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Post Gibraltar and the Outcome of WWII
Created by John Eipper on 07/16/13 4:42 AM

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Gibraltar and the Outcome of WWII (Nigel Jones, UK, 07/16/13 4:42 am)

Before we get too misty-eyed about what John Eipper (see Tor Guimaraes, 15 July) calls "the Soviet Union's enormous sacrifice of its citizens in the struggle to stop Hitler," let's look at a few facts.

Up to June 22nd 1941, the Soviet Union was an ally of Hitler. It had happily concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pace with the Nazis in August 1939, the secret clauses of which provided for attacking and divvying up Poland in co-operation with the Nazis.

From 1939 to June 1941, the Soviet Union provided Nazi Germany with such resources as wheat at very favourable rates. Trains carrying Soviet exports were still crossing into Germany up to the very day that Hitler invaded.

The Soviet Union was a vile dictatorship responsible for at least as much human suffering as that of Nazi Germany, whose methods of mass murder (e.g. Katyn) it so closely imitated. Hitler merely pensioned his unsuccessful generals off with cash and a country estate. Stalin shot his.

Until June 1941 and December 1941 when they were both attacked by Axis powers, the USSR and the USA were quite happy to keep out of World War II and leave the task of stopping Hitler to--well, embarrassingly enough--to the British Empire actually. Without Britain there would have been no war to get involved with, since Hitler would have won.

JE comments: Nobody disagrees with Nigel Jones's last point. Nor was I getting misty-eyed about Stalin. I was just trying to emphasize that it was in the East that the Germans bled themselves to exhaustion.

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  • Gibraltar and the Outcome of WWII (Angel Vinas, Belgium 07/16/13 6:11 AM)
    In writing history no one should be misty-eyed. It is a fact that every country has always looked after its own interests as perceived by the Governments of the day or by the élite of their political and economic system. History is the sober analysis of human action, individual and collective, in the past.

    I would submit that the UK fought against the Third Reich heroically, valiantly, in 1940 because not doing so would imply giving up its very existence or to relinquish its international status forever (as perceived by the decried Spanish Prime Minister Juan Negrin in his correspondence with Stalin in November 1938). However, they were people amongst the British élite considering other alternatives such as, for instance, coming to an arrangement with Hitler. Nobody knows what might have happened if Churchill hadn't have been around.

    On the other hand, we should not forget the rather undignified policy line taken by the preceding British Government in the spring and summer of 1939. Their reluctance to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union goes a long way to explaining why Stalin preferred to look for another more dependable ally such as Hitler, who was willing to give half of Poland and all of the Baltics at a very acceptable price.

    Somebody has recently said in this chat that the Allies counted on Hitler as a secret weapon. Indeed. The German Grofaz (der grösste Führer aller Zeiten) declared war both on the USSR and the US with consequences we all, fortunately, know.

    JE comments:  I'm not sure I follow the notion of the Allies counting on Hitler as a secret weapon.  Does Ángel Viñas refer to a desire to use Hitler to destroy Stalin?

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    • Gibraltar, Utrecht, and WWII (Anthony J Candil, USA 07/16/13 10:15 AM)
      I understand between the lines that Ángel Viñas (16 July) means that Hitler himself was the best way for Germany to lose the war, and thus for the Allies was even useful! It's a complicated way to see things, but sure it was that way in the end. A "genius" like Hitler led Germany to disaster even at a damn bloody price. It's clear nowadays that with Hitler on the chair, the Germans were doomed to failure. We know well for sure his leadership was the worst on earth, his statesmanship was appalling, and so on. I know that many authors and even psychologists have written about this, but it's always difficult to understand why and how the German nation followed such a maniac and crazy man. The same--albeit at a different level--can be said about other "leaders" in the world. We have plenty to choose from.

      Nevertheless we're discussing here the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht, correct? How did we end talking about Hitler and Stalin? I'm traveling but I'll contribute tomorrow to this interesting topic.  I found it surprising that Ángel Viñas, being a Spanish historian, didn't make any comment on Utrecht. I'll comment also on the points made by Jordi Molins (15 July).

      On the other hand, saying now that "poor Uncle Joe" had no other option than making a deal with Hitler because Churchill rejected him in 1938 seems to me absolutely preposterous. Stalin was an opportunist and a ruthless dictator of the worst kind--same as Hitler. That he was the lesser of evils for the Allies and democracy is another thing. But he was responsible for the murder of more than 20 million people; we should not overlook this. In 1938 England had no other option but to reject him.

      I envy John Eipper for being in beautiful New England. I love New England no matter what time of the year. I just came to the Gulf of Mexico with my wife, my high school-aged daughter, and Grandpa, who is 95 years old but in good shape. We also took along three puppies (King Charles Cavalier spaniels)--so after this I'll really need a vacation!

      JE comments: Happy travels to Anthony Candil. And best of luck with the puppies. A friend once remarked to me that "three dogs is like ten dogs." There's deep wisdom in this math.

      Alas, we're in New England no more, but our weekend visit was capped off with a drive to the top of Mt Washington. A terrifying test of nerves for this Flatlander. I snapped a crude self-portrait at the summit.  If there's interest I'll share the photo with the Forum.

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      • Treaty of Utrecht (Angel Vinas, Belgium 07/17/13 5:52 AM)

        I thank Anthony J. Candil (16 July) for his kind invitation to comment on the third centennial of the Treaty of Utrecht. The reason why I haven't done so is very simple. Nothing of what I could say or write would contribute in the least to changing perceptions. This is a subject as hard as diamonds.

        What I can say is that I tried, when I was able to, to bring a bit of common sense to the dispute. I am sorry to acknowledge that the Brits have enjoyed a wonderful card in their hands with the present Spanish Governments behaving as an elephant in the proverbial porcelain shop. Several stupid moves have already taken place. Not that the Brits are always in the right, mind you.

        JE comments:  A very naive question:  are there presently any border controls at Gibraltar?  Back in "my day" in southern Spain (1985), it was no easy process to cross over to The Rock--otherwise, I would have, if for no other reason than to see the monkeys.

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      • Mt Washington and Pikes Peak (John Heelan, UK 07/17/13 7:04 AM)

        JE wrote on 16 July: "Our weekend visit was capped off with a drive to the top of Mt Washington. A terrifying test of nerves for this Flatlander."

        Try doing it in winter as I did once!

        Or maybe, take a drive to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado (14,110 feet, 12.42 miles of mainly unmade road, 156 turns, many of them overlooking sheer drops). I did it many times and still got scared each time but the views are fantastic. It is the only time I have experienced altitude sickness in a rented car!

        JE comments: I felt inspired by Sir Edmund (Hillary), and have the "This Car Climbed Mt Washington" bumper sticker to prove it!  Pikes Peak is also "there," but I think my automotive mountain-climbing days are over.  I'll leave the heroism to Hillary and Heelan.  I've experienced brake failure twice on flat land, so I don't want to trust my life again to the maintenance regimen of a rental-car company.

        A fear of heights (acrophobia) to my mind is the most rational of all fears.

        Yesterday I promised to share my self-portrait at the summit, "if there is interest."  John Heelan's note is good enough for me.  If I appear to be suffering from PTSD, it is because I am.  The temperature at the base of the mountain was 90 degrees F, but it was a refreshing 60 at the top.  Note my wind-blown look:  Mt Washington bills itself as the windiest place on earth.

        JE at the Summit of Mt Washington, New Hampshire, 14 July 2013.  Self-portrait

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        • Ascending Mt Washington (David Duggan, USA 07/18/13 2:53 PM)
          Seeing the windblown locks and chiseled features of our editor (did he model for the Man in the Mountain at Franconia Notch, recently fallen down?), atop the tallest peak in the northeastern quadrant of the North American continent, reminded me of my two ascents of Mt. Washington, the first some 35 years ago practically to the day, and the second over the Columbus Day holiday in 1981.

          In 1978, a colleague from my summer internship at a Park Avenue law firm and I drove up through Hanover NH, over the Kancamagus Highway to Conway and the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. It was cloudy and maybe 70 degrees at the base, but by the time we emerged from the tree line, it was rainy and 50 degrees. We passed by the Lakes in the Clouds where some hikers were skinny-dipping and forged ahead. At the summit's visitor center I bought a T-shirt that read: "This Body Climbed Mt. Washington."

          Three years later, my then wife and I repeated that trek, on a crystal-clear day with a foot of snow above the tree line. No skinny-dippers in the Lakes in the Clouds (which at 5,000 feet I believe are the highest Alpine lakes on this continent). The visitor center was closed so no T-shirt, but we met some Catholic seminarians from Rhode Island who graciously shared some bread with us. In the distance, I believe I saw the Atlantic ocean, which would have been some 60 miles away. The descent was tricky, but my Vasque Hiker 2 boots--real waffle stompers--were equal to the task. Each trip was rewarded by a stay at the Scottish Lion, a bed and breakfast in Conway, where I celebrated my heritage and accomplishment with some single malt.

          JE comments: To ascend Mt Washington under human power is a glorious achievement!  And yes, the Old Man of the Mountain and I do have something of a shared profile--at least before the former collapsed in 2003.  It's another glorious achievement to outlive a geological formation!


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      • Treaty of Utrecht and Gibraltar (Anthony J Candil, USA 07/18/13 4:05 AM)
        As I was traveling with "10 dogs," as JE phrased it, it wasn't easy to find the time to write some comments on this important topic.  Having lived in both countries (Spain and Britain), I think I've had managed to get a whole understanding of the issue and hopefully you will find my contribution of some interest.  I'd like to start by saying that Spanish policy towards the Rock has been fully chaotic most of the time and not only the present cabinet of Mariano Rajoy, in Spain, is to blame, but generally speaking all the Spanish governments throughout time.

        They have not only been unable to recapture the Rock militarily--in 300 years!--but have also failed at winning hearts and minds, to make it more palatable for the Gibraltarians to perhaps join Spain one day. Gibraltar is certainly not Hong Kong, but neither is Spain China, especially from a military point of view. So what awaits the Gibraltarians if they were to join Spain? Being on the enormous list of unemployed people in Andalusia (it is said that in Andalusia today, unemployment is over 35%)?

        Nevertheless, Spain--as many other "non-democratic" countries--uses the excuse of Gibraltar now and then to distract people's attention from the real and urgent issues the nation is facing. Franco used to do it, Rajoy has done so as well, and I still remember from my time in London when the then Spanish Foreign Minister Fernández Ordóñez ("Paco Ordóñez")--a peculiar chameleon who was minister with Franco, with Adolfo Suárez in the first government after Franco's death, and with Felipe González too--said to me in the course of a social reception in London, "how nice it is to visit London, but not to hold conversations on this uncomfortable issue of a barren rock!" Much to my astonishment! When I answered him, saying that the issue was precisely for him to address with his British counterpart, that being his job, he changed the subject and was obviously not very pleased.

        Spaniards like to recall the surrender of Granada in January, 1492, quoting the words of the mother of Arab king Boabdil--the last Arab king in Spain--who when seeing his tears, said, "Don't cry like a woman when you didn't know how to fight like a man." I think it is time for Spaniards to stop complaining and accusing the British of piracy and other things like that, and realize that--like it or not--they lost and have been unable to recapture the Rock during the last 300 years. I won't be very popular in Spain to say this, perhaps but it is the plain truth.

        On the other hand, the British have always maintained the same policy, not changing their attitude one bit in 300 years, and whenever the Spaniards have requested talks on the subject, they have acquiesced in a good mood.

        Nevertheless it is always convenient to take a look at Article X of the Treaty:

        "The Catholic King (e.g Spain) does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever."


        "And Her Britannic Majesty, at the request of the Catholic King, does consent and agree, that no leave shall be given under any pretence whatsoever, either to Jews or Moors, to reside or have their dwellings in the said town of Gibraltar; and that no refuge or shelter shall be allowed to any Moorish ships of war in the harbour of the said town, whereby the communication between Spain and Ceuta may be obstructed, or the coasts of Spain be infested by the excursions of the Moors."


        "And in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to grant, sell or by any means to alienate therefrom the propriety of the said town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded that the preference of having the sale shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any others."

        So, only when HM Government decides that Gibraltar is of no interest whatsoever anymore for the British Crown, then preference will be given to Spain, and that's it. End of the story.

        Gibraltar no longer has the strategic importance it had even until the end of World War II, but today it is a fact that even the United States was much more comfortable having the UK on the Rock than an unreliable ally, after Franco's death, who dared even to hold a referendum on NATO at a moment when the missile crisis in Europe was on the rise, setting perhaps a path for other not too reliable allies at the time. (Keep in mind that even if Spain joined NATO in 1982, Premier Felipe González blocked the integration of the country into the military structure, and Spain didn't join in full until 1996, when perhaps NATO wasn't needed anymore.)

        And a final point, dedicated to Jordi Molins, is that on August 3, 1704, as part of the Royal Marines detachment taking over Gibraltar, there were over 350 Catalan volunteers who landed in today's Catalan Bay, on the Rock, contributing to the victory of the Allied coalition on behalf of the Archduke Charles of Austria, to me the genuine pretender to the Spanish throne, and not the Duke of Anjou, the French pretender who ultimately became king Felipe V of Spain. (Aragón, Valencia and Catalonia declared themselves in favor of the archduke of Austria and joined the Allies)

        I hope I haven't been too boring.

        Pax and lux, my friends

        PS:  In response to JE's question on the border controls between Spain and Gibraltar, as far as I know the land crossing into Gibraltar is always difficult, no matter what. There is some kind of border control and there are days when everything goes smooth and easy, and others when you have to wait long hours! Most of the time, courtesy of the Guardia Civil. The best way to enter Gibraltar is from Tangiers, by boat, or like James Bond in The Living Daylights. Don't forget what they say, "Gibraltar will be British as long as there are monkeys on the Rock."

        To me the case of the Spanish enclaves in northern Morocco--Ceuta and Melilla, plus some little islands--bears no relation at all whatsoever with the issue of Gibraltar.  On the other hand, I cannot understand the meaning of keeping such places, as both cost the Spanish people money and are totally useless.

        JE comments:  Not boring at all--quite the contrary!  I found especially interesting Anthony Candil's overview of the Treaty that ceded Gibraltar to the British Crown.  It's astonishing that Utrecht has not been revised at least to remove the "Jews and Moors" clause.

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    • Hitler as Allies' "Secret Weapon" (Angel Vinas, Belgium 07/16/13 2:12 PM)

      I thank John for his follow-up question to my post of 16 July. At a certain moment the Allies perceived that Hitler´s strategic and tactical decisions were bonkers. In the summer of 1944 the possibility was examined to kill him. The relevant SOE file was released some time ago and, if my memory is correct, a documentary film was made. I saw it on one of the BBC channels last year.

      The decision was taken not to proceed with the plan when it was sufficiently advanced for examining the trickiest operational details. Hitler was more useful to the Allied war effort alive than dead.

      One is at a loss to understand some of Hitler´s major blunders. In the summer of 1940, just before the Blitz began, orders were issued to start planning the campaign against the USSR. A few months later, Hitler started thinking of establishing the basis to launch a future attack on the United States. No effort was made to take advantage of anti-Stalinist sentiments among sectors of the civil population in the occupied Soviet territories. The number of operational and tactical decisions made by Hitler in the Eastern Front defies belief.

      By the way. The UK was not the first country to resist Hitlerism with force. This honour corresponds to a part of the Spanish people who fought between 1936 and 1939 against the Fascist powers and the incomprehension, if not the hostility, of both the British and French Governments.

      JE comments:  If I recall correctly, is this the reason the Allies were not interesting in establishing a working relationship with the leaders of the Stauffenberg plot?  The anniversary of the botched attempt on Hitler's life is in just a few days (20 July).

      Don't forget Nigel Jones's excellent book on the topic, Countdown to Valkyrie.

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      • Britain's Reluctance to Support German Resistance (Nigel Jones, UK 07/17/13 4:57 AM)

        John Eipper (July 16th) makes a kind reference to my book on the July Plot against Hitler, Countdown to Valkyrie, and asks whether the Allied refusal to support Count Stauffenberg's plot was based--as suggested by Ángel Viñas--on a cold decision that Hitler was more useful to the Allies alive rather than dead. Not quite.

        Allied reluctance to support the German resistance against Hitler had more to do with their unfortunate experiences with the "resistance" before and at the beginning of the war. In particular, around the time of Hitler's threats against Czechoslovakia in 1938, various envoys representing the resistance visited Britain, meeting politicians to ask for support for a Generals' putsch against Hitler. They were told, in effect: "Make your putsch and then we shall see." No such putsch took place.

        Once the war had begun, in 1939, the British--in the person of Prime Minister Chamberlain--were taken in by a "sting" planned by Heydrich and Walther Schellenberg of the SD (the SS's security service). This involved conducting talks with the two station chiefs of Britain's foreign intelligence service SIS/MI6 in the neutral Netherlands with Schellenberg and his colleagues pretending to be anti-Hitler military officers planning a putsch. These talks culminated in the violent kidnap of the two spy chiefs (and the murder of their Dutch "minder") at Venlo on the German-Dutch border in November 1939.

        The spy chiefs--Payne-Best and Stevens by name--were induced to give the Germans details of MI6's spy network throughout Europe, and held for the rest of the war at Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. The intention was to put them on trial after the war along with Georg Elser--the man who had planted a bomb in the Burgerbraukeller in Munich that almost killed Hitler in November 1939--at the same time as the Venlo Incident to show that the British secret service had perpetrated this dastardly attack on the Fuhrer. Payne-Best and Stevens were lucky to survive the war. Elser was not and was shot at Dachau in April 1945.

        (Incidentally, Heydrich's man who actually led the Venlo kidnap, one Alfred Naujocks, was the same guy who organised the fake Polish attack on the German radio station at Gleiwitz on the German-Polish border in August 1939, using murdered concentration camp inmates dressed in Polish uniforms that was the Casus Belli for Germany's attack on Poland which began World War II.)

        When he came to power Winston Churchill--who had met the envoys of the resistance before the war--was determined that Britain would not be hoodwinked again, and vetoed any further contacts with the resistance. So when the British clergyman Bishop George Bell met his German colleague the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Sweden in the middle of the war and Bonhoeffer divulged details of the Stauffenberg plotters' plans, Bell was ignored when he reported back to London. (Bonhoeffer and other anti-Nazi plotters including Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Col. Hans Oster of the Abwehr were, like Elser, executed in the last days of the war.)

        Interestingly--and I think this is the plan referred to by Ángel Viñas--the British did develop their own plot against Hitler's life under the name "Operation Foxley" very late in the war. This was based on a pre-war thriller published on the eve of war in 1939 by the British novelist--and sometime secret agent--Geoffrey Household. Household's novel Rogue Male involved a British sniper stalking and taking a pot shot at a European dictator--clearly based on Hitler--at the latter's country estate. Operation Foxley followed this fictional plan to the letter:  an agent was to be parachuted into the Bavarian Alps close to Hitler's mountain lair the Berghof at Berchtesgaden, where he would assassinate Hitler using a high-powered rifle. The plan was never carried out because A) security around the Berghof was found to be too tight, and B) by then the war was clearly nearing its end and Hitler never visited the Berghof after the early summer of 1944.

        There was, therefore, no moral objection to killing Hitler or other Nazi leaders on Britain's behalf per se. Indeed, the British secret services trained and parachuted in the two Czechoslovak agents who assassinated Heydrich in Prague--using British guns and grenades--in May 1942, and a British service pistol was used to kill the collaborationist French Admiral Darlan in Algiers in December of the same year.

        JE comments:  These events have all the elements of spy novels.  For a captivating account of the "lone wolf" Georg Elser's nearly successful attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb, see Nigel's Countdown to Valkyrie.  If only the Fuhrer hadn't arrived late that evening in 1939--who knows what the world would look like today?

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      • Hitler as Allies' "Secret Weapon"? (Istvan Simon, USA 07/17/13 5:24 AM)
        I do not subscribe to the "Hitler as Allies' Secret Weapon" theory, nor do I think that it can survive the scrutiny of critical thinking.

        There is no doubt that Hitler committed many blunders, both strategic and tactical. He fancied himself as a great military leader, but he was nearly an imbecile in military decisions. One can cite for example the annihilation of his Sixth Army at Stalingrad for absolutely no gain for Nazi Germany, or the order for the crew of the Bismarck to die "gloriously" with the ship. Something which by the way Corporal Hitler (unfortunately) did not do in World War I, when he could have done a great favor for humanity by dying gloriously for the Kaiser, or at the Munich Putsch, when he went to prison rather than die for his ideals.

        But to jump from these facts to the conclusion that therefore Hitler was more useful to the Allies alive than dead is absurd, and it does not follow.

        Had Hitler died in the July 20 attack, there was no one in Nazi Germany who could or would have replaced him and continued the war to the bitter end. By 1944 it was clear to his very competent generals, like Rommel, that Germany had lost the war. None of them would have chosen to continue to fight to the bitter end and take Germany down with it. Only a fanatical lunatic like Hitler, whose imagination was fired up by his admiration of Wagner's Gotterdamerung, would have chosen that path.

        The tragedy of Germany is that tens of millions of Germans were mesmerized by Hitler and chose to follow him unquestioningly, and that the weakness of Western leaders like Chamberlain and Daladier allowed the initial gambles of Hitler to succeed without firing a shot prior to 1939--e.g. the re-occupation of the Rhineland, the rape of Czechoslovakia at Munich, the annexation of Austria--all of which made him appear as a visionary genius that could not do anything wrong.

        Even the start of World War II resulted in the phony war in the Western front rather than dividing and forcing the Germans to fight on two fronts, which obviously would have made much more sense.

        JE comments: I don't follow how the Allies could have forced Germany to fight on two fronts in 1939-'40. Does Istvan have in mind a British expeditionary force in Poland? The UK was in no shape to do such a thing, especially with Hitler's then ally, the USSR, at its back.

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        • "Rape of Czechoslovakia" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/18/13 4:51 AM)
          I believe that it is time to review the "rape of Czechoslovakia," as mentioned by Istvan Simon on 17 July.

          Czechoslovakia was a nation invented by the victors of WWI, who put together several nationalities which really did not love each other. According to the 1930 census, of the 14 million inhabitants, the Czechs were 7,000,000, Germans 3,500,000, Slovaks 3,000,000, Hungarians 700,000, Ukrainians/Ruthenians 400,000, and Poles 100,000. The State was centralized in the hands of the Czechs with no autonomy for the territories inhabited by the minorities, which together were more than the dominant ethnic group. In March 1938 Benes refused an agreement with the nationalities which could have avoided the final collapse.

          In 1938 the minorities returned to their respective fatherlands: Germany acquired the Germans from the Sudetenland, but Poland got the Poles of Teschen while Hungary got the Hungarians /Ruthenians of Kosice and Ruthenia. In 1939 also the Slovaks finally got their independence, while the "rape" occured only when German troops entered Prague and created the Protectorate of Bohemia.

          So if Istvan is referring the "rape" of March 1939, I am in agreement, but if he is referring to September 1938, one must evaluate the the conditions of the time.

          Consider that all the world applauded, while Benes did not do anything to oppose the transfer of the Sudetenland. He could have refused the Munich Diktat and invoked Soviet help, according the Mutual Assistance Treaty signed in 1935. After all Germany had only 39 army divisions against the 37 of Benes--not a great difference, and the territory was favourable to the Czechs.

          By the way the Czech Republic now includes the Sudetenland only because in the 1945 a complete ethnic cleansing of the area was carried out.

          JE comments: We rarely hear outrage about the victors' ethnic cleansing post-WWII, especially when Germans were on the receiving end.  We shouldn't forget the Czechs' removal of ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland, or the Poles' similar action in Breslau/Wroclaw, Stettin/Szczecin, and elsewhere in the western part of post-WWII Poland.  Still, it's hard to accept that Hitler's motivation in Czechoslovakia was the self-determination of peoples; it was conquest pure and simple.

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          • "Rape of Czechoslovakia" (Istvan Simon, USA 07/19/13 4:03 AM)
            Eugenio Battaglia has defended before the 1938 Munich agreement, so his positions regarding what I called the rape of Czechoslovakia (18 July) were not a surprise to me. WAIS has many professional historians. I invite them to add their authoritative voices to this discussion.

            I consider the 1938 Munich agreement as dishonorable an affair as I know of in recent history. There are many excellent sources that describe what went on at Munich. I have read many of them. Just as a point of easily available reference, here is the excellent overview in Wikipedia:


            Symbolic of the extreme unfairness of this agreement is the fact that Benes, the President of Czechoslovakia, was not even a participant.  So here we have three powers, Germany under the unenlightened leadership of a dictator, Adolf Hitler, the United Kingdom under the unenlightened leadership of Prime Minister Chamberlain, and France under the unenlightened leadership of Prime Minister Daladier, deciding the fate of a fourth country without the latter having any say in the matter. I submit that this fact alone makes it appropriate to call this a shameful rape, as indeed it was. That the appeasing parties, England and France, were ashamed of what they had done, can be summarized with the comments of Winston Churchill in Parliament following the agreement and Daladier himself, who later declared that if France had been successful in buying 4000 fighters from the United States for its Air Force, Munich would have never occurred.

            Eugenio Battaglia is in my view being extremely naive in his descriptions of the supposed ethnic tensions that preceded the Munich agreement in Czechoslovakia. Munich was not a result of disputes over autonomy for minorities within Czechoslovakia, nor were such demands for autonomy spontaneous. They were stoked by a territory-hungry Germany, which was systematically looking at expanding its territory at the expense of "lesser" folks by stirring up trouble with German-speaking minorities everywhere. Indeed the term "fifth column" comes from this period of history, as Germany was counting on the disloyalty of ethnic Germans towards the countries where they lived for its political purposes.

            If we accepted the absurd notion that ethnic origin is a valid reason for a country to annex the territory of another, as Eugenio Battaglia suggests, Germany could have laid claim to the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil, as it was mostly inhabited by ethnic Germans! Sviatioslav Richter, the great Soviet pianist, was ethnically German, as his name suggests--and indeed his father was shot by the Soviets purely because of his ethnicity origin. Just one more barbarity of the many that occurred in Europe at the time. Richter's father was a musician, and was not at all disloyal to the Ukraine where they lived, but in those days nothing more was necessary to be shot than for people with guns to come for you. Something that was sadly true both in Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. It was not true, however, in democratic Czechoslovakia, which despite what Eugenio writes, was an island of freedom and democratic life, not unlike Switzerland, surrounded by a sea of totalitarian regimes.

            JE comments:  Yes; ultimately it boils down to Czechoslovakia having no say in its destiny.  The same thing happened to Poland one year later.

            One slight correction to Istvan's post:  I believe the Spanish Nationalists in 1936 were the first to apply the "Fifth Column" metaphor.

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            • "Rape of Czechoslovakia"; Fifth Column (Nigel Jones, UK 07/19/13 5:38 AM)

              I totally agree with my friend Istvan Simon's 19 July comments on the shameful Munich agreement--the result of bullying and blackmail on Hitler's part against the weak and deluded Chamberlain and Daladier.

              As evidence for this, we need look no further than the fact that the Czech observers at Munich were kept out of the room while their country was dismembered, and Chamberlain and Daladier were too ashamed to tell them of its fate face to face--and delegated the distasteful task to junior minions.

              Indeed Daladier, more realistic than Chamberlain, when he saw the vast crowds waiting for his plane to land at Le Bourget airport on returning from Munich, thought they were there to lynch him. On being told that they were there to celebrate "peace," he remarked "Idiots!" (or the Gallic equivalent).

              WAISers might be interested to know that the building where the Munich diktat took place still exists--an excellent example of Nazi architecture--and now houses the city's Music High School. Curious visitors, if they are discreet, can still seek out the room where Czechoslovakia was signed away: I was there myself on my company's Face of Evil tour earlier this month (www.historicaltrips.com ).

              As to the origin of the term "Fifth Column" it was, as John Eipper suspects, coined by the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil war. Specifically by General Mola, leader of the rising in the north who, when he was advancing on Madrid, said that he had four columns outside the city, and a fifth inside (referring to secret Nationalist sympathisers within the capital).

              JE comments:  Interesting.  It's surprising that the historic Munich building still exists.  Can Nigel Jones comment on the Daladier quote (cited by Istvan Simon) that France would not have allowed the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia if it had been able to buy 4000 fighter planes from the US?  Did the US even have that many fighters at that time?  My understanding is that in terms of weaponry, France actually outgunned (and out-tanked and out-planed) Germany in 1938.

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            • Munich 1938 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/19/13 5:56 AM)
              The strong attack of Istvan Simon (July 19) on my post of the day before does not surprise me, but Istvan clearly does not understand the terrible strength of the national feelings in the Europe of the last century.

              JE comments: But the Nazis were experts at fueling the fires of national (ethnic) sentiment. In addition to the Sudetenland, consider Gdansk/Danzig and elsewhere. I'd like to look at this issue from the other side: Were the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia mistreated in any significant way prior to 1938?  For example, was the German language allowed in public and the schools? How about access to higher education?

              Roy Domenico (next in queue) reminds us that there was a fourth party present at Munich--Mussolini.


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            • "Rape of Czechoslovakia" and Mussolini (Roy Domenico, USA 07/19/13 6:59 AM)
              Regarding the interesting exchange on the Munich meeting, Istvan Simon (19 July) cited only Hitler, Chamberlain and Daladier at the conference. Mussolini, of course, was the fourth man at the table.

              The idea for a meeting came from talks between Chamberlain and the Italian ambassador to London Dino Grandi, although the Duce took credit for it. Afterward, in the immediate flush of relief, Mussolini apparently even had some hopes for a Nobel Prize. His popularity, at least in Italy, certainly did experience a bump--soon to evaporate--because many people saw Munich as successfully avoiding the terror bombing and poison gas of a general war.

              Chamberlain and Lord Halifax went to Rome four months later--in January--because, as Chamberlain said, Mussolini's sensible conduct during the Munich meeting led him to believe that the Duce could be dealt with. Mussolini immediately ended that hope and the Brits left Italy in disappointment.

              JE comments:  Might September 1938 have been the high point of Mussolini's popularity?  For what it's worth, he never received Time's Man of the Year award, unlike Hitler (1938) and Stalin (1939 and '42).

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              • When was the High Point of Mussolini's Popularity? (Roy Domenico, USA 07/21/13 5:08 AM)

                Just a quick point on JE's question (19 July) about Mussolini's popularity among the Italians. I wrote that he experienced a bump after Munich, and that was all it was. Most historians see two peaks in Mussolini's "approval"--1929 after the Lateran Pacts with Pope Pius XI, and 1936 after the conquest of Ethiopia. By 1938 the Italians were getting tired of the Spanish war, and Mussolini's declaration of racial laws in September of that year (just before the Munich Conference) was very unpopular and widely seen as a shamefully opportunistic move to gain Hitler's favor. Although Italian racial thought was really jump started with the Ethiopian war and it quickly dovetailed into the new pro-German policy.

                JE comments:  How universally popular was the Ethiopian war in Italy?  In the real world of geopolitics, few things boost a leader's approval rating more than a short, glorious little war on a weaker nation (US-Spain 1898, UK-Argentina 1982, US-Grenada 1983, etc.).

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            • "Rape of Czechoslovakia" and "Polish Hubris" (John Heelan, UK 07/19/13 7:56 AM)
              JE commented on 19 July: "Ultimately [the Munich Pact] boils down to Czechoslovakia having no say in its destiny."

              As far as I can recall, historian Richard Overy in his book 1939: Countdown to War (2009), which re-creates, hour by hour, the days leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War, suggests that internal politics and attitudes in Poland obstructed the attendance of any senior Polish politician at the Munich meetings.

              (See my post 16 May 2013 on alleged Polish hubris.)

              JE comments:  I'm not sure I understand:  Poland might have been invited to Munich if it had had a "better" attitude?

              Here's John Heelan's post from 16 May:


              Then as now, I pose the question:  would a less hubristic Poland have made any difference in September '39?

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              • "Rape of Czechoslovakia" and "Polish Hubris" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/20/13 9:43 AM)
                Please forgive me, but what is the meaning of "hubris" in English? (See John Heelan, 19 July.)

                Poland very rightly got back its minority in Teschen (Cieszyn), and I once wrote on the Forum that when I was 17 I was ready to volunteer to fight to reclaim Trieste, so I can understand very well people who are ready to fight for their brethren. I consider it a great mistake that Italy in 1918-'19 drew borders which did not respect, at least as far as possible, the ethnic distribution of peoples. In 1945 the victors of WWII learned this lesson and prior to drawing the new borders they carried out the ethnic cleansing of the conquered territories. Of course this is a crime against humanity and genocide, but as someone said, "Might is Right" and a Nuremberg-type trial for the victors is not conceivable... or it should be?

                JE comments:  Hubris--excessive pride or self-confidence.  Traditionally in Greece it was a defiance of the Gods.  I've spent a lot of time around Poles, and I'd say "hubris" is not their style!

                "Hubris" as a term is encountered more frequently in English than in Spanish (la hibris is used only in specific philosophical contexts).  Is this the case also in Italian?

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        • Hitler as "Irreplaceable"; on an Allied Intevention in Poland, 1939 (David Pike, France 07/20/13 10:14 AM)
          Istvan Simon wrote (July 17) that if Hitler had died in the July Plot, "there was no one in Nazi Germany who could or would have replaced him and continued the war to the bitter end." In my edited work The Closing of the Second World War, Juergen Foerster writes: "Shortly before Hitler's suicide, Keitel reiterated the High Command's readiness to crush 'with brutal force any attempt toward a political or military dissolution [of the Reich]. This is the only means to save the people from anarchy'."

          Before dying, Hitler appointed Grossadmiral Karl Doenitz as Reichspresident (Head of State) and Dr Goebbels as Reichskanzler (Prime Minister). In the same book, I present Goebbels as the truest Nazi of them all. It was he who kept Hitler's hopes alive in the closing weeks when Hitler was sinking into despair. If I may quote a passage of my own from the same book: "It is he and not Hitler who takes the salute of the Berlin Volkssturm (all males aged 16 to 60) as they march out with their meager Panzerfauste. The scene belongs in spirit with his last filmed address, when he spoke of Germany's new secret weapons, but also of death as religious encounter, inviting Germany to approach it as one would the Eucharist. It is here that Goebbels outranks the rest in his implacable hatred of human life itself and comes the closest we know to the spirit of Satan expressed by Milton:

          What though the field be lost?

          All is not lost; th'inconquerable will,

          And study of revenge, immortal hate,

          And courage never to submit or yield ... "

          In his same message, Istvan suggests that the Allies in September 1939 should have opened a Western front to force the Wehrmacht to fight on two fronts. It all sounds marvelous, but surely WAIS has been down this lane before. German intelligence knew only too well that the British Army would not be able to put a single soldier on continental soil before Germany had put an end to Polish resistance. As for the French Army, only a madman (and the French general staff was archaic but not mad) would suggest throwing, against the Siegfried Line, armies that were purely defensive, in training and in spirit. (General Franz Halder's later comment on this was intended merely to throw some of the blame on the French.)

          JE comments:  This topic has no doubt also been explored at great length, but I hope David Pike will indulge me with this quick question:  what more could France and Britain have realistically done to help Poland in September '39?

          Today, 20 July, is the 69th anniversary of the Stauffenberg plot.

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          • Could France and UK Have Helped Poland in 1939? (David Pike, France 07/21/13 5:28 AM)
            John Eipper asked on 20 July: "What more could France and Britain realistically have done to help Poland in September 1939?"

            The situation finds an echo in the quandary facing RAF Fighter Command in May 1940 when Dowding, supported by Churchill, refused to send any more fighter squadrons to the Battle of France, saying that what counted most for the Allied cause was to win the battle that would ensue if France should be defeated. Anglo-French relations with Poland in September 1939 were disturbed, to say the least, but every effort should have been made, every pressure applied, every encouragement given to get the maximum number of Polish warships and merchant vessels to reach Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or British ports. The same for the maximum number of Polish fighter planes and pilots, as well as scientists, engineers and technicians of every order. Maximum British and French naval forces should have been sent to the Baltic to support the evacuation. With the surrender of Warsaw a final attempt should have been made to evacuate the Polish elite, the same elite that would finish up in Katyn. The gold of the Bank of Warsaw was, I believe, successfully evacuated, via Turkey.

            No action could be more painful for an ancient nation than to send away its human treasure, and Poland's reward was to find itself betrayed, again and again. But John Eipper's question, could no more be done? was asked at the time. And the sad reply was no. The problem was geography.

            JE comments: Alas, Poland's history is one of betrayal. If only a small Allied intervention could have taken place to prevent Katyn, but hindsight is always 20-20--and Hitler was the threat in 1939, not Stalin.

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            • Fascist Italy and Poland, 1939 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/21/13 3:58 PM)
              With reference to the excellent recent posts of David Pike, as I have previously mentioned, Fascist Italy tried its best to help Poland, as reported by the Polish historian Krzysztof Strzalka in his book Between Friendship and Hostility: History of Italian-Polish Relations from 1939 to 1945.

              For example, the Italian government sent to Warsaw, after the city's fall to the Germans, the young diplomat Mario di Stefano, with clear instructions to protect not only the Italians but also Christian and Jewish Poles.   In fact the Italian diplomats succeeded in getting out of Poland to Palestine the entire family of the Rabbi Alter and many high-ranking persons from the Lodz ghetto. Unfortunately, this action of the Italians was noticed by Hitler, who during his meeting with Mussolini on March 18, 1940 clearly requested the removal of an embassy considered no longer necessary. Di Stefano remained another 20 days and then returned to Italy. According to the Polish historian, he gave at least 2000 visas to Poles and Jews in order to escape German oppression.

              Mussolini had in Poland Lady Luciana Frassati, daughter of an ambassador and wife of the Polish Minister Jan Gawronsky, who communicated directly to him and helped to save some Polish intellectuals, obtaining the gratitude of General Sikorski. I have already written about the diplomatic relations between Italy and Poland, which was never a belligerent status.

              Mussolini himself wrote a letter to Hitler dated January 3, 1940, in defense of the heroic Polish people.

              The historian Amedeo Tosti in his book Storia della Seconda Guerra Mondiale, p. 114, discusses a secret military deal signed in May 1939 by France's General Gamelin and by Poland's General Kasprzycki, by which France bound itself to start immediately an aerial offensive against Germany while making several local attacks on the Siegfried line, no later than 15 days after the mobilization of a full offensive.

              I believe that Poland has been continuously betrayed by the Western democracies, first to the clear advantage of Germany and then in favor of the USSR.

              JE comments:  Very interesting.  As we've said before, there's always been a special affection between the Poles and the Italians.

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            • Franco-Polish Relations, 1939 (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 07/22/13 10:12 AM)
              Regarding the relations between France and Poland before WWII, may I quote from my own book (still not published in English):

              "While Marchenko was still in Moscow reporting to Litvinov about the situation in Spain, the People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs who was born in the Polish city of Białystok, at that time part of the Russian Empire, as Meir Henoch Wallach-Finkelstein into a wealthy Jewish banking family, was more interested in reading secret NKVD reports about his native Poland than about Spain. From a highly placed source in Paris, probably the same whose information is mentioned in chapter 3, it became known that French ambassador to Poland, Léon Noël, wrote in October 1938: ‘It is of utmost importance that we remove from our obligations everything that would deprive the French government the freedom of decision on the day when Poland finds itself in war with Germany.' In his answer Georges Bonnet, French Foreign Minister at the time, reassured Noël, writing that ‘our agreement with Poland is full of gaps, needed to keep our country away from war.'" (Piotr Zychowicz, Pakt Ribbentrop-Beck, czyli jak Polacy mogli v boku III Rzeszy pokonać Związek Radziecki, Poznan: Dom Wydawniczy, 2012, pp. 279-80).

              The Kasprzyski-Gamelin Convention was signed on 19 May 1939 in Paris. It was named after the Polish Minister of War Affairs General Tadeusz Kasprzycki and the commander of the French Army General Maurice Gamelin. It was an army-to-army, not state-to-state, convention, and was not in force legally, as it was dependent on the signing and ratification of the political convention between the two countries (See Anita J. Prażmowska, Britain, Poland and the Eastern Front, 1939, Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1987, p. 103). In his book Pact Ribbentrop-Besk, or How Poles could have defeated the Soviet Union alongside the Third Reich (2012), Polish historian Piotr Zychowicz provides the following description of the May 1939 negotiations between the two generals:

              "After several Polish requests, and following lengthy negotiations in Paris, on 18 May the French government with reluctance pledged to undertake military steps against Germany on the 15th day after the mobilization of their army. The French Army, however, stated that the agreement would not be valid without a political convention and French government delayed signing it... General Gamelin was surprised to see a Polish military delegation headed by General Kasprzycki. Gamelin carried out negotiations in a way in which he avoided making any concrete promises. He signed the military agreement with revulsion, as in his opinion the only country that mattered in Eastern Europe was the Soviet Union. When he found out that his government had refused to sign a political convention, he was delighted" (pp. 280-1).

              The political convention was finally ratified by Édouard Daladier's government on 4 September 1939, three days after the German offence on Poland. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, all their usual formalities of perfidy were observed with scrupulous technique. However, it did not keep France away from war.

              JE comments:  Ouch--none of this paints France in a noble light.  The useless Kasprzyski-Gamelin accord underscores the notion of treaties as meaningless scraps of paper.

              A curiosity for Boris Volodarsky:  does the title of Zychowicz's book indicate its thesis?  Specifically, how could Poland have entered into an alliance with the Third Reich, and what possibly could it have gained by making war on the Soviet Union?  Does Zychowicz argue that with the added might of Poland, Germany would have defeated Stalin?  This is a startling thesis that definitely greases the wheels of counterfactual history.

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          • Could Goebbels Have Succeeded Hitler? Phony War 1939-'40 (Istvan Simon, USA 07/21/13 5:36 AM)
            I'm most thankful to David Pike (20 July) for bringing his authoritative voice into this discussion.

            I quite agree with David that Goebbels was the most fanatical Nazi in Hitler's inner circle. One must indeed be insanely fanatical to kill one's entire family before committing suicide, because his world collapsed around him, as Goebbels did at the end of the war. But I do not think that Goebbels could have replaced Hitler, had Hitler died in the July 20 attempt. I do not think so, because Goebbels was merely a cog in the Nazi machinery and he had no personal charisma nor national following, and could not even count on the respect of the rest of the Nazis. Himmler had the command of the SS but I doubt that he could have taken over either. Goering was probably the most ambitious, and perhaps would have attempted to take over. But he commanded only the Luftwaffe, hardly enough to run the Nazi state and of little help if he faced a determined resistance from the Wehrmacht. Nor do I think that Keitel or Doenitz could have resisted the desire of saner officers of the Wehrmacht to force it to continue fighting to the bitter end. Much more likely I think is the scenario that national heroes like Rommel would have taken over the command of the army, and Rommel was of course in the conspiracy to kill Hitler. If this scenario had played out and if the Allies then also had offered a somewhat more favorable peace to Germany than the unconditional surrender that Nazi Germany was forced to accept 10 months later, hundreds of thousands perhaps even a million lives would have been spared the agony of the end of World War II. I would be most interested in David's further thoughts on this bit of counter-factual speculation.

            Regarding the phony war on the Western Front, David is of course right that nether England nor France were ready for a frontal assault on the Wehrmacht that was facing them in September 1939. But there is a world of difference between a frontal massive assault and not firing a single shot at the enemy. England and France very well could have submitted the Germans to a lot of punishing harassment, and constant bombardment, and actually killing hundreds or even thousands of German soldiers, to force the Nazis to take the front seriously and divide their forces. All sorts of side attacks could have been perpetrated which would have made it into a real war instead of the phony war that actually happened. As we all know, the defensive Maginot line did very little good for France once the Germans simply decided to drive around it through Belgium. Hence doing nothing, while Poland was being crucified, did no favors for the Allied military effort.

            JE comments:  During this anniversary of the July Plot, Istvan Simon raises a crucial question:  isn't it a certainty that many thousands of lives would have been saved had the assassination succeeded?

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            • Could Goebbels Have Succeeded Hitler? (Nigel Jones, UK 07/21/13 7:53 AM)

              I beg to differ from Istvan Simon's assessment of Josef Goebbels (21 July). Firstly, although Goebbels was undoubtedly a fanatic. the decision to kill his children in the bunker was not his but that of his wife Magda, who was--if anything--even more fanatical a Nazi than he was. It was she who brought the children into the bunker, she who took the decision to kill them, and she who assisted a doctor in administrating the poison to them--though Goebbels must have acquiesced in her action.

              Secondly, Istvan is way, way wide of the mark when he writes that Goebbels was "merely a cog in the Nazi machinery and had no charisma or personal following." The exact opposite is the truth. Far from being a "cog," Goebbels was Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment and, in a state which put such emphasis on its image, this was an immensely powerful post. Goebbels ran the entire Reich's newspapers, press statements, book publishing, radio, newsreels, and film industries. He briefed editors daily on what to write and was ruthless in laying down the daily line to be taken.

              Nor did his importance to the regime begin in 1933. He was largely responsible for the Nazi takeover of the state in that he ran the party's propaganda, staged its mass rallies, and used such innovations as monster outdoor rallies, and flying Hitler from city to city during election campaigns. As Nazi Gauleiter in Berlin from the late 1920s he was largely responsible for wresting the German capital from the control of the Left and making this "Red" bastion a Nazi citadel. Some cog!

              As to Goebbels' charisma--he was second only to Hitler in his power as a public speaker (see, for example, his speech in 1943 advocating total war)--and achieved huge public popularity late in the war from his many visits to areas devastated by Allied bombing (Hitler never once visited bombed areas, and insisted on the blinds of his personal train being drawn down when he traveled through them: literally shutting out reality). Late in the war it was Goebbels, almost alone, who was the public face of the regime, and was enormously popular for seeming to share the suffering of ordinary Germans.

              His importance to Hitler can be simply demonstrated by the fact that as the end approached in 1945 it was Goebbels who, along with Bormann, was the only senior Nazi who remained with Hitler in the bunker, and it was Goebbels who in Hitler's Last Will and Testament was named as Head of the Nazi party in succession to Hitler. (Admiral Doenitz became Head of State.) After Hitler's suicide it was Goebbels whom made a brief approach to the Russians seeking peace terms. Goebbels was always a left-wing or radical Nazi who had once backed the Strasser brothers against Hitler, and saw the Russians as a more approachable natural "fit" for the Nazis than the western Allies. It was only when his approach was rebuffed, that he drew the inevitable consequences and followed his master Hitler in committing suicide along with Magda.

              As to the counter-factual speculation on who would have followed Hitler had the Fuhrer been assassinated on July 20th: constitutionally, it would have been Goering, who would have sought peace with the western Allies (and probably been rebuffed).

              JE comments:  Interesting.  What details do we know about Goebbel's approach to the Soviets?

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            • Could Goebbels Have Succeeded Hitler? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/21/13 8:42 AM)
              In response to David Pike, Istvan Simon (21 July) commented on a possible replacement to Hitler. Before enumerating a few less likely military candidates, Istvan wrote: "Goebbels was merely a cog in the Nazi machinery and he had no personal charisma nor national following, ... Himmler had the command of the SS but I doubt that he could have taken over either. Goering was probably the most ambitious, and perhaps would have attempted to take over. But he commanded only the Luftwaffe, hardly enough to run the Nazi state."

              Seems as if David and Istvan forgot that Goering was officially the first in line to replace Hitler if necessary. That was true until the end, when Hitler was quite isolated in his Berlin bunker. Assuming that Hitler could no longer function as the Fuhrer, Goering assumed power prematurely in Hitler's diseased mind only to accused of being a traitor, a usurper of Nazi power.

              JE comments: Nigel Jones pointed out earlier today that Goering was legally the first in line to replace Hitler, and would have done so had the July 20th Plot succeeded.

              David Pike (next in queue) has also sent a reply to Istvan Simon's post.

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            • Could Goebbels Have Succeeded Hitler? Response to Istvan Simon (David Pike, France 07/21/13 8:54 AM)
              I thank Istvan Simon for his rejoinder (July 21). Since he asks me to respond on chosen points, I am happy to do so.

              IS: "Goebbels had no personal charisma nor national following."

              DP: I am reminded of the photo in the Geneva journal with the famous caption: "And who might this little runt be? Surely not the representation of the Aryan ideal." Without delving into Goebbels's remarkable physical appeal to women, and his triumph over several of the most beautiful, in liaisons that were certainly not desired by Hitler, Hitler never thought any other Nazi more capable than Goebbels of bewitching an audience or moving the masses. Hess, Goering, Himmler were talking dummies compared with him. I would say that Goebbels, even more effectively than Hitler, would have led the German people into a defiant mass suicide.

              Goering was not merely head of the Luftwaffe. He was Reichsmarschall, second in power. He did attempt to take over the Reich, and Hitler's response to this act of treason was immediate.

              IS: "if [Goebbels] faced a determined resistance from the Wehrmacht"?

              DP: Under Keitel and Jodl? I do not think so. In my research into Wehrmacht morale after the July Plot (Oberkommando West), I was deeply impressed by the loyalty of the troops at every level.

              Unconditional surrender was not negotiable. It was the fundamental Allied agreement that there would be no separate peace. That is why Himmler's attempt to obtain a pact with the West, thus committing his own act of treason, was unacceptable to the Western Allies.

              Germany's western front in 1939 was not undefended. "Side attacks" on the Siegfried Line would have been a replay, but bloodier, of what was first tried in 1915. The biggest difference was the fact that the German and French infantry sitting inside their Siegfried and Maginot fortresses were this time very well protected against artillery and air attack.

              The term "Phony War" can be misunderstood. There was nothing phony about the war at sea, and the attacks on merchant vessels began on the first day. There was nothing phony either about the Battle of the River Plate.

              And on the question in an earlier post of a German battleship forced to scuttle, it was the Graf Spee that was blown up, and not the Bismarck, which fought to the end.

              JE comments:  It's strange that the two principal Nazi ideologues, Hitler and Goebbels, were diametrically opposite towards women:  Hitler had no interest at all, and Goebbels was the quintessential "Ladies' Man."

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              • Hitler's Sexuality (Nigel Jones, UK 07/21/13 4:42 PM)
                Commenting on David Pike's post of July 21, John Eipper wrote, "Hitler had no interest at all [in women}." This is far from the case.

                The question of Hitler's sexuality--and indeed of his whole psychology--is an unresolved and still hotly debated one. Indeed, the chief criticism that I would make of the major mainstream Hitler biographies--those of Bullock, Fest, Kershaw and to a lesser extent, the American John Toland--is that they ignore or brush over the question of Hitler's sexuality in favour of the more explicable "political" aspects of his personality.

                One modern German historian, Lothar Machten, in his book The Hidden Hitler, argues that Hitler was gay, and that the true motivation behind his 1934 purge of his old comrade, Ernst Rohm and other gay leaders of the SA Brownshirts, was to hide this fact.

                What is indisputable is that Hitler had two deeply significant (to him) long-term relationships with two women, his niece Geli Raubel and his assumed "mistress" and finally wife, Eva Braun.

                Geli, daughter of Hitler's half sister and housekeeper, committed suicide with her uncle's pistol in the flat she shared with Hitler (it is now a police station) in Munich's Prinz Regent strasse. Eva, after two half-hearted suicide attempts, finally succeeded in the Berlin bunker with her husband the day after they were joined in wedlock in 1945.

                The exact nature of the relationship between Hitler and these two women is still disputed. There are dark rumours of incest and forced sexual perversion in the case of Geli--and it seems certain that Hitler was unhealthily and perversely possessive of his wayward niece. It is generally assumed that Hitler and Eva had "normal" sex, but again, this is far from certain: his valet, Heinz Linge, hotly denied it to the day he died--citing as evidence that his wife, Hitler's chambermaid, examined the Fuhrer's sheets on a regular basis!

                Apart from these key relationships, Hitler greatly enjoyed the company of pretty women such as actresses, and behaved in a courtly, exaggeratedly Austrian, way with them and with his four female secretaries (remembered their birthdays, presented them with chocolates and flowers, etc.), so it would be wrong to say that the Fuhrer had no interest in the ladies.

                JE comments: I stand corrected. Ever since I read Wallechinsky, Wallace and Wallace's original Book of Lists in the late 1970s, I always assumed that Hitler died a virgin.  Did this interpretation originate with Linge's claim?

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                • Hitler's Sexuality (Robert Whealey, USA 07/22/13 2:20 PM)
                  I agree with Nigel Jones (21 July); Hitler was deeply concerned about sex, and he was definitely sexually deviant. Before this discussion goes much further, I would suggest that those interested in the question, read Robert Waite's Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler, published in 1977. His book has never been replaced. Waite taught for many years at Williams College. Waite's thesis is very convincing for the early years up to 1933. Again questions of Hitler's sexual behavior and drug addictions come to the forefront in 1944-1945.

                  In Hitler's middle years, the Fuhrer's sexual energy was channeled into war planning and making speeches. Waite begins with the fact that the Soviet autopsy showed that Hitler had a missing testicle. The controversy then turned to the question of whether the testicle was missing at birth or lost in France in combat. Waite concludes he was not a homosexual. Hitler did have 14 affairs or liaisons with women of a deviant kind.

                  The homosexual suggestion arises from Hitler's relationship with Ernst Roehm of the SA. He was indeed a well-known homosexual, and Hitler at first treated the SA leader with kid gloves and then murdered him in 1934.

                  Another part of the controversy stems from the fact that Waite accepts the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud. There is a growing anti-Freudian crusade among recent psychologists that began in the 1960s, which has never been explained satisfactorily.

                  JE comments: News flash: His Royal Highness the Prince of Cambridge, son of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, was born today at 4:24 PM BST. My congratulations to the proud parents, and to our friends and colleagues in the UK. (Sorry; I know it's strange to append this happy news to a post on Hitler's sexuality...)

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                  • Hansen's *Hitler's Niece* (Istvan Simon, USA 07/24/13 4:07 AM)
                    There is also the historical novel by Ron Hansen Hitler's Niece, which describes the relationship mentioned by Nigel Jones (21 July) between Hitler and his niece Geli.

                    This book is a work of fiction, not history, but it is based on historical fact. As the author says, he incorporated history when known in the book with actual quotes of Hitler in the dialogue, but "many of the most consequential moments of any person's life go unglimpsed by either historians or journalists, and those intimate moments are where fiction finds its force and interest. I have felt free to invent in those instances, but always in the spirit of likelihood and fidelity to the record."

                    Geli committed suicide in September 1931 to escape her virtual imprisonment by a domineering Hitler. She had wanted to go to Vienna to further pursue singing lessons. Hitler forbade her to go. Her answer was through her death. Hitler later declared that Geli was the only woman he had ever loved.

                    Hitler went into a deep depression over Geli's death and contemplated also killing himself. It is a pity he did not. Had he done so, much grief would have been spared the world.

                    JE comments:  Yes, a pity.  But this possibility also opens up the biggest WWII counterfactual question of all:  what if there had been no Hitler?  For historical determinists it would have made no difference:  a different Hitler-like figure would have appeared.

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                    • What If There Had Been No Hitler? (Nigel Jones, UK 07/24/13 5:49 AM)
                      In answer to John Eipper's hypothetical question, "What if there had been no Hitler?" (July 24th) as a firm and unashamed believer in the importance of the individual in history, and having studied Hitler and Nazism in some detail, I am completely convinced that without the crucial impact of Hitler as a person, the Nazi movement would not have come to power in Germany, and the nightmare of World War II would not have happened.

                      Similarly, had Count Stauffenberg had time to prime his bomb with the second plastic explosive charge he was carrying and thus doubled its power, the millions who died in the futile resistance of the Reich between July 20th 1944 and May 1945 might not have lost their lives. And had Hitler not left the Munich beer hall nine minutes before Georg Elser's bomb exploded in November 1939, even more lives might have been spared.

                      On such random threads and chances does History hang.

                      JE comments: This Carlylian take on WWII doesn't take into account the revanchist mood prevalent in Germany post-Versailles. Hitler didn't create this sentiment; he just exploited it.

                      So what do WAISers think: is it reasonable to say that without Hitler, there would have been no Second World War?  How about a "WWII-lite"--a limited conflict without the horrors of the Holocaust?  And what about Japan?  (I know, some historians in WAISdom will reprimand us for going down the road of hypothetical history.)

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                      • What If There Had Been No Hitler? (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece 07/24/13 7:54 AM)
                        Regarding the causes of WWII, the structural argument goes as follows: In 1917 Germany effectively won the European war (collapse of Russia, exhaustion of France); only the entry of the United States changed the course of the war. So Britain, France and Russia on their own proved inadequate in balancing German power. But since neither the United States nor Soviet Russia/USSR participated in the League of Nations and were isolationist (Moscow only until 1934, it is true, but even during 1934-1939 it was unable to form an alliance with the UK and France), this left only Britain and France against Germany. Since German society was highly revisionist in the sense of rejecting Versailles as illegitimate, sooner or later Germany would move to undo the odiously anti-German parts of the peace treaty. Britain and France alone would then not be able to stop Germany.

                        Now this does not mean that WWII was inevitable. After all, Britain and France did accept revisions of Versailles that were anti-German and were perceived as unjust. Even the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland could be justified under the principle of self-determination. It is only when Hitler annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia, that he was seen as going clearly beyond rectification of injustices.

                        Hitler as a personality ensured a second World War, because a central objective of his was re-doing the map of Eastern Europe along the lines of American expansion westwards (except that in the American case 900,000 Indians were displaced, whereas Hitler planned to reduce hundreds of millions of Slavs to helot status). His racism vis-à-vis the Slavs in Poland and the Soviet Union ensured that the war in East Europe was unbelievably savage--and I am not even referring to the Holocaust, which was also entirely unimaginable without Hitler. Because of Hitler the things that happened during 1939-1945 in the space roughly between Berlin and Moscow were amongst the worst ever.

                        JE comments:  Harry Papasotiriou has done a masterful job of distilling into three paragraphs the causes of (Europe's) WWII.  Of course, there's the Pacific, too.

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                      • What If There Had Been No Hitler? (Randy Black, USA 07/24/13 4:19 PM)
                        I'm intrigued by Nigel Jones's 24 July post including comments from Istvan Simon and John Eipper. All seem to be speculating as to a hypothetical theory that had there been no Hitler, there would have been no WWII.

                        Are they saying that with no Hitler, there would have also been no attack on Pearl Harbor? And what of Stalin and his gang? Did not Stalin need a raison d'etre? Perhaps Stalin would have started his own WWII one way or the other.

                        It's an interesting road to go down. I'm inclined to surmise that this "time machine" scenario would lead to an endless series of speculative events.

                        How about eliminating the Treaty of Versailles? Or perhaps a treaty that treated Germany less harshly.

                        And then there's the matter of the wrong turn taken by the man driving the Archduke of Austria-Hungary and the chance shooting by Gavrilo Princip, an assassination that led to WWI.

                        And what of John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald? What if Booth's pistol had misfired and Lincoln had lived. Ditto Oswald and JFK. What if Oswald's mail order rifle had not been sighted properly and the bullets had missed JFK's head at Dealey Plaza in Dallas? Speaking of Oswald, there are a number of events planned in Dallas this fall that will lead us up to the half-century mark after the assassination of JFK. Having been at Love Field for JFK's arrival way back when, the thought that it's been 50 years makes me feel... really old.

                        JE comments: But Randy Black is timeless! And totally on the mark here: counterfactual historical speculation is fascinating, but beyond the salubrious mental exercise, what do we gain from it?

                        For the record, I'm not of the "no Hitler, no WWII" creed.

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                        • What If There Had Been No Hitler? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/25/13 10:03 AM)
                          It seems very likely that without Hitler a possible WWII would be dramatically different. Without Hitler, no Nazi Germany. Without Nazi Germany the Japanese would probably not have attacked Pearl Harbor, America would not have become the industrial center for the world, and the atomic bomb would have waited for decades to happen, if ever. Europe would have dragged on economically. Stalin would eventually have make the USSR very powerful and perhaps forced an European war in the 1950s.

                          Randy Black (24 July) is probably right implying that without the Treaty of Versailles or with a treaty less harsh to Germany, Hitler would never have gained power. Of course, without WWI there would have been no Versailles Treaty.

                          JE comments: Should we simply have listened to Wilson?

                          It's noteworthy that this conversation has evolved from the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht (John Heelan, 14 July) to...Hitler. Godwin's Law strikes again!

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                          • What If There Had Been No Hitler? On Stauffenberg and the Other Plotters (Anthony J Candil, USA 07/25/13 5:48 PM)
                            Just a few comments on the "If no Hitler" thread.

                            History is full of "ifs," but that's not history, it's pure speculation. However, it's nice always to guess.

                            It's difficult to imagine what would have happened if the July 1944 plot had been successful, but as Professor Richard Evans, from Cambridge, wrote, "Had Stauffenberg's bomb succeeded in killing Hitler, it is unlikely that the military coup planned to follow it would have moved the leading conspirators smoothly into power." So perhaps either Goebbels, Goering, or Himmler would have just stepped in. I think that's the reason why Stauffenberg wanted to catch all of them together.

                            Nevertheless, let me make some comments precisely on some of the main military officers involved.

                            Count von Stauffenberg was mainly motivated by the impulsive passions of the disillusioned military man whose eyes had been opened by the defeat of German forces. Stauffenberg had shifted to the rebel side only after Stalingrad, in 1943, and subsequently asked for a field command position. He went to the Afrika Korps, where he was assigned as a staff officer to the 10th Panzer Division, being wounded in Tunisia just a few months later and then evacuated back to Germany.

                            Between May, 1940 and February, 1943 he was comfortably seated in Berlin, at the OKH (Army General Staff), within the Organization Branch. And he joined again the OKH after recovering from his wounds in Africa. So, he was an officer of limited combat experience if I'm allowed to say. It looks however that he took part in the Polish Campaign and in the invasion of France, but always as a staff officer with the rank of Hauptmann (captain), and never commanding directly a combat unit. Probably that's why he wasn't decorated with the Knight's Cross; however, he got an Iron Cross (1st Class) after the fall of France.

                            While living in London between 1985 and 1991, I met Stauffenberg's son Berthold, who was then a brigadier general in the German Bundeswehr and military attache in London. We didn't see each other much, but I asked him once why his father didn't make an attempt against the Fuhrer much earlier, e.g. in 1940 or even earlier, and his answer, while polite, was elusive. He said that situation wasn't ripe, and so on. In other words that only when Germany was on the verge of losing was it correct or convenient to get rid of the Fuhrer. I'm fully convinced that if Germany hadn't been losing the war, probably nobody would have dared to rise against Hitler, which in my view takes away much value from the attitude of the coup's perpetrators.

                            General Ludwig Beck--in my view superbly characterized by Terence Stamp in the Tom Cruise movie--had been removed from the Werhmacht at the time of the Czech crisis, in 1938, and replaced by general Franz Halder, so he had no influence whatsoever among the German population and even within military ranks. I doubt very much the German people would have followed him. Generals Fromm and Olbricht were mediocre officers, just pure bureaucrats (both were rejected and removed from field commands in the Afrika Korps by Field Marshall Rommel himself). The truth is that no key relevant military officer joined the mutiny in a direct way, and perhaps that's why the plot failed also.

                            As I said before, too many "ifs"...

                            By the way, Brigadier General von Stauffenberg's predecessor in London at that time was BG Speidel, son of general Speidel, who was chief of staff of Rommel at the time of D-Day. We got along well, although we didn't discuss the July 20, 1944 plot ever, in spite of his father being aware of what happened and very close to the "rebels." When together we talked about Normandy and he shared some interesting remarks from his father's diary. I will share them with you in due time. In 2001 I came to meet a grandson of von Stauffenberg too but I never talked to him about the past. He was a young man then working for the German defense industry in Spain (I believe it was the Rheinmetall company).

                            JE comments: The July 20th plot never ceases to fascinate. I thank Anthony Candil for sharing these interesting personal encounters.

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                            • Stauffenberg and the July Plotters (Nigel Jones, UK 07/26/13 4:32 AM)

                              I too thank Anthony Candil for his reflections on the July plot against Hitler (July 25th), though I think he's being a little unfair to the plotters--especially to Stauffenberg. Let me explain why.

                              While it is true that Stauffenberg always held staff positions in the Army, and never led a unit in combat, this in no way detracts from his personal courage--which was enormous. While a latecomer to the conspiracy, once on board his charisma and driving energy galvanised his co-conspirators, who had rather lapsed into a state of fatalistic apathy after the repeated failure of earlier plots against Hitler's life.

                              As Chief of Staff of the Reserve Army following his combat injuries in Tunisia in 1943, Stauffenberg was in a key position, not only to use the existing plan "Operation Valkyrie" (to put down a hypothetical rising by the enormous number of foreign workers inside Germany) as a cover for an anti-Nazi putsch, but also to use his regular access to Hitler's military conferences to assassinate him.

                              That is why, despite his appalling injuries--he had lost an eye, a hand and all but three fingers of his remaining hand--he decided that he personally was best placed to plant the bomb to kill Hitler. In short, this one man was, as I say in my book Countdown to Valkyrie: "the heart, the head and the hand" of the conspiracy--at once its leader, its inspiration, and its hitman.

                              The subtext of Anthony's post is that the conspirators only took action against Hitler once he was clearly losing the war--but this is far from the case. Two notable conspirators whom he does not mention are Colonel Hans Oster, the deputy to Admiral Canaris, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service; and Brigadier General Henning von Tresckow, Chief of Staff at Army Group Centre in Russia.

                              Oster attempted to organise a putsch against Hitler as early as September 1938 when he was threatening Czechoslovakia, and only the cave-in of Chamberlain and Daladier at Munich aborted the plan. He also warned both the Danish and Norwegian military attaches in Berlin of Hitler's plans to attack their respective nations--to no avail. Falling under suspicion, he was dismissed and placed under house arrest in 1943, and arrested following the July plot. He was executed along with Canaris and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Flossenberg concentration camp in the last days of the war.

                              Tresckow recruited a team of young officers at the Army Group Centre HQ to deal with Hitler. Their "nearest miss" was when they managed to smuggle a bomb disguised as two Cointreau liquor bottles on to Hitler's plane after he visited their HQ near Smolensk. Unaccountably, the bomb failed to explode on schedule, and one of Tresckow's team, Fabian von Schlabrendorff, had the tricky task of flying to Berlin to retrieve the bomb before it was discovered. He succeeded in doing so--substituting two real Cointreau bottles--and risked his life in dismantling the bomb in the toilet of a train.

                              Tresckow committed suicide in the wake of the failure of the July plot. Schlabrendorff was arrested, brutally tortured and condemned to death by the notorious "hanging Judge" Roland Freisler in the Nazi People's Court. The appalling Freisler was actually holding Schlabrendorff's case file when he was killed by an Allied bomb in the courtroom. Schlabrendorff appealed against his sentence on the grounds of his torture and, amazingly, his appeal was successful and he survived the war--one of the very few conspirators to do so. Ironically, he eventually became a judge of Germany's supreme constitutional court--the Verfassungsgericht.

                              Another rare survivor whom Anthony does mention, was Maj. General Hans Speidel, Rommel's Chief of Staff in Normandy, who tried to get Rommel to join the conspiracy. Apart from a few grumbles, the "Desert Fox" declined, though doubts about his loyalty were enough to persuade the Nazis to force Rommel to kill himself as an alternative to going before the People's Court. I believe that Speidel became NATO's top commander in Europe after the war.

                              Rommel's successor in Normandy after the Desert Fox, seriously injured in an Allied air strike, was Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge. When Kluge had been commanding Army Group Centre, Tresckow had repeatedly urged the Field Marshal to act against Hitler, earning the nickname "the clockmaker" for having repeatedly to wind up his rather irresolute boss to action, though in the end Kluge did nothing.

                              In the wake of the July plot's failure, Kluge, too, like Rommel, came under Hitler's suspicion of disloyalty (when he "disappeared" for a day while inspecting the Normandy front, the Fuhrer thought he had defected to the Allies). Late on July 20 Kluge had been visited at his Normandy HQ by General Karl Heinrich von Stulpnagel, military commander of occupied France, who tried to persuade him to join the plot. By then, Kluge had heard the news that Hitler had survived the bomb and remarked "I would--if only the swine were dead." He advised Stulpnagel to vanish.

                              Paris, in fact, was the only place where the Valkyrie putsch was completely successful. Stulpnagel and the plotters in Paris succeeded in arresting all the SS and SD men in the capital and detaining them. When the news came through that Hitler had survived, they had to release them--amidst many embarrassing excuses.

                              Both Kluge and Stulpnagel were recalled to Berlin to face the music and both attempted suicide by shooting themselves en route in the vicinity of the old battlefield of Verdun (where Stulpnagel had fought in WWI). Kluge succeeded, while Stulpnagel only succeeded in blinding himself. He survived to be tortured, tried at the People's Court, and hanged--the same grim fate that awaited the majority of the conspirators.

                              I got much of my information on these events when I too, like Anthony, met Stauffenberg's eldest son, General Berthold Count von Stauffenberg, at his home near Stuttgart and interviewed him at length for my book. I also spoke at length about the plot with the late great writer Ernst Junger when I was staying at his house--also near Stuttgart in 1983. (His house in the village of Wilflingen, now a Junger museum, had once been the property of the Stauffenberg family.) Junger was friends with both Speidel and Stulpnagel--in fact he had been due to dine with the latter on the very evening when he was recalled to Germany and his death. Junger himself was on the fringes of the conspiracy and was retired from the army in semi-disgrace, though, as with Rommel, the Nazis felt it would be a PR disaster to put such a decorated war hero on trial.

                              My own view is that while the majority of the Army officer corps remained--however reluctantly--loyal to Hitler until the bitter end, and others, such as Fromm, Kluge, and Hoepner, were opportunists who would only join the winning side, there was a small and dedicated number who, often motivated by their Christian consciences, became convinced that Hitler's regime was evil incarnate and actively plotted to dispose of the Fuhrer and end the war. In doing so, they were not only committing treason, but breaking the personal oath of loyalty to the Fuhrer that all had been required to swear. In doing so they risked not only public disgrace and a horrible death for themselves, but for their families--under the Nazis' notorious "Sippenhaft" ("Kin punishment") decree--also. The courage needed to do all this should not be underestimated, and it does a disservice to their memory not to acknowledge it.

                              JE comments:  Two thumbs up for Nigel Jones's Countdown to Valkyrie.  As I pointed out a few weeks ago, one of my favorite sections of Nigel's book deals with the "Lone Wolf" Georg Elser's one-man plot against Hitler in Munich, whereby he painstakingly placed a bomb over the course of days and at great personal risk.  If only Elser had succeeded...

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                            • Stauffenberg and the July Plotters (Istvan Simon, USA 07/26/13 5:20 AM)
                              I disagree with Anthony Candil (25 July). Field Marshal Rommel was a German hero and he joined the plot to kill Hitler. He had considerable following and authority within the Wehrmacht, and even more importantly, he was a legend with the German people.

                              By 1944 the Nazi regime had lost much of its popular support within Germany. Stalingrad and the successive defeats of the Wehrmacht, the bombing of the Allies that the Luftwaffe was unable to stop or deter, the savage totalitarian persecution of everyone who did not toe the Nazi party line--all of this contributed to the idea that being the supposedly superior and invincible "Ubermensch" just was not as much fun anymore as when the Nazis came to power, and that these Nazi ideas were ultimately insanity that just did not conform to the hard realities of defeat. So, to anyone with half a brain, it was by then clear that Germany had lost the war, and that there was no upside at all, nor any reason for the subsequent slaughter to the bitter end. The 1000-year Reich was to last only 12 years, and the only question was how to stop the German population itself from going down in flames with Hitler.

                              Furthermore, this was clear to most of the top Nazis themselves, and many started to plan for their escape and survival after the war would be over. So I do not believe that Hitler's regime would have survived him, had the plotters been successful in July 1944.

                              JE comments: Nigel Jones (26 July) wrote that Rommel had declined to join the plotters, even though he was implicated and forced to commit suicide.

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                              • No High-Level Nazis Escaped (Nigel Jones, UK 07/27/13 4:03 AM)
                                If, as Istvan Simon claimed on 26 July, "many of the top Nazis recognised that the war was lost and started to plan for their escape and survival after the war," it is very odd that not a single one managed to achieve it.

                                Sir Ian Kershaw's most recent book The End is dedicated to asking the question of why the Third Reich, facing defeat, did not collapse--and went on functioning and resisting until the bitter end.

                                In fact almost all the senior Nazis, far from recognising reality and planning their escape, chose like Hitler either to go down with the ship and killed themselves, or passively awaited their arrest. Here's a list in rough order of seniority:

                                Hitler: committed suicide in the Berlin bunker.

                                Goering: surrendered to the US Army at his Austrian castle. Tried at Nuremberg, sentenced to death but cheated hangman by swallowing cyanide two hours before his execution.

                                Himmler: Swallowed cyanide pill after being arrested by British troops.

                                Goebbels: Committed suicide with his wife in the Berlin bunker.

                                Bormann: Killed by Russian fire after leaving the Berlin bunker.

                                Ribbentrop: Arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

                                Kaltenbrunner: Arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

                                Ley: arrested, hanged himself at Nuremberg awaiting trial.

                                Rosenberg: arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

                                Frank: Arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg

                                Sauckel: Arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

                                Speer: Arrested, tried and jailed for 20 years at Nuremberg.

                                Von Schirach: Arrested, tried and jailed for 20 years at Nuremberg.

                                Hess: Already in Allied custody: jailed for life at Nuremberg.

                                Keitel: Arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

                                Jodl: Arrested, tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

                                Raeder: Arrested and jailed for 10 years at Nuremberg.

                                Doenitz: Arrested and jailed for 10 years at Nuremberg.

                                The two notorious figures who did manage to get away--the Auschwitz "doctor death" Josef Mengele and the SS bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann, who both escaped to South America, were by no stretch of the imagination leading Nazis, and probably never even met Hitler.

                                JE comments:  It is surprising that no one in the Nazi upper hierarchy managed to elude the victors.  Perhaps this is why so many urban legends were invented after the war, of Hitler living in Paraguay and the like.

                                What we can conclude is that Siegfried Ramler and his colleagues at Nuremberg did an extremely thorough job!

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                                • High-Level Nazis Post-WWII (Istvan Simon, USA 07/28/13 4:18 AM)
                                  Nigel Jones (27 July) said that he finds it odd that most of the top Nazi officials did not escape after the war, if they had recognized that the war was lost, as I had claimed. I think this is not so strange given their notoriety, and that all the armies that occupied Nazi Germany were looking for them. He then gave a list of top Nazis and their fates. Still it is worth looking into this question in more depth than just assuming that their deaths or capture gives the whole story.

                                  Nigel accepts the German government's conclusion of 1973 that Martin Bormann was killed by Russian fire in 1945. Bormann, like Goebbels, was loyal to Hitler to the last moment. So he is not a good example for my thesis. Nonetheless, Bormann's death was never accepted by Simon Wiesenthal nor some other notable authorities, like Hugh Trevor Roper, so there is a possibility that indeed Bormann may have escaped to South America and his fate is still unknown. Axmann, the director of Hitler Youth, did escape to South America. It is partly based on Axmann's account that he supposedly saw Bormann's dead body that the theory of his death by Russian fire was born. But as Trevor-Roper has noted, Axmann was an unrepentant Nazi and had good reason to lie, and his account should not be accepted. There is also the DNA match with a relative of Bormann's, which was claimed to establish that the skeletal remains of one of two corpses that were disinterred in 1972 was Bormann's. Nonetheless, Simon Wiesentahl and many others were not satisfied that this conclusively established Bormann's identity. According to the doubters, the skeletal remains could be of a Bormann relative, and so the theory of Bormann's fate is still controversial today. If the doubters are right, Bormann is the most senior Nazi who escaped. Whatever his true fate, he was a monster responsible for the deaths of millions. But something else that is relevant to my thesis should be still mentioned: he reportedly did try to negotiate his escape with the surrounding Russian forces.



                                  It is well established that Himmler tried to negotiate his escape. That he did not succeed and died in custody through suicide is no evidence against my thesis. Hitler was so enraged by Himmler's disloyalty that he ordered him arrested, and Himmler's deputy was indeed caught and shot by the Nazis. Hitler had little control of the situation by that time, and so Himmler escaped Hitler's wrath and his pursuers and went into hiding. But in any case, this clearly shows that being disloyal to Hitler while he was still alive carried its own obvious grave risks to life and limb, and the behavior of the top Nazis must be examined in the light of this fact. In the totalitarian regime that they helped create, they were in the end between a rock and a hard place, and there were severe limitations on what they could or could not do.


                                  Goering and Bormann were in competition for power within Nazi Germany, and hated each other. Goering had been designated the successor of Hitler at the beginning of the war. But gradually he lost favor with Hitler. Fearful that when Hitler would kill himself Bormann would take over, he asked Hitler to be designated responsible for Nazi Germany at the end of the war. Bormann intercepted this letter and convinced Hitler that Goering had committed treason. Hitler stripped him of all his Nazi titles and expelled Goering from the party. Thus it could be argued that Goering does not conform to my thesis. Nonetheless, Goering surrendered to American forces, apparently expecting favorable treatment. However, his ruthlessness, lack of any decency, in short his crimes were both so numerous and heinous that he was sentenced to death by hanging at Nuremberg. He cheated the executioner's noose with poison, and committed suicide a day before being hanged.


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                                  • High-Level Nazis Post-WWII: Martin Bormann's Remains (Nigel Jones, UK 07/29/13 4:08 AM)
                                    I am sorry to keep correcting Istvan Simon (July 28) about Nazi history, but it is a subject which I know a fair amount about. I can assure him that there is no possibility whatsoever that Martin Bormann escaped to South America--though rumours that he did (along with Adolf Hitler himself) persisted for decades. They lasted, in fact, until Bormann's skeletal remains were discovered in 1972 by workmen digging very close to where he had last been seen alive near the Lehrter rail station after escaping the Berlin bunker on May 1st/2nd 1945.

                                    After being examined by the German authorities, the remains were identified as those of Bormann based on his dental records and a broken collarbone sustained in a riding accident. With the advance in DNA forensic science in the 1990s, the remains were again positively identified as those of Bormann by a DNA comparison with some of his many children, including his son Fr. Martin Bormann, a Roman Catholic priest, (Bormann senior was, ironically, a fanatical anti-Christian.) Fr. Bormann conducted the subsequent burial at sea of his father's ashes in the Baltic. (Incidentally, this identification was accepted in 1998 even by Simon Wiesenthal, who had vehemently denied it until such denials finally made him appear ridiculous.)

                                    The two "authorities" cited by Istvan who refused to accept that Bormann had not died in Berlin have themselves been completely discredited. The British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre) ended his distinguished career in ignominy in 1984 when he positively identified the grotesque forgeries of Konra Kujau as the authentic diaries of Adolf Hitler. The so-called "Nazi hunter" Simon Wiesenthal' s reputation was comprehensively demolished in my friend Guy Walters's book Hunting Evil (2009), which I strongly recommend to Istvan, in which Walters proved that Wiesenthal had lied repeatedly about his own experiences in World War II--doubling the number of camps he had been detained in from five to eleven, for example. Moreover, a drawing reproduced in one of his contradictory memoirs which he claimed he made in Mauthausen concentration camp, was in fact based on photos of Mauthausen that appeared in Life magazine. He also wildly exaggerated his part in tracking down Adolf Eichmann, which was a function of Mossad professional intelligence rather than the delusions of Mr Wiesenthal.

                                    I interviewed Wiesenthal in Vienna in the early 1990s and I have to say that I found him a catankerous and self-publicising braggart, whose reputation as a "Nazi-hunter" is undeserved, and based on his own lies, fantasies and exaggeration.

                                    JE comments:  Randy Black (next in queue) also writes on the DNA tests which proved the identity of Bormann's remains.

                                    Simon Wiesenthal died in 2005.  He hasn't appeared on the pages of WAIS since that time, but Nigel Jones's appraisal of Wiesenthal goes against the popular view (in the US at least) that remembers SW in hagiographical terms.

                                    Should we begin a discussion on Wiesenthal's legacy?  Did anyone else in WAISworld have the chance to meet him?

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                                  • Martin Bormann's Remains (Randy Black, USA 07/29/13 4:25 AM)
                                    In his 28 July post, Istvan Simon puts forward unfounded but persistent theories that have survived the decades after WWII that Nazi Martin Bormann might have survived WWII and escaped to South America.

                                    In researching the facts, I found many conspiracy theories regarding the death of Martin Bormann. Adding to the conspiracy matters are statements from Joseph Stalin, who was apparently convinced that the Nazi escaped and may have told others on several occasions after the war.

                                    Others claimed that, notwithstanding the DNA testing more than 50 years later, the body found in the German grave in 1972 was not Bormann's but was that of a body double. This, despite eyewitness testimony of Artur Axmann, who had escaped the bunker with Bormann and Dr. Stumpfegger.

                                    Istvan surmised, "According to the doubters, the skeletal remains could be of a Bormann relative, and so the theory of Bormann's fate is still controversial today. If the doubters are right, Bormann is the most senior Nazi who escaped."

                                    Those "doubters" who are not identified are mostly likely neo-Nazis and Nazi hunters, according to everything I could find on the Internet.

                                    However, the widely publicized 1997 DNA test on remains long identified as Bormann's that were discovered in 1972, demonstrated beyond doubt that the body tested in Germany by Swiss and German forensic examiners was the Nazi leader.

                                    The DNA test did not offer any possibility that the remains were those of a Bormann relative. The DNA test was conducted on Bormann's skull.

                                    Also used during the DNA testing were Bormann's dental records and eyewitness testimony regarding where Bormann was said to have died, according to dozens of sources including the UK's Independent and the LA Times (May 6, 1998).

                                    From the Times: "The bones discovered in Berlin were widely thought to be those of Bormann after dental records and injuries found on the remains matched those of Hitler's henchman, but rumors of his escape and survival continued.

                                    "The DNA test 'rules out any further speculation over the death or survival of Martin Bormann after 1945 for any serious reporter,' the family said in a statement."

                                    Case closed.

                                    JE comments:  Nazis are both repugnant and endlessly fascinating in the popular imagination, which explains the proliferation of conspiracy theories about disappearances after the war.  How about the theory that Hitler escaped to Japan in a specially equipped submarine?
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                                    • Martin Bormann's Remains; on Simon Wiesenthal (Istvan Simon, USA 07/30/13 11:35 AM)
                                      In response to Randy Black (29 July), I did mention in my post the 1973 DNA results. I was unaware of the DNA tests in the 1990s, and so I am for one glad that Bormann died as originally proposed.

                                      I disagree with Nigel Jones's assessment of Simon Wiesenthal. To me it is largely irrelevant what Nigel wrote about flaws in his character. These flaws may be true or not, but nonetheless I think that it does not detract from his contributions in hunting down Nazis, for which he deserves both honor and credit.

                                      JE comments: I wonder if our own Siegfried Ramler met Simon Wiesenthal. If so, we'd love to hear from you, Siegfried!

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                                      • Simon Wiesenthal (Nigel Jones, UK 07/31/13 4:00 AM)
                                        Since Istvan Simon told me off-WAIS that he would read the book Hunting Evil by Guy Walters, in which Simon Wiesenthal's lies are laid bare, I am slightly surprised that he has made his mind up about Wiesenthal (July 30th) without looking first at the abundant evidence presented in the book that the man was a lifelong liar and a fraud.

                                        Istvan concedes that Wiesenthal may have had "character flaws"--but we all have those. What I am talking about is something far more serious: a pyramid of lies built up over decades to conceal his true wartime record which--as Guy Walters is forced by the evidence to conclude--was most probably that of a Kapo, or camp collaborator with the Nazis. Only this can explain his otherwise "miraculous" survival in the camps. I think that it was guilt over this, not zeal for the truth, that fueled Wiesenthal's post-war career as a "Nazi hunter" (a hunter, by the way, who conspicuously failed to catch many Nazis).

                                        Wiesenthal's own contradictory accounts of his life were so riddled with inconsistencies that, as Walters writes: "Wiesenthal's reputation is built on sand. He was a liar, and a bad one at that. From the end of the war to the end of his life in 2005, he would lie repeatedly about his supposed hunt for Eichmann as well as his other Nazi-hunting exploits. Wiesenthal would also concoct outrageous stories about his war years and make false claims about his academic career. Indeed, there are so many inconsistencies between his three main memoirs, and between those memoirs and contemporaneous documents that it is impossible to establish a reliable narrative from them alone.

                                        "These accounts are also strewn with numerous inaccuracies, which make it hard to reconcile the unreliable figure that emerges with that of the brilliant sleuth. In addition, Wiesenthal's scant regard for the truth makes it possible to doubt everything he ever wrote or said."

                                        Doubts about Wiesenthal's veracity are not confined to Guy Walters--a scrupulous researcher and former Times journalist who makes something of a specialty of demolishing "false history." (And no one has yet come forward to refute or dispute the charges against Wiesenthal in Walters's book.) They fueled the famous feud between Wiesenthal and the late socialist post-war Chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kreisky, a non-practicing Jew forced to flee Austria by the Nazis. Kreisky went so far as to accuse Wiesenthal of being a Gestapo agent--a charge found by an Austrian court to be defamatory.

                                        It is, however, extremely important to nail Wiesenthal and his life of lies since, as I wrote privately to Istvan:

                                        "I think its doubly important for those who call themselves 'Nazi hunters' like Wiesenthal to be squeaky clean and whiter than white, so that they do not inadvertently give neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers any ammunition. The trouble is, that SW has been exposed as a liar so that rather devalues his life's work. Now his lies may--probably were--caused by confusion, memory lapses, inadequate records and sheer human vanity rather than malice, but lies they were. No one doubts that he had a terrible time during the war, but the experience made him into a pretty terrible person. Rather than the hundreds he claimed to have hunted down, the Nazis he nailed can be counted on the fingers of a lumberjack's hands. In the case of Eichmann, for example, he hindered rather than helped the hunt by putting up false hares. In another case cited by Guy Walters he misidentified a Canadian as a Nazi, ruined his life, and refused to admit he made a mistake. I cannot respect a person like that, even though I can understand how his suffering might have deformed his life."

                                        JE comments:  I am particularly intrigued by the possibility that Wiesenthal may have been a concentration-camp Kapo, although this status did not ensure one's survival in the camps.  Often the Kapos were singled out for execution after they were no longer "useful" to their overlords.

                                        Of relevance here may be the experience of Calel Perechodnik, a Jewish Pole who collaborated with the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto police.  His book Am I a Murderer? is one of the most brutal--and brutally honest--memoirs of the Holocaust.  Among other things, Perechodnik personally placed his wife and child on a train bound for Treblinka.  He did not survive the war.


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                                        • Guy Walters on Simon Wiesenthal (Istvan Simon, USA 08/01/13 4:30 AM)
                                          I do not know Guy Walters, who is a friend of Nigel Jones, but I assume he is a meticulous journalist, just as Nigel says he is (31 July). Nonetheless, I am compelled to respond to Nigel's post. I do not want to confine this to a discussion about the lies or not of Simon Wiesenthal. I want to respond to something more general, an attitude that I sense in Nigel's post when he talks about Kapos and concentration camps.

                                          Mr. Walters may be a great journalist and a magnificent truthful human being. But no matter what his character or training is, there is something that he cannot change, and which will impair his ability to make judgments, particularly moral judgments, about people who were persecuted during World War II and thrown into concentration camps for no other reason than they were Jews or Roma or just did not agree with Hitler and his terribly inhumane Nazi Reich.

                                          What Mr. Walters cannot change is that he was born in 1971. And no one, and I mean no one who did not live through what people that were actually in those camps can make moral judgments about those that were in the camps. That includes myself. I was born after the war, and so even though my own father was taken to Germany and my grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz, for more that I try, I will never be able to fully comprehend what it was like to be there. Only those who lived through that dark and horrible period of history can.

                                          JE comments: I understand Istvan Simon's outrage, but if we limit historical judgments on the Holocaust to those who experienced it, we're almost at the point where no more commentary is possible.

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                                          • "Who Are We to Judge our Ancestors?" (Luciano Dondero, Italy 08/01/13 5:03 AM)
                                            If one were to accept Istvan Simon's line of reasoning ("who are we to judge what our ancestors did or did not?", there would be almost nothing people could discuss.  I'm afraid it would also means negating the whole of historically based research, thus invalidating the fact that advances in technologically put us and our descendants in a position to understand certain things better that eyewitnesses or contemporaries ever could. To cite just one example, DNA-based analysis of human rests helped settle the issue of Thomas Jefferson's "family."

                                            JE comments:  Luciano Dondero is referring to Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman on the Jefferson estate.  TJ most likely fathered all or most of her six children:


                                            Luciano raises an important point:  eyewitnesses often have only a partial understanding of the events they are experiencing.
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                                            • "Who Are We to Judge our Ancestors?" (Istvan Simon, USA 08/02/13 10:04 AM)
                                              Both Luciano Dondero's response and JE's comment (1 August) seem to indicate that they misunderstood what I said in my post of earlier that day. In contrast, Bienvenido Macario understood the proper context of my remarks.

                                              One can discuss history, one can research it, one can publish it. New technology, like DNA, can and should be applied where appropriate. I said nothing in my post that impedes any of that.

                                              What I said is something completely different: what one should not do is to make moral judgments about those who had to deal with savage, inhumane, and unprecedented persecution without having experienced on their own skin any remotely similar situation. For someone to attempt to make moral judgments about not the perpetrators of the persecution, but their victims, without having faced the same challenges, having been born decades later, is profoundly inappropriate and wrong, and smacks of a severe case of "holier than thou" attitude. That is what I said originally, and that is what I reiterate today.

                                              Can anyone here, who was born after the war, if they were given the severely limited choices that the victims of Nazi persecution had, say that they would not have become Kapos? On what basis can they make such a determination? How can they answer such a question about their own character and reactions, having never experienced anything remotely similar themselves? And if they cannot say so, as I believe to be the case, how can they possibly make moral judgments about those who had to face such inhumane persecution?

                                              JE comments:  Istvan Simon reminds us of the horrific choices that faced many of the victims of Nazi persecution.  What would we have done in their place?  We don't have to answer that question, for which we are blessed.

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                                              • "Who Are We to Judge our Ancestors?" (Leo Goldberger, USA 08/03/13 3:41 AM)
                                                As someone old enough to have suffered at the hands of the Nazi persecution, I emphatically second Istvan Simon's admonishment (2 August) against making any moral judgments about human behavior under extreme circumstances, such as concentration camp captivity under the Nazis.

                                                For an instructive, if not most gripping, account of a Hungarian youngster who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the WAIS readers might be urged to read Imre Kertesz's novelistic autobiography, Fatelessness (a publication dating back to 1975, but only available in English in 1992). It won the literature Nobel Prize in 2002, "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."

                                                It is my view is that the subjective narratives of survivors (despite the inherent problems of veracity requiring careful checking) are nevertheless key to our full understanding of historical events, and ought to be considered in unison with the so-called objective account, so much valued by today's historiographers who tend to dismiss the subjective side as less "factual" than the stuff they dig up in the official archives.

                                                JE comments:  My thanks to Leo Goldberger for joining our conversation, and for the mention of Imre Kertesz, Hungary's greatest living author.  I'm sure Istvan Simon knows Kertesz's work well, and could send us a further comment.

                                                Best wishes to you, Leo!

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                                              • "Who Are We to Judge our Ancestors?" (John Heelan, UK 08/03/13 4:00 AM)
                                                JE commented on 2 August: "Istvan Simon reminds us of the horrific choices that faced many of the victims of Nazi persecution. What would we have done in their place?"

                                                Istvan and JE are correct to highlight the eternal ethical conundrum--can one make moral judgements on the behaviour of others without having stood in their shoes? But equally can the violent actions of Afghans and Palestinians in their own lands, which the West labels as "terrorism," be dismissed as immoral without recognising that to them they are facing seemingly insuperable challenges to life every day?

                                                As Istvan rightly says, "what one should not do is to make moral judgments about those who had to deal with savage, inhumane, and unprecedented persecution without having experienced on their own skin any remotely similar situation." To borrow JE's comment, if we were exposed to similar overwhelming attacks by superior forces and drones, "What would we (do) in their place?"

                                                JE comments:  Istvan Simon will certainly not accept John Heelan's comparison of today's Palestinians with the Holocaust victims of 70 years ago, as it implies the moral equivalency of the Israeli government with the Nazi regime.  I also think such a comparison is misguided.  However, the "what would we do in their place" yardstick, basically a call for empathy, should apply to all situations where injustice and inequality prevail.

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                                                • "Who Are We to Judge our Ancestors?" Further Thoughts (John Heelan, UK 08/04/13 5:56 AM)
                                                  Of course JE is correct (3 August) when he cautions against the comparison of "today's Palestinians with the Holocaust victims of 70 years ago, as it implies the moral equivalency of the Israeli government with the Nazi regime."

                                                  It was not my intention to compare at a macro-level (i.e. quantity) the sufferings of Afghans and Palestinians with the Holocaust. However, at the micro-level (i.e. at the level of the individual), I suspect that similar "never forgive, never forget" feelings against the West and Israel are just as strong and it is at the individual level that attacks are carried out in retribution (e.g. suicide bombers).

                                                  My intention was to support Istvan Simon's and JE's argument that one cannot judge the morality of such actions without personally having experienced the factors that have led to those actions.

                                                  JE comments: A generation ago when I studied in Granada, Spain, it was common to see "Star of David=swastika" graffiti throughout the city. I never understood who could make such a horrific comparison, even under the cloak of darkness. Not that this has to do with John Heelan's very valid point, but has anyone in WAISworld seen similar graffiti in Spain or elsewhere?

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                                                  • Swastika Graffiti in Catalunya (Henry Levin, USA 08/04/13 1:17 PM)
                                                    I have just returned to New York from Spain after most of four months in Catalunya. I have not seen the swastika in any graffiti regarding Israel, but have seen it many times: swastika = Espanya.

                                                    The view towards the Arab and Islamic world is made complex by the large Moroccan immigrant population, periodic arrests of alleged Islamic terrorists, the need for investment from the Gulf, ostentatious displays of Saudi and Gulf wealth in Marbella flaunting large retinues among desperate hordes of unemployed, and the close proximity of whatever is happening in North Africa. There is mild prejudice in the common use of referring to all of the above as Moros rather than specific national origins.

                                                    JE comments: I was uncomfortable even mentioning my sightings of "Star of David = swastika" graffiti in 1980s Spain, but it has inspired a number of interesting responses. Since the 1980s, Spain's view of the Muslim world has probably worsened, which may explain a decreased level of sympathy for the Palestinians vis à vis Israel. But as Henry Levin reports, the swastika is alive and well as the Catalan "spraypainters in the street" express their discontent with Madrid.

                                                    Great to hear from Hank Levin, by the way.

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                                                    • Swastika Graffiti in Catalunya (Jordi Molins, Spain 08/05/13 3:31 AM)
                                                      Henry Levin wrote on 4 August:

                                                      "I have just returned to New York from Spain after most of four months in Catalunya. I have not seen the swastika in any graffiti regarding Israel, but have seen it many times: swastika = Espanya."

                                                      I am surprised by this, since I have never seen any graffiti like "swastika = Espanya" in Catalonia. I have Googled for "swastika = Espanya" and "Espanya = swastika," and there are 0 entries. I have Googled for "Espanya swastika" in Catalan, and I have been unable to find even one entry arguing for Spain being represented by the swastika.

                                                      Instead, if I Google "nazionalismo" or "nazionalista" (the combination in Spanish of "nacionalista," i.e., nationalist, and Nazi) I find hundreds of thousands of entries arguing that we Catalans are Nazis.

                                                      The data from the Google search matches my intuition: for some unknown reason, Spanish nationalism, highly tainted historically by its incestuous relationships with Nazism, argues that Catalans are Nazis.  (Recall the Catalan President Companys was arrested by the Gestapo, delivered to the Francoist rebels, and shot; as far as I know, President Companys is the highest political representative killed during the combination of the Spanish Civil War and WWII.)

                                                      If Henry had said the "swastika = Espanya" had been told to him as a verbal expression, I would have thought some Catalans were trying to convey the message of Spain being totalitarian vis à vis Catalonia, with a concept (Nazism) that would resonate with a US visitor.

                                                      If I may add my personal view, and despite the wealth of data some highly recognized historian WAISers have published showing the strong relationship between Francoism and Nazism, I tend to think Spanish nationalism is much more akin to extremist Islam than to Nazism. Either way, Catalans play the role of the Jews.

                                                      JE comments: Interesting.  For what it's worth, I did find this image of a "nationalist Spain" flag on Wikimedia commons.  I know nothing of its provenance, but it looks like a photo-shop job:


                                                      Perhaps Henry Levin snapped a photo of the graffiti?

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                                                      • Swastika Graffiti in Catalunya (Henry Levin, USA 08/06/13 3:45 AM)

                                                        I wish the subject of graffiti had come up while I was still in Catalunya because I could have invited Jordi Molins (5 August) to take a walking tour of graffiti in our town or taken photos of the graffiti for WAIS viewers. I did not realize that there was an interest in that subject. In any event, I suspect that the best survey of graffiti in a town is to do a walking tour rather than to surf Google.

                                                        Here there may be two assumptions on Jordi's part that seem to lead to his strong reaction. The first is the assumption that I did a systematic survey. I did no survey, but just responded casually to JE's question about whether the swastika was still evident in graffiti in Spain. My observations were limited to casual walks in towns on the Maresme just south of Mataro, and were not represented as a survey of all of Catalunya or Spain. The second assumption is that I saw graffiti with the word "swastika." The graffiti that I saw had the symbol of the swastika, not the word, so any word search might not be appropriate. JE's request was for the symbols that he had seen in Andalusia many years before. However, to give a little more detail, I also saw the symbols (not the words) of hammer and sickle = espanya and the words, puta espanya. The latter was far more common than the communist or nazi symbols.

                                                        Jordi says much more about the treatment of Catalunya by "Madrid," and we, too, heard much of this by our many nationalist friends. But, since we had no horses in this race, we didn't take sides. This frustrated and angered our friends who had a visceral defense of their claims. We found it difficult to get beyond the emotions and establish a discourse on the subject. Even the mere request for accurate information by an outsider simply raises suspicions that one is an Espanyol, as my wife was accused when asking for data on the distribution of tax revenues and expenditure categories among regions as well as the basis for the principle that regions should receive in return exactly exactly what they paid in taxes.

                                                        In the US many states pay more in federal taxes than they receive in benefits per capita, and many states pay much less than they receive. See http://taxfoundation.org/tax-topics/federal-taxes-paid-vs-spending-received-state for detail. These differences do not seem to be major sources of contention because they are consistent with national commitments to provision of services wherever the need for services is located as well as fulfillment of other national goals. For example, a poor state with a low-income population receives more in Medicaid (health care for the poor) than a rich state relative to its population; one that has large senior populations receives more per capita from Medicaid (health care for the old). This does not seem to be a source of contention in the US and is widely accepted. States with large federal installations such as military training or research facilities (national laboratories) such as the National Institutes of Health in Maryland will receive large amounts of spending for these facilities. States with large amounts of federal contracting will experience substantial transfers of federal funds in their direction. National sources of tax revenues and national commitments are not equally distributed.

                                                        We asked our friends for the data that showed what regions sent to "Madrid" and what they received back and the tax and expenditure categories that these entailed. We also asked for the breakdowns of expenditure categories to see if there were explanations as we have for the US. Although we saw some numbers on "disparities" between what regions contributed in taxes and what they received back, we could find no detail breakdown of what they included. For example, there are large differences among regions in unemployment, so one might expect to see greater unemployment benefits in some regions than in others. We were unable to get breakdowns at this level. Basically, the argument was that Catalunya sends more money to "Madrid" than it receives back and that "they are stealing our money." We have no doubt about the latter claim since politicians all over Spain and from every party have been implicated in stealing from the public treasury. But, as outsiders in the debate on nationalism, it is best just to refrain from participation in any form, including requesting accurate and detailed information on claims.

                                                        JE comments:  Politicians "stealing our money"--perhaps bankrupt Detroit relocated to Spain?

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                                                        • Catalan Fiscal Balances vis-a-vis Spain (Jordi Molins, Spain 08/06/13 9:36 AM)
                                                          Henry Levin (6 August) asks for information on Catalan fiscal balances vis à vis Spain. Here is an official document by the Catalan regional government, using official data from the Spanish Treasury:



                                                          --Under the accounting method of Monetary Flow (there is another method, called Flow of Benefit, which shows similar results), in 2010 (the last year with final, official budget execution figures) Catalonia provided 19.4% of Spanish tax revenues. Catalonia received 14.2% of Spanish public expenditure; if one excludes Social Security payments (which are not discretionary by the Spanish central government), Catalonia received 11.3% of Spanish public expenditure (which is basically discretionary by the Spanish central government)

                                                          --The resulting fiscal balance of Catalonia vs Spain was -€16.5bn, i.e., about -8.5% of Catalan GDP. In other words, 8.5% of all Catalan production of goods and services went out from Catalonia and never returned. Seen in another way, each Catalan pays more than €2k per year in taxes which are never reinvested in Catalonia. This fiscal deficit of around -8% / -9% has been maintained since 1986 (the first year with official data since the reinstate of the Catalan regional government).

                                                          It is natural for wealthy regions to pay more taxes than poor regions. Probably there should be some kind of regional balancing among regions within a country. However, there should be limits.

                                                          One limit could be, as in Germany, to preserve the ranking of wealth per capita before and after the redistribution: in Germany, after the redistribution, individuals from the wealthy region remain wealthier on average than citizens from the poor region, but less so than before the redistribution.

                                                          In Spain, this ranking is not preserved, and due to the massive spoliation that Catalonia suffers, Catalonia loses systematically several places in the ranking (in favor of Spanish nationalistic regions).

                                                          My personal opinion is that Spanish nationalistic governments take the big picture view that Catalonia (and Valencia, and the Balearics) should be punished as much as possible for not being "Spanish enough."  In the past, military methods were used to accomplish that goal. Currently, everything is about taxes and spending.

                                                          There have been so many examples of this attitude, so many personal experiences, that I cannot effectively communicate them all through WAIS. Probably the most egregious example is the squandering of a city like Barcelona. For example, a recent MasterCard reports shows Barcelona is in the top ten of the Global Destination Cities Index, and third in Europe, just after London and Paris:


                                                          Madrid is not even in the top 20. Instead, Spanish governments massively invest in Madrid and avoid investing in Barcelona, despite the fact that probably it would be much easier for Barcelona to reach the status of "capital of Southern Europe" if the government of its country were rational and not extremely nationalistic as the Spanish governments are.

                                                          A model for this could be the US: despite Washington being its capital city, Americans in general and American politicians in particular have no problem in letting non-capital cities like New York or Los Angeles becoming bigger and more important than the capital of their country, if their city characteristics allow them to do so.

                                                          In Spain, this is utterly impossible: Madrid has to be bigger, better connected, more important than anything else, by definition. Despite the fact Spain has a unique city like Barcelona, which many other countries would dream of having and transforming it into their capital city.

                                                          JE comments:  Even if we allow for Jordi Molins's (justifiable) pride in his native city, he makes an excellent point about overcentralization in Spain.  (We could say much the same thing about Latin America's tendency to focus government, finance, and culture in one metropolitan center.)  Is the United States model preferable for a nation's well-being?  As Jordi points out, neither New York or Los Angeles (or Chicago or Houston or Miami) is the capital of anything.

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                                                  • Swastika Graffiti (John Heelan, UK 08/04/13 3:43 PM)
                                                    JE asked on 4 August whether graffiti that equates the Star of David with the swastika are seen in other countries. Regrettably, such daubings are sometimes seen on Jewish tombstones in UK graveyards. It is usually the work of anti-Semitic UK neo-Nazi groups. The 2012 report by the (Jewish) Community Security Trust reports such anti-Semitic incidents.


                                                    In Egypt there was a cartoon that demonstrates a swastika changing into a Star of David:


                                                    And in Poland, vandals rearranged bushes at Bialystok cemetery to transform the Star of David into a Nazi swastika.


                                                    JE comments: This is not an isolated trend; Eugenio Battaglia reports that "Star of David = swastika" graffiti are common in Italy. (I've used the plural verb here: one graffito becomes many graffiti.)

                                                    The Bialystok incident is especially alarming, given that city's rich Jewish heritage.  Among other illustrious individuals, Ludwig Zamenhof, inventor of Esperanto and one of my personal heroes, was a Bialystok native.

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                                                  • Swastika Episodes (Luciano Dondero, Italy 08/04/13 5:25 PM)
                                                    In reference to our discussion on Swastika graffiti, you will probably find this intriguing:


                                                    Also this:


                                                    JE comments:  The first link discusses a swastika banner that was flown over the beaches of Long Island last summer, in observance of "Swastika Rehabilitation Day."  That's certainly a tasteless holiday to propose for Long Island.  

                                                    Angell Hall, one of the landmark academic buildings on the U Michigan campus, has a subtle swastika motif in its marble ornamentation.  The building was constructed in the 1920s, and there are occasional calls to remove the offensive design.

                                                    Then there was Detroit's short-lived K-R-I-T Motor Car Company, defunct in 1916, which used the swastika in its logo:


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                                                    • Swastika Episodes (Nigel Jones, UK 08/05/13 4:00 AM)
                                                      The Swastika, as is widely known, is an ancient Hindu sun symbol. As such it adorned a handsome edition of the India-influenced collected works of Rudyard Kipling, including the Just So stories and the Jungle Book published in the 1920s!

                                                      In Germany it was used as a symbol by the extreme Right before the Nazis were properly up and running. Photographic evidence from the failed right-wing Kapp Putsch of March 1920 shows the swastika painted on the helmets of the Putschist Ehrhardt Brigade Freikorps. I reproduced one such picture in my book Hitler's Heralds: the story of the Freikorps 1918-1923. Hitler flew from Munich to Berlin to support the putsch, and it may have been on this occasion that he first saw the swastika.

                                                      JE comments: Could Hitler have picked a more chillingly "catchy" symbol than the Swastika? Other fascist symbols (those of Spain, Italy, Hungary, etc.) just don't convey the dynamism or the sinister power of the Swastika, which has become the single most hated symbol in history. A distant second would be the hammer-and-sickle of the other extreme of the political spectrum.

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                                                      • Most Hated Symbol in History? (David Duggan, USA 08/06/13 10:58 AM)
                                                        I would say the cross is the single most hated symbol in history, if you are weighting the scales by 1) the percentage of people who hated it, and 2) the length of time that it has been hated.

                                                        "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." I Corinthians 1: 18. Second, of course, would be the crescent moon and pentagram star symbol of Islam, originally used by the Moabites in the second millennium before the Common Era. Moabites were the descendants of the incestuous relationship between a drunken Lot and his eldest daughter (not named in the text), described in Genesis 19: 31-37. Hmm. Were the geo-political entities adopting the star and crescent symbol in their flags and seals (e.g., the Ottoman Empire in 1793) purposely trying to rile the Jews? Medieval troops fought under a flag bearing only the crescent moon.

                                                        JE comments:  If we go by David Duggan's criterion 2, then the swastika will never catch up with the Christian cross.  So I'll stand corrected on my original claim that the swastika is the "most hated symbol in history."  I should have said in modern times.

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                                                        • Most Hated Symbol in History? (Roy Domenico, USA 08/07/13 4:40 AM)
                                                          I'm not sure I follow David Duggan's case (6 August) that the cross is the most hated symbol in history. Doesn't this assume that every non-Christian--or many of them(?), or a lot of them(?)--hated the cross? Certainly a lot of Muslims hated the cross at certain times in history, but that can't be quantified in any real sense. Did all Muslims in what is today Indonesia hate the cross during, say, the 17th century? What about Buddhists? What about the peoples of the Americas before Columbus (or after Columbus for that matter)? And on and on.

                                                          JE comments:  Excellent point.  For hated symbols, I'm still going to go with the swastika.

                                                          A question on Muslim theology: given Islam's great veneration for Christ, wouldn't this also carry over to a respect for the cross? Perhaps Vincent Littrell can give us an answer.

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                                                          • The Cross Symbol and Islam (Vincent Littrell, USA 08/07/13 5:00 PM)
                                                            On 7 August, John Eipper posed the following question:

                                                            "Given Islam's great veneration for Christ, wouldn't this also carry over to a respect for the cross?"

                                                            This is an interesting question, and not one I'd thought about from a broad perspective.

                                                            Indeed Islam accepts Jesus Christ as a Messenger of God. Meaning, Muslims do view Christ as a prophet of God, a revealer of God's holy word and a being of high spiritual station in relation to normal mankind. However, they don't view Jesus Christ as God Incarnate, as Trinitarian Christianity does.

                                                            Within Islam there is the widely held opinion that Jesus Christ did not die on the cross. This stems from Qur'anic verses 4:156-159, "That they rejected Faith; That they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said (in boast): 'We killed Christ Jesus The son of Mary, The Messenger of Allah.' But they killed him not, Nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjunction to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up Unto Himself; and Allah Is Exalted in Power, Wise. And there is none of the people of the book (Jews and Christians) But must believe in him (Jesus) Before his death; And on the Day of Judgment He (Jesus) will be a witness Against them."

                                                            Within Islam there is debate on precisely how Jesus ended up dying, but there is general agreement that he was not killed because of the crucifixion.* For example the Ahmadiyyih sect of Islam believes that Jesus died a natural death in Kashmir.

                                                            Now to the sign of the cross in Islam. I am not aware of formal theological doctrine stemming directly from the Qur'an or Hadith (traditions of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) regarding the symbol of the cross and its meaning. I am no expert on Muslims in history regarding the cross as a sign of aggressive barbarism exemplified by the Muslim view of the Crusades. I can say that puritanical Salafists over the last few years have presented anti-Western propaganda videos on the Internet of US military chaplains using the cross in Christian worship service, in order to portray the US military as crusaders bent on destroying the Muslim world and as being mystically linked to the medieval crusaders of the past through the sign of the cross.

                                                            However, I'm not sure that much of mainstream "day-to-day" Islam views the sign of the cross in a negative light. During my time living in Qatar and Afghanistan, I can say that in souks, shops, and bazaars, Muslim merchants seeing me as a Westerner made efforts on a few occasions to sell me cross pendants and necklaces (this might be of course associated with a business-oriented pragmatism as opposed to a respect for the cross). I did however have an Afghan Muslim co-worker who wore a cross necklace that that he was happy to show me hanging under his shirt when working with Westerners, to show an affinity with us. Also, Muslims of my acquaintance recognizing that the sign of the cross is connected to Christianity and that they view Christians as God-sanctioned "peoples of the book," view the cross in the positive light of representing God's allowance for Christianity, which is to be respected. Of course in the realm of formal interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews, and Muslims on Internet sites and documents representing joint statements of those religions' representatives, the cross is to seen co-located with the crescent representing Islam and the star of David representing Judaism. In fact, those who follow the World Parliament of Religion activities will always find these religious symbols and those of other faith traditions and religions on display together, to reflect the underlying essential unity of the world's religions.

                                                            *A quick side note: Of interest the Baha'i Faith, a religion believing in post-Islamic revelation and accepting of the Qur'an as the word of God, confirms the Baha'i belief that Jesus was indeed crucified, which then points to the question of how does one interpret Qur'anic Surahs 4:156-159? A possible Baha'i perspective on this might be that the spirit of Jesus transcended any notion of crucifixion, and as Jesus Himself once stated, "Let the Dead bury their Dead" (Luke 9:60). As such, concepts of life and death in Holy Scripture whether Biblical, Qur'anic or Baha'i, have meanings deeper than literal physical meanings. Thus Jesus, despite the crucifixion of his physical body, could never be killed. This points to the broader question of what death means in the spiritual literature.

                                                            JE comments: To sum up Vincent Littrell's interesting post, Islam accepts the cross as an iconic symbol of Christianity, even without acknowledging the crucifixion itself.

                                                            Edward Jajko (next in queue) has sent his thoughts on the topic of religious symbols in the modern Muslim world.

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                                                          • Symbology, Israel, etc. (Edward Jajko, USA 08/08/13 4:15 AM)
                                                            In my years as a Middle East librarian in the Yale University Library and the Hoover Institution, I cataloged a couple of tens of thousands of books into those collections--Hebrew, Yiddish, and Arabic at Yale, and Arabic, Persian, and modern and Ottoman Turkish at the Hoover. I also trained catalogers and supervised their cataloging of hundreds, perhaps thousands of similar works.

                                                            Out of all those books, I wish I had kept author and title records of just two. One was an Israeli book in Hebrew that was shown to me by my superb assistant at Yale. We laughed at the book then and I still laugh at its recollection. But it is not relevant to the discussion of "swastika = Israel." The other was an Arabic book, published in Egypt and supplied by the Library of Congress PL-480 Program. I don't recall much about the book, other than that it was an anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist screed published during Nasser's Arab Socialist years. There was a Library of Congress catalog card that, in theory, made the cataloging job very easy. Put a temp slip in the shelf list, do a minimum amount of typing, print the call number in the book, put my initials in it and on the verso of the card along with the date, and send it along the production line.

                                                            But in this case it was clear that LC's cataloging was slapdash at best. It was likely done in the LC Field Office in Cairo, by Egyptian staff. A reviser should have caught the problem and corrected it. Instead, it was sent along. Production and statistics mattered. The cataloger had noted only that the book had illustrations. What the cataloger had failed to note, but I had immediately caught, was that the author--presumably--of the book had taken WWII cartoons by David Low (1891-1963), of the London Evening Standard, without attribution. These were anti-Nazi cartoons, very clearly so. The author--presumably--had removed Low's captions and replaced them with others about the State of Israel. The figure of Hitler in the cartoons became the representation of Israel.

                                                            The total absence of logic in this farce was made even more evident, in my recollection of a book I processed well over thirty years ago and have not seen since, in that in some cases the figures who stood in opposition to Hitler/Israel were clearly identifiable as either Churchill, John Bull, or the British bulldog, but were made to represent Arabs. If I recall correctly, in some cases the author had not removed all the original English captioning, so that some of the text within the cartoons remained.

                                                            I may be conflating two memories, of the purloined Low cartoons and WWII British propaganda cartoons that were in the Yale collections, intended for the Iranian audience, but I seem to recall the figure of the mythical Iranian king Zahhak, who was so evil that two devils popped up out of his shoulders, on either side of his head. In the cartoons, they were Mussolini and Tojo. Fudging these clearly identifiable faces as Israelis, Jews, or Zionists, well...

                                                            I added a note to the LC card identifying the source of the cartoons and an added entry for Low. I mention this book because it is highly unlikely that anyone else in WAIS has seen it or anything else like it, but I saw many items like it in my libraries and while I was a student in Cairo. In those latter years, just before the June '67 War, Israel was demonized and Nasser was glorified. The symbol of Egypt was the Nisr, the Eagle, and specifically Nisr Salah al-Din, the Eagle of Saladin, and Nasser was the new Saladin who would remove the Israelis as the Crusaders were removed. Well, not quite. Enmity and hate persist.

                                                            I haven't seem many publications from certain countries, like Yemen, but WAISers might be interested to know that some of the most virulently anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist material comes from Jordan, which has a peace treaty of sorts with Israel, made by the late King Hussein, friend of the West.

                                                            While I cannot recall any instance of "swastika =Israel," there is the book cited above. I remain puzzled by the crudity of a publication that, like most ordinary Egyptian books, was printed in a couple of thousand copies, tops, and would have been seen only by those with some education.

                                                            JE comments: Edward Jajko has shared a fascinating case of symbol "recycling." Given the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the Nasser movement, it's very strange that John Bull would be made to stand in for the Arabs. Or the bulldog for that matter, given Islam's disdain for dogs (versus cats, which are considered to be cleaner animals).

                                                            It would be very difficult to locate the book in question, but I'm sure the re-purposing of political cartoons has a long been a staple of the propagandist's toolbox.


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                                                • "Who Are We to Judge our Ancestors?" (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/04/13 8:42 AM)
                                                  Keeping in mind that many Jews all over the world including Israel are very sympathetic to the Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israelis stealing and occupying their lands, John Heelan (3 August) stated as a rhetorical question:

                                                  "Can one make moral judgements on the behaviour of others without having stood in their shoes? But equally can the violent actions of Afghans and Palestinians in their own lands, which the West labels as 'terrorism,' be dismissed as immoral without recognising that to them they are facing seemingly insuperable challenges to life every day?"

                                                  Istvan Simon stated, "what one should not do is to make moral judgments about those who had to deal with savage, inhumane, and unprecedented persecution without having experienced on their own skin any remotely similar situation." So would he be contradicting himself to some degree by totally rejecting the comparison of today's Palestinians with the Holocaust victims of 70 years ago? Personally, I do not accept the moral equivalency of the Israeli government with the Nazi regime. However, my opinion and Istvan's are not important. We should ask the opinion of people presently suffering the "savage, inhumane, and unprecedented persecution" if they see any moral equivalency. Also, today's Israelis are much more dependent and sensitive to world opinion than the Nazis were. How much more of a moral equivalency would there be if the Israelis in power did not have to worry about world opinion?

                                                  JE comments: I'm confident that Istvan will find no moral equivalency here--but many in the world do see a parallel. In fact, I've received a number of responses to my comment from earlier today on the "Star of David = swastika" graffiti I encountered years ago in Spain. Stay tuned!

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                                        • Jewish Collaborators with the Nazis (Bienvenido Macario, USA 08/01/13 4:50 AM)
                                          When commenting Nigel Jones's post of 31 July, JE wrote:

                                          "I am particularly intrigued by the possibility that [Simon] Wiesenthal may have been a concentration-camp Kapo, although this status did not ensure one's survival in the camps. Often the Kapos were singled out for execution after they were no longer 'useful' to their overlords.

                                          "Of relevance here may be the experience of Calel Perechodnik, a Jewish Pole who collaborated with the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto police. His book Am I a Murderer? is one of the most brutal--and brutally honest--memoirs of the Holocaust. Among other things, Perechodnik personally placed his wife and child on a train bound for Treblinka."

                                          YouTube has an interesting documentary series about Nazi Collaborators. Episode 01 of 13 is about Chaim Rumkowski, who was definitely a collaborator and considered a traitor. He was handpicked to lead the Lodz Jewish Council to help the Nazis send his own people to the death camps. Later he volunteered along with his wife to be shipped to one of the camps. One account was that he was killed in Auschwitz by the Germans. In another version, it was his fellow Jews whom he sent over there earlier who killed him and his wife.

                                          His Warsaw counterpart Adam Czerniaków collaborated in a similar capacity for two years, but when he realized what was happening and was asked to send children to their deaths, he committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill on July 23, 1942.

                                          The question asked was whether collaborators like Rumkowski had any choice. Czerniaków's suicide didn't stop the deportation and slaughter, but is it possible his suicide inspired the Warsaw uprising on January 13, 1943? The uprising coincided with the resumption of the deportation after a four-month break.

                                          See Nazi Collaborators--Episode 01 of 13--Chaim Rumkowski:


                                          There were even German Jews who actually fought for Hitler. See: Nazi Collaborators German Jews-- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX1hvGT-Oj0

                                          I have not watched all of the Nazi collaborator series but so far, I know of no such collaborator who was not charged and tried for treason. It is only Filipino traitors and collaborators who were allowed to remain in power even after Japan, Germany and Italy were defeated. They even persecuted the genuine guerrillas who fought against the Japanese alongside the Americans.

                                          JE comments:  Bienvenido Macario raises a very important question:  did these collaborators have any choice--beyond, of course, accepting a certain death?  Calel Perechodnik, who didn't survive the war, grapples with this question in the very title of his book:  Am I a Murderer?

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                                        • Simon Wiesenthal (Siegfried Ramler, USA 08/02/13 4:07 AM)
                                          I am not in a position to make any additional authentic comment on the role played by Simon Wiesenthal as the most visible hunter of Nazi war criminals. When I gave a talk at the University of Vienna about two years ago in connection with the German-language version of my book Nuremberg and Beyond, his name did not come up during the discussion period. Neither the symposium panelists, history scholars at the university, nor I raised issues related to Simon Wiesenthal's role.

                                          Whatever one might say about his personality, such as his ego and his preoccupation with publicity, there is no doubt that he made an important impact in locating war criminals and in bringing them to justice. Indeed he was widely and internationally honored for his contributions.

                                          Simon Wiesenthal was both a victim and an avenger. Before making any judgment about his role in the camps, we need to be conscious of the terrible dilemmas faced by inmates confronting survival or death.

                                          JE comments: Our colleague Paul Pitlick and his wife Jan have been visiting our home for the last couple of days, and last night Siegfried Ramler came up in our conversation. (Were your ears buzzing, Siegfried?) Jan especially enjoyed flipping through my copy of Nuremberg and Beyond--a marvelous book that should be in every WAISer's library.

                                          David Pike knew Simon Wiesenthal well. David's comment is next in the queue.

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                                        • Sir Simon Wiesenthal (David Pike, France 08/02/13 4:18 AM)
                                          I thought it best to wait a bit before entering the discussion on Simon Wiesenthal, or rather Sir Simon Wiesenthal, since he was knighted by the Queen.

                                          I was Simon Wiesenthal's friend for more than 20 years. I first met him around 1980, in the experience that everyone had who wanted to meet him in Vienna. You would enter a draper's store, identify yourself to the satisfaction of the lady manager, who then gave you an address. Climbing the staircase to his office apartment, the visitor was confronted by a uniformed policeman with a sub-machine gun.

                                          In the long course of our friendship, I proposed to my University's president Glenn Ferguson (formerly Lyndon Johnson's ambassador to Kenya) that Simon Wiesenthal be awarded the University's doctorate honoris causa. I presented the laudatio, which was recorded in audio and video, and this laudation was later translated and published in the Vienna press. I should like Nigel Jones (July 31) to explain the "false claims" made about Simon's academic career.

                                          I was only too familiar with the quarrels between Simon and Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, and between Simon and the World Jewish Congress. I also know, because he told me so, that a good one-third of what was said and done by Rabbi Marvin Hier's Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles was abhorrent to him: "It belongs to Hollywood." I examined all the disputes carefully. I never had any reason to change my opinion, or temper my admiration for Simon. If I had less to do, I would reopen my archives.

                                          I notice that this issue has drawn considerable attention. There is one side-issue to it that might be mentioned here, on the subject of academics and journalism. It was in 1962, when Ronald Hilton was addressing the HAS Seminar at Stanford, that he made a point that struck me by its clarity. He was incensed that some academic somewhere had said, "He's only a journalist." Ronald Hilton's response: "There are good journalists and there are hack journalists, just as there are good professors and there are hack professors."

                                          I know nothing of Guy Walters. Does he actually write that Simon Wiesenthal "was most probably a Kapo"? Nigel Jones wrote, "Only this can explain [Wiesenthal's] otherwise ‘miraculous' survival in the camps. I think it was guilt over this, not zeal for the truth, that fueled his post-war career."

                                          Simon Wiesenthal was indeed a survivor, that much is true. He even survived the 1945 death march to the last camp, KL Mauthausen, which has been my study for 28 years and is the background to my coming feature film. In my books, and in the film itself, Simon has made his way from the Death Block (Block 20, where death is by programmed starvation) to the Appellplatz, where the first Sherman tank of Patton's Third Army has just entered the gates. My books recount, and the film displays, Simon crawling towards the tank, "just to touch it," but he passes out before quite reaching it.

                                          The matter of the Kapo designation requires some precision. In general, there is no greater term of abuse to level at a survivor than to call him a Kapo. Those who were privileged in a KL fall into two groups: the Kapos and the Prominenten. In most cases, the Kapos were in charge of work details, and priority was always given by the SS to those wearing Green triangles (the criminal class). The Prominenten were all those prisoners with a trade (clerks, doctors of medicine, photographers, masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, cooks, etc.). Together they represented 15 percent of the total. The remaining 85 percent were destined to die. It is obvious that every survivor did his best to win a "job," and the prisoners' "resistance" network was active in steering the "jobs" to those they favored politically (a story in itself). The Prominenten slept in separate blocks, and ate better than the mass, but not that much better, and not as well as the Kapos. The life of the Kapos, however, was more precarious, and if they fell out of favor with the SS and lost their Kapoship, they could expect to be beaten to death on their return to their blocks. The SS didn't care about that.

                                          The term Kapo is therefore imprecise, but should not be confused with the role of a Prominenter. Far more important to look for is the designation (the color) of the Triangle. For the SS, there always had to be some prisoner responsible for the unit, under of course an SS NCO responsible for the unit.

                                          And so to Simon Wiesenthal, and the abuse heaped upon him. I have too much respect for Wiesenthal the man, and the cause to which he devoted his life, ever to think that he needs to be defended against the forces of envy and malice.

                                          JE comments: My thanks to David Pike for this fascinating portrait of Sir Simon Wiesenthal.  Just to locate him in Vienna was an adventure in itself.

                                          David's Mauthausen feature film Too Close, due for production in 2014, will definitely be an exciting event for WAISworld.  I hope David will keep us updated on the film's progress, as well as its much-anticipated launch.

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                                          • Mauthausen Film, "Too Close" (David Pike, France 08/03/13 4:26 AM)
                                            As a followup to my post of 2 August, I would be very pleased to share the attached film presentation for Too Close (A Love Story). The more WAISers interested, the better.

                                            Ronald Hilton was my very first backer on this project, when I first hit pay dirt in Madrid in November 2006. There is a whole story about the progress and the regress of the film since that time. I don't think any theme could be more controversial than a love story involving two SS, and then the job of getting Austria to look at itself in the mirror. We are all in agreement: we shoot the film in Germany, but in English (no Art House movie, please!), with mainly German stars (apart from the two Spanish heroes) in order to secure the German film funding support.

                                            I will certainly keep WAISers updated, and thank you all for your interest.

                                            JE comments:  Click here to access the film presentation.  I'm very excited about the prospect that three of my favorite actors, John Malkovich, Viggo Mortensen, and Daniel Brühl, might be working together on the film.  I loved Brühl's work in Goodbye, Lenin and Joyeux Noël, but I did not know until a Wikipedia check that he is fluent in five languages--German, English, French, Spanish and Catalan.  Sign that man up for WAIS!  (Viggo Mortensen is no language slouch either:  he speaks perfect Spanish with an Argentine accent, as well as Danish.  Viggo was even a Spanish major in college, at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York.  Gotta be impressed by that!)

                                            Too Close promises to be the WAIS film par excellence--I look forward to David Pike's updates on the casting, filming and production.

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                                          • on Concentration Camp "Kapos" (Robert Whealey, USA 08/03/13 5:30 AM)
                                            WAIS should be happy to see David Pike's careful definition of a Kapo (2 August). I was one of imprecise abusers of the word Kapo in reviewing David's first book on KL Mauthausen. I hope he has forgiven my sloppy review of his excellent book, which did not get as much attention as it deserved at the time.

                                            JE comments: I'm sure Robert Whealey's review wasn't sloppy--but I post Bob's note verbatim. If the review is available on-line, I'll be glad to publish the link.

                                            To take the job of "kapo" in a concentration camp was a serious risk, as David Pike pointed out: although you received nominally better treatment, you were immediately despised by your fellow inmates.

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                          • Hitler in Trotsky's View (Luciano Dondero, Italy 07/26/13 5:27 AM)
                            Maybe I could introduce into this fascinating free-for-all alternative history a slightly different slant, namely as things were seen by Trotsky and his followers.

                            A lot revolves around Germany, as it should be, given that it's the most powerful country in Europe since the early 1900s.

                            There are three pieces here:

                            (1) Russian revolutionaries like Lenin and Trotsky thought that Russia by itself was practically doomed, and it was crucial to have a successful revolution in Germany.

                            The key turning point here is 1923-24. After the disaster of 1918-19 (Liebnechkt and Luxemburg murdered) and the failed putsch of 1921, preparation for an insurrection was very much under way for October 1923. Trotsky was supposed to go there to help. But Russian events took over, Stalin was already deeply hostile to Trotsky, and his trip was vetoed. In Germany the KPD got cold feet and only in Hamburg was there an actual insurrection (successful, but locally only) led by one Thalmann, who would later become leader of the KPD. That defeat sealed the fate for the revolution in Germany, in Russia (helping Stalin's policy of "Socialism in one country") and elsewhere, pretty much.

                            Clearly Hitler would have not come out of the woodwork in a Bolshevik Germany!

                            (2) Later on, after Hitler seized power, the Soviet Union could have implemented a policy (suggested by Trotsky in 1932) of mobilizing its troops toward the borders with Germany (actually it meant at the borders with Poland) and discussing with Poland a joint policy of opposition to Nazi Germany. There were obvious practical problems--not the least of them that Stalin had actually fought in Poland during the 1920-21 Polish-Russian war, and so of course had done the victor of that war, the Polish strongman Pilsudski--and maybe nothing would have come out of it. However, the subsequent course of events leading to WWII could have been thwarted from an unexpected angle.

                            (3) The Spanish Civil War. While people are endlessly discussing it as a pure Republican Spain vs. Nationalist Spain thing, actually there was a third contender, albeit weak and finally uninfluential, i.e., the revolutionary side. As we are in the realm of pure speculation here, let me just say that a victorious socialist (and anarchist) revolution in Spain, defeating Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and opening a perspective for change in Western Europe might have had quite an impact on whether WWII would have occurred or not.

                            This might be connected with the question of Stalin's potential aggression. While he was personally a thug and a disgusting human being, somewhere in between Genghis Khan and Hitler, he was definitely a lot more conservative than the rest of the Bolsheviks. In other words, his policies were mostly isolationist, the capture of the Baltic lands and the war with Finland being a return to the old Russia of the Czar and not an offensive line (even Khrushchev was more aggressive with his "we will bury you!"). Certainly one could strike a deal with him--as in fact Churchill (and Roosevelt) did at Teheran and Yalta.

                            The only branches of the Soviet apparatus which were actively subverting in the West were those dealing with espionage (GPU, later KGB, and the military intelligence GRU)--but spies don't organise revolutions, do they?

                            JE comments: Luciano Dondero introduces a fascinating new angle to our "what if?" conversation--suppose the Soviets, with Polish support, had mobilized against Germany in 1933.  I cannot imagine the Poles would have agreed to join forces with the Soviets, against whom they had fought a nasty war just ten years earlier.  And what would France and the UK have done in response?  At that time they saw Bolshevism as a far bigger threat than Fascism.

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                      • What If There Had Been No Hitler? (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 07/30/13 4:26 AM)
                        I am with Nigel Jones (24 July) on the individual in history. However, suppose that Germany had continued without Hitler. It would probably have deepened its ties with Soviet Russia, certainly the inclination of the military. It would have continued to regard the border with Poland as irrational, and the Soviets as the indispensable ally in its revision. The foreign policy of Stresemann is an indication. Later, it would probably have built nuclear weapons and a navy. It would probably have been more patient. If that did not end up in World War II, it certainly would have produced a great sorting out with the victors of the first war. Maybe something like Tirpitz's idea of a "balance of power at sea."

                        JE comments: Great to hear from Anthony D'Agostino. I'm intrigued by his speculation on a German "great sorting out" with the Allies, had Germany been more patient.

                        Anthony raises a final hypothetical question: Given the state of German scientific research in the 1930s, how probable is it that without Hitler (perhaps under the guidance of Prof. Einstein), Germany would have been the first nation to develop nuclear weapons?

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                        • Could Germany Have Been First with Nuclear Weapons? (Istvan Simon, USA 07/31/13 5:06 AM)
                          When commenting Anthony D'Agostino's post of 20 July, JE Asked how likely it would have been for Germany to be the first to develop nuclear weapons.

                          I would say the likelihood was zero, because almost all physicists who were actually involved were Jewish (and quite a few of the most important ones Hungarian Jews): Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Richard Feynman, Robert Oppenheimer and his brother Frank Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, Wolfgang Pauli, Stanislaw Ulam, and many many others. The one notable exception who was not Jewish, but also a refugee from Fascism, is Enrico Fermi. His wife Laura was Jewish.

                          Einstein had no role in the development of atomic weapons, other than signing the famous letter to Roosevelt that started the Manhattan project. The letter had been actually written by Leo Szilard. Szilard and Fermi should probably be credited as the most important physicists of the Manhattan Project. Szilard conceived the nuclear chain reaction, in 1933. He and Fermi created the first nuclear reactor.

                          The extraordinary organizational skills of General Groves were essential to the success of the Manhattan project.

                          The Manhattan Project was probably the most extraordinary scientific project ever undertaken. Symptomatic of the amazing level of talent that was brought under one organization is the fact that Nobel Laureate and one of the greatest physicists this country has ever produced, Richard Feynman, was merely a junior physicist on the project!

                          JE comments: My far-fetched question was about a Germany without Hitler, and the subsequent exodus of so many German-Jewish scientists.  But in that case, there may never have been a "need" to develop nuclear weapons.

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                          • Could Germany Have Been First with Nuclear Weapons? (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 08/01/13 4:11 AM)
                            With reference to Istvan Simon and John Eipper on German nuclear weapons (31 July): the German physicists, as evidenced in the Farm Hall Papers, which record their conversations in allied captivity, were crushed to hear the news about Hiroshima. It seemed to prove to them that they were second raters. They felt that the bomb was a German idea. The Hahn-Strassmann paper of 1939 does lay out all the basic ideas of the physics of the nucleus. Physicists in all countries were aware of it.

                            But the engineering was another matter. Assuming a continuing German rearmament and no war, the most likely scenario of our no-Hitler, counterfactual Germany, is that it certainly have had as good a chance as any to develop nuclear weapons first.

                            At the least, the Germans would have built the bomb after someone else did, unless it were used against them. The USA monopoly would have been the least likely event, that is, if there had been no war. Despite the story that Einstein sold Roosevelt on the program, nothing much happened until Pearl Harbor. With peace there would have been no Manhattan Project.

                            JE comments:  Some naive questions to prime the pump of this fascinating conversation:  did the British do any significant research on nukes during the war?  How about the Soviets?

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                            • Nazi Mega Weapons (Alan Levine, USA 08/02/13 5:07 AM)
                              On the topic of Germany's possible development of a nuclear weapon, PBS, the USA's national public television station, is running a series this summer titled "Nazi Mega Weapons."

                              The most recent episode was on the V-2 rocket. It traced Von Braun's interest in rocketry to his childhood and showed how at an early age Hitler put him in charge of developing rockets that would totally devastate cities. It traced his early success at a base on the Baltic that the allies learned about by overhearing German prisoners, among other reports of strange flying sightings. The Brits bombed that base, and the Germans relocated the weapons manufacturing to an old mine with slave labor from the concentration camps and built a new launching pad called La Coupole in northern France.

                              The film argued that by the time the V-2 was perfected it was too late for Germany. According to the film, some 3,000 V-2s were launched against the UK with only about 6,000 total deaths. The film suggested that if the terror of the rockets had been in effect six months earlier, the outcome of the war might have been different. More plausibly, it suggested that not only was the V-2 basically irrelevant to the German war machine, its development might have cost them the war insofar as it cost 600 billion [million?  See below--JE] dollars to develop. The show suggested that that amount of money spent on building mass-produced weapons such as planes and tanks might have ensured German victory. The show blamed Hitler for several tactical mistakes, such as spending so much on dramatic weapons such as the V-2 and preferring big, fixed factories and launchers instead of nimble mobile ones.

                              The show concluded with a brief account of Von Braun's American years. He, 6,000 of his workers, and their families were admitted to the US after the war and they were instrumental in developing the Americans' ICBMs, launching its first satellite, and sending men to the moon.

                              All in all the program presented quite a favorable portrait of Von Braun, but it didn't raise the moral question of serving Hitler or how he could so easily have changed sides. It was a good, solid program that I recommend, although I don't think it purported to present any new information.

                              Finally, I thank JE for his mention of Calel Perechodnik's Am I A Murderer?, which I had not known and have since ordered.

                              JE comments: Might the bill for V-2 development have been in the range of 600 million dollars?  The entire cost of WWII, although this is a very difficult figure to determine, was approximately $1.5 trillion.

                              My thanks to Alan Levine for the recommendation.  I'm going to be tuning in to PBS.

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                              • La Coupole, France (John Heelan, UK 08/02/13 10:51 AM)
                                Alan Levine (2 August) mentions the transfer of V2 production to La Coupole in Northern France. I visited La Coupole a year or so ago while playing golf in the area. It is a very impressive construction built by slave labour. The Germans had hollowed out a disused chalk quarry and covered it with a massive dome, so shaped to deflect falling bombs should it be attacked.

                                La Coupole is at least three storeys high. At ground floor level are caverns--probably 40ft high themselves--in which the V2s were to be constructed connected by a wide corridor to enable the constructed V2s to be moved by rail to the marshaling yards outside. The atmosphere was very sombre, remembering the slaves who worked and died building the base that never came into operation.

                                The upper floors contain a fascinating but spine-chilling museum remembering the German occupation of Northern France and the thousands of French Jews sent to extermination camps--there are many, many lists of names produced by the early data processing equipment the Germans had at their disposal. For me, the most evocative exhibit was a deep bath that the Gestapo used to exert water torture on their victims.

                                This visit impressed me as much as those to well-kept WW2 cemeteries with their thousands of neatly arranged grave stones and a visit to the WW1 Vimy Ridge site with its trenches, bomb craters and tunnels through which Canadian and German sappers tried to blow each other to smithereens underground.

                                To appreciate the real cost of war, I recommend that people visit these sites:



                                JE comments:  A fascinating Wikipedia entry on La Coupole.  I've just added the site to my itinerary for next summer.  (Alas, August is here, and I'm already looking forward to next summer.)
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                    • What If There Had Been No Hitler? Conference of Lausanne, 1922 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/25/13 5:50 AM)
                      In reference to the comments of JE to the post of Istvan Simon (July 24), I fully agree. Even without Hitler, the criminal seeds planted by the victors with the absolutely unfair and unrealistic peace treaties post-WWI would have provoked a new war in Europe unless the nations would have been ready to profoundly modify Versailles. See the position of John M. Keynes, who even resigned in protest from the British delegation.

                      Mussolini in his first speech in front of Parliament on November 16, 1922, said that the treaties should be followed, but if they are clearly wrong should be modified.  In the Lausanne Conference of November 20-December 9, 1922, he assumed a moderate position toward the impossible economic impositions on Germany.

                      By the way, in his first speech Mussolini also mentioned the new Italian borders that included the "allogeni." However, Mussolini in a certain way approved the position of the previous governments which acquired such lands, saying that the fact was due to "dura necessità" (hard necessity) and refusing the resignation of the Slavic deputy Wilfan (expression of the Slavic minority), assuring him that he wanted to carry on a policy of dignity and respect of their rights. Of course he stressed also the necessity of reciprocity in foreign relations.

                      JE comments:  Ah, dura necessità!  I'd be interested to hear Eugenio Battaglia's take on Italian-Turkish relations during the Lausanne period.  Atatürk and Mussolini were the first generation of the "new leadership" in Europe post WWI, so I would assume they would have felt a natural affinity.  However, Turkey and Italy also had overlapping "spheres of influence," especially in the Balkans, so there would be cause for conflict.
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                      • Italo-Turkish Relations post-WWI (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/27/13 5:45 AM)
                        With reference to JE's question (25 July) about the relations between Italy and Turkey after WWI, I would say that they were always good. Fortunately, Italy had renounced any idea of an Italian presence in Anatolia and accepted a modification of the Sevres Treaty, while Atatürk was mostly involved in his fight against Greece and then in internal politics for building a new modern nation, not like Erdogan at present, who gives me the impression that with the help of Mrs and Mr Clinton was/is trying to build a new Ottoman Empire.

                        In his speech in front of the Parliament on November 16, 1922, Mussolini said: "With reference to Turkey we have to recognize at Lausanne what is by now an accomplished fact (the Turkish victory against Greece) with the necessary guarantees for the transit of the Straits... When Turkey has received what it is due it shall not lay claim on anything more."

                        Seventy years ago the king of Italy, having organized his military coup, arrested Mussolini. The chance to act was given to the king by the vote of the Gran Consiglio del Fascismo, which passed a resolution which required the king to assume the direction of the Italian Armed Forces. In fact in 1917 he had done a good job. Well, decimation was instated for retreating or cowardly troops, an act never approved by Mussolini.

                        However the vote was organized by a few traitors which were followed by other awkward members of the hierarchy who did not understand what was developing. The traitors were hoping to assume control of the new government, but they too were betrayed by the king. A loyal follower of Mussolini invited him to arrest all who voted against him, but he refused.

                        The most foolish of the traitors was the poor conceited Ciano, who after having antagonized the Germans in previous years, went to them asking for help.

                        JE comments: Do I understand correctly that decimation was practiced by the Italian army in WWI? I've never read of this, but Great War histories usually relegate the Italian front to a few paragraphs.  In modern times, to "decimate" is exclusively a metaphor--or so I thought.

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                        • Decimation in Italian Army, WWI (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/27/13 8:34 AM)
                          About decimation from my post of July 27, an Italian parliamentary commission at the end of WWI officially stated that following the decimation, 1006 death sentences were issued, of which 729 were carried out.

                          This number does not include summary executions carried out on the front lines.  Not much is known about them, but perhaps they were around 200.

                          The practice was also used by the French Army.

                          The first use of decimation is narrated by Titus Livius, referring to a case from 471 BCE.

                          It should not be appropriate to relegate the Great War Italian front to few paragraphs, as it was this front that completely defeated the Austro-Hungarian armies, plus it forced the Strafen Expeditions sent by Germany, which opened the way to Allied victory at the end of October 1918.

                          JE comments: Yes, the Italians often do not receive their due for their role in WWI. Probably only the Portuguese are overlooked more.  In fact, to my knowledge there has never been a book in English on the Portuguese experience in the war.

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              • Goebbels (Robert Whealey, USA 07/22/13 4:07 AM)

                Having done some research in Goebbels's published Diaries and his RMVP archive, I can affirm that David Pike (21 July) has captured the essence of the Hitler- Goebbels relationship.

                I first arrived in Stuttgart Germany in September 1955 as a GI. I made it my business to talk to as many Germans on the street and while hitch-hiking as possible. I met people from the middle class, the working class and a few businessmen. I had a sample from voters who followed the CDU, the FDP, SPD and one from the BHh (a refugee party). I even met about three Germans still under the influence of Nazi propaganda (unconsciously). Several of my conversants asserted that Goebbels was the most brilliant of the Nazis.

                JE comments:  RMVP:  Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda)--this was the agency by which Goebbels oversaw all public media and the arts.

                I'd be honored if Robert Whealey would share a story or two of his conversations with ordinary Germans in 1955.


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    • Hitler as Allies' "Secret Weapon"; P. M. H. Bell (John Heelan, UK 07/16/13 2:50 PM)
      Ángel Viñas wrote on 16 July: "We should not forget the rather undignified policy line taken by the preceding British Government in the spring and summer of 1939. Their reluctance to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union goes a long way to explaining why Stalin preferred to look for another more dependable ally such as Hitler, who was willing to give half of Poland and all of the Baltics at a very acceptable price."

      P.M.H. Bell in his book The Origins of the Second World War in Europe (2nd edition, 1997), came to a similar conclusion.

      He wrote: "It was natural for European states, especially the great imperial powers, Britain and France, to regard Soviet communism as their sworn enemy-for so it was. From this fact of life some took the short step to the belief that the enemies of communism were your friends, and that fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were useful bulwarks against Soviet influence. Once this notion took root, it was hard to accept that the Nazi regime was itself a threat, nearer and more dangerous than the Soviet Union."

      JE comments:  There's something about three initials that gives a military historian gravitas!  (PMH Bell, AJP Taylor...well, two examples are enough to prove the rule.)

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  • Gibraltar and the Outcome of WWII (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/16/13 7:18 AM)
    It is not difficult to harmonize Nigel's criticism of Stalin with John Eipper's comment to my 15 July post, in which he cited "the Soviet Union's enormous sacrifice of its citizens in the struggle to stop Hitler" as a major factor to the Allies winning WWII.

    Nigel's criticisms are correct, but once Operation Barbarossa started the USSR did absorb a huge military strike from Hitler which took enormous resources from the fight in other war theaters. Then, after regrouping their forces and turning on their impressive industrial resources, the USSR became a critical ally to crush Germany.

    Finally, Nigel is technically incorrect in his criticism of Stalin in terms of who imitated whom. Nigel stated: "The Soviet Union was a vile dictatorship responsible for at least as much human suffering as that of Nazi Germany, whose methods of mass murder (e.g. Katyn) it so closely imitated." A few weeks ago I saw a Russian documentary discussing how the Stalin boys were training the Nazis on mass killings, based on their considerable prior experience in the Ukraine.

    JE comments: And Stalin got an earlier start.

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