| 16.5°C Dublin

History highlights errors that must not be repeated



'As Churchill recognised, war is nothing but a catalogue of blunders.' Photo: David Savill/Getty

'As Churchill recognised, war is nothing but a catalogue of blunders.' Photo: David Savill/Getty

'As Churchill recognised, war is nothing but a catalogue of blunders.' Photo: David Savill/Getty

Records tell us it was 4.45am when the phone rang on General Bradley's bedside table at HQ near Kassel, Germany, It was his boss, General Dwight D Eisenhower, calling from France.

"Brad," Eisenhower told him. "It's all over."

Nazi Germany had surrendered at 2.41am. The tragedy of World War II in Europe had ended.

The call was made on May 7, 1945 - 75 years ago; the party started the next day, VE Day.

According to historian Martin Gilbert, on that day in Newport News, Virginia, a ship docked carrying three sisters who were the first survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp to land in the US.

He wrote it in his book: 'The Day the War Ended'.

They were Isabella, Regina, and Berta Katz, of Kisvarda, Hungary. Their mother was murdered at Auschwitz.

"In our battered being we carried the innocent, charred souls of millions of children, women and men," Isabella recalled. "And we thank this America, this best of all countries, for putting its healing arms around our weeping hearts."

While war correspondent Hal Boyle, writing from Germany, noted: "It has been a long and bloody trail. It has drained much from the men . . . much from their bodies, and much from their spirit."

Today, with much of the world still in lockdown, there is a notable absence of a superpower with either the stature or the will to "wrap healing hands" around broken hearts.

Writing recently in the London 'Independent', Robert Fisk took issue with politicians for appropriating the term 'war' in the context of confronting the pandemic.

While acknowledging both 'real' war and viral war (the Covid variety) produce casualties, they should not be compared.

'Real' wars are about conflict, about humans versus humans.

The potential harm we can do to each other should never be lost sight of, and is what gives dates like today such significance.

Out of World War II we got the United Nations and the World Bank, and Nato. There was recognition of the value of close ties and common interests.

Threats can bring us together or drive us apart, depending on how we react. Alliances were made which were undeniably responsible for saving millions of lives and delivering the longest, most-secure period of peace Europe has known.

Sharing responsibility and working together was in everyone's interest. Once again, there is a real danger of economic implosion.

There is a need to co-operate to protect mass loss of life and livelihoods. We must find an international sustainable path to recovery. Europe has a moral responsibility to lead by example.

Today, we recall the terrible consequences of division. Even in the darkness, stoicism and sacrifice prevailed when Europe was at breaking point.

Such traits will need to be resurrected as we manage menacing adversity. But, as Churchill recognised, war is nothing but a catalogue of blunders. We must take every care not to repeat them.

Irish Independent