THE GREAT LIE
"You have to live with the Germans, but it would be much better if they were chased out of Europe like the Arabs were once chased out of Spain." Andre Francois Poncet.
"What we want is that the German economy gets smashed entirely." Winston Churchill
To start off with, let's take one of its leading protagonists, Winston Churchill, who, "Lest we forget", was a ruthless imperialist and warmonger with many military disasters under his belt already - including in the Dardanelles during the First World War, as a result of which he was called "The Butcher of Gallipoli." The maverick historian, David Irving, may be on dubious ground regarding his denial of the Holocaust and his apologias for Hitler, who, he says, knew nothing of the camps - an assertion which reminds me of the Stalinists I have known who said Stalin knew nothing of the Gulags because Beria had kept the facts from him. And he may be on equally dubious ground in his adoption of the comforting myth that the British Empire was a civilising force wherever it went. However, I think he is on less dubious ground when he discusses politicians like Churchill, who seriously argued for the use of chemical and anthrax bombs on German cities and was only restrained by more sensible - probably less drunk - advisers, who could foresee the consequences of using such weapons on British citizens should Hitler respond in kind. Why do such facts never surface in most histories of the war especially those in which Churchill is presented as the untarnished hero and wise counselor of the hour? To be honest, Churchill doesn't come out too well in Liddell Hart's account either. Here's what he says regarding the campaign on the Malay Peninsula and Churchill's ruthlessness and willingness to sacrifice tens of thousands for the sake of 'imperial honour'. "The effect of the home Government's failure to provide such essential air-cover was not redressed by the appeals that Churchill and his military advisers now sent that "the battle should be fought to the bitter end at all costs", and that commanders "should die with their troops" for "the honour of the British Empire, carry out a general scorched-earth scheme" and destroy everything that might be useful to an occupier "with no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population.""
Nazism was a movement born of paranoid delusions which saw enemies everywhere - sometimes not without cause - but we shouldn't overlook what drove the German people into the arms of the Nazis in the first place. Britain, France, the USA, have nothing to be proud of when it comes to that little matter. They can't wash their hands completely of their contribution to the war. Nor indeed can the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia or Poland. To take one or two examples in the case of Poland. Why, if France and Britain were so committed to defending Poland's territorial integrity, did they not declare war on the Soviet Union after its invasion of Poland? And why also, after the Germans had invaded Poland, did France and Britain not come to Poland's rescue straight away by attacking Germany from the West at a time when its forces were otherwise preoccupied in the East? After all, the French and British had vastly more forces at their disposal than the Germans had, whose only superiority lay in its air-force. One can only assume that Poland was being set up as a patsy. Of course, the truth is that all these countries had their particular agendas and were pursuing those agendas to the hilt regardless of their impact on Germany and, in the case of countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland, the German minorities within their own territories. Another question which is never asked, and which is connected to this, is why the brutal and bloody pogroms against ethnic Germans in Poland both immediately prior to and at the start of the Second World War are never mentioned. Then there's the question of all the diplomatic comings and goings between France, Britain and Poland before the war, which were intended to reinforce Poland's foot-dragging over the question of the German regions within Poland. Such questions never arise in any discussion regarding the causes of the WW2, because there is an absolute need to paint Germany as the unprovoked aggressor and everyone else as its innocent victim. As for the Soviet Union, behind his peace-treaty with the Nazis, Stalin's strategy was to sit out the war he knew was coming until all sides were exhausted, and then, like the 'saviour' Napoleon, he would march in and impose 'revolution' at the point of a bayonet. "It is imperative for us that this war last as long as possible until both sides are exhausted. That's exactly what's in our interest." Uncle Joe said. According to Hitler's War; What The Historians Neglect To Mention, when the Germans finally did invade the Soviet Union they were amazed to find that Stalin had already prepared an invasion force of 6,000,000 soldiers, 25,000 tanks and 19,000 planes assembled in order to sweep across Europe when the right moment came. The fact that these forces were organised for attack rather than defence is the reason why they were so easily defeated during the German onslaught, which caught them completely off-guard.
And it doesn't end there. Once the war had begun, the Allies were intent on destroying Germany completely, not just on defeating the Nazis, and it was primarily for that reason that the war was prolonged as long as it was. Hitler's attempts to find a diplomatic solution to bring the war to an end were rebuffed every inch of the way. "How am I supposed to end this war? I really don't see any way to end it through political means." He is reported to have said once the war got into its stride. But simply ending the war or even defeating the Nazis was the last thing the allies wanted. The British diplomat and chief ideologue, Sir Robert Vansittart, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in the late Thirties and, later, Chief Diplomatic Advisor to the British Government, said. "The enemy is the German Reich, not merely Nazism and those who have not learnt this lesson, have learnt nothing whatsoever. All possibility of compromise has now gone by and it has got to be a fight to the finish and a real finish." He made no distinction between the German resistance and the Nazis themselves. "In the opinion of the author, it is an illusion to differentiate between the German right, centre or left or the German Catholics or Protestants, or the German workers or capitalists. They are all alike, and the only hope for a peaceful Europe is a crushing and violent military defeat followed by a couple of generations of re-education controlled by the United Nations." So, if Klaus Von Stauffenberg had succeeded in his assassination attempt on Hitler and a military coup had taken place disposed to negotiate peace-terms with the Allies, the war would still have continued because the real point of the war was not to defeat the Nazis but to completely smash Germany as a rival economic and political power.
What does this tell us about the people we are ruled by? That they have our interests at heart? Or do they rule us simply to advance their own agendas - and the interests of the class they represent? Ever since the late Nineteenth Century, Germany, with its more dynamic economy, had been a threat to British economic interests and would have continued to be so whether the Nazis had been in power or not. Germany in other words was a rival potential imperial power and would have been considered a threat whoever was in power. The Nazis committed hideous crimes. No one disputes that, except a few pro-Hitler revisionists and holocaust-deniers like David Irving. But war is also a crime and the fact that the Allies waged WWII not simply to win it militarily, but to accomplish the complete destruction of Germany, places them in the category of war-criminals along with the Nazis.
My purpose in saying all this is not to condemn the Allied powers specifically and place them in the dock. The Nazis did far worse things after all. However, it is important to deconstruct some of the myths which surround WW2 - myths which seem to have underwritten most other forms of western aggression ever since. This was particularly in evidence during the Falkland/Malvinas dispute of 1982, the Gulf War of 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, where Saddam Hussein was presented as Hitler's re-incarnation, Tony Blair was praised for his 'Churchillian' qualities and those who opposed the invasion were equated with Neville Chamberlain's 'appeasers'. In the Falklands/Malvinas dispute, for instance, Thatcher wrapped herself up in the mantle of Churchill, while ordering the sinking of the General Belgrano to scupper any chance of a negotiated settlement with Argentina. (A very very Churchillian touch.) Thanks to her prolonging this war, she rose high in the polls, when not long before she was extremely unpopular. Churchill was confronted with exactly the same political dilemma, which is why he didn't respond to Hitler's many peace overtures, the most high-profile of which, of course, was Rudolf Hess's secret landing in Scotland to attempt to negotiate peace-terms. Peace was the last thing Churchill wanted. Had he responded to these overtures, he would have been out in the political wilderness again, as he was before the war and when the war was finally over, and, considering that he was in love with the limelight, that's the last place he wanted to be. Owing to its anti-fascist nature, the Second World War has been called The People's War, but if it was a people's war, it was one in which the people on all sides fought on behalf of ruling-classes which were very far from having their interests at heart. Not so much a case of Good versus Evil, but an avoidable tragedy of enormous dimensions in which none of the parties comes up smelling of roses.
Not only have Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin been paraded before their own peoples as paragons of virtue and knights in shining armour, taking up the cudgels of Good against Evil, Hitler himself has been presented as this Punch and Judy figure who stands for all that is Evil against all that is Good. History treats him purely and simply as the villain of the piece, the pantomime baddy with no nuance or element of complexity in the portrayal at all. It's a bit like the way we paint the 'Mad Mullahs' in charge of Iran at the moment. What should be remembered about Hitler is that, like the 'Mad Mullahs', he was a survivor; which suggests he had considerable political nous and knew how to play the political game to stay in the race. In that sense, he was far from mad, though that doesn't mean that he wasn't deluded in many of his beliefs - including his desire to make peace with the British, his admiration of the British Empire and belief in a world-conquering Germano-British alliance. Because he had such an inexplicable and quixotic soft spot for the British, he pulled back from wiping them out at Dunkirk and he even offered to provide troops for the British in defence of its Empire - including against his own Axis allies. Hitler desperately wanted peace with the British, since he believed that his real enemy was the Soviet Union, not Britain. It makes political and military sense. Britain at that stage was in no position to threaten German power in mainland Europe, whereas Stalin was. However, Churchill was having none of it. Take, for example, the little matter of the Blitz, which, believe it or not, Hitler had wanted to avoid for the reasons already mentioned. The sequence of events which led up to it began when a lost German bomber inadvertently dropped its undropped bombs on London. This gave Churchill the perfect pretext to bomb Berlin. Matters would have rested there, but he ordered the raids to continue until Hitler was forced to retaliate. Churchill is reported to have been looking for the perfect opportunity to provoke the Germans into bombing London in order to shore up his own crumbling political support on the home-front. If the Germans bombed London, he correctly surmised, the British would rally behind him, just as, later on, German civilians would rally behind Hitler, when their cities were bombed. That this made Churchill a war-criminal against the Londoners he so cynically provoked the Germans into bombing did not stop him becoming the cigar-smoking hero of the hour. He was okay; he could retreat into his Downing Street bunker and hide from the bombs. He also had a secret 'bolthole' in the country - the home of one of his aristocratic cronies - which he could go to when he knew an air-raid was immanent until the danger was over, a 'bolt-hole' from which, the following day, he could return and act out the role of heroic war-leader who shared in his people's sufferings and risks. When you look at him without blinkers, 'the Greatest Englishman' ever, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, so beloved of the British Establishment, acted no differently from any other psychopathic politician and war-criminal, including the late, unlamented Margaret Thatcher.
The director of the film, Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel has received some flak I believe for challenging the usual caricature of Hitler and presenting him in a more complex light than people are used to. It is as if a complex portrayal of Hitler was necessarily in conflict with the fact that he was also a deluded fanatic and tyrant. With such universal support for the official myth, it is hardly any wonder that the Second World War did not produce the great crop of writers, artists, poets, musicians and film-makers which The First World War had produced. Had the writers, artists, poets, musicians and film-makers simply been suckered by the official mythology? Art doesn't exist to support official mythologies, but to probe and dig beneath the surface of the lies people live. And to do this, it cannot afford to have inhibitions. World War One was a load of bollocks; everyone knew that by the end, but the mythology of World War Two served to integrate everyone, artists and poets included, and integrated into official mythologies is the last thing artists and poets should be.
I have often asked myself how the German people could have let themselves be taken in by the Nazis like that. After all, it couldn't have been much fun for them having to do the Hitler-salute all the time. I personally would have hated all that conformity, the regimentation of life it involved, the ritualised ways of behaving which banished all spontaneity, the love of uniforms and uniformity, the lack of freedom to say what you thought, the in-your-face populism and contempt towards 'unacceptable' or 'decadent' art, not to mention the stupid racism and much else besides. And I'm sure I wouldn't have been alone either. Was it something to do with the German 'national psyche' which predisposed the German people towards militarism and knee-jerk fascism? Or was it rather that ever since the Versailles Treaty the German people had been driven into a corner and Hitler offered himself as the only way out of that corner, and once they had committed themselves to taking that way out, there was no turning back for them; they had fallen into his trap. One thing seems certain and that is that the intoxicated abandon with which the German people turned their back on 'democracy' and saw Hitler as their saviour shows that they did not feel at all empowered or well served by 'democracy'. It's hardly surprising; we are beginning to know the feeling ourselves.
Some have called The Second World War a continuation of The First World War, and that makes a great deal of sense. Thanks to the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty and the attitude of the victors after World War One, Germany would have its face rubbed in the dirt for well over a decade. It created a great deal of justified hatred and resentment among the German population. Then, of course, there was the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which, thanks to the terms of the Versailles Treaty, hit the German economy especially hard and caused huge unemployment, poverty and hunger. A combination of all these factors would probably have been enough to drive any people to desperation. (Similar conditions are emerging in Greece and Spain today.) Finally, let's not forget the role played in all this by the actual victors of World War One - the British, the French, the Americans - who have been able to get away with it precisely because, along with the Russians, they were also the victors of World War Two and have been able to shape the mythology which grew from it.