It didn’t come across as “funny” for at least a decade or more. Grandma Marcus, Aunt Margie, my mother and I came home from the Carolina Theater after watching “The Wizard of Oz.” We turned on the radio and heard the twisted fury of Adolf Hitler telling his “parliament,” the Nazi German Reichstag, that German troops had invaded Poland. That was, of course, Sept. 1, 1939. World War II had begun.
Grandma Marcus could understand enough of Hitler’s German from her native Yiddish to get the drift. She screamed right back into the radio at Hitler, right there in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her fury exceeded his. I was in short pants, speaking soprano and understanding nothing at the time, but I remember thinking that if Hitler could have heard Grandma, he’d have told Himmler, Hess and von Ribbentrop they’d better back off because Grandma Marcus had gotten early word of the move and strongly disapproved!
The parallels between then and now give pause, and more than a dab of alarm. From that date, Sept. 1, 1939, until October 1942, we did nothing but lose wherever you looked. Poland was devoured in 18 days. Then came Hitler’s joyride through Western Europe and Scandinavia, the fall of France, Nazi troops marching through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Northward and westward, the victims were Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. Southward and eastward, they were Greece and Yugoslavia. Then, in June, 1941, the “unstoppable” Nazis attacked the Soviet Union and sliced so deep into Russian territory it looked as if Hitler would be served the entire Soviet Union on his Christmas platter. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, and its subsequent successful invasions of the Philippines, Dutch Indonesia, French Indo-China, Thailand, Malaya and Burma turned the Pacific Ocean into a Japanese lake.
When my father promised his frightened little son in 1942 that we would win the war, he was telling me a merciful lie. I defy you to give me a scenario for Nazi-Japanese defeat in 1941 or most of 1942. Sure, the Russian winter halted the German advance on Moscow, but that was interpreted as strictly temporary. Germany’s Gen. Erwin Rommel was stomping the British in North Africa.
Thank God, the “Invincibility-of-Evil” slowed and unwound. American Marines counterattacked in the Pacific and landed on and eventually took the island of Guadalcanal, ending Japan’s threat to Australia. The British-German see-saw war across North Africa ended in October 1942 with the smashing of German forces at Egypt’s El Alamein, pitching Rommel into the longest, fastest military retreat in history.
Finally, the surrender of all of Germany’s Sixth Army at Stalingrad did the job. Daddy was no longer lying when he promised we would win. The Invincibility-of-Evil no longer just slowed and unwound. It crashed with the power of a Portugal-sized asteroid and was gone.
It’s hard, but not impossible, to deny the direct “Hand of God” rescuing civilization at that time. A God-denier could point to the Russian winter, Hitler’s abysmally stupid military mistakes when he made himself the general, hideously over-extended enemy supply lines, the millions and millions of enemies the Germans and Japanese were manufacturing with their evil. I, however, felt personally delivered by the Almighty!
That was then. What about now?
Out of nowhere comes the ISIS “Arab Blitz” coursing unstoppably through the Iraqi countryside, taking town after town. “Our side,” the modern equivalent of the French who faded and folded early in World War II, are fading and folding more enthusiastically this time around.
At least I had my father back then to promise me the ultimate victory. The retired generals on Fox and CNN make no such promises to me any more. And there’s no jihadist advance in sight that might be halted by a particularly severe “Russian winter”!
And instead of a fatherly Franklin D. Roosevelt promising “We shall gain the inevitable triumph, so help us, God!” we see cowardice, ruination, failure and defeat and a president warning, “There will be no American boots on the ground!”
That may be a marvelous way to satisfy a prominent political necessity in America today, but it’s a lousy way to derail a successful jihadist blitz!
Thinking back to that first day of World War II, I remember, almost as part of a religious “accounts receivable,” a feeling that Daddy was right. We were somehow going to win. It was promised. It was written. It was the only godly end to the story. Will a president or a retired general on TV or a “Daddy” give us something positive to look forward to? None has so far.
There’s apparently a “committee” in the Vatican that rules on whether or not the deeds of a celebrity of the church rise to the level of a “miracle” when that person is being measured for sainthood.
That’s great. Absolutely great. But absolutely greater would be a committee that could find a way to give us miracles like Guadalcanal, Midway, El Alamein or Stalingrad, in a desert or a Russian winter, that could stop ISIS cold in the Iraqi summertime!
Media wishing to interview Barry Farber, please contact [email protected].