DISCLAIMER: This article is SATIRICAL, though some of the arguments you find within have actually been made both in the past and by apologists of the Third Reich to this day.
By Dr. William Percival Thomas IV
It seems not a day goes by that we don’t see alarmist headlines telling us that Germany plans to invade Poland, or that Germany is supposedly acting “aggressive” toward its neighbor, Czechoslovakia. Typically these pieces are written by talentless hacks who have no background knowledge of Germany and its history, and as such it is easy for them to demonize Germany and its leader, Adolf Hitler. Unlike such journalists, I have actually spent significant time in Germany, and have studied German history for the better part of my adult life. It is for this reason that I cannot go along with the bandwagon that is currently crying “wolf” over so-called “German aggression.”
First let us be realistic for a moment. Germany has indeed annexed some territory in recent years, but we might do well to remember that so far, the only territory Germany has been “annexing” is territory it used to control. First let us look at the Rhineland, where Germany allegedly flouted the Treaty of Versailles and acted “aggressively” by re-militarizing the territory in 1936. Sure, if we are to stick to the very letter of the Versailles treaty, the Germans were certainly in violation. But this was, for all intents and purposes, Germany territory, and how logical is it to demand that a nation not station troops on a part of its own, sovereign territory? How can we condemn Hitler’s demands toward his neighbors while simultaneously making demands on Germany?
Then of course there is the matter of the Anschluss, another example of Germany being tarred as aggressive for “invading” what is arguably ethnic German territory. Once again, a little historical context is in order. The mostly German Austrian republic made an attempt to join Germany in 1918, yet was forbidden to do so by the treaties of St. Germain and that pesky Versailles treaty. Another fact that journalists tend to ignore due to their utter lack of German historical knowledge is that there was something of a German union that included Austria in the past- the German Confederation which was dissolved after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. And even if we ignore that, let us not forget that Germany held a plebiscite to determine the will of the German and Austrian people, who supported the unification by 99.7% of the voters. A more democratic expression of a people’s self-determination is hard to come by these days, but the mainstream press apparently thinks that self-determination is something for Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks, but not Germans.
Then of course there is the matter of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia, the latter recently having been “annexed” by Germany. The matter of the Sudetenland has long been settled- this was German land, populated by a majority of Germans. As for the rest of Czechoslovakia, Germany has been far more generous than it needed to be. With Austria having been unified in a Greater Germany, Berlin has a rightful claim to all former Hapsburg territory. Yet in the case of Czechoslovakia, one of the many artificial creations conjured into existence by the hated Treaty of Versailles, Germany absorbed only Bohemia and Moravia as a protectorate, granting the right of self-determination and independence to Slovakia. Funny how the mainstream press ignores this inconvenient fact while implicitly demanding that Ukrainians, Croats, Slovenes, and other nationalities remain within the borders of superstates where they lack ample representation in governments controlled by other nationalities.
Once again our Western press is beating the war drums, this time over Poland. Once again we might do well to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of the Free City of Danzig is German, and they resent being separated from their German brethren by the absurd “Polish corridor.” We might also ask why the press does not speak of “Polish aggression” when that country annexed parts of the supposedly inviolable Czechoslovakia, or why they do not speak of “Polish fascism” when it is well known that the Polish government is not only quite reactionary, but oppresses its own national minorities such as the Ukrainians and Jews.
Ultimately what we have here is a lack of understanding toward the German people. Few Englishmen or Americans ever travel to Germany and thus they are not only ignorant of German history, but they also lack any knowledge of the average German’s point of view. If we look from a historical perspective, we see that Germany has suffered a myriad of wars and invasions going back to Roman times. Indeed, the Romans themselves conquered much of Germany. But we need not go back so far into history to see why Germany is so driven toward militarism, as its critics claim. Geography suffices to explain German behavior.
Germany’s location in the center of Europe, surrounded on all sides by enemies, naturally makes defense a priority in the German mentality. Again we need not delve into the depths of ancient history for an example; we need only look to the recent memory of the Great War and Germany’s Schlieffen Plan to see how the need to fight on two fronts has become embedded in the German mindset; it is simply something the German cannot reasonably ignore. And when we consider how Germany lost that war and the humiliation it has suffered at the hands of the victors and their Versailles treaty, the average German’s resentment toward Western Europe is totally understandable.
Western hypocrites as of late love to criticize Germany’s so-called “rampant anti-Semitism,” but once again if they had bothered to actually go to Germany and speak with the men on the street, they might benefit from getting the German point of view. For one thing, the Germans see the Jews as the cause of their misfortunes following the Great War. To us, the anti-Jewish rhetoric may sound like demagogic scapegoating, but ask any German in a beer hall what the Jews have done to him and he will tell you the same thing- that the Communists are controlled by Jews, that “Red Jewish treachery” stabbed the German army in the back, leading to Germany’s defeat in the war and the humiliating Versailles treaty which followed. We might dispute such claims with numbers of Jewish citizens who loyally fought in the ranks of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies or by pointing out that the majority of Communist and Social Democrat party members are in fact non-Jewish, but we might take pause to ask what right we have to tell another nation its history. Germans, with the humiliation of the defeat so fresh in living memory, have a valid point of view as well.
Others criticize Germany’s supposedly racist, chauvinist policies, as well as German leader Adolf Hitler’s well known intentions to create an ethnically pure Lebensraum or “living space.” To those who call such a policy imperialist I would first ask whether they are prepared to demand that Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, or Japan give up their colonial empires. Germany was stripped of its empire at the end of the last war. Do we have a right to demand any people space in which to live and grow? Meanwhile, those who balk at the idea of a contiguous, ethnically pure German empire in Europe ought to keep in mind that it was not Germany’s National Socialists who pioneered the practice of eugenics or race laws. Indeed, Germany has taken its inspiration from that self-proclaimed bastion of freedom and democracy, the United States. Clearly any American critic of Germany must remove the mote from their eye before pointing out the speck in Germany’s.
Having taken into consideration the German point of view in politics and foreign policy, we can now return to the present crisis between Poland and Germany, where we initially began. For one thing, we rarely if ever see our mainstream media accurately represent Germany’s claims on supposedly Polish territory. We are constantly told about German sabre-rattling, yet we never hear anything in our press about the repeated outrages committed by Poles against ethnic Germans, left defenseless in what became to them a foreign country overnight. We are told that Germany is an aggressive country, while the fact that Germany is surrounded by expansionist enemies is completely ignored. To the West, Germany faces a hostile France and Britain. France, I remind the reader, has formal military treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union, but of course we never hear about aggressive French, Polish, or Soviet expansion.
If the reader is still in doubt as to the severity of the situation facing Germany, I would remind them that Germany was recently forced to counter a Bolshevik threat in Spain. Indeed, where were the condemnations for the Soviet Union when it sent thousands of men, tanks, planes, and tons of ammunition to prop up what some claimed to be the legitimately elected government? Certainly the Franco regime did not see things that way. And since Great Britain, France, and the United States were all more than willing to impose a non-intervention regime effectively embargoing the Republican, Communist-dominated government, with the United State going so far as to grant Franco’s forces oil on credit during the war, we clearly see that there are key questions of foreign policy in which the Western powers can find common ground with Germany and its allies. If we could come to an agreement then, and indeed if we could achieve an even greater understanding in Munich last year, who’s to say that we cannot do the same by seeking a compromise with Hitler and granting his rather reasonable, modest demands toward the obstinate Polish government. Is it not better to have Germany, standing there as a bastion against Asiatic Bolshevism, rather than a weak divided Poland which could not hope to withstand a Russian onslaught for more than a few weeks at best? I’d argue that Prime Minister Chamberlain certainly thinks so.
Indeed it was Chamberlain himself who brought us, as he called it, “peace in our time” at Munich. Now the warmongerers wish to tear up that document and plunge us into another bloody conflict, one which will almost inevitably involve as many nations as the last if not more. A kind of Second World War, if you will. If such a prospect does not sound too dire to those currently calling for a tougher stance against Hitler (who might be embarrassed to find Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on their side), I have been to countless German military parades and I can testify that Germany’s military might has truly exceeded that which it wielded in 1914. In 1916-1918 the German Reich scrambled to find an antidote to the British tank; now the German armies field entire divisions consisting of tanks of every sort. The German Luftwaffe possesses squadrons of modern aeroplanes which proved their effectiveness against Bolshevik flyers in the recent civil war in Spain. The German soldier is motivated, trained to a high degree, and prepared to defend his home soil to the last man. Is this a nation we truly want to provoke, and all for the sake of Poland, no less?
It is clear to any reasonable and educated man that we must come to an understanding with Mr. Hitler if we wish to avoid a Second World War. Germany has legitimate, security-related grievances which many Westerners are unable to perceive due to the lack of experience with foreign invasions and bloody attempted revolutions. It is time for our leaders to stop being stubborn, stop listening to hysterical war mongers, and instead show their willingness to compromise with Germany by granting them their modest demands in regards to Poland. They should seek counsel not from the Germanophobes but rather from those who truly understand Germany and its leaders, or Hitlerversteher as they are known in Germany. Such people are aware that even if we concede the point that Germany has been behaving aggressively as of late, we cannot deny that since 1919 we have pushed them in that direction. A compromise that involves giving Germany lands it once controlled for centuries will show Mr. Hitler that we are indeed reasonable people and reliable partners.
Dr. William Percival Thomas IV is a professor of Germanic History at Cambridge University who has spent considerable time in Germany both before and after the Great War.