Posts Tagged ‘Nazi Germany’

What if the Axis had won the Second World War?

December 26, 2016

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Philip K. Dick is not my favorite science fiction writer, but many of my favorite science fiction movies—Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, Next and The Adjustment Bureau—were based on his ideas.

I did greatly admire and enjoy his novel, The Man in the High Castle, which gives the Dickian imagination free rein but has a more coherent plot than many of his other stories and novels.

The setting of The Man in the High Castle is a 1962 USA which has lost World War Two and been partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire, with the Rocky Mountains serving as an unoccupied neutral zone.

There are two plots.  One involves high-level Japanese and German officials conspiring to avoid a nuclear war between the two superpowers.  The other involves ordinary Americans trying to survive in Japanese-occupied San Francisco and one of them traveling to the neutral zone in search of “the man in the high castle,” author of a novel in which the Allies won the war.

Amazon Prime has started a series based on the novel, which incorporates most of the material in the novel, but which branches out to include Nazi-occupied New York and the Reich itself.

I subscribed to Amazon Prime mainly to watch this series, and Seasons One and Two have been well worth it.

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Why Hitler is the benchmark for evil

September 14, 2015

Comparisons with Hitler and the Nazis are thrown about freely these days.  Compulsory vaccination, the Tea Party movement, President Obama, Planned Parenthood and Donald Trump have all been compared to Hitler and the Nazis.

People who talk like that have forgotten, or maybe never knew, just what Hitler and the Nazis stood for and what they attempted to do.

Over the weekend, I read an article about Hitler by the historian Timothy Snyder and an interview with Snyder about his new book, Black Earth, which made clear just how distinctively evil Hitler was.

adolf-hitlerHitler was a racist who believed, literally, that Germans had no more in common with inferior races such as the Slavs than they did with animals.

He thought Germans had a right and duty to kill off members of inferior races to reduce their population and make room for Germans, and to treat the survivors as work animals.

The slaughter of World War Two and the death camps were only a foretaste of what would have happened if the Nazis had won.

As Snyder wrote, Hitler thought that, literally, nothing mattered but the biological struggle for survival between different races.   There are racists, like Harper Lee’s fictional Atticus Finch, who believe that some races are inherently superior, but that the superior race should treat inferiors with justice and kindness provided they “know their place”.

Hitler would have none of this.  He thought kindness toward the weak was a fatal weakness in the struggle for existence.  He saw the world as overpopulated, and believed Germans could create living space for themselves only by slaughtering the inhabitants of eastern Europe and taking their land..

Nations and governments were of little importance in Hitler’s mind.   Ultimate reality for him was the racial struggle for existence.

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Could the Cold War have been averted?

February 2, 2015

The Cold War was a real war.  I have read that by some estimates 30 million people died in wars and conflicts between 1945 and 1991, and most of these were linked to the global duel between the USA and the USSR.

The casualties included those in the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam Conflict, the anti-Communist uprisings in East Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956, the Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot, the U.S.-backed death squads in Latin America, the Indonesians massacred in the overthrow of Sukarno, the wars in Africa between US-backed and Soviet-backed proxies, the Afghan war between a Soviet-backed regime and US-backed rebels, and countless other struggles now forgotten by the world.

UntoldHistoryStoneKuznick00379519Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, in their book and TV documentary, The Untold History of the United States, said this tragedy for have been avoided but for one thing.

It was that the President of the United States in the years following World War Two happened to be Harry Truman, a warmonger, rather than Henry Wallace, a lover of peace.

This is not how it appeared to me at the time.   I came of age in the early 1950s, and I thought the United States and its allies were in peril, the same kind of peril as in the 1930s.

The Soviet Union was as much a totalitarian dictatorship as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.   By “totalitarian,” I mean that the government sought to subordinate all human activity, including science, art, literature, sport, education and civic life, to the control of the ruling party, and to demand not only passive acquiescence, but enthusiastic support.

Hitler and Stalin also were alike in that they killed millions of people, not for anything they had done, but for what they were.  While historians now think that Stalin murdered fewer people as Hitler, this is not how things seemed at the time, and, in any case, Stalin’s body count was large enough.

But the most terrifying thing about totalitarianism was the idea that the ruling party could somehow get into the minds of its subjects, and experience slavery as a kind of freedom.  George Orwell’s 1984 was an all-too-plausible vision of a future in which there was no individual liberty, no concept of objective truth aside from a party line and a Winston Smith could be brainwashed into loving Big Brother.  These things seemed all too plausible.

Stalin not only ruled one-sixth of the earth’s surface, but commanded the loyalty of Communists worldwide.  Millions of people, many of them idealistic, intelligent and courageous, believed it was their duty to subordinate their personal convictions and code of morality to a Communist Party line that put the interests of the Soviet Union above all else.

A revolutionary Communist movement is one thing.  A worldwide Communist movement that subordinated all other goals to being an instrument of Soviet power was a very different thing.

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Two profiles in courage

December 30, 2014
A black police officer in 2014 who did not turn his back.

A black police officer in 2014 who did not turn his back.

A German in 1936 who did not raise his hand.

A German civilian in 1936 who did not raise his hand.

Source: Moon of Alabama and Billmon.

I do not of course say that New York City in 2014 is equivalent to Hamburg in 1936, but I do say these pictures show two examples of the same kind of courage, the willingness to stand alone for what is right and face the consequences.