By Muhammad Ali Baig
Many scholars till this day believe that Germany’s declaration of war against the U.S. proved to be the last nail in the German coffin and turned the tide of World War II. Even Hitler’s inventor of Blitzkrieg, General Heinz Guderian wrote in his memoir “Panzer Leader” (1952), that German soldiers wondered that why Hitler declared war against the U.S. on December 11, 1941. At that time Germany was already at war with the Soviet Union and German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s “Afrika Korps” was struggling in the North Africa against British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Declaring war on the United States was above the level of understanding of a common German.
Japan and Germany signed Anti-Comintern Pact on November 25, 1936; and later Italy joined in on November 6, 1937. The effect was to contain Third Communist International and prevent its spread. This pact brought Japan and Germany much closer.
The Quarantine Speech made by President Roosevelt on October 5, 1937 in Chicago was a clear determination to contain Hitler and the Axis Powers. He proclaimed an unlimited “National Emergency” on May 27, 1941 and closed down all German Consuls and related agencies in the United States a few days later on June 17, 1941. Roosevelt’s “Lend-Lease Agreement” provided military and economic aid to the enemies of the Third Reich and helped them to annihilate Germany from the face of the earth.
Germany unleashed Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941 and attacked the Soviet Union with almost 4 million troops; the largest number of invading troops in the history of mankind. But Japan did nothing to divide the Soviet troops by invading Joseph Stalin from the East. Although Germans did not ask Japanese to attack the Soviet Union, but it was a moral obligation of the Imperial Japan to attack the Soviet Union from the East to divide Communist troops. Unlike what Germans and the Soviets did to Poland as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939, when Germans attacked Poland from the West on September 1, 1939, and Soviets attacked Poland from the East on September 17, 1939. Thus dividing Poland between them and forcing Warsaw to surrender on September 27, 1939.
Japan attacked U.S. Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 and in Admiral Yamamoto’s words, they awoke a “Sleeping Giant”. Hitler declared war on the U.S. on December 11, four days later for two main reasons. First, it was Germany’s moral obligation to support Japan, since both countries were members of the Tripartite Pact that was signed on September 27, 1940. Second, the U.S. Foreign Policy towards Germany was hostile since 1933 and it had reached a point of no return.
In his historical eighty eight minutes speech in the Reichstag (German Parliament), Adolf Hitler briefly described American atrocities towards Germany and its interests. The reason behind German declaration of war against the U.S. can be best understood by an American author Patrick J. Hearden’s book “Roosevelt Confronts Hitler – America’s Entry into World War Two” (1987). Hearden does not negate the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbour and the subsequent German declaration of war against the U.S. as the foundation for America to jump in to WW-II. But he advocated that U.S. was fearful of German economic expansion. Since Germany was the first country in Europe to recover from the devastations of The Great Depression. Americans were aware of the Jewish persecution (which is also viewed as a myth by many) by Germans; but they took little notice of that and did not try to rescue them.
German economist and President of the ReichsBank Dr. Hjalmar Schacht tried to establish bilateral barter system for the betterment of the German economy by exchanging goods with other countries. This system was aimed to export German products in exchange for the surplus foreign products. This system clearly threatened U.S. exports.
Roosevelt, the so-called leader of the free world was fearful that the totalitarian system if brought economic prosperity would ultimately put an end to the liberal economy that he himself was an advocate. A huge government sponsored propaganda campaign was launched against Germany and especially Hitler who was responsible for challenging the democracy and liberal economic system. Roosevelt steered the U.S. and the American nation towards a direct confrontation against Germany.
The assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat by Herschel Grynszpan, a Jew in Paris resulted in the backlash from German people and Jewish property and synagogues were demolished by them. The account is remembered as Kristallnacht (night of the broken glass) in history and happened between November 8 to 9, 1938. Roosevelt called his ambassador from Berlin for consultation. The incident was an internal subject of Germany and America had nothing to do with it.
It is quite the irony that, at the time of WW-II there was not a single weapon in Nazi Germany’s arsenal that possessed the capability to hit the United States. German Air Force (Luftwaffe) did not have a single bomber that was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The German Navy (Kreigsmarine) had a formidable fleet of U-Boats, S-Boats and E-Boats, but they were still not able to operate across the Atlantic. The German Army (Heer) and the Waffen-SS were in no position to plan and execute an amphibious-land invasion of the United States, unlike the alleged Zimmermann Telegram which was used as a pretext in the First World War by the U.S. to enter in to the European affairs, but in fact the entire Wehrmacht was intensely engaged in the European and the African continents.
It is understandable that Germans after the aerial bombing of the Britain known as “The Blitz”, considered a plan to launch an amphibious land invasion of the Britain named as Operation Sea Lion but abandoned it just like the Blitz. Since The Battle of Britain was a reaction not an action. But on the other hand it was Brits, French, Americans and Canadians who actually launched an amphibious assault on the Third Reich on June 6, 1944 as the Operation Overlord.
Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz’s German Navy (Kriegsmarine) significantly asserted itself in the Atlantic and choked the British trade by bringing it to its knees. It was Americans who helped Brits in breaking the Enigma Code and sabotaged German communications before the German declaration of war against the United States.
Hitler and Roosevelt came to power in their particular states democratically on January 30, 1933 and March 4, 1933, respectively. Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, and Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. The book authored by an American named as David Pietrusza “1932 The Rise of Hitler and FDR” (2015) also draws dimensions between Hitler and Roosevelt, like both were in office when they passed away.
The U.S. Foreign Policy under Roosevelt was overtly confrontational towards Germany that ultimately provided him the opportunity to lead the Allied Forces against it. Hitler’s Declaration of War against America was nothing but a symbolic unity of the Axis Powers since he was in no position at all to harm the territorial integrity of the United States. All the actions of FDR against Hitler were fundamentally provocative. The article unveils another historical aspect that America was not under isolationism; one of its foreign policy principles, during the twenty years of interwar period from 1919-39. Perhaps the Allies were determined to bring down Germany again like they did in the First World War. In the opinion of the writer, it would not be a surprise that Germany may rise again not only on the regional level but on the international arena.
*The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad and holds a masters degree in Political Science.