Tuesday, September 9, 2014



There aren't many old people in Africa, even South Africa.  On one of my trips to South Africa one of my young friends who teaches asked me, as someone who was around during WWII, to address an assembly at his school regarding the war.  I wrote and delivered the following.  I've added to this discourse from time to time.  I think you'll find a different slant on history.


Dif….er …Mr. Esterhuizen  has asked me to speak to you about the Second World War.  Not that I’m a historian…just that I was alive then.  Does anyone know when WWII began? 
That’s right the date we use is September 1939.  But was that really the start?  Everyone had been watching the rise of a very strict government in Germany which persecuted anyone not just like themselves and had begun attacking the neighboring countries.  They always had an excuse.  They took over Austria and Alcase-Lorraine because these were Germanic countries and they marched on Czechoslovakia because there were Germans there whom they said were being unfairly treated.  All of this happened before September 1939 but we let them get away with it because WWI had been so horrible.  You almost must know about WWI before you can understand the thinking immediately before WWII.  Maybe you’ve already studied WWI?  Do you know the dates?  http://tvo.org/video/205436/ep-1-fury
That’s right 1914 to 1918.  It was really horrible with men sitting for months in trenches with people near them being blown up by artillery shells and then if they survived being ordered out to charge across the open into the fire from machine guns.  My father had been shot straight through the chest and at first left for dead.  No one wanted to start another war like that so they tried every way to reason with the German leader Hitler.  Finally, in September 1939 the Germans invaded Poland with whom both France and Britain had treaties.  The thirties had been a time of economic depression and most countries had been reducing spending on armed forces except for Germany who now had a most fearsome army.  Everyone feared to resist them but attacking Poland was the last straw and finally the British and French declared war.
Ultimately, to understand the cause of WWII you must know the cause of WWI.  Surely it was not the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, surely that was just the spark.  I think that you here in South Africa are well placed to appreciate what lead up to WWI.  By 1800 each of the European powers had colonies around the World and could trade around the World visiting just ports they controlled.  The Germans however had not even joined the little kingdoms together to form a country.  Germans who wanted to go out to the colonies had to go to someone else's colony, U.S., South Africa, Argentina etc.  At one point the U.S. was 40% German speakers.  It took the Germans until 1870's to get it together, just in time for what has been described as the scramble for Africa when every scrap of the continent was claimed by one European power or another.  The Germans grabbed for the Southwest and East Africa but always somewhat under the control of the British navy who very much were the bullies of the World.  Insultingly, they kept the only really excellent harbour at Walvisbaai for themselves.  As an act of rebellion against British control the Germans shipped the famous Long Tom canons and rifles to the Boers through Maputo and many Germans and Danes actually fought for the Boer Republic in the Second Boer British War.  In preparation for WWI Germany built as much of a navy as they were able.  You will know that the British had sponsored herders to settle along the Nossob River so that there would be wells available when they decided to attack the Germans in the Southwest from behind.  All was set for war, all that was needed was the spark and this was provided by Gavrilo Princip.  
In my opinion WWII actually started in May of 1939 with the first attack by one of the Allies on one of  the Axis powers in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. 
In renewing my study of WWII, I am forced to a grudging admiration for Stalin in spite of his cruelties.  Beginning with the time of the Revolution everyone attacked Russia.  Thirteen countries including Canada actually invaded.  But the real attack throughout the 20's and '30's was an attack on Russian attempts to get any materials or co-operation with industrialization.  It was only by selling the wheat and starving the population that they had a limited success.
The Japanese had been fighting the Russians since their great victory over the Tzarist navy in the battle of Tsushima in 1905.  In the lead up to WWII they began forming an alliance with the Germans and Italians.  The logical move was for the three to come at Russia from all sides.  Stalin concentrated much of his strength in the East and then goaded the Japanese into the battle of Khalkhin Gol on the Siberian Manchurian border, which was the largest tank battle to that date, (May 1939) and in my opinion was the start of WWII.  This turned the Japanese south and involved the U.S.
During the several months of the Battle Stalin stalled off the Germans by signing a pact and pushing his Western boundary further west to slow the Germans. 
Without the grain sales and these military moves we would have the Third Reich with us yet.
During WWI, people began to realize that loyalty to the elites (now termed the 1%) just lead to the elites sending you to your death.  The thought of rule by the People (the 99%) lead to people's parties, labour movements and socialist or communist parties everywhere.  The German elites and later the Naziis attributed their loss to the 'communists'.  Throughout the thirties elites from America (including Joseph Kennedy) and Britain (including Prince Edward) all trouped off to visit Hitler.  They clearly sided with Germany and detested the Communists!  Meanwhile the people's groups throughout the World agitated for power.  When a clear fight between Communists and Fascists broke out in Spain with Germany and Italy arming the right and Russia arming the left, many Americans and Canadians went to fight on the side of the 'Loyalists' (i.e. the left)
As I said the 1930’s were a time of economic depression.  In a depression no one has money to buy anything so no one has a job to produce that which you want to buy.  It sounds like a simple problem.  Everybody go to work and make what the other one wants but it’s very hard to make it happen.  So how did Germany who had had terrible inflation under the first government after WWI and whose colonies and resources had been taken, find money to finance their rise to power?   At the time, we didn’t know how he was doing it, but each country has gold to back their currency which they keep in reserve.  Hitler began actually transferring gold to Sweden, Switzerland and other nations for the material they needed.  As Germany’s gold ran out they took over Austria and began spending their gold.  Later they took over the reserves of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Hungary and a dozen other countries.  This story is well told in a documentary that you can see if you visit your own Gold Museum here in Cape Town. 
I was only 5 when war was declared but even children  soon knew that our somewhat older relatives were signing up to fight and it wasn’t so very long before we heard of deaths.  The first I recall is of a crying young woman being comforted by my family and slowly realizing that her husband who was also a relative of mine was now dead.   
The first really big event of the war, that even I as a child could understand was when the Germans chased the British out of continental Europe at Dunkirk. (indicate Dunkirk)  They were forced to use every sort of boat they could find to escape across the channel.  The Netherlands had already fallen and France was soon defeated.  By that time the first of the Canadian forces were already in Britain and we were sure that the Germans would soon cross the channel and conquer Britain.  Remember that at this time Britain had a huge Empire to defend so they had their troops and their Navy scattered all over the World.  Lets look at the map.  If we had a very old map the British Empire was always shown in pink and it included Canada and Newfoundland in America, many places in Africa, Palestine and Egypt in the Middle East, India, Singapore and Hong Kong in Asia.   But the Germans didn’t cross the channel, probably the British Navy seemed just too formidable but I believe they could have succeeded and then we would surely have lost the war.   
Next the Germans concentrated on an attempt to bomb Britain into submission.  This period is referred to as the Battle of Britain.  The Germans had designed and built a superior air force and at times they nearly cleared the RAF, the (British airforce) out of the skies.  At the beginning the British were using older model planes mostly Hurricanes which were no match for the Messerschmitt Bf109s and Focke-Wulf  FW190s of the Germans but as the older planes were shot down new Spitfire aircraft rolled out of the factories.  Once again we were saved from certain defeat by a set of circumstances.  Firstly, a British company had gone ahead with designing a new fighter without orders from the government, so that a tested fighter was available to be mass produced.  Secondly, a British inventor had invented radar and for an air battle the British knew what was coming and when it would arrive.  Rudimentary radar had been invented in secret during the 1930s and although the germans had it too theirs was behind.  Now the job of perfecting it and making it small enough to fit in aircraft was transferred to Toronto where I lived.  My father was an electronics technician and each day he would use their equipment to try to detect a Mosquito bomber which would often fly low over our house on its run toward the radar.  Many of these same planes were stationed here at Ysterplaat.  Any guess as to why they would choose one plane over another to test radar?  The fuselage of this plane was made entirely of laminated wood.  Only the engines could be detected using radar.  
Because of radar a squadron of Spitfires could remain on the ground until the last minute, then rise up and fight for the 10 or 20 minutes that the German bombers were over Britain and then land again.  The Germans had to accompany their slow moving bombers from bases in France and then back.  In order to have the same number of fighters in the air over Britain they needed twice as many planes as the British.  Secondly, the British were aided by the skilled fliers who had escaped from Poland, France, the Netherlands and later Norway.  Again without the spitfires, radar and the extra pilots we might have lost.   Even with these we might have lost except for a British strategy which was to anger the Germans.  The logical tactic for the attacking force is to first eliminate the opposing air force.  They would eventually have succeeded except that the British managed a single flight into Germany and bombed Berlin.  They hit essentially people's homes,  so-called civilian targets.  The Germans, or maybe just Hitler, were so infuriated that they gave up attacking the air fields and began bombing London in retaliation.  The British sacrificed their capital city and tens of thousands of men women and children to draw the Luftwaffe away from attacks on the RAF which would eventually have given them air superiority and allowed them to land a force on British soil.  London became hell on earth for many months.  About half the buildings in the city were destroyed.  Every night people huddled in air raid shelters and many who didn’t make it or who received direct hits were killed.  When they emerged each morning there would be fires still burning in the houses which had been flattened that night.  In Canada, we listened every day to hear of the damage and to see whether Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral had survived that nights air-raids.
At this time, I was living in a village and as a 6 year old I found myself hoeing a garden.  We called it a 'Victory Garden' and many people who wouldn’t otherwise be gardening were making their contribution by growing food.  We couldn’t get food from warm countries because ocean shipping was all devoted to the war.  Sugar, butter, meat and fuel were rationed and of course that rationing was much harsher in Britain than in Canada where I lived.   
Everyone was devoted to the war effort.  Before the war women didn’t work in factories but with all the men enlisting as soldiers the women all worked in the war industry.  In Germany Hitler wouldn’t hear of German women doing war work.  They were to stay home and raise more pure German children to run this wonderful new world he was going to set up when he conquered most of the World.  Again, maybe we only won because of the effort of the women being harnessed to build our much greater amount of war materiel.   
Through all this time the Americans had not entered the War.  Their President Roosevelt was personally much in favour of entering the war on our side but he knew his nation would not support him.  The Germans had only been defeated in WWI when the Americans entered the war and the Germans didn’t want that to happen again.  Roosevelt did everything he could to goad the Germans into declaring war on the U.S. but nothing worked.  He sold 50 destroyers to the British without asking payment, the U.S. navy depth charged German subs and they embargoed shipments to any country that might sell material on to Germany.
The U.S. was doing the same things to Japan, stopping fuel and steel shipments.  They also sent an advisor and later trainers to China where the Japanese had been fighting for many years.  In fact the first attack by the Flying Tigers on a Japanese base occurred just before Pearl Harbor. Finally, in December 1941, the Japanese made a supposedly surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the American naval base in Hawaii.  I say supposedly surprise because the Americans were warned by several sources and they had radar which detected the incoming flight of Japanese bombers and they had removed the critical ships from the harbor.  Clearly the Americans wanted to be seriously bloodied, so that they could enthusiastically go to war.  Presumably, they didn't want to be quite as bloodied as they were but the radar message was not acted upon and the Japanese had devised a torpedo quite unlike any known to the Allies which worked in confined spaces.
The Germans and Italians had treaties with Japan and they now declared war on America.  Again we were saved from defeat, if Germany had reneged on their treaty and not declared war on the U.S., Roosevelt would not have been able to convince the American people to fight in Europe.  They would have concentrated on Japan.  By this point in the war we were constantly hearing of the horrors of the bombing in London and defeat after defeat in North Africa where the British aided by South Africans and Australians were suffering defeat after defeat.  And these were defeats where we had more men, more guns and more tanks than the Germans.  You may have heard of the German General Rommel who was so effective against us in North Africa.  We seemed doomed.  Even with the arrival of the Americans we couldn’t break our way into Europe. 
But at about this time we were saved again.  June 22nd 1941Germany broke their treaty with Russia and attacked eastward.  (see map).  A century and a half before Napoleon having defeated almost every worthwhile army on earth had tried this and the Russian winter had defeated him.  The Germans sent the largest invasion force ever assembled on planet earth to invaded Russia across a one thousand mile front. Three million crack German troops; 7,500 artillery units, 19 panzer divisions with 3,000 tanks, and 2,500 aircraft rolled across Russia for 14 months.
The Russians had counted on this treaty and although there were 10 times as many Russians as Germans they had only partly geared up to make war materiel.  The Germans rolled through them like a knife through butter.  Very soon there were so many Russian prisoners that the Germans just took their guns and told them to go by themselves to the prison camps.  This lead to one of the first criminal slaughters of the war.  The Russians parachuted a few officers and some weapons to these disarmed soldiers and they did some damage to the German supply lines.  From then on the special political soldiers or SS who operated in the captured territory summarily executed any Russian on the loose.  A million were killed. 
At his point we were again saved by luck not skill. If the leader Hitler had listened to his top tank commander General Guderian he would have concentrated his attack on one objective at a time.  Instead, since they were doing so well, Hitler split the attack into three groups going for the three largest cities.  The Russians fought like the desperate people they really were after 20 years under Stalin.  Their resistance delayed the fight into winter.  At this time we in Canada and America began shipping arms to Russia.  Much of this went north through Canada and across the Bearing Straits to Russia.  We even built a highway through difficult wilderness to get the supplies through.  This tided them over until their own industry got into full war production. 
The Germans began the war with the best weapons and kept ahead of us until the end.  Their tanks were superior at the beginning but when they took over the Skoda works in Czechoslovakia they got the best in designers and manufacturing facilities.  We never did build as good a tank as the Germans but the Russians did.  Their T34 series of tanks may even have been better but they never did learn to coordinate an attack.  The Germans were in constant radio contact.  In fact the only way to disorganize the German tank attack was to destroy their communications tank where the commander would be.  But as I said there were 10 times as many Russians.  They built more tanks and planes than the Germans in every month of the war and begged more from the U.S.  They sent planes out that were completely helpless if the Luftwaffe showed up but if they could destroy a single German tank before the Bf109s got them the Russians thought that was a victory.  The Russians were so brave and desperate that on more than one occasion a pilot remained in his flaming plane and crashed it into a tank.  At the time we considered a pilot who shot down 4 enemy planes an Ace.  We didn’t believe the  German claim that their top pilot named Hartman had shot down 352 planes but now we know it was true. 
The first winter in Russia was hell for the German troops.   Their equipment froze and they were short of cold weather clothing.  The cold only strengthened the Russian fighting ability and by December of 1941 they could stop retreating and stabilize the front.  This was the turning point.  It was almost 2 years of horrible fighting and starvation before the Russians were strong enough to use their advantage of numbers and begin pushing forward but December 1941 had been the turning point.  Interestingly 2 days after the Russian offensive that stopped the German advance, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese had almost agreed to turn their forces against Russia but probably the stiffening of the Russians decided them and they stayed in the Pacific.  Similarly, the Turks had been about to join on Germany’s side and they too held back. 
Early, in 1943 the Russians finally threw in their Siberian army and overran Stalingrad.  The Russians had patiently withheld this new army waiting for the 40 below zero weather to arrive before throwing their Siberian troops into battle.  The Germans died on the spot or surrendered, against Hitler’s orders, and then were marched to death.  A few straggled back from captivity in Siberia many years later.   
In July 1943, having struggled through 2 winters the Germans began their last offensive culminating in the battle of Kursk which was the biggest tank battle there has ever been.  When the Russians won they were exhausted but as soon as they could refresh their armies and gather more materiel they began a relentless push west through all the countries that had been subjugated by Germany.   This and not the landing in Normandy by the British, Americans and Canadians was the turning point in the war.  At the same time the Americans flew desperate bomber raids into Rumania to cut off the oil from Ploesti.  It was an almost impossible mission but this was the greatest help we could provide the Russians. 
As the Russians moved west in every country there were underground groups who had been conducting guerilla warfare against the German occupation.   It must also be said that in every country there were groups who welcomed the Germans and cooperated with them and many who fought in the German army.  Remember many agreed that Communism was the greater threat and many were drawn to serve such a strong leader as Hitler.  Also to many the Germans represented efficiency and modernity while the Russians were thought of as backward peasants.  As the Russians moved close the guerillas became very useful in telling the Russians where weak points were and in sabotage behind the German lines.  In the case of the Resistance in the Warsaw ghetto the Jews there fought to the last person and tied up many German troops. 
Meanwhile the Allies because that is what we called the rest of the World who were fighting against the Germans, Italians and Japanese whom we called the Axis, were finishing off the Germans and Italians in North Africa and invading Europe through Sicily and then Italy   (refer to map).  They made very slow progress and weren’t taking enough pressure off the Russians.  By that I mean they weren’t doing enough of the job, diverting enough troops away from the Eastern front.  Can you see by the map why they would be slow? 
Firstly, Italy is very mountainous and a smaller force on the high ground could fend off a much larger force.  Secondly, they were a long way from their supplies in England and their shipping was under attack from the Germans in France.  Thirdly, they didn’t dare remove troops from England, it seemed they must invade France directly. It is possible that we could have just stepped up our bombing campaign, continued fighting in the Mediterranean and let the Russians do almost all the ground fighting.  The bombing campaign was very expensive for us in that hundreds of our planes, some times, whole flights never came back.  Some have said that bombing did no good because it did not ‘break the will’ of the German people but this is unreasonable.  Consider how much more armament the Germans could have produced if their factories hadn’t been bombed.  How effective can a worker be when his house is blown away, the street car lines are gone and his factory has no roof.  Secondly, there were only so many Germans left over to actually fight and now tens of thousands were doing anti-aircraft duty and fire fighting.  By the end of the war much of their production had to be done in caves and other underground factories.  I said earlier that they did not use German women in factories but we learned after the war that they made slaves of men and women from other countries and worked them to death in these factories.   
The Germans kept coming out with amazing new weapons. This is another way we might have lost the war.  If our bomber force had not succeeded, in smashing much of German industry they might well have beaten us simply by building better weapons.  We had no ability to steer a rocket to go long distances and hit a target.  The Germans sent over first V1 rockets which they could direct to London with fair accuracy.  These were countered by fast flying planes but toward the end of the war they developed the V2 rocket which went into the stratosphere and came straight down on its target and against this we had no defense.  After the end of the war both the Russians and the Americans rushed to capture The German rocket scientists and they were the ones who made the Russian and American space programs proceed.  America captured Verner von Braun who you may have heard of in connection with the U.S. space program and maybe from 'Dr. Strangelove'. 
Close to the last days of the war they put a jet plane into the battle, the ME262.  The south African military museum in Johannesburg has one of these beautiful planes as well as a British spitfire and a German Bf109.  It’s a very good museum so I hope you’ll all insist on visiting it if you get to Johannesburg.  It was so late in the war that they no longer had experienced pilots and weren’t able to deploy these jets effectively.  If the 1300 ME262’s they had in stages of construction had come out a year earlier they would have taken command of the skies over Normandy and we would have lost the whole invading force.  They could then have turned on the Russians and we would have lost.  They also were ahead of us in atomic research in the early thirties and might have built the first atomic bomb.  They failed because of their persecution of the Jewish people.  German universities were leaders in every field of science but a considerable proportion of the scientists involved were Jewish and when Hitler made life hell for Jews many fled, so much of what had been German knowledge flowed to America with Einstein, Teller, Bohr and others and we got the bomb first. 
 There are a dozen items without which we might have lost the war.  One fascinating one, is our capture of a German code machine called the Enigma machine.  Even with the machine it was hard to break the code but with a great many genius mathematicians working on the project at Blechley Park outside of London many messages were decoded.  We often knew where they were moving troops and materiel and could attack.  And we knew of submarine movements.  This allowed a much more effective use of our forces and without it we might have lost.  There are various stories about how we got the Enigma machine including that a boarding party got one from a sub that the Germans attempted to scuttle.  Another story relates that it was stolen from a sabotaged train somewhere in the captive Baltic states and smuggled through Europe to Britain.  I like to think that it was stolen by a Jew or Gypsy whom the Germans were persecuting.
The Russians defeated the Germans with a modicum of help from us in the West, but more and more we are celebrating D Day as  though the Russians were an unimportant factor.  Our main contribution was not the Normandy invasion  but rather the bombing of German cities and industry.  Many have criticized the bombing of cities as inhuman and ineffectual.  Inhuman certainly but ineffectual?  How productive can a munitions maker be if his house is gone, the street car can't get him to work and the factory is damaged?  Secondly, vast numbers of soldiers and guns were kept in Germany to defend rather than being sent east.
The Normandy landings too were a near thing.  If we hadn't had air superiority there could have been no paratroops, no gliders and no success on the beaches.  Our air superiority came about when we started using Rolls Royce engines in American P51 long range fighters in place of the original Allison engines to overcome the formerly dominant BF109's and FW190's.  If the Germans had had ME262's and pilots we would again have lost air superiority. 
When we think about how Russia and we of the West got together to fight Germany you must remember that all of the Western nations or at least their governing elites had opposed the communists as they rose to power in Russia and all feared the communists in their midst.  The desire to free the masses from the control of the elites is so natural that Communism quickly spread to every country on Earth, to every labour union and to even the smallest of local governments including the city council here in Toronto.  As horrors emerged from the Russian example, the elites had justification for vilifying Communism and many normal people were conned into this same hatred for communism but many of our academics were in favour and visited Russia and in the late 1930's many went to Spain to fight for the Communists against the Nazi allied Falangistas.  You here in Africa will know that, we, the colonial powers fought against liberation in every instance.  The only outside support that Zanu and Zapu in Southern Rhodesia obtained was from Russia and China.
Late in WWII there was a fear that a communist dictatorship might take over all of  Europe, if we didn’t invade France and race the Russians to invade Germany  We got an agreement with Stalin that Europe would be divided along a line partly corresponding to the Elbe river.  When the Russians finally rolled in they had so many more troops than we and so many more tanks that apparently some of our Generals feared they wouldn’t stop at that line and so they attempted to impress the Russians with our air power by bombing Dresden almost out of existence.  This was a rail centre filled with refugees but of no obvious military importance at this late stage in the war.   My wife is a refugee from Europe and her aunt and cousins were walking straight into Dresden when the bombing started. 
A similar thing probably influenced the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.  That is we feared the Russians would want to participate in conquering Japan by way of their Kurile Islands, so impressing the Russians was part of the terrible decision.
The Americans had not sent as many troops to fight the Japanese and they suffered heavy losses initially after Pearl Harbor.  The war in the Pacific ranged over 10’s of thousands of kilometres of ocean so it was won or lost with navy and air power.  At the time of Pearl Harbor the American aircraft carriers had been sent off on a strange seeming mission to deliver aircraft.  Whether this was planned, as I suspect, or fortuitous as the history books say is still cause for speculation.  With only a few carriers between us and defeat we began retreating from such places as Hong Kong, Singapore, the French from Indochina, the Dutch from Indonesia and eventually the Japanese were approaching India and Australia in their attacks.  All of northern Australia was open to bombing and they reached as far south as Perth.  As in Canada the Australians had to build a new road a thousand kilometres to get supplies to the north since the Japanese could attack shipping.  For a moment Darwin was totally cut off and a crucial shortage of beer developed.   
The Japanese submarines got as far east as the west coast of North America and attacked the Canadian coast with incendiaries intended to light our forests on fire.  The next couple of sea battles at the  Coral Sea and Midway Island showed the American superiority in air and in tactics.  Once superiority at sea was established the Americans and a few Australians began pushing north island by island.  By the time the Germans were defeated the Japanese could hardly move at sea and their home islands were being bombed to a smoldering ruin.  Japanese homes and even some factories were made of wood and paper and over a hundred cities were destroyed with incendiary bombs.  Still they didn’t surrender.  They fought to the death almost everywhere and even the Japanese women with babies in their arms had leapt off cliffs at Corregidor to avoid capture.  By this point the atomic bomb had been perfected and two were dropped.  Now the Japanese surrendered.  But was it really necessary?  The American General MacArthur who was instrumental in both defeating the Japanese and then in reconstruction of Japan didn’t  think so but the decision was made by President Truman, a politician, not a soldier.   A recent book, 'Five Myths about Nuclear Weapons' argues that the Japanese surrendered because the Russians had joined the attack and that the decision was made before the atomic bombs were dropped.
The public in the west were all convinced that the Japanese would fight to the last and we held that belief until very recently when wartime documents became public.  What we didn’t realize was that most of the able bodied Japanese were stranded in China, Korea and all the other areas they had conquered with no shipping or aircraft to get them back to their homeland.  Secondly, they were fighting ‘for the Emperor’ and when MacArthur agreed that the Emperor could stay on, he got good cooperation.  At this point the Russians were poised to invade Korea and China presumably to chase the Japanese out but Truman thought that the Russians would want to keep those countries in their grasp.  Did we drop the bombs to impress the Russians?  In fact communists did take over in those countries with Russian help. 
Some of what I have told you is a little personal but essentially this is the  history as it’s written in most books.  It will be very close to what you’ll find in your texts here in school.  But is this really the whole truth or just our version?  It has been said that history is always written by the victor. 
In your museum at Ysterplaat there is a German trooper’s belt buckle.  It is inscribed, “Got mit uns”.  German is a lot like Afrikaans.  Can anyone tell us what that means? 
That’s right ‘God is with us’. 
Both sides thought they were in the right and had God on their side.  But both sides also did some horrible things during WWII and we tend to remember only those done by the other side.  Try to imagine the same history but told by a 70 year old German instead of a Canadian. 
He would tell you that the war was made inevitable when our side made such a punitive settlement to WWI.  We took all their colonies from them.  All the other European powers had colonies from which they could extract raw materials but now the Germans had none.  It was logical for them to strike out eastward to get resources rather than fight the British at sea.  We had forced the Germans to pay reparations which caused inflation and their money became worthless.  They had been accustomed to a strong government of Princes, Kings and Kaisers.  Parliamentary democracy was a weak bickering sort of government when applied in Germany.  They didn’t like the politicians and they wanted a strong leader who would make the country prosperous and powerful.  Hitler gave them a purpose and a pride in themselves.  They gladly joined youth groups in summer camps designed to strengthen the country’s agriculture and to give them military training.  Hitler gave them symbols, the swastika which was a good luck symbol from ancient Persia.  They used the Imperial eagle and the Roman ax and sticks and proudly marched.  They loved parades it seemed to unite them.  Meanwhile they despised the Russian communists who were making a mess of their country by taking the farm land from the peasants and giving it over to state farms.  The communists of Russia were aiding left wing politicians in all the Western countries and were feared by all western governments.  Do you understand what is meant by left wing in politics? 
That’s right the side which supports the state owning everything and state finding ways to give us jobs, houses or whatever we need.  The right wing of politics is characterized by people who feel that it is best to encourage people to do everything themselves and believes that a whole population of people each working selfishly for themselves will be more likely to thrive than one where government decides.  Most of us are somewhere in the middle, thinking that some things are best done collectively and some by the individual. 
To the Germans it seemed that communism was a terrible threat and they were much closer to Russia than the rest of us.  They were more aware of the famines, which killed millions, in parts of the Communist empire caused by central planning.  They felt that in fighting communism and eventually the Russians, they were upholding true western traditions as seen in past European empires such as the Roman Empire.   Many Germans including, at times the leadership thought that at some point the British might see the error and join them in attacking Russia.  They also knew that Germany was forging ahead of others in science and engineering.  Their tanks and planes were the best throughout the war and their rocketry, atomic science and guided bombs were way ahead.  Their ability to fight was the best from the tactics of their Generals to the bravery and initiative of their soldiers.  They had many reasons to think of themselves as superior and that they were only beaten because there were ten on our side for every one on their side.  The German would also tell you that we had committed an atrocity after the war by starving thousands of Germans to death. 
And what do you suppose the Japanese thought?  For hundreds of years the Europeans had been taking over Asian countries and even when they didn’t move in they still tried to control them.  The Dutch had long held Indonesia.  The French held Vietnam and the British held India, Burma, Singapore and Hong Kong.  The Western countries had cooperated to embarrass China by forcing them to open their markets to Western traders and to allow import of opium.  The Japanese had watched all this subjugation of Asian countries with disgust.  They had kept the Europeans out of their country for centuries.  Their only embarrassment had come at the beginning of the 20th century when the Americans had sailed into Tokyo and taken over temporarily to force them to open trade with the U.S.  They immediately set about attempting to modernize their economy and their military very rapidly.  As they gained in strength and the West was weakened by the depression of the thirties the Japanese began a campaign to recapture Asia for the Asians.  They proposed to set up a Pacific Co-Prosperity zone.  They took over Korea and then began trying to take over China a country many times larger in area and population than Japan.  As their success grew the U.S. began opposing them.  They aided China with advice and then instructors for their air force.  They embargoed steel exports to Japan and made moves to cut off their oil supplies.   
The Japanese were bloody and harsh with the things they did to the other Asian peoples but I think you must concede that they would have felt they were liberating Asia from we colonialists. 
If there was an American here they would immediately say, “we weren’t colonialists.  But they had taken the Philippines away from the Spanish and ruled this large country much as the Dutch ruled Indonesia.  The Americans had participated in the humiliation of China with the other colonial powers and they had completely taken over Hawaii from a legitimate Kingdom.  They certainly were colonialists and at the end of WWII they helped the French to regain their colony in Vietnam by supplying the transport.  Yes, in their eyes the Japanese had a just cause and fought very bravely for their beliefs and for their Emperor.   
One of the things the history books may not impress on you is how close we came to losing.  Do you remember some of the items without which I felt we might have lost? 
1) if the designer of the Spitfire had not gone ahead without orders from the RAF the British wouldn’t have had a plane to counter the Bf109s and FW190s
2) if we hadn’t secretly developed radar we couldn’t have fought effectively over London
3) if the Germans had pushed their advantage and invaded Britain immediately after Dunkirk they might well have succeeded
4) if we hadn’t enlisted most of the women in the Allied nations we might not have produced enough or if the German women had worked they might have doubled their production
5) if the British hadn’t sacrificed London the Germans might have overrun Britain 
6) if we hadn’t gotten hold of an Enigma code machine we wouldn’t have been as effective
7) if we hadn’t carried on the bombing campaign against Germany in spite of huge losses of planes and men they would have produced more and had more men for the Eastern front
8) if the Germans had invaded earlier in the year they might have won before the freeze-up
9) if the Germans hadn’t been delayed in their attack on Russia they might have won
10) if the Japanese or Turks had added their weight to the German effort we might have lost
11) if Hitler had not wasted time on Mussolini's adventures in Greece and North Africa he would have had much more to concentrate on Russia
11) if Hitler hadn’t split the forces invading Russia they might have won
12) if Hitler had refused to declared war on America he might have won in Europe
13) if Hitler hadn’t chased out the Jews he might have had the bomb first
14) if the Germans had concentrated on the ME262 jet they might have defeated the invasion
15) if the Chinese, Burmese and many other Asian countries hadn’t preferred us to the Japanese the war in the Pacific might have gone to Japan in spite of the might of America
We fought hard but we were also so very lucky!

P.S. It should be obvious in the above that I disagree with the view of Russia so dominant in our society.  The Russian revolution was much more justified than those that went before in that the Tzar was running the last feudal society.  The sailors of the Potemkin were central.  In 1893 the imperious Tzar order the Rusalka an iron-clad of the US civil war era, to sail into a storm regardless of the American experience that such ships inevitably turned over and sank in rough weather.  In 1905, the Tzar, failing miserably in fighting the Japanese on his eastern frontier, sailed his Baltic fleet 1800 miles around the globe to take the Japanese from the rear.  His fleet was demolished in the Battle of Tsushima with only a few ships escaping into neutral ports.  Interestingly, the Japanese were lent money to form a modern fleet by the Jewry of Western Europe who opposed the Tzar`s pogroms visited upon their Russian relatives  The navy remembered and in 1918 they were in the forefront of the revolution against the Tzar, with the immediate cause his having sent his men off to WWI ill-prepared.  As soon as the rest of us had recovered from the fight with Germany in WWI, we turned on Russia and 14 countries, including Canada sent expeditionary forces.  On what grounds?  The Russians had more cause to revolt than had the French or Americans.  We must always defend against outside attack and in every case 'we the people' give up any control we may achieve to an elite.  In 1918, most of our people were thinking that the men who fought the war at the behest of the elite should now be better treated.  Failure to do so led to the Washington and Winnipeg uprising and a constant interest in Communism in the '20's and '30's throughout the World. 
The expeditionary forces did not immediately withdraw with some remote units still on Russian soil 7 years later - longer than WWI but ignored in our history books.
Throughout the '20's and '30's, the West, controlled by our elites, did everything they could to thwart imports of machine tools, technology and materiel.  Stalin sold grain to pay for critical imports with which to build armament and in sending it away, starved 20 million to death.  
By 1939 the Soviet Union had by far the largest army the World had ever known but maybe the worst equipped and commanded ever. 
When Germany the main threat offered a pact and the opportunity to push their control west Stalin grasped it and was able to concentrated for a period on his eastern frontier where he attacked in May of 1939, 4 months before what we take as the start of WWII. 
Subsequent to the war emerging nations had the unfortunate choice between the worst possible representative of socialism and the worst possible representative of free enterprise.  What a different World it might have been if the American Republic, after WWII, had welcomed the Soviets as a fellow republic of a different stripe.
Stalin's fear of the surrounding countries seems more natural when you remember that American and British elites were hobnobbing with Hitler. 
2012.02.03 Today under the very free enterprise system now installed in Russia, dozens of Russians have frozen to death on the streets, (just as they will in Toronto if we have similar temperatures tonight).  If any such thing had occurred during Communist times, I'm sure it would have been well publicized in our press.
Today a student goes massively into debt to get a degree.  Civil servants are being told they are useless and the expenses and  taxes must be cut in the wealthiest countries on earth and in the U.S. there isn't even guaranteed health care.  There are however lots of billionaires.   The wealthy elites have trained we the masses that communist is the worst thing you could be and that proposing any common activity is 'COMMUNISM'.   Greece is the ultimate example with the rich having arranged to pay no tax and have taken the money out of the country.
In Cuba, a very poor country, there is no starvation, no unemployment, there is universal health care and they have enough medical professionals to hire them out.  Education is free to the post-secondary degree level.  They are poor together with no billionaire elite.
 2014.06 The elites are now being referred to as the 1%.  Of the disposable wealth (i.e. bank accounts, stocks, bonds but not real estate) the 1% controls 42% up from 39% the year before.  When they reach 50%, the 1% will control as much of the wealth as do all the 99%.  There has always been an elite and the rest of us.  When we go to war or anything else important the elite must convince us to do what they want that is almost always against out own best interest.  From the time of the Peasants Revolution in 1381 to this day the elites have felt that they must keep control of we serfs or chaos and revolution will break out. 
Surely there's some way to motivate entrepreneurs and investors without giving them so much.
Hugh Jones



to Internet
Is there any form of government that never leads to a dictatorship?  The elites have hated and opposed any move by 'the peasants' to take any power.  When we might have been co-operating with the attempt at people power in Russia we instead invaded from all sides and then embargoed and hampered the Soviet attempts to build a modern society.  Throughout the '20's and '30's the only way they were able to industrialize was to take the wheat from the Kulaks and sell it on World markets.  Cruel indeed but we were complicit.  With this industrialization they were in position to fight the battle of Khalkhin Gol and turn the Japanese south and then come west to defeat the Germans in spite of all our efforts to thwart their industrialization.

Bill Bonner on causes:     http://thecrux.com/100-years-ago-the-world-changed-heres-the-story-you-havent-heard/

Monday, June 16, 2014



There aren't many old people in Africa, even South Africa.  On one of my trips to South Africa one of my young friends who teaches asked me, as someone who was around during WWII, to address an assembly at his school regarding the war.  I wrote and delivered the following.  I've added to this discourse from time to time.  I think you'll find a different slant on history.
Dif….er …Mr. Esterhuizen  has asked me to speak to you about the Second World War.  Not that I’m a historian…just that I was alive then.  Does anyone know when WWII began? 
That’s right the date we use is September 1939.  But was that really the start?  Everyone had been watching the rise of a very strict government in Germany which persecuted anyone not just like themselves and had begun attacking the neighboring countries.  They always had an excuse.  They took over Austria and Alcase-Lorraine because these were Germanic countries and they marched on Czechoslovakia because there were Germans there whom they said were being unfairly treated.  All of this happened before September 1939 but we let them get away with it because WWI had been so horrible.  You almost must know about WWI before you can understand the thinking immediately before WWII.  Maybe you’ve already studied WWI?  Do you know the dates?  http://tvo.org/video/205436/ep-1-fury
That’s right 1914 to 1918.  It was really horrible with men sitting for months in trenches with people near them being blown up by artillery shells and then if they survived being ordered out to charge across the open into the fire from machine guns.  My father had been shot straight through the chest and at first left for dead.  No one wanted to start another war like that so they tried every way to reason with the German leader Hitler.  Finally, in September 1939 the Germans invaded Poland with whom both France and Britain had treaties.  The thirties had been a time of economic depression and most countries had been reducing spending on armed forces except for Germany who now had a most fearsome army.  Everyone feared to resist them but attacking Poland was the last straw and finally the British and French declared war.
Ultimately, to understand the cause of WWII you must know the cause of WWI.  Surely it was not the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, surely that was just the spark.  I think that you here in South Africa are well placed to appreciate what lead up to WWI.  By 1800 each of the European powers had colonies around the World and could trade around the World visiting just ports they controlled.  The Germans however had not even joined the little Principalities together to form a country.  Germans who wanted to go out to the colonies had to go to someone else's colony, U.S., South Africa, Argentina etc.  At one point the U.S. was 40% German speakers.  It took the Germans until 1870's to get it together, just in time for what has been described as the scramble for Africa when every scrap of the continent was claimed by one European power or another.  The Germans grabbed for the Southwest and East Africa but always somewhat under the control of the British navy who very much were the bullies of the World.  Insultingly, they kept the only really excellent harbour at Walvisbaai for themselves.  As an act of rebellion against British control the Germans shipped the famous Long Tom canons and rifles to the Boers through Maputo and many Germans and Danes actually fought for the Boer Republic in the Second Boer-British War.  In preparation for WWI, Germany built as much of a navy as they were able.  You will know that the British had sponsored herders to settle along the Nossob River so that there would be wells available when they decided to attack the Germans in the Southwest from behind.  In Europe, the British, Itallians and French made alliances with Russia which meant that Germany was virtually surrounded by hostile nations.  All was set for war, all that was needed was the spark and this was provided by Gavrilo Princip.  
In my opinion WWII actually started in May of 1939 with the first attack by one of the Allies on one of  the Axis powers in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. 
In renewing my study of WWII, I am forced to a grudging admiration for Stalin in spite of his cruelties.  Beginning with the time of the Revolution everyone attacked Russia.  Thirteen countries including Canada actually invaded.  But the real attack throughout the 20's and '30's was an attack on Russian attempts to get any materials or co-operation with industrialization.  It was only by selling the wheat and starving the population that they had a limited success.
The Japanese had been fighting the Russians since their great victory over the Tzarist navy in the battle of Tsushima in 1905.  In the lead up to WWII they began forming an alliance with the Germans and Italians (and potentially the Turks).  The logical move was for the three to come at Russia from all sides.  Stalin concentrated much of his strength in the East and then goaded the Japanese into the battle of Khalkhin Gol on the Siberian Manchurian border, which was the largest tank battle to that date, (May 1939) and in my opinion was the start of WWII.  This turned the Japanese south and involved the U.S.
During the several months of the Battle Stalin stalled off the Germans by signing a pact and pushing his Western boundary further west to slow the Germans. 
Without the grain sales and these military moves we would have the Third Reich with us yet.
During WWI, people began to realize that loyalty to the elites (now termed the 1%) just lead to the elites sending you to your death.  The thought of rule by the People (the 99%) led to people's parties, labour movements and socialist or communist parties everywhere.  The German elites and later the Naziis attributed their loss to the 'communists' who had led demonstrations against the war in almost every belligerent nation.  Throughout the thirties elites from America (including Joseph Kennedy) and Britain (including Prince Edward) all trouped off to visit Hitler.  see recently released book: https://www.amazon.ca/17-Carnations-Biggest-Cover-Up-History/dp/1455527114.  and -https://www.opednews.com/articles/Victory-Day-Russians-Reme-by-Jay-Janson-Adolph-Hitler_American-Foreign-Policy_Capitalism-Over-Humanity_Corporations-Killing-Soldiers-180515-17.html
They clearly sided with Germany and detested the Communists!  Meanwhile the people's groups throughout the World agitated for power.  When a clear fight between Communists and Fascists broke out in Spain with Germany and Italy arming the right and Russia arming the left, many the prisoners in the German concentration camps.  (see the movie 'Catch 22' and google American support for Hitler and British support for Hitler. 
Americans and Canadians went to fight on the side of the 'Loyalists' (i.e. the left).  Throughout WWII some American and British supported Hitler, including IBM keeping track of
As I said the 1930’s were a time of economic depression.  In a depression no one has money to buy anything so no one has a job to produce that which you want to buy.  It sounds like a simple problem.  Everybody go to work and make what the other one wants but it’s very hard to make it happen.  So how did Germany who had had terrible inflation under the first government after WWI and whose colonies and resources had been taken, find money to finance their rise to power?   At the time, we didn’t know how he was doing it, but each country has gold to back their currency which they keep in reserve.  Hitler began actually transferring gold to Sweden, Switzerland and other nations for the material they needed.  As Germany’s gold ran out they took over Austria and began spending their gold.  Later they took over the reserves of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Hungary and a dozen other countries.  This story is well told in a documentary that you can see if you visit your own Gold Museum here in Cape Town or view this documentary:  http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episodes/the-secret-world-of-gold   and http://thecrux.com/the-greatest-gold-heist-in-history/
I was only 5 when war was declared but even children  soon knew that our somewhat older relatives were signing up to fight and it wasn’t so very long before we heard of deaths.  The first I recall is of a crying young woman being comforted by my family and slowly realizing that her husband who was also a relative of mine was now dead.   
The first really big event of the war, that even I as a child could understand was when the Germans chased the British out of continental Europe at Dunkirk. (indicate Dunkirk)  They were forced to use every sort of boat they could find to escape across the channel.  The Netherlands had already fallen and France was soon defeated.  By that time the first of the Canadian forces were already in Britain and we were sure that the Germans would soon cross the channel and conquer Britain.  Remember that at this time Britain had a huge Empire to defend so they had their troops and their Navy scattered all over the World.  Lets look at the map.  If we had a very old map the British Empire was always shown in pink and it included Canada and Newfoundland in America, many places in Africa, Palestine and Egypt in the Middle East, India, Singapore and Hong Kong in Asia.   But the Germans didn’t cross the channel, probably the British Navy seemed just too formidable but I believe they could have succeeded and then we would surely have lost the war.   
Next the Germans concentrated on an attempt to bomb Britain into submission.  This period is referred to as the Battle of Britain.  The Germans had designed and built a superior air force and at times they nearly cleared the RAF, the (British airforce) out of the skies.  At the beginning the British were using older model planes mostly Hurricanes which were no match for the Messerschmitt Bf109s and Focke-Wulf  FW190s of the Germans but as the older planes were shot down new Spitfire aircraft rolled out of the factories.  Once again we were saved from certain defeat by a set of circumstances.  Firstly, a British company had gone ahead with designing a new fighter without orders from the government, so that a tested fighter was available to be mass produced.  Secondly, a British inventor had invented radar and for an air battle the British knew what was coming and when it would arrive.  Rudimentary radar had been invented in secret during the 1930s and although the Germans had it too theirs was behind.  Now the job of perfecting it and making it small enough to fit in aircraft was transferred to Toronto where I lived.  My father was an electronics technician and each day he would use their equipment to try to detect a Mosquito bomber which would often fly low over our house on its run toward the radar.  Many of these same planes were stationed here at Ysterplaat.  Any guess as to why they would choose one plane over another to test radar?  The fuselage of this plane was made entirely of laminated wood.  Only the engines could be detected using radar.  
Because of radar a squadron of Spitfires could remain on the ground until the last minute, then rise up and fight for the 10 or 20 minutes that the German bombers were over Britain and then land again.  The Germans had to accompany their slow moving bombers from bases in France and then back.  In order to have the same number of fighters in the air over Britain they needed twice as many planes as the British.  Secondly, the British were aided by the skilled fliers who had escaped from Poland, France, the Netherlands and later Norway.  Again without the spitfires, radar and the extra pilots we might have lost.   Even with these we might have lost except for a British strategy which was to anger the Germans.  The logical tactic for the attacking force is to first eliminate the opposing air force.  They would eventually have succeeded except that the British managed a single flight into Germany and bombed Berlin.  They hit essentially people's homes,  so-called civilian targets.  The Germans, or maybe just Hitler, were so infuriated that they gave up attacking the air fields and began bombing London in retaliation.  The British sacrificed their capital city and tens of thousands of men women and children to draw the Luftwaffe away from attacks on the RAF which would eventually have given them air superiority and allowed them to land a force on British soil.  London became hell on earth for many months.  About half the buildings in the city were destroyed.  Every night people huddled in air raid shelters and many who didn’t make it or who received direct hits were killed.  When they emerged each morning there would be fires still burning in the houses which had been flattened that night.  In Canada, we listened every day to hear of the damage and to see whether Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral had survived that nights air-raids.
At this time, I was living in a village and as a 6 year old I found myself hoeing a garden.  We called it a 'Victory Garden' and many people who wouldn’t otherwise be gardening were making their contribution by growing food.  We couldn’t get food from warm countries because ocean shipping was all devoted to the war.  Sugar, butter, meat and fuel were rationed and of course that rationing was much harsher in Britain than in Canada where I lived.   
Everyone was devoted to the war effort.  Before the war women didn’t work in factories but with all the men enlisting as soldiers the women all worked in the war industry.  In Germany, Hitler wouldn’t hear of German women doing war work.  They were to stay home and raise more pure German children to run this wonderful new world he was going to set up when he conquered most of the World.  Again, maybe we only won because of the effort of the women being harnessed to build our much greater amount of war materiel.   
Through all this time the Americans had not entered the War.  Their President Roosevelt was personally much in favour of entering the war on our side but he knew his nation would not support him.  The Germans had only been defeated in WWI when the Americans entered the war and the Germans didn’t want that to happen again.  Roosevelt did everything he could to goad the Germans into declaring war on the U.S. but nothing worked.  He sold 50 destroyers to the British without asking payment, the U.S. navy depth charged German subs and they embargoed shipments to any country that might sell material on to Germany.
The U.S. was doing the same things to Japan, stopping fuel and steel shipments.  They also sent an advisor and later trainers to China where the Japanese had been fighting for many years.  In fact the first attack by the Flying Tigers on a Japanese base occurred just before Pearl Harbor. Finally, in December 1941, the Japanese made a supposedly surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the American naval base in Hawaii.  I say supposedly surprise, because the Americans were warned by several sources and they had radar which detected the incoming flight of Japanese bombers and they had removed the critical ships from the harbor.  Clearly the Americans wanted to be seriously bloodied, so that they could enthusiastically go to war.  Presumably, they didn't want to be quite as bloodied as they were but the radar message was not acted upon and the Japanese had devised a torpedo quite unlike any known to the Allies which worked in confined spaces.
The Germans and Italians had treaties with Japan and they now declared war on America.  Again we were saved from defeat, if Germany had reneged on their treaty and not declared war on the U.S., Roosevelt would not have been able to convince the American people to fight in Europe.  They would have concentrated on Japan.  By this point in the war we were constantly hearing of the horrors of the bombing in London and defeat after defeat in North Africa where the British aided by South Africans and Australians were suffering defeat after defeat.  And these were defeats where we had more men, more guns and more tanks than the Germans.  You may have heard of the German General Rommel who was so effective against us in North Africa.  We seemed doomed.  Even with the arrival of the Americans we couldn’t break our way into Europe. 
But at about this time we were saved again.  June 22nd 1941, Germany broke their treaty with Russia and attacked eastward.  (see map).  A century and a half before, Napoleon having defeated almost every worthwhile army on earth had tried this and the Russian winter had defeated him.  The Germans sent the largest invasion force ever assembled on planet Earth to invaded Russia across a one thousand mile front. Three million crack German troops; 7,500 artillery units, 19 panzer divisions with 3,000 tanks, and 2,500 aircraft rolled across Russia for 14 months.
The Russians had counted on this treaty and although there were 10 times as many Russians as Germans they had only partly geared up to make war materiel.  The Germans rolled through them like a knife through butter.  Very soon there were so many Russian prisoners that the Germans just took their guns and told them to go by themselves to the prison camps.  This lead to one of the first criminal slaughters of the war.  The Russians parachuted a few officers and some weapons to these disarmed soldiers and they did some damage to the German supply lines.  From then on the special political soldiers or SS who operated in the captured territory summarily executed any Russian on the loose.  A million were killed.  As the German hold on Eastern Europe and Russia widened, their intent became clear.  they would enslave those they found useful and starve the rest to death.  this was official written policy.  The first city where this was applied was Kharkov a city already starved by Stalin was now sealed off and only those useful to the Germans allowed food.
At this point we were again saved by luck not skill. If the leader, Hitler had listened to his top tank commander General Guderian he would have concentrated his attack on one objective at a time.  Instead, since they were doing so well, Hitler split the attack into three groups going for the three largest cities.  The Russians fought like the desperate people they really were after 20 years under Stalin.  Their resistance delayed the fight into winter.  At this time we in Canada and America began shipping arms to Russia.  Much of this went north through Canada and across the Bearing Straits to Russia.  We even built a highway through difficult wilderness to get the supplies through.  This tided them over until their own industry got into full war production. 
The Germans began the war with the best weapons and kept ahead of us until the end.  Their tanks were superior at the beginning but when they took over the Skoda works in Czechoslovakia they got the best in designers and manufacturing facilities.  We never did build as good a tank as the Germans but the Russians did.  Their T34 series of tanks may even have been better but they never did learn to coordinate an attack.  The Germans were in constant radio contact.  In fact the only way to disorganize the German tank attack was to destroy their communications tank where the commander would be.  But as I said there were 10 times as many Russians.  They built more tanks and planes than the Germans in every month of the war and begged more from the U.S.  They sent planes out that were completely helpless if the Luftwaffe showed up but if they could destroy a single German tank before the Bf109s got them the Russians thought that was a victory.  The Russians were so brave and desperate that on more than one occasion a pilot remained in his flaming plane and crashed it into a tank.  At the time we considered a pilot who shot down 4 enemy planes an Ace.  We didn’t believe the German claim that their top pilot named Hartman had shot down 352 planes but now we know it was true. 
The first winter in Russia was hell for the German troops.   Their equipment froze and they were short of cold weather clothing.  The cold only strengthened the Russian fighting ability and by December of 1941 they could stop retreating and stabilize the front.  This was the turning point.  It was almost 2 years of horrible fighting and starvation before the Russians were strong enough to use their advantage of numbers and begin pushing forward but December 1941 had been the turning point.  Interestingly 2 days after the Russian offensive that stopped the German advance, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese had almost agreed to turn their forces against Russia but probably the stiffening of the Russians decided them and they stayed in the Pacific.  Similarly, the Turks had been about to join on Germany’s side and they too held back. 
The avowed reason for the Japanese attack south through Indochina, the Philippines, Burma and the Pacific Islands was to drive out the Colonialists and indeed their defeat of the combined British, Australian, Indian and Malayan garrison  at Singapore, early in 1942, seems to have been the beginning of the end of colonialism throughout the World.  The British Dutch and French never did regain their colonies in Asia.
Early, in 1943 the Russians finally threw in their Siberian army and overran Stalingrad.  The Russians had patiently withheld this new army waiting for the 40 below zero weather to arrive before throwing their Siberian troops into battle.  The Germans died on the spot or surrendered, against Hitler’s orders, and then were marched to death.  A few straggled back from captivity in Siberia many years later.   
In July 1943, having struggled through 2 winters the Germans began their last offensive culminating in the battle of Kursk which was the biggest tank battle there has ever been.  When the Russians won they were exhausted but as soon as they could refresh their armies and gather more materiel they began a relentless push west through all the countries that had been subjugated by Germany.   This and not the landing in Normandy by the British, Americans and Canadians was the turning point in the war.  At the same time the Americans flew desperate bomber raids into Rumania to cut off the oil from Ploesti.  It was an almost impossible mission but this was the greatest help we could provide the Russians. 
As the Russians moved west in every country there were underground groups who had been conducting guerilla warfare against the German occupation.   It must also be said that in every country there were groups who welcomed the Germans and cooperated with them and many who fought in the German army.  Remember many agreed that Communism was the greater threat and many were drawn to serve such a strong leader as Hitler.  Also to many, the Germans represented efficiency and modernity while the Russians were thought of as backward peasants.  As the Russians moved close the guerillas became very useful in telling the Russians where weak points were and in sabotage behind the German lines.  In the case of the Resistance in the Warsaw ghetto the Jews there fought to the last person and tied up many German troops. 
Meanwhile the Allies, because that is what we called the rest of the World who were fighting against the Germans, Italians and Japanese whom we called the Axis, were finishing off the Germans and Italians in North Africa and invading Europe through Sicily and then Italy   (refer to map).  They made very slow progress and weren’t taking enough pressure off the Russians.  By that I mean they weren’t doing enough of the job, diverting enough troops away from the Eastern front.  Can you see by the map why they would be slow? 
Firstly, Italy is very mountainous and a smaller force on the high ground could fend off a much larger force.  Secondly, they were a long way from their supplies in England and their shipping was under attack from the Germans in France.  Thirdly, they didn’t dare remove troops from England, it seemed they must invade France directly. It is possible that we could have just stepped up our bombing campaign, continued fighting in the Mediterranean and let the Russians do almost all the ground fighting but then they would have taken all of Europe and our 1% wouldn't have that.  The bombing campaign was very expensive for us, in that hundreds of our planes, some times, whole flights never came back.  Some have said that bombing did no good because it did not ‘break the will’ of the German people, but this is unreasonable.  Consider how much more armament the Germans could have produced if their factories hadn’t been bombed.  How effective can a worker be when his house is blown away, the street car lines are gone and his factory has no roof.  Secondly, there were only so many Germans left over to actually fight and now tens of thousands were doing anti-aircraft duty and fire fighting.  By the end of the war much of their production had to be done in caves and other underground factories.  I said earlier that they did not use German women in factories but we learned after the war that they made slaves of men and women from other countries and worked them to death in these factories.   
The Germans kept coming out with amazing new weapons. This is another way we might have lost the war.  In some ways they outfouht us 10 to 1.  Fortunately there were 11 of us.  For an example of their superior weapons and tactics see this video:
http://tvo.org/video/documentaries/greatest-tank-battles/michael-wittman-greatest-tank-ace
If our bomber force had not succeeded, in smashing much of German industry they might well have beaten us simply by building better weapons.  We had no ability to steer a rocket to go long distances and hit a target.  The Germans sent over first V1 rockets which they could direct to London with fair accuracy.  These were countered by fast flying planes but toward the end of the war they developed the V2 rocket which went into the stratosphere and came straight down on its target and against this we had no defense.  After the end of the war both the Russians and the Americans rushed to capture The German rocket scientists and they were the ones who made the Russian and American space programs proceed.  America captured Verner von Braun who you may have heard of in connection with the U.S. space program and maybe from 'Dr. Strangelove'. 
Close to the last days of the war they put a jet plane into the battle, the ME262.  The south African military museum in Johannesburg has one of these beautiful planes as well as a British spitfire and a German Bf109.  It’s a very good museum so I hope you’ll all insist on visiting it if you get to Johannesburg.  It was so late in the war that they no longer had experienced pilots and weren’t able to deploy these jets effectively.  If the 1300 ME262’s they had in stages of construction had come out a year earlier they would have taken command of the skies over Normandy and we would have lost the whole invading force.  They could then have turned on the Russians and we would have lost.  They also were ahead of us in atomic research in the early thirties and might have built the first atomic bomb.  They failed because of their persecution of the Jewish people.  German universities were leaders in every field of science but a considerable proportion of the scientists involved were Jewish and when Hitler made life hell for Jews many fled, so much of what had been German knowledge flowed to America with Einstein, Teller, Bohr and others and we got the bomb first. 
 There are a dozen items without which we might have lost the war.  One fascinating one, is our capture of a German code machine called the Enigma machine.  Even with the machine it was hard to break the code but with a great many genius mathematicians working on the project at Blechley Park outside of London many messages were decoded.  We often knew where they were moving troops and materiel and could attack.  And we knew of submarine movements.  This allowed a much more effective use of our forces and without it we might have lost.  There are various stories about how we got the Enigma machine including that a boarding party got one from a sub that the Germans attempted to scuttle.  Another story relates that it was stolen from a sabotaged train somewhere in the captive Baltic states and smuggled through Europe to Britain.  I like to think that it was stolen by a Jew or Gypsy whom the Germans were persecuting.
The Russians defeated the Germans with a modicum of help from us in the West, but more and more we are celebrating D Day as  though the Russians were an unimportant factor.  Our main contribution was not the Normandy invasion  but rather the bombing of German cities and industry.  Many have criticized the bombing of cities as inhuman and ineffectual.  Inhuman certainly but ineffectual?  How productive can a munitions maker be if his house is gone, the street car can't get him to work and the factory is damaged?  Secondly, vast numbers of soldiers and guns were kept in Germany to defend rather than being sent east.
The Normandy landings too were a near thing.  If we hadn't had air superiority there could have been no paratroops, no gliders and no success on the beaches.  Our air superiority came about when we started using Rolls Royce engines in American P51 long range fighters in place of the original Allison engines to overcome the formerly dominant BF109's and FW190's.  If the Germans had had ME262's and pilots we would again have lost air superiority. 
When we think about how Russia and we of the West got together to fight Germany you must remember that all of the Western nations or at least their governing elites had opposed the communists as they rose to power in Russia and all feared the communists in their midst.  The desire to free the masses from the control of the elites is so natural that Communism quickly spread to every country on Earth, to every labour union and to even the smallest of local governments including the city council here in Toronto.  As horrors emerged from the Russian example, the elites had justification for vilifying Communism and many normal people were conned into this same hatred for Communism but many of our academics were in favour and visited Russia and in the late 1930's many went to Spain to fight for the Communists against the Nazi allied Falangistas.  You here in Africa will know that, we, the colonial powers fought against liberation in every instance.  The only outside support that Zanu and Zapu in Southern Rhodesia obtained was from Russia and China.
Late in WWII there was a fear that a communist dictatorship might take over all of  Europe, if we didn’t invade France and race the Russians to invade Germany  We got an agreement with Stalin that Europe would be divided along a line partly corresponding to the Elbe river.  When the Russians finally rolled in they had so many more troops than we and so many more tanks that apparently some of our Generals feared they wouldn’t stop at that line and so they attempted to impress the Russians with our air power by bombing Dresden almost out of existence.  This was a rail centre filled with refugees but of no obvious military importance at this late stage in the war.   My wife is a refugee from Europe and her aunt and cousins were walking straight into Dresden when the bombing started. 
A similar thing probably influenced the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.  That is we feared the Russians would want to participate in conquering Japan by way of their Kurile Islands, so impressing the Russians was part of the terrible decision.
The Americans had not sent as many troops to fight the Japanese and they suffered heavy losses initially after Pearl Harbor.  The war in the Pacific ranged over 10’s of thousands of kilometres of ocean so it was won or lost with navy and air power.  At the time of Pearl Harbor the American aircraft carriers had been sent off on a strange seeming mission to deliver aircraft.  Whether this was planned, as I suspect, or fortuitous as the history books say is still cause for speculation.  With only a few carriers between us and defeat we began retreating from such places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the French from Indochina, the Dutch from Indonesia and eventually the Japanese were approaching India and Australia in their attacks.  All of northern Australia was open to bombing and they reached as far south as Perth.  As in Canada the Australians had to build a new road a thousand kilometres to get supplies to the north since the Japanese could attack shipping.  For a moment Darwin was totally cut off and a crucial shortage of beer developed.   
The Japanese submarines got as far east as the west coast of North America and attacked the Canadian coast with incendiaries intended to light our forests on fire.  The next couple of sea battles at the  Coral Sea and Midway Island showed the American superiority in air and in tactics.  Once superiority at sea was established the Americans and a few Australians began pushing north island by island.  By the time the Germans were defeated the Japanese could hardly move at sea and their home islands were being bombed to a smoldering ruin.  Japanese homes and even some factories were made of wood and paper and over a hundred cities were destroyed with incendiary bombs.  Still they didn’t surrender.  They fought to the death almost everywhere and even the Japanese women with babies in their arms had leapt off cliffs at Corregidor to avoid capture.  By this point the atomic bomb had been perfected and two were dropped.  Now the Japanese surrendered.  But was it really necessary?  The American General MacArthur who was instrumental in both defeating the Japanese and then in reconstruction of Japan didn’t  think so but the decision was made by President Truman, a politician, not a soldier.   A recent book, 'Five Myths about Nuclear Weapons' argues that the Japanese surrendered because the Russians had joined the attack and that the decision was made before the atomic bombs were dropped.
The public in the west were all convinced that the Japanese would fight to the last and we held that belief until very recently when wartime documents became public.  What we didn’t realize was that most of the able bodied Japanese were stranded in China, Korea and all the other areas they had conquered with no shipping or aircraft to get them back to their homeland.  Secondly, they were fighting ‘for the Emperor’ and when MacArthur agreed that the Emperor could stay on, he got good cooperation.  At this point the Russians were poised to invade Korea and China presumably to chase the Japanese out but Truman thought that the Russians would want to keep those countries in their grasp and they had long been supporting Mao.  Did we drop the bombs to impress the Russians?  In fact communists did take over in those countries with Russian help so it wasn't unrealistic if we did. 
Some of what I have told you is a little personal but essentially this is the  history as it’s written in most books.  It will be very close to what you’ll find in your texts here in school.  But is this really the whole truth or just our version?  It has been said that history is always written by the victor. 
In your museum at Ysterplaat there is a German trooper’s belt buckle.  It is inscribed, “Got mit uns”.  German is a lot like Afrikaans.  Can anyone tell us what that means? 
That’s right ‘God is with us’. 
Both sides thought they were in the right and had God on their side.  But both sides also did some horrible things during WWII and we tend to remember only those done by the other side.  Try to imagine the same history but told by a 70 year old German instead of a Canadian. 
He would tell you that the war was made inevitable when our side made such a punitive settlement to WWI.  We took all their colonies from them.  All the other European powers had colonies from which they could extract raw materials but now the Germans had none.  It was logical for them to strike out eastward to get resources rather than fight the British at sea.  We had forced the Germans to pay reparations which caused inflation and their money became worthless.  They had been accustomed to a strong government of Princes, Kings and Kaisers.  Parliamentary democracy was a weak bickering sort of government when applied in Germany.  They didn’t like the politicians and they wanted a strong leader who would make the country prosperous and powerful.  Hitler gave them a purpose and a pride in themselves.  They gladly joined youth groups in summer camps designed to strengthen the country’s agriculture and to give them military training.  Hitler gave them symbols, the swastika which was a good luck symbol from ancient Persia.  They used the Imperial eagle and the Roman ax and sticks and proudly marched.  They loved parades it seemed to unite them.  Meanwhile they despised the Russian Communists who were making a mess of their country by taking the farm land from the peasants and giving it over to state farms.  The Communists of Russia were aiding left wing politicians in all the Western countries and were feared by all western governments.  Do you understand what is meant by left wing in politics? 
That’s right the side which supports the state owning everything and state finding ways to give us jobs, houses or whatever we need.  The right wing of politics is characterized by people who feel that it is best to encourage people to do everything themselves and believes that a whole population of people each working selfishly for themselves will be more likely to thrive than one where government decides.  Most of us are somewhere in the middle, thinking that some things are best done collectively and some by the individual. 
To the Germans it seemed that communism was a terrible threat and they were much closer to Russia than the rest of us.  They were more aware of the famines, which killed millions, in parts of the Communist empire caused by central planning.  They felt that in fighting Communism and eventually the Russians, they were upholding true Western traditions as seen in past European empires such as the Roman Empire.   Many Germans including, at times the leadership thought that at some point the British might see the error and join them in attacking Russia.  They also knew that Germany was forging ahead of others in science and engineering.  Their tanks and planes were the best throughout the war and their rocketry, atomic science and guided bombs were way ahead.  The ME262 was the ultimate in jumping ahead of us but there were lots of other weapons that were well in advance of ours.  For more unexpected weapons see: http://www.historyinorbit.com/top-secret-military-weapons-developed-by-nazi-germany/     Their ability to fight was the best from the tactics of their Generals to the bravery and initiative of their soldiers.  They had many reasons to think of themselves as superior and that they were only beaten because there were ten on our side for every one on their side.  The German would also tell you that we had committed an atrocity after the war by starving thousands of Germans to death. 
And what do you suppose the Japanese thought?  For hundreds of years the Europeans had been taking over Asian countries and even when they didn’t move in, they still tried to control them.  The Dutch had long held Indonesia.  The French held Vietnam and the British held India, Burma, Singapore and Hong Kong.  The Western countries had cooperated to embarrass China by forcing them to open their markets to Western traders and to allow import of opium.  The Japanese had watched all this subjugation of Asian countries with disgust.  They had kept the Europeans out of their country for centuries.  Their only embarrassment had come at the beginning of the 20th century when the Americans had sailed into Tokyo and taken over temporarily to force them to open trade with the U.S.  They immediately set about attempting to modernize their economy and their military very rapidly.  As they gained in strength and the West was weakened by the depression of the thirties the Japanese began a campaign to recapture Asia for the Asians.  They proposed to set up a Pacific Co-Prosperity zone.  They took over Korea and then began trying to take over China a country many times larger in area and population than Japan.  As their success grew the U.S. began opposing them.  They aided China with advice and then instructors for their air force.  They embargoed steel exports to Japan and made moves to cut off their oil supplies.   
The Japanese were bloody and harsh with the things they did to the other Asian peoples but I think you must concede that they would have felt they were liberating Asia from we colonialists. 
If there was an American here they would immediately say, “we weren’t colonialists.  But they had taken the Philippines away from the Spanish and ruled this large country much as the Dutch ruled Indonesia.  The Americans had participated in the humiliation of China with the other colonial powers and they had completely taken over Hawaii from a legitimate Kingdom.  They certainly were colonialists and at the end of WWII they helped the French to regain their colony in Vietnam by supplying the transport.  Yes, in their eyes the Japanese had a just cause and fought very bravely for their beliefs and for their Emperor.   
One of the things the history books may not impress on you is how close we came to losing.  Do you remember some of the items without which I felt we might have lost? 
1) if the designer of the Spitfire had not gone ahead without orders from the RAF the British wouldn’t have had a plane to counter the Bf109s and FW190s
2) if we hadn’t secretly developed radar we couldn’t have fought effectively over London
3) if the Germans had pushed their advantage and invaded Britain immediately after Dunkirk they might well have succeeded
4) if we hadn’t enlisted most of the women in the Allied nations we might not have produced enough or if the German women had worked they might have doubled their production
5) if the British hadn’t sacrificed London the Germans might have overrun Britain 
6) if we hadn’t gotten hold of an Enigma code machine we wouldn’t have been as effective
7) if we hadn’t carried on the bombing campaign against Germany in spite of huge losses of planes and men they would have produced more and had more men for the Eastern front
8) if the Germans had invaded Russia earlier in the year they might have won before the freeze-up
9) if the Germans hadn’t been delayed in their attack on Russia they might have won
10) if the Japanese or Turks had added their weight to the German effort we might have lost
11) if Hitler had not wasted time on Mussolini's adventures in Greece and North Africa he would have had much more to concentrate on Russia
11) if Hitler hadn’t split the forces invading Russia they might have won
12) if Hitler had refused to declared war on America he might have won in Europe
13) if Hitler hadn’t chased out the Jews he might have had the bomb first
14) if the Germans had concentrated on the ME262 jet they might have defeated the invasion
15) if the Chinese, Burmese and many other Asian countries hadn’t preferred us to the Japanese the war in the Pacific might have gone to Japan in spite of the might of America
16) If Attaturk had not died in 1938, he might well have joined the Axis as he had in WWI
We fought hard but we were also so very lucky!

P.S. It should be obvious in the above that I disagree with the view of Russia so dominant in our society.  The Russian revolution was much more justified than those that went before in that the Tzar was running the last feudal society.  The sailors of the Potemkin were central.  In 1893 the imperious Tzar order the Rusalka an iron-clad of the US civil war era, to sail into a storm regardless of the American experience that such ships inevitably turned over and sank in rough weather.  In 1905, the Tzar, failing miserably in fighting the Japanese on his eastern frontier, sailed his Baltic fleet 1800 miles around the globe to take the Japanese from the rear.  His fleet was demolished in the Battle of Tsushima with only a few ships escaping into neutral ports.  Interestingly, the Japanese were lent money to form a modern fleet by the Jewry of Western Europe who opposed the Tzar`s pogroms visited upon their Russian relatives  The navy remembered and in 1918 they were in the forefront of the revolution against the Tzar, with the immediate cause his having sent his men off to WWI ill-prepared.  As soon as the rest of us had recovered from the fight with Germany in WWI, we turned on Russia and 14 countries, including Canada sent expeditionary forces.  On what grounds?  The Russians had more cause to revolt than had the French or Americans against their Kings.  We must always defend against outside attack and in every case 'we the people' give up any control we may achieve to an elite.  In 1918, most of our people were thinking that the men who fought the war at the behest of the elite should now be better treated.  Failure to do so led to the Washington and Winnipeg uprising and a constant interest in Communism in the '20's and '30's throughout the World. 
The expeditionary forces attacking Russia did not immediately withdraw, with some remote units still on Russian soil 7 years later - longer than WWI but ignored in our history books.
Throughout the '20's and '30's, the West, controlled by our elites, did everything they could to thwart exports of machine tools, technology and materiel to Russia.  Stalin sold grain to pay for critical imports with which to build armament and in sending it away, starved 20 million to death.  
By 1939 the Soviet Union had by far the largest army the World had ever known but maybe the worst equipped and commanded ever. 
When Germany, the main threat, offered a pact and the opportunity to push their control west Stalin grasped it and was able to concentrated for a period on his eastern frontier where he attacked in May of 1939, 4 months before what we take as the start of WWII. 
Subsequent to the war emerging nations had the unfortunate choice between the worst possible representative of socialism and the worst possible representative of free enterprise.  What a different World it might have been if the American Republic, after WWI, had welcomed the Soviets as a fellow republic of a different stripe.
Stalin's fear of the surrounding countries seems more natural when you remember that American and British elites were hobnobbing with Hitler.  Ford and Kennedy visited to pay homage to Hitler and the Naziis.  Prince Edward visited accompanied no doubt by Prince Charles Edward Duke of Saxes-Cobourg sent over as a boy, who fought for Germany in WW1 and now joined the Nazii party.
2012.02.03 Today under the very free enterprise system now installed in Russia, dozens of Russians have frozen to death on the streets, (just as they will in Toronto if we have similar temperatures tonight).  If any such thing had occurred during Communist times, I'm sure it would have been well publicized in our press.
Today a student goes massively into debt to get a degree.  Civil servants are being told they are useless and the expenses and  taxes must be cut in the wealthiest countries on earth and in the U.S. there isn't even guaranteed health care.  There are however lots of billionaires.   The wealthy elites have trained we the masses that Communist is the worst thing you could be and that proposing any common activity is 'COMMUNISM'.   Greece is the ultimate example with the rich having arranged to pay no tax and have taken the money out of the country.
In Cuba, a very poor country, there is no starvation, no unemployment, there is universal health care and they have enough medical professionals to hire them out.  Education is free to the post-secondary degree level.  They are poor together with no billionaire elite.
 2014.06 The elites are now being referred to as the 1%.  Of the disposable wealth (i.e. bank accounts, stocks, bonds but not real estate) the 1% controls 42% up from 39% the year before.  When they reach 50%, the 1% will control as much of the wealth as do all the 99%.  There has always been an elite and the rest of us.  When we go to war or anything else important the elite must convince us to do what they want that is almost always against out own best interest.  From the time of the Peasants Revolution in 1381 to this day the elites have felt that they must keep control of we serfs or chaos and revolution will break out. 
Surely there's some way to motivate entrepreneurs and investors without giving them so much.
Hugh Jones



to Internet
Is there any form of government that never leads to a dictatorship?  The elites have hated and opposed any move by 'the peasants' to take any power.  When we might have been co-operating with the attempt at people power in Russia we instead invaded from all sides and then embargoed and hampered the Soviet attempts to build a modern society.  Throughout the '20's and '30's the only way they were able to industrialize was to take the wheat from the Kulaks and sell it on World markets.  Cruel indeed but we were complicit.  With this industrialization they were in position to fight the battle of Khalkhin Gol and turn the Japanese south and then come west to defeat the Germans in spite of all our efforts to thwart their industrialization.

Bill Bonner on causes:     http://thecrux.com/100-years-ago-the-world-changed-heres-the-story-you-havent-heard/


For a view of the Canadian action see:  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/second-world-war-wwii/
https://www.globalresearch.ca/history-of-world-war-ii-nazi-germany-was-financed-by-the-federal-reserve-and-the-bank-of-england/5530318