History repeating? Putin annexes Crimea 76 years to the week after Hitler annexed Austria.

Putin's Anschluss of Crimea.

Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea.

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ORIGINAL POST: (Washington, D.C.) — When I set out to write The Auschwitz Escape, I was eager to portray the drama of the greatest escape in human history — from a Nazi death camp in Poland.

But I was also a bit anxious because I usually write political thrillers about events that could happen in the future, not historical fiction inspired by events that happened in the past.

Yet on the very day of the novel’s nationwide release, it’s hard not to sense history is repeating itself: A dictator is rising to Europe. He smells Western weakness. He is sending troops into other countries. He is seizing land. He is claiming it as his own, and he is daring anyone to stop him. 

“Unfortunately instead of de-escalation we have [the] Anschluss of Crimea, which cannot be left without a response,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Tragically, he is right — even The Moscow Times is calling Putin’s moves an “Anschluss.”

On March 13, 1938 — exactly seventy-six years ago this week — German dictator Adolf Hitler annexed Austria after sending Nazi military forces in to invade the country.

To give the illegal action a veneer of respectability, Hitler ordered a national referendum in Austria, and on April 10th, Austrians approved Hitler’s “Anschluss” (annexation) with a vote of 99.7% in favor.

Now, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has successfully launched his own “Anschluss” of Crimea. He sent Russian military forces in to invade the country. Then he orchestrated a national referendum in the southern Ukrainian region, and got a vote of nearly 97% in favor.

Today, in a speech in Moscow, Putin formally announced the annexation of Crimea. Read excerpts of the speech here.

“In our hearts we know Crimea has always been an inalienable part of Russia,” Putin said in a major address to the Russian parliament.

The problem is that so far there has been no serious response to Putin’s moves. Nor was there when he invaded Georgia in 2008. Nor was there when he sold arms and nuclear technology to the terrorist regime of Iran. Or when he sold arms to the bloodthirsty regime of Bashar Assad amidst the horrific war Assad is waging in Syria that has forced 42% of the Syrian people to flee their homes and has left more than 140,000 people dead.

Have we really forgotten the lessons of Hitler and the Holocaust so quickly?

To be clear, there is no evidence Putin is Hitler in the sense that he is building concentration camps and planning a “Final Solution” to annihilate the Jewish people. But Putin wants to be a Czar. He wants to restore the glory of Mother Russia. He wants to rebuild what was lost when the Soviet Union imploded. He sees the West full of “Neville Chamberlains,” leaders who are weak and indecisive. And he is on the move. This is what makes him so dangerous.

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HISTORY WORTH REMEMBERING: Consider this summary from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “In July 1934 Austrian and German Nazis together attempted a coup but were unsuccessful. An authoritarian right-wing government then took power in Austria and kept perhaps half the population from voicing legitimate dissent; that cleavage prevented concerted resistance to the developments of 1938. In February 1938 Hitler invited the Austrian chancellor. Kurt von Schuschnigg to Germany and forced him to agree to give the Austrian Nazis virtually a free hand. Schuschnigg later repudiated the agreement and announced a plebiscite on the Anschluss question. He was bullied into canceling the plebiscite, and he obediently resigned, ordering the Austrian Army not to resist the Germans. President Wilhelm Miklas of Austria refused to appoint the Austrian Nazi leader. Arthur Seyss-Inquart as chancellor. The German Nazi minister Hermann Göring ordered Seyss-Inquart to send a telegram requesting German military aid, but he refused, and the telegram was sent by a German agent in Vienna. On March 12 Germany invaded, and the enthusiasm that followed gave Hitler the cover to annex Austria outright on March 13. A controlled plebiscite of April 10 gave a 99.7 percent approval.”

KEY HEADLINES WORTH TRACKING:

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