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There’s big responsiblities as world power

During the course of World War II, the United States sent over 16 million of its citizens to fight overseas. Some in Europe against the onslaught of the Nazi regime, and some in Africa; some in the Mediterranean against the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and some in the Pacific against the Japanese Empire that was trying to seize control of the South Pacific Islands, many under United States protection, and gain territory in East Asia.

Now as we think of World War II, it is easy to forget that there was much more to it than Adolf Hitler.

So many other factors contributed to his rise to power and the atrocities that followed.

The first World War ended with a badly defeated and penalized Germany. A large percentage of the lands that had been owned or colonized were confiscated and put under the control of the allied nations.

This fragmentation of the European governments left weaknesses that dictators-in-waiting like Mussolini could jump on, and opened up opportunities for other countries like Japan to begin aggressive expansion. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II surrendered and fled, leaving his country feeling abandoned.

The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 imposed heavy reparations, so there was depression, both emotional and economic, among German citizens. The Weimar Republic, a democratic government, was formed, but it was young, weak, and unstable. It needed time, which it wasn’t going to get. Under conditions where the population’s basic needs are not being met, political unrest and extremism spreads.

Hitler would have never made it to power on his own. He had a talent for fiery speech, he could draw a crowd, but he had no focus or plan for his hate-filled rhetoric. His personality type was susceptible to the sycophants who became his inner circle, each with their own aims for retribution and power, whose influence added more hate to his own fire.

Hitler was discovered, you could say, in a Munich beer hall by a wealthy elitist named Dietrich Eckart, a writer-poet-playwright with a belief in the myth of the Aryan race. According to Eckart, the pure Aryan race, which became Germanic, was being corrupted by inferior races, mostly the Jews. Eckart published an antisemitic paper, Auf Gut Deutch, where he crusaded for a “messiah.” In Hitler, he found and mentored his messiah, and Hitler came to believe it himself. The right-wing movement grew, drew ranks from the dissatisfied masses, and became the Nazi party. In 1921, Hitler became the party chairman.

In 1923, the Weimar government defaulted on its reparation payments to the allies, and the allied countries occupied the Ruhr region. Inspired by Mussolini who had taken power by force, Hitler and the Nazi party, feeling that the occupation would lean public sentiment their way, attempted a coup in Munich, storming the hall and holding the officials hostage. The coup was put down, Hitler jailed, and no one thought they would ever regain any of their power. But Hitler, with his ability to “snake charm,” turned his trial into a platform for his martyrdom and salvation for the country. Deciding that power will come from infiltrating the government rather than fighting it, he began to play the long game. While he served his five-year prison sentence, he wrote his propaganda manifesto, with the help of fellow prisoner, Rudolf Hess.

Meanwhile, others were helping to put together armed paramilitary.

The national government in Berlin was overwhelmingly controlled by the leftwing party. By 1928, then, the economy had improved, and the Nazi party only won 12 seats in Parliament; fringe parties needed a crisis to succeed.

With the Wall Street Crash, they got their crisis, Americans called in the loans that had helped the German economy, and the people had to look for a “messiah.” By the 1932 election, the Nazi party had 50% of the votes, Herman Goring presided over the Reichstag, the parliament, and he managed to get Hitler appointed Chancellor. Paul Von Hindenburg, President of the Weimar Republic of Germany, was responsible for allowing Hitler to slide into position to eventually declare himself President (der Furer) upon Hindenburg’s death in 1934. We are all familiar with where it went from there.

It took 16 years from the time Hitler began being groomed to restore the Father Land, exact retribution for World War I, and eradicate the inferior races that were the cause of Germany’s problems to the time he actually had the power to do it.

Coups don’t always happen fast. They can be insidious.

The League of Nations that was formed to keep peace after World War I failed in part because the United States Senate voted against joining. Without the US as one of the most important allies, it was unable to enforce any international laws effectively. The U.S. then hesitated about getting militarily involved as Hitler and Mussolini overran Europe, until Japan made the decision for us. Would we have been able to end it sooner had we gone to their aid sooner? Would we still have sent over 16 million? Or more? Or less? We were the deciding factor, without our help, Hitler most likely would have succeeded.

Like it or not, we are a global power, a peacekeeper and a protector of democracy around the world. We are not allowed to stand by and watch tyranny take over sovereign nations who are trying to uphold a democratic form of government.

We absolutely should support Ukraine against dictator Vladimir Putin. It’s the leaders whose thirst for power causes the conflicts and wars that the rest of us have to fight. Benjamin Netanyahu is going too far in his retaliation. It is not the people of Israel, or the Jewish faith that has done anything wrong, it is the leadership. It is not the Palestinian people, those that live in Gaza, that has done wrong. It is the terrorist organization, Hamas, and other extreme cults that are doing wrong. We don’t want to have to send our troops into harm’s way anymore because of these radical extremist groups. We don’t want to see our own country torn apart because of extreme groups either.

I visited the Dachau concentration camp. I looked out over the crosses at the Memorial on Normandy Beach and stepped on the sand where they spilled their blood.

On Memorial Day, I helped read the names of deceased veterans who served in World War II from Sheridan.

There were 134, from a small town with the population of only 1,826 in 1940. In everything that has happened since, can we say we have done right by their suffering and sacrifice? We must pay attention. We can’t let history keep repeating itself.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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