1939 - THE WAR THAT HAD MANY FATHERS
Paperback, 704 Pages
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The author’s research leads to some surprising conclusions. Documents from foreign ministries, and notes and memoranda from British, French, Italian and American leaders, ministers, diplomats and military commanders, prove that quite a number of countries were involved in instigating World War II. Interconnections, hitherto overlooked, are made clear. “This war”, writes Schultze-Rhonhof, “had many fathers.” Much in our German history from 1919 to 1939 cannot be understood without cognizance of contemporary events in other lands: actions and reactions are closely linked together. Yet it was not only contemporary events in neighboring nations which contributed to the start of the war, it was also, and not insignificantly, the joint prehistory of the disputing parties. Almost every history has a prehistory.
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Dec 15, 2011(Faleyras, France) Thomas Dunskus This review is based on the second German edition. Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof's book, now going into its seventh German edition, unfolds the period between the two major European wars of the 20th century and shows us that foreign policy deals with questions of power and not with issues of morality. Going back to the armistice of 1918 and the ensuing "Treaty of Versailles" - never negotiated, imposed on the vanquished, and never ratified by the USA - the author makes it clear that, while all parties involved had undertaken to disarm, only the Reich carried out its obligations, whereas the victors saw no reason to do likewise. On the contrary, driven by their mutual distrust and probably also by the feeling that the new structure of Europe would not stand they continued to rearm, even after the Reich had, in the second half of the 1920s, reduced its military force to the levels required and thus no longer presented an immediate danger. This... More > unstable but not explosive state would maintain itself over the next decade, but we must remember that, in line with the military efforts of Britain and France, the US government, after the "Roosevelt Depression" of 1937/38, carried out a huge rearmament program involving battleships and four-engined bombers which were surely not intended to be used against Mexican bandits. One can understand the basic attitude of countries like Poland or Czechoslovakia which, having profited greatly in 1919, also rearmed seriously in the 1920s and 1930s. In the case of Poland, it is an irony of History that this country, along with such areas as the Baltic states, owed it independence not to Versailles, but to the 1917 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between the "Central Powers" (Germany and her Allies), victorious in the East, and the crumbling Russian empire. One wonders, however, as to the motives which prompted the London government to follow a similar policy of rearmament. There is, obviously, the traditional explanation that Great Britain followed the basic principle of always furthering the interests of the Continent's weaker powers against the srtronger, but the reasons are probably to be found at a more fundamental level. It is a document written by the Permanent Secretary of the British Foreign Office, Sir Robert Vansittart, dated 6 September 1940 on the subject of German approaches in Sweden aimed at bringing the war to an end. This document has been published by Martin Allen in his book "The Hitler-Hess Deception", but, while many other documents published by Allen have been called forgeries by the British National Archives (an incredible accusation when one considers the amount of work involved and the most uncertain benefits to be expected), this document has not been incriminated. It contains the strange sentence: "The enemy is the German Reich and not merely Nazism and [certain people]' would let us in for a sixth war even if we survive the fifth". The meaning is, at first, totally obscure because, at that time, WW1 had been the first armed conflict between Britain and Germany. It becomes clear only through another statement in the same note: "' the German Reich and the Reich idea have been the curse of the world for 75 years", i.e. before the Reich was ever founded. Reading Vansittart's unspeakable propaganda leaflet "Black Record", it becomes evident that, for London, it was a matter of removing Germany as as a power factor in Europe, something that the prudent armistice proposed by the Germans in 1918 had prevented at that time. Germany's mere existence as a state with a political agenda of ist own was a serious threat and had to be fought. Seen in this light, London's behavior in the 1920s and 1930s takes on a certain rationality. Schultze-Rhonhof explains that London's aim was one of cornering the Reich in such a way that it would end up fighting, only to be defeated once and for all and, as Churchill said to be "gutted and dismembered". Vansittart's own words were: ' the German Reich ' has got to go under, and not only under, but right under". At the time of the Munich crisis, such a policy could not be implemented because Britain was not yet strong enough and American aid was quite uncertain; another year was needed to reach a level of rearmament which would allow her to fight Germany, but the time frame was narrow, because this window of opportunity would close in the early 1940s, once Germany had completed her own preparations. The complete crumbling of the Czechoslovak state in the spring of 1939 - after Poland had already ripped out the Teschen area within a month of Munich - led to the decision of the country's president, Hacha, to visit Berlin. Hitler made today's Czechia a German protectorate, Hacha remained at his post until 1945 and the country survived WW2 without major damage. Once, however, Germany claimed Danzig and a corridor through the Corridor, England extended an unsolicited, unenforceable and never executed guarantee to Poland which prompted to Warsaw to become deaf to all German proposals. Britain now had an excuse to declare war, but Hitler, while being a convenient scapegoat, was no longer of any importance. London's policy was anchored in the 19th century, but failed miserably in 1945: Europe was in shambles, Poland was under Soviet domination, Soviet tanks stood an hour's drive from the North Sea and the British Empire was a thing of the past. Economically, Britain was bankrupt and indebted to the US; moreover, within a mere ten years the western rump of Germany would top Britain in industrial production. Looking back, there is no way but to call British actions in 1939 infantile and the result a disaster. The German Reich had been painted as a bogey-man who blocked a view of the real world. Having believed their own propaganda, the Allies felt entitled to destroy the historical substance of continental Europe, thus creating a cultural and mental wasteland which constitutes a major crack in the structure of the western world to this day and which will perhaps never be completely closed. Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, an officer, not a historian, has cast a valuable spotlight on how all this came about.< Less
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- Olzog Verlag GmbH (Standard Copyright License)
- 6th ed.
- Olzog Verlag GmbH, München
- January 13, 2011
- Perfect-bound Paperback
- Interior Ink
- Black & white
- 2.5 lbs.
- Dimensions (inches)
- 6 wide x 9 tall
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