Poland says thank you
Great-uncle Charles Schuster (brother of my grandmother Rose Schuster Blaska) and his cousins Frank Jr. and Emmanuel served in World War 1 so, for the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, we picture them here. Somewhere, the Stately Manor’s Research Library has a letter from Charles Schuster but cannot find.
If you’re driving WI Hwy 19 from Sun Prairie to Marshall, look to the left and you’ll see a barn with a cow mural painted by Charles Schuster’s grand-daughter. That’s their farm still today.
Did watch C-Span3 Sunday instead of most of the Packer football game to catch up. A segment on the small French town where Teddy Roosevelt’s youngest son Quentin crashed his biplane. The family put up a fountain there in his memory. (Teddy Junior would die shortly after D-Day.) The beautiful but somber Meuse-Argonne U.S. military cemetery 14,246 Americans are buried — only a third of Americans killed in that war. The aerial view of that cemetery, arranged in quadrants separated by rows of poplar trees, is breath-taking. (That video here.)
The coverage was capped by the moving ceremony hosted by French President Macron at the Arc de Triomphe. (Here on C-Span3). The Macrons sat side by side with Angela Merkel of Germany, a former enemy, the Trumps, Turkey’s Erdogan, and Vladimir Putin (who gave Donald a conspiratorial thumbs up). The lovely Lisa wondered why Britain was not represented. Prince Charles, busy?
Most moving: young people dressed in black with scarves of yellow read letters home from combatants from all the nations of the war.
If ever a war was more stupid or unnecessary, it was this war. Or brutal. Sending over wave upon wave of soldiers up and out of muddy, stinking, rat-infested trenches — only to be hung up on barbed wire while enemy machine guns cut them apart.
There terrible irony is that the war to end all wars sowed the seeds for even more death and destruction just 21 years later. An author makes the point that the Allies “rushed into peace” by not going on to Berlin. If we think of Germany’s capitulation at all we envision Berlin a smoking ruin. But that was WW2. Germany was virtually untouched in the first war. But the high command drew the reasonable conclusion that, with Americans coming over in ever-higher numbers and having acquitted themselves well at the Meuse-Argonne, they could not win.
Hindenburg and his command staff were not crazy; Hitler was. Which led to many, including the young corporal from Austria, to assume the Kaiser’s Germany had been stabbed in the back. “The armistice spared Germany the final defeat it had earned,” writes historian Arthur Herman.
That and ruinous reparations embittered most Germans, cursed by a dysfunctional socialist Weimar government. Add to that the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which had trapped some Germans on the Bohemia side of the newly independent Czechoslovakia (the Sudentenland) and Hungarians in the Slovakian side. Multiply that by all the small countries that emerged, including Poland and many of the constituents of the former Yugoslavia. And the break-up of the Ottoman empire, resulting in Turkey, the plethora of Arab countries, and Palestine/Israel. WW1 did indeed rewrite the map of Europe and the Middle East.
A review of a new book, Peace at Last, quotes French supreme allied commander Marshal Foch to say Versailles “was not peace but an armistice for twenty years.” He was off by one year.
Even so, the rigid progressive-ideologue and racist Woodrow Wilson is a hero in both Poland and the Czech Republic. A major boulevard in Prague carries his name. And Poland put up a commercial that we caught on the Fox network Sunday. It is remarkable.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Is there a better bulwark against communism and Putin revanchism? You are welcome, Poland.