Nyheten om Chamberlain i München (Isaiah Berlin)

Brev till Elizabeth Bowen, september 1938. Isaiah har åkt nattåg och delat kupé med en hästhandlare.

In some wayside station at 6. am. men in pyjamas ran out & bought newspapers, with Chamberlain’s journey in them: ‘the war is postponed’ said my horsedealer & then something like ‘whizzbang’ & went to sleep again.

[. . .]

[The] newspapers read like a cheap serial, Chamberlain from having been a sad, mean, bedraggled figure is a national hero, Runciman sold the Czechs piecemeal & bit by bit while he prepared I think to sell them wholesale.

Isaiah Berlin, Flourishing. Letters 1928—1946, Chatto & Windus, London, 2004, s. 284–85.

Andra världskrigets relativa bördor

Artikel i The New York Review of Books utifrån en ny bok om de allierades strategi och samarbete.

Four out of every five Germans killed in action died on the Eastern Front.

Comparisons of national casualty figures should make British and American posterity grateful to their national leaders of that time, who husbanded the lives of their young men so effectively in the greatest conflict in human history. But they also go far to explain why Russians were, and remain, so contemptuous of the Western role in the war.


Marshall never directly acknowledged that he was wrong, in 1942–1943, to press for an early landing in France. He failed to understand, first, the staggering combat power of Hitler’s armies; and second, that once committed on the Continent, the scale of engagement was beyond Allied power to determine. What the Anglo-Americans might wish to perceive as a limited operation to relieve pressure on the Russians, the Germans could meet in overwhelming strength, without much weakening their forces on the Eastern Front. Even when the US Army was fully mobilized in 1944–1945, it never became large enough to face the full weight of the Wehrmacht. All Western Allied strategy had to rely upon a reality, recognized by the British, that the Russians must do most of the fighting necessary to destroy Nazism.


The President was certainly brutal to Churchill, brushing him aside in a naive attempt to forge a bilateral relationship with Stalin.

But while the prime minister’s quest for Polish freedom was honorable, it was never realistic. The Western Allies fought their war at their own relatively leisurely pace, which enabled them to emerge in August 1945 having lost only 400,000 British lives and 300,000 American, against the Russians’ 28 million. Stalin was implacably determined to reap an appropriate return for his nation’s staggering blood-price. By the time his armies took Berlin they were militarily invincible on the Continent.

Churchill told Eden in December 1941 that he believed the US and Britain would emerge mighty from the war, while Russia would be vastly weakened by it. In reality, of course, despite Britain’s nominal place among the victors, it was almost as comprehensively ruined as the vanquished or occupied countries. Nothing that Churchill might have done would have averted this fate. His leadership had merely enabled the British to play a noble part, from which they have derived pride ever since.

In 1945, Stalin believed that he was the most successful Allied war leader, having gained an empire in Eastern Europe and further territorial prizes in Asia. Neither Russia nor the world would understand for several decades that Soviet military dominance was purchased at the cost of an economic sclerosis that eventually undid the Communist system.

US triumph was much more soundly based. The nation emerged from the conflict with unsurpassable wealth as well as strategic reach. Roosevelt and Marshall had brilliantly managed American emergence from pre-war isolation onto the world stage. Their only conspicuous failure was the attempt to make Chiang Kai-shek’s China an effective belligerent and a great power sympathetic to American policy objectives.


It remains a persistent delusion on both sides of the Atlantic that World War II was won without the slaughter that characterized the 1914–1918 conflict. In truth, of course, the same ghastly attrition proved necessary to achieve victory, but it took place in the East. When Roosevelt and Churchill, Marshall and Brooke convened, they flattered themselves that they were planning a strategy for victory. In truth, they were merely shaping plans for helping Stalin’s people to win.

Stauffenberg som hjälte

På Sign and Sight finns tre artiklar som, i samband med filmen Valkyria, diskuterar hur man ska se på Stauffenberg och hans gärning.

Själv tittade jag på filmen just för att jag var nyfiken på hur han skulle framställas, och hur mycket av de bakomliggande idéerna hos konspiratörerna som skulle framkomma. Naturligtvis gavs dessa bitar väldigt lite utrymme. Men jag var ändå relativt nöjd, för min rädsla var att producentern skulle förvandla Stauffenberg – i syfte att göra storyn moraliskt simplare – till en behaglig liberaldemokrat.

Men filmen visade upp, glimtvis, Stauffenbergs nationalism – och generellt militäraristokratins motstånd mot Hitler. Detta skapar förmodligen en moraliskt mer komplex världsbild än den som annars är given.

Bernard-Henri Levy

The film shows Stauffenberg’s integrity very well. It shows his courage, the nobility of his views, his firmness of spirit. But what does it tell us of his thoughts? What does it teach us about why he enthusiastically joined the Nazi Party in 1933? Why does it go into no detail on how many of his initial Nazi convictions he had to jettison to carry out his plot and how many remained in tact? A sympathy for Ernst Jünger, for example? Or for Oswald Spengler? A fierce hostility to Weimar and the idea of democracy which he shared with the other former members of the Freikorps who remained true to National Socialism and its frenetic anti-Semitism? Did Stauffenberg hope to get rid of Hitler or Hitlerism? Of a bad tyrant or the principle of tyranny? Was his project to destroy Nazism or to rescue it?

Richard Evans

[Stauffenberg] found moral guidance in a complex mixture of Catholic religious precepts, an aristocratic sense of honour, Ancient Greek ethics, and German Romantic poetry. Above all, perhaps, his sense of morality was formed under the influence of the poet Stefan George, whose ambition is was to revive a ”secret Germany” that would sweep away the materialism of the Weimar Republic and restore German life to its true spirituality. Inspired by George, Stauffenberg came to look for a revival of an idealized medieval Reich, in which Europe would attain a new level of culture and civilization under German leadership.


Stauffenberg at first took a stance that was motivated more by military than by moral considerations. In the course of 1942, however, Stauffenberg realized that such atrocities were not just counter-productive by-products of a brutal policy of waging war, but formed the very essence of the German war effort. Hitler and the National Socialist leadership were betraying Germany, not merely preventing the realization of the true spiritual values of the ”secret Germany” but actually negating them. [….] It was this moral conviction, arrived at when Germany was still absolutely dominant in Europe, that set Stauffenberg apart from the more instrumental views of some of the other conspirators, who sought above all to rescue Germany from the total defeat that stared it in the face after Stalingrad. These beliefs, combined with his energetic personality, were also what led him to act where many other members of the military-aristocratic resistance still hesitated.


The oath he devised for the conspirators declared that in seeking a ”New Order, that makes all Germans bearers of the state”, those who signed it none the less ”despise the lie of equality, and bow down before the hierarchy ordained by Nature”. Like almost all sections of the resistance, he considered parliamentarism, the only viable form of democratic politics, had bankrupted itself in the Weimar Republic; that it would re-emerge after the war would have dismayed as well as surprised him. Here too, in their arrogant dismissal of social and political equality, his ideas looked more to the past than to the future. This rejection of egalitarianism and democracy was shared, in different forms by all the multifarious elements of the resistance.


Anti-democratic, elitist and nationalist, he had nothing to offer the politics of the coming generations, still less the politics of today. In the end, too, for all the desperate heroism of Stauffenberg and his fellow-conspirators, Germany’s honour was not rescued. The conspiracy encompassed only a tiny minority of the German people. The vast majority continued fighting to the end. Most were shocked by the news of the assassination attempt and relieved at Hitler’s survival.

Karl Heinz Bohrer

If, in spite of all the official remembrance days, the names of those who conspired against Hitler surfaced at all in the collective memory of the West German public, it was most likely to be as scapegoats: Why couldn’t the members of an elitist upper class just disappear and take the flawed Nazi past with them – one, it should be said, which the West German majority initially refused to confront (until the children and grandchildren of these very Nazis suddenly became tireless in their efforts to kitschify the intellectual climate with their ”antifascist” posing and strutting.


Evans claims that Fritz Dietlof von der Schulenburg, one of Stauffenberg’s early political mentors, did not arrive at the decision to assassinate Hitler until 1944, after the catastrophe of Stalingrad. Bearing in mind that there are undisputed documents which testify that, as early as 1939, before the outbreak of war, Schulenburg had mentioned in a conspiratorial conversation, the need to eliminate Hitler, not least because of the obvious criminality of his regime, – Evans’s date shifting constitutes libel and insult to his honour, in that it implies that Schulenburg was motivated exclusively by military considerations. This view, which was hinted at in the book, now becomes method. The fact that Schulenburg, like Stauffenberg, thought in categories of Prussian-German patriotism that are alien to us today, is apparently too much for Evans’s one-dimensional historical imagination.


There is no question that like Ernst Jünger and Gottfried Benn, Stauffenberg’s first spiritual influence, Stefan George, entertained pre-fascist fantasies. And there is also no question that the young Stauffenberg’s reverence for the medieval ‘reich’ was reactionary – in a similar vein to Novalis‘s ideas in ‘Die Christenheit oder Europa’. But what does that mean? Neither of them had political ideas that could in any way have served as a model for democratic European societies in the second half of the twentieth century. But to fundamentalise this tautological insight to effectively deny the conspirators any moral or cultural relevance is blinkered and constitutes intellectual bigotry.