Tag Archives: Political History

When the Tigers Broke Free – Rape in World War Two

I am afraid that the top side is not completely satisfied with my work… They are naturally disappointed that I failed to chase the Hun out of Italy but there was no military reason why I should have been able to do so. In fact there is no military reason for “Shingle”. – Major General John P. Lucas

 

 

The Royal Fusiliers Company C were not the only men sacrificed for the imbibing hereditary duke beyond the Cliffs of Dover. The Battle of Monte Cassino and its sub theaters were a great multicultural event.

The last time so many nations had uplifted and hurled themselves at an object was before black powder had been harnessed, and the destination was Jerusalem.

Marocchinate, used against Italian women, was not simply an Arab disease. The greatest amount of rape was yet to come, and if Hitler was correct to place over 90% of his forces to the East, we should have a good reason why after reading this article.

When discussing World War Two, Americans generally know very little. First of all, we think that we defeated Germany and that the French gave up and let gallant SS officers parade their finest Parisian women through the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Blitzkrieg shot down the nations of the continent like dominoes. The Brits had a sea between them and the Panzers. We had an ocean.

It was the Eastern Front where National Socialism and International Communism were waging a war of absolute annihilation where it was impossible that both were to be left standing, and it was here were 95% of German soldier casualties would transpire.

Japanese surrender in the Pacific Theater was also contingent on the Soviets halting their expansion beyond Manchuria.

What was so bad about the Russians? They were, after all, our allies.

Well lets take a look at the perception of some of their victims. The Ukraine had been starved to death without remorse during the 30’s. Was this the fate that awaited any resistor to Stalin?

It wasn’t only Americans that had gasped in horror about life under the Hammer and Sickles. There were already millions of people who had experienced it first hand.

After the War, Eisenhower marched German children through Belsen to make then feel bad, collectively. In order to feel bad about war crimes, you need to have a conscious to begin with. No one has wasted their time with this method in Russia.

Back to Monte Cassino, the soldiers who raised the flag over the monastery there were Polish. Remember that country? It had been provocative with Germany before the war, but thought the good men on the Thames had their back, and how did that work out for them? It was cut in half by the two most powerful armies in the world, and decapitated of its intellectual elite in the frozen tundra of Katyn.

Churchill saw Poland as a pawn, but who didn’t he see this way? When we view him cajoling others to thrust themselves into machine gun fire, it is not only Roger Water’s father at Ansio.

But a cemetery of the victims of this man could rival that of any other tyrant in history. Yet his side won, so we won’t be able to topple his bronze statues for quite some time, if ever. Churchill built his empire shooting men with spears, and lost it to men with guns. Now lets return to the East.

Last month, an art student in Gdansk erected a statue memorializing the rape victims of the Red Army. But he is Polish, weren’t the victims German women? No, hundreds of thousands were Polish women from 8 to 80.

This was the liberation that Poland received by the allies of Churchill, not to mention another 45 years of Soviet occupation.

Churchill gave Poland to Stalin on a silver platter. Trusting this man proved as fatal to a nation as any other time in history. His peers disabused him of power almost immediately after the war. Unfortunately the rest of Europe couldn’t undo his errors so easily.

The Christ of Nations, 1920

In Polish history, war usually comes down to two conflicting scripts. From the Polish side, pushing geographical boundaries out in all directions, as far as possible. From the opposing side: eliminating the irritating roadblock begrudgingly acknowledged as “Poland.” This theme is perennial.

It has not only been steel and fire that has determined if the land of the White Eagle was to be a flesh and blood state, or merely a state of mind; it was also the petitioning of the fighting spirit through ideological appeal.

Literature in Poland has served such a purpose. Polish literature is not meant to appeal to outsiders. It is generally so nationalistic that neighboring nations, even the most tolerant and enlightened, would feel a certain hostility emanating from its pages.

This is not to condemn Polish literature. The nonpareil polish bard, Adam Mickiewicz wrote his magnum opus, Pan Tadeusz, as an exile in France, when his drawn nation had been quartered by standing armies from neighbor states. The loot went to Vienna, Moscow and Berlin, but the heart went to Paris.

National Messianism, as a political ideology, grew from ethereal to concrete when General Pilsudski took this doctrine to the field, playing immovable object vs. unstoppable force, a.k.a the Russian Bear, immediately after the First World War.

Interestingly enough, however, national messianism had already been translated to the East. If Western readers ever confront this strain of thought, it probably will first be through Dostoevsky, an ardent Russian Slavophile who saw his nation as a victim of Prussian and Polish military aggression. In Dostoevsky, it is Russia, not Poland, that is to suffer for humanity, and teach the nations the righteousness of his ever-expanding enlightened empire.

Russia had become the Christ of Nations, filled with millions of little Christs ready to pick up the bayonet in the mud and charge forward.

Did these two competing messianic visions go toe-to-toe?

Rewind to November 21st, 1919. Out of the ashes of the Austrian and Russian empires, arise new nations, still wet from blood-soaked trenches. Two of these nations are Poland and the Ukraine who had just met each other in battle and are now signing an armistice.

Fast forward to April, 1920. Pilsudski launches an offensive into the Ukraine as a preemptive strike to halt Soviet expansion. May, 1920 – Polish forces take Kiev.

If anyone is the victim of these scrambles for land (and oil fields) it is the Ukraine, who is now partitioned between competing forces; Red Russians, White Russians, Poland, and Romania.

That Pilsudski believed in the Polish Messianic doctrine is not in dispute.

That Lenin’s boys in the field, Trotsky and Stalin, believed in the reactionary Slavophile ideal would be harder to prove.

Trotsky was active in trying to make Poland a Russian dacha-land for Soviet Party members. He would become a symbol on both sides in the propaganda war, yet both sides would utilize traditionalist Christian imagery to appeal to the peasantry and recruits, as the idea of an atheistic world-brotherhood of workers had yet to sink in with the illiterate icon-praising Russian bumpkin.

The Soviet propagandists utilized traditionalist, Slavophile, and Messianic motifs in their early deployments. Their appeal to their own soldiers was often reactionary and messianic.

The Polish-Soviet War was intense. It was also ideological. It lasted less than two years, but took more lives on each side than America lost in Vietnam or Korea. And we are talking 1920 technology and weaponry. This suggests a fiercely personalized battle between belligerents.

19 years later World War Two would start, and 95% of German deaths would be claimed by Eastern European ravens, not by Anglo-American hardware.

As always, ideological struggles prove the most bloodthirsty. The playing ground of red and white goal posts was between the Vistula and the Volga. World history, either before nor since, has never seen such a merciless score.

Book Review Featured Image

Book Review: The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson

If there is one book in the realm of history or political science any informed person needs to read this year then Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die is it. In this short book Ferguson goes right to the heart of why the West seems to be in decline and analyzes in short, incisive prose why that is so and perhaps what can be done to reverse it. The book itself is only 147 pages of text divided into an introduction, four topical chapters and a conclusion. There are twenty pages of notes but no bibliography or index, which is unusual for one of Dr. Ferguson’s books.

The whole thrust of this book is that it is the degeneration of civil, that is to say private, institutions, the failure of the Rule of Law, the distortion of economies by social engineering, and the breakdown of trust in civil society that are at the heart of why the West is in decline.  The bright spot is that the decline is not terminal, or at least not yet, it can still be reversed.

I got the impression while reading this book that I was reading a modern day Juvenal or Vegetius lamenting the degradation of the Roman world.  I only hope that this time the West gets it right and our children and grandchildren are not subject to another Dark Age as the West throws away the fruits of its culture.

I highly recommend this book both to people who agree and disagree with the central points.  If nothing else this book provides a starting point for a conversation about where society is and where it is going or should be going.  Once again, Dr. Ferguson has a produced a highly relevant and readable book that should make everyone think.

Book Review Featured Image

Book Review: Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard R. Beeman

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard Beeman is the tale of the First and Second Continental Congresses from the opening of the First until the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776. It was serendipitous that I received this book from the publisher when I did because the events leading to and surrounding the Declaration of Independence have recently become an area of interest of mine.

The book is 418 pages of text separated into 25 chapters with two appendices, and index, and extensive notes. The prose is clear, well written, and even entertaining at times. The narrative covers the events in the first two Continental Congresses from the first meeting to the Declaration of Independence and a little beyond. This is not meant to be the story of the revolution and military events are only mentioned in the context of how they impacted the deliberations of the Congress. This is the story of how the English colonies went from being loyal subjects of the crown to 56 of the most prominent men in America signing a document sundering that relationship forever.

Before reading this book I had what I hope was an average understanding of the issues surrounding the months and years leading up to the Declaration of Independence. After reading this volume I had a much clearer understanding of not only the issues that cause the break between the colonies and England but also the different tensions between the colonies themselves. Too often the history of the drive for independence presents the colonies as a monolithic bloc, which as Dr. Beeman makes clear was anything but the case. Independence was not the goal of the majority of delegates to the First Continental Congress and it was only a combination of colonial reasonableness and British intransigence and insensitivity to colonial aspirations that led to the ultimate break.

It is fascinating to read of the maneuvering that went on in the Congress and how it was not until the last minute that it was clear that Independence would happen. Another interesting aspect is pricking the inflated bubble surrounding the role John Adams played in the Congress and the realization that Thomas Jefferson may have written the Declaration of Independence but he was a late comer to the Congress itself. Perhaps the most interesting appreciation one gains from reading this book is realizing the reluctance with which most colonists took the ultimate step of declaring Independence.

This is an outstanding work that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to truly understand how and why America got to revolting against the authority of the English crown. In fact, this book should be required reading in every college survey course on American History as it presents a clear and well explained rationale for Independence. It is also suitable for 11th or 12th grade high school students. This is an outstanding book that should become an instant classic and needs to be on the bookshelf of anyone who fancies themselves knowledgeable about the Revolutionary Period.

Book Review: Dresden: A Survivor’s Story by Victor Gregg

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

Victor Gregg’s Dresden: A Survivor’s Story is a short work describing the author’s experience as  POW who got caught in Dresden in February, 1945 when the Allies bombed the city in what would become known as the Firebombing of Dresden.  The attack essentially destroyed the city center and killed an estimated 25,000 German’s.  Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the attacks that also discusses the controversy surrounding them that has grown up since the war.  To sum up the controversy, general anti-war people claim they were a crime and so do Neo-Nazi’s.  Both claim that Dresden was not a legitimate military target or that if it was the bombing did not hit them.

Back to the book.  Dresden: A Survivor’s Story, is the story of what one man saw and did just before, during, and just after the bombing.  Printed the book would only amount to roughly 40 pages.  It is an engaging tale and the author writes with a witty sarcasm that keeps the narrative flowing.  The events he relates surrounding the Dresden bombing seem fantastical but are probably accurate representations of what actually happened.  There is no doubt that the bombing of Dresden and it’s aftereffect were horrific.  Mr. Gregg’s narrative reflects this.  The only part of the book I take exception to is the afterword which I felt was a poorly written attempted rationale for why the Firebombing of Dresden was a war-crime.  I leave it to the individual reader to research it on their own and make the decision of whether a war-crime (A term I object to) occurred or not.

Editorializing: Personally, I find the whole talk of war crimes to be farcical.  It would be comical if so many people did not take the notion so seriously.  The term and the associated crimes against humanity, genocide, etc. Have been so misused that they no longer have meaning.  The traditional Laws of War stood the Western World in good stead for centuries and nothing that was done in WWII seems to me to have mitigated against their use.  What has happened in the last hundred years is a Quixotic attempt to civilize war, an activity that is inherently uncivilized.  The right of the victors would have sufficed perfectly to put the perpetrators of the holocaust against a wall but for some reason, the West felt the need for legalized vengeance.  Their invention of these crimes has subsequently turned around and bit them ever since.  There was no need to justify the destruction of Dresden, it was an enemy city and thus subject to attack.  The severity of said attack was and is irrelevant.  There is no such concept of proportionality in warfare, nor should their be.  Warfare is doing what you think you need to do to compel your enemy to submit; no more and no less.

Overall this is a well written work of personal reflection.  I recommend it for people that would like a description of what it was like to be in Dresden during and immediately after the bombing.  There is no great amount of detail here but it gives a good general description of what living through such an event was like.