Autumn, 1938. German jackboots clatter over cobblestones in the town of Eger. The soldiers barely have time to settle in before Adolf Hitler arrives to joyous tears and arms raised in salute. Eger joins the Third Reich.
Now known as Cheb, the town is perched on the banks of the river Ohře, close to the Czech-German border.
In late Summer 1938, the town belonged the Sudetenland region in Czechoslovakia, which was home to many Ethnic Germans who demanded autonomy from Czechoslovakian government.
Amid talk of war, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought a meeting with Hitler. Just days
before this meeting, which Chamberlain later praised for securing peace in Europe, he had taken to the radio waves and said: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing."
The result of the meeting was a temporary peace, and that at considerable cost. Despite Czechoslovakian appeals, the Sudetenland became "autonomous" and foreign jackboots clacked down its streets. Within 12
months, Hitler's appetite for land would plunge Europe into war, and less than four years later, much of the world had joined the conflict.
Fast-forward to today, and recent events in Crimea offer some startling parallels. Ethnic Russians in Crimea have demanded autonomy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported these demands and moved swiftly to annex Crimea to his country.
There are Russian troops on the ground in Crimea. The Ukrainian government seems powerless before such reckless force. Among other things, history offers us cautionary tales. And we may learn from these so as not to repeat the mistakes and missteps of the past.
While there are many differences between 1938 and 2014-Putin is not Hitler, certainly-there are parallels as well and we should appreciate these. We should surely not proclaim, as Chamberlain did, that we know nothing of people in faraway lands. This was an astonishingly ignorant claim in 1938, let alone 2014. We know enough-we have radio, television and newspapers, not to mention Internet and social media.
We should at least care about what's happening overseas because we live in a globalised world where connections and interdependencies, especially economic ones, are central to our own wellbeing. In this spirit, the international community shouldn't shirk voicing its discontent with the annexation of Crimea and backing up these words with action, especially maintaining sanctions.
It should not be passive. Any weakness may allow further Russian expansion under the pretext of protecting Russian-speakers; a Ukrainian friend of mine has posted a link on her Facebook page about just such a fear for Kazakhstan.
This is speculation, of course, but Putin has proved himself a "strong" man and one of action. Action is what is required in response.
- (Live Matches)