Wednesday, September 2, 2009
It was the First of September, the day I'll always remember...
Seventy years ago yesterday, the Germans claimed that they had to invade Poland or Germany would suffer terrible losses. Hitler was itching for war, but he had hoped he could talk the British out of being allies with the Poles. It didn't work and the European theater of World War II began.
Jeremy Gross, my buddy from grad school, posted this link to the English translation of the German magazine Der Spiegel that discusses the many times that the war might have been prevented if someone had called Hitler's bluff.
This chart is nicked from the Der Spiegel article, and it gives the actual losses incurred by many of the main participating countries and how great a percentage of the countries' 1939 population the death from the war represented. If you got to the Wikipedia page, you'll see there are several Asian nations and colonies that could be put on this list as well. Places like Korea, French Indochina, Portuguese Timor and Dutch East Indies suffered many deaths and high percentages of their population lost, but they weren't included because the writers of the article were trying to make a point.
That point is this. The war in Europe was really between the Nazis and the Soviets. The countries that were in the path between them, mainly Poland but the Baltic countries as well, got hit harder than Western Europe by a bunch. Some Clever Trevors like to call the Cold War the Third World War and our adventures in the Islamic parts of Asia the Fourth World War, but that's just semantic yapping. There hasn't been anything like the Second World War for the last seventy years, and thank Odin, Buddha and Krishna for that.
There's no promise that some major nation won't let a madman become ruler again. There weren't any European leaders but Hitler who thought The Great 1914-17 War needed a sequel. Even the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria that started the Pacific theatre of World War II wasn't at the request of the leaders in Tokyo, but instead the bright idea of some Japanese military leaders on the ground in China, and the Japanese government was forced to follow their lead. But it only took Hitler and the idiot Japanese generals in China - and the people responding to them out of a correct sense of self-preservation - to bring about mass murder on a level never seen before and we can only hope will never seen again.
By some ways of measuring, seventy years is a long time. By others, it is little more than the blink of an eye. All our prayers, religious or secular, should include the wish that some idiot with a big league arsenal doesn't think there's a profit in setting it off again, because frankly, we may be able to destroy the world now by sucking it dry instead of burning it to the ground.
Let's do our best to keep it to one apocalypse at a time, shall we?