Seventy Years On
70 Years On
It is now 70 years since Britain declared on Germany and we were joined in the greatest armed conflict that the world has ever seen. The World War caused 450,000 British military and civilian deaths and many more injured. For six years the battles raged creating misery and suffering for many millions of people.
The whole world was witness to horrific advances in killing technology. For the first time, Britain could be heavily attacked without an enemy needing to send a fleet to our shores. The war ended with the use of a weapon which could destroy the civilisation that created it.
The war was fought against the evil of militaristic dictatorships and to preserve the relative freedom and liberties that we enjoy. It is timely for us to remember and be profoundly grateful for the sacrifice that was entered into in September 1939. We might reflect that whatever our difficulties are today, at least they are not against the backdrop of worldwide nation-on-nation conflict.
While we always have our own losses of family and friends as part of life’s cycle, what must it have been like to see such a huge death toll mounting through the calculated actions of nation-states? We owe so much to a courageous and determined generation who endured all of this in the name of our freedom.
One of the lessons from the 1930s is surely that the high cost of defence and the prevention of war are generally lower than the cost of war itself. The ready tolerance of intolerance and embracing of intolerance in central Europe led to the superficially democratic election of the most murderous regime in history. Subsequent appeasement allowed that dictatorship to develop a confidence and capability to cause unparalleled destruction to humanity.
That such a regime could gain power advocating intolerance and prejudice should alert us to the same dangers in society today. A little self-analysis should demonstrate to us that we are all minorities. The attributes that make us minorities, and indeed unique, are not always immediately obvious but they are there. So whipping up opinion against groups “who are not us” is ultimately self-destructive.
At the same time we see that the trigger for war is so often a belief that can see no validity in other beliefs. Other opinions, political or theological, have to be suppressed to allow the primacy of the only view that is right. Surely our prospects for future peace are enhanced if we can take an opposite path and embrace the right to differ and to be different.
Bob Lanzer, Leader of Crawley Borough Council
2nd September 2009