A lot is being written about the attempts by certain journalists and politicians to “rewrite” history and in particular the second World War. Such attempt tends to marginalize the role of the USSR in the victory against the Third Reich, and pushed to its extreme, contributes to a kind of rehabilitation of the Nazi regime. The most visible moves in that direction have been seen in the Baltic States, and of course in the west of Ukraine, where the ultra-nationalists of that time (Bandera and Co) are celebrated as national heroes and the May festivities of 1945 Victory Day are deleted from the calendar.
To some extend this can be called a “rewriting” of history, but I also think the traditional view of a common, united and brotherly victory against Hitler of the western powers together with the USSR is a candid reading of that history. Russian leaders may not have accepted that yet, but they are probably close.
Although we of course should fight against rewriting of History, we should have the courage to do some “rereading” of it. Reality was far from the exulting rejoicing of 1945 and the sudden feeling of friendship between the West and the USSR, illustrated by the photos of US and Soviet soldiers drinking together in Germany, of the “family” photography of Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in Yalta.
That friendship and feeling of a common victory against the evil of the Nazis was never backed-up by a real, deep and loyal cooperation between the two parts of the world. While the USSR definitely felt like achieving full victory in May 1945, a feeling certainly shared by most of the Western European population, the western leadership was not so sure about it... De Gaulle was probably the only exception, willing to develop cooperation with the USSR and build a new Europe including the East. But he was completely isolated and the Europe that was created later was far from his dreams.
But let us go back in time
We are now in 1917 and the war has been ravaging Europe for 3 years. Russia is part of the Entente powers fighting against Germany and its allies, but is very shaken by the on-going revolution. Germany understands that it can eliminate one member of the Entente – Russia – if the revolution succeeds, as Communists made it already clear that the war was not theirs. In April 1917, Germany organizes an event that shall have an enormous importance for the history of Europe in the 20th century. It allowed and indeed organized the transfer of Lenin and around 30 of his close aids to travel back to Russia in a sealed wagon. Germany also financed Lenin’s movement until 1918 and achieved what was targeted – Russia pulled out of the Entente and pulled out of the combat against Germany. Although the impact on the outcome of the war was missed by the German side who lost anyway big time, the impact on Russia is well known.
At the end of WW1, enormous changes happened in the world of geopolitics. The US for the first time entered the field of international power games, at the cost of brave marines, who probably never heard about the city of Sarajevo in their short life. The UK on the contrary just lost its previous global predominance and would never recover it. Germany was in shamble, ruined, humiliated by a terrible defeat and terrible terms imposed by the winners, especially France and the UK. Russia had disappeared for a while from the international scene, involved in a civil war that would result in the creation of the first Communist state in history, contradicting both Marx and simple logic, as the country with the largest manufacture proletariat, thus in principle the country ready for a Communist revolution was the UK and in no way Russia!
Led by the fear of Communism
The European and US powers (and business leaders) were indeed extremely frightened and concerned by the changes in Russia. Anticommunism started to be a key element of US and UK policies as soon as 1918. Although suggested by some, an intervention in Russia to help the White Russian side never happened, probably by lack of resources in countries already devastated by 4 years of a terrible war.
On its side, the new Communist power in Russia as soon as 1918 started to believe that a ruined Germany would be the best candidate to join Russia in the proletarian revolution. And indeed a rampant civil war started in Germany. The German communist party (KPD) was created in 1918, led by Rosa Luxemburg and started to get a strong influence, although it never made more than 10-15% in polls. Its charismatic leaders Luxemburg and Liebknecht were in fact looking for a violent way to take the power. Both were captured and assassinated by the Freikorps, in contrast with Lenin being put politely in a secured train back to Russia! Those Freikorps were paramilitary groups, mostly young men having fought during the last period of the war and driven by a strong nationalist sentiment, and often a strong anti-communist ideology. Most leaders of the future SA actually came from the Freikorps, although not all Freikorps members joined the Nazi movement or ideology. A very interesting book (1) over that troubled after-war period in Germany was published in 1951 by Ernst von Salomon, a German aristocrat who joined the Freikorps after the war, but never adhered to Hitler’s regime, and was arrested for some time after Hitler took power in 1933.
The Freikorps played a key role to counter the rise of communism in Germany, for example with the crunching of the Bavarian Council Republic in May 1919, with an army of 30,000 Freikorps fighters, a few months after the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg in northern Germany. Although linked to the official German army (or what was left of it after the war), the Freikorps most probably received support and funding from their supporters. This opens the yet under documented question about the funding of the Nazi movement at its beginning, although various studies and document could establish a link with a number of industrial and financial groups, both in Germany and abroad.
.Stopping the KPD and other Socialist movements
Without doubt, the western “establishment” was more than concerned about the possibility to see Germany follow Russia in the communist revolution. Everything was better than that option. The Weimar republic, that survived until 1933, was under constant threat of collapse due to political and economic instability. Even after the brutal repression of the communist movements in 1919 and 1920, the KPD maintained itself afloat, and moved closer to the USSR party line, supporting Stalin when he took power in Moscow. Definitely the option to let Germany go was not acceptable and the rise of the Nazi party was funded under the table, while softly criticized in public.
The KPD was forbidden and its members repressed by the Nazis the day after Hitler when to power in 1933 and the western establishment could sleep better. A German communist state was now impossible.
Of course, the support of Fascist groups to counter the communist revolution in Europe was not limited to the Germany of the 20's and 30's. The Spanish civil war was dramatic and complicated, ending with the crunching of the Republicans and bringing Franco to power until his death in 1975. But Italy is also an interesting example, especially after the recent publication of confidential information in the UK. According to that declassified information (2), the British secret services (MI5) funded Mussolini at the beginning of his political carrier in 1917 and 1918. He received 100 Pounds a week, a really large sum then, to help him organize the movement that would violently stop the communists in the North of the country and finally create the first Fascist regime in Europe in 1922.
The work done by the Nazis between 1933 and 1939 on the German economy is impressive and would never had been possible without external support. In 6 years (to compare, this is the period between 2009 and now!), Germany was transformed from a bankrupt country into a powerful industrial giant, that not only produced all types of advanced products from consumer goods (the Beetle, "car for the people") to military armada, but also reconstructed all its infrastructures and became the first country in Europe equipped with an impressive network of highways. Those results looked very good compared to the results of the Weimar republic, that on top of weak leadership was also hit by the Great Depression in 1929. However such growth and development was achieved at the cost of a “militarization” of the society (for example with the creation of the GLF – German Labor Front - that outlawed strikes and syndicates, while increasing the working hours to 72 hours weekly). But simple people preferred to work under such conditions to rebuild Germany’s infrastructure and dignity, rather than be left dying of hunger. Germany although did not achieve self-sufficiency, and in 1939, it still imported one third of its raw material. The number would go down more easily after the invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia, rich in coal and natural resources.
The ally turning wild
From 1935 and 1936, the external supporters of the Nazi party started to understand that their ally against communism started to be too independent and dangerous, but it was too late. A key moment was in 1935 the loss of German citizenship for all German Jews, and from 1936 the growing part of the production started being redirected to the development of a strong German army, defying the limitations imposed to Germany at the end of WW1. Another key moment in the loss of control is 1938 and the annexing of Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia with a majority of German speakers). The Munich agreement, under the leadership of the UK (Chamberlain) gave a green light to Hitler. Although the Czech initially wanted to fight, President Benes preferred to choose exile. The country had a defense agreement with both France and the USSR, but although Stalin announced the USSR was ready to intervene militarily, Benes turned the Soviet offer down due to the absence of support from the western countries. Not only Benes felt betrayed, but also Stalin, who later preferred to follow the path of his western counterparts and signed a non-aggression pact with Germany a year later. A pact that would prove as naïve and useless as the Munich agreement.
One month after the Munich agreement, the Nazis would launch the first really brutal aggression against the Jewish community during the Crystal Night. We know what was to follow, although western powers strangely kept quiet on the holocaust until blatant evidence could be displayed in 1945. Although several German defectors and aerial observation during the war made it clear that camps were not genuine ones, nothing was done, not even the bombing of the railways connections to those places. This remains one of the unanswered questions about the Reich history.
The opportunity to bring down the Nazis was there in 1938, but Chamberlain and the west preferred to bet the future of Europe and trust what they thought was their joker against communism.
At the end of WW2, the US and the UK initially planned an attack against Soviet forces in Germany (Operation Unthinkable), but gave up. Although Churchill advocated for wiping out Moscow with nukes, nothing was done and the Cold War started, accompanied with a hysterical anti-communist campaign in the US lead by Joseph McCarthy.
The western powers definitely considered that 1945 was half a victory and they fought between two feelings. On one side euphoria that the “gone crazy ally” (Hitler) was defeated, on the other side frustration that the second nightmare of their nights – the USSR - was still alive and kicking. Some of their strategists may well have used the German say: "Wir haben das falsche Schwein geschlachtet" (we killed the wrong pig). The rumor is that Churchill subscribed to it.
The first feeling of proud Victory was put in the forefront until now, but with time, the second one has been gaining momentum, as illustrated by the planned absence of many western leaders in Moscow for the May Victory parade.
But something is wrong. The frustration to see Stalin winning in 1945 should have been completely wiped out in 1991 with the end of communism in Russia. Why is it coming back now?
I think this is again the same scheme repeating itself. The West is like in the 30’s confronted to a crisis bringing it close to a collapse and is ready to do anything to keep its predominance that was unrivaled since the beginning of the colonization period. The sudden disinterest in Victory Day and downplay of the role of the USSR against Hitler is not new. It existed all along, we should not be mistaken about it, but was hidden because status quo was more important. Now that the balance of power is shifting, the old rhetoric against "everything not in line with our corporate financial interests" is activated again. The fear to have their dominant position rivaled by a reborn Russia allied with the Chinese Asian giant bring them to a state of hysteria.
The Nazis have been partly created by the west, not less than Al-qaida, ISIS and the Kiev junta. Just like Hitler did, those fabricated allies did or shall turn against their creators and bite the hand that fed them. Again the financial establishment took control of politicians and had them serving their interests instead of the interest of their country and their population. Again the results shall be disastrous - geopolitic is a complex and dangerous game that should not be influenced by financial lobbies.
By the way, a rereading of the period should also raise a very touchy but unavoidable question, related to the extermination of Jews and other ethnic groups by the Nazi regime. The West most probably helped the Nazis to block the development of the communist movement in Germany and definitely chose not to confront it when it became unmanageable. The racist and anti-Semite principles of Hitler were never hidden and were clear from the beginning, and the question should one day be answered: why did the West nothing to directly warn average Jews (rich ones left in time) and other groups in danger, nor did it take initiative to extract them from Germany when it was still time and Hitler/Himmler themselves were still favoring an expulsion of Jews out of German territory. Sorry, but we are free to make an analogy with Middle-East Christians massacred by ISIS in 2015… Non-Assistance to Persons in Danger.
History repeats the same cycles, as if the opium wars and WW2 had been put in a freezer for many years and revived now. But the balance of forces has changed this time - big time. The enemy is no longer a giant country with half a billion of hungry illiterate people like China was in the 19th century or an inefficient bureaucracy like the USSR in the 20th century, and the western populations are no longer believing all what they read or hear from their leaders!
(1) The Questionnaire (Der Fragebogen): http://www.amazon.de/Der-Fragebogen-Ernst-von-…/…/3499104199
(2) BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/8306475.stm