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carguy123
carguy123 SuperDork
12/17/11 11:25 a.m.

I was talking to someone from Germany yesterday and he gave me a slightly different slant to Hitler from a lot of German's point of view.

Many felt he was fighting the godless Communists and couldn't understand why the rest of the world didn't see that.

They thought that since we weren't Roman Catholic we couldn't see what was happening & wondered if our churches had been infiltrated and corrupted by communists. They also thought the Jews might be controlling America.

It was an interesting, if not simplistic viewpoint, but it got me wondering. Did the war help Communism become a world power or did it stop it from doing even more damage? Without the war where would the Soviets have been?

What was happening on that front that was overshadowed by the war?

gamby
gamby SuperDork
12/17/11 11:44 a.m.

In reply to carguy123:

Not contributing anything, but I've always been told to never mention Hitler/Nazis to a German--certainly never joke about it (not implying you did)-- since it's such a point of shame them.

Anyway, this sounds like it'll be an interesting thread.

DoctorBlade
DoctorBlade Dork
12/17/11 12:04 p.m.

I think you found a sympathizer. There's literally no question what Hitler's true motives were: blame the Jews for the current mess, take over Germany, conquer France in retaliation for WWI, then take out England. Then he'd take on the Soviets.

As for the other question: I think the Soviet Union would have been further along without the war.

DILYSI Dave
DILYSI Dave SuperDork
12/17/11 12:16 p.m.

I talked to a German guy just a few years older than myself. He considered it a point of shame, like many nations have. Auschwitz, Trail of Tears, etc.

Knurled
Knurled Dork
12/17/11 12:17 p.m.

There was sentiment on this side of the pond that it was almost treasonous that the USSR was getting Lend-Lease goods. Germany's defeat was accepted as a given, and they were worried that the Soviets would emerge from the war very strong. (research "Europe First" vs. "Asia First" politics)

It's also not much of an accident that we did everything in our power to end the war in Japan ASAP when the Soviets turned their eyes that way. They did declare war, fire potshots for a week or two, and then tried to claim large swaths of territory as war reparations/spoils when hostilities were officially ceased.

Thread useless without http://satwcomic.com/not-a-yahtzee

02Pilot
02Pilot Reader
12/17/11 12:22 p.m.

There is a ton of literature out there on the relationship between Germany, the Soviet Union, and the interaction of the two in the interwar period. To say it was a complex relationship is an understatement of epic proportions. Beyond the ongoing secret military exchanges, the supply of Soviet raw materials to Germany, and the on-again, off-again overt diplomatic cooperation, there is also the legacy of the Great War to consider. It was Germany that shipped Lenin from exile in Switzerland to Russia to lead the revolution; it was communist revolutionaries that helped throw post-war Germany into upheaval, paving the way for reactionary nationalist militarism and heightening Catholic opposition to communism.

There was also a lot of (sometimes justified) paranoia on all sides. Germany felt victimized by the Treaty of Versailles, the Soviets felt victimized by their diplomatic and economic isolation from much of the world. In some ways, it was their mutual condition that pushed these two very unlikely bedfellows together.

The results of the war ultimately benefited the Soviets, primarily by removing the major obstacle to their dominance of the Eastern European buffer states. This allowed a degree of domestic security and consolidation which, along with the dramatic wartime mobilization of Soviet industry, vaulted the Soviet Union past most of the other Great Powers in terms of military and political throw weight.

I can go into more detail on specifics if you want.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim SuperDork
12/17/11 12:42 p.m.

I'm not too sure about the "many felt" part, but then again what I'd consider right-wing/nationalist[1] parties are on the rise in Germany (especially the ex-Communist East) and I'm not surprised that people come up with that sort of viewpoint[2] these days.

Antisemitism had been on the rise since the late 1800s and the stories about "Jews secretly controlling X", with X being something that was disliked, were bountiful even before it got instrumentalized by the right wing and nationalistic parties for their political ends. If you have a good look at what happened in Germany in the 30s you'll find that it basically culminated into state-approved looting of any sort of assets that were owned by minorities (including Jews, those were the biggest "minority" but there were several others affected the same way). BTW, I'm putting "minority" into quotation marks here because Jews were pretty much the only ones that were singled out because of their religion, the other ones were mostly ethnic groups.

As "fighting the godless communists", that's a whole load of BS in my book.

First, look at who financed the right wing parties - it was mostly big business and what was left of the defense industry that had been severely curtailed by the Versailles treaty, together with some old money that wanted the monarchy back. The people who financed the parties were essentially opposed to any sort of organised labour, and that included anything from center-left parties that were trying to represent the lower middle class to the communist-leaning and communist parties of the day.

Second, the whole ideological idea about conquering/occupying Eastern Europe had nothing to do with communism at all (neither Poland, Czecoslowakia, Hungary, Austria or anything on the Western side of the USSR was a communist state at that point - in fact they were mostly regular democracies), but all to do with some race theories that essentially labelled the anybody of slavic (ie, eastern european) origin as member of an inferior race that should give way to the "superior Aryan" race[3]. That was the justification for the land grab, not communism. Don't forget that early in the war, they even split Poland in half, one totalitarian dictator making a pact with another one.

The Roman Catholic part is also something that I would disagree with vehemently, from the simple point of view that whoever said this makes it sound like most of Germany is Roman Catholic (which isn't the case, it's about 50/50 Catholic and Protestant). The Catholic church pretty much had one of their darkest political hours by aligning themselves more with the government and its atrocities; you'll find that a lot more Protestant pastors and activist were killed for political reasons (because they dared to speak out) than Catholic ones.

I don't think the whole Soviet Block structure would have come into existence if the war hadn't happened - by essentially splitting Europe into spheres of influence during conferences like the one in Jalta, a lot of the structure that prevailed from the 50s to the late 80s was created as a direct result of the war, and it probably ended up more homogenous that it would have had otherwise. Keep in mind that the USSR was pretty much the only big totalitarian communist country pre-WW2, other countries might have had communist parties as part of their government but at least in the Western Hemisphere there weren't any other totalitarian "communist" states at that point - you had Spain, Italy and a couple of the not-yet-Yugoslavia states that were fascist totalitarian states, but no communist ones - even though the USSR was pouring tons of money into the international communist movement.

[1] Don't really confuse that with the supposed right/left discussion here in the US, I'm using right and left as perceived in Germany. [2] Which I happen to disagree with fundamentally. [3] Which I think is still one of the biggest jokes played on them - look up Aryan on Wikipedia to see what I mean.

neon4891
neon4891 SuperDork
12/17/11 12:47 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim:

Well said.

Knurled
Knurled Dork
12/17/11 1:08 p.m.
DoctorBlade wrote: As for the other question: I think the Soviet Union would have been further along without the war.

Argh, I can't find the quote.

The threat of German invasion is why the Soviets pushed for rapid industrialization.

02Pilot
02Pilot Reader
12/17/11 1:08 p.m.

As regards the Catholic question, while Germany was far from universally Catholic, that denomination was most strongly represented in the south, the area where Nazism found much of its early support. It is also vitally important to note the encounters between Catholic priests and Communists in the upheavals of the years immediately following the Great War. The Papal Nuncio, Eugenio Pacelli, was held at gunpoint by Reds in Munich in 1919; Pacelli was later known as Pope Pius XII, a devout anti-Communist who seems to have viewed fascism as the lesser of two evils, perhaps not so surprising in light of his experience.

Woody
Woody SuperDork
12/17/11 1:20 p.m.

I had a relationship with a German girl and I spent a summer living with her on an island in the North Sea. She was certainly an intelligent person. I once asked her if she, or Germans in general, felt any sense of national shame or regret over her country's history (I can't recall exactly how I phrased the question). While she had full comprehension what had transpired, she also understood that the actions and attitudes were those of people who lived at a time before she was born.

I wasn't sure exactly how to interpret her answer. Was her attitude a defense mechanism? Was she more mature and enlightened than I? (Answer: Absolutely). Perhaps it's something that a non-German cannot fully understand. She also possessed a strong sense of individuality, which may have helped her to separate herself from it.

On a side note, I remember spending an afternoon with her elderly grandmother. At one point, I saw something interesting or unusual and I whistled. He grandmother almost hit the floor when she heard the sound. I realized at that instant that, even though we were many years removed from the war, the psychological effects on those who lived through it were still there.

I think that it's also important to remember that a portion (though certainly not all) of German attitudes and aggression prior to WWII were a function of the punitive reparations demanded of them following the First World War.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim SuperDork
12/17/11 1:21 p.m.

Southeast, actually - some parts of the Southwest are (evangelical) Protestant.

Good point regarding the animosity of the Communists and the Catholic Church - one point that should be mentioned is that the Catholic Church in Germany (and Italy, and Spain, and possibly France although I'm not 100% certain of the latter) tended to side with the establishment, given that they certainly hadn't forgotten about the secularization during the Napoleonic times and wars that cost them a great deal of their wealth[1] and that wealth IIRC was only partially restored after the Vienna Congress. So they'd naturally side with whoever promised to keep their privileges.

This didn't mean that the Catholic Church wasn't out there helping prosecuted people (hiding them and moving them around) at the local level during that time, but that was usually without the knowledge or approval of the church bureaucracy.

[1] The churches - to a large extent the Catholic one as they'd been at it longer - were one of the largest landowners in the whole of Europe, and this tended to be agricultural land. Plus, like the nobility they were collecting taxes from their tenants, either by requiring them work for the Church for free or by direct taxation. Only very few towns were exempt from that sort of taxes paid to their local liege, the one I grew up in was one of the "free cities" that didn't belong to a local aristocrat's or church's fiefdom.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim SuperDork
12/17/11 1:26 p.m.

In reply to Woody:

I think the first generation of Germans that actually started enquiring about the whole 3rd Reich and what it was like to live back then was the generation of my parents (ie the ones that were born during the war and shortly after). My grandparents' generation would not talk about the whole thing, and something that had been swept under the rug for a long time was that a lot of the police, judiciary and other public functionaries pretty much continued their work directly after the war as if nothing happened. Basically, the Allies needed people to run the country, so a few obvious cases were made examples of and the rest got their jobs back after a few months or years. Once a younger generation started looking into that in the sixties, that didn't go down too well.

Woody
Woody SuperDork
12/17/11 1:35 p.m.

It's also important to consider time and technology when judging attitudes from a modern perspective.

People leaned and formed opinions differently at the time. They had newspapers and word of mouth and that was about it. And this was at a time of economic and social hardship.

We are also examining a relatively small period of time with the benefit of seven decades of hindsight.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim SuperDork
12/17/11 1:41 p.m.

Actually, radio played a big part at least through the 1930s, with a push by the German government for cheap radios that could be sold at a price that everybody could afford. Kinda the same plan as with the VW.

Woody
Woody SuperDork
12/17/11 1:48 p.m.

I had actually keyed in "radio" as I typed that post, but then deleted it for a couple of reasons. Foremost, in my mind I was considering the period immediately following the end of the First World War as the time when the root of the problem was taking hold. But I agree that it had to be one of the strongest tools of propaganda once the Second World War was in motion.

alfadriver
alfadriver SuperDork
12/17/11 3:31 p.m.

In terms of the help/hurt Communism...

To me, it's hard to say.

By far, the Soviets lost more lives than any other country. Between the horriffic fighting with the Germans and the horriffic fighting within the party, well- one of the things I have read was that the Soviets lost over 20M people. If you go by the Wiki numbers, over one in every 4 deaths in WWII were Soviet (out of max 78M death in WWII, upwards of 23M were Soviet, in comparison, the US lost 418k).

And they lost thousands and thousands of tons of stuff- planes, tanks, ships, etc.

So they did lose a MASSIVE amount in the war.

On the other hand, it's pretty easy to argue that many of the purges that Stalin did really let him do what he wanted.

In the scheme of things, I think the losses were so very large that communism suffered- they were "gifted" many countries after the war... Again, both sides of the benefit coin.

The whole "godless communism" argument didn't start with WWII, but with the Spanish Civil War. Which was ugly, too. Well, I guess war is ugly.

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado SuperDork
12/17/11 4:11 p.m.

To Tim/Alfa:

I'm curious as to what y'all would think of something I heard quite often during my (Cold War) childhood-the concept that Soviet defense strategy was just as much to blame for installing communist governments in Eastern Europe as was their ideological desires.

The short (and massive sweeping generalized) version of the concept was that after having been invaded by France under Napoleon and Germany under Hitler, the Soviets (Russians by any other name? ) wanted some sort of "buffer zone" to slow down any future advance from the west. Considering that strategists were probably still thinking in terms of pre-nuclear ground-based campaigns, I find it potentially plausible, even though I've never read any real evidence for it.

Taiden
Taiden Dork
12/17/11 4:17 p.m.

I have not yet read this thread, but I will say that when I was in Berlin I was able to visit a friend of my sister. He was from England and he said that Germans in general were very ashamed of Hitler. I was told that all students in Germany are required to take a history course around the age of 16 that essentially was designed to prepare young german citizens for the shame that they will face when they become part of the international community after school.

This is hearsay at it's best, but I'd like to think that my source was reliable.

jimbbski
jimbbski Reader
12/17/11 4:34 p.m.
02Pilot wrote: There is a ton of literature out there on the relationship between Germany, the Soviet Union, and the interaction of the two in the interwar period. To say it was a complex relationship is an understatement of epic proportions. Beyond the ongoing secret military exchanges, the supply of Soviet raw materials to Germany, and the on-again, off-again overt diplomatic cooperation, there is also the legacy of the Great War to consider. It was Germany that shipped Lenin from exile in Switzerland to Russia to lead the revolution; it was communist revolutionaries that helped throw post-war Germany into upheaval, paving the way for reactionary nationalist militarism and heightening Catholic opposition to communism. There was also a lot of (sometimes justified) paranoia on all sides. Germany felt victimized by the Treaty of Versailles, the Soviets felt victimized by their diplomatic and economic isolation from much of the world. In some ways, it was their mutual condition that pushed these two very unlikely bedfellows together. The results of the war ultimately benefited the Soviets, primarily by removing the major obstacle to their dominance of the Eastern European buffer states. This allowed a degree of domestic security and consolidation which, along with the dramatic wartime mobilization of Soviet industry, vaulted the Soviet Union past most of the other Great Powers in terms of military and political throw weight. I can go into more detail on specifics if you want.

From all the books I've read you got it damn near spot on!

02Pilot
02Pilot Reader
12/17/11 5:17 p.m.
alfadriver wrote: In terms of the help/hurt Communism... To me, it's hard to say. By far, the Soviets lost more lives than any other country. Between the horriffic fighting with the Germans and the horriffic fighting within the party, well- one of the things I have read was that the Soviets lost over 20M people. If you go by the Wiki numbers, over one in every 4 deaths in WWII were Soviet (out of max 78M death in WWII, upwards of 23M were Soviet, in comparison, the US lost 418k). And they lost thousands and thousands of tons of stuff- planes, tanks, ships, etc. So they did lose a MASSIVE amount in the war. On the other hand, it's pretty easy to argue that many of the purges that Stalin did really let him do what he wanted. In the scheme of things, I think the losses were so very large that communism suffered- they were "gifted" many countries after the war... Again, both sides of the benefit coin. The whole "godless communism" argument didn't start with WWII, but with the Spanish Civil War. Which was ugly, too. Well, I guess war is ugly.

"Godless communism" as a rallying cry in the West began before the SCW; there were Red Scares in several countries as soon as the Soviets attained power. Just look at the post-WWI interventions by the British and the U.S. in Russia.

As to the relative losses the Soviets suffered, the raw numbers are almost incomprehensible. The historian H.P. Willmott put it better than anyone else I've read; in his When Men Lost Faith in Reason (a book I reviewed many years ago) he wrote:

"But to wander around English country churchyards, to look at memorials such as those in one's own little town, with its 305 names, leaves the indelible impression that the First World War scarred Britain, changed it for ever. If only for the sake of this argument, one would select 1 July 1916 as the day Britain's world was forever changed. On that day, north of the Somme, in one attack, British Third and Fourth Armies sustained almost 60,000 casualties, of whom about 19,000 were killed. The Soviet dead of the Second World was amounted to 19, 014 a day every day between 22 June 1941 and 11 May 1945. How could a society sustain itself when it incurred the first day of the Somme every day for six weeks short of four years, for 1,420 days? One dead every 4.5 seconds. If the Soviet dead were laid along the road between Moscow and Berlin, each corpse would be allowed 2.82 inches, less than a headstone."

This assessment offers a bit more perspective than the raw numbers allow.

alfadriver
alfadriver SuperDork
12/17/11 5:25 p.m.

In reply to friedgreencorrado:

Very reasonable concept.

In hindsight, we know that the Soviets were not much post war, but how they treated their "subjects" made us think otherwise. That, and they did a real number in subduing the countries, even the countries that were largely neutral or anti-Germany. Germans were horrific, without a doubt. Soviets were little better when they occupied countries.

They literally and figuratively gang raped Eastern Europe as the war ended.

benzbaron
benzbaron Dork
12/17/11 5:27 p.m.

Another issue is that by the end of the war the soviets had huge standing armies throughout eastern europe so when the peace came the western allies weren't in any position to dictate to the soviets how they should govern the land they occupied. As mentioned the soviets suffered terribly during the war and how was the west which hadn't suffered and lost so much to dictate the terms of post war. The combination of the horrible loss, nation building, and standing armies led to the cold war.

Another consideration is that many of the boundary lines were already drawn before the war had really began. The Hitler-Stallin pack which divided Poland had basically set the West-East boundaries of post war europe. There were some countries which fell west or east but much of the postwar landscape was almost predetermined.

neon4891
neon4891 SuperDork
12/17/11 5:42 p.m.

The powers that be should have let Patton push the Russians back.

Osterkraut
Osterkraut SuperDork
12/17/11 5:43 p.m.
Woody wrote: I had a relationship with a German girl and I spent a summer living with her on an island in the North Sea.

Dear Penthouse...

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