World War II: Before the War
June 19, 2011 5:07 PM   Subscribe

World War II: Before the War. Part 1 of a forthcoming weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II from The Atlantic's In Focus.
posted by kirkaracha (13 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I am amazed that there are going to be 20 of these.
posted by ignignokt at 5:11 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

#41, of Hitler Youth kids burning books, reminded me of this photo of kids in Georgia burning Beatles records after John Lennon's "more popular than Jesus" comment in 1966.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:12 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm watching The Winds of War on NetFlix instant. It's amazingly good.
posted by Jahaza at 5:40 PM on June 19, 2011

Hitler really didn't have the legs for that dress.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:07 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never heard about this feat. The non-spanish internet is largely mute on that subject, here's some background in autotranslation.
11 tonnes of dynamite... after six months of digging you make damn sure you don't blow ruin undermine it, I mean, you know what I mean.
posted by hat_eater at 3:22 AM on June 20, 2011

Nice effort, somewhat marred by the liberal use of the word "fascist" in the legends of the pictures related to the Spanish Civil War, and in particular in this picture. The (presumably red) berets, and the conspicuous lack of uniforms identifies this group not as fascist or falangist, but as Carlist "requeté" militia. It's difficult to understand the Spanish Civil War if you ignore that both sides were rather heterogenous mishmashes of often conflicting groups.
posted by Skeptic at 5:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anytime I see pics of how organized the army was and the social movements where everyone looks the same, lines up, forms symbols, marches, etc. it just sends chills down my spine. I couldn't imagine being there in person and not thing "Oh hell no, time to bounce." Why anyone non-German stayed is beyond me.
posted by stormpooper at 6:32 AM on June 20, 2011

I couldn't imagine being there in person and not thing "Oh hell no, time to bounce."

Yet this is informed by our latter knowledge of what it all led to, in particular the Holocaust.

Dial back a generation or less and you see the destruction of Europe for, in a populist view, the whims and rivalries of a network of inter-related aristocratic families. This idea of the citizen militia, or more properly, the militarized citizenry, turned that on its head and seemed modern and probably democratic at the time. It was, of course, especially attractive in the states that were the ultimate losers in the war.

As it happens, someone in the house is reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. It is largely from the point of view of Americans in Nazi Berlin, such as US Ambassador William E. Dodd, who misunderstood the nature of the revolution taking place. Many felt that Germany had been punished too severely for the Great War and were pleased to see it recover and "mature". Still others felt that obvious anti-Semitism among the movement was in fact earned by e.g. alleged war profiteering by Jews, or financial machinations destroying the economy (much as we have experienced lately, but without the anti-Semitic undercurrent). Without the dark end clear to them, it had a lot of appeal even to foreigners.
posted by dhartung at 4:05 PM on June 20, 2011

I couldn't imagine-

And yet, you must try.

Start by imagining that you live in a country where a four year war had devastated the population of young men. Imagine the blockade was not lifted for six months after the armistice. Imagine a reparations bill so staggering that it was only paid off in full in October of 2010. Imagine 33% unemployment. Imagine a monthly - monthly - inflation rate of 3.25 billion percent . Imagine charismatic politicians who claim to have a way out.

Start with that and you can take the next steps yourself.

Because while we may like to think that we don't have it in us, the unfortunate truth is, we probably do.

Please imagine, because it was lack of imagination that made a lot of what actually happened, happen.

(potters off to find In The Garden of Beasts, thanking dhartung.)

By the way, there were those who feared America as well might slide into fascism at that time, and although our government programs weren't so big on uniforms and folk dancing, you can see how some folk might imagine we were on a slippery slope.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on June 20, 2011

I've been following Today in WWII for awhile. It's great from spotlighting small stories within the larger frame of global war. It's up to June 1941.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:38 AM on June 21, 2011

Part 4: The Battle of Britain
posted by kirkaracha at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2011

Part 5: Conflict Spreads Around the Globe
posted by kirkaracha at 9:21 AM on July 17, 2011

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