Monday, December 14, 2009
According to the widely accepted truism, history is written by the victors. The funny thing about WW2 is that the most important history, what happened in Russia, was written by the losers. Between the events and the telling, the cold war started. So instead of the Russians crowing their victories, we had German generals explaining why it wasn't really their fault they lost. It was Hitler. It was the human wave tactics of the Red Army. It was Goering's fault. It was the savage brutality of the Soviet regime. It was logistic incompetence. It was Himmler's fault. It was the interference of Nazi bureaucracy. It was the weather. It was bad luck.
The reason we accepted this story is 1) its partly true, 2) it suited our predjudices, 3) it was politically expedient. What the Russians said was all propaganda (and at that time it was mostly was). The German generals were gentlemen, aristocrats, admirable military minds. Why would they lie? But lie they did to save their reputations and their necks. Had the cold war not started until 1947, lots of well known German generals would have hung in 1945 and 1946. Instead, they were useful to the victors and let off with wrist slaps. Naturally, their memoirs followed thereafter. And our view of the war was set in stone until the mid-90's.