Chapter Three - The Second Front
ON THE 6TH JUNE 1944, British, American and Canadian forces landed in northern France and opened the long-awaited Second Front. Apart from its military significance, which was considerable, it represented a defeat for the reactionaries who had sought to delay it still further or to limit its scope.
The effect of the Second Front on the political crisis inside Germany was reflected in the attempt on Hitler's life on the 20th July by a group of army officers and some civilians, who had realised the hopelessness of Germany's military and economic situation and who wanted to remove Hitler in order to sue for peace while there was still time to make terms. The attempt failed and the leaders of the conspiracy were either shot out of hand or hanged. There followed a wide-spread purge of the army and the replacement of unreliable commanders, especially on the Eastern Front.
A few days later, sixteen German generals captured in Byelorussia published an appeal calling upon the generals and other officers of the German armed forces to make a resolute break with Hitler and his associates and to stop fighting forthwith. In agreement with the other signatories to the appeal, four of these generals then asked for a meeting with Erich Weinert, president of the Free Germany National Committee and with General von Seydl itz, pres ident of the German Officers' League,. A meeting was held and full agreement reached on all questions relating to the military and political situations and the immediate tasks of the freedom movement in its fight against Hitler.
The main weakness of this movement, however, was that it failed to find ways and means of acting with the members of such underground organisations as the National Peace Movement; or with those who were participating in the People's Councils of East Prussia; or who had demonstrated for peace in Eisenach; or who had risked their lives by taking strike action in Hamburg and Kiel.
It was, however, very clear that at this stage, in spi te of the heroism of the German anti-fascist fighters, the defeat of nazism would not be brought about by the democratic forces inside Germany but as a result of the military blows struck from without by the armies of the anti-fascist coalition. It followed, therefore, that the ultimate punishment of war criminals and the final destruction of fascist institutions could not be left to the German people, but would have to be carried out by the occupying powers under the control of the United Nations.
The forces of German reaction were not likely to disappear from the scene, as if by magic, after their military defeat. They had their experiences of the period from 1918 to 1933 to draw upon and there was no doubt that they would once more attempt to exploit international rivalries between capitalist countries, and the hostility of capitalism to socialism, in order to rebuild their power. In these circumstances, it would be the responsibility of the United Nations to complete the destruction of the German war machine and to prevent the formation of neo-nazi groups and secret para-military formations.