Humanity has learned little from the two major humanitarian catastrophes of the last century. The bitter experiences of the First and Second World Wars could not prevent the war as a “continuation of policy by other means”. Meanwhile, the number of people who have since become victims of war is supposed to even exceed that of the two world wars.
After the First World War, Germany was the sole guarantor of the war imposed by the victorious powers and the Treaty of Versailles already laid the ground for the Second World War. The treaty did not allow Germany to recover economically and provide the population with materially secure living conditions, undoubtedly one reason for the rise of Hitler. After the Second World War, the world was stunned by the extent of destruction and human suffering, also in the concentration camps. Until today, the images of horror still cause consternation, shame and outrage in every human being.
But history teaches us that dismay alone is not enough to prevent war and genocide. More and more frequently, the deeply human capacity for empathy and consequent dismay is abused to get people into new wars and new genocide.
The methods of manipulation have been substantially “refined” compared to the crude propaganda of a Goebbels. Today, the warlords no longer call for “total war” but for “humanitarian interventions”. They “advertise” with heartbreaking real or even fake images “for war and death”, whose power the citizen can hardly withstand.
War history is known to be written by the victors. That is why, for a long time and despite countless publications, the background of the two world wars remained secretive at least for the general public. Not so in the book “Die deutschen Katastrophen. 1914 bis 1918 und 1933 bis 1945 im Grossen Spiel der Mächte“ (The German Catastrophes – 1914 to 1918 and 1933 to 1945 in the Great Game of the Powers) by Andreas von Bülow.
The author was born in 1937 into the already five-year-old Nazi dictatorship. Writing his book, published in 2015, he wanted to clarify the history of the two World Wars in order to “preempt such catastrophes for the future”. He writes, “who wants to learn from history,” must try to see through “the jungle of lies of war propaganda”.
Andreas von Bülow assumes that the peoples did not want and do not want war. If, nonetheless, recruits “rushed to arms” during the First World War, it was because of their “belief in national defense against an external attack”, which was invoked by all heads of state. He continues, “The true, humane attitude of the peoples was expressed during Christmas 1914 in the First World War in the spontaneous ceasefire of the soldiers on both sides, the singing of Christmas carols over the trench warfare and occasionally in a common football game” (p. 379). Without massive propaganda and the “constantly negative press coverage, the masses on both sides of the canal would not have been motivated to go to war” (page 95).
His time as Member of the German “Bundestag” and thereafter did get him into dialogue with the population “many a thousand times,” and he wonders how “such a capable, honest, well-behaved people of not only poets and thinkers, but diligent craftsmen, workers, entrepreneurs, peasants, trade unionists and soldiers” could be driven into such abysses. The question of the Why has accompanied him throughout his life.
For the trained lawyer with 25 years of experience in the German “Bundestag”, inter alia in the Parliamentary Control Commission of the secret services and Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Minister of Defense as well as Federal Minister for Research and Technology under Helmut Schmidt, both world wars “may only be regarded as the redistribution of power” (p. 379) in the worldwide struggle. He writes, “international tensions lead only to war if and when the long-term calculations of the great powers acting in the background consider the time to have come.” As a rule, number one plays the decisive role in this (p. 27).
Hitler had come to power with financial support from home and abroad, with the burning of the “Reichstag”, the Enabling Act (of 1933), murder and concentration camps. His goals and the terror of the regime were known worldwide. Yet, for a long time the West did not intervene because it wanted Hitler to take action against Russia. Andreas von Bülow continues, “for three years, Russia and Germany fought and weakened each other in the interest of the geopolitically refined game.” (p. 383)
In both, the First and Second World War England and the US pursued their own goals. Great Britain followed a 400-year tradition in always opposing the strongest power on the European continent, thereby engaging the secondary and tertiarary powers in the battle (p. 378). The United States became the dominant power economically, financially, and militarily, in the course of both wars replacing Great Britain as number 1 (p. 384).
The “Great Game of the Powers” follows its own rules. The highest commandment is to prevent under any circumstances the development of a competitive structure. Whom you cannot beat militarily you team up with or at least harm him economically.
In 1941, American President Truman summed up the cynical philosophy of the “Big Game” formulating: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible […].” (p. 384). To make this happen English and American large banks financed both sides. Human lives do not count in this “big game”.
In his book, Andreas von Bülow traces the genesis of the two world wars in a detailed and easy to understand manner. He thus renders an important contribution to the reappraisal of this dark chapter of human history. While reading, there are questions about the background and goals of today’s wars, which are threatening to turn into a global conflagration again.
At present, a “Bogeyman Russia” is being rebuilt by all means. But those who have read the book will no longer allow themselves to be harnessed to the secret war aims of the powerful because of the infamous propaganda aimed at personal dismay. He knows that he can only lose in the “Great Game of Powers”. •
*All quotes translated by Current Concerns
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