This week we’re going to talk about some specific wars as stated in the title of this post. However, there is a lot that happens during this time frame and I don’t want to give a recap over each war in its entirety. I will give a very brief time line of the major events that happened before each war started.
I’d really like it if everyone reading this post will give some consideration to the losing sides of these wars – mainly Russia in the Cold War and Germany in World War I and World War II. There’s a saying that states that “all stories about war are told from the winners perspective” and I think this is a valid thing to keep in mind. So, I’m going to also spend a bit of time exploring these wars from that perspective as well.
A Brief Timeline
The Losing Side?
I’m going to split this into Germany and Russia and address each country individually. The most important part to remember about this is that I do not condone the actions of either of these countries. They have done some very despicable things for multiple reasons. However, why they committed these acts of violence on others was done for some good reasons along with those bad ones.
Before World War I, Germany was expanding as Britain was due to the advances of the Industrial Revolution. Because of this expansion they started running out of room to expand and also they were running on a short supply of resources that they could only get from other countries. They’re leadership had also changed hands from Bismark to Wilhelm the II and their new leader wasn’t making the best decisions for the country.
Along with those bad decisions by Wilhelm II, he made some alliances that were not entirely good in the eyes of the other European countries didn’t really like. This lead Germany into being a bit isolated diplomatically some people have argued.
As we all know, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand set off World War I.
I just want to point out here that Germany wasn’t necessarily looking to start a war. They formed an alliance and was asked to step in and help. Plus with the Balkan Wars and events leading up to the assassination, there was a lot of tension in Europe as everyone was trying to gain more and more. It was going to happen eventually.
Germany lost World War I. They had a hefty price to pay as they were to blame solely for the damages caused to/by all of the countries in Europe. Put the Great Depression on top of that crippling debt they owe to the rest of Europe and it’s going to make a lot of German, Austrian and Hungarian people upset and disillusioned with the rest of the world. You get the very charismatic Hitler into the public eye and he rallies everyone behind the idea of nationalism.
World War II commences and eventually ends. Germany loses even more than they had before and are forever going to be known for their part in the dark history of the world.
Now, put the history aside and try to immerse yourself in that time as events are unfolding. Everyone is scrambling for land in Africa and trying to modernize their countries to keep up with you and Britain. In fact, Britain is trying to catch up with you and you’re giving the United States a run for their money for being the world leader. This is obviously going to make other countries nervous as they too are looking at expanding and modernizing. Everyone is vying for a spot to help them remain in control.
Are you wrong for modernizing and trying to do well by your country? Is it wrong to be grabbing land when everyone else is doing it as well? Is it wrong to form alliances with other strong nations?
Answers: No. Yes, if we’re going to be honest. No.
Was it wrong to be solely blamed for a war that you were involved in, along with the rest of the world? No, it wasn’t. Every country had a part in the war that unfolded and should have been culpable for their actions. Germany finally finished paying off the debts incurred in World War I on October 3rd, 2010.
All this leads into World War II. Hitler was able to rally a country behind him by making promises on making Germany and her allies great again. To undo the injustices and embarrassments that Germany endured from the Treaty of Versailles. He created scapegoats in the Jewish community as part of the reason of Germany’s downfall. He got the people of Germany excited about being German again.
He got them excited about an idea.
Then he went and killed millions of innocent people for that idea. So much damage was done, that the German people are afraid of nationalism and patriotism. They have constant reminds around their country to remind them as to why they can’t let that idea run rampant and unchecked.
The winning side was watching what Hitler was doing and could have stepped in, but they didn’t. The people of Germany were being terrorized by their own government and many were afraid for their lives. Many had no choice in carrying out Hitler’s orders – they would have been killed otherwise.
Again put yourself into that time period as events are unfolding. I’m sure you would have voted for Hitler as well because your life was miserable – you were poor and destitute, humiliated even. You start noticing the bad things he’s doing and you do something about it. You join an underground resistance movement, but you’re found out and your family is sent to the concentration camps and gassed. There goes your resistance to his power or you dig even deeper into the resistance movement.
After it’s all said and done, you’re ashamed of being part of such a horrible crime against humanity. Because you’re German everyone hates and despises you now even though you did the best you could to stop Hitler or because you had no power to do so and were just as much a victim as those who perished. You get to watch your country get torn apart and divided up by the winning side.
All because someone had an idea and used it. You look at America and you see that same ideal – nationalism and patriotism being celebrated, while that same ideal here being condemned as something evil.
I love Russia because they are just so strange and excessive.
In Russia, you have horrible poverty and an extremely inept and conservative royal family running your country into ruin. You have people sneaking out of the country to gain a proper education and then they’re sneaking in interesting ideas. Karl Marx especially is getting talked about in the underground scene that opposes the Tsar and his family.
Socialism is the new wave of the future, but it morphs into communism and it turns sinister. After the revolution and the Romanov family is disposed of, we get two parties vying for leadership of the newly freed and supposedly democratic Russia. This never happens and the Bolsheviks stage a successful coup and take control.
You’ve got fighting within the party and Stalin eventually gains control of the country. Many scholars believe that Stalin suffered from a mental illness, most likely schizophrenia, and this made him very suspicious of everyone and everything. He would kill anyone he thought was out to get him or had betrayed him – in actuality or not. He also made the secret police very prominent and effective.
He established the Five Year Plans and executed them. He managed to modernize a huge country in a very short amount of time – it’s actually amazing. He had the foresight to stop Hitler from invading Russia right away at the outbreak of World War II, even though he couldn’t keep them out indefinitely. He built a transcontinental railway for Russia.
He also did a whole bunch of questionable things as well. The Purges – killed millions of his own people. He started up the Gulags and they were horrible. He worked people to death trying to get his Five Year Plans going. Those under the USSR control experienced poverty, unrest and death.
This wasn’t how things were supposed to turn out.
The original over throwers wanted to liberate the peasants, reduce taxes for everyone and hold the nobility, government and royal family accountable for their actions — all while creating a better life for those involved. However, things didn’t go as planned. Terror and violence was the norm.
Again, I’d like you to put yourselves in the position of a Russian civilian or a revolutionist. You’re going to want a better life for yourself and your people. You want to be respected by the others in Europe and you want what a lot of those other countries have – freedom, money, education, and a better standard of living.
The revolutionists are sure this is going to be the best thing for your country. All of this looks good on paper. In theory it’s a lot harder to get started and they need to exert absolute control in order to achieve their aims. In some ways, the plan works and there are some improvements, but corruption takes hold and keeps the country in a limbo state of fear and violence.
No one is coming to help you, in fact, America is trying to eradicate you and your beliefs. America keeps testing out nuclear bombs and sets roadblock in your way for spreading your message – which you still believe will turn around and be successful. They’re saying that you’re the bad guy, but America keeps butting into other people’s business and forcing their own way of life on other countries.
History as most people know it, is told from one side and not the other. Most of the time, we don’t even want to see the other side of the story because it puts our own actions into a different, and not all-together flattering, light.
As you’re writing a war story, look at both sides of the story. Know why your enemy is doing what they’re doing and for what reasons. Ask yourself why they think the way they do.
In Generals Die in Bed by Charles Yale Harrison, we have our unnamed protagonist come face to face with the enemy and realizes that this boy, his own age, is just as terrified and human as he himself is. This German kid did not want to be there, but had to be, just like the protagonist. It will, in my opinion, make your story more relatable and poignant to whoever is reading it.
There are always two sides to a story.