Following my publishing something about childhood memories I did get some very interesting comments about World War II and my family and that this is something my children would want to know about. Here now are some of the comments I got and some of my responses.
“Very interesting Auntyuta, to read of your background in those years, virtually a first hand account and must be recorded and handed down into your family and put into book form.
It intrigues me as to the disagreement your father had with the Nazi;s, maybe you could elaborate on this Auntyuta.
A great historical reading.
Emu aka Ian”
My answer to Ian:
“The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the American program to aid Europe, in which the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. . . .”
Ian, this recovery program helped Germany enormously after WW II. Whereas what happened after WW I was a terrible disaster for Germany. The result was that the Nazis came to power!
The disagreements my father had with the Nazis had to do with the war. But sorry, I cannot recall properly what my father said about it. Anyhow the way I remember it, my father was objecting to the way the war was conducted. I think he moved to “Litzmannstadt” towards the end of 1940. This for instance would have been long before Pearl Harbour!
For a great part of 1941 we stayed with the grandparents in Poland.
By August 1941 we were back in our apartment in Berlin (without my father of course). In September 1941 I started school. I was then aged seven already! My second brother was born in October 1941.
My first school reports say my father’s occupation was “Betriebsführer” (Manager).
He was born in 1904. During the first war years he was regarded as being too old to be conscripted. But by 1943 his year, that is men having been born in 1904, were being called up for military duties. After some training my father was made straight away to be an officer. He was sent to the Eastern front.
He came back from the war with his health ruined. For many years after the war he suffered from these health problems without getting any support from my mother I might say. But his sisters and the sisters families as well as his mother who were all refugees from Poland, well everyone in his extended family supported him to the best of their ability. Eventually he did recover and was able to get full employment. At about 1949 my mother got a divorce from him. In the 1950s when he was gainfully employed again and his health had improved a lot, he asked my mother to marry him again. She refused.
He married his secretary in 1959. In 1966 he died of prostate cancer.
Berlioz said: “The disagreement with the Nazis was on two levels: personal and about the conduct of war.
Personal: When Hitler came to power he joined the party as a “good” public servant would. Later the life style of his wife could have headed for divorce. This was intolerable for the Nazis and they asked him to discipline his wife or he could not remain a member of the party.
Contact of War: After the Sportpalast Speech
in which Goebels called for “Total War” to be waged. Uta’s father was of the opinion that it was pure propaganda. As an economist he could see that many mistakes were made and the German industry and population were not put on a war footing. He criticised the use of forced labour and called for the utilisation of German women in industry. Only 33% of women were working. Working women was an anathema for Hitler.
He wrote a Memorandum to Hitler and for his effort was hauled in front of Martin Bormann, secretary of Hitler, who advised him not to insist on sending the Memorandum to Hitler. Instead they sent him to the “Ostfront” because he was a Russian speaker.
This is the stuff novels are written about. A lot of what we know is only bits and pieces. Adults did not talk to children about it. Later, yes, but not all came to light.
Robert, you are spot on with your overall view of history. I always say, that the 2. WW was a continuation of WW I as it was finished in an unsatisfactory way. Meaning, nobody was thinking about the future. Versailles was a disaster. A much better solution was found at the end of WW II. The Germans, at the end of WW I, were hoping that Wilson’s 14 Points would be adhered to.
As a result “The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles”, as you say, let to the rise of Hitler.
You say further “By borrowing heavily from German mythology, Wagner, the concept of the ubermensch, Hitler instilled in the young a burning pride in Germany’s future. Hitler was also influenced by Schopenhauer’s “Will to Power”. This idea is the subject of a book. “The Jew of Linz” by Australian writer Kimberly Cornish
Cornish has been criticised too, but I found it an interesting read on a certain view point of history. Schopenhauer stipulates, that in a contest between “Will” and “Reason”, “Will” will always win.
This is what Robert M. Weiss said:
Janusz Korczak was offered an opportunity to escape from Poland, but he did not take it. Instead, in 1942, he marched with his orphan children to the death camp of Treblinka…. No doubt people in great psychological need follow cults, and often utilize unhealthy coping mechanisms. What happens with countries brings matters to a larger scale, and nationalism has been responsible for many wars. The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, the rampant unemployment, and other factors went into the cauldron of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s genius was to work with the young people, and gain their support in actively supporting the Third Reich and its goals. By borrowing heavily from German mythology, Wagner, the concept of the ubermensch, Hitler instilled in the young a burning pride in Germany’s future. Hitler was also influenced by Schopenhauer’s “Will to Power”, the incendiary speeches of Bismarck, and the methods of American advertising… History is composed of a series of reactions and counter reactions. Perhaps one day we will succeed in isolating the variables responsible for the vagaries of history, and gain a more precise understanding of the historical process.
My response to Robert:
Thanks for this very insightful reply, Robert.
” . . . . nationalism has been responsible for many wars.” This is a known fact. Still, leaders don’t want to learn from this and continue to promote it.
Will there ever be a time when mankind can live in peace without any wars?
Maybe if there’s an outside threat we’ll then be acknowledging our common humanity.
So he marched to the death camp with his children . . . . . I wonder how many children were with him.
Is it that the Nazis rigorously went to eliminate everything that seemed foreign to them?Do a lot of people to this day have an innate fear about this what doesn’t fit into their view of the world?
I think not many people are interested in understanding the historical process. They are just interested in how they see their own little world, which is an island surrounded by things that frighten them. Does this lead to fundamentalism? Can fundamentalists live peacefully together with non-fundamentalists or other fundamentalists? If they don’t want peace, what do you do? Eliminate them? Every religion teaches you not to kill unless you are attacked. So for instance Talibans want to kill us. So we are allowed to kill them. Aren’t we? No objections to killing Talibans. Too bad if a few other people get killed along the way. And so it goes. No wonder I need prayers to stay sane. Because the historical process goes on whether I like it or not.
6 thoughts on “Thoughts on World War II”
When I went to live in Germany in the early ’60s I began to understand how Hitler and the Nazis were able to come to power. It”s always dangerous to generalise about a nation but I believe it’s true that on the whole the Germans like things to run smoothly, orderly and efficiently.They are law-aabiding, have a good work ethic, and are prepared to work hard to get the things they want. But what is often overlooked is that, until the end of WWI they had never had any real experience of democracy: they were part of the Holy Roman Empire, a feudal system, ruled by Kings and Princes, until the early 19th century, and Germany didn’t even exist until Bismarck united the German states in 1871. They simply weren’t used to making decisions themselves, and didn’t question decisions from on high. So they accepted a lot of the aspects of a dictatorship right from the start of the Third Reich that many other nations would have queried or refused. By the time they realised that Hitler was doing a lot of evil as well as good it as too late. Yes, he did give them work, self-respect, a better standard of living, healthy young people – and he had an incredibly sophisticated and effective propaganda machine. As long as you were Aryan and “behaved yourself” you were fine. They had “behaved themselves” and “done as they were told” for over a thousand years – nobody could expect them to suddenly become fully fledged democrats overnight. They had just the 14 years between the end of WWI and 1933 to get a tiny taste of being a republic – and what a shambles it was!Hitler looked like a saviour!
The Wirtschaftswunder or Economic Miracle of Germany in the 1950’s and 60’s was exactly that – a miracle! Because they learned to rule themselves at last and made a good job of it.
SORRY! I’ve run on too long! This is almost a post in itself.
It’s a great reply, Cat, and I value it very much. I can see that you studied the subject and have thought about it a lot. Myself I must admit I have often rather conflicting feelings about what is ‘German’. Nonetheless I agree with what you say about Germans and German history. I guess I just don’t feel very nationalistic because of my experiences with nationalism early on in life. This exaggerated nationalism led to this disaster of WW II. After the total destruction of Germany the feeling of Germans generally was: ‘Nie wieder Krieg.’ After the war there was often talk about “Weltbürger”. I could very much relate to this. The idea to be a citizen of the world appeals to me.
My sympathies were entirely with the young generation struggling to be “Weltbürger” and learning to be democratic without anything to build on. The East Germans faced the same problem when the Wall came down. They have done very well, considering!
You are right, Cat, I think so too that they have done well, considering. Amazingly the people who live in the parts of Germany that used to be GDR, well, these people still aren’t quite as prosperous as people in other parts of Germany. When companies spread to the East they rather go to Eastern neighbouring countries where labour is cheaper.
In the Eastern parts of Germany there are some cities where the young people can’t get work. This leads to great social problems. Other cities are doing well as for instance Leipzig.
Thanks for that explanation and great indepth look into the historical moments in Germanys thinking and stance during the days of WW2.
Yes, Ian, it was very interesting to get so many insightful comments about it.
When I see horrible destructions occuring in other parts of the world due to warlike conditions, I think during WW II we’ve been through similar things. It amazes me in recollection that as children we truly did not experience it as something as disastrous as what it really was. Children probably are very adaptable in this regard. The way I remember it we as children suffered more material deprivation after the war than during the war. But we didn’t mind scarcities so much. We were just happy that the war was over. “Nie wieder Krieg” – Never again War! This was our mantra in the postwar years.