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80 years ago: The start of World War Two

It was 80 years ago – on 1 September 1939 – that the Second World War started, when the German Nazi army launched a ferocious and unprovoked invasion of Poland.

In the face of this unjustified aggression by Germany’s ‘Third Reich’, the United Kingdom and France could only resolve to declare war on Germany three days later, on 3 September 1939.

It was the beginning of a barbaric five-year war, which seized large parts of the world and which would bring immeasurable suffering to the people of Europe and beyond.

For hundreds of years, Europe was a continent whose history was regularly blighted by the most vicious and nasty conflicts, wars and political oppression.

Indeed, the planet’s two – and hopefully only – world wars originated right here, on our continent.

Between 1914 and 1945, around 100 million people in Europe needlessly lost their lives as a direct result of those wars, conflicts and oppression – including millions murdered on an industrial scale as a result of genocide.

Europe had to find a more peaceful way to co-exist.

It was in the aftermath of the Second World War that the European Economic Community – later to be called the European Union – was started for one purpose: to create lasting peace between member states.

The aim was to end the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which had culminated in the Second World War.

That was the passionate resolve of those who are regarded as the eleven founders of the European Union, including our own war leader, Winston Churchill.

Just one year after the Second World War, in 1946, Churchill made his famous speech in Zurich, Switzerland in which he offered his antidote to wars and conflicts in Europe:

“We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important.”

Although the European Union has not become what Churchill envisaged as a ‘United States of Europe’, it has brought together many of the nations of Europe in lasting peace for the first time.

Never has a shot been fired between EU member states.

It’s this remarkable achievement of making war between EU members unthinkable that resulted in the European Union being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

The European Union isn’t just about economics and trade, and never was. It’s about peace, and a community of nations of our continent working together for the benefit and protection of its citizens.

Here in Britain we don’t seem to understand this founding purpose of the European Union – and on the rest of the continent, they don’t understand why we don’t understand.

We are now rebuffing our allies in Europe, telling them by our actions and words that the precious, remarkable and successful post-war project to find peace and security on our continent isn’t as important to us as it is to them.

Will our friendship and relationship with the rest of our continent ever recover?

▪ Watch these two related videos (4-minutes long):

  • Photos on video opening, from left to right: Luftwaffe bombers over Poland; Schleswig-Holstein attacking the Westerplatte; Wehrmacht soldiers destroying the Polish-German border post; German tank and armoured car formation; German and Soviet troops shaking hands following the invasion; bombing of Warsaw. Photo credit: Wikimedia author Ai6z83xl3g 

▪ More about Black Ribbon Day

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