This summer’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied landings in northern France that breached Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic coast defenses—will be especially poignant for the simple reason that very few who took part in that struggle will be there. Most now rest in their graves, and memories of that day steadily slip away into the long night.
Each day several hundred World War II veterans pass away, and those remaining are in their 90s. Soon none will be left, and the world will be poorer for it.
Most of my uncles served in various branches of the U.S. military during that conflict. My father volunteered for the Marines while still in high school, but the war ended before he could be sent into combat. When I was growing up, the war was still a fresh and raw memory for many. I never heard my uncles talk about their experiences—some things must’ve been better left unsaid. One of my wife’s uncles came home in a box, felled by shrapnel from an artillery shell in the last year of the war.
It’s hard to imagine the horror of that fateful day as 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds charged into a pounding surf and across 200 yards of open beach amid a hail of bullets and shells—fired by other 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds wearing different uniforms. Many young men on both sides didn’t live to see another dawn.
What factors led to this maelstrom of death and destruction? Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of one man—a failed artist and former soldier, Adolf Hitler, who never rose above the rank of corporal in the First World War. Yet through a highly unlikely chain of events he rose from obscurity to become Germany’s chancellor and then dictator.
He spelled out his dream in his two-volume work Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), written during and shortly after his 1920s imprisonment for stirring up political unrest. It outlined his racist ideology (the Aryan Germans were the “genius” master race, and the Jews the “parasite” race to be eliminated), Germany’s need to expand (by conquest of other countries) and how his National Socialist (Nazi) movement would gain and exercise power in a new and much more powerful Germany.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he proclaimed his new regime the Third Reich ( reich meaning “realm” or “empire”). This signaled another aspect of his dream, because the first and second reichs of German history were the Holy Roman Empire of 800-1806 and the German Empire of 1871-1918. The Holy Roman Empire dominated Central Europe, and the German Empire controlled most of Central and much of Eastern Europe before its fall at the end of World War I.
Hitler saw himself as the leader of a new German-led empire that would dominate Europe for another thousand years, along with the whole world, and he set about making his dream a reality. In terms of direct conquest, he was far more successful than his predecessors, establishing German rule over a vast territory—stretching from deep inside Russia in the east to the Atlantic Coast in the west, and from the tip of Norway in the north across North Africa in the south. The German eagle emblem was raised over these lands just as the Roman eagle standard (which Hitler copied) had been raised over them almost 2,000 years earlier.
And this is where dreams grow dangerous—and indeed become nightmares. Hitler set out to do exactly what he had described in Mein Kampf. He began his proposed extermination of the Jews (and succeeded in murdering 6 million). Germany needed lebensraum (“living room”), so he invaded, plundered and enslaved his neighbors, leading to the deaths of millions more.
His National Socialist Party indeed ruled a new and stronger Germany, but his dream of a German-led Europe turned into a nightmare for Europe and Germany alike. His campaign of conquest eventually ground to a halt and was then forced to retreat, surrounded by enemies on all sides.
When the Allied landings on D-Day proved successful, Germany’s days were numbered. Less than a year later Germany surrendered, but not before the country had been pounded into near-oblivion. Hitler died in ignominy, committing suicide in his underground Berlin bunker as Russian troops closed in. Perhaps his lasting legacy was proving that sometimes nations’ leaders can be their people’s worst enemies.
But what does this have to do with us today? A great deal, actually, for Bible prophecy reveals that history has a way of repeating itself. And sobering prophecies from the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation show us that another power-hungry ruler will arise in the time shortly before Jesus Christ’s return. He will be leader of a bloc of nations collectively called “the Beast”—a term reflective of its nature, which will be like a wild, carnivorous animal. You can read more about this in the articles in this issue.
Jesus Christ warns us to “watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×). In Beyond Today, we want to help you understand where our world is headed so that you may grasp the urgency of these times and, as Jesus said, “to stand”!