Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Useful Idiots And Conditional Surrender In WW2
In WW2 Bishop George Bell of Chichester and Basil Liddell Hart were both opposed to the Allies' decision in January 1943 to adopt a policy of unconditional surrender by Germany. The "Good Germans" had been led into the war by Hitler and his Nazis, indeed the weak foreign policy of France and Britain had forced Hitler, a reasonable statesman into a war that he had never planned nor desired - the impish AJP Taylor's donnish joke in his Causes of the Second World War (indeed, as a result of the book some very literal-minded mouth-breathers believe that A. Schickelgruber was easily led :) and it was all our fault and everything that Britain did was wrong (for example, the anti -area bombing Fotherington-Tomas crowd who with the touchingly simple faith that the American Norden bombsight could "drop a bomb from 20,000 ft into a pickle-barrel" in daylight). I shall return to that fallacy later.
What were the terms that a non-Nazi Germany would have agreed to to end the war? Apparently, Colonel Claus Stauffenberg (the 20 July 1944 bomb plotter) had two contacts with the British, via go-betweens (was one of the contacts, Bishop George Bell in Sweden?) According to my copy of the excellent "The Nazi Germany Sourcebook by Roderick Stackelberg and Sally A. Winkle, p312,
May I suggest you buy a copy for reference as it's packed with translations of interesting documents.
Stauffenberg had written a memo on 25 May 1944 setting out the plotters' terms of negotiation (I've italicised my comments):
1 Immediate abandonment of aerial warfare (so the joint efforts of Bomber Command and the US 8th AF were working - is it unreasonable to wonder if Bishop Bell had been prompted to make his infamous February 1944 House of Lords speech against the RAF's bomber offensive to help his German friends and, disturbingly, albeit unwittingly, abet the German war effort?)
2 Abandonment of invasion plans.
3 Avoidance of further bloodshed. (Except in the East and see point 11 below).
4 Continuing function of defensive strength in the East. Evacuation of all occupied regions in the North, West and South. (To concentrate forces in the East. One presumes the pro-German puppet regimes in the formerly occupied countries would remain in place, along with the schemes of forced supply of labour and materials.
5 Renunciation of any occupation.
6 Free government, independent self-chosen constitution.
7 Full cooperation in the carrying out of truce conditions and in peace preparations.
8 Reich border of 1914 in the East (ie West Prussia and Upper Silesia taken from Poland).
Retention of Austria and the Sudetenland within the Reich.
Autonomy of Alsace-Lorraine.
Acquisition of the Tyrol as far as Bozen, Meran.
9 Vigorous reconstruction with joint efforts for European reconstruction.
10 Nations to deal with own criminals (this was important for the plotters as most, if not all, could have been indicted for war crimes, especially those who had served on the Eastern Front (eg the Commissars and Severity Orders).
11 Restoration of hour, self-respect and respect for others (well, the murder of the Hungarian Jews hadn't yet begun).
Thus, the Wehrmacht plotters wanted to turn back the clock to 13 September 1939 with no apologies and no questions asked. Just as if five years of killing and destruction hadn't taken place. Does anyone still consider that unconditional surrender was the wrong policy?
Update 21 October 2013: The murder of fifty recaptured RAF and other air force escapers from the Great Escape breakout at Stalag III on the night of 23-24 March 1944 took place after Bishop Bell's infamous February 1944 House of Lords speech attacking the area bombing campaign. Any causation between the two events?