrific offspring. However, from the day it ended until that day in September 1939, it affected every major event that occurred.
In Germany, there were a few different reasons for this. The leading issue was that the German army was never decisively defeated in battle. Towards the end of the war they had begun to lose ground, but the enemy still remained outside of the German borders. The reason for the sudden capitulation of Germany was the complete unraveling of their government. Revolts in Germany led by “Jewish Communists” forced the abdication of the Kaiser and the collapse of the war effort.
The broken German government approached the Allies for a peace based on the situation prior to the war. However, seeing how weak the German will was, the Allies forced the Germans to sign a humiliating armistice in which they accepted responsibility for starting the war and agreed to pay substantial war reparations to France.
The belief that the German people had not been truly beaten, but had been stabbed in the back by traitors and then exploited by the Allies was nearly universal in Germany. This anger is what fueled the rise of the Nazis and Hitler who promised to make France, the Jews and Communists pay for their sins.
Most people agree that the War Guilt and War Reparations clauses in the treaty of Versailles doomed the fragile peace that was reached in 1918. This fault lies squarely on the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and France. Instead of finding the common ground with the Germans they spat in their face and choked the life from their economy. The War Reparations clause not only suffocated the struggling German economy, but played havoc with the entire world’s, contributing to the Great Depression.
I think the historical record is clear that without the mean-spirited, misguided actions of the United States, United Kingdom and France, the Nazis would have had a far more difficult time taking control of Germany and may not have existed at all.
So the question that should be asked is…"If the Allies are guilty of creating a disastrous situation in Germany, shouldn’t Hitler and the Nazi’s actions be tolerated as legitimate responses to the oppression we forced upon them?"
I’m sure the modern liberals would make this argument if they lived back then alongside the many who looked the other way during the early aggressive German behavior.
Luckily the French and English of that time were generally more determined than we are now. They understood that even if their actions had contributed to the situation in Germany, invading Poland was not a legitimate response. It was blatant aggression that had to be met with force, even if the previous attempt hadn’t succeeded. This didn’t work so well for the French who were quickly defeated and forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty in the same train car in which the Germans had been forced to sign the Armistice two decades before (highlighting the fact that the Germans were keen for revenge).
The English continued the fight as did the United States once they entered the war. The war against Germany quickly became the most brutal war ever fought as the Allies committed every weapon at their disposal to force the unconditional surrender of Germany. This was done even though all the Allied leaders acknowledged the many mistakes made after the previous war. They knew that given a second chance they would do things differently to create a peace that could last indefinitely. Their prior mistakes did not stop them from taking determined actions.
The apologists for ISIS claim centuries of grievances to justify their outrageous behavior. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most recent, but the Shah and Iran, British Imperialism and even the Crusades have been pointed out to give ISIS legitimacy. However, as with Hitler, prior mistakes do not justify current evil behavior. There are many ways for ISIS to cure the ills of their region, but mass murder in Paris, blowing up airliners and burning people alive in cages is not a legitimate response.
We must meet evilness with the determined response of people who know they are not perfect but cannot allow such barbarity to continue. We must resolve to create a better world in the future. Once the ashes settle, we can help to rebuild the Middle East with an open and generous hand as we did with Germany and Japan. But first, we must wage unrelenting war on those who seek vengeance and practice hate.