Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Neutrality, not Brutality, WWII hallmark

Only the (postwar : postmodern) grandchildren and possibly the children of the modern adults of WWII have always seen Hitler and WWII as symbols of the ultimate evil and brutality.

But relatively few of the modern world's adults saw it that way during the six long years of the war : even fewer forcefully proclaimed it that way during the war and did so from beginning to end.

If their initial wartime actions speak much louder than their later verbal recollections, almost all of the modern world's adults choose to stand around as bystanders while schoolyard bully Hitler beat up on little primary pupil Poland.

Very few neutral nations (and the neutral individuals within them) changed their minds about fighting Hitler and his Axis over the course of those six years of the war - unless they themselves were directly attacked by Hitler or his Axis.

Even then, few thought that Hitler was the ultimate symbol of evil.

Rather the adults still saw Hitler as just another invader who must be repelled, albeit an highly effective invader and hence a highly dangerous invader, one who must be stopped dead in his tracks.

The modern elites at the top of both the West and in Russia thought it quite possible that either the West or Russia might sue for a separate peace with Hitler at any point during the war - as France had already done.

That hardly sounds like people who saw Hitler as the symbol of the ultimate evil who must be stopped even if it cost all their lives to do so.

The great majority of the people murdered by Germany were killed by its armed forces rather than by the SS.

(I can repeat that sentence slowly and calmly, once you're sitting down, if its all been too great a shock to you.)

Despite that, almost all of the military and political elite in the West still thought of those German armed forces as basically like their own Allied armed forces and treated them accordingly - right up to the end of the war.

And well beyond : for many, that remains a belief until this very day.

From day one, the Allied governments' propaganda insisted that Hitler's Germany was evil but then didn't act like it was evil and so failed to convince themselves, their publics or the peoples in the neutral majority around the world.

They failed to do wartime things differently enough from the Axis to convince most that its actions were truly beyond the civilized ken.

Instead they said it was perfectly okay to go on denying Jews jobs and housing - but it was not okay to mass murder them - but we won't do much to stop that mass murder - beyond defeating Hitler - because he was also attacking us - the non-Jews.

If was as if all the modern world's adults during WWII were nothing more than modern objective W5 journalists, carefully reporting that he says "he wasn't mass killing the Jews", while she says "Hitler was too".

If WWII had in fact been anything like what W5 reporter Tom Brokaw* imagined it to have been (the ultimate battle between good and evil), I doubt whether we'd still be writing and reading about it 75 years later.

We are still fascinated by it, like white mice bait before a cobra, because WWII was in fact so filled with neutral hypocrisy that it almost crowds out all the brutality.

An endlessly multi-layered onion of a melodrama, far more Noirish than anything Hollywood could ever dream up ...

* Tom Brokaw was born in early February 1940 and was five and two thirds years old when Japan formally surrendered.

Born just early enough to still bathe deep in the postwar modernist triumphant glow.

I strongly question whether, if he had been born even just three or four years later, he would have ever written his infamous book, "The Greatest Generation".

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