Left to right: Vittorio Orlando (Italy), David Lloyd George (Great Britain), Georges Clemenceau (France), Woodrow Wilson (United States).In a sense one might say that this present global system is Woodrow Wilson’s fault. The Armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I on November 11, 1918, took shape after the German Empire embraced President Wilson’s Fourteen Points as the basis for negotiating peace with the Allies. Wilson had presented the Fourteen Points in a speech to Congress at the beginning of 1918 as his proposal for ending the war and reshaping the world so that such a massive conflict could never happen again. A better world might have been the outcome had his plan been adopted in its entirety, but, sadly, it was not to be. Wilson personally led the American negotiating team to the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles in 1919, but during the lengthy proceedings he became gravely ill. The other Allied leaders took advantage of his illness to turn the peace conference into a revenge conference. Many of Wilson’s principles found their way into the Versailles Treaty and subsequent agreements, but not as he intended. The fruit of Versailles was a vindictive dismemberment of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, along with a humiliating disarmament of Germany and assessment of a war reparations debt that the German nation finally finished paying 92 years later. The Versailles Treaty did incorporate Wilson’s vision of a League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations, but the President’s own people rejected it. When the US Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the United States turned away from an active role in managing the community of nations, thereby ensuring that the League of Nations would be nothing more than a hollow shell.
It is easy to summarize the Fourteen Points. They call for open negotiations among nations, freedom of the seas, free trade, disarmament to the greatest extent possible, evacuation and restoration of territories occupied during the war; “autonomous development” (a fancy way of saying independence) of peoples under the rule of the world’s great empires, readjustment of borders to reflect lines of nationality, and establishment of the League of Nations to oversee this new international order. The summary, however, does not convey the enormity of the tasks involved in implementing each point. Consider just one point: establishment of an independent Poland. That single act required dismemberment of three empires; creation of a Polish government with power and resources to run the country; international recognition and assistance; and a host of other actions to ensure Poland’s unhindered reentry into the community of nations after nearly 120 years of foreign occupation. It would be foolish to think that Wilson’s Fourteen Points were the only items under consideration in the Allies’ peace deliberations. In truth, they were only the beginning of the process, not the end.
This should remind us of something in Scripture. The analogy dawned immediately on President Georges Clemenceau of France. On hearing of the Fourteen Points, he is reported to have said,
Quatorze? Le bon Dieu n’a que dix. (Fourteen? The Good Lord only has ten.)
One generation ago, on January 27, 1945, the Red Army liberated the Polish town of Oświęcim. The world has come to know that town not by its Polish name, but by the name its Nazi German occupiers called it: Auschwitz. This account of my visit to Auschwitz is offered again in memory of the 1.1 million human beings whose voices were stilled there.
On January 18, 1997, I had opportunity to visit the death camp at Auschwitz. This is the story of that visit. I publish it now as a necessary reminder of what has happened before, for without such reminders we would be only too quick to let it happen again.
Admiral Miklós Horthy was not high on the list of Adolf Hitler’s favorite people. He had proven a lukewarm ally throughout the war. Even though Horthy’s Hungarian legions had fought bravely alongside the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union since 1941, Horthy’s government had never given its unqualified support to the Nazi regime. A particularly sore point was that the Hungarians refused to surrender their Jewish citizens for deportation. True, the leaders in Budapest had enacted repressive laws against Jews, but they never permitted the Germans to gain any measure of control over Hungary’s Jewish population. Consequently, Hungary became a place of refuge for Jews from Romania and other nations whose governments were far less willing to defy Hitler.
Perhaps the Führer would have overlooked Horthy’s insolence in this matter of the Jews had this been the only matter of concern. Yet events during the spring of 1944 brought this and other issues to a head. By March of that year, the Red Army had thrown the Nazi invaders almost completely out of Soviet territory. In the West, the Allies threatened to invade France as soon as the weather proved favorable. Such disagreeable developments merely underscored Hitler’s compelling need for full cooperation from all his allies. Since Admiral Horthy would neither listen to reason nor acquiesce to demands, Hitler employed other means to ensure Hungary displayed the appropriate measure of National Socialist ardor. German soldiers accordingly occupied Hungary late in March. Although they left Horthy in control of Budapest and its surrounding region, the remainder of the country fell completely under Nazi control.
The fears of Hungary’s Jews soon became reality as the Fascists implemented the Führer’s orders. Over the summer of 1944, 300,000 Jews found themselves crammed into cattle cars and shipped off to some faraway place. The Nazis told them they were to be resettled in the conquered lands of the East. Some believed the lie, either out of naiveté or out of the need for a hope of an end to the nightmare that had fallen upon their world. Some did not believe it. Some even whispered of the rumors that the Nazis had built a death factory and were herding all the Jews into it.
Admiral Horthy heard these rumors as well. He was no lover of Jews, but he was a refined gentleman. He was also a realist who understood what was happening to his country. An appeal from Pope John XXIII on behalf of the Jews helped to sway Horthy’s mind, and late in June he reasserted control over all of Hungary. Thanks to this, and to Allied bombing of Budapest, the deportations stopped for a brief time – but only a brief time. The Germans soon put Horthy in his place, and removal of the Jews resumed. Horthy protested and resisted up to the moment the Nazis arrested him in October, but to no avail. By the time the Red Army smashed into Budapest in late December, almost all of the Jews who had sheltered within Hungary’s borders were gone. Most of them were dead.
The story is true. I know.
I saw where they died.
The place is called Auschwitz.
THE ROAD TO SARAJEVO
This is the first in a series on World War I and its parallels with our current times. After a review of the events leading up to the Great War and of its aftermath, this series will investigate current events in light of biblical prophecy.
The world took a giant step toward death on June 28, 1914. On that day a young atheist shot and killed a prominent Catholic and his wife in an obscure Southeast European city. Within five years, four world empires were dismembered and two new ones arose in their place. Within 40 years, three more global empires breathed their last as the new world system spawned in 1914 grew to maturity. Today, one hundred years later, that world system wheezes with its own death rattle, soon to expire in the process of giving birth to yet another global system which may be the last – and worst – of its kind.
As a historian, a political scientist, a soldier, and an intelligence professional, I cannot let the centennial of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination pass without pausing to remember what his life and death meant to the world. The circumstances that brought the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, to Sarajevo, Bosnia, are not difficult to explain, but to understand the significance of their deaths, both in their day and in ours, requires a detailed explanation. If that explanation seems too focused on Europe, the simple reason is that Europe in 1914 ruled the entire world. No nation outside Europe – neither ancient India, nor populous China, nor even the rising powers of America and Japan – was immune to events that shook the state system of the Continent. If we are to know why the world went to war in 1914, we must look at the major players of that state system. Only then can we begin to discern what happened to the world in the summer of 1914, and what is happening to the world now in the summer of 2014.