The History Americans Don't Want to Know
I have written about this general subject a number of times before (in the second half of this post, and in more detail in this one, for example), and here is Anne Applebaum on part of the history of World War II that most Americans either don't know, or don't want to be reminded of
Of course, the Warsaw uprising isn't as little known as all that: Survivors in Poland have been telling their stories for quite some time. But it is true that the story is little known in this country, and there are reasons for that: It wasn't a story our political leaders wanted to dwell on at the time, and it hasn't been one anyone in this wanted to talk much about since. Among other things, if we really absorbed its lessons, it would be difficult for Americans to feel quite so sentimental about World War II, and quite so nostalgic about the unshakable moral purpose for which it was supposedly fought.I doubt there is any"perhaps" about it. In our own history, probably only the American Revolution was an undeniably"good" and necessary war. But I don't think the same is true even of the Civil War; more on that some other time.
For the story of the Warsaw uprising really is the story of the destruction of Poland's"greatest generation." ..."We believed so much in the West," one of the survivors wistfully told CNN.
But their assumption was incorrect. ...
The Poles were left to fight alone. In the battle, which lasted 63 days, more than 200,000 people died, among them most of the country's intellectual and leadership. The scale of the catastrophe, the psychological, physical and economic damage, is almost unimaginable. ...
For those tempted by the post-Vietnam nostalgia for the"good war" -- a nostalgia which seems to increase as things go badly in Iraq -- it's an unsettling story. But there are many such stories. No less terrible are the tales of the Allied troops who forced White Russians and Cossacks into trucks and returned them to the Soviet Union -- at Stalin's request -- where most were killed. Or the accounts of the mass arrests that accompanied the Soviet"liberation" of Central Europe, while we in the West officially looked away. One of the reasons the survivors in CNN's film speak such beautiful English is that they were all exiles, forced to live abroad after the war.
In fact, for millions of people, World War II had no happy ending. It had no ending at all. The liberation of one half of the European continent coincided with a new occupation for the other half. The camps of Stalin, our ally, expanded just as the camps of Hitler, our enemy, were destroyed. Not that you would know it, listening to Americans reminisce about D-Day, or the children welcoming GIs in the streets, or the joyous return home. Perhaps there is no such thing as an entirely"good war" after all.
comments powered by Disqus
- Hull of Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley Found 150 Years Later
- U.S. Textbook Skews History, Prime Minister of Japan Says
- Recalling a Film From the Liberation of the Camps
- Skull Fossil Offers New Clues on Human Journey From Africa
- Are crude conspiracies right? Research shows nations really do go to war over oil
- Columbia University professors Eric Foner, Alan Brinkley, and Alice Kessler-Harris to retire
- A powerhouse appropriations subcommittee is now headed by a historian: Republican Rep. Tom Cole (OK)
- Slavic scholars divided over a scholarship sponsored (and withdrawn) by Stephen F. Cohen
- Claire Strom to Step Down as Editor of Agricultural History