The Churchill-Roosevelt Forgeries

The campaign to revise Hitler’s reputation has gone on for 50 years, but there’s another strategy now. Some of it is built on the work of the head of the Gestapo—who may have enjoyed a comfortable retirement in America.

RECENTLY, ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS, the American public has been made aware of evidence of plagiarism practiced, alas, by celebrated American historians. This is regrettable, but nothing new. All kinds of writers have borrowed and, worse, stolen from others through the ages. Plagiarism is a forgery of sorts, a little like the forging of a signature on a work of art. Other forgeries are less easily detectable. Moreover, the purposes of a historian’s plagiarism and of a historical forgery are different.Read more »

Fighting The Last War—and The Next

Our government called the terror attacks on our country an act of war and replied with a declaration of war on terrorism. What can history teach us about our prospects in such a war?

Generals are always prepared to fight the last war, as the durable and scornful proverb goes. But preparing to fight the last war is not necessarily a foolish thing to do. If military technology is stable—as was the case, for example, in the long age of black powder and fighting sail—the lessons of the last war probably retain their authority. There are exceptions: In a world in which firearms had barely changed for a century, Napoleon consistently beat opponents who tried fighting the last war. But Napoleons are rare.Read more »

Martha Dodd’s Shining Season

It took a long time for the truth about Nazi Germany to sink in. And when it did, she learned the wrong lesson.

The only complaint Martha Dodd had about her father as she grew up was that sometimes he’d start going on to the family about the Bible and history and economics, politics, and social problems. Too boring. She wanted to be a poet and writer, and such discussions held no interest for her. At the University of Chicago, where her father taught history and she majored in English, she ran with a crowd talking literature and art, poetry and painting. Read more »

I Was Just Hitler's Type

In 1933–34 I was a junior at Smith College taking a year to study German literature and medieval art at the University of Munich. I lived with the Count and Countess von Armansperg and their son and daughter.

The count had been a page in the kaiser’s court and was now one of Hitler’s generals. Like so many other Germans, he hoped that the new chancellor would lead their country out of its financial mess. Read more »

Germany’s America

For a century and a half Germans have been deeply ambivalent about the United States, and their contradictory feelings say much about their future in Europe and the world

In 1989 the Berlin wall came down. A year later the unimaginable had become a reality: Germany, divided in 1945, was reunified, and it was beginning to raise a major voice not only in Europe but also in world politics. Hopes are high that this time Germany will assume a role among nations different from the one it played in the first half of the century. But in East and West there are deep and traumatic memories of two world wars, of how the Germans saw themselves then and of how they treated their neighbors. Read more »

Revising The Twentieth Century

THE GREAT STRUGGLES of our century have all been followed by tides of revulsion: Americans decided we were mad to have entered World War I; Russia should have been our enemy in World War II; the United States started the Cold War. Now another such tide has risen in Europe, and it may be on its way here.

HISTORY IS REVISIONISM. IT IS THE FREQUENT —nay, the ceaseless—reviewing and revising and rethinking of the past. The notion that the study and the writing of history consist of the filling of gaps or the adding of new small bricks to the building of the cathedral of historical knowledge was a nineteenth-century illusion (“We have now histories of the Federalists in every New England State, except for Connecticut.Read more »

Nuremberg, Time And Memory

JUSTICE SERVED NEARLY FIFTY YEARS AGO IN A WRECKED GERMAN CITY STILL CASTS ITS EIGHT AND SHADOW OVER MUCH OF THE WORLD

A SENSATION OF PARALLEL TIME. of one eye fixed on the present and the other focused on the past, of one ear hearing the moment and the other distant echoes, was there from the beginning of the project. Nuremberg 1945, San Miguel de Allende 1991. The two places might as well have been on different planets. The old colonial town clinging to Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental is something of a demiparadise, if the country remains reasonably stable. The other, in 1945, was the city as cemetery, with rubble for monuments and the stench of death in the air.Read more »

The Transatlantic Duel: Hitler Vs. Roosevelt

In 1941 the President understood better than many Americans the man who was running Germany, and Hitler understood Roosevelt and his country better than we knew

In the summer of 1940 the fate of the world depended on the duel between two men: Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. It was a duel of nerves, and of wills. Churchill carried it off, because Hitler finally chose not to invade Britain. But even before he made that decision, he and Churchill were aware that this was no longer a duel between the two of them. Before the fall of France, Hitler had gained an ally, Mussolini. Before the Battle of Britain Churchill had gained the support of Roosevelt.Read more »

Secret Treason

He wanted only what every journalist of the time did: an exclusive interview with the Duke of Windsor. What he got was an astonishing proposition that sent him on an urgent top-secret visit to the White House and a once-in-a-lifetime story that was too hot to print—until now.

It was, said one of the few people who knew about it, “the greatest news story on earth.” It belonged exclusively to my father, a prolific writer, but he knew it could not be published. The story presented an appalling picture of the former King of England, the Duke of Windsor. It contained dreadful secrets, including an urgent proposal for President Franklin Roosevelt, a message so damning and dangerous that my father actually feared for his life after he had delivered it.Read more »

What Does History Have To Say About The Persian Gulf?

What the past tells of America’s role in the current crisis is sometimes contradictory—but always worth listening to

Men and women achieve historical perspective by making analogies. The old tag that we “remember the future and invent the past” suggests the hazards of this procedure; it admonishes us not to forget that the lessons of history are all too likely to be a series of projected misunderstandings. Anyone seeking those lessons runs the danger of being capriciously selective, self-serving, and sentimental.Read more »