On the 75th anniversary of the 6th June D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 it is right and proper to remember the brave soldiers who landed in France willing to give their very lives to liberate Europe from the malignant forces of fascism which had brutally invaded, occupied, imprisoned and murdered millions of citizens across Europe from 1938 onwards.
The Nazis under Adolf Hitler were ruthless and cold blooded killers who had been organised into an awesome war machine that literally conquered formerly sovereign European countries and subjected them to Jackboot rule and terror. Hitler and his anti-Semitism and racial purity theories epitomised evil. Fascism was then and is now the greatest threat to humanity and peace across the planet. Fascism in all its racist and bigoted forms and offshoots has to be exposed, resisted and crushed wherever it raises its ugly head. The world lost between 60-65 million lives in World War 2. It was the bloodiest and most deadly war in human history. Commemorations like today are essential to remind everyone, young and old, never to forget the human cost of fascism and Nazism.
However the organisers of the 75th D-Day Commemoration event in Portsmouth yesterday, 5th June, are guilty of deceit and disgraceful disrespect to those who fought and defeated the Nazis. It was moving to see 300 British veterans of the war attend but the spirit and message of the great speech by D-Day veteran John Jenkins was lost in the midst of the grotesque anti-Russian phobia generated by the UK Government and parroted by the compliant media. How dare the British elite attempt to re-write history and erase the reality of the critical and incredible contribution of the former Soviet Union? Note the words of John Jenkins:
“You never forget your comrades, because we’re all in it together” https://twitter.com/BBCNews/status/1136236779894333440.
Think about those potent words. ‘Never forget your comrades’. Sadly over 450,000 British troops and civilians lost their lives fighting the fascists in WW2. The Americans lost around 400,000 military personnel and civilians. Six million Jews from all across Europe were slaughtered in street pogroms and purpose built concentration and extermination camps. Yet the country which both suffered the most fighting the fascists and contributed the most to defeating them were snubbed yesterday. Representatives from 16 nations were invited to be officially represented but no one from Russia. That is quite simply unforgiveable and wholly disrespectful. The absence of a representative from Russia tarnished the whole event.
The Soviet Union lost more soldiers and civilians in one key battle during WW2 than the UK and US combined throughout the whole war. In the winter of 1942 the Nazis attempted to strangle the Soviet war effort completely by capturing their essential oil supplies from the port of Baku. The only obstacle the Nazis faced was the city of Stalingrad. If they could take Stalingrad they would control Baku and the crucial oil supplies. The Soviet war effort would have been finished. Over a 162 day period the fiercest and heaviest fighting in the history of warfare ensued. The Soviets lost 500,000 troops and at least as many civilians during that battle. The Nazi army bombarded the city and effectively destroyed it but they couldn’t take it due to the herculean resistance of the Red Army and the civilian population. The hitherto invincible Nazi army met its match and the whole course of the 2nd World War was altered fundamentally.
A battle that began in the winter of 1942 ended in January 1943 with the surrender of 91,000 German troops. A Nazi force of 300,000 had been reduced to only 91,000 and from that victory onwards the Red Army forced the Nazis out of Eastern Europe and chased them all the way back to Berlin. Hitler himself said after that defeat:
“The God of war has gone to the other side” https://vimeo.com/136182100.
The legend of Nazi invincibility was shattered and reduced to empty myth by the victory of the Red Army at Stalingrad.
The Soviet Union and their leader Josef Stalin were not prepared for the Nazi invasion in June 1941 under the codename Operation Barbarossa. According to the meticulously well-researched and powerful documentary series ‘The Untold History of the United States’ by film director and former US Infantry man in Vietnam, Oliver Stone, and American historian, Peter Kuznick, Stalin was a tyrant who committed atrocities against his own people but for four years from 1935 to 1939 he had pleaded with the US and UK to form an alliance against Hitler and the Nazis. His pleas fell on deaf ears.
The Soviet Union took the lead in organising anti-fascist forces across the world throughout the 1930’s but both Britain and the United States ignored the warning signs and stood aside while Hitler’s forces grew in strength and confidence. Hitler’s fascist ally Mussolini of Italy invaded Ethiopia in October of 1935 and the US and UK did nothing.
Hitler invaded the demilitarised Rhineland separating France and Germany in March 1936 and France did not respond and the US and UK again did nothing. This is despite the fact Hitler at that time called the invasion his ‘biggest gamble’ and accepted that even moderate resistance would have forced him to retreat ‘with his tail between his legs’ https://vimeo.com/136182100.
When the fascist General Franco organised a military coup against the democratically elected republican government in Spain to establish a fascist regime Hitler and Mussolini both supplied him with troops and military hardware. The fighting began in July 1936 and Hitler’s Condor Legion were responsible for hundreds of bombing sorties against the republican forces including the horror visited on Guernica immortalised by Picasso in his mural.
The Soviet Union sent guns and supplies to the republican fighters but the US and UK refused to lift a finger in support of the democratically elected government fighting the fascist forces of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. In fact American businesses like General Motors, Ford, Firestone and others supplied essential trucks, tyres and machine tools to Franco to aid his fascist coup. Texaco oil promised to supply him all the oil he needed on credit. They also supplied oil to Hitler.
The Spanish civil war lasted three years and Hitler used that theatre to train and prepare his own troops for battle. It was a war against fascism and only the Soviet Union and ordinary concerned socialists, communists and democrats who joined International Brigades in defence of the republic were prepared to stand up to the fascist forces. Franco won and both Hitler and Mussolini were emboldened further.
In 1938 Germany invaded and occupied Austria and part of Czechoslovakia. Instead of confronting Hitler in battle Britain signed the Munich Pact which accepted the German annexation of Austria and much of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain, the then British Prime Minister, infamously declared the settlement represented ‘PEACE IN OUR TIME’. Later that year an orgy of violence and persecution was unleashed against the Jewish population in Germany and by March 1939 Hitler tore up the Munich Pact and invaded the whole of Czechoslovakia.
Exasperated by the failure of the UK or US to stand up to Hitler and fearing a German invasion through Poland Stalin sought a non-aggression pact with the Nazis but within two weeks of signing it Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939 forcing France and the UK to at last declare war on Germany.
Ignoring the declaration Germany rapidly conquered Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Norway and by June 1940, after only 6 weeks of fighting, accepted France’s surrender. Air attacks on Britain were launched with plans for an invasion developed. Germany was all-powerful and apparently invincible. The future of Europe looked bleak as the brutality and cold blooded murder of civilians, Jews, socialists, trade unionists, disabled citizens and the Roma gypsy communities gathered frightening pace.
However the June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union would soon represent Hitler’s biggest mistake.
Some context is important here in relation to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. For most of the Second World War the UK and US forces faced 10 divisions of the Nazi army combined. The Soviet Union faced 200 Divisions of the Nazi army.
Stalin pleaded with US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Churchill to open up a second front against the Germans in Western Europe. That would weaken their assault on the eastern front against the Soviet Union and allow the combined US and UK forces to face down a reduced German force. Despite verbal promises and a public one in June 1942 that a new second front would be opened up in the west by US and UK forces by the end of 1942 at the latest the reality is that 2nd front never materialised until nearly two years later in June 1944.
The attitude of the American political class was perhaps best summed up by future US President Harry S. Truman, speaking on the floor of the Senate while he was Senator for Missouri in 1941:
“If we see Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning then we ought to help Germany. That way let them kill as many as possible” https://vimeo.com/136182100.
It is perhaps no surprise that he was the man who after only weeks in the President’s office took the decision to drop the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an act of wanton terror and inhumane irresponsibility.
Left isolated without the military supplies eventually promised by the US and UK and with no sign of the 2nd front being opened up in western Europe the Soviet Union was forced to fight the Nazi war machine with incredulous spirit, determination and courage. Against all the odds and in defiance of military expert predictions that they would fall to Hitler within 3 months at most and perhaps as quick as 4 weeks the Soviets fought the Germans to a standstill before turning the tide of the whole war.
At Leningrad the Soviet population and Red Army forces endured a 900 day siege stretching over the two winters of 1941 and 1942. Of the population of 2.5 million over 1 million perished from bombs, starvation or hypothermia. Cut off from all supplies the population was forced to eat dead rats, human flesh and soups made from wallpaper paste. Despite the unimaginable hardships and suffering the population refused to evacuate and displayed truly remarkable strength and endurance. The Germans tried everything but couldn’t take Leningrad.
In fiendish and macabre retaliation for the resistance in places like Leningrad the Nazi scum burned 200 other cities and 9,000 villages to the ground. The Soviet losses of 27 million lives are considered a minimum estimate but the refusal to succumb in Leningrad and the victory in the battle of Stalingrad were absolutely crucial turning points in WW2.
No country suffered more or gave more than the Soviet Union to beat the fascists. The fact they were not invited to be represented in Portsmouth yesterday is a damned disgrace and the UK Government collectively should hang their heads in shame.
Those who matter understand that you ‘never forget your comrades’ and that’s why the unmatched sacrifice and contribution to the defeat of Hitler and his Nazi hordes in WW2 should be, and will be, never forgotten.
This article was written by our Political Adviser, Tommy Sheridan and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or policy of Solidarity as a whole