tv Lectures in History Origins of World War II in Europe CSPAN June 30, 2019 12:00pm-1:21pm EDT
-resident hawkins talksn about his group's new report on political polarization and the gap between partisans. our c-span's washington journal monday morning. join the discussion. next on lectures in history, professor robert weiner teaches a class on the origins of world war ii in europe. he describes how the british and french governments initially saw soviet russia as a bigger threat than the fascists in germany and italy. -- appeasement efforts with hitler's and military unpreparedness. >> glad to see all of you here tonight. we had one burning question before class.
i don't know if the individual has the courage to ask that question. is that possible? you want to do that? >> ok. >> all right. >> i asked if that picture was you. >> well, it's part of me. this is maurice jacob weiner, my father. and this lecture is in honor of him. my grandmother, his mother, was functionally illiterate in english. spoke yiddish. never really learned the language. he graduated third in his class in high school and won a scholarship to law school where he also boxed and ran track. he was drafted at age 35 when my mom was pregnant, came home. really didn't mind the war. now, he was a nifty guy.
and i think one of the main reasons i'm doing this tonight is because of him, because he used to have me sit while he shaved every morning, which was quite a scene. and he would quote the gettysburg address or quote from shakespeare but above all, he would talk about world war ii. so i knew about the battle of the bulge when i was five years old. i know the differences in the airplanes, all of that stuff. and most of all, i had a passion for learning, as a result of his influence. every time i brought home a new book of 300 pages, he would usually read it overnight before i could even open it up. and what i've had the privilege to do for the rest 50 years at lafayette college is what he ought to have done himself, although one did not do those things 70 years ago.
if you were a new immigrant in the united states. people who taught and did research at major colleges and universities were largely from the old elites. and that was even partly true when i came here, in 1969. so tonight, we're gonna be continuing our discussion of europe, in this case in the 1930's. and i know that a number of you did get here in the ice to see the films from the lawrence reese collection on the nazis. and given what you've been doing each week and given the journals i'm going to give back to you later tonight, and the level of their quality, i know you're ready for tonight's lecture also. and you can interrupt and ask questions and we'll have plenty
of time also for our normal process and questions afterwards. and because of that, i'm going to handle the topic somewhat differently than is normally done, more in a sort of french pattern. the french -- in the beginning, the french diplomatic scholars often studied the underlying structures of society, the deep forces that set the context for developments in any particular age. and if diplomacy in the 1930's is a story of a perfect storm, it is largely because of those underlying structures. so i'm going to deal with them rather analytically and then
stop along the way and give you some additional detail with respect to crises in the way that is done in the book. now i brought along some of my toys as i usually do. you don't have to buy this and read it all immediately, but we're really lucky to have "the history of modern europe." this is a new edition, 2018. and merriman received the award for lifetime achievement from the american historical association last year. and i may quote from that once today. and we have another torry, bernard wassersteen, author of about 10, 12 books or so. we may be reading this, or the second part of it, as our final book. i got into it enough to realize that it's a brilliant read just
like ian kershaw's materials. and it's a worthy follow-up from ian kershaw's work. so diplomacy in the 1930's, and i'm going to give you a whole series of categories of things and talk about them not in any particular order of more important or less important but they are all interacting together so in foreign policy, the following general themes should be kept in mind for the 1930's. domestic and international domestic and international events were inextricably combined. and the great depression casts a
shadow over everything and over so many of the choices that people made. it doesn't mean they couldn't have made other choices. they could have made other choices. human agency during this decade is extremely important, just look at the career of adolf hitler and the choices he made in the middle of the depression. but many other political leaders faced with a depression couldn't make radical or clear decisions because the depression touched everything that they thought about. because of the great depression, there was a tremendous amount of domestic instability all over.
and that domestic instability also came from the enduring impact of the russian revolution, the fear of socialism and even more the fear of communism all over europe, not just in the neighbor states to the soviet union but all the way to the west, indeed all the way to the united states, because the soviets had an international communist organization. the common tern that sent agents all over the world to find out what was going on, to encourage domestic radicalism. and it was like the c.i.a. in a sense, as an international organization. although the functions were what different. but they were real, even though
often we over-exaggerated them. so that also created a lot of domestic radicalization, fragmentation, a little bit like what we experience today in the sense of people toward one another, in the sense of politicians toward one another and the difficulty of working together and the assumptions people had and the fears they had and the suspicions they had and the stereotypes they had. so let me give you just an example of how all of that might work out in a particular crisis. in march of 1936, hitler remilitarized the rhineland, the borderline, as a result of
the treaty of versailles, but also as a result of the 1925 treaty that germany had willingly agreed to, had that land remained demilitarized, that would have meant that the french would have access of 50 miles of demilitarized german territory should a conflict take place. it was an extremely, extremely important development and the french responded very poorly to it. one reason was the depression. the military indicated that in order to be sure that they would prevail over the germans, if they went into the rhineland and attacked, they needed to have a general mobilization.
a general mobilization in the middle of a depression. but it would not only have been a general mobilization in the middle of a depression, it occurred when in fact there was a cabinet change in if process. france had a government, but it was a caretaker government. and that happened a number of times. it was a disastrous decision. we'll go into it a little more later. but the same thing occurred in march of 1938 when the germans annexed austria, the so-called annexation of austria by germany, adding another eight, nine million people to the reich. france, again, had a caretaker government, which means it did
not have full national support. in that particular kind of structure, it's very, very difficult to make choices. and there were near civil wars in many of the countries of europe and states were afraid of doing anything that could lead to a civil war or that could lead to an international conflict. both of those things are functioning at the same time constantly. in order to survive, in fact, most states used some kind of emergency decrees, including states even like belgium. or like france, during the popular front. usually they were for short periods of time. and that was very, very
difficult as well. the leader of the popular front, bloom, in order to carry out further social reforms, asked for emergency decree power over the economy from the french senate. sort of like what has been happening in the united states recently. who has the power to govern in extra-constitutional ways. and the french senate refused him the power, because he was a socialist. the next government is more moderate and they're given the power to reform the economy further. i'm going to talk about this at greater length in a minute. but obviously, in this kind of environment, with the continued
polarization, the continued unemployment, the continued domestic instability, the dictators of any kind have an easier time really making decisions and getting things done than liberal democratic leaders who are always looking over their shoulders to see what are the political implications of any decision that they might make. globally, and you can't study europe without studying the globe either. globally the world was divided, between the haves and the have-not states. with the haves trying to keep what they had, and the biggest of the haves are britain and
france and also the united states. and the have-not states trying to revise the situation to get more. well, you might be surprised by some of the states that were revisionist. germany obviously is revisionist, wants to get rid of the treaty. but italy is also revisionist. not content with what it had. hungary is revisionist, not content with what it had. japan is somewhat revisionist, although it did very well in world war i. but japan also is going through its depression, getting worse by the year, leading to the fall of the closest thing the japanese had ever had in the 1920's of the liberal constitutional government by the early 1930's, it was a militarily dominated government in which, in many
cases, the military undertakes external aggression even, without any civilian control whatsoever, as the japanese did in nigeria in 1932. russia was somewhat revisionist, although it was far more defensive than aggressive. the soviets expected sooner or later that the western capitalist powers would find a way to attack them. and the west feared that somehow the soviets would be successful in trying to undermine our
systems of government as well, each stereotyped the other and forgot to look at the map. ok. all the times we've talked about the impact of geography. and this is extremely, extremely important. the powers were divided, as i implied, constitutionally as well as ideologically. so constitutionally, what form of a government do you happen to have? in many, many cases, that was less important than the ideological divisions. conservatives in england, for example, had no difficulty with forms of dictatorship in other countries, as long as those dictatorships were not hostile to the interests of the british
empire. and here again, the british empire was overextended and had interests all over the globe. and you would think that overwhelmingly, the first and only thing on their mind would be the growing power on the continent of adolf hitler, but their military spent almost as much time, especially until the late 1930's, fearing the expansion of the japanese and their capacity to undermine the british empire in asia. so they were overextended, especially during the depression. and their vision was divided. and areas of their empire were trying to rebel and gain more autonomy or even independence. the french faced the same kind
of problem on a less intense level. there were colonial rebelians. the french were deeply concerned about that. but the british was so associated with empire. and even the defense was associated with empire because of the role the empire had played in world war i, especially australia, new zealand, canada. and these independent countries no longer wanted to be part of going to war again in europe. yes? >> i have a question. >> sure. >> so were there any, like, events going on throughout the world at that time that triggered the rise up of the -- like the small countries wanting to be independent from those -- >> oh, absolutely. many, many. just name the geographical area
and you're gonna get things that were important and one of the other things that shadows this whole time period, which i'm going to deal with later is of course the enduring impact of world war i. ok. so many tens of thousands of native soldiers come to europe, serve in the allied armies, expect to be compensated for their loyalty in some way, in the same way as african-americans in the united states, risking their lives, giving their lives. and they go home and nothing's changed. and after things settle down a bit, it's as though they didn't do anything at all, when they know they risked their lives. beside that, just the act of the bloodbath of europe. the genocidal nature of world war i led people all over the world to question what many of
them had accepted as the superiority of european culture. if this is a superior culture, what is it doing? so that on their minds, the whole nature of european empire as well. and it undermines the nature of people's attitudes toward life as well, toward defense or toward offense as well. and, again, the dictatorships are far more able to canalize those feelings and act upon them. so it's important to recognize that the german people supported adolf hitler the most when he brought home gains with peace, such as after the munich crisis in september of 1938. now, yes, when he went into
poland and slaughtered the pols in six weeks, they loved it also, even though there were losses involved, larger losses than most people recognize. the pols fought bravely. but still, that was a gain, after hitler conquers france in the summer, june of 1940, of course. there's a tremendous wealth of german pride. but basically where they felt most proud and happy and secure is when hitler was destroying the treaty of versailles, step by step peacefully, and after every single event, he said that's my last concession that i need, especially after the land in czechoslovakia, 1938. now let's talk about peace. he always offered the possibility of peace, especially
in the west, and he also took the position that he was the defender of western christian civilization against atheistic bolshevisn. any other questions while we stopped? if you want, your call. ok. so the powers are divided this way. and fascism, interestingly, which we come to consider in some ways the greatest of all evil, later was among the european elites, especially in
the west, considered less pernicious and dangerous than communism. because in the fascist country, even if national socialist germany, if you were not one of the designated groups, if you didn't rebel, if you disagreed but kept your mouth shut, life went on. and in some ways, conditions even improved for the majority of people and overwhelmingly, property was respected. people's right to go to church was respected, even though both italy and germany were undermining the meaning of christianity from the get-go, signing agreements with the papacy, then going on their own way, doing what they wanted to propagandize their populations, especially the youth, male and female even. but they were left of the threat, even in the case of the united states. mussolini, until he attacked
ethiopia, was kind of thought of as a good old boy. and the italian-americans were pretty proud, for the most part, of what he had accomplished, because he brought back pride to the italian people, who always had a sense of that, feeling in world war ii that they didn't get their fair share and that their armies didn't do well and they were an immigrant population also that needed reinforcement just as i do with my cane, although i'm doing all right for now. so, russia was consigned as the ultimate enemy in the minds of almost every power in the west, in a structure that reminds me
of the 30 years war of the 17th century, where protestants killed catholics and catholics killed protestants in ultimate acts of slaughter. jews caught in the middle. there, after a while, they realized that this is mindless and can't continue but it was a while. it took 100 years. and if you look at the 20th century, it also took about a hundred years to get through all of this. but, again, how did france survive in world war i? what was the most important thing that allowed france to survive in world war i? >> its alliance with russia. >> it's the russian alliance, which forces the german army to divide its forces, and the second would be the impact of the brits.
but the russians in the beginning even more so, right? it hadn't changed. here's russia still. now, liberal pragmatic french diplomats understood that so much that they even formed a non aggression pact with the russians in 1935, which is ratified by the french chamber in february of 1936. in fact, hitler used that as the excuse to remilitarize the rhind land. perfect for the brits. they loved it. look, they are making an alliance with the bolsheviks, the judeo-bolsheviks. this is -- he said, we must be able to defend ourselves.
that's why we have to remilitarize the rhineland. the french go to the brits and the brits say we don't want any part of this. don't go further with this. or you cannot count on us. so they actually have a military pact that they do nothing to strengthen for three whole years while hitler is making his gains all across central europe. the french and the russian military never gets together until finally, after germany invades prague in march of 1939, taking for the first time non-german territory and therefore making it clear that his policy is not just a policy of germanic expansion,
pan-germanism, but of domination of europe. but meanwhile, the russians are out in the cold. and when the french and british finally begin to negotiate with them, they do so in such a dittering and incompetent way that the russians can no longer take them seriously. in fact, until that time, the russian foreign minister, who believed in collective action against hitler, didn't trust the capitalist countries, but against something like hitler, you got to unite. his name was maxime litvinov. he was jewish. stalin fires him at that point, when he decides to substitute
anything with the west with a temporary alliance with german, which approaches him and can offer him more. so molotov becomes the russian foreign minister, because he can negotiate. and then you get this bombshell of a surprise of the nazi-soviet pact. that's the green light for war. the british cannot swallow or stomach a real agreement with russia and act upon it. but hitler can, because he has no intention of continuing it and he'll break it whenever he wants. the british and the french forgot whatever partial lessons of history they should have learned. they forgot how to read a map.
the russians had an alliance with the czechs. they were committed to helping to protect the czechs if the french engaged. nobody wanted to be a dupe of the other powers. the russians feared that all the west wanted is for them to fight germany while they sit back and enjoy the two destroying each other. and there was enough evidence of that to make that a reality in someone's mind and not just a fantasy, even though what the british and french really wanted is a peaceful settlement of everything and not a war between russia and german, which could have gotten out of control and led to their being brought in itself. in terms of how deeply people thought about this, the head of
the polish army in 1939, smidley ridz, or rids smidley, said if defeated by germany, we lose our honor. if defeated by russia, we lose our soul. so they were totally unwilling to allow russian soldiers to pass through poland to go to be able to fight germany because they were afraid they would never leave. and indeed, after the war, they didn't leave for a long time, right? but the british and the french did not press the pols to make
and the germans were willing to pay off graciously and greatly, giving russian control of half of poland and most of the baltic states, except lithuania. and in return, the russians paid back with all kinds of supplies and materiel and good will for the next two years, until hitler attacked the soviet union, his fatal mistake, in june of 1941. another example of how this ideological struggle was so deeply important in undermining the capability of the states to function in a reasonable way, creating what i call a perfect storm. you know that the spanish civil war broke out in july of 1936. it lasted for three years. it was covered in the newspapers and newsreels. daily you could read about it. it was a prelude in its ideology to the war that would occur three years later between germany and the rest of europe. so you would think that the british and the french would want to maintain the power and the existence of the legal republic, even though the republic was a little bit more radical than they would normally have countenanced. the powers signed a non intervention treaty in november of 1936, which hitler and mussolini, now drawn together,
planes, training of pilots. supply, materiel, and everything else. their army ended being for more capable and far strongerment and they would -- far stronger and they would take those lessons later into world war ii. the soviets matched them on some level but not too much. and they came because of that to control the forces of the republic in spain. and it was an example, again, of the pathetic infighting between various parties on the left. the communists came to dominate over the anarchists and other socialist groups, because russia was giving them weapons and money and training and soldiers and tanks just as germany did, although germany did it and even italy did it, in far greater quantities. but that undermined the domestic situation all over europe and
especially in britain and france. it was like a running sore. the british elites favored franco. whether he was fascist or just a reactionary dictator, he was aligned with the church and they favored franco. the french elite favored franco. bloom, who we've talked about, and whose speech you may have read about, at the congress of tour, moderate socialist leader of the popular front government
in france at that time, has a blockage of guilt in his gut because he's watching with open eyes, the right wing and fascists, defeating republican forces and all he can do is mildly support the republican forces for a while. why? because the british have said to him, do not get involved in this mess. you're on your own if you do. but equally so, france was so divided ideologically that the fear was that if the french sent large amounts of equipment, on the one hand it could lead to a war with germany but on the other hand, it could have led to a civil war in france. and that was a possibility people took very, very seriously. french people in the 1930's came
to hate and fear each other. bloom was dragged out of his vehicle and beaten, to an inch of his life, and sent to the hospital by radical right wing forces when he found his way at the wrong place, at the wrong time. and the right wing radical forces all said, good for him. he got what he deserved. it was appalling. but it happened. and that's because, again, of that ideological radicalization. so the world itself was an unstable place. and especially in britain and france. france much more than britain. although britain struggled to defend its unwieldy empire. and france struggled just to hold together the republic during the depths of the depression but when did world war ii actually begin? and what was it anyway? well, let's see.
i ran across this. john merriman. jan is about 6-foot-4, little guy, brilliant. how many people do you think died during the japanese attack on china? anyone have any idea? we're talking about a world war now, right? >> maybe 15 million. 50 million. >> 50? 30 million people died in the japanese war against china, which began in 1932, leading japan to leave the league of nations. the western powers all protested and then did nothing. the league of nations was basically dead after that point,
really stop them militarily. and that's why they took the another example. italy and germany, well, ideologically, aren't they more alike? but historically, the italians didn't like the germans very much. they got smashed by them in world war i and the germans didn't respect the italians at all. hitler happened to respect mussolini, the elder states person. but until 1935, italy was a more consistent, hard-core opponent of german expansion than either britain or france. and she did this by trying to protect the independence of austria, so there would be space between italy and germany. would you want germany on your border? but at the same time, mussolini had big eyes for empire.
and he was jealous of what hitler was doing and he was jealous of the british empire and jealous of the french empire and wanted equivalent status for himself and for the italian people. so when he goes into ethiopia thinking, well, the british and french have done nothing about german expansionism, why should they oppose what i'm doing? he uses airplanes, poison gas, against people with primitive weapons. it's on newsreels. it turns the stomach of people in britain and france. yes, you can say they were somewhat hypothetical. they were doing some of the same their
colonies, right? but it turns their stomach and they start embargoing certain things. italy gets extremely upset. they leave the league of nations. and it pushes mussolini toward hitler. and the spanish civil war finalizes that. so in 1938, when hitler wants to move on austria, he now is fairly certain italy will allow it. in 1934, when there was an assassination of an austrian dictator by national socialists, mussolini mobilized his army. and hitler backed away. by 1938, they are so close that
in the middle of all of this, the british and the french have different conceptions of the impact of the war. the nature of foreign policy, the nature of what should be done, the meaning of the treaty, and even the role of germany in europe. at least until 1936, france was somewhat more independent. and it attempted to have an all europe policy. to stay in line with the states on the east of germany in some
ways to be able to cut germany's freedom of movement. so too the french. the existence and independence of the czech state with whom they had an alliance was very important. and the soviets also had an alliance, as i mentioned before, with the czechs. the french also had alliances with yugoslavians and romanians. but the british didn't view that as significant. they had a western system of defense. england's defense begins on the rhine. france itself. the british were not against the revision of the portions of the treaty of versailles that were abhorrent to germany.
in some cases, they were more sympathetic to the germans, who were viewed as having been mistreated at versailles. and not guilty of starting world war i alone. and jealous in some cases and angry at the french's small-mindedness and attachment to legalities. the british elites, who actually came into government, stanley baldwin, and chamberlain, believed in appeasement as a policy. now, it has come to have a horrendous meaning, after world war i. appeasement equals munich. munich equals appeasement. and sometimes that takes on a
stereotype, an ideology, and a life of its own that can be blinding against the needs of a particular time period. baldwin's sense of appeasement was passive. you may have read one of the speeches he gave in which, in 1932, he says, the bomber will always get through. well, how about that for stiffening up your spine? the bomber will always get through. if we have another war, we may win the war, but london is going to be bombed, right? industrial england is going to be bombed. no matter what we do. well, if you really believe that, i would think you would,
despite the depression, enlarge your air force. but they didn't make that decision to radically do it until very, very late. so it was late. it was 1938. germany was spending more on military expansion than both britain and france together. what's in your head? now, passive appeasement goes basically like this. hitler militarizes the rhineland. it's something we knew would happen, right? hitler announces that earlier, in 1935, that germany has an air force and that it's going to build an army of 500,000 men. well, the treaty of versailles limited it to 100,000, 500,000. that's a lot of people. but the french army was that large. so hitler said basically we don't need 500,000 men if the french disarm. but the french wouldn't disarm. besides, we need that army to protect ourselves against the soviets, especially now that
france has reached an alliance with the soviets. and it makes some sense, as long as you do not remember what the person is doing domestically to his own people. here's one of my favorite documents. not really. it's a sickening document. the great war leader of the world war i for britain goes to see hitler in november of 1936, and he has a very nice time with him. hitler knew how to schmooze, how to treat older people. when chamberlain would go see hitler, chamberlain ran down the steps -- hitler ran down the steps of chamberlain and he said, oh! you're older than i am, i should have gone to see you. i'm so sorry. i mean, he knew how to play it.
so lloyd george says, whatever one may think of his methods, and they are certainly not the methods of a parliamentary country, there can be no doubt that he has received the marvelous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude toward each other, and their social and economic outlook. and later he says the germans who resist to the death every invader of their own country, but they have no longer the desire themselves to invade any other land. this is 1936. they have broken the military clauses of versailles. they have introduced the nuremberg racial laws in 1936.
the prisons and concentration camps are full of political appointments and people are running to leave germany, who are not capable or willing to be part of a national socialist state. they intervene in the rhineland in 1936 and send tanks and planes and soldiers to spain. is this part of the wonderful public spirit that had been encouraged in germany? how can you possibly separate what is going on in germany internally from what germany is doing externally? the whole sense of the society
was being militarized. and yet david george, a brilliant statesman, was taken in. baldwin retires in may of 1937. and he is replaced by chamberlain. he doesn't believe in passive resistance. chamberlain believes in active appeasement. it's not enough to wait until the dictator moves and then try to soften up the impact of it and prevent a war. you want to anticipate what he may be doing. so you send lord halifax, the head of your council, to talk to hitler in 1937 and halifax returns with the same ideas of lloyd george. germany does not want war. i understand hitler. you can bet on it. that's not what they want. they just want the legitimacy of
getting back the things that were taken away from them after world war i and we can work with these people. franklin roosevelt, in 1938, offers to be part of an international conference. to talk to the dictators directly and see what they have in mind, publicly, make them fess up. and chamberlain says i don't want to be any part. get that man out of here. we don't need american intervention. this is 1938. we don't need american help because they're gonna mess it up. i know what my policy is and i'm gonna carry it out. and i believe in it. and i'm going to keep out of power people who disagree with me, like winston churchill, who just want to rearm and take the risk of going to war. so chamberlain goes to munich finally after the third meeting, as part of the third meeting
with hitler in the fall of 1938, over the czech crisis, and he comes back believing that hitler really won't go any further once he gets the land in western czechoslovakia where the majority of people are german. hitler says i have no further territorial demands. the french prime minister is sick to his stomach. the french signed a treaty with the czechs. the czechs were the only democratic state left in all of central europe. chamberlain says they're a far away country and a people of which we know very little. why should we take risks on their behalf?
vladiay knows that what they've done is cut the throat of an ally willing to fight and tossed them into hitler's hand. he just doesn't think france is ready, especially since britain will not support active opposition to hitler at that time. chamberlain comes home. gets out of the airport. comes down the steps. and holds up a piece of paper literally. and he says, i believe it's peace with honor. i believe it's peace in our time. vladiay goes home and looks at the crowds waiting at the airport and he discusses whether or not they should go somewhere else, because they're afraid the
crowd might lynch them for their betrayal of an ally. when they land, the crowds are joyous. vladiay says to the person next to him -- [speaking foreign language] >> but these people are mad. vladiay goes home and says, why didn't you fight? i could have fought. his father says, you will fought and it will be a long fight. but we just weren't ready yet. the cardinal archbishop of paris refuses to ring the church bells in honor of vladiay's return and he's castigated by the papacy for not doing so. so you can see how this is playing out.
so what about the only other power that really could have done something? serious, in all of this, that we talk about from time to time, our country. my first college, my second college research paper was on the rhineland crisis. i really wanted to write my ph.d. on it. but when that time came, somebody else had just published a book on it. but i did some very deep research on this crisis, when i was your age. and the point was that the french were simply unwilling, unable to conceive deeply about what they had gotten them into.
in some ways, it was a prelude to this. militaryude was french philosophy after world war i. rhine ined around the the early 1930's, not a bad idea except it cost a fortune. most of their funds went into the maginot line. a defensible work. what they learned of world war i was more people died when they than when they defended. the could not afford to attack me more. can you win a basketball game or football game with a great willingif you are not
to attack? if you are not willing to go to the rim? can you win a tennis game just waiting and standing behind the line. ? that's basic, common sense. but the total military elite, with the exception of one very important person, believed that had to be the way france protected itself in the future. theseance also had all of alliances on germany's soldiers. the french protect havee serbs if you only defensive lines? it is nonsense. non sense. there were a couple people in france who realized this. the person who most realized it
was named the golf, charles de gaulle. gaulle, charles de gaulle. he dedicated to his teacher, remember verdun? dedicated to him. what he basically talked about in this book was the need for mobile tank units to function independently. that's what the germans were learning in the spanish civil war and that's what the germans were learning when they read de book, and when they read books written by british generals as well. there's a french leader who in de gaulle,est renault --e is paul
naud. churchill.of like not as dynamic. a goodhearted, nationalist, economic conservative, learned some politician. -- long-term politician. ideasey take de gaulle's into the chamber of deputies in 1934. the idea is, of course the maginot line has to be maintained. it's important. as part of military philosophy, it is very significant and brilliant, brilliant like the eiffel tower, right? but not sufficient.
be able to attack as defend. elite entire military and against de gaulle's reynaud's ideas, and the minister of defense gets up and says when we have spent so many millions on our fortifications, who would believe is foolish --ugh to sally out in front believe us foolish enough to sally out in front of them in search of heaven knows what adventure? cool. a pacifist talking or is that a general? and they do to de gaulle in france what the british did to churchill. make him an outsider.
keep them out of power. a year and a half later, if they had had part of what de gaulle would not have needed general mobilization to put the germans out of the rhineland. the germans would later use their attacks on poland and then france. it's not that they did not have alternatives placed in front of them. but they did not accept these alternatives. finally, we have march of 1939. to took us about you. after hitler's it most of
czechoslovakia, the maggots came out. what is a maggot, and when do maggots come out? maybe this is too much on his part, but the maggots are the s and hungarians. itlerr's use -- h uses them to say it's not just us. czechoslovakia. and hungarians take parts of czechoslovakia also. meaning now they are on the german borders. they would have been there anyway once the germans attempt everything, but when you destabilize the state of germanyovakia, pushing further eastward, do you really
believe it will have no ef ort on you in hungary poland? this is the moment when the es becamef hitler's li blatantly obvious to everyone because in that part of attacked inia, he 1939, there were almost no ethnic germans. chamberlinwhen even said -- the guy has been lying to me all the time. how could he do that? how dare he do that. that's when the bulk of the population in france and great
--tain take the position enough enough. no more. you just broke your word, everything you have been saying has been based on fallacious assumptions. a german review are the coming attila. you want to dominate all of europe. while the british in the french are dillydallying , from 1936rearmament on, kittler is pushing mass every armament and tells the generals, within the next couple years, we are going to war, so prepare yourselves. soon.s going to be a war if a civil war breaks out in france, that's to time to go.
if a civil war breaks out somewhere else, that's the time to attack. if the japanese do something destabilizing, that is the time to march. id it have to happen because do not think i am going to live for another 10 years. it has to happen while i am still alive. and the generals get the picture. it's not what most of them wanted, not even the national socialist generals, but every single time he took a risk and and even don't do it national socialist let's do it, it works. if the french had moved on us,
we would have had to retreat with our tails between our legs, but the french did not move because de gaulle's tanks were not there. still building more than france and britain combined. , the single most important denominator is that knew onlyh and french what they did not want. see the massive trauma of world war i. the early invading mentality and common sense of ordinarily fairly
capable people. in, the french leadership the 1930's was not great. other than de gaulle and maybe last great one was assassinated in 1934. wasperson assassinating him from yugoslavia. it's one of the acts of history. it he is gone. suppose someone had assassinated hiller. that would have changed things. the french news -- the french .ew what they did not want they were traumatized culturally and psychologically, mentally by impact of world war i. most germans felt the same way. feltitalians, actually, the same way, but there were
strong minorities in their countries who felt differently. , world war iler was the peak experience of his life. it gave meaning to his life. he believed it was a natural part of the state of nature, general fund of hardy in 1911 in his book in which he said, i must provide proof to you that war is not only necessary, but essential for cultural advancement. war is essential to the species improving itself. hitler believed in that, but in totally racial terms. a combination of race and space. and he was willing to risk everything on behalf of that .deological belief
a racial empire dominating europe and we -- in which each race had its place in germany was on top of the heap and there place forrdinate every other group except for the removed. had to be and if removal was impossible, murders were possible. -- madey good workers good worker sometimes. they didn't need culture. they didn't need music. they didn't need art. they needed to work for germans. a lot of it, he was even become reading about
the history of the united states. we know about that now. for some people in the united states, that was the vision. for some people in the united states, that still is the vision. world war i dominated this whole period. great britain is not known historically for stupidity in diplomacy. they often start late, start to lose in the war zone then they dig in.n -- they crawl out. they persevere. they went. usually the brits are able to get others to fight for them. not after world war i. the french -- a glorious history of military success.
we don't think about that as americans to read most of our lives, they just have not been very strong. was 200 yearsory of dominating europe militarily, of producing great generals, thoughtful generals, brilliant generals. a french resistor, mark locke, before he was tortured to death wrote a book called "strange defeat," in which he criticized every group in france, but the bottom criticism was the french .efeat was a mental defeat 1870, the germans were smarter. every group in france did what it should not have been doing ioding the entire time per and just couldn't come together.
even though we had the lead. it's all of our mistakes, but the greatest mistakes, the economic elites, the military elites because they are the ones who have the power and they are the ones who could have changed the course of history, they are the ones who made the decisions. storm, francefect and which the only person who has real ideas that make some sense is ostracized and pushed effigy.d then hung in became a traitor to the vichy government. and the british, they did not face deeply severe internal
dislocation on the level of the french. why didn't they rearm? their industrial capacity in the beginning was greater than the german industrial capacity. why didn't they rearm? by 1940 they were producing as much or more than the germans. they put women in the factories. what they used later -- hitler did not put women in the factories until the end of the war. what they used later was laid labor. to produce it is to give voice to the fact that a war might take place, and that is where comesve comes in -- camus in in this course, the reading of camus. what we read on some level, though we will mess it up again
probably, in politics, in military affairs, and life in ,eneral, when there is a plague you need to name it. you need to recognize it. , if you recognize it, you may be able to rationally think, what do you need to do next? , if theyad named this had named this -- what does that mean? they would have had to accept it . a process of getting ready and going to war before they themselves were attacked, and they just did have the stomach for it. pillar -- adolf incredible advantage. he and the soviets could choose the time and the place, and the british and the french basically respond.t and
but this is also incredible because while they were waiting for germany to attack, the french military was considering how to aid the finns against the bolsheviks. why would you want to a defense against the bolsheviks when germany is right next to you? why would you want to aid the pentagon is the bolsheviks when germany is right next to you? that's part of the confusion. confusion. criminal negligence of the highest kind on the part of people who had plenty of reason to fear, but really should have known better. price they paid and the price all of us paid for their stupidity and mistakes and
lacked the courage and lock of lack ofof courage and foresight is part of the world we all live in. thank you for your attention. i will take your questions later. >> listen to "lectures in history" on the go, live ,treaming our podcast anywhere anytime. you're watching american history tv, only on c-span3. year, c-span's touring cities across the country, exploring american history. at a recent visit to detroit, michigan. americanatching history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. -- there is a statute