Under Hitler, Germany began an intense rearming effort exceeding the quota in quantity and quality set by the victors in the first world war, without ever being challenged or handed a protest. Alsace Lorraine was a regional part of Gaul (France in antiquity) during the heyday of the Roman empire. It changed hands between France and Germany several times since, reverting back to France at the end of the first world war. In 1936 or 1937 (don't quote me on the time) the German army occupied the province. The plan was to pull back at the first sign of a challenge from France, as Germany wasn't quite ready for war. France didn't challenge. The bluff worked emboldening the nazis to undertake further conquests.

In the late thirties, the fascists in Spain, led by the dictator, Francisco Franco, mounted an insurrection against the government there. Germany and Italy supplied the fascists with weapons and aided with their air forces. The Soviets made a feeble effort to aid the Republicans, but to no avail. Their help was too little, too late, and the fascists emerged victorious. What naturally followed was the customary savage torture and slaughter of the Republicans and their sympathizers. This treatment was accorded equally to men, women and children.

In 1936 or 1937 comrade Stalin unleashed one of his bloody purges on his army. Thousands of officers, some of the best, including generals, were declared enemies of the people and summarily executed. He thus lost some of the ablest officers. It seemed a gross insanity and to this day no one knows the reason. Somewhat later (I think in 1938) the Soviets mounted an offensive against Finland. It was a huge failure. It ended after the Soviets suffered considerable reverses sustaining enormous losses in men and materiel. This embarrassing defeat exposed the U.S.S.R. as a paper tiger and the lesson of their weakness wasn't lost on Germany. That debacle took the luster off of our hope in the Soviets' ability to come to our aid to repel German aggression.

In 1938 Hitler bared his teeth. Austria was occupied without a shot being fired. In fact, most Austrians were delirious about it. Soon after, Hitler turned his irredentist attention to Czechoslovakia. He demanded the cession by Czechoslovakia of the "Sudetten" province inhabited by an ethnic German majority. In case of refusal there would be war. This was a region bordering Germany where we had the strongest fortifications without which we would be completely vulnerable. The demand was naturally rejected even though by this time our country was almost completely surrounded. To the north, west and south was Germany. To the south Hungary and north-east Poland. We only had one small stretch of border with Rumania to the east. Poland, although a Slav nation, was also our enemy. The Polish nobility which wielded the power in Poland, harbored resentment towards the Czechs. Our country was too democratic to suit their taste. Hungary with its nobility and fascist system of government was more to their liking. Besides, Poland coveted part of Czech territory which was inhabited by a few Poles. However, we still clung to our faith in our friends, Britain and France, until late in 1938, when our sun began to set. That was when Neville Chamberline, the British prime minister, negotiated away the Sudetten, handing it over to Hitler on a silver platter in exchange for a worthless promise of peace, which turned out in a short time to be a fraud. The Czech delegation was being humiliated by being kept in the hall, and ushered in to the negotiating interior to be coerced into signing the agreement concluded by the delegations of France, England and Herr Hitler. Thus our loyal friends sold us out. When Chamberline returned to England after completion of this infamous treacherous act, he got off the plane waving a piece of paper and declaring "Peace in our time" to the rapturous cheers of those present. Later, when Britain became involved in the war, Winston Churchill made the following remark, alluding to this episode. "We had a choice between shame and war, we chose shame and we have war."

Prior to our loss of the Sudetten, the local Germans were incited by the nazis of the Third Reich to launch a campaign of subversion. The local Germans responded with alacrity, acquitting themselves with typical German thoroughness. There were riots, sabotage, and all kinds of acts of terrorism including murder of Czech policemen and soldiers. After the war

ended the Sudetten reverted back to Czechoslovakia and all the Germans were told to pack, take only what they could carry and dispatched to Germany, leaving all their property behind. Their houses, furniture and fields were given to those that fought in the Czech brigade.

As soon as we lost the Sudetten, all kinds of disturbances beset the republic. The Slovaks began agitating for secession, and the Ruthenians demanded full autonomy. This turbulence ended on March 15 when the wall caved in. That's when German troops invaded and occupied Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, promptly installed a puppet regime in Slovakia, Hungary occupied Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia and Poland, not to be outdone in the melee, bit off a piece of Silesia. There was dancing in the streets in Poland and their troops hailed as conquering heroes.


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Boris Segelstein