By Steven Sanders
A once powerful nation in eastern Europe that saw its empire dismembered some years earlier hosts the Olympics and then shortly thereafter invades and occupies a neighboring nation. It justifies its actions by saying that it needed to restore civil order and also protect its own nationals who were under attack. Sound familiar? Sounds like this scenario is right out of last week’s headlines? Sounds like the country is Russia, the Olympics are Sochi and the occupied nation is the Ukraine…yes?
Well for students of history this scene is eerily reminiscent of Europe in 1936. Nazi Germany had just completed hosting that year’s summer Olympics in Berlin. Not long thereafter it invaded and occupied the neighboring Sudetenland which was part of Czechoslovakia and then eventually occupied the rest of that country. It’s pretext then, similar to Russia’s pretext now, was that it needed to protect persons of Germanic descent form threats and to ensure stability. The world watched and did nothing. Feeling emboldened, Germany proceeded to annex Austria and then invade Poland which precipitated the most deadly conflagration in world history. Tens of millions of soldiers and civilians perished.