Tuesday, July 31, 2018

24. Germany's Re-armament Begins

One chapter left after this one. I have almost finished blogging through Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer.

Chapter 27: France is to blame
1.  When Hitler took power, he said that if armament negotiations collapsed again, it would be France's fault. A year and a half later, Germany was rearming, and France was considered to blame. France was considered to blame because, after a year and a half, France decided no longer to negotiate with Germany.

Now it is not clear that negotiations would have led to a different result. Germany seemed to be on a course to rearm no matter what. Hitler was playing nice. He sounded like he wanted to make a deal with everyone. We don't want war, he kept saying. That would be madness. He had a knack of sounding like he was the good guy and making the truly good guys seem like the bad guys.

"It would be a gigantic event for all mankind if both nations, once and for all, should banish force from their mutual relations... Only a madman could conceive the possibility of war between the two countries [of Germany and France]," Hitler said (688). He was of course a madman pretending to be sane.

It is fascinating how people can latch on to the one sane word an obviously imbalanced person can say. They try to steer the madman to the right words. "No, that's not what you mean." "No, that's a little closer but not quite." "You're almost there. Try it again." "Ah, look, he said it! And you were saying he was crazy or evil or a liar. His very words prove you wrong."

2. Heiden suggests that when Schacht, the leader of Germany's finances, made the decision to destroy Germany's currently, he set Germany on a course to win back its place in the world by force rather than by the hard and slow way of growing power by peace and agreement.

To begin with Germany had to make friends with its neighbors. The strategy was to deal with each state individually rather than as a block. At this Hitler proved very adept. One by one he pealed off the old alliances after Versailles until France was totally isolated. As Heiden said in the previous chapter, the modest, official army of 300,000 for which Hitler sought permission could not face the match of a united alliance, but it was great enough to win against any one enemy on its own.

Then again, Hitler had millions in his SA, which he insisted was not an army. If Hitler said it, it must be true, right? Hitler promised everyone almost everything. He told the Italians, for example, that he would expect the independence of Austria (of course, if the Austrian Nazis took over and wanted to join Germany on their own, he wouldn't stop them)

3. Austria had a sizable group of National Socialists. In 1934, they attempted a coup to overthrow the government, but they failed. Fascism was sweeping the continent.

In England, the main opponents to Germany were the English left, which conservatives simply branded as communists whom they said were just as much a threat.

France proposed an 8 year moratorium on arms to Germany. America agreed. Sure, said Hitler. Whatever.

They carried on the mock trial of some communists for the Reichstag fire. Only one of the men was actually found guilty. He was officially pardoned in 2008. "German justice did not have the courage to look for the officially unknown incendiaries" (686).

As part of its "divide the alliance" strategy, Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference that had been working to keep Europe from re-arming and escalating its potential for war. This was in October 1933.

Hitler put this to a vote in Germany under the mantra "Do you want peace?" It one 90% of the vote. What choice did they really have. To the rest of the world, they thought it was "either Hitler or Bolshevikism."

4. The hope had been collective security, like NATO today. If you attack one of us, you attack all of us. A unified Europe could have kept Hitler in check. "But there was no Europe" (690). The memory of WW1 was probably still to fresh in mind. England was not willing to go to war for France. America was not willing to go to war for any of them. Norman Davis stated clearly that the US was "in no way aligned with any European power."

Even Winston Churchill argued that England and France should go it alone, which Prime Minister MacDonald predicted inevitably meant war at some point or another. He was right. Meanwhile, the French had no desire to reinstate mandatory service in the military.

Hitler negotiated one on one with Poland. They abolished their parliament and ceased being a democracy. Autocracy was in the water in Europe, even in France, especially in Italy. Hungary had become somewhat of a dictatorship even before Hitler took power. Democracy was after all none to old in most of Europe.

The Soviet Union under Stalin was initially vocal against the fascists, expecting a Bolshevik revolution to sweep Europe at any moment. Then Stalin began to play the game. As long as everyone stayed within their borders, they were fine.

5. Negotiations, negotiations. What did Hitler care? Time was on his side. He was moving forward, saying all the right things to all the right people. He had successfully divided the coalitions, the allies, the "collective security." The only other real option now was for each country to start building its armies, its air forces. Churchill urged the expansion of British airplanes. Germany would be in a position to threaten England by air in a year and a half, maybe sooner.

Some Lords called for appeasement, which became the official British policy. Others said that England only had two or three years left to stop the danger of Germany.

The Disarmament Conference was no longer meaningful. And the Germans started a careful census of its raw materials.

Previously on Hitler:

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