Translated by Guillaume Durocher
This article is drawn from Dominique Venner’s history of the twentieth century, Le Siècle de 1914 (Paris: Pygmalion, 2006), 329-31.
In Germany itself, since 1985, May 8 has been raised up as a commemoration of the Nazi defeat. [. . .] A great ambiguity. This defeat was not only that of an ideology or of a political system. It was also the defeat of an entire country. It ensured the disappearance of the Germans’ Reich and nation-state, partition, and the Sovietization of the eastern zone. The German historian Thomas Nipperdey noted this: “Unconditional surrender was imposed not only on the Nazis but on the Germans and their Reich, the old Germany, for good and for ill.” [. . .]
The discourse of liberation was that of the victorious powers. It was accompanied by a “brainwashing” unlike that suffered by any other people. In the American occupation zone alone there were 13 million denazification files! The Germans had to be made to feel guilty for having elected in 1933 the man who at that time spoke of peace and promised to free them of the injustices of Versailles and to put an end to the latent civil war which had torn the country apart since 1919. No one could foresee the war and its most horrific consequences, notably the fate of the Jews. A subject which was incidentally completely hushed up in wartime Germany. [. . .]
Simultaneously, the reality of the sufferings imposed upon the German people was hushed up. For this people to feel eternally guilty, one had to impose silence on what the enemies had made it suffer. For the monstrous horrors of war, there had to be only one guilty party. Neither Stalin, nor Churchill, nor Roosevelt were to have their part recognized. And yet . . .
No horror excuses another. Dresden does not erase Auschwitz. The discovery of the long-hidden scale of the gratuitous sufferings inflicted during the war upon German civilians because they were German proves simply that the great Anglo-American democracies, to not speak of the Soviet Union, had their part in the return to barbarism which was the Second World War.
This was above all the terror bombings practiced by the English and the Americans against German cities without any military or economic justification. From 1943 onwards, Allied aircraft undertook the systematic destruction of medium-sized cities without the slightest strategic interest. This entailed the deaths of more than 600,000 people (lower-range estimate). History has remembered the horrifying destruction of Dresden in February 1945: More than 130,000 dead, including women, children, and the elderly. There was no more justification for Ulm, Bonn, Würzburg, Hildesheim, Nuremberg, medieval cities, artistic jewels of the European heritage. All these cities, with Hamburg and Cologne, disappeared in typhoons of fire amidst horrifying suffering inflicted upon their inhabitants. To these bombings can be added the raids of tactical aircraft against trains, roads jammed with refugees, villages, isolated farms, simple farmers in their fields. The machine-gunnings took place at the exits of schools. During the bombing of Dresden, aircraft targeted ambulances and firetrucks. How to qualify this?
The struggle in the eastern provinces submerged by the Red Army took place on a background of the horrifying exodus of 8 million Germans fleeing the red mob of soldiers who had been incited to go wild against these unfortunates. During the winter of 1944-45, more than 2 million civilians were massacred in abominable conditions (3 million if one counts the Germans of Russia), entire families were burned alive in their houses, women were raped (2 million), children were thrown alive into pigs’ troughs. There were the same horrifying scenes during the fall of Berlin.
After having long worked effectively, the system of German guilt has begun to crack under the combined effects of time, of the collapse of communism, and of reunification. Since the latter, “manifestations of truth” have begun to emerge, resonating with the expectations of the public. By rebelling against the collective and continuous accusation of guilt against his country, the writer Martin Walser produced a bestseller. Günther Grass, the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature and the great conscience of German guilt, in revealing the tragedy of the 9,000 refugees of the Wilhelm-Gustloff, torpedoed by the Soviets, suddenly tore the veil over the fate of millions of eastern Germans hunted down and massacred in 1945. Shortly afterward, in a work approved with 1 million readers, the Left-wing historian Jörg Friedrich made known what had been the terror bombings ordered by Churchill and Roosevelt against German cities with the intention of “punishing” and breaking the population [. . .].
Though they killed so many civilians and destroyed irreplaceable cultural capital, these bombings were not able to seriously weaken the Reich’s war industry. From 1943 onwards, the production of steel even increased 6.5% and that of armaments reached its highest level in the second quarter of 1944. The goal of these strikes was of an ideological nature. It was not simply a matter of demoralizing the German people, it was also a matter of punishing it and preparing through terror the re-education of the survivors.
1. Jörg Friedrich, Der Brand, English translation: The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 (New York City: Colombia University Press, 2008).
2. Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945 (Penguin, 2003). Heinz Nawratil, Schwarzbuch der Vertreibung 1945 bis 1948: Das letzte Kapitel unbewältigter Vergangenheit, (Universitas Verlag, 2007).
3. Günther Grass, English translation, Crabwalk (Mariner Books, 2004). The German version sold over 5 million copies.