HIST 202: European Civilization, 1648-1945
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European Civilization, 1648-1945
HIST 202 - Lecture 20 - Successor States of Eastern Europe
Chapter 1. The Wilsonian Illusion and War Guilt: The Aftermath of the First World War [00:00:00]
Professor John Merriman: Today I’m going to do a fairly impossible task, which is to talk mostly about Eastern Europe in the interwar period. I sent around a rather lengthy list of terms, so I don’t have to write it on the board and you can’t see it anyway. I’ll work from that, so it’ll help you understand. But the big points are clear, and the maps will help you as well.
Just a couple things at the beginning, which are perfectly obvious. In 1914, few people could have imagined that they would sweep away four empires, etc., etc. and take the lives of millions of people. In 1918 and 1919 there was the Great Illusion. The Great Illusion was held by Wilson and lots of other people, that wars were started by evil people in high places, which may often be the case. But the problems left by the Treaty of Versailles were basically insoluble. The 1920s and 1930s are basically a continuation of the war. You can look at the entire period from 1914 to 1945 as a thirty years’ war.
Europe was in depression basically the entire time between the wars, as we’ll see when I talk about Eastern Europe and East Central Europe. That has a lot to do with the chronic instability of the period. Western Europe and the United States were really not in depression between 1924 and 1929. Then the thunder comes in 1929. The United States doesn’t get out of the Depression until basically World War II. The war economy helps them do that. But Eastern Europe, in the places where the instability and the lack of parliamentary traditions was so important, was in agricultural depression the entire time.
By 1939 in Central and Eastern Europe, only one state, Czechoslovakia, remains a parliamentary regime. In all of the others, the Eastern Europe of little dictators, and fascist parties, and rightwing agrarian populist parties — some of them didn’t start out rightwing — poisoned the political atmosphere. The Treaty of Versailles, when they meet and these delegations meet — including the former president of Yale, the future president of Yale then, Charles Seymour, was in the American delegation there — they were convinced that they could put an end to all wars. They would get Germany to sign on the dotted line saying, “We started it all.” As I’ll argue next week, and it’s perfectly clear, that was a catastrophic mistake. Germany arguably had a greater role in starting the war than the other places, but this guaranteed the perpetual hostility of an ever increasing number of rightwing parties, of which the most vicious and the most successful would be the Nazis, opposed the very existence of the Weimar Republic and became, as I’ll explain a minute, a revisionist state.
A revisionist state is one that wanted to revise the Treaty of Versailles, because people of their dominant ethnic group had ended up on the wrong side of the frontier. If you had fought a war that was based upon national claims in 1914, in which aggressive nationalism was one of the root causes of the war, the successor states that are created out of these collapsed empires find themselves facing the reality that you could get all the maps you wanted, and you could get all the cartographers that you wanted, and geographers, and bring them all to Versailles, and bring them all to the French suburbs, Trianon, and Sèvres, and Neuilly, and the others, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, that became named after the treaties with the individual powers. But you couldn’t draw lines around national groups that were going to incorporate everybody within the country of their choice. You couldn’t do it. That leaves a permanent factor for instability.
If you don’t believe me, look at the Balkans in the 1990s, which were the worst atrocities since the death camps in World War II, in which ethnic cleansing and rape as a means of waging war became a reality again, and in which those old hatreds had never been extinguished. So, the Great Illusion was that there wouldn’t be anymore wars. In the case of Germany, as we’ll see, the troops who were demobilized, who came back, they kept drilling in their basements, the Freikorps, the Free Corps in Germany. Lots of people among them, just one of millions, the young Adolf Hitler — the view that they held was that the problem wasn’t to have fought the war in the first place, which was a Wilsonian view of the war, but the problem was not to have won the war.
The problem is, how do you explain to home that you’ve lost the war when your troops are far, far inside Germany? I’m getting ahead of my story, but it’s just such a complicated subject, all this. It’s a little hard not to. The other problem was, if you’re punishing losers in World War I, you’re often punishing them in a way that seems to violate the very principle that you hope to espouse of each people, more or less their own country. The powers that become the revisionist powers, almost all were on the losing side. They’re the ones that, by the very principles espoused at Versailles, that basically just simply get screwed. As the Hungarians put it, “No, no, never.” That was their response, “No, no, never.”
These powers, of which the most dangerous, ultimately, is Germany, are far more powerful in defeat than France is in victory, basically vow to get even. Not the Weimar Republic, but those people who wanted to destroy the republic. Then Eastern Europe will be full of little Hitlers, little racist dictators who are also convinced that “in the next one, we’ll get it back.” “We’ll get it all back and we’ll bring it back with a percentage of interest as well.” Increasingly, a point that I’d better make in a while, they begin to look at, in the Europe of extremes, Germany as a very compelling model. The Eastern European states that had certainly reasons to increasingly fear Germany, they begin to see Germany as a rather successful model. The Europe of the extremes, as Eric Hobsbawm has called it, is basically, if you exclude the Soviet Union, which is another kind of totalitarian state, and if you exclude the role of the Communist parties as a destabilizing force in many of these countries, is a Europe of fascism.
They just keep right on marching, because fascists are better at describing how they will take power — marching, violence — and whom they hate, than what they will construct afterward. What they will construct afterward in all of these places will be a totalitarian, fascist state that is based upon the principle of totally over-the-top, aggressive nationalism and anti-whatever the minorities are, particularly the Jews. Anti-Semitism becomes an important part of all of this. So, the guys with the maps, and the pencils, and trying to draw the little squiggly lines — it doesn’t really work out very well. Wilson comes back in utter defeat and the American congress doesn’t approve the Treaty of Versailles anyway, and America enters, as you know, a period of isolationism, at least until the next time around. That was a rather lengthy introduction to what I was going to talk about.
Chapter 2. Revisionism in Italy and Germany [00:09:20]
Let’s try to be more specific now. What are the big-time revisionist states? First, let me just start out with one that didn’t lose, but is one in which, as you’ll see when you read the chapter, where fascism is first saluted and then takes power. That is Italy. Italy wins. They’re open to offers, open to the highest bidder, and they join in 1915 because the Allies can promise them more. They promise them part of the Tyrol between Austria and Italy, and they promise them much of the Dalmatian Coast. Italy went to war for that reason, but also because in a country in which a sense of national unity basically didn’t exist, there was a strong feeling that war will make Italians out of all these different people. That’s not real good reason to go to war, but they do go to war.
Of course, they were being systematically denigrated by the other Allied leaders for woeful aspects of their army, which also took huge losses fighting the Austro-Hungarian forces. So, when they come to Versailles, Orlando, who is their representative, he’s a junior partner in this. They don’t pay a lot of attention to him. Wilson says, “You can’t give them the Tyrol, because they don’t have Italian majorities there and they certainly don’t have Italian majorities in the Dalmatian Coast,” which is populated by, logically enough, by Croats. So, they don’t get what they want. Mussolini, who began his career as a socialist, he was the editor of Avanti!, “Forward,” which was the socialist paper, he becomes one of the originators of fascism, and he appeared, as you’ll see in the book, on the cover of Time magazine eight times. He’s the guy that got the railroads to run on time in Italy, but only the ones to the ski resorts. Anyway, I don’t have time to talk about him now. So, they’re kind of a revisionist power. Mussolini’s discourse about how he’s going to turn the Mediterranean into an Italian lake, revive the Roman Empire, and all that has to be seen in that context. Italy was not “a loser” in World War I, but rather an aggrieved winner. I guess that’s a good way of putting it.
The revisionist powers are those that lost. Revisionist powers, of course, no one was more revisionist than Germany, and the German Empire is destroyed. Germany, again it’s hard to summarize all of this, but Germany from the very beginning says, “If you’re going to argue that national ethnic groups and where they live should determine the drawing of boundaries, then what the Allies did to Germany seemed extremely unfair,” and not only to the far right in Germany. This leaves aside the question that I’ll come to next week. John Maynard Keynes, who was a brilliant, brilliant guy, he’s the one who saw that this is recipe for disaster, the Treaty of Versailles. He’s the one who said, “This is just a truce. It’s not the end of the war. If you make Germany pay for the whole war, based on that they’ve signed the war guilt clause, you’re going to so destabilize this country that eventually the right will take over.” That’s exactly what happened. That’s exactly what happened.
From the point of view of Germany, the most egregious loss that they suffered was the Polish Corridor. If you go to Gdansk, which is a wonderful city, which was destroyed during the war like most every city in Poland except for Krakow, which really got lucky. I can remember going to Warsaw, au temps des camarades, when it was still into the communist regime, when I was a kid. You could see where there once had been boulevards. The whole place was just absolutely razed. Krakow was very lucky because it survived. What they do is Gdansk gets rebuilt. Gdansk was a German city. The Polish population was extremely small. You may know of Gdansk because that’s where Solidarity began in 1979 and 1980. There’s an important port there, and that’s where Lech Walesa got his start, and the whole Solidarity movement, including some of my friends, historians, who were young printers for Solidarity in those days. As I’ve said a couple of times, I go to Poland all the time, in the last couple of years five times or something like that.
Anyway, Gdansk, from the point of view of the Germans, was German. The vast majority of the population was German. What the Germans called “the Polish Corridor” divided the rest of Germany from Pomerania in East Prussia. It was resented by the Germans because there was a strong German population that remained. Of course the Poles, when they look at Gdansk, they look back to when Gdansk was an important port then, too, in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. In fact, Poles are quite insistent. Polish historians — and the whole concept of sovereignty that emerged in the Netherlands and in England in early-modern times was also being constructed in and around Gdansk.
The other big wound for the Germans was Czechoslovakia. The second largest ethnic group in the newly one of the successor states, along with Poland and Yugoslavia, and I have the statistics in what I sent around to you, the first were Czechs at about fifty percent. Germans, if I remember correctly, were twenty-three percent, and Slovaks were sixteen percent. The others are other minorities. They’re Ukrainians, and Poles, and all sorts of things. The majority of Germans were concentrated in Prague, though there weren’t as many of them as before. Above all, the whole region of Bohemia and in that region called Sudetenland, the Sudetenland Germans. When the allies capitulate to Hitler’s demands that that part of Czechoslovakia — then of course he launched the whole thing — be passed into Germany. One of the reasons that they appease is they said, “Maybe he’s got a point. In 1918, we couldn’t really put the people where they were supposed to be. There are German majorities in a good percentage of Bohemia, within Czechoslovakia. Maybe he’s got a point.” That was an excuse. That was the rationale for appeasing him, but at a time when he might have been stopped. His generals were just scared to death that the Allies were going to fight them, because they weren’t ready for war.
Chapter 3. Revisionism in Eastern Europe: The Former Austro-Hungarian Empire [00:16:42]
Germany is, above all, the big revisionist power. More about this when we talk about Adolf Hitler next week. The other big one — I can’t find it but it’s in there — is Hungary. Hungary loses — I’ve got to remember these statistics. I might have put it around. I think I can remember them. They lose twenty-five percent of the Hungarian population to other states. They lose about between a half and two-thirds, I should remember but I don’t, of the land of the old Hungarian domains when they were in Austria-Hungary, when they were, supposedly after 1867, the equal partner of Austria. They lose the greatest percentage of that Hungarian population to Romania. The tensions between the Romanians and the Hungarians were extremely great. The linguistic differences are enormous, because Hungarian is such a difficult language. It’s an isolated language. I have a friend who retired here many years ago from Russian and East European languages and literatures who knows eighteen languages. He knows mostly every Central European language. I said, “Do you know Hungarian?” He said, “No, it’s too hard.” That accentuates this isolation from the Romanians.
Again, in 1989 the great groundswell against Ceausescu and his horrendous wife, the dictators in Romania, began with Hungarian dissidents whose families had been generations since World War I stuck, from their point of view, in Romania. When you’re trying to look at each of these countries and trying to figure out why does some rightwing maggot, some rightwing dictator, take power? It’s because, as in the case of Adolf Hitler, if you say the same thing over and over and over again, pretty soon you get people to believe you. Admiral Horthy, who was an admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he becomes an extraordinarily vicious dictator and egregious collaborator during World War II, sort of an admiring junior partner of Hitler and the Nazis, and the frenetic, aggressive Hungarian nationalism.
You can go to Budapest, go along the Danube River in Budapest and see where they’ve made a sad monument out of the shoes of Jews who were shot or just simply pushed into the swirling waters of the Danube by the Hungarian fascists in 1944. I’m not saying Hungarians as a people, obviously not. I have Hungarian friends and I love Hungary. Budapest is my third favorite city. But the damages done by revisionist claims in Hungary were simply amazing. Of all of the — after the Germans, arguably even more than Germans, they had the most to be aggrieved about, because of losing so much of their country awarded — because they had lost — to other places.
Now, the case of Austria, also. If you go to Vienna, it’s such a wonderful, huge, musical place full of baroque, baroque, baroque. It’s really a great city. You think, “Oh, this is an enormous city for such a little country.” What happens when the Austrian-Hungarian Empire is dismembered, Austria becomes a small and overwhelmingly German-speaking state. There are, comparatively, very few ethnic minorities living in what became Austria after World War I. It’s an imperial city. It’s an imperial city not reduced in size, but reduced in importance. So, Hungary has huge reasons to be extraordinarily angry by the whole thing.
Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia loses some land that they wish that they would have gotten, but again, in Yugoslavia you have this tremendous ethnic complexity. In a way, the successor state of Yugoslavia — maybe some of you have or will take Ivo Banac’s course. He’s a great Balkan historian. The ethnic complexity, of course, is sort of a mini version of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, where Serbs were something like forty percent of the population of Yugoslavia between the wars. That would be really about the percentage until the whole thing collapses in the early 1990s. The Croats were the next largest percentage, followed by Slovenes, who were the wealthiest region and remained that until the end. The standard of living in Slovenia in the 1980s was about that of Italy, where if you went far, far down to Kosovo, where I’ve been, about where so much has been going on, and which now has been proclaimed independent, it was absolutely impoverished. So, the ethnic complexity is, in itself, going to be a factor for destabilization.
What about Poland? Poland had not been independent since 1795, since the Third Partition. You had, as I’ve already discussed in other contexts, you’ve got Polish intellectuals. You’ve got political militants in the 1830s and again in the 1860s who don’t want to be part of congress Russia. They don’t want to be congress Poland. They don’t want to be part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. They don’t want to be part of Prussia. They want and dream of the independent Poland. They get their independence in 1918, immediately. But the complexity is enormous there. You’ve already got these ethnic minorities who are there. The Germans are there. You’ve got huge numbers of Ukrainians. In fact, in Eastern Poland the cities like Zamosc, where Rosa Luxemburg was born, which is a beautiful city, these are Polish cities, but the vast majority of the rural population are Ukrainian. They are Ukrainian. This was a force of “instability.” They will be killing each other off during World War II. The other minority is the Jews.
How many Jews were there in Poland in 1918-1919? Poland was considered to be, before Israel, Poland was really the cultural heart of Judaism. There are three million Jews living in Poland. In the east, mostly Orthodox and Labavitcher. By the way, just as an aside but it’s a telling aside. When I was in Zamosc we were taken to a synagogue which had been turned into a place where high school students and middle school students exhibited their paintings. I asked the guide, who was taking these academics around, and press editors, and all this stuff. I said, “Look, what was the population of Zamosc in 1939?” He said, “The population of Zamosc in 1939 was 39,000.” I said, “How many Jews were living in Zamosc who had been coming to this synagogue in 1939?” He said, “12,000.” I said, “How many Jews live in Zamosc now?” “Zero. Zero.” The others, if they were lucky enough not to have been killed in the death camps — and I just reviewed a book for the Globe about the ghetto in Lodz, they were likely to get out. Not to jump ahead, but the number of Jews who survived out of three million was about 300,000 Polish Jews who, I think, came back to Poland after the war or who had managed somehow to survive.
Chapter 4. Ethnic Tensions in Interwar States [00:26:03]
The point of this is that these ethnic tensions, particularly in a part of Europe where anti-Semitism had been just replete. It’s a Thirty Years’ War. How can you not leap ahead into World War II? Some of the massacres of Jews, for example, during this horrible period were done by Ukrainians in Ukraine, Lithuanians in Lithuania. Many of you have seen just horrific pictures. I can’t remember. We have this awful picture that used to be in the first edition — I don’t even know if it’s in the second edition — who were beaten to death. A former colleague here whom I don’t really know, Jan Gross, wrote an important book called Neighbors about how Jews and Poles who lived in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s lived very peacefully in one village, and how, without apparent instigation from the Nazis who would have been happy to kill them all and planned to kill them all, just simply one day started killing them all. They shot them all dead, beat them to death, put them in barns and burned the barns. These tensions, which are aggressive nationalism.
I go to Poland all the time. It’s amazing. There still is this undercurrent of anti-Semitism. I hope, since this is being filmed, I sometimes forget, they may get letters, but it’s really incredible. I was being interviewed on Polish TV with this other guy and it was a pleasure to denounce our president. Anyway, I don’t speak Polish. Another time we were all being interviewed and they said, this guy said, “What do you think of the Jew problem in Poland?” I was about to kill him. I shouldn’t say that, but take him out. Not really, but I was pretty mad. Then this woman who was there, who represents the Jewish community, such as it remains, in Israel, she said, “No, no, no. It’s a question of language.” But when we went to one of the Polish museums, which is the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising — they don’t have a Museum of the Ghetto Uprising — we had to complain about how they depicted Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.
This is not to dump on Polish — well, it is to dump on Polish anti-Semitism, but not as Poland as a state. These tensions are exacerbated between the wars. If you’ve got these frenetic right wing leaders who are aggressive nationalists in all of these places, who are they denouncing? They’re denouncing what? The Treaty of Versailles and the other treaties in conjunction with it. Who? Romanians, if they are Hungarians, etc., etc. You pick the nationality, and Jews most anywhere. It was there. These folks are often — like Horthy, they are preaching to the converted. They’re preaching to the converted. It’s an obvious, sad story. In these revisionist powers, all this stuff is going on.
I know less about and don’t have much time to talk about Bulgaria, which lost, but you have these same kind of tensions. Turkey was just completely — that’s arguably the harshest treaty, that with Turkey. They lose most of what’s left, really in the Middle East, of Turkey. This gets transformed into mandates under British and French control. As a losing power, they lose land to their bitter archenemy, Greece. Then this enormous exchange of populations begins, forced exchange of populations, as followed by voluntary exchange between Turkey and Greece. But the case of Turkey is special because Attaturk, whom you can read about, becomes the visionary president of a new Turkey, of a secularized Turkey, and does not go the way, for all occasional stridency, of this sort of Europe of little dictators, the Eastern and Central Europe of little dictators. Even as I said — where are we? I kind of left my lecture behind, but that’s all right. I’m doing the themes that we should be doing anyway. You can read about the rest.
Even in Czechoslovakia — one can say, “There was a democracy that really truly functioned.” But there are enormous tensions in Czechoslovakia as well. You’ve got your Czechs. Your Czechs are the dominant population in Czechoslovakia, but they are basically Protestant, mostly Protestant. The Czech part or what would become the Czech Republic is, as you already know, largely Bohemia, or much of it is Bohemia. There’s Moravia also, which is poorer, but it is very industrial. It is much more prosperous. Slovakia is almost entirely Catholic and much more rural. It’s basically a peasant society in which the Catholic Church, and particularly the very rightwing aspects of the Catholic Church, as opposed to the case of Poland, where the Catholic Church has basically been a force for progress, except for anti-Semitic currents in some parts of the clergy. It’s not surprising that in World War II, one of the most horrendous collaborators and people cheering on the guards of the Jews as they’re packing them onto the trains to be taken away and killed was a priest.
Again, I’m not dissing the Catholic Church. I was raised at a Jesuit high school. But there were tensions within Czechoslovakia also. Even in the triumphant case, triumphant until the German legions start marching in and start killing Jews again there. Not again, because there really hadn’t been pogroms and stuff like that there. Even there it’s the complexity of the whole thing that is simply amazing. But the big point, it’s not big news, but the big point is that ethnic contentions contested borders. Diplomatic problems caused by or inherent in having these new states — Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia — will continue to be very important in a place that had virtually no parliamentary traditions.
There were no democratic traditions, even in a country like Poland, which had been divided up between these three empires. So, it’s pretty darn hard to suddenly say, “Now we are a republic,” and try to make that work. It’s very, very difficult. Indeed, there’s a mistake in that book, or at least my Polish friends tell me it’s a mistake. I have described Pilsudski, whose parents and who himself thought he was Lithuanian at the beginning, but I already talked about that. He’s described as being rightwing. He began his career as being kind of leftwing. But he’s the first to destroy the parliamentary regime. He does that in 1926.
Pilsudski’s a great hero in Poland, still. I was taken on almost a forced march to see his tomb. Why? Because he, in the miracle of the Vistula River, the Vistula is this monumentally important river in Poland, that Trotsky’s Red Army is moving toward Warsaw and imagining that they’re going to move toward Berlin, and assist the revolution in Germany. They’re turned back in the suburbs of Warsaw. The miracle of the Vistula by Pilsudski. This gives him a kind of a prestige and identification with the Polish state that is obviously important. So, in 1926 he says, “Look, this is impossible.” He puts an end to the parliamentary regime, at least in reality. It’s in 1929 or 1930, he arrests the progressive opposition. He behaves like these other dictators, except he’s not putting people against the wall, or having them beaten to death by iron guards, and all these groups. That’s one of the first to go.
Chapter 5. The Peasant Majority: Agricultural Depression and the Rise of Fascism [00:35:57]
Compounding all of this is again, to go back to what I said at the beginning, East Central Europe — incidentally, the Poles no longer want to see themselves described as Eastern Europe. Then it was East Central Europe. They say, “You should go through your book and take out all references to Eastern Europe with regard to Poland. We are Central Europe.” That’s how they see themselves. Again, it’s impossible to overestimate the hatred and still the fear of Russia. That’s why they had this ridiculous idea of having American bases in Poland, which is just a crazy idea. Anyway, that’s just my personal opinion, in parentheses.
Compounding all of this is that you’ve got a peasant society. All of these are peasant societies. The vast majority of the population are peasants. I think it’s about seventy-five percent in Poland. In Poland, Warsaw is already very big. Krakow is very, very big. I keep talking about Poland, because that’s the one I know the best. Hungary would be less because Budapest is such a large city. Also, lots of the rural parts of Hungary have been amputated. It’s a peasant society. What brings, and this is the argument of my good friend, Tim Snyder, what brings peasants into politics in the 1920s is one thing, besides hating the people not of the same ethnic group with them, depending on the place, and maybe being anti-Semitic because of the tradition of rural money lenders and all of this who happen to be Jewish, and Jewish storekeepers in the peasant perception of the world, is the hope of land reform, of land reform. Of maybe breaking up the big estates, but at a minimum helping out poor rural people.
What happens is that in the 1920s and the 1930s is that poor rural people are being screwed, to put it a bit crudely, by what? By the agricultural depression. The price of agricultural products, which is the economy, is the economy, plunges to practically nothing, and they can’t get by. One of the factors for the rise of fascism in all of its guises — it’s called fascism in Italy; it’s called National Socialism in Germany; in France, a part of the extreme right called it francisme, in Spain — he’s not really a fascist, Franco’s a rightwing authoritarian. He’s still a murderer, but he’s a rightwing authoritarian, but he’s still a murderer, period — is the economic situation. I’ll make this clear when I talk about Germany. That’s what drives the middle class, which is the first class to embrace Hitler. It’s the big crisis of the great inflation in the early 1920s. What helps drive peasants in all these countries, the ones who become politicized and finally say, “What did parliamentary regime bring me and my family? Not much. We still can’t get by.”
So, there we go. “These little dictator guys thundering away, they seem to be telling it like it is.” It’s the Jews, or it’s the Bulgarians, or it’s the Romanians, or it’s the Hungarians, or it’s the Serbs, or it’s the Muslims. It’s the Greeks. It’s the Turks. You name it. You fill in the national group. It’s a Europe of hatred. It’s a Europe of fear, an absorbed, integrated fear. I suppose that’s kind of a silly way of putting it, but not that bad after all. When they look around, what do they see? First, these countries are frightened. These powers, the new states ally. They say, “We’re going to have to lie together,” and some of them join up with France, and that won’t do them much good in 1939. But there is this model that seems to be working in Germany.
The French, what they do in this inflation in the 1920s and 1930s, they were loaning money everywhere before. They pulled in the reins. They bring in the credit. Nazi Germany, particularly after it is Nazi Germany, after January 1933, they provide this sort of model. They say, “We’ll help you out. We’ll help you out. The other countries are not buying your products. We’ll buy even more of them. We’ll loan you money. We’ll organize this.” It seems to be an orderly society. More about that. It’s not just a society of coercion, without jumping ahead. Hitler seems to be providing things to the German people that they want. Work, the armaments factories are preparing for war. Order, they’re arresting petty criminals. I’ll talk more about that. And racial purity. They begin thinking, “Hey, that’s a good thing. It’s the fault of the Jews and the Poles. It’s the fault of the Poles.”
When they invade Poland, I don’t emphasize this as much as I should have in your book, but they begin right away carrying out genocide. They begin killing the Polish intelligentsia right away, and they kill the Polish generals right away. The Russians are doing the same thing, actually, the Soviets further on. It’s a permanent source of instability, this agrarian depression, this economic depression. What it does, it’s a factor for further destabilization. Talk about parliamentary regimes comes pretty cheap, but they disappear one after another. And in each and every case, with the fascists and variants, in each and every case the discourse is, “We, the real people of this place, do not want these other people here. We don’t want them here.”
Of course, not all of these people carried it to the outcome of the Nazis, or of the Lithuanians and the Ukrainians who just started beating Jews to death along the way. But it wasn’t just the Western states that had great instability. The willingness, indeed the eagerness of people like Horthy to collaborate with Hitler openly, enthusiastically, all the way through until the bitter end is, in part, a result of — these rightwing movements become mass movements in these places, as they did in Germany. And as they did in eight percent of the population of the Netherlands votes for a guy called Musser, who’s their little fascist guy, or in Belgium, which is a town of shopkeepers. They support their guy who just died about ten years ago, Degrelle, who died on the Costa Brava. They all seem to die on the Costa Brava. They all basically get away with it and end up going to Spain, and a lot of them protected by the Franco regime. They all seem to croak on the Costa Brava.
Anyway, I got away from the text but it doesn’t matter. I think I made my points anyway. The points are that Europe is in a period of instability. That with the exception of the big powers in the West between 1924 and 1929, all these places are in depression and that the sweeping away of parliamentary regimes in places that had virtually no parliamentary traditions at all was not all that surprising. It was compounded by the outcome of World War I.
Again, as I said before at least twice, the demons of the twentieth century emerged from the war. Nowhere more tellingly, more appallingly, with greater costs, with greater devastation, with humanity sinking to an all-time low, than that in Nazi Germany. That’s what I’m going to talk about next Wednesday. Monday, another cheerful topic — Stalinism. We will go from there. Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll see you.
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