History repeats itself… It has to. No one listens the first time”
This quote really made an impact when I started studying World Wars 1 and 2 for my new display in my library.
I asked the children the question…
World War 1 was called “ The War to End all Wars” What does that mean?
After we had discussed the question, many children put their hands up and remarked that it wasn’t the war to end all wars, because there was the Second World War.
And that is the tragedy of history. People don’t seem to learn from their mistakes. Or at least, they think they will succeed where past people have failed.
I’m sure Hitler knew all about WW1, having fought in it, but he obviously thought he could do better. A pity that he didn’t pay attention to history. He would have learned from Napoleon’s mistake that attacking Russia during winter was bound to end in defeat.
Studying the wars has been heartbreaking and depressing, but also fascinating.
Did you know that the French built a fake Paris down the Seine River from real Paris? They made cardboard buildings and monuments and lit up everything to look like the city. The object was that German planes would bomb it instead of the real Paris. The problem was that it wasn’t finished by the time the war ended, so they never got a chance to see if it worked.
I never knew exactly why the First World War started. I knew that Archduke Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo by a Serbian, but I didn’t know why that would spark a war of that magnitude.
Part of the problem was that Austria/Hungary swiped Bosnia from the other Balkan states.
Frantz Ferdinand was an Austrian/Hungarian, and heir to the throne. He was visiting Bosnia as a sort of diplomatic show, and that’s when the Serbian Black Hand group decided to assassinate him and his wife.
Austria/Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the other European countries chose sides after that.
The reason for WW2 is more complex, and comes from a multiple set of causes.
The biggest one seems to be the Treaty of Versailles, which was an agreement drawn up by the countries that won WW1.
They decided that Germany was responsible for the war, and must pay for it. Literally. In fact, the country only finished paying its World War One debt off in October 2010!
Germany lost a lot of its land, and became poverty stricken. The US President Woodrow Wilson hadn’t agreed with the Treaty of Versailles. He said Germany needed to be punished, but also helped to become a democratic nation. He was concerned that if they treated Germany too harshly, the Germans would get revenge one day.
And of course that is what happened. Hitler achieved success when he told his struggling nation that he would Make Germany strong again and tear up the Treaty of Versailles.
Did you know that Frantz Ferdinand was warned about the dangers of visiting Bosnia, but he went ahead anyway. One of the reasons was because of his wife, Sophie.
She had been a lady-in- waiting, and his family had been so horrified that he married her and brought her into their royal family. He was made to promise that none of their children would inherit the rulership of the country. Sophie could never sit next to him at public occasions, and always had to walk behind him.
Some have suggested that he visited the foreign country at that time, because it was their wedding anniversary, and he wanted to be able to celebrate it with her properly.
And there is the unforgettable story of Christmas 1914 when opposing troops stopped shooting at each other, and shared a day of singing, food and playing soccer.
And do you know about the carrot story?
Yes, carrots can help our eyesight because they are high in Vitamin A, but can they really make you see in the dark? Studies have shown that carrots do not make eyes better equipped for night sight.
So where did that idea come from?
The Second World War… Britain spread the word that they were feeding their pilots a diet of carrots, and that is why they were able to see Nazi bombers in the dark. Of course, this was a story fabricated to hide the fact that the British had radar, which could spot enemy planes before they reached the English Channel.
There are countless stories from both wars that are interesting, but we would do well to pay attention to what happened, and the great cost of war, so that future generations don’t make the same mistakes.