Causes of war
Sir, Alan Storkey is absolutely right in his analysis of the reasons for the Great War. May I endorse, by my recollections, his opinion that WWII was a continuance of the escalation into violence orchestrated by the armaments manufacturers? When war was declared in 1939, I saw an aristocratic old lady burst into tears and I asked if she had lost someone dear to her in what we then referred to as “the Last War”. I was told I would not understand her troubles and so continued to use my eyes and ears to try to do so.
Eventually, I learned that she and a large number of her contemporaries who held or had held very high office in the Government, had, in the earlier 1930s, sold all their investments in the Lancashire cotton industry, the coal mines of S Wales, Nottingham and Co Durham and other British industries, and reinvested in Krupp of Essen, because they believed that Hitler was about to attack Russia and rid us of the Bolsheviks.
However, unwilling to lose a large part of her wealth, one very highly placed Lady (literally) managed to employ as her chauffeur a German ex-Uboat wireless officer (who, of course, should have been interned by then as an enemy alien) so that he could drive her out into the countryside on clear nights to make contact with Krupps and others, in an attempt to recover at least her capital investment. They didn’t succeed and regarded themselves as victims, in whose grief we were all expected to share.
My father was at Dunkirk, facing the weaponry that had been paid for by some of our wealthiest leaders and he found it very hard to feel much sympathy with their losses. If these people, most of whom attended church regularly, for one reason or another, had taken the words of Jesus to heart and been a little less greedy for a slightly higher yield on their ample capital, quite apart from demonstrating a measure of patriotism, then on the one hand our own industrialists and workers would have been more prosperous and on the other, Hitler would have found it difficult to muster the necessary force to invade so many countries on Germany’s borders.
It is also worth noting that in 1937 the population of Germany was 73 per cent Christian, (some only nominally, no doubt) mainly Roman Catholic or Reformed Evangelical, with a few minority denominations, so that, if all Christians, world-wide had remained faithful to our Lord’s command, the only people who would have been available for service in the military forces of the Third Reich, would have been the atheists and the Jews.
When Franz Jaegerstatter was executed for his conscious objection, in Berlin, in August 1943, his six fellow martyrs were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers and others who did try to follow their Lord. On our side of the conflict, we treated our COs far better than we had done in WWI and by not executing them as traitors, we surely gained a great deal of moral high ground. It is a great shame that those high aspirations, from humanity’s point of view, have been overwhelmed by the drive for profit, power and political mastery.
Mary P Roe, (past chairman of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship), Bicester