The Dom Post Editorial:
Seventy years ago today the New Zealand Government declared war on Germany, committing its citizens to fighting in the event that has defined our age.
The world that emerged from the ruins of 1945 was utterly changed from the one that existed when British prime minister Neville Chamberlain announced that his country had gone to war with Germany over the invasion of Poland. “Where she [Britain] goes, we go; where she stands, we stand,” New Zealand prime minister Michael Joseph Savage said.
And 11,929 New Zealanders died in that fight – the highest per capita in the Empire/Commonwealth.
It was a price that had to be paid. Victory for the Nazis would have meant the end of civilisation in Europe.
Even now, after 70 years of research and scholarship on the horrors of the Third Reich, it is hard to comprehend how a culture responsible for the poetry of Goethe and the music of Beethoven could also have produced Buchenwald and Auschwitz. The truth is that the Nazis sought to wipe the Jewish people and any others who did not fit in with their perverted racial ideology from the face of the Earth. They went about their task with a chilling, clinical efficiency. At its peak, 9000 people a day were being killed and cremated at Auschwitz.
And this was nothing to do with religion or beliefs. It was all about bloodlines.
Six million Jews died in the Nazis’ extermination camps. Others they targeted included Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Russians and other Slavic peoples. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war died, along with two million Soviet civilians in Nazi-occupied territories.
Others were selected to die on genetic grounds, such as the handicapped, or for political or behavioural reasons including communists, socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals.
World War II was, quite simply, a war against evil.
It was indeed.