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Title: Russian Retrospect
Author: Arthur Gask
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 2001041h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  September 2020
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RUSSIAN RETROSPECT



by ARTHUR GASK



Published in The Mail, Adelaide, S.A. Saturday 29 January, 1944.





When this fell tide of blood and agony has ebbed, when this scourge of horrors unbelievable no longer lashes on the quivering shoulders of mankind, and when the veil of secrecy and mystery and lies is at last lifted, surely the historian will record that, above all happenings of these dreadful years, it was that one of the 22nd day in June, 1941, which saved the world, for it was then that the great German Colossus laid his body open to a mortal blow.





DESPAIR

I SO well remember that Sunday afternoon when it came over the air that Germany was attacking Russia. I was living then in what city dwellers would call a very lonely place, high up by the range of hills dominated by the Camel's Hump.

It had been a most depressing day, and now dusk was drawing in under a dark and lowering sky. Fierce rainsqualls were beating down, the glistening mud, and the cold was as biting as it can be in mid-winter in South Australia, nearly 3,000 ft. above sea level.

I had been writing at my desk, but my thoughts now wandered to the war, where things were looking every bit as bleak for us as was the outlook from my window. Everything seemed to be going badly.

The bitter humiliation of our so recent evacuation from Crete was still rankling, but, far worse than any loss of prestige, with the island in enemy hands our whole position in the Eastern Mediterranean was threatened, with Libya, Suez, Syria, and all that lay beyond in more than possible danger.

Rommel had just thrown us back at Sollum, and the high hopes held out to us of our attack there had come to nothing. Vichy had just made what "The Times" described as a "diabolical pact" with Germany.

The Turco-German pact, to which the same newspaper referred to as "bad business," had just been signed. The U-boat campaign was going against us, and day by day we were being warned that our shipping losses were very grave.

Indeed, only that week Hore-Belisha, the former Minister for War, had summed up the whole situation in the House of Commons in one biting sentence when he declared we were suffering defeat after defeat in both war and diplomacy.

DOUBT

REGARDING Russia, Hitler was exerting a deadly pressure on her. He was demanding grain, minerals, and oil, and she would have to give them to him or be annihilated. It was agreed by all competent observers she was in no condition to fight, and also that Stalin would never dare to arm his peasantry, certain that with weapons in their hands they would turn against him.

This, then, was the world position when that Sunday afternoon, depressed and thinking any fresh news would be bad news, I switched on the wireless, and upon my horrified ears fell the words:—"German forces have crossed the frontier and invaded Russia."

Then came Hitler's message to his people. "Weighed down with heavy care for many months, I can at last speak . . . . a German concentration, the greatest the world has ever known, has been completed . . . . our soldiers are now advancing from East Prussia to the Carpathians . . . I have decided to put the fate and future of the German Reich into their hands, and may God help us in the battle."

Followed a warning to the Russian people from the Berlin Radio:—"It is useless to resist . . . . you are facing the best Army in the world, which, in a few weeks, annihilated the strongest armies in Europe."

I was in the very depths of depression. So, it had really come! Hitler would add Russia to the other conquered nations! He would get his grain, his minerals, and his oil! Then, satiated with Soviet blood and spoil, he would turn as a giant refreshed, upon our sceptred isle, "This precious stone set in the silver sea."

I switched off the wireless, not thrilled, as I realise now I should have been, in one of the most joyful moments of my life, for, had I only known it, the announcement which had just come through was the most wonderful piece of good news for many a long, long day. I had thought it was the death-knell of a nation I had heard, whereas it had been the joybells for a nation born again.

Who, however, on that dreary Sunday afternoon, in their wildest flights of imagination would have ever dared to think that more than two and a half years later, Leningrad would not have been taken, Moscow would not have fallen, and the Red Army would be fighting near to the Polish border?

HOPE

NOW come two dreadful thoughts. Where would we be today if none of these things had happened, or where either, if instead of using it in Russia, Hitler had sent even one-quarter of that mighty Army over to North Africa?

Do we dare to think? Remembering by what an uncomfortably narrow margin the tide was finally turned against Rommel and his hosts, can we conceive there would have been any El Alamein victory, any triumph in Tunisia, or any of the successes which followed after? Indeed, would not Libya, Egypt, Suez, Iran, Iraq, and even more have been lost to us, and could we have ever won them back?

Then we must realise, too, that if Hitler had left Russia alone and, after over-running North Africa, had concentrated all his energies nearer home upon the construction of fighting planes, bombers, and U-boats, particularly upon the last when we were then so ill-prepared to meet the menace, things would have been very different today.

If we were still unconquered, the question we would be asking ourselves now would not be can we beat Germany, but—can we save ourselves from complete and utter annihilation.

So in those last moments of Schicklgruber's black and evil life, when he kneels waiting for the axe to fall, or he stands waiting for the noose to jerk upon his neck, or, more likely still, when he feels the cold barrel of his own revolver pressed against his forehead, surely his last thought will be that it was on that fatal day in June, 1941, he made the wrong move and—lost the game.



THE END.