Showing posts from July, 2020

Eighty years ago, the Axis indulges in a naked power play in the Balkans as the British brandish moral outrage over the Channel

Hard on the heels of being forced by Stalin to disgorge its First World War gains at Russian expense, Rumania found itself on the receiving end of Nazi and Fascist diplomacy in the Balkans. With the campaign in the West satisfactorily concluded, Germany and Italy could devote their attentions to the region, where there was little to hold back the dictatorships. Like Czechoslovakia and Poland before it, Rumania found that British (it was no longer meaningful to talk of Franco-British) guarantees were of little consequence in the new world. The only consolation (if that is the correct term) for the Rumanian leaders is that they were invited to Austria to meet Hitler and Ribbentrop. Much as though newly hired domestic servants, their duties were explained to them. They were to arrange that the territorial claims of their neighbours Hungary and Bulgaria, who had shown far less inclination to play the dupes of London and Paris, were to be met promptly. The chances of Rumania drifting into …

Eighty years ago, Hitler's generals benefit from his management style and Dad's Army receives a sinister message

Hitler promoted twelve of his senior commanders to the rank of Field Marshal, which had been especially revived for the occasion. This was marked by a dignified and impressive ceremony, in practice a triumph for the conquest of France, at the Kroll Opera House, where the Reichstag sat. The seats of five deputies killed in the campaign were occupied by golden wreaths. The new Field Marshals were chiefly the battlefield commanders of the French campaign, but also included Erhard Milch, who had been the true organiser of the Luftwaffe’s expansion but had never held a significant operational command. Goering who had been the only Marshal up till then was promoted to the unique dignity of Reichsmarschall. Hitler took a cynical view of such promotions and regarded them as another tool (along with generous money grants) to keep the loyalty of his generals. They also received the traditional ornate baton as emblem of the rank. The exercise did not reflect a favourable view of their military a…

Eighty years ago, Vichy undermines its claim to expunge the evil traces of the Third Republic

At the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago President Roosevelt manoeuvred to secure the party’s nomination to stand for an unprecedented third term. Roosevelt publicly denied any wish to do so but nobody took this seriously. Roosevelt faced the opposition of a significant bloc of non-interventionists led by Senator Burton Wheeler of Montana, who took particular exception to the fact that amongst the most conspicuous supporters of intervention were foreign-born (in practice Jewish) film studio heads. Wheeler had little prospect of blocking a Roosevelt nomination but it would have been better to bring him on side. To begin with Roosevelt tried to mollify Wheeler with a commitment not to send US troops to Europe, but Wheeler renewed his opposition. His flank was finally turned by securing the defection of two trade union leaders, who had been high profile supporters,  and Roosevelt was chosen by the overwhelming majority.Marshal Petain had a far easier time consolidating his position …