The Hinge of History
On Sunday, 27 Aug 1939, a diplomatic defusing of Hitler's threats with respect to Poland was still considered to be possible. As we know, he would invade five days later.
At 3AM, from New York, E.B. White tried to capture the mood of the whole Western world at that moment:
We sit with diners at the darkened tables in the French cafes, we pedal with the cyclists weekending in the beautiful English countryside, we march alongside the German forces approaching the Polish border, we are a schoolboy slipping on his gas mask to take shelter from the raid that hasn't come, we sit at the elbow of Sir Neville as he presents the message to the British Cabinet ... Hour after hour we experience the debilitating sensation of knowing everything in the world except what we want to know -- as a child who listens endlessly to an adult conversation but cannot get the gist, the one word or phrase that would make all clear... The world is in the odd position of being intellectually opposed to war, spiritually committed to it. This is the leaden note. If war comes, it will be war, and no one wants that. If peace is restored, it will be another arrangement enlarging not simply the German boundary but the Hitler dream. The world knows it can't win. Let me whisper I love you while we are dancing and the lights are low.