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Should we try and collect WW2 testimonies while we still have the chance?
#1
I know that WW2 has been widely documented, but I can't help but thinking that we have dropped the ball massively when it comes to getting eye-witness and soldier accounts of it, particularly when it comes to the Axis and Russians.

I recently came across the site Facing Stalingrad whose mission is to try and solve this by giving us German and Russian survivor accounts of the Battle of Stalingrad, detailing things that I have never seen mentioned --or even hinted at-- anywhere else. It's a brilliant and valiant effort, greatly appreciated at that, too... but the thing that got my mind going is that some of the interviews ended with: "X passed away in...". We are simply running out of time when it comes to learning about unsung heroes, battle and horror. And I think that preventing that is our responsibility, as citizens of a world inherited from those who helped shaped the way it is now.

Before anyone says it, yes... I know that WW2 wasn't exactly a walk in the park and that most of the people who were unfortunate enough to have partaken on it are happy to just leave it behind them, but I can't help but noticing how Europe as a whole has this big "never again" vibe to it (despite ongoing efforts by some groups and countries that clamor for a repeat), yet this purpose is entirely defeated if we render all those years of battle, horror and shelling into historical facts and stats; it's the personal accounts that bring those events to life. And the more we have, the easier to paint a clear image of why war sucks.

We live in a world in which WW2 has been sadly glorified. Where games and movies tend to make it look like the coolest thing ever and with an environment so soaked by a Manichean way of thinking, it leaves no room for nuances. According to many of these pieces of media and documentary accounts, there were no good Germans, nor where they any humanitarian Russians... they were basically things to be gunned down. That's a terrible mistake to make, because then stories like that of Karl-Heinz Rosch get buried forever under a sea of misinformation. Such is the risk of not asking. Of not learning.

But we must draw the line somewhere, too... is it really ok for us to contact thousands --if not millions-- or surviving WW2 army personnel from across all nations involved just to ask them to dig up a ghost-infested past they have probably tried to bury for decades? It's a tricky call.

Regardless, though... if there are voices that wanted to be heard, it is our duty to listen. We will never learn everything, but the more we know, the richer we will become. And time is running out for us when it comes to that, with each passing day tragically becoming one chance forever lost.

Thoughts?
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#2
We need to record all sides of the story, it doesn't matter if it was US, Japanese, China, USSR, Germany, Italy, etc.
It doesn't matter if the German was a conscripted Wehrmacht or a member of the Nazi party Waffen SS member.

It is important that we learn and know why they partook in the war, and their personal views/ why they joined.

The issue is that people are all too willing to call Hitler and the Nazis monsters, but they were not, they were humans, they had some sort of logic to their views. By just calling them monsters and thinking no more of it, a few things happen:
1) We fail to understand what the cause of Hitler's rise of power too many people just think it was blaming the Jews for losing WW1, or maybe if WW2 was dug in deeper the terms of surrender that completely screwed over Germany, granted yes both played a part but most classes fail to mention about the roll of anarchists, communists, and leftists with their armed rebellions and take overs of places during the Weimar Republic played in the rise of Nazism and Hitler.
2) We reduce complex geopolitical issues that we really need to learn from to "her derr Bad guys bad"
3) The current trend of dismissing/demonizing people just a based on their views be it religious, political, or otherwise, is going to lead to another Hitler as that is what Hitler and the Nazi party did (The jews, communists, sexuality, national origin, etc). Making this trend no better then what they claim to be against.
There is a quote from Nietzsche that fits here "Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster..."

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#3
(05-14-2019, 01:54 AM)Lurker101 Wrote: We need to record all sides of the story, it doesn't matter if it was US, Japanese, China, USSR, Germany, Italy, etc.
It doesn't matter if the German was a conscripted Wehrmacht or a member of the Nazi party Waffen SS member.

It is important that we learn and know why they partook in the war, and their personal views/ why they joined.

The issue is that people are all too willing to call Hitler and the Nazis monsters, but they were not, they were humans, they had some sort of logic to their views. By just calling them monsters and thinking no more of it, a few things happen:
1) We fail to understand what the cause of Hitler's rise of power too many people just think it was blaming the Jews for losing WW1, or maybe if WW2 was dug in deeper the terms of surrender that completely screwed over Germany, granted yes both played a part but most classes fail to mention about the roll of anarchists, communists, and leftists with their armed rebellions and take overs of places during the Weimar Republic played in the rise of Nazism and Hitler.
2) We reduce complex geopolitical issues that we really need to learn from to "her derr Bad guys bad"
3) The current trend of dismissing/demonizing people just a based on their views be it religious, political, or otherwise, is going to lead to another Hitler as that is what Hitler and the Nazi party did (The jews, communists, sexuality, national origin, etc). Making this trend no better then what they claim to be against.
There is a quote from Nietzsche that fits here "Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster..."
Some good thoughts here, for sure.

This is what's always difficult for me. On the one hand, I find the ideology behind Nazism to be utterly repulsive (as I'm sure everyone here does), so I don't even want to sympathise with those who promulgated it (I can give a bit more leeway to those who were simply duped into following it). On the other hand, I'm well aware that we need to do what we can to understand it - otherwise, we're just doomed to repeat it. (If any of us were plonked into 1930s Germany, would we have fallen for Hitler's propaganda? I'd very much like to think we wouldn't; however, understanding how it operated is really the only way to be sure that we wouldn't have done)

Certainly, Nazism didn't "just happen": there was a sequence of political events that led to it happening. It's the same with all the other scary, dangerous branches of political extremism: communism didn't "just happen" in a vacuum either, and nor did ISIS and all the other jihadist groups. And if Western democracy collapses into tyranny at some point in the future (whether it be far-left, far-right, or something we haven't even thought of yet), I can guarantee that that isn't going to "just happen" either.

So, yes - we should collect WW2 testimonies while we have the chance. It's probably the best way to inoculate against something so horrific happening again.
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#4
(05-14-2019, 11:35 PM)Kyng Wrote:
(05-14-2019, 01:54 AM)Lurker101 Wrote: We need to record all sides of the story, it doesn't matter if it was US, Japanese, China, USSR, Germany, Italy, etc.
It doesn't matter if the German was a conscripted Wehrmacht or a member of the Nazi party Waffen SS member.

It is important that we learn and know why they partook in the war, and their personal views/ why they joined.

The issue is that people are all too willing to call Hitler and the Nazis monsters, but they were not, they were humans, they had some sort of logic to their views. By just calling them monsters and thinking no more of it, a few things happen:
1) We fail to understand what the cause of Hitler's rise of power too many people just think it was blaming the Jews for losing WW1, or maybe if WW2 was dug in deeper the terms of surrender that completely screwed over Germany, granted yes both played a part but most classes fail to mention about the roll of anarchists, communists, and leftists with their armed rebellions and take overs of places during the Weimar Republic played in the rise of Nazism and Hitler.
2) We reduce complex geopolitical issues that we really need to learn from to "her derr Bad guys bad"
3) The current trend of dismissing/demonizing people just a based on their views be it religious, political, or otherwise, is going to lead to another Hitler as that is what Hitler and the Nazi party did (The jews, communists, sexuality, national origin, etc). Making this trend no better then what they claim to be against.
There is a quote from Nietzsche that fits here "Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster..."
Some good thoughts here, for sure.

This is what's always difficult for me. On the one hand, I find the ideology behind Nazism to be utterly repulsive (as I'm sure everyone here does), so I don't even want to sympathise with those who promulgated it (I can give a bit more leeway to those who were simply duped into following it). On the other hand, I'm well aware that we need to do what we can to understand it - otherwise, we're just doomed to repeat it. (If any of us were plonked into 1930s Germany, would we have fallen for Hitler's propaganda? I'd very much like to think we wouldn't; however, understanding how it operated is really the only way to be sure that we wouldn't have done)

Certainly, Nazism didn't "just happen": there was a sequence of political events that led to it happening. It's the same with all the other scary, dangerous branches of political extremism: communism didn't "just happen" in a vacuum either, and nor did ISIS and all the other jihadist groups. And if Western democracy collapses into tyranny at some point in the future (whether it be far-left, far-right, or something we haven't even thought of yet), I can guarantee that that isn't going to "just happen" either.

So, yes - we should collect WW2 testimonies while we have the chance. It's probably the best way to inoculate against something so horrific happening again.

The thing is, many people conflate understanding with sympathizing, or assigning (some) blame outside of the Germans such as the unfair the Treaty of Versailles was to the Germans (who didn't even start WW1), to the point that Hitler had the French sign their surrender in the same box cars the Germans did in WW1. (It would be like if the US signed a surrender to the Japanese on the USS Missouri).

The other issue is that, if we keep the "they were all monsters" and we don't seek to have some sympathy or empathy for the Nazis (not "oh poor souls they lost WW2" but "Oh because of x y and z I can see how they thought the way they did" type), we fail to accept and realize that any one can fall victim to the same types of thoughts the Nazis had, maybe it will be against Muslims, maybe it will be against "cis" people, maybe it will be something else, but if we don't realize this and allow the extreme elements of the left and right to continue down their paths we will be looking at it again. The Nazis were not monsters, they were humans and that is what should be seen as the scary fact. They were human no different then you, or me. They were not some create regulated to bumps in the night and an over active immigration. But we can not give up freedoms to fight them (be it speech, be it "Oh any one who thinks like x needs to be in jail, etc) as then we will be no better then them, prove them correct (in terms of persecution) giving them more support (Hitler's jailing helped Hitler...), and doing what they did when they came in to power.

"Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you" - Nietzsche

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#5
to understand how to not repeat the past we must have all angles of the story, we may never get those however because if we are being honest those views might be slandered to hell and back just because they paint the "allies" in a bad light as well. The war was a mess on both sides and having the stories from all sides would actually be the best thing we could do to truly understand the motivations and reasoning why it all happened in the first place.

I dont exaggerate when i say what is going on these days reminds me of what i have read up on the lead up in the 30's, we are repeating history by playing on peoples fears and getting the masses to squabble and fight each other to further a goal. its a shame both my grandfathers are dead or i would have loved for them both to detail their own views of the war as they both fought in it.
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#6
Guys, you kind of missed the ball here.

I used the Germans and Russians as examples, but we should get testimonials from ALL sides, as stated on the opening post. That said, I loved the conversation that sparked.

I feel that we are stuck with the US/UK side of things and that SUCKS. Up to 19M people served in the German army... where are they? Where are all the French, Italian, Pole...? We suck!
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#7
(05-15-2019, 02:57 PM)Dust Bowl Wrote: Guys, you kind of missed the ball here.

I used the Germans and Russians as examples, but we should get testimonials from ALL sides, as stated on the opening post. That said, I loved the conversation that sparked.

I feel that we are stuck with the US/UK side of things and that SUCKS. Up to 19M people served in the German army... where are they? Where are all the French, Italian, Pole...? We suck!

My first point I said all sides, ;) The issue is that few if any will object to getting the Allies side of the story.

I even mentioned Italian, but can they be trust worthy narrators after all they swapped sides :thinking: :P

Honestly I (hope) in the case of the Poles, French, Russians, et al it is an issue of language barriers. I do have vague memories of The Hitler History channel having some shows that would feature interviews with some German and maybe Japanese veterans, but since The History Channel doesn't show history anymore I am afraid they are basically lost media now.

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#8
Language barrier would be a petty issue to have on a topic such as this. I am sure there are English-speaking Xs out there... we are probably just sitting on our asses here.

Cool! I don't think those were dubbed here :(
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#9
Yeah, I'm sure the Italian, Russian, Polish (and so on) testimonies are all out there - some in their native languages, and others in English. For example, when I was in high school, I attended a lecture held by a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. Given how immediately-affected their were by Hitler's atrocities, their testimonies are some of the most powerful, and it's great that some of them are doing all they can to get the word out - but, obviously, their numbers decrease with every passing year, so we need to listen to their stories while they're still around to tell them :( .

I don't know whether there will be as many testimonies out there from those who fought for the Third Reich. No doubt, they won't be at all proud of what they did - and many will be keen to leave it all in the past. This is understandable, for sure - but also highly regrettable, since their testimonies are the ones that will warn us exactly how ordinary people can become complicit in such crimes against humanity - and instruct us on how best to prevent a similarly tragic outcome in the future.
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