Category Archives: ww2 notes

November 26, 2013, 5:15 am

Snatching The Victuals From The Table, Or, The Munich Of The Middle East

Piece of Paper
Piece of PaperLG

“The German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course.” Winston Churchill, October 5, 1938.

Bret Stephens, at the Wall Street Journal, writes a…well…basically loses his mind:

After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.

Worse than Munich, 1938; worse than Paris, 1973. Just worse. The worst.

The column is impressively unhinged. The treaty with Iran will cause all sorts of disasters in the six months it lasts. Apparently, both the Saudis and…

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September 5, 2012, 12:44 am

The Madness and Stupor of History.

A serendipitous confluence: This week This American Life re-ran “Fear of Sleep,” which begins with Ira Glass meditating on the dangers of that altered state, in which we – whatever and whoever we are – vanish, perhaps to dream strange dreams, walk perilously, even die; from which we can wake to unexpected faces and changed places. The recent New Yorker includes Oliver Sacks’s “Altered States,” a memoir – maybe a confessional – of his youthful enthusiasm for mind-altering substances (it was, he says, the 1960s and for some of the time, for him, it was California: even so, he seems to have been an avid and various consumer). Sacks reports on the thin difference – a few chemical micrograms – between our ordinary selves and psychosis, schizophrenia, hallucination, or an insinuation of heaven. In an amphetamine haze he absorbed Liveing on Megrim and as a result wrote his own Migraine

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August 23, 2012, 11:39 am

The Indianapolis and its two historic bombshells (late entry for Shark Week).

Below is the cruiser Indianapolis, as she appeared on June 19, 1933, just before President Franklin Roosevelt boarded her and fired a shot heard ’round the world.
After Roosevelt took the dollar off the gold standard on March 6 – apparently temporarily but, as he intended, permanently – the dollar price of gold rose. With this inflation came a rise in commodity prices and for three months the happy image of a recovery from the Great Depression. During this time, Roosevelt talked easily with world leaders about restoring stable exchange rates and with them international trade; in the six weeks from late April through early June he wined, dined, or otherwise conferred with – by one scholarly count – ten prime ministers and other foreign representatives, and with them issued statements regarding the desirability of a world conference for currency stabilization.

The conference met in…

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July 9, 2012, 8:25 pm

“Interracial unity. Pro-Roosevelt unity.” On boogie-woogie Democrats.

The Milwaukee Journal of 10/25/44 reported,

Nonpartisan [sic] stars of the revue were Miss Mary Lou Williams, a Negro jazz pianist, and her hot jive quartet. Jamming on such noncontroversial themes as “Lady Be Good,” the quartet turned the show into a convention of rug cutters. Later in the show Mary Lou played her own number, “Ballot Box Boogie in the Key of Franklin D.,” which was musically satisfying but, politically, no Gettysburg address.

One might be tempted to award this round to Lincoln, but: Roosevelt did have people composing boogie-woogie and setting up barnstorming variety show tours.

Ms. Williams’s performance was, apparently, part of the “FDR Victory Bandwagon,” a program paid for by promoter Edward Royce.

Mr. Royce, who is a local art dealer, has had this idea for a long time. Last spring he experimented with it by putting on a show up in Harlem to help…

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July 9, 2012, 3:29 pm

Footnotes to defuse fascism.

The Chronicle has an article by Paul Hockenos about the forthcoming annotated edition of Mein Kampf, the first edition to be (legally) published in Germany since the end of World War II. It sounds from the interviews as though the annotators want their scholarly apparatus to go beyond the usual service of providing helpful points of reference to the reader, and actually to argue against Hitler – “Mein Kampf is like a rusty old grenade. We want to remove its detonator … We intend to defuse the book. This way it will lose its symbolic value and become what it really is: a piece of historical evidence—nothing more” – although it’s hard to tell, inasmuch as there are no examples, just comments from people involved or interested in the project.

But suppose it were so: is there another example of a book that could or should get a sort of scholarly fisking edition, pointing out that the…

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April 1, 2012, 8:15 pm

Rosenbaum on Shirer on the Third Reich.

William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is fifty. Ron Rosenbaum re-introduces it:

The arrest of Eichmann, chief operating officer of the Final Solution, reawakened the question Why? Why had Germany, long one of the most ostensibly civilized, highly educated societies on earth, transformed itself into an instrument that turned a continent into a charnel house? Why had Germany delivered itself over to the raving exterminationist dictates of one man, the man Shirer refers to disdainfully as a “vagabond”? Why did the world allow a “tramp,” a Chaplinesque figure whose 1923 beer hall putsch was a comic fiasco, to become a genocidal Führer whose rule spanned a continent and threatened to last a thousand years?

Why? William Shirer offered a 1,250-page answer.…

He was one of a number of courageous American reporters who filed copy under the threat of censorship and…

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March 19, 2012, 6:22 am

“Germany of all places”.

John Demjanjuk has died.

Reuters: “Former Nazi guard Demjanjuk dies in Germany aged 91”
BBC: “Nazi camp guard Demjanjuk dies”
Al Jazeera: “Nazi camp guard Demjanjuk dies in Germany”
NYT: “John Demjanjuk, 91, Dogged by Charges of Atrocities as Nazi Camp Guard, Dies”

NYT: Why so circuitous?

Jerusalem Post editorial here.

And, relatedly, a fascinating New Yorker review by Richard Brody of Claude Lanzmann’s autobiography, including discussions of the making of Shoah.

March 14, 2012, 4:05 pm

Kaldor and Keynes converse at war’s end.

In June of 1945, Nicholas Kaldor had a talk with John Maynard Keynes about the war. Assigned to the US Strategic Bombing Survey, Kaldor briefed Keynes on their findings.

He said that at no time had our bombing seriously interfered with German manufacture…. There was in fact a gigantic increase in output between 1942 and 1944. The really serious effects of bombing were confined, first of all to oil, where our previous optimistic conclusions were confirmed, but, above all, in the destruction of the German railway system from the time when we tackled that seriously. That had been devastating in its military consequences.

On the bright side, Kaldor said, this meant that reconstruction might be relatively simple: “the great bulk of German industry, if labour and raw materials and power were available, could be started up at full capacity again within a very short time.”

As for direct …

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March 9, 2012, 2:38 pm

About the best scene in Casablanca.

Everybody knows Casablanca is a great work of art (and a great work of art generated by a Cornellian, at that). Everybody knows, too, that Casablanca was embedded in a particular historical moment, too – it served to vindicate the recent, necessarily wrenching American volte-face1 on the subject of Europeans and their war.

History also bled through to the screen in the movie’s best scene – the singing of the “Marseillaise”:

Casablanca was shot in 1941 during the German occupation of France, at a point where many questioned whether or not the United States would ever step in to help, [UPDATED: Not true. Though the play was written before US involvement.] when nobody knew how the whole thing was going to turn out.

And the scene included actors who, in real life, had a lot at stake. To shoot Casablanca as a believable port town, producers brought together one of the most…

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February 10, 2012, 9:42 am

It’s a story about a photo, with no photo.

Why would you do a story about a photo, without the photo?

You know, it’s not as bad as Prince Harry, but even if these guys had no education, they must have seen a movie once. It’s hard to believe they didn’t have any idea.

December 25, 2011, 3:22 pm

Redeemed from fire by fire.

Not the right silhouette for me, but the only one I could find.

There’s far too brief a review of Bodnar and Dower’s new(ish) books in the TLS.

December 11, 2011, 12:22 pm

Knowing your parents well is important.

Me: Hey, want to watch this DVD about World War II?

11 y.o. son: Maybe.

Me: What do you mean, “maybe”? It’s World War II!

11 y.o. son: Is it the shooting part? Or the talking-and-making-peace part?

December 9, 2011, 4:23 pm

A short, short trailer.

December 7, 2011, 9:20 am

The Facts of Yesterday

H72273kIt’s December 7th, the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Tomorrow will be the 70th anniversary of FDR’s speech to Congress, in which the President said:

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

It is a “date which will live in infamy” as Roosevelt said, but not much longer in living memory:

The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31…Harry R. Kerr, the director of the Southeast chapter, said there weren’t enough survivors left to keep th…

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November 30, 2011, 12:22 pm

Never surrender.

Winston Churchill by Seymour Chwast, Push Pin Graphic #80, 1979, via the excellent Charles Forsman: