A HUNDRED YEARS OF WAR

Today, August 4th, 2014 is the centennial of the first day of battle of World War One.

Although war had been declared a week earlier (28 July 1914), the 4th of August was the day on which troops clashed and men died. Millions more would die before the war ground to a halt four years later.

It was not only the start of The Great War. It was the end of the Old Regime in Europe, of a way of life. The beginning of a modern era of endless war in which more than 50 million people have died on battlefields, in death camps, of starvation, and disease. And of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rupert Chawner Brooke was born 3 August 1887 and died 23 April 1915. He was an English poet known for his sonnets — mostly written during the First World War, in particular “The Soldier”, which follows. He was well-known for his good looks, which were said to have prompted William Butler Yeats to describe him as “the handsomest young man in England.” He died before his good-looks had time to fade.


1914 V: The Soldier

by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke never came back from the war. He was one of an entire generation of men who died in that war. The male population had barely begun to return to normal when War II began. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 37 million. It  included tens of thousands of Americans, and millions of English, Australian, Canadians, French, German, Belgian, Austrian, Russians and many others.

Civilian casualties out-numbered military casualties.

We are marking the hundredth birthday of “the war to end all wars.” It was merely the opening salvo of a century of endless war which still continues. Maybe some day it will be over. I hope I live to see it.

As for what lesson we learned from this war? A war that achieved nothing except slaughter and destruction? We learned nothing.

TODAY IS THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY

You sure wouldn’t know it by what’s on television. Not a single movie, documentary or anything at all. We watched “Oh, What a Lovely War” with a chaser of “The Americanization of Emily.” Garry scoured the listings, but no channel is showing anything related to D-Day.

Not like there aren’t plenty of movies and documentaries from which to choose. So, have we forgotten? Call me weird, but I think this is a day to remember. Always.

RevolutionCemetaryARTO-300-72

Here I am, cynical, skeptical and nobody’s flag-waver reminding everyone that this day was important. It was the beginning of the final stage of the most devastating war in remembered history.


The summary of loss of life, 1937-1945:

  • Military deaths: More than 16,000,000
  • Civilian deaths: More than 45,000,000
  • Total deaths for the war years 1937-1945: More than 61,000,000

I don’t think we should be allowed to forget so quickly, do you? Because when we forget, when the lessons we learned are lost, then we stand in danger of repeating history. I, for one, think that’s a bad idea.

Awakenings: After Pearl Harbor Rare Photos

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

The rarity stems from most of the photos having not been published in LIFE Magazine.

Be sure to watch in full screen.

See on awakenings2012.blogspot.com

A Few Days in December 1941

Reblogged from surroundedbyimbeciles.wordpress.com

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

Hull greeted the ambassador, who did not know the attack had already taken place, and read documents stating Japan would no longer participate in negotiations between the two nations. The Secretary of State exploded with anger while the ambassador quickly left. Hull uttered a few other choice words, realizing the United States had just entered the World War.

On December 8, Franklin Roosevelt convened a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives to request a declaration of war against Japan. On that day, he said:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

See on surroundedbyimbeciles.wordpress.com

Weird Little Town

I live in the Blackstone Valley. We are part of the National Park system — what’s called a “National Historic Corridor.” Our quaint little towns and beautiful (slightly polluted) river has historic importance.

farmhouse

In this valley was born the American Industrial revolution. Right around the corner. That’s where they built the first mills, using the power of the Blackstone River. Then they built a canal system and a railroad to carry those home-made American goods to markets around the world. Unfortunately, they also poisoned the river and it’s taken half a century to get it almost clean, but that was the price of industrialization. We should be doing better now. Are we?

My town has not accepted the new century. It never entirely accepted the last one either. It was dragged along, unwillingly through the mid-1950s. After that, the town dug its heels in and said “Hell no, we won’t go.” They weren’t kidding.

Little Dam

A World War I artillery pieces sits next to our Civil War memorial and just a few feet from the World War II bronze and stone grouping. Vietnam never made it, nor any war since. It’s all guns and churches. At various times of the year, there are events on the common, often called “the green.” The grass doesn’t care. It just hangs around, being lawn-like.

We have book sales, rummage sales and cake sales which usually coincide with a holiday. We have a Christmas Parade, our local version of First Night, but so early in December it always feels odd and out-of-place. I have no idea why they don’t hold it closer to the holidays. And there are porkettas and pancake breakfasts. All to raise money for something. We used to have great local fireworks on the high school’s athletic field, but one year, we ran out of money and that was the end. Other towns still have fireworks. We can see bits of them over the tops of our trees.

I miss the fireworks so we watch the Boston display on television every year.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Other towns complain about Main Street being destroyed by big chains like Walmart. We do not complain. We don’t have a Walmart although we do have a CVS — for which for sacrificed a great ice cream shop. Well, we didn’t sacrifice it. The people who ran the ice cream shop sold to CVS and used the money to open a brand new place in another town, but I digress.

If you want to buy anything beyond hardware, lumber, groceries, medication or fast food, you’ll need to go elsewhere. If you want a decent meal, you will have to go to another town. If you want to see a movie, go bowling, see a play, hear a concert … well, you know, Boston’s not too far and Worcester is just up the road. You can get to Providence in about 45 minutes — not counting parking. Depending on traffic. Whatever you want, you probably won’t find it here.

We do have a beautiful if underfunded public library. It’s in an old, elegant building that has somehow managed to remain alive despite having its budget repeatedly cut until it can barely keep the doors open to maintain membership in the public library system. And progress is encroaching, despite all resistance.

75-FrontYard-139

After 20 years of arguing about it — after allocating millions of dollars to upgrade the old high school and having those funds vanish without a trace and with no explanation and no upgrades — our little town was told by the Commonwealth we had to build a proper High School or lose accreditation. Lack of accreditation would have made it tricky for graduates to get into college. So we built a new high school and our taxes almost tripled. The town has been so fiscally swindled mismanaged for so long no one can remember it any other way.

UU Steeple - 40

There is a myth surrounding small towns. We’ve seen the movie — starring Tom Hanks or someone like him. There’s a supporting cast of caring local citizens. Cue up “The Andy Griffith” theme. In the movies (and on television) everyone has the best interests of the town at heart. Really, underneath it all.

Not! Here it’s all about nepotism, threats, bullying, and a committment to making life unbearable for anyone who gets in the way. They are not particularly concerned with the best interests of the town except insofar as it advances their own business and financial interests. They take what they want, refuse to answer to anyone, hire relatives and personal friends, give out contracts to their buddies and live the good life. It’s worked well for them. They always win.

What can you do? It’s a small town and you can’t spend your life fighting.

The mill by Whitins Pond

Town meetings end in fistfights and horrific verbal brawls creating enough bad feeling to last into the next decade. I opposed the new High School. Not because we didn’t need one. We definitely needed a new high school but I was still waiting for an explanation of where the millions of dollars to upgrade the old high school went. Eventually, overcoming all objections, they built it anyway and the explanation never came.

They asked Garry to run for town council when we first moved here. He was easily recognized from all his years on television, so despite being (then but not now) the only non-white resident, fame beat out prejudice. Garry declined the honor, explaining to me it would destroy our lives. We’d have mobs in the driveway throwing rocks at our windows. I didn’t understand until years later when I worked for a local paper covering debates preceding town council elections.

96-RedLight-38

Good grief! The level of personal vindictiveness and venom was a wonder to behold. Where were the good guys? Each  candidate was worse than the other, ranging from merely venal, through clueless, to possibly psychotic.

It was closer to Shirley Jackson‘s “The Lottery” than Andy Griffith. And yet, I do love the valley. True, I try very hard to not even think about why they do what they do and how they do it. The less I know, the happier I am. If my town were unique, it would be encouraging on some level, but all the towns around here are pretty bad. This town may take top prize for most blatantly bad government, but the other towns are close behind. They have better manners in public … but small towns are not like the movies. Really. Not.

Deck - October

So — life goes on. White picket fences and green lawns. Big shade trees, lots of room for children to play. Safe streets, plenty of open space. Only two traffic lights in town, one of which is probably redundant. It’s ever so pretty. Just … don’t get too involved. Things aren’t necessarily what they seem. Think Chevy Chase in “Funny Farm.” Yeah, that works.

“Moe” Berg: Sportsman, Scholar, Spy — Central Intelligence Agency

SnapIt-151

See also on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

“Moe” Berg: Sportsman, Scholar, Spy

Morris “Moe” Berg, a professional baseball player who also served his country as an intelligence officer, lived a life many can only dream of. A true Renaissance man, Berg graduated from Princeton University, passed the New York State bar exam and learned eight languages.

Moe Berg - Catching for the Senators, 1932-1934

Moe Berg – Catching for the Senators, 1932-1934

After graduating from college in 1923, Moe played 15 seasons of major-league baseball as a shortstop, catcher and coach. Pictured are his cards as coach of the Boston Red Sox in 1940 and as catcher for the Washington Senators (from 1932 – 34).

Mixing Baseball and Intelligence

Berg’s entrance into the field of intelligence began when he, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other baseball greats formed an all-star team and traveled to Japan in the mid-1930s for exhibition games.

Proficient in Japanese, Berg talked his way into one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. He climbed to the rooftop alone and used a movie camera to film the capital city’s shipyards. Reportedly, the US used Berg’s footage to plan bombing raids over Tokyo in World War II.

OSS Intelligence Career Highlights

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Berg initially joined the White House’s new Office of Inter-American Affairs but left for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943. He became a paramilitary officer and carried out various intelligence operations in Europe, including parachuting into Yugoslavia to evaluate resistance groups there.

Moe Berg, coaching for the Red Sox, 1940

Moe Berg, coaching for the Red Sox, 1940

By 1945 Berg had been tasked to determine whether Nazi Germany was close to having a nuclear weapon. Using his language skills and charm, he managed to locate and chat with Werner Heisenberg, a top physicist in the Third Reich. Berg accurately determined that the answer was “no.”

Berg stayed with the OSS until it dissolved in 1945. Afterward, he served on the staff of NATO’s Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development.

A Word from Berg

Before his death in 1972, Berg said, “Maybe I’m not in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame like so many of my baseball buddies, but I’m happy I had the chance to play pro ball and am especially proud of my contributions to my country. Perhaps I could not hit like Babe Ruth, but I spoke more languages than he did.”

The baseball cards pictured here are held in the CIA Museum’s collection.

Afterward

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once described Moe Berg as a most unusual fellow.

When the war ended, Moe Berg found himself unemployed. He did receive occasional intelligence assignments, including a visit to the Soviet Union, where his ability to speak Russia was valuable. Traveling with other agents, when asked for credentials, by a Soviet border guard in Russian-dominated Czechoslovakia, he showed the soldier a letter from the Texaco Oil company, with its big red star. The illiterate soldier was satisfied and let them pass.

He lived with his brother Samuel for 17 years and, when evicted, spent his last final years with his sister, Ethel. A lifelong bachelor, he never owned a home or even rented an apartment. He never learned how to drive. When someone criticized him for wasting his talent, Berg responded: “I’d rather be a ballplayer than a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

I thought maybe this was urban legend, but this is from the C.I.A.’s own website, so I guess not! How come this hasn’t been made into a movie? It reads like one!

See on www.cia.gov

TRUE GLORY – A WORLD WAR ON VIDEO

Cover of "The True Glory - From D-Day to ...

From the Imperial War Museum Official Collection

The True Glory: From D-Day to V-E Day (1945)

The movie’s title is taken from a letter of Sir Francis Drake “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the True Glory.”

Question: Which President won an Oscar?

Answer: No, not Ronald Reagan. The 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature went to its uncredited producer, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower didn’t merely produce the movie. He also directed the Allied forces of Word War II, feat that deserved an Oscar. And a presidency. It was the best thank you America could offer.

- – – – -

A co-production of the US Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information, The True Glory documents the victory on the Western Front, from the invasion at Normandy to the collapse of the Third Reich.

The officially credited director was Garson Kanin. British director Carol Reed was not officially credited, but is listed as director on IMDB and other sources. Paddy Chayefsky is the officially listed writer.

Other writers not officially credited are Harry Brown, Frank Harvey, Gerald Kersh, Saul Levitt, Arthur Macrae, Eric Maschwitz, Jenny Nicholson, Guy Trosper and Peter Ustinov. So many people were involved in this remarkable documentary — which received the Oscar for best documentary in 1945 — it’s impossible to list them all.

General Eisenhower speaks with members of the ...

General Eisenhower speaks with members of the 101st Airborne Division on the evening of 5 June 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film was brilliantly edited down from more than 10 million feet of film taken by hundreds of war photographers, none of whom are credited.

The editing involved is extraordinary. During one long segment of film, there must have been thousands cuts, each less than 2 seconds in length, most no more than one second long. That is a lot of splicing. It’s beautifully done, professional all the way.

You may have seen other propaganda films from World War II, but this isn’t one of those.

I’ve watched a lot of war movies and this is no less professional than any movie I’ve ever seen. The difference for me was knowing I was looking at real war, not a Hollywood version.

English: Senior American military officials of...

Senior American military officials World War II.

The effects were not done with a computer. The bodies of the dead are the bodies of soldiers. They aren’t actors pretending to die. The guns are firing ammunition, not special effects. The ships are on the seas. The aircraft, pilots, bombardiers are the real deal. The battles are life and death in real-time. It gave me the shivers.

As the movie progresses, there are maps that let you follow the progress of the various armies. It is the first time I actually understood where the Battle of the Bulge took place and why it was called “the bulge.”

It was like time travel for me, listening to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I grew up when Eisenhower was President. I remember his voice as the voice of the president of my childhood.

Perhaps it’s a good moment to ponder whether or not Eisenhower displayed the Oscar statuette in the White House. My guess is he didn’t. After you’ve been commander-in-chief of the Allied forces for a world war, the Oscar isn’t as big a deal as it might be for someone else.

English: Gen. of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower...

If you have not seen this movie, now available on a 2-disc DVD that includes not only the European war, but the Italian campaign and the battles in the Pacific … and if you have any interest in World War II … you should see it. It’s remarkable.

There are many good movies about the war, but this particular documentary — set of documentaries really — has the most remarkable footage. You’ve probably seen it before, or at least much of it in various pieces in many war movies.

Seeing it like this, without any Hollywood manufactured footage is like seeing it for the first time.

This is not a movie about the war. This movie is the war itself, in living black and white.

A different history — Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.29

Reading PostWar was a project, an immersion experience during which I first unlearned, then relearned everything I knew of modern European history. It was worth the effort. This is a long book — 960 pages — crammed with so much information I had to read it twice before I felt I had a grip on the material.

Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretence of being a neutral observer. Not that any historian is really neutral. Every historian has an agenda. Whether or not he or she puts it out there for all to see is a matter of style, but there is no such thing as historical neutrality. If an historian is writing about an era, he or she has an opinion about it. All history is slanted, changed by the historians who write it.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Dr. Tony Judt believed the role of an historian is to set the record straight. He undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of post World War II European history. He lays bare lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch — exposing an ugly legacy of entrenched anti-Semitism, xenophobia and ethnocentricity.

Although Judt follows a more or less chronological path from World War II to the present, he doesn’t do it as a strict “timeline.” Instead of a linear progression, he follows threads of ideas and philosophy. Tracing cultural and social development, he takes you from news events through their political ramifications. You follow parallel developments in cinema, literature, theater, television and arts, not just the typical political and economic occurrences on which most history focuses.

After two consecutive readings, I finally felt I’d gotten it. Postwar changed my view of  the world, not just what happened, but what is happening.

Tony Judt and I were born in 1947. We grew up during same years, but his Old World roots gave him an entirely different perspective. He forced me to question fundamental beliefs. What really happened? Was any of the stuff I believed true? Maybe not. It was hard to swallow, but he convinced me. I believe it.

If you are Jewish (I am and so was Judt), and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up painful issues. The depth and breadth of European anti-Semitism and collusion in the destruction of European Jewry is stomach churning. Pretty lies are easier to deal with than ugly reality. It’s easy to understand why so much of what we know is wrong.

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 cover

Even though I knew history, I didn’t grasp the impact of these years until Postwar made it real. I assumed, having lived these decades and followed the news, I knew what happened. I was wrong. What is reported by American media barely scratches the surface. The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of war to a modern European union is more extensive, complex and far-reaching than I knew. These changes affect all of us directly and personally. My understanding of current events is far better because of this book.

I read Postwar on paper, then listened to the audio version. Available from Audible.com, I recommend it to anyone with easily tired eyes. It has excellent narration and is a fine showcase for the author’s conversational writing style.

Postwar is analysis and criticism, not just “what happened.” The book is an eye-opener, totally worth your time and effort, an investment in understanding and historical perspective. It’s never dull. After reading it, you will never see Europe the same way.

- – -

War today, yesterday and forever?

I am 65 years old. For my entire life, there has been a war going on somewhere and usually, the US has been involved or is about to become involved.

I keep hoping, if I live long enough, there will come a day when there is no war in the news, when the U.S. has no fighting men dying somewhere for reasons no one will remember a decade later.

War doesn’t seem to be working out very well.

Before I die, I would like to see a world without war. What do you figure my odds are? Not very good I wager.

 

Collateral Damage

 

Another anniversary of D-Day just passed. In case you didn’t notice, it was June 6, just a couple of weeks ago. We celebrate battles, invasion and victories. We honor our fighting men, our veterans and our departed soldiers. War is not really about battle, nor even about the men who fight on the battlefields, living and dead. It’s about the destruction of nations, the loss of millions of civilians of all ages and both sexes. All the casualties of war who never wore a uniform and probably didn’t carry guns.

We don’t have a holiday for them. They’re just dead.

Most of these were ordinary people living uneventful lives until by bad luck or ill fortune, they were caught in the backwash of war. In the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong race, wrong religion. Believed the wrong stuff, belonged to the wrong political party. Espoused an unacceptable philosophy.

The elderly, mothers, and children whose lives were lost as cities were bombed or as warring factions took the high ground, conquered the city, laid siege to the castle are no less dead than the soldiers who fought.

How ironic. The demagogues who lead us into wars manage to escape unscathed. Their job is to make pronouncement about the justness of the cause for which we are currently killing one another. God is on their side. Apparently God is on every side; every leader who takes his people to war says so. I don’t know that the dead would agree. What kind of god sanctions war?

I honor our soldiers. It’s an ugly, dangerous, and often thankless job. But I would also like to honor all the others, the people swept up in events beyond their control, caught in the midst of a battlefield that was once their home.

The Bottom Line

The number of military and civilian casualties in World War I totaled more than 37 million including 16 million dead and 20 million wounded. It ranks among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. The Entente Powers (the Allies) lost close to 6 million soldiers. The Central Powers lost about 4 million. At least 2 million civilians died from disease. Six million went missing and are presumed dead.

American military deaths total 53,402.

World War II fatality statistics vary depending on who and how they are being counted. The estimates of  total dead range from 50 million to more than 70 million, making it the deadliest war in world history in absolute terms —  total dead — but not in terms of deaths relative to the world population. Our American Civil War holds that distinction.

Civilians killed totaled from 40 to 52 million, including 13 to 20 million from war-related disease and famine. Total military dead range in estimate from 22 to 25 million. These numbers include deaths in military prison camps — about 5 million prisoners of war.  American military deaths came to 291,55

Death Camps

 

In addition to soldiers and collaterally killed civilians, between 3 and 4 million Jews were murdered in Nazi death camps. In the USSR, the Einsatzgruppen mobile killing groups slaughtered another 1.4 million Jews. Jewish deaths in the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe total around 700,000. Yad Vashem has identified the names of four million Jewish Holocaust dead.

Not merely was European Jewry wiped out, but Jewish culture was utterly destroyed. The Nazis were very thorough and highly efficient. They set out to destroy the Jews and they succeeded.

Although the Holocaust specifically targeted Jews, it did not target only Jews.

Roma (Gypsies), handicapped person, political prisoners, intellectuals, ethnic Poles, and Slavs were also slaughtered to the betterment of the Aryan races. This brings the total number of Holocaust victims to between 11 million and 17 million souls.

 

  • Roma: Most estimates of Roma (Gypsy) victims range from 130,000 to 500,000. It might easily be more, but Roma population records were incomplete.
  • Handicapped persons: 200,000 to 250,000 handicapped persons were victims of Nazi Euthanasia.  A 2003 report by the German Federal Archive put the total murdered during the Action T4 and “14f13″ euthanasia programs at 200,000.
  • Prisoners of War: POW deaths in Nazi captivity totaled 3.1 million including 2.6 to 3 million Soviet prisoners of war.
  • Ethnic Poles: 1.8 to 1.9 million ethnic Polish civilians were victims during the German occupation. in Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles.
  • Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians: According to Nazi ideology, Slavs were useless and sub-human. As such, their leaders, the Soviet élite, were to be killed and the remainder of the population enslaved or expelled further eastward. As a result of these racist fantasies, millions of civilians in the Soviet Union were deliberately killed, starved, or worked to death. Civilian deaths in the Nazi occupied USSR are believed to total 13.7 million people, including 2 million Jews. An additional 2.6 million fatalities took place in the interior of the Soviet Union. The scope for error in this number is wide. It could be much higher, but is unlikely to be lower..

At least 1 million people died in wartime GULAGs or as a result of deportation. Other deaths took place during wartime evacuations from malnutrition and disease in the interior. Both Stalin and Hitler were responsible for these deaths. You don’t have to hold the gun and pull the trigger to kill someone.

The biggest mass murderers in human history may never have personally killed anyone. They did not have to bloody their hands. That was the job of others.

When I see people slinging the word “Nazi” around on Facebook and other social media, I wonder if they have any idea what they are talking about. I remember my entire family — except the lucky few who had emigrated to the US were murdered.

Every European family member disappeared. About 75 members of my extended family were in touch with American relatives before the war. None was ever seen or heard from after it.

In tallying up the costs of war, it’s good to remember that soldiers are not the only casualties. Maybe we need another holiday to remember the rest of the victims.

 

 

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt

Published: September 5, 2006; 960 pages
Available as an audiobook from Audible.com
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Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945Tony Judt passed away in 2010 year from cancer. He was born and raised in Great Britain, but was a professor at New York University for more than 20 years. This is not his only book, but in many ways, it is the book he spent his life preparing to write.

He believed the role of an historian is not to merely offer “facts” and let the reader decide what it means. He strongly believed that historians are obligated to set the record straight, to strip away the pleasant stories by which we cloak the ugly truths we’d rather not face.

Thus he undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of modern European history. He tears the clothes off the historical emperor, showing the blatant lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch. Laid bare is an ugly legacy of Antisemitism and hatred. I found it painful and personal.

The problems of the book and it’s strengths are the same. Although Dr. Judt follows a more or less chronological path from World War II to the present, he does not do it the typical “timeline” way but rather follows threads of thought, traveling from events to political development, thence to parallel cultural developments in cinema, theater, television and the arts.

If the book has a serious flaw, it is that there is so MUCH of it. I felt at times that I was back at school and should be taking notes.

If you are Jewish and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up a lot of stuff that hurts. The depth and breadth of European anti-Semitism and indifference to the shockingly successful destruction of European Jewry is stomach-churning stuff. I knew the facts, but I didn’t grasp the full extent, the breadth and depth. It was a raw and deeply disturbing reminder that with all our flaws, the USA is inherently a better place than the old countries of Europe. They wouldn’t agree I’m sure, but I don’t care.

Español: Mapa de las expulsiones de los judíos...

Expulsion of Jews throughout Europe 1100 through 1600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is plenty of hatred here, especially recently, but we don’t have hundreds — thousands — of years of institutionalized discrimination and bigotry. Hatred stands outside our approved norms and though there are plenty who embrace it, our constitution, customs and laws consider it wrong.

This is analysis and criticism, not straight history. Tony Judt had a lot of strong opinions. You may not like them and may find them hard to swallow, but this book offers a valid, if ugly, perspective on World War II and the world that emerged in its aftermath.

It is serious reading, but never dull. If you make the commitment to read it, after you are done, you will have learned much and may wonder how much of what you thought was absolute truth is nothing more than modern mythology.