A Comparison of Two Evil Leaders
by Arthur Beckerman
World War II brought havoc and destruction to millions and millions of people. Not just Jews, but in almost all parts of the world there were massive killings, woundings, and mass destruction. Two things brought this terrible tragedy about. One was Hitler's insatiable appetite for taking more land. The second was the failure of the European communities to prevent Hitler from his aggressive action when it was possible.
After World War I, the western powers punished the German State for starting a war by splitting parts of it into neighboring countries and levying a heavy tax burden on the Germans to pay for its wanton destruction. Part of Hitler's plan was the expansion of Germany (Lebensraum) to provide greater abilities for the German nation to provide for itself and reunification (Anschluss) of those Germanic areas which were taken away through the peace settlements after World War I.
After taking helm of the German State, Hitler flaunted the terms of Versailles peace treaty by increasing the size and power of his armed forces three times above the allotted limit. France and England preferred to ignore the German disregard for the peace treaty terms because they were fearful to start up with Hitler. At this point, Hitler realized that no country would ever go to war for the interests of other nations outside its own territory. The French made a meaningless appeal to the League of Nations.
Steadily he built up his airforce (Luftwaffe) and his navy which unsettled the English. Thanks to the English desires to reach an understanding, the Germans made a peace pact with the British and so, the British dropped their demands on Hitler.
With these simple appeasements, Hitler took his first bold move. The demilitarized Rhineland zone which encompassed all German territory west of the Rhine as well as a thirty-mile strip east of the river was seized. It was France, not England, which condemned the action. Hitler remarked that if he were France, he would not permit even one German soldier to cross the Rhine. Since Britain refused to involve itself, it left France to go it alone. The League of Nation unanimously condemned the German aggression, but the Brits were only interested in negotiating a settlement. The Fhrer was ecstatic, and the German people voted 98.8% in favor of Hitler, supporting his actions.
No head of state in the world enjoyed such popularity. He had maneuvered his country in a little more than three years from supplicant to challenger. Holding the weakest hand, he had bluffed both England and France. Hitler's influence extended to the United States and to China.
In England, a new Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain asserted his conviction that only a policy of appeasement would bring lasting peace to Europe. Hitler realized that the British would acquiesce in any expansion to the east and southeast as long as it was done with a show of legality.
Austria was next on Hitler's list. He accused Austria of fortifying the German border and making ridiculous efforts to mine the bridge and roads leading to Germany. When the Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg protested that an invasion of his country would mean war, Hitler scoffed telling him that no one would help him. Germany stated that Austrian Nation Socialists (Nazis) who were arrested must be freed and that Austria must stop discriminating against German nationals living there with veiled threats of a German attack.
The German army massed on the border. Hitler forced the Chancellor to request help from England, but none came. The Nazi elements in Austria began to riot. Hitler signed a document allowing German troops to enter Austria to prevent further bloodshed in Austria. Now Hitler masqueraded his troops as liberators. Chamberlain's judgment was that the Anschluss had been inevitable. Therefore, the inclusion of Austria into Germany was permitted by the Western block.
Next Hitler turned his eyes to Czechoslovakia. He needed an excuse to take over the three and a half million Germans living in the Sudeten area. Inspired by Austria, these Germans demanded repatriation with Germany. The Nazi Sudeten Party was allied with Hitler. Their strategy was to create a constant state of unrest that would finally necessitate the German armed intervention to prevent civil war and to protect the lives of its nationals in the Sudeten.
Hitler now knew that France and England would never come to the aid of Czechoslovakia. Russia would have to cross Poland and Rumania, and he knew that they would not give permission for Russia to cross. Hitler massed his troops on the borders, the Czech troops occupied the border fortifications, and a crisis ensued.
The Sudeten Germans began rioting demanding self-determination. The state police opened fire, killing one demonstrator and wounding a score more. Within twenty-four hours bloody disorders spread through the Sudetenland and the death toll rose to twenty-one. Prague declared a state of siege. Martial law was proclaimed in the border districts and more Sudeten Germans were shot down. The French and English were frightened that they may have to fulfill the obligation of the treaty. Instead, they proposed meeting with Hitler and working out a reasonable settlement. Hitler accused the Czechs of using force against German nationals living in Sudetenland.
The French were trying to apply pressure to the Czechs to give up part of their country in order to save them from fulfilling their obligation, saying that the Germans must give a guarantee as to their peaceful purposes. Realizing that resistance would be useless, the Czechs sadly accepted the Franco-British proposal to surrender and to reach a settlement with Hitler. Hitler thus won a victory with the aid of the French and the British.
Repeatedly, the policy of acquiescing to a bully does not pay. Compromise may have a place in marital relations where both sides truly desire to live together, but in world politics, it is the mark of death.
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Comparing Hitler to Arafat, we may see the same trends. Who was Arafat that the Israeli government should had ever listen to him? When he was run out of Beirut, he should have been killed as the mastermind of the Maalot children's massacre. Why did the Israeli's have to honor him with a state? Why did the Israeli government look away when the Palestinians began arming themselves in contradiction to the peace agreement? Why did the Israelis not demand strict adherence to the Oslo agreements? Why did the Israeli government permit every type of lie and aggression to go unanswered?
Like the lack of backbone of the French and British coupled with the aggressive nature of Hitler, similarly, the lack of backbone of the Israelis coupled with the aggressive nature of Arafat has caused a crisis of global nature.
Had the Israelis been tough and unbending at the begining, Israel would never have been in the terrible situation it is in now. Now we can only hope that they will utilize the upcoming opportunities that will be presented during the US war against Saddam Hussien to clean up their mess.
from the October 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine