In the aftermath of the Great War, the Allied nations compiled both regimental and general histories of the conflict. In these narratives, the experiences of the soldiers and their commanders are filtered through the ultimate outcomes—and attendant sufferings—inflicted by the war. The errors of judgment and planning made by commanders are preserved in these records, and are particularly significant to our understanding today of battles whose brutality and massive death tolls are still shocking. The contribution of ANZAC (the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops to the campaigns at Gallipoli and the Dardanelles (April 1915–January 1916) against the Ottoman Turks is marked in the ANZAC countries as a solemn day of remembrance. In this excerpt from a multivolume narrative of the campaigns compiled by C. E. W. Bean, the casualty figures, and Bean’s reactions to the deployment of soldiers and the possible waste of war, are striking.
C. E. W. Bean, The Story of ANZAC from 4 May, 1915, to the Evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula, 11th ed. (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1941), 743–745, 761–762, available online at http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/first_world_war/AWMOHWW1/AIF/Vol2/.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), who trained as a neurologist and general psychologist, pioneered psychoanalysis, the technique of encouraging free association. From his practice he developed the theory of repression, the idea that certain thoughts were held back from both oral expression and the patient’s conscious mind. His work also developed the notion of the unconscious, which he suggested was behind much of our thoughts and actions. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud argued that to be civilized is to be unhappy, because it was civilization itself which forced us to repress out natural instincts—those most notably of aggression and sexuality. In this excerpt he discusses how aggression is a primal instinct and looks at how this instinct, along with the instinct for sex, is controlled and repressed in “civilized” society, to the detriment of ultimate human happiness.
From Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents. Trans. and ed., James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton, 1961, pp. 58–63.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was born in the Austro-Hungarian empire and lived in Vienna nearly all his life. (He fled to London in 1938, when Nazi Germany invaded Austria.) As a young man, Freud began a medical career specializing in neurology and nervous disorders. He became interested in the problems of hysterics, individuals suffering from debilitating symptoms or behaviors for which there was no obvious physiological cause. Trying first hypnosis and then the “talking cure,” Freud developed his theories that traumatic events repressed from conscious memory nevertheless profoundly affected an individual’s emotions and daily behaviors. The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) introduced his ideas about the powers of the unconscious mind. Dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, habits, characteristic emotional responses—almost any aspect of a patient’s behavior could be used by a skilled interpreter to uncover the past events that caused present suffering.
Freud’s first and most controversial explanation for the childhood traumas that affected adult personality involved the sexual drive—a generalized eroticism or urge for pleasure that he detected even in the very young. The various ways that families controlled such drives accounted for the neuroses so common to adults. But Freud’s ideas changed over the decades, partly from work with patients, partly from controversies with such students as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung, and partly from his observations of the disasters overtaking Europe after 1914. As the selection here reveals, by the 1920s he had come to believe that men harbored an instinct for destruction, a “death wish,” as much as one for pleasure and love.
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. XXI (1927–1931), trans. and ed. James Strachey, 111–15, 122. Copyright © 1961 Hogarth Press.
Paul Tillich (1886–1965) was a German-American theologian and a Christian existentialist philosopher. Born and raised in Germany, Tillich attended several universities there before becoming a Lutheran minister in the province of Brandenburg. It was while he was teaching in Frankfurt between 1929 and 1933 that he came into conflict with the Nazi party because of his lectures and speeches throughout Germany, and he was fired after Hitler came to power in 1933. Soon thereafter Tillich moved to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1940. Tillich’s work as a philosopher was tied to questions of ontology (the study of being). While his philosophy concentrated on generating questions about what it means to be human, his interest in theology sought to generate answers. Tillich saw the idea of “correlation” as the concept that linked his interest in philosophical questions and theological answers. In Collective Guilt, he takes a somewhat mystical approach to the idea that the Germans as a whole were guilty in the “destiny” of Germany, that the crimes perpetuated by individuals were representative of the destiny of the wider German community.
From Ronald H. Stone and Matthew Lon Weaver, eds., Paul Tillich’s Wartime Addresses to Nazi Germany. Trans. Matthew Lon Weaver. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999, pp. 178–82.
Paul Valery (1871–1945) was a French writer whose interests were so broad that he was known as a polymath (someone whose interests span many different areas). He produced plays, essays, novels, and other works of nonfiction, including symbolist poetry (symbolism being a late 19th-century art movement). He was born and raised in the south of France, where he received a Roman Catholic education before moving to Paris, where he lived for most of his life. By 1919, when he wrote A Crisis of the Mind, Valery was a literary giant in France. In it he suggested that Europe was in decline. Looking back at the great civilizations of antiquity, he memorialized them and went on to point out that Europe, though once great, was not immune to the forces which undermined Babylon, or Nineveh, or the Ancient Persian Empire, among other ancient civilizations.
From Paul Valéry, A Crisis of the Mind. 1919.
Oswald Spengler (1880–1936), may not have been the obvious candidate to produce the most talked-about book of his age. A somewhat sickly loner, he nonetheless touched something in the collective European consciousness, a melancholic post-war mood that enabled The Decline of the West to become a best-seller. Civilizations, being “organic,” have lifecycles, he argued, just like biological entities. He went on to argue that Western civilization has evolved through three major stages—the Magian, the Appollonian, and the Faustian. These correspond, respectively, to the belief in magic (including the major religions), the striving for order (Classical Greece and Rome), and the pursuit of power and knowledge (the modern West). The West had achieved its high point; from here things would take a downhill turn. In this excerpt he discusses what he calls the “world-city,” a cosmopolitan mélange of people and cultures comprised of rootless individuals without traditions, territorial identity, religion, what Spengler contemptuously refers to as “a mob.”
From Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (1918).
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) was born in Cambridge, England, and attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. While working in the British civil service he wrote his first book on economics, Indian Currency and Finance, an exploration of the Indian monetary system. After briefly lecturing at Cambridge, he returned to government service and worked his way up the bureaucracy at the Treasury. He was the British Treasury’s principal representative at the Versailles negotiations, but he resigned his position because he felt the treaty imposed such a financial burden on Germany as to make her politically unstable in the future. The Economic Consequences of the Peace laid out this case, and its publication in 1919 made Keynes a celebrity. In addition to his cogent and prophetic economic analysis, the book also provided a perceptive account of the motivations of the main negotiators, Britain’s David Lloyd George, France’s Clemenceau, and President Woodrow Wilson, all three of which had their own specific agendas at Versailles.
John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920, pp. 226, 234–5, 237–8, 250–1.
Friedrich Hayek (1899–1992) was born in Vienna, when it was still the vibrant capital of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. After the war, he studied economics and law at the University of Vienna. He published his first book, on monetary theory, in 1929, on the strength of which he was appointed to the post of Professor at the London School of Economics. Here he stayed until 1950. He also taught at the universities of Chicago and Freiburg. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he challenged the other prominent British economist, John Maynard Keynes, book for book and article for article. Hayek endorsed the pre-1848 vision of classical economic liberalism, emphasizing the importance of private property, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and the free market. In the Road to Serfdom (1944) he argues that government intrusion into a free economy is the first step toward totalitarianism.
From Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, pp. 93–4, 96–8, 100.
British novelist and critic Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) was also known as a writer on history, travel, and many other subjects, as well as a sometime poet. He attended Oxford University where he received a degree in literature. Unable to pursue his two first choices of profession—scientist or Air Force pilot—because of poor eyesight, he turned instead to writing. He spent most of the 1920s and 1930s living in Italy and France, where he wrote his best-known novel Brave New World (1932), before moving in 1937 to America. Huxley was a lifelong pacifist, but in the 1930s he was a particularly active one. His book Ends and Means (1937) explored the causes of war, its consequences, and how although humanity agrees on what it wants, it has failed to agree on how to get there. His Encyclopaedia of Pacifism extended his interest in the subject, looking critically at all historical, social, biological, and psychological aspects of conflict.
From Aldous Huxley, ed., An Encyclopaedia of Pacifism. London: Chatto & Windus, 1937, pp. 7–9, 27–8, 72–5, 104–6, 122.
Excerpts from a speech delivered by Adolf Hitler to open the 1933 Congress of the National Socialist Party
Hitler was appointed to the Chancellorship in January 1933. One month later a young Dutch Communist, Marinus van der Lubbe (1909–1934), set fire to the Reichstag building; by his own admission, he committed arson as a desperate attempt to rally the German working class against the Nazis. (He was tried, found guilty, and guillotined.) Using the fire as an excuse, Hitler dissolved the parliament and assumed emergency powers – which led directly to his ultimate declaration of dictatorial authority as Führer. Several months later, Hitler addressed the annual Congress of the Nazi Party.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
Karl Marx (1818–1883), the German socialist philosopher, worked alongside Engels to shape the Communist Party, which Marx outlined in his seminal text The Communist Manifesto (1848). The German Ideology, also coauthored by Engels, explains Marx’s theory of history as defined by relationships based on material conditions. This work responds to contemporary philosophers—such as Hegel and Feuerbach—while leading the reader step by step through Marx’s materialist ideology.
From Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968, Vol I. ch. 1, section A.
Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943. As leader of the Fascist Party, he governed the nation as Prime Minister, according to the constitution, until January of 1925, when he dropped all pretense and began to rule as dictator. He liked to think of himself as combining the traits of a scholar with those of a man of action – and his collected works fill twelve volumes. In the following essay, published in 1923 in a monthly journal (Gerarchia) that he himself served as editor-in-chief, he contrasts the virtues of Fascism (“Force”) with the vices of Liberalism (“Consent”).
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile
Through a series of small demonstrations and gatherings in 1919, Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) created, at least in his own estimation, a completely new political ideology. He named this philosophy for a symbol used in the ancient Roman empire: the fasces, which was a bundle of rods together with an ax and carried by lictors as a representation of power. Mussolini was installed as Italy’s leader, or “Duce,” in October 1922. He published an explanation of what he had achieved as well as a statement of his political beliefs in the Enciclopedia Italiana in June 1932. Reflecting on a decade of a ruthless grab for and maintenance of “totalitarian” power (the word itself was coined by this regime, and specifically with the collaboration of Mussolini’s court philosopher, Giovanni Gentile), Mussolini justified the violence inflicted by his regime and emphasized its fundamentally “moral” basis.
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed., A Primer of Italian Fascism, trans. Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Olivia E. Sears, and Maria G. Stampino (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 48–50.
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) was an India-born British writer best known for his many volumes of short stories and of poetry, as well as his novel Kim (1901). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. A champion of British imperialism, he ardently supported the entry in World War I – although his enthusiasm received a severe blow when news arrived of his son’s death in battle in September 1915. His book France at War, which was published in that year, was part of a series of stories commissioned by the British government in order to entertain the nation and promote support for the war effort by depicting the atrocities of the Germans, the heroism of the British men, and the steadfast courage of French and British women. Portions of the first chapter (“On the Frontier of Civilisation”) appear below.
From Rudyard Kipling, France at War. London. Macmillan, 1915.
Born in Budapest and educated in Austria, Arthur Koestler (1905–1983) was a member of the Communist Party from 1931 to 1938, when he resigned his membership. He wrote many novels, essays, and other works of nonfiction, and in 1968 he was awarded the Sonning prize for “outstanding contribution to European culture.” The God That Failed, published in 1949, was made up of six essays on the shared theme of disillusionment with Communism. Billed as “a confession,” the six contributing writers tell the stories of their ultimately disappointing relationship with Communism.
From Arthur Koestler, The God That Failed. New York: Harper’s, 1949, pp. 17, 23, 24, 29–31, 48–9, 71–2, 74–5.
Robert Graves (1895–1985) was a British writer whose talents spanned a wide range of genres, from novels and poetry, to biography, history, mythology, and translation. He was born in 1895 in the London suburb of Wimbledon and lived most of his adult life on the Balearic island of Mallorca. Goodbye to All That, which we wrote when he was thirty-four, deals with his early life and his reasons for leaving England, never to make it his home again. But a large part of it also discusses his experiences in World War I, and the title may be a reference to the passing of the old ordser that the war represented. Along with the trauma and destruction of war, Graves comments on the social disruptions—and innovations—which accompanied the period, including the rise of feminism, pacifism, socialism, atheism, and the changes in literary and artistic expression that were to be so large a part of the early 20th century.
From Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That. New York: Penguin Books, 2001, pp. 96, 97–8, 100–1, 103, 105–6, 190–2, 197–8, 199.
Norman Angell (1872–1967), after spending several years in the United States working variously as cowboy, farm laborer, and reporter, became the Paris-based editor of the English Daily Mail newspaper. He was an executive for the Committee against War and Fascism and a member of the executive committee of the League of Nations Union. During his tenure at the Daily Mail he produced his most memorable written work, The Great Illusion, which was an expanded version of a pamphlet he had written entitled Europe’s Optical Illusion. In this piece he made the case that a European war would be disastrous because the economies of Europe were so interdependent. Any disruption to a single commercial sector would affect every sector. Angell took a decidedly business-oriented approach to this book, seeing an appeal to economic interests as the only way to counter society’s romanticism over bloody conflict. After a decade in politics back in Britain, Angell was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
From Norman Angell, The Great Illusion. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1933, pp. 65, 67–9, 71, 72.
Henry Ford (1863–1947) was the founder of the Ford Motor Company, which produced the world’s first affordable cars. While he was known as a pacifist in the First World War, in the second he made his anti-Semitic views widely known in publications such as the International Jew, which was printed as a four-volume series of booklets published by the Dearborn Publishing Company, which he owned. His Dearborn Independent newspaper also published a series of his anti-Semitic articles. In The International Jew, Ford recirculates many of the traditional anti-Semitic arguments, for instance, those concerning a Jewish conspiracy for global dominance via behind-the-scenes methods. In this excerpt he discusses the Jews in Germany and reiterates many widespread arguments concerning the extent of Jewish involvement in contemporary Germany’s financial and political woes.
From Henry Ford, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. 1920.
Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) was a French author, journalist, and philosopher. He is one of the founders of absurdism, a philosophy that developed in Europe immediately after World War II and that views the tendency of humans to seek inherent value and meaning in life as impossible goal.
Published in Paris, 1942 by Gallimard: Le mythe de Sisyphe. Translation by Clifford Backman from Parts 1 and 4 of the original
Gilbert (1911–1977) was an American military officer and prison psychologist during the Nuremburg trials. On October 20, 1945, the International Military Tribunal received indictments of twenty-three Nazi war criminals, among them Herman Goering, senior Nazi leader and head of the Luftwaffe, and other top Nazis. It was Gilbert’s role to maintain close contact with the prisoners for the duration of the trial, monitoring their state of morale, and provide mental examinations with the prison psychologist. His Nuremburg Diary is a verbatim account of his conversations with the prisoners and a compilation of some of the essays he asked them to write. In doing so, Gilbert began to expose what had motivated these men to create the nightmarish Aryan dystopia that was the Third Reich.
From G. M. Gilbert, Nuremburg Diary. New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1947, pp. 205–11.