"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Sunday, September 02, 2012

This day in history

On the 3rd of September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany.  How late it was.  Too late for Czechoslovakia, as everyone knows - but too late also to stop the rape of Poland as well.

There's always reason to remember days like this but what I'm finding is that in this job there are additional details that come one's way that makes you see these events as through a window that has just been cleaned.  On a personal note it's my mother's eightieth on Tuesday, which means this would have been the day before her seventh birthday.  But what's struck home is the manner in which this subject, something to which I'm returning after a couple of years absence professionally, moves and animates my Polish students.  Too young to remember obviously, and too young also to grasp the implications of being born and brought up in a nation that has forged its identity between the hammer and anvil of Germany and Russia - yet one gets the sense that it is felt pretty deeply nonetheless.

That there is a lazy and complacent view of those in the British establishment who pursued the policy of Appeasement is something I would agree with up to a point.  Easy to judge the generation who had lived through the Great War and the industrialised carnage of Passchendaele, Verdun or the Somme - this last, I think I'm right in saying, holds the record for the largest number of causalities in a single day.  But such contextualising can only take one so far.  On Chamberlain Michael Burleigh writes that Appeasement was a policy that he persisted with, "to the point where it had all the inflexibility of an ideological conviction or religious belief".  It should also be remembered that Churchill not only lived through the Great War but saw active service on the Western Front, having resigned his post after the catastrophe of Gallipoli.  He understood the horrors of war but thought that there were worse fates that humanity could endure.  It's not as easy to accept this proposition as some assume but it is the truth nonetheless.  
 

1 comment:

Paulie said...

"Appeasement was a policy that he persisted with, "to the point where it had all the inflexibility of an ideological conviction or religious belief"."

Rings a few bells, that one does...

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