Remembering the fallen
War-wariness was at its height when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought to appease German leader Adolf Hitler by agreeing to Nazi occupation of part of Czechoslovakia. When Chamberlain declared ‘‘peace for our time’’ had been secured in 1938, he did so amid a cheering crowd of Britons.
Less than a year later, he declared war and condemned Hitler. ‘‘His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.’’
In 1940, when Chamberlain resigned, his language was stronger still.
The overwhelming lesson from World War II is this: Pursuing peace does not always result in peace.
As Anzac Day nears, the lessons of both wars are to the fore in a volatile world.
There is no perfect formula or ideology that makes war obsolete.
Humans are as flawed as they always were, and countries and groups of people have interests to protect.
For the idealistic, the trouble is that might makes right: The powerful always have the upper hand.
Putting politics aside, the power of Anzac Day is in its uniting message: We shall remember them.
More than 18,000 New Zealanders lost their lives in WWI. And in New Zealand, Massey University war historian Glyn Harper has made real-life accounts of the Great War accessible, even to children.
There are no easy answers, but understanding the sacrifices of war – balanced by the need to stand up for what’s right – can only be helpful.
- GRANT MILLER