Defeating Nazism: a just war


The ceremonies held at the end of January marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of the German extermination camp at Auschwitz in Poland were a reminder of the obscene and barbarous horrors of the Holocaust. Many of us who watched and mourned, especially perhaps the dwindling number of those of us who served in allied forces during the war, must have reflected on the causes and effects of that devastating conflict.

I have no doubt that it was a just war. Hitler’s Germany had to be defeated if civilization was to be preserved. The Nazi Party adopted Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” as its “bible.” The Germans, Hitler asserted, were a superior race. Jews, Gypsies and weaklings were unacceptable and should be eliminated from the Earth. It was the destiny of the superior German people to dominate Europe and in due course the rest of the world.

Jewish refugees from Germany began to escape in the late 1930s from the land in which their families had lived for generations. In the infamous Kristallnacht of Nov. 9-10,1938, Jewish synagogues, buildings and shops were attacked by anti-Semitic mobs while the police watched. Hundred of Jews were killed and some 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Millions more from Germany and German occupied territories were to follow and be exterminated.

The full extent of the horrific crimes committed by the Nazis did not become fully apparent until the final stages of the war when German concentration camps fell into the hands of the Allied forces entering Germany. Camps such as Belsen and Dachau revealed unspeakable brutality. This was organized and planned, with Hitler’s approval, by his underlings led by Heinrich Himmler’s Gestapo (secret police) and the special forces of the Waffen SS.

Jews were not the only people to suffer. Men and women in occupied territories were rounded up and sent to forced labor camps in Germany, where many died. Active resistance to German forces led to ruthless reprisals. In some infamous cases the population of whole villages, including women and children, were massacred. Collaborators with the Germans were to be found in every country and some behaved as badly as members of the German forces.

Of course, there were Germans who behaved humanely, but the Nazi Party, not least through the Hitler Youth, had indoctrinated and brainwashed members of the German forces.

German aggressive intentions in Europe were clearly manifest at least from the time of the Anschluss involving the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938, but even the Anglo-French leaders of appeasement realized after the crisis, later that year, over Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia that war was unavoidable.

The unprovoked German attack on Poland at the beginning of September 1939 forced Britain and France to declare war on Germany. Hitler had done a deal with Stalin so that Poland was partitioned between Germany and the Soviet Union.

After Germany had occupied Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium, and defeated France in 1940, Britain alone continued to resist Nazi Germany. As a result of good leadership and the courage of British fighter pilots, Hitler called off his planned invasion of England.

In 1941, Hitler turned on his temporary ally and invaded the Soviet Union. Britain was no longer alone. It had to cooperate with Joseph Stalin’s regime, abhorrent as many aspects of it were. As the German Army pressed on toward Moscow and the Soviet people suffered cruel and horrific losses, the gloom was only lightened when, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States joined the war against Nazi Germany and Japan.

In the subsequent battles not all went well and there were Allied mistakes. One of these was to overly emphasize aerial bombardment, especially of civilian targets, with the aim of disrupting production and undermining enemy morale.

When I look at the memorial in London to the more than 55,000 airmen who lost their lives serving in Bomber Command, I regret the sacrifice of so many young men in attacks that killed so many civilians. I recall that the German Luftwaffe in 1940 had been the first to launch bombing raids on British civilian targets. I also deeply regret the horrific destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers in the latter days of the war.

The German high command knew in 1944 that Germany could not win. Unfortunately an attempt to assassinate Hitler failed and no one with any authority had the courage to force acceptance of the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allies. Surrender then would have saved countless lives. Some were no doubt afraid of the inevitable reckoning for the crimes for which they were responsible.

Germany has changed beyond recognition in the last 70 years. German leaders from Konrad Adenauer onward have forced the German people to come to terms with their past and in particular to accept that the Holocaust was an unspeakable crime against humanity.

Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker, who died at the end of January, told the German parliament in 1985, on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe: “All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences and liable for it. Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present. The 8th of May [1945] was a day of liberation. It freed us all from the system of National Socialist tyranny.”

I wish that all our politicians would learn from recent history and not be misled by short-term political considerations. We in Britain must resist the siren voices suggesting that we would be better off in “splendid isolation” from the rest of Europe.

The peace of Europe and of the world could be jeopardized by a return to rivalry between European states and the collapse of the European Union.

I do not think we shall see a repetition of the sort of wars, which made the 20th century perhaps the bloodiest in human history, but we cannot be complacent in the face of threats from Islamic extremism and the ruthless nationalism of men like President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Hugh Cortazzi served as Britain’s ambassador to Japan from 1980-1984.

  • Matt McLaughlin

    Feb 9th 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of Israel’s founder Ben-Gurion

    soliciting Jamal ‘The Butcher’ Pasha for Ottoman residency and a place in Pasha’s army to fight the British.

    He was arrested as an insufferable revolutionary.

    • Dipak Bose

      Sun Yat Sen the so-called champion of democracy in china and the founder of the republic of China in 1911 used to live in Nagasaki, financed by the Imperialist Japanese Government, who already had colonized Korea and Taiwan. He had deposed the last emperor of China on racial ground that the Emperor was a Manchu, not a Han Chinese. The assistant of Sun Yat Sen, Chiang kai Sheik was a real Fascist dictator but was the ally of the WEST, who allowed him to occupy Formosa in 1949 and to massacre the native population to make room for the Chinese ( who used to be only 15 percent of the total population in Formosa in 1949).
      Similarly, in 1945 British massacred the Greek anti-Nazi resistance to put a German king and pro-Nazis in power in Greece.
      In 1945 also the entire pro-Nazi Ukranian Peoples army, 50, 000 strong, were allowed to emigrate to Canada by the British.

      • Matt McLaughlin

        like the history. thanks.

      • Starviking

        I think a lot of your history comes from your imagination.

        Any references to the British massacring ‘anti-Nazis’? And the British supporting Nazis is nonsensical – they supported the Hellenic Government.

        And as for the British moving an entire army to live in Canada – I can find no references for that. Besides – it would not be the British doing that, it would be the Canadians. I do realise that that fact is inconvenient to your anti-British viewpoint.

  • Dipak Bose

    Wrong History
    In 1939 British Prime Minister Chamberlain made a treaty with both Hitler and Mussolini to allow them to occupy Czechoslovakia and Ethiopia respectively.
    USSR offered treaty with both France and Britain. When that was rejected USSR made the same treaty with both Japan and Germany to buy time. USSR took from Poland only those areas of Belarus and Ukraine which Lenin lost to Germany to buy peace. These areas were not originally in Poland, who was described by Winston Churchill as Hyena of Europe.
    UK was defeated by Germany in France. USA went to Europe in 1944 when the Soviet Army was very close to Berlin and would be in Paris and Amsterdam within a few months otherwise.

  • Ron NJ

    The war against Germany and the Nazis was just, yet here we are on the other side of the planet as Japanese extreme right-wing ideology is making a comeback and somehow no one, least of all the Japanese people, seem to have a problem with it, as evidenced by the fact that they keep electing right-wingers (many of whom, including the current PM, are the children and grandchildren of class A war criminals). Imagine if Goebbels’ grandchild was the German chancellor today! Churchill would be spinning in his grave, but in Japan let’s just treat it with kid gloves and pretend everything’s okay, I guess? Surely nothing bad will come of this mess.

  • Starviking

    “British partitioned India with 2-3 million death.”

    And why did Britain partition India?

    And who killed those people?

    • Dipak Bose

      Muslims helped the British since 1905 to control India. as a departing gift the British awarded Muslim a separate stat by cutting India. Most of the victims were Hindus , the culprits were Muslims to start with 14th August 1946 when the British police and army was just watching the fun. They took no responsibility but allowed Muslims later to invade Kashmir and Balochistan.

      • Starviking

        Typical Ultra-Nationalistic stuff. I assume you’re talking about the Partition of Bengal in 1905? A partition which was reversed in 1911? So much for British help for the Muslims.

        As for most of the victims of Partition being Hindus – forgive me if I don’t take your word for it. Similarly for the British “just watching the fun”. I’m sure the mutinies of 1946, and Congress’s recent populist support of the INA played a part in British desire not to get sucked into events where they would inevitably be portrayed as the enemy.

      • Dipak Bose

        I was talking about the Partition of India in 1947, which was designed by Churchill and implemented by Attlee.

      • Starviking

        Designed by Churchill? Any references for that?

        The 1946 Cabinet Mission to India tried to implement an All-India Confederation, but that was rejected because Congress and the Muslim League would not co-operate on it.


  • Starviking

    It is quite obvious that you not only have no knowledge of history, but that you subscribe to a racial form of identity, given your labelling of King Paul of the Hellenes as pure German because of his blood.

    As is often the case, you are even wrong in your statement on his descent. This is not surprising, given your penchant for hyperbole. King Paul’s Paternal Grandmother, Queen Olga, was Russian. His Paternal Grandfather, King George, was Danish. So much for “pure German”.

    You claimed “the entire pro-Nazi Ukranian Peoples army, 50, 000 strong, were allowed to emigrate to Canada by the British”. Yet your Wikipedia link makes clear that it was the 14th Voluntary Division SS Galizien
    who were allowed to emigrate – at the urging of the Polish and the Vatican! So, not really the British behind it, and not an army of 50,000, a division of 7,100!

    Here’s the info, from your own links:

    “The Ukrainian soldiers were interned in Rimini, Italy, in the area controlled by Polish II Corps forces. The UNA commander Pavlo Shandruk requested for a meeting with Polish general Władysław Anders in London, and asked him to protect the army against the deportation to Soviet Union. Despite the Soviet pressure, Anders managed to protect Ukrainian soldiers, as the former citizens of the Second Republic of Poland. This, together with the intervention of the Vatican saved its members from deportation to the USSR. Bishop Buchko of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had appealed to Pope Pius XII to intervene on behalf of the division, whom he described as “good Catholics and fervent anti-Communists”. Due to Vatican intervention, the British authorities changed the status of Division members from POW to surrendered enemy personnel and the Polish II Corps declined their deportation to Soviet Union.”

    There also were no definitive war crime charges against them:

    “Although the Galizien Division has not been found guilty of any war crimes by any war tribunal or commission, numerous unproven accusations of impropriety have been levelled at the division and at particular members of the division from a variety of sources. It is difficult to determine the extent of war criminality among members of the division.”

    Please, read your references next time. If I recall correctly, you teach at a university – so that should be second nature to you.