The Beginnings of Genocide-May 1940

by | Feb 11, 2007 | Stress Blog | 7 comments

The great, forgotten book Advance to Barbarism: The Development of Total Warfare from Sarajevo to Hiroshima by the British jurist FJP Veale is more than just a critique of the Nuremberg war crimes trials (In which the Allies tried the Germans for crimes that they were not willing to apply to themselves). It’s also an analysis of war tactics, particularly as it pertains to the British decision on May 11, 1940 to begin bombing German civilian targets, a decision which broke 250 years of “civilized warfare” agreements that had been in place in Europe. This passage is particularly striking:

On the 10th May 1940, the Germans launched a great offensive along the whole front int he West from the North Sea to Switzerland. On the 13th May, troops belonging to the army group commanded by General von Kleist, having occupied Sedan on the right bank of the Meuse the previous day, crossed the river in pneumatic boats, stormed the French pill-boxes on the left bank, and by the evening, had established a bridgehead south of Sedan, about four miles deep and about four miles wide. During the night of the 13th the work of repairing the bridge at Gaulier, a mile west of Sedan, building pontoon bridges, was pushed forward in desperate haste in order to reinforce with tanks and artillery the infantry precariously holding the bridgehead. Obviously it was a vital matter for the Allies to prevent this being carried out: a critical situation for both sides had arisen.

Veale notes that an attack on the Gaulier bridge was carried out by British and French bombers throughout the 14th May. 170 bombers attempted to destroy the bridge, but failed. Veale goes on to say that;

We now know that 96 heavy bombers were at this vital moment available to join the attack. While this supreme effort was being made to cut the communications of the German tank spearhead advancing towards the English Channel, these 96 heavy bombers were waiting passively on nearby airfields in preparation for a mass attack on the factories and oil plants in the Ruhr which had been planned to take place on the evening of the following day.
This mass attack, the greatest air raid which had ever taken place down to that time, duly took place.

This terrorist attack failed miserably. 96 heavy bombers were used in an illegal, unethical, and immoral attack on civilian targets, while they could have been used to stop the Wehrmacht from expelling the Allies from Europe through Dunkirk. Veale asks ‘what might have been?’;

One extra load of bombs on the crossing over the Meuse by Sedan-let alone ninety-six loads-might have made all the difference between victory and defeat as General Billotte pointed out at the time. Had the supplies of Guderian’s Panzers been cut off, he would have been brought to a halt from lack of petrol and then forced to surrender when his ammunition was exhausted. The great German offensive in the West upon which Hitler had staked the survival of his regime would have ended with a humiliating disaster. Hitler’s prestige, the product of an unbroken succession of diplomatic successes, would have been ruined. The German General Staff which had undertaken this offensive with many dire forebodings would have compelled his retirement: the National Socialist movement would have collapsed. Britain and France would then have been in position to dictate terms of peace. No doubt these terms would have been a repetition of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, but at least the war would have ended in a peace settlement in which some regard would have been paid to the lofty principles of justice and humanity which the victors professed.
In short the clock would have been put back two decades if the first military campaign launched by Hitler had ended in early and complete disaster.

The attack on civilian targets in Germany continued unanswered by Hitler until 3 months had passed. Unable to negotiate a cease-fire with the British government, Hitler answered their terrorism in kind. The Allies set their cease-fire terms at unprecedented levels-unconditional surrender-which must have been designed to bring about the goal of the total industrial, human, and cultural destruction of all of greater Germany. Indeed when viewed from this perspective, the European side of the Second World War should be viewed as an attempt by both sides, begun by the British, to virtually wipe out the other side’s population-in short, a war not for political conquest, but for genocide.

Listen to The Scott Horton Show