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Never believe your own propaganda!
Frederick Taylor’s latest book, Exorcising Hitler, sits neatly between his previous two books Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945 and The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989. Dresden looked at the controversial bombing of a city with many civilians as ‘collateral damage’ while The Berlin Wall described the events leading up to the construction of the wall through to its eventual demolition and the reunification of Germany.
Both of these books provided well-researched and clear insights into the events they covered while not shying away from difficult subjects frequently at odds with the sanitised versions of history generally preferred by the ‘victors’. Exorcising Hitler, in fact, has some extremely troubling stories to tell which quickly dispel the simplistic ideas of moral conquerors defeating evil Nazism and providing enlightened government to bring the defeated nation back to normality. How many of us were aware of the horrors inflicted on the German population in the last few weeks of the war: the rapes, the creation of concentration camps, starvation of hundreds of thousands of surrendered soldiers and civilians, destruction of the means to feed themselves and the application of inconsistent and arbitrary law? And these privations continued until Adenauer was elected to lead the German Democratic Republic in 1949 almost 5 years later. Germany would be in a far worse situation today if it had not been for the Cold War and the importance that the GDR took on as a front-line state. If Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary, had had his way (and he nearly did), Germany would have been reduced to an 18th century agrarian state with no manufacturing capacity at all.
Frederick Taylor weaves the stories of everyday lives with the international-level events that affected them. He also describes the botched attempts at ‘denazification’ that hindered the recovery of post-war Germany and should have served as a warning to those advocating ‘debaathification’ in the wake of the invasion of Iraq.
For those of us of an age who were brought up on interminable war movies filled with heroic events on the allied side and evil inhumanity on the Nazi side, this book provides a stern warning that you should never believe your own propaganda!