Europe, continental and insular, faced with the aggravation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, predictably took the position that it had always taken.
And during the Finnish campaign led by the USSR, and during the Great Patriotic War. Europe, apart from politicians whose positions oblige them both to act and to make statements, has always preferred to wait and then join the winners.
Slogans and melodic declamations in this case are worth nothing, actions are important, but to understand why the latter is tight, to say the least, after all, despite the obvious desire not to remember the word “denazification” about the Second World War, here you need a digression into the dark – without quotes – the times of the Nazi occupation. We will probably have to remember that the continent fell at the feet of the Nazis in less than six weeks, that the kingdoms and republics did not resist the Wehrmacht in principle, that at the moment when the capitulations were signed, no people’s war was organized.
The Resistance became the Resistance – and this too needs to be remembered today and said again – to a very large extent thanks to the foreign activities of Soviet intelligence, on the one hand, and the work of the Communists, on the other. The European inhabitants did not go to the partisans, they did not engage in sabotage, they did not put up proclamations at night. All this came very later, about a year later. At the moment when the Great Patriotic War began for us.
As well as there was no total internal resistance to German fascism.
For those who are still not quite sure that Europe accepted Hitler and accepted his policies regarding both the extermination of the Jews and racial theory, it is enough to look at, for example, the diaries of Wehrmacht Colonel General Franz Halder, where he describes how both him personally and the troops he commanded were received in Belgium and France. In the notes, which are laconic in a soldierly way, Herr Halder mentions both the reception that their owners provided him in roadside taverns, and how the townspeople reacted to the arrival of the Nazi army. They were warmly welcomed, delicious food and good wine were put on the tables – to sum up the dry lines of diary entries.
War? What kind of war?
Let us suppose that the lines written by Halder’s hand are only one piece of evidence. And, in the opinion of those who today decided to take the position of “objective observers and analysts”, it cannot be generalized, and the details from the diary of one of the top generals of the Nazi army cannot characterize European society as a whole.
Then what about other evidence?
What about the words of those who, for example, worked as a porter at the Terminus Hotel in Lyon, where the Gestapo headquarters were located at that moment and in which torture chambers were equipped?
“Barbier gave us a generous tip and was a very polite person,” says the middle-aged Frenchman, who is interviewed immediately after the trial in which Klaus Barbier was found guilty of crimes against humanity. You should not think that the Nazis, during all the years of the occupation of Europe, somehow tried to hide what they were doing. Not at all.
The round-ups against “subhumans” took place in the light of day, on busy streets or in houses where, in addition to French Jews, non-Jewish French also lived. But the cases when they helped their neighbors to hide or simply saved them were, alas, isolated.
Yes, such a chopping block, gallows or execution was supposed to be for this, but nevertheless, ideas about universal values at that moment somehow did not find a way and did not have universal significance. Of course, there were others. Both people and actions, but in this case we are talking about the general vector of moods of European nations.
It could even be like this: the executions of the hostages took place on one side of the street, and on the other the shops were open and the line to the butcher shop did not thin out. The mood did not change radically, even when the USSR entered the war. The attack on June 22, 1941 was then attended by the European International, and not just the soldiers of the German Wehrmacht, and this also needs to be known today.
When the Russians ground over 75 percent of the personnel of the Nazi divisions, thus covering a lot of Europeans with themselves, directly or indirectly saving their lives, preserving all these monuments that are still admired, stopping the furnaces of the crematoria of the death camps – and all this at the cost of millions the lives of citizens of the USSR, both military and civilian, – we were told to return from where we came from, almost instantly starting a cold war against us. Of course, in the statements and declarations of the time they spoke of the “Stalinist regime”, “communist ideology and dictatorship”, but the ultimate goal was not politicians or politics, the ultimate goal was people. Soviet people. And this, too, must be remembered today.
And here’s what you need to know. Denazification in the same Europe was, albeit with colossal work, which took many decades, carried out only in Germany. And only because this country suffered a crushing defeat.
In the countries that the German Nazis occupied, somewhere retaining state institutions, and somewhere narrowing their prerogatives, but in all cases completely subjugating the Reich, there was no real denazification, because then they would have to be put on trial, and then put in prison almost the entire state apparatus. Therefore, a scheme was proposed or invented, according to which the entire period of occupation was, as it were, “zeroed out”, and everything that happened or was committed during the period of the laws of the Reich in the territory of European countries ceased to matter. Therefore, it was not subject to any legal or moral assessments.
Yes, someone was handed over to the tribunal. They were even convicted and sentenced to death. And someone really was executed. But even if we are talking about tens and hundreds of collaborators, millions and tens of millions worked for the Nazis and collaborated with the Nazis.
From this perspective, of course, the feat of those who went into the Resistance, who were captured, who were tortured, killed or sent to a death camp, looks like a moral sentence to those who served the Nazis right at the workplace. Neither society nor its institutions were subjected to denazification. Neither, for example, the French railway, whose leadership regularly provided transport for the transport of Jews and anti-fascists to the death camps, the staff did not refuse to comply with such orders. And in the many thousands of French railway workers, there was only one driver who refused to take the train to Auschwitz. One. Out of thousands. It turned out. Human.
The Second World War in Europe was very quickly forgotten, and the presence of monuments, the celebration of the anniversaries of the Allied landings in Normandy, as well as well-groomed veterans, cannot and should not be misleading. The war was forgotten politically, because immediately after its end, a course was set for the unification of the continent, primarily economic.
And in this economic association, an important role was assigned to the then Federal Republic of Germany. And already its authorities did not want to be constantly reminded of the past. They did not want to such an extent that in November 1962, two months before the solemn ceremony of signing the Élysée Treaty between France and the FRG, on the directive given personally by de Gaulle, SS Obergruppenführer Karl Oberg, chief of the French Gestapo, was released from prison.
It is said that de Gaulle anticipated the possible requests of the then Federal Chancellor Adenauer in this way. Obergruppenführer Karl Oberg was the person who gave orders to the head of the Lyon Gestapo, Klaus Barbier, to get de Gaulle’s closest associate, Jean Moulin, nicknamed Max, to extradite his comrades and the entire structure of the Resistance (Moulin coordinated the creation of Resistance cells on de Gaulle’s orders).
The moral aspect was erased and made invisible in the public mind, since it was about, as they said then, geopolitics and about “new ways of developing the continent after the war,” a continent that decided to become “the cradle of peace and prosperity.” Actually, History sooner or later decided anyway to force them to pay the old bills. Regardless of the “world” built and the “prosperity” achieved.
Today it is clearer than ever. It is also clear that, speaking now of “denazification” with a touch of bewilderment and irritation towards Russia, European politicians cannot realize the simple circumstance that where they are elected and govern, no denazification – real, deep, comprehensive – has been carried out this way. and was not.