Sixty-four years ago William L. Shirer wrote a history of the Nazi regime and its part in the Second World War. I am rereading it—a major task since it is over 1200 pages. The first time I read it, it did make a strong impression, but nothing like this time around. Nevertheless, hard as it is to go through, it is one of the best books I have ever read. I took it up again because my three sons have little idea of the holocaust and how it came about. One of them even finds it doubtful.
As you make your way through the history you begin to realize that it represented a new dimension of evil in the world. Ascribing the evil only to Hitler and a few fanatical followers is not possible. While not all Germans were involved, quite a number were complicit and approved of the extermination of Jews and others considered undesirable. The Nazis planned to literally enslave large European populations to serve as workers for the Third Reich. The torture and cruelty was beyond belief. That is the most difficult portion to read—to realize how many lives were destroyed wantonly. Shirer builds the story on facts and fact by deadly fact accumulates until the horror of the whole is laid out before you.
This is not an easy book to read, but it is extremely important that the history not be lost or neglected. No doubt Hitler was a madman, but he captivated a majority of the population of one of the world's most civilized and cultured nations. To say that it could not happen again is sheer foolishness. The human capacity for evil is unlimited.
The bombing of German citizenry, a campaign of terrorism implemented by Athur 'Bomber' Harris with Churchills acquiescence is remembered here with vandalism of his commemorative sculpture in London's west end.
It was Britain and France who started the second world war by declaration on Germany after, it can be argued, Germany, with assistance from the U.S.S.R, re-establish it's natural and historical hegemony in Czechoslovakia and Poland following the Treaty of Versailles. Alternatively, it can be argued that Germany started the world war by invading the U.S.S.R and by declaration on the U.S.A, which were pathetically stupid actions.
Hitler was a madman to go to war against the world when he clearly didn't have the military strength, resources and territory to conclude it, and this was his greatest lie to the German people. He was an Austrian Catholic lunatic who believed in the supernatural and gambled the lives of his own people on his vision of glory.
Certainly one of the things that aided Hitler's rise to power was the treatment of Germany at Versailles. It was deeply resented by the German people and when Hitler seemed to be the man who would restore Germany's previous glory, they fell in line behind him with disastrous consequences. Also Hitler was successful in solving the unemployment problem that plagued the Weimar government for years and that counted for a great deal with ordinary people.
And this all falls within Dr. Clark's astute statement in the original post -- "To say that it could not happen again is sheer foolishness." A self-defined "we" continue to act as if the world belongs to "us", as did various Ceasers We do this simply because we can, and that's what drove Hitler in 1938 and Putin in 2014 and all of the despots between, including (maybe mostly) "us".
NATO should have been disbanded as an act of trust after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was its only justification. What's its justification now -- trying to resist rebuilding of a new Soviet Empire that now shares "our" capitalist vales? How do you sell that by having little kids hide under their desks? Maybe we insert "In God we really, really trust" onto our money and the chant we make little new cold warriors recite by rote. Are we ever going to outgrow this tribal bullshit?
NATO should have been disbanded as an act of trust after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was its only justification.
An interesting point. Institutions often last beyond their usefulness.
"Not forgetting" the Holocaust can be a rationalization for paranoia, for Jewish people. I had a Jewish boyfriend who did that. It's not good psychologically for people to feel that they have been historically uniquely singled out for persecution - and may be again. Probably black slavery was comparable in evil to the Holocaust, but minimized because a lot of it happened in the USA.
But good for all of us to understand just how horrible people can be to each other - in a non-divisive way.
The Nazi regime was a dictatorship. People who protested the government actions would be murdered. Such as the White Rose, which was a student group in Germany that peacefully protested some of the Nazi actions. They were caught distributing leaflets. Four days later, six of them were beheaded.
Slavery was a world wide phenomenon. Of roughly ten million Africans brought to the New World, 90% went to the Caribbean and South America to work on sugar plantations, and nearly all of these Africans were sold into slavery by other Africans. Two-thirds of the cost of a slaving voyage consisted of trade goods, the most popular item being iron bars from Sweden. African slavery persisted in South America until 1895, and slavery was still legal in Saudi Arabia in 1964. There are over twenty million human beings enslaved today.
..."To say that it could not happen again is sheer foolishness."...
And that's the salient point. Political myopia is as prevalent now as ever -- ref. WMDs, fantasies about Iran's intentions, etc., etc.
It's been maybe 40 years since I read Shirer's book, and so my memory of it is dim. I don't recall mention of Hitler's support by many American industrialists or Wall Street lawyers like John Foster Dulles (later Eisenhower's Secretary of State), or the Catholic Church.
In Shirer's book there is ony the barest mention in passing of support among Americans and British for Hitler's rise to power. He does note that Hitler in the early days felt that American intervention was unlikely because of isolationism and Roosevelt being surrounded by Jewish industrialists, but later he recognized the threat and some of his decisions were taken to avoid inciting the US to war.
Many in the US, Britain and in the Catholic Church, also saw Hitler as a hedge against godless communism as epitomized by Russia. It wasn't until Hitler started credibly threatening Britain's colonial holdings that the US got involved financially with lend-lease of war material to Britain, and then diplomatically on the side of Stalin, and finally militarily actively once Hitler had stalled against the Russians, helping allow them to defeat him. Then we blew the shit out of two Japanese cities to make the point to Russia that, while we appreciated them carrying 80% of the burden in defeating Hitler, we were now in charge and they weren't to oppose us in our new role of inheriting the British Empire.
Hitler had a portrait of Henry Ford in his office. It was Ford who published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery by a Russian spy purporting to reveal a Jewish plot to conquer the world, in his "newspaper," The Dearborn Independent. Charles Lindbergh preached isolationism, and the anti-Semitic vitriol of Father Coughlin's radio show was quite popular. IBM provided the Nazis with primitive punch card data management equipment, and Prescott Bush and others continued trade with Germany during the war.
When there's money to be made, no matter how obscene the trade, some bastard will step up to make it.
Yes, that appears to be true.
It's amazing that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is still so widespread. A few years ago I had some physical therapy and one day I noticed another patient giving the therapist a copy. I told him it was a well-known forgery and to check it out on the internet.