World War II: primary sourcebook

Dear reader: can you possibly still have anything to learn about World War II? Let’s see.

This cataclysmic event happened in the lives of those now living. It shaped the world we live in today. Blah de blah de blah. You have seen it all on the History Channel. UR is not the History Channel.

The question, still, is easy to answer. The answer is: “yes.” You actually have a lot to learn about World War II. Basically, there are three forces in this war: the Allies, the Communists, and the Nazis. To what extent do you understand these parties?

As an educated person in the year 2010, your historical understanding of the Third Reich is almost perfect. In fact, even an uneducated person in the year 2010 has a fine understanding of Nazi Germany. This is why, here at UR, we so seldom mention Hitler. You already know your Nazis. National Socialism was both original and good; the good parts were not original, and so are unimportant; the original parts were not good; and there was a third part, which was neither.

The Nazi-ology of the best-educated today is terrifyingly accurate and complete, if charged perhaps with a little too much emotional contempt to really be sub specie aeternitatis. This is appropriate in a primary source, like Fritz Reck or Victor Klemperer; it is not permitted to the historian. So, for instance, I much prefer Michael Burleigh to Richard Evans. Professor Burleigh’s goal is to explain National Socialism; Professor Evans I find too obsessed with denouncing it. But neither will be found engaging in any fundamental misrepresentation, for they just don’t need to. Sorry, Nazis.

The Nazi-ology of the uneducated is simply the refined critical judgment of the educated, boiled down to an emotional essence. The essence is true. Which is fortunate, because there is a lot of it around. To osmose into the skulls of the uneducated, and worse the ineducable, the molecule must be small and the ambient concentration high. That’s democracy for you.

Hence we depart from Nazis and proceed to Communists. Here our awareness declines; but not by much. The academic understanding of the Soviet Union is remarkably good, at least in the Stalin period. Pre-Stalin and post-Stalin, the history is much weaker; but our period today is Stalin. Moreover, the academic picture of the Stalin era is emotionally appropriate; the best work is neither falsely impersonal in the Dryasdust vein, nor marred by invective. Of course, there is still a lingering core of sympathizers, but hope has deserted them and emphysema will do the rest.

Popular understanding of the Communist phenomenon is quite weak. Again, it is best for Stalin, but this is not saying much. I’d say most people understand 20th-century Communism about as well as I understand 18th and 19th-century Freemasonry, and I don’t understand Freemasonry at all. For instance, they simply cannot understand how it could possibly matter whether their President, Barack H. Obama, “is or ever has been” a Marxist. Fortunately, as Bismarck put it, God takes care of fools, drunks and the United States—though His patience with the latter shows signs of shortening.

And finally: the Allies. No one knows fsck-all about the Allies.

That’s the point of this primary sourcebook, a long post composed entirely of fair-use excerpts from period sources on the Allied side. You want proof? You can’t handle the fscking proof. But this is UR, so we’ll give it to you anyway. Grown men will run screaming from this post. They will break down in tears, like little girls.

Let’s start with a picture. I feel it is essential to begin by engaging the visual imagination:

The Communist revolution which began in Russia and has spread to China is not a repetition of the English and the French Revolutions. It is a new historical phenomenon which comes out of a convulsive awakening of the submerged masses demanding a better life for themselves. The dictators who lead this massive uprising rule the people despotically. But he would be a rash man, I think, who would say that such great masses of backward people could be persuaded by democratic methods to accept the discipline and the sacrifices which are necessary to rapid formation of capital in a primitive economy.Anyway. I feel no need to further abuse you with this nonsense. The point is: if you feel there’s anything even slightly holy about any 20th-century political system, it is long since time you were disabused.

Our political system is a human one, not a holy one. The people who said and did these things were human, like us. They had some idea of the good for which they were striving. They felt that, in order to achieve a greater good, it was necessary to commit a lesser evil. The good they sought was not realized; the evil swallowed them up, as evil does. And, if we look them in the face, if we read their words and scan their advertisements and experience them directly, we sense the presence of evil.

Yet evil is in all of us; history is full of evil; and their lesser evils, for all we know, might have averted greater. It would be as much a mistake to condemn and ridicule these people, as it is to worship and revere them. I do condemn and ridicule; but only as a matter of balance. Get the plaster saints out of your history; get the cartoon demons out as well; replace them with nothing but reality, considered with whatever sympathy and judgment you apply to the world you live in.

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