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Western Historical Amnesia

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By:Chronicles | April 29, 2015

Srdja Trifkovic’s latest live interview on Sputnik Radio International

PRESENTER: Dr. Trifkovic, what do you think of the latest poll suggesting that most West Europeans think that the U.S. contributed more to the defeat of Nazism during World War II than the Soviet Army?

ST: The current generation of Europeans, especially those under 50, is less well educated and has less of a historical awareness than their parents and their grandparents. If you look at the geography of Paris, there is a prominent square named after the battle of Stalingrad and a metro station called “Stalingrad.” In the immediate aftermath of World War II, most French people were aware of the real score.

As for Germany there could not have been any doubt, because after all the Germans were at the receiving end of it all. Ninety percent of their casualties, all casualties taken together – the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the Waffen SS, and so on – were inflicted by the Red Army.

There’s deliberate indoctrination, to some extent, not so much in the big West European countries, more so in the revisionist-minded Central and Eastern Europe which used to be under the Soviet sway. There we are witnessing a systematic and deliberate misinterpretation and mispresentation of the past for current political reasons.

PRESENTER: Some people are saying that this is anti-Russian propaganda?

ST: Oh, no. It would not have had that effect if it was simply the result of the crisis in relations between the Western world and Russia over the past fifteen months, since the Maidan, since early 2014. It’s a deeper malaise, a deeper problem. It is the problem of the historical amnesia of the Western man in general.

We are witnessing a similar problem in the United States. When I taught history and political science there, I was amazed at the low level of historical knowledge and understanding of even reasonably well educated young Americans who came from good high schools. The problem is in the overall perception of history as “bunk.” Constantly looking “forward,” never “backward,” creates a sort of vulnerability to manipulation, because people who do not know history – as Cicero had said – are doomed to remain children for ever.   



Srdja Trifkovic
4/29/2015 08:40 PM

  My totally reliable British source says, On WW2 casualties. The present rubbishing of history - in Kiev and elsewhere - needs to be stamped on. (British wartime popular opinion in 1943 - I could source this for you - was that Russia was making by far the biggest contribution to the war and the USA less than China. Churchill was very cross about the dismissive popular view of the USA.) However, 90% of WW2 German casualties in the East is not quite right. Remember that virtually all Navy casualties and 90% of Luftwaffe casualties were sustained in the West. If you are looking for a military truth, then Missing and POWs must be reckoned in. Neglected numbers! If you add together the OKW figures (1939 to 31 Jan 1945) from France, Italy and North Africa, and if you include Missing and POWs, then you get Dead Missing and POW France: 107,000 + 409,000 Italy & NAfrica: 50,000 + 194,000 Navy 49,000 + 100,000 Air Force 139,000 + 156,000 345,000 + 859,000 = 1,204,000 Eastern Front 1,106,000 + 1,018,000 = 2,124.000 This way you get a 2:1 ratio. These German statistics may be wrong. But they are a very large impartial sample. Maybe the ratios are different for the last very bloody 3 months of the war. (I expected 3:1 before I did this quick check.)

5/1/2015 01:36 AM

  A revisionist treatment of WWII? Oh my! Not sure if this is a smart move on your part, Doctor. If the Russians under Stalin could defeat Hitler practically all by themselves, what does it mean for the dominant narrative (accepted tout court) that Germany was the primary, even exclusive, danger to guard against? Cicero was right after all when he wrote "Historia opus oratorium maxime est."

5/1/2015 06:59 PM

  @Cinadon, whether Srdja's claims are revisionist or not is irrelevant. What matters are their veracity, and appropriateness I suppose. And please spare the pompous Latin quotes that even Google finds obscure.

Gresham, OR
5/1/2015 08:21 PM

  You don't have to be that smart to see that the war was already being lost by Germany by the time the US entered the war, and that yes, the real damage to Germany was happening in the east. The abject ignorance of the facts among many in the West, beginning with the Baby Boomers and compounded in each subsequent generation, I'm fairly sure, can be laid at the feet of media in general, but especially Hollywood. Of course the gutting of the education system also adds to the problem. I’m a Boomer, and I was spoon fed the idea from infancy, that the United States, single handedly, won the Second World War; movie after movie, book after book, along with the deification of the American generation who took part in the global carnage. In US today, among the Baby Boomers, to question this idea is not unlike being a traditionalist Catholic, and then openly question the Real Presence.

Vancouver, BC
5/4/2015 12:41 AM

  The Real War - Stephen Ambrose's GIs are plaster saints engaged in a sanctified crusade Benjamin Schwarz June 2001 Issue Excerpt: "...And more to the point, Ambrose's readers wouldn't know that the struggle with the USSR accounted for 88 percent of all German casualties. Until the Normandy invasion—from June of 1941 to June of 1944—nearly the whole Nazi war machine was concentrated in the East; even two months after D-Day 2.1 million Germans were fighting the Red Army while one million opposed Allied operations in France. Ambrose devotes more space in The Good Fight to D-Day than to any other event, and he clearly sees that operation as the pivot of the war and of his narrative. In fact the turning point of the war in Europe was not at Normandy or anywhere else Americans fought but either at Stalingrad, two years before D-Day, where the Red Army eradicated some fifty divisions from the Axis order of battle, or at Kursk, nearly a year before, where the Soviets smashed the Wehrmacht's strategic tank force, breaking the Nazis' capacity for large-scale attack. Ambrose lavishes a section of The Good Fight on the U.S.-British invasion of Sicily, which drove 60,000 Germans from the island, but completely ignores Kursk—the largest battle in history, in which at least 1.5 million Soviets and Germans fought, and which occurred at exactly the same time. Neither Ambrose nor we need honor Russia's war dead as we do our own, but simple honesty demands that we acknowledge the Red Army's awesome achievement. And as much as it may make us squirm, we must admit that the struggle against Nazi Germany (which Brokaw asserted was "testimony to America's collective and individual resistance to tyranny") was primarily, as the great military historian John Erickson called it, "Stalin's war." "


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