In this excerpt from an article in The Atlantic Monthly (July 1919), the British Zionist Harry Sacher (1882–1971) explains to an American audience why the issue of a Jewish homeland is such a necessary part of the then-ongoing Paris Peace Talks, at the end of World War I.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
From The Atlantic Monthly, July 1919
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/.
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).
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
For most people, the greatest conflict of the second half of the twentieth century was one that emerged within and then divided peoples of the Western tradition: that is, the rival philosophies of democratic capitalism and communism. Yet one of the most successful practitioners and developers of communist thinking was not western but Asian, the extraordinary Chinese leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976).
Mao’s attempts to establish a pure, yet technologically advanced communist society in China were both transforming and devastating for the Chinese people. Policies such as the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s resulted in the deaths of millions. As a communist, Mao identified the inequities and exploitations of capitalism as the greatest cause of violence in the world; that did not make him any more friendly with the Soviet Union, however, as the two nations jostled for leadership of the communist movement. Mao’s death in 1976 contributed to the country’s abandonment of strict communist economic policies and the beginning of its integration into the international community.
The passage that follows was written shortly after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. In his essay, Mao showed his discernment in recognizing that World War II had already begun, though Europeans would not realize it until 1939. Aside from the Japanese conquests, Italy had invaded Ethiopia (Abyssinia), and Italian and German forces had intervened in the Spanish Civil War (as, indeed, did forces of the Soviet Union). Mao predicted correctly that a war among the Western powers would begin shortly, and that it would be followed by “revolutionary” wars of liberation against the Western colonial powers. When these were successful, he argued, and socialist governments established around the world, an era of “perpetual peace” would be inaugurated for mankind.
Mao Tse-tung [Zedong], “On Protracted War,” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. II (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967), 148–50.
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.
As a result of the failure of his Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was sent to a minimum security prison at Landsberg. However, he was paroled, four years before the completion of his sentence, in December 1924. Having met with the respect of his judges during his trial in February 1924 and with the approval of the Bavarian Supreme Court, although against the advice of state prosecutors, he had his sentence—after his conviction for a treasonable attempt to take over the state—commuted. Nevertheless, there were some restrictions, both in Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany, on Hitler’s speaking and freedom of movement. In spite of these restrictions, he emerged from prison with the manuscript of a new political statement of his life and philosophy, a document he entitled Mein Kampf (“My struggle”). As recently discovered documents reveal, Hitler hoped to use the proceeds from the sale of this book for a new car as well as to fund his political movement. The party growing out of this movement would be labeled the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and he would be installed as its unquestioned Führer (leader) by 1925. The following excerpt from Mein Kampf reveals what he had learned about rhetoric and political action in his nascent career.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 469–471.
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.
Born in 1893 into an upper-class family at a time when society expected neither intellectual nor professional achievement from such women, Vera Brittain obtained a scholarship to Somerville College at Oxford University in 1914. When the war began in August 1914, her brother, Edward, and his best friend, Roland Leighton, enlisted. Brittain left college the following year to study nursing, and she joined a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) unit. Having become engaged to Leighton while he was home on leave in August 1915, Brittain learned in December of that year that he had been killed in action on the Western Front. Continuing her nursing work, Brittain experienced the loss of numerous other friends and relatives, including her brother, over the course of the war. After the war, she returned to Oxford and developed an important literary career in her own right, publishing her beautifully written and compelling wartime memoir Testament of Youth in 1933. Throughout the 1930s, she advocated international peace and women’s rights, insisting that the shattering experiences of her youth should not be reinflicted on contemporary young people.
Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth (New York: Seaview, 1980), 239–241.
Adolf Hitler’s promises of desire for lebensraum (“living space”) and a renewal of the former glory of the empire appealed to German nationalism. In 1938, Hitler set his sights on Poland, claiming that the large German ethnic population in the port city of Danzig needed protection and should be under German control. After Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Hitler traveled to Danizig on September 19 and delivered this speech.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
German officer Ernst Junger (1895–1998) was wounded a total of fourteen times during World War I, including five times by bullets, one of which went through his chest. He survived, however, to be awarded the Iron Cross, 1st Class, and publish his memoir, Storm of Steel, an account of fighting on the Western Front. This was one of the first accounts of trench warfare. Largely unexpurgated upon publication, it contained graphic passages, which shocked much of its audience, detailing the utter destruction this new kind of warfare wrought upon the people and the landscape.
From Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel. London: Chatto & Windus, 1929, pp. 48–9, 51, 51, 53–4, 60, 125–7, 235, 315–7.
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) was one of the foremost British modernist writers. A member of the influential set of writers, artists, and philosophers known as the Bloomsbury Group, her best-known works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando, as well as the nonfiction essay, A Room of One’s Own. Woolf was at the height of fame as a novelist when she wrote Three Guineas. Divided into three distinct essays, it takes the form of letters in response to requests for financial support for various admirable causes. The third essay acts both as a statement of radical pacifism and as an attempt to decode the root of all wars, which she sees as a distinctly male desire for aggression. To directly resist Fascism, therefore, is to extend the male need for dominance and not to control or terminate that desire. In this excerpt, she asks her correspondent why he thinks she should be of any use in coming up with a solution to the war. Women, after all, have been shut out of education and public office throughout history, so in what ways can they be expected to solve the muddles made of public life by men? While she recognizes the acute global crisis underway, she explores the even deeper cultural malaise of patriarchy that underlies it.
From Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas. London: Hogarth Press, 1938, Part 3.
David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson
The Treaty of Versailles concluded the First World War. Signed between the Axis powers and the victorious Allies, it was drafted primarily by the “Big Three,” Britain, France, and the United States, represented by their leaders, David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson, respectively. Signed at the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris, the treaty reflected the different positions of the victors. France looked to permanently end any future threat from Germany and exact vengeance for wartime losses, while President Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” offered a somewhat softer landing for Germany. The British government walked a fine line between its public’s demands for vengeance and its own concerns that Germany should remain a solid wall against Russia’s Communism. The final treaty imposed heavy reparation costs and territorial losses on Germany, however, and its severity played a role in the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.
From Jonathan F. Scott and Alexander Baltzly, Readings in European History since 1814. New York: F. S. Crofts & Co., 1930, pp. 546–50.