The Interwar Period

August 22, 2016

                       “Children, what do you know of the Fuhrer?”

This period in European History is indeed remarkable. There are some major lessons learned that are relevant for the present. The times were so notable that most major military training programs cover this time frame as a lesson in creeping aggression and the manipulation of societies, and their responses.  

Here are some major points to consider:

1. Propaganda is often very effective in manipulating the masses, directing popular focus and energy, and creating potent organizations.

We are raised in environments and patriotic and democratic societies that emphasize the superiority and dominance/triumph of truth over error, and consensus opinion over dictates of government. I believe this is a correct path ethically and politically. Nonetheless, propaganda and lies (disinformation) can be very effective in the short term, causing major responses that benefit the dictatorial and totalitarian sinister powers of the age. This was the case in the interwar period. The Fascists and Communists were masters of propaganda, and the latter more so. Communist propaganda demonstrated a deep mastery of human psychology and the dark knowledge of human nature. Its effectiveness is witnessed in the death of multiplied millions of its victims and the robotic obedience of its adherents.

For those of you interested in this subject, please take a few moments to view Nazi Germany’s master propaganda piece: Triumph of the Will (1934). Here is the video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHs2coAzLJ8 This video illustrates the propaganda tactics of a rising Nazi movement. 

2. Often the existence of one enemy can give rise to another as destructive or even more so. I am speaking here of the Communist threat sweeping Europe and the Fascist response.

No doubt the rise of Communism as a local and regional force and challenge was duly noted by Europeans. But what was the response to it? Fascism rode to power in large part on an anti-Communist message, pledging to fight Communism, protect the sacred and religious values the Red Menace threatened to destroy, and protect life and property against the Bolshevik revolutionaries. 

Yet Fascism created a threat nearly as problematic to local populations: purges, imprisonments, a loss of freedom, restriction of liberties, and ultimately genocide and World War. Often in politics, the cure is worse than the sickness–or nearly as bad. 

3. Slumbering populations of Europe.

There was a terrible price to pay for “slumbering,” lacking the political virtues of vision, readiness, and foresight. It is remarkable again that the indicators of violence, genocide, and destruction were increasing during the interwar period and too few responded. Many Jews hoped against hope that Hitler would not carry out his evil designs of genocide. Many European and Western leaders believed the diabolical and belligerent language of Mein Kampf (Hitler’s autobiography) glorifying war and mass killings were just rhetoric meant to appease a wounded generation of zealot patriots but never meant to be acted upon. And countries of Europe like Poland and Great Britain believed even to the very days preceding the invasion of Poland that a peaceful solution would be achieved with Hitler, who was deemed a reasonable man.

Thus many Europeans slept, or we can say were sleep walking.

Other examples could be given that underscore the importance of watchfulness in periods like this and in a larger sense in all times of political crisis.  Keeping a broad scope and emotional detachment during periods of crisis is absolutely essential for maintaining readiness and the structures of peace.

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