Telling Half-truths About History
The most recent DNA research on our origins in these Isles has caused some pause for thought, not least in the Celtic fringes of the United Kingdom but it should not have come as that much of a surprise that we `Anglo Saxons` have a large measure of German DNA. The latest survey, based on over 20 years of research suggested that 30% of Brits have Saxon origins and for England that percentage is even higher at 40%. One British comedian responded by saying `Well we love beer, sausages and invading other people`s countries, so the signs were all there!`
Before the First World War ideas of kinship between Saxons and Anglo Saxons abounded. We have obviously travelled a long way apart in the intervening years to a point where attitudes to all things German today range from largely indifferent to outrightly hostile.
And those attitudes are obviously underpinned by the experiences of fighting two world wars against Germany and the revulsion at the holocaust. However, a seemingly never-ending stream of negative perceptions and historical half-truths, that do not allow for a different perspective, also helps underpins them.
My second book, to be released on 8th May will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, attempts to set German history and Germans in a much longer and broader context than just the 12 years of National Socialism that we are constantly bombarded with. To question just how `objective` the published histories of Germany have been in the past 70 years and to what extent many of them are merely regurgitations of wartime propaganda. Beyond that I also make the argument that not only does each generation reinterpret our understanding of the past but that in large measure any individual’s view on history is just that, it is merely a perspective. That is not a post modernist view to say history has lost its purpose but rather to argue that true objectivity is all but unobtainable. To gain a broader understanding of the past we really need to view history from as many different perspectives as possible.
To that end Anglo Saxon perspectives particularly on the great conflicts of the first half of the Twentieth Century have unfortunately remained, for the most part, far too one dimensional to the point where even offering an alternative perspective is viewed in certain quarters as being ‘not quite cricket’. But to give you a taste of the kind of things my book will make you think about, I`ll start by taking exception to a documentary by the venerable John Sergeant and his depiction of the role the Lancaster bomber played in ‘winning the war’ by focusing on `strategic targets.` Now that`s a stretch, not only because the Area Bombing Offensive, in which the Lancaster played such a high profile role, did not play a significant role in winning the war but also and precisely because from 14th February 1942 the Air Ministry`s Area Bombing Directive switched its strategy to carpet bombing built up civilian residential areas. Beyond focusing on the half truth of the Lancaster’s use as a `strategic` weapon of war, it is also disingenuous to fail to mention that it was used as a tool of war that broke the Hague conventions but more importantly that it was used as an utterly murderous weapon in the assault on civilians; primarily women, children and the elderly. An assault that killed more German children than the US lost soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Hollywood also plays a role in bolstering exceptionally one sided portrayals of history that have convinced many Americans and many others around the World that the US virtually won the Second World War on its own and that the Germans were all automaton zombies who deserved to die. The latest Hollywood offering starring Brad Pitt, Fury, where a single tank crew take on half the German Wehrmacht single handed (in a Sherman!) promoted itself as a gutsier and more realistic perspective on the true nature of the fighting during WWII. A veteran of the conflict made a valid commentary on this via the Guardian`s review of the film (24th October 2014) saying, “the scene where the crew hold out against a battalion of Waffen SS troops was too far fetched. The Germans seemed to be used as cannon fodder...troops who would have easily taken out an immobile Sherman with a panzerfaust (anti-tank bazooka). ” In reality, seventy years on many in Hollywood, the media and too much of the historical establishment seem perfectly happy to allow the Second World War to continue to evolve into nothing more than an epic myth.
Modern audiences have become so used to the Hollywood treatment of history that many simply could not handle and would be utterly shocked at a more honest appraisal of the nature of the fighting. Shocked because it would inevitably show the mass slaughter of German civilians. In a raft of campaigns from Operation Clarion to Operation Gomorrah civilians were the main targets. The Allies after all killed three times as many German civilians as they did men in uniform. And the greatest half truth, if even mentioned at all, is that the bloodiest onslaught against German civilians only began at the end of the war and continued many years afterwards. The RAF sank dozens of ships packed to the gunnels with fleeing refugees, 32 ships sunk in the last week of the war alone. And the Soviets with their lackey Czech and Polish militias ethnically cleansed millions of Germans from the former homelands in a thousand kilometre sweep from the Bohemian borderlands right through to the far reaches of the eastern Baltic, in a process which did not `formally` end until 1951 with the last transports out of Stettin and Swinemuende.
Telling half-truths about history has become the norm; it makes us feel better about ourselves and has become the comfortable narrative in all Allied nations (including Russia), who have apparently only ever fought the good fight then and now in all the corners of the Earth. Germans whether conscripts, civilians or the military are fair game in what has become a never ending Hollywood turkey shoot, nothing more than a extended version of a computer game where automaton zombies are blasted to bits in ever more gruesome ways and in ever greater numbers. I`m sure the Nazis would have done the same had they won the war. The shocking thing is how few seem to realise how much we have come to resemble them, by turning Germans into lesser human beings for whom one cannot and should never feel any empathy.
For a new perspective on German history read my latest book – Death of a Nation – a new history of Germany, where I roundly pan all the politically correct narratives on German history, not least those produced in Germany itself.
Death of a Nation - A New History of Germany
Published by Book Guild Publishing ISBN 1910298492