Wed, 18 Aug 2010 Feature Article

Seventy years since the Siege of Warsaw

Seventy years since the Siege of Warsaw

It was September 1st,  1939,  the weather, even at dawn, could be foreseen as otherwise 'pretty', and Mrs. Specht, (Polish of German origin), did not like what she encountered, observing from the precincts of their home around Poland's capital city, Warsaw.

They had otherwise enjoyed over a decade of tranquil suburban living south of this beautiful polish city, of world renown, once of dynastic rule.

At dawn that day, Hitler's forces had knocked on the doors of the city, not to say 'good morning, friends', but to snatch away Poland's sovereignty, and not spare anyone who would try to resist the invasion.

The formidable German forces came with every form of warfare technologically available then, and just to remind you, Hitler had built the fiercest war-machines Europe could ever be made to imagine, since he assumed office as Chancellor of the Third Reich in 1933, and as Absolute Dictator, in 1934.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had talked of appeasement, (giving Hitler all he might insist on for Germany), after a meeting with him in Munich in 1937.  Chamberlain had been forced by elements from within his own party to resign for being such a coward, you could say. The beneficiary was the brash Conservative Party ace politician, Winston Spencer Churchill.

Britain and France, upon ascertaining the German invasion of Poland, immediately declared war on Germany, and with that, the stage was set for World War II, exactly 21 years after the signing of the Versailles pact, which sealed the end of World War I.  All should not forget, President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US President, (1913-1921), had been awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for securing the peace following World War I.

It is often said that, the then ailing 'Reich President' of military roots, had facilitated more for Hitler, more through ill-health than ill-will, Hitler's grab of absolute power.  The former General and President of the Weimar Republic, Paul Emil von Hindenburg (1847-1934), had sensed his nation slipping into dictatorship, but was too weak to stand against it. He signed instead, virtually delivering his nation into the hands of a dictator.

The newly-emerged German leader of Austrian origin, stood at the bottom of a tall order of absolute dictatorship, the zenith of which, according to experts, could only spell disaster, not only for Germany (and it was rumoured that close associates who could foresee this and dared tell him, (Hitler) and sounded notes of caution, were eliminated with brutal force.) Remember, Hitler had read Niccolo Machiavelli's famous thriller, 'The Prince.'

No attempt would be made in this treatise to write Hitler's biography. Expert analyses exist in almost all languages, and more continue to emerge. It is a point of interest however, to recall that, in 1923, Hitler and his henchmen attempted a coup d'etat in Munich. Had it been successful, the history of Germany, and indeed that of the world, would have been written differently, with World War II starting possibly earlier than 1939.

The coup failed disastrously, and Hitler was apprehended, tried and jailed for a long period. He was nonetheless released and set free after serving only a short span of the sentence. Why? No exact historical data exists to explain 'this fair treatment' of a man who had been found guilty of conspiracy to commit treason, and treason, a heinous crime!

Germans, especially, the 'adult youth' (and Hitler was only 35 years of age then), had been most unhappy at the verdict of Versailles, with which Germany had to pay reparations to the allies (Britain, France, the USSR, USA). Not only that, but also, the Germans felt morally humiliated, morally down. Germany had become visibly poor, and the chances of getting out of this situation weren't good.

The Bier-Hallen discussions, at which Hitler played such a master role, the ardent orator that he was, had heated up. He made it more than crystal clear to the German populace that 'they had been taken for a ride' in Versailles. 'Germany, can never again', he intoned, 'be a viable state, let alone, a proud nation', gesticulating so masterfully, that he turned enemies and opponents, within moments, into staunch admirers.

It is said that women loved him, and men admired him in such a way one could not find words to describe. Benito Mussolini of Italy is the only man who the experts say, came somewhat close to matching Adolf Hitler when it came to 'oratore cum gesticulationem.'

Joseph Stalin did not come anywhere close, and forget about Winston Spencer Churchill, whom you needed a dictionary and a book of witty sayings and proverbs to understand what he said. Hitler was Maestro par excellence! In Hitler, nationalism had found the most fertile grounds, unprecedented in Europe, since decennia.

'Everything in Europe looked like war after the NAZIS took over,' said a housewife and a retired teacher who taught German language to foreigners preparing to enter German universities on part time bases in the mid-sixties.

'Hitler's power was too much in the air, on the ground, and everywhere. Those who could have stopped him had waited too long, they were too late. Others had fled the Republic,' said Frau Schneider, who talked to her class about 'the mistakes of the Teutons.'

But, one Physics Teacher, who believably must have been on Hitler's side, took up the issue like this: 'Listen, young men. In Hitler's era, nobody went hungry.

It was the first time Germans became well-fed since the Emperor Fredrich II, King of Prussia, whose men apparently introduced potatoes into Germany from Latin America. Germany had been so let down the drain that all of a sudden, not even potatoes were abundant. Adolf changed all that, and don't forget, in only thirty-six months. That was something, eh?'

But, someone else, whose family must have been liberals, but managed to survive, picked up the word, and this was what he had to say.

'Yes, Adolf fed the people (three solid meals pro die), and he stopped robbery. In his time, you could leave everything on the street, and come back the next day to pick it up.  But, how about Kristallnacht? (This was 9th/10th of November, 1938, when mobs, authorised by the state apparatus vandalised Jewish shops and property in Germany, and the newly-annexed Austria.

Jews were killed too, including those who fought on the same side with Germans and won medals in World War I.). Hitler promised Germans lots of sunshine, but left us a nation without any roof on the houses, and A DIVIDED NATION. Shame on Germany today!'

World War II has been the world's most devastating war, in which close to sixty million lives were lost. Hitler had built a political apparatus, which he had boasted would last one thousand years. It lasted only twelve years! Germany though, has swallowed the shame of civilized people being turned to barbarians by one man.

Germany lives presently as one of the most democratic societies on earth. Looking back, the world must feel proud that together, and especially with the Americans, the Marshall Plan, the world community has not seen a global war for more than six decades.

Out of evil may spring virtue, as we have seen in Germany after 1945. Together, with Germany, we, 'The World' could propose the toast.