Posted: Jul 06, 2021 1:08 am
by don't get me started
1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter
13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)
14. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offense – Jonathan Culpeper
15. Ethosyntax: Explorations in Grammar and Culture – N. J. Enfield (Ed.)
16. Second Language Speech Fluency: From Research to Practice – Parvaneh Tavakoli & Clare Wright.
17. At Day's Close: Night in Times Past – A. Roger Ekirch
18. Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation – Michael Agar
19. Possessives in English: An Exploration in Cognitive Grammar - John R. Taylor
20. I saw the Dog: How Language Works – Alexandra Aikhenvald.

21. The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939 – 1945 – Nicholas Stargardt

704.pp

A huge doorstop of a book which I found utterly riveting. The author draws on a wealth of documents from personal letters, diaries, secret police reports and so on to document what the experience of the Second World War was like for Germans who experienced it. The way that the Nazis presented their war as a struggle against a pitiless racial enemy who desired their destruction and had to be pre-empted is woven throughout the text. The propaganda and its reception by German soldiers and civilians is expertly detailed, from the true believers to the skeptical but cowed to the outright anti-Nazis. It is a fascinating insight into the way that lies and delusions can take hold and fester.

One of the surprising things is the extent to which the German populace were aware of the genocide occurring in real time. Reports, pictures, letters, and the conversation of soldiers on leave all were explicit that mass murder of Jews was taking place – especially during the opening stages of the invasion of Russia. The Nazi propaganda machine was skillful in charting a course between denying or confirming what was going on. As Stargardt notes, in the chapter ‘The shared secret’, this had the effect of making the populace at large co-conspirators. When the allied air offensive started to wreak havoc on the populace of Germany, it was voiced publicly and repeatedly by German civilians that this was punishment for what they had done to the Jews. In effect, the Nazi condemnations of the ‘Anglo-American Jewish Terrorfliers’ unintentionally made the connection between what had been done to the Jews (The Germans accepted the extermination of the Jews as a fait accompli), and what was being done to the Germans.

Apart from the grand themes of crime, guilt, moral responsibility and so on there is also a wealth of tiny details that really bring the narrative to life. There is the incredible story of a Wehrmacht NCO who was in the frontline fighting before Moscow in the terrible winter of 1941. During the confusion of battle, he buried his rifle in a snowdrift, set off West and by a variety of means made it all the way to the Swiss frontier. Ten days after walking out of the front line at Alexandrovka, he crossed the border and presented himself to the Swiss authorities. He explained his motives to the Swiss military officers who interrogated him with a laconic brevity worthy of the good soldier Schweik: ‘It just seemed too stupid to me.’
[in 2001] ‘he had nothing to add to the explanation he had given the Swiss military for his desertion fifty-nine years before, telling the young German historian who came to interview him in almost identical terms: ‘I didn’t fancy it any more.’ (p.212.) What an epic anecdote!

There are also examples of the black humor that Germans resorted to as the end became nigh. ‘When will the war be over?’ ‘When Göring can fit into Goebbels trousers!’

A very readable and important book which deserves to be as well known and Beevor’s ‘Stalingrad’. The author has done a fine job of describing the war as experienced by the Germans and does not shy away from revealing the complicity of the general populace in the crimes of the Nazis and the self-serving narratives that they bought into to justify what was happening. A chilling warning of exactly how perpetrators promote a victim narrative, how official lies spread and corrupt, and how amoral clowns and chancers can drag others along on the road to ruin. A theme not entirely irrelevant to our modern age.

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