Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My German Helmet and the Nazi Invasion of Russia In 1941

Reproduction German Helmet of WW II
My reproduction German helmet arrived this week.  The color is perfect, a kind of gray-green.  It is heavier than my uncle's German police helmet.  I tried it on, and was immediately aware of the weight.  No doubt German soldiers developed strong neck muscles wearing these.  Holding the helmet, I am aware of the cold steel, the heavy weight, and the smell of the leather liner.

Okay, so now I have a German helmet.  What do I do now, invade Poland?

Nah, I'll just keep it as a historical reference as I study the history of World War II, one of my interests.

I have been watching a documentary series from 1974, "The Unknown War," narrated by Burt Lancaster.  It is all about the Nazi invasion of Russia, Operation Barbarossa, which began in 1941.  According to the series narration, Hitler intended to destroy the Soviet Union and exterminate its populations, and then incorporate the lands into Germany.  The Russians had ample reason to fight like fanatics, as surrender was not an option.

The series covers great battles such as the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, Leningrad and Kursk.  Due to Nazi encirclement of major Russian cities, millions of Russians starved to death rather than surrender.  Around 20 million Russians died, of war wounds, starvation and freezing in the bitter winters.  Nevertheless, the Nazi invasion failed.  Hitler all but exhausted his military resources in his obsessive desire to destroy Russia.  Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers died or surrendered, and many thousands of tanks and aircraft were lost in Hitler's vain effort.  There's no telling how WWII might have turned out, had Hitler not invaded Russia, and wasted so many German lives and assets, instead of directing those assets against the allied forces.  Russia had a formal peace agreement with Germany and would not have fought with the allies, absent the 1941 invasion.

Earlier this week, I watched "Escape From Sobibor," based on the true story of 600 Jewish prisoners in a Nazi extermination camp, who rebelled against their captors, killing eleven German guards and officers before opening the gates and fleeing, in mass, into the nearby forest.  About half survived the surrounding mine field and machine gun fire, and most of those were later captured and executed.  About 50 of the prisoners eluded capture and survived the war.

There is no escaping the fact that the Nazis were entirely evil.  If ever there was a just and necessary war, it was the allied war on the fascist powers of World War II.  It is instructional to study the depths of depravity to which men and nations can descend.  The goal, as always, is to learn how we might prevent such tyranny from happening again.

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