On August 15, 1945, Japan agreed to the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allied Forces in the Potsdam Declaration that was made three weeks earlier. My father and mother were then homeless. Though members of a minor Chinese community in Japan, the American firebombs had not spared their houses. My mother and her classmates stopped practicing defending themselves against the invading American army with sharpened bamboo spears. The news of the preceding three weeks included two atomic bombs, the announcement that the Emperor was no longer divine and the mass suicides in front of the Imperial Palace. The Great Wars finally ended.
The first of two World Wars started between the Hapsburg Empire and Russian-backed Serbia in August, 1914 in the town of Sarajevo, when Gabriel Princip, a Bosnian-Serb anarchist, assassinated Archduke Ferdinand. The theme of a minority population as problem people is a common and recurrent one in history. An anticipated two-months war ended up with the Bolshevik Revolution, the breakup of several empires--the Austrian-Hungarian, Imperial German, and Ottoman--and thanks to Chaim Weizmann, the Balfour Declaration. Never mind the King-Crane Commission and the Hussein-McMahon Letters; if the Poles, Czechs/Slovaks, Romanians can have their own country, why not the European Jews? The Brits have said earlier: We are a Christian country. We don’t want too many non-Christian Jews from Slavic Europe. Let’s give them Palestine instead, now that the League of Nations has given Britain its Mandatory Powers.
Victors define history and thus Sudeten Germans couldn’t be part of the new Germany. No, they had to be a minority population under Czechs. Too bad for Germans. As for the remnants of the Ottomans, Sykes-Picot agreement nicely divided the oil-rich Middle East, ignoring indigenous rights. France and Britain now ruled the Middle East, blocking the Turks, Russians, and the Germans.
In the mean time, a dark-haired ex-corporal from Linz, Austria came to the conclusion that there was something foul in the land: Germany is broke and the Communists are taking over the world. And so, National Socialism rose partly as an anti-Commy effort. In the process, anti-Semitism became mixed up with anti-communism because many communist leaders and intellectuals were secular Jews. Italy must fight Communism, says Il Duce. Imperial Japan must fight Communist Soviets for control of China and free the American-, British-, Dutch-, and French colonies in Asia.
There is nothing like a common enemy to excite the people. Fight Communism and fight Colonialism become part of the mantra. WWII erupted, killing 100 million people including millions of European Jews. Sorting out the resulting mess was a massive challenge.
After V-E Day, the Potsdam Conference (Churchill, Attlee, Stalin, Truman) was held to plan the future. Massive ethnic cleansing was still tolerated then. At least eight million ethnic Germans (some living in Volga regions for hundreds of years) were deported to Germany. It was Poland for the Poles, Czechoslovakia for Czechs/Slovaks etc. etc. European countries were made 98% homogeneous except for Yugoslavia. No more minorities. It took Hitler, Stalin, and the Potsdam Conference to construct the basis of modern Europe. It is in this context that Jewish Israel was born. Having aided in the anti-Axis war efforts, the colonial populations from Indonesia to Africa demanded and obtained independence.
Fast forward 65 years. Israel-Palestine and Kashmir-India are unresolved issues from WWII aftermath. If the Zionists had expelled all the Palestinians in 1947-48 from Israel, we probably wouldn’t be discussing much about Israel. If Kashmir became part of Pakistan, as the demographics indicated in 1947, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it now. And thus, the mess created by the disintegration of colonial empires and ethnic cleansing haunt us now.
Victors dictate what happens after war and creates some absurd situations. Two examples come to mind. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Taiwan (Republic of China) as represented by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist government represented China. The Taiwan Lobby (led by powerful Henry Luce of Time-Life) in Congress made sure that this charade continued until Nixon went to Beijing. This was a remnant of the American support for the Nationalist Chinese during WWII against Japan. As corrupt as it was, they were “our” friends. I think of the Palestinian Authority as the modern-day equivalent of Nationalist Chinese. In addition, the Israel Lobby, particularly in Congress, works in a similar way to the Taiwan Lobby.
Finally, did you wonder why an Israeli helicopter crashed recently during a joint military exercise in Romania? Or why Romania just last week declared support for Israel in case of war? Here are some clues: Romanian Jews, on the whole, did better than other European Jews during WW II; and 90,000 Romanian Jews emigrated to Israel at the founding of Israel. Did you know that the first ever female foreign minister in the world was Ana Pauker, a Jewish Romanian born in what is now Moldava? The current Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was born in Chishinau, Moldova, and his mother tongue is Romanian. It is no coincidence that Romania is pro-Israel and its influence will be felt more as a member of the EU. History continues to haunt us.