Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fausto's thought-provoking post

Check this out.

I have a response brewing, but it isn't ready yet.

And I forgive you if you skim the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem. I'm into Victorians, but he's a little much even for me.



fausto said...

Thanks for the shout-out.

The Owen and Hopkins poems were meant to contrast hopelessness and hope.

Bill Baar said...

I thought blaming Hitlerism on the unfair treaty of Versailles a bit much.

fausto said...

Really? Humiliating a nation's pride is strong stuff. Americans wouldn't have stood still for it if it had happened to us. Look how we reacted to just 20 outlaws on 4 airplanes.

PG said...

Somewhat agreed with fausto. Keynes identified at the time of the treaty that it was incredibly stupid to beggar Germany and that it would generate a backlash against the victorious nations.

Bill Baar said...

Really? Humiliating a nation's pride is strong stuff.

It's the old line that our real enemy was Stalin (and maybe FDR too), not Hitler. Hitler was the shield against Bolshevik Russia, and a leader with a legitimate beef against the Democracies.

German Militarism was the great foe of the world throughout the 20the Century. From the genocide of the Herero rebellion through the genocide of the Jews. There was a common thread of a brutal racial superiority and will to conquest.

Just look at the treaty of Brest Litovsk the Germans imposed on Soviet Russian and you get an idea of what they had planned.

In many respect what we deal with today in Iraq is the closing Chapter what German Militarism started in the dawn of the last century.

Most Unitarians of the 30s (at least the ones I remember as parents) understood the 1930s.

They made some mistakes about Stalin but they sure understood Hitler and that Hitlerism wasn't going to go away regardless of what the allies had done at Versailles.

Bill Baar said...

The AUA's Robert Dexter on Munich. Nothing about the humiliation of Versailles from Unitarians then,

In 1938, Hitler threatened to unleash a European war unless the Sudetenland, a border area of Czechoslovakia with a large ethnic German population, was ceded to Germany. The leaders of Britain, France, Italy, and Germany held a conference in Munich on September 29-30, 1938. In what became known as the Munich Pact, they agreed to the German annexation of the Sudetenland in exchange for a pledge of peace from Hitler. The Munich agreement, which gave Hitler the Sudetenland, stunned Unitarians in the United States, who had close ties to Czech churches. The flow of political dissidents, Jews, and other refugees from Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland into the Unitarian church in Prague increased. Robert Dexter, director of the American Unitarian Association's (AUA) Department of Social Relations, recalled, “I knew there would be untold suffering in the Nazi-occupied territories, and I was equally convinced that something should be done about it by those of us who felt we had an obligation to aid our friends who had been so betrayed.”

Within a week of the Munich Pact, the AUA passed a resolution to explore a relief enterprise for refugees in Czechoslovakia. Shortly thereafter, Dexter sailed for Europe to assess the situation, which led to his recommendation that the Unitarians focus on the needs of unregistered refugees -- especially Jews and anti-Nazi Germans from the Sudetenland, Austria, and Germany. Armed with more than $40,000 to support the newly formed Commission for Service in Czechoslovakia, the AUA selected the Rev. Waitstill Sharp, a young minister from the Wellesley Hills Unitarian Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and his wife, Martha, an experienced social worker, to bear Unitarian witness and to assist refugees in Europe during the period of Nazi persecution.

PG said...

No, saying that the Treaty of Versailles helped to create the conditions in Germany that made Hitler's rise possible is not the same as saying "Hitler was the shield against Bolshevik Russia, and a leader with a legitimate beef against the Democracies." It's not even close. The Treaty did not attempt merely to demilitarize Germany (a reasonable goal), but also on the French side had the goal of ruining Germany economically through the cessation of territory, all colonies, half its iron and steel industry; plus large reparations. This is not just symbolic humiliation: this helps to create economic and industrial distress that embitters the German people. Instead of making them feel guilty for their part in WWI, the Treaty just made them feel angry at the victors who had robbed them.

Er, if the Herero rebellion demonstrates that the German people, regardless of external pressures, were just inherently determined to take over the world and subjugate nonwhite peoples, what do you make of the way that other European nations treated their overseas colonies? Belgium's rule over the Congo led to the direct or indirect death of nearly half the population, yet I've never heard that the Belgian people had "a brutal racial superiority and will to conquest." Ditto the French, despite their treatment of Algeria; Caucasian Americans, despite their treatment of Native Americans.

White people, to put it bluntly, were just very successful at killing and ruling over brown people. The Germans were not anomalous in this respect. (What made them unusual was the willingness to commit genocide close to home, a behavior more comparable to the Turks' treatment of Armenians -- precisely the historical precedent that Hitler mentioned in stating why he would get away with the Final Solution.)

The British were relatively humane, and even they had a "no prisoners" policy in putting down the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and burned whole villages in retaliation for the Indians' killings in the siege of Kanpur.

ogre said...

Bill, that leaps the better part of two decades--from Versailles to Hitler's rise to power. Hitler wasn't inevitable. More conflict in Europe? That might have been--or perhaps something like a Marshall Plan might have been possible then, bringing Germany and France together (I tend to think that would have been harder--the truth is that post WWII Europe was so devastated, France and Germany both, that they had to accept America's plan, almost regardless of what it was). But one only has to go back and look at the history of the end of WWI to see that the seeds for the worst possible conflict were planted then, by the victors.

The Anglo-French terms were unremittingly harsh and vastly beyond anything that the Germans had imagined; the war had been fought essentially to a standstill in the West. While Germany was cracking under the strain, it was equally true that the Allied forces and morale were equally drained--and only the insertion of American industry, wealth and fresh meat for the war machine made the ghastly balance tip (without it... who knows? Perhaps the resources draining to Germany from the Brest-Litovsk peace in the east might have made the difference). Nevertheless, the truth is that the German delegates were so shocked by the terms that they considered withdrawing and presumed that their government would resume fighting. What was hammered out was not "peace," but a cessation of hostilities. Having paid a bitter price for it, it was easy--terribly easy--for Hitler and others to use it to whip up enthusiasm for revenge.

Blaming Hitlerism on Versailles is a bit much--no one could have envisioned Hitler in 1918. Well, perhaps a poet might have, looking out over the wasteland of Flanders, contemplating what horror had been planted in the flesh-and-blood manured ground, and wondering at what the harvest would be. But that there would be another war? It was pretty widely forecast.

Those "negotiating" the end of the War to End All Wars failed those who'd fought it, in failing to fashion a Peace to Build Permanent Peace, and instead crafting a ruthless, vengeful, greedy Peace to Punish the Foe. The fractal details of the horror couldn't be forecast. But the details were only details. That Versailles was a summons to an even greater war was pretty easily seen then.

Blame for Hitler? Not if you insist that blame only be laid for things that can clearly be seen and forecast. But as much as anyone can be blamed for it... it falls to the Victor's Peace of Versailles, and to those who crafted it. Stripping Germany, humiliating Germans, occupying the Rhineland... everything was done in a way that was profoundly humiliating.

What you've cited about Hitler and Stalin and the rest is ex post facto--Hitler and Hitlerism as a shield against the USSR was a rationalization and justification after the fact of Hitler's rise. It wasn't being cited in the 20s--Germany wasn't the shield of the West then, and neither was Hitler.

You make a couple remarks that I simply don't fathom.

Would you explain?

In many respect what we deal with today in Iraq is the closing Chapter what German Militarism started in the dawn of the last century.

What? How is German militarism engaged in George Bush's War?


They made some mistakes about Stalin but they sure understood Hitler and that Hitlerism wasn't going to go away regardless of what the allies had done at Versailles.

Regardless of what the allies had done? This reads like cart before horse. It might be read to suggest that if after the fact Versailles were undone, Hitler would have gone away--but that's absurd, like repairing the downed powerline and making some of the major Californian fires go away, ex post facto. What happened at Versailles set the stage and ensured that there was plenty of loose powder and cracked powder kegs... and then the only question was when some Wagnerian lunatic would come and
light torches and hurl them around.

You can't blame them for the details of the lunatic. But you can absolutely blame them for setting the stage and leaving all that powder there.

Bill Baar said...

Baar wrote: In many respect what we deal with today in Iraq is the closing Chapter what German Militarism started in the dawn of the last century.


Ogre wrote: How is German militarism engaged in George Bush's War?

Baar replies: Today's middle east and Iraq the creation of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the end of WWI. Had the Ottoman's sided with the allies instead of German Militarism, it might be a different middle east today. What we do in the middle east today seem very much the final chapter of events that began in 1914.

Re: UU's, Hitler, and Stalin... the older UU's I knew as a kid saw Chamberlin's betrayel of Czechoslovakia as a betrayel of democracy... a democracy with a founding first Lady who was a Unitarian. Read the history of UUSC and you realize our symbolism is linked to those events. I don't think many of those UU's misunderstood Hitler or felt warm about Chamberlin.

They were also Corliss Lamont style Humanists.. i.e. fellow travelers who badly misunderstood Stalin and Soviet Russia.... and came to undestand Russia only at different points.

Get your hands on John Haynes Holmes 1940 essay on Why we Liberals went wrong on the Russian Revolution.

The fact that the Soviet road to economic justice had involved tyranny, imprisonment, execution, purges, and so on, should have alerted Christians to the revolutions dark side [from page 58 of World Christianity and Marxism By Denis Janz]

I remember going to side shows of youth group visits to the Soviet Union in 1971 over at Chicago's Third UU so it took many UU's a long time to get where Haynes managed to get in 1940.

UU's can turn a surprizing blind eye to tyranny and it took decades for some to sort it out.

I just didn't want to overlook a moment when much of the Church clearly understoon Hitler's tyranny, Chamberlins betrayel of a noble people with Unitarian roots, and events that gave us our symbolism of today.

That would be a shame.

Rev NDM said...

Undoubtedly Nazism was born independent of the Treaty of Versailles; however the Treaty did add fuel to the fire, or perhaps I should say, provided a better background for Hitler to do his work. If it hadn't been the Treaty, then Hitler would have had to look for another basis for his insanity (such as the Marxism that was present in Germany-think of the very short lived Bavarian Soviet Republic). The Treaty was extreme-and as we know from history, current and past, extreme acts tend to give politicians wide mandates to do what they want.

"What we do in the middle east today seem very much the final chapter of events that began in 1914."

I agree; today's Middle East is very much the result of seeds we (and Britain) planted a hundred years ago. Even the creation of Iraq was the work of the British. We have been playing puppet-master over the region for a long time, and it keeps biting us in the rear end.

Bill Baar said...

Britian stepped upto the League of Nations and accepted a mandate for Iraq.

The US backed off the league of Nations and refused a mandate for Armenia.

I think the world would have been a better place today had America resisted that isolationism joined the league, and like Britian, accepted a mandate.

As for Iraq's oil. Great Britian, nor I think the majority of American Unitarians, would tolerate Iraq's oil in the hands of Hitler. When Great Britian returned to Iraq in April 1941 I suspect many of our Unitarian forebears were with them. Different than many other Liberal Christians of the era...who were still stuck in isolationism.