Rise of the Nazis, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed and produced by Julian Jones

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00084tb/rise-of-the-nazis-series-1-1-politics

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008c79/rise-of-the-nazis-series-1-2-the-first-six-months-in-power

I wasn’t sure about the three-part series Rise of the Nazis. Documentary-dramas rarely rise above mediocrity. I was brought up on the gold standard, World at War series, shown on BBC.  Then, of course, we’ve got Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler, cut and pasted and ad-libbed on the internet to sell everything from books to 1000 years of the Third Reich. That got me thinking what happened to the other two Reichs? Where they like those buses that come one after the other? Well, it seems, one was the Holy Roman Reich, which at least gets marks for originality. The Second Reich was really the Bismark era, before the First World War (we no longer use capitals for world wars now, downgraded, first world war). You probably remember it from history lessons as the time when the Germans invaded and occupied France, 1872, post- Les Miserables Paris, if my memory serves. Bismark helped unite Germany. He advocated a Kulterkamf against Catholics. Germany had a bit of previous here.

I’m also reading Friedrich Kellner’s Diary, A German against the Third Reich. He pretty much nails it. Hitler’s support was until 1930, largely rural, peasant farmer with a long history of hating Jews. In Laubach, were Kellner was working as justice inspector, for example, Jews often acted as the middle-man in cattle trading, and advanced farmers credit in lieu of goods.   Here we have the beginnings of ideology, the death of German democracy and rise of the Nazi dictatorship. Kellner shows how quickly this happened. ‘Heil Hitler’ became the enforced greeting of 80 million Germans. Discovery of his diary would have meant his death and that of his wife.

In the Rise of the Nazi’s  we look at one of the few who did resist Hitler. I guess that’s to add a bit of lop-sided balance. Josef Hartinger was one of the righteous. A public prosecutor who challenged official versions of death in custody and the legitimacy of the Nazi Party apparatus.

But most Germans were supporters of the ideology of Aryan Supermen and inferior races having little more than use value. That’s what Kellner lived through. He suggests less than one-percent of Germans offered any kind of resistance.  As early as 1941, Kellner also reports it was also common knowledge that Jews and Russians, men, women and children, were being exterminated in the East. The I-didn’t-know, post-war, lie of amnesiac German citizens was fake news, before fake news existed.

Rise of the Nazis isn’t fake news, or revisionist history. Boris Johnston’s attempt to prorogue British Parliament is not Herman Goring giving orders to burn the Reichstag and blame the Brexiter Communists. But it is an attempt to thwart Parliamentary democracy by an unelected British Prime Minister claiming he’s acting on the will of the people.

Paul Von Hindenburg was dismissive of the little Austrian colonel in the same way we can be dismissive of Johnston. President von Hindenberg had been a decorated general during the first world war, Hitler as Chancellor, was a pawn in the great game of state politics, ensuring the right-wing aristocracy and rich businessmen kept the Communists in check. Hitler’s allies put von Hindenberg in checkmate.

Rather than cut through bureaucracy, in Goring and Himmler, we see layer and layer added  and the spoils of German office going to Nazi sympathisers. German Jews were less than one-percent of the population, but in the East, genocide, mass murder and the Final Solution were played out. Dachau, here, is shown as the first of Himmler’s concentration camps. Capacity 5000. Cancerous growths spread quickly.

Watch these programmes and learn how easily it all slips away. A belligerent and successful foreign policy and double-downing on enemies at home sounds familiar.  George Santayana’s quote: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it is beginning to sound more and more relevant. Heil Trump. Heil little-fart Trumpter, Johnston. History is on a loop. Make Germany great again. Remember that old line?

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The Last Tommies, BBC 4, 9pm, BBCiPlayer, directed by Nick Maddocks

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Episode One: For King and Country

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0brjshr/wwi-the-last-tommies-series-1-1-for-king-and-country

This is the kind of documentary series that the BBC does so well using archive footage and interviewing those that remember The Great War. We are shown a Zeppelin, which could travel at eighty miles per hour and carry two tons of explosive and told about the raid on Hull. An eyewitness remembered how shocking it was, how families sheltered under the kitchen table, the horror of twenty people being killed and the morbid fascination of a house being blown apart and being able to see into somebody’s bedroom.

Inevitably, there’s the middle-class girl, with the pucker voice, unpaid volunteers for the WD, who lied about their age, said she was twenty, but was seventeen and was sent to war to assist (auxiliary) nurses to those nurses that had formal training and were paid. She tells us they got the dirty work. She didn’t much like carrying a leg in a bucket to be incinerated.

Then we had the other middle-class chap that thought it was his duty, everyone’s duty to repel those that were going to invade our country. All the water in the English Channel couldn’t cool his ardour.

We had the girl left behind, all four-foot eleven of her, a scrap of bones and hair, working as a house maid, when she gets that telegram. She’d wrote, of course, she had, that she’d wait forever for him. Forever came too soon.

We had the Scot from Glasgow, called Rabbie Burns, who heard the pipe music and joined up. A clerk, his boss, told him to be quick about it, or he’d miss the fun, home for Christmas.

The Battle of Loos, the Pals Battalion, mud up to the knees and lice feeding on every living body and rats feasting on the chest cavities of the dead. The pal that lost the pal, go forward go forward. Looks left and that man disappears. Looks right and that Tommy bites it.

At home, women take up the slack, twelve hour shifts in the munition factories, working day and night. I never thought I’d get through it, one woman worker tell us, but I did, and you get used to it.

The War to End All Wars. Here are those that did their bit and for what? The rich to get rich and the poor to get poorer.  Answers  not in the bank book but on the ballot box. Remember that old gag, Homes fit for heroes. How long did that last?

John Lewis-Stempel (2016) Where Poppies Blow. The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War.

 

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John Lewis-Stempel’s Where Poppies Blow is a hotchpot of different things. That’s usually a criticism, but in this case this is the books strength. Pre-war England is the baseline, a kind of Arcadia to which the British soldier on the front’s mind often returns. Fuck off I say to that kind of crap. The majority of troops came from slum housing and if they were lucky enough to be in regular employments worked between 12 and 15 hours a day for 364 days a year and were considered old by the time they were thirty and ancient by the age of forty. Yet trenches that divided warring nations were a great leveller. An officer, which was a shorthand for a gentleman, and the working class, really were in it together and shared the same bit of dirt and while the former had it slightly easier with better rations, where more likely to end up dead or injured.  Britain, generally, was an animal loving nation, regardless of class.

The other great social leveller Robert Burn recognised in his poem ‘To a Louse’ was lice. ‘Lice observed neither rank nor class.’  A ‘cootie hunt’ was the creed of the trenches. Rats were also fair game, but this war the British soldiers lost. Rats outbred any attempts at controlling them and corpses galore to feed on they grew to the size of legend and treated the living and the dead with equal contempt. One of the positive effects of German gas attacks was it killed many of the rats, but they quickly recovered a decomposed foothold.  Fungal infections such as clostridium perfringes, ‘Trench foot’ sent 20 000 to hospital in the first winter of 1914-15 and this was combined with bacillius fustiformis helping to produce the ulcerating gingivitis ‘Trench Mouth’. Foot and mouth disease wasn’t confined to animals. A Great War for microbes.

Just under a million British army hospital admissions for sickness were made in 1918, with just under 10 000 deaths. At the end of the war 500 permanent cemeteries were created with 400 000 headstones. [Compare this to the over 27 million and upwards killed in the USSR to give you some idea of scale, or indeed, the almost 500 000 American troops sent overseas to Vietnam ostensibly to fight Communism in 1969].

At the end of the War To End All Wars the Animal War Museum’s plaque in Kilburn commemorated the 484 143 horses, mules, camels and bullocks, hundreds of dogs, carrier pigeons and other creatures that died working for the armed forces.

In contrast, 11th November 1918, 735 409 horses and mules and 56 287 camels were given their demob papers. Their fate, like the working class soldier, was to be put on the market. The book ends with a quote from Ford Madox Ford’s Parade End: ‘How are we to live? How are we to ever live?’

I prefer Burn’s version: To a Mouse:

I’m truly sorry man’s dominon

Has broken nature’s social union

And justifies that ill opinion

…But mousie, that art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Gang aft a’gley,

And lea’s us nought but grief and pain

For promised joy…