Post WWI there was a long armistice from 1918 to 1939 to the European civil war that broke out among its member states in August 1914. This European civil war came to an end when two outsider nations, namely US and Russia met on the Elbe River in May 1945.
Much has been said and written on the immediate peace after WWII and the implications of those outcomes not only affect us today but have lessons in every area of political and social life.
Europe had been torn apart after 6 years, the nations were tired. Germany had only come together as a nation state in 1870, it was the youngest nation of Europe and it's most militant. The Ruhr's industrial might was something to be envied.
There was political discussion in the early stages of WWII to destroy Germany's industrial heartland to make the nation an agricultural backwater, this promulgated by luminaries such as US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morganthorpe but by 1943 the thinking had changed.
US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Churchill recognised Germany needed to be a strong democratic state as it was in the very centre of Europe, its heart beat (as it were). The economic and social problems otherwise would have been worse than the cure.
What was important for the US and Russia was to agree on a demarcation line and initially it was thought it may have been the Rhine River. But the Remagen Bridge was captured which allowed the Americans easy access into the heart of Germany. This resulted in the Elbe River (much further east) becoming that agreed separation line with the Yalta meetings between the big three – Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill - affirming.
In April 1945 the US and Russian armies met at the Elbe and here the two parties first tested the Yalta agreements. It must be remembered Russia did allow the Allies 80 miles into their conquered territory, Berlin (to share responsibilities for Berlin). They didn't have to do that.
A valid and no so valid outcome
On the one hand the Allies affirmed that where your armies trod and won, so too would your social political system be engaged, and that was good for a democratic Europe, but the Russians wanted a Europe friendly to them and rightly so having been invaded three times through Poland in less than 150 years.
The Americans and British were not warm to this idea as they wanted a say in Poland but the Russians did not interfere in Greece when the Greek Communists rose up against the allied forces. Russia wanted a US loan so they were not as tough as they might have been, but they would not allow the Polish Colonels, the Catholic Church and Landlords resume control of Poland.
The Americans had in its sphere the western half of Germany, France and Italy, the Russians the eastern half of Germany, Poland and Eastern Europe. The Russians needed reparations for their massive loses and outlay and their options were
- Found from savings, the people paying, least desirable
- Strip the conquered areas bare
- Investment capital from the US
The problem with No 3, capitalists wanted 'a say' in the economy and that means looking at the Russian books – this would not be happening due to the natural suspicions of the Russians. Capitalists would not give the Russians an open loan without strings attached – capitalists always have strings attached.
So we have these two giants – the Americans and the Russians confronting each other, each with very different social and financial systems and the Russians desperately needing capital and not getting it.
Who gets what
So who gets what out of the war – the Truman doctrine was containment, Churchill called it the Iron Curtain. After WWI (One) nothing was settled and this is evidenced by what led to 1939 - but after WWII (Two) there is peace, It is a long peace, a peace imposed upon Europe by two outsiders.
The Americans Lend-Lease program to Great Britain had many side demands. One was that British had to dismantle (sell) their overseas political power bases and financial interests which in effect expanded the US economy. The US in % terms put the least into WWII and gained the most out of WWII. They had 12 million people in the military out of 170 million population. Less than 6 million served overseas.
This solved the Great Depression for the US as the fear in Britain was what would they do with these hundreds of thousands of returned soldiers – another unemployment disaster (depression re-visited). For the US it was a boom era. The American lifestyle dream became consumerism. Before the war 1 in 4 men had a car, by 1950 almost every man had a car. Consider Hollywood, the business opportunities, becoming millionaires .... every house wife having the latest gadget and vacuum cleaner and whatever ...
And moreover they sold to the world. Britain, France, Italy and Germany all wanted in on "all of it".
But Britain didn't get very much out of all this. Its rail network was in disrepair, as was its industrial plants, transportation systems. Economically not much. But morally they stood alone against the might of Hitler for a full year. They exercised this moral leadership right around the world and rebuilt much of their wealth as a result.
The Communists gained North Korea, North Vietnam and China. The West gained Japan, South Korea and South Vietnam. Scores were pretty much level. The end of WWII saw the defeat of Nazism, the defeat of the militarists in Japan and the defeat of the fascists in Italy. Not a bad outcome and a long peace across Europe.
The Gospel era
Consider this, the post war era saw another transformation – came a host of all new and fresh evangelism engagements matching the consumer age – Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ, Christian Camping, Sports Evangelism, University Ministries and the Billy Graham Crusades to name but a few.
Peace across the world bought with it a plethora of Christian agencies that infiltrated every part of the societies regardless of whether it was the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand .... and the great bible escapades smuggling the Word of God behind the Iron Curtain and into China.
The post war period – now 70 years on – has been a bountiful Gospel era if ever there was one. Celebrated missionary endeavours en-masse to the four quarters of the world. The far flung pagans and now Muslims are the Gospel challenge, with many having dreams and visions and becoming followers of Jesus without the West's missionary interventions – and what might this mean?
Moreover, we have been part of it. Now we're on the cusp of another evangelism paradigm.
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 44 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 44 years with 4 children and 5 grand children