A History of the Twentieth Century: Volume 2, 1933-1951

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9780380713943: A History of the Twentieth Century: Volume 2, 1933-1951

The world was still reeling from the ravages of the century's first Great War when a dramatic and inexorable chain of events set it afire once again. In the Second World War, forty-six million people would lost their lives, and deep and lasting upheavals would cast the world's social and political life into turmoil for decades to come.

Martin Gilbert's three-volume history of the century continues with an enthralling narrative that documents the attempts to preserve human values, to maintain the rule of law, and to uphold the rights and dignity of the individual. Gilbert shows how the conflicts of nations and the aspirations of their rulers served both to threaten humankind through war and civil war, in many regions of the globe, and to create a fairer and more fulfilling life for hundreds, even thousands, of millions of people. For more than four decades, the United States and the Soviet Union -- joint victors in the struggle against Germany and Japan--struggled to establish the primacy of their respective systems, while the specter of nuclear war threatened to become a terrible reality.

The world was still reeling from the ravages of the century's first Great War when a dramatic and inexorable chain of events set it afire once again. In the Second World War, forty-six million people would lost their lives, and deep and lasting upheavals would cast the world's social and political life into turmoil for decades to come.

Martin Gilbert's three-volume history of the century continues with an enthralling narrative that documents the attempts to preserve human values, to maintain the rule of law, and to uphold the rights and dignity of the individual. Gilbert shows how the conflicts of nations and the aspirations of their rulers served both to threaten humankind through war and civil war, in many regions of the globe, and to create a fairer and more fulfilling life for hundreds, even thousands, of millions of people. For more than four decades, the United States and the Soviet Union--joint victors in the struggle against Germany and Japan--struggled to establish the primacy of their respective systems, while the specter of nuclear war threatened to become a terrible reality.

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About the Author:

Martin Gilbert is Winston Churchill's biographer and the author of eight acclaimed books on the Holocaust. He lives in London.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

If fair-dealing be taken away,

what are kingdoms

but brigandage on a large scale.

SAINT AUGUSTINE

DURING 1933 much of the world was preoccupied with the consolidation of Nazi -rule in Germany. There was intense curiosity, and even anxiety, about what the new German government really intended. The imposition of domestic tyranny went hand in hand with Germany's repeated public protestations of international peaceful intentions. Yet even as the tyranny within Germany was being directed at those who were considered enemies of the regime, a wave of skillfully organized enthusiasm led to widely reported demands for the carrying out of Nazi ideals. During the first days of May, Nazi students demonstrated against what they called 'non-German culture', demanding an end to what they characterized as alien, and especially socialist and Jewish, influences. Those influences had hitherto been an integral part of German life and culture. On 1 May 1933, the traditional May Day of the working classes, the National Socialist Workers Unions organized a Day of National Work, complete with demonstrations and banners, reminiscent of the great working-class spectacles of earlier years, but with a total hostility to the socialist work ethic and aspirations of the past. The traditional theme of international solidarity was replaced by the call for national renewal. In proclaiming a 'holy day of national labour', Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, Dr Josef Goebbels --- the leading propagandist of Nazism --- declared: 'Germans of all estates, lineages, and professions, join hands! In serried ranks we march into the new age.'

On the day after May Day, the buildings of the Socialist Trade Unions were occupied by the Nazis, and all German trade union leaders arrested. This operation was organized by Robert Ley, a chemist by profession, and one of Hitler's earliest supporters, who established a German Labour Front, to be the sole representative of the German working man. In explaining the sudden destruction of the existing trade unions, Ley declared: 'Workers, your institutions are sacred and unassailable to us National Socialists. I myself am a poor son of peasants and have known poverty. I swear to you that we shall not only preserve everything you have, we shall extend the rights of the worker in order that he might enter the new National Socialist State as an equal and respected member of the nation.'

Not only the traditional ideals of organized labour but the century-old evolution of German culture was under attack, and not in Germany alone. In Vienna, on May 9, Nazi university students defied the Austrian authorities to raise the Swastika banner, and, as students left the lecture halls, to set upon them with truncheons and sticks studded with nails, crying out, in the words of the Daily Telegraph correspondent, G.E.R Gedye: 'Hail, Hitler, Perish the Jews.' [The first cry soon became universally known in its German form: Heil, Hitler. The second was Juda verrecke. (Verrecken is slang for To kick the bucket).]

Gedye added: 'The students, including girls, were driven into the lecture room and tried to barricade the door against the Nazi attacks. Many jumped from first floor windows into the street, sustaining nasty injuries.'

On the following day, May 10, in Berlin, the Public Prosecutor ordered the immediate confiscation of all the property and funds of the Socialist Party and its allies. All Socialist newspapers were confiscated and the assets of all Socialist organizations seized. It was a final blow to such freedom of Socialist expression that remained: since Hitler had come to power three months earlier the number of Socialist newspapers had declined from well over a hundred to less than twenty.

That midnight, in the square facing the Berlin Opera House, and the university, a bonfire of books was lit, photographs of which were to appear within twenty-four hours on the front pages of hundreds of newspapers around the world. But many of the reports of the event poured scorn on it. Under the headline 'SYMBOLIC' HOLOCAUST' DAMPED BY RAIN AND APATHY, the Daily Telegraph Berlin correspondent, Eustace B. Wareing, wrote:

The symbolical burning at the stake of Jewish, 'Marxist' and pacifist books which took place here this evening must have been a disappointment to its organizers. The ceremony was damped not only by a heavy and prolonged shower of rain, but also by apathy on the part of the public.

As the Opera House Square in which the holocaust was accomplished was reserved for the students and their friends, the only part of the ceremony visible to the wider public was the torchlight procession by which the condemned volumes were escorted to the bonfire.

But, though the route followed was not more than two or three miles long, there were, even before the rain began, stretches of as much as one hundred yards on which not a single spectator was stationed.

It was quite obvious that the mass of the population is not interested in 'the fight against the un-German spirit'.

The procession itself was rather a poor spectacle. It was mainly composed of a few thousand young Nazis, some in the orthodox Storm Detachment uniform, some in the white shirts of the Nazi sporting students, and some, who were lucky in having overcoats, in ordinary civilian dress.

There was a small group of Steel Helmet youths, a smattering of girls, and a few dozen schoolboys as a tail to the procession. A Nazi band took the lead, and the students sang their patriotic songs as they marched.

'The condemned books were carried in two or three tradesmen's delivery vans,' the correspondent wrote. 'There can hardly have been more than one volume for each member of the escort. The total number collected was under 20,000, and a few hundred weight were sold to a dealer for pulping.'

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