(Roughly) Daily

History never repeats itself, but it rhymes…

Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist was granted free access by the Allies to all the war crimes prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail.  Gilbert kept a journal of his observations of the proceedings and his conversations with the prisoners, which he later published in the book Nuremberg Diary.  On the evening of April 18, 1946, as the trials were recessed for a three-day Easter break, Gilbert had a conversation with Hermann Goering in Goering’s cell…

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Nuremberg Diary is available online (in part) via Google Books here; it is available from Amazon here.

As we recall Santayana’s sage advice (or for that matter, Mark Twain’s in the title), we might recall that it was on this date in 1485 that the House of Lancaster finally defeated the House of York in the thirty-year Wars of the Roses, fought for the throne of England.  The final battle was at Bosworth Field, near Leicester, where Henry Tudor (later, Henry VII) was victorious; and  Richard III, killed.

Henry VII

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 22, 2008 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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