Espreso. Global

Democracies have dark sides too

11 March, 2024 Monday

Watching the pace of assistance to Ukraine, the adventures of Scholz and the Taurus, Paris's maneuvers regarding shells, and the US's MAGA tambourine dances, we wonder: how can they not see Evil, how can they not understand the consequences of procrastination and passivity?

And how did Henry Ford, who was awarded the Order of the German Eagle, the highest honour of the Third Reich for foreigners, on 30 April 1938, not see Evil? Without understanding other people's societies, we get emotional... and this makes us vulnerable.

"On December 8, 1941, in front of the House of Commons, Churchill said: "We have 4/5 of the world's population on our side". Sir Winston exaggerated. It would be much more correct to say that the Allies controlled 4/5 of the world's inhabitants. Propaganda (don't be afraid of this word, propaganda is a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver, it has no negative meaning) spread the thesis that the goal of "free nations" was to defeat totalitarian states. However, there were nuances. And a lot of them.

South America was hardly touched by WWII, although Brazil joined the coalition in 1942, and its 25,000-strong contingent took part in the Allied Italian campaign. The specific position of Ireland has already been mentioned. Sweden... Stockholm also claimed to be neutral. However, the Swedes arrested many Allied spies and informants. It was only in 1944, when it became obvious, that their government lost its insistence on identifying Allied intelligence networks.

Switzerland. In an attempt to stop Allied intelligence operations, Swiss officials denied asylum to Jews. Switzerland became the main recipient of Nazi loot in Europe. Later, it appropriated both the loot (the fate of the Nazi accounts was never fully clarified) and the funds of the Jews who were destroyed and never received their fortunes. Estelle Sapir, the daughter of a Holocaust victim in France, said: "My father was able to protect his money from the Nazis, but not from the Swiss." These were gigantic sums of money. The official Bern paid the Nazis the sums from life insurance contracts taken out by German Jews. After the war, Switzerland did not recognize this.

Bern helped the Axis powers quite a bit technologically and industrially: in 1941 (the war had already lasted for two years), the "neutral mountaineers" increased their exports of chemical products to Germany by 250% (!) and metals by 500(!).

The Allied countries were not idealistic either. The US Bureau of Military Information found that in 1942, one third of Americans were ready for a separate peace with Germany. In 1944, 45 per cent (only?) of the British admitted to hating the Germans, while only 27 per cent of Canadians did.

In 1939, Britain had arrested all German citizens on its territory, including... Jews who had fled Hitler. Similar indiscriminacy was observed in the United States: after Pearl Harbor, Japanese living in the United States were interned. At the beginning of the war, American Jews came under suspicion, if not hostility, from their fellow Americans. One poll showed that Jews were more distrusted than any other ethnic group (except Italians). A 1944 poll showed that Americans did not believe that Hitler had killed Jews by the millions.

At the beginning of the war, white American migrants or children of migrants identified themselves with their respective countries of origin. This included 5 million Italians. Until December 1941, local Italian newspapers called Mussolini a giant. In some places, they welcomed the German invasion and approved their plans to conquer new territories. Even when the United States declared war on Italy, many American Italians hoped that a US victory would not lead to the defeat of Italy. "And all hell broke loose...".

Why is this so? It's simple - societies and governments everywhere look at events from their own angle. Their own = favorable to them. And the further away the observer is, the calmer he wants to be. Add stereotypes, the nuances of education, local backgrounds, the baggage of historical mistakes and traumas, and the psychology of the masses of different societies - and you have it.

This is not bad, it is not good. It's just the way it is - democracies also have dark sides. Because they are made of people. Nothing is perfect. Democracies are very reluctant to talk about their skeletons in the closet, but knowing these stories helps to calm the breath and better understand the flaws and weaknesses of democratic societies.

It also helps to plan not the next step, but the third, fourth and beyond.


About the author. Vitaliy Haidukevich, journalist

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs. 

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