Human Smoke: the barbarity of the Second World War

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This review of a new book that contains damning evidence against the idea of World War Two as a ‘Good War' is by a close sympathiser of the ICC.

The title of the book Human Smoke - The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilisation refers to a Nazi officer's description of the debris of humanity falling from the sky from where it was sent through the chimneys of the ovens in the concentration camps. The book, written by Nicholson Baker and published by Simon and Schuster, has an interesting narrative that mostly includes sections of newspaper and magazine articles, radio pieces, memoirs, diaries, state directives and documents.  It begins in the 1920s, with Winston Churchill's new enemy the "sinister confederacy" of international Jewry and, a few years later, his welcoming of Signor Mussolini to anti-Bolshevism, where "Italian fascism had demonstrated that there was a way to combat subversive forces...".  It covers the period up to the end of 1941 with Churchill in Ottawa telling its parliament that the "Hun" would be "cast into the pit of death and shame... and only when the earth has been cleansed and purged of their crimes and of their villainies will we turn from the task which they have forced upon us".

Nicholson is apparently a pacifist and he uses many quotes from Gandhi and the Quakers. The whole period outlined shows not only the complete inability of pacifism to stop imperialist war, but how, in the end, it eventually supports one side against another. Even so, for the hard evidence involved against the victor's version of the Second World War, the book is an eye-opener on the complicity of democracy in genocide and some of the greatest mass murders in history. First though it's necessary to outline a marxist framework for the whole period.

Fascism: product of capitalist counter-revolution

In June1931, two years before the council communist Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested in front of the burning Reichstag, Hitler said in an interview, that the building looked like a synagogue and the sooner it was burnt down "the sooner the German people will be free from foreign influences". The democratic accession to power of Hitler in 1933 marked a decisive victory for the forces of counter-revolution; the rise of fascism to power was the product of the proletariat's defeat and not its cause. Fascism and democracy are two sides of the same coin. The barbarity of the Nazi regime and its Holocaust wasn't a monstrous accident, the product of "evil" or of a few deranged minds, but an outcome of decadent capitalism and this barbarity was equalled by democracy in all its horror, cynicism, lies and crimes against humanity. The crushing of the German revolution around 1918-23 was the first major act of the capitalist counter-revolution. Hitler's original power base, the SA had its roots in the counter-revolutionary Freikorps which, a decade earlier, assassinated thousands of communist militants in Germany in the name of Social Democracy.

What German capital expressed through its embrace of fascism wasn't an aberration based on this or that so-called national characteristic, but the fundamental need of nationalism, all nationalisms, to carve out a bigger slice of the world for themselves at the expense of their rivals: "War becomes the only means for each national capital to try to extricate itself from its difficulties, at the expense of rival imperialist states" (Gauche Communiste de France 14.7.45, quoted in International Review no. 78, ‘50 Years of Imperialist Lies'). Given the particularities of German capital at that time, the defeat of German imperialist power in WWI and the defeat of the revolutionary wave in that country, fascism was a particular form of state capitalism that was born of German imperialism and western democracy. It took a brutal form but in essence its state capitalism was part of a worldwide phenomenon affecting all the major capitalist countries. Like the USA, Britain and France, Germany embarked on programmes of public works and welfare but with its proletariat crushed, the centralised German state apparatus oriented the economy directly towards war. After the decisive defeat of the working class in Germany, Jews and other minorities became the scapegoats of the Nazi regime and the latter's characterisation of them, "cosmopolitan blood-suckers", was essentially shared by the democratic regimes of Britain, France, Russia and America, particularly in relation to the connection they all made between Jewry, internationalism and marxism.

The democracies arm Hitler

The ‘democracies' didn't have very much to say about the Nazi concentration camps at the time that they were being built and put to use; they certainly did nothing to put them out of action or assist their condemned and miserable inmates during the worst of times; but directly after WWII the Allies, for whom the proletariat was still a major concern, developed a whole propaganda campaign regarding the concentration camps. This massive campaign, which persists today from infant school to the grave, allowed the Allies to hide their own murderous crimes, complicities and genocides and to vaunt the moral superiority of victorious democracy.

Churchill and Roosevelt were both anti-Jewish, as were the regimes that they represented; and both slammed their doors to Jewish immigration from Germany throughout. Apart from vaguely looking at real estate for Jewish settlements in inhospitable parts of Latin American and Africa (where they would share the terrain with Tsetse Flies and various forms of plague), both governments did nothing to increase quotas of Jewish refugees. The tales of the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachenhausen, though not yet fully operational, were known to both governments by 1938, as was the murder of workers and the treatment of Jews and other minorities prior to that.  In Britain in 1940, thousands of Jewish refugees between 16 and 60 were rounded up by soldiers with fixed bayonets and taken to detention camps. The age was later increased to 70 where they were met with "deplorable and disgraceful" conditions, according to Lord Lytton (22.8.40). In May of that year, a thousand CID officers rounded up "enemy aliens", ie, several thousand women workers of German and Austrian origins and their children, and sent them to the Isle of Man. Eleven thousand, mostly Jews, were held in detention facilities. At the Mooragh camp on the island some Jews published a newspaper that said that the war of liberation of Western civilisation had begun "by imprisoning the most embittered enemies of its own enemies". The British authorities shut the paper down.

In the lead-up to war, in building up Adolf Hitler as their policeman of Europe, the west provided his gangsters not just with the small arms needed to begin its reign of terror, but heavier, more deadly equipment. In 1934, the French arms supplier Schneider supplied tanks to Germany. The British company Vickers provided bombers and other arms, as did Boeing. US manufacturers were selling Germany crankshafts, cylinder heads and control systems for anti-aircraft guns. The Sperry Corporation shared patents with Germany on bombsights and gyroscopic stabilisers and BMW brought Pratt and Whitney engines. The USA, like Britain, also sold ‘non-military' guns and ammunition to Germany.

Starvation and terror bombing as weapons of democracy

In the dance of death leading up to the outbreak of war, and to some extent during its first year or so, all the combatants tried to paint themselves as victims of the other. Hitler said early on: "We will not make the mistake of 1914. We now have to lay the blame on our enemy".

"No matter how much it has successfully prepared the population for war on the ideological level, the bourgeoisie in decadence cloaks its imperialist wars in the myth of victimisation and self-defence against aggression and tyranny. The reality of modern warfare, with its massive destruction and death, with all the facets of barbarism that it unleashes on humanity, is so dire, so horrific, that even an ideologically defeated proletariat does not march off to slaughter lightly. The bourgeoisie relies heavily on manipulating reality to create the illusion that it is a victim of aggression, with no choice but to fight back in self-defence"  (IR. 108, ‘The Machiavellianism of the Bourgeoisie'). The defence of the national capital, common to the imperialist thrusts of both fascism and democracy, has to cloak itself in the mantle of victim; and for democracy that meant acting the "peace lovers" against tyranny and expansionism. We can see the same game of imperialism being played out today by the west over the events in Georgia. The book amply confirms the provocations of the democracies, Britain and America in particular, in the words and policies of their own regimes, towards both Germany and Japan, in order to appear the wronged party and brainwash their own populations to support and fight for their own imperialist aims.

From the forgery of the Zinoviev letter days before the British election of 1924 (very likely written by himself), to his opinion of being "... strongly in favour of using poisoned gas on uncivilised tribes", step forward the man of the British bourgeoisie, Winston Churchill. Added to what we already know of this expression of barbarism, Baker's book is damning. In order to pursue what was being called ‘the people's war' the whole policy of Churchill on behalf of his putrid class was to murder as many workers and civilians as possible. With its naval superiority, British imperialism enforced a food blockade on mainland Europe. It affected all the German occupied parts, including Belgium (‘plucky little Belgium' of World War I), Holland, Poland, Greece, Norway and others. Ex-US President Herbert Hoover proposed lifting the blockade, but the starvation of men, women and children was the policy of Churchill and his Ministry of Economic Affairs. Hoover wrote: "When Churchill succeeded Chamberlain... he soon stopped all permits of food to Poland" with the result of bodies lying on the streets of Warsaw and the death rate of children ten times higher than the birth rate. In a speech to the House of Commons, August 1940, on why he was refusing requests to lift the blockade, Churchill said: "Fats make bombs and potatoes make synthetic fuel". He added: "The plastics used now so largely in the construction of aircraft are made of milk"! Refusing to let the Red Cross food ships deliver even the smallest amount of milk to France led the French to call Churchill "the famisher". The blockade went on. In the German-occupied territories lived forty million children. How many hundreds and thousands, possibly millions of these vulnerable children died of disease, malnutrition or starvation? The British bourgeoisie certainly wasn't keeping count and the general information that Baker gives comes from the Quakers. Add to this the old, the sick, pregnant women and it must have been millions.  Hoover called this a "holocaust" years before the word was give a capital letter and applied exclusively to the abomination of the Nazi death camps.

The starvation of civilians wasn't the only policy of the British bourgeoisie; there was also the deliberate bombing of civilians overseen by the arch-terrorist Churchill. There were two aims to the saturation bombing of civilians by the Royal Air Force: one was to provoke a response to the increasingly devastating carnage, ie, to get Luftwaffe to bomb British working class areas in retaliation thus pulling the population behind the bourgeoisie - a ploy that largely succeeded. And secondly, the aim was to kill, maim and terrorise as many German civilians as possible - the primary aim wasn't industry or the war machine. Very early on in the war, the RAF were dropping bombs on working class areas and then coming back to strafe with machine guns the firemen trying to put out the blazes. The British Air Ministry produced a new policy report on bombing, 24.4.41: "It is only possible to obtain satisfactory results by the ‘Blitz' attack on large working class and industrial areas of the towns". An appendix concluded, "delayed action bombs should make up 10% of the tonnage dropped". Previous head of the RAF, Lord ‘Boom' Trenchard, said the way forward was to drop more tonnage where most people live, so that fewer bombs would be wasted. Charles Portal, Head of the RAF, agreed. Head of Bomber Command, Richard Peirse gave these orders on 5.7.41: "(destroy) the morale of the civilian population as a whole, and of the industrial workers in particular". Churchill called for the "largest quantity of bombs per night" and the RAF started night bombing.

Baker's book looks at other interesting areas notably the disgust of many Germans of the treatment of the Jews. The were demonstrations in Bremen and Baker reports that the population were so disgusted in Berlin that "the Nazis found it necessary to distribute handbills saying that the Jews were to blame for everything". The handbills added that anyone being friendly to Jews committed treason. There are reports of Germans showing politeness and civility to elderly Jews wearing their yellow badges on public transport. The Gestapo was sufficiently concerned to inform all its branches that "persons of German blood continue to maintain friendly relations with Jews and appear with them in public in a blatant fashion". The answer was terror: make and publicise examples by sending both Germans and Jews involved to concentration camps.

Baker's well-researched book, covering the build-up and the first two years of WWII, amply confirms the marxist position that both fascism and anti-fascism are two sides of the same imperialist coin.  

Baboon, 20/9/8

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Comments

Blockade

Um, even if the British let in food, the occupied peoples would not necessarily benefit. That's the thing with dictatorships! For example, the United States has provided food aid to North Korea only to have the state sell it to its favored personnel!

That's the entire point,

That's the entire point, though. In capitalism's decadnece, no action by the bourgeoisie can help the proletariat. If the blockade hadn't been as strict as it was, Hitler's war machine would undoubtedly have benefited, with the result of the death and suffering of millions of workers. Since the blockade was as strict as it was, it resulted in the dealth and suffering of millions of workers. The harm caused to the working class by the Second World War was unavoidable, even if the Allied powers had adapted a more "humane" approach to their conduct of the war.

The point is that the entire bourgeoisie colludes in its combat against the working class, and that the Allies were just as bad an option as the Axis.

While the victory of the

While the victory of the Allies hardly ended the world's troubles, a Nazi victory would have been worse. Do you think that the conscription of French, Polish, etc. workers as prisoner/slave labor would be a good thing to have for the last sixty years? Or is it a good thing that this and other extreme acts of cruelty were ended by the victorious Allies--or at least the capitalist, western half?

This position is VERY

This position is VERY dangerous, Hidden Author, and contains the seeds of the "critical support" for the Allies and "democracy" found in Trostkyist writings. I'm not a militant, but from what I've read the ICC reacts very strongly against this sort of concession to "national defense" and imperialism.

The Allied occcupation of

The Allied occcupation of Germany [b]accelerated[/b]attrocities in that country. True, the death camps were closed - but only so the entire country could be transformed into one enormous concentration camp. More Germans died in the Allied occupation than during the war. There was less food in the French-controlled sector than there was in Belsen.

And besides, today there is plenty of slave-labour employed by Western capital. Like the Germans in 1940s, they don't tend to do it in their own country - although this is still the lot of many "illegal immigrants" - but in the so-called "Third World".

DG: More Germans died in

DG: More Germans died in the Allied occupation than during the war. There was less food in the French-controlled sector than there was in Belsen.

Hidden Author: This sounds like Holocaust revisionism. You do know that concentration camp inmates had a life-span of 3 months, due to low food rations amongst things. Did the majority of Germans in the French sector die in three months due to starvation or any other factor? Or would you argue that the number of people killed by Nazi forced labor and extermination programs has been "exaggerated"?

I do know there were mass

I do know there were mass repatriations of German populations as part of the post-war settlement where millions "disappeared".
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I also know that infant mortality had risen to 65% in some parts of Germany by 1946; that the estimated victims of post-war famine were about 3 million which occured despite offers of food from other countries (even ones invaded by the Nazis!) but were not allowed to be distributed by the Allies; and that the Allies had over 4 million Germans in forced labour programmes by 1947.
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As for Holocaust revisionism, please quote me where I said anything concerning Nazi war crimes? Where exactly did I deny the Holocaust, the Night and Fog decree, the Hunger Plan, or Sauckel's vast empire of 5 million foreign slave workers, or the conditions at the Mittelbau-Dora slave factory which horrified Speer's staff so much many of them had to take extended leave after his PR visit?
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The point is that the Allies were just as capable of horrific acts on a mass scale as the Nazis. Both followed the logic of war in capitalist decadence. Saying the Allies were better than the Nazis is a similar argument to asking whether you'd rather be in the clutches of Ted Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer. To the millions butchered by both sides, the difference between them must have seemed rather obscure.

DG, I'm pretty sure the

DG, I'm pretty sure the "Holocaust revisionism" charge was levelled against Hidden Author (this judging from the prefices of anonymous' paragraphs, though seeing as how Hidden Author seems to favor the Allies, I don't see why anyone would attack him for holocaust revisionism)...

DG: I do know there were

DG: I do know there were mass repatriations of German populations as part of the post-war settlement where millions "disappeared".

Hidden Author: Of course, millions "disappeared": the Soviets pushed 10-20 million out of Eastern Europe, out of which a "few" million were killed in various ways!

DG: I also know that infant mortality had risen to 65% in some parts of Germany by 1946; that the estimated victims of post-war famine were about 3 million which occured despite offers of food from other countries (even ones invaded by the Nazis!) but were not allowed to be distributed by the Allies; and that the Allies had over 4 million Germans in forced labour programmes by 1947.

Hidden Author: Sources, please? Though I would concede that millions of German POWs were kept up to 1946-1947. In the case of POWs held by the Soviet Union, up to 1955, at which the Adenauer government negotiated their release!

DG: As for Holocaust revisionism, please quote me where I said anything concerning Nazi war crimes? Where exactly did I deny the Holocaust, the Night and Fog decree, the Hunger Plan, or Sauckel's vast empire of 5 million foreign slave workers, or the conditions at the Mittelbau-Dora slave factory which horrified Speer's staff so much many of them had to take extended leave after his PR visit?
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The point is that the Allies were just as capable of horrific acts on a mass scale as the Nazis. Both followed the logic of war in capitalist decadence. Saying the Allies were better than the Nazis is a similar argument to asking whether you'd rather be in the clutches of Ted Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer. To the millions butchered by both sides, the difference between them must have seemed rather obscure.

Hidden Author: When pushed to desperate circumstances (i.e. facing slavery or death), brutality was inevitable. The Red Army for instance killed millions during the Civil War in which it rose to power in Russia. The difference is: How does one act on a routine basis, when the pressure is relieved? West Germany came to enjoy an Economic Miracle in which unprecedented prosperity entered its society. By contrast, the Nazi plan, as foretold by Mein Kampf, was to keep subject people enslaved (exploited and poor) due to the "fact" that they were "subhuman"!

I would argue that the

I would argue that the decadence of capitalism and the sometimes hidden, sometimes open world economic crisis that it brings puts the bourgeoisie on a permanent state of "desperate circumstances". That is part of the reason the bourgeoisie in decadence tends towards world war; brutality is inevitable in desperate circumstances. You talk about the "economic miracle" as if it were unrelated to the world war, as if it happened in spite of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The world war was the necessary predicate to the "economic miracle" and I, quite frankly, don't think it was worth it.

"[i]Of course, millions

"Of course, millions "disappeared": the Soviets pushed 10-20 million out of Eastern Europe, out of which a "few" million were killed in various ways!"
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With the full knowledge and consent of the Allies. They made little or no protest according to Niall Ferguson's "War of the World".
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"[i]Sources, please? Though I would concede that millions of German POWs were kept up to 1946-1947. In the case of POWs held by the Soviet Union, up to 1955, at which the Adenauer government negotiated their release![/i]"
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Germany_since_1945
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And see also: "[i]For those who staved, SHAEF ordered [/i]"the conditions of living . . . improved to a standard as high as resources permit and without consideration of any adverse effect on the living conditions of the Germans." [i] While the German ration fell below 1,000 calories a day, military government held the DP ration everywhere at 2,000 calories or more, even when this requirement meant, as it did in the Fifteenth Army area, drawing food from US Army stocks. In the cities, the detachments moved thousands of Germans (10,000 in Munich for instance) out of their homes to make room for the displaced persons, and sick and wounded German soldiers were transferred out of hospitals to provide beds for them.[/i]" from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/other/us-army_germany_1944-46_ch16.htm#b3
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See also http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/history/htooley/WiggersOccFoo.pdf
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Lastly, yes, brutality was largely a response to circumstance. This is also evident in the Nazi case where the death camps - as opposed to concentration camps - only appeared during the War. As to the slave race, the Nazis' aim was to create a proletariat from subject Untermenschen - but a proletariat nonetheless. Yes, today's capitalism is much nicer - anyone can be an Untermenschen.

Damnit! "anonymous" two

Damnit! "anonymous" two posts down was me.

The HTML coding isn't

The HTML coding isn't working either, so sorry for the unintelligble mess down below, hopefully it'll make sense!

The coding uses triangular

The coding uses triangular brackets rather than square brackets.

[i]this is not italics[/i]

this would be if not for the space I put in between the "i" and the closing bracket at the beginning of the line

Or perhaps it becomes

Or perhaps it becomes italics anyway