History As I See It

History is written in many different ways. Much of it is claimed by it’s authors to be impartial. Some of it is out and out propaganda, but that is pretty easy to tell. The closer to an event that writing it down occurs, the almost impossibility of its being objective. To use an example I have used before, growing up in the south in the 1930’s the history I learned in elementary school left us all understanding that The War Between the States was settled evenly between North and South. Since then, of course, even Southern school systems could no longer ignore the truth.

World War II is another case in point. For almost forty years, our accounts and analyses were almost entirely from our side. Memoirs described the brave, brilliant, often insightful decisions made by their authors as military or civilian leaders. Winston Churchill, for example, spent the entire war gathering up documents that he would later use in writing his five volume story as his leader of Great Britain. It is only recently that historians have gotten their hands on some documents that lead to possibly different conclusions.

I have recently read The German War, by Nicholas Stargardt, an Englishman who writes about German history. He has taken as many personal documents, letters mostly, as he could find to tell the story of WWII as every day Germans saw it. When Hitler came to power there was a healthy degree of skepticism about him and his crowd. However, as he began to produce work and public projects, attitudes toward him improved substantially. As he drug Europe closer to war, he lost much of his support. Pressuring Austria definitely produced negative attitudes. Getting the Sudetenland back from Czechoslovakia was a definite plus, but invading Poland and France was not. Subduing both, however, raised his standing to new heights.

And thus it went, up and down as people became increasingly sucked into a conflict to which they could see no end. But, there was an end and Germans were faced with the seemingly infinite number of negative problems they had to face, from Russian soldiers who hated them, to prisoners of war and foreign workers who equally hated them.

This is a story that is told from German sources about German life in the war. It is a story of victory and happiness from a growing economy to defeat of France followed by decreasing hopes and expectations to defeat and occupation. As far as I can tell, with the limited sources the author had, he has written as objective a history as he could.

But, it has taken us seventy years for this to take place.

  1. #1 by Terry Jackson on May 9, 2016 - 5:33 pm

    Another thoughtful and thought-provoking post, dear Dr. Boswell. In talking about the current political environment in the US, I recently said that I wished I could know how history would view this time period. Of course, I will not likely be here in 25-30 years when we have the perspective of where this all leads us. It’s so important to think of the many lenses that can be on one historic moment….. I hope you are well. I look forward to checking in on you each week through this blog! Terry

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