‘War is a Condition, Like Peace’

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Nicholson Baker has written eleven previous books, seven of them novels. This tract is not fictional at all: it describes, stage by stage, humanity’s descent into a self-made abyss of horror. Item by item, it lists stupidity after stupidity, atrocity after atrocity; and mixes in with them wise remarks that went unheeded by the world’s […]

Sparks of Humanity

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

No country or people suffered more profoundly during the Second World War than the nation where it all started: Poland. Hitler’s invasion on 1 September 1939 was swiftly followed by Stalin’s occupation of eastern Poland – pre-arranged the previous month in the Hitler-Stalin pact. Under the tender mercies of Nazi rule, over six million Poles […]

Lethal Indifference

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Sir Ian Kershaw has emerged, rather surprisingly, as a towering figure amongst historians of modern Germany. Surprisingly, because he began his career as a medievalist whose focus was Bolton Priory in Yorkshire. He is the author and editor of no fewer than three books on this northern monastery. The best part of this compendium of […]

General Plan East

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A few weeks ago a remarkable Polish woman died at the grand age of ninety-eight. Irena Sendlerowa rescued around 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, hiding them with Polish families and saving them from certain death. Eventually she was caught and tortured by the Gestapo, who dumped her, unconscious and with both arms and […]

From the Kremlin’s Archives

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Interest in Hitler, and particularly the last days of the Third Reich, seems inexhaustible, and the flow of publications endless. The latest offering in the genre is The Hitler Book, which promises two layers of novelty – a ‘new’ inside view of the Führer’s everyday life, and a revelation of material formerly hidden away in […]

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Churchilliana

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The Churchill literary industry seems to grind on unabated. Those of you who thought that every last action of the great man’s life had been recorded, documented, analysed and interpreted need to think again. Apparently, the publishers of the English-speaking world feel that there is still an insatiable demand from readers to spend armchair time […]

Petted By The Führer

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The young Irmgard Paul, out walking with her mother in their home town of Berchtesgaden in the late 1930s, remembers being told that, thanks to the large groups of SS men guarding Germany’s messianic leader in his mountainside retreat above them, they lived ‘on a mountain free of crime’. This small but horribly ironic story […]

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Guilty?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Neville Chamberlain was nothing if not a diligent correspondent. Every week he wrote to his sisters Ida and Hilda letters that were in effect a diary of everything he was doing politically. They have long been invaluable for historians in archive form, but now they have finally been published in extenso, along with a scholarly […]

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