The “Munich lesson” that we should never appease evil has to be one of the most pervasive and incorrect lessons of history. In this HNN post, John Kelly explains why the lesson is wrong. And as John Kelly points out, “millions of Americans who know nothing about the Munich Conference or the Sudetenland know that evil appeased is evil emboldened because American presidents have evoked the Munich lesson to justify almost every U. S. military action since 1945.”
The lesson is flawed in both its understanding of the events in Munich and in its application to events that bear no resemblance to the unique circumstances of 1938 Nazi Germany. As Kelly explains: “It is a fantasy to imagine that, had Churchill rather than Chamberlain been sitting across the table at Munich, Hitler would have been deterred. Unafraid of war and boundlessly ambitious, Hitler was that most dangerous of leaders, a man who could neither be appeased nor deterred by threats of force.”
It will take more than one article to debunk the “appeasement” foreign policy reasoning, but its a start. We historians need to call out this kind of abuse of history, especially when a misguided history lesson is driving us to make bad foreign policy choices.
Read Kelly’s entire article here: History News Network | Why Most Everyone Gets Munich Wrong
“As Hitler’s infamous book enters the public domain, its history shows that censorship can’t stop dangerous ideas.” Censorship has never worked (Exhibit A: The Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, Index Librorum Prohibitorum ).
The concern about public access to Mein Kampf is understandable, but unfounded. Those who are inclined towards those ideas already have access to the text via the Internet. And the ideas contained in Mein Kampf have spread so extensively there is no way to prevent access to them (unless we’re willing to take drastic measures in violation of our own values).
As Abraham Foxman, author of the introduction to Houghton Mifflin reprint of Mein Kampf, described the book this way: “Its theories are extremist, immoral, and seem to promise war and catastrophe if taken seriously.” (xxi) This is not a call to ban it but instead to take it seriously. He noted that the first time around we ignored it, resulting in “a tragedy of unprecedented proportions.” The lesson, he continues, is “the lesson of vigilance and responsibility, of not closing our eyes to the evil around us.” Ignoring it will not make “the evil” go away.
As far as I’m concerned the more people who read Mein Kampf the better. The ideas found in this work are so horrific and extreme that I’m confident (barring extraordinary circumstances) most people will reject the hateful and destructive ideas contained in it. Those who are unfamiliar with the ideas advanced by Hitler are more susceptible to falling under their spell. Rather than trying to deny access to such ideas, we should counter them with reason and evidence.
And, as the author of The Atlantic article points out: “In today’s environment, it is better to discuss Mein Kampf openly and critically in the classroom than to have curious students seek it out on the Internet, where teachers will have no chance of influencing them.”
If you haven’t read Hitler’s despicable work, I would highly recommend it. I say this confident that you won’t be persuaded by his sentiments.
Source: Mein Kampf Enters the Public Domain – The Atlantic
In case it wasn’t obvious, here’s a thorough take down of the Nazi Germany/Iran analogy: Mike Huckabee Is Wrong: Iran Isn’t Nazi Germany – The Atlantic.
Read story here: Dutch art sleuth helps German police track down Nazi art – Yahoo News.
Two bronze horse statues by artist Josef Thorak are transported on a flatbed trailer in Bad Duerkheim, southwestern Germany, Thursday, May 21, 2015. A German investigation into black market art had recovered the two statues that once stood in front of Adolf Hitler’s grand chancellery building in Berlin as well as other Nazi-era pieces that had been lost for decades. Police in five states conducted coordinated raids during more than a yearlong investigation into illegal art trafficking. (Fredrik von Erichsen/dpa via AP)
Many of the propaganda films produced by the Nazis have never been shown in the U.S. or Europe over fears that they may incite hatred, particularly against Jews. But a new documentary (Forbidden Fruit: The Hidden Legacy of Nazi Film), which opens today in N.Y., takes excerpts from the forty films that had been considered too offensive to show publicly and compiles them into one film. The director, Felix Moeller, is unsure about the consequences of the film. He wonders, “Are they nothing but historical documents at this point or still effective ideological messages?”
I think this documentary will be of interest to many, but rather than hatred, I hope this documentary prompts us to reflect on our own susceptibility as human beings to hate other who are different from us. It’s easy to criticize the Germans for being duped by Nazi propaganda, but must remember that we have the same vulnerabilities and that we could just as easily be duped. The same human dynamics that played out in Nazi Germany continue to fuel hatred and violence all across the globe. If we are to learn anything from this period of history, we should be skeptical of claims that inspire us to hate others. We should be wary of negative stereotypes and dubious claims that vilify others. If some one or some group asks us to hate, we should say “no”!
Read Bruce Chadwick’s review of the film here:
History News Network | New Documentary on Nazi Propaganda Films to Debut.
Reflecting on the current trial of the Nazi Oskar Gröning, who is accused of complicity in the murder of 300,000 people at Auschwitz, Anna Sauerbrey wonders, “How will he understand his own responsibility, as a German, to combat ideologies of hatred and prevent crimes against humanity?” And concludes that “[w]e must find a new narrative, a new way to ensure “never again.” Not through ideology, but through action — for example by more generously helping the refugees that seek asylum in our country. Instead of trying to transfer a vague feeling of inherited guilt to yet another generation, we should change from remembering what we must never forget to knowing why.” Read her thoughtful piece here:
What Old Nazis Make Us Remember – NYTimes.com.
Robert Huddleston, who served as a combat pilot in World War II, dispels the popular assumption that air power won the war against Nazi Germany. “The Allied strategic bombing campaign did not produce victory as propaganda promised: Defeat of the enemy came from a combination of sea, air, but mainly ground forces.”
History News Network | Did Bombers Win the War in WW Two?
It is so tempting (and easy) to see the world in black and white terms. Things would be so much simpler if we lived in a world with a stark contrast between good and evil. Granted, many people act as if they live in this black and white world, but I think most of us realize that this is delusional. However, there have been some moments in history that seem so clearly to conform to this good vs. evil worldview. World War II is one of them. But if you look closely, this comforting perspective begins to break down. Gavriel D. Rosenfeld has made it his mission to preserve this “moralistic” version of WWII.
He is concerned about what he calls the “normalization” of Nazi Germany. He contrasts this with “the commitment to moralism.” To illustrate, he points to the “[r]evisionist works of scholarship by conservative and liberal Anglo-American journalists and historians, such as Nicholson Baker, Patrick Buchanan, Norman Davies, Niall Ferguson, and Michael Bess, among many others, have deliberately blurred the once clear moral lines between the wartime behavior of the Allies and Axis, in the process relativizing the exceptionality and universalizing the significance of the Nazi era.” It seems that what Rosenfeld means by “moralism” is a clear delineation between good and evil. It would be great if the world was so black and white, but it is not! And I would argue that it has been this kind of moral thinking that has led to so much human suffering.
Rosenfeld contrasts his black and white morality with what he calls “normalization.” By which he seems to mean the “blurr[ing] of once clear moral lines.” However, it is the more sophisticated moral analysis opposed by Rosenfeld that is more authentic and productive of the peace and harmony that he seems to value. We must honestly confront the past even if we don’t like parts of it if we want to make the world a better place. This is not to claim that the Allies (U.S., U.K, and the Soviet Union) were the same in moral terms as Nazi Germany. There is absolutely no moral equivalency between the crimes of the Allies in comparison to the crimes of the Nazis!!!!! It is only to recognize that we were not purely good and the Germans were not purely evil.
History News Network | Was Hitler a Normal Leader?