A gradual decline of Wishful Thinking and Big Lies during the 1920s began to bring goodwill, healing and peace between Germany and the victorious Allies. Tragically, these fragile blossoms of goodwill, healing and peace in the 1920s were quickly destroyed in the 1930s. Why? Democracy in Germany was killed by the Big Lies of the twisted, delusional, evil dictator, Adolf Hitler.
When the Great War ended (in 1918), virtually the whole world welcomed peace.
Nevertheless, a mere twenty years later (in 1939) another world war began. We called it World War II. And so, the Great War became known as World War I.
What insights and wisdom can we learn from the 1920s and 1930s to save us from fighting World War III? And to save the Jews from another Holocaust?
Innumerable books have been written with innumerable insights.
One generally agreed upon insight is that it was wrong for the victorious Allies to fan the hatred of Germany—and the humiliation of the German people—by assigning Germany the sole blame for World War I.
Admittedly, Germany had been fanning the flames of war for decades. We can gain insights and wisdom by learning from Germany’s mistakes.
After its victory over France in 1871, Germany gobbled up the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, fanning French hatred of Germany and humiliating the French people.
Germany tried to build a navy strong enough to challenge Britain’s navy.
Britain could never permit this danger—or this humiliation.
This German challenge threatened the survival of Britain and its Empire. Britain was an island. It depended upon control of the seas for all of its commercial and military activities, including feeding its people.
At the onset of World War I, Germany invaded neutral Belgium.
Britain could never permit this danger—or this humiliation.
Historically, Britain opposed any Great Power who sought to control the area of modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands. Any powerful army and navy stationed such a short distance away across the English Channel could threaten the survival of Britain.
Germany added insult to this injury by contemptuously referring to Britain’s treaty that guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium as a mere “scrap of paper”. (statement by German Chancellor Hollweg in 1914).
Later in the War, Germany expanded its submarine attacks in ways that threatened the commerce, ships and citizens of the United States.
The United States could never permit this danger—or this humiliation.
And so, the United States entered the War in 1917, tipping the economic and military scales against Germany and leading to Germany’s defeat in 1918.
Nevertheless, despite these mistakes by Germany, the countries fighting Germany bear some of the responsibility for the cataclysm.
No less than Germany, their arrogance, greed and racism led to empires whose competitions for glory, wealth and power seem—in hindsight—to have made the outbreak of a world war inevitable.
In a string of crises stretching back decades, nations kept endangering the commerce and people of other nations. Nations kept humiliating each other.
Using an illustration of Jesus, the Allies and the Germans both had plenty of “planks” and “specks” that they needed to remove from their hypocritical eyes. (Matthew 7:1-5).
Furthermore, the “planks” and “specks” that led to World War I are a perfect example of what James, the brother of Jesus, told us 2,000 years ago:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. (James 4:1-2).
People and nations engage in Wishful Thinking if they do not realize and confess that all nations and all people—including themselves and their own nation—have “planks” and “specks” in their hypocritical eyes.
All people and all nations are like sheep who have gone astray. They have all turned away from their ideals to their own selfish ways. (Isaiah 53:6). They have all sinned and fallen short of their ideals—fallen short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23).
The Wishful Thinking of the Allies that endangered and humiliated Germany had at least two bad effects that paved the way towards World War II and the Holocaust.
First, Germans naturally resented their humiliation.
Hitler himself was consumed by his desire for revenge. Indeed, in a classic psychological reaction, he even denied the truth that Germany lost the War.
This became Hitler’s Big Lie.
According to Hitler’s twisted, delusional, evil thinking, Germany and its brave soldiers such as himself had won the War. But their hard-fought victory was stolen by traitors such as Jews and Communists. Germany was “stabbed in the back” by these traitors who needlessly surrendered to the Allies.
Hitler rode to power by constantly repeating his Big Lies to patriotic Germans. They seethed under the humiliation of Germany’s defeat. They longed for revenge against those traitors—especially Jews and Communists—who they falsely believed had betrayed Germany.
Eventually, Hitler used his Big Lies to get revenge over France by conquering it in World War II; to get revenge over the Communists by invading the Soviet Union; and to get revenge over the Jews by exterminating as many of them as he could in the Holocaust.
As Hitler himself said in Mein Kempf (where he told the Big Lie that Jews caused World War 1):
[T]he principle . . . is quite true . . . that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victim to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
It would never come into their minds to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in the world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
(Adolf Hitler, Mein Kempf, vol I, ch. X).
Therefore, it was Wishful Thinking for naive people of Goodwill to believe that the Big Lies of Adolf Hitler’s twisted, delusional, evil mind could safely be ignored. It was Wishful Thinking to believe that these Big Lies were so obviously false that they would simply go away.
Tragically, such Wishful Thinking convinced naive people of Goodwill to do nothing to stop Hitler until after he conquered France, invaded the Soviet Union, and exterminated millions of Jews—until after Hitler’s Big Lies almost overcame Humanity.
Instead of denouncing and defeating Hitler and his Big Lies, naive people of Goodwill kept telling each other that, surely, nobody could be crazy and evil enough to believe these obviously false Big Lies of Hitler.
Naive people of Goodwill kept telling each other that, surely, nobody could be crazy and evil enough to want to relive the horrors of World War I by invading France and Russia.
Naive people of Goodwill kept telling each other that, surely, nobody could be crazy and evil enough to want to exterminate millions of Jews.
And so the road to World War II and the Holocaust was paved with the Wishful Thinking of naive people of Goodwill.
Furthermore, there was a second way that the road to World War II and the Holocaust was paved with the Wishful Thinking of naive people of Goodwill.
Physics teaches us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is why expelling exploding chemicals out of the back of a rocket causes the rocket to travel the opposite direction.
This same principle applies to politics and diplomacy: to every political and diplomatic action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
And so, after a few years of vindictiveness against Germany, the victorious Allies began to go to the opposite extreme.
They began excusing Germany—and began blaming themselves—for causing the War and imposing an overly harsh peace treaty on Germany (the Treaty of Versailles).
The Apostle Paul told us 2,000 years ago: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18).
Wishful Thinking muddies our wisdom—our ability to discern that it is not possible to live at peace in certain facts and circumstances (such as when people or a nation worship Nationalism) and with certain people (such as Hitler). (See my blog “Nationalism is Patriotism Gone Astray”.)
If we think that only other people and nations have gone astray, we fail to take out the “planks” and “specks” from our own eyes so that we can see clearly to remove the “planks” and “specks” from other people and nations.
If our Wishful Thinking causes us to believe naively that other people and nations will, surely, not act based on outrageous Big Lies that are obviously false, we will fail to realize that these evil Big Lies have so twisted and deluded the evil thinking of other people and nations that we cannot live at peace with them until we expose and overcome their Big Lies.
A gradual decline of Wishful Thinking and Big Lies during the 1920s began to bring goodwill, healing and peace between Germany and the victorious Allies.
Similarly, Russia and the rest of the world were beginning to enjoy goodwill, healing and peace in the 1990s, when Russia had thrown off the Communist tyranny and begun to build democracy—a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
In the case of Germany in the 1920s, it voluntarily joined the League of Nations—the predecessor to the United Nations as the international organization charged with keeping the world at peace.
Germany voluntarily agreed to the Treaty of Locarno, peacefully stabilizing Central and Eastern Europe by guaranteeing most borders and agreeing to arbitrate international disputes.
Germany voluntarily joined the Kellogg-Briand Pact, renouncing war as a tool of national policy.
These positive steps toward goodwill, healing and peace were taken by Germany when it was a democracy called the Weimar Republic.
Tragically, these fragile blossoms of goodwill, healing and peace in the 1920s were quickly destroyed in the 1930s.
The hardships and humiliations of the German people during the Great Depression led to the Rise of Hitler.
In the 1920s, Hitler founded his Nazi Party to capitalize on the hardships and humiliations of the German people during and after World War I.
In the early 1930s, Hitler rose to power by capitalizing on the additional hardships and humiliations of the German people during the Great Depression.
Democracy in Germany was killed by the Big Lies of the twisted, delusional evil dictator, Adolf Hitler.
He was a man consumed by his thirst for revenge to reverse the hardships and humiliations of the German people. How? By conquering France, invading the Soviet Union, and exterminating Jews.
Similarly, democracy in Russia was killed by the Big Lies of the twisted, delusional, evil dictator, Vladimir Putin—a man consumed by his megalomania to become a “Czar” who exploits Russian Christian Nationalism to re-establish an evil empire of the rich and powerful, by the rich and powerful, and for the rich and powerful.
In the 1920s, the victorious Allies began feeling guilty about the harsh economic, territorial and military terms they had imposed on Germany.
And so, in the face of Hitler’s thirst for revenge against the French, the Communists, and the Jews, the victorious Allies foolishly made concession after concession to Hitler’s Germany.
Hitler’s threats were met only with Wishful Thinking by naive people of Goodwill.
I often think that the people and leaders of the victorious Allies must never have read Hitler’s book Mein Kempf (first published in 1925). If they had read it, they should have ended their Wishful Thinking.
I read Mein Kempf while I was still in high school. And I didn’t need to read far to know that, if Hitler ever got the chance, he would get revenge by humiliating the French, destroying the Communists, and exterminating the Jews.
When confronted by such twisted, delusional, evil people, never be naive.
Never hide behind Wishful Thinking.
Such twisted, delusional evil people mean what they say, whether they are:
—ISIS Muslim Nationalists;
—Taliban Muslim Nationalists;
—Russian Christian Nationalists; or
—White Christian Nationalists.
Such twisted, delusional, evil people mean what they threaten, whether they are threatening to kill jews, blacks, or school children, and whether they are threatening to blow up the World Trade Center, shoot up a supermarket or school, or invade Ukraine and use nuclear weapons.
Therefore, we must stop our Wishful Thinking.
We must expose their Big Lies.
And, despite still having “planks” and “specks” in our own eyes, we must overcome their violence by using force while embracing the Spirit of Peace.
For my thoughts about the American Civil War, and about World War I and its aftermath (especially in light of post-Cold War diplomacy and the war in Ukraine), please read my blogs: “A War That Spun Out of Control: The American Civil War”, “A War That Spun Out of Control: World War I”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: The 1920s and 1930s”, and “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: Blaming Germany”.
For my thoughts about establishing Peace, please read my blogs “Blessed Are the Peacemakers”, “Ending Violence: Putting Faces with Names”, “Ending Violence: Embracing the Spirit of Peace”, “Curtailing Force: Replacing Nails with Glue”, “Spilling Coffee”, “Chess Lessons: Playing for a Draw”, “Game Lessons: Sustainable Risk”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, “Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To-Deceive-and-Divide”, “We Need Inspiring Visions of a Bright Future. Why?”, “Nationalism Is Patriotism Gone Astray”, and “Establishing Peace Without Limit”.
For related thoughts, please read my blogs “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount”, “Nationalism is Patriotism Gone Astray”, “Keeping the Powers of Money, Religion and Kingdoms Separate”, and “How Do We Build a Civilization That Is Good—That Is Very Good?”.
For more of my thoughts about the need for systems of laws and customs to combat hatred, racism and violence, please read my blogs “Spilling Coffee”, “Individuals and Systems, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable”, and “The Webb Space Telescope: Many Parts, One System”.
For an overview of the road to World War II, please read the chapter “Hakuna Matata” in my book Visions of America (published together with my book Visions of the Church), at pages 113-117; and please read The Gathering Storm, the first volume of Winston Churchill’s World War II memoirs.