Another perspective of World War II

сряда, 2 септември 2015 г.

Acad. Georgi Markov

How do you think the world would've been if Hitler had won WW2
Published in "Macedonian review", year XXXVIII, 2015, 2, pages 17-25.

World War II was a clash of nations and ideologies, and a fierce struggle for resources. None of the warring parties was entirely right. Crimes of the Tripartite Pact forces and their allies can not to be justified, but the crimes of their opponents must also be recognized. Achieving balance in evaluations, conclusions and generalizations requires bringing disguised so far
“inconvenient evidence”. This would help to correct upbringing of the younger generation that needs its heroes, but not at the expense of the “guilty of everything”. Wise people advise us to seek first the mistakes in ourselves, but in military history often they are dumped entirely on others.

Recently, the tendency was established in European historiography to replace events with "micro-history" of everyday life in the name of reconciliation. This is understandable from a political perspective, but not from a scientific perspective, because everyday life history only adds events, or in the case military events. Lurked issues should be clarified objectively and without consideration of the consequences of the biggest war because they do not meet the root causes. If historians keep silent about them, that does not mean they do not exist and are not asked by people. Better to read the whole page rather than selected excerpts, suspecting that Truth is deliberately revealed “in half”.

 In 1773, the Russian Empress Catherine II the Great stated authoritatively and “forever”: "No one judge the winners!" Unfortunately, the majority of historians prefer for convenience to follow obediently the winners and write on their behalf and in their name the history of wars. Defeated not only have the no right to “last word”, but they are charged with all war crimes regardless of their perpetrator. Before international tribunals are brought only previously branded “born villains”, while other proven war criminals proudly and laden with orders are marching “victory parade”.

  Because crimes against humanity really have no legal prescription, let history at least try to be fairer than the ostentatious and exemplary political processes. A crime cannot justify another, no matter if it is preceding or surpassing in scope. In the History, apart from the Truth there must be Justice. What is unfair for some people may not be fair to others.

  The viewpoint of the losers in the biggest war must refute the established as the sole authoritative version of the winners. Warring parties allow mass murder with a different character, but “death camps” cannot delete the extermination of civilians in Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the name of the “good cause”. The sinking of the overcrowded refugee ships is not justified even in response to the “wolf packs” of German submarine fleet. The ethnic cleansing of millions of Germans because of the secretive arrangements of “Big Three” of the Yalta conference strikingly reminiscent of Nazi plans for “New Europe”.

  Although “peacemakers” of the Paris Conference 1919–1920 kept repeating that “the last war in history” was survived, that's where the seeds were sown for the next even more devastating Great War. The basic principle “losers pay” is contrary to their territorial, economic and political status, and on top the blame is put on them for starting and waging the war “in conflict of laws, conventions and customs”. Not those responsible politicians were punished, but entire nations “misled” by them. Fabulous reparations became too strenuous with the outbreak of World economic crisis in autumn 1929, and its growing lesions cause victims to choose “bread before freedom”.

 Winners disarm the vanquished, but continue to accumulate weapons with the condition “Security for us”. The losers are placed in the humiliating position to become defenceless subject to “military walk and occupation”. World Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 1932–1933 adhered to the military clauses of the peace treaty with some minor changes in the division between defensive and offensive weapons. This prompted the Third Reich to leave the League of Nations and to proceed unilaterally arming.

 Overcoming Eurocentrism required recognizing that after the First World War “Europe is no longer the world”, though still retained the colonial possessions. Geopolitical centres increased to five: the British Empire, the rest of Europe, Soviet Union, Japan and the United States. World War II began in 

Asia with the start of the Japanese-Chinese war for Manchuria on September 18, 1931 and ends there again with the signing of the unconditional surrender of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay. Chinese civil war (1927–1937) between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party was directly related to the policy of the Soviet Union and the Comintern. Joseph Stalin was making great efforts for its termination and the creation of a “united national front” against the aggression of Japan, thus distracting its forces in southern direction. Fighting at Lake Hasan and river Halhin Gaulle (1938–1939) proved that the Red Army was not the army of the Russian Empire from 1904–1905 г.

The war of fascist Italy for conquest of Abyssinia in 1935–1936 was assessed as a strategic opportunity for rapprochement with the Third Reich in the Anti-Comintern pact. The inability of the League of Nations to protect “the Versailles order” through military sanctions opened the way to the redrawing of borders. Spanish Civil War in 1936–1939 upheld the “policy of non-interference” and the desire of Britain and France to divert “revisionist forces” to local or regional conflicts.

The program for "accession of Germans" in the Third Reich contained consistent Accession of Austria, Sudetenland, Memel and Corridor with Danzig, but Adolf Hitler impinged on Czech Republic, which violated the ethnic principle. Substituting unjust “Versailles order” with another also unfair “New order” denigrated the rights case of the vanquished. This enables the “peacekeepers” to vilify them en gross as “aggressors” and declare themselves “innocent victims”.

The great strategic dancing between the “pacification” of Neville Chamberlain and the “clash between the imperialist predators” of Stalin in 1938–1939 ended with a convincing success of the Kremlin. Consequential response to the Munich Agreement was non-aggression pact “Ribbentrop – Molotov” that accelerated the war in Europe to the detriment of the West. Every major Power played by its own rules contrary to international law, but was not always able to impose them everywhere. Then this Power complained that others “do not play by the rules”, that is its rules.

 The “Thunderbolt war” against Poland did not allow the Western democracies to provide substantial support. In fact, it was a pre-victimized while enough forces could be concentrated in Belgium and the line “Maginot” fortified. Soviet-Finnish war in the winter of 1939–1940 displayed the Red Army in a bad light which mislead Hitler about the vulnerability of the “Colossus with feet of clay”. In the same time the Third Reich anticipated the planned by Winston Churchill Landing Force operation in Norway and took over the fjords of Scandinavia, as convenient placement of naval bases.

The biggest surprise in Europe was the galloping defeat of France as the mainstay of the “Versailles system”. The world was stunned witness how the new strategy of “Thunderbolt war” defeated in full speed the outdated positional strategy. But Hitler did not complete the impact of the destruction of the enemy, leaving the British Expeditionary Force and the remnants of the French army to escape the continent in Dunkirk. He vainly hoped to achieve peace with the British Empire and accomplish more recently programmed yet in “Mein Kampf” – “crusade against Bolshevism”. So strategy became a victim of ideology and common sense was overshadowed by fanaticism for “the extermination of the Jews Bolsheviks”.

 Suffered lesson for Berlin was never to fight on two fronts. The original intent of the Sea Lion drop operation was changed in view of the need to have air supremacy over the “Island stronghold” and thus to overcome the enemy's dominance at sea. In fact, the “Battle of Britain” is not completely won by the British, but rather terminated by Hitler to concentrate Wehrmacht in the East against the Soviet Union. Fuhrer underestimated the power of the Bolsheviks and overestimated his own forces, which was mortally and doubly wrong.

 “Weakness” of the Tripartite Pact Forces was lack of material resources for conducting a protracted war. “Peripheral strategy” provided the conquest of North Africa and the Middle East, which should cut “the main blood artery” of the British Empire. Benito Mussolini was not able though to create on his own the “New Roman Empire” through his unfortunate “Parallel war” and Hitler did not provided enough forces for advancing toward the Suez Canal. Moreover, Mussolini’s adventure against Greece on 28 October 1940 and the coup in Belgrade on March 27, 1941 required the diversion of two German armies and one fleet to the Balkans, which delayed the start of Barbarossa Operation with 5 fateful weeks.

 Fulminant defeat of Yugoslavia and Greece dramatically changed the geopolitical map of the European Southeast. On April 13, 1941 in Vardar Macedonia, Bulgarian Action Committees were created, whose Central Committee in Skopje came with a heartfelt appeal: “Bulgarians! Macedonia is free! Macedonia is free forever! Macedonia is free in all-Bulgarian national community”. Taking local government the Committees call King Boris III to send “as soon as possible” the army and administration to integrate the released land to the Fatherland. On April 19, the First Army intervened in the lands confiscated under the dictates of Bucharest and Neuilly, greeted enthusiastically by the Bulgarian population. The occupation of the Aegean by the Second Army started on April 24 and on May 9 also the islands of Thasos and Samothrace were invaded. Newly liberated lands were designated in Berlin as “areas under Bulgarian control”, while the land issue be finally resolved after the Second World War. So Hitler kept under pressure the “loyal comrades” of the First World War to engage more forcefully in the effort and sacrifice of the Tripartite  Pact. From German and Italian captivity, 12 669 Bulgarians were released that forcibly served in the Yugoslav and Greek armies.

 Hitler's propaganda thesis of “preventive war” against the Soviet Union did not meet the facts available. It is true that, like each army, also the Red Army had offensive plans, but it was still in a state of reorganization and rearmament. Stalin delayed intervention in the biggest war with 22 months and required 12 months peace and Hitler precisely because of this did not provided them and attacked him without the need for justifying the occasion. For him, the Soviet Union was weaker opponent than the British Empire, which he believed can handle in only about three and a half months. The Fuhrer like Napoleon in other historical circumstances will become a victim of the ratio between space and time, and the other side would not ask for truce and peace.

 WWII should be studied not only as a war between nations, but also of ideologies, both with their fierce rivalry and the strange combinations: Nazis and Bolsheviks, democrats and communists, pacifists and militarists, believers and atheists. “Big policy” is viewed as the ratio of power and interests, in which no place was left to morality. Winners argued solely on the question “who is winning more”. “Inevitably occurring victims” are transferred to the conscience of enemy leaders, though they were “completely devoid of it”!

 The discrepancy between the reversal in Japan from “Northern to Southern strategy” and that of Germany “from Western to Eastern Europe” in the fall of 1940 will be fatal. Failure of Four Covenant on account of the British Empire was due to the desire of Hitler and Stalin to dominate primarily in the “Old World”. Anglo-Saxon Forces received the rare opportunity to attract the Soviet Union in the coalition war against the Tripartite Pact, which changed the course of world history.

The role of the United States as the “Arsenal of Democracy” was dependent on the strength of isolationism. The war, however, gradually became desirable because of falling in the “second bottom” of the economic crisis in 1937–1938. Franklin Roosevelt was pushing the country to the “War against dictatorships”, but apart for democracy once again it was a question about the gold stocks of European countries. The economy of the United States reached a peak at the height of World War II. The dispute in US military strategy was on the main direction: the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or the Pacific to Asia?

  The main difference between the belligerents was in purposes, but not in the means to achieve them “at any price”. “Total war” did not distinguish front from back and does not spare civilians. Military economy was crucial, which was why factories were being destroyed together with their workforce. “Breaking the spirit of the people” required its partial destruction, in which Western democracies have greater technical capabilities. Shared responsibility was rejected by politicians, but according to the historian is mandatory.

With the beginning of the war between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 the decisive Eastern Front was established of World War II. Unprecedented breadth of hostilities was impressive with the violence and victims, as well as the resilience of socio-political systems. Only totalitarian Power as the Soviet Union could resist so powerful “lightning strikes” inflicted by another totalitarian Power as the Third Reich. Stalin retreat space to gain time, because reorganization and rearmament of the Red Army were not completed. He was forced to abandon the “World proletarian revolution” and to rely on recently denied Russian nationalism and even rooted Orthodox Christianity. Led by the bias of “racial superiority” Hitler unwittingly helped him, despising the Slavs as “incomplete halfmen”, to which he was not carrying the “liberation from Bolshevism” but ruthless enslavement.

Winning stunning victories “Lightning War” turns into a long war of attrition and the ratio of resources was not in favour of Germany. Therefore Hitler subjected strategy to economics and shifted the brunt in Ukraine and the Caucasus, with which he was late beyond repair for Moscow. Supported by the Siberian divisions and “General Frost” Stalin proved that the Wehrmacht was not invincible and can be “dethroned at the gates of the capital”. In the interest of objectivity, it must be pointed out that the Germans stopped progression and in some sections of fronts already withdrawn before the start of the Soviet counteroffensive.

The United States was firmly enveloped in isolationism and Roosevelt wondered how, at any cost, to put them in the war. He deliberately exacerbated relations with Japan to cause Japan to break them and attack first. Deciphering radiograms between Tokyo and embassies abroad provided a valuable opportunity to know the plans of the other side. The president moved the main base of the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, which were not sufficiently protected and were closer to Japan. Samurai caste “grabbed the bait” and on 7 December 1941 their fleet attacked battleships; aircraft carriers, however, were prudently withdrawn. Roosevelt angrily cursed the “unexpected cowardly attack” and his countrymen already fiercely supported him in the pursuit of war. Moreover, he was able to predict the reaction of “Enemy № 1”. Hitler declared war on the United States and thus the creation of a powerful coalition happened entitled by the surname of the Fuhrer.

This strange coalition between ideological enemies and geopolitical allies was justified by the desire to gain the victory over the common enemy, and then to distribute its fruits according to the contribution of each. Western democracies were not able to prevail over the Third Reich due to which they paid with weapons and strategic resources for the millions of victims of the Red Army. In the battle of Midway Island, the United States turned the war course in the Pacific, and the British Empire achieved the same in North Africa in the battle of El Alamein in Egypt. A radical change in the course of the war, however, was made at Stalingrad on the Volga with the destruction of the German 6th Army.

 Stalin allies had to open a second front in North-Western France, but Churchill preferred to control North Africa and through Sicily to invade the Apennines. Fortunately for the Balkan nations he failed to push before the others “Two Bigs” his “Balkan variant” with the introduction of Turkey into the war, which meant terrible devastation between the Aegean Sea and the Danube. Dropping out of fascist Italy of the Tripartite Pact made it an allied of the anti-Hitler coalition even without being at war and became an example to follow by other allies of Hitler. Finland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary were not recognized for allies, although they also turn weapons against the Third Reich.

 With the defeat suffered in the Kursk arc in the summer of 1943 the Wehrmacht completely lost the strategic initiative and went to “elastic defence by shortening and alignment to the front”. Roosevelt invented the deadly formula of “unconditional surrender”, which gave no other option to the opponent but to fight “to the last bullet in unequivocal opposition”. Strategic aviation of Britain and the United States opened the “air offense front” by destroying the German industrial centres through the “carpet bombing” or “bombardment by space”.

 Insisting to have his “security zone” in Europe, Stalin agreed with Churchill through the “Secret Protocol” to the Treaty of Alliance between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom (26 May 1942) and the “Percentage Protocol” (9 October 1944) confirmed at the conferences in Teheran and Yalta, to include in it the Baltics, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Britain kept  within its sphere of influence Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia and Italy. After the Second World War, Churchill justified that he was deceived by “Uncle Joe” with the promise of “universal, free and fair elections”, which was a political 

  With the Allied landings in northwest and southern France in the summer of 1944 the doomed Third Reich found itself between four land and one air fronts. Survival of Hitler in the attack of 20 July 1944 met with great relief by the coalition against him, because no negotiations were foreseen for an armistic and peace with his likely successors. Red Army proceeded to the seizure of East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia and the Sudetenland, committing ethnic cleansing of the German population, aided by Polish and Czech squad. Mass murders, robbery and violence were legitimized by “Big Three” at the Potsdam conference, where Poland was “compensated” for the line “Curzon” with the lands to the rivers Oder and Western Neisse together with living there before the war 15 million Germans. Of them about one million civilians have been destroyed, but winners invoke “errors in the statistics of the census”. Soviet submarine submerged ships in the Baltic Sea, teeming with refugees because they had “for what to avenge”.

   Churchill executed his threat to “Coventry” German cities, as the peak of wickedness was destroying, by air strikes on Dresden, 135 000 women, children and old people, as the total number of civilians killed in the “Marshal Harris' bomb rectangles” was 620 000. British and American troops acted with the conviction that “the Germans were all together guilty and must pay for the crimes of Hitler”. In the liberated concentration camps were put not only “war criminals” but also mayors, judges, journalists and even teachers who were judged on “the short procedure” by military tribunals. The destruction of Nazism was associated with the elimination of the German state and “re-education of the German people”.

 The unconditional surrender of the Third Reich was a prerequisite for the division of Europe, but also for the emergence of the first inevitable and destructive cracks in the anti-Hitler coalition. The new president Harry Truman follows a “hard line” in an effort to raise the United States to “the only  superpower in the world”. During the Potsdam conference, the Manhattan Nuclear Project ended successfully. Atomic monopoly gave extraordinary confidence of authoritative circles in Washington. Left “alone against all” Japan was seeking to conclude “honourable peace”, but it was asked for “unconditional surrender”. Massive bombing razed 98 Japanese cities and kill their 269,197 inhabitants, of which 115 000 in Tokyo. Emperor Hirohito saw clearly the futility of further resistance.

  Stalin terminated the Neutrality Pact with Japan and was in a hurry to intervene supporting the Chinese Communist Party in the struggle against the Kuomintang for the seizure of power in Beijing. He rejected any mediation between Japan and the United States. In turn Truman no longer wanted the help of the Red Army and decided to wave the “nuclear club” to his “insolent ally”. Despite the absence of military necessity he ordered the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (6 and 9 August 1945), the victims of direct hits and radiation sickness reached 340 000 people. However, the Red Army entered on August 9 in Manchuria. With the unconditional surrender of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945 ended the Greatest War of all time.

 International military tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo were not international, because they excluded the representatives of defeated nations, except those put in the dock. Winning war criminals hanged defeated war criminals. Although, in history, there is no conditional “if”, if the ultimate victory was on the side of the Tripartite Pact, then the “Big Three” would hang on the gallows. Actually, if we need to be fair, war criminals from both warring parties should be executed together, because they are together responsible for the death of 60 million human beings.

 Even the ancients knew that “God loves winners at home”, but the suspicion remains that God knew them enough. It is true that the losers in the best case can sometimes cause regret and sympathy, but “victory parade” are the crown of deeds, but not all of them are worthy of honour. Frontline has two sides, so one can always write at least two stories of the same events. The trouble is that some imagine that as the winner is single, also history should be only one, which is 

      In war, everyone hopes to be a winner, but if there is one someone else will need to be defeated. The biggest win is when a man overcomes his own prejudices, because then a loser is not necessary. In History, as in life, all happens. Refuting the imposed rule that “winners are always right” and more over “no one can judge them” worth the effort. We are all responsible to history  and no one has advantage to deliberately conjure its truth, which is also subject to doubt and proof. So let's be if not equal, at least equally placed before the Court of History that has nothing to do with a military tribunal. Once, in the Roman Empire, they asked “facts first” to avenge the right according to the  principle “Also the other”. And today, it is the duty of the historian, to whom conscientious study of the past stands above his one-sided politicization.

(Viewpoint of the author is justified in his scientific work “Another story of the biggest war”. Books I–II. Sofia, Zahari Stoyanov Publishing, 2014–2015)

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