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Eighty years ago Japan chooses war

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  The army won the latest and crucial round in the struggle for Japanese policy. The navy faction which supported the prime minister Prince Konoe and wished to avoid war with the US was defeated.   Konoe’s overtures to the US had failed to yield worthwhile results; President Roosevelt stuck to his hard line. German success in the East further strengthened the army’s hand. The Emperor swung behind the army. Konoe resigned, clearing the way for General Tojo to replace him. It became a matter of time for Japan to go to war. The German attack towards Moscow progressed, seemingly with remorseless success, but there were clear signs of military over-reach. Another two huge groups of Soviet troops were surrounded in the Vyazma and Bryansk pockets. Ultimately perhaps 0.5m would be taken prisoner, but in the meantime they fought on. This tied down over twenty German divisions in a battle of attrition, which weakened the thrust towards the Soviet capital. The loathsome farce of the Vichy g

Eighty years ago Hitler breaks cover into hubris

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  Hitler made his first speech since Operation Barbarossa was launched. It was perhaps the high-point of the Third Reich’s triumphalism. He was in confident mood and portrayed the thrust towards Moscow that had been launched a few days before as a decisive step in the defeat of the Soviet Union. He boasted of 2.5m prisoners taken. Curiously he spent more time attacking Churchill, whom he blamed for the war, than Stalin. He did accuse the Soviets of planning an attack but the best he could come up with to present Germany's policy towards the Soviet Union in a favourable light was to assert that no criticism of the Soviet Union had been allowed to appear in German media. He claimed that Germany was strong enough to meet any enemies, a faint warning shot across the bows of the US. Stalin at a stroke reversed decades of Soviet hostility to religion and declared that there would henceforward be full freedom of worship. In part this aimed a mobilizing the Orthodox church, which had n

Eighty years ago the SS wins the battle for control in Prague

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  German occupied Czechoslovakia had become a battleground between the terrorists of the SS and the conservatives. The latter were represented by Konstantin von Neurath, an old style diplomat who had been replaced as foreign minister by Ribbentrop in 1938, and had been installed as Reich protector in Prague in a cynical atttempt to persuade world opinion that Czechoslovakia would be ruled in a decent fashion. Von Neurath did not endorse Nazi plans to obliterate Czech culture and conducted a soft-touch policy through Czech collaborationists. To discredit him the SS staged attacks, supposedly the work of the Czech underground. With the war against the Soviet Union under way, security in Czechoslovakia had assumed a new dimension. When the SS forced the issue, Hitler took their side and sent von Neurath "on leave", installing as his effective replacement Reinhard Heydrich, the master secret policeman, architect of the Holocaust and one of the most effective and fightening figure