History has a disconcerting habit of repeating itself, and in early 2023, we find the world caught in a whirlwind of turbulence reminiscent of the years leading up to World War II, 1938 and early 1939.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
A dear friend of mine, now in his 90s, took me on a journey through his memories of the time leading up to the war, a period he calls “The Calm Before the Storm.” It’s hard not to notice the striking parallels between that era and our current situation. Having survived World War II in Poland, he recalled that even as a child, he knew the war was looming. Discussions among his parents about Germany and the preparations of countries for war served as clear indicators.
Moments of Peace Amid Tension
In spite of the growing tension, there were still moments of peace, such as the train journey his Jewish family took from Warsaw to Paris in 1938, passing through Germany. Fully aware of the escalating anti-Semitic events in Germany, they traveled safely and relished their time in France, including a visit to the Louvre and leisurely days spent on the seaside.
The peaceful train journeys in France and Germany in 1938 stand in stark contrast to the horrors that unfolded in Europe just a year later, when trains were used for military purposes and the transportation of Jews to concentration camps. The world was plunged into chaos when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, followed by the Soviet Union attacking from the east on September 17. The rest, as they say, is history.
A Familiar Storm Brews
Fast forward to 2023, a mere year after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The storm is brewing, with many people sensing the echoes of 1938 or early 1939. Conversations at conferences and Zoom calls are fraught with unease, fueled by news of the atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine. Meanwhile, military spending in Europe and Asia is soaring, with defense contractors reaping the rewards.
“The war is imminent,” a fellow conference attendee ominously remarked, “We are now in late 1938. We’ve got another year or so.” While these are anecdotal observations, they serve as a reflection of the current atmosphere. The pervasive fear and anxiety mirror the days leading up to World War II.
Navigating the Uncertain Tides
As we traverse the tumultuous landscape of 2023, the parallels to 1938 and 1939 serve as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of unchecked tensions. While we cannot predict the future, we can learn from the past and work together to prevent history from repeating itself. The echoes of the past should serve as a clarion call, urging us to strive for peace and understanding in these uncertain times.