Hitler Should Not Have Been

Adolf_HitlerA good many people seem to have forgotten that if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we’re doomed to repeat them. There’s a lesson we should have learned from Hitler coming to power.

Hitler’s coming into being is not at issue, but the phenomena over which he presided—the creation of the Third Reich; Germany’s invasion of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland; World War II; the Holocaust—should never have taken place.

At the end of World War I, known at the time as the Great War, Germany underwent a revolution which brought to power a moderate government that walked the line between socialists and communists on one side and extreme right wing forces that believed democracy would weaken the country on the other. The new government took the form of a parliamentary republic system and became know as the Weimar Republic.

As the government was being set up and a constitution written, fighting continued between the extreme forces inside Germany.

A Soviet republic was declared in Munich, but was quickly put down by Freikorps and remnants of the regular army. The fall of the Munich Soviet Republic to these units, many of which were situated on the extreme right, resulted in the growth of far-right movements and organisations in Bavaria, including Organisation Consul, the Nazi Party, and societies of exiled Russian Monarchists. Sporadic fighting continued to flare up around the country. In eastern provinces, forces loyal to Germany’s fallen Monarchy fought the republic, while militias of Polish nationalists fought for independence (“Weimar Republic”)

You might liken these circumstances to the sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq along with the Kurds who want their own homeland.

The fledgling German republic faced problems from outside, too. The conquering Allies presented them with a repressive peace treaty which limited the size of Germany’s armed forces, took away land, and required impossible war reparations payments. In addition they maintained a blockade which stifled trade.

Soon the value of the new republic’s currency fell. Inflation grew along with unemployment, and the extreme elements, both left and right, blamed the moderate Weimar government for signing the Treaty of Versailles and for not solving the enormous problems it created.

For a short period, as America extended some financial aid that alleviated some of the pressing problems of the reparations debt and France worked with Germany to solve the land disputes, the Weimar Republic stabilized to a degree.

Then came the Great Depression. With unemployment soaring, the Nazi party gained enough votes in the German parliament to foil attempts to create a working coalition which would allow the government to function. Instead through the use of the emergency powers granted to the president by the constitution, a chancellor was appointed to operate independently of the parliament. Eventually that body was dissolved and new elections took place, bringing a shift away from the republic idea of government.

For three years the chancellor tried to reform the Weimar Republic, often ruling by decrees issued by the president. His policies were unpopular. A new chancellor brought some change, including a second dismantling of the parliament and more elections.

The Nazi party doubled in size but still no party held a majority in parliament. Political maneuvers continued for a year, but in the end, the president appointed Hitler to be the chancellor of Germany.

By early February, a mere week after Hitler’s assumption of the chancellorship, the government had begun to clamp down on the opposition. Meetings of the left-wing parties were banned and even some of the moderate parties found their members threatened and assaulted. Measures with an appearance of legality suppressed the Communist Party in mid-February and included the plainly illegal arrests of Reichstag [parliament] deputies. (“Weimar Republic”)

Late in February the parliament building was set on fire. The following day, using the state of emergency as motivation, Hitler had the president suspend parliament. With the new elections, the last multi-party elections and the last under the Weimar Republic, the Nazis took control.

But where were the Allies?

During all the unrest, the war-weary, depression era governments adopted an appeasement stance with Germany. So when reparation payments stopped, nothing happened. When the military began to rebuild and munitions once again were churned out from German factories, nothing happened.

Having taken a repressive stand early, the Allies now took a permissive approach, letting Germany solve Germany’s problems.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had not treated Germany like a continuing enemy after the war ended, humiliating them and forcing their new government to agree to things that were bad for the country.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had done more to alleviate the economic plight of the country, before the Depression.

Hitler would not have created the havoc he did if the Allies had not appeased him for so long.

So here’s the history lesson. Yes, we are war-weary in the US. Yes, we can say it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place, especially when we hadn’t actually won the war in Afghanistan yet. But as one veteran of Iraq put it, if you break it, you buy it.

If the US doesn’t “own” the new democratic government in Iraq, it is destined to go the way of the Weimar Republic. And who knows what Hitler is waiting in the wings to rise to power.

Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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There Will Always Be A Lusitania

British_Lusitania_poster_1915_LOC_cph.3g10930Some of you may remember the Lusitania from your school days studying World War I. In 1915 this British passenger ship sailing from the US was hit by a German torpedo and sank, killing nearly 1200 people.

At the time the US was neutral in the war, but a number of people used the sinking of the Lusitania to fuel the argument that the Central Powers needed to be stopped.

In writing terms, you can think of the Lusitania as the inciting incident.

The gassing of Syrian civilians by their own government is today’s Lusitania. As in 1915, there’s no doubt that the event occurred. And there are people using the tragedy as evidence that one side of the conflict needs to be stopped, that in fact, the US should intervene.

The truth is, however, “inciting incidents” happen all the time, and governments resist the inclination to act. Perhaps the clearest example of this resistance occurred during the years leading up to World War II when Germany under Hitler’s rule annexed Austria, then part of Czechoslovakia, and finally invaded the latter.

Throughout, the war-weary European states attempted diplomatic solutions to placate Hitler. After resisting for several years, they drew the line with Poland, however, and Poland became the Allies’ Lusitania.

In contemporary times, the US government has closed its eyes to genocide in Rwanda, attacks against citizens by Idi Amin in Uganda, civil war in the Central African Republic and in Nigeria, and attacks against Christians in Sudan. None of the many incidents that cost hundreds of lives, even thousands, became a Lusitania.

The international community was aware, for example, of what went on in Sudan when the government began

a campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arabs in Darfur resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of civilians [“Sudan internal conflict (2011–present)“]

Torpedoed_LusitaniaDespite the indictment of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (Ibid.), the US did not intervene on behalf of those people, and neither did any of the European nations or the United Nations, or any of the Arab nations.

What is it, then, that turns a human tragedy into a Lusitania?

President Obama says in Syria, US interests are at stake. More so than in Iraq, the country the US declared war on because of their threat to US interests? Weren’t Democrats viciously blasting President Bush for responding to a Lusitania that goaded the US into conflict?

The thing about Lusitania‘s–someone is always claiming conspiracy. Even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has some convinced that the US government “let” it happen so that the public would get behind the war President Roosevelt wanted to declare.

When it comes to Syria, I have questions. Where did this poison gas come from? Is Syria producing it in secret labs as Iraq was supposed to be doing? Have the investigators ruled out the possibility that rebel forces aren’t the perpetrators–for the very reason that they wanted to create a Lusitania?

And where are the other countries of the world? Why is Russia continuing to back a government accused of an action the international community agrees is illegal? Supposedly the US has the backing of other Arab nations for a military strike. But why? Why aren’t these Arab nations acting against one of their own that is out of line?

Further, why is death by gas so much more heinous than death by machette or AK40 or suicide bomber so that the government must take action in Syria when none was taken in other places or was ridiculed as evidence of Republican greed?

And finally, what would US forces strike? As I understand it, the center of Damascus, where government buildings are, is filled with civilians who have fled the fighting in the suburbs. Will the military target Damascus? And how are we to protect civilians from our bombs? Is the US killing people better than Syria killing people?

Not every Lusitania needs to be resisted, but I’m wondering if this isn’t one.

Published in: on September 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm  Comments (2)  
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