When I was a little boy, my father would tell me stories about the Great War; the war that was to ironically, end all wars. Itâ€™s interesting how this war started really. My father lived to tell the tale of how it began. Â
Countries were competing for the strongest military. I could remember my father smiling at how Germany competed against the United Kingdom, building battleships and competing with France and Russia to expand their armies.
Starting with an army around 1.3 million in 1880, all the way to 5 million 34 years later? It was definitely something to be happy about.
Back then we were part of the Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy.
Whilst on the side there was the Triple Entente, which was composed of Russia, Britain, and France.
The alliances were a domino effect as my father described it to be. When declaring war on another country, many others would get involved and it was just a mess that was bound to explode.
Countries were hungry for power and land. Prowling to compete for the biggest empire. Britain was afraid that our own country would take their colonies in Africa. We were strong, powerful, and merciless. Although countries were hungry for power, colonies were mostly seeking selfdetermination. More specifically, Serbia wanted to be free from Austria-Hungary.
However, what really set the war was when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand visited Serbia. Serbia wanted to be free from Austria’s control. The Archduke’s visit caused Serbia to bubble with an anger that was hard to conquer. Wanting their own self-determination, they took the Archduke as a figure in front of them that symbolized that they had no hope in doing so. It was then that the Black Hand group was hired. They were terrorists, attempting to kill the man who they despised greatly. After the failure of a bomb attempt, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the terrorist group, shot the Archduke and his wife after seeing them take the wrong turn towards the sandwich shop he was coincidently at to feed his hunger. He did not only feed his hunger that day, but he fed his anger and the satisfaction of killing the Archduke as well.
Austria-Hungary fumed with anger. They declared war on Serbia after their failure of reaching the ultimatum, which consisted of suppressing their hate towards the Austrian Monarchy and to remove their military service that aided in the propaganda against Austria-Hungary, etc. With a short time to do all that was listed, a war had begun. Russia was dragged in to defend Serbia and thus many other countries were dragged into the mess that was splurged onto the table. Many lives were lost, and many came out injured and never the same. Many would refer this to being "shell shocked". I refer this to a patriotic dream gone bad. Â
Germany declared war on Russia who ultimately dragged in Britain and France: the Triple Entente. Our country agreed to support Austria no matter the consequence, and so we gave them the Blank Cheque; a choice that we regret and greatly cast our shame upon.
We were pretty skilled during the war to say the least. We had the Schlieffen Plan aimed at France, where we surprised them by cutting through Belgium, defeating both France and Russia. Unknown to us, we thought Britain would not interfere. They issued a scrap of paper, an ultimatum, one in which where let’s just say, “we did not reach”.
World War 1 was bloody and my father said it was the worst war ever fought. It was a “trench-war” more than anything else. Both sides had to dig their own trenches and their enemies were shot in their own trenches. No group advanced on the other and infantries stayed in their own designated trenches for what seemed like months. My father lost his arm whilst fighting in the trenches, I’m most grateful that he didn’t lose his life. He described the smell of the war area to be the smell of the decay, dirt, muddy water, and gunpowder. The faces of soldiers were sometimes strong and impassive; others were trying to soak everything in with terrified eyes. Trench feet, petrified screams, gunshots, and bombs everywhere. I’m almost surprised my father didn’t get shell shock.
What did shock my father however, was Canada’s involvement. Forced into the war after Britain declared war on us, Canadians declared support to the “Motherland” of Great Britain. They were an army of 3110 men that grew to 30 000 in two months. They were shock troops. Even my father feared for the worst when facing them. All four Canadian divisions united, and in eight hours they took Vimy Ridge from us with their strategic planning. Although they were relief troops, they took a stand and were united as a whole. Not only did others fear them and admired them, they were seen as more than just a colony through this event.
However, their glory could only last so long. Even if they seemed united, Canada was also divided. Their Prime Minister, Robert Borden, passed the Military Service Act, forcing those who were at least 18 years old to fight in the name of Great Britain, causing tension from the French and Aboriginals in Canada. Not wanting to fight and be involved with Britain, many started riots and protests, leading the Prime Minister to put the War Measures Act in Place.
It didn’t help that Canada underwent xenophobia, in which they feared foreigners or strangers. The Ukrainians were seen as a threat. Although there was no concrete evidence for accusations, it was due to the fact that they were immigrants from Austria-Hungary (or other European countries), in which Canada was at war with, that caused these “precautions”. There were no rights and freedoms, and no bails allowed. Personal possessions were confiscated and often sold, even if they had been put through manual labour without pay. They were prisoners without speech and prisoners without crime.
We Germans became prisoners and entrapped in our own decisions. After the War ended, the atmosphere did not lighten up. Many countries were in debt and Germany suffered the most. European cities, buildings, and railways were destroyed due to bombing. What was once beautiful was now in ruins. People were injured, many have died, and the cost of war was over six times the sum of all the national debt accumulated in the entire world from the end of the 18th century to 1914. It’s such a shame that we had to pay for most of it due to giving a blank cheque to Austria. However, not all countries got out of the war scratch free either.
Russia also underwent a Russian Revolution. They were transforming from a monarchy to communism. Which actually forced them to withdraw from the war, leading to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which allowed them to do so, but with a great price.
Our punishment from the Big Four was far from lenient, making sure that we would never again be in a position to start another war. As if we weren’t already in debt, we had to pay $30 billion in war reparations, making us poor and hungry. Our strong military was reduced to 100 000 men with a smaller navy, no war ships, and no war planes. 10% of our territory was lost to surrounding countries. We also lost our colonies to Great Britain and France. Germany as a whole was poor and our money had become worthless. We went through hyperinflation but it was cheaper to burn the money than to buy firewood. We were not the same Germany that had entered the war. We were weak, powerless, and unable to bring ourselves up quickly. Father was outraged. I could almost distinctly hear his voice raging from my memory of him. His eyes were no different. Although they could not speak, they shone with resentment that mimicked his words.
I, for one, agreed with him. Living during the Great Depression was the utmost terrible thing. My father is long gone now, but Iâ€™m still here. The same resentment had settled into my own eyes. Hitler was in power and he changed the education system and everything about Germany. My thoughts were far from negative. Times were hard, but Hitler would make things better. Germany would rise once again onto its feet, and we shall never falter again. Â
The thought of communist scared us, and our economic crisis did not help with that fear. Even Japan shared the same resentment. After the U.S convinced Japan to open up to international trade, the Great Depression took its toll. No one was able to trade with anyone anymore, forcing Japan to cut off and become isolationist. Japan was left in the dark, hungry, and angry. As for the Treaty of Versailles, they felt as if it were racist for they had gained nothing out of it. Due to this, Japan began to go against the League of Nations, and from the sidelines, Hitler was watching it all. Japan was bold, attacking on the naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii with kamikaze planes (a.k.a openly suicidal pilots). No one could have imagined their method of attacks. They were willing to kill themselves for their country in ways that the U.S was unprepared for. Â Â Â
Italy also was on its way to ultra-nationalism. At this point, many realized that the League of Nations was actually powerless. They appeased Italy with Somaliland territory. However, with an Italian army of 100 000, Italy pushed to invade Abyssinia, knowing that there was nothing the League of Nations could do. Abyssinia’s army was also weak and poorly unprepared.
The rise of ultra-nationalism began and shortly after, the frightening rise of Hitler came as well. Hitler was a fellow that no one could ever replace or mimic. He was a man who is capable of manipulating others with his speech, let alone his actions. He was a man who played by his own set of rules. Heck, he even stopped paying the debt set for us by the League of Nations.
It’s not like they did anything about it anyways.
Hitler, the leader of the Nazis, the father of Germany; the Der Fuhrer.
He had brought Germany out of its ruins and nurtured it before war. Through propagandas, the Jews were scapegoated for the mess they caused in Germany. They were pests. Vermans. Thus, why question their sending to the Concentration Camps?
As soon as Hitler and his Nazi party gained its army of followers, his military grew as well. It was time to take action and gain more power. We began taking over land in the excuse of “unifying the Germans”. In which, the useless League of Nations did nothing about. The truth was that we wanted resources like fuel, iron ores, and gold. They had no power against us but rather they appeased us. British and France appeased us the most! It was pathetic really. They allowed our Der Fuhrer to do anything in hopes of not starting another World War, yet ironically, they were only laying the foundations to World War 2.
When we had invaded Poland with no thoughts of withdrawing troops, Britain and France declared war on Germany. We invaded France and began to battle with Britain. We even attempted to invade Russia but it was as if we went back in time with Napoleon. Reusing their Scorched Earth Method, their ice-cold winters were never welcoming and unfortunately, we were eventually defeated.
The Canadians were back too! The shock troops from World War 1 had come back, and we were certainly expecting them to put up a tough battle. They weren't expected to go to war this time, but the Parliament decided that it would be best to help out their former motherland and took this as an opportunity to finally represent themselves as a nation-state, thus their war declaration on us.
They weren’t prepared for the war, however at the end, 1.1 million Canadians had served their duty in uniforms. They were given the task to escort ships in Juno Beach until they’ve reached Britain with their needs, and were responsible for controlling the English Channel during operation overload during D-Day, the bloodiest day for Canadians. However, with our interfering with the radio connection, the promised air support did not arrive. Despite that, Canadians had the Netherlands, parts of Belgium set free. They even went as far as sheltering the Dutch Royal Family in Ottawa during the Nazi Occupation.
Canada was a strong nation despite its own many losses, but they were still divided. Just like in the last war, they had xenophobia. They feared that the Japanese were suspicious and put them through the prison-like internment camps during the time. No possessions, no money, and no rights. Â
Germany knew that this was the turning point in the war, and Hitler did everything he could to kill off as many Jews as possible.
Unfortunately, our rise to power quickly came to an end and the elimination of the Jews rapidly decreased to a stop. Around 8 million Jews were killed. Eventually, the fire of anger died down after Hitler committed suicide before our surrender.
I am writing my thoughts in this journal for the words that I cannot speak. My lips tremble and sweat drips down my forehead. After the war I had accumulated “shell shock”. Often times I receive flashbacks of what I had just written. Fallen soldiers and fallen tears. My father, who had survived without shell shock, told me it’s “no guts, no glory”. I live in trauma. I was once a strong little boy who felt rebellious and wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps. I was once a teenage boy living through the Great Depression and often finding myself looking in the mirror with anger flashing in my eyes. I’m furious with myself. I don’t even know if I know the difference between right and wrong anymore. All my life I lived to praise the Der Fuhrer, I mean, that’s what they taught us in school at the very least. I lie here, lying on this bed with a pen between my shaky fingers and tired eyes. My head is filled with screams of words I can never tell.
Published on May 6, 2014