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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Parallels between Nazi Germany and Iran

Shavua tov - a good week to everyone.

I have often drawn parallels between the world's treatment of Nazi Germany in 1938 and the world's current treatment of Iran. In this weekend's JPost, David Horovitz publishes his notes of a conversation he had with Sir Martin Gilbert, the pre-eminent biographer of Winston Churchill (who succeeded Neville Chamberlain - pictured above - and changed Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Nazi Germany). What Gilbert has to say about the early 1930's sounds eerily familiar.
Take your enemies seriously. Because when it came to the Nazis, people didn't. And by people, Gilbert means the Allied leaders who needed to have known better.

"A grave mistake was made in the 1930s in finding all sorts of reasons for not regarding the Nazi threat as being a serious threat. Therefore, when you're working out your thoughts on the current situation, about fundamentalism, just remember that it is very easy for highly competent, educated, civilized, sophisticated people to find excuses and benign explanations for everything that happens," he says.

Compounding that failure in the 1930s, as the Nazis' rapaciousness became ever-more stark and should have become ever-less possible to explain benignly, Gilbert goes on, was the refusal nonetheless - of German Jews, of the British government, of most of the watching world - to acknowledge what was unfolding before their very eyes, and thus confront it effectively.

"The main argument towards the [Nazi] threat was: 'It must modify; these are extremes which surely will modify.' Of course, many German Jews took the same view as the British government on this... But when the dangers actually worsened, the people who had argued 'it will surely modify,' didn't say, 'Wait a minute. My premise is now destroyed.' Instead, they said, 'This can't really be that grave a threat. This can't be truly an evil force,' and, 'Well, it's not really what it seems."


Gilbert offers specifics from the 1930s, examples when honest internalization of what Hitler was up to should have necessitated the robust response that would have thwarted him at so reduced a price: First, the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, hailed risibly in a Times of London headline as "A Chance to Rebuild." Next, the annexation of Austria, "which was seen somehow as the natural evolution" even though Austria and Germany had never been one country. Then, Hitler's assertion at Munich in 1938 that he didn't want to rule Czechs even as he was seizing the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, "which was disastrous for the survival of Czechoslovakia and the security, basically, of the West. He was taking this great industrial zone, these great industrial resources, and [destroying] Czechoslovakia's defenses."

But again, "people rationalized. They didn't acknowledge how far things had moved from 'A Chance to Rebuild.' Hitler was taking the territory of another country, and still was producing a reason for so doing which was accepted as plausible."

The ostensibly "alarmist" Churchill (who was to take over as prime minister in May 1940) had been warning all through this period that by the time the apologists woke up and belatedly recognized the need to "take a stand," the means to mount an effective fightback would be much reduced. And so it proved: When the bitter truth of Nazi ambition could no longer be apologized away, with the invasion of Poland in 1939, says Gilbert, "you'd lost your allies, you'd lost territory, you'd lost raw materials. You were in the weakest possible position."


Look at the German records, he says. Hitler's generals were saying in 1938 that if Britain and France declared war, "there's nothing we can do. We can't win. We don't have the resources." In this light, the historian observes with dry understatement - implying but not verbalizing a parallel dismal procrastination in the face of evil - it would be "interesting" to hear the internal Iranian discussions today. "Essentially," he goes on, "appeasement gave the Germans time to create a war machine which was virtually impregnable," and which could not be overthrown or even seriously weakened for the first three years.

Which facilitated the Holocaust?

"Which facilitated all the evils that came with the German Nazis."
I don't really need to add anything. Read the whole thing.


At 6:07 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The parallels only go so far. For the first six years of its existence, the Nazi regime in German professed peace and co-existence with the West. Until Kristalnacht, it limited the assault on German Jews to the customary racist measures of disenfranchisement and social exclusion familiar in countries like America. As a result, people did not draw the connection between Nazi Germany's treatment of its own Jewish minority and its wider plans for establishing the rule of a master race in Europe.

In contrast, Iran openly boasts of seeking Israel's extinction. It pursues a nuclear program that has a far more sinister and deadly objection than the official one of nuclear energy for civilian needs.
The lesson has been learned to some extent and more sanctions are being imposed on Iran as a consequence of its genocidal ambitions vs the Jewish State.

If need be, military force may have used to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. Above all, the larger lesson and perhaps the most obvious parallel between Nazi Germany and the Iranian Islamofascist regime is that dismissing the threat as just a "Jewish problem" keeps people from seeing that the true danger is to the entire world.

We can only pray history will not again repeat itself.


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