SCOTT DREYER: Diktatorship In Kanada

I recently read a new book, Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped The Modern World, by Giles Morton.

In a nutshell, to punish Nazi Germany and try to prevent a WWIII, the four main WWII Allies–the US, USSR, Britain, and France–agreed to divide Germany into four occupation zones in 1945, one for each. Moreover, since Berlin had been Hitler’s capital, that city was also to be divided into four occupation zones, one for each victorious ally. Making things complicated, however, was that fact that Berlin lay 110 miles deep into the Soviet Zone.

As I have often told my students, hatred of Hitler was the “glue” that kept the Soviets and the three western allies in agreement. Once Hitler killed himself, that “glue” quickly dissolved.

In fact, within just a few weeks after Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s surrender in the spring of 1945, tensions began to build between the USSR and West. Pressure and conflicts kept ratcheting up for three years and came to a head in 1948, when the USSR announced at 11:00 pm on June 23 that they would be cutting all road, rail, and canal connections between West Berlin and the Western (free) section of Germany, 110 miles away, starting at 6:00 am the next morning. That meant shipments of all food, milk, medicine, clothing, bedding, coal, and everything else to the city of 2.4 million residents was shut off. (For reference, 2.4 million is about 24 times the population of Roanoke City.)

Moreover, the communists also shut off all electricity deliveries to West Berlin, immediately depriving them of about 89% of their power. (Ironically, a pro-democracy leader in Berlin, Ernst Reuter, had been begging the Western allies to built power plants in the western part of the city to avoid such a dependency on the communists, but his pleas had fallen on deaf ears.)

If you ever needed proof of the evil of communism, study the Berlin blockade and come to your own conclusions. Basically, the USSR was willing to starve 2.4 million people to death in order to take over that city and win political points. And if starving didn’t do the trick, Stalin was betting that he could freeze the 2.4 million to death, if the blockade ran over into the winter.

Although many media and military leaders in the US and UK at that time thought West Berlin’s position was hopeless and should be abandoned and said so aloud, a few brave souls argued that the West had a moral obligation to do what they could to keep West Berlin free.

Thankfully, two of those brave souls also happened to hold positions of great power and by their word could make great things happen: British Prime Minister Clement Atlee and US President Harry Truman.

Even though Stalin had cut off all autobahns, trains, and canals to Berlin, he could not close the skies. The Allies had a written agreement from the Potsdam Conference in 1945 granting them three air corridors from Western Germany into West Berlin.

Drawing on all the boldness, creativity, and resourcefulness that they could muster, the US and UK launched the now-famous Berlin Airlift in June 1948.

Yes, it was ironic that Berlin had been Hitler’s capital from 1933-1945, and thus the city the Allied armies had tried to vanquish. But very quickly after war’s end, it became a flashpoint spot for the West to protect liberty from the tyranny of communism.

Interestingly, one of the most famous and colorful episodes from the Berlin airlift was Col. Gail Halvorson, Mormon airman from Utah who felt sorry for hungry Berlin children watching planes come and go from Tempelhof Airport. He told the children he would wiggle his plane wings as he flew in the next day, and to watch as he and his crew would drop candy for them. He began dropping candy daily and soon the story of “the candy bomber” became a global sensation. Col. Halvorson died this week, on February 16, 2022. He was 101.

Halvorson traveled well into his 90s and even recorded a video for his foundation just a week before his passing. His message? “Have an attitude of gratitude.”

(As proof of what mom used to say, “you can’t believe everything you see,” the story of Col. Halvorson’s death incorrectly claims the Berlin Airlift lasted 15 months. Actually, it was 11 months–from June 1948 till May 1949, when Stalin finally cried uncle and lifted the blockade. I am not claiming CNN is “fake news,” but in this one aspect, it is spreading “fake history.”)

To my knowledge, the phrase “24/7” was not used in print until 1983, but the Berlin Airlift operated 24/7, for eleven months, and a North German winter has to be experienced to be believed. The Allies spent vast sums of money to feed and supply a city of 2.4 million by air for almost a year, and many brave pilots died in crashes due to fog, wind, or malfunctions.

Still, the West paid the price for freedom, and West Berlin remains free until today. On 11-9-1989, when the evil Berlin Wall fell, East Berlin and all of East Germany suddenly experienced the freedom that West Germany had enjoyed for about 45 years.

Reading Checkmate in Berlin and learning of the bravery and sacrifices made to keep half a city free, I was saddened to think of the opposite outcome for Hong Kong. When Britain’s 99-year lease of Hong Kong was set to expire in 1997, the communist government of China promised to respect Hong Kong’s democracy, free speech, free press, and independent court system for at least 50 years.

However, those freedoms have been steadily eroded. More recently, while most of the world focused on Covid, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) moved in and essentially crushed what vestiges of freedom of that city of 7.5 million.

And while the US and UK boldly stepped up to the mark to defend West Berlin in the late 1940s, western comments about Hong Kong’s recent loss of freedoms have been mainly muted.

Now, many of us here in Southwest Virginia and across the world have watched in horror at tyranny next door in Canada, which took a particularly ugly turn this week.  O Canada! A nation that has long prided itself on its open society and support of democracies around the globe. Now, we see images of police in black riot gear clubbing and pepper spraying peaceful protestors.  Tragically, the images look a lot like the images out of Hong Kong in the past few years, only the signs are in English and not in Chinese, and there is snow on the ground.

Images in the last few days report journalists being beaten and arrested. Note, the journalists are not protesting, but rather simply standing there and filming. Brave journalist Alexa Lavoie claims a Canadian cop hit her three times with a club then fired a tear gas canister at her leg at point-blank range, to stop her from filming. This is the kind of outrageous behavior we would expect in a third world dictatorship, not Canada.

Do not take my word for it; read this report posted February 19 and watch the videos for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

And in contrast to President Truman who boldly stood to support freedom in West Berlin and elsewhere (see “Truman Doctrine”), the Biden administration has been silent about supporting liberty next door in Canada. Maybe that is because they are occupied with more pressing matters, like cutting off our own energy supplies and racially-profiling in their crack-pipe give-away.

*****

For those who want more of a “deep dive” into the crucial era of 1945-1949, and those curious about the end of WWII and the origins of the Cold War, Iron Curtain, Berlin Wall, NATO, East and West Germany, etc., here is an eight-part book study with commentary I recently posted. Having lived in Germany from 1985-86 and visited Berlin several times, I include some personal stories and observations in the videos.

Berlin Part 1, Feb.-May 1945, Book Intro. & Yalta Conference
Berlin Part 2, April-May 1945, End of WWII & Early Soviet Occupation of Berlin
Berlin Part 3, April-July 1945, The Early Allied Co-Administration of Berlin
Berlin Part 4, April-Sept. 1945, Potsdam Conference & Nail-biter Soviet Defection
Berlin Part 5, 1946, How the Soviets Rigged a Political Merger to Help the Communists Take Over
Berlin Part 6, 1946, Using Culture and Mass Media as a Brainwashing Tool
Berlin Part 7, June 1948-Sept. 1949, The Berlin Airlift & Consequences
Berlin Part 8, 1949-1989, Founding NATO, West & East Germany, Iron Curtain, Berlin Wall
Scott Dreyer M.A. in his classroom. Dreyer, of Roanoke, has been a licensed teacher since 1987 and now leads a team of educators teaching English and ESL to a global audience. Their website is DreyerCoaching.com.

 

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