When the dark storm rose from the banks of the Rhine and settled on Paris 75 years ago, the lights went out in France one by one.
In reality, long before the Nazi Panzers poured in from the Ardennes to reach Paris in 44 days, France had already been morally disarmed by the trauma of World War 1. Indeed, after that war France found herself utterly exhausted: her youth had been decimated, her fertile fields too had been transformed into wastelands, dotted with crumbling trenches and combed with miles of rotting wires crisscrossing gigantic craters.
In spite of all this, at the outbreak of World War II, France enjoyed considerable military superiority over Germany. But Winston Churchill’s prayer “Thank God for the French Army” was not answered, as the French military dissolved into thin air before the morally, strategically and tactically superior German onslaught.
A defeat of this magnitude cannot be solely explained in military terms. Indeed, the fall of the Third Republic had its antecedents in a myriad political, ideological and economic conflicts. Accordingly, the French politicians were ready to pay any price and bear any burden to avoid war. The national mood of pessimism and resignation was exacerbated by historical divisions between the secular and the religious, the socialists and the reactionaries, the pro-Nazis and the anti-Nazis, the Dreyfusards and the anti-Dreyfusards, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the republicans and the nostalgic remnants of the ancien régime, the pro-Franco and the anti-Franco, the communist gangs and the fascist Croix de Feu, the Action Francaise and the Jeunesses Patriotes. By the time war was unleashed, France was on the verge of disintegration under the weight of its colossal internal conflicts and culture wars.
What made matters worse for France was the growing British preference for Germany, as the appeasers in London saw the Third Reich as a bulwark against communism. From Stanley Baldwin to Neville Chamberlain, it became increasingly clear in Paris that Britain did not have France’s back and that London viewed the Quai d’Orsay, the only reliable democracy on the continent, as a liability, not an ally. The daylight between the two nations of the Entente Cordiale became as wide as the Channel when Britain negotiated the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935 without consulting France and even refused to divulge the full text to Paris.
Things got worse as the French aversion to confrontation started to wear thin under constant Nazi provocations. As Germany commenced to disembowel the Versailles Treaty by sharpening its Teutonic swords – compelling Paris to consider taking action to prevent Berlin from rearming itself – French leaders were met with resolute British opposition. Nothing should interfere, according to Her Majesty’s Government, with the London-Berlin Axis, fast becoming the fulcrum upon which, they imagined, “world peace and prosperity” would rest. The Times, the official voice of appeasement, went so far as to warn: “In the years that are coming there is more reason to fear for Germany than fear Germany.” Hitler’s Germany had to be protected from “warmongering” France! No wonder, Chamberlain’s sobriquet was Monsieur J’aime Berlin in France!
Eventually, the French, too, succumbed to the blandishments of the Three Monkeys who saw nothing, heard nothing and said nothing. In both Paris and London, silence became the default position. Hitler could not be criticized, the Nazis would not be condemned and dissenting voices, including Churchill’s, had to be silenced.
Nowadays, there is a new muzzling zeitgeist haunting the halls of academia and NGO offices, as well as the newsrooms of certain media worldwide, called political correctness, predicated on the prevailing ideological orthodoxy of the extreme left. This is where Orwell meets the Inquisition; where “diversity” means uniformity; where “inclusiveness” means excluding all who do not agree with established dogmas; where “inconvenient truths” are convenient lies; where myths are “settled history;” where perpetrators are “victims;” where those waving the ISIS flag are warmly received and those displaying the flag of Israel are castigated and abused; where criticizing those who call for genocide are “racists;” where unvarnished anti-Semitism metamorphoses into the “human rights” crusade of out time; and, where falsification, outright Goebelesque fabrication and denials are justified to serve “higher truths.”
We are lost in a labyrinth of deceit. The Three Monkeys will not lead us out.