The Decline of Nazism

I think it’s fitting that I post the fourth installment of my series on Nazism on Yom HaShoah – the day of remembrance and mourning for those lost in Shoah (the Holocaust).

By the time war broke out, life for Germans in Germany had become relatively nice – at least in comparison to what it had been like in the years following the Treaty of Versailles. The war effort required work from all who were able. All Germans were promised a home, a car, and an annual vacation. Those deemed a threat to the Aryan race, however, suffered horrors that the rest of the world only heard whispers of for many years. In 1941, the wearing of a yellow Star of David with “Jude” embroidered on it became compulsory for all Jews in German-held territories. Ghettos were being emptied, the Jews inhabiting them sent to concentration camps. Those capable of working were led through gates topped with the now-infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes You Free”) sign. They would live a miserable existence where they would have their heads shaved, their possessions stolen, an inmate number tattooed on their forearm, and starvation coupled with brutal manual labor.

The rest would be stripped and marched into what they were told would be a shower. Instead they were gassed to death. Still others would be forced to dig their own mass grave before being lined up and shot. The wholesale extermination of the Jews, along with Romani (Gypsies), homosexuals and other “undesirables”, was in full swing by 1942. An extremely anti-Jewish museum exhibit was displayed in Paris in 1941.

On the war front, Hitler had sent the Luftwaffe to bomb England in preparation for an invasion. He was intent on taking England. At the same time, Adolf Hitler had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, but he had no intention of keeping it. He hinted long before the pact was signed that he wanted to take the Soviet homeland, in part because he believed they were ruled by Jews (never mind the widespread pogroms in the Soviet Union). When Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania joined Hitler’s Tripartate Pact, he finally felt ready to mount a major assault on the frigid Soviet nation. He sent five and a half million troops, half a million heavy armored vehicles and three-quarter million horses.

Hitler had no intention of making Napoleon’s mistake – being defeated by the horrid Russian winter. He ordered his mass offensive to begin in May 1941 (it was pushed back a month when his greed for land led to Nazi invasions in Greece and Yugoslavia). While the Wehrmacht’s first strike was devastating to the Soviets, Nazi generals began fighting over which target was more important. The Nazis advanced 600 miles into Soviet territory and took over three million prisoners by November 1941. They were looking into Moscow when the infighting reached a fever pitch. German supply lines were nearly broken and winter was setting in – their troops were not prepared for the extreme cold. After the first major blizzard, on December 5, Soviet forces mounted a counterattack. German heavy equipment was useless in the sub-zero temperatures. The counterattack was devastating to the Germans.

Two days later, the Japanese bombed the US Navy at Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt declared war on Japan as a result, and four days after the bombing Hitler declared war on the United States. He was still living in denial that Germany could win with her military stretched so thin; fighter planes that could have turned the tide against the Soviets had already been shot down over England. After the defeat at Moscow, fighting ground nearly to a halt. Hitler was able to re-supply his troops and send reinforcements.

While he was trying to hold up the offensive in Russia, he had given up on invading England. He had a new threat: the United States. His declaration of war was all America needed to finally join British forces in helping occupied Allied territories to beat back the Nazis.

Hitler began to get frustrated with how slow his victories were beginning to go, and after the Germans were defeated by the allies at El Alamein, Hitler took complete command over his armies. His astounding overconfidence in his own military “expertise” became the beginning of his downfall – as his decisions became more erratic and losses became more common, he started to panic. The Battle of Stalingrad in January 1943 became such a breathtaking loss that Hitler nearly lost his mind. He all but became a recluse. He still had absolute faith in his own genius, and he refused to give up despite searing losses continuing in Russia.

He began to realize the end was more than mere rumor when Allied forces invaded Sicily in July 1943. The Germans realized another crushing defeat at Kursk and went into perpetual retreat from the Eastern front. Then, intel reported a huge buildup of British and American forces in England and word that Allied forces were planning an invasion somewhere on the coast reached Hitler. Germans were still living in denial thanks to the press only reporting what Hitler’s propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, allowed them to report. They had no idea that the Nazis were genuinely afraid for the first time.

The Nazis refused to give up. While average German citizens were busy supporting the war effort through recycling and working in industrial plants to produce U-boats, jet fighters, Panzers and small arms, Nazi commanders were still confident that they would win the day. They still refused to send women to work in the plants; their place was in the home, giving birth to and raising good Aryans. Citizens in occupied countries were forced to dig defensive Earthworks (massive trenches, concrete and steel barriers to stop troop carriers and tanks). The desire to exterminate the Jews saw Nazis continuing to work them to death deliberately, the need for laborers be damned.

The first bombing runs on Germany had begun in 1940, although they weren’t as effective as they would later become. The Allies realized that bombing just a factory or a base was little more than a minor setback – they needed to take out the workers, too, and in 1942 RAF and USAAF squadrons began carpet-bombing entire German cities. Kiel was bombed in May 1943. Hamburg was bombed in July 1943; 30,000 died in the bombing raid and subsequent firestorm. Every German city that hosted anything resembling a war supply factory or warehouse was bombed regularly. The raids first inspired action and organization, but within a year they had begun to falter under the psychological strain.

On the ground, the Americans, knowing full well the legend of General George S. Patton, sent him to Northern England as a distraction. They were gambling that Hitler would find out about Patton’s location and concentrate his forces away from Normandy, and the ruse worked. On June 6, 1944, after days of bombing from the air, landing forces poured ashore at Normandy while newly-formed parachute infantry regiments dropped troops behind Nazi lines in occupied France. The sheer numbers of American troops that survived the assault and the mass amounts of heavy armored equipment left German troops in awe, wondering what possessed Hitler to declare war on a nation that could muster this kind of response.

The Allies gained a crucial foothold in France. The German war effort was nearly irreversibly damaged. The Soviets were pushing back from the East, and Allied troops had begun to press in from the South, taking oil fields in Iran. A pall was cast over the Nazis.

The Rise of Nazism

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post that I had intended to become a three- or four-part series. I got busy and forgot about it. Click here to read the original post. Here begins the second.

People who decry the comparison of Iraq to Nazi Germany frequently point out that Saddam was not a major superpower like Hitler was. The problem with that statement is that Hitler wasn’t, either, when he started out.

Simplistically speaking, most Americans are taught that the assassination Archduke Franz Ferdinand (then the heir to the throne of what was then Austria-Hungary) by a Serbian separatist named Gavrilo Princip was what sparked WWI. That was merely one of the many causes. Several of the countries in mainland Europe, Northern Africa and parts of the Middle East had been losing stability in their own regions for quite some time. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary vied for more territory, as did Russia, and the Ottoman Empire bristled at the thought of being divvied up by larger powers to the North.

An arms race between Germany and Britain, along with the beginning of “trench warfare” made the Great War the bloodiest in world history. When Germany refused to stop attacking non-military ships on the naval front, they knew that America would get into the war, so they made a bid to Mexico to join the war; they promised to give Mexico the Southeastern states, from Texas to California, in exchange for going to war with the United States. Despite public knowledge of the Zimmerman Telegram that made this widely known, Americans were still against our involvement. Had we not gotten involved Germany would have handily overrun Europe. Once America got involved, Austria-Hungary knew they were all but finished and quietly started seeking a truce. Germany responded by taking them over.

In just over a year of American involvement, the War finally ended. The Ottoman Empire was completely dissolved, resulting in a large swath of Mideast territories that were governed by Britain. The Treaty of Versailles split Austria and Hungary and placed sole responsibility for the war’s effects on Imperial Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II was supposed to be tried for war crimes, although the trial never began. There was to be no rebuilding of Germany. She would not maintain her dignity; the extreme reparations to be collected from the newly-formed Weimar Republic effectively stripped the German people of dignity and the German Mark became almost worthless (those reparations included more than just money – Germany paid in quite a few ways, including handing over the trademark for Aspirin).

The Germans had quite a lot to be pissed off at by the time Hitler the war hero got involved in politics. While government officials and the ruling class, who held most of the power, viewed Hitler as a rabble-rousing thug, the middle class and the poor saw him as their savior. It didn’t help that Paul von Hindenburg publicly claimed that Germany didn’t lose the Great War to actual defeat, but to so-called “right-wingers” – among them Bolsheviks and Jews – who effectively stabbed Mother Germany in the back.

Hitler rode that sentiment to power. Once Nazism took hold, it exploded in popularity. There were millions of good Germans, but none of them stood up to the Nazis. The Treaty of Versailles gutted Germany’s military; the army was to have no more than 100,000 troops, they were banned from developing new weaponry, and the navy was reduced to a handful of ships and absolutely no submarines. Territory on both the East and West ends of Germany was taken by the Allies as buffer zones. If Germany tried to enter those areas – the Rhineland (defended by France) and Upper Silesia (defended by Poland) – the Allies were to immediately crush the German forces. Keeping all of this in mind it was hard even for good Germans to argue with Nazi propaganda.

While Nazism was on the rise in Germany, Hitler dreamed of finishing the Kaiser’s job and making Germany a massive superpower that ruled all of Europe. He wanted to annex Austria (a concept known as Anschluss), but his propaganda was first aimed at regaining territory that the Germans viewed as having been stolen from them. In 1936, Hitler sent German troops to re-militarize the Rhineland. German troops didn’t have tanks – most of them were either on foot or on bicycles, and most of them weren’t armed, but he wanted a dramatic show of power so the world would know that Germany was back. The French simply watched and did nothing with twelve whole battalions parked on the other side of the Rhine.

This emboldened Hitler. Two years later, Anschluss was carried out. The Allies were worried, but not worried enough to use force. Hitler started stomping his feet over the Sudetenland, a small patch of land that had been given to Czechoslovakia; the Allies secretly met and agreed (without consulting the Czechs, mind you) to give the Sudetenland back to Germany. Hitler smiled and then attacked the rest of Czechoslovakia, taking it over very quickly.

The Allies still didn’t want to go to war. Hitler was not making his aims a state secret, but nobody wanted to fight. They kept thinking that if they just talked enough, Hitler would agree to peace. Neville Chamberlain returned from the Munich talks, held the signed Munich Agreement aloft, and proclaimed, “peace in our time!” Winston Churchill was trying to warn everyone in British parliament that Hitler would never stop and war was inevitable; for that crime, he was expelled from parliament.

The Allies promised Poland that they would fight at all costs to protect Poland from Nazi Germany. Then, just after being named TIME Magazine’s “Man of the Year”, Adolf Hitler ordered the takeover of Poland. France and Britain discovered then that Germany, which they thought had been all but de-fanged and unable to carry on a war, had been secretly building its arms and troop numbers.

All of a sudden, beliefs that peace was possible dissolved into the reality that war was upon them.

The Birth of Nazism

Germany did not become a killing machine overnight. When Adolf Hitler first arrived in the political arena of Germany, most of those in the middle- and upper-class saw him as little more than a thug and a nuisance (including then-president Paul von Hindenburg). He appealed heavily to the poor, however, and his party – the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party), otherwise known as the Nazis for short – became a rising star in the German Reichstag. In 1932, Hitler made his one and only bid to run for office. He ran for the German Presidency; while garnering 11 million votes, he placed second behind Hindenburg. Other Nazi party members had been elected to German parliament, however, and once they gained enough of a foothold, they forced Hindenburg to accept Hitler as chancellor in exchange for agreement on legislation that would rebuild the German government in a more authoritarian bent. Hindenburg, who referred to Hitler as the “Bohemian Corporal”, also hoped that setting him up as chancellor would appease him and slake his thirst for political power.

Well before he was appointed chancellor, Hitler had made clear (largely through his manifesto, Mein Kampf) his beliefs in a “master race” and his intense hatred of the Jews. He didn’t suggest killing at first, but he slammed those who were mentally ill, disabled, homosexual, Jewish and Roma (Gypsies) as threats to the great Aryan race that he saw as being superior to all others. Hitler certainly wasn’t the only Antisemitic figure in German politics, but he was likely the most vehement. He spent more than 30 pages of his screed on syphilis and why those who carried the disease needed to be snuffed out.

Nobody knows what started the Reichstag fire. Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist and drifting bricklayer, was found inside the building as the fire was still being extinguished and claimed more than once that he was trying to ignite a communist rallying cry. It was later found that the Nazis had fabricated some of the evidence for van der Lubbe’s guilt, but that the Soviets in control of the former East Germany had also fabricated evidence of his innocence, so we really don’t know what happened despite a number of theories. Either way, it was the burning of the Reichstag that drove Hindenburg to approve the withdrawal of nearly every single basic right the German people had – including free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. Hitler used the Reichstag Fire Decree to “suspend” those rights. Only later did the Germans discover he had no intention of giving them back willingly.

Hitler didn’t actually become the F├╝hrer until 1934, when Hindenburg died. Having already consolidated power, removed Weimar Republic leadership from German states and cities, and imprisoned all political prisoners – to include anarchists, communists, and globalists – Hitler was now free to build his vision of Germania and the Aryan race.

The Nazi propaganda machine, under Josef Goebbels, had already done its part to all but brainwash Germans into believing Hitler’s lies. Young boys were drawn into the “Hitler Youth” movement, while young girls were openly required to join “Hitler Maidens” and were encouraged to start having children, in or out of wedlock, as early as possible. Girls aged 15 and 16 commonly came home from Hitler Maidens camps pregnant; at one Nuremberg rally, more than 900 girls went home pregnant. Parents, initially furious at what was happening, eventually gave up because they feared the Gestapo.

Those who were found to be lacking somehow in genetic purity, however, were forcibly sterilized. Upwards of 400,000 Germans were sterilized under the Nazis for all manner of weaknesses, including mental illness, blindness, deafness, homosexuality, and a number of other so-called genetic illnesses that Hitler believed would poison the Aryans. He was a firm believer in eugenics (a concept heavily pushed by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood).

Worse than that, a rumbling began that would eventually be virtually unstoppable. Nazi hatred of the Jews was also a major part of their propaganda. It began with the identification of businesses owned by Jews and urges from the Nazis to refuse to shop in Jewish stores – only to patronize German-owned stores. Jews were stripped of their German citizenship and any and all rights as Germans. Jewish doctors were stripped of their medical licenses and practices. Jewish lawyers were disbarred, often in the middle of court hearings taken out to the street and beaten. Jewish farmers saw their land confiscated and were never allowed to return to farming. Jews were barred from German schools and colleges. Jews were forbidden from being members of the press. Jews were forbidden from marrying or having sex with Aryans. In 1938, after Kristallnacht, German and Austrian Jews were rounded up and sent to the first concentration camps – such as Dachau and Buchenwald. By 1939, Germany took over Poland and began emptying the ghettos with the intent of relocating Polish Jews to them. They were forced to give up 90% of their money and belongings; clothing, shelter and food were scarce in the ghettos, fostering unsanitary conditions and disease.

In 1940, after the Jews in these ghettos had descended into a pathetic existence, Goebbels took film crews to the ghettos and filmed them for a propaganda film called Der Ewige Jude. The film portrayed the Jews as lazy, greedy, filthy parasites content to live in bug-infested shacks. The film also attributed 82% of international crime rings and 98% of prostitution to the Jews. Interspersed throughout shots of starving Jews in tattered clothing being forced to do manual labor that they weren’t physically capable of carrying out were shots of rat infestations, driving home the accusation that the Jews were the cause of all the world’s ills. In short, the Nazis created deplorable, inhumane conditions and forced the Jews to live in them – then shot film of their handiwork and accused the Jews of being morally bankrupt and heartless.

Incredibly, in 1938, Adolf Hitler was named TIME Magazine’s “Man of the Year”. He was only getting started.

Pearl Harbor: 67 years later

Throughout the 1930’s, America negotiated with Japan for the cessation of hostilities in the Asian Pacific. Japan had taken Manchuria by 1931, then grew to all-out war with China by 1937. They then took French Indochina to open better supply routes in 1940. In response to their tacit refusal to stop invading other Asian countries (atrocities reported in China were a major factor), America placed an oil embargo on the Japanese. The Japanese then began to take over oil production in the Dutch East Indies, though it did not give them the resources they needed to continue their war efforts. Japan needed to hit America where it hurt, and they had a brilliant plan. Their diplomats began presenting our politicians with “friendship medals” to hold American suspicions at bay.

Then, on December 7, 1941, the suspicions of Naval Intelligence were confirmed as reality arrived in the skies over Pearl Harbor–90 Nakajima B5N bombers, 54 Aichi D3A dive bombers, and 45 Mitsubishi A6M fighters (also known as “Zeros”) began dropping bombs on US Navy Destroyers, Minelayers and Cruisers as well as US fighter planes on the airfields at Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The first wave consisted of a total of 183 planes. The USS Arizona was the first ship to be sunk early in the attack when a modified 16″ shell hit her forward magazine.

The USS Oklahoma, USS California and USS West Virginia were all sunk; the California and the West Virginia were able to be raised and repaired, but the Oklahoma had capsized. For days after the attack, sailors could be heard rapping on the hulls of their sunken ships, hoping to be freed before the air ran out in the lower compartments. During the second wave of the attack, American anti-aircraft defenses had dramatically improved. As a result, Admiral Nagumo decided against a third wave. Japanese honor held that maintaining strength was preferable to total destruction of the enemy, and Nagumo faced the possibility of abandoning two carriers en route back to Japan if he launched the third wave. It was his honor that stopped the third wave, and as a result American munitions, storage, maintenance and dry dock weren’t hit. If it had, Pearl Harbor would have been far more devastating.

The USS Arizona as the forward magazine was hit:

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The USS Arizona today:

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The attack on Pearl Harbor drew America into World War II after a decade of attempting to avoid fighting. American involvement in World War I had been remarkably unpopular; today’s anti-war protests pale in comparison to the protests then. The idea was that Europe’s problems didn’t concern us, and we should just stay out of it. But when news of atrocities being committed by the Japanese made American headlines, popular opinion wanted our government to try to find a peaceful end.

The lesson we should take from this is that peace should be attempted; you should try diplomacy. However, when it becomes clear that peaceful negotiations aren’t getting anyone anywhere, you must be willing to roll up your sleeves, pick up your weapon and fight. This world will always have its share of evil men, willing to kill as many innocent people as they must to get what they want. When intelligent reasoning fails, you have to take it a step further. If we are unwilling to fight, we do not deserve the freedom we have. It’s that simple.

We lost 2,335 sailors, soldiers and marines during the attack; we also lost 68 innocent civilians. Japanese Zeros strafed near at least one hospital, showing the cowardice and the low levels to which they were willing to sink. Raise a glass today to those souls. Thank them for the price they paid to make sure we remained free. And the next time you think about how horrible war is, think of what it could be like if nobody’s willing to stand up for what’s right.