January 08, 2003

And so it begins

It is 1919, and the most hellish war the world has ever seen has drawn to a close. An entire generation of young men have been sacrificed on the bloody altars of Plague, Nerve Gas, Trench Warfare, and most of all, Politics. In Louis XIV's palace, the Big Four sign a piece of paper. Peace and prosperity return.

It is 1923, and Germany lies exhausted and drained, broken by the punitive terms of the Versailles Treaty. The mark is worth less then one one-hundredth of a cent; children use bundles of bills as building blocks in the street. A frustrated painter rises to the top of an obscure political party and launches a revolution from a beer-hall. He fails, and spends the next two years recounting His Struggle from his prison cell.

It is 1928, and the representatives of 15 countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Britain, and the United States, sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact. War is made illegal. The pact is soon accepted by every major country in the world.

It is 1929, and a bad day on the stock market becomes a world-wide depression that casts millions into abject poverty. America demands repayment of war loans from Britain and France, and pressures Germany for payment of reparations. Britain and France respond by... pressing Germany for payment of reparations.

It is January 30, 1933, and Hitler is elected Chancellor of Germany. It is February, 1933, and Hitler outlaws the German Communist Party and arrests their leaders. A new prison camp in Dachau is constructed for their confinement. It is April, 1933, and the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei receives 43% of the vote. It is May, 1933, and the Nazi Party organizes book-burnings; thousands burn anti-German books. It is July, 1933, and trade unions are abolished along with all other political parties. America sleeps; Europe watches uneasily but lacks the resolve or interest to interfere.

It is June, 1934, and the Schutzstaffeln --- originally Hitler's bodyguard contingent, now numbering in the thousands --- coldly murder potential rivals to Hitler in the Nazi party. No one outside of Germany notices.

It is September, 1935, and the Nuremberg Race laws turn paranoid delusions into statute. Jews are stripped of their rights as human beings. No one outside of Germany notices.

It is October, 1935, and Italian troops invade Ethiopia. The impotent League of Nations lodges a protest --- after the invasion has finished. Mussolini announces a "Rome-Berlin Axis" around which Europe revolves.

It is March, 1936, and German solders return to the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. The terms of the Versailles Treaty are broken, giving France the right to invade. France, not wishing to provoke a war, declines.

It is July, 1937, and a clash of Japanese and Chinese solders outside Peking becomes a full-scale Japanese assault. It is December, 1937, and the Japanese take the Chinese city of Nanking. 250,000 men, women and children are slaughtered in a bloodbath that lasts days. America, slumbering and stumbling under the weight of its own troubles, limits itself to sharp denunciations. The war between Japan and the forces of Chaing Kai-chek continues for several year, worrying no one.

It is March, 1938, and Germany announces their intention to unify all of the Germanic peoples under one state. Austria is absorbed into Germany without a shot being fired. It is October, 1938, and Germany invade the Sudetenland, citing persecution of Germanic Czechs.

It is November 9, 1938, the Night of Broken Glass. Thousands of Jewish storefronts are smashed, thousand of synagogues are brunt, and hundreds of Jews are killed. 30,000 Jews are arrested and sent to camps. Afterwards, Jews are forced to clean the mess and to pay a $400,000,000 fine. No one outside of Germany notices.

It is March, 1939, and Germany takes the rest of Czechoslovakia. The world holds its breath.

It is August, 1939, and Russia signs a non-aggression pact with Germany. It is September, 1939, and Germany invades Poland. Poland collapses under the lightning-fast German advance. Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declare war on Germany. Russia appears to demand its share as it invaded Poland two weeks later; Poland is divided between the two invading armies. Britain lands troops on the north of France, but the Allies fight the "phony war" solely with strongly-worded proclamations.

It is November, 1939, and Hitler escapes an assassination attempt miraculously unharmed.


It is December 24, 1939, and you receive a telegram. You have one week to get to Portland, Maine.

Posted by jon at January 8, 2003 12:09 PM

"An entire generation of young men have been sacrificed on the bloody altars of Plague, Nerve Gas, Trench Warfare, and most of all, Politics."

Even more than Politics, it seems, it was driven by Racism. I have been recently struck by just how much people writing before the First World War interpreted everything in light of "national characters", and the superior grit and virtue of the British Race over the greedy German Race, or the decadent French, or vice versa or what have you. When the war started, it seems like everybody was just spoiling for a fight.

It almost seems like it took the Great War to get people to stop looking at things that way.

Posted by: colin on January 8, 2003 01:47 PM
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