„Historia magistra vitae est”
History is the teacher of life
These two quotes, repeated on various occasions, celebrations and remembrance days are supposed to remind us to learn from the past and avoid the mistakes our ancestors made.
When one picks up a history book and tries to analyse the causal relationship behind the outbreak of wars throughout the centuries, it’s hard not to wonder why the key players of those events did not notice them at the time. After all, for a reader armed with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of the final course of events, they often seem all too obvious.
Why wasn’t Hitler stopped when there was still time, allowing for an unprecedented extermination of civilians in concentration camps? Why did the politicians of the early XXth century did not realise the unavoidable consequences of their actions (or lack thereof), why were they seemingly so naïve?
Looking at the dynamics of events in Ukraine and the world’s response over the course of the recent weeks, we often reflect on what tomorrow brings. In the information chaos and in the face of what Dr. Jacek Bartosiak calls “fog of war”, it is often difficult to say what the reality looks like.
Some claim that Russia grossly overestimated its chances for a quick success, it is surprised by the resistance of the Ukrainians and the harsh reaction of the West, it is practically broken economically and at this point, mostly hoping for “saving face” through peace talks. Others are waiting for (imminent and inevitable in their eyes) full Russian occupation of Ukraine, and yet others are afraid of the possible escalation of the conflict and the spark that will start a World War III.
I decided to conduct an experiment and examine how the events of the first days of World War II were commented in the press. I compared the headlines of polish newspapers from 1939 with the headlines of news websites from 2022. It is not my intention to make any assertions, jump to conclusions or doomsday announcements that World War III has just begun. I think that there are certainly many possible scenarios ahead, but in order to avoid the most terrible ones, we have to take them into account and truly understand how to counteract them.
I leave what I found below, and invite you all to take a minute and reflect on those striking comparisons.
WAR PREPARATION – NEGOTIATION BLUFF
THE US ANNOUCNES: THE WAR WILL START
A LUNATIC HAD STARTED THE WAR
BRUTAL AND CYNICAL AGGRESSION
BARBARIC METHODS CAUSE OUTRAGE IN THE WORLD
THE WHOLE WORLD AGAINST THE AGGRESSOR
WE’RE WITH YOU!
THE POPE APPEALS TO THE “SIDES OF THE CONFLICT”
THE AGGRESSOR ENCOUNTERS DIFFICULTIES
THE LEADER WON’T BACK DOWN – LET’S CONVINCE THE NATION INSTEAD
FAMOUS PEOPLE APPEAL
THE NATION IS BEING LIED TO – LET’S TELL THEM THE TRUTH
PROTEST INSIDE THE AGGRESSOR’S COUNTRY
LET’S HIT THE ECONOMY
AGGRESSOR’S ECONOMY IN RUINS
HUGE LOSSES ON THE OCCUPANT’S SIDE
OCCUPIER’S ARMY IS FALLING APART
FUEL IS LACKING
WOMEN ARE ALSO FIGHTING THE OPPRESSOR
THE ENEMY IS LOSING
HEROIC DEFENCE OF THE CAPITAL
PEACE IS CLOSE
WE ARE STAYING OUT OF IT
ONE SCENARIO HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN TO THE END. THE SECOND IS WRITTEN ON OUR EYES.
DO NOT BE INDIFFERENT.
This article uses headings and fragments of articles from the collection “September 1939” made available by the National Library. The “September 1939” collection is available to Internet users at the POLONA Digital National Library at www.polona.pl.