The century of total war


Araiz of the Treaty of Versailles, which in 1919 ended the Great War (1914-1918), one of its main protagonists, the French Marshal Foch, said that more than the establishment of final peace would be an armistice for twenty years. His anticipation was so accurate that, precisely in 1939, on September 1, World War II broke out. The German motorized divisions entered like an unstoppable whirlwind in Poland while the aviation began a systematic bombing of the invaded country. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. […] Thus began the war's most deadly, destructive and major war in history. What the British historian Eric Hobsbawm and others have called "total war". Was there, suddenly, unprecedented, a contest of such unusual magnitude, the global catastrophe that would cause in six years more than fifty million dead? Marshal Foch's prophecy proves that he does not. When the Great War ended, twenty years before, it was already known that this had not been a war episode to be used in the Europe of previous centuries. In August 1914 modern warfare had begun. In it were implied all the elements that later had to acquire a gigantic development in the war that Germany began with the invasion of Poland. That is why the one that was known in its time as Great War happened to be the First World War. A nexus of continuity united the two wars of the twentieth century in a single tragedy. That is why Hobsbawm writes of 31 years of war as if the twenty of peace between 1919 and 1939 had been only an intermediate of latent bellicosity. In any case, from 1914 to 1945, a new Europe and a new world were formed, […] The Great War was so painful, so heartbreaking that at its end there were two types of reactions. On the one hand, the conviction that it could not be repeated. It was the "never again". But, on the other hand, the fear that it might be a foretaste of something even worse. Churchill, in his memoirs of war, explains how, after the Great War, he feared that his end in 1918 would be accidental and almost by chance. And that another great conflict would happen: a new and amplified mass war, technologically devastating, both in the battle fronts and in the rear, where powerful weapons could destroy entire cities. It was a divination of the future – Hiroshima and Nagasaki included – inspired by the terrible warning of what had been the Great War from 1914 to 1918. […]


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