Monthly Archives: June 2012

If artists do see fields blue they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals and should go to prison… Adolf Hitler

The blog entry is illustrated with Nazi propaganda posters from various sources.

Where ghosts walked : Munich’s road to the Third Reich    New York : W.W. Norton, c 1997 David Clay Large  National socialism Germany Munich Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxv, 406 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 363-394) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

An account of Munich’s cultural life and its supposed connections with Nazism. It begins with the efforts of Bavaria‘s kings, Ludwig I and Ludwig II, and goes on to describe Munich’s avant-garde in the 1890s and early 1900s. The cabaret Die elf Scharfrichter gets its share of attention, as do Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Stefan George and the satirical newsletter Simplicissimus. Little is said about the avant-garde in art and Large’s point is that Munich became famous for bohemeiansm but that it was in decline well before World War I.

Even the bohemeians were riddled with anti-Semitism and racism. The city, which exploited its artistic reputation for tourism, was considered increasingly dull by artists themselves. Yet this was an ideal environment for the young Hitler, who liked the flair of boheme but shunned experimentalism in art.

Large goes on to describe the outbreak of nationalist enthusiasm in August 1914 and the chauvinism, anti-Semitism, and hate-filled disillusionment that followed as the war experience became bitter. Wartime Munich did not differ much from other German cities, except that the strains of war transformed a dislike of Prussia into hatred. Large’s account of the confused Bavarian revolutions, the repression of the soviet republic, Hitler’s return to Munich, and the rise of Nazism until the Beer Hall Putsch is familiar.

Hitler stubbornly considered Munich home for himself and the Nazi movement and that he resisted transferring party headquarters elsewhere even when his party expanded outside Bavaria, despite the fact that the Nazi vote in Munich and Bavaria was below the national average. Hitler’s loyalty to the “birthplace of the movement” did not prevent Munich from losing political influence even as the Nazis took power in Berlin; the purge of the Munich-based SA in June 1934 accelerated this development.

During the Nazi period Munich, the declared capital of German art, tried to display a cheerful and artistic side of Nazism. This resulted in what Large considers crude kitsch supported by a local party leadership who were always eager to carry out the regime’s measures. Large  mentions plans to rebuild the city in the gigantesque manner typical of Nazi architecture but also shows that the townspeople retained some satirical distance to their rulers and their schemes. Large ends with a brief analysis of postwar Munich’s attempts to revive the image of the cultural city and to disassociate Munich from Nazism.

Anecdotes and little stories, many of them colorful and some sensationalist, take up much space. This is particularly true for the bloom of the 1890s avant-garde, the soviet republic of April 1919 (which made idealistic writers and hard-nosed revolutionaries fight shoulder-to-shoulder), and for Hitler’s emotional attachment to the city’s bohemian flair and artistic claim.

Advertisements

Comments Off on If artists do see fields blue they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals and should go to prison… Adolf Hitler

Filed under Book Reviews

All the tribes tell the same story. They are surrounded on all sides, the game is destroyed or driven away; they are left to starve, and there remains but one thing for them to do – fight while they can… George Crook

General George Crook participated in several campaigns against Indians, particularly in the battles of Powder River, Tongue River and the Rosebud but was no fan of the policies emanating from Washington regarding the indians.

With Crook at the Rosebud    Mechanicsburg, Pa. : Stackpole Books, c 1994   J.W. Vaughn ; new introduction by Brian C. Pohanka Rosebud, Battle of the, Mont., 1876, Crook, George, 1829-1890 Hardcover. The Custer library Originally published: Stackpole Company, 1956. 245 p. : ill., 1 map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 239-240) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Given the number of combatants, the Battle of the Rosebud was one of the largest confrontations waged in the Indian Wars.

In the spring of 1876, the U.S. Army took to the field against the Lakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne. The tribes had not met an ultimatum to return to their reservations in the Dakotas and Nebraska after U.S. negotiations to acquire the sacred Black Hills had failed in the fall of 1875.

Brigadier General George Crook moved 1,050 soldiers and 260 Crow and Shoshone scouts north into the Rosebud Valley, Montana Territory, after his scouts reported a significant concentration of Lakota and Cheyenne there. Crook’s column represented one of three tactical columns placed in the field in the summer to ferret out the natives.

On June 17, a roughly equal number of warriors led by Crazy Horse assaulted Crook’s force along Rosebud Creek. The confused battle over uneven ground separated into three pitched skirmishes. There were numerous brave acts on both sides, including a Cheyenne girl who rescued her brother after his horse had been shot out from under him.

After six hours the Lakotas and Cheyennes called off the fight; the braves had fought Crook’s men to a standstill. Crook’s force suffered 10 killed and 21 wounded, and the warriors sustained similar casualties. Crook claimed the day because he believed he had driven the Indians from the field, but his claim was empty.

The fight was at most a stalemate, and Crook’s badly hit column withdrew to its base camp on Goose Creek near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming. As a result of the battle, one of the three army columns converging on the Indians was effectively incapacitated and taken out of the campaign for two months.

A map showing the proximity of the Battle of the Rosebud with the Battle of Little Big Horn

Some say the battle set the stage for the Indian victory involving many of the same warriors eight days later and 30 miles away, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. At least partial blame has been laid at Crook’s feet for Custer’s disaster because the latter failed to rout the Indians, give chase, and conceivably force them north into other U.S. Army columns. Instead, the reasoning goes, the action gave the Lakota and Cheyenne a psychological boost.

But other scholars say Crook is wrongfully implicated in Custer’s demise: The former had barely enough provisions for his soldiers through June 18, which suggests he would have had to reverse course the following day. In addition, Crook could not have advised General Terry, Custer’s commanding officer, of the battle’s outcome soon enough to aid Custer.

George Armstrong Custer whose martyrdom at Little Big Horn would inform American sensibilities about indians for the next century

To historians of the battle the Rosebud is acknowledged as a positive chapter in the Lakota and Cheyenne defense of their lands. However, it was not a simple fight between whites and Indians. To the Crows and Shoshones who scouted for the Americans, it was their battle too, against the Lakotas and Cheyennes who were encroaching on their lands and lifeways.

Comments Off on All the tribes tell the same story. They are surrounded on all sides, the game is destroyed or driven away; they are left to starve, and there remains but one thing for them to do – fight while they can… George Crook

Filed under Book Reviews

Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil… Horatio Nelson

Young Nelsons : boy sailors during the Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815    Oxford : Osprey, 2009    D. A. B. Ronald ; foreword by Alexander Kent Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815 Naval operations, British Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 304 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 296-298) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

They ‘fought like young Nelsons.’ The words of a schoolmaster, writing from aboard the Mars after the battle of Trafalgar, describing the valour of his pupils in the heat of battle. Made immortal by the novels of C. S. Forester  these boy sailors, alongside those of every other Royal Navy ship, had entered the British Navy to fight the French across every ocean of the world. There was a long-standing British tradition of children going to sea, and along the way found adventure, glory, wealth and fame. During the Napoleonic Wars, these children, some as young as eight or nine, were also fighting for the very survival of Britain. Drawing on many first-hand accounts, letters, poems and writings, this book tells the dramatic story of Britain’s boy sailors during the Napoleonic Wars.

Comments Off on Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil… Horatio Nelson

Filed under Book Reviews

Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime… Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield Disraeli

The gentleman has not seen how to reply to this, otherwise than by supposing me to have advanced the doctrine that a national debt is a national blessing… Daniel Webster… Second Speech on Foot’s Resolution, Jan. 26, 1830

offered in 1829 by Samuel Augustus Foot in the U.S. Senate. This resolution instructed the committee on public lands to inquire into the limiting of public land sale. The Jacksonian Democrats, who wished to encourage migration to the West, opposed the resolution; the New England manufacturing interests, who demanded a ready labor supply, backed it. When the Foot Resolution was introduced, the advocates of states’ rights saw an opportunity to coalesce with the interests of the West. This touched off (1830) the dramatic debates between Robert Hayne and Daniel Webster.

 The argument over debt, land acquisition and the “freedom” embraced by the pioneer movement can not be separated and it is finally this boom and bust nature of American society – both the need and the willingness to always start over – that informs our attitudes towards debt. The frontier however has closed – it has been closed for more than a century – and if we are to have stability we must inform ourselves again about debt lest we finally be reduced to a fiat currency.
Mann has done a very good job with the history but although he might resent the label he is apparently a Bourbon since he has forgotten nothing and learned nothing in the process – I am surprised he is not in charge of a presidential commission.

Republic of debtors : bankruptcy in the age of American independence    Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2002 Bruce H. Mann Bankruptcy United States Colonial period Hardcover.     viii, 344 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [265]-338) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Debt was an inescapable fact of life in early America. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, its sinfulness was preached by ministers and the right to imprison debtors was unquestioned. By 1800, imprisonment for debt was under attack and insolvency was no longer seen as a moral failure, merely an economic setback. In Republic of Debtors, Bruce H. Mann illuminates this crucial transformation in early American society.

From the wealthy merchant to the backwoods farmer, Mann tells the personal stories of men and women struggling to repay their debts and stay ahead of their creditors. He opens a window onto a society undergoing such fundamental changes as the growth of a commercial economy, the emergence of a consumer marketplace, and a revolution for independence. In addressing debt Americans debated complicated questions of commerce and agriculture, nationalism and federalism, dependence and independence, slavery and freedom. And when numerous prominent men – including the richest man in America and a justice of the Supreme Court – found themselves imprisoned for debt or forced to become fugitives from creditors, their fate altered the political dimensions of debtor relief, leading to the highly controversial Bankruptcy Act of 1800.

Whether a society forgives its debtors is not just a question of law or economics; it goes to the heart of what a society values. In chronicling attitudes toward debt and bankruptcy in early America, Mann explores the very character of American society.

Comments Off on Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime… Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield Disraeli

Filed under Book Reviews

Authoritative and engrossing, Racing the Enemy puts the final days of World War II into a whole new light.

There are never-ending debates about Truman and the atomic bomb and the American plan to invade Japan with the possibility of 1,000,000 casualties – on the American side alone – but almost nothing is said about the alternatives. We suspect a large part of this is the inability to read maps and the unwillingness to either learn from history or to give credit – or place blame depending upon your ability to reason – on the Russian approach to the Pacific.

After taking Vladivostok from the Chinese in the 1860 settlement of the Opium War the Russians had been looking for a warm water port with access to the Pacific. Their adventure in the Russo-Japanese War [1904-1905] was an unmitigated disaster that helped fuel the Revolution of 1917 which did nothing to assuage their ambitions. While Stalin was insisting that the west aid in the fight against Germany he was remaining neutral in the war against Japan. With victory in the west he had millions of troops to commit to a war against Japan and no compunction about human wave tactics. As it was the west had not learned the dangers of appeasement in 1938 and gave him Sakhalin island in the peace process and the Russians have used it for the last 50 years to interfere in the north Pacific.

Using the atomic bomb and forcing the surrender of Japan was the only think that kept the Russians off the main islands of Japan itself which would have given them the same springboard to bring the eight corners of the earth – or at least all of southeast Asia from Australia north – under one roof. Hasegawa does a brilliant job of explaining the geopolitics of the Pacific war endgame and is well worth the reading. 

A map of Asia from 1808 at the beginning of the “great game” that continues in many ways to this day.

Racing the enemy : Stalin, Truman, and the surrender of Japan    Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa World War, 1939-1945 Japan Hardcover. ix, 382 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 309-362) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

With startling revelations, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa rewrites the standard history of the end of World War II in the Pacific. By fully integrating the three key actors in the story – the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan – Hasegawa for the first time puts the last months of the war into international perspective.

From April 1945, when Stalin broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and Harry Truman assumed the presidency, to the final Soviet military actions against Japan, Hasegawa brings to light the real reasons Japan surrendered. From Washington to Moscow to Tokyo and back again, he shows us a high-stakes diplomatic game as Truman and Stalin sought to outmaneuver each other in forcing Japan’s surrender; as Stalin dangled mediation offers to Japan while secretly preparing to fight in the Pacific; as Tokyo peace advocates desperately tried to stave off a war party determined to mount a last-ditch defense; and as the Americans struggled to balance their competing interests of ending the war with Japan and preventing the Soviets from expanding into the Pacific.

Comments Off on Authoritative and engrossing, Racing the Enemy puts the final days of World War II into a whole new light.

Filed under Book Reviews