Tuesday, December 9, 2014


By Dr. Emery Barcs 1970-5-8

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, on Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the overwhelming majority of mankind rejoiced in the news that Nazi Germany had unconditionally surrendered. World War II in Europe was over after five years, eight months and seven days of the most gigantic struggle ever recorded in history.

It was not the end of the war. Japan, although in full retreat, continued to fight. But is was generally assumed that Nippon could not resist for long the tremendous might of the Grand Alliance which would now be thrown against her.

The tremendous news was more or less expected ever since the first unconfirmed reports that Adolf Hitler, the man who had unleashed humanity's bloodiest tragedy, had committed suicide at his headquarters" in Berlin on April 30.

A couple of days later the German High Command officially announced the Fuehrer's death in a broadcast from Hamburg. With a last demonstration of Nazi spirit the announcement was preceded by solemn music from Wagner's Twilight of the Gods.

Before his death, Hitler willed that he should be succeeded as head of the German State by Grand Admiral of the Fleet, Karl Doenitz, a professional soldier and one of the top-ranking German officers who had wholeheartedly embraced Nazism.

The question was whether he would try to follow Hitler's order and continue the senseless resistance until Germany and Germania were literally exterminated.


In his megalomaniac madness Hitler once told Albert Speer, his trusted Minister of Armament:  "If the war is lost the German people will also be lost. There is no need to pay any consideration to the necessities for this people's primitive continuation of existence... Those Germans who will survive will be the worthless anyway; for the worthy will be dead."

Fortunately some common sense still prevailed. On May 7, Doenitz ordered the unconditional surrender of all German fighting forces and at 2.41 am. on the eighth General Jodi signed the surrender document for the Western Front and Field Marshall Kietel did so on the Eastern Front.

On the same day, Prime Minister Churchill and President Truman officially announced the end of the war. Stalin, for some reason or another, did so the following day.

Because of the time lag Australia officially celebrated the victory in Europe (V-E Day) on Wednesday the 9th. But in Canberra the previous afternoon Acting Prime. Minister Chifley (Prime Minister Curtin was ill) announced the great event to a cheering parliament.

Perhaps partly beeause this task still lay ahead and thousands of Australians on the Pacific fighting fronts and in Japanese POW camps had no prospect of returning immediately, and partly because no celebrations had been organised, Sydney did not lose its head over victory in Europe.

There was some spontaneous Jubilation in Martin Place during the cold and blustery late afternoon and evening of Tuesday, when people leaving shops and offices gathered there shouting, singing and waving little flags.

A few of the inner city's main streets were also covered with confetti made of torn papers which showered from offices just before closing time, But a train strike, starting at midnight, had been announced (and was duly held) and people tried to get home early. Those who lingered were stranded.

Wednesday, the official holiday, was quiet. Shops, pubs, theatres, cinemas and most cafes and restaurants were closed. Only Miss Pnina Salzmann's piano recital in aid of the Red Cross was held as scheduled

Yet this unintentionally mournful atmosphere was probably more fitting than a show of unbounded joy. Victory, superbly gratifying as it was, had been achieved at a terrific price.

When the final accounts of the whole of World War II (in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific) were drawn up, they showed that an estimated 50 million people had lost their lives as a result of fighting, bombardments extermination camps and other causes directly attributable to the war and to Hitler's policies between 1939 and 1945.

The Bank of International Settlements estimated in 1946 the direct costs of World War II at $844,000 million (compared with $210,000 million in World War I).

But a U. S. Treasury estimate put the figure at $1,040,000 million. In addition, property losses were estimated at $230,000 million (against $24,600 million in World War I). These astronomical costs are expressed in money Values of a quarter or a century ago. Adjusted to current values they would be probably between five and seven times higher.

Of course nobody can statistically express suffering. And to say that between 1939 and 1945 hundreds of millions of people went through sheer hell is merely a banal approximation


Germany had her share of the devastation of property and decimation of people, During the nearly 2000 days of war in Europe and in North Africa, some four million German soldiers were killed and another four million German men, women and children lost their lives as refugees or during air raids.

In addition there were some five million wounded and innumerable widows and orphans. In 1945, practically every second German lived either in holes in the ground, in bunkers, barracks, camps, military hospitals, in cellars or in ruins.

People in the victorious countries who mourned their own dead and began to think of clearing away the rubble in their own devastated towns and villages had no time to feel sorry for the terrible plight of the Germans.

Not surprisingly, arguments that not the German people but Hitler's totalitarian system was responsible for the horrors -- and that what happened in Germany could be repeated elsewhere unless humanity learned a lesson -- fell on deaf ears.

Nobody really knew how to deal with the c.70 million Germans in the post-war world. Re-education, turning Germany into a perpetual community with no chance of building a war industry again, breaking up the German State into fragments, were among the most popular suggestions.

Only the Soviet regime under the omnipotent thumb of Stalin had a definite idea. At the end of April, 1945 -- while fighting still went on -- a planeload of German Communists left Moscow for Germany. They included Walter Ulbricht, Wilhelm Pieck and Otto Winzer.


They were groomed in the Soviet capital during the war years for  their future role: to be the future leaders of Communist Germany, subservient to the Soviet Union and hostile to Russia's Western allies.

Had they -- and Stalin -- succeeded, today some 76 million Germans would share the fate of Poles, Czechoslovaks, Hungarians, Romanians and Bulgarians all "voluntarily" living in Communist paradises.

As it is Herr Ulbricht and his associates now rule only about some 17 million East Germans, whom they have to surround with barbed wire fences and walls to prevent their exodus from the promised land.

Today the overwhelming majority of West Germans would like to forget the tragic past which a decreasing number of them remembers from experience. Many resent any reminder of what happened between 1933 and 1945 while the Nazis were in absolute power.

Yet today the West German Parliament will hold a session to remember those years and their consequences.

Chancellor Willy Brandt will be the main speaker. He is expected to tell Germans -- and the world --that May 8, 1945, was a turning, point from dictatorship to the beginnings of a democratic era in which his people hope and want to live permanently at peace with all men, wherever they are and whatever their political creed.

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