GERMANY 1938.....PALESTINE 2008
Six of one, half a dozen of the other. There are always two sides to a story. One mustn’t be biased….I wouldn’t necessarily argue with those sentiments, but how far does one take them? If a victim of robbery or of attempted murder tries to defend himself, is that six of one and half a dozen of the other? If a rape victim tries to fight off her attacker, is that six of one and half a dozen of the other? Should one be biased either way? Shouldn’t one be impartial and listen to both sides? No reasonable man would argue like this in such cases but many of us use exactly the same arguments when it comes to international politics and to war.
As an analogy, let us talk about Germany after the First World War. Imagine you are a German. You, like most Germans, are suffering. You are in genuine despair. Germany is in chaos and in disgrace. Her pride is shattered and the Deutschmark has lost all its value. The whole country is in a mess. Germany desperately needs a strong man to get her out of her difficulties. Along comes Adolf Hitler. He is a highly decorated war hero and a powerful, charismatic speaker. He has some good, revolutionary ideas. The chances are that you would have voted for him. I believe that I, myself, would have been one of the first Nazis. Hitler starts out well. He restores the Mark. He builds roads. He starts projects. He gives everyone a job. He restores German pride. All excellent so far. You love the man. He is a wonderful, caring leader.
But then things go further. Hitler brings up some genuine grievances. Why should the French be occupying the Rhineland? Would you like it if they were occupying Sussex? He walks into the Rhineland. As expected, the world huffs and puffs but nothing happens. He breathes a sigh of relief. He walks into Austria. Nothing happens. He walks into Czechoslovakia. More huffing and puffing and Mr. Chamberlain makes a few heroic trips and signs a few bits of paper but nothing much else happens. He invades Poland and the world finally wakes up…
What is the attitude of the world during this time? Germany has genuine grievances. It probably is humiliating to have the Rhineland under the French and Eastern Germany under the Poles. What could be more natural than for the Austrians to be under one government with their German brothers? And the Czechs? Maybe they aren’t treating their German minority that well. Hitler is presenting his case very clearly, persuasively and very forcefully. He is, naturally, a man of peace but Germany has grievances, which must be addressed. He has no desire for war but if the Czechs and the Poles prove obstructive, then he may have no choice….
How would you have felt before the declaration of war finally woke you up to reality?
"It is not possible to form a just judgment of a public figure who has attained the enormous dimensions of Adolf Hitler until his life-work as a whole is before us. Although no subsequent political action can condone wrong deeds, history is replete with examples of men who have risen to power by employing stern, grim and even frightful methods but who, nevertheless, when their lives have been revealed as a whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind. So may it be with Hitler.
Such a view is not vouchsafed for us today (1935) We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilization will inevitably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation and brought it back, serene, helpful and strong, to the forefront of the European family circle...".
It is on this mystery of the future that history will pronounce. It is enough to say that both possibilities are open at the present time. If, because the story is unfinished, because, indeed, its most fateful chapters have yet to be written we are forced to dwell upon the darker side of his work and creed, we must never forget nor cease to hope for the bright alternative.”
"Hitler and his choice." Winston Churchill 1935.
"In these circumstances I have been considering the possibility of a sudden and dramatic step which might change the whole situation. The plan is that I should inform Herr Hitler that I propose at once to go over to Germany to see him. If he assents, and it would be difficult for him to refuse, I should hope to persuade him that he had an unequalled opportunity of raising his own prestige and fulfilling what he has so often declared to be his aim, namely the establishment of an Anglo-German understanding, preceded by a settlement of the Czechoslovakian question.
"Of course I should not be able to guarantee that Dr. Benes would accept this solution, but I should undertake to put all possible pressure on him to do so. The Government of France have already said that they would accept any plan approved by Your Majesty's Government or by Lord Runciman. Neville Chamberlain in a letter to George VI (13th September, 1938)
"We, the German Führer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe.
"We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as Symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries." Neville Chamberlain after the signing of the Munich Agreement (30th September 1938)
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time...
"Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."
A statement in front of 10 Downing Street a little later on the 30th September 1938
The chances are that you would have sympathized with Germany. Most people in the civilized world thought that Hitler may have been a bit over the top (I mean,all that talk about getting rid of the Jews was a little eccentric. Who could possibly have taken that seriously?) but that the Czechs and the Poles were being rather obstructive and were ruining the prospects for peace in Europe. That would have been the “impartial” view in those days. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. In actual fact, even though the Germans had genuine grievances and were genuinely suffering, history shows that it was definitely not six of one and half a dozen of the other.
What about the Palestinians? Nobody is disputing that it can’t be much fun for them at the moment. Many of them are genuinely suffering, especially during this latest intifada. The world has heard a great deal about the Palestinian position. Let us now look impartially at a few facts….
(To continue this thought go on to "PALESTINE SINCE THE ROMANS.”)
Hitler on the Jews
British appeasement policy 1936 to 1939
Peace for our time 1938
PALESTINE SINCE THE ROMANS