... by Ernie Trory

Chapter Four - The Final Phase

Soviet advance to Germany

AS THE TROOPS OF THE ALLIED NATIONS advanced and began to close in on Germany, it waS inevitable that politicians of the right and of the pseudo-left should also begin to concern themselves with the fate of Germany in the aftermath of the war. These elements had already begun to plead for clemency and moderation for the. accomplices and collaborators of the nazi terror, in opposition to the agreed decisions of the Moscow and Teheran conferences. Said Palme Dutt in the September 1944 issue of Labour Monthly: "Here the Munichite MPs, the friends of Mosley and the old devotees of Nuremberg the Catholic intriguers and the Peace Pledge Union, the Economist and the Tribune and writers on the New statesman, Mr. Brailsford and Mr. Bernard Shaw and Professor Laski and Professor Joad have all joined hands to denounce the policy of the government and of the United Nations."

Later in the same article, he drew on the lessons of history to emphasise the dangers of making the same mistakes again, and of allowing the enemy to divide the Allies in their hour of victory. With his usual far-sighted analysis, he wrote:

"The division between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, the anti-Soviet and anti-Bolshevik blindness and frenzy of Western reaction, wrecked the settlement at the end of the last war, permitted the revival of German military power, destroyed the League of Nations and collective security, and made the Second World War inevitable. If this division were to be permitted to be revived at the end of the present war, then a similar outcome, or an even more destructive outcome in the character of the resulting third world war, would become finally inevitable."

In the October 1944 issue of Labour Monthly, Palme Dutt returned to this analysis and summed up the latest situation in the following paragraphs:

"The final phase of the war in Europe has be- gun, with the entry of Allied armies on German soil. But there is danger of underestimating this final phase; of early assumptions that its beginning may be treated as equivalent to its end, and that attention may now be switched to the domestic scene in isolation, without regard to the critical military and political problems of this concluding stage of the war in Europe and of the wider world situation. Such delusions of political manoeuvring or electioneering on the Left, no less than on the Right, could become not only irresponsible, but self-defeating; especially if such tendencies were to become identified with liberal-pacifist illusions or a denial or repudiation of the stern tasks of the final destruction of nazi power, the military occupation of Germany, the punishment of war criminals, the exaction of reparations and the prevention of new aggression ...without regard for the hundred ways in which victory can be thrown away at the winning post ...

"The present declared policy of the nazi leadership, to prolong the struggle by all avail- able means and with all resources within Germany, is confirmed by the practical measures taken for extreme and desperate mobilisation, as well as by the systematic annihilation of every potential nucleus of an alternative government within Germany. The recent series of political executions has de- monstrated this: first, the trial and execution of the potential opposition leadership of the Right from within the army (Witzleben, etc.); then of the Right in the civilian camp, and of the Centre (Goerdeler, Leuschner, etc.); then the murder of the already imprisoned leadership of the Left (Thaelmann, leader of German communism, and Dr. Breitscheid, representing the social democrats supporting unity). The aim is manifestly to prevent the formation of an alternative government which could carry out the surrender. This does not exclude parallel peace feelers in the hope of splitting the Allies. Their calculation is thus to prolong the conflict, even into conditions of chaos, to continue irregular resistance indefinitely even after the defeat of the armies in the field, no longer in any hope of victory in the present war, but with a view to sabotaging any settlement and taking advantage of any rift or weakening of allied united policy, so as to find the way to future revival."

By the end of 1944, the liberation of Europe was well under way. Belgium and France were already free of nazi rule and the Balkans were almost cleared. The allied forces were already bringing freedom, in varying degrees, to large areas of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hol- land and Norway; new democratic governments, with communist participation, had been set up in eleven European countries. In Bulgaria, the trials of more than 3,000 war criminals had begun. Commenting on these trials from Moscow, where he was working as a corres- pondent for the BBC, Paul Winterton noted that Bulgaria was the "first country to tackle the question of its war criminals in a really big way from the top down."

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