jeudi 3 juin 2010

La Seconde Guerre mondiale était-elle inévitable ?

Il y a une part d'exercice intellectuel un peu vain dans cette question. Après tout, la Seconde Guerre mondiale a bien eu lieu. Pourquoi alors s'interroger sur l'inévitabilité des événements qui ont conduit à son déclenchement ?

Probablement parce qu'en savoir plus sur les circonstances qui ont conduit à ce sauvage déclenchement de violence peut nous permettre d'éviter de recommencer.

Or la diabolisation absolue du régime hitlérien rend l'analyse difficile car elle conduit inévitablement à accorder à la dictature hitlérienne une rationalité et une légitimité qui lui est refusée par la vulgate actuelle.

A posteriori, la victoire a validé la déclaration de guerre à l'Allemagne par le Royaume-Uni et par son client, la France tout comme l'alliance avec l'Union soviétique. La terrible épreuve subie par le peuple juif d'Europe est avancée comme justification de la guerre.

Pourtant il est légitime possible d'avancer l'hypothèse que le génocide des Juifs ne fut pas la cause de la guerre, mais une conséquence de la guerre totale voulue par les Alliés et de leur refus de toute paix négociée (la capitulation sans conditions).

Des auteurs avancent que sans cet enchaînement fatal d'évenements, les Juifs de l'Europe allemande auraient connu un sort terrible, mais en grande partie auraient survécu tout comme les Palestiniens qui ont payé le prix fort lors de la naissance de l'Etat d'Israël en 1947.

L'écrivain conservateur Peter Hitchens avance sur son blog du Daily Telegraph que la guerre trouve son origine dans les garanties accordées par le Royaume Uni à la Pologne en mars 1939.

Selon Hitchens, sans cette garantie, le gouvernement polonais serait probablement parvenu à un accord avec l'Allemagne sur la question de Dantzig et du corridor pour relier ce territoire au Reich et, ce faisant, aurait préservé le pacte de non-agression avec l'Allemagne.

L'analyse de Peter Hitchens est plus subtile que ces quelques lignes de présentation et je vous engage vivement à la lire. D'autant plus que ce débat est impensable en France où le mythe de la France victorieuse dans la Seconde Guerre mondiale ne supporte pas le moindre doute car il est consubstentiel avec les deux régimes mis en place après 1945 avec la double onction gaulliste et communiste.

Pour en revenir au preésent, la triste expérience de la Seconde Guerre mondiale nous apprend que le sentiment d'impunité et la diabolisation sont les deux ingrédients du cocktail qui conduit au désastre.

Aujourd'hui, la politique israélienne se conduit à l'abri d'un sentiment d'invulnérabilité accordé par l'absolue sujetion dans laquelle se trouvent les Etats-Unis. La diabolisation réciproque des acteurs majeurs du conflit israélo-musulman interdit le dialogue et la négociation. Comment parvenir à une solution avec l'Iran si le régime est diabolisé ?

De même que la garantie accordée à la Pologne a envenimé les choses, l'appui inconditionnel des Etats-Unis à Israël rend vain tout espoir de paix reposant sur un accord sur le fond.


  • What might have been

  • A few responses to contributors on the Dunkirk matter. 'Stan' argues: ‘Germany would still have invaded Norway, Denmark and France and the low countries whether we promised to defend Poland or not. The invasion of France would have required our entry into the war, but even if we tried to keep out of it we could not have committed any more of the RN, RAF or army to protect our Far East interests in case we left ourselves defenceless against invasion by Germany - so Singapore et al would have fallen to the Japanese anyway.
  • ‘We would have gained nothing by not declaring war in 1939 - just delayed it until May 1940. And seeing how we didn't actually do much until then (other than build up our depleted armed forces) it would have made absolutely no difference whatsoever.’
  • Once again, he is taking the guarantee to Poland and the resulting September declaration of war by Britain and France as unavoidable givens. Why did Hitler invade France in May 1940? Because France had declared war on Germany in September 1939. Would he have done so if France had not declared war? My whole argument is that these events are not unavoidable givens. There was no political, military or other good reason for the guarantee to Poland, which was a sort of emotional spasm by Neville Chamberlain when he realised he had been fooled over Czechoslovakia (the only excuse for Chamberlain would have been if he had genuinely concluded the Munich agreement as a cynical way of delaying war till we were ready. But it wasn't so. He genuinely trusted Hitler to keep his word).
  • If the guarantee to Poland wasn't inevitable (and it wasn't) then that means that our declaration of war in September 1939 (and France's) were likewise not inevitable. I'd add that, without our guarantee, the Polish government might well have behaved differently. It might even have conceded Danzig. It had by then developed a Polish-controlled port at Gdynia. And then what? I am as much of an admirer of modern Poland as anybody, and I regard the Nazi-Soviet (or Russo-German) partition of that country in 1939 as an act of appalling cruelty and barbarism.
  • But the pre-1939 Polish state was not a specially lovely thing, and we should recall this, not least to avoid sentimentality about diplomacy.
  • Hitler had regarded Poland as an ally, or at least as no trouble, for some years, and with reason. And that wasn't just because many Polish politicians were nearly as Judophobic as he was. He signed a non-aggression pact with Warsaw in 1934. Joachim von Ribbentrop offered to renew that pact in October 1938 while 'heroic' Poland was also squalidly gobbling up Czech land, scavenging after the break-up of Czechoslovakia.
  • A brief note on this neglected incident. When Czechoslovakia was on its knees after Munich, Poland (as an ally of the Reich) demanded that it be given the ethnically-mixed Czech region known as Zaolzie - an old Versailles grievance. The Czechs, powerless and broken, caved in and (to German glee, as this spread the guilt of Munich) Polish tanks rolled into Cesky Tesin on 1st October 1938. The usual stuff followed - language persecution etc - and thousands of Czechs either left or were forced out.
  • The Poles also refused Ribbentrop's Danzig offer at this time, apparently confident that their good relations with Berlin would survive.
  • Then at the end of March 1939, having been fooled over Munich, which Chamberlain had genuinely believed was a permanent peace, Britain and France suddenly guaranteed Poland's independence (though not, interestingly, its territorial integrity, an implicit assumption that a deal might be done over Danzig. What's more the guarantee didn't apply to an attack by the USSR, luckily for Britain which would otherwise have had to declare war on Stalin in late September 1939).
  • A month later, the Warsaw-Berlin non-aggression pact was unilaterally abrogated by Hitler (April 28, 1939, during an address before the Reichstag). Germany then renewed its territorial claims in Poland, which had been shelved during the period of the pact.
  • Without the Franco-British guarantee to Poland, would events have followed this course? Impossible to be sure, but without that guarantee (which they touchingly believed would be fulfilled) the rather unprincipled Polish government might well have been more willing to give up Danzig, and so preserve the pact with Berlin (which until 31st March 1939 had been their principal foreign engagement). That concession, plus allowing the Germans unhampered roads and railways across the corridor, would have been a much less serious loss to Poland than the Sudetenland had been to Czechoslovakia. And, while it most certainly would not have been the end of Hitler's demands on Poland, it would certainly have delayed war in the East, and altered its shape and direction.
  • In that case, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact - a direct consequence of the decision by Britain and France to refuse Hitler a free hand in the East, without possessing the forces to carry out this policy - might never have taken place. Germany's drive into the USSR might have come earlier (and perhaps through Poland).
  • But what Stan doesn't explain is why, without the guarantee to Poland and the declaration of war on Germany by Britain and France (not the other way round, remember), Germany would have felt any urgent need to invade a largely passive France, hunkered down behind its Maginot fortifications, let alone to attack Britain. The German seizure of Norway and Denmark was also a consequence of the Polish guarantee. There is no reason to believe it would have happened had there been no Polish guarantee. Also, 'building up our depleted armed forces', as he dismissively describes it, was no small thing.
  • Then we have D.G.Harthill, who posted: ‘Keith Rogers informs that Hitler “admired Britain” ’. He had an odd way of showing it. E.g. in his Directive No.13 of May 24, 1940: ‘The next object of our operations is to annihilate the French, English and Belgian forces that are encircled in Artois and Flanders.’ On learning the ineffectiveness of artillery shells in Dunkirk’s sand dunes, ‘he suggested that anti-aircraft shells with time fuses be used instead’ in order ‘to cause a mass bloodbath among the English who were waiting for rescue’. His army aide recorded that he particularly wanted ‘SS units to participate in the final annihilation’ of the encircled British. Göring recorded Hitler’s objections to the Heer’s humane treatment of British POWs: ‘They round up the British as prisoners with as little harm to them as possible. The Führer wants them to be taught a lesson they won’t easily forget.’ (‘The Blitzkrieg Legend’, Karl-Heinz Frieser, p. 312)
  • Karl-Heinz Frieser, a colonel in the Bundeswehr and head of the Department of World Wars I & II at the Potsdam Military History Research Institute wrote: ‘Hitler’s decision to launch the Polish campaign is one of the most catastrophically wrong decisions in German history.’ (Frieser, p.17) It was ‘catastrophically wrong’ because the Anglo–French guarantees to Poland turned a two day campaign into the start of the Second World War leading to Germany’s destruction. Hitler had gambled that after the repeated surrenders by the Western powers since 1935 they would surrender yet again—he was surprised as any when they did not. Hitler’s chief interpreter, Paul Schmidt, described the ‘ghostlike scene in the Reich Chancellery’ following the translation of Britain’s declaration of war: ‘[T]here was total silence … Hitler sat there as if petrified and stared straight ahead. … After a while, which seemed like an eternity to me, he turned to Ribbentrop who kept standing at the window as if frozen. “What now?” Hitler asked … Göring turned to me and said: “If we lose this war, may Heaven have mercy on us!” ’ (Frieser, p.12)’
  • Again, Mr Harthill refuses to go back to the real point of decision - the Anglo-French guarantee to Poland in early 1939. He presupposes the inevitability of the Polish guarantee, and thus the inevitability of war in September 1939 and the inevitability of combat between British and German forces in May 1940. All this is quite correct if you assume the Polish guarantee was inevitable. My point is that it wasn't, and that it was unwise.
  • Of course, once we were engaged in war, Hitler would not have hesitated to use maximum violence against us. His 'admiration' for the empire was conditional on the Empire staying out of continental affairs.
  • As for the thoughts of Karl-Heinz Frieser, it is perfectly true that Hitler was amazed that Britain actually declared war in September 1939 (Ribbentrop had told him it wouldn't happen). But he (and the world) were soon afterwards still more amazed by the swift collapse of French and British arms in France (read William Shirer's account of it all, in his Berlin Diary - it is now impossible to imagine a world in which France was viewed - as it was in September 1939 - as a near-invincible military power. But it was so.
  • As for Goering's remark, the Germans did not, of course lose *that* war. They won it almost totally. Britain was defeated, but not actually occupied or subjugated, and had no realistic hope of bringing troops into direct combat with the Germans on the European continent - the only way in which we could actually have won. (Does anyone have any thoughts about what would have happened to Britain if Hitler had decided to launch against her one half of the forces he sent into the USSR in 1941?)
  • So the invasion of Poland and the war which followed, and which really ended at Compiegne with the French surrender on 21st June 1940, did not 'lead to their destruction'. The war that they lost was the subsequent war, against the USSR (which they also started) and eventually the USA (against whom they also declared war). Had they been content with their May 1940 victories, they would probably have endured unchallenged until now. And there's another line of speculation for anyone who's interested.
  • It's also true that with a very few small things turning out differently, they could have been holding a victory parade in Red Square by October 1941, soon afterwards in possession of the Caucasus oilfields and most of the Soviet industrial and extractive economy, plus millions of new slaves, and so more or less invincible on European soil.
  • But once again, I doubt if either of these things would have been possible if France and Britain had remained in powerful armed neutrality, building up their forces, repairing their alliance with Belgium, manoeuvring Roosevelt into engagement and gaining knowledge of Hitler's methods, on Germany's Western flank. And if this position is so immoral, then surely so was that of the USA, which stayed out of the European war until Hitler declared war on the United States after Pearl Harbor, one of the few instances when he actually fulfilled a diplomatic obligation that didn't suit him.
  • 31st March 1939 is the day to think about. From then on, all that happened was more or less inevitable. But without that guarantee, things could have been very, very different. The question is, would it have been better or worse? And in my view that is the subject under discussion.

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