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. 

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