I have referenced Wilson’s Fourteen Points previously. With this post, I would like to explore an alternative history: what if Wilson acted as if he actually meant the words he stated in his speech?
I will not go through all fourteen, nor apply these to all combatants. As I am exploring the book by Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, “1939 – The War That Had Many Fathers,” I will explore a few portions of the speech that pertain directly on the situation of the Sudeten Germans in Czechia.
What was this Fourteen Points speech?
The "Fourteen Points" was a statement by United States President Woodrow Wilson that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe…. The speech made by Wilson on January 8, 1918 laid out a policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination). The Fourteen Points speech was the only explicit statement of war aims by any of the nations fighting in World War I.
The speech emphasized democracy and self-determination (within the context, to mean the will of a given group of people as determined by popular vote). For example, from the speech:
[Regarding settlement talks then underway between Germany and Russia] For whom are the representatives of the Central Empires speaking? Are they speaking for the majorities of their respective parliaments or for the minority parties, that military and imperialistic minority which has so far dominated their whole policy and controlled the affairs of Turkey and of the Balkan states which have felt obliged to become their associates in this war?
The Russian representatives have insisted, very justly, very wisely, and in the true spirit of modern democracy, that the conferences they have been holding with the Teutonic and Turkish statesmen should be held within open, not closed, doors, and all the world has been audience, as was desired.
Point 10 was specific to the Sudeten Germans, as, until the conclusion of the war they had been under Austrian rule:
X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
Finally, a statement that would lead one to believe that an acceptance and demonstration of democratic principles by the Central Powers would result in respectful treatment by the Allies:
We have no jealousy of German greatness, and there is nothing in this program that impairs it. We grudge her no achievement or distinction of learning or of pacific enterprise such as have made her record very bright and very enviable. We do not wish to injure her or to block in any way her legitimate influence or power. We do not wish to fight her either with arms or with hostile arrangements of trade if she is willing to associate herself with us and the other peace- loving nations of the world in covenants of justice and law and fair dealing. We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world, -- the new world in which we now live, -- instead of a place of mastery.
Wilson’s Allies, while on the one hand joked about Wilson’s idealism and naivety, on the other used the Fourteen Points speech for convenience as propaganda toward the Central Powers. Again, from Wikipedia:
The speech was made without prior coordination or consultation with Wilson's counterparts in Europe. Clemenceau, upon hearing of the Fourteen points, was said to have sarcastically claimed The good Lord only had ten! (Le bon Dieu n'avait que dix!).
The speech was widely disseminated as an instrument of allied propaganda. Copies were also dropped behind German lines, to encourage the Central Powers to surrender in the expectation of a just settlement. Indeed, a note sent to Wilson by Prince Maximilian of Baden, the German imperial chancellor, in October 1918 requested an immediate armistice and peace negotiations on the basis of the Fourteen Points.
The Central Powers – Germany and Austria – believed, under their surrender, that they would be treated according to these principles. Needless to say, this didn’t happen:
President Wilson became physically ill at the beginning of the Paris Peace Conference, giving way to French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to advance demands substantially different from Wilson's Fourteen Points.
As previously mentioned, while the deviations from the Fourteen Points to the Paris treaties were significant, these deviations were greatly exaggerated in the political climate of Germany in the coming decade.
With the stage set, I will consider an alternate history: what if Wilson and the Allies made statements and otherwise acted toward more than 3 million Germans in Czechia during the peace conference as if his Fourteen Points speech mattered?
To answer this first requires an understanding of the history of these people, and their desires at the conclusion of the Great War:
The name of the Sudeten Germans derives from their homeland, from the region of the Sudetes, as the mountain ranges around Bohemia and Moravia are called until 1945. (Page 171)
From 1204 on, several generations of Bohemian kings summon German farmers, craftsmen, and merchants to settle in and help develop their country. (Page 172)
I have written about the migration of Germans into these (and other European) regions before, in the context of the skills developed in mining during the Middle Ages. These German communities remain in these regions for 700 years – the last four hundred under Habsburg rule.
Officials of the voting district in the decisively German-settled areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and North Austrian-Silesia proclaim on 29 October 1918 [these areas to be] the “German-Bohemian Province” and inform the Vienna National Assembly that the province ought to be part of German-Austria. On 21 November they deliver to the American government through Swedish intermediaries a note in which they request also for themselves the peoples’ right to self-determination proclaimed by President Wilson. (Page 172-173)
Despite these clear voices, in the end the Sudeten Germans ended up as part of the newly created Czechoslovakia. This without a single voice being heard in Paris from either the German or Austrian side before the peace terms were delivered.
With this over three million Sudeten Germans in 1919 became, against their wishes, citizens of Czechoslovakia. The values, democracy and the right to self-determination, for whose sake England, France, and the USA had their men fight before the victory, have lost their normal force after the victory. (Page 173)
What little was granted in the treaties from Paris toward the recognition of minority rights in the new Czechoslovakia was also still-born:
The provisions of the Treaties of Saint-Germain and Trianon which require Czechoslovakia to develop into a state with equal rights for all peoples are never implemented. (Page 176)
Instead, the subject peoples are “czechized” (tschechisiert). German schools are closed, German government officials are removed, place names are changed from German to Czech, etc.
So, what might Wilson have said or done to stand up for the Sudeten Germans in accordance with his Fourteen Points speech, and against the pressure of his Allies, especially the French, in the peace settlement? Let’s pretend:
Two of the states adjacent to Germany’s borders encompass a mass of 10 million Germans [including Austria and Czechia]. Up to 1866 they were united in a federal state with the whole German people…. Against their will through peace treaties they have been prevented from unification with the German people…. Their national and legal separation from Germany cannot lead to a loss of their political rights as a people. That is, the general rights of a people to self-determination, which, incidentally, had been assured to them by my 14 Points as a pre-requisite for the cease-fire, cannot simply be disregarded because here the people at issue are Germans. 
This seems like a reasonable statement Wilson could have made, quite consistent with his Fourteen Points speech.
What about specifics? What might Wilson have said are the specific requirements to rectify the situation in Czechia?
- The full equality of the German ethnic group with the Czech people.
- The recognition of the German ethnic group as people with rights.
- The establishment and recognition of the German settlement area.
- The establishment of German self-government in the German settlement area, so far as are concerned the affairs of the German ethnic group.
- Legal safeguards for the Sudeten Germans who live outside the distinct German settlement areas.
- German public employees in the German regions.
- Full freedom for commitment to German traditions and German ideology. 
There is nothing inconsistent with the Fourteen Points in these.
A man of action, Wilson could have demanded the following in order to rectify the mistaken proposals in Paris:
…the border districts with a predominantly German population be split off from Czechoslovakia without delay and be incorporated into Germany. For other areas where the Sudetens do not form the great majority…a referendum and autonomous status within the remaining Czechoslovakia. 
Wilson could speak out even more forcefully, as he has thus far not made progress with his Allies on this issue:
What the Germans demand is the right to self-determination, which every other nation possesses…. I make the demand that the oppression of the three and a half million Germans in Czechoslovakia stop and that the free right of self-determination replace it. 
Finally, a direct demand on the Czech government to take action:
[Prague] should itself and even on its own initiative, with or without a referendum, transfer to the German Reich the regions with more than 50% Sudeten German population and hand over to an international commission the demarcation of new boundaries. 
Of course, Wilson said none of these things. Had he done so in 1919, subsequent events might have turned out quite differently in Germany, as the pre-history of these events might have precluded such a political backlash.
But these things were all said by others, in 1938, as follows:
 Speech by Adolph Hitler, 20 February 1938 (modified as if the words came from Wilson) (Page 178)
 The “Karlsbad Program” prepared by a Sudeten German congress on 24 April 1938, led by Konrad Henlein (Page 182-183)
 Report of British special envoy Lord Runciman on 21 September 1938, with his recommendations to resolve the deteriorating situation in the Sudeten regions as a result of the Paris treaties. (Page 187)
 Speech by Adolph Hitler in September 1938 to an NSDAP party convention. (Page 188)
 Result of a British and French conference on 18 September 1938 (Page 194)
The treaties of Versailles and Saint-German have rightly taken much abuse as causes for the Second World War. This despite the fact that many of the provisions were never enforced to the fullest extent. The treaties made for good political leverage for someone wanting to consolidate power in a suffering Germany.
The damage caused by the treaties was as much caused by the failures of the Allies to live up to the Fourteen Points – something the French were never going to accept, but were willing to use to get the Germans to surrender.
For centuries, these regions of central Europe lived more or less under a legal code where a man’s word was his oath. Until 1871, central Europe was still governed via a hodge-podge of principalities and duchies. It was under this tradition that the Germans and Austrians believed they were acting when they surrendered to Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech, not knowing that under “democracy” such oaths meant little. Democracy would instead extract revenge.
'...legal code where a man’s word was his oath. Until 1871, central Europe was still governed via a hodge-podge of principalities and duchies. It was under this tradition that the Germans and Austrians believed they were acting when they surrendered to Wilson’s Fourteen Points'ReplyDelete
i would disagree with that a little as the German government was not accepting thew 14 points on it own terms but to strip away the Americans, who had just won at Verdun and where now poised to advance into Germany where as the Bitish and french were contenting themselves with battering their armies through belgium again.
Ludendorf and Hindenburg knew that meant losing power as well as the kaiser being tossed over board and the socialists getting power (the origin of the 'Stab in the Back') but thought that it wouldn't be long before they would be asked back to run things as the socialists had never run anything under the empire. of course that was true for example the destruction of the currency 1919-23.
It may well have better if Wilson had enforced his 14 points among his allies but that would have required a much diferent Wilson, presumably one who wouldn't have got the US into the war in the first place.
Your points are reasonable. My comment is more so from the viewpoint of the public in Germany / Austria. This feeling in the general population of being double-crossed seems to have been quite real, thus creating an environment (when combined with the coming economic hardships) ripe for radical solutions.Delete
might have to track down a copy of that '1939' book too.ReplyDelete
CRINGE CRINGE CRINGEReplyDelete
Is the bionic mosquito and European species by any chance? Because if it is...then Bad mosquito! Bad!
First and most important rule in European history: ALWAYS! Always check the other side's story! Otherwise you end up quoting a lot of nonsense written by some German historian.
Those were not REASONS for war - they were excuses. And if you really want a war you will find all kinds of innovative ways to make it happen. Besides the Germans were no victims of cruel de-germanization from the hands of Czechs and Slovaks. They were first the instigators of forceful Germanization of those peoples. It was fine until they found themselves on the receiving end. Much unlike in the West where France seemed to play the main bad guy in the East the Germans WERE the aggressors - either with peoples they controlled through Habsburg and Reich-dependent monarchies or through direct aggression as was the case of Poland. It is important to point this out even if you are just listing the excuses - not reasons.
The reasons were much simpler - the economic situation and political and economic ideologies governing post 1918 Germany. Had Germany remained a more peaceful country no annexation of Austria - let alone Czechoslovakia - would come to pass. German state was land-hungry before Hitler throughout the whole 1920's but accepted the results of the plebistites which turned out surprisingly well for Germany.
It was the economic destruction of war and the subsequent hyperinflation that prepared the stage for Hitler's rise to power and then it was simply consequence of his sick political vision.Again - if your idea for a society is war - you will find war.
If you are looking for reasons rather than excuses - look first and foremost to economics and economic history of that period - it will tell you much more than any political approach.Wars are fought for money...or because of lack of it.
If you really want politics - blame Wilson for the idea of a nation state as the basis for the new political order in Europe. If instead a multi-national model such as the Swiss confederacy was proposed as the basis for newly created states it would have much more luck avoiding ethnic tension.
And most importantly remember that apart from economic side of things Austro-Hungary took just as much a beating as Germany did in Versailles. And yet for some reason Austria did not spend the interwar period stirring trouble. Germany started the war because it WANTED a war. No amount of 'reasons' or excuses can mask this fact. Do not forget about it when digging deep for some American blame (which there was enough as noone really was blameless in that terrible period of time)
One more thing. As much as you might read all sort of naughty history books about Germany it wasn't there where the actual threat really lie. You should look to Soviet Russia which only by sheer happenstance got sucker-punched by Hitler a mere week (as Rezun claims) before unleashing millions of soldiers on Europe. All the sad stories regarding how Germany was treated in Versailles are pointless if you realize that a war was going to happen one way or another not because things were going the wrong way in Berlin..but in Moscow.ReplyDelete
The Germanic people have a 1500 year history in central Europe, much of it relatively peaceful, and most certainly decentralized.Delete
In the 400 years since the renaissance until the mid-twentieth century, there were many aggressive European states - England, France, Spain, and Portugal all were very expansive, brutally colonizing and conquering many people around the world. For only a short period were the Germans playing such a role.
Central Europe offered some of the most significant cultural advances during the time of Habsburg and otherwise Germanic rule. Minorities lived together for one thousand years or more, until the west (including Wilson) got involved.
I do not claim that the Germans are blameless in WWII. The point of this author's work, with which I agree, is that the war (as his title suggests) had many fathers. It is simplistic to point to only one man or one state or one event as the cause.
There is no need for re-stating the obvious. Note however that the most creative period for German Reich as a whole comes with a heavy fragmentation and decentralization. With less state power comes always more economic vigor and artistic creativity. Much like Italy before French conquests and unification - Italian renaissance originated in fragmented city states of Italy not in the larger later kingdoms or the republic of Garibaldi. Note also how just before and especially since the unification in 1871 Germany takes a surprisingly aggressive posture. Before unification look to Kindgom of Prussia - heavily centralized and militaristic - which was the driving force behind German unification and which culturally had relatively little in common with the Germany "proper" as it was the easternmost part of the Reich with the easternmost society (including one of the harshest serfdom traditions in Europe!). So therefore it is important to remember that Germany in XIX century has little in common with Germany in XVIII century and - especially earlier on. Also it is a must to recognize that German aggressiveness or lack thereof came entirely as a result of its political structure. As soon as Germany was unified and declared an Empire (with Prussia at its helm..much like the Soviet "union" was just an extension of Russian Empire) Germany went on about its business just like the other colonial powers.Delete
Another thing is that you seem to completely miss the nature of society in Central Europe pre-French revolution and especially pre-1848. The Habsburg empire until 1804 when Austrian Empire was created could hardly be considered "Germanic" rule since the idea of a nation-state was much unknown. Also while we are focusing on Sudetenland and therefore Bohemia, Moravia etc a lot of those minorities lived under the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth which in many respects was even more open and friendly to ethnic and religious diversity (note religious toleration act of 1573 which prevented 30-years-war coming over there). Also Germanic people aren't alone with 1500 years of history. The Slavic peoples were there also only they did not record so much of their history having not been conquered by Rome. The Germans proper did not begin their period before circa 850-900 after the Treaty of Verdun (which concerned Frankish peoples). The monarchies which would grow to be Polish, Czech and Hungarian states already existed at that time. Czech lands got under Reich through Luxembourgs only through feudal dependencies. So you cannot really say that it was a "Germanic" rule, especially that in periods of 1000-1200 and then 1350 up until 1775 there existed a huge sovereign kindgom of Poland with personal unions with Hungary, Sweden etc. and political with Lithuania that was entirely slavic with its own distinct culture that was just as important and different from German as French or English were. Also large portion of Prussia - he eastern part, prussia proper - was until Polish control for some two centuries since the fall of the Teutonic order. So there wasn't really all that much Germanic domination. Perhaps in parts of Bohemia but these were the feudal lands so as long as nobody tried to turn the population into Germans all was ok. It wasnt until political fall of the commonwealth in early XVIII century that re-made the political balance of power in central europe and had Austria, Prussia and Russia directly competing each other which then in turn led to increasing control and domination over ethnic minorities. That's when the problems started - with the overreach of those monarchies into areas they did not control before - rather than with the retraction of it after 1918.
Also the 14 points weren't just Wilson's idea. There was intense lobbying by representatives of those minorities who perceiving this new nationalistic form of German domination in Central Europe as something unwanted influenced him to include those demands. It is also hardly unexpected because there was ethnic and national tension throughout the region in XIX century. Just check revolutions of 1848, uprisings in Poland (1830, 1863). The "peaceful" coexistence of Germans and Slavs ended with the advent of more modern Germanized national identity that drove state power. IMMEDIATELY there was resistance - so in absolutely no way can you claim that letting those nations stand on its own contributed to war. If Wilson didn't do it there would be uprisings and wars anyway until either Germany would fall back to its ethnic boundaries or revert again to a more decentralized form of government with less forceful germanizing tendencies. This is why I will state it now and again that the whole thing with central european countries is only an excuse and not a reason. There would be conflict anyway because it was relatively new - dating only a century or at best two centuries back as opposed to 5 to 8 centuries of feudal society and before. To understand central Europe one needs to look at it as colonial grounds fo post-unification Germany. That was the mindset - and it provoked a lot of backlash.Delete
While I agree that causes for WWII are essentially different than those we are being taught in schools focusing on central europe will definitely not explain everything and even then can only serve as a starting point - as I wrote earlier - an excuse. There was no huge injustice done to Germany over there. Reparations, bearing sole blame for the war, demilitarization etc - all those things that Clemenceau came up with as revenge for 1870 are much more important because those things meant that a potential conflict between greedy Germany and some new Central European nation-state would develop into a large scale conflict instead of countless bickering that Europe has known for ages. Without it perhaps Germany would lack spite and motivation to enact revenge of its own. Without the destruction of economy and ensuing currency (paper) wars perhaps there would be no need for political grandstanding and instead there would be focus on economic cooperation.
Essentially my issue with your article is that you seem to turn the whole issue around and argue that little details drove the big picture rather than the big picture finding cracks in the details. Especially that you seem to research those details with apparently biased literature which is often quite unhelpful.
Anon: Note however that the most creative period for German Reich as a whole comes with a heavy fragmentation and decentralization.Delete
BM: You are preaching to the choir. Perhaps you have not read these:
Beyond this, by my reply I did not intend to offer a most nuanced and complete history of the region of central Europe. As this region, for centuries, was highly decentralized, short statements do not suffice for proper explanations of the differences and details of life in these times and in this place. The key feature is decentralization – one that dominated the landscape for all but the most recent period of time.
Anon: Essentially my issue with your article is that you seem to turn the whole issue around and argue that little details drove the big picture rather than the big picture finding cracks in the details. Especially that you seem to research those details with apparently biased literature which is often quite unhelpful.
BM: I have written perhaps three dozen articles regarding the two world wars. My main focus is to demonstrate the wrongheadedness of US involvement in these wars, and that the Allies did as much or more to turn these into World Wars as did the Central or Axis powers. If you actually care to understand my broader view, use the search box on my site and search for “world war.”
As to my using “biased literature”, all literature is biased. When writing about subjective issues, every writer comes with some interpretation. I am reading this book because the author writes from a rare perspective. The author of this subject is German, writing a revisionist history view of the origins of the war. I am certain it took courage for a German to do this in Germany. This is a unique perspective.
He is a German who states that the history taught in Germany about the roots of the Second World War is a false history. It wasn’t all Hitler’s fault – the war had many fathers.
Is the author mistaken in this?
I will add, regarding this specific article: I do not believe I stand on shaky ground in suggesting that, had the Allies treated Germany more in accord with the Fourteen Points speech, the political climate in Germany might never have produced a Hitler.Delete
One cannot know with certainty, but it is a reasonable view and I do not believe I stand alone in suggesting this.
I think we must remember that it is highly unlikely that the fourteen points were anything else than empty words and political posturing reminiscent of 2008 "Hope" campaign of Barack Obama. Politics doesn't work that way and I really don't think I would have to remind it here. The presidency of Woodrow Wilson was regularly the polar opposite of what he claimed publicly so considering that one speech as an exception is naive at best. US went into WWI driven by banking interests and those interests would determine the outcome of the peace talks. The fourteen points for example quite specifically do not focus on the most important aspect of post-warfare settlements - the financial aspect of it. WWI cost a lot of money and a lot of money was lent to the Entente which was essentially broke and wasn't able to repay anything. This is exactly why disastrous reparations were imposed on Germany and the excuse for those were the preposterous claim that Germany was solely reponsible for the war. Austro-Hungary could not be able to contribute because it was losing the majority of its territory so naturally the brunt of the reparations fell to Germany. This was the most important cause for the hyperinflation. Now I do not know if you personally have ever experienced such inflationary period - I have and I can tell you that as it becomes more and more rampant the world simply stands on its head. Hyperinflation is the economic equivalent of total warfare - so in fact "wartime" did not end in Germany until 1925 (although inflation did not really stop there) or so and visible economic tension did not end until 1930. Which was when the world dipped down into Great Depression. Also Germany had very vocal socialist and communist underground that attempted a number of revolutionary measures so the threat was fairly realistic in a shaky climate. It was those conditions that produced Hitler - who was helped to power by people who simply underestimated him.It wasn't just his pure charisma at work. On pure charisma and against the system people take decades to a similar job - take Gandhi, Ron Paul, revolutionaries in former communist countries like Havel, Walesa etc. Hitler managed to do his in a couple of years after his pathetic attempt in Munich early in the 1920's. That DOES NOT HAPPEN.Delete
The rise of Hitler to power is still the most embarassing and disturbing part of German history and I'm yet to see a good book on that particular topic. "They Thought They Were Free" does a somewhat decent job of explaining some of it but it barely touches on the period before 1933. Knowing German helps - then you can check some sources yourself. A good paralell is modern American history - it plays almost bit by bit in America as it did in post WWI Germany.
Now there is very little about those financial matters in the fourteen points save for no. 3 which is very vague. When you write about fair treatment of Germany according to the speech I can only see the reference to the issues of self-determination of minorities in former German states. And here is my biggest beef. Not only it wasn't the crucial issue but "fair treatment" should extend to both sides.If Germany occupied a territory then it isn't "fair" to say "you kids do it fifty-fifty". This is what I meant by biased literature. Reading about it German books gives only one side of the story - it's like reading a US textbook on civil war. Or British book on colonial India. The issues of national self-determination in Central Europe weren't issues of Germany vs USA or France. They were issues of Germany vs Poland, Austria vs Hungary etc. You'd have to read Polish, Czech, Hungarian accounts of those events and then make out the facts. Just like the US invading the south and then covering up the fact with fairy tales of slave emancipation Germany and Austria engaged in similar actions against the peoples for over a century. Do you really expect their sources to be all fair an cosy especially in the light of much more serious accusations in Versailles - regarding Belgium, France, Alsace etc etc? Of course not. While it is a revelation for an American reader who is fed even more distorted version of history it is not quite far-reaching enough.Delete
I am bringing this up because it has been somewhat of a pattern in US revisionist history to go straight for the German sources and neglect other Central European countries altogether. I had much more serious discussions with Charles Burris regarding German expulsions after WWII. It was shocking to me how little understanding he seemed to have for the context and historical background. It's like decades of oppression and war from the hands of successful German governments did never happen. Cold War is over and former Nazis are no longer the lesser evil. You can even go as far as Moscov as Eric Margolis (you probably have heard of him) did and do your research. Besides Central Europe :
is more than Germany or Austria. It is exactly that point where Germanic and Slavic cultures met for over 1000 years. I'd like to point out that before "Germany" in 1870 there was the Holy Roman Empire that lasted from 960-something to 1805 or so. That is also around when Polish, Czech (Bohemia), Slovak (Moravian) and Hungarian kindgoms are established.
And until 1800 - so only a century before the war - the slavic presence is very very strong in the region no matter how the Germans would like to tell the story. If you don't take it into account there is no "fair" recollection to history of the region no mater how revisionist it might sound - fourteen points and Wilson be damned.
Besides - Hitler Hitler Hitler. Who cares about Hitler...What about Stalin? What about Lenin? Have you read Viktor Suvorow - a good starting point for that. Why do people make so much fuss about Adolf while a much more sinister regime was being created even before WWI ended. In many respects Hitler "saved" Western Europe from being overrun by soviet hordes. Would you like to know what that was like?
After WWII Soviet Union posed far less threat and even less to the US but on the advent of the war it seems only luck saved France from having a flag with all three stripes in red.
"He is a German who states that the history taught in Germany about the roots of the Second World War is a false history. It wasn’t all Hitler’s fault – the war had many fathers.Delete
Is the author mistaken in this?"
I don't think he put it quit that way. WWII after all WAS Hitler's fault. Hitler was looking for excuses and since nobody stopped him he went on and on. Remilitarization of NW and Anschluss were the first two tests. Annexation of Sudetenland was the first attempt at revision of the treaty. Attack against Poland could not come to pass without a secret pact with the USSR. And so on and so on... The biggest misconception is that WWII was this massive slaughterhouse right from the beginning. It wasn't - not until 1941. I don't think that Hitler had anything specific in mind when he was starting the whole nonsense. He just needed war because if you start running your whole country as if it was army you will eventually need war. Which way to start...I really think it was a secondary choice. Wherever was easiest I guess. Why would he invade Denmark, Belgium and Holland? What did they do to Germany?? Do you follow my train of thought?
Then what the author tried to say was that Germany itself cannot be entirely responsible for Hitler's acension to power. In this respect it was quite similar to Iran's Islamic revolution. It could not happen if Mossadegh wasn't removed and Pahlavi reinstated as dicatator. And in that respect the ultimate blame would lie with the US as the deciding factor in determining the outcome of WWI while the most vicious player was quite obviously the real "le bad guy" of WWI if there was one - France.
Anon: Reading about it German books gives only one side of the story… I'd like to point out that before "Germany" in 1870 there was the Holy Roman Empire that lasted from 960-something to 1805 or so…. Besides - Hitler Hitler Hitler. Who cares about Hitler...What about Stalin?Delete
BM: you seem like a well read and intelligent person. However, for some reason you find it necessary to lecture me about things that I have written about extensively. I do not claim to be an expert in all things of Central European history for 2000 years, but I am not as ignorant as you wish me to be.
In my earlier reply to you, I offered links and articles of mine for you to consider, and I suggested that you read these before continuing to lecture me about what you falsely believe about my frame of reference.
Until you demonstrate some evidence that you have done so in a considered manner, I find little reason to continue any sort of dialogue with you.
To wit: BM is a Germanophile. They were the victims of WW1 and WW2 they were only defending themselves against foreign oppressors.Delete
If you refer to the link included earlier I think you are missing my point entirely - but then I perhaps presented it the wrong way. I have no quarrel with your articles on middle ages - quite to the contrary. As a matter of fact those very articles brought me to your blog and made me a lurking regular. I do not see why you would want me to read them again. What can they possibly explain here? That period was not my problem nor any position you might take regarding western front. My issue was precisely with what you wrote in this article and I find it preplexing that you would write one thing on that subject in one article and something quite to the contrary in another. That would be surprisingly inconsistent of you as far as I know your blog. What I take issue with is what I firmly believe- and with good reason - to be a seriously flawed argument regarding the importance of Wilson's scheme and how the relevant developments in the east affected later events in Germany. Secondly I am pointing out that the literature you are quoting at length is biased in a way that is more than simple subjective point of view. I have not read the book unfortunately so I cannot attest to whether it is the author's fault in honest presentation of facts or your unfortunate choice of specific paragraphs for the article but significant portions of historical context necessary to understand the developments in the east are missing. That's what I wanted to bring to your attention. Had I been able to read the book I would point out to specific problems and offered a better (if often linguistically problematic ) source. I havent so I limit myself to generic discussion. I thought I made myself clear - apparently not.Delete
4000 characters is definitely not enough to give a good explanation but I also allowed myself to go on a limb - perhaps wrongly. I assumed (incorrectly?) that you are an American and I based my leap on the following three things:
- the exclusion of Russia from your consideration of Central European politics which is quite objectively a disqualifying error but is quite revealing of a Western bias very very typical in American and British literature.
- your focus on a speech by an American president which is approached much more realistically in European (Continental) historiography than it is - again - in English and American literature.
- the overly Germano-centric approach to revisionist history which works well for issues regarding Germany and America, Britain and France but is nowhere sufficient for much more complicated issues further east. That might suggest a Briton or alternatively a German. Nobody else - including the French - would approach the subject in quite this manner.
I do not argue that there is no point in considering the impact of a different approach to Wilson's speech. I just wanted to go on record pointing out - JUST IN CASE - that it is not the most important factor here and - more importantly - that it didn't quite work that way. As a matter of fact it is the biased presentation of facts that makes it look more serious than it really was. I am doing it because in western historiography there has long been a mindless tendency towards ignoring anything happening in the east , including the sources etc as "less important". While western historians tend to fixate on the relationships between France, Britain, Germany and America few pay proper attention to the pivotal role of Russia and important circumstances regarding Central European countries. Also because it strikes a chord with a number of historical publications originating in Germany that strive to exploit that particular tendency in the west to portray Germany in a more positive light than it should be and therefore distorting the proper historical analysis. Often those portrayals will approach this subject in the incorrect way by biased portrayal of facts while neglecting other instances where a faithful presentation would do the thing just as well. This is no way to do proper revisionism and can only lead to more problems.Delete
The reason why I say this is because I myself have grown up in Central Europe during the 80's and 90's and my family is spread across this region - in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine (also France and Britain but that is not relevant here). What you were describing is the MOST important part of the history taught and discussed in all the countries in the region and lives on to this very day regardless of what it might seem in the contemporary international relations and within the EU. I have both the historical and personal perspective from more than one vantage point. In simple words you are referring to the history of my own home turf - and you are doing it wrong. You shouldn't be surprised that I try to correct it :)
So I in no way meant to discredit your knowledge of European history (especially if you are an American - that would be a great job indeed) but tried to point out a serious flaw in your argument. I was in fact trying to help. If it sounded like a lecture I apologize but the corrections were necessary. I was hoping you would find them useful and helpful rather than antagonizing.
Anon: My issue was precisely with what you wrote in this article… What I take issue with is what I firmly believe- and with good reason - to be a seriously flawed argument regarding the importance of Wilson's scheme and how the relevant developments in the east affected later events in Germany.Delete
BM: My point in this article was simple: it seems to me that one reason Germany had a politically charged climate in the 1920s and 1930s was due to the German public’s perception of Versailles (including the economic results and implications), and the public perception of the unfairness of the treaty – not negotiated, but forced under threat of blackmail of continued food blockade. I do not suggest it is the only reason, but one reason – and not a minor reason.
Do you disagree so far? If so, please explain.
In a politically charged environment, people will look to all possibilities for a savior. They found one in Hitler – under Hitler, the economy seemed to improve, he spoke of restoring lands that the people were convinced were unjustly held from Germany after the Great War, etc.
Do you disagree with any of this? If so, please explain.
Much of the German public’s dissatisfaction with Versailles came from a belief that the Allies would negotiate on terms based on Wilson’s speech. Certainly, the German politicians used this speech as a reason or excuse for the burdens placed in Versailles and the subsequent calamities in Germany. Public perception does not have to be based on reality to be a motivating factor.
Do you disagree with this? If so, please explain.
In none of this do I suggest anything about the east or the Soviets. My intent was not a comprehensive history.
Do you suggest that Hitler would have achieved his position if a) the German people believed they were fairly treated by the Allies after the Great War, and therefore b) solely to counteract the threat of communism or the Russians?
If you suggest this, I will not disagree (and will ask you for sources, preferably online). I have not read enough to conclude one way or another. But my article title has the word “might” not “would.” I made clear up front that it was an exercise in a possible alternative history.
Anon: Secondly I am pointing out that the literature you are quoting at length is biased in a way that is more than simple subjective point of view. I have not read the book unfortunately….
BM: All literature regarding social sciences is subjective or even written with an agenda. Even from this source of which you disapprove, I have found wonderful nuggets of information – for example, regarding the assassination of McKinley. This, for me, was new and unknown prior to reading it here.
I am learning about this history and continue to learn even as I write. The only way I know how to learn is to read from a variety of sources and then use my brain to try to sift what I believe to be the truth from fiction based on a multitude of factors. This author writes from a different perspective than most – how many German revisionist historians for the two World Wars are there?
His perspective must be given some respect – even if biased, is it not possible that it is a bias underlying and reflecting German public opinion during the times of the events he describes? It may not be true, but it could still be true in the eyes of the Germans – hence affecting their behavior during the 1920s and 1930s.
If you have criticisms of specific points the author makes, please do so. I am open to this. And will ask again for sources.
Anon: While western historians tend to fixate on the relationships between France, Britain, Germany and America few pay proper attention to the pivotal role of Russia and important circumstances regarding Central European countries.
BM: Look deeper into the role of Russia and you will also find the fingerprints of the West.
How were the French wrong in demanding reparations? Had the Germans got on with their lives and paid the reparations instead of rebuilding a military industry then European-part of World War 2 still need not have happened. After all, would it have been wrong for Germany to demand reparations had they won World War 1?Delete
Gil: How were the French wrong in demanding reparations?Delete
BM: Many people at the time felt the French went too far. Subsequent events seem to prove this out. I cover this is more detail here:
Gil: Had the Germans got on with their lives and paid the reparations…
BM: Much productive capacity was taken from the Germans. However, this is secondary. When the German people believe they are wrongly penalized due to their political leaders being the sole instigators of the war (they most certainly were not), they are forced to sign the treaties under the blackmail of food blockades (they were), and the economy is subsequently a disaster (it was), a politically charged climate is often the result.
The German reaction may or may not be justifiable, but it is understandable. And this reaction was seen by many statesmen in 1919.
There are often occasions of winning the battle and losing the war (in this case, losing the peace). The West may have won the battle at Versailles, but they contributed to losing the peace.
That claptrap about war taken to a new high in the democratic 20th century? Really? No one alive throughout history in a war would know that. If you lost a war in the good ol' days you were executed or enslaved. Note that God informs the Hebrews they are to slaughter everyone but are free to take virginal women as their wives in Canaan.Delete
War has always been a miserable experience for those involved. Even in the “good old days”; even at the hands of the “Hebrews.” None of it compares to the twentieth century.Delete
The twentieth century, a century that saw the rapid expansion of both regulatory democracy and central banking, was the bloodiest and deadliest in history. Never before in recorded history were mass killings carried out with comparable efficiency. Not in the “good old days,” not by the “Hebrews.”
Do you disagree? Provide real examples that involve the killing of millions at a time; entire cities flattened in one blow or in one night; gas chambers, gulags, forced migrations by the millions; countless rapes; genocide.
Yes, provide examples. Provide links. I will wait. Patiently.
Rubbish, if anything the Mongolian Empire was the worst as it saw them eradicated 40 million people at a time when the world population was around 500 million. There's even a suggest their action brought the Black Death to Europe via their use of biological warfare. The notion that genocide and massacres only occurred in the 20th century means you never looked at war throughout history.Delete
"Rubbish" is not evidence.Delete
I asked for a link, some reference, perhaps a footnote. You give me rubbish.
Without some link or reference, you are spouting hot air.
I remain quite open to learning. I have gained from dozens of people suggesting books or links to me, and have devoted much time and effort in exploring these. Many have been influential in my thinking.
Instead of telling me how ignorant I am, why not provide a reference? It would entail far less effort on your part, I imagine. It cannot be pleasant to be always so aggressive and mean-spirited, can it? It certainly isn't good for your health.
And please, show me some examples of the Mongols killing one-hundred thousand in one blow, or obliterating thousands of homes in one night. Please.
To summarize: if you actually have facts behind your "rubbish," I am open to this. If not, well...thanks for nothing.
If anything the wars of the 20th century were more moral in that even if the Versailles Treaty England and America were willing to be decent to the Germans but the French wanted to cripple the Germans. General MacArthur came up with the "let Japan keep its dignity" while the rest of the Allies wanted to impose a Versailles-style Treaty onto Japan. Nonetheless the Allies also made sure to help rebuild Europe. Rules of warfare also appeared in the 20th century. And so on.Delete
Here's a simple list showing you there's nothing special about wars throughout history:
"Delhi was sacked and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed 100,000 captives."
Thank you, Gil.Delete
One correction - I did not mean "exclusion of Russia" in the sense that you did not respond to my suggestions regarding Stalin etc. That was an off-topic. I meant that you focus on Wilson but not consider Russia's pivotal role in the War. Which is quite fascinating considering how little they physically did in WWI compared to WWII :].ReplyDelete
@Gil There is nothing wrong with being a Germanophile. Especially if you do not limit yourself to "Prussian" Germany. German culture is rich, fascinating and quite undeservingly limited to nazi skits. Also as much as it sounds strange Germany WAS somewhat more of a victim in WWI than the perpetrator. There were really no "good" guys in that war but the central powers weren't exactly the worse ones. By what standard? If conquests are considered Austria-Hungary was clearly the most liberal of all regimes there. Just look at what the French and British did in the colonies! It was quite the opposite in WWII and while honest explanations of the CAUSES are necessary nobody can reasonably expect that it would change the BLAME for the war. Causes are complicated and quite a lot of them originate precisely in the west. Blame is solely and deservingly German. Just as because someone beats you up as a kid does not mean you have to beat him up when you grow up. Your act of violence needs to be acknowledged and condemned but the causes of it cannot be forgotten - otherwise we would just perpetrate the endless cycle of violence.
Also it starts to be wrong once you take up a biased account of undisputed historical facts as your source. Such as the fact that Czech repression of German minority came as a result of similar developments in the decades leading up to the war under the previous regime and even harsher measures applied by Germany against Polish population. Similarly many people forget that post WWII expulsions were seen as necessary because of the role of German minority in the annexation of Czechoslovakia and the subsequent occupation which treated them as second class citizens etc.
Where Germany was in the wrong - it was in the wrong. Where it was on the receiving end of somebody else's malicious plan - it also was.
And now I will be lynched by a mob if I ever go back home :D
anon, I am curious: after remaining so insistent in your several posts, why have you not replied to my questions in my latest comments. I felt we finally were in a focused place, and now...nothing.Delete
If you have some background, please expand.
Mosquito: Usually most obvious answers are the correct ones - I had a lot of work and other stuff to do. I am not a professional journalist, blogger or some such. I have some free time now so I will try to address any new points.Delete
I hope you don't mind the anonymous channel - I just really don't want to crate a dedicated account right now. Style should betray me.
I read your reply and I am a bit lost reading the first few points. I have never disagreed about the Versailles treaty and its consequences. What I went to great length to explain was that "fourteen points" was something quite separate from the negotiations and treaty proper or were of little relevance as for example Polish independence which was already underway through a number successful uprisings in 1918 and would come to pass regardless of the outcome of the conference. I disagreed that a platform which I essentially consider to be pointless political posturing and had little influence over the more fundamental issues of the treaty could change anything. I do not disagree however that Wilson - an anglophile nonetheless - could try to do some good here. I doubt he would be allowed to by the powers that be that pushed America into war but try he could.Delete
With regards to your comment on how the treaty was percieved through the fourteen points' lens. If you mean that this speech was presented in Germany as a sign that the peace treat would be fair I agree. But remember that the peace conference occured exactly at the time of the 1918-1919 German revolution which ousted the Kaiser regime. So essentially the German government did pretty much a similar thing like the provisional government run by Bolsheviks did in the East. Claim peace as a sign of legitimacy but had to oversell the reality of the treaty to get it. I can only agree as far as this however - in understanding Wilson's speech as a promise of fair treatment without anything particular in mind. I take issue with the example from the book you listed earlier on regarding the treatment of Germans in Czechoslovakia. This were just one of a long tradition of centuries-long ethnic and cultural squabbles that were of little relevance to the political and economic centres in Western Germany. In other words - that was nothing new and could not possibly start a war on its own.But again my criticism would only go as far as to discount the ethnic factor which unfortunately is all over the place in modern history of any of the countries involved nowadays (because nationalism is the new tool of government legitimization of power).
Regarding the connection between unfair treatment of Germany and Hitler. I think we need to discern between Germany slipping into fascism and Germany slipping into Hitler-like fascism/socialism. Let's recount the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 for a second. As you might remember there was a political revolution following the defeat of the Bonapartist regime in the war. If Germany won WWI again we might see a socialist revolution in France instead of Germany. However in the case of a "fair" peace treaty that would not impose economic sanction I believe that Germany which was slightly less motivated to fight than France (national honour) would still have some form of political turmoil. In such circumstances fascism emerges as a helpful alternative to surrender of power and either the failing Kaiser regime or a new government would most likely revert to it to maintain control. But my bet would be on a FDR-like economic fascism with little militaristic undertone rather than what we've seen in Italy post 1922, Poland post 1926 or even Franco's Spain let alone the full blown madness of Hitler. To get a grotesque leadership like Hitler provided one needs to find oneself in a grotesque position in the first place - so the flavour and intensity of new political regime was a consequence of what grew from Versailles undoubtedly. The question remains however why Nazism and not Marxist socialism? And here's a thing.
Skip forward to subsequent elections to compare results and parties. Ask yourself how is it possible that a party which in astoundingly favourable climate barely makes the cut in 1928 elections (14 seats out of 490) suddenly rises to second place (107) after SPD (non-revolutionary socialists, 150 seats) but before KPD (revolutionary socialist, 77 seats) in just 2 years? There is no way a party which largely built its identity in opposition to Marxist socialists could make such huge gains if the more regular socialists were not perceived as a threat by some parts of society. If you look more closely and broadly reaching back a couple of decades to the beginnings of SPD and KPD etc you'd find that in fact this is very similar to what actually happened. Another interesting point is
which introduced a new element of cooperation between Soviet Union and Germany - and therefore allowed for more Soviet influence.
My conclusion is therefore that while some form of increased state control is usually the natural thing to occur in periods of economic hardship it required a perceived threat from Marxist left for the Nazis to gain proper momentum. A similar development can be seen in modern British politics (for the sake of language) where the position and influence of leftist parties and politics puts conservative parties in a difficult position politically - to maintain current influence with constituents, not give ground to leftists and be able to fend off extremist attacks from BNP and UKIP. If it is not handled properly it leads to the demise of conservative parties and creates a power vacuum which then left and "right-wing" extremist can claim. However only a perceived surrender to the left can make the conservatives appear to give enough ground to the extremist. In the absence of a influential leftist movement conservatives do not need to concern themselves with it and can easily deal with extremists.
So yes - I believe that Hitler was the "answer" for a growing left and failing right. If not for Hitler - who knows perhaps Germany would turn the more traditional shade of red.
Last two comments - I agree with your remarks about bias in historical literature but I am not contending the natural tendency for bias as grounds for dismissal of said account. I am only pointing out the existence and nature of the bias. Again - I learnt to live with this sort of bias long time ago because of my background.Delete
Regarding the sources - I am not a historian so I cannot unfortunately provide tens of examples right away. Also I do not think that sources in Russian, Polish or Czech for example would be very helpful for our discussion :D. Let alone that going through those sources would require a lot of filtering since they are poised to have a very strong pro-soviet bias and Marxist influences. I could point you in a particular direction every now and then but I would have to ask for help some of my friends who happen to teach political history and doctrine for help if you wanted a proper source.I know that Norman Davies writes a lot about those issues since history of Poland is his specialty but I can't recall what are his positions since I read his books way before I stumbled upon proper revisionism.
Regarding West's influence in Russia - YES. Lenin himself was sent to Russia as a German agent to facilitate more social and political unrest but what goes for West's treatment Germany goes largely for Soviet Russia - especially considering the interventions in the Russian civil war. My position here is that the consequences in Russia are much more significant yet too often overlooked because for some reasons Western hitorians put Russia under "WWII" label. Still I doubt anybody seriously can claim that after a series of coups within the Communist Party or as far as Lenin's death in 1924 there was any way anyone could influence internal politics in the Soviet Union. So with the establishing of the country in 1922 it becomes an agent in its own right while Germany remains a playground for another couple of years and probably even after 1933.
The understanding of Versailles has to come from understanding of pre-war circumstances. The reason why France demanded such high reparations was their own defeat in 1870 followed by similar imposition by the Germans (i believe it was 2 billion Marks in gold -a HUGE amount back then ). So it was revenge and payback not so much for WWI as it was for everything since 1870. But then again while nobody can honestly defend Prussian aggression in 1870 in moral terms a couple of points must be made
1) it was FRANCE that started the war and the then-current government of France, the restored Bonapartist regime was just as belligerent and authoritarian as the Prussians. Although the post WWI & WWII history will doubtlessly use hindsight prejudice to name Bismarck the evil mastermind the truth is Bismarck was just smart while the French were stupid in political terms. Also at that point the war was fair game and the French lost.
2) Germany used the war and the contributions to weaken France in the advent of unification. At the time Britain was considered equally hostile Having just lost a war it was less likely to militarily intervene in the process or start a war alongside Austria and Russia for example. The Prussians have just recently defeated Asutria in a bloody (to Austrians in particular) war and could probably handle a single front from Russians should they decide to intervene but a second front from France would be highly problematic especially considering that the unification of Germany was happening under Prussian dictate in a manner much akin to later Anschluss rather than what we know from American Revolution for example.
3) France had a history of extensive invasions of German states. Did you forget Napoleon? Only Austria and Prussia were able to resist because of their relative military strenght and geography. All the other German states were turned into political satellites of France for the duration of the wars so to some degree German fears were grounded in at least some fact.
Still if you treat WWI as a singular incident almost 45 years later then it was as much circumstantial as it was inspired by the French who had the most to fear from Germany. The French helped start the war and technically Germany came to the aid of its ally Austria-Hungary that just had France declare war on it because of alliances with Russia and Serbia. Also - Gavrilo Princip. So while war is traditionally a messy and nasty business at least in technical terms France was the aggressor, Germany was the defender. Only it did the defending in a very German style - that is through Blitzkrieg or some such.
So no. Other than France being just very angry and accidentally on the winning side - because it was the US through the involvement of Great Britain that the war was won(because if given a choice between France and Germany financial interest that was instrumental in bringing about the war to US would side with Germany - as far as I can remember there were two factions: pro-British Morgans and pro-German Rockefellers...nobody rooting for old pal France though) France had little justified cause to claim the ridiculous amount of repatriations they demanded in the first place. Also it is true that both the US and Britain did not want Germany to be weakened - only the war debts HAD to be repaid in some way and some concessions to France had to be made. In the end most of it was repaid through currency devaluation but Germany ended up at the receiving end nonetheless.
Also to both BM and Gil - you both are correct and wrong at the same time as far as I could tell. Mongol invasions were not nearly as destructive as we are told. Proper research indicates that the numbers of dead killed by the Mongols in Europe directly are far far less than we are told. It is just that in those days any sort of mishap caused untold deaths due to lack of proper technological (mostly medical) advancements and it just so happened that during a period of time it could be attributed to "Mongols". Also the Black Plague was in no was "biological warfare". This is just plain ridiculous. While the use of rodents and dead humans during sieges is nothing new at the time there is no notion of spreadinig a disease to create a pandemic on purpose. Mongols were getting sick and dying just the same - only to lesser extent due to their mobility while Europe was hard hit for two reasons: a) new pathogen b) high concentration of population in towns and cities. Compare it to "biological warfare" during Spanish conquests of Americas!Also purely accidental. The total number of deaths while shocking for Europe was nothing new in Asia. The casualties of wars in ancient and medieval China and India regularly go in millions. Nothing new here... the shocking thing about XX century was that it was relatively new for modern European culture. The mass casualties were typical for Asian societies not so much for Europeans. And while Gil is right about the lack of novelty with respect to casualty numbers it was something new with regards to Europe which has known war just like any other region - but not quite in the same way and style mostly due to a highly decentralized nature of European society and fairly well developed property rights system. Compare with China, India, Ottoman, Incan and Aztec empires - highly centralized quasi- or outright theocracies. Mass slaughter was nothing special there because there was nothing to make it unusual or unproductive for an individual to die. In Europe peasantry was an important resource because of the feudal structure. While the king might not care for ten or twenty peasants dying the lords might object. And how would King get enough foot and horse with lords objecting? That just did not happen in any of the other societies because of highly... horizontal social structure. There's king.. and then there's everybody else.Delete
"If you have some background, please expand."
I do not understand that paragraph. You want me to write about myself?
Anon, thank you for your very detailed comments. I will address or comment on several of these:Delete
Anon: What I went to great length to explain was that "fourteen points" was something quite separate from the negotiations and treaty proper…
BM: Then perhaps we are talking past each other, each writing about different subjects.
Anon: If you mean that this speech was presented in Germany as a sign that the peace treat would be fair I agree.
BM: Precisely. And from this, certain political results in Germany were given fertilizer.
Anon: I take issue with the example from the book you listed earlier on regarding the treatment of Germans in Czechoslovakia. …that was nothing new and could not possibly start a war on its own.
BM: I expect there is rarely ever one factor that causes war. However, in the economic mess that was post-war Germany, is it not possible that this perceived breech of fair-treatment of the Germans in Czechia was one more log on the fire of charging the political climate in Germany…contributing to the acceptance of a Hitler?
Anon: To get a grotesque leadership like Hitler provided one needs to find oneself in a grotesque position in the first place - so the flavour and intensity of new political regime was a consequence of what grew from Versailles undoubtedly.
BM: I really do not understand why you have taken such strong exception to my original post. I wrote nothing more than this, albeit focusing on the difference of Wilson’s words and deeds (whether or not those in true power would have allowed Wilson to put his words into action).
Anon: So yes - I believe that Hitler was the "answer" for a growing left and failing right. If not for Hitler - who knows perhaps Germany would turn the more traditional shade of red.
BM: Your explanation of these elections is very helpful, and responsive to my earlier query. You suggest (and it seems reasonable), that with or without Versailles, the Germans might have moved toward Hitler in order to confront the threat of communism. Am I understanding your point correctly?
Anon: I am only pointing out the existence and nature of the bias [of the book’s author].
BM: For what it is worth, the author is no Hitler (or German) apologist. He regularly introduces examples of Hitler’s hubris, etc. However, my purpose in reading the book is to understand the role of the Allies – there is enough published criticism of the losers in every war. Often, the winners are just as guilty as the losers in the run-up to and execution of a war – they just sit in the fortunate position of writing the official history.
Anon: …that after a series of coups within the Communist Party or as far as Lenin's death in 1924 there was any way anyone could influence internal politics in the Soviet Union.
BM: FDR (and those behind him) and the West did much to influence the external politics of the Soviet Union beginning with FDR’s election and continuing for the duration of the war, and a consequence of this had to be an influence of internal politics. Not a direct influence, but indirectly a significant influence.
Anon: [Regarding mass slaughters in war] Nothing new here... the shocking thing about XX century was that it was relatively new for modern European culture.
BM: I appreciate your expansive comments regarding the difference for Europe as opposed to the results of wars in Asia, for example.
Anon: You want me to write about myself?
BM: No, not at all. I wanted a response to my questions and comments. You have amply done so. Thank you.
1) Regarding persecution of Germans in Czechoslovakia.ReplyDelete
I do not think that the perceived "breach" of anything in Czechoslovakia helped Hitler's ascension to power. That would mean that ethnic conflict in the 1920's was significant enough to influence German public opinion - refer to election results again. In the 20's while the minorities complained about the centralized structure of the Czechoslovakian government which was dominated by Czech or "Czechoslovak" parties there was relatively little attempt to forcefully uniformize the country the way it was suggested. Do not forget that in Czechoslovakia Czechs barely formed the ethnic majority and Germans weren't the only minority.
There were 51% Czechs, 22% Germans (majority of whom were Jewish) 16% Slovaks and 5% Hungarians. So it was quite impossible to institute an oppressive anti-German regime if Czechs for example had trouble with Slovaks and Hungarians let alone more numerous Germans. As a matter of fact there were German parties in Czechoslovakian parliament in the 1920's and it were the Hungarians that never joined the Czechoslovakian government! The constitution guaranteed that regions with more than 20% of minority population would have legally protected the minority language for official and everyday use! While the Germans might feel a bit dissatisfied with living in a non-German country it largely reflected an opposite situation under Austrian rule and was similar to what was going on in Kingdom of Bohemia before XVIII century centralization of Habsburg power. There were bilingual schools and German language was NOT persecuted. The problems do not become intensified untill NSDAP rise to power and especially with the creation of the separate NSDAP controlled Sudeten Germany party.
Compare which German parties had how many seats each of them had. Notice that until Hitler's rise to power there seems to be little separatist sentiment. What was happening in the 1930's is an entirely different scenario but that is after Hitler's takeover of German government so it doesn't really count. The Sudeten Germany Party was an artificial creation of the NSDAP with the express purpose to foment conflict and push for autonomy and independence of the region.
2) I do not think I explained myself correctly regarding competition between NSDAP and socialists. I do think that NSDAP was perceived or presented to the public as the answer to socialists and communists but I believe that it wasn't a scenario that could play out successfully in any circumstances. Only with enough economic turmoil that reflected on society in a clear and visible way could the leftist parties be even considered a problem. And that applies both to the people and the big business that sponsored Hitler against socialists. In a predictable economy undergoing a recovery there would be little political for the more revolutionary leftists to gain and a predictable slightly socialist government isnt exactly something the big business fears that much or the people dislike. So no - first there had to be enough mess for the leftists to gain credibility and only then Hitler's ideas could be seen as an answer. And I believe there is some evidence in election results - as the economy stumbles on first its the left that makes gains and then the NSDAP catches up. Compare also what happened after WWII when economic recovery occured relatively quicklyReplyDelete
Within 5 years of surrender German economy was on good track and it was common knowledge and if anybody considered it propaganda by the end of 1950's few could argue. In 1957 the first international treaty with France was signed and Germany was considered to be the stronger economy here - it was 12 years after the war. At the same time 12 years after the first war was 1930... little recovery in sight after a decade of hyperinflation and general economic downturn.
Nobody would care for either Hitler or Marx if you could buy a new BMW on a single job. That is the contrast between post-WWI and post-WWII Germany.
3) With regards to Western influence on the Soviets. Yes I agree that the West did have a lot of influence. You refer to FDR but I think you did not reach far enough. FDR comes into play in 1933 and that is a couple of years after the first of Stalin's purges. Stalin doesn't become the central figure in Soviet politics until 1927 or 1928 when the first generation of Bolsheviks - Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev etc are removed and NEP replaced with first of the five year plans. And that only follows Lenin's death in 1924 and a short period of the destructive so called "Wartime Communism" of 1917-1921. FDR comes into play well into a second era of Bolshevik history.ReplyDelete
For example as a young kid I was taught that in 1919 Soviets invaded Poland and were defeated in 1920 in Battle of Warsaw that is often referred by western historians as "that little known battle that saved Europe". Later on I learned that the war itself was to a large degree provoked by the newly created Polish government. The details are somewhat complicated and not exactly black and white at least on the surface things like this and the lack of international recognition for Soviet Russia after the end of the civil war did little to help.
Still.... we are talking about a regime so crazy that Hitler did not really get fully in gear with it before sometime in 1942. Nazi totalitarianism in its full wartime glory was what the Russians had most of the time since 1917.
The regime was a revolutionary one with its political identity driven by the ideas of revolution and even with the inception of the 'socialism in one country' policy of Stalin (which I believe was just a cover) it did not really abandon the goal of spreading communism. The stopping factor was the only economic station of the country as it pertained to military matters. I believe it was because communism made such shambles of Soviet economy and that Tsarist Russia was a terrifying economic and industrial backwater to begin with that the USSR did not perform a full-scale invasion of Europe earlier on. They tried as evidenced in 1920 only did not succeed. To that I recommend the writer Viktor Suvorow
And his surprisingly well written books especially the ones regarding planned Soviet offensive than never came to pass due to Hitler's surprise : "Icebreaker", "Day M" and some later ones.
It is incredibly important to remember that regimes such as these thrive on real or perceived external military threats. Once they gather enough military power to proceed however there is little rationale to stop. After WWII the Soviets were on the brink of demographic collapse having lost many more people than in the first and faced a threat from revolutionary China (turned Communist very quickly in 1947) and the West. That was not necessarily the case before WWII when Soviet Union was more populous than any other single European country or the US and had a military larger than all other European armies COMBINED.
So while it is absolutely crucial to list all those blunders that West had with the USSR we should never kid ourselves that there was any real chance for long-term peace after Bolsheviks won the Civil War. There is just that much time before the poor, starving guy with the gun does something to the rich, fat guy with a plastic fork for a weapon.
If we are talking about destructive influence from the West the crucial phase was before the october revolution in 1917 and probably no later than the February Revolution
that probably was the closest Russia ever got to some semblance of Western-like democracy and popular democracy at the same time.
It was when West pressed Russians for more war - which was the deciding issue in Russian politics at the time. With continued commitment to war public apathy and dissent grew so large that the bolsheviks were able to instigate a formal coup and declare themselves the only government.
“There were bilingual schools and German language was NOT persecuted.”Delete
I will read more carefully about this time period of the 20s…. Regarding Czechoslovak elections through the 20s and 30s, I take your point – and it is correct that the election results in 1935 are quite different than those preceding:
“What was happening in the 1930's is an entirely different scenario but that is after Hitler's takeover of German government so it doesn't really count.”
However, by results alone one cannot determine the issue of the chicken and the egg. Was Hitler the cause or the result of this upsurge (as the upsurge had to occur at some time before 1935)? The answer, I suspect will be found in subjective determination, not objective election results.
Your insistence and obvious understanding of this issue will cause me to be more deliberate in my reading of this time period of the 20s and 30s. I thank you for your persistence. I am reluctantly convincing myself to build a timeline of events, drawn from multiple sources….
“Only with enough economic turmoil that reflected on society in a clear and visible way could the leftist parties be even considered a problem.”
But does this then not bring the discussion back to the failings (in the eyes of the German public) of Versailles…and then Wilson? While the extent of the impact of the treaty on the economy can be debated, the turmoil in the German economy was blamed on the treaty.
“Nobody would care for either Hitler or Marx if you could buy a new BMW on a single job.”
Certainly in the case of communism, it only took root in the most agrarian of societies. A society with a more advanced division of labor did not provide fertile ground for this.
“You refer to FDR but I think you did not reach far enough.”
I am certain of this. Every point in history also has a pre-history. Only FDR is quite obvious, and is relevant for the time period in question. I have a book on my shelf “Red Republicans and Lincoln’s Marxists.” I have not yet read it and cannot say nothing of its credibility, but the title is explanatory of the contents.
And behind each president (and within his counsel) is always a group of string pullers. These often remain unknown, or at least their true influence remains unknown….
“Later on I learned that the war itself was to a large degree provoked by the newly created Polish government.”
This is one reason I want to put together the timeline I mentioned above. There were many actions taken by Poland in the interwar years that were quite impactful in shaping the second war. And behind Poland was France and to a lesser degree (until 1939), Britain. And behind these two was Roosevelt.
“So while it is absolutely crucial to list all those blunders that West had with the USSR we should never kid ourselves that there was any real chance for long-term peace after Bolsheviks won the Civil War.”
I do not kid myself on this. I think there was a battle looming between Hitler and Stalin. I also think if the west handled things differently, the battle could have been contained to remain primarily between Hitler and Stalin. The west wanted in on the battle. Fair enough if contained to France and Britain – they were close enough to have some concern (although it still seems to me they could have allowed Hitler and Stalin to consume each other). But certainly there was no call for the US to get involved.
“If we are talking about destructive influence from the West the crucial phase was before the october revolution in 1917 and probably no later than the February Revolution…”
I have not studied this to any extent, but I understand there to be (and would not be surprised to find) western interests with fingerprints on these events.
I will add - and try to be succinct: I take it from your comments that you view that Stalin would have sooner or later attacked Germany regardless of any action taken or not taken by the victorious allies in Versailles or in the 20 years between the wars, and whether or not Hitler ever came to power.Delete
Please correct if otherwise.
When I wroteReplyDelete
“What was happening in the 1930's is an entirely different scenario but that is after Hitler's takeover of German government so it doesn't really count.”
I meant that it didn't count as a factor in Nazis' rise to power since Hitler already was in full control of the government. It does however count in some way as cause for WWII.
Also Hitler's coup in 1933 was a consequence of his gains in 1930 German election. I don't think that 1935 Czech election can be considered anything else than a result rather than the cause.
I also make a distinction between Wilson and Versailles. In my opinion the fourteen points and Wilson were used as a cover due to their naive nature in pushing through a more insidious agenda. Notice that a similar pattern seems to emerge regarding changes in America - the introduction of Federal Reserve, 17th amendment, re-introduction of income tax etc. In each of them Wilson was used as a dummy to sell the idea and he regretted some of them afterwards quite publicly.
I also feel it quite necessary to remind you that when including Poland in the timeline you mentioned you definitely must not forget the partition of the country. It generated a lot of sentiment - to the extent unseen anywhere else in Europe - which might justify or appear to justify a lot of actions on part of the Polish governments. Poland is a very tricky and broad subject so tread carefully here. For example the relationship of France and Poland goes way back to French revolution and there were Polish regiments fighting alongside the French in WWI.It did not just appear after the war. English and American historiography tends to misinterpret a lot of things here but try Norman Davies - he should at least do a decent job of introducing the issues and he is definitely available in English.
Regarding Stalin - Soviet history is shrouded in so much secrecy that the best I could do is speculate. I am not sure about your claim that the West "wanted in on a fight". If one thing is self evident here is that the West - that is France and Britain mainly - did NOT want any part in any fight.If they did all it would take to end WWII was for France to invade Germany in 1939. There was not a single soldier left to fight them and Germany used up almost all of their munitions in the Polish campaign as I found out to my surprise quite recently. There was even less understanding regarding Stalin's regime. I think the west was convinced with his "socialism in one country" policy and did not expect any aggression.ReplyDelete
I also don't think that Stalin would attack just Germany. I think that Stalin was getting ready for a mass assault on all of Western Europe where communist parties in France, Germany, Italy and Spain would serve as footholds for establishing political control. The Soviets certainly had enough manpower to pull off such an invasion unless Europe presented an united front against them. And here is an interesting idea - Hitler supposedly wanted Poland to join his Anti-Comintern Pact before he turned back to his Soviet allies. With Poland as an ally he might be able to get Britain on his side as he wanted until the very end and then the likelihood of war with France would all but disappear. I believe that regardless of his opinions of Poland Hitler considered the Soviet Union to be Germany's primary and most important antagonist and was ready for all kinds of political moves to achieve it. At least this is what he wrote in his second book than unfortunately wasn't published in time because Mein Kampf was barely selling and the publisher feared a further drop in sales should another more extensive book be published.
Another fact that makes you question the "official" narrative of Nazi rise to power. Hitler's ideas were not quite so wildly popular before his ascent began. But in 1933 Mein Kampf sold in millions. Wonder why....
“I also make a distinction between Wilson and Versailles.”Delete
Yes, this is appropriate. I recall reading that the British dropped flyers in Germany with Wilson’s speech and 14 points, as inducement to convince the Germans of the fair treatment they would receive.
“In each of them Wilson was used as a dummy to sell the idea and he regretted some of them afterwards quite publicly.”
I am always cautious about attributing to individuals who achieve such power the characteristic of being a dupe or dummy. The ability to achieve such a high political office inherently involves the characteristics of a liar and cheat, and one who can survive a very cut-throat game. So my inclination is to always believe they understand the role they are to play, and given their personal characteristics, they find it natural to play the role.
As to regretting some of these actions at a later time, it is more appropriate, in my opinion, to attribute such statements of remorse as efforts to clean up legacy.
“I also feel it quite necessary to remind you that when including Poland in the timeline you mentioned you definitely must not forget the partition of the country….For example the relationship of France and Poland goes way back to French revolution…”
This is one major reason why I dread taking on this project, although I feel I must. As I mentioned before, every history has a pre-history: so what comes before the French Revolution in this relationship? When does the string end?
I am going to try to remain focused on the inter-war years. Unfortunately, I already know this will lead me to include the years before the Great War…which will lead to Bismarck…. But I will try to focus on the interwar years initially….
“I am not sure about your claim that the West "wanted in on a fight".
Roosevelt certainly took many actions indicating he wanted in; he also pushed Britain and France on the guarantee to Poland. One more reason for my timeline.
“I think that Stalin was getting ready for a mass assault on all of Western Europe where communist parties in France, Germany, Italy and Spain would serve as footholds for establishing political control.”
This makes all the more curious why the west entered, and having entered, why they joined with Stalin instead of opposed to him.
“The Soviets certainly had enough manpower to pull off such an invasion unless Europe presented an united front against them.”
They may have had the manpower, but not much else. Given the events of the war, it seems Stalin would have had all he could handle with Germany for a very long time – certainly if the West stayed out of the fight, or only maintained a defensive posture. The two (Germany and Russia) would have done a good job of exhausting the other, it seems. Faced with an exhausted Russia, the West could easily have developed the ability to ensure Stalin went no further.
“And here is an interesting idea - Hitler supposedly wanted Poland to join his Anti-Comintern Pact before he turned back to his Soviet allies. With Poland as an ally he might be able to get Britain on his side as he wanted until the very end and then the likelihood of war with France would all but disappear.”
Yes, the author of this book also makes this point. So, again, why offer a guarantee to Poland, stiffening their willingness to find a solution to their miserable position between Germany and Russia absent western support? I can only conclude it is because the west (or those controlling western politicians) wanted in on the war.
“But in 1933 Mein Kampf sold in millions. Wonder why....”
Obviously, you possess a theory….
I will add, had the west stayed out of the fight between Germany and Russia, Stalin would also have had to deal with Japan on the back side - a Japan no longer occupied by the US in the Pacific.Delete
These "isms" would have worn each other out, it seems to me, with no need for the west to do anything more than state its neutrality, and maintain a strong defense.
With regards to the history of Poland - if you are mostly interested in modern history and the world wars you really don't have to go much further than 1770's when the first partition occurs. What occurs before the partitions is fascinating and unique in European history but of little actual consequence apart from leading to partition which created immense power vacuum in the region in XVIII century and for the first time in history put Germany (all states) and Russia facing each other - theoretically as enemies but with a common cause that was keeping the rebellious Poles in check. It is difficult... strike that. It is IMPOSSIBLE to properly understand what was going on in Central Europe in XIX century without knowing that little bit of Polish history. The relationship of France and Poland starts as "enemy of my enemy" with both countries facing the same opponents - most importantly Germany. It was reinforced during Napoleonic campaigns and then it continued to XX century. Both countries were the first in Europe to use national identity politically as a result of political revolutions. Also afterwards many Poles emigrated to France but also to America (look up Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski who both fought in the American Revolution).ReplyDelete
If you can't afford additional reading Wikipedia should help but you need to know where to look. If you had any questions about the other side's perspective in Central Europe I am glad to help or point you in the right direction for whatever it's worth. If you are interested obviously.
First, to your offer of assistance, I welcome any comments and sources you provide. Yours is a valuable perspective.Delete
I have started outlining the timeline, and yes, it seems (at least for now) that it will begin with the partitions.
I do not know where this timeline will lead. It may be a perpetual project. I am thinking to devote a stand-alone page to it on this blog, and add to it or modify it as I learn more information.
I don't recall reading anything about FDR's bullying the west about guarantees for Poland. In the end they were worth less than nothing but I would be curious as to when exactly he did that. The political climate deteriorated rapidly between 1935 and 1939 both in Europe and in Poland and while FDR's action would be of little consequence in 1939 if it happened in 1937 or 1936 it would be absolutely fundamental. One important thing to know is that political regime in Poland in 1939 was far from rational and guarantees or not Poland was very unlikely to meet Hitler's demands. The crucial period here would be 1934-35 while the unofficial head of the state Jozef Pilsudski was still alive. He advocated a joint Polish-French pre-emptive strike at Germany to remove Hitler from power. At the same time Hitler's suggestions were far more modest and included some form of alliance with Poland against the Soviets in hopes of breaking Polish alliance with France. Pilsudski died in 1935 and the country political system started devouring itself. The actions of Polish government at that time were quite similar of what was happening before partitions - delusions of grandeur, detachment from reality etc. Poland took part in annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938! You need to take it into your considerations - the irrational element often plays quite the leading role here.ReplyDelete
BM: "This makes all the more curious why the west entered, and having entered, why they joined with Stalin instead of opposed to him."
That is a weird question. If Hitler stumbled early in 1941 perhaps Britain and America would never consider an alliance with Stalin and instead just waited for the right opportunity to attack.But he did not until he reached Moscow in late autumn and the West was panicking. If the Soviets were defeated there would be no second front to threaten Germany and virtually no chance for a counter-offensive in Western Europe. Mind you that the allies did their utmost to delay any meaningful military aid to Stalin until it was inevitable in hopes both Germany and USSR would bleed themselves to death. The invasion of Normandy only came when there were no other way as the tide in the west was clearly turned and it became a race to Berlin.
While Stalin had infiltrated FDR's administration and Roosevelt himself was perhaps too keen on "Uncle Joe" the majority of American and British command was very skeptic or clearly hostile to the Soviets. That is a fact.
FDR pushed Britain to make the guarantee, and Poland to not make any deal for at least two months before the guarantee was made. I must research further to see if there are earlier dates; what I have so far is here:Delete
As to Poland's delusions of grandeur, this is consistent with the views of the author of this work, and it does seem likely that the guarantees at such a late date would not have made a difference - other than there was no need to turn this conflict over Danzig into a World War - a not-minor issue from the point of view of the West....
Why Stalin? My question is why either? Let the Germans and Russians annihilate each other. Would Hitler have had energy to fight the West while fighting Russia? As the West made no significant incursion until 1944, it seems the two would have fought until one or both were reduced to little more than rubble.
What would happen? I envision, in the end, two spent countries, neither capable of doing any significant harm to western states - who, in the meantime, armed themselves sufficiently.
A very interesting article - I certainly need to find some way to get Hoover's book one day. I have heard a lot about it. The fragments you quoted certainly shift a lot of responsibility for starting up the mess towards FDR. I always blamed Churchill and his gang as the most warlike and warmongering of the lot. Was I wrong I wonder? It is interesting to know how much of it was his own initiative, the influence of Churchill's gang or perhaps a little push from many Stalin's agents in FDR's cabinet. After all a conflict in Europe was just what Stalin needed.Delete
Also let me adress this literary crown jewel:
BM: "What would happen? I envision, in the end, two spent countries, neither capable of
d o i n g a n y s i g n i f i c a n t h a r m t o w e s t e r n s t a t e s
- who, in the meantime, armed themselves sufficiently."
Take a look here:
Are you in a habit of telling Jews that "Holocaust was not a big deal".Because that statement actually would be more accurate. Where do you think WWII happen? Connecticut? The North Pole? That statement is so out there that here you go: Some relevant WWII jokes for you
Q: Do you know what is the title of the chapter on "western front" In Russian textbooks?
A: The bombing of civilians.
Q: Why did Americans drop the atomic bombs on Japan?
A: Because after 3 years of bombing Germany they finally realized they can't hit sh*t with normal bombs.
Q: Where are western casualties of WWII listed in the comparison table?
A: Under "statistical error".
I could go on. Sorry for the burn but you were sooo asking for it :D
The funniest thing is that of all the western "powers" France at least has the decency to shut up about WWII. Perhaps to steer people away from the fact that they ended up as a "victorious power" but in all honesty they did probably just as much fighting as Americans let alone Brits.
Anon: Are you in a habit of telling Jews that "Holocaust was not a big deal".Because that statement actually would be more accurate.Delete
BM: I have learned much from this exchange. I also find you to be a very confused individual; your derogatory reply here has nothing to do with my statement. I have never once made a statement that could be interpreted toward such a view.
I also do not appreciate your regular degrading comments toward what you believe my understanding or position to be.
I could make silly comments toward you, not realizing the work FDR did to move the world to war; I will not. Read Hoover's book, or any one of dozens of free histories available on the internet. The evidence is overwhelming, and not difficult to find.
Text formatting on this website isn't top notch. It's painfully evident now that I read my comment. I will try to restate it as succinctly and straightforwardly as possible. I attempted a different approach but it clearly failed in an epic way.Delete
My issue is not with facts or conclusions - it is with your style which I find below certain intellectual and social standards. It is dismissive of huge emotional charge that many people still hold with regards to this issue. While I personally do not take offense I feel obliged to point out to you that in essence you are - even if unknowingly - rude and insensitive because of your apparent pro-Western ethno-centrism. For example just because a white European doesn't know that "nigger" is a racist slur (because of hip-hop culture use of it) doesn't mean that once he uses it he does not deserve criticism for it. So when we go to such length at achieving objectivity, mutual understanding and fairness any comment which his dismissive of those traits deserves the harshest criticism. It might have been unintended - the bias is so prevalent in Western culture and political discourse that even people greater than us stumble. I would not complain if you criticized me for such blunder and I would feel disappointed that you complained - provided you understood my intentions correctly.
Your remark about my beliefs about your positions is unwarranted because I cannot know what those are until you state them and therefore any of my criticisms can and does only refer to your statements. If you take issue with how I interpret them I would advise you to either attempt to clarify and correct the mistakes or consider paying more attention to what you actually write. Again if you write about black rappers and you carelessly refer to them as "those niggers"... you might attract some well deserved scolding if the discussion is generally conducted in a civil and respectful way. Right?
To quickly point out what I really had an issue with here's another analogy - less confusing than my Holocaust remark. Considering that a discussion attempts at achieving best possible degree of civility and objectivity what do you think is wrong with the following statements?
"The US should not go to war in Vietnam.The 50 thousand dead Americans were not worth it"
"A recent clash with insurgents in the heart of Ghazani resulted in the deaths of 4 American soldiers"
"As President Suharto forces restore government control over rebelling regions Indonesia returns on a track to become a safe and friendly country to Western investors and tourists" (I just watched "the act of killing")
Perhaps now you'd realize what was it that I found deserving so much denigration. I admit that it was a misjudged attempt at causing some irritation which I hoped would serve as good example of what an European (non-Western) might feel reading your careless comment. It clearly didn't work out so perhaps this one will.
We all should take responsibility for our words after all, shouldn't we? And I never found any field in which too much humility hindered anyone's quest for knowledge. I do not aspire to know anything and my comments are aimed at helping you - sometimes by being deliberately incorrect or provocative. Sometimes those are surprisingly the best tools. Otherwise - no offense intended.Best regards BM.
BM "They may have had the manpower, but not much else. "ReplyDelete
Believe me - if Soviet Union wasn't attacked first - the sort of manpower they would bring into the fight would be all that was necessary. People in the West and in America in particular do not have the proper sense of proportion in this regard. Let me help. Take a look here - specifically the "strength" section in the top right corner table.
The "frontline" and "total" numbers are misleading - they do not include forces which were stationed in the far east such as the siberian divisions etc. So that 5,5 million refers to total military strength west of Moscow. Just take a look at it.
3.9 million Germans vs 5.5 million Soviets
4300 German tanks vs 15000 Soviet tanks (lowest estimate an no... Soviet tanks not only weren't worse but very often much better than German)
4400 German aircraft vs 35000 Soviet aircraft ( German planes were a bit better but the sheer numbers...)
Just judging by the proportion of men and equipment - which army was more mechanized and armed? For Germans it was circa 1000 tanks and 1000 aircraft per 1 million men.
If Soviets were to use those proportions they could field
... 15 million men? Or perhaps more - which was entirely possible considering that army strength was PEACETIME figures - before the allegedly planned mobilization. The economy was already ready to be mobilized for wartime production which is exactly why Soviet Union was able to overcome German assault despite unbelievable losses of materiel and equipment. I read somewhere a comparison of British army and a Soviet armored division. A singly division had more tanks, artillery and machine guns
than the whole of British army. Talk about operational independence and available firepower!
In all honesty BM can you imagine Europe resisting a 15-20 million men army with tanks, airplanes and paratrooper corps larger than the whole British military (which is why they had so many planes... a million paratroopers requires a lot of planes)? You westerners really need your sh*t straightened out regarding the Red Army :D. The only hope was that the soviets would get halted by soldiers going crazy looting and raping rather than fighting.
BM:"Faced with an exhausted Russia, the West could easily have developed the ability to ensure Stalin went no further."
What exactly do you mean "no further". No further than where exactly? France? Italy? Germany and everything east would be long under Soviet control and even exhausted the Soviet were militarily too strong for Britain and America to simply tell them to go back home.
“In all honesty BM can you imagine Europe resisting a 15-20 million men army with tanks, airplanes and paratrooper corps larger than the whole British military (which is why they had so many planes... a million paratroopers requires a lot of planes)? You westerners really need your sh*t straightened out regarding the Red Army :D”Delete
Please stop with your generalizations about me or westerners….
You do not count Japan, which was also fighting the Soviets in the East.
What of the fact that the West did not enter the War in any meaningful way (regarding a second front) until 1944? Somehow, Germany kept the Soviet Union occupied for several years despite these numerical statistics you offer. What am I missing?
How much more forcefully could Germany and Japan have fought the Soviets if the west stated that they had no intention to get involved against Germany or Japan – signing non-aggression treaties, etc.?
And what risk did the west run? They allied with Stalin after all, thus handing over half of Europe to him anyway. In other words, the west lost anyway. Would the Soviets have had more success invading Britain than the Germans did? Would the Soviets militarily have conquered the US?
So, what I see is: the Germans (with the Japanese in the east) would have occupied the Soviets for years – and for the most part they did; by the time one side or the other achieved a significant upper hand, the “winner” would have been about as depleted as the loser. In the meantime, the west could sit back and watch – while maintaining a strong defensive posture.
The Soviets weren’t going to conquer the world. This was never a risk.
What am I missing?
I am not generalizing. Don't take offense but you are probably still not entirely aware just how funny to us "easterners" you sound when talking from your historical perspective. Just take my previous post.What you wrote - it was hilarious. And I'm pretty sure you did not even notice it.Delete
I did not count Japan fighting Soviets because it was of little relevance and they were fighting no serious military effort. I do agree that West had no real reason to fight - with the exception of France which would probably have been attacked by Hitler anyway (thus drawing Britain and USA probably). The war in Europe was really fought in the East and there was no way to change the outcome. There was talk about opening a second fron in the Balkans ( I believe Churchill's idea) but that was practically impossible in 1943 and therefore all those countries were given up to Stalin. So yes.. I do agree with that. I do have some comments though - regarding the military matters.
The reason behind Western reluctance to join the war in Europe through a proper second front was exactly to bleed Stalin a bit more and the fact that they were simply not prepared for effective land warfare.
This was the only reason for pointless campaigns in Africa and Italy. What you need to remember is that building an effective military machine does not happen overnight. It requires industrial base, logistics and military training and know-how. The US and Britain were maritime powers just like Japan. Soviet Union on the other hand was a land power that received a humbling lesson in WWI - a lesson which the Communists were determined to learn. Germany was traditionally a land power with an effective and well trained military tradition only nominally broken for a short period of time in the 20's. For America and Britain to develop an equivalent force of arms from scratch? It's not that easy. At the same time they had to invent the whole idea of strategic bombing.
Your take on what was happening on the Eastern front is also not entirely correct. Germany attacked the Soviets in mid 1941 and for the next 6 months pushed them back to Moscow. During this offensive they took control of all the infrastructure and materiel gathered for the apparent invasion. It was the equivalent of catching Napoleon with his pants down. The Germans could have won there but they made a colossal blunder - they started exterminating the local population instead of enlisting their help. That would turn the tide. Instead their policy of indiscriminate extermination turned the people against them. The whole of 1942 is Soviets halting German advance without a functioning military while rebuilding the logistical and industrial base. The defense based mostly on constant inflow of new cannon fodder which meant that no proper units could be trained. 1943 is the breakthrough year where the momentum is finally reversed. From mid 1943 to mid 1945 the Soviets (taking a short break for the siege of Warsaw) there is nothing else than constant Soviet advance across all of Eastern Europe. The difference this time is that unlike Soviets in 1941 the Germans were PREPARED for assault and had significant share of veteran forces while Soviets started out more or less from scratch. Also in late 1943 German economy was finally moved to War economy although I believe that total mobilization did not occur until 1944. Way too late.
What most people confuse is the extent of operations and territory involved on both fronts. Often also the ridiculously fast advance in 1941 is assumed to be the norm where it was an uncanny exception. Compare:Delete
Soviet advances August 1943 to december 1944 (1.5 years)
Western advances June 1944 to May 1945 ( 1year) - notice river Elbe on the map - the map itself does not show troop movement after the winter counter-offensive. Also Soviets were fighting the majority of German forces rather than the remainder as in the West. It is circa 1000 km for Soviet advance and then circa 600km advance in five months in 1945 when the counter offensive in the West failed and Germany started total retreat. It is circa 400-500 km for Allied advances until the battle of the bulge (6 months) and next 500 in 1945. So the numbers do not really show a lot of "trouble" for the Soviets once they regained initiative in the East. At the same time the initiative has been lost for a moment in the west despite an overwhelming force of fresh troops and equipment and total air superiority. This should show the reality of fighting a determined well prepared and well equipped opponent.
Not to mention that while Soviets had to subsequently expend some manpower to control lands outside the Soviet Union the Allies did not have to concern themselves with this since they were not forcible overthrow of government and population repressions taking place.
Your points about Germany and Japan giving the Soviets trouble for years is strategically incorrect. First of All the Japanese would have first be able to properly engage the Soviets - if you research the conflict in 1938-39 you'll see just how great the disparity was. Even compared to US forces which in terms of land warfare were far from superior the Japanese could barely hold their own. Add to that the fact that a large portion of land forces had to occupy populous regions in China and South-East Asia which were crucial to the most imporatant weakness of Japanese military machine - the resource pool. The were also severly lacking in Industrial base. Although comparable in terms of population with Germany at the same time they were not nearly in the same league. Those drawbacks in industrial base proved lethal the second the US regained initiative in Battle of Midway. I would bring to your attention the nature of Japanese advance which has many similarities to German advances in Russia in terms of the scale of surprise and lack of basic preparations on the part of the allied forces. Since Midway however the Japanese - despite collosal distances making logistics difficult for Americans are on pretty much constant retreat starting with Salomon Islands campaign. Please notice that it took only 4 aircraft carriers and some 300 planes to stop Japanese advance. At the same time on the Eastern Front Stalingrad wasn't necessarily the end of German offensive. I checked the losses on Salomon Islands where for the first time it became obvious that there is no wasy Japan can even pretend to keep up with US industrial production - Japanese lost 1500 planes knocked them out economically. Japan was not nearly as difficult an opponent as Germany was but they had controlled territory which was much more difficult to reclaim - militarily and logistically. This was the only reasonDelete
why it took Americans so long (4 years) to deal with them. Now that was going on in terms of naval warfare - something at which the Japanese claimed some skill. How they would do this in terms of land war without the technology and knowledge against THE land war country ?
On a separate note - take a look at the map of Russia. Just in case you thought that a second front in the far east is something similar to a second front in Europe :)
As for Germany they could defeat the Soviet Union (for a time at least)with proper political plan but that required a different treatment of subjugated population. If Germans gave the Ukrainians, Belarusians and perhaps even Russians a chance for normal life instead of a shot in the head they would be deserting Soviet ranks in millions. Without it - even with a full scale Japanese assault in the far east their advance would have great chances for stumbling somewhere. The Soviets had close to twice the population of Germany in 1939 and their economy was mobilized for war production the second the war started. If the west just sit there the war of attrition would have to sooner or later tilt in Soviets favour simply because of sheer logistics.
The only chance the Germans had would be a better preparation for winter warfare and focusing on cutting oil supply from the caucasus. That might force Soviets to stop - don't know for how long because there was still plenty of oil on the other side of Caspian sea.
That is provided Hitler attacked first. If the Soviets attacked first They obviously would not conquer the world - that was a logistical impossibility - but I never said they would. It would be enough to capture Europe as far as Germany - France would fall or surrender or undergo a "spontaneous" revolution which most likely would be aided by the Soviets and form some form of satellite state. That would be enough for a couple of decades after which most likely communism would fall as it had to.Until then however a massive red army would be a constant threat to whatever remained of Western Europe.Delete
BM: " In the meantime, the west could sit back and watch – while maintaining a strong defensive posture."
The west could only properly defend itself with the help of America. And only with a significant American economic effort could proper defensive measure be prepared. But that would be equivalent to cold war. So what is the point of those deliberations? Once Hitler isn't the only factor in WWII it becomes a series of moot points. The part of fighting that mattered and the share of losses that mattered would not be averted. In the end the situation would be too similar to what actually happened after WWII.
"Yes, the author of this book also makes this point. So, again, why offer a guarantee to Poland, stiffening their willingness to find a solution to their miserable position between Germany and Russia absent western support? I can only conclude it is because the west (or those controlling western politicians) wanted in on the war."ReplyDelete
Poland has a long history of picking on the worst possible solution until it's too late regardless of external support.
I am not sure that the absence of French and British guarantees would cause Poland to act more rationally - the government was just as rational as Hitler's bunch at that point. Also while British support was perhaps a bit forced the alliance with France was - to give you a good comparison - a little bit like America and Israel. Only whithout the weird religious influences. Also when you write that west wanted in it might refer to Britain and the US. France hated Germans since the very beginning so I am guessing they were up for a fight whenever possible. They were just too scared to start I guess.
"Obviously, you possess a theory…."
What theory? There is no theory necessary. Why do you think former presidents sell thousands if not millions of copies of their nonsense - Clinton, Bush, Obama... Nobody would read that crap before they were elected.
Also since it is a dictator taking over with a single party system - every school, every government agency, every politician... if it is not mandated reading you better read it for your own good.
"I will add, had the west stayed out of the fight between Germany and Russia, Stalin would also have had to deal with Japan on the back side - a Japan no longer occupied by the US in the Pacific."
That is an erroneous assumption. Stalin already dealt with Japan before the start of the war in Europe
Japanese have suffered a devastating defeat that forever cured them from ideas about waging a large scale land war in Asia, especially against the Soviets. That was all the more evident since Japan was traditionally a maritime power and had neither proper knowledge of land warfare or proper land forces. Their occupation of China was problematic enough without serious opposition. Most American revisionist point out to Roosevelt as the main actor in pushing Japan into war but in their sensationalist approach often forget to mention that it was mainly as means to get America into war in Europe. The US had no interest in fighting Japan and at the same time Japan was perfectly happy with having USA and Britain as trade partners - regardless of their commitment to Hitler. Japan was part of Anti-Comintern pact and their primary and historical opponent was Russia/Soviet Union. At the same time all the pressure for US entry into war came from Britain and British-related business interests but it was impossible to do so because Hitler and Mussolini refused to declare war and if Japan had secured necessary resources and control in Asia there would be noone to provoke. Only after land war against the Soviets proved untenable were the Japanese forced to rely on the Pacific region for resources and thus became open to American extortion which pushed them into war.
“Poland has a long history of picking on the worst possible solution until it's too late regardless of external support.”Delete
I will keep this in mind. Your comment earlier about the timing of the guarantee is worthwhile, and I will explore this further as I develop my timeline.
“That is an erroneous assumption. Stalin already dealt with Japan before the start of the war in Europe.”
I should have read all of your comments before I replied to the earlier ones. Thank you for clarifying.
I will look into this further; yet it still doesn’t change the number of years the Germans fought the Soviets without active US engagement. What further strength might Germany have had against the Soviets had Hitler not had to make preparations for a second front involving Britain (and ultimately the US)? How long could Germany and the Soviets fought? What would be the outcome? What did Britain (or the US) gain by JOINING the Soviets, as opposed to just leaving the Soviets and Germans to fight it out?
“Most American revisionist point out to Roosevelt as the main actor in pushing Japan into war but in their sensationalist approach often forget to mention that it was mainly as means to get America into war in Europe.”
I do not understand what is “sensationalist” about this view. Roosevelt was the main actor, or at least the main public actor. As to forgetting to mention that it was a means to get into the European war, I have read more than one revisionist that states this plainly.
BM:"I will look into this further; yet it still doesn’t change the number of years the Germans fought the Soviets without active US engagement. "Delete
I believe I answered that question already sufficiently.
"What further strength might Germany have had against the Soviets had Hitler not had to make preparations for a second front involving Britain (and ultimately the US)?"
Britain was never considered a serious threat by Germany. The second front and the "allies" were essentially the US with logistical help from Britain.
Also you would be surprised how little Germany left for defense from the West. The key here was repealing the invasion. Once the allies would gain a solid foothold it was all gone precisely because of that.
"What did Britain (or the US) gain by JOINING the Soviets, as opposed to just leaving the Soviets and Germans to fight it out?"
That is the only good point here really. Nothing... As a matter of fact - taking a Central European perspective here - nobody gained absolutely anything. Hitler would welcome ceasefire with Britain and had little interest fighting America (for now...later one when Germany ruled Europe blah blah blah). That would only require leaving Europe to itself and risk a larger share of Soviet influence than in reality. But for Germany and all the countries to the East that happened anyway. So those countries were f*** by the virtue of their geographic location. Even assuming some form of unlikely German victory in the East it would be only temporary as there would be too much left to dispense with Soviet threat. That would most likely tie up Germany for some time and considering that their economy was boldly heading towards the Soviet model sooner or later they would have to fight again.
The only country that actually benefited from Western involvement was France. Britain's involvement in WWII cost it the empire (althought that would happen anyway) and the US was saddled with a constant warfare state which is completely unnecessary considering Geography.Whatever went for naval dominance of Britain went ten times as much for America since they did not have to rely on imported resources having the majority of the continent to themselves (since it is unlikely Canada would disagree).
"These "isms" would have worn each other out, it seems to me, with no need for the west to do anything more than state its neutrality, and maintain a strong defense."ReplyDelete
That is a philosophical question. From the purely military standpoint there was no way for a "good" outcome. Still in WWII it would be justified for America to stay out of war regardless of the situation in Europe. After all it is US of America and not Europe. The British also forget that Hitler wanted an alliance with Britain and would welcome on immediately. But it is the typical British belligerence and imperial mindset that pushed them into war. There are people who suggest that the British bear more ultimate responsibility than the Americans - as with the manipulation of the 1940 election. In any case focusing the debate on that particular conflict without discussion about the interwar period and WWI is pointless.
Now if only America stayed truly neutral - including economic sanctions and assistance - in WWI it would probably end in 1916 or 1917 at the latest with a mutually negotiated ceasefire. Kaiser would retain power in Germany, Austria would probably had to devolve into some confederacy and depending on the state of affairs in Russia with little or no outside help the communist revolution would not gain traction for a time. No Hitler, no Stalin. Who knows..perhaps no Mao either.At least not right away.
I am in agreement with your views as expressed in this comment. While an even-handed application of Wilson’s fourteen points could conceivably have reduced the political and economic tension in inter-war Germany, even more valuable would have been if Wilson never took the US into the Great War in the first place.Delete
I remember a lecture on history - one of the Mises.org series - which mentioned a number of peace initiatives in 1916 and as early as late 1915. Unfortunately they weren't acceptable as from the very beginning Britain and France had plenty of support from America which was only increasing with time. So I believe that the suggestions which consider the likelihood of the war being ended somewhere in 1916 without American involvement as very likely. WWI was unique in the sense that almost from the very beginning it was obvious that there was no real Russian threat to Germany. Austria fared worse but was able to resist with German help. So it boiled down to pure war of attrition in the West - without American help there would be nowhere to look for hope since it was helping the balance of power in the West and pretty much taking care of life support for Russia.Delete
Russian army in WWI was a joke. Most people will remember this iconic scene from "Enemy at the Gates"
which is not necessarily correct. However as I understand it was very typical of Russian strategy in WWI. Russian Empire had plenty of people (close to 180 million in 1914 I believe) and little of everything else. I believe that this embarrassment was one of the main reason why the Soviets invested so much in the military and became so creative in this area.