WWII - Cold War - Ending

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1.How did the situation in Europe and Asia at the end of the war contribute to the development of the Cold War?

Historian John Keegan concludes our text by stating:

"No statesman of the Second World War was foolish enough to claim, as those of the First had done, that it was being fought as 'a war to end all wars'. That, nevertheless, may have been its abiding effect." (Keegan, The Second World War, 595)

2. What did Keegan mean? And do you agree with him - particularly in light of recent international events?

  • pages 588-595
  • 100 words per question minimum
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Contents Cover About the Author Title Page Foreword Prologue 1 Every man a soldier 2 Fomenting world war Part I THE WAR IN THE WEST 1940-1943 3 The Triumph of Blitzkrieg 4 Air Battle: the Battle of Britain 5 War supply and the Battle of the Atlantic Part II THE WAR IN THE EAST 1941-1943 6 Hitler’s strategic dilemma 7 Securing the eastern springboard 8 Airborne battle: Crete 9 Barbarossa 10 War production 11 Crimean summer, Stalingrad winter Part III THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC 1941-1943 12 13 14 15 16 Tojo’s strategic dilemma From Pearl Harbor to Midway Carrier battle: Midway Occupation and repression The war for the islands Part IV THE WAR IN THE WEST 1940-1945 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Churchill’s strategic dilemma Three wars in Africa Italy and the Balkans Overlord Tank battle: Falaise Strategic bombing The Ardennes and the Rhine Part V THE WAR IN THE EAST 1943-1945 24 25 26 27 28 Stalin’s strategic dilemma Kursk and the recapture of western Russia Resistance and espionage The Vistula and the Danube City battle: the siege of Berlin Part VI THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC 1943-1945 29 Roosevelt’s strategic dilemma 30 Japan’s defeat in the south 31 Amphibious battle: Okinawa 32 Super-weapons and the defeat of Japan Epilogue 33 The legacy of the Second World War Acknowledgements Bibliography Index Copyright Page About the Author John Keegan was for many years Senior Lecturer in Military History at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and is now Defence Editor of the Daily Telegraph. He is the author of many books, including The Face of Battle, The Mask of Command, Six Armies in Normandy, The Battle for History, Battle at Sea and A History of Warfare, which was awarded the Duff Cooper Prize. The Second World War is his sixth book to be published by Pimlico. John Keegan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and received the OBE in the Gulf War Honours List. The Second World War John Keegan FOREWORD The Second World War is the largest single event in human history, fought across six of the world’s seven continents and all its oceans. It killed fifty million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded in mind or body and materially devastated much of the heartland of civilisation. No attempt to relate its causes, course and consequences in the space of a single volume can fully succeed. Rather than narrate it as a continuous sequence of events, therefore, I decided from the outset to divide the story of the war into four topics – narrative, strategic analysis, battle piece and ‘theme of war’ – and to use these four topics to carry forward the history of the six main sections into which the war falls: the War in the West, 1939-43; the War in the East, 1941-3; the War in the Pacific, 1941-3; the War in the West, 1943-5; the War in the East, 1943-5; and the War in the Pacific, 1943-5. Each section is introduced by a piece of strategic analysis, centring on the figure to whom the initiative most closely belonged at that time – in order, Hitler, Tojo, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt – and then contains, besides the appropriate passages of narrative, both a relevant ‘theme of war’ and a battle piece. Each of the battle pieces has been chosen to illustrate the nature of a particular form of warfare characteristic of the conflict. They are air warfare (the Battle of Britain), airborne warfare (the Battle of Crete), carrier warfare (Midway), armoured warfare (Falaise), city warfare (Berlin) and amphibious warfare (Okinawa). The ‘themes of war’ include war supply, war production, occupation and repression, strategic bombing, resistance and espionage, and secret weapons. It is my hope that this scheme of treatment imposes a little order for the reader on the chaos and tragedy of the events I relate. PROLOGUE ONE Every Man a Soldier The First [World] War explains the second and, in fact, caused it, in so far as one event causes another,’ wrote A. J. P. Taylor in his Origins of the Second World War. ‘The link between the two wars went deeper. Germany fought specifically in the Second War to reverse the verdict of the first and to destroy the settlement that followed it.’ Not even those who most vehemently oppose Mr Taylor’s version of interwar history will take great issue with those judgements. The Second World War, in its origin, nature and course, is inexplicable except by reference to the First; and Germany – which, whether or not it is to be blamed for the outbreak, certainly struck the first blow – undoubtedly went to war in 1939 to recover the place in the world it had lost by its defeat in 1918. However, to connect the Second World War with the First is not, if the former is accepted as the cause of the latter, to explain either of them. Their common roots must be sought in the years preceding 1914, and that search has harnessed the energies of scholars for much of this century. Whether they looked for causes in immediate or less proximate events, their conclusions have had little in common. Historians of the winning side have on the whole chosen to blame Germany, in particular Germany’s ambition for world power, for the outbreak of 1914 and hence to blame Germany again – whatever failing attaches to the appeasing powers – for that of 1939. Until the appearance of Fritz Fischer’s heretical revision of the national version in 1967, German historians generally sought to rebut the imputation of ‘war guilt’ by distributing it elsewhere. Marxist historians, of whatever nationality, have overflown the debate, depicting the First World War as a ‘crisis of capitalism’ in its imperialist form, by which the European working classes were sacrificed on the altar of competition between decaying capitalist systems; they are consistent in ascribing the outbreak of the Second World War to the Western democracies’ preference for gambling on Hitler’s reluctance to cross the brink rather than accept Soviet help to ensure that he did not. These views are irreconcilable. At best they exemplify the judgement that ‘history is the projection of ideology into the past’. There can indeed be no common explanation of why the world twice bound itself to the wheel of mass war-making as long as historians disagree about the logic and morality of politics and whether the first is the same as the second. A more fruitful, though less well-trodden, approach to the issue of causes lies along another route: that which addresses the question of how the two World Wars were made possible rather than why they came about. For the instances of outbreak are themselves overridingly important in neither case. It was the enormity of the events which flowed from the upheavals of August 1914 and September 1939 that has driven historians to search so long for reasons to explain them. No similar impetus motivates the search for the causes of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 or the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, critical as those conflicts were in altering the balance of power in nineteenth-century Europe. Moreover, it is safe to say that had Germany won the critical opening battle of the First World War, that of the Marne in September 1914, as she might well have done – thereby sparing Europe not only the agony of the trenches but all the ensuing social, economic and diplomatic embitterment – the libraries devoted to the international relations of Germany, France, Britain, Austria-Hungary and Russia before 1914 would never have been written. However, because it was not Germany but France, with British help, who won the Marne, the First – and so the Second – World War became different from all wars previously fought, different in scale, intensity, extensiveness and material and human cost. They also came, by the same measure, closely to resemble each other. It is those differences and those similarities which invest the subject of their causation with such apparent importance. But that is to confuse accident with substance. The causes of the World Wars lay no deeper and were no more or less complex than the causes of any other pair of conjoined and closely sequential conflicts. Their nature, on the other hand, was without precedent. The World Wars killed more people, consumed more wealth and inflicted more suffering over a wider area of the globe than any previous war. Mankind had grown no more wicked between 1815, the terminal date of the last great bout of hostilities between nations, and 1914; and certainly no sane and adult European alive in the latter year would have wished, could he have foreseen it, the destruction and misery that the crisis of that August was to set in train. Had it been foretold that the consequent war was to last four years, entail the death of 10 million young men, and carry fire and sword to battlefields as far apart as Belgium, northern Italy, Macedonia, the Ukraine, Transcaucasia, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Africa and China; and that a subsequent war, fought twenty years later by the same combatants over exactly the same battlefields and others besides, was to bring the death of 50 million people, every individual and collective impulse to aggression, it might be thought, would have been stilled in that instant. That thought speaks well for human nature. It also speaks against the way the world had gone between 1815 and 1914. A sane and adult European alive in the latter year might have deplored with every fibre of his civilised being the prospect foretold to him of the holocausts that were to come. To do so, however, he would have had to deny the policy, ethos and ultimately the human and material nature of the state – whichever state that was – to which he belonged. He would even have had to deny the condition of the world which surrounded him. For the truth of twentieth-century European civilisation was that the world it dominated was pregnant with war. The enormous wealth, energy and population increase released by Europe’s industrial revolution in the nineteenth century had transformed the world. It had created productive and exploitative industries – foundries, engineering works, textile factories, shipyards, mines – larger by far than any at which the intellectual fathers of the industrial revolution, the economic rationalists of the eighteenth century, had guessed. It had linked the productive regions of the world with a network of communications – roads, railways, shipping lanes, telegraph and telephone cables – denser than even the most prescient enthusiast of science and technology could have foreseen. It had generated the riches to increase tenfold the population of historic cities and to plant farmers and graziers on millions of acres which had never felt the bite of the plough or the herdsman’s tread. It had built the infrastructure – schools, universities, libraries, laboratories, churches, missions – of a vibrant, creative and optimistic world civilisation. Above all, and in dramatic and menacing counterpoint to the century’s works of hope and promise, it had created armies, the largest and potentially most destructive instruments of war the world had ever seen. The militarisation of Europe The extent of Europe’s militarisation in the nineteenth century is difficult to convey by any means that catch its psychological and technological dimensions as well as its scale. Scale itself is elusive enough. Something of its magnitude may be transmitted by contrasting the sight Friedrich Engels had of the military organisation of the independent North German city-states in which he served his commercial apprenticeship in the 1830s with the force which the same German military districts supplied to the Kaiser of the unified German Reich on the eve of the First World War. Engels’s testimony is significant. A father of Marxist theory, he never diverged from the view that the revolution would triumph only if the proletariat succeeded in defeating the armed forces of the state. As a young revolutionary he pinned his hopes of that victory on the proletariat winning the battle of the barricades; as an old and increasingly dispirited ideologue, he sought to persuade himself that the proletariat, by then the captive of Europe’s conscription laws, would liberate itself by subverting the states’ armies from within. His passage from the hopes of youth to the doubts of old age can best be charted by following the transformation of the Hanseatic towns’ troops during his lifetime. In August 1840 he rode for three hours from his office in Bremen to watch the combined manoeuvres of the armies of Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck free city and the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. Together they formed a force a regiment – say, to err on the side of generosity, 3000 – men strong. In the year of his death in 1895 the same cities provided most of the 17th and part of the 19th Divisions of the German Army, together with a cavalry and artillery regiment – at least a fourfold increase. That accounts for only first-line troops, conscripts enrolled and under arms. Behind the active 17th and 19th Divisions stood the 17th and 19th Reserve Divisions to which the Hanseatic cities would contribute an equal number of reservists – trained former conscripts – on mobilisation. And behind the reserve divisions stood the Landwehr of older ex-conscripts who in 1914 would provide half of another division again. Taken together, these units represent a tenfold increase in strength between 1840 and 1895, far outstripping contemporary population growth. This enormous multiplication of force was nevertheless in the first instance a function of demographic change. The population of most states destined to fight the First World War doubled and in some cases tripled during the nineteenth century. Thus the population of Germany, within the boundaries of 1871, increased from 24 million in 1800 to 57 million in 1900. The British population increased from 16 million in 1800 to 42 million in 1900; but for the Irish famine and emigration to the United States and the colonies, producing a net outflow of about 8 million, it would have tripled. The population of Austria-Hungary, allowing for frontier changes, increased from 24 million to 46 million; of Italy, within the 1870 frontiers, from 19 million to 29 million, despite a net outflow of perhaps 6 million emigrants to North and South America. Belgium’s population grew from 2.5 to 7 million; that of European Russia between the Urals and the western frontier of 1941 nearly tripled, from 36 to 100 million. Only two of the combatant states, France and the Ottoman empire, failed to show similar increases. The French population, once the largest in Europe, rose only from 30 to 40 million and chiefly through extended longevity; the birthrate remained almost static – the result, in Professor William McNeill’s view, of Napoleon’s returning warriors bringing home techniques of birth control learned on campaign. The population of Turkey within its present frontiers scarcely increased at all; it was 24 million in 1800 and 25 million in 1900. The French and Turkish cases, though falling outside the demographic pattern, are nevertheless significant in explaining it. The increased longevity of the French was due to improved standards of living and public health, the outcome of the application of science to agriculture, medicine and hygiene. The failure of the Turkish population to increase had an exactly contrary explanation: the poor yields of traditional farming and incidence of disease in a society without doctors ensured that population, despite high birth-rates, remained at a static level. Whenever increased agricultural output (or input) combined with high birth-rates and improved hygiene, as they did almost everywhere in Europe in the nineteenth century, the effect on population size was dramatic. In England, the centre of the nineteenth-century economic miracle, it was spectacular. Despite a massive emigration of the population from the countryside to the towns, overcrowded and often jerry-built, the number of the English increased by 100 per cent in the first half and by 75 per cent in the second half of the century. Sewer-building, which ensured the elimination of cholera from 1866 and of most other water-borne diseases soon after, and vaccination, which when it was made compulsory in 1853 eliminated smallpox, sharply reduced infant mortality and lengthened the life expectancy of the adult population; death from infectious disease declined by nearly 60 per cent between 1872 and 1900. Improved agricultural yields from fertilised and fallowed fields, and, in particular, the import of North American grain and refrigerated Australasian meat, produced larger, stronger and healthier people. Their intake of calories was increased by the cheapening of luxuries such as tea, coffee and especially sugar, which made grain staples more palatable and diet more varied. The combined effect of these medical and dietary advances on growing populations was not only to increase the size of the contingents of young men liable each year for conscription (classes, as the French labelled them) – by an average of 50 per cent, for example, in France between 1801 and 1900 – but to make them better suited, decade on decade, for military service. There is an apparently irreducible military need for a marching soldier to bear on his body about 50 lb of extraneous weight – pack, rifle and ammunition. The larger and stronger the soldier, the more readily can he carry such a load the desirable marching norm of twenty miles a day. In the eighteenth century the French army had typically found its source of such fit men among the towndwelling artisan class rather than the peasantry. The peasant, physically undernourished and socially doltish, rarely made a suitable soldier; he was undisciplined, prone to disease and liable to pine to death when plucked from his native heath. It was these shortcomings which prompted Marx a hundred years later to dismiss the peasantry as ‘irredeemable’ for revolutionary purposes. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the peasant populations of Germany, France, Austria-Hungary and Russia had so much improved in physique that they were regularly supplying to their national armies a proportion of new conscripts or classes large enough to give Marx the lie. His analysis may have been skewed by his standpoint in England, where largescale emigration to the towns left only the least enterprising under the thumb of squire and parson. In the continental lands, which were industrialising more slowly than England – the German rural population in 1900 was still 49 per cent of the total – it was the countryside which yielded the classes of large, strong young men out of which the great nineteenth-century armies were built. If the new population surplus yielded by better diet, drugs and drains increased the European armies’ recruiting pool, it was the nineteenth-century states’ enhanced powers of head-counting and tax-gathering which ensured that recruits could be found, fed, paid, housed, equipped and transported to war. The institution of regular census-taking – in France in 1801, Belgium in 1829, Germany in 1853, Austria-Hungary in 1857, Italy in 1861 – accorded recruiting authorities the data they needed to identify and docket potential recruits; with it died the traditional expedients of haphazard impressment, cajolery, bribery and press-ganging which had raised the ancien régime armies from those not fleet enough of thought or foot to escape the recruiting sergeant. Tax lists, electoral registers and school rolls documented the conscript’s whereabouts – the grant of the vote and the introduction of free education for all entailed a limitation as well as an enlargement of the individual’s liberties. By 1900 every German reservist, for example, was obliged to possess a discharge paper specifying the centre at which he was to report when mobilisation was decreed. The enormous enlargement of European economies was meanwhile creating the tax base by which the new armies of conscripted recruits were supported; the German economy, for example, expanded by a quarter between 1851 and 1855, by a half between 1855 and 1875 and by 70 per cent between 1875 and 1914. From this new wealth the state drew, via indirect and direct revenue, including the resented institution of income tax, an everincreasing share of the gross domestic product. In Britain, for example, the government’s share of consumption rose from 4.8 per cent in 1860-79 to 7.4 per cent in 1900-14 and in Germany from 4 per cent to 7.1 per cent; rises were proportionate in France and Austria-Hungary. Most of this increased revenue went to buy military equipment – in the broadest sense. Guns and warships represented the costliest outlay; barracks the more significant. The ancien régime soldier had been lodged wherever the state could find room for him, in taverns, barns or private houses. The nineteenth-century conscript was housed in purpose-built accommodation. Walled barracks were an important instrument of social control; Engels denounced them as ‘bastions against the populace’. The sixteenth-century Florentines similarly regarded the building of the Fortezza de Basso inside the gates of their city as a symbol of the curtailment of their liberties. Barracks were certainly a principal means of guaranteeing that ready availability of force by which the Berlin revolt of 1848 and the Paris Commune of 1871 were put down.fn1 However, barracks were not only the precinct-stations of the contemporary riot police. They were also the fraternity houses of a new military culture in which conscripts learnt habits of obedience and forged bonds of comradeship which would harden them against a battlefield ordeal more harrowing than any which soldiers had known before. The new-found wealth of the nineteenth-century state enabled the conscript not only to be housed and equipped but also to be transported to the battlefield and fed amply when he arrived. The soldier of the ancien régime had been scarcely better supplied than the Roman legionary; flour ground in the regimental hand-mills, supplemented by a little beef driven on the hoof, was his staple. The nineteenth-century conscript was fed in the field on preserved food; margarine and canning were both the products of a competition founded by Napoleon III to invent rations that would not rot in the soldier’s pack. However, the necessity for him to carry his own supply of rations was in any case sharply diminished by the subordination of the burgeoning railway system to military uses. Troops were transported by rail as early as 1839 in Germany. By 1859, when France fought Austria in northern Italy, deployment by rail seemed commonplace. In 1866 and 1870 it underlay Prussia’s victories against Austria and France. In the latter year the German rail network, only 469 kilometres in 1840, had increased to 17,215; by 1914 it would total 61,749 kilometres, the greater part of it (56,000 kilometres) under state management. The German government, heavily prompted by the Great General Staff, had early grasped the importance for defensive – and offensive – purposes of controlling the railway system; much of it, particularly in such sectors of low commercial use as Bavaria and East Prussia, had been financed by state-raised loans and laid out at the direction of the General Staff’s railway section.fn2 Railways supplied and transported the soldier of the steam age (at least as far as the railhead; beyond, the old marching and portering imperatives persisted). The technology that built the railways also furnished the weapons with which the soldiers of the new mass armies would inflict mass casualties on each other. The development of such weapons was not deliberate, at least not at the outset; later it may have been. Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the first successful machine-gun, is alleged to have given up experiments in electrical engineering in 1883 on the advice of a fellow American, who said: ‘Hang your electricity! If you want to make your fortune, invent something which will allow those fool Europeans to kill each other more quickly.’ Initially, however, the reason for the appearance of the faster-firing, longerrange and more accurate weapons that equipped the conscript armies between 1850 and 1900 was the particular conjunction of human ingenuity and industrial capability which made their production feasible. Four factors were significant. The first was the spread of steam power, which supplied the energy to manufacture weapons by industrial process. The second was the development of the appropriate process itself, originally called ‘American’ by reason of its origin in the 1820s in the factories of the Connecticut Valley, which were chronically short of skilled labour. This industrial process resulted in ‘interchangeable parts’, machined by a refinement of the ancient pantographic principle, and achieved an enormous surge of output. The Prussian manufacturer, Dreyse, inventor of the revolutionary ‘needle-gun’ (in which a bolt-operated firing-pin struck a metal-jacketed cartridge), managed to turn out only 10,000 units a year by traditional methods in 1847, despite holding a firm contract from the Prussian government to re-equip its whole army. By 1863, in contrast, the British Enfield armoury, rejigged with automatic milling machines, turned out 100,370 rifles, and in 1866 the French government re-equipped the armoury at Puteaux with ‘interchangeable parts’ machinery capable of producing 300,000 of the new Chassepot rifles each year. Advances in metal engineering would have been pointless without improvements in the quality of the metal to be worked; that was assured by the development of processes for smelting steel in quantity – notably by the British engineer Bessemer after 1857 (he also was encouraged by a prize offered by Napoleon III). Bessemer’s ‘converter’ marked the third significant advance. With similar furnaces, the German cannon-founder, Alfred Krupp, began in the 1860s to cast steel billets from which perfect cannon-barrels could be machined. His breech-loading field-guns, equivalents on a larger scale of the rifles with which all contemporary infantrymen in advanced armies were now issued, proved the decisive weapons of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. The fourth ingredient of the firepower revolution was supplied shortly afterwards by European chemists, notably the Swede Alfred Nobel, who developed propellants and bursting-charges which drove projectiles to a greater distance and detonated them with more explosive effect than ever before. The effective range of infantry weapons, for example – a function equally of engineering and propellant developments – increased from a hundred to a thousand yards between 1850 and 1900. When the recuperation of chemical-energy discharges was applied to the mechanism of small arms and artillery in the period 1880-1900, it produced the machinegun and the quick-firing artillery piece, the ultimate instruments of mass death-dealing at distance. Surplus and war-making capacity Long-range, rapid-fire weapons constituted the threat by which all the increments of offensive force assembled by the industrial and demographic revolutions of the nineteenth century were to be negated. There lay an irony. The material triumph of the nineteenth century had been to break out of the cycle of recurrent lean and plenty which had immemorially determined the condition of life even in the richest states, and to create permanent surplus – of food, energy and raw materials (though not of capital, credit or cash). Market fluctuations perpetuated boom and recession in the peaceful life of states. Surplus transformed their war-making capacity. War at any level above the primitive ritual of raid and ambush had always required surplus for its waging. However, accumulated surpluses had rarely been large enough historically to fund wars that culminated in the decisive victory of one side over another; self-funding wars, in which the spoils of conquest sustained the impetus of a victorious campaign, had been rarer still. Extraneous factors – gross disparity in the opposed technologies of war-making or in the dynamism of opposed ideologies, or, as Professor William McNeill has suggested, susceptibility to unfamiliar germ strains transported by an aggressor – had usually explained one society’s triumph over another; and they certainly underlay such military sensations as the Spanish destruction of the Aztec and Inca empires, the Islamic conquests of the seventh century and the American extinction of Red Indian warriordom. In the warfare of Europe between the Reformation and the French Revolution, waged between states occupying a level plateau of war-making skills, will to war and resistance to common disease, such extraneous factors had played no decisive part; while the surpluses available for offence had been heavily offset by the diversion of funds into means of defence, particularly siege engineering. A great deal of such siege engineering had been dedicated to the destruction of the feudal strongholds from which local magnates had defied central authority once the fashion for castle-building seized the European landholding class in the eleventh century. It was extremely costly; and to the costs had been added those of replacing local with national fortifications in the frontier zones throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Investment in siegecraft, destructive and constructive, had the collateral effect of securing under-investment in civil infrastructures – roads, bridges and canals – which might otherwise have made the passage of armies on offensive campaigns swift and decisive. As late as 1826, for example, while the British road network – much of it in Scotland deliberately built for military purposes after the Jacobite revolt of 1745 – extended to over 21,000 miles, that of France (three times the size) was no greater, while Prussia, which occupied much of the most strategically significant terrain in northern Europe, had a road network of only 3,340 miles, most of it in her Rhineland provinces. Her eastern lands were virtually roadless, as Poland and Russia were to remain – to Napoleon’s and then Hitler’s cost – well into the twentieth century. The surplus created by the economic miracle in nineteenth-century Europe cancelled out the effects of under-investment in road-building and overinvestment in frontier fortification. Mass armies, transported and supplied along the new infrastructure of railways, swamped strategically significant territory as if by tidal force in an era of changed sea levels. In 1866 and 1870 the armies of Prussia overflowed the frontier regions of Austrian Bohemia and French Alsace-Lorraine without hindrance by the costly fortifications that guarded them. Strategic movement in Europe achieved a fluidity equivalent almost to that which had characterised the western campaigns of the American Civil War, fought by mass armies in a landscape free from artificial obstructions of any sort. Regions disputed by Habsburg and Bourbon generals in two hundred years of toothpick campaigning for advantage in each cavity and crevice of each other’s borderlands went under the hammer of steam power in a few weeks of brutal resculpturing. It seemed that a second ‘military revolution’, equivalent to that brought about by gunpowder and mobile cannon at the dawn of the Renaissance and Reformation, stood at hand. Blood, iron and gold – available in quantities more copious than any of which the richest king had ever disposed – promised victories swifter and more total even than those which had been achieved by Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. Such victories were promised but could not necessarily be delivered; for the greatest material riches do not avail if the human qualities necessary to animate them are lacking. But here too the nineteenth century had wrought a sea-change. The eighteenth-century soldier had been a poor creature, the liveried servant of his king, sometimes – in Russia and Prussia – an actual serf delivered into the state’s service by his feudal master. Uniform was, indeed, a livery, which reigning monarchs conspicuously did not wear. Those who did bore it as a mark of surrendered rights. It meant that they had succumbed to ‘want or hardship’, the most common impulse to enlistment; that they had changed sides (turncoat prisoners of war formed large contingents in most armies); that they had accepted mercenary service under foreign colours (as tens of thousands of Swiss, Scots, Irish, Slavs and other highlanders and backwoodsmen did throughout the ancien régime); that they had ‘plea-bargained’ out of imprisonment for petty crime or attachment for civic debt; or simply that they had failed to run fast enough from the pressgang. The volunteer was almost the rarest if the best of soldiers. Because so many of his comrades-in-arms were unwilling warriors, the penalties for desertion were draconian and the code of discipline ferocious. The eighteenth-century soldier was flogged for infractions of duty and hanged for indiscipline, both sorts of offence being loosely interpreted. The nineteenth-century soldier, by contrast, was a man who wanted to be what he was. A willing, often an enthusiastic, soldier, he was usually a conscript but one who accepted his term of (admittedly short) service as a just subtraction from his years of liberty, to be performed with cheerfulness as well as obedience. This was the case at least from mid-century onwards and in the armies of the most advanced states – Prussia first and foremost, but also France and Austria, with the smaller and more backward hurrying to follow suit. Such a change of attitude is difficult to document but real enough nevertheless. Perhaps its most tangible manifestation was the appearance of the regimental souvenir which began to be manufactured in tens of thousands towards the end of the nineteenth century. The souvenir, typically in Germany a china drinking mug, decorated with pictures of regimental life, usually bore the names of the conscript’s fellow platoon members, some couplets of doggerel verse, a salutation to the regiment – ‘Here’s to the 12th Grenadiers’ – and the universal superscription ‘In memory of my service time’. The young soldier who had been sent off garlanded with flowers by his neighbours – a strikingly different farewell from that given to the Russian serf conscript of the eighteenth century, for whom the village priest said a requiem mass – bore back his souvenir when his service time was over to stand in a place of honour in the family home. This remarkable change of attitude was literally revolutionary. The roots of the change were manifold, but the three most important led directly to the French Revolution and the principal slogans of its ideology: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Military service became popular in the nineteenth century first because it was an experience of equality. ‘Cook’s son – Duke’s son – son of a belted Earl,’ Rudyard Kipling wrote of the army Britain sent to fight the Boers in 1900, with some accuracy. Popular enthusiasm for the war did sweep all classes into the ranks as common soldiers; but they were, of course, volunteers. Universal conscription in the European armies took all classes willy-nilly – in Prussia from 1814, in Austria from 1867, in France from 1889 – and bound them to service for two or three years. There were variations in the proportion of annual classes enlisted and fluctuations in the length of service. There were alleviations of obligation for the better educated; typically, for example, high-school graduates served only one year and were then transferred to the reserve as potential officers. Yet the principle of universal obligation that generally held good was also accepted as persisting. Reservists during their early years of discharge returned annually to the colours for retraining; as they grew older they moved to a wartime reserve (Landwehr in Germany, Territorial Army in France); and their final years of able manhood were spent on the list of the Home Guard. Reserve training was borne with good humour, even regarded as a sort of all-male holiday. Freud, a reserve medical officer in the Austrian army, writing to a friend from manoeuvres in 1886, observed that ‘it would be ungrateful not to admit that military life with its inescapable “must” is good for neurasthenia. It all disappeared in the first week.’ Conscription was also relatively egalitarian in its outreach. Jews, like Freud, were as liable as Gentiles and in the Habsburg army automatically became officers if educationally qualified; in the German army, Jews could become reserve officers but were barred by regimental anti-Semitism from holding regular commissions, though Bismarck’s financier, Bleichroder, managed to get his son a regular commission in the household cavalry. The officer who recommended Hitler for his Iron Cross 1st Class was a Jewish reserve officer. This was ‘emancipation’ in its military aspect, and it applied not only to Jews. The universality of conscription swept up every nationality in the Habsburg lands, Poles and Alsace-Lorrainers in Germany, Basques, Bretons and Savoyards in France. All, by being soldiers, were also to be Austrians, Germans or Frenchmen. Conscription was an instrument not only of equality but also of fraternity. Because it applied to all at the same moment of their lives and in principle treated all in the same way, it forged bonds of brotherhood young Europeans had never before felt. Universal compulsory education, a simultaneous innovation, was currently taking children outside their families and plunging them into a common experience of learning. Conscription took young adults from their locality and plunged them into the experience of growing up – confronting them with the challenge of separation from home, making new friends, dealing with enemies, adjusting to authority, wearing strange clothes, eating unfamiliar food,fn3 shifting for themselves. It was a genuine rite de passage, intellectual, emotional and, not least of all, physical. Nineteenthcentury armies, told that they were ‘schools of the nation’, took on many of the characteristics of contemporary schools, not only testing and heightening literacy and numeracy but also teaching swimming, athletics and crosscountry sports as well as shooting and the martial arts. Turnvater Jahn, the pioneer of physical education in Germany, was a potent influence on Prussian military training; his ideas were propagated in France through the specialist athletics instructors of the Bataillon de Joinville, while in Italy Captain Caprilli founded a school of military horsemanship which was to transform the art of riding throughout the Western world. The healthy outdoorsmanship of military life, lived round the campfire and under canvas, would eventually develop into the ideals of the German youth movement and the code of the Boy Scouts and so make its way back into social and military life by a convergent route. The rite de passage of universal conscription was not a liberating experience for all. As Professor William McNeill has pointed out, individuals drafted into the army from a society which was rapidly urbanising and industrialising, marching them away from the plough and the village pump, found themselves in a simpler society than the one they knew in civil life. The private soldier lost almost all personal responsibility. Ritual and routine took care of nearly every working hour. Simple obedience to the orders that punctuated that routine from time to time, and set activity off in some new direction, offered release from the anxieties inherent in personal decision-making – anxieties that multiplied incontinently in urban society, where rival leaders, rival loyalties and practical alternatives as to how to spend at least part of one’s time competed insistently for attention. Paradoxical as it may sound, escape from freedom was often a real liberation, especially for young men living under very rapidly changing conditions, who had not yet been able to assume fully adult roles. Even when allowance is made for the force of this percipient observation, however, the ultimate importance of universal conscription in changing attitudes to military service was that it ultimately connected with liberty, in its political if not its personal sense. The old armies had been instruments of oppression of the people by kings; the new armies were to be instruments of the people’s liberation from kings, even if that liberation was to be narrowly institutional in the states which retained monarchy. The two ideas were not mutually contradictory. The French National Convention had decreed in 1791 that ‘the battalion organised in each district shall be united under a banner bearing the inscription: “The French people united against tyranny”.’ That decree encapsulated the idea inherent in the United States Constitution that ‘the right to bear arms’, once made common, was a guarantee of direct freedoms. Two years earlier the revolutionary leader, Dubois-Crance, had articulated the congruent proposition: ‘Each citizen should be a soldier, and each soldier a citizen, or we shall never have a constitution.’ The tension between the principles of winning freedoms by revolutionary assault and extracting them in legal form by performance of military duty was to transfix European political life for much of the nineteenth century. The excess of freedom won by force of arms in France provoked the reaction of Thermidor and diverted the fervour of the extremist sans-culottes into conquest abroad. The victories of the ‘revolutionary’ armies (after 1795 firmly under the control of their officers, many of them, ironically, returned monarchists) then had the effect of provoking their enemies, particularly the Prussian and Austrian kings, into decreeing a variation of the levée-en-masse or general conscription, the original manifestation of the French Revolution in its military form. Such conscription produced popular forces – Landwehr, Landsturm, Freischützen – to oppose the French on their home territories. Landwehr and Freischützen became an embarrassment as soon as their work was done. With Napoleon safely on St Helena, Prussia and Austria consigned these popular forces, with their liberal-minded bourgeois officers, to the status of reserve contingents, and intended never to call on their services again. Nevertheless they survived until 1848, ‘year of revolutions’, when their members actively participated in the street battles for constitutional rights in Vienna and Berlin – where the uprising was put down by the Prussian Guard, the ultimate bastion of traditional authority. They had meanwhile been replicated in France, whose National Guard would keep alive the ‘liberal’ principle in military life under the Second Empire and, after the withdrawal of the Prussians from Paris in 1871, rise against the regular army of the conservative Third Republic in a bloody Commune which would cost the lives of 20,000 of its members. ‘No conscription without representation’ The struggle of these citizen forces with the armies of reaction, though ending in physical defeat, nevertheless indirectly exerted the pressure which extracted constitutional and electoral rights from the conservative European regimes. The demand for such rights was in the air; and the impôt du sang – ‘blood tax’, as conscription laws were called in France – could not be levied if constitutional rights continued to be refused, particularly when neighbour states were enlarging their armies and reserves through the process of conscription. Prussia, the military pace-setter, granted a constitution in 1849, as a direct result of the fright it was caused by armed revolutionaries the previous year. By 1880 both France and the German Empire had introduced universal male suffrage, and France would institute a common three-year term of service as a quid pro quo in 1882. Austria extended the vote to all males in 1907; even Russia, most autocratic of states and most exigent in its conscription laws, which imposed a term of four years, had created a representative assembly in 1905, following the defeat of its army by the Japanese in Manchuria and the subsequent revolution of that year. ‘No conscription without representation’ had, in short, become an unspoken slogan of European politics in the half-century before the First World War; since conscription is indeed a tax, on the individual’s time if not money, it exactly echoed the American colonists’ challenge to George III in 1776. Paradoxically, in the states where votes were granted to all, or most, free men but where military service was still restricted to those fettered by ‘want or hardship’ – the United States and Britain – a strange passion for volunteer soldiering seized their citizenry during the great era of military expansion through conscription in nineteenth-century Europe. The opening stages of the American Civil War could not have been fought without the prior existence of a network of entirely amateur regiments, with names like the Liberty Rifles of New Jersey, the Mechanic Phalanx of Massachusetts, the Republican Blues of Savannah, Georgia, and the Palmetto Guard of Charleston, South Carolina. In 1859 a nationwide war scare caused by French naval expansion had brought into being a similar though much larger network in Britain. Tennyson’s stirring verses, Form, Riflemen, Form, had helped to call 200,000 civilians into amateur military service. This was a serious embarrassment to the government, which could not stop them designing and buying their own uniforms but was reluctant to see or help them arm. They did so none the less; and the government, which like all others in Europe since the establishment of public order at the beginning of the eighteenth century had energetically carried out the disarmament of its population, was eventually obliged to issue them with rifles from the state arsenals. The issue of the modern rifle, rather than the obsolete musket, was crucially significant. The musket, like the uniform livery of the dynastic armies that used it, was a mark of servitude. So short was its range that its effect could be harnessed to battle-winning purposes only by massing the musketeers in dense rank, and keeping them ‘closed up’ at pike point. The rifle, by contrast, was a weapon of individual skill. It could kill a common soldier, without much discrimination by its user, at 500 yards; in the hands of a marksman it could kill a general at 1000 yards. Hence the Paris Communards were convinced, as Thomas Carlyle put it, that ‘the rifle made all men tall’. A rifleman was as good as any man. The British Rifle Volunteers, in token of the status their weapons gave them, chose to dress not in the tight scarlet of the soldiers of the line, enlisted from ‘want and hardship’, but in the loose tweed shooting-suits of country gentlemen; to that garb some added ‘Garibaldi’ shirts or the ‘wideawake’ hats of the 1848 revolutionaries. In different varieties of cut and colour – field-grey or khaki – this grousemoor or deerstalker garb would come to clothe all the armies of Europe (with the exception of the French) by 1914, just as the long-range, high-velocity rifle would arm them. No badge of military proficiency would be worn with more ostentation than the marksman’s; and those units which had carried the rifle earliest – designated as Schützen in Germany, Jäger in Austria, chasseurs in France, greenjackets in Britain – would arrogate to themselves a particular esprit de corps as soldiers of modernity. In truth, however, all the soldiers who marched to war in 1914 formed a badge of the modernity of the states to which they belonged. They were fit, strong, faultlessly clothed and equipped, armed with weapons of unparalleled lethality, and inspired by the belief that they were free men who, in free activity on the battlefield, would win prompt and decisive victories. Above all they were numerous. No society on earth had ever proportionately put forth soldiers in such numbers as Europe did in August 1914. The intelligence section of the German Great General Staff had evolved a rule of thumb that every million of a nation’s population could support two divisions of soldiers, or some 30,000 men. The rule of thumb was narrowly borne out on mobilisation: France, with 40 million population, mobilised 75 infantry divisions (and 10 of cavalry); Germany, with 57 million, 87 divisions (and 11 of cavalry); Austria-Hungary, with 46 million, 49 divisions (and 11 of cavalry); and Russia, with 100 million, 114 divisions (and 36 of cavalry). Since each was formed from a particular locality – the German 9th and 10th Divisions, for example, from Lower Silesia, the French 19th and 20th from the Pas de Calais, the Austrian 3rd and 5th from the vicinity of Linz (Hitler’s home town), the Russian 1st, 2nd and 3rd from the Baltic states – their departure denuded their home districts of their young manhood overnight. In the first fortnight of August 1914 some 20 million Europeans, nearly 10 per cent of the populations of the combatant states, donned military drab and shouldered rifles to take the train to war. All had been told and most believed that they would be back ‘before the leaves fell’. It would be four years and five autumns before the survivors returned, leaving on the battlefields some 10 million dead. The vast crop of fit and strong young men which formed the fruit of nineteenth-century Europe’s economic miracle had been consumed by the forces which gave them life and health. The original divisions which had mobilised in 1914 had ‘turned over’ their personnel at least twice and in some cases three times. War-raised divisions had suffered comparable losses, for the conscription machine drove on throughout the war’s course, not only consuming new classes as each came annually of military age but also spreading its jaws to swallow the older, younger and less fit whom it would have rejected in peacetime. Ten million Frenchmen passed through the military machine between 1914 and 1918; out of each nine enlisted, four became casualties. German fatal casualties exceeded 3 million, Austrian a million, British a million, those of Italy, which entered the war only in May 1915 and fought on the narrowest of fronts, over 600,000; the dead of the Russian army, whose collapse in 1917 permitted the Bolsheviks to seize power, have never accurately been counted. The graves of the Russian dead, and those of the Germans and Austrians who opposed them, were scattered from the Carpathians to the Baltic; those of the French, British, Belgians and Germans who fell on the Western Front were concentrated in a narrow belt of frontier territory forming cemeteries which have become major and permanent landmarks in that countryside. Those constructed by the British – for which Edwin Lutyens, the great neoclassicist, designed the architecture and Rudyard Kipling, himself a bereaved Great War parent, wrote the funerary inscriptions, ‘Their name liveth for evermore’ and, on the tombs of the unidentified dead, ‘A soldier of the Great War, known unto God’ – are places of heartrending beauty. ‘Cities of the dead’ they have been called, though ‘gardens of the dead’ is more apt; they are supreme achievements of that romantic landscape art which is one of England’s donations to world culture. But they were filled from zones which in their time were cities of the living, foci of activity, emotional and intellectual as well as physical, more intense than any Europe had known since the French Revolution. ‘The front cannot but attract us,’ the French Jesuit philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, had written, ‘because it is in one way the extreme boundary between what you are obviously aware of and what is still in the process of formation. Not only do you see these things that you experience nowhere else but you also see emerge from within yourself an underlying stream of clarity, energy and freedom that is to be found hardly anywhere else in ordinary life.’ Teilhard de Chardin’s rhetoric harks back directly to that of the barricades, those of 1871, 1848, ultimately of 1789; and with good reason. The trenches of the Western Front were indeed barricades. Alan Seeger, a poet and victim of the trenches, called them ‘disputed barricades’ – across which the emancipated youth of Europe levelled their rifles, symbols of their status as free citizens, in defence of the values of liberty, equality, fraternity. The nineteenth century had given these values to all, but nationalism had persuaded each citizen that they inhered meaningfully only in the state to which he belonged. Revolution, its fathers had quite genuinely believed, would be a gift freely given to all, a gift whose effect would be to foster a fraternity of nations as well as of people. It had, none the less, never been successfully internationalised. Even at its dawn it had manifested itself as the dynamic of a single nationality alone; when its values came to be more widely diffused, their transmission, by a bizarre perversion, succeeded only in reinforcing the amour-propre of each nation among which they rooted. The French Revolution persuaded the French – as it still does – that they were unique in their devotion to equality; its influence reinforced the Germans’ commitment to fraternity; its proclamation of liberty convinced the British that they already possessed it more fully than latecomer claimants to their freeborn rights ever could. The fruits of victory The states to which the First World War brought both victory and its fruits – France and Britain foremost – were able to adjust the sense of suffering they had undergone to their belief in the higher values that had animated their warmaking without grave damage to their national psyches. For each of them, in a real but unexpressed material dimension, the First World War had been worth the sacrifice. Despite the human and, in the case of France, material cost, the war had re-energised and expanded their home economies, even if much overseas investment had been liquidated to purchase raw materials and finished goods in the process; more important, it had greatly expanded their overseas possessions. Britain and France, in that order, remained in 1914 the most important of the world’s imperial powers (a major factor in motivating Germany to attack them); by 1920, after the distribution of the defeated powers’ possessions under League of Nations mandate, their empires had become larger still. France, already dominant in North and West Africa, added Syria and Lebanon to its Mediterranean holdings. Britain, head of the largest imperial association the world had ever seen, extended it by the addition to its East African colonies of German Tanganyika, thus making the dream of an Africa British ‘from Cairo to the Cape’ a reality; at the same time it acquired the mandates for Palestine and Iraq, ex-Turkish territories, and so established its power over a ‘fertile crescent’ running from Egypt to the head of the Persian Gulf. Crumbs from the table of the German and Turkish empires fell elsewhere; South-West Africa and Papua to South Africa and Australia, Rhodes to Italy, Germany’s Pacific islands to Japan – a sop which only time would reveal as ill considered. Italy and Japan believed they deserved more, particularly since the greater allies picked up crumbs too. Their sense of being skimped would feed dangerous rancours in the years to come. But the rancour of these unfavoured victors was as nothing compared to that of the vanquished. Both Austria and Turkey, ancient contestants for mastery in Europe’s middle lands, would develop the resignation to adapt to reduced circumstances. Germany would not. Its sense of humiliation bit deep. Not only had it lost the trappings of an embryo colonial power as well as the marches of its historic advance into central Europe in West Prussia and Silesia. It had also lost command of a strategic zone so extensive and central that as late as July 1918 its possession had promised victory, and thereby control of a new empire in the European heartland. On 13 July 1918, the eve of the Second Battle of the Marne, German armies occupied the whole of western Russia up to a line which touched the Baltic outside Petrograd and the Black Sea at Rostov-on-Don, enclosed Kiev, capital of the Ukraine and historic centre of Russian civilisation, and cut off from the rest of the country one-third of Russia’s population, one-third of its agricultural land and more than one-half of its industry. The line, moreover, was one not of conquest but of annexation, secured by an international treaty signed at Brest-Litovsk in March. German expeditionary forces operated as far east as Georgia in Transcaucasia and as far south as the Bulgarian frontier with Greece and the plain of the Po in Italy. Through her Austrian and Bulgarian satellites Germany controlled the whole of the Balkans and, by her alliance with Turkey, extended her power as far away as northern Arabia and northern Persia. In Scandinavia, Sweden remained a friendly neutral, while Germany was helping Finland to gain its independence from the Bolsheviks – as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were also shortly to do. In distant south-east Africa a German colonial army kept in play an Allied army ten times its size. And in the west, on the war’s critical front, the German armies stood within fifty miles of Paris. In five great offensives, begun the previous March, the German high command had regained all the territory contested with France since the First Battle of the Marne fought four years earlier. A sixth offensive promised to carry its spearheads to the French capital and win the war. Five months later the war had indeed been won, but by the French, British and Americans, not by Germany. Her soldiers, beaten back to the Belgian frontier by the Allied counter-offensives of July, August and September, had learned in November of the armistice their leaders had accepted, had marched back across the Rhine to home territory and had there demobilised themselves. Within days of their return, the largest army in the world, still numbering over 200 divisions, had returned its rifles and steel helmets to store and dispersed homeward. Bavarians, Saxons, Hessians, Hanoverians, Prussians, even the immortals of the Imperial Guard, decided overnight, in defiance of every imperative by which the German Empire and the European military system had been built over the preceding fifty years, to stop their ears to superior orders and resume civilian life. Cities, towns and villages which since 1914 had been empty of young men suddenly repossessed them in cohorts; but the Berlin government, which had counted unreflectively on the availability of boundless military force for a hundred years, disposed of none whatsoever. The Freikorps phenomenon States cannot survive in a military vacuum; without armed forces a state does not exist. This truth was soon discovered by the socialists who came to power after the fall of the Kaiser, committed though they were to popular instead of autocratic government. Confronted by armed communist insurrection and Russian Bolshevik intervention – in Bavaria, in the Baltic and North Sea ports, in Berlin itself – the German Social Democratic government took military help wherever they could find it. It was not a time to be choosy and the choice was not delicate. Friedrich Ebert, Chancellor of the new republic and a lifelong socialist, announced, ‘I hate the Social Revolution like sin!’; but he can scarcely have liked the soldiers whom the crisis threw his way. ‘War had taken hold of them’, Ernst von Salomon wrote of the young republic’s first protectors, ‘and would never let them go. They would never really belong to their homes again.’ The men of whom he spoke – and he was one of them – were a type thrown up by any great military convulsion. They had congregated at Cape Taenarum in the Peloponnese in the fifth century BC after the wars of the Greek city-states – landless men looking for mercenary hire. Germany had been full of them during the Thirty Years War, as had the whole of Europe after the fall of Napoleon, when many had made a living by going to fight for the Greeks in the war of independence against the Turks. In November and December 1918 they called themselves Frontkämpfer – ‘front fighters’, men who had learned in the trenches a way of life from which the onset of peace could not wean them. General Ludwig von Maercker, organiser of the first of the republic’s Freikorps, spoke of forming ‘a vast militia of bourgeoisie and peasants, grouped around the flag for the reestablishment of order’. His vision harked back to a pre-industrial military system in which artisans and farmers united to repress anarchy and sedition. In truth no such system had ever existed. The Freikorps were a manifestation of a much more modern principle – the post-1789 belief that a political being was a citizen armed with a rifle which he was trained to use in defence of the nationality to which he belonged and the ideology that nationality embodied. It was significant that Maercker’s original Freikorps, the Volunteer Territorial Rifle Corps (das Freiwillige Landesjägerkorps), included a tier of ‘trusted men’ (Vertrauensleute) intermediate between officers and rank-andfile, and that its disciplinary code stipulated that ‘the leader of a volunteer corps must never inflict a punishment capable of touching a man’s honour’. The Landesjägerkorps, in short, embodied the idea that statehood was ultimately military in origin, that citizenship was validated by military service, that service should be freely given and that the serviceman’s duty of obedience should always be mitigated by the honour owed to him as a warrior. Here was the ultimate realisation of the political philosophy proclaimed by the fathers of revolution in France 130 years earlier. Maercker’s original Freikorps was rapidly replicated all over the new German republic; in addition, Freikorps sprang up in the regions over which Deutschtum (‘Germanness’) had historic claims to dominate, in the borderlands disputed with the new state of Poland, in the Baltic lands winning their independence from Russia and in the German-speaking remnants of the Habsburg Empire. The titles adopted by such Freikorps – the word was itself a direct reference to the popular units raised in Prussia against Napoleon in 1813-14 – were indicative of their ethos: the German Rifle Division, the Territorial Rifle Corps, the Border Rifle Brigade, the GuardCavalry Rifle Division, the Yorck von Wartenburg Volunteer Rifle Corps. There were many others, and some would go to form brigades, regiments or battalions of the ‘hundred thousand men’ army that Versailles would eventually allow the German republic. Others would naturally disband but take on clandestine existence as the political militias of the parties of the extreme right in Weimar Germany; their defeated left-wing equivalents would survive as the camouflaged street-fighting units of the Red Front. The Freikorps phenomenon was not confined to the German lands alone. Wherever peoples were divided by ideology, as they were in Finland and in Hungary, to say nothing of Russia in the era of Civil War, it appeared, and often hydra-headed. The post-war world was awash with rifles, with rootless and rancorous men and with freebooting officers who knew how to lead them; but it was in Italy that it took its most purposive form. Italy seethed with rancours, diplomatic and domestic. It had benefited little by its blood sacrifice; the acquisition of Trieste, the South Tyrol and the Dodecanese islands was little recompense for 600,000 dead. The survivors benefited from victory not at all. The costs of the war drove post-war Italy into an economic crisis with which the traditional parties, liberal and religious alike, were unable to deal. The only leader to promise salvation was the Freikorps-type Benito Mussolini, who advocated military-style solutions to the country’s problems. His Fascio di Combattimento drew its activists from exservicemen, among whom former arditi (stormtroopers) were foremost. Their programme, proclaimed on the eve of the ‘March on Rome’ which delivered the government to the Fascists in October 1922, was ‘to hand over to the King and Army a renewed Italy’. The idea of the army as a social model – centrist, hierarchical and supremely nationalist – was to energise politics over a wide area of Europe throughout the post-war years. It took no root in the great victor nations, France and Britain, nor in the settled bourgeois democracies of northern Europe and Scandinavia. But it proved deeply attractive in the defeated nations, in the successor states of the dismembered empires and in the underdeveloped countries on the European fringe, particularly Portugal and Spain. There the strains of adaptation to democracy or self-government and to the unfamiliar market forces of a suddenly unstable international economy seemed best solved by calling a halt to competition between classes, regions and minorities and consigning authority to a militaristic and often uniformed political high command. The polarisation of politics between the military and political principles would even manifest itself in Bolshevik Russia, where much of the victorious revolutionaries’ bureaucratic energies after the defeat of the Whites in 1920 would be devoted to emasculating the Red Army as an alternative political force. Uniforms and titles of rank were pushed to the margin of political life in Lenin’s and then Stalin’s Russia. In Italy they dominated the centre; in Austria and Germany they hovered in the wings, poised to occupy the stage at the moment the drama of events gave them their cue. Elsewhere – in Hungary, in Poland, in Portugal, in Spain – career colonels and generals took over and exercised power without the hesitations that their equivalents in states of liberal tradition felt they owed to the conventions of representative rule. A strange transvaluation of the ideal of 1789 took possession of the public life of these countries. Military service was seen no longer as the token by which the individual validated his citizenship but as the form in which the citizen tendered his duty to the state and took part in its functions. ‘Every citizen a soldier and every soldier a citizen’ had borne a creative and even beneficent meaning in a society like that of France before the Revolution, where the two states of being were historically and sharply separate. In societies where they had become undifferentiated, soldierly obedience all too easily supplanted civic rights in the relationship between masses and government. So it came to be in Italy after 1922; so it would be, comprehensively and fatally, in Germany after 1933. No European of his time had more potently imbibed the soldierly ethic than Adolf Hitler. As a subject of the Habsburg Empire, he had evaded conscription into its army because that entailed service with the non-Germans – Slavs and Jews – whom he despised. August 1914 offered him the chance to enlist as a volunteer in a unit of the German army and he eagerly seized it. He quickly proved himself a good soldier and served bravely throughout the war, an event that produced in him ‘a stupendous impression – the greatest of all experiences. For that individual interest – the interest of one’s own ego – could be subordinated to the common interest – that the great heroic struggle of our people demonstrated in overwhelming fashion.’ The defeat of November 1918 outraged him as intensely as any of those who joined a Freikorps – as he might himself have done. Instead he found a position which better suited his talents and exactly encapsulated that interpenetration of political by military principles of which he would eventually make himself the supreme practitioner. In the spring of 1919 he was appointed a Bildungsoffizier in the Weimar Republic’s VII District Command, with the task of instructing soldiers of the new army in their duty of obedience to the state. It was a propagandist’s job, created by the army for the purpose of inoculating the men against contagion by socialist, pacifist or democratic ideas. Bildung is a word of manifold meanings ranging from ‘formation’ through ‘education’ to ‘culture’ and ‘civilisation’. The self-taught and dreamily romantic Hitler would have been aware of all of them and conscious of his responsibility not merely to warn against dangerous influences but also to form minds and attitudes. It can have surprised him not at all that the army command in Munich simultaneously encouraged him to join an embryo nationalist movement, the German Workers’ Party, nor that his superior, Captain Ernst Röhm, not only fed it with members drawn from the Freikorps but also joined it himself; so too did other veterans of Hitler’s wartime regiment, Lieutenant Rudolf Hess and Sergeant-Major Max Amann. Röhm quickly organised the toughest ex-soldiers and Freikorps men into a party street-fighting force, the Sturmabteilung (SA). By 1920 the essential elements of the Nazi Party were in place. Like its communist antithesis, the Red Front, and its Italian equivalent, the Fascio di Combattimento, the Nazi Party was military in ethos, organisation and appearance from the outset. It chose brown as its uniform colour, from that of the victorious British army, whose Sam Browne belt it also adopted; from the elite mountain rifle regiments it borrowed the peaked ski-cap; and its members wore knee-length boots, an age-old symbol of the rough-riding warrior. On parade it formed ranks behind legionary banners; on the march it stepped out to the beat of the drum. Only the absence of rifles differentiated it from an army proper; but, in Hitler’s vision, political victory would bring it weapons also. The triumph of the National Socialist revolution would abolish the distinction between party and army, citizen and soldier, and subordinate every German and everything in Germany – parliament, bureaucracy, courts, schools, business, industry, trades union, even churches – to the Führerprinzip, the principle of military leadership. fn1It was not only continentals who opposed barrack building. Field Marshal Wade, the eighteenth-century British general, put the British attitude thus: ‘the people of this Kingdom have been taught to associate the idea of Barracks and Slavery so closely that, like darkness and the Devil, though there be no manner of connection between them, yet they cannot separate them’. fn2It is evidence of the military importance the German state and army attached to the free use of the railways that the personnel of the Reichsbahn were not allowed to unionise. Understandably so; the word ‘sabotage’ derives from the Belgian railwaymen’s practice of unseating rails from their shoes (sabots) during the great strike of 1905. fn3Often very much better in the army than at home. In the 1860s the French national intake was 1.2 kilograms, the army intake 1.4. The contemporary Flemish conscripts’ refrain, reflecting the hardship of peasant life, ran: ‘Every day in the army meat and soup without working.’ TWO Fomenting World War Military leadership implies military action. The first public act of Hitler’s political life was to lead a Putsch – an attempted military coup – against the constitutional government of the German republic. He had been contemplating it for five years. ‘I can confess quite calmly’, he disclosed at Munich in 1936, ‘that from 1919 to 1923 I thought of nothing else than a coup d’état.’ During those years Hitler had led a double life. As the leader of a party seeking members and support he had spoken constantly, tirelessly – and electrifyingly – to any audience that he could command throughout the area of his political base in Bavaria. He spoke of the ‘criminals of Versailles’, of Germany’s sufferings in the World War, of her losses of territory, of the iniquity of the disarmament terms, of the presumptions of the new states – Poland most of all – which had been raised on historic German soil, of the extortion of reparations, of the national shame, of the part played by the enemies within – Jews, Bolshevists, Jewish Bolshevists and their liberal republican puppets – in bringing Germany to defeat in 1918. On 25 January 1923, at the first Nazi ‘Party Day’ in Munich, in a speech which might stand for all his others, he proclaimed: ‘First of all, the arch-enemies of German freedom, namely, the betrayers of the German Fatherland, must be done away with. . . . Down with the perpetrators of the November crime [the signing of the armistice]. And here the great message of our movement begins. . . . We must not forget that between us and those betrayers of the people [the republican government in Berlin] . . . there are two million dead.’ This was the central theme of his message: that German manhood had fought honourably, suffered and died in a war that had ended by denying the succeeding generation the right to bear arms. As a result, ‘Germany disarmed was prey to the lawless demands of her predatory neighbours.’ Those neighbours included the Poles, against whom the Freikorps had fought a frontier campaign to defend the Reich territory in 1920, and behind them the Bolshevik Russians and the new Slav states, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as the unstable remnants of the Habsburg Empire, Hungary and Austria, which had been threatened by communist takeover and might be again. They also included the French, the most rapacious of the victors, who had not only taken back the Reich provinces of Alsace-Lorraine, but maintained an army in the Rhineland and openly threatened to use military force to back up their demands for full payment of the costs of the war, which had been determined by the Allies at Versailles in the form of reparations. The menace of these threats and demands, Hitler endlessly reiterated, could only be set aside when Germany had an army once again, not the paltry 100,000-man force allowed it under the Treaty of Versailles, stripped of tanks and aeroplanes and almost of artillery, but a true national army commensurate in size with that of the largest and most populous state on the continent. This was a message that magnetised Hitler’s audiences, which grew steadily in size throughout 1919-23. He had become a brilliant speaker and, as his power with words increased, so did the numbers who heeded them. ‘I cast my eyes back’, he was to say in 1932, ‘to the time when with six other unknown men I founded [the Nazi Party], when I spoke before eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, twenty, thirty, fifty persons. When I recall how after a year I had won sixty-four members of the movement, I must confess that that which has today been created, when a stream of millions is flowing into our movement, represents something unique in German history.’ The stream of millions had not yet begun to flow in 1923; his followers were still only numbered in thousands. They responded ecstatically, however, to his call for revenge. ‘It cannot be’, he said at Munich in September 1922, ‘that two million Germans should have fallen in vain and that afterwards one should sit down at the same table as friends with traitors. No, we do not pardon, we demand – vengeance!’ Some of them also responded to his call for violent action; for the other side of Hitler’s double life was as an organiser of a ‘parallel’ army within the Weimar Republic as a conspirator against it. By 1923 the Sturmabteilung (SA) numbered 15,000 uniformed men, with access to an ample store of hidden arms, including machine-guns; moreover, Hitler believed it had the promise of support by the legitimate army of the state, the Bavarian division of the Reichswehr. Hitler had been encouraged in that belief by many of the division’s officers, most importantly by Captain Ernst Röhm, the future head of the SA, who until 1923 was also a serving soldier. Through him, but also because of the attitude of the army commander in Bavaria, General Otto von Lossow, Hitler had formed the impression that if the SA and its associated militias, together forming the extreme right-wing Kampfbund (Battle League), were to stage a Putsch the army would not oppose it. What such a Putsch needed was leadership and a pretext for action. Hitler would supply the leadership – though he conceded the role of figurehead to General Erich Ludendorff, the retired First World War chief of staff (technically First Quartermaster General), who had put the Kampfbund under his patronage. The pretext was provided by the French. In January 1923, in order to force the German government to sustain its reparations payments, which it insisted it was incapable of meeting, the French government sent troops to occupy the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland, to extract payment at source. This intervention intensified a currency crisis within Germany, in part engineered by its own treasury to substantiate the payment difficulties, and it had the effect of fuelling an inflation that destroyed both the working man’s purchasing power and the middle classes’ savings. The value of the mark, which stood at 160,000 to the dollar in July (in 1914 it had exchanged at four), declined to a million to the dollar in August and 130,000 million in November. Gustav Stresemann, the German Chancellor, at first declared a campaign of passive resistance in the Ruhr, but this did nothing to deter the French, while the example of illegality it gave encouraged communists in Saxony and Hamburg, separatists in the Rhineland and former Freikorps men in Pomerania and Prussia to threaten civil disobedience. When, after quelling these disorders, Stresemann announced the end of the passive resistance campaign, Hitler decided his moment had come. On 8 November, at a prearranged public meeting in the Bürgerbräu Keller in Munich, which General von Lossow and the Bavarian Commissioner of State had unwisely agreed to attend, Hitler arrived armed, with armed men outside, put Lossow and the other notables under arrest and announced the formation of a new German regime: ‘The government of the November criminals and the Reich President are declared to be removed. A new National Government will be nominated this very day, here in Munich. A German National Army will be formed immediately. . . . The direction of policy will be taken over by me. Ludendorff will take over the leadership of the German National Army.’ Next day, 9 November 1923, the nucleus of the National Army, the Kampfbund, set out to march on the former Bavarian War Ministry building, with Hitler and Ludendorff at its head. Röhm and the SA had taken possession of the War Ministry and were awaiting their arrival; interposed between were armed policemen, barring Hitler’s way across the Odeonsplatz. Hitler bargained his way through the first cordon. The second held its ground, opened fire, killed the man at Hitler’s side (who pulled Hitler to the ground in his dying grasp), put a bullet into Goering, the future commander of the Luftwaffe, but left Ludendorff untouched. He marched ahead, indifferent to the bloodshed about him, but reached the War Ministry to find only one other at his side. The German National Army had disintegrated. The immediate consequences of the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ were banal: nine of the conspirators were tried; Ludendorff was acquitted and Hitler was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, of which he served only nine months, just long enough to dictate to Rudolf Hess (an old comrade of Hitler’s regiment) the text of his political manifesto, Mein Kampf. The long-term consequences of the trial had a deeper significance. In his closing speech to the court, a speech reported throughout Germany and which made him, for the first time in his career as a demagogue, a national figure, Hitler expressed his relief that it was the police and not the Reichswehr, the army, which had fired on him and the Kampfbund. ‘The Reichswehr’, he said, ‘stands as untarnished as before. One day the hour will come when the Reichswehr will stand at our side, officers and men. . . . The army we have formed is growing from day to day. . . . I nourish the proud hope that one day the hour will come when these rough companies will grow to battalions, the battalions to regiments, the regiments to divisions, that the old cockade will be taken from the mud, that the old flags will wave again, that there will be a reconciliation at the last great divine judgement which we are prepared to face.’ This was both Hitler’s public and his private verdict on his Putsch tactics. ‘We never thought to carry through a revolt against the army,’ he disclosed at Munich in 1933. ‘It was with it we believed we should succeed.’ After the Munich Putsch he changed tactics decisively. He never again undertook illegal action against the state but sought instead to achieve power constitutionally through the ballot box. The point of seeking power, however, though he did not disclose this aim publicly, was to acquire constitutional command of the army and the War Ministry and budgetary authority to vote military credits for rearmament. In the ten years that followed the failure of the Putsch Hitler did nothing to discourage the growth of the SA, which on the eve of his seizure of power in 1933 had reached a strength of 400,000, four times the size of the Reichswehr. Nor did he discourage the stormtroopers from believing that, when the day came, they would put off their brown, put on field-grey and emerge as soldiers of the ‘National Army’ he had promised to bring into being in Munich in 1923. He did, however, take care to see that the SA was kept under strict discipline, that its boasts of being ready to seize power by force were silenced, that its pretensions to be a replacement rather than a reinforcement for the Reichswehr were deflated, and that its leaders were dissuaded from representing themselves as military rather than political figures. After Munich Hitler remained in no doubt that the generals, with their creed of Überparteilichkeit (‘being above party’), were a power in the land he could not afford to alienate. Hitler and the Nazi revolution Economic crisis had provided Hitler with a false opportunity in 1923. Economic crisis again provided him with opportunity in 1930, and between then and his assumption of the German chancellorship in January 1933 he used it with discreet and consummate skill. In the six years after the catastrophic inflation of 1923, Germany had made a good recovery. The currency had been stabilised, credit restored, industry revitalised and unemployment successfully contained. The sudden world crisis of 1929, which destroyed credit across central Europe, brought much of that achievement to naught. Unemployment in Germany, a nation of 60 million people, rose from 1,320,000 in September 1929 to 3 million a year later, 4.5 million the year after that and over 6 million in the first two months of 1932. Hardship once again spread through the land and the moderate parties of the Weimar Republic, committed to orthodox, pre-Keynesian policies of budget balancing, could find no means to redress it. The parties of the extreme right and left benefited accordingly at the parliamentary elections called as one government after another collapsed under the pressure of events. In the election of September 1930 the Nazi Party polled 18.3 per cent of the vote, but in July 1932 it increased its share to 37.3 per cent, winning 230 seats and becoming the largest party in the Reichstag. In the words of Alan Bullock, ‘with a voting strength of 13,700,000 electors, a party membership of over a million and a private army of 400,000 SA and SS . . . [Hitler] was the most powerful political leader in Germany, knocking on the doors of the Chancellery at the head of the most powerful political party Germany had ever seen.’ The parallel success of the Communist Party positively reinforced Hitler’s appeal to those voters who were terrified by the spectre of Bolshevism, which they believed had been laid by the violent defeat of the Spartacists in 1919; the Communist Party enormously increased its support in 1930 and again in 1932, when it won 6 million votes and a hundred seats. The communists too had their private army, the Red Front, which fought street battles with the SA that frequently ended in death. Nazi street violence tainted the Nazi cause; communist street violence – which in July 1932 alone caused the deaths of thirty-eight Nazis and thirty communists – raised the prospect of communist revolution. Though that could not win Hitler a parliamentary majority – which he failed to achieve by 6.2 per cent even after the seizure of power in 1933 – it could and did frighten the moderate politicians into accepting Hitler as a counterweight who might be used to offset revolutionary with merely radical extremism, as they believed Nazism to be. In January 1933, after a number of makeshift ministries had fallen, President Paul von Hindenburg, the war hero, was advised by his ministers to offer Hitler the chancellorship. On 30 January he was installed. What followed was one of the most remarkable and complete economic, political and military revolutions ever carried through by one man in a comparable space of time. Between 30 January 1933 and 7 March 1936 he effectively restored German prosperity, destroyed not only opposition but also the possibility of opposition to his rule, re-created, in a spectacularly expanded German army, the principal symbol of the nation’s pride in itself, and used this force to abrogate the oppressive treaties which defeat had imposed on the nation while he was still a humble soldier. He had luck, notably in the timely death of Hindenburg in August 1934, and in the incendiary attack on the Reichstag building in February 1933. The Reichstag fire allowed him to conjure the fiction of a communist threat to parliamentary institutions, and so panic the moderates into voting with the Nazis for a suspension of parliamentary powers: the Enabling Bill they enacted conferred on Hitler the right to pass binding laws by appending his signature to the necessary document. Hindenburg’s death opened the way for him to combine the office of the presidency with his own as Chancellor under the title of Führer, a position in which he exercised the authority of both head of government and head of state. But Hitler did not succeed between 1933 and 1936 purely by luck. His economic policy was not based on theory, certainly not Keynesian theory; but it amounted to a programme of deficit budgeting, state investment in public works and state-guaranteed industrial re-equipment of which Keynes would have approved. This was accompanied by a calculated destruction of the trade-union movement, which removed at a blow all restrictions on free movement of labour between jobs and workplaces, and the effect on unemployment was startling: between January 1933 and December 1934 the number of unemployed declined by more than half, many of the 3 million new workers finding jobs in the construction of the magnificent network of motorways (Autobahnen) which were the first outward symbol of the Nazi economic miracle. Moreover, he succeeded in his plan to rearm Germany not by rushing bullheaded at the disabling clauses of the Versailles Treaty but rather by waiting until the victor nations gave him pretext. Thus he did not announce the reintroduction of conscription until March 1935, when the French, beset as before the First World War by a falling birth-rate, themselves announced that they were doubling the length of their conscripts’ military service. Hitler was able to represent this move as a threat to German security which justified the enlargement of the 100,000-man army; on 17 March he also announced the creation of an air force – another breach of the Versailles Treaty. Even so he blurred his intentions by offering France a pact which would limit the size of his army to 300,000 men and that of his new air force to 50 per cent of hers. France’s refusal permitted him to fix larger totals. Hitler and the generals The reintroduction of conscription gave him by 1936 an army with a skeleton strength of thirty-six divisions, a fivefold increase from the seven of the Reichswehr. Few were as yet fully equipped or manned, and, as his generals warned him, he certainly lacked the strength to resist any armed reaction to his anti-Versailles policies. In seeking to realise his deeply held ambition to remilitarise the Rhineland, therefore, he waited once again until he could find the semblance of a legal cause, which he claimed to see in the French parliament’s ratification of a mutual-assistance pact with the Soviet Union in March 1936. Since the pact bound France to take action against Germany in the event of German aggression against the USSR, Hitler was able to represent it as a unilateral violation of the provision that France would never make war on Germany except by resolution of the League of Nations – a creation of Versailles from which he had withdrawn in 1933 – and to allege that such a violation justified his taking measures to improve Germany’s defence of its frontier with France. On 7 March 1936 he accordingly ordered the reoccupation of the Rhineland, where no German soldier had been stationed since November 1918, correctly confident that the French would not move to expel the force he sent, even though it numbered not even one division but a mere three battalions. Although Hitler’s generals had been apprehensive about the Rhineland adventure, they were not fundamentally disposed to argue with his diplomatic or strategic judgements, since the armed forces, among all the other institutions of state, had up to that moment been the principal beneficiaries of the National Socialist revolution. They had been spared Gleichschaltung, the process by which every organ of German life was brought directly under Nazi control; moreover, the leaders of the body which had threatened them with Gleichschaltung, the SA, had been summarily and brutally killed in June 1934. Hitler’s half-formulated promise that the stormtroopers would one day become soldiers of the new Germany had been made good only in the sense that after March 1935 the younger of them received their call-up papers and found themselves embodied in the Wehrmacht as conscripts among hundreds of thousands of others who had never worn the brown uniform. The armed forces had also benefited more generously than any other body from the programme of state investment. Tanks and aeroplanes – enough to equip a Panzer force of six divisions (soon to be raised to ten) and a Luftwaffe of 2000 combat aircraft – were now coming out of the new armaments factories in a steady stream. The design work which underlay their development had been done in Russia during the brief period of Russo-German friendship in the 1920s. In an ill-calculated act of appeasement in 1935 the British Admiralty had agreed that the German navy should also be partially liberated from the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, and it had begun to acquire capital ships and even U-boats, in numbers equivalent to 33 and 60 per cent respectively of the Royal Navy’s fleets. This material largesse enormously enhanced the institutional amour propre of the Wehrmacht which, after fifteen years in which it had starved for both men and equipment, suddenly found itself advanced to the front rank of the armed forces of Europe, almost as strong as the largest and better armed than any. Professionally, moreover, Hitler’s rearmament programme transformed the career prospects of individual officers: in 1933 the average age of a colonel was fifty-six; by 1937 it had been reduced to thirty-nine, while many in the Reichswehr who had reconciled themselves to retirement found themselves by 1937 commanding regiments, brigades, even divisions. Hitler’s seduction of his professional officers was as calculated as any other part of his programme, though he rightly attached more importance to it than the rest. His attitude to the SA had always been duplicitous; though he had needed and been glad to use the political fighting force it had given him in the ‘time of struggle’ before 1933, he was himself too much the true veteran, the seasoned ‘front fighter’, to reckon its street bullies proper military material. Hitler was, in many respects, a military snob – and with reason: he had fought in the First World War from beginning to end, suffered wounds and won a high decoration for bravery. The army he wished to recreate would be a model of the one in which he had served, not a disorderly political militia reclothed in field-grey. The Blood Purge of June 1934, when Hitler organised the murder of Röhm and the rest of the paramilitary radicals who had thought to leap to general’s rank by political hopscotch, had ensured that he had his way. One consequence of the purge of the SA was the rise of the rival military arm of the Nazi Party – the blackshirted Schutzstaffel (SS), a highly disciplined elite corps led by Heinrich Himmler. Although the generals had been careful to know nothing of the 1934 murders, the results had none the less put Hitler high in their favour; but the reverse was not the case. There was a strict limit to Hitler’s military snobbery. He was a combat snob, not a worshipper of rank or title. As he well knew, many of the Wehrmacht’s elite, the Great General Staff officers who were now senior commanders, had not fought at the front in the First World War, their brains being thought too valuable to be risked beyond headquarters. Their military as well as their social hauteur therefore grated with him. One of the innumerable rancours that he nursed dated back to the Munich trial, when General von Lossow, his fainthearted ally, had testified that he regarded him as no more than ‘a political drummer boy’; the wound had been salted by the state prosecutor’s statement that the drummer boy had ‘allowed himself to be carried beyond the position assigned to him’. It was Hitler who now assigned positions everywhere – except within the army, which retained control of its own promotion structure. However, since the generals continued to choose officers as timorous as they themselves had been over the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, Hitler decided to end the system. He wanted a war army, led by commanders determined to take revenge on the victors of 1918 and their creature states erected on the back of Germany’s defeat. Werner von Fritsch, the army commander-in-chief, was a particular bugbear among the fainthearts; in November 1937 he sought a private interview with Hitler to warn against policies that might provoke war. Two months later, the indiscreet remarriage of the Minister of War, General Werner von Blomberg, provided Hitler with an opportunity to get rid of both men: Blomberg’s young bride was discovered to have been a prostitute; while the unmarried Fritsch, his obvious successor, fell speechless when confronted by trumped-up charges of homosexual behaviour. Their enforced retirement did not immediately bring him generals of the bellicose temper he wanted; but it provided him with the pretext to establish a new supra-service command in place of the War Ministry, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), of which Hitler made himself the head, and the OKW was given responsibility for the highest level of strategic planning. This was a crucial move, for 1938 was to be the year in which Hitler moved from rearmament to the diplomatic offensive. He had already outlined his intentions to his service commanders on 5 November 1937, when he had argued that Britain and France were unlikely to oppose with military force German moves to strengthen its military position in the east. His first priority was to take advantage of the enthusiasm among German nationalists in Austria for union (Anschluss) with the Reich; his second was to attempt the annexation of the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland. Further, he hoped that Italy, Austria’s protector, would shortly be brought to Germany’s side by a formal alliance with Mussolini, his fellow dictator. Poland, on which he had longer-term designs, he believed would be immobilised by the speed of Germany’s action. In November 1937 Mussolini did indeed accept a German alliance, the Anti-Comintern Pact against the Soviet Union (originally signed by Germany and Japan a year earlier), thus reinforcing the ‘Rome-Berlin Axis’ agreement of October 1936. By March 1938 Hitler felt free to act against Austria. He first demanded that Austrian Nazis should be installed in key government posts. When Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, refused, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the Austrian Nazi leader, was instructed to declare himself the head of a provisional government and request German intervention. On 12 March German troops marched in, Anschluss was declared the following day, and on 14 March Hitler made a triumphal entry into Vienna, where he had spent his unhappy and aimless youth. Britain and France protested but did no more. Their inactivity was the confirmation Hitler needed that he could safely proceed to his diplomatic offensive against Czechoslovakia. In April he ordered OKW to prepare plans for a military operation, meanwhile instructing the Nazi groups among the Sudetenland Germans to sustain demands for secession. In August he fixed October as the date for military action and on 12 September, when he delivered a fiery anti-Czech speech at Nuremberg, German troops moved to the frontier. This ‘Czech crisis’ seemed to threaten war, even though it was not clear who would fight it. The Czechs were not powerful enough to resist the rearmed Wehrmacht without help, but the Red Army, the only nearby source of assistance, could come to their aid only by crossing Polish territory (or Romanian, but the Romanians were pro-German), a manoeuvre which the Poles, with their deep hostility to and well-founded suspicion of the Russians, were not disposed to permit. The British and the French were also disinclined to see Russia intervening in central Europe and, though France had a treaty with Czechoslovakia, and both Britain and France recognised that honour and prudence demanded that they should not allow Czechoslovakia to be dismembered, they could see no way of protecting her except by military action of their own in the west, from which government and people in both countries shrank. Neither had yet modernised their forces, though they had begun reluctantly to rearm; more t...
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Cold War
How did the situation in Europe and Asia at the end of the war contribute to the development of
the Cold War?
In the process of preparation for a rebuilding process after the war, Europe and Asia both
gave different visions for postwar security and r...


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