Maybe Chamberlain was not enough of a coward?


  • @KurtGodel7:

    Communist influence in France was far stronger than Polish influence. One of my friends is from France. He informed me that up until Germany went to war against the Soviet Union, there was no French resistance. The French people–or at least a significant subset thereof–were more interested in fighting for communism than for their own country.

    I’m puzzled by the claim that there was no French resistance before June 1941.  The Free French movement got started the day after France capitulated, when De Gaulle made his famous BBC address of June 18, 1940.  The resistance in France took time to build up and get organized, as I think was the case in every occupied country, but that doesn’t mean the same thing as non-existence.  Note also that resistance movements in occupied Europe (including France) got a lot of help in the later stages of the war from British and American organizations like the SOE and the OSS.  Those organizations themselves had to be built up before they reached full effectiveness.

    As for the communism thing: it’s true that the left was very powerful in France in the 1930s, but one mustn’t forget that the right was pretty powerful too.  During the Third Republic as a whole, there was strong conservatism in important sectors of French society: wealthy private individuals, the Army, the Church, and sizable portions of the political elite.  (The Dreyfus Affair was a notorious turn-of-the-century example of how nasty and reactionary this political establishment could get.)  In the run-up to WWII, some of the conservative elements of French society (what one individual from the time described as “the possessing classes”) were actually more worried about their own domestic communists than about Hitler.  I’d also point out that the Vichy regime established by Petain fitted precisely with the model of French society that he and other French establishment figures favoured: authoritarian, elitist, conservative and religious.  Hardly the stuff of socialism or communism.

  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    Hey guys - is this the thread where I can get the communist toilet paper which is less crueler to my a5s?

  • '17

    @Gargantua:

    Hey guys - is this the thread where I can get the communist toilet paper which is less crueler to my a5s?

    Most Soviets used Pravda rather than actual toilet paper  :lol:


  • @Zooey72:

    testy testy

    He is right though, and most people don’t know that.  I think most people believe that Stalin was bad, but not nearly as bad as Hitler, and that justifies us allying with him.  Roosevelt pushed the whole “Uncle Joe” propaganda thing on the American people.  Stalin was a bigger monster than Hitler, but he was our monster so as to not make us look bad (for allying with a monster) it wasn’t generaly known how bad Stalin was.

    Just because of that I think it is worth mentioning.  Anyone who was to look at my original post and not know the real history could think I am some kind of Nazi sympathizer because I made the argument “what if we let Germany get away with it”.  The Poles were destined to have what happened to them happen whether England and France declared war or not.  But not declaring war on Germany could have saved a lot of lives for the western democracies. Ultimately France, England, and the U.S. would need to defeat whoever won the Russian/German war, but that would have been much easier after those 2 anhilated each other and having years to stockpile weapons while still holding on to France to launch an offensive against Germany or Russia.

    I think most people believe that Stalin was bad, but not nearly as bad as Hitler

    You are correct: that illusion is widespread.

    Stalin was a bigger monster than Hitler, but he was our monster so as to not make us look bad

    That was one of the reasons FDR indulged in the “Uncle Joe” propaganda you described. I think the larger reason is that he genuinely liked Stalin. As best I can tell, FDR felt no moral outrage over Soviet mass murder. It was something to be hushed up, because the American people wouldn’t share his own perspective.

    The Poles were destined to have what happened to them happen whether England and France declared war or not.

    I agree with most of your post. But I don’t agree with the above statement. Had Poland’s leaders not been duped by lying French politicians, they would have had a far more realistic view of their options. Poland had the option of retaining its freedom. Back in '38, Hitler had given the Polish a piece of Czechoslovakia, as his way of signaling friendly intentions toward Poland. He’d maintained friendly relations with other Eastern European nations, such as Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. There was no intrinsic reason why Poland couldn’t have been added to that list. Had the Western democracies not inserted themselves into the situation, Germany and Poland could have formed an alliance in 1939, followed by the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1940.

    Ultimately France, England, and the U.S. would need to defeat whoever
    won the Russian/German war, but that would have been much easier after those 2 annihilated each other

    It’s not absolutely clear war was necessary. Imagine this scenario. Germany conquers all the Soviet Union west of the Urals, then makes peace with Stalin. (As described in Mein Kampf.) After that peace treaty is signed, there is a three-way cold war for a number of decades. During those decades, the original (and most fanatical) members of the original Nazi and Soviet communist movements die off. Both governments gradually become more moderate. The remaining Soviet rump state eventually collapses, under a Gorbachev-like dictator. The Nazi German government might not have experienced a similar collapse. But it almost certainly would have grown more moderate and less brutal as the original Nazis died off, and as the memories of world wars and the Versailles Treaty faded.


  • @CWO:

    I’m puzzled by the claim that there was no French resistance before June 1941.  The Free French movement got started the day after France capitulated, when De Gaulle made his famous BBC address of June 18, 1940.  The resistance in France took time to build up and get organized, as I think was the case in every occupied country, but that doesn’t mean the same thing as non-existence.  Note also that resistance movements in occupied Europe (including France) got a lot of help in the later stages of the war from British and American organizations like the SOE and the OSS.  Those organizations themselves had to be built up before they reached full effectiveness.

    As for the communism thing: it’s true that the left was very powerful in France in the 1930s, but one mustn’t forget that the right was pretty powerful too.  During the Third Republic as a whole, there was strong conservatism in important sectors of French society: wealthy private individuals, the Army, the Church, and sizable portions of the political elite.  (The Dreyfus Affair was a notorious turn-of-the-century example of how nasty and reactionary this political establishment could get.)  In the run-up to WWII, some of the conservative elements of French society (what one individual from the time described as “the possessing classes”) were actually more worried about their own domestic communists than about Hitler.  I’d also point out that the Vichy regime established by Petain fitted precisely with the model of French society that he and other French establishment figures favoured: authoritarian, elitist, conservative and religious.  Hardly the stuff of socialism or communism.

    In the run-up to WWII, some of the conservative elements of French society . . . were
    actually more worried about their own domestic communists than about Hitler.

    Long before WWII, the French government had adopted immigration policies which allowed large numbers of non-French, non-white immigrants (primarily from French colonies) to move to France. Hitler, on the other hand, had no plans to resettle France with non-French. Normally, having your nation invaded by a foreign army makes you more likely to have your people replaced. In this case, France’s defeat made resettlement less likely. A fact which may help explain the absence of anti-Hitler resistance from the right. The (temporary) absence of anti-Hitler resistance from the left may have been explained by the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

    The resistance in France took time to build up and get organized, as I think
    was the case in every occupied country, but that doesn’t mean the same thing as non-existence.

    A fair point. On the other hand, my friend from France made it seem as though the French people weren’t that interested in resisting Hitler. (At least not until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.) In addition to the reasons described above, it’s worth bearing in mind that the German occupation was, at least initially, very mild. Far milder than the French had been toward Germany in the aftermath of WWI. The French were pleasantly surprised by the mildness of the German occupation. It’s quite possible many concluded it was best not to provoke the German government into adopting a harsher position.

    I’d also point out that the Vichy regime established by Petain fitted precisely
    with the model of French society that he and other French establishment figures favored:

    This is true. It’s possible French society had been polarized between right and left. The left, of course, was actively pro-Soviet. While the right was not (for the most part) pro-Nazi, it was at least more comfortable working with the Nazis than it was with communists.


  • Still way off topic


  • A fair point. On the other hand, my friend from France made it seem as though the French people weren’t that interested in resisting Hitler.

    I’m afraid that you’re friend from France don’t know a lot of things about France situation during WWII.
    (Or it’s simply his own point of view)….

    AL.


  • Gar, the only toilet paper the Russians ever used to this day is American money and The New York Times.


  • Russians hoard US dollars.


  • @Zooey72:

    What if Chamberlain said “bah, who needs the Polish - not worth fighting a war over”.  What would have happened next?

    Even if Poland was considered expendable, the alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union demanded a response from the UK and France. They could not afford to simply stand by and watch Germany and the USSR divide eastern Europe between them.


  • @Aretaku:

    Even if Poland was considered expendable, the alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union demanded a response from the UK and France. They could not afford to simply stand by and watch Germany and the USSR divide eastern Europe between them.

    Hypothetically speaking, suppose the Western democracies had simply chosen to ignore the fact that Eastern Europe was being carved up between the Nazis and the communists. What would have been different?

    1. Humanitarian concerns. A lot of people would have been killed, especially by the Soviet government. But that would have (and did) happen anyway, due to the Soviet victory in WWII. Western democratic intervention in WWII did not improve the wartime or postwar humanitarian situation in Eastern Europe.

    2. Balance of power. Prior to the start of hostilities, there had been a cold war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets had the edge in that cold war, as measured by population size, industrial potential, access to raw materials, access to oil, and geographic position. In siding with the stronger party (the Soviet Union) against the weaker party (Nazi Germany), the Western democracies further unbalanced Europe.

    In the postwar era, the Soviet Union was so strong that the nations of Western Europe would have been completely helpless to resist Soviet intervention. Only American military strength posed a realistic deterrent to Soviet aggression. However, prior to 1948, nearly all major American political figures had either been isolationist or pro-Soviet. Back in the late '30s, there was no reason for any European politician to believe the United States would ever help resist Soviet expansionism.

    During the Cold War, Truman recognized that American conventional forces would not have been the equal of their Soviet counterparts. In the event the Soviet Union invaded Western Europe, the American plan was to drop nuclear weapons on the Soviet armies pushing westward through Germany. Large numbers of West German citizens would have died as the result of collateral damage–a fact which did not please the West German government. Stalin’s plan to counter the American nuclear threat was to use MiG jets to shoot down American bombers before they could deliver their nuclear payloads. While he recognized that some nuclear weapons would get through his MiG screen to attack his ground forces, he saw that as the price of doing business. Fortunately, Stalin died before he could launch his invasion of Western Europe.

    The point here being that in the postwar era, Western Europe was saved from Soviet invasion by the combination of anti-Soviet American intervention (which the Western democratic politicians of the '30s could not have expected) and America’s possession of nuclear weapons (which those '30s politicians could also not have reasonably anticipated). Western Europe’s democracies were saved from Soviet invasion entirely by good luck. Europe’s Western democratic politicians of the '30s and early '40s did not have a viable long-term plan to escape Soviet invasion; and their entire diplomatic and military strategy merely served to increase the certainty of that invasion.

    If Europe’s Western democratic politicians did the wrong thing, what would the right thing have been?

    As long as the cold war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union seemed reasonably well-balanced, they could have sat back and done nothing. If it seemed to be becoming unbalanced, they could have taken the side of the weaker party to balance it out again. In 1942, the Soviet Union outproduced Germany by a factor of 3x or 4x in every major ground weapons category; and by a factor of nearly 2x for military aircraft. Its prewar population was about two-and-a-half times larger than Germany’s. In the event of war between the Soviet Union and Germany, the Western democracies would probably have needed to send aid to Germany–at least if their goal was to prevent outright Soviet hegemony over all of Europe.

    But if the Western democracies’ main objective was self-preservation, an active war between Germany and the U.S.S.R. would not have been desirable. There was too much potential for either side in such a war to gain a commanding advantage over the other. The hoped-for outcome would have been a long-term, three way cold war between the Nazis, the communists, and the democracies.


  • @KurtGodel7:

    @Aretaku:

    Even if Poland was considered expendable, the alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union demanded a response from the UK and France. They could not afford to simply stand by and watch Germany and the USSR divide eastern Europe between them.

    Hypothetically speaking, suppose the Western democracies had simply chosen to ignore the fact that Eastern Europe was being carved up between the Nazis and the communists. What would have been different?

    1. Humanitarian concerns. A lot of people would have been killed, especially by the Soviet government. But that would have (and did) happen anyway, due to the Soviet victory in WWII. Western democratic intervention in WWII did not improve the wartime or postwar humanitarian situation in Eastern Europe.

    2. Balance of power. Prior to the start of hostilities, there had been a cold war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets had the edge in that cold war, as measured by population size, industrial potential, access to raw materials, access to oil, and geographic position. In siding with the stronger party (the Soviet Union) against the weaker party (Nazi Germany), the Western democracies further unbalanced Europe.

    In the postwar era, the Soviet Union was so strong that the nations of Western Europe would have been completely helpless to resist Soviet intervention. Only American military strength posed a realistic deterrent to Soviet aggression. However, prior to 1948, nearly all major American political figures had either been isolationist or pro-Soviet. Back in the late '30s, there was no reason for any European politician to believe the United States would ever help resist Soviet expansionism.

    During the Cold War, Truman recognized that American conventional forces would not have been the equal of their Soviet counterparts. In the event the Soviet Union invaded Western Europe, the American plan was to drop nuclear weapons on the Soviet armies pushing westward through Germany. Large numbers of West German citizens would have died as the result of collateral damage–a fact which did not please the West German government. Stalin’s plan to counter the American nuclear threat was to use MiG jets to shoot down American bombers before they could deliver their nuclear payloads. While he recognized that some nuclear weapons would get through his MiG screen to attack his ground forces, he saw that as the price of doing business. Fortunately, Stalin died before he could launch his invasion of Western Europe.

    The point here being that in the postwar era, Western Europe was saved from Soviet invasion by the combination of anti-Soviet American intervention (which the Western democratic politicians of the '30s could not have expected) and America’s possession of nuclear weapons (which those '30s politicians could also not have reasonably anticipated). Western Europe’s democracies were saved from Soviet invasion entirely by good luck. Europe’s Western democratic politicians of the '30s and early '40s did not have a viable long-term plan to escape Soviet invasion; and their entire diplomatic and military strategy merely served to increase the certainty of that invasion.

    If Europe’s Western democratic politicians did the wrong thing, what would the right thing have been?

    As long as the cold war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union seemed reasonably well-balanced, they could have sat back and done nothing. If it seemed to be becoming unbalanced, they could have taken the side of the weaker party to balance it out again. In 1942, the Soviet Union outproduced Germany by a factor of 3x or 4x in every major ground weapons category; and by a factor of nearly 2x for military aircraft. Its prewar population was about two-and-a-half times larger than Germany’s. In the event of war between the Soviet Union and Germany, the Western democracies would probably have needed to send aid to Germany–at least if their goal was to prevent outright Soviet hegemony over all of Europe.

    But if the Western democracies’ main objective was self-preservation, an active war between Germany and the U.S.S.R. would not have been desirable. There was too much potential for either side in such a war to gain a commanding advantage over the other. The hoped-for outcome would have been a long-term, three way cold war between the Nazis, the communists, and the democracies.

    I Agree that only America protected Europe from Soviet aggression.

    However, I do not believe that sitting back and doing nothing in 1940 would have been in Western Europe’s best interest. Hitler’s Germany would have attacked France (if not Britain) first, before the Soviet Union. France and Britain thought they could make a stand in Poland (defeating the immediate Nazi threat, to concern themselves with the later with the non-imminent Soviet threat), but underestimated the speed at which Germany could conquer the Poles.

    I could probably do research and back up the idea that Hitler would have invaded France first with hard history, but let’s make a simple A&A comparison:

    As Germany at the start of G40 (Let’s assume France and Britain are not at war), which is it easier to do: Kill France first, and then attack the Soviet Union, or attack the Soviet Union first?


  • @amanntai:

    I Agree that only America protected Europe from Soviet aggression.

    However, I do not believe that sitting back and doing nothing in 1940 would have been in Western Europe’s best interest. Hitler’s Germany would have attacked France (if not Britain) first, before the Soviet Union. France and Britain thought they could make a stand in Poland (defeating the immediate Nazi threat, to concern themselves with the later with the non-imminent Soviet threat), but underestimated the speed at which Germany could conquer the Poles.

    I could probably do research and back up the idea that Hitler would have invaded France first with hard history, but let’s make a simple A&A comparison:

    As Germany at the start of G40 (Let’s assume France and Britain are not at war), which is it easier to do: Kill France first, and then attack the Soviet Union, or attack the Soviet Union first?

    Hitler’s Germany would have attacked France (if not Britain) first

    This is where we disagree.

    Both before and during the war, German naval spending was a steady 10 - 12% of overall German military spending. This low level of naval spending is very strong evidence that Hitler did not intend to attack Britain. Further evidence is provided in General von Manstein’s book Lost Victories, in which he expressed frustration with the fact that the German general staff was thrown into confusion after their decisive victory over France. Von Manstein opined that it is one thing for a general staff to be thrown into complete confusion when their plans utterly fail. But it was far less understandable for them to adopt the attitude of “What do we do now?” after their plans completely succeed. Hitler had expected Churchill to agree to a ceasefire after the fall of France; and didn’t know what to do after Churchill proved completely unreceptive to any sort of peace negotiations.

    You will recall that in 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany before Germany declared war on either of those nations. After the fall of Poland, Hitler offered peace to both Britain and France. (They both refused.)

    From Germany’s perspective, a war with the Western democracies entailed plenty of downside and little upside. There was no Nazi plan to find lebensraum in France or other Western European nations. Germany did not attempt to colonize France with Germans during the war, and had no intention of doing so after the war ended. On the other hand, it was very difficult for Germany to be at war with France without also being at war with Britain. A war against both nations opened the door to American industrial (and later military) involvement against Germany. Why would Hitler want a long, unwinnable, pointless war like that when the main goal of his foreign policy was to invade the Soviet Union?

    From Hitler’s perspective, a war against the Soviet Union would have many advantages. He pointed out that no nation had ever imposed a Versailles Treaty on the United States. If Germany could conquer the Soviet Union–or at least the portion of the Soviet Union west of the Urals–it would be as strong relative to Europe as the United States was relative to North America. Access to Soviet manpower, raw materials, and industrial capacity would allow Germany to become a superpower. Access to Soviet farmlands would reduce German vulnerability to Allied food blockades.

    But just as Germany was eyeing the Soviet Union, Stalin was eyeing Germany. In 1939 Stalin instituted a military draft, and began greatly increasing the size of the Soviet army. In 1940 he successfully seized Finland’s equivalent of the Maginot Line. (Except that the Finnish version was better, in many ways, than the French version.) Having taken Finland’s defenses, he chose not to take the rest of the country–at least not at that time. The conquest of the rest of Finland would come later, and its purpose would be to cut Germany off from its supply of Swedish iron ore.

    On the southern portion of that front, Stalin helped himself to a slice of Romanian territory. Romania was to be the main initial target of the Soviet attack; with the intention being to cut Hitler off from his supply of Romanian oil. Having conquered Romania, the Soviet army would then wheel northwest into the heart of Europe.


    The British and French estimated that Poland should be able to defend itself for two to three months, while Poland estimated it could do so for at least six months. Poland drafted its estimates based upon the expectation that the Western Allies honor their treaty obligations and quickly start an offensive of their own. In addition, the French and British expected the war to develop into trench warfare much like World War I. The Polish government was not notified of this strategy and based all of its defence plans on promises of quick relief by their Western allies.[61][62]


    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Poland#Polish_defence_plan

    Why did the British and French governments deliberately make false promises to Poland? If they had absolutely no intention of launching a general offensive against Germany–which they didn’t–why did they go through such trouble to reassure the Poles that they did?

    Poland’s entire diplomatic and military strategy for 1939 was based on the quicksand of lying French politicians’ promises. In the absence of those promises, Polish leaders would have possessed a more realistic view of its actual options. Instead of being tricked into adopting an anti-German foreign policy, they would have probably come to some kind of understanding with Germany. In the presence of such an understanding, Germany and the Soviet Union could have gone to war against each other, without Germany being weakened and distracted by a pointless war in the west. It is far from clear which side would have won such a war. But Western democratic interference in the Nazi-Soviet conflict benefited no one except the Soviet Union.


  • Not sure about the USSR vs France as Hitler’s no. 1 target.  Could go to one of my books, but am sure others have the facts.

    Am confident that G had no designs on the UK and its empire.  There was an underlying belief/hope that the UK would accept G domination of Europe, as some in the British government were to advocate.

    So the UK could have avoided the war.  But I can think of a number of reasons why to do so would have been wrong.

    1.  Europe was dominated by dictatorships - Franco, Mussolini, Stalin & Hitler.  Democracy was at bay.  It is hard to imagine the democracy under siege feel of the time.  Somewhere a line needed to be drawn.  It was not a question of which monster had killed the most, nor of accepting collateral damage in the hope that “we” would escape whilst those we might have called friends were targeted one by one.

    2.  The UK’s constant policy since Marlborough was to defend a balance of power on the continent. G were the immediate threat to that balance, not R.

    3. It is far from certain that the UK & USA could have beaten a victorious G (or R) + J.

    I nearly started an analogy to Europe today, but history is safer!


  • As others pointed out, Hitler hated France. He also isn’t known for making rational decisions.

    But it still would have been rational to attack France. France added to Germany’s economy, its production, and even its military. More French fought for the Axis than for the Allies.

    Furthermore, Hitler may have had no designs on Britain, but as you pointed out, Hitler expected Britain to surrender when France fell.

    Hitler’s plan appeared to be:

    • Austria
    • Czechoslovakia
    • Poland
    • Denmark
    • Norway
    • Holland
    • Belgium
    • France
    • Russia

    If he expected Britain to surrender, of course preparations to invade Britain never entered his mind. But the invasion of France did, as evidenced by his moving troops into the Rhineland.

    With France out and Britain at peace, Hitler would have nearly all the Continent to bring against Russia, and a one-front war. Not a bad plan.


  • Yes amanntai - Britain to surrender in terms of accepting the new status quo, not surrender of sovereignty or territory.

    As you say G vs R as a two sided fight may well have resulted in a G victory.  Then the US & UK would have been faced by a much tougher task.

    Another interesting what if would be whether the UK & R would have won if the US had not entered the war?

  • '17 '16 '15

    Good thing the Blokes had Churchill :)

  • '17 '16 '15

    @Private:

    Another interesting what if would be whether the UK & R would have won if the US had not entered the war?

    An Excellent question indeed. I believe Soviet manpower would’ve won “won?” in the end . They had 47 million in their national guard. The Germans didn’t know how to plan for it so they ignored it. Not a good solution.  Japan would have stayed in line though. Then again maybe not. :)


  • You are probably right barney.  Provided UK & R benefitted from “neutral” US industrial might.  But it would have taken longer due to the UK’s understandable Med focus sucking resources from any attempt at a northern Europe second (well third) front.

    Or perhaps R’s progress on the eastern front was not overly helped by D-day? Hard to believe, but I don’t have the facts to hand - Where’s that Max Hastings book ….?  :-)

    Hang on a mo - I am forgetting one of the guiding principles of my life - never let the facts get in the way of a good opinion!  :wink:


  • @Private:

    Or perhaps R’s progress on the eastern front was not overly helped by D-day?

    Although it’s a fair point that the USSR did the bulk of the land fighting in the European Theatre in WWII, and could perhaps even have won single-handedly, the Anglo-American opening of a second front in western Europe was far from unimportant – a point illustrated by Stalin himself, who spent spent 1942 and 1943 and the first half of 1944 badgering the British and the Americans to get on with the job of opening a second front instead of (from Stalin’s perspective) sitting on their hindquarters and letting the Red Army do all the work.

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