Thursday, May 31, 2018

January 7, 1944: Engagement!

I don't have a document for this date, well I do, but it's dated much later. Opa reveals in a letter much later in this year that today is the day he officially became engaged to Grandmother. I kinda thought they were already engaged, but I guess it was more in theory than an official thing! 

So on January 7, on Opa's bed in the Zimmerman's house, my Grandmother's said yes to Opa's proposal. On January 7, 1944 in the midst of a war, a commitment to love was made. 


January 3, 1944: Accurate Predictions

Article by Opa in Manhattan, Kansas newspaper: The Mercury Chronicle


Refugee Predicts A Late-Spring Full-Scale Invasion

Editor's note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theatre carry the wealth of his internment camp experience in Nazi Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent. The Mercury Chronicle each week brings(?) you his interpretation of the war in Europe.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

This past year has been very kind and generous to the Allied cause. It was the first year of the war in which the Allies have suffered no major defeats, but had the full initiative on all fronts where there had been any fighting at all. There is every reason to expect that 1944 will be at least that favorable.

In face of the preparatory action on the European front of the past year, and some statements made by high officials, there is a good chance that the European war will be finished this year.

Full-scaled invasion will definitely not start before at least March or April, though. There are several reasons for that. In the first place, weather conditions during winter months are too favorable for defensive actions, especially along the French coast. If beachheads should be established at a time of uncertain weather conditions, storms in the English Channel might keep the major part of the invasion troops from landing. Also, pre-invasion bombing of the coast line defenses has not even begun. Most of the bombing raids carried out during the last weeks have been confined to the knock-out of war industries. If the Sicilian and Italian campaigns were at all indicatory of how modern invasions are handled, there will be about three to four weeks of intensive bombing of the defensive installations along the coast before an invasion attempt is launched.

Apparently, General Eisenhower's appointment as Chief of the invasion forces was not made before the Teheran conferences, or only a few weeks ago. Invasion of a continent cannot be done on a few weeks' notice; it will take months of preparatory calculations, reconnaissance activities and other organizational measures before the stage is set for the real blow.

This delay, naturally, comes in very handy for Hitler, too. It will mean that the fortifications along the coast and more inland will be considerably stiffened, and, possibly, that German intelligence service may have found out enough about invasion plans to cause the attacking forces some serious trouble. It is expected that the Nazis will not waste many of their forces in the defense of beaches, but will resort to the cumulative defense system which worked so efficiently for the Russians in 1941.

In this system of defense, several strongly fortified circles are built up around the center of Europe. The forces defending the outer circle will retreat before they are beaten and strengthen the circle farther inland. This process will be continued until a circle is reached which his small enough and, by the aid of the retreating forces, strong enough to withstand the attack. At that point, a war of position may be forced upon the Allies which will be very, very critical. The crisis is expected to occur around August. The fall, then, will decide whether the Nazis will be defeated in 1944 or whether the war in Europe will be extended for what may be several years.

So far as the Pacific war is concerned, the world will have to reckon with at least two more years. Nevertheless, some major offensives must have been planned in that area, too. Indicative of that is a statement recently made by Admiral William P. Halsey, who said: "We can assure the people of the United States and Allied Nations- that 1944 will be a year of great decisive victories for the cause of Pacific freedom." It is possible that an invasion of Philippines may be attempted before fall of this year: also Burma may be possibly be recaptured, but the island of Japan proper will still feel safe next Christmas. Chances are that the Allies will wait for the end of the war in Europe so that all forces can be combined in an all-out attack on Japan in either 1945 or 1946.

Well, Opa does it again. His predictions are eerily on point. I'm not sure what caused the shift in the national conscience to no longer assume the war would be over immediately. Something extended the timeline, perhaps it was just the lack of major action immediately following the conferences between Britain, Russia, and the US. Maybe people hoped that meeting would result in some ultimatum, but realized (as Opa did) that such an ultimatum could not be successful in the way the Allies needed. So here we are, at the beginning of 1944, with a deep breath and acceptance that there's still a lot more fight left in this war. 

Opa gets right to it, predicting that the trajectory of 1944 will continue on the upward track that was set in 1943. He looks at all the information available to him: weather knowledge, previous invasion tactics, and logic- and gives his best guess as to how the Allies will proceed. He pretty much predicts D-Day with only a few weeks off on his timing. I guess early June could still be considered late spring, right? 

Opa's knowledge of the German defensive strategy is impressive. I'm not sure if this is something anyone could know with a little research, or if Opa is particularly knowledgeable due to his work with his Dad or knowledge from when he lived in Germany. The thing is, he was only 18 when he left. I still wonder whether Opa's observations and predictions on the war were par for the course and everyone following the global developments were on the same page, or if he was particularly gifted and wise. I don't know.

Opa's last prediction was that the Allies would sort of hold the  front in the Pacific and then once they had sort of decisively ended the war in Europe, they would turn their focus to the Pacific. This also seems to have turned out the way he predicted. Of course I can't imagine he would ever have predicted that the "all-out" attack in 1945 or 46 would look like it did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

This is sort of an aside- but Opa's knack for journalism with his engineering mind is so.... well- familiar. When my Dad was choosing schools, he had the Air Force Academy on one end, and a liberal arts college for journalism on the other. He ended up choosing the more logical and fiscally wise choice: USAFA with its full ride and a career in the Air Force. He became a test pilot with his engineering background. But now that he's twice retired, what does my dad spend his days doing? Writing. Apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As far as I'm concerned- I never got the engineering genes. So I didn't get to make the wise and fiscally sound choice.

I hope Opa enjoyed his chance to write, even though he knew he hoped for an engineering career. I wonder if he ever considered journalism as a career. He certainly had a gift for predicting war moves.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

December 25 & 27, 1943: Morpheus Christmas

Letter from Opa to Grandmother

Monday Night
Dec. 27, '43


The alarm clock sounded sort of rusty this morning; it hadn't been used for so long. Everybody in the library had that vicarious blue-ribbon look on the face which only a commando raid, a night in Kansas City, or a three-day vacation can produce. Even the soldiers entered the library's sacred halls without the usual commotion, but just sat down, buried their heads in their hands, not even lift them for the tempting sight of Kathleen filing magazines on the shelves around the room. That's what Christmas does.

If you want to use my two large suitcases to carry your presents back to Manhattan, just let me know. Also, I expect you to have eaten enough turkey, candy, nuts, and home-made bread -- not to speak about olives -- that you will weigh at least 80 pounds by the time you get back. Just wear that all-color skirt again; it will have to fit you now!

Christmas was really nice here, too. On Christmas Eve, after writing to Doc, I reread old letters from my mother and dad; probably for the first time; it was rather strange to read their comments on things of long ago. I shall show you some of them; my dad wrote several ones in English which you might want to read. Saturday morn, I spent in the arms of Morpheus; did get up in time to eat that big dinner, though. It was at Miss Derby's, with Eileen, Miss Davis, and four soldiers. If you think I ever ate much, you should have seen me there. I ate for about thirty minutes in my usual speed, without stopping for more than the essential number of words (which, as you know, is very small in my case.) We had a very interesting conversation after the dinner; those soldiers had come from all different parts of the country and had correspondingly different backgrounds and stories. One from California, the other owned a cattle ranch in Montana about which he just loved to hear himself talk. One guy had been attendant in a mental hospital, and his stories indicated that he himself had a little doses of that disease. I didn't keep very quiet myself, so there were not very many embarrassing silences. If you had been there, I doubt if you could have edged in a word. (Or do I?)

Even in these days of scientific discoveries and natural explanations, new wonders and mysteries are to be encountered: I, of my own free will and accord, went to church on Sunday. Just how it happened remains a riddle, the fact, however, remains. Brewster gave an excellent sermon, and I really did feel good when I heard the brats on the upper floor yell and cry their little heads off. I tried to find out who was supposed to be taking care of them, but I didn't.

Tonight I am planning on working on "my" sociology paper (Post-War Jews), don't feel very ambitious, though.

Only 364 more shopping days till Christmas!! Have a nice time sleeping your vacation away. I know someone who will be awfully glad when you get back to Manhattan, and it ain't Mrs. Paustian either.



Christmas Card from Opa to Grandmother


(front cover)
Merry Christmas, Honey

(Inside card)
I love you so much Honey,
You know it, don't you, dear?
Just sending you this message
Makes Christmas hold more cheer;
I hope you'll read it often,
And find inside it, too,
The Special love I've put there
For no one else but you.


Another Christmas Card from Opa to Grandmother


(Front page)
Listen, Sweetheart- 
don't sit under the mistletoe-

with anyone else but me!
Love, and a Merry Christmas   Tom.

I love Opa's sweet Christmas cards, and the fact that he sent two, ha. I'm sure he was sending them out of love, but also maybe to impress her parents a little bit (I don't think they loved him or the idea of him yet). 

Opa spends Christmas on campus with some soldiers, a teacher, and a librarian (Eileen, who he kept in touch with)- all who have opened their hearts (and one, their home) to the lonely or at least those far from home. Opa's description of his Christmas dinner made me so happy. It's exactly what you would hope for him to have- a feast, good conversation, and a place to share his own stories. 

Opa's style of writing in his letters feels so familiar to me, his personality shines through it in ways that my childhood self didn't quite have access to. I can understand his adult humor, I can see the events he describes and even witness his thoughts about them. Personal letters are better than a journal even. In a journal it is raw and perhaps most vulnerable, but in a letter we get to tell a story, add a little style, bring out our full personality.

Opa's comment about Grandmother eating all the things and being a ripe 80 pounds is actually hilarious if you know her. She may have actually reached 80 pounds after gaining her Christmas weight. Maybe that's an exaggeration but I don't think Grandmother ever weighed more than 90 pounds in my entire lifetime knowing her. She was a tiny woman. She said she only broke 100 once for a pregnancy, because the doctor was on her all the time about not gaining enough weight. I mean... I did NOT inherit her stature in any way. 

Opa opens a small vault of vulnerability that is uncommon for his letters so far. He never really speaks very much about his parents, only that he heard from them. I wonder if this is partly because he chooses to have those conversations in person, or if his stoic German upbringing kicks in when things are a little close to the heart. In this letter he tells Grandmother that he spent Christmas Eve re-reading letters from his mother and dad. Before I get into his response, I want to give some context. In Germany, Christmas Eve was the big day to celebrate and open a gift. Although his mother was jewish, none of his family was particularly religious, so Opa's family celebrated Christmas like most Germans did, regardless of religion. I imagined Opa's Christmas Eve, he as by himself, likely thinking about home, his parents, and Christmas' past. He sank deeper into that reminiscence by reading old letters from his parents. Ella's letters to Opa from Christmas time were always filled with wishes that she could hold him near, celebrate with him and give him his gift in person. I imagine Opa thought even further back to a time when his whole family was under one roof: before his parent's divorce, before Hitler rose to power, before Patti left for France, before he left for the US. This was back when they lived in a big, nice apartment on Kurfurstendam, one of the fancy streets in Berlin. Back when things seemed normal.

Now Opa is reading the letters, that aren't even that long ago, and realizing just how much has changed since 1939. It's been five years since he's seen his mother, four since he'd seen his father, and I think about six years since he'd seen his sister. His entire family was now living in Nazi-occupied territory with bomb threats, deportation threats, and potential lack of access to the essentials for life. 1939 must have felt terrible at the time, but now his life was weirdly wonderful, and his family was shrouded in mysterious danger with very little power over it. How eerie it must have been to read those letters. Did he find consolation in them? He seemed to, because he wanted to share them with Grandmother. The letters written in English by his father were some she could read. It is clear that we don't have every letter written to Opa, and unclear exactly how the letters got separated or sorted out. But what is clear is that Opa kept many of them, and on a lonely Christmas Eve in 1943, he pulled them out to hear the voices of his parents, even if from the past. 

I was struck by what he said next, that he spent Saturday morning (Christmas Day) in the arms of Morpheus. I might be reading too much into this little quip, but Morpheus is not the God of sleep, but the God of dreams. Dreams fill our nights when thoughts fill our days. I can't help but think Opa's day was filled with thoughts of his family, and the sharp homesickness that comes from spending yet another holiday away from them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

December 19, 1943: Easy Russian Plans

Article by Opa for the Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper: Mercury Chronicle


How Will Germany Pay Her Debts After War Is Over?

How Will Germany 2 col inside...
Editor's Note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theatre carry the weight of his internment camp experiences in Nazi-Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

One of these days, in a not very distant future, the war will be over in Europe. Allied political leaders and economists will have another peace parley, and, among other items, will decide upon reparations; upon the question how much of the damage done during the war can be made good by payments. After the last war, this question was settled rather poorly. Germany was asked to pay an equivalent of approximately 32,000,000,000 dollars in gold. The gold was not available, so Germany was going to pay it in goods. Since this meant that Germany would get the chance to build up her industry again, the Allies refused this offer. Effect: Germany did not pay at all.

Essentially the same problem will exist after the present war. Germany, since 1934, has not been on the gold standard, partially because her gold resources are practically non-existent. German money, if not backed by gold, will have no value in a country who currency is based on the gold standard, so there will be no cash reparation payments from Germany directly. The only possible source for German cash lies in German foreign investments, which, of course, are frozen already and will very probably be seized right after the war. These foreign investments amount to about 1,500,000,000 dollars which is only three-fourths of one percent of the estimated damage done by Germany's war actions.

Russia Has a Plan

A country like Russia will have no trouble getting even. Russia is planning on a reparation program for Germany which will work. Every year, for the next ten years, German industry will produce the equivalent of $4,000,000,000 worth of goods for Russia. During that time, Allied occupation troops will make sure that Germany will have no sideline production of armaments in these industries. In addition to this great industrial program, Russia will draft several million German workers per year to work on reconstruction projects in the war-torn regions of western Russia. One plan, suggested by a Russian labor expert, suggests that every German boy will spend the time which the Nazis required of him for a peacetime military education not in army camps, but in labor camps somewhere in Europe's destroyed areas. A scheme like that would not deprive those boys of their freedom and, if handled wisely, would provide the boys with an experience in constructive work which will do much toward the creation of a more peaceful spirit in the German youth. Care would be taken to avoid anything which might make that service appear as slave labor.

The danger that German industries, if brought back on her feet, will secretly return to the production of armaments is not very great if the Allies take the necessary precautions. Inspectors and officers of an occupational army can easily foresee and forestall any move in such a direction. Also, it is very doubtful if the German people could be led into another war if economic conditions in Germany are such that war will not seem necessary. A system such as provided for in the plan, would bring German industrial prosperity back on its feet, but will control the profits and the distribution of the products. Thus, Germany would have a chance to have at least part of their war expenses and damages recompensed.

Wouldn't Work in U.S.

This plan would work in Russia. It would absolutely not work in either England or the United States. Especially after this war, the danger for unemployment will be tremendous due to the return of our soldiers into civilian life, and there will be definitely no need for imported labor. Industries will want to resume their pre-war production and will not want competition from government-imported goods from Germany. For these reasons, there does not appear to be much chance that we are going to get any reparations. If, however, the Russian plan should work out to ensure peace for a reasonably long period of time, reparations would gladly be forgotten. The greatest damage done by war is the loss of human lives, and no reparation costs would ever compensate for that.

This article is weird and frankly feels a little lazy for Opa, but I'll give him a break. 

First, once again I have to address the super weird introduction, and maybe that played a role in my reading the article as weird. Opa's introduction includes information that we cannot confirm. The time he worked for the United Press: His father worked there, and Opa was likely in the offices while he was in Holland (perhaps fetching coffee), but the way this introduction is worded, you'd think he was a journalist. And then there is the line about Opa's time in a concentration camp, also completely without any confirmation. In the words of many politicians: I can neither confirm nor deny that this happened. But the story was never alluded to in any way other than one note in a college roommate's diary and the newspaper. Otherwise there were no letters, no documents, no legends that survived Opa's youth to bring this story to my feet. It's a mixed bag for me. Maybe he was interned for trying to cross the German border, but if so, it was temporary and without much consequence. We have a fairly well-documented timeline of Opa's where-abouts, and there aren't too many giant gaps. Last, and weird to me, is the comment that Opa has "previous years of travel on the continent." I mean, he lived in Germany, might have vacationed in Austria or some neighboring locations, but other than his travels out of Germany into Holland and to the United States, Opa was not a world-traveler. Not that I know of. I think the editor is sprinkling some hyperbole on Opa's description, and I doubt Opa had a huge amount of control over it.

Now let's move on to Opa's analysis of how Germany will pay reparations after the war. He significantly over-simplifies what happened after the first world war, which I suppose is forgivable since it can't be too many words for a newspaper. However, the simple fact is that Germany did owe reparations, and they did refuse in many different ways to pay them (partially because the amount was so astronomical that their ability to do it was severely limited). Opa was right, the Germans at this point in history really hadn't made any real effort to pay their reparations. However, the debt remained. Once Hitler came around, he decided to just annul the debt contract. His hope was that after a little world domination, it wouldn't matter. Plus, who doesn't love a guy who claims he can just tell the countries collecting to shove off? And yet, the debt still remains. Here is a fascinating article I read about the actual process and eventual payment of WW1 reparations. You really should go read it. If you don't: the super-short synopsis is that as of 2010, Germany finished paying the reparations (after several adjustments to money owed). It's kind of crazy. So Opa wasn't wrong at the time of writing, and his point stands, but I think you miss the idea that Germany is for the longest time indebted to the world, even if they don't act to make any payment. It wasn't just a wash.

Now, Opa talks about this magical plan that Russia has for reparations after basically saying that the US has no clue how to go about it. The way Opa writes about Russia and the implementation of their plan makes me wonder if Opa had any experience with Russians. I mean, it feels very naive for him to think that the Russian government, after losing millions of soldiers in a war, would just send German boys to peace-learning-industry camps. The whole thing is weird and feels like it is pulled from Russian propaganda. He talks about German workers going to do industry work in Russia, as if that is easy and everyone will go along with it. He brushes off any concern that Germany industries alive again will allow Germans to arm themselves. He basically says: we'll inspect that and make sure it doesn't happen (or at least the Russians will). I feel like they tried to do that after WW1? 

The grand finale, which is why I feel this article is odd, is that Opa says the Russian plan will not work for the US or England- and then names very valid and compelling reasons that do not seem like they should be uniquely American or British issues. It left me wondering why Russia would be OK with an influx of migrant workers and competition from German industries. Wouldn't those also be problems for Russia?

I do agree with Opa's last statement, which perhaps should be at the forefront of any war/peace negotiation to remind us that what we do now could prevent war in the future, even if it might not fill our pockets: 
The greatest damage done by war is the loss of human lives, and no reparation costs would ever compensate for that.
So we all know now that post-war Germany looked very different from any of these possibilities, but I have really enjoyed reading and thinking about all the possibilities. 

Oh- as a little side note, I couldn't help but read the next part which is a paragraph from another article. It cracked me up so much I will transcribe it for you here for fun:

The post-war traffic problem will be most serious because millions of fighting men accustomed to danger will be behind the wheel again, and because civilians, free from the gas shortage, will be "rarin' to go" on worn tires.

Monday, May 28, 2018

December 15, 1943: Strategic Placement

Article written by Opa for the Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper: Mercury Chronicle


Iran Conference Is New Blow to German Morale

By Thomas W. Doeppner

While the Moscow Conference was a surprise to the world in the great amount of decisions published, Teheran revealed nothing of importance that had not been known before. The wording of the Teheran statement was very careful and diplomatic; it could hardly have been handled in more general terms.

Very probably, important decisions have been made in Iran, but no outsider will know about them until they have been materialized. The result of the conference, as far as the general public of all nations is concerned, is purely a propagandistic one: for the Axis population it means that close cooperation between the Allies has now become complete reality, in spite of Goebbels' propaganda to the contrary. It had been a wonderful dream for some Nazis that Russia and the United States would never be able to coordinate their efforts because of the vast difference of systems of government, ideals, and war aims. It can be certain that Teheran shattered this dream to bits.

Why didn't the Germans attempt to bomb places like Cairo or Teheran at the time of these conferences? The answer is that they no longer had the air power or the initiative to do so; another blow-down to German morale.

Most important, though, was the propaganda effect on the occupied and Allied countries. The occupied people derived new hopes and new courage from the thought that now, finally, a definite and complete plan had been laid for their liberation: that time and scope of the final actions had been agreed upon. Those groups in Allied countries, especially in this country, who still did not believe in Russo-American cooperation, were brought to a long-lasting silence.

After Teheran, Roosevelt and Churchill had some far-reaching talks with Turkey's Inonu. From all appearances, the Turks compromised but did not yield completely to the major demands of the  Allies as yet. However, there may be involved a factor which resembles the action taken by Eisenhower at the time of Italy's surrender:

Part of the military decisions reached at Teheran and Moscow provided in all probability for a combined Allied attack on South-Eastern Europe from Asia Minor and Russia simultaneously. If so, Turkish entrance into the war would immediately open a bridge to Europe: the Sea of Marmara with its two narrow ends, the Dardanelles and the Bosporus.

Judging from the Italian example, one might suspect that some secret agreement has been made for Turkey to enter the war as soon as, but not before the time as come for an Allied invasion. The great advantage of such an agreement would be that the European part of Turkey will been little danger of being occupied by the Nazis before the Allied action. If Turkey would declare war on the Axis today, Nazis would be in Istanbul next week. If Turkey would wait until zero hour, the Allies will be able to prevent such a German move.

The reason for Turkey's pact of friendship and alleged solidarity with the Allies at the present might be to get the Turkish people prepared to accept the great news of war at a moment's notice.

Opa weighs in on the politics of the war discussions again. His sentence here, leaves room for improvement: 
Those groups in Allied countries, especially in this country, who still did not believe in Russo-American cooperation, were brought to a long-lasting silence.
I mean, he wasn't completely wrong for the current events of the war. The US and Russia had managed to get along enough to jointly win the war. But the silence of the critics did not last very long. And I think even Opa knew that was a real possibility, but it sounds better to say "long-lasting" than "temporary." 

I've been intrigued by the role of countries like Hungary, Turkey, and the like. The book I am reading right now: "Rescue Board" by Rebecca Erbelding (buy it!), tells the story of a government agency that works to rescue refugees of the war. Much of their work happens in these sort of neutral/leaning Allied places. As the Allies are gaining power by their inevitable victory, the neutral countries are more likely to fulfill requests. If a helpful cooperation will lead to some benefit after the war, then why not? 

In Opa's article, he talks about the strategic need for Turkey to be on the Allied side, but only when they're ready for it. Turkey is strategic in their location, not only as sort of a place between Allied-occupied territory and Axis-occupied territory, but more about their waterways. The Sea of Marmara with the Dardanelles and Bosphorus strait are essentially the path between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea (which ultimately leads into the Mediterranean Sea). So essentially, a ship in the Black Sea could pass through the Bosphorus strait near Istanbul, and ultimately find its way all the way to the Atlantic. Here's a map:
Image result for turkey maps

See the Black Sea up right? The little bubble is pointing to an area that has the Bosphorus strait- a nice little alleyway of water into the Sea of Marmara, which then spits out towards Greece by way of the Dardanelles. Then boom- you're out into open waters. 

Opa's reasoning about Turkey waiting until the right strategic moment is smart. Turkey did ultimately declare war on the Axis powers in February of 1945, yeah, super late in the game. In fact, no Turkish troops ever saw battle. I don't think that the plan Opa had in mind ever came to light, or at least not in the way he imagined. I didn't do enough researching to learn the fine details of why the Turkish joined when they did. If you know- let us readers know in a comment!

The war drags on, and I keep getting the feeling that everyone expects it to end within a few months, six tops. That doesn't happen. Why? I'm sure Opa will tell us.

Friday, May 25, 2018

December 5, 1943: No Good by Waging War

Article written by Opa for Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper- "Mercury Chronicle"


Peace Ultimatum Must Appeal To German People

By Thomas W. Doeppner

The long anticipated news has finally been broke: Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt have met. Besides many secret results of this conference, some people expect that Germany will be given an ultimatum which is to spell unconditional surrender as the only alternative to complete destruction.

Naturally, such an ultimatum could not be made to the Nazi government. In the first place, the fate of the Nazis is sealed: they have been promised their punishment and will be treated as criminals, not as a party with whom any sort of agreement could be reached. For that reason, there would be nothing the Nazis could gain by accepting. In the second place, Germany, after this war, will no longer be represented by a Nazi government. Also, it is very unlikely that any person who has lived through the last ten years with his eyes open, will trust any agreement or any promise made by a National Socialist official.

If the Allies are going to offer an ultimatum to Germany, they will offer it to the German people.

The possibility exists that there is partly within, partly outside of Germany, a movement, an organization of Germans who, by traditional authority and possible connection with German military leaders, would be able to give the Allies sufficient guarantee for an enforcement of such an ultimatum.

Such a German movement would have to be watched, however. If it is connected with the German military, it will probably consist of Junkers and potentially great industrialists who see the only hope for a final German victory in a temporary defeat, which, if accepted now, will give them time to prepare for another, better chance.

Reactionary Peace

Also, a German peace organization with which the Allies would deal may consist of a combination of 1920-1930 intellectuals and conservative reactionaries of the Bruening type. Such a group could be trusted in principle; the danger exists, though, that they may be too idealistic in their hope that the German people would never grant them recognition.

What is most probable is that the three Allies have already set up some kind of a puppet government for Germany, which will be ready to take over at almost any time. German names and German slogans will stand at the head of such a government; the actual power behind it, though, will be Russo-Anglo-American force. It would not seem surprising if such a plan turns out to be most realistic.

Should the Allies decide to give Germany an ultimatum at the present time, there is absolutely no question but that it will be turned down. This, however, means not that the attempt will have been in vain. The ones who will turn it down will be the Nazis. The ultimatum might be given to the German people proper, while the Allies may not even accept an answer from the present German government. If such a procedure would help in driving a wedge between the Germans* and the Nazis, it would be worth all the effort which ever could have been put into it.

There is only one way in which the Allies could make the Germans want to accept an ultimatum, and that is to make them see the advantages which would arise from accepting. No people's will to fight has yet been broken permanently by the power of an overwhelming army; but only by making them realize that no country has ever gained any lasting good by waging war.

This is an interesting article, because it helps us see some of the deliberations about what the public assumed would happen to Germany after the war. Even the very party that accepted defeat by unconditional surrender (which everyone deemed inevitable) would completely shape the future of Germany. 

There were some terms I had to look up. The Junkers is a sort of nickname for the royal class of Germans from Prussia. These were sort of your "old money" folks who no longer serve a royal role in any way, but may have some influence as the old guard so to speak. Opa didn't think they were clear candidates to accept the ultimatum thought to be coming from the Allies because they were a little too tightly connected with the German military and politics. The very reason they may have had power of influence was the reason why they potentially couldn't be trusted.

The next group Opa mentioned might be able to accept the Allied conditions was intellectuals and others of the "Bruening" type. When I looked up Bruening, I found Opa was speaking of a person, Heinrich Brüning. Brüning has a mixed reputation. He was the Chancellor before Hitler's rise to power. He was succeeded by two more people before Hitler gained complete power, but many see his role as Chancellor as the beginning of the end for the democratic German government. His policies in response to the reverberating effects of the Great Depression caused more harm than good (some say his intentions were good and he didn't have a lot of choice). The fall-out of his policies and a devastating depression that followed the defeat of the Great War, created an atmosphere ripe for dictatorship. 

Even if Brüning had a complicated history, he was an intellectual who had served in the German government before Hitler, and therefore the people like him (government officials and their contemporaries) might be sort of like the representatives of the last real government that the Allies recognized. Opa alludes to the failure of this government to keep Hitler from rising to power. I believe it was a typo and he meant to write:
Such a group could be trusted in principle; the danger exists, though, that they may be too idealistic in their hope that the German people would ever grant them recognition.
The German people needed something new, the old guard, the failed republic, and any other bruised relics from the past were not going to create a stable Germany in the future. Opa assumed (as I believe most people did) that Germany would have a "puppet" government that was in effect controlled by the Allied superpowers (Russia, England, and the USA). Little did they know that in fact, Germany would be carved up into zones for each power, with the strongest divide between the Anglo-Americans and the Russians.

What would Germany and the rest of the world have looked like if this puppet government over a unified Germany was the solution? We'll never know.

Opa's last paragraph struck me as wise. He posits that no one surrenders because they are overwhelmed by an army, but rather because they have something to gain by surrender. In some way I think this can be true. In war, you are already willing to die, so what more can the army take from you? If you surrender, you want more than just your life. I'm sure that ideal differed from person to person, but I imagine it's wise to think of when negotiating peace. Opa drives this point home by panning out to the bigger picture saying that "no country has ever gained any lasting good by waging war." I think that is true. Those who wage war nearly always fall eventually. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

November 28, 1943: Monsters Within

Article by Opa in Manhattan, Kansas' Newspaper, Mercury Chronicle


Allies Even The Score For Nazi Cruelty in '39

By Thomas W. Doeppner

In October, 1939, the Polish capital, Warsaw, became the test site of the most modern, most destructive, most brutal, most inhumane weapon which modern warfare had to offer: the indiscriminate, merciless bombing of women and children; of soldiers, citizens, and workers; of ancient buildings, military objectives, and ...?. The entire world was .... Everybody sensed that no military advantage could possibly be derived from such a cruel act.

In May, 1943, the ? Dutch city of R? was destroyed in a similar Nazi fury. Almost 15,000? people were killed, to the greatest extent civilians, women, and children. In the trying days of April and May, 1943, London ... a... of the Nazi wonton destruction.

Allies are striking back: they are using the same weapon. Just harder and even more cruelly. Cologne(?) was the first victim of the so-called ? raids; then Lurbeck?, and Hamburg, and now Berlin. In comparing the figures just published by the War and Navy departments and the figures which came out of neutral European sources, it can be seen that during the Monday and Tuesday raids over Berlin alone more people, mostly civilians, were killed than American soldiers and sailors were lost since Pearl Harbor on all fighting fronts combined. The . is dead .. the ... armed forces were between 25,000 and 30,000 while neutral Swedish sources estimated the losses in Berlin due to the recent raids to be between 35,000 and 53,000.

It is difficult to see the military advantage which might result from such bombing. One thing is certain: it does not aid in breaking down the morale of the German people, but is likely to bolster it. If people have been fairly indifferent toward the war, as much as is possible under the ordinary hardships of war, this indifference is certainly stamped out when their homes are bombed and their friends are killed. Hatred, feelings for revenge, and a strong determination to fight it out are apt to take the place of the previous indifferences. Soldiers at the front will fight harder when they know their immediate relatives are in such terrible danger.

Naturally, many military objectives have been hit in Berlin; railroad stations, government buildings, food supplies, Munition depots (?), and bridges. No attempt has been made, however, to confine the operations to military objectives only, and the destruction of civilian life and private property was undoubtedly intended.

'Peace is Cooperation'

The great danger which lies in these facts is that it will be very difficult for the Allies to regain the confidence of the ordinary people after the war is over. A lasting peace can only be built upon the cooperation of all, including the vanquished. In Italy, the Allies made a very good ? in winning the good will of the peninsula's population; military operations in that country, though, have been confined to military objectives only.

The reason which the high authorities give for the saturation bombings is that they are part of the great softening-up program which is now carried out all over the European continent as a preliminary for invasion. It can only be hoped that the softening-up of the material defenses will not be overbalanced by the will to fight.

(Quick note- this article was very difficult to transcribe because of the quality of the copy, my apologies for the guesses and gaps!) 

What the hell is happening?! We knew this about our history, but to read it in real time is devastating. Opa is careful not to write too emotionally about a topic which had to have been difficult for him. He states the facts and then allows the facts to ask the question. The question for us to explore begins with his statement: "It is difficult to see the military advantage which might result from such bombing." He uses this same statement when speaking of the Nazis and of the Allies. 

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he does not himself become a monster..." a quote attributed to Friedrich Nietsche. This is what I thought about as I read this account of blind bombing without a care to distinguish between civilian and soldier. I would complicate things to say that there should not be bombs to begin with, and that no human is a monster, and that civilian and soldier lives are equally important. But the fact is, we all have the monstrous within us, and we need each other to help transform our fears and insecurities into love and contentment. 

At the very least, in wartime, civilian deaths should be avoided. Like I've said before, war has changed with lessons learned and technology developed, but we do seem to test the boundaries of ethics at every juncture. It shouldn't shock us. War is the business of killing, of beating the other side, of being the one with power. Why would that endeavor have the greatest ethical records? No matter how true and valuable your cause, war is still a barbaric method of conflict-resolution. 

We haven't yet evolved to move beyond war, and this article from Opa shows me once again just how far we have to go before there is any believable vision of a world without war.

Then I place myself in Opa's shoes. Ella, his Mom. Not only is she at risk of death by Nazis in a concentration camp, she is also a speck on the map of accepted civilian casualties for the Allies and Nazis. I wonder if at some point Opa just assumed he wouldn't see his mother again. If perhaps he just realized the odds were insurmountable and that any word he heard from her was an unexpected miracle. Did he hope that she died quickly, without much pain, in a bombing raid? Rather than face what had been rumored to be deportations and terrible treatment and mass murders? He didn't show any of those emotions in his articles, and didn't write of his thoughts on this to Grandmother in the letters (so far). 

What about Opa's friends? Schoolmates, his Quaker buddies, his neighbors? Who knows where they were, if any would survive. Would he ever see any of them? How about family? His aunt Aanchen, his cousins and others who were second cousins, etc. He didn't know but his maternal aunt and uncle were already murdered. His other maternal uncle interned, and now freed, but no one knows anything yet. 

Opa does his best to lead the question of what good the indiscriminate bombing does. He points out that the Germans will not be beaten into submission by it, but rather emboldened to fight a much more personal fight. It is far easier to fight for your family than to fight for an ideal. Opa raises the mirror on the Allies by allowing them to reflect on how they felt when the Nazis bombed civilian towns in 1939. They were horrified. Now the Allies have become the monster too. 

Opa makes the argument that even strategically, this is not a good move. If we want peace, then we need the cooperation of the "vanquished"- which won't come easy if we bombed their homes with their relatives inside.