History is Not Boring discussion

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Sept.1 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of WWII

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message 1: by Erma (new)

Erma Odrach | 3 comments Hi, I'm new to this group, and I agree, history is not boring.

Today, Sept. 1/09 marks the 70th anniversary of WWII. The question remains: who started WWII? Was it Hitler or was Stalin also responsible? Last July the EU and the OSCE passed a resolution stating that both Stalin and Hitler, with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that carved up Europe, were both equally to blame. As Germany moved in on the Westerplatte fortress in western Poland, just over two weeks later the Red Army launched an attack on eastern Poland. But Putin and Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, argue that Stalin's actions were "necessary", and the two are now going about setting up bodies to challenge, as Medvedev puts it, the "falsification of history".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug...

I have to admit, the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact touches a very special nerve in my system because my father, author Theodore Odrach, lived in Vilnius and later Pinsk (then both a part of eastern Poland) when Bolshevik troops moved in. For anyone interested in this part of the war, my father wrote a novel, Wave of Terror, which details the atrocities committed by the Soviets during this time. His book is set in the Pinsk Marshes in southwestern Belarus, the same location as the movie "Defiance". Though fiction, Wave of Terror is heavily based on eyewitness accounts, and according to my mother (I was a child when my father died and I hardly knew him), almost all the events and people are real. I should also add, I'm my father's translator and we're Publishers Weekly and TLS approved.
http://nitro5.goodreads.com/author/show/...

As for who started the Second World War, the debate continues. But what's indisputable here is the fact that the war gave birth to two monsters both at the same time.


message 2: by Marian (new)

Marian (gramma) | 98 comments I agree with the theory that WW11 could not have happened without WW1. Basically, they are a continuation of the same war. The sufferings of the Russian people in WW1 lead to the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. It also caused the instability which allowed the Bolsheviks to take over the government. The treaty of Versailles demanded extreme reparations which sent the German economy into super-inflation & de-stablilzed the Weimar republic. The threat of Soviet communism leaking across the borders from Russia towards Poland & Germany caused the Germans to support the right
wing extremist party, the facists (Nazi) party.

England and France had suffered severe casualties in WW1. Their armed forces were severly limited. The US had gone isolationist, Russia -communist. It was the threat of communism that kept the nations of western Europe leaning to the fascists because they believed that was their best protection against the communists.

When the world plunged into depression in 1929, the threat of communism grew even stronger. The National Socialists party in Germany was successful in thwarting the communists in Germany. This was one of the reasons why the western democracies did not stand up to Hitler, the theory of the day was that Hitler was better than the communists.

Another reason for the start of WW1 was that the Habsburg monarchy in Austria-Hungary was weak and the people of all the smaller countries that had been clobbered together in that empire (Poland, Slovakia, ect. & the Baltic states like Lithuania, Latvia that had been overtaken by Russia wanted their independence, one of the many reasons for the assassanation of the Archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian patriot. This was the spark that lit the tinder that had been smoldering for generations.




message 3: by Count (new)

Count Jared | 39 comments If we want to talk about continuing the same war, WWI in Western Europe, was a continuation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1869-70. The Franco-Prussian War was the first conflict to show real cracks in the Westphalian balance of power system that had been held together by Russia, Prussia, Austria-Hungary, France, and England through all of Victoria's, the various Georges', and the Habsburgs' reign, and was now dissolving slowly but corrosively as the old monarchies gave way to revolutionary or counter-revolutionary regimes.

Some might even suggest it was a war smoldering since the 80 Years' War ended in a stalemate between the Dutch Republic(s) and Spain, the same year of 1648. But far more certainly, it was the changing circumstances (and internal politics) that led to the fracture of the old international order in 1869.


message 4: by Erma (new)

Erma Odrach | 3 comments Count wrote: "If we want to talk about continuing the same war, WWI in Western Europe, was a continuation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1869-70. The Franco-Prussian War was the first conflict to show real cracks..."


Hi Marian and Count,

I also tend to agree that WWII was a continuation of WWI, and it certainly is interesting to go back in time and see how all wars and acts of aggression are historically interrelated. As far as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact goes, it gave both Hitler and Stalin the green light to move in on western and eastern Poland respectively and at the same time.



message 5: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 72 comments Nothing to really disagree with here.

I met a British historian who said that both WWI and WWII were basically Europe's equivalent of the U.S. Civil War. The big difference being that it took an outsider (U.S.) to end both wars.

A provocative idea. No?


message 6: by Erma (new)

Erma Odrach | 3 comments Ed wrote: "Nothing to really disagree with here.

I met a British historian who said that both WWI and WWII were basically Europe's equivalent of the U.S. Civil War. The big difference being that it took an ..."


Ed, I agree -- to an extent.

A huge chapter of WWII was played out on the Eastern Front. The war was won in the West, but in the Eastern bloc, there were only feelings of betrayal. The Big Three at the Yalta Conference -- Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin -- settled everything, where Stalin came out on top. Communism was not defeated.

About the conference at Yalta my father, author Theodore Odrach, wrote in a novel I'm at present translating (not yet available in English): "The hypocrsy of it all is almost too much to bear. Roosevelt and Churchill, the two biggest glorifieres of democracy and self-determination, are only contributing to our suffering under Communist dictatorship. And when all's said and done, the two Western leaders will pat themselves on the back for having won the war, but they won't be the true winners, not by a long shot. That honor will belong to Stalin."

Still today, after the fall of communism, Russia has made very little investigastion of their war crimes. For example, one has to only look at the Katyn forest massacre, where 27,000 Polish (allied) officers were found brutally murdered (it was one of the most brutal murders on human record). And have those responsible and who are still alive today been brought to justice? No, not really.

So did the U.S. really bring an end to WWII? Ask any Pole or any Eastern European.




message 7: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1011 comments Mod
Ed wrote: "Nothing to really disagree with here.

I met a British historian who said that both WWI and WWII were basically Europe's equivalent of the U.S. Civil War. The big difference being that it took an ..."


Interesting concept.


message 8: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 72 comments Erma wrote: "So did the U.S. really bring an end to WWII? Ask any Pole or any Eastern European."

Yes, if you consider the unconditional surrender of Germany as an end to the war in Europe.

If you consider the Cold War a continuation of WWII then your assertion is correct. I don't. It was a new conflict.

You will not find me defending Russia's behavior in Poland, Finland, or the Baltic States at the beginning of the war nor their behavior in Eastern Europe at the close of the war. However, without an Eastern Front WWII might have gone on for many more years.

At Yalta Roosevelt was naive and ill. Churchill was already a lame duck but was very realistic about Russia's eventual aims. The mistake was believing Stalin's promises that Poland would have free elections.

Poles and other Eastern Europeans, particularly the Czechs, have every right to be bitter, not about Allied intentions but about Allied ignorance and/or naivete and/or stupidity.

Don't forget, either, that Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania were members of the Axis powers. I wish sometimes that history was cut and dried. It's not.

I would also like to add, outside the scope of this discussion that, in my opinion, the war in Eastern Europe was a race war while in Western Europe it was a Civil War as I mentioned earlier.


message 9: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Ed, what do you mean by WW2 bing a Civil War?
I always understood a CW as one occuring within one state, do you mean that you can view Europe in that way circa '39?
Not heard that idea before.


message 10: by Ed (last edited Sep 06, 2009 11:06PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 72 comments Barbarossa wrote: "Ed, what do you mean by WW2 bing a Civil War?
I always understood a CW as one occuring within one state, do you mean that you can view Europe in that way circa '39?
Not heard that idea before."


It was a comment made to me by a British history buff on a tour of the Flanders battlefields of WW I.

We didn't discuss the idea in depth but if you postulate Western Europe as one society rather than one country, then you can think of WW I and II as a kind of civil war, perhaps not by the pure definition but as an equivalent idea.

Put another way were the cultural differences of various European societies at the turn of the century all that different than the cultural differences of the U.S. North and South in 1860?

I took it as an interesting and provocative way to think about why WW I and WW II in Europe happened. Were they basically one war with a 21 year truce and necessary to create a European community such as we see today?

That's what makes history so much fun to think about.


message 11: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Ed wrote: "Barbarossa wrote: "Ed, what do you mean by WW2 bing a Civil War?
I always understood a CW as one occuring within one state, do you mean that you can view Europe in that way circa '39?
Not heard tha..."


I think if you view Europe in that way then you would have to include the Americas as part of that society as their culture was as linked to Europe as , for example, Dutch culture was to Spain...probably more so, as the Americas tend to have retained primary languages of the counties previous Imperial power that dominated the region. Therefore the US joining a European war, if viewed as a Civil War, would be inevitable due to it's involvement of the "parent" Imperial power.
Novel way of viewing the conflict.
Or is all European politics and warfare really a continuation of regional struggles for power that have continued since the fall of the Western Roman Empire?


message 12: by Count (new)

Count Jared | 39 comments ...[Are:] all European politics and warfare really a continuation of regional struggles for power that have continued since the fall of the Western Roman Empire?

In a big-picture sense, I would have to say I agree, that almost all modern European politics are contiguous with post-Roman succession struggles. The few great manufacturing centres needed new markets; the few great cities needed security; the Gothic, Frankish, Alemannian, Hispanic, Norse, Rus, and subordinate populations needed new national identities...the Roman Empire lasted more or less intact for 800 years, plus or minus. It took us about the same amount of time to develop replacement entities, and now only half of it again for those replacement entities (modern Europe) to sort out how they could get along with one another as well as when they had the Roman imperial overculture to define them.

As a separate issue, I do believe it is appropriate to refer to the World Wars as a civil conflict, on these grounds: at the end of the 19th Century, every large European power was ruled by a monarchy with the exception of Holland, which was a republic. Every one of the monarchs was closely related to every other, so if one takes the conflict of nations as conflict by its rulers (a conflation, but not a massively inaccurate one in the case of monarchies) then really the World Wars were family disputes, civil wars in the closest sense of all.


message 13: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 72 comments Count wrote: "I do believe it is appropriate to refer to the World Wars as a civil conflict, on these grounds: at the end of the 19th Century, every large European power was ruled by a monarchy with the exception of Holland, which was a republic. Every one of the monarchs was closely related to every other, so if one takes the conflict of nations as conflict by its rulers (a conflation, but not a massively inaccurate one in the case of monarchies) then really the World Wars were family disputes, civil wars in the closest sense of all."

Count: You have articulated very well in the paragraph above what I was too lazy to put into words, though I was thinking of how to say it. Thanks.


message 14: by Count (new)

Count Jared | 39 comments In full honesty, I was only paraphrasing Prof. Tuchmann. If you haven't read The Guns of August, do so immediately. It's not just good history, it's a damned well-written book. If I do anything worthwhile in the next ten years, it will be to teach a class centered around that book and its narrative of the World War and all that led up to it.




message 15: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1011 comments Mod
Excellent, excellent book, The Guns of August. Highly recommended.


message 16: by Marian (new)

Marian (gramma) | 98 comments The Proud Tower, also by Barbara Tuchman is an excellent history of the origins of WW1.


message 17: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 72 comments Count wrote: "In full honesty, I was only paraphrasing Prof. Tuchmann. If you haven't read The Guns of August, do so immediately. It's not just good history, it's a damned well-written book. If I do anything wor..."

Yes, I have read "The Guns of August" but it was many years ago. "The Proud Tower" has been on my TBR list for years. I've owned a copy for a long time. I suspect it's time to actually read it.

BTW, paraphrasing is one of the highest forms of flattery.


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