Reigns of Terror. In March of 1938 it was the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany – it led us to the brink of war, but was avoided by allowing Hitler the land grab based on “history”. It would be the first of many such allowances, all for the cause of preventing war, but spinning us closer to it with every passing day.
This commentary, by the historian Hendrik Willem van Loon is given right during this devastating move, which is why there are references to the “events of the day” and the shocking reality of it all as the German Army marches into Vienna to assume power.
And even in 1938, so close to the inevitable, there were people who didn’t think what Hitler was doing was all that bad. There were people who thought appeasing Hitler would make him go away. There were people who felt this was a new World Order waiting to happen, even in the U.S.
Although in 1938, the notion of America getting involved in a shooting war over Austria was remote, there were some who wondered if this land grab wasn’t the harbinger of things to come, that Hitler wouldn’t be content with his “reunification of Germany and Austria”, but thought it was foretold a future uncertain as anything during the dark days of World War 1.
But what van Loon was concerned with was how easily the Austrians acquiesced to these demands, how easily Austria fell into the lap of Nazi Germany. How no one thought to resist.
And then van Loon tells a story about another reign of terror; one just following the French Revolution, where a condemned prisoner gets caught in a squabble over bureaucratic red tape and, rather than accept freedom, insists on being guillotined with the rest of the condemned that day because he felt he had no other choice.
It’s a story disturbing in its familiarity – one that seems apropos in 2017, just as much as it was in 1938.
As long as we’re visiting dark days, here’s one to consider. Here is H.W. van Loon’s commentary for March 19, 1938 as broadcast over the Red Network of NBC.