The idea that Hitler, Tojo, Stalin and Mussolini are among the most evil leaders of all time - and that people like them must be stopped at all costs - is a relatively recent idea.
It is an idea promoted by people like you and I, who statistically speaking, weren't likely even alive when WWII ended.
Thus we never had to do the hard-lifting of deciding just what to actually do, or not do, about these obviously aggressive tyrants.
Our parents, grandparents, and great-great-great grandparents obviously felt - and above all acted - quite differently than what we claimed we would do , in similar circumstances, today.
My book - The Hyssop and The Cedar - is an effort to explain why this was the case.
Because, starting in late 1931 and onto early 1942, ( ie roughly for one decade) the lands of China, Ethiopia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxenburg, France, Britain, Greece, Yugoslavia, the USSR, America , Australia were all attacked, one after another, by aggressive neighbours acting without cause.
As well, the lands of many of the colonies of Europe and America, from Newfoundland, through Africa to Asia and the Pacific, also came under land attack by aggressive neighbours.
In addition , the shipping of many neutral nations out on the High Seas were sunk without warning and their crews killed.
Throughout all these fourteen long years of violence, from September 1931 till September 1945, many nations still never did find any reason in morality to want to band together with other nations to bring these world-wide bandits to justice.
Other nations only declared war (or agreed to be called co-belligerents) in the battle against these tyrants in the last months of the war, just so they won't be left out of the trade agreements to be formulated by the post-war United Nations !
Generally, this latter group did not offer any actual combat support against the tyrants or merely offered a token number of warriors as late and as slow as possible.
An amazing number of countries we now honour for their war service actually only declared war on the tyrants , when they were themselves directly attacked by them.
Only the British and French Empires quickly declared war on another nation (Germany) simply because it attacked a smaller neighbour (Poland) , and even here France became neutral again less than a year later.
The Poles will also quickly tell you that the English and French, even then, did not come to the direct aid of the Polish nation.
If we take 1932 as the first year where Japanese aggression (involving China in this case) could and should have been stopped, all nations on earth have a sorry 'war' record : the USSR, for example, only declared war on this aggressor in the very last days of the war.
In the case of Mussolini and Italy, 1935 was the first year it invaded a peaceful neighbour (Ethiopia) and again every nation on earth shows a sorry record in rushing to help this little kid against a stronger schoolyard bully.
In the case of Germany, early in 1938 it invaded its peaceful neighbour Austria and no one did anything.
(Yes, many Austrians wanted Hitler as their leader but probably most of them, if given a a free and fair vote, would have voted to remain an independent nation.)
America, as a prominent example of a sorry neutral, probably would never have declared war on Hitler, if he hadn't done the hard work for them by declaring war on the USA himself first.
One by one the weaker nations and colonies of the world were picked off by stronger schoolyard bullies while good grey people (our dear relatives) averted their eyes and dismissed it as just another squabble in the schoolyard.
Why ? Was their moral values that different than ours ?
I would argue not. But I also argue that their moral values had been gravely weakened by the scientific understanding they had gained at High School and university.
The middle aged adults who ran the world between late 1931 and early 1942 had all completed their High School education before Queen Victoria died , and were the first generation on Earth to have had to pass standardized science exams to graduate.
A little book knowledge is a dangerous thing and never more so than the four years of Victorian Era Scientism they had to endure to graduate.
In retrospect, Victorian Scientism was as adolescent and as naive as the teens it tried to teach.
It saw the then new idea of Evolution as demonstrating, beyond all doubt , that life forms and societies proceeded, inevitably, ever upward to bigger and more complex forms, with weaker beings and societies equally inevitably (and regrettably) dying away.
One has to only read all that period's laments for the inevitable falling away of Canada's aboriginals to see how people felt this sad process could hastened or perhaps slowed by much human effort - but never ever stopped, not in the long term.
Nature ruled !
And perhaps regrettably, Science had proven that the study of Nature revealed that (like it or not) Might is Right, Bigger is Better, God is on the Side of the Bigger Battalions, only the Strongest Survive : on and on with the Victoria platitudes permitting strong aggressors to pick off weaker neighbours.
So one can be sure that the picking off of the world's smaller and weaker nations did not go uncommented upon in that long ugly decade between late 1931 and early 1942.
It was accompanied, I am for sure, by a lots of long drawn out sighs and endless helplessly shrugged shoulders.
But in the end, WWII proved not to go the way expected by the Great Powers on all sides.
As their Modern Science was seen to falter again and again and again, so too faltered the public faith in Modern Morality and in Modernity itself.
Slowly but surely, as the human world changed its scientific understanding, its moral actions also changed.
Slowly, starting around 1945, our (great) grandparents began the slide out of the Modern Era and into our present day Post Modern Era.....