Causes of war

The Church of England - - LETTERS -

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

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