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The Myth Of Appeasement: Chamberlain And Daladier Were Not Cowards

Read any school textbook. See any history documentary on the Second World War. Ask anybody. The message will be the same. The war happened because Britain and France had weak leaders. Chamberlain and Daladier of France were too eager to placate Hitler and gave him anything he wanted.

The truth is far from that. Chamberlain and Daladier were no weaklings, no cowards who were afraid of Hitler. Munich happened because these two leaders had their own compulsions.

In short, these two men were caught in a time where there were no easy options. They did their best under the circumstances. History has not been kind and fair to these men.

Let us go back and try to see matters objectively.

"Again and again Canning lays it down that you should never menace unless you are in a position to carry out your threats."Neville Chamberlain, September 1938 
In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.Neville Chamberlain 

If the Empire was a source of British strength, it was also the source of fundamental weakness. By the 1930s it was a structure almost impossible to defend adequately, even if Britain had enjoyed sufficient resources to attempt it. Britain, however, simply lacked the economic strength and military capacity to hold the Empire together in the face of serious threat. It was Chamberlain’s private view that ‘We are a rich and a very vulnerable empire and there are plenty of poor adventurers not very far away who look upon us with hungry eyes.’ This was a much more realistic assessment.

Neville Chamberlain: A man wronged?

Appeasement is not always wrong. All concessions among enemies cannot be mistaken, or else politics would consist of little more than fighting

A stable world system was the only hope for the Empire’s survival. ‘We all agree – we want peace,’ wrote a Chief of Staff in the 1930s, ‘not only because we are a satisfied and therefore naturally a peaceful people; but because it is in our imperial interests, having, an exceedingly vulnerable empire, not to go to war.’

 British power before 1914 rested on British economic strength: financial stability at home, and a stable trading and investing environment abroad. War damaged British economic interests more than those of other powers because Britain lived on exports and overseas investment. The Great War damaged British trade abroad irretrievably; the cost of the war reduced British investments overseas by two–thirds, and threatened the stability of the home economy through inflation and war debts. Though some measure of stability was restored in the 1920s, the British economy never recovered the special position it had once enjoyed. British trade in 1921 was less than half the level of 1913; cotton exports, the core of British pre–war trade, also fell by over half during the 1920s. Unemployment was well over a million for most of the decade and the government was saddled with a National Debt sixteen times greater in 1920 than it had been in 1910. A foreign policy of peaceful co–operation was essential to safeguard trade and to rebuild the foreign investment on which British economic influence had been based.
Britain’s small army was too weak to go to war in 1938; Britain needed time to re-arm.

Japan was a potential threat, but clearly not in the immediate future. Without financial security future defence programmes were put at risk. The rise of Hitler evoked a similar caution. It was appreciated that Germany was a revisionist power, but it was also evident that Hitler’s priority was economic recovery and reemployment, as it was in Britain. Britain’s financiers and industrialists hoped to profit from German recovery with increased opportunities for trade and investment. By 1937 more than 50 per cent of the international credit extended to Germany was British, double the level of 1933.

If Britiain and France had involved Russia, Hitler could have been contained

The question that confronted British statesmen down to the outbreak of war in 1939 was quite simply how to regain the lost security of the Empire. The military’s answer was an obvious one: ‘So long as [the] position remains unresolved diplomatically, only very great military and financial strength can give the Empire security.’ British politicians knew this; but the answer was not straightforward at all. Financial strength could not be taken for granted. The economy was well on the way to recovery in 1936 but few politicians would have gambled with it.

The Americans were determined to be isolationist.   France did not want war.   And Britain could not fight Germany alone.



The British approach to Germany was essentially pragmatic. It was not evident, as it was soon to become, that German ambitions were entirely open–ended and violent. But British leaders were not naive. The search for political solutions went hand in hand with a firm decision in 1934 to reverse the long decline in British military strength and to embark on an extensive rearmament. In November 1933 the Cabinet set up the Defence Requirements Committee to report on the long–term shape of Britain’s defence effort. Though the sums of money proposed were trimmed back by an anxious Treasury, it was agreed to expand the navy, build a secure naval base at Singapore, and pour more resources into the RAF, with particular attention to air defences to meet the threat of the bomber. The army had to take third place, as it had throughout the 1920s.

Britain could not defend her empire AND fight a war in Europe.

It is easily forgotten that Chamberlain, man of peace that he was, did not exclude the possibility of war. ‘Armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me,’ he told radio listeners late in 1938, ‘but if I were convinced that any nation had made up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force, I should feel that it must be resisted.’

High levels of government spending on arms produced rising costs and the prospect of inflation, and serious shortages of skilled labour. There was never a point at which high levels of military spending would not have distorted and damaged the economy. Churchill’s view that the German threat could be met only by very high levels of current military expenditure ignored the constraints of industrial capacity, manpower and financial security, and underestimated the potential for a much more effective war effort three or four years hence. Large fleets of biplanes and light bombers in 1938 would have been unlikely to deter Hitler, or for that matter Japan and Italy, and would have sacrificed the resources needed for the new weapons in the pipeline. The British rearmament effort from its nature needed not money but time.

Appeasement was justified by the interaction between the factors of a poorly equipped military that had to provide a global defence for all of Britain's territories, an anti-war mindset among the population, and economic circumstances that pointed to the avoidance of a large-scale conflict.

The government recognized that it would be some time before Britain was secure from such a threat. The programmes would be complete or near completion in 1939 and 1940. Against this background Chamberlain embarked on his active efforts to settle the grievances of Europe.

There were few defenders of the Czech state among British leaders. It was regarded as a ‘highly artificial’ creation, whose integrity was not a vital British interest. It was not an issue, remarked Alexander Cadogan, head of the Foreign Office, ‘on which we would be on very strong ground for plunging Europe into war’. Nor could the Czechs be given serious military help. The Germans, it was thought, would overrun them ‘in less than a week’

Although contemporaries and scholars during and after the war criticized Chamberlain for believing that Hitler could be appeased, recent research argues that Chamberlain was not so naive and that appeasement was a shrewd policy developed to buy time for an ill-prepared Britain to rearm.

 If Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and France went to her aid, Britain would be obliged to help France. This was an obligation not of morality, but of necessity. German defeat of France would tilt the European balance so overwhelmingly against Britain that it could not be contemplated. Yet even with France the military prospects in 1938 looked far from satisfactory. There would be no point in fighting Germany, Chamberlain argued, ‘unless we had a reasonable prospect of being able to beat her to her knees in a reasonable time and of that I see no sign’. It was the central purpose of British strategy during the months of crisis in 1938 to avoid a European war before British rearmament was completed. The object was not so much to appease Hitler as to restrain France.

 Even Chamberlain’s critics saw the sense of preserving peace in 1938. Eden acknowledged that ‘Munich has given us time at least’; Roosevelt telegraphed the simple words ‘Good man’.
It meant that, when war eventually came, Britain had the morale advantage.   If Britain had gone to war over the Rhineland, most of the population would have been opposed to war, because most people in Britain at that time agreed with Hitler that the Treaty if Versailles WAS unfair in this respect.   Britain could never have won the Second World War with doubt on the home front.   Appeasement meant that, when Chamberlain did eventually declare war, the British people went to war knowing that they had done everything in their power AND MORE to keep the peace.   And that knowledge helped to keep them going through six years of total war.

The villain is a different Chamberlain, one of the ‘Guilty Men’ who failed to stand up to fascism in 1938 and fight; who put the self–interest of Britain’s ruling classes before good sense and morality. A ‘British Tory’, as Roosevelt privately sneered, ‘who wants peace at a great price’. Yet it is difficult to see what room for manoeuvre Chamberlain really had in 1938. The list of factors cautioning peace was a formidable one. Chamberlain was protecting not just Britain but the British Empire. The simultaneous threat from Italy and Japan loomed larger rather than smaller as the Czech crisis worsened. Chamberlain had been premier for only a year; he was understand– ably not prepared to crown that period by deliberately courting a war that all his military advisers warned him would destroy the Empire. In 1938 the rearmament programme was only halfway to its goal and was facing major problems. Until it was complete Britain had almost nothing with which to threaten Hitler, except what General Pownall called ‘our poor little army’. The RAF plans to bomb Germany proved on closer inspection in 1938 to be completely worthless. Though British military intelligence rightly observed that Germany was far less formidable than the public image suggested, the element of risk was enormous. Most terrible of all was the threat of the ‘knock–out blow’ from Germany’s bomber force.

 What was more important was the knowledge Chamberlain had that within twelve months Britain’s military position would be quite different.

All the Dominions except New Zealand were hostile to the idea of fighting for Czechoslovakia. On 1 September the Prime Ministers of both Australia and South Africa confirmed that they would not become involved on Britain’s side. On the 24th the four High Commissioners in London of New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Australia announced that ‘the German proposals can’t be allowed to be a casus belli’,’" and they continued to press this view up to the 28th, the day that Hertzog, the South African premier, got unanimous parliamentary approval for a declaration of neutrality. The fear of Empire disunity was an important one to Chamberlain, as it would have been for any British prime minister. ‘There would be no point in fighting a war that would break the British Empire,’ explained Britain’s charge d’affaires in Washington, ‘while trying to secure the safety of the United Kingdom.’

 Chamberlain saw the British options plainly: ‘Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst’.
In the 1930s, Britain was in the middle of the greatest economic depression ever known.   The policy of appeasement was the only policy Britain could afford.

 In October Chamberlain explained that ‘it would be madness for the country to stop rearming … We should relax no particle of effort.’ Chamberlain had been a re-armer before Munich; he remained one thereafter.

 Chamberlain sought to capitalize on the temporary advantage won at Munich, but he had few illusions left about Hitler. According to one official, whenever Hitler’s name was mentioned, Chamberlain ‘made a face like a child being forced to swallow castor oil’.

 Appeasement, he confessed, was not a ‘very happy term’ nor one that accurately described his wider purpose, which was to ensure ‘that no Power should seek to obtain a general domination of Europe’. But now Germany was a threat to British liberty. This Chamberlain announced, ‘we will never surrender’. If the threat of domination should come Britain would resist it ‘to the utmost of its power’.

‘Hitler wants to dominate Europe,’ Chamberlain told the French Foreign Minister on 21 March. ‘We shall not permit it.’

 Chamberlain’s repeated fear that ‘the burden of armaments might break our backs’ was realizing itself under the pressure of emergency. The balance of payments crisis grew deeper as Britain sucked in the extra imports for defence. British gold reserves fell to half the level of 1938 as capital flowed away from London in search of safer havens. The first signs of inflation were evident. The Chancellor of the Exchequer became more insistent as the year went on that Britain faced imminent financial collapse. ‘We shall find ourselves in a position’, he told the Cabinet in May, ‘when we should be unable to wage any war other than a brief one.

There was wide-spread support for Chamberlain on Munich Agreement

By late August the Dominions had moved from strong support for appeasement to staunch support for war. Commonwealth unity was, according to Chamberlain, ‘all important’. The Dominions, like Britain, began after Prague to see the real dangers posed by the Axis powers. In April 1939 the new Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, let it be known that ‘If Britain was at war, Australia was too.’ New Zealand was drawn closely into British defence planning during 1939 and gave Chamberlain unqualified support during August. In Canada the premier, Mackenzie King, had preached appeasement since the Imperial Conference of 1937 but had changed his mind by January 1939. Gradually in the late summer of 1939 the nationalist revival in Britain and France began to affect Canada’s two populations and an evident enthusiasm to defend democracy against fascism and aggression replaced a widespread isolationism. The exception was South Africa. Even here Britain’s old Boer enemy, Jan Smuts, was able to blunt the isolationism of the Afrikaner nationalists sufficiently to bring South Africa into war by a narrow parliamentary majority.

 The final ultimatum and declaration of war had to be co–ordinated with France, which wanted a forty–eight–hour delay to permit evacuation and initial mobilization to take place. On 2nd September Ciano proposed a conference of all the major powers; Chamberlain and Halifax could only accept it on the complete withdrawal of all German troops from Poland, something which both they, and Ciano, knew to be impossible. But the problems with both France and Italy led to an unfortunate delay in sending the final ultimatum, and aroused suspicion in Parliament that Chamberlain was seeking to avoid war. By the evening of 2 September the French would still not agree to co–ordinate an early ultimatum.



If the blood of France and of Germany flows again, as it did twenty-five years ago, in a longer and even more murderous war, each of the two peoples will fight with confidence in its own victory, but the most certain victors will be the forces of destruction and barbarism.
Eduoard Daladier

Even while the 1919 settlement was being drafted, French leaders knew that the problem of Germany would never disappear, though its potential for damage could be limited. ‘Mark well what I’m telling you,’ said Georges Clemenceau, France’s great war leader and her representative at the Peace Conference in Paris, ‘in six months, in a year, five years, ten years, when they like, as they like, the Boches will again invade us.’ With a prophetic accuracy France’s other great war leader, the supreme Allied commander, Marshal Foch, warned his countrymen: ‘This is not a peace: it is an Armistice for twenty years.’ Throughout those twenty years French politicians and soldiers tried to come to terms with this stark reality: the peace could not be permanently enforced, and Germany, slowly, but apparently inexorably, regained her former vigour.

Daladier in 1938: A brave man fighting off the vultures

The First World  War had weakened rather than strengthened France. During the slaughter of the Great War, France lost one–quarter of all her men aged between eighteen and twenty– seven, a higher proportion than any other nation. Four million Frenchmen carried the wounds of that conflict. The war destroyed the enduring value of the French franc, unchanged since Napoleon’s time. By 1920 it was worth only a fifth of its pre–war value, while France was saddled with enormous debts from the war and a bill for war pensions, which twenty years later still consumed over half of all government expenditure. To make matters worse France had lost more than half her overseas investments during the war, including the investments in tsarist Russia which had provided an income of sorts for over two million French rentiers. By the end of the war France owed 30 billion francs to Britain and the United States. Finally there was the devastation wrought by the warring armies along France’s eastern territories, which in the end the French themselves paid more to repair than the Germans. By 1924 the French economy was deep in crisis, rescued in the end only by a timely devaluation of the franc and a brief export revival, before being plunged once again into crisis in the 1930s.

The French occupation of Ruhr in 1923 was a mistake

 In 1923 French soldiers were sent into Germany to occupy and secure the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland, from where supplies of German coal could be sent back to France. The occupation aroused the fury of her erstwhile allies, while the Germans pursued a policy of passive resistance.

By 1926 the last French troops left the Ruhr. But the damage was done. The effort to make Germany pay harmed France’s reputation internationally and alienated Britain and the United States, the very powers that had helped to draw up the settlement in 1919.

An unhappy Daladier arrives at Munich on September 29, 1938 for the summit

 The effect of the economic collapse was not felt immediately in France, for her economy was less dependent on trade and industry, while a healthy balance of payments had stored up large quantities of gold in the Bank of France, producing the financial equivalent of the Line. But if France was sheltered from the worst of the economic blizzard, her allies in Eastern Europe were enfeebled by it, and Germany brought close to bankruptcy. French bankers bore some of the responsibility for this; so too did French politicians who refused to budge on the question of reparations until 1932, when it was clear even to them that Germany simply could not pay. French financial strength protected the small French producer and rentier, but internationally it backfired. By helping to fuel the economic crisis in Germany, the French produced what they feared most, a political crisis that brought to power at last a radical, revisionist government in Berlin. 

 French self–interest during the depression alienated Britain and the United States as well. Few tears were shed abroad when the French economy in turn began to go into steep decline in 1932, at just the point that the shattered economies of the other powers were beginning to revive. The paradox of French decline and international recovery can partly be explained by just this lack of goodwill. The pound and the dollar were both devalued to save British and American exports. The French government hesitated to follow suit for fear of destroying confidence in the future of the French economy, and from fear of alienating the thousands of small French investors through renewed inflation. Instead French exports remained in the doldrums for most of the 1930s. 

Daladier looks dejected as he rides with Goering

By 1934 France found her overseas trade cut by almost half from the level of 1928. Tariffs kept out cheaper foreign goods, but contributed to the prevailing spirit of protectionism and self interest. But the decline of the French economy owed as much to conditions within France. The government remained committed to the ideals of Adam Smith or even Malthus: not only did the state reject the recovery strategies of the American New Deal or the German ‘New Plan’, with their strong dirigiste elements and proto–Keynesianism, but it deliberately restricted out– put and cut government expenditure, to match supply to demand. The result was financial suicide: as demand fell, tax receipts from the inefficient French revenue system fell sharply, much faster than government expenditure. As a result governments that were wedded to monetary orthodoxy found themselves facing a wider and wider budget deficit. Each deficit produced a further frantic round of cuts in wages and services. By 1935 French industrial production was one–third lower than in 1928 and barely recovered for the rest of the decade. The situation in the French countryside was even worse.

Agricultural prices fell by 50 per cent, until the price of wheat reached its lowest point since the French Revolution. The sharp fall in peasant income, in a country with a backward agrarian system, spelt serious crisis. France relied on rural demand to keep afloat the millions of small businesses, the cafes, craft workshops and stores scattered throughout provincial France. When the peasant pulled in his belt, so did the artisan and shopkeeper. Much of France was potentially self–sufficient. Economic crisis produced the same effect as international crisis. The French peasant and producer pulled into their shells; conservative and defensive, they retreated into prepared positions and sat there.  The political consequences of economic crisis were profound.


 The Third Republic had experienced slow but almost continuous economic growth since its inception in 1870. When that growth was at last reversed in the 1930s the crisis exposed deep social and political divisions in France. Some of the rifts were old ones revived by economic failure – the division between town and countryside, between labourer and patron, between the secular, liberal urban bourgeoisie and the nationalist, clerical elite. In the past these con– flicts had been resolved within the framework of the conservative republican state. In the 1930s the old conflicts were expressed in a different language altogether. The economic crisis brought new forces into French political life, anti–parliamentary, radical, dangerous: on the left the Communist Party, on the right, a whole spectrum of fascist and quasi–fascist movements. Willy–nilly French domestic politics came to reflect the wider international conflict between right and left.

Political turmoil in France in 1936. A Popular Front demonstration in Paris

The German reoccupation of the Rhineland, Hitler’s response to the Franco–Soviet Pact, was a dramatic challenge to France, a gauntlet flung in the face of Versailles. When the news broke on the streets of Paris in the late morning of 7 March there was consternation, talk of mobilization, even talk of war. In the Chamber Georges Mandel, the radical disciple of Georges Clemenceau, echoed his one–time mentor in calling for France to mobilize and drive the Germans from the Rhineland. But in the end France did very little and history has judged her harshly for it. Yet the circumstances could hardly have been less propitious. France was deep in political crisis, ruled by a caretaker government in the run–up to parliamentary elections. The French generals, victims of government cutbacks, advised caution. The French public mood was against war and for peace. Abroad, France feared isolation. Britain refused to act over the Rhineland, relations with Italy were rapidly deteriorating over the Ethiopian affair. The last thing French leaders wanted was a repetition of the debacle in the Ruhr in 1923, when they were cast in the role of aggressor for trying to uphold the letter of the treaty.

 When Hitler turned to Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1938, the French were at last called to account for that network of alliances made in the 1920s with the Versailles states. Though the French ambassador in Prague could assure the Czech President Benes in April that France ‘would always be faithful to her word’, the mood in Paris was much more pessimistic about saving her ally. It was by no means clear that France would be in a position to be both willing and capable of helping Czechoslovakia, certainly without British help. Daladier was prepared to fight Germany if the Czech state were actually invaded, but in practice made every effort to secure a settlement that would prevent German invasion. The Chief of Staff, Général Gamelin, had already declared in April that it was impossible to give effective military assistance to Czechoslovakia. When Daladier visited London on 27 April, it was already clear that neither Britain nor France was prepared to take the lead in the Czech problem for fear of being drawn into war by the other. By a process of elimination it was agreed that pressure should be put on the Czechs to make concessions.

This was not an honourable course, though it was an understandable one. Daladier faced throughout the crisis from April to September serious limitations on his freedom of action. Some of these were military in character. Gamelin spelt out early in 1938, in a memorandum reminiscent of British justifications for appeasement, the sheer range of strategic difficulties faced by France. The army was not yet trained for an offensive against Germany, nor was the Maginot Line either complete or manned.

 French interests around the world were threatened, not merely in Eastern Europe. Nothing should be done to alienate Italy lest Mussolini should tear apart what Daladier called ‘the seam between the two zones’ of France’s empire. In the Far East the French empire was threatened by Japan without, and communist agitation within. These views were echoed by military leaders throughout the year. Général Requin, appointed to lead French forces against the Reich if war should come, mourn– fully contemplated ‘the death of a race’; and Général Vuillemin, head of the French air force, never veered from his assertion that his air force would be ‘wiped out in a few days’.

 Though the threat of German air power was exaggerated, it had a powerful effect on French opinion at the time. Daladier was warned again and again that war with Germany in 1938 would mean the destruction of Paris through a cruel bombardment. The French intelligence service told Daladier on the very day of Munich that the Germans had 6,500 aircraft of the very latest type ready to fly (almost four times the true number). Guy La Chambre, Daladier’s Air Minister, told the American ambassador that ‘the safest place for the next two years in France would be a trench’. 

 The other limitations were domestic. French rearmament was renewed again in April 1938, with a big increase in the allocation to the air force, but slow progress was made because of shortages of skilled labour (exacerbated by the forty–hour week and la semaine de deux dimanches*) and shortages of raw materials and modern factory space. ‘Stagflation’ had taken its toll of French industrial efficiency and French trade. Rearmament with modern weapons had a high price. In 1938 France was already spending more than two and a half times what she had spent on the military in 1913. Daladier was as well aware as Chamberlain that appeasement would buy time to complete rearmament. But the other issue was public opinion. It was the view of the British ambassador in Paris that ‘All that is best in France is against war, almost at any cost.

Nevertheless Daladier, like Chamberlain’s colleagues, had limits to his wish for peace. On 25 September he finally refused to accept the timetable for German occupation demanded by Hitler at his meeting with Chamberlain at Bad Godesberg. If Germany attacked Czechoslovakia to extract its demands Daladier said that France ‘intended to go to war’. What had seemed at one time a sensible policy of concession by the Czechs now appeared as an international humiliation for France; on the following day Daladier told the US ambassador that he preferred war to humiliation. The French Cabinet was divided, but Daladier was not prepared to allow ‘the immediate entry of thirty German divisions … for this will mean war’. French military preparations began.

When Chamberlain secured Hitler’s agreement to a four–power conference at Munich. Daladier had no choice but to follow suit, since France could not contemplate confronting Hitler alone. The British had failed to give France firm support for fear of encouraging French bellicosity; but France needed that support to confront Hitler convincingly. Daladier had no stick with which to beat the British, and found himself, hostile, taciturn, unsmiling, sitting with Chamberlain to sign away the only genuinely democratic state in Eastern Europe.

An unhappy Daladier signs the Munich Agreement on September 30, 1938

The episode profoundly affected Daladier; the overwhelming desire to avoid its repetition recurred throughout the year that led to war.

 When Daladier himself arrived back at Le Bourget airport he was astounded to find his way lined with ecstatic men and women rejoicing at peace. ‘The blind fools,’ was his bitter reaction.

 Daladier’s options throughout the Czech crisis had been impossibly narrow. Munich was an outcome he would have done much to avoid if he could. The result was to leave France and French security in a worse position than ever. In two years French ascendancy had been utterly overturned. Her Eastern alliances were exposed as worthless; the Soviet Union was alienated by the sacrifice of Czecho– slovakia; Italy assumed a growing arrogance in her relations with France; and France herself was forced, much against Daladier’s will, to follow the British ‘governess’ without any real promise of reciprocal help if French security were threatened. France was now faced with an unenviable choice: either to accept German domination and to reach close ties with Hitler, or to put Munich behind her and accept the prospect of war. France, said Daladier, had to choose ‘between a slow decline or a renaissance through effort’.

Daladier himself was no warmonger, but he would not accommodate Hitler and he would no longer tolerate the politics of stalemate. He recognized clearly that to be strong abroad it was necessary to be strong at home. This meant facing the solutions of the Popular Front head on. The political alliance had already broken apart before Munich, but communist support for war in September made their isolation complete. Daladier attacked the communists, winning increasing support from the right as he did so and permitting the reformation of the traditional nationalist bloc. The attack on communism was completed by a frontal assault on the social achieve– ments of the Popular Front. The forty–hour week was already weakened before Munich; from October Daladier insisted that the forty–hour week would have to go. In November he took on the unions and the Communist Party. By a series of special decree laws, passed without reference to Parliament, public works were abandoned in favour of rearmament, taxation was sharply raised, civil servants were sacked to help balance the budget, and the forty–hour week was overturned and Saturday working resumed.

 Fear of Germany and hatred of Italy produced a patriotic response that united Frenchmen who on other issues remained divided.  The revival should not be exaggerated for there was still a great deal of confusion and demoralization in France in 1939 as well. Weil’s ‘anxiety’ continued to coexist with the nationalism. Peasants continued to cheer the defenders of Munich, so anxious were they to avoid the killing fields again. The prominent pro–German appeasers of the right argued their case right up to the outbreak of war and beyond. The conflict between collaborators and resisters was born long before Vichy. Yet for the moment French patriotism had supplanted political decadence. The ordinary Frenchman did not welcome war, but he welcomed Hitler less. 

 Daladier himself had the lowest opinion of the British ruling classes. He told the American ambassa– dor that he ‘fully expected to be betrayed by the British … he considered Chamberlain a dessicated [sic] stick; the King a moron; and the Queen an excessively ambitious woman … he felt that England had become so feeble and senile that the British would give away every possession of their friends rather than stand up to Germany and Italy.’

 The strong fears the French had had about the Polish guarantee proved to be a real stumbling block with the Soviet Union. When military talks began with Soviet leaders in August 1939 the key issue rapidly became whether or not Poland would allow the passage of Soviet troops through Polish territory in her defence. The Poles were adamant that not a single Soviet soldier would be allowed on to Polish soil. Bonnet and Daladier made frantic efforts to force the Poles’ hand. The French could not understand the stubbornness of the Poles, for whom Soviet help seemed a lifeline. But on 19 August, at the height of the delicate negotiations with the Soviet Union, Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, rejected Soviet help: ‘We have not got a military agreement with the USSR. We do not want to have one.’ Daladier telegraphed frantically to the head of the visiting mission in Moscow, General Doumenc, asking him to sign anything he could with the Russians. It was all to no avail; the Soviet Union had been secretly negotiating with Hitler’s Germany and had kept the talks with France going partly to pressure the Germans into making concessions. On 23 August the Nazi–Soviet Pact was agreed, and the idea of the Franco–British–Soviet bloc collapsed.

Daladier found himself facing in August 1939 the same dilemma he had faced a year earlier. Bonnet urged him to force the Poles to give Danzig to the Germans. Daladier hoped that at the last a reasonable settlement could be reached that would satisfy Germany but would not humble France. But he was determined that if Germany invaded Poland France would fight, Soviet help or not. He did not relish the conflict but France was in a much stronger position than a year before.

 By September 1939 British and French aircraft output and tank output exceeded that of Germany. By May 1940 French monthly production alone was as great as German, rather over 600 aircraft per month. In addition France was being supplied with 170 aircraft a month by the United States. In terms of quality the new generation of French combat aircraft, the Dewoitine 520, the Morane–Saulnier 406 and the Bloch 152, were the equal of their German or British counterparts. By May 1940 4,360 modern aircraft had been produced. German strength before the battle of France was 3,270 aircraft of all types. In tank construction the French enjoyed both a qualitative and a quantitative advantage. By May 1940 the French had built 4,188 modern tanks with a gross weight of over 60,000 tons. The Germans had built 3,862 with a gross weight of 36,000 tons, though this figure included 1,400 of the light Mark I tank which was little more than an armoured car.

Much has been made of the failure of Britain and France to synchronize their declarations of war against Germany. Yet there is no mystery here. The French constitution required a formal vote of parliament before any ultimatum could be sent. The Chamber could not be recalled until 2 September at the earliest. Gamelin then insisted that the declaration of war should be postponed if possible for up to forty–eight hours to allow the crucial early stages of mobilization to take place without the threat of German bombing. Evacuation procedures could be carried out before a formal state of war existed. As the French ambassador in London, Charles Corbin, reminded the angry British callers at the Embassy that night, France had six million men to call to the colours. Mobilization meant a real upheaval in France, much more than in Britain. France had its ultimatum, which was sent at 10.20 on the morning of 3 September. War was declared at 5.00 p.m., six hours after Britain, whose ultimatum had been sent earlier to avoid a parliamentary revolt. In the evening Daladier announced the conflict to the nation: Germany ‘desires the destruction of Poland, so as to be able to dominate Europe and to enslave France. In rising against the most frightful of tyrannies, in honouring our word, we fight to defend our soil, our homes, our liberties.'

Sad Fate Of the Hitler Youth Boys In 1945

Twelve-year-old Boys – the Cannon Fodder of Last Resort

Hitler-Jugend troops with boys as young as 12 were widely used in the battle of Berlin as cannon fodder to buy a few hours to Nazi criminals busily fleeing to Switzerland,Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The boys were dying in the last days and hours of war as obedient, loyal pawns when the fate of the Nazi state was sealed, and their parents, if still alive, damn well knew it.  But the parents had been long ago removed from control.

A soviet tank commander recalls: the tanks had limited maneuverability on the narrow streets of Berlin. Suddenly you see a young boy jump on the street in front of the tank. You see a child in the harm’s way and your gut reaction is to cease fire and stop the tank, dead in its tracks. It’s a child!!! – Next thing you know, his faustpatrone has just turned your tank, you and your crew into a raging inferno, all in a span of a second or two.

On March 19th, his 56th birthday, Hitler ventured outside his Reich Chancellery bunker for a solemn reception he gave to a contingent of twenty youths. They were 12-13-year-old boys brought in from the German provinces of Pomerania and Silesia, and each of them was presented as a little hero, having single-handedly knocked out a tank with his Panzerfaust or having killed Russian soldiers.  The extraordinary event was captured on a propaganda film and provides some of the most enduring images chronicling the collapse of Hitler's “thousand-year Reich.”

The youngest of these boys was Alfred Czech, a twelve-year-old from Upper-Silesian Oppeln, who had been decorated for rescuing twelve wounded Wehrmacht soldiers and catching a “Soviet spy.” All boys wore the Iron Cross. “You already know what battle is like from your own experience,” says the tottering, senile, hunched-over Führer to the little boys staring at him with worshipful admiration, “and you know that this struggle is for the German people, to be or not to be. In spite of all the hardships at this time, we shall emerge victorious from this battle, especially as I am looking at German youth –  at you, my boys.”  “Heil, mein Fiihrer!” shouted the boys, brainwashed out of their wits, and out of their childhood, with their eyes agleam with fanaticism. They were then sent back out into the streets to fight and die for the old sociopath-bastard who turned them into his obedient Zombies.

In 1945 a desperate Hitler and his coterie was throwing boys into battle

When the Czech insurgents took control of Prague city center, they—who were now drowning, hanging, and burning German civilians by the hundreds— singled out the Hitler Youth boys taken prisoner after a gunfight. “Approximately forty Hitler Youths, blood-stained and with swollen, beat-up faces, were driven into the human square. In front of the assembled prisoners, after unspeakable cruelties, they were finished off with knives and clubs.” These boy-soldiers had been the easiest to brainwash. Their brainwashing started at an early age. They were happy to die for the Reich. They often engaged in hopeless battles. In the eyes of the allied command these kids were beyond redemption. Taken prisoner, in the heat of a battle many of them were summarily executed “attempting to escape,” as were SS-men. Americans in this respect were no better than Russians.

From Moral Cripples to Cripples for Life

On the 3d of March 1945 Wermaht Chief of Staff, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, ordered conscription of any male born in 1929 or earlier. These were 16 and older. Those boys born in 1929 and 1930 were to serve in Volkssturm brigades or in Axmann’s HJ special anti-tank divisions, stationed in or near endangered German towns. By the end of March those brigades were often staffed by boys who had already done much fighting elsewhere and, exhausted and sometimes wounded and maimed for life, represented reserves of the last resort. “Here they are,” wrote Vienna HJ leader Ringler in his diary on March 28, “Willi with his artificial lower leg, Hubert with his shot-off thigh, Hannes with his damaged foot, Schorschi with a prosthesis and head bandage, Karl with his empty sleeve, and all the others, those already recuperated or barely so.”

In the East, by the middle of January 1945, Königsberg was the first important target of the Red Army. There were many Hitler Youth troops on the East Prussian front, in defense of that one-time bastion of the Teutonic Knights. Stalin had intelligence reports of a German atomic program, had intelligence reports of the A-9/A-10 ICBM and futuristic jet air planes ready to unleash Hitler’s vengeance, not to mention continuous mobile V-2 ballistic missile launches into London. The dominant theme for the Red Army’s all-out thrust into Germany was formulated by Marshal Vasily Chuikov, “time is blood” and its marching orders were “to crush” German defenses and take over Berlin at all costs, without delays, ignoring  losses, crushing the remnants of the Germany’s war machine.  The Red Army was advancing 40 km a day, pulverizing any resistance with tank assaults supported by shock infantry troops and heavy artillery.

Hitler Youths were everywhere in the defense of Königsberg, often armed with machine guns. Soviets would shell them and eventually overrun their positions killing them off in brutal hand-to-hand combat.

In the spring of 1945 the entire eastern front, which the Soviet army was pushing steadily to the West, was sustained in large part by the newly created Hitler Youth battalions, all the way to Vienna. Among them were former flak helpers who had been rushed there from everywhere in the Reich and granted the status of soldiers (their on-going dream) to protect them under the Geneva conventions. When recalling this time, Rolf Noll named comrades as young as thirteen, and he recalled how Russian tank drivers would spot these “soldiers” in hastily created dugouts, then rush their tanks over them, turning on the spot, crushing the boys underneath, as after all is expected in war.  Hitler Youth regiment “Frankfurt/Oder” was fighting inBrandenburg under HJ commander Kiesgen trying to delay the Russian onslaught on the capital.  In Silesiathere were also such regiments, one in Breslau called “Regimentsgruppe Hitlerjugend,” under HJ leader Herbert Hirsch. Altogether, 1,000 boys were fighting there in two battalions, at least half of those child soldiers perished.

There were eye-witness’ accounts, of course, describing more age-appropriate behavior. A detachment of eighty uniform-clad boys ambushed a column of Soviet tanks and infantry, but things went wrong: the Soviets immediately returned fire, killing and wounding several of HJ. The remaining children, shocked by the swift violence of the action, ran, tossing away their rifles, some crying hysterically, and were mostly captured by the Soviet motorcycled infantry.  One youngster, still carrying his Panzerfaust, was asked why he did not shoot it. He replied that he joined the action just to be with his comrades, and that his mother forbade him to shoot, ever.

By the end of March more and more Hitler Youths were being put in trenches, bunkers and machine-gun encasements in strategic spots in Berlin’s suburbs, moved here from places like Brandenburg, Luckenwalde, and Oranienburg. By mid-April 1945, at least 6,000 of them were in the city, under the nominal command of Reich Youth Leader Artur Axmann.  Many more were brought in by the end of April.

The ground was laid down early. Goering addresses a group of boys in 1935

A Regiment of Hitlerjugend Boys Died to Buy Hitler Another Few Minutes

On April 23rd, a regiment made up entirely of Hitlerjugend boys was ordered to defend the Pichelsdorf Bridges  by the Havel River. Five thousand boys, wearing man-sized uniforms a few sizes too large, and helmets flopping around on their heads, took positions around the bridges. Armed with rifles, which some of them were barely able to shoot, machine guns and Panzerfausts, they felt invincible and adventuresome in their youthful eagerness to become Hitler’s heroes. Hitler personally planned the operation: bridges were to be defended at all costs, needed for General Wenck's “relief” XII army, advancing from the south-west.

The twelfth Army had a legendary reputation: In the beginning of war, the Army of Greece, which humiliated Italians for 6 months, fell to the same German twelfth’s army. But that was in 1941. Now, it was ordered to break through the Soviet Army, which by the end of the war, in 1945, was a juggernaut. The twelfth Army was ordered to leave the Western front and establish a corridor into Berlin. There was but a minor problem with Hitler’s otherwise “brilliant plan” of the surprise attack from the West – the Soviet 2nd Ukranian front, although surprised at first, quickly bogged down the advance of the twelfth Army and began driving it back.

Amply supplied with Panzerfausts and Faustpatrone, the Hitlerjugcnd boys lay alone or in pairs at irregular intervals in the trenches and foxholes on either side of the Heerstrasse in front of the Pichelsdorf bridges. The boys held off the Soviet tanks for 5 days, their mission senseless, their lives sacrificed for naught: the twelfth army was not fighting eastward into Berlin – it was fleeing westward. The Soviet tanks streamed into Berlin from all directions, via numerous alternative routs, leaving a contingent behind before the Pichelsdorf Bridges. It was methodically destroying the Hitlerjugend regiment, shelling its positions from a safe distance. Out of 5000 HJ troops, less than 500 survived by day 5 of bombardment. They were offered to surrender several times; they refused. When the Soviet Army took over their positions in a final hand-to-hand assault, only a handful was taken alive, still defiant, facing battle-hardened men, some of them the age of their fathers. A Soviet medical officer, while tending to a wounded 10-year-old, remarked in German, “Look what a mess you got yourself into, boy. You should have stayed home with your grandparents.” The HJ spat in the doctors face, hissing, “Heil Hitler!”  While these kids held the bridges, Nazi bosses were using the bridges to escape from Berlin, leaving their brave tin soldiers to die.

The same fate befell those HJ’s defending the Olimpic stadium, and the HJ’s sniping from the bunkers and fortifications of Tiergarten (literally: animal park), the park that housed Berlin’s Zoo. The Soviet troops, in their assault on Berlin, found it difficult to inflict significant damage upon the flak towers, the massive futuristic fortifications erected in the Tiergarten and throughout Germany, impervious to bombing or shelling even with the use of the 203 mm Soviet concrete-busting howitzers, firing directly: over 100 direct hits hardly breached one of them. Soviet forces maneuvered around the flack towers to capture Reihcstag and Chancery on the 30th of April.

Unlike much of Berlin, the towers were fully stocked with ammunition and food supplies, and the gunners shelled and sniped the assaulting Red Army units, keeping them at bay. Some towers, including the Zoo Tower, remained in the small enclaves under German control even after the entire city of Berlin had already fallen to the Red Army. The towers were the last to fall to the Soviets, but not before German panzer units staged an all-out attempt to break out from the encirclement, an attempt that failed miserably, resulting in complete destruction of the task force, thus demonstrating absolute futility of further resistance. The Zoo tower remained defiant until capitulation of Berlin’s garrison on the morning of May 2, 1945.

For bravery, the Russian solders awarded the wild goat, which survived an epic gun battle on the grounds of the Zoo, the Nazi Iron Cross, taken off the body of a killed HJ, many of whom – unlike the goat – did not survive.

Hitler committed suicide on April 30th, 1945, when Soviet soldiers were about 200 yards away from the Reich Chancellery and his bunker. The Big Satan was dead. “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the bastard is dead, the bitch that bore him is again in heat,” warned Bertolt Brecht.

After Hitler’s death, Martin Bormann (Hitler’s personal secretary) and Artur Axmann (the commander of all Hitlerjugend troops of allGermany) fled Berlin; Several attempts to cross bridges in Tiger tanks failed, but they snuck out at night of May 1. En route, they passed hundreds of corpses of boys, whose lives they wasted to save their own hide. They managed to cross river Spree under the cover of darkness. Bormann was cut down by the gunfire from the Soviet patrols, while Axmann was able to sneak through, and reached Southern Germanywhere he “was captured by the Allies in December of the same year. In 1949, he was tried as a supporter of the Nazis and sentenced to 39 months' imprisonment, but the court ruled that he had already served out his punishment in pre-trial detention.” Except a $24,000 fine imposed by the West German de-Nazification court, about half of his net worth at the time, he lived happily thereafter, working as a salesman in West Berlin.  It is really amazing how easy some of the world’s worst criminals get off and how capricious and random is lady Justice in her decisions.

Source: Eric Ross (PhD)

Hitler Youth – Hitler’s Secret Weapon

Not only did thousands of Hitler Youth boys die in Berlin, but many more died in the twelfth’s army attempt to break through the Soviet encirclement toward Berlin. They were the elite core of the troops under the command of General Walter Wenck. At dawn on 28 April, the youth divisions Clausewitz, Scharnhorst and Theodor Körner were in the vanguard of the XII Army’s offensive from the south-west, attempting to break through the Soviet encirclement toward Berlin. They were made up of recent HJ, now young men from the officer training schools, making them some of the best units the German army had. After their 24-km advance towards Berlin, The Red Army halted their assault south-west of Potsdam, some 32 kmfrom Berlin. Genereal Wenck reported that no attack on Berlin was now possible and he was being pushed back. Instead, he set off to help the IX Army, encircled by the Red Army in the Halbe pocket, to break out. Wenck’s mission, although failed, was not entirely in vain, as parts of the German surrounded ninth’s Army, about 25,000 men, managed to break through and unite with the twelfth Army.  About 30,000 German soldiers, many of them teenagers, were buried in the cemetery at Halbe. About 20,000 soldiers of the Red Army died trying to stop their assault and breakout. 

         ’Hitler's final battle plan was pie in the sky. Advancing from the south, Marshall Konev's forces cut off and surrounded the Werhmacht's 9th Army in the forest south of Berlin, near the small town of Halbe. 'The massacre in that forest was appalling,' Beevor observed after a visit to the Halbe battlefield. 'There was absolutely no way of treating the wounded, they were just left screaming at the road side…' Over 50,000 [German] soldiers and civilians died. Most of the dead were German, many of them SS. It was the Nazi forces' desperate last stand. One local witness remembers how the narrow paths leading through the forest were piled high with corpses. It took the local population months to clear the site. Even today, a thousand corpses are found each year in and around Berlin. Many of them are detected in the now silent forests of Halbe…       

The 12th was an “elite” Army. Many soldiers and officers among the 12th Army were war criminals, “the butchers of Greece” – those who executed the entire civilian populations and blew up villages and towns inGreece and Yugoslavia.

Hitler was more than Father to these brainwashed delinquents, he was God.  They were encouraged by the massive propagandist apparatus of the state to rebel against their fathers and to worship Hitler, who replaced family and human love with a glorified, high-minded idea of Death for German Faterland.  He handed out a few iron crosses and sent the 12-year-olds to death, which bought him a few more days of miserable existence in a bunker, like a rat. Unlike adults, Hitler Youth were easy victims of brainwashing, just like children are everywhere, including the U.S.with its most sophisticated propagandistic apparatus.

Brain-washed boys were sent to their death by the Nazi regime in 1945

The Unspoken Tragedy of Hitler Youth

The tragedy of Hitler Youth generation is underscored in numbers, although numbers alone can hardly tell the full story. About 12 million German troops were interned by allies, by some estimates. At least 3 million were captured by the Red Army. Of all POW’s at least half were current and former HJ’s. Many former HJ’s were “Waffen-SS [who] received the blood-group tattoo [and]were singled out for special treatment, as were voluntary members of the SS (hence they often tried to remove the stigma by burning or cutting it out, but the scar gave them away like a mark of Cain. All told, however, these hardships scarcely measured up to the levels of sadistic abuse and murder which the SS had inflicted on their victims in the concentration camps, or which the Wehrmacht, for that matter, had practiced in camps for Soviet POWs.”

The formerly triumphant Waffenn SS, who had been often ordered to “wade in blood,” suppressing resistance to German occupation, left behind a trail of blood and destruction, Eastern Europe in ruins, populations of entire villages and towns wiped out or decimated. They were now prisoners of Soviet soldiers many of whom lost their entire families. Although instructed to demonstrate “discipline and high moral standards of a Red Army soldier,” the victors were not liberally-minded, especially so with tough, indoctrinated enemy who fought till the last bullet. The bitter irony of the whole generation was that conditioned to be The Master Race, the Hitler Youth now faced an uncertain future and slave labor, restoring the economies of their former slaves. Many of them died, before seeing home again.

Let us not succumb to the propagandistic effort to misrepresent that only Germans committed atrocities against civilians and kept POW’s in unbearable conditions. Soviet, American, British and French troops were just as guilty, albeit on a smaller scale. From summarily executing German POW’s to raping women, to keeping POW’s in terrible conditions, the cycle of violence continued, now by the victors, until the most painful memories of war faded.

Unfortunately, the pain did not end when the war ended.

Key to Effective Brainwashing of Children: Removal of Parental Authority

A child is a moral and political tabula rasa. The Latin phrase means a blank slate, on which his/her grownup teachers and indoctrinators can inscribe any toxic ideology, without having to overcome any resistance from the ethical and moral barriers that allow adults to distinguish good from evil. Tabula Rasa is also featured in Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis. Freud depicted personality traits as being formed by family dynamics (see, e.g., Oedipus complex, Jocaste complex, Medea complex). According to Freud’s theories, humans lack free will in a sense that they are the product of their upbringing; and also – genetic influences on human personality are minimal when compared to the upbringing. In psychoanalysis, one is largely determined by one's upbringing, and we all intuitively and empirically know this to be a universally acknowledged truth.

Nazis put parents on a leash: they warned parents that interference or failure to cooperate with the Nazi regime would result in imprisonment or having their children sent to other Nazi homes to be reared.

Alfons Heck, who progressed through the Hitlerjugend ranks to become a 17-year-old Bannfuehrer,equivalent to the U.S. rank of major general, commanded thousands of other boys. Once he drew his pistol to shoot a Hitler Youth deserter, but was prevented from doing so by an old Wehrmacht sergeant. Heck admitted afterwards, that he had become intoxicated by the power he wielded. In his two critically acclaimed books, A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika[H1], and The Burden of Hitler’s Legacy [H2], Heck described the replacement of his parents’ morality by the Nazi ideology:

“We five- and six-year-olds received a daily dose of Nazi instruction, which we swallowed as naturally as our mother’s milk. The very young became defenseless receptacles for whatever was crammed into us,” especially anti-Semitism. “To us innocents in the Hitler Youth, the Jews were proclaimed as devious and cunning overachievers, especially in their aim of polluting our pure Aryan race, whatever that meant.”

Children and adults alike were lead to believe that the war Hitler started was actually unleashed… by Jews. Thus, the Waffen SS recruitment poster, shown here, intended for Flemish speaking Belgians urges to join the SS Langemarck Division. The caption in red says: “Our answer: Pick up your arms and fight!” TheUnited Kingdom (England proper) is personified as a Jew with the Union Jack on his belly, grabbing ontoEurope. It did not matter that in England’s population of 45 million people, Jews numbered about 250 thousand, or 0.5% of the population, and their political and cultural influence was miniscule.

“…      My defense of the Hitler-Jugend is that even at sixteen, few of my comrades had any inkling that they were pawns of an evil empire. Bombarded by incessant indoctrination from kindergarten on, and surrounded by adults who were either captivated themselves or lacked the suicidal courage to tell the truth, they never had the luxury of any choice. To expect a child to be that discerning was ridiculous!”

This brainwashing was highly effective because a young boy or a girl was removed from the influence of the parental home at an early age, and if the father or mother objected, the SS would interpret that as a sign of disloyalty toward the Reich, which had life-threatening consequences. The parents were told: Your son is not your personal property, solely at your disposal. He is on loan to you but he is the property of the German Volk. To object to his name being put forward for an elite school is tantamount to insulting the Reich and the Fuhrer."

This indoctrination took years to shake off, but it was shaken-off to varying degrees, albeit with much emotional pain.  The children’s identification with the Fuhrer, no matter how intense it once seemed, was actually superficial, because the ersatz father-figure never provided the intense give-and-take of a genuine father-child relationship. They were a generation of “nobody's children,” who were encouraged to rebel against their parents in order to belong to the state. They were psychologically capable of discarding their commitment to Hitler’s dark and mystical ideology of National Socialism, but this process was accompanied by a considerable degree of moral disorientation. They ran out of marching orders, unable to think for themselves. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Adolf Hitler, the Nazi maniac who mesmerized the German nation for 12 years, formulated the essence of propaganda in his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle,) even today studiously read by politicians, including USpresidents, fishing for clues to political success.  Not unlike Hitler who appealed to chauvinism and Anti-Semitism, contemporary US politicians appeal to male-bashing, accusing men of being the source of all evil, while spending a considerable time during the election campaigns kissing babies. “Motherhood and Apple-pie” always worked wonders in America. 

Here’s one of Hitler’s gems, from chapter VI:  

Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. (...) All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. (...) The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses.

The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. (...) The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

Nazi Guerillas, the Werwolf

With capitulation of the Nazi Germany, the war was not over for the Hitler Youth. In various areas, radicals attempted to continue the fight, even months after the final German surrender. Others joined in droves the doomed National Socialist guerilla movement, Werwolf, which terrorized the occupying allied forces.  For up to two years after the Nazis surrendered on May 7, 1945, the threat of a Nazi insurgency loomed over Germany. Towards the end of 1944, about 5,000 members of the elite Nazi SS and the Hitler Youth were recruited and sworn into the Werwolf, trained in terrorist tactics and guerilla warfare.

It was a loose network of terrorist sleeper cells, made up of terrified, starving teenagers and fanatical Nazis, some – delusional enough to believe in a Nazi counter-revolution and resurrection, some – malicious enough to carry out a scorched earth policy attacking the allied military units and German civilians to discourage collaboration with Allied forces trying to restore Germany’s democratic traditions. Their tactics varied, but remained typically terroristic: assassinations, sniping attacks and sabotage.

The Berlin Education Department officials were amazed to hear the Soviet General Nikolai Berzarin, the first commandant of Berlin, to say “I want your children to be brought up in the spirit of respect for God.” He ordered all restrictions imposed by the Nazis on the celebration of religious holidays to be annulled. It was a counter-measure, of course: The agnostic Soviet General was advised by NKVD intelligence officers that Hitler Youth could be best described as a Godless Satanic-like cult, a description which was not far off target. Apparently, Werwolf did not appreciate the general’s largess: they ambushed and assassinated General Berzarin on June 16, 1945, a month after the war ended, although NKVD reported that he died in a motorcycle accident, presumably crashing at full speed into a column of military trucks. Similarly, Werwolf assassinated the senior liaison officer of Field Marshal Montgomery, an event which the British press did not cover. There was a Werwolf bombing of a police station, claiming 44 victims, and many other acts of terror.

Less than two months before Germany’s surrender, a Werwolf group comprised of an SS man, 2 HJ boys and a BDM girl executed an order signed by Himmler himself in one of a few notable Werwolf missions: they assassinated the new German lord mayor of Aachen, Franz Oppenhoff, an anti-fascist installed in office by the American troops.  The group parachuted from a Nazi-captured American B-17 Flying Fortress, murdered a Dutch border guard, walked into Aachen, killed its lord mayor in his home, then fled, pursued by American soldiers. They all perished, presumably “stepping on the land-mines[3],” but most likely – summarily executed by the American troops.  Their suicidal mission gave Goebbels the last chance to gloat about the long arm of the NSDAP, just days before his suicide. Another 2 HJ’s, a 16- and a 17-year old, who parachuted behind American lines, were captured and executed on June-1, 1945, a typical outcome,  whether any terrorist actions were carried out or failed. A Pentagon report listed 42 American soldiers “killed as a result of enemy action” after the war, between June and December 1945. But in the year 1946, there were just three.

The Werwolf operations behind the Soviet lines – massacres of civilians and sniping at occupying forces – did not last long, with NKVD capturing the terrorists, then capturing their families, treating them no better than their American collegues.

                  “The [allied] military command had a war to win,” remembered a U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Command (CIC) officer (who was also a German Immigrant) and they coldly regarded the psychological states of HJ saboteurs “as uninteresting peripheral matters.” Their usual answer to problems with the HJ was to execute troublemakers or subject them to lengthy prison sentences, and American Military Police and CIC personnel were known to beat up their juvenile captives in order to extract information and destroy the remnants of Werwolf groups. Suspected young Werewolves under fourteen years of age were sometimes seen behind the wire of ad hoc American internment camps along the Rhine, often clad only in pajamas or underwear, because they had been arrested at night. There they stood, in the rain and cold, day and night, ankle-deep in the mud of unsheltered compounds.”  


The members of Werwolf were not treated in kid’s gloves by the Soviet NKVD: Some were executed and some sent to the prisoner camps, to join the Volksturm and Hitlejugend prisoners of war of odd ages, already there. Some kids, in return for being spared beatings or execution, were recruited by the NKVD and, when released, were forced to play along with their Werwolf comrades and act as double-agents provocateurs. The NKVD sought to isolate and destroy the Werwolf centers, arrest and interrogate all its members. Its efforts to “re-educate” the youngsters were focused on confinement and forced labor. The Soviet and German cities and villages were in ruins and could use some forced labor.

 “…        Among the boys and girls themselves, there was often a happy re-emergence of common sense, which bubbled to the surface even through the thickest muck of ideology and thought control… Thus, a unit of three HJ’s actually slipped through American lines with orders to attack targets of opportunity, but, once across the lines, they almost immediately headed for home, on the way throwing their equipment into a manure pit. This was an act with an unmistakable symbolic resonance. The CIC finally caught up with these young men and interrogated them, although they did not arrest them - 'The boys did not appear to be thoroughly indoctrinated with Nazism, nor did they seem interested in carrying out the mission the Germans had assigned them.’   ”  Although thoroughly indoctrinated, these youth were also disillusioned.


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