Wednesday, February 4, 2009

a spin on how to win

If you were asked about World War II, and about the things that led to the victory of the 'good guys' (or the not-so-good guys, in thinking about the Soviet Union), what events may come to mind?

Perhaps Pearl Harbor? Iwo Jima? The landing at Normandy? The people of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) who resisted through extreme situations? Those who kept the Reich from occupying Moscow?

Very likely, most people would think that the ones who were most instrumental in defeating the Nazis are those who took up arms and fought back, with a special nod at those who aided the fighters in various ways--supplies, arms, encouragements.

But here, we're not dealing with history, but revisionist history. Here's what I mean.

Nonviolence Begets Nonviolence
In 1940 Germany was vastly stronger than Denmark and occupied Denmark with hardly a shot fired. The Danes resisted in subtle ways but mostly gritted their teeth and tolerated the Germans. This largely passive acceptance of Germany ended in 1943 when the Germans tried to arrest the Danish Jews, and the Danes rose up as one and actively, but nonviolently, resisted. More than 95 percent of the Danish Jews were spirited away overnight. In the next six months, almost all of the Jews were smuggled across the bay into neutral Sweden. The Danes reacted heroically, but the German army’s role in all this was most curious.

The German Schutzstaffel (SS), originally formed as Hitler’s bodyguards, was a fanatical and ruthless elite. They were tireless and effective in pursuing the Jews and persecuting the Danes. On the other hand, the Wehrmacht were the ordinary soldiers, the draftees, and these soldiers were a far different story. A number of high-ranking Wehrmacht officers actively helped the Jews escape, and many more looked the other way. Similarly when the Nazis tried to starve Copenhagen into submission, the Wehrmacht basically ignored the large-scale smuggling of food occurring right under their noses. Since there were only a few of the SS in Denmark and the Wehrmacht had become sympathetic to the Danes, the Nazis were severely constrained in what they could do to punish the Danes. The Danish nonviolence begat nonviolence by subverting the Wehrmacht to the point that it would not use violence against the Danes.

This writer wants to make the Danish turn in 1943 about Nazis arresting Jews. Here's Wikipedia's page about Denmark during WWII

Occupation of Denmark

In March 1943 the Germans allowed a general election to be held. The voter turnout was 89.5%, the highest in any Danish parliamentary election, and 94 % cast their ballots for one of the democratic parties behind the cooperation policy while 2.2% voted for the anti-cooperation Dansk Samling.[35] 2.1% voted for the Nazi party, almost corresponding to the 1.8% the party had received in the 1939 elections. The election, discontent, and a growing feeling of optimism that Germany would be defeated led to wide-spread strikes and civil disturbances in the summer of 1943. The Danish government refused to deal with the situation in a way that would satisfy the Germans, who presented an ultimatum to the government, including the following demands, on 28 August 1943: A ban on people assembling in public, outlawing strikes, the introduction of a curfew, censorship should be conducted with German assistance, special (German military) courts should be introduced, and the death penalty should be introduced in cases of sabotage. In addition, the city of Odense was ordered to pay a fine of 1 million kroner for the death of a German soldier killed in that city and hostages were to be held as security.[36]

The Danish government refused, so on 29 August 1943 the Germans officially dissolved the Danish government and instituted martial law. The Danish cabinet handed in its resignation, although since King Christian never officially accepted it, the government remained functioning de jure until the end of the war, but this is a technicality. In reality all day-to-day business had been handed over to the Permanent Secretaries, each effectively running his own ministry. The Germans ran the rest of the country, and the Danish Parliament didn't convene for the remainder of the occupation.

He tries to make it seem like Denmark was committed to non-violence. Here's more to what really went on.

As the war dragged on, the Danish population became increasingly hostile to the Germans. Soldiers stationed in Denmark had found most of the population cold and distant from the beginning of the occupation, but their willingness to cooperate had made the relationship workable. The government had attempted to discourage sabotage and violent resistance to the occupation, but by the autumn of 1942 the numbers of violent acts of resistance were increasing steadily to the point that Germany declared Denmark "enemy territory" for the first time.[34] After the battles of Stalingrad and El-Alamein the incidents of resistance, violent and symbolic, increased rapidly.

Sabotage, unencumbered by government opposition, grew greatly in frequency and severity, though it was rarely of very serious concern to the Germans. Nonetheless, the Danish resistance movement had some successes, such as on D-Day when the train network in Denmark was disrupted for days, delaying the arrival of German reinforcements in Normandy.

The author does note how the people of Denmark reacted when the Nazis tried to arrest the Jews in the country, and it is worth noting here, too, as an example of heroism of a different sort, though I think neither greater nor lesser, to those who took up arms.

After the fall of the government, Denmark was exposed to the full extent of Nazi terror. In October the Germans decided to remove all Jews from Denmark, but thanks to an information leak from German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and swift action by Danish civilians, the vast majority of the Danish Jews were transported to safety in neutral Sweden by means of fishing boats and motorboats. The entire evacuation lasted two months and one man helped ferry more than 1,400 Jews to safety

My point in this is not to either denigrate or praise the Danish (though there is admiration for their response in helping the Jews escape). My point it to point out what seems to be a blatant attempt at rewriting history to fit an agenda.

World War II had many heroes, some widely known but likely the majority unknown. Many took up arms, many let or told those close to them take up arms and supported them, some resisted in other ways.

But for all the respect one may feel for the Danish, one would have a hard time trying to make them the true 'heroes' of the war over those who actually fought the Nazis and kept them from their homes and cities and drove them back. And it is madness to make them the model for nonviolence when 1. they surrendered more because they had no army with which to resist, and 2. they weren't really completely nonviolent in their resistence.

No. No matter what this man and his ilk try to say, the Germans were defeated on battlefields, by men with guns and tanks and warplanes. And that should never be forgotten, and never disparaged.

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