The land that lies between Katowice and Krakow is hardly the most beautiful in Europe. It is frozen and bleak in winter, a swamp in summer. It is now part of southern Poland, although it has changed hands several times in the ebb and flow of history.
At the end of the last century it was known as Galicia, a region of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. But it had by then more or less reverted to Polish control. The decision to build a new barracks for a cavalry regiment in this unprepossessing area went unnoticed by the rest of the world, for it was, indeed, a singularly unremarkable event.
The new barracks were just outside the little town of Oswiecim. Thirty or so brick barrack blocks were built. They would not have won any prizes for architectural excellence, but they were strong and serviceable, and a more than adequate home for the Polish soldiers who would occupy them. Trees planted in the roadways between the barracks softened the rather austere look of the compound. The architect and builders of this military facility would have had reason to be satisfied with a job well done.
Eventually the barracks were abandoned. Left to the elements, they became dilapidated, but because they were strongly built they did not become a ruin.
New Lease of Death In 1939 Hitler's armies swept across the Polish border, and Oswiecim and its barracks became a part of the Third Reich. In the footsteps of the victorious army came men dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of their leader.
Hitler had outlined his goals some years earlier in his manifesto Mein Kampf. But few, including millions of straight — thinking Germans who had voted for him, had bothered to read it. But some had read and understood, and now in the flush of victory, they went to work to "cleanse" their thousand-year reich.
The Nazis had begun to organize their concentration camp system several years earlier. After lands to the east were occupied, the Nazis came upon the old barracks at Oswiecim while looking for a new location for a concentration camp.
By 1940 the buildings had fallen into disrepair and were no longer really fit for human habitation. The area was unhealthful. Vermin had taken over. But that couldn't have suited the Gestapo's purposes better. Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler gave the order to establish a concentration camp at Oswiecim on April 27, 1940.
A double line of electrified barbed wire fence was strung around the perimeter of the compound and guard towers were erected. And so the old barracks became Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
The first arrivals were brought to Auschwitz on June 14, 1940. They were the vanguard of millions of Poles, Jews, Czechs, Russians, Gypsies — people from all over Europe. Anew, even larger camp was built close by at Birkeneau and the whole area around Auschwitz became a death factory.
Today the whole world knows what happened in the old barracks at Oswiecim. The buildings still stand today, preserved by the Polish nation as a museum and a monument to the millions who suffered there during those four and a half years of hell. A visit is still an overwhelming experience — the gas chambers, the pathetic piles of shoes and suitcases, the basement of Block 11 where certain prisoners were starved and kept in airless cells until they suffocated. No words that I have can adequately describe the utter horror of that place.
While wandering through the remains of the camp I wondered how the original builders of those barracks would feel if they surveyed their handiwork today. But how could they have known what would happen in their neat brick buildings? Architects and builders don't always know what will be done with the fruits of their labors.
The Only Solution It is now 40 years since Auschwitz was liberated. During those 40 years Europe has been without war — one of the longest continuous periods without war that the Continent has ever known. It is a precarious peace, more of a standoff.
Four decades after the Second World War the Continent is becoming restless once again. A new generation have grown up who have little knowledge — and no clear memories — of a war that was fought by their grandfathers. There are some disturbing parallels between the situation today and the Europe of the 1930s.
In past centuries, visionary statesmen have believed that the way to solve the Continent's perennial squabbles is to federate the individual nations into a united Europe. Politicians as far apart ideologically as Churchill and Trotsky saw a united Europe as the only lasting solution. Some, like Napoleon and Hitler, tried to forge a union through force of arms. They succeeded for a short time, but their united Europe soon disintegrated. Today more reasonable men are working hard behind the scenes to unite Europe by peaceful means.
It is an uphill struggle. The 10 nations of the European Economic Community with their headquarters in Brussels have come as close as any in the building of a united community. But their union is plagued by disagreement, and their achievements after 27 years still fall far below what was politically expected.
There is now a European Parliament of sorts that meets at Strasbourg. Yet it really has no power or authority over individual governments. For many Europeans the Parliament at Strasbourg is a non issue and its elections are marked by apathy. Driving through the countryside of Lorraine last year I came across an election poster that summed up the hopes and the frustrations of the European Parliament. Arretons de parler de l'Europe-faisons-la marcher!: "Stop talking about Europe — make it work!" was the candidate's slogan.
Roadblocks to Unity But uniting Europe is easier said than done. The European nations are not in the same situation as the individual states of North America more than 200 years ago, who shared a common (and short) history. European countries have long individual histories and their own very distinct culture and languages. Some have been at each other's throats for centuries. And to this day, they still do not really like each other that much. They're going to have to have a good reason for laying aside generations of suspicion and misunderstanding to submerge their identities in a federation.
Today's hopeful architects of a new Europe are not oblivious to the difficulties. They are patient, skillful, careful men — a far cry from the bellicose dictators of the past. They write no Mein Kampfs. Their works are calm and reasonable, albeit with an undertone of urgency. And one sees in them a glimmer of a solution, if ...
... if only this were a reasonable world where people could get along with each other. If nations could give without getting taken. If people really knew how to "love their neighbors as themselves." These are essential ingredients if Europe is ever to be united and stay at peace.
But this is not a reasonable world. And so 40 years after the end of the Second World War, the dream of a united Europe seems as far away as ever. And yet, it isn't.
There will be a United States of Europe. Today's hopeful architects and builders of a new Europe are going to find their dreams fulfilled, but not quite in the way they have planned. Not perhaps even among the nations they expect. It may happen so suddenly that even the most astute statesmen and politicians are caught off their guard. When it happens it will alter the balance of power in the world almost overnight. These patient and reasonable Eurocrats will live to see their dreams appear to come true. Except that their dream will turn into a nightmare!
The Plain Truth has said this consistently. On what authority can we say it?
What Leaders Don't Know There is a missing dimension in most analyses of European history — ancient, modern and future. It is the prophecies of the book we call the Bible. Don't be too quick to dismiss that statement as nonsense. The course of modern European history was established prophetically long ago, long before the Peace of Westphalia, the Congress of Vienna or the Potsdam Agreements that established the present European boundaries after the Second World War.
The die was actually cast at the beginning of the sixth century B.C. after the ancient nation of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonian Empire. Daniel, a young Jewish captive, who was distraught at the ruin of his people, began to be shown first in broad outline and then in increasing detail the course of the future. Through a series of remarkable visions recorded in chapters 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 and 12 of the book of Daniel, he was given to understand that the coming centuries would be dominated by a series of world-ruling empires, each more aggressive than the one before. These empires were analogized in the visions as wild animals. Daniel lived to see the end of the first empire (the Babylonian) and was appointed to an influential position in the government of the next empire (the Persian) that replaced it. He continued his thirst for knowledge of the future, and beseeched God up until the end of his long life for further details. Finally he was told to "go his way." Enough was enough — a full understanding of these matters would not come until the future "time of the end" (Dan. 12:9).
Five hundred and fifty years later Jesus Christ expanded our understanding of the knowledge given to Daniel in His prophecy on the Mount of Olives, recorded in Matthew 24. But he deliberately left some questions unanswered. The key to final understanding was given 65 years later through the Apocalypse or book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, in which the circumstances surrounding the end of this civilization were previewed in astounding detail by the elderly apostle John. But even he could not fully grasp the significance of what he saw. It was an understanding that could only be fully comprehended by those destined to live into the end time, a generation in which these prophecies would be fulfilled.
We live in that time today. We can — if we will — understand these ancient prophecies and be ready for what is about to happen to this world. The picture that emerges is truly astounding. The Bible shows that 10 nations or groups of nations in Europe will be goaded by circumstances to unite. They will be unlikely allies, "iron mixed with miry clay" is how the Bible describes them (Dan. 2). But a common cause — or a common fear — forces them into a fragile union.
There is nothing fragile about what happens next. These 10 nations, spurred on by religious idealism, give up their sovereignty to a charismatic leader. This leader and the superstate that he rules are described in the prophecies as a particularly ferocious and predatory wild animal, the like of which the world has not seen. The peaceful and ambivalent nature of Europe today will change. Led by a voracious appetite and possessing — perhaps possessed by — the very power of Satan himself, this economic-political-religious union — this wild animal or "beast" — will go on the rampage. For three and a half terrible years it savages real and imagined enemies. Britain, the United States and certain Middle East countries are among the first to fall, but no nation is safe. Much of the world is plunged into the greatest period of oppression that it has ever known.
Eventually, driven by ambition and desperate for the battered earth's dwindling resources, the beast turns its wrath on the only other remaining superpower, its age-old enemy in Eurasia. With nothing left to lose, these two great powers prepare to battle to the death, with the full fury of modern warfare. The world hovers on the brink of cosmocide. Only the intervention of God in the person of Jesus Christ saves humanity from destruction.
That is the briefest of overviews — and it all sounds fantastic. Most won't believe it — now. They will later!
If you do want to investigate further, we have several free booklets — for example, Are We Living In the Last Days? and The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last — which we will be pleased to send you free of charge. All our readers, but particularly those living on the shores of the North Atlantic today, should know what they say.
This coming third superpower, portrayed in Bible prophecy, is a far cry from the peaceful European union envisaged by the hopeful men now working for unity in Brussels and Strasbourg. They seek peace and prosperity in a European union that uses its potential to improve the quality of life of all the world. Never in their wildest imagination have they thought that they may be drawing up the plans and laying the groundwork for the greatest prophesied instrument of destruction that the world has ever known.
Neither did those men who built the barracks at Oswiecim. But architects and builders don't always know what will be done with the fruits of their labors.