The Legacy of the Second World War by John Lukacs - review by Christopher Coker

Christopher Coker

History’s Crooked Lives

The Legacy of the Second World War


Yale University Press 201pp £16.99

During the Nuremberg Trials, Hermann Goering spent much of his time in the dock reading a work of philosophy, a contemporary bestseller, by a Chinese-American philosopher, Lin Yutang. The book, The Importance of Living, had been through several editions in the 1930s. One of its principal contentions was that nations, like individuals, have their own conceptual understanding of the world. It is difficult to know what Goering made of the philosopher’s discussion of national characteristics in an era that took them for granted. Taking R for a sense of Reality (or Realism), D for Dreams (or Idealism), H for a sense of Humour and S for Sensitivity, Yutang rated the three main protagonists of the twentieth century as follows:

R3, D3, H2, S2 = Americans

R3, D4, H1, S2 = Germans

R2, D4, H1, S1 = Russians

In all three protagonists, the humour quotient was low. It might exist but it certainly didn’t include irony, which one might define as a wish to put some distance between oneself and one’s ultimate beliefs, and to see those beliefs as well as oneself through the eyes of

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