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A brilliant account that challenges the many myths and orthodoxies that paint WW2 as a just war.
on 14 November 2012
A brilliant counter to all the propaganda that still portrays the Second World War as a 'just war'. Heartfield shows us that WW2 was far from just and was a war between imperial powers that subjugated ordinary people to a brutal conflict that was not inevitable. The war gave vent to much ugly racial ideology not just on the part of Nazi Germany, but also the allied colonial powers: Churchill's racist comments about the Chinese and Indians, whom the UK was supposedly fighting on behalf of, expose the ugliness of class and imperial interests. Before we bring up the Holocaust, it is worth pointing out that in 1942 Britain adopted a policy of starving its imperial Bengali subjects into submission by destroying paddy fields. This was a war between elites and not the 'people's war' as often portrayed in many popular, post-war accounts. It is interesting how the senseless carnage of the First World War is often juxtaposed with WW2 to imply that the latter conflict was a morally just war. There was much senseless carnage in WW2, not just the ruthless slaughter of European Jewry by the Nazis, but also there were many unnecessary atrocities against the axis powers too: the comprehensive bombings of Hamburg and Dresden, which were displays of military might that killed many civilians with the intention of demoralising and degrading ordinary Germans; the use of nuclear bombs for the same effect against the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the very end of the war. Heartfield also shatters the myth that the atomic bombings of Japan were necessary to save lives because of another myth that the Japanese did not believe in surrender - they had already been suing for peace 6 months in advance of Hiroshima. Not all axis soldiers were 'willing executioners' either, another myth propagated to demonise Germany and Japan's war atrocities while glossing over allied brutality such as the attacks on Dresden, which did not really come to light till 20 years after the war. The Second World War was a conflict that got out of hand with really disastrous consequences for ordinary people, and this book cuts through so much of the fog around this conflict and dares to challenge the uncritical orthodoxy, cum codswallop, that portrays a grotesque theatre of imperial carnage as a war for the freedoms we supposedly enjoy today. Brilliant book, which I recommend everyone to read.