Hitler: part 2 ~ A Slow Motion Disaster in Three Acts ~ Overview & Act One

by faithgibson on September 12, 2014

This is the second of a (4-part) series, and won’t make sense without first reading the original post.  

 A Slow-motions Disaster in Three Acts

WWII and the brutal and systematized extra-judicial incarceration, torture and killing of a large number of Germany’s own citizen of all religious and political backgrounds, and Jews all across Europe was final act in a slow-motions disaster of global reach and intergenerational proportions. This was the culmination of three historical realities.

Act one was the Great War (WWI), also described as the “war to end all wars“. Histories of WWI say their was no inherent reason for the territorial dispute between by Austria-Hungry and Serbia to have effected the rest of the world. Nonetheless it resulted in the first world-wide conflict between virtually all of the industrialized nations.

The events that led up to this ‘great” war began when the heir-apparent to the Austrian throne (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) and his wife were shot at point-blank range by one of five Serbian terrorists on June 28, 1914. It was never clear at the time whether this terrorist plot by Serbian nationals had some level of government backing, or was just an extremist group that wanted to de-stablize the region as part of other political goals.

These violent deaths were a huge tragedy for the royal family, but not themselves cause for political upheaval at the level of a world-wide war. Life for the general population was back to normal within a few days. Aristocratic Austrians never did think the Archduke (and his ‘commoner” wife) were particularly well-suited to be their next king and queen, so they were not at all unhappy when he was taken out of the picture.

However the government of the Austrian-Hungarian empire seized upon this incident as an excuse to declare war on Seberia.  Austria’s decision to declare war was partly in retaliation for the assassinations but motivated more by on-going territorial disputes between the two countries in which Austria had been the aggressor.

The Austrian Empire had good reason to fear retaliation. During the Bosnian Crisis of 1908-1909, it had illegally annexation Serbian’s holdings of Bosnia-Herzegov and ignored  Seberia’s demand for economic compensation.

In the wake of this 1908-09 land-grab, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Seberia, which were all independent provinces of the Ottoman Empire, joined together to form the Balkan League as a political and military alliance to provide military protection and greater political influence. In 1912 and again in 1913 countries of the Balkan League fought the Turkish army in their effort to free themselves of Ottoman rule, and having won they became sovereign countries in their own right.

This dramatically reduced the size of the Ottoman Empire to the present-day size of Turkey. More important at the time, it gave Austria reason to be even more afraid that Serbia, which was already hostile due to its earlier annexation of Bosnia-Herzegov.

Declaring war against Seberia was a chance for Austria to orchestrate a “tag-your-it” land-grab. Austria never intended its declaration of war to trigger in a major military conflict, much less a global war. Logically-speaking, the conflict between these two neighbor countries should have been little more than a footnote to history. Nonetheless, this inconsequential hiccup triggered a cascade of events. between July 1914 and November 1981, the military forces of various countries invaded and occupied the other countries and then the military occupation of those victor nations was rebuffed by yet another set of battles.

However, things began to get out of hand when Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany urged Austria to declare war on Serbia, which caused the Russia to mobilize its military against Austria. Germany found this threatening and mobilized its troops against Russia. At that point, both France and Britain decided to mobilized against Germany.

While this reads as a Loral and Hardy’ “Whose on First” skit, it was no joke, since its consequence was the first “world-wide” war as the vast majority of all the industrialized nations on Planet Earth became engaged in a battle to the death.

But despite its global character, governments and the military all thought it would be a over in a few months.  Many of the soldiers recruited to fight thought it would be a ‘gentleman’s war’ providing them with the high adventures that was part of the “coming of age” experience for young men.

Instead it turned out to be a several years-long war in which new weapons and military technologies (planes, tanks, machine-guns, long-range artillery, and deadly gas) resulted in the death of millions of soldiers. In many areas an entire generation of young men were lost on its battlegrounds and those who lived learned to fight wars based on these new industrialized methods of mass-destruction.

The Great War Become the Great Divide in the History of Warfare

However, the really historically important ‘first’ is that WWI was the very first armed conflict in which all the combatant countries poured their considerable industrial prowess into creating mechanized weapons of mass destruction. The result was a systematic and industrialized killing machine that indiscriminately and efficiently assassinated soldiers and civilians on both sides of the battle lines in unimaginable numbers.

In all previous centuries, the conduct of war on a scale this massive required two things — (1) the political and financial power to feed, equip and control an overwhelming numbers of troops; (2) willingness and the skill by individuals to engage in hand-to-hand combat against other soldiers and defenseless citizens that required each soldier to use a spear, sword, knife, garrote, gun, or hand-grenade to kill each of their ‘enemies’ one at a time.

Until the 20th century, war was an intimate and physically arduous act of face-to-face fighting that cost its solders in muscle and in mind. The incidence of regional wars and the sheer number of people that could be killed were limited by both of these factors. As a result, carnage of this sort was the rare exception, instead of the frequent rule. However the modern industrialization of war changed all that. 

Historical First ~ the Industrialization of War

Unfortunately for humanity, the industrialized weaponry associated with the 20th century technology was relatively inexpensive to manufacture, provided an increasingly really big-bang-for-the-buck, and dramatically reduced the number of soldiers needed to wage war or defend one’s country.

This dramatically expanded killing-quotient of industrialized war was due to improvements in both the number and efficiency of weapons. Advances in the technology of manufacturing itself — the ability to produce machines that in turn could quickly and efficiently churned out bullets and big ships and everything in between. But ultimately more important, the same industrialized process that made the powerful new killing machines of the 20th century also provided the military strategies for eliminating huge numbers of people as combatants and non-combatants both. This was a first.

What these industrialized weapons systems had in common was an ability to kill and maim hundreds of thousands of people at a time by pulling a trigger or pushing a button.

The industrialization of death permitted a small number of individuals to plan, control and carry out the killing of a very large number of people. This was the original holocaust or “dress rehearsal” for the horrors of WWII, as attested to by the millions of soldiers on both sides that slaughtered on the battle fields and trenches. Their deaths were the result of industrialized delivery systems for bullets, bombs and poison gas, along with many millions of civilians causalities as whole towns were wiped off the map.

The Two-edged Sword of Industrialized Technology 

The killing machines of the 20th century began with the strategic use of technology. The first step was recognizing the military reconnaissance value of having an ‘eye in the sky’. Blimps and lighter-than-air “dirigibles”, and rigid airships such as the Zeppelin that could be used as manned observation balloons, floating high above the trenches to count the number of troops below and assess how well-armed they were, and as stationary platforms that could report enemy movements and direct artillery.

To eliminate the strategic advantage that reconnaissance platforms provided to one’s enemy, a variety of unusual weapons were tried, including  air-to-air rockets fired from one’s own floating platforms. If hit, the crew’s urgent need to “abandon ship” resulted in the invention and first use of the parachute. It also contributed to the development of air-to-air combat between all types of aircraft, and the eventual brought the end of trench warfare; “eye in the sky” technology made it impossible for either side to move large numbers of troops undetected.

Fixed-wing aircraft were first militarized in 1911 by the Italians for reconnaissance during their war with Libya, but soon these airplanes started dropping grenades and then being used for aerial photography. By 1914, the military use of aircraft for spying and ground-attack had become obvious to both sides.

Inside Pandora’s Box

If these new and technologically-assisted strategies were the “software” for waging war, bombs, bullets and battleships were the “hardware” need to perpetrate its orchestrated acts of violence.

Nonetheless, the long list of weapons made possible by 20th century technological before and during the Great War is it is still mind-boggling. This included new and improved “anti-personnel” weapons — bullets, hand-grenades, fragmenting artillery shells, poison gas devices, etc., aimed at a single person or small group of individuals.

Day and night, efficient factories on both side of the conflict (and eventually both sides of the ocean) mass-produced barbed wire, light automatic weapons and submachine guns (Lewis Gun, Browning automatic rifle, and Bergmann MP18), modern artillery with fragmentation shells, poisonous chemicals and their delivery devices. Last but not least on this House of Horrors list were flamethrowers — a powerful, demoralizing weapon that caused terror on the battlefield. It was first used by the German army but later adopted by all the other forces.

But even more important (and gruesome) were new weapon systems, such as fleets of aircraft that dropped bombs on large populations and submarines that sank whole fleets of both military and civilian cargo ships.

Germany was the first to improve and militarized  submarines, commonly called u-boats. These were high effective killing machines that led the Allies to develop:

  •  depth charges
  •  hydrophones or passive sonar
  •  anti-submarine patrol airships
  •  blimps, dirigibles, & the Zeppelin
  •  hunter-killer submarines
  •  forward-throwing anti-submarine weapons

The most powerful land-based weapons were railway guns weighed hundreds of tons apiece and nicknamed Big Berthas. Germany developed the Paris Gun was able to bombard Paris from 62 miles away with 210 lb shells.

The French further refined armored cars (i.e.,  tanks) as a tool of mechanized land battles by inventing the Renault FT rotating turret, which allowed them to break the Hindenburg Line and captured 8,000 enemy soldiers in November 1917.

The successful use airplanes to drop bombs and spray artillery shells on enemy troops required the development of ground-based anti-aircraft guns and fighter planes. One such invention of note was the British Sopwith Camel, an extraordinarily maneuverable air-to-air fighter plane with concentrated fire from twin synchronized machine guns. The RAF Camel shot down more enemy aircraft than any other Allied fighter, but unfortunately the average life expectancy of a British pilot was measured in hours – 93 flying hours to be exact.

German, British and the US military all developed long-range strategic bombers and the factories to manufacture them in great numbers. This was eventually followed by development of aircraft carriers, which were first used in an Allied raid to destroy the Zeppelin hangars in 1918.

The first use of poison gas as a weapon of warfare occurred in April 1915.  Chemical weapons, which were used by each side throughout the war, inflicted approximately 1.3 million casualties. Over 180,000 British troops were killed or rendered unable to fight, and a third of all American injuries and death during WWI were caused by poison gas. Roughly half a million Russian military casualties were from chemical weapons.

It was not just soldiers that fell victim to chemical weapons. As the wind blew the poison gases through near-by towns, an estimated 100,000–260,000 civilian casualties were caused by chemical weapons. In the years after the Great War ended, tens of thousands more victims were claimed, including military personnel. They died from damage to lungs, scarring of skin, brain damage and other delayed or downstream complications of these poisonous chemicals.

Commanders on both sides knew the wind would blow poison gases into nearby civilian towns and cause major harm to civilians, as but nonetheless continued to use them throughout the war.

British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig wrote in his diary:

“My officers and I were aware that such weapons would cause harm to women and children living in nearby towns, as strong winds were common in the battlefront.

However, because the weapon was to be directed against the enemy, none of us were overly concerned at all.”

 

 

 


Previews of Coming Events:

Act Two (1918-1933) starts with an unfair and unwise demand by the victor nations that the full economic cost for WWI become the burden of the German population.

It must be noted that the Great War was not started by Germany, but by the Austrian Empire’s declaration of war against Seberia. However, events of WWI ended the Austrian empire as a geographically-intact country and functional government.

Illogically, the treaty that formally ended WWI identified German as primarily responsible for reparations which it set at $75 billion dollars. Predictably, this monstrous debt drastically destabilized the German economy and ultimately, brought about the end of the Free German Republic.

At the end of the Great War, the German Empire was dissolved by the countries that won and replaced edict that created a strict parliamentary system. This meant that the head of its government — the position Chancellor — was picked by which ever political party got the most votes in the most recent election.

In what was to become the Free Republic of Germany’s very last free election, Hitler’s Nazi party received the most votes the competing three political parties in the November 1932 election, even thought  Hitler’s party only received 37% of the total votes. The means 63% of the electorate voted against the Nazi party.

The victory of Hitler’s party was a combination of factors that include shred campaigning by Hitler personally, a criminal intimidation against voters by the SA and SS, and the general support of wealthy industrialists, a coalition of business men, and a sizable number of the aristocracy, who hoped for a less “democratic” policies that would be more favorable those who with large landholdings.

Unfortunately for everyone, the drastic economic instability and ‘democratic’ election of a psychopath set the stage for Act Three — a total overthrow of the Free Republic in less than 60 days, followed by an inexorable built-up to the institutionalized insanity that was pre-war and war-time Germany under Hitler’s dictatorship.

Act Three starts with Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor January 30th 1933 and continued with his unprovoked invasion of Poland in 1939


Continue –> Hitler: Part 3   ~

 

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