Lessons from World War II [Archives:2003/04/Viewpoint]

January 27 2003

Last week, I was touched deeply by a video that was shown to guests from embassies, government, and other personalities from Yemen. The video was shown on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Franco-German Elyse Friendship Treaty. It started with clips showing the catastrophic results of World War II. The images were horrific and saddening. Fifty million Europeans died directly because of the war, fifty million were on the move, and millions of others suffered the repercussions of the devastating war.
Germany was reduced to rubble, buildings demolished, infrastructures destroyed, and the essence of a comfortable life assassinated. You could see Europeans walking barefooted carrying their clothes on their backs on unpaved dirty streets. You could see those Europeans in their farms with the use of very primitive farming techniques using donkeys and bulls. I recalled my own village when we moved from the stage of using bulls for farming purposes to tractors more than a decade ago. I wondered, “were they in more devastating conditions than those we are living in today” I guess the answer is “Yes!”
Europeans, specifically Germans following the war, lived a period of agony, poverty and devastation, similar to that which is being lived in some African countries today. There was shortage of food, medicine, and basic human needs. They turned to their farms to make a living and bring bread to the table. They started planting seeds again, but those seeds signaled a new beginning, they were the seeds of modern Germany.
What did Germans do? Did they sit handfolded and curse their bad luck for having a maniac dictator ruling their country, or did they lie down and await death?
What they did was give rebirth to a new more powerful Germany; A Germany that stood against the odds in defending the right to exist and build a modern and developed nation.
The same applies to Japan following the nuclear bombs blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan today stands as a super economic power in the world just as Germany stands as the super economic power of Europe.
The destruction and devastation inflicted on the countries that had lost World War II did not cause them to lose hope and surrender, but to rebuild and look to the future.
Yemen did not go through such devastation, and does not have to rebuild itself like those countries. Why then do we feel so desperate and helpless in developing our country?
I think we have much to learn from World War II, but more importantly, we need to learn from the reconstruction period that followed it.
The Germans and the Japanese were not only able to make their countries stand on their feet again, but they also were able to rise higher than expected and become two of the most economically powerful countries in the world.
If Germans and Japanese can do it, why can’t we?