Putin is modern Hitler. Since 2014, such a parallel has been drawn often and by many
In Russia, they even viewed it as a compliment: a full-time pro-Putin political analyst wrote that until 1939 – before the invasion to Poland, which officially launched World War II – Hitler was not that bad.
What was he actually, that “good” Hitler between 1933 (the year he came to power) and 1939?
Published: 21 December 2018. Translated by Profpereklad: March 2022.
Українською доступно за лінком.
TEXTY analysed in detail the actions of the Führer at this historical stage. Their key feature, within the terminology of the military doctrine of the Russian Federation, is hybridity.
During the peace years, Hitler conducted a number of successful quasi-war campaigns. And in each of them, he came out the winner. Not being a theorist of such conflicts, he had a brilliant “sensitivity” regarding the application of hybrid techniques in practice.
If you look closely, the striking similarity between the tactics of the then Reich Chancellery and the current Kremlin is very impressive. You will not believe how much they have in common.
But first things first.
WHY THE GERMANS AND THE RUSSIANS DID NOT LIKE DEMOCRACY
In early 1939, Adolf Hitler was 49. The anniversary was approaching. The sixth year of his rule in Germany was coming to an end. During this time, he destroyed the country’s democratic system, completely cleansed the opposition and gained virtually dictatorial powers.
But the voters are excited. An average German, whether the recent Communist or Democrat member of the local Duma, admires the actions of their
president chancellor. And here’s why.
The cradle of German (as well as Russian) democracy was geopolitical defeat.
Berlin lost the First World War in 1919, and Moscow lost the Cold War in 1991. Both the Germans and the Russians did not want to live the old way – they tried to build a republic instead of an empire. But they failed to live the new way. Political crises, economic upheavals, the disintegration of the traditional way of life led to the disappointment in the shitocracy and nostalgia for a strong hand.
In interwar Germany, democracy was also associated with a number of humiliating concessions in favour of the victors. Because it was not Emperor Wilhelm (who fled to Holland) but the newborn German Republic that signed the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919, which defined the post-war world order.
The document prepared without the Germans forced Berlin to pay huge reparations (final payments took place in 2010), both in money and raw materials – mostly in favour of France.
The treaty placed full responsibility for the outbreak of World War II on Germany. The Germans who remembered that the militarist rage in 1914 covered many more European countries thought this was unfair.
The Germans were forbidden to have aircraft and artillery, submarines (naval capabilities in general were also severely limited) and the General Staff; only small ground forces were allowed. Armoured vehicles remained in the police only.
Germany lost 12% of its pre-war territory to its neighbours.
Much of the territory on both sides of the Rhine (the heart of German industry) was recognised as a demilitarised zone, and even the lame German army had no right to step there.
In the 1920s, the Allies repeatedly deployed troops to the Rhineland in order to force Berlin to pay reparations on time. The republican government could respond only with a “passive protest”, causing indignation of the patriots – both the right-wing and the communists. It was during one of the escalations on the Rhine that Hitler arranged Beer Hall Putsch, declaring “the overthrow of the traitor government in Berlin.”
...The collapse of the USSR was not accompanied by such injustices, especially in respect of the Russian Federation. But Kremlin propaganda is doing everything to make today’s Russians feel as humiliated as the Germans 100 years ago.
William Shearer, an American, worked as a correspondent in interwar Berlin. He emphasises that in January 1933, when Hitler became chancellor, his primary goal was in line with “the aspirations of the vast majority of Germans”:
1) to get rid of the humiliating dictates of the Treaty of Versailles, without the imposition of retaliatory sanctions;
2) to restore the army without being at war.
Only by achieving these two points could Hitler truly embark on the foreign policy he so openly described in Mein Kampf: to seize more living space [territory] and
force the Ukes to feed Moscow finally solve Germany’s deficits in food, raw materials, etc.
However, at that time, the Führer did not yet have any authority in the world political arena: abroad, he was seen as a fanatical adventurer who, by the whim of fate, carried him to the chair of the head of government.
1933: THE PARTY OF PEACE. HITLER IN THE GUISE OF A PACIFIST
In the early 2000s, the world feared terrorists the most. No wonder the early Putin was so fond of talking about “the solidarity of the Russian Federation in the fight against global terrorism.”
And then, after the bloody nightmare of the First World War, the leading countries were most afraid of war. Therefore, Hitler’s first statement to the world was a speech about peace.
“War is boundless madness,” he said in May 1933, presenting his foreign policy program to the members of the Reichstag. “Germany is ready to eliminate not only its offensive weapons, but also its entire army, if only peace would be preserved.”
There was a trap in this idealistic statement, worthy of Vynnychenko himself: “Germany demands equality with other countries in the field of armaments.” However, the world was fascinated: the mad Nazi dictator proved polite and delicate.
The media of the potential enemy were especially mesmerised. The Labour official body, the Daily Herald, suggested to take Hitler’s word for it [and disarm immediately]. And the most influential British newspaper of the time, The Times, wrote that the Führer’s demands for equality of armaments were “indisputable.”
Thus, unnoticed by others, Hitler began to destroy the Treaty of Versailles. And to destroy Versailles meant to destroy the entire postwar system.
The classic technique of hybrid warfare is “salami tactics”. In the vintage British series Yes, Prime Minister it is described in detail in the first episode.
Instead of one normal step, a hybrid soldier makes several smaller ones. It’s like slicing a sausage thinly. Advancing towards the goal is gradual and not always noticeable, which reduces the sharpness of the enemy’s reaction.
Hitler’s innocent demand to “level armaments” was just the beginning, the first swing of a knife over a salami stick.
...The summer of 1933 is over. At the meetings of the League of Nations (the then prototype of the United Nations), the Allies agreed to reduce their armies to the German level. But they are asking for several years to implement it.
The trap worked, and the Führer made the first incision. He announces:
Germany is denied equality of armaments! The League of Nations has rejected our peace initiatives, so Germany is leaving this ineffective organisation.
In a hybrid conflict, geopolitics is not a chessboard, but a card table. And now Hitler is playing at this table openly. He talks about Germany’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, but other players are well aware of the true meaning of the démarche: “We are ignoring the previous agreements, including the Treaty of Versailles, and are starting to rearm.”
The leader of the German Reich examines the opponents’ reaction. Earlier, the British Defence Ministry publicly warned that Germany’s attempt to rearm will be met by sanctions. However, a month passes, two months pass... and there is no reaction. A small step has been taken.
Creak! – the first brick in the foundation of the post-war world order has broken.
...After the Georgian campaign in 2008, the Russian Federation also began rearming its army. Moscow is planning to complete this process by 2020.
1935: CREATION OF THE WEHRMACHT. THE ALLIES ARE “CONCERNED”
In 1934, more than 240,000 German enterprises were servicing military orders. Having assessed the scale, the Allies realised that something had to be done. And they decided... to reconcile. Why put pressure on an already offended Germany, provoking a new conflict?
In early 1935, Britain and France hinted to Berlin that they did not mind recognising parity in armaments. And since this was contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was invited to sign a new peace agreement with the participation of most European countries. Hitler was not going to sign anything, so he played for time in diplomatic correspondence.
Thus, he cut off another piece of salami: the Allies are aware of the scale of military modernisation, but have not applied any sanctions again. Apparently, they have come to terms with the fact that Germany will have modern weapons. Here we have one more small step forward!
And immediately, the next one is taken: it is an official statement from Berlin that Germany has its own air force. We would like to remind that it was forbidden by the Versailles Treaty. If the West tolerates this, the entire Wehrmacht could be legalised.
The mechanism of this statement was indicative. It was not voiced by the dictator himself, but by his proxy – the mediator. In the Russian Federation, such test bullets are launched, for example, through the head of the State Duma faction, PACE member Vladimir Zhirinovsky. In the spring of 2014, he suggested that Poland, Hungary and Romania share Ukraine together between themselves.
This time, Hitler’s mediator was Hermann Göring, the Reich Minister of Aviation. And the media platform was the British Daily Mail, which was offered an exclusive “and sensational, Mr. Editor!” interview with a German official.
The newspaper came out, and Göring’s confession about the revival of military aviation sounded loud. And where are the sanctions of the Allies?
The only response to such a blatant breach of the Treaty was... a proposal from the British Foreign Office to meet in Berlin.
Bang! – the house of Versailles lasted 16 years, but here its walls have sunken.
And Hitler no longer hesitates to cut off the last piece of sausage. One Saturday in March 1935, the Chancellor issued a law on universal military obligation and the creation of the Wehrmacht. These were full-fledged armed forces: ground forces, aviation, navy. They included up to 500,000 servicemen – five times more than allowed by Versailles.
This time, the Allies responded. Britain, France and Italy (the latter also won the First World War) expressed deep concern and “strongly condemned” Hitler for attempting to break down the walls of a common European home.
The representatives of the three winning countries gathered in Italy, at an alpine resort. They clearly predicted Hitler’s next steps after the legalisation of the new army:
a) regaining military control of the Reich over the Rhineland (a key centre of German industry, including the military sector);
b) capturing Austria.
These were the two points emphasised in the British-French-Italian statement, which ended the conference in the Alps:
a) the Allies observe the current treaties on the inviolability of post-war borders and the demilitarised status of the Rhineland.
b) the Allies are ready to support the independence of Austria.
CHUTZPAH: ÜBERLIE OF ÜBERMENSCHES
Such unanimous unity of the three countries worried the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry of the Third Reich. But not Hitler. The Führer logically believed: if so far the Allies have reacted to his actions only with words, they will accept the further rise of Germany from its knees.
Because words not followed by actions are just a psychological pressure technique. In terms of card games, it’s bluffing. You have a bad card, but you act as if you have a winning hand. If your behaviour is convincing, your opponents will surrender. And vice versa.
Political bluffing is another key hybrid tactic. Hitler will become a master in its application.
...But right now the Führer needs, on the contrary, to reduce the pressure on the enemy. The stakes have just been raised, the next piece of salami has been cut off, now the main thing is not to take it too far, to calm down the enemy. Hybrid de-escalation: “It was the last piece, now let’s talk.”
And the wolf puts on the sheep’s skin again, and again goes to the Opera House (where the parliament sits after the fire in the Reichstag building), and again talks about what everyone wants to hear – about peace.
The Führer swears his devotion to the ideals that are the complete opposite of his own beliefs. He is doing that so sincerely that it becomes embarrassing. This important hybrid technique should be called the Yiddish concept of chutzpah – a brazen cynical lie that paralyses the opponent.
This tactic was not invented by Hitler. The first Bolsheviks made it the main method of political struggle, and Yuliia Tymoshenko still applies it from time to time. Lenin defined this technique by the term “superarrogance”: “The real impression can only be made by superarrogance”.
Confidently call black white and vice versa – that’s what Russian chutzpah is in the current hybrid war. It’s when the legitimately elected government becomes “junta”, and the self-proclaimed military junta becomes “people’s government.”
Chutzpah is turning upside down the words of a Simferopol rabbi who complains about the anti-Semitism brought by the occupiers and is going to flee the Crimea. Lying that it’s is a Kyiv rabbi – and here is the ready news “Jews are fleeing from Kyiv because of the anti-Semitism of the new government.”
Chutzpah is calling a grave of the Russian occupiers killed in the fight near Makiivka mass graves of Donbas civilians. Tortured by the chasteners, of course. “Mostly women!” – such an announcement (along with a list of commentators) will be distributed by the Putin administration. – “They were raped and killed terribly!” And they will demand that the OSCE and the PACE investigate this “war crime”.
Chutzpah is Putin, who in March 2014, preparing to ignite a hybrid war from Kharkiv to Odesa, addressed Ukrainians from the parliamentary rostrum:
Dear friends, do not believe those who frighten you with Russia. Those who shout that it will be the turn of other regions after Crimea. Russia does not want the division of Ukraine, we do not need it.
Chutzpah is Hitler, who in March 1935, preparing to completely destroy the peace system, addressed the West from the parliamentary rostrum: “National Socialist Germany does not want a war because it understands very well: in any war, the blossom of the nation perishes... We are not planning on conquering other nations at all. Germany needs peace, it wants it!”
...The Führer concludes his speech with a spectacular theatrical gesture – publicly swearing in the absence of aggressive intentions towards the neighbours:
We solemnly recognise the borders of France and renounce our claims!
We promise not to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria or annex it!
I swear that Germany will not violate the demilitarisation of the Rhineland!
While the moustachioed Übermensch swears, the newly created German General Staff has been working for three weeks on the ways to occupy the Rhineland. This is Order No. 1 in the newly legalised army. Well, the army is legalised, and the order is not yet. Minister of War Blomberg writes it by hand – so as not to use official forms and staff typists.
Participants in staff meetings are generally prohibited from making any notes.
If the document is lost, it will be used by hostile propaganda. And oral statements can always be refuted.
Hybrid warfare is an uncertain thing. Sometimes it is better to play it without official documents.
1936: THE FIRST WEHRMACHT OFFENSIVE
A year later, Hitler saw an opportunity to further raise rates. The French parliament ratified the peace pact with the Soviet Union. The Führer called it a betrayal of agreements: France’s actions allegedly ruined the peace treaty that was valid before. And it is already invalid – including the clause on the Rhine demilitarised zone.
On 1 March 1936, Hitler summoned Minister of Defence von Blomberg and a group of staff generals:
Prepare the army to cross the
Many of the military expressed confidence in the failure of such a grand bluff. The French had enough combat-ready divisions to drive a small number of German forces out of the demilitarised zone. In fact, the post-war peace treaties provided that France should do that, and England must help it.
Von Blomberg also hesitated, but prepared a plan for the occupation of the Rhineland. Quite in the hybrid tradition, the minister defined the future military operation as peaceful, in the format of an “unexpected throw”.
In case of French resistance to German troops, the plan called for “combat countermeasures”. It was about the rapid retreat of the Wehrmacht back across the Rhine.
At dawn on 7 March, German troops entered the Rhine demilitarised zone without much fuss. Blomberg managed to gather no more than a division (10–12 battalions) for the peace operation. Only three battalions crossed to the opposite side of the Rhine.
The lot was cast.
This date, 7 March 1936, is key in the chronology of Nazism’s confrontation with Western democracies.
Years later, Hitler himself will remember that day as a turning point in the hybrid phase of World War II – “the most dramatic hours in his life.” He bluffed desperately then:
If the French then entered the Rhineland, we would have been forced to tuck tail and flee. Because our military resources were not enough even for weak resistance.
At 10 a.m., Germany’s Foreign Minister von Neurath presented official notes to the ambassadors of Britain, France and Italy. They reported that the Reich did not recognise the then valid peace treaty. And offered to conclude a new one.
The French ambassador aptly summed up:
Hitler punches his opponent in the face with the words “I have brought an offer of peace!”
First, raising stakes, then – hybrid de-escalation.
In addition to the mentioned pair of tactical approaches, there can be the third one – imitation of dialogue. The hybrid aggressor does not need productive talks. He needs his opponents to believe in the very possibility of coming to an agreement.
And it works. The Allies enter the negotiations once again, turning a blind eye to the dictator’s forceful steps. The London Times, mourning the invasion of the Rhine territory, still hopes for further peace. Her editorial about this is entitled The Possibility of Restructuring :) Continuous – and endless – “reset the relationship.”
Hitler would later repeat the trick of “renewing peace treaties” in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Under the threat of force, he would make the local governments accept the German terms of peace. These terms involve mutual promising not to violate the neighbours’ sovereignty. Stalin would make similar proposals to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
Finland would be the only country to disagree. In return, it would get the war, but retain its sovereignty. All the other countries will first lose their independence and then get the war.
...In the spring of 2014, the Russian Federation tried to impose a similar peace proposal on Kyiv. The aggressor, who had just
slapped a neighbour in the face grossly violated the previous agreements, offered the EU and the US to jointly guarantee new Ukrainian borders.
In exchange for a new peace agreement, Ukraine was to become a federation, let the Crimea go, declare eternal neutrality, recognise Russian as the state language, and not interfere in church affairs.
One can imagine where we would have been now if we agreed.
HITLER-PUTIN METHOD: “PRETEND TO BE NORMAL”
At noon on the same day, the Führer officially announced the militarisation of the Rhineland. His statement, like the previous ones, looks like a report to parliament.
This is no longer the multiparty Reichstag whose members listened to the Führer’s speech on pacifism in 1933.
Now, there are 600 deputies in the Opera House, all from the Nazi party. They are needed because formally, Hitler’s dictatorship is a parliamentary democracy. The legitimacy of his rule is based on the constitution of the republic he destroyed.
This is another hybrid tactic – formal compliance with current rules of the game. A kind of derisive respect for other players at the world poker table, which allows them to pretend that nothing bad is happening. As if it’s not a war at all.
Hitler, who was well acquainted with the tramp school in Vienna and despised the bourgeoisie, said:
If you are going to defend an uncompromising position, give yourself a pronounced bourgeois look.
The whole world realises that the one-party dictatorship of the Nazis is by no means the democratic republic from which the postwar Germany began. However, the formalities and rituals are observed – there is a parliament, albeit the puppet one. And the tyrant is not a tyrant, but only a short man holding the modest position of Reich President of the Federation.
...Before the creation of Wehrmacht was announced, the subordinates of Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, made sure that the phrase “General Staff” did not appear in the press. The creation of this body was prohibited under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and Hitler ordered Goebbels not to take risks. The whole world knew that the Germans had a shadow General Staff, but formally it did not exist – so the agreement was allegedly not violated.
In 2014, it will also become clear to the world that Ukraine is occupied by the Russian military on Russian equipment with service weapons. But formally in this army, there were no chevrons of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Looks like there is no war, and the Budapest agreements are not violated. And Putin swears that he follows the current rules of the game.
“Is it possible to ignore agreements and occupy the territory of another state? We are not like that, we stand for peace!”
a Russian Führer mocks democratic suckers at a poker table. And then, he solemnly reports to his puppets in the Federation Council on the conquest of Crimea.
The deputies who listen to Hitler and Putin are a cover for the West and a background for the leader. Together, they perform another hybrid function – that of the above-mentioned proxy intermediaries.
That’s because dictators Hitler and Putin report to parliament only formally. In fact, their speeches are a set of signals for the audiences outside the parliamentary walls – from their own voters to the political elites of foreign countries. This is what hybrid diplomacy is all about.
...After raising the stakes, when the Wehrmacht is already behind the Rhine, it is necessary to reduce tensions, reassure the opponents with demonstrative relief – and Hitler again promises the West peace.
In three years, the Führer made such a promise twice from the same rostrum (and even solemnly swore the second time). The words faded a little. It was necessary to revive them with emotions, pathetic theatrical heat.
That is why, while making promises for the third time, Hitler is forcing the members of parliament to swear in false statements.
CHUTZPAH OF THE CHUTZPAHS: “WE LIE ALL OVER THE COUNTRY”
This iconic scene of mass perjury is a reference example of superarrogance. Here is how an eyewitness describes it:
...600 deputies, small people with bull necks, short haircuts, big bellies, brown uniforms and heavy boots, jumped on their feet. Like machine guns, they threw out their right hands in a Nazi salute, shouting, “Heil!”
Hitler raises his hand and says softly, “O men of the German Reichstag!”
“At this historic moment, when German troops in the western parts of the Reich are moving towards their peaceful future, we must all be united by two sacred oaths...”
German troops and the peaceful future – aren’t these paragraphs contradictory? Another example of chutzpah that comes to mind is the printed media of the occupation administration in ORDLO (uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions). The people who brought war to the region named their newspaper... Peaceful Donbas. Very hybrid.
...Hitler cannot speak further. For the parliamentary crowd, the Wehrmacht’s entry into the Rhineland is the new information. Militarism in their blood is now hitting them in the head. With hysterical cries, they take off, throwing out their right hands by inertia, their faces distorted, their mouths wide open...
Proxy puppets have only now learned about what the leader did. Meanwhile, the aggressor Hitler – as later his student Putin – continues to portray the peacemaker.
...Lowering his head, as if in humility, he patiently waits for silence. Then, still in a quiet but emotional voice, he shouts out two oaths:
“First, we swear not to resort to force... Secondly, we swear that now, as never before, we will strive for mutual understanding... We have no territorial claims in Europe! Germany will never break the peace!”
Six hundred people’s deputies, elected on a non-alternative one-party list, solemnly repeat the words of the deceitful oath.
“If necessary for a holy cause, we will lie together with the whole country,” a Russian publicist (ideologist of the insane hybrid concepts of the Russian Spring and the Atomic Orthodoxy) confirmed in August 2014.
While the Führer swears an oath, General von Blomberg pushes his way through the crowd of journalists to the exit. The defence minister’s cheeks twitch – he’s nervous. He wants (and in this respect, he is supported by other generals; only Hitler is against) to withdraw troops from the Rhine. Because what if the French actually intervene?!
But the French with their dozens of divisions did not intervene. And the British decided not to intervene. The Marquess of Lothian of the House of Lords then said:
In the end, Germany simply went to its backyard.
Seeing all this, Belgium (also the winner of the First World War) declared its neutrality.
Bang! – another wall of the common European house cracked.
Because if the Allies responded with at least some action, and not another word of concern, the Germans would have had to retreat, “tucking their tails.” And the dictator would have lost his face then. His genius, invented by propaganda, would have been busted, just like Putin in Syria.
THE LAST CHANCE TO STOP THE AGGRESSOR
Six years later, in 1942, at the peak of success, when the Third Reich occupied the most living space in its short history, Hitler would nostalgically recall the Rhineland militarisation at his Vinnytsia headquarters:
And what if not me, but someone else had led the state then? Anyone would have lost their temper. I was forced to lie, but my stubbornness and self-confidence saved us all.
This is it, the essence of hybrid war – lies and bluffing, self-confident raising of the stakes. “We are ready to risk three battalions, and you?” “Are you ready to die for Narva?”
Putin, who sent his hybrid tactical group on that failed offensive against Kurdish-American positions in Syria, did the same thing. If it had worked out, he would have been a brilliant strategist, and the United States would have been democratic geeky losers.
...The transfer of three battalions over the
Euphrates Rhine is quite a small military operation. But it has radically changed the overall strategic situation in Europe. Because while Hitler did not lose his face, France did.
It became clear to all European countries (and the Reich’s eastern and southern neighbours felt it especially sharply): the West would not be at war with Germany in the event of aggression, the Allies would not adhere to the security system they were creating so diligently.
France with a hundred divisions did not oppose the three battalions. Will it shed the blood of its soldiers if the Wehrmacht launches an offensive in the East?
“In March 1936, the Western states had one last chance to stop the militarism of totalitarian Germany without a major war and bring the Nazi regime to a complete collapse,” wrote William Shearer. “They didn’t take this chance.”
Bang! – the roof of the common European house sank.
But the house was still standing. And if you didn’t notice the cracks in the walls and the leaky ceiling, you still could live there. In the same year, 1936, Hitler held the Olympic Games in Germany. In Berlin, even anti-Semitic posters and inscriptions were removed on the occasion. Imitation of dialogue: they say, we are not such bad guys, although a bit militant.
...At the Olympics opening ceremony, French athletes, passing by Hitler’s box, amicably gave him salute, which caused a stir in the stands and a grand scandal with betrayal/victory in France. Sport is out of politics.
French team at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Berlin, 1 August 1936
At the same time, Mussolini victoriously ended the war against Ethiopia. He started it back in 1935 – when Hitler showed the Italian Duce what kind of games can be played with the West (legalisation of the Wehrmacht). The League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy. However, it did it hesitantly and withdrew them a few weeks later. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie went into prolonged exile on a British steamer.
At the same time, General Franco’s military revolt against the republican government began in Spain. Unlike Mussolini, Hitler did not send large military contingents there – he was not interested in victory. Quite the contrary. The Führer openly acknowledged that the most important thing for him was to maintain instability in the region for as long as possible. There is a whole necklace of such regions around Russia already.
After the war, during the Nuremberg Trials, Göring would make another outspoken confession about Spain. The region in which Germany maintained instability became an excellent testing ground for the new weapons of the Reich – the Wehrmacht modernisation was in full swing.
In general, the entire following 1937, Hitler rearmed.
In January 1937, he finally completed the “Versailles” many-moved game, cutting off the last piece of sausage there too. Reporting to the Reichstag, the Führer officially stated: “Germany is removing its signature from the Treaty of Versailles.” The treaty itself, however, has been buried for almost a year. Similarly, a year after [the annexation of] Crimea, Putin openly admitted what he had so vehemently denied before.
[By the way, the very term “salami tactics” appeared after the Second World War. And it was not invented by British TV script writers, but by the leader of the Hungarian Communists, Mátyás Rákosi – “Stalin from Budapest”. With this hybrid approach, Rákosi gradually destroyed all the political opposition in the country. In the end, the Hungarians could not stand it: Rákosi’s rule ended in a bloody anti-Soviet uprising in 1956.]
...Four years have passed since the first appearance of Adolf Hitler in the parliamentary rostrum. During this time, the Germans (even the former political opponents) believed in their leader.
He did what no republic-era government had succeeded in doing: overthrew the dictates of Versailles, returned the army, and bloodlessly restored the German honour. For the first time since the First World War, German troops were advancing, even successfully.
The Führer’s popularity grew to the heights never reached by a single ruler of Germany. And this gave him power over the last barrier on the way to war – over the army.
In the crisis situation with the Rhineland, the generals showed indecision. They feared that the French would resist, but Hitler was wiser. He is a genius, let’s just trust his instincts, and he will save Germany.
...Odesa political technologist Hlib Pavlovskyi worked for the Kremlin for ten years to finally realise the horrible thing:
The main thing is Putin. Everything is based on him.
1937: HITLER STARTS WITH THE NEIGHBOURS
The German Chancellor is also revered abroad. He is no longer an upstart adventurer, but a solid player at the geopolitical table. With the Olympics behind his shoulders. The French and British governments regularly have a political debate with him on “non-interference” in Spanish affairs, although everyone knows it all.
Hitler, the head of the prosperous militant Germany, looks like a superman compared to rotting Western democracies that do not dare to respond to the bold policies of the Führer. World War? Don’t make our Panzerkampfwagens laugh.
The Führer would later call the indecisive French and English officials “worthless worms” for their willingness to meet false peace treaties. In fact, all these years Hitler has been doing only one thing – preparing for the Great War. And it doesn’t matter what it will be: real or hybrid.
The Führer did not tell anyone about his plans for a long time. His allies, exhausted by the game of nerves in 1935–1936, did not think that Hitler would go further in raising stakes. That he would go far beyond the German border to conquer the neighbouring countries.
Historians consider the date when Hitler first told others about his invasive plans to be one of the rubicons of World War II. This is 5 November 1937.
In the afternoon of that day, Hitler convened a secret meeting to which he invited only five participants:
- Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief von Blomberg;
- Commander of the Land Forces, General von Fritsch;
- Admiral Raeder, Commander of the Navy;
- Commander of the Air Force General Göring;
- Reich Foreign Minister Baron von Neurath.
The last guest caught the eye of Hitler’s aides. They noted that Hitler had never held Wehrmacht higher officials meeting with the head of the Foreign Ministry. These are completely different areas, the adjutants thought. – While diplomats work, the military have nothing to do, and vice versa.
They did not know that in a hybrid war, diplomats are fighting side by side with the army. There is no Foreign Ministry, there are Diplomatic Troops – there are more than enough modern examples.
The meeting lasted several hours. Hitler spoke, the others listened in astonishment.
The Führer began:
What you will hear now is the result of long deliberations over four and a half years in power.
To emphasise the importance of this plan, Hitler called it the “last will” in case of his own death:
Here are the most important points of this political testament:
1) The aim of German policy is to increase the living space of the German people. Therefore, Germany’s future will be decided in the heart of Europe, in “close proximity to the Reich.”
2) “Our first task is to overthrow Czechoslovakia and Austria at the same time.”
3) The annexation of these two countries will not only improve the strategic situation for the Reich, but also bring resource bonuses – from food to weapons. And more than 10 million additional Germans! More than a hundred full-fledged battalions can be formed.
THE REVOLUTION HAS WON. NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE WAR!
The meeting on 5 November 1937 ended at 8.30 p.m., it was long dark in Berlin. Some people who left the Reich Chancellery that evening were shocked – Hitler had just announced to them his final decision to start the war in Europe.
The occupation of Czechoslovakia and Austria would be difficult to explain by the restoration of justice following the bondage imposed by the victors, as in the case of the Rhineland. The territories of both countries were never part of the Second Reich [German Empire 1870–1918].
Three of the five participants in the secret meeting doubted the success of the announced plans. Defence Minister Blomberg, Land Forces Commander Fritsch and Foreign Minister Neurath persuaded Hitler that a premature war would bring Germany to disaster.
Less than a few months later, Blomberg, Neurath and Fritsch, who had been appointed at the times of the “republic”, lost their positions. During these years, they were almost the only public opposition to Hitler.
The Führer wanted his subordinates to be younger. Later, he would always pay attention to the age of Wehrmacht commanders when appointing them – young people impressed him with their adventurousness, faith and... lack of life experience.
Younger personnel are also being sought in the occupying army corps of the Russian Federation in Donbas. [These have to be the people] who do not remember the Soviet experience of coexistence with the Ukrainians (for example, like those who used to fight in Afghanistan together).
...A man named Joachim von Ribbentrop, SS-Gruppenführer, became the new head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
General Walter von Brauchitsch became commander of the ground forces (in December 1941, after the first setbacks near Moscow, the general would cede his post to Gefreiter, genius strategist Hitler).
The Führer simply abolished the Ministry of Defence. Instead, the Wehrmacht High Command was created, to which all types of armed forces were subordinated – the land force, the air force and the navy. And Hitler appointed himself Commander-in-Chief.
On 5 February 1938, the official body of the Nazi party Völkischer Beobachter (People’s Observer) published a giant announcement on the front page [hereinafter, the original headlines of the Third Reich newspapers are given in the Russian translation – so it is more organic]:
CONCENTRATION OF ABSOLUTE POWER IN THE HANDS OF THE FÜHRER! (КОНЦЕНТРАЦИЯ ПОЛНОТЫ ВЛАСТИ В РУКАХ ФЮРЕРА!)
All in all, the National Socialist revolution in Germany is over.
It’s time to transfer it to the wider world.
2.ANNEXATION OF AUSTRIA
Hitler, although born a subject of the noblest Kaiser, did not like Austria. His motherland was too multicultural and not German enough.
In 1913, the future Führer emigrated to Germany, thus avoiding conscription into the Kaiser army. He considered serving side by side with
Jaroslav Hašek and Georg Trakl Slavs and Jews “disgusting.”
Next summer, in Bavaria, Hitler is caught by the news of the beginning of World War. On the very first day, he enthusiastically enlisted as a volunteer in the German army – and spent four consecutive years in the trenches, reaching the rank of corporal (Gefreiter).
Huge – from Chernivtsi to Prague, from Lviv to Zagreb – the Austro-Hungarian Empire could not withstand the tensions of the First World War and disintegrated. One of its ruins was the Austrian Republic, a small state between the Alps and the Danube, the former German-speaking heart of the empire. In fact, “Österreich” means “Eastern State”. That is, the other Reich, not the one in the west.
Hitler announced his intention to first of all annex Austria to Germany back in the 1920s in his programme book Mein Kamf (My Struggle) written behind the bars (the result of the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich).
Those in power in the Austrian Republic were... fascists. It was the local version of the authoritarian regime according to the Italian model – right-wing values and total collectivism. Plus a strong Catholic admixture. Vienna, unlike Nazi Berlin, was not about the nationality of the people, it was about their relations with the state.
Austria’s southern neighbour was Italy, the winner of the First World War and the birthplace of fascism. Mussolini was the main guarantor of Austrian independence.
...One of the provisions of the post-war peace treaties provided for the impossibility of uniting Austria and Germany into one state.
Hitler began tearing down this wall of the common European home as early as in 1933, immediately after coming to power. He first used the tactics of proxy intermediaries. And when it didn’t work out, he turned on another hybrid mode.
This regime is well known to us. Let’s call it “we’re not there.”
1934: NAZI COUP IN VIENNA. THE FIRST TRIAL OF STRENGTH
Germany secretly organised and financed the National Socialist movement in Austria. It conducted mass trainings of militants and propagandists in border camps. It illegally smuggled cash and propaganda materials, explosives and weapons across the border. It provided shelter and tribune to the leaders of the Austrian Nazi who fled their homeland.
Hitler’s proxies staged a real terror against their government – they blew up cars, lynched the officials, and destroyed the infrastructure. The fugitive Austro-Führer Theo Habicht constantly appeared on German radio, calling on his countrymen to revolt.
The apotheosis of the hybrid campaign was the failed coup staged by militants of Vienna’s 89th SS Standard on 25 July 1934, a year and a half after Hitler came to power.
The annexations of Austria and Crimea have so much in common that we can find a modern Ukrainian parallel even with the coup of 1934. For example, it is the separatist attempt of Yuriy Meshkov (1995), which ended with the escape of the hybrid “president” to Moscow.
However, it was bloodier in Vienna.
Three days before the coup, Goebbels wrote in his diary:
Returned from the Führer... The Austrian question. Will it work out? I am sceptical.
...In the corridor of the government office, the SS assault group ran into Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. “Hands up!” the rebel commander Otto Planetta exclaimed. Then, he shot. For the next few hours, the head of the Austrian government was bleeding on the couch in the waiting room. No doctor was called for him.
Another unit of the 89th Standard took control of the government radio station. After that, they began broadcasting fakes about the resignation of the Chancellor and his cabinet.
A political debate broke out in the office. The conspirators told Dollfuss that achieving peace with Germany depended only on him. “Guys, you don’t understand that,” the dying chancellor interrupted.
Engelbert Dollfuss was 148 cm tall; he was probably the lowest of European dictators. However, he maintained his dignity and common sense until his death, confirming aloud that the putschists were only a hybrid tool.
Because, in fact, peace between Austria and Germany depended solely on one person, Hitler. Just like today, only Putin, the one who started the war in Donbas, can stop it.
...On the day of the coup, Hitler went to the Wagner Festival. The composer’s great-granddaughter, with whom the Führer shared the opera box, watched his face every time the liaison officers whispered the latest news from Vienna. The leader was excited but pleased.
At one point, Hitler came to his senses. “I have to show up, or they may think I have something to do with it,” he said to Fräulein Wagner and went out to the restaurant.
In the afternoon, Goebbels wrote in his diary:
Dollfuss is dead. The rebels retreated, the government triumphs. That’s it, it’s a defeat!
Hitler and company were indeed involved in the Austrian coup. The German state news agency DNB even prepared an official statement welcoming the fall of the Dollfuss’ regime and proclaiming a Greater Germany.
But the revolt failed. Police and the army, allowing the SS to leave government buildings, began arrests the same day. Instead of the late Dollfuss, Austrian fascism introduced an equally charismatic leader, Kurt Schuschnigg. The new chancellor went after the Nazis resolutely and harshly.
The coup and brutal murder sparked a wave of international outrage. For the first time, the Führer appeared before the world community as a bloody predator; most statesmen considered it their duty to oppose him. Benito Mussolini was most furious.
The Italian leader immediately called Dollfuss’ first deputy, promising to protect Austria’s sovereignty from German aggression. Later, during a personal meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, Mussolini did not spare emotions:
If this country of murderers and paederasts conquers Europe, our civilisation will come to an end.
On the evening of that dramatic day, five Italian divisions marched on Brenner, the main alpine pass on the border with Austria.
Hitler was very scared of his false start.
We are in front of the second Sarajevo!
he shouted, comparing the assassination of Dollfuss to the assassination attempt on the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, which started World War I.
The Führer was not yet ready for World War II. So he washed his hands of it. “We’re not there,” he said.
...The German state news agency urgently prepared a completely different statement for the press. The coup was portrayed exclusively as the Austrian cause. Berlin condemned the “brutal murder” and expressed its sincere condolences.
Hitler renounced his own hybrid army.
Austrian security officials began the massacre with a demonstrational execution of Dollfuss’ killers – Otto Planetta and six militants of his group. For some of the putschists, Vienna guaranteed (this promise was lobbied by the German embassy) unimpeded travel abroad. But they were eventually arrested as well.
Thirteen of those arrested were later hanged. And no one from Berlin stood up.
It turned out that Germany abandons their people. Just like now, the Russian Federation, avoiding tougher sanctions, abandons Russian hybrid soldiers detained in Ukraine.
...Thus, in the summer of 1934, Austrian fascism managed to stick it to German Nazism. And so Hitler realised that there was no need to hurry – it is better to cut salami gradually.
To do this, he sent a new ambassador to Austria – Franz von Papen. It was at him that the Führer shouted about the “second Sarajevo.”
1936: HOW TO DESTROY THE STATE FROM WITHIN. VON PAPEN’S MISSION
Papen was a political behemoth. Recently, he was head of the German government; he ceded the chancellor’s seat only to Hitler.
The new appointment of the ex-prime minister solved a number of hybrid tasks, the first of which was an immediate reassuring signal to the Allies: “We want peace and friendship so much that we are sending the highest status politician of ‘pre-Hitler’ Germany to Vienna.” Hybrid de-escalation was aimed at avoiding the “second Sarajevo” and premature war.
Officially, Papen was hurrying to Austria with a peacemaking mission. Behind this formulation lies an imitation of dialogue which is already familiar to us. Because the real task of the new ambassador was to support official Vienna in their belief that Hitler did not intend to annex Austria. At the same time, he had to clear the way for the Austrian Nazis in big politics.
A brilliant aristocrat and a loyal Catholic, Papen was “best suited to fool the Austrians.” The peace proposals voiced by Papen in the following years were classic examples of a hybrid bargain.
The Führer does not want an Anschluss, he only asks to legalise the Nazi party in Austria.
Or, “Berlin will order the Austrian Nazis to refrain from terrorism if Austria supports German international policy.” It’s like Putin promising to end the war in Donbas in exchange for recognising Crimea as Russian.
At the same time, the German embassy finances not only the Nazis, but also other pro-German movements in Austria – say, the right wing of local trade unions.
Two years after the failed coup, Ambassador Papen voiced another proposal from Hitler to Chancellor Schuschnigg:
In order to preserve the unity of Austria, include the leading representatives of the people’s opposition in the government.
Here it is, an unexpected punch in the face:
I offer a peace treaty! Otherwise, there will be no united Austria.
The Kremlin also wants to push the people’s power of hybrid republics into Ukrainian political elite. Such “Chechen integration” is the same tactic of formal compliance with the rules. In words, hybrids call themselves loyal, but the government has no real control over them.
Imagine: official Kyiv gave in to the intimidation by the Kremlin and recognised the ORDLO (uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions) not as an occupied territory but as legitimate regions of federalised Ukraine. To the delight of the international community, this formally ends the undeclared Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Donbas. In reality, the hybrid war will be replaced by... the hybrid peace.
In the bizarre world of post-truth, these two concepts mean the same thing. War is peace. Peace is war.
In words, the people’s republics may recognise the supremacy of Kyiv, but in fact they will remain Putin’s Trojan horse, a cover for his hybrid army.
Have you imagined that? Further events are easy to predict on the example of Austria. Because 80 years ago, official Vienna gave in to Hitler’s intimidation.
At that time, the Austrian Republic was left without its major ally: Mussolini has already plunged headlong into the African adventure. “He traded it for
Syria Ethiopia,” the news of the treason trumpeted over the Danube embankments. And Vienna, wiping the blood from its broken nose, accepted the offer of peace from the Führer’s hands.
In July 1936, Austria and Germany signed a major peace treaty. In it, Hitler
crossed his heart and hoped to die guaranteed the independence of the southern neighbours and non-interference in their internal affairs. In response, Austria proclaimed itself a “German state” – that is, part of the German World.
A secret clause in the agreement ordered Chancellor Schuschnigg to amnesty Nazi prisoners (even those convicted of killing Dollfuss) and give them certain positions in power. Hitler’s proxies, in their turn, pledged to end the hybrid war against their own government.
In short, the Austrian anti-terrorist operation was abolished, the former enemies of the state
were sitting in the Rada were recognised as a legitimate part of state power.
...After the failed coup of 1934, Hitler replaced the leader of the Austrian Nazis – instead of the discredited Theo Habicht, he appointed Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a lawyer from Vienna. In the summer of 1936, immediately after the signing of the Austro-German treaty, this political emigrant returned from the Reich to his homeland. The rest of the hybrid soldiers followed Inquart.
The hybrid diplomat von Papen was pleased to report to the Führer that the concluded peace treaty was “a decisive step towards the abolition of Austrian independence. Anschluss is now only a matter of time.”
The first piece of Austrian salami was cut off.
1937: THE WEST DECIDES TO NEGOTIATE
In the spring of 1937, Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. An experienced conservative politician believed that the very fate had entrusted him with the mission of “negotiating with dictators.” That the war can be avoided by pacifying those inflaming it. You just have to talk to the bad guys in a normal way, find a compromise – and strike a bargain.
Bush Jr., Obama as well as the leaders of the EU and Britain made a similar mistake. Until recently, it was repeated by President Trump, who cultivated the illusion of the possibility of a productive dialogue with “Comrade Vladimir.”
...In September 1937, Mussolini arrived in Berlin on a state visit. This trip changed the relationship between the two dictators forever – they exchanged roles. From now on, Hitler became the senior partner in the couple. The new, elegantly tailored uniform of the fascist militia did not help Mussolini – the Führer crushed the Italian with his grand dog-and-pony show.
Columns of millions of soldiers, precise rows, tens of thousands of flags, friendly “Heil!”, torches, trumpets and drums, large-scale military manoeuvres and no less grandiose military industry. Instead of a miserable “country of murderers and paederasts”, the astonished Duce saw a force that far outweighed the boldest dreams of Italian fascism.
Now Putin is trying to replicate this effect by organising large-scale sports competitions, parades, military exercises and other events never seen even in the USSR.
In November 1937, an exhibition dedicated to hunting opened in Berlin. It was visited by the passionate hunter Lord Halifax – former Viceroy of India and future British Foreign Secretary in the Chamberlain government.
The distinguished guest had an informal conversation with Hitler, during which he hinted at the readiness of the British government to reach reasonable compromises:
We do not insist on strict adherence to the current status quo, but we would like to avoid solving problems in a way that could lead to complications.
Lord Halifax also fell victim to the imitation of a dialogue. After returning to London, he assured his colleagues that Hitler was a “sincere man.” The Nazi leader “was not going to resort to forceful adventures” because he was busy with “Germany’s internal development.”
And here is how Hitler himself summed up the conversation with Chamberlain’s emissary:
See, I said that the British would lie with me under one blanket.
Now he knew that London was still ready to patiently make concessions rather than risk it all.
What the British considered a gentleman’s agreement, the Führer considered a weakness. Putin took a similar view of Obama’s reset after the aggression in Georgia (2008).
1937 passed like that – it was the year of active rearmament of the Wehrmacht. During this time, the Austrian Nazis led by Berlin launched a campaign of pressure on the Viennese government: from street fights to bomb terrorist attacks.
And in January 1938, the Austrian police unveiled another plan for the Nazi coup.
The headquarters for the preparation of the coup was an organisation that was officially engaged in reconciling the Austrian Nazi and the government. The terrorist centre of the Hitler’s underground in Vienna was hiding behind a peace sign.
Is it hybrid? Pretty much. And still relevant: the party that was to seize power after the pro-Russian coup in Montenegro (February 2016) also disguised the totalitarian nature under the liberal name “Democratic Front”.
...Shocked Ambassador Papen learned that the scenario of the Nazi coup involved the assassination of... Ambassador Papen – this would have been a reason for Germany to deploy troops.
Putin also gives credit for this hybrid trick – to kill his own people and then resolutely stand up for them. His march towards becoming the people’s idol began with the blown up apartment buildings in Moscow, and ended with the shellings of apartment buildings in the Donbas.
It almost affected Montenegro as well. Because the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), who organised the coup, worked according to the traditional schemes. Their plan involved the following: the hybrid soldiers disguised as police officers had to shoot a dozen or so their “own” people – the participants in an anti-NATO rally in the centre of the capital – in order to provoke the storming of government buildings (and to kill the pro-NATO Prime Minister under cover).
1938: THREATS AND BLUFFING. HITLER INTIMIDATES VIENNA
...Thus, on 4 February 1938, Hitler dismissed three indecisive “oppositionists” – the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Commander of the Land Forces. And he appointed himself commander-in-chief, concentrating unprecedented powers in the hands of a single person.
This is how the National Socialist revolution in Germany ended, remember? It’s time to transfer it to the wider world.
And Hitler invites Kurt von Schuschnigg to visit. The Austrian Chancellor agrees. He plans to show Hitler
a piece of the body of the shelled minibus the evidence collected by Viennese police that the Nazis were the first to violate the recent peace treaty. Fresh, real evidence of the preparation for the coup – it’s so logical, he will convince the Führer!
On 12 February 1938, Hitler received Schuschnigg and his Foreign Minister Schmidt at his villa in the Bavarian Alps.
This is the first real estate owned by the Führer. After coming to power, he bought the old estate on the border and rebuilt it to his liking. A huge panoramic window was cut in the study: and now the vastness of snow-capped peaks and passes involuntarily catches Schuschnigg’s eyes. All this is Austria – the homeland of both interlocutors.
In the 1920s, after being released from a Bavarian prison without a German passport, the Austrian Adolf Hitler rented a room in this villa exactly because Germany ended there. Take a few steps – and you’re already on the Austrian border, waving from behind the barrier to the Bavarian police.
Now Hitler wants to erase this border. Turning a deaf ear to Schuschnigg’s compliments on the landscape, the Führer begins threatening and bluffing.
“Austria has done nothing to help
the older brother the older sister. The whole of Austrian history is a complete betrayal.” Familiar motive: all Khokhols [Ukrainians] are traitors, they shot in the back, they betrayed Russia, they stole gas, they are rewriting history, they appropriated our Crimea... it’s the invention of the Austrian General Staff!. Well, how should one show the logical documents of the police investigation to such a person?
Having driven himself crazy, Hitler went on to shout:
The German Reich is a great world power, and no one will raise their voice! Do you think your ridiculous fortifications on the passes will delay the Wehrmacht for at least half an hour?! And what if you wake up one morning – and we are already in Vienna? All of a sudden, like a storm in the spring!
We heard the same from the Russian Führers. Putin’s “I’ll crush you!” and “Surrender, you are surrounded!” in Minsk. A call with threats to Turchynov during the meeting of the National Security and Defence Council on 28 February 2014. Voting by the Federation Council for Putin’s permission to use the army in the conflict with Ukraine. And “Grozny taken in two days by one landing regiment”, and “Kyiv taken by tanks in two weeks, then to London”. Threats and bluffing.
...Hitler continued to be hysterical until Schuschnigg asked, “What exactly do you offer?” Instead of an oral answer, he was given a piece of paper with
an ultimatum a new peace treaty: Germany would not resort to force if Vienna immediately released all arrested Nazis and reinstated those released.
The Nazis were also to receive key positions of power – those of the heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Austrian Ministry of Defence. Otherwise, the fraternal blood would be shed.
Schuschnigg rejected the ultimatum:
Only the president has the right to sign such documents. But I do not guarantee that he will sign.
But Hitler turned on the psycho again:
You have to guarantee this!
...Then, there is a small theatrical performance: The Führer jumps to the exit, opens the door and angrily shouts into the corridor, “General Keitel!” Then, he kicks the bewildered Austrians out of the office, “I’ll talk to you later.”
Schuschnigg waited outside the door and saw Keitel, Chief of Staff of the High Command, running to the waiting room. Closing the door and panting, the general asked Hitler what the instructions would be.
The Führer laughed.
No instructions! Just sit here for a while.
But the Austrian delegation was depressed by this hybrid scene. Foreign Minister Schmidt said he would not be surprised if they were arrested now.
“WE NEED GREATER GERMANY!”
On 20 February 1938, the Führer addressed the
Federation Council Reichstag on the Austrian question. He shouts into the microphone about discrimination against the “German minority” abroad, which wants to reunite with the German world, and the damned oppressors do not let it happen.
Therefore, “the German Reich declares the protection of [foreign] Germans living along our borders.” Checkmate, germanophobes!
80 years later, the Russian Foreign Ministry will quote this Hitler’s speech word for word.
Hybrid logic turns a large diaspora into a political weapon. Do you speak German, username? That’s it, we are going to protect you. You are no longer one of the national minorities, forget it. You are unique, you are a part of the magnificent empire of winners. Once we have saved civilisation, we can do that again.
...In the same year, 1938, Hitler announced the program “Returning [home] to the Reich”. And since it was a hybrid project, its name meant something completely different.
It was not about the departure of Germans from other countries to Germany. On the contrary, the Führer invited foreign Volksdeutsche [Russian officials used a similar term – compatriots] to join the fatherland in entire regions.
Later, each such expansion of German state borders was accompanied by a propaganda campaign. Its key slogan remained the same: “Region N is coming home!”
Do you remember “Let the stones fall from the sky, we are in our Motherland!”, “Crimea has returned home”, “...to the native harbour”, etc.? The program milestone of Putin’s agitprop, the film about the hybrid military occupation of foreign territory, is called The Path to the Motherland.
The Kremlin is also instrumentalising Russian-speaking citizens of other countries by inviting them to voluntarily become the fifth column in the service of the dictatorial regime. A typical example was a message posted by hybrid hackers on the Latvian social network on the eve of the local elections (autumn 2018):
Comrades Latvians, this is for you. The Russian border does not end anywhere. The Russian world can and should unite all those who cherish the Russian word and Russian culture, wherever they live, in Russia or abroad. Use this phrase more often – the Russian World.
HOW TO CUT AUSTRIAN SALAMI. STEP BY STEP
Let’s sum up step by step:
1934 – unsuccessful revolt of the Viennese SS, assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss. The world is shocked and outraged, Mussolini brings troops. Hitler has nothing to fight with yet. That’s why he again turns on the song “It’s not us” with the refrain “We stand for peace!”. We will never violate the territorial integrity of Austria, just don’t beat us. And to be believed, the Führer ruthlessly sacrifices his own hybrid soldiers.
1936 – Germany rebuilds its army, and Austria is left without its major ally (Italy). That’s it, the old agreement doesn’t work anymore, please bring the new one. In this peace treaty, Germany continues declaring the inviolability of its neighbour’s sovereignty, but demands much more in return. The “don’t beat us” clause is replaced by the German World and amnesty for individual Nazis.
For Hitler, 1938 starts greatly – and his hybrid offensive shifts to its final stage. On 12 February, at his Alpine residence overlooking Austria, he demands from Schuschnigg even more and threats him. His demand is to release the punished Nazis (even murderers) and give them key power positions. Believing in the bluff, Vienna agrees to a new peace treaty.
On 22 February, Chamberlain declared in Westminster exactly what Hitler had predicted after the meeting with Lord Halifax. The British Prime Minister
lies under one blanket with says that Austria cannot count on the protection of the League of Nations:
We must not deceive small weak states by promising protection... because it is clear that it will be impossible to protect them.
Having been given a free hand from the West, Hitler continues.
...On 4 March 1938, his envoy voiced the Führer’s next demands in Vienna. First, to give the Nazis another key post – Minister of Economy. Second, to legalise the Nazi party. Third, to lift the ban on
Russia Today broadcasting distribution in Austria of the German newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, the main megaphone of Hitler’s propaganda.
The newly concluded (after 12 February) peace treaty does not mention these conditions with a single word, but such are the rules of the hybrid game – one concession entails another. Chancellor Schuschnigg can do nothing but express his indignation:
How can Hitler make new demands when less than three weeks have passed since the previous agreements?
How quickly everything changed!
At first, the state stopped persecuting the Nazis. Then, it allowed them (enemies of that particular state) to participate in the political life – but do that under the hybrid title (people’s opposition), formally following the accepted rules of the game.
Then it went even deeper. The stakes are rising. Hitler is now demanding amnesty for the fiercest enemies of the Austrian state, whose guilt has been proven and punished by law. And this “opposition” is no longer just involved in Austrian politics, but also controls the army and law enforcement bodies.
Mogilev becomes the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Yakymenko – the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Lebedyev – the Minister of Defence.
Two years ago, the leader of the Austrian Nazi, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, was a political emigrant in Bavaria, and now he is triumphantly returning as a “people’s oppositionist.” Another month – and Seyss-Inquart is already in charge of the Interior Ministry.
The main enemy of the state becomes its main defender – all according to the laws of the hybrid genre.
The Nazis would stage provocative demonstrations and attacks in the streets. And since the Interior Ministry has been ruled by a Nazi for three weeks already, the police increasingly take the side of his like-minded people.
So no matter how indignant Schuschnigg was, he had to agree to Russia Today and everything else. It was not individual National Socialists who returned to big Austrian politics, but the entire party. And this party of enemies of the state gained more and more power in that state.
Shocked by Hitler’s dishonesty, Schuschnigg spent several days thinking about what to do. Finally, on 9 March, he called a referendum:
We have reached the limit of concessions. The only issue on the agenda is Austria.
The Chancellor hopes that the Austrians’ friendly declaration of the will for sovereignty and independence will serve as a sufficient signal against the invasion of fraternal Germany.
The 20,000-strong audience gave Schuschnigg an ovation, and radio listeners across Austria were inspired too. The furious Hitler calls General Keitel again, this time giving the order to prepare troops for the invasion. The referendum was to take place on Sunday, 13 March, so the approximate time of the operation was in two days, on the morning of Saturday the 12th.
Keitel rushed to the General Staff, where he found that there was no plan for attacking Austria. The military worked all day on 10 March, hastily preparing a document, although they considered such actions of Hitler madness.
In Austria, the proponents of independence staged a mass demonstration in support of the referendum, finally taking the street from the Nazis.
...The only Wehrmacht unit that could march on Vienna in a day was the 2nd Panzer Division. The General Staff decided to add two infantry corps (more than 30 infantry battalions) to the tanks.
Note that in 1936, for the militarisation of the Rhineland, Hitler barely scraped together several battalions. Now he can put at stake many times more (not even counting the significant number of tanks).
Two years of Allies’ procrastination have paid off.
When Hitler approved a plan to prevent further criminal acts against the pro-German population, it was already two o’clock on Friday night, 11 March 1938.
At six o’clock in the morning, Schuschnigg was awakened to get the following report: Germany has cut off rail services to Austria and started concentrating troops on the border.
A few hours later, the leader of the Austrian Nazis, also known as the Minister of the Interior Seyss-Inquart, entered the chancellery. With a pale face, he voiced the Führer’s ultimatum to the Chancellor: Schuschnigg must cancel the referendum and resign. Otherwise, the German army will enter Austria.
...Italy, the guarantor of Austrian sovereignty, did not help the younger fascist brothers. For Mussolini to turn a blind eye to the German invasion, Hitler sold him his compatriots from South Tyrol. This Alpine province moved from Austria-Hungary to Italy quite recently, following the First World War.
German-speaking Tyroleans perfectly met all the criteria for the return to the German World as the whole region. Instead, they were forced to learn Italian – the Führer forgot about the “border brothers of race” with the same ease with which in 1934 he threw his own hybrid soldiers to the Austrian wolves.
The Kremlin turns the blind eye to the infringement of the rights of the Russian-speaking population in the authoritarian countries of Central Asia just as easy. Even on their own territory – in Chechnya or the Republic of Tuva. Not to mention China.
As early as before noon on 11 March, Schuschnigg’s government agrees to another concession. This time only partially – the referendum was cancelled, but Schuschnigg was not dismissed.
The lumpen “concepts” which Hitler intuitively used in his hybrid diplomacy provide for punishment for a partially fulfilled requirement. Usually it’s just raising the stakes. You gave the boys 10 Reichsmarks instead of the agreed 15? Tomorrow, before the big break, you have to bring 10 more!
Less than an hour later, Seyss-Inquart was called to an international telephone. After receiving instructions from Berlin, Hitler’s proxy voiced to the ministers another Hitler’s demand, which was even more categorical. Schuschnigg still had to resign, and his successor would be... Seyss-Inquart.
Shocked by the rapid rise from the emigrant to the head of government, the Austrian Führer was apparently disoriented. When the ministers began asking him additional questions, an agitated Seyss-Inquart made it clear that he was only a hybrid mediator of the Chancellor and President of the German Reich Adolf Hitler.
The Minister of Interior told his colleagues in the Cabinet,
Don’t ask me. I’m just a telephone operator.
The same can be repeated by Aksyonov and his Crimean company, who turned out to be just puppets, a cover for Putin’s annexation.
...The streets of Vienna were once again filled with Nazis, who aggressively demanded the resignation of the government and the Anschluss with Germany. In desperation, Schuschnigg turned to London for help.
Chamberlain received a telegram from the Austrian Chancellor at a luncheon hosted by Ribbentrop on the occasion of his appointment as Foreign Minister of the Third Reich. The German assured the head of the British government that he knew nothing about the situation in Austria. Moreover, Ribbentrop suggested that Schuschnigg’s report might be untrue.
The Prime Minister agreed that there was no evidence of Germany’s violent actions (remember, “There is no evidence that this is Russia”?). And he sent a reply to Vienna:
His Majesty’s Government cannot take responsibility for the Chancellor’s recommendations on the course of action that may put his country in danger and against which His Majesty’s Government cannot provide guarantees of protection.
AUSTRIA BECOMES “NEW GERMANY”
Having lost the last illusions, Schuschnigg resigned. He announced on the radio to the astonished fellow citizens that the Austrian government gave in to force and ordered the army not to intervene “so that under no circumstances would German blood be shed.” The Viennese authorities were not ready to take the risks the northern “brother” took so easily.
At 8.15 p.m., the Führer ordered an invasion. And when Seyss-Inquart, the appointed Chancellor, asked for this order to be revoked, he received the opposite instruction from the Reich: to send a telegram to Berlin requesting the entry of German troops to “restore order in anarchy-ridden” Austria.
Göring, who negotiated with Vienna, said,
In fact, he may not send it. Just let him say he sent it. Do you understand me?
The text of the telegram was eventually written by Göring himself, and the next day it was published in Völkischer Beobachter – next to the editorial GERMAN AUSTRIA SAVED FROM CHAOS with fakes about “pogroms, shootings and riots”.
...After the war, two copies of a telegram that no one sent anywhere would be found in the archives of the Foreign Ministry of the Third Reich. It was compiled right here in Berlin, and retrospectively handed over to the state archives. Maybe something similar happened in the Russian Federation with a famous letter from Yanukovych?
At eight o’clock in the morning on 12 September 1938, the German army crossed the Austrian border.
The territory of Austria and the Third Reich.
This is not yet the Wehrmacht that would officially enter the war in 1939. On the 70-kilometre march across the border to the Austrian Linz, a third of the vehicles of the 2nd Panzer Division failed. The unit’s strike force – T-1 and T-2 tanks, funny babies with short barrels – was being repaired on the sidewalks and stuck on the mountain roads.
The equipment of the division was decorated with twigs and flags: they say, the Germans are not going into battle, but to the holiday festival. As if war is peace. This hybrid trick was invented by the commander of the 2nd Panzer Division, the ideologist of the motorised “blitzkrieg”, Heinz Guderian. This general is Hitler’s main hope.
In the First World War, the German army advanced on foot, with a maximum speed of 40 km per day. Eventually, the infantry, exhausted by the marches, bumped against major earthen fortifications, and the slaughter started at some spots, here and there, and it lasted for years. Guderian suggested putting infantry and artillery on trucks and letting a tank fist in front of them. The war of the future is not positional, but maneuverable.
The conservative generals of the Third Reich, like all other staff officers, were preparing for the war of the past; they didn’t really tolerate the young and ardent Guderian. However, in two days of chaotic preparations for the invasion, only his division could do what would later become the main element of Hitler’s military success – to quickly cover tens of kilometres in combat readiness.
Light armoured vehicles of the 2nd Division were quite vulnerable targets for tanks (which were equally small) and anti-tank guns hidden in ambushes on mountain roads. But Guderian, who led his units on snow-covered highways with the Austria travel guide in his hands, had to fight only with March weather. The Germans were greeted by enthusiastic crowds: and there were no fewer of them than there were supporters of independence the day before.
The Führer strikes the iron before it freezes. The next day, the newly appointed Chancellor Seyss-Inquart received from Berlin a bill on the reunification of two fraternal peoples [it would seem, what does Pereiaslav Council has to do with it?]. The Viennese Cabinet supports the Anschluss, handing over their country to Hitler.
Mussolini, to whom the Führer had promised not to touch Austrian statehood, would exclaim,
That damn German!
...Thus ended Sunday, 13 March 1938 – the day on which Austria was to confirm its independence in a referendum. Instead, it was transformed into a province within the Third Reich.
A speech in support of Austrian independence in March 1938, a few days before the Anschluss
And no “Eastern State”! Austria’s new name now sounded like “Ostmark” – “Eastern Frontier”, a long-forgotten military-administrative term of the Middle Ages, when Vienna was the outskirts of the German world. Isn’t that anything like “Novorossiya”?
Bang! – the roof of the common European house collapsed.
RAISING THE STAKES. WHY IT WORKS.
As a result of Hitler’s hybrid victory in Austria, the state border was erased for the first time since World War. A new border has not been drawn, but an existing one has been crossed out. One European state just devoured another.
The same thing happened as a result of Putin’s hybrid victory in Crimea, for the first time since World War II. By openly seizing foreign territory, the Russian Federation continues to destroy
the common European home the current world order.
...In 1938, only one of the 52 members of the
United Nations League of Nations dared to publicly condemn the annexation of Austria. Guess which one? Others pretended that nothing special happened. Although one of the conditions of the post-war peace was violated: that the unification of Austria and Germany would not happen.
But it did happen. And... nothing. No one was punished. He was still sitting at the gaming table, that moustachioed nobody. He was sitting confidently holding his weak cards – and everyone around said “fold”. He won again.
And he wanted to continue again.
The further the hybrid conflict goes, the more it demands. Each time you need to raise the stakes higher, to blur the current rules of the game more. And to lie even more brazenly.
In such a war, the aggressors call themselves saviours, the fascists call themselves anti-fascists, and the sabotage groups call themselves local self-defence. Hitler announced in advance the Nazi Party Congress, which was to begin on the day of the attack on Poland (1 September 1939), as the congress of peace. The attack itself was described exclusively by the term “counterattack” – they say, the Poles were the first to start.
We are not advancing, this is our defence. It’s not a military invasion, but a “peace enforcement”. Not ammunition supplies, but a humanitarian convoy. Not occupiers, but peacemakers. Not us, but Crimea is ours.
...In September 1939, the German authorities would deny the very fact of the war, which would later be called World War II. So they would just say: the actions of the Wehrmacht “cannot be called war, they are simply the actions caused by constant Polish attacks.”
This description is not very consistent with the thousands of tonnes of air bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe on the Polish capital. But Goebbels managed to overcome even more logical contradictions. Another newspaper headline:
THE POLES ARE BOMBING WARSAW!
And it worked – even on smart people. On the first day of World War II, the British Ambassador to Berlin would send to London the following message:
Information from Göring! After the Reichstag meeting, Hitler can meet with me one last time to try to keep the peace.
As journalist William Shearer would rightly resent:
What peace?! For six hours now, Germany has been waging war with all its might against Britain’s ally.
It’s just typical of people: to cling to peace, even though the stakes have already been risen. Inertia.
On the third day of the World War, a German submarine would destroy a passenger
Boeing steamship “Athenia”. It torpedoed the transatlantic liner, confusing it with an auxiliary cruiser. This is what happens in war. This was probably the case with Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17.
And the result was the same – a war crime. Real, not fake.
Torpedoes launched at “Athenia” would kill 117 people, including 54 Canadians and 28 US citizens. Berlin would categorically deny its involvement in the tragedy. The press of the Third Reich would state that Churchill, the main “instigator of war” who then commanded the British Navy, was the author of the monstrous anti-German provocation. The alcoholic and Germanophobe, the enemy of peace No. 1
shot down a peaceful Boeing sank a passenger ship deliberately to draw the United States and Canada into the war against Russia Germany!
And many doubted – for example, former US President Hoover. “It’s so stupid to shoot a civilian
Boeing ship instead of military IL. Even the Germans can’t be so stupid.” Because why would they pick a fight with America? But Churchill really has a motive.
People still cling to peaceful logic, but war has its own rules. One of them is a large number of lives at stake. At first, few are ready to raise rates. And even more so if the war is hybrid.
Such inertia was one of the reasons for Ilovaisk.
In August 2014, it became clear that the hybrid war in the Donbas was coordinated and provided by Russia. That the dressed up Russian special operations forces were at work. That weapons were coming from the Russian Federation. And the pro-Russian fighters were from there too. Heavy machinery was being supplied across the border. And the Russian artillery is already shooting from the territory of the Russian Federation. OK, these are the rules of hybrid warfare, we accept them.
But Putin won’t dare to openly bring the Russian army, would he? And even if it does, why should the Russians break their word and shoot those retreating in the “green corridor”, trying to kill as many as possible?
Now, it seems obvious that he will do that. Then, it seemed unrealistic. Just like now a full-fledged military operation of the Kremlin seems unrealistic – with the participation of aircraft and missile forces...
Well, okay, but he certainly will not dare to make a nuclear attack, will he?
3.CZECHOSLOVAKIA. The beginning
If Hitler tried to seize all of Czechoslovakia at once, it would have been too much. Britain, the guarantor of the republic’s sovereignty, could not stand such a slap; it could go all-in. And still raise the stakes in return. So are you saying you are ready to fight, Adolf, to dismantle the post-war system? And we are ready to fight to save it.
However, the Führer breaks the rules of the game gradually. First, he eats a smaller piece of European salami – Austria, hiding his aggressive actions under the hybrid mask of a peacemaker. Until now, he limited himself to the “legal” territory of Germany, but now he raises the stakes by crossing the state border.
And at the same time, he plays “formal compliance with the rules”. No, says Hitler, it’s not about Germany’s aggression against another country, what are you talking about? This other country is Germany as well, there are German-speaking people there who have the “right to self-determination” guaranteed by Versailles. And because the local government is unable to save these people from pogroms, Berlin is forced to stand up for them.
In a scandalous speech on the eve of the Anschluss, Hitler indicated a specific number of his compatriots whom he was going to defend, “More than 10 million Germans live in two states near our borders.”
Three million of these Volksgenosse were citizens of Czechoslovakia, a democratic republic that had included Transcarpathia since 1920.
Most Czechoslovak Germans lived in the industrial region of the Sudetenland. These are the mountains that closely embrace the entire Czechia: from the north, west and south. During the years of independence, Prague built a powerful system of border fortifications in the Sudetenland – for protection against Germany.
A fragment of the national map of Austria-Hungary in 1911. Pink is the German-speaking population, blue is Czech population. The territories of the Sudeten Germans form a pink “edging” around central Bohemia
...The then Czechoslovakia should not have been considered a weak enemy. The country had a large modern army, with the best weapons and equipment at the time. No wonder, since the Skoda factories were the main supplier of artillery for the Austro-Hungarian armed forces even before the First World War.
That is why, during the Anschluss, Hitler hastened to assure Prague that the situation with Vienna did not threaten it in any way. Of course, this was not true. After annexing Austria, the aggressor surrounded Czechoslovakia on three sides – and was not going to stop until the allies were ready to pacify it.
And so that the allies would not make any moves, the Führer adheres to the “salami tactics”. To begin with, he cuts off only part of Czechoslovakia, the Sudeten border region.
So no need for useless chitchat, dear
OSCE observers representatives of the international community. The Third Reich does not claim the entire Czechoslovak territory. Germany will only take what belongs to it – and that’s the end of the problem.
“GERMAN WORLD” VS “MATERIALISTIC WEST”
While the annexation of Austria resembles the annexation of Crimea, the Sudetenland is often similar to the Donbas.
Until 1933, most Sudeten Germans voted for the Czechoslovak Social Democrats. But with the coming to power of Adolf Hitler in the neighbouring state, the compatriots gradually leaned towards National Socialism.
Thus, the Sudeten German Party (Sudetendeutsche Partei, SdP) emerged in the region, led by the head of the sports society, Konrad Henlein. Since 1935, this little-known movement had been secretly funded by the Reich Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Three more years have passed, and most German organisations in the region are under the control of the SdP.
What is the secret of their success?
Many Sudeten Germans were dissatisfied with the economic crisis, which hit the industry most hard. They were tired of feeding Czechoslovakia. They did not want to learn the language and dreamed of jobs within the empire – with illusory high salaries and other lands of milk and honey.
They did not like their young democracy, but they liked how the Holy German Reich was rising from its knees. They watched how quickly everything happened in Austria – 99% “for” in the referendum! – and hoped that the same would happen in the Sudetenland.
Ballot for voting in the German-Austrian referendum on Anschluss (10 April 1938). Along the way, this is also a bulletin for early elections to the Reichstag: “Do you support the reunification of Austria with the German Reich which took place on 13 March 1938, and do you vote for the [party] list of our leader Adolf Hitler?” The box for “Yes” was twice as large as the “No” box. According to published results, 99.7% of referendum participants answered “Yes”.
And they had the feeling of having been the chosen ones. In the Russian Federation, such an ephemeral feeling is called spirituality – a non-existent unique set of organic qualities that elevates the bearer of Russianness over European civilisation with its logic and rationality.
In Putin’s words:
We are less pragmatic, less calculating. But we are wider in soul.
How can one measure the width of the soul? In what units? Where is the power, brother? For the whole world, power is measured in Newtons, and only for the Russian world it is “in the truth”. However, this “truth” can have thousands of faces.
...For the Germans of that time, the role of spirituality was played by culture. Traditional German cultural values were opposed to Western individualism, democracy and human rights. An English merchant and a Jewish communist were opposed by a German knight.
Historian Werner Sombart wrote:
We are God’s people, and Germany is the last obstacle to the flow of the dirty stream of commercialisation. Just as the German bird, the eagle, soars above all earthly creatures, so the German has the right to place himself above all the nations around him and to look at them from an unattainable height.
The Russians are also soaring like eagles. Because, after all, they defeated fascism (Victory Day is the “Easter” of the Kremlin’s hybrid religion), and now have the right to do anything and with anyone. Putin’s quote goes like this: “Because we are a winning country.”
German glorifying of the “crazy war that is so invigorating” is no different from the nuclear drive of the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchate. “Sieg Heil!” translates as “Hail Victory!”
Oh, these coincidences.
The feeling of being chosen leads to the fact that instead of the only truth common to all mankind, organic truth appears. Its sources are exclusively in the blood and soil of the people, and its justice is also only for one people.
This, in modern words, post-truth is present in the mystical “centre of the people’s soul”, and is not the result of intellectual effort. And so it can have a thousand variations, depending on which is more advantageous at the moment.
In the Language of the Third Reich by the German philologist Klemperer, there is a very characteristic scene – his female institute acquaintance (scientist!) persuades the author to abandon the rationale in favour of ecstatic belief in
the greatness of Putin the genius of the Führer.
The action takes place before 1938:
Your bitterness comes from reason, forget about it. The main thing is that we returned home, home! You have to feel this, and in general you must trust the feeling... to recognise the greatness of the Führer, and not think about those shortcomings that cause you inconvenience at the moment.
“Vote with your heart!” You don’t need using your head. Let’s rename the state the “Greater German Reich” – and live great. Let’s call the air force “Space Forces” – and military planes will no longer fall.
...The German world lagged far behind in the economy and quality of life, but the Germans despised the Western world for its lack of spirituality. Why are we alien to the values imposed by the rotten, miserable West? The German soul is incompatible with liberalism and parliamentary democracy. We have to move in our own unique, special way.
As a result, the whole life of the country went these devious paths. Instead of physics, German physics appeared. We have our own rules, and we won’t listen to the Jew Einstein!
Feline Studies magazine became known as German Feline Studies, and organised a campaign to seize pets from Jews and other “racially inferior.”
SEPARATIST SCHOOL NAMED AFTER HITLER
28 March 1938 – less than two weeks after the German-Austrian reunification – gym teacher Henlein secretly arrives in Berlin. Hitler and Ribbentrop teach him the separatist hybrid tactics, “We need to demand dialogue, but we need to raise demands all the time so that they cannot be met.” And to resort to forceful actions.
At the end of April 1938, Hitler’s supporters organised celebrations in Manhattan on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of the Führer and the Anschluss of Austria. During the event, they brutally beat American World War I veterans protesting against the aggressive actions of the Third Reich. The campaign was staged by the German-American Union, which advocated “patriotic Americanisation” and called President Roosevelt
Waltzmann Rosenfeld. Scanned copy from LIFE magazine from 2 May 1938.
This is an example of imitation of a dialogue to cover up violence. In Kyiv, protesters demanded to hear the Maidan for three months, and in response they were maimed, then killed. In the East, hybrid soldiers of the Russian Federation shouted, “Hear Donbas!” – and killed people at once, without waiting for an answer.
Dialogue in a hybrid conflict is needed not to understand, but to cover up or provoke conflict. “Give me the phone, I have to call,” say the gopniks [thugs] in the dark passages, so as not to take the phone by force. “Can I get a smoke?”, although they are actually interested in a wallet.
...In a year’s time, Hitler would plan to use the German population of neutral Danzig (Gdańsk) in a similar way to invade Poland. At a meeting with the generals, he joked:
I’m just afraid that some Schweinehund will offer to mediate in the negotiations.
The insulting word applied to Western leaders (especially Chamberlain). In retrospect, it will be appreciated by Ukrainians of the 21st century as well. The expression used by Hitler literally means “pig dog” – a reference hybrid creature.
In May 1938, regular elections were held in Czechoslovakia – free and transparent, as befits a democratic country. The Sudeten German Party receives the majority of local council seats in the region.
Konrad Henlein goes to Berlin again for another hybrid war lesson. At a secret meeting, Ribbentrop instructs the SdP leader on how to talk to Allies’ emissaries during the upcoming Sudetenland crisis.
After the instruction “...to deny acting on orders and receiving funding from Berlin”, the directives contain the following interesting paragraph: “emphasise the ever-increasing disintegration of the political structure of the Czechoslovak state.”
What a familiar motive! The Kremlin still makes the same emphasis for the Western audience: Ukraine is a “failed state”, a “state that didn’t happen”, “artificial formation”, you know, George, it’s not even a state, and so on.
Another illustrative parallel: as early as the autumn of 1937, the German elite assured the British emissary Lord Halifax that Czechoslovakia was “an outpost of communism, and no one, not even the French, loved it.” In 2014, the Russian government would tell the Western audience with no less serious faces that Ukraine was a stronghold of fascism, where fierce enemies of democratic values lived.
...Having trained the telephone operator Henlein, Hitler concentrated his troops along the Czechoslovak border in order to repeat the Austrian success. Goebbels propaganda begins to escalate about
the crucified children “a sea of German blood on Czech hands.”
But Czechoslovakia is not Austria. On 20 May 1938, in response to the concentration of German troops, Prague announced a partial mobilisation. The next day, the reservists were already occupying the border fortifications in the Sudetenland.
Indecisive Paris and London were forced to react to this step of their ally. Hitler was warned that aggression against Czechoslovakia would lead to a European war.
And the Reich Chancellor tucks tail. On 23 May, the German Foreign Ministry announced that it was not about any aggressive intentions at all, the troops did not
get lost at the border – it was just the training.
The Western press is overwhelmed with victory:
Hitler was shown his place, the story with Austria will not be repeated!
And the Führer, realising that he could not take Prague with impudence, began to prepare a new, more thorough hybrid campaign against it.
Did the German Spring in the Sudetenland fail? Let’s try the German Autumn.
In the late spring of 1938, Hitler announced to his generals that he intended to attack Czechoslovakia no later than 1 October. By this time, Germany would complete a fortified area in the Rhineland (two years ago, German troops were banned from stepping there), on the French border. The new pillbox line would make Paris consider whether to send an army to help Prague.
The Wehrmacht’s plan to attack Czechoslovakia would become the standard for such operations by the Third Reich. A special role in the plan was given to the “propaganda war”. As befits a hybrid campaign, it involved multiple tasks:
1) “to intimidate the Czechoslovak authorities and undermine the resistance forces loyal to them”;
2) “to encourage the national minorities to support the actions of Germany”;
3) “to influence neutral countries in the direction we need.”
...This is what the Czech-language radio station, which opened in Vienna after the Anschluss, was busy doing. It broadcast Hitler’s propaganda on the territory of Czechoslovakia and was called “Truth Prevails”.
Hybrid character is standard here, chutzpah is extremely evident.
Because “Truth Prevails” is the most famous phrase of Jan Hus, the programme slogan of the Czech liberation movement. These two words were engraved on the Hussite Memorial in Prague. They are written on the banner of the President of Czechoslovakia. This is one of the popular slogans of Czech patriots – like our “Freedom Cannot Be Stopped” or “Glory to Ukraine”.
The destroyers of the state are disguised as its greatest friends. Liars call themselves truth-seekers. “Maidan 3.0” is a way to destroy the achievements of the Second Maidan. According to German legend, the “Truth Prevails” radio station was a project of Czechs from abroad who were not indifferent to the fate of the Fatherland.
...The programme of the English-language editorial office of Russia Today, which told the world about the crucified boy, is called TruthSeeker (sorry for another coincidence).
“THERE IS ONLY ONE EXTREMIST IN GERMANY...”
To restart the hybrid operation in the Sudetenland, Hitler needed to know: how seriously are the allies ready to fight? To this end, in July 1938, the Führer sent his adjutant to an informal meeting with Lord Halifax (already Foreign Secretary in the Chamberlain government).
Hitler relies on his own intuition, which has twice helped him beat the British in political poker – during the Rhine and Austrian campaigns. If London bluffs, Hitler’s “gut feeling” will work for the third time.
The formal reason for meeting with Halifax was to find out if Goering’s visit to Britain was possible. But as the second point, Hitler ordered to inform the Foreign Secretary that Germany could not tolerate discrimination against the compatriots:
If there is no satisfactory solution to the Sudeten question in the near future, I will simply have to resort to force. That’s what you have to tell them.
...The psychological test was successful. The warning about the use of force did not infuriate the British official. “Everything can be settled peacefully,” Lord Halifax kindly assured his interlocutor. He also agreed to the visit of Goering, and even the Führer himself.
When the adjutant returns and reports that the British are positive about Goering’s arrival, Hitler would interrupt, “Thank you, you can stop right here.” For him, that was enough to make an intuitive decision. Kindness to a hybrid aggressor is a sign of weakness.
Now the Führer was inclined to think that the British threat to start a continental war for the sake of Czechoslovakia was a bluff.
To hide its own territorial appetites, Berlin offers other countries to join the Czechoslovak pie. Just like the Kremlin offered it to Poland, Hungary and Romania a few years ago. Say, we are not alone, our neighbours also have claims to this sub-state.
In August, Hitler told Hungarian leader Horthy,
Those who want to sit at the table should help in the kitchen.
Horthy was promised the south of Slovakia and part of Transcarpathia. The Poles were offered the Těšín region (northern Czechia), and in the future – the whole of Ukraine, which allegedly “lies outside the sphere of Germany’s interests.”
...Meanwhile, German generals, not daring to stand up to Hitler at meetings, are planning a conspiracy. In the eyes of the military, the Führer looks inadequate, leading the country to a new world massacre.
The conspirators also send an envoy to London, who declares to Lord Halifax: there is only one extremist in Germany – Hitler himself:
All generals are against the war, but they will not stop it without outside support. – The Führer must understand that England and France are not bluffing, let one of the British leaders publicly state this.
The conspirators’ logic was as follows: if the Führer succumbs to the bluff, he will lose his halo of invincibility among the population and will no longer be able to raise the stakes. If Hitler draws the Reich into a “hot” war, he will lose popularity, which will allow eliminating the aggressive Führer as the destroyer of Germany.
All this information is immediately passed on to Chamberlain, but he ignores it. Because the British Prime Minister has his own plan for Czechoslovakia.
“HEAR OUT THE SUDETENLAND!”
In Britain, the security grading is removed from archival documents after 30 years. Ironically, the world learned about the plan named “Z” in late August 1968, in the midst of the Soviet offensive in the Prague Spring.
The essence of the plan was as follows: if there is an “acute situation” with Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain must personally go to the negotiations with Hitler. To discuss everything in a gentlemanly way, to resolve possible conflict issues and finally find an agreement by compromising on something.
On 30 August, at a cabinet meeting, Chamberlain hinted to ministers about his plan. He said the British warnings had not ended with the desired result. Hitler continues to raise the stakes, and London is not ready to accept them: “We cannot threaten Mr Hitler with declaring war if he enters Czechoslovakia.”
On 5 September, Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš told Sudeten leaders that he would listen to any of their conditions. So how can hybrids imitate dialogue now?
Konrad Henlein spends a day in secret contact with Berlin, and on 7 September, he answers Beneš: “We are stopping negotiations altogether!” The SdP leader publicly argues this decision with fictitious clashes with police in Sudeten towns.
The cessation of negotiations is an alarm signal. The smell of gunpowder is felt in the centre of Europe again.
...And what is the Czech-language radio station “Truth Prevails” broadcasting from Vienna in the meantime?
Its announcers are constantly calling for peace, stating that they are against a war the people do not need.
We do not want a war for the sake of Czechoslovakia itself! Only madmen, as Adolf Hitler said, want to fight.
Who then wants war? Of course it’s not Adolf Hitler. “Jews from the so-called democracies are pushing everyone against everyone to a new world war” to profit from the suffering of the common people. But “in Czechoslovakia, there are enough such people [‘We are the majority! O. Vilkul’], those who resolutely reject the militarism of Jews and communists.”
And who is to blame for the sudden deterioration of relations between the Czechoslovak Republic and the German Reich? It turns out Hitler has nothing to do with that.
[The ones to blame are] communist associates, those who want the collapse of Czechoslovakia... Jews and emigrants. What does a decent Czech worker or a peasant have in common with them?
On 12 September 1938, at the closing ceremony of the NSDAP Party Congress in Nuremberg, Hitler delivered a fiery speech on the return of the Sudetenland to the native harbour and Germany’s ability to defend the compatriots by force.
Russian opposition political analyst Andrey Piontkovsky considers the “Crimean speech” a remake of Hitler’s “Sudeten speech”:
All the basic concepts were taken from there: “divided nation”, “divided people”, “unification of lands”, “nationalist traitors”. The central idea is that Putin has proclaimed his right and sacred duty to protect not all Russian citizens around the world, which would be normal, but all ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. Putin said that the Russians have a special genetic code.
Hitler’s speech caused “spontaneous” riots, pogroms of the non-German population and the seizure of state institutions in the Sudetenland. The clashes began on the night of 13 September – at the giant party stadium in Nuremberg, they have not yet dismantled the spotlight that illuminated the rostrum during Hitler’s speech. But the mass uprising, as planned by the Nazis, did not happen.
The Czechoslovak army and police, with the help of local anti-Nazi German activists, stopped the escalation of violence. The anti-state coup failed. During the three days of fighting, 23 citizens of Czechoslovakia (13 civil servants and 10 ethnic Germans) were killed. The top officials of the Sudeten German Party fled to the Third Reich, which significantly demoralised the party’s rank and file.
...It reminds a bit of a failed coup in Austria four years before the Anschluss, no? But do not worry, there is little left to read – everything will end much faster.
“PEACE AT ANY PRICE” = “HITLER, BRING IN THE TROOPS”
Because on 13 September 1938, learning about the clashes in the Sudetenland, Chamberlain decided to act.
The next day, at a government meeting, he informed the surprised ministers of his intention to fly to Germany to reach an “agreement with Hitler.” The Führer was overjoyed by the news, and even asked if Ms Chamberlain would come.
Thus, the sequence of concessions to the aggressor began.
Upon learning of the planned visit, Mussolini told his son-in-law,
There will be no war. But this is the end of English prestige.
The same thing awaited Britain that had happened two years earlier to France, which had refused to react to several Wehrmacht battalions in the Rhine demilitarised zone.
France still did not want to fight. Politicians who advocated force resistance to the aggressor were condemned by German propaganda. Prime Minister Daladier called on London to reach an agreement with Hitler as soon as possible.
On the morning of 15 September, Chamberlain (for the first time in his life!) got on the plane.
In the Sudetenland that day, government forces were completing the defeat of the Nazi coup. At the same time, the “Truth Prevails” radio station broadcast fake news that products in Prague had doubled in price and hungry demonstrations were ravaging shops. In general, “faith in the existence of the Czechoslovak Republic and trust in the state have fallen so much in the last 24 hours that people have taken most of their deposits from banks.”
Negotiations between the British Prime Minister Chamberlain and Hitler at the Führer’s residence in Berchtesgaden, 24 September 1938. Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann / Getty Images
In the afternoon, Hitler received Chamberlain. The Führer began with a hybrid historical argument, “The Sudetenland must return to the bosom of the Reich,” because they have a common past. That did not correspond to reality: for the last one and a half hundred years, the Sudetenland (part of Czechia) belonged to the Austrian, not the German, crown. The legendary First Reich really united Czechia, Bavaria and even Berlin within its borders, but it was very long ago – even before Napoleon!
...As the hybrid reality sucks the Russian leader deeper and deeper, Putin’s historical arguments are no less bizarre. Speaking recently in the Reichstag, he not only intimidated the world with new Russian miracle weapons, but also announced the expansion of the borders of the Russian Federation to the entire territory of the former USSR.
Russia was called the Soviet Union during the USSR era, and with the collapse of the Union, Russia, when it comes to our national borders, lost 24% of its territory, 49% of its population...
The Führer himself would have appreciated such Putin’s hybrid logic. Soon, we will probably hear that everything that was lost must return to
the bosom of the Reich the native harbour.
After a three-hour conversation, Chamberlain and Hitler agreed that a referendum on the self-determination of local Germans should be held in the Sudetenland. The British Prime Minister flew home satisfied, “I have the impression that this man’s word can be relied on.”
But Roosevelt did not think so. According to the US President, Chamberlain’s position of peace at all costs only postponed the inevitable conflict: Britain and France would obviously abandon the Czechs to their fate, and then “wash the blood from the Judas’ hands.”
The American president already then understood that peace at any price was a hybrid analogue of the call Hitler, bring in the troops!
GERMAN MILITIA AND CZECH PUNISHERS
Roosevelt was right.
The Führer did not want a referendum, but a territory. Less than two days after Chamberlain’s departure, a hybrid invasion began.
On 17 September, while the democratic procedure for “self-determination” of the Sudetenland was being discussed in London, Hitler secretly ordered the creation of
the Donbas People’s Militia Sudeten German Free Corps (Sudetendeutsches Freikorps, SF).
The secret order also explained why the SF was needed: to protect compatriots from the
“Right Sector” fascists Czech oppressors, as well as to “increase confrontation and armed struggle.” For controlled violence, in a word.
Weapons for the militia – just like the money before – came from the territory of the Reich. For avoiding accusations of inciting conflict, rifles and machine guns for the SF were supplied not from German arsenals, but from the
recently occupied Crimea recently occupied Austria.
A German officer was seconded to each militia unit in order to ensure prompt communication with the Wehrmacht. At the same time, SF militants were strictly forbidden to wear the Third Reich uniform. The maximum they could afford were red, black and
blue white bands.
Because the war between the Third Reich and Czechoslovakia was a hybrid war, it was not declared at the state level. Therefore, Prague would determine the official date of its beginning as late as in 1997.
After analysing the historical documents of the Reich, the Czech Constitutional Court would name 17 September 1938 the first day of the German-Czechoslovak war. They would determine that the act of declaring war was Hitler’s secret order about the creation of people’s militia.
...From the territory of the
Rostov region the Reich, SF militants carried out terrorist attacks on Czechoslovak civil servants and fellow civilians whom they considered a threat to themselves. They looted and destroyed property, kidnapped people, and conducted reconnaissance in the interests of Germany.
Meanwhile, the German press unanimously painted the opposite picture, where the violence was not committed by the Germans against the Czechs, but vice versa. Here are some headlines from 19 September:
LOOTING, ROBBERY, SHOOTING. Czech terror in the GERMAN Sudetenland is intensifying every day!
BLOODY REGIME: NEW KILLINGS OF GERMANS BY CZECHS
CZECH SOLDIERS ATTACK THE GERMAN REICH!
One newspaper even came up with a CZECH GAS ATTACK! on a Sudeten town.
With the massive spread of fake news, Goebbels solved several hybrid tasks: aroused the sympathy of the Reich population for the oppressed compatriots, intimidated and mobilised the Sudeten Germans to fight, substantiated Berlin’s claims to the “anarchy-torn region”, and so on. In the spring of 2014, the Russian media did the same.
The Czechoslovak-German border in the Sudetenland turned into
the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Donbas the “grey zone”, where there were regular armed clashes involving up to several hundred fighters. Similarly, in the first days of the hybrid war, the command of the Czechoslovak security forces forbade them to open fire in response, except for the “immediate threat to life” of the military.
Militia anarchy and disorganisation led to numerous leaks of information. Only in a week, Hitler would hand over control of the SF operations to German security forces – the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Reich Border Service.
Within several days of fierce pressure, London and Paris broke the resistance of the Czechoslovak president. Beneš agreed to hold a referendum in the Sudetenland “to preserve peace in Europe.” Peace, Edvard!
On the morning of 22 September, Chamberlain left for a second meeting with Hitler. The Führer listened to the British report on the work done and was rather bored,
I am so sorry, but I can’t discuss it anymore. After the events of the last five days, I am not interested in the referendum.
So what happened in those five days (that is, since 17 September)? – Controlled escalation of violence in the Sudetenland.
By order of Hitler, the hybrid war against the Czechoslovak state was started by the militia, but Goebbels’ newspaper spotlight depicted the events inside out. What they got was a familiar story about the “goody-goody” civilians who just wanted to speak their language and pray to their gods, but here came the punishers of the bloody regime.
Chutzpah? Yes, exactly.
...Now Hitler no longer demanded a referendum, but the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland by German troops. To end the “chaos and anarchy”, of course. What kind of a peacemaker are you if you can’t stop the violence, Mr Prime Minister... In addition, the territorial claims of Poles and Hungarians should be satisfied!
The British Prime Minister was outraged by such a turn of events. In the midst of a sharp debate, Hitler was given a note: twelve German hostages were
crucified shot dead in the Sudeten town of Eger. Undoubtedly, this was another hybrid tool to put pressure on Chamberlain – they say, what negotiations with the Czechs can we talk about if they resorted to real terror.
We can still hear this from Putin, who started the Russian-Ukrainian war. “It is obvious to everyone that the current Kyiv authorities are not looking for a way to solve problems through negotiations, but are switching to terror,” he said about the occupied Crimea.
In fact, on that day, Eger (a Czechoslovak enclave enclosed by Reich territory on three sides) was captured by Sudetenland militia fighters assisted by an SS unit from the Reich. And so that the civilian population would not be afraid of gunfire and would take to the streets en masse, German radio stations broadcast fake news the day before, saying that Prague was supposedly ready to take its security forces from Eger.
“WE SUFFERED A TERRIBLE DEFEAT WITHOUT WAR...”
On 23 September 1938, the negotiations continued. When Chamberlain refused to hand over to Beneš a German demand to withdraw Czechoslovak troops from the Sudetenland within three days, Hitler resorted to a hybrid de-escalation, “I will make a concession for you. You are one of the few to whom I was inferior in some respects. I agree to postpone the date of the Czech evacuation to 1 October.”
The headline of the Berlin newspaper from 24 September was as follows:
HITLER AND CHAMBERLAIN ARE WORKING DAY AND NIGHT FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE.
In the end, Chamberlain agreed to voice Hitler’s
ultimatum memorandum to the Czechoslovaks. In response, the Führer thanked “for the efforts in the name of peace”, assuring the British that “the Czech problem is the last territorial demand” of Germany.
And Chamberlain convinced himself again that this time, the dictator was definitely not lying. Returning to London, the Prime Minister assured his ministers,
Herr Hitler does not deceive a man he respects and negotiates with.
He would later add that accepting or not accepting German conditions was a problem of Prague, not the Allies. Roosevelt’s prediction of “washing the hands off” came true. And the British prime minister found himself in the role of Hitler’s telephone operator.
Instead, the eyes of the British Foreign Secretary, that Lord Halifax who until recently called Hitler “a sincere man, incapable of adventure”, opened. At a government meeting, the minister categorically opposed the agreement proposed by Chamberlain,
I can’t get rid of the idea that Herr Hitler didn’t give us anything in return. He dictates the conditions, as if he has won the war already, but without a battle.
That’s a wonderful description of a hybrid defeat, Your Lordship!
On 29–30 September 1938, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy met in Munich to find a final solution to the Sudeten crisis. At that time, the number of victims of the hybrid conflict provoked by SF militants exceeded one hundred.
Before leaving for Bavaria, Chamberlain commented on the situation in a specific way,
How horrible and unbelievable is the very idea that we have to dig trenches and put on gas masks here, just because in a distant country, some people about whom we know nothing had a fight.
Trenches and gas masks still came in handy – but it happened later and in much larger quantities.
Czechoslovak politicians were not invited to the negotiations in Munich. They were faced with the fact: you comply with the territorial claims of your neighbours, and we guarantee that in the future, we will protect your territory which will remain after we failed to protect you for the first time.
This is the same Hitler’s tactics with a punch in the face tested during the Rhineland occupation: “We have broken the peace treaty, let’s conclude a new one.” What an irony that now, the Führer’s hybrid allies were London, Paris and Rome – the victors of the First World War, the guarantors of postwar peace.
Munich became an epic failure for Chamberlain, who believed that the new agreement would save the humanity from repeating the trench horrors of the First World War.
“Peace for a whole generation!” Neville Chamberlain demonstrates peaceful guarantees signed by Hitler at London airport after returning from Munich. Photo: Central Press / Getty Images
“I brought peace for a whole generation!” triumphantly stated the British Prime Minister after returning from Munich, showing a document signed by Hitler at the London airport. In two years, the first German air bombs would fall on the British capital.
Left without Western support, Prague did not dare to enter into an open military conflict with Berlin – although it had previously been able to mobilise more than a million motivated reservists. Sudeten German women wept with happiness to meet hybrid liberators, “Hitler brought in troops! I will finally be able to die in Germany.”
Sudeten German women are weeping with happiness to meet hybrid liberators. October 1938. Photo by Getty Images
So it will be in the end.
After the end of World War II, the Sudetenland will return
to the harbour to Czechoslovakia, and the same President Beneš will deprive Czechoslovak Germans of their citizenship. The compatriots will be deported to Germany – more than 3 million people, in fact all those who in 1938 received passports of the Third Reich. 19,000 of them will die during the deportation.
Meanwhile, the Czechoslovaks have succumbed to the pressure from their own allies, voluntarily losing all their border fortifications, a third of industry and a fifth of the territory. Hitler got the key enterprises of the Czechoslovak “defence industry”, which then controlled 40% of the world arms market.
Now he had something to fight with. Czechoslovak tanks would still serve General Guderian in the Polish and French campaigns; with them, the Wehrmacht would attack the USSR.
On 1 October, the day after the signing of the Munich documents, the German army occupied the Sudetenland. This time, without playing any referendums. On the same day, Poland sent troops to the Těšín region (northern Czechoslovakia).
Citizens of Czechoslovakia and guests from the Reich are breaking the Czechoslovak boundary pillar during the German occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in late September – early October 1938. Photo by Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Another European border was erased – and now it was being erased not only by Germany.
Nobody even noticed the rumble with which the last wall of the common European house fell. It was only Churchill who said the following in parliament on 3 October,
We suffered a terrible defeat without war.
And you shouldn’t think it’s over. This is just the beginning of retribution.”
...Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine gained autonomy from the new Czechoslovak government. But in November 1938, Hungary (an ally of the Third Reich) occupied the south of Slovakia and the southwestern part of Carpathian Ukraine. The borders on the continent continued to fade, the house of Versailles lay in ruins.
The Hungarians annexed Uzhhorod, Mukachevo and Berehove. The new capital of Ukrainian autonomy was the town of Khust, now the district centre of the Transcarpathian region.
In the same days, the “good Hitler” carried out a mass action of terror against the Jews – the first pogrom organised by the state.
Vienna, the first days of Anschluss. Nazis force Jews to wash away calls to support Austrian independence in the referendum planned by Schuschnigg
Before that, the Reich leadership generally avoided mass violence. Everything changed in November 1938, during the congress of “old fighters” of the Nazi party in Munich.
It started with Goebbels’ hybrid speech to his fellow party members. Its text has not survived, but it was clearly one of the masterpieces of post-truth. Because every listener was able to find in the words of Hitler’s nightingale an organic truth to their liking.
The Supreme Party Court later interpreted these events as follows:
The verbal instructions of the Imperial Minister of Propaganda were perceived by those present as such that the party should not officially initiate such campaigns, but is unofficially obliged to organise and conduct them.
Accustomed to living in a hybrid world, the Nazis understood their leadership even without words. Everyone heard in the speech something for themselves: “some heard the instruction not to interfere with anti-Jewish campaigns; the second heard an order to initiate pogroms; the third heard an instruction to set synagogues on fire, and the fourth heard the demand to expel Jews from the country.”
The pogrom began on the night of 9–10 November 1938. Over the next week, hundreds of people died in Germany and the territories occupied by it, thousands were maimed, imprisoned and sent to concentration camps, and tens of thousands were left without livelihoods.
The transition of Nazi officials from discriminating against Jews to outright physical violence sparked a migration crisis on the continent, similar to the situation with Syrian refugees in 2015.
The cover of Time magazine, which recognised Adolf Hitler as the man of the year – 1938
4.CZECHOSLOVAKIA. The end
The Nazi agitprop called the remnants of the Czechoslovak Republic after Munich with a disgusting term – Residual Czech Republic. Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to prepare for its occupation only a few days after the annexation of the Sudetenland.
But first he tried a hybrid way.
...This time, the Führer acted from the opposite, eastern end of the country – through Slovakia. The compatriots also lived there, and they also had their own political force, the Carpathian German Party (Karpatendeutsche Partei, KdP). Its leader was an engineer named Franz, believe it or not, Karmasin.
Even further east, in the autonomous Carpathian Rus-Ukraine, Hitler’s Hungarian allies were acting. In annexed Uzhhorod, Dr. Štefan Fencik created the Russian National Guards of Blackshirts under the Rusyn flag, a hybrid organisation in the service of Budapest.
In the part of Transcarpathia free from the occupiers, Fencik distributed leaflets calling the Carpathian-Rus people to fight against the bloody Czechoslovak regime and to demand accession to Hungary instead of independence.
One of these leaflets read:
Remember that Ukrainians are your worst enemies, enemies of Russia and all honest and good! [...] And you will not allow the Czechs to ukrainianise you!
On 12 February 1939, in the elections to the Parliament of Carpathian Ukraine, the overwhelming majority of votes went to the Ukrainian National Union.
“THE LEGITIMATE” ASKS FOR HELP
Berlin, with the mediation of the Carpatho-German “Führer” Karmasin, stirred up Slovak separatism in every possible way. In fact, this was the originality of the next hybrid campaign – this time, Hitler’s proxy intermediaries were not only the compatriots.
In addition, besides the usual brutality, the operation also contained a theatrical component. Do you remember the scene that the Führer played in front of the Austrian delegation a year ago – with the urgent call of the Chief of General Staff, General Keitel? Now we have a whole play unfolding before us, where Hitler is a screenwriter and production director.
...The face of separatist Slovakia was Jozef Tiso, head of the autonomy government and leader of the Slovak People’s Party. On 9 March 1939, the President of Czechoslovakia, Hácha (successor of Beneš), dismissed Tiso. For Hitler, this was the reason for launching a hybrid operation to eliminate the Residual Czech Republic.
To make things look decent, Hitler ordered Tiso to turn to Berlin for help. The Slovak does that – and the official institutions of the Third Reich state that they consider “legitimate” only the government of
Yanukovych Tiso. Also, they add that Prague has violated the constitution.
The German press is flourishing with reports of Czech terror against poor Slovaks. CZECH ARMOURED CARS CRUSH WOMEN AND CHILDREN!
Dr. Fencik spreads similar messages in Carpathian Ukraine: “Ukrainians rule bloodily on Czech bayonets!”
A day later, the accents of the German press shifted all at once. Now the punishers of the Prague junta, leaving the Slovaks, took on the Germans. Here is a digest of the then German media by the French ambassador to Berlin, Robert Coulondre:
The Reich newspapers started speaking not only the same language, but the same words as in September 1938 [during the Sudetenland Crisis]. According to them, 500,000 Czechoslovak Germans found themselves in mortal danger. The Czechs, awakened by the spirit of
Banderites Hussites and a long-standing hatred of Germanism, began hunting for people again. The situation was unbearable.
It seems, the French diplomat is quoting the report of a hybrid analyst from modern Russia:
The blood of civilians is being shed through the fault of radicals. There is chaos in the country, the threat of genocide of Russians, our compatriots, is looming.
In fact, the clashes took place in Bratislava only, and were started not by Czech security forces, but by the German self-defence forces or the Slovak guard (which received weapons from Germany). The English consul in Brno – where, according to the Third Reich media, GERMAN BLOOD FLOWS LIKE A RIVER – reported in Prague on the “absolute peace” in the city.
Ambassador Coulondre illustrates the importance of fact-checking: “Articles published in Berlin newspapers under incendiary headlines were extremely stingy on [concrete] facts – like a few specks of dust blown into the air by a blast of hellish bellows.”
An example of a recurring fake was a pregnant German woman knocked off her feet by the raging Czech crowd. Later, on the eve of the Polish campaign, they would regularly write about how the Poles castrated the German.
Hitler himself believed the latter: “Already six cases of castration!” According to the British Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry, Lord Halifax, this topic became an obsession for the Führer. Putin, who so sincerely shared a fake video with Oliver Stone, also seems to be living in a world of his own propaganda.
“CZECHOSLOVAKIA IS NO MORE!”
On the evening of 13 February, Jozef Tiso is summoned to Berlin. On the night of the 14th, during a long conversation, the Führer persuaded the disgraced prime minister that it was time to create a “completely free Slovakia.” The next day, the autonomy parliament proclaimed independence and secession from the Czechoslovak Republic.
This is where Hitler’s trap, necessary for formal compliance with the rules, is hidden. As the French diplomat will write:
Completely subordinating people and events to their influence, the Reich authorities tried to give violence the appearance of legitimacy.
The hybrid logic of the Reich Chancellery was as follows: the independence proclaimed in Bratislava liquidated the Czechoslovak state. From that day on, Czechoslovakia no longer existed as a subject of international politics, it disintegrated into separate territories.
By annexing Crimea, Putin similarly justified the Kremlin’s violation of the Budapest Memorandum:
A new state arose on this territory, with which we did not sign any binding documents.
The corresponding meme “Ukraine is no more!” was actively introduced by Kremlin bots into Vatnik [a Russian jingoist and a supporter of Putin’s politics — transl.] masses until the first Minsk Agreements.
...The German press is once again shifting its emphasis in an organised way: now they are writing about the “total collapse of the state system”, which led to uncontrolled outbreaks of violence. COUNTRY 404: “The plague of dehumanisation is devouring Ukraine piece by piece”
On 14 March, Czechoslovak President Hácha arrives in Berlin. Hitler offers the 66-year-old politician to accept the decision of the Reich leadership to immediately annex the Czech part of the republic. Any attempt to stop Germany would lead to brutal retaliation, beautiful Prague would be wiped out by bomber aircraft.
Intimidation is a hybrid tactic already used by Hitler in February 1938 in the “negotiations” with Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg. Also, the Kremlin regularly – and unsuccessfully – applies this approach during personal talks (State Duma Chairman Naryshkin with Turchynov in February 2014, Putin with Poroshenko in February 2015).
During the “negotiations”, the agitated and demoralised Hácha fainted and fell to the floor. Field Marshal Goering’s personal physicians return the old man to consciousness with injections. Hácha signs a document in which the Prague government, “full of trust", instructs the Führer to maintain order and stability in the Czech Republic.
...The next day, 15 March 1939, Hitler entered Prague following the Wehrmacht tanks. Interwar Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as a state. And the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia appeared within the Reich.
Formally, the Protectorate was an independent state – with all the attributes, including the Banner of the President. Only the words “Truth Prevails” were removed from it (the motto would return to the banner in 1945).
A hybrid radio station of the same name stopped broadcasting immediately after the destruction of Czechoslovakia. Post-truth prevailed.
Nobody even mentioned the Franco-British guarantees announced in Munich. “Risking it all? But I’ve always risked it all,” Hitler said in response to Goering’s question. So in March 1939, he took a risk by assuming that the Allies would not sacrifice the achievements of Munich for the sake of the country they had expelled from European politics.
As a result, Berlin received another expansion of living space and a puppet Slovak state in the close proximity. Slovakia would become Hitler’s only ally in his attack on Poland in five months.
Opposition generals, who believed that the invasion of Czechoslovakia would be a disaster for Germany, were embarrassed again. No one will publicly doubt the Führer’s military genius anymore. Quite the opposite. As Wehrmacht Unteroffizier Günther Bauer wrote in 1945:
At that time, I already hated Hitler for involving us in all this, but at the same time I thought that if anyone could save us, it was only him.
...The most tragic thing was that Hitler himself believed in his own talent: “It is clear to everyone that Germany would not have lost the [First] World War if I had been Chancellor at the time.”
This mass blind faith would eventually lead the Third Reich to a grand military collapse.
ONLY FORCE CAN STOP HITLERS
The Czechoslovak hybrid campaign began with real skirmishes – with shootings and blood. It also ended with real non-hybrid battles.
On 14 March 1939, Karel Pavlík, Captain of the Czechoslovak Armed Forces and Commander of the Machine Gun Company, successfully defended his barracks in the town of Místek for several hours. During the battle, the 84th Wehrmacht Infantry Regiment lost up to 18 soldiers. And this was the only battle of the entire campaign – the other 1.2 million Czechoslovak soldiers followed the government order and laid down their arms.
On the same day, Hungary attacked Carpathian Ukraine, which had declared independence. To solve the hybrid tasks, the Hungarian command added to the regular troops the paramilitary formations created on the model of the “Sudetenland Militia”. The black-shirted “guard” of the Carpathian-Rus Führer Štefan Fencik was also sent to commit sabotage in the Ukrainian rear.
The small army of the newly created state fought fierce battles till the last breath (about 20 skirmishes in three days) with Hitler’s Hungarian allies.
Thus, Carpathian Ukraine became the first state to resist the hybrid plans of the Nazis.
In those days, George Simpson, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan (USA), said,
Ukrainians in Transcarpathia are the only people who gave an armed rebuff to Hitler’s system of intimidation and force.
The pacification of the aggressor was over.
The West realised that as well. Here is what the French ambassador Robert Coulondre sent to Paris the day after the surrender of Prague:
...Czechoslovakia, which made such terrible sacrifices in Munich for the sake of peace, no longer exists. For Hitler, the Munich Agreements were only a means of disarming the country before its annexation.
Supporting Slovakia’s independence – however, rather illusory – Germany refers to the right of peoples to decide their own destiny. However, the same right was denied to Carpathian Ukraine, which was given to Hungary, and to the Czechs, who were forcibly annexed to the Reich.
Berlin stated that it only wanted to unite all the Germans of Central Europe into one family. It is now clear that the Führer’s aspirations are boundless. It is also clear that it is useless to rely on any arguments other than force. The Third Reich treats agreements and obligations as contemptuously as the Second Reich.
Many Germans would realise this truth much later. For Unteroffizier Günther Bauer, it didn’t happen until 1944, when an Allied air bomb tore his father’s house to pieces together with his mother:
I wanted to kill all the British and Americans. I even wanted to kill Hitler. Then, for the first time, I clearly understood that he should have stopped after the annexation of the Sudetenland...
...In August 1939, when German newspapers ran headlines such as WARSAW THREATENS TO BOMB DANZIG!, the Allies finally raised the stakes by concluding a military agreement with Poland. And on 1 September, the hybrid period of the Second World War officially passed into its “hot” phase.
December 1941, Reichstag meeting at the Berlin Opera. Hitler declares war on the United States. This was the first official declaration of war by the Third Reich – before that, Hitler conducted hybrid campaigns or attacked without warning. Photo: Bundesarchiv
As 80 years ago, Ukrainians were the first to refuse to pacify the hybrid aggressor. The new Hitler got a slap on the wrist.
Let’s end drawing the historical parallels here.
It’s not 1938 now: the world has changed. This is a completely different war – and we are not alone in it. But it is through Ukraine that the real, non-hybrid, front of this conflict passes.
It would have been much further west if we continued
to step on the 80-year-old rake to seek a political solution instead of calling a spade.
The war continues. And today its finale depends primarily on us.
You can learn more about
Putin’s Hitler’s hybrid tactics from the books that formed the basis of this material:
William Shearer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
William Shearer, Berlin Diary
John Toland, Adolf Hitler
Heinz Höhne, The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS
Victor Klemperer, The Language of The Third Reich
Lev Bezymensky, Hitler and Stalin Before the Battle