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ForkTailedDevil
03-04-2005, 08:57 AM
One of my co workers is the first person in his family born in the USA. All of his family and a large portion of it still live in Germany. He is very proud of is heritage. His grandpa served on the eastern front during the war. Being the huge history buff I am I like to talk to him about the war to see what his opinion is on a lot of things and they are much different than I expected.

Anyway I mentioned that his grandpa served on the eastern front according to him his grandpa fought in Siberia?? Now I know the winter in '41 was pretty cold but it wasn't that far east. Also he talks about how bad the treaty of Versaille (spelling?) was so bad for Germany and that is was permission for them to start the 2nd world war. He also talks about how FDR was as evil as a leader like Stalin and Hitler because US soliders on the western front commited lots of rapes and murders in western Germany of civillians??

My question is this I know that war is really bad and people on every side did bad things. Is it possible his grandpa is trying to make it sound like everyone was picking on poor Germany during the WW2? Should I just ignore his idea's I feel in a lot of ways his grandpa has brainwashed him. When talking to him it seems his grandpa knows everything about the war. The reason I am suspicious is when I talk to my grandpa about things from 60 years ago all of his stories start sounding the same. Thanks all.

OldPepper
03-04-2005, 10:47 AM
The treaty of Versailles was quite draconian in a number of ways, but was essentially intended to keep Germany demilitarized after the horrible Great War. Can't blame either side for the way they felt about it at the time.

Your friends' gramps may be of 2 camps (or more). Either he was an actual true-believer Nazi, or he's conflicted about the atrocities the Nazi's commited yet still proud of his country and his service to the homeland. Versaille made the ground ripe for what was to follow.

"Picking on Germany"? This may be the residual effect of Pre-WW2 propaganda, or the fact that Germany was left with horrible recontruction and war reparation debts that really did fall hard on the people (compounded by the Great Depression), thus paving the way for the primary spear of the nascent Third Reich and it's early propaganda: A proud people in a horrible economic depression made worse by te terms of Versaille. Quite a sharp and real mental spear to use while framing the initial rise of the 3rd Reich (The promise to return pride to a wounded people, etc. This was even long before the brown-shirts and the Holocaust, but did help the fascists set it in motion.)

It's true the Russian army systematically raped Germen women upon occupying German territories and cities. I'm sure some Allied troops did some as well, but such revege wasn't officially condoned. Atrocity doesn't forgive atrocity, however.

Fact is, younger German's are likely exhausted about feeling guilty about the war and the atrocities which they had nothing to do with. Fact is most are far more liberal now than mainstream Americans... Doesn't prevent them from feeling pride in their country. For that matter Russians are proud of their countrymen of those time as well, while depising that government with equal enthusiasm.

If I were you, I would be careful talking about these things with your friend or his gramps. Like when I visit my extreme-rightist relatives on Christmas, I try to keep the conversation to the traffic and fishing... confronting them with the stark contrast of our politics is best saved for election days and letters to Reps...

An ominous quote to keep vigilant all the worlds free peoples:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

My apologies if this post ruffles political feathers. Such in not my intention and I'm fully for the ban on politics here. I feel it's more about history than current politics, thus I contributed (positively, I hope.)

Skarphol
03-04-2005, 12:18 PM
I agree with OldPepper! Very good post indeed!

I think his grandpa can have a plethora of reasons to think of the war and what happened then thw way he does, and the fact that he survived the eastern front indicates that he possibly entered the war at a late stage, when german atrocities where less frequent. Very few of the German soliders that participated in the attack on the Soviet Union survived the war.

That there where atrocities committed by the western armies during the closing stages of the war is very probable. This seems to be a problem with all armies seeking revenge. But as it is allways the victors that write down the history, this is very little reported today.

As a sidenote, my father experienced the German onslaught on Norway as a kid, and he said that once the batle was over, and the Germans had seized command, the soliders acted very polite. A German solider that took a leak by my grandpa's gardenfence was yelled at ferociously from his CO for insulting the Norwegians.

When it comes to your colleague; I would follow OldPeppers advice and keep the talk to traffic and weather. It seems that this guy is proud of his grandpa, and trying to argue about the war will probably lead to an indirect insult of his granpa and himself. I think you should just leave it as it is. At least unless this starts to hurt other people.
That's my two cents.

Skarphol

MEGILE
03-04-2005, 01:31 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I hate politics on this forum in particular, because of what the thread usually degenerates into. However, that is a very interesting quote indeed.

Red_Russian13
03-04-2005, 04:54 PM
This seems like a legitimate question and I hope this doesn't degenerate as it does so frequently.

My advice would be to hold of on asking about that stuff until you and he are closer, if that ever occurs of course. I wouldn't feel comfortable asking about it unless I knew the man very well. I knew a German exchange student who went to my school, and I liked him a lot. But I never asked him about the war, even though I wanted to hear what he had to say. I did make the mistake of asking a Polish neighbor of mine what it was like living in the Warsaw Pact...he didn't have much good to say and I'll leave it at that. Some of the Polish students in the college at which I work are easier to talk to about those things, but I don't press too much.

That's my suggestion, take it for what you will. But OldPepper may be on to something when he says the gramp's may be of two camps or more. That might not be something you want to broach or even know about.

huggy87
03-04-2005, 08:16 PM
I think you need to figure out if you are soliciting a discussion of WW2 with your friend because you truly want to know how the "other side" thought. If, however, you want to debate and bring him to your way of thinking, you may have to be prepared to lose a friendship. Believe me, it happens.

Amon26
03-04-2005, 10:20 PM
When it comes to war discussions, I try to remain as objective as possible. It's not like I was there so.. ya know.. But here's what I gather.

I think Russia was seeking revenge for all the brutality Germany unleashed on them for so long. Germans as a whole had a view of russians as "sub-human"

Roosevelt and Churchill were, to my knowledge just doing everything in their power to stop Hitler's influence from spreading. This doesn't mean their hands were clean of everything (the bombing of dresden comes to mind)

And when it really comes down to it, give a natural born sadist a rifle, bayonnet and a license to kill and you'll see some really awful stuff. Regardless of his nationality.

(not to say all soldiers are sadists)