Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

History (not the popular 1000+ web site version)

Expand Messages
  • Exist List Moderator
    I know this goes off-topic, to an extent, but I think it is also a chance to reflect on how history is created by a number of factors. History is not a
    Message 1 of 49 , May 11, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      I know this goes off-topic, to an extent, but I think it is also a
      chance to reflect on how history is "created" by a number of factors.
      History is not a single thing that can be accurately captured. Like all
      human interactions, it is deeply flawed. We know the "truth" only
      because we assume our particular sources have all the information
      necessary.

      History is also colored by such factors as social guilt (not a bad
      thing, but it can make for some twisting of facts), the political
      leanings of researchers, and the fact we write about things in the
      meta-narrative form, since it is hard to tell all the stories of all
      the people involved in an event.

      I think the individual stories of the victims of an event or action are
      more likely to leave us cautious, so I'd like to see more anecdotal
      history. However, that also risks paralyzing us so we never take
      chances when a "good" cause appears, since we will fear for every
      single life involved.

      What should we know of history, and how can we learn from it? Who gets
      to decide on the "facts" and what do we do when new facts appear? In
      the case of Dresden, KGB and RAF documents are only now being unsealed
      and some will not be unsealed until 75 years after the events. (Sounds
      like the Warren Commission report at that point.)

      On May 11, 2006, at 3:30, Aija Veldre Beldavs wrote:

      > Dresden was a city full of civilians, not a military target. your last
      > post suggested it was tactically sacrificed "for the greater good"
      > and/or
      > paid a "cosmic" price for collective German guilt.

      It was a tactically valid target.

      I know that the vast majority of intellectuals have bought into the
      legend of Dresden. Yes, it was an act of British revenge, in which the
      Americans participated, but recently the KGB files have shown that the
      legend and reality are more complex than "Slaughterhouse 5" and various
      books would like to indicate.

      Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. Published 2004

      ISBN13: 9780060006778; ISBN: 0060006773; Imprint: Perennial; On Sale:
      01/18/2005; Format: Trade PB; Trimsize: 5 5/16 x 8; Pages: 560; $15.95

      By 1941, Dresden shifted to a wartime footing, with the large
      Zeiss-Ikon camera factory converted to make fuses and bombsight optics.
      The United States Strategic Bombing Survey listed at least 110
      factories and industries in Dresden. Some 50,000 people worked in
      munitions and armaments production.

      Before 1943, bombers that found themselves over Dresden generally were
      strays from raids on Berlin. Dresden recorded just 12 air raid warnings
      in all of 1940, seven in 1941, and four in 1942. Most came to nothing.
      Dresden took its first air raid casualties only in August 1944, when
      some bombs from a raid on the nearby town of Freital fell in its
      outskirts.

      As the war closed in, it was the strategic location of Dresden along
      rail and road lines of communication that would determine its fate.
      Russian generals wanted the hub destroyed, and the British agreed.

      By Feb. 2, 1945, the Russians were near Frankfurt, but Moscow’s drive
      now formed a bulge 400 miles long at its base with northern and
      southern flanks over 100 miles deep. Even this juggernaut was
      vulnerable to flank attacks from areas still held by the German Army.
      Dresden was a major rail junction controlling German movement on that
      front.

      According to the JIC’s Jan. 21, 1945 report: Germany might be able to
      reinforce the Eastern Front with up to 42 divisions pulled from France,
      Norway, Italy, Latvia, and elsewhere.

      This was probably faulty intelligence, but it was not an excuse to kill
      innocent civilians. It was a terrible mistake that the Russians would
      later use against the British and American governments -- even though
      Russian generals had asked for the air raids.

      At Yalta on Feb. 4, 1945, Gen. Alexei Antonov, Red Army chief of staff,
      briefed Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill on the Russian offensive and
      asked for US and British help. He wanted them to speed up the advance
      in the west, crush the Ardennes salient once and for all, and weaken
      German ability to shift reserves east.

      Nov. 14, 1940, German bomber attack on Coventry, England. Coventry,
      like Dresden, was a major manufacturing center built on a medieval city
      grid with small workshops and factories interspersed through the city.
      More than 500 German bombers attacked with loads of incendiaries. As
      the fires combined, they sucked oxygen from street level so that many
      of Coventry’s 538 victims died of asphyxiation.

      This was the same method chosen by Bomber Command for the Dresden
      attack. Less than two weeks after Yalta, Bomber Command and Eighth Air
      Force got the weather they needed for the Dresden attack. The Russians
      were notified a day in advance via the US military mission in Moscow.
      In England, 722 bombers formed up to attack in two main waves.

      The primary goal was to destroy all rail lines, bridges, and
      communications lines. The secondary goal was to destroy all munitions
      factories, all military optic factories, and the more than 80 factories
      in Dresden dedicated to basic equipment and supplies for the German
      army.

      The attack on Dresden achieved its goal of unhinging the city as a rail
      transport and communications center. Official USAF figures show that 23
      percent of Dresden’s industrial buildings were destroyed or severely
      damaged, along with more than 50 percent of its houses. The houses were
      not primary targets, but the death toll was staggering.

      Estimates now range from as low as 25,000 to as many as 200,000 dead.

      What Eisenhower thought to be a legitimate military plan had turned
      into a human disaster. Because the targets and purposes were not
      disclosed, many scholars were left believing the only purpose for the
      raids was revenge. The results have been several international treaties
      on the targeting of civilian populations, even though the homes of
      citizens were not the primary targets.

      The source was Nazi Germany’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. The
      foreign news service and the state-run Das Reich newspaper started
      bumping casualty estimates from around 25,000 to around 200,000 and
      emphasizing Dresden as a lost cultural treasure. “A city skyline of
      perfected harmony has been wiped from the European heavens,” Das Reich
      said in early March 1945.

      Goebbels did his job well. Soon, Dresden was under Russian control, and
      it became impossible for decades to sort out the facts. In 2004, Taylor
      came to a conclusion: “[The] ripple of international outrage that
      followed the Dresden bombing represents, at least in part, Goebbels’
      final, dark masterpiece.”


      -- Text from articles for Rand, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the
      Chief of Staff of the Air Force
    • Exist List Moderator
      ... While I certainly rely a lot on interviews and lexical analysis for my research, I also recognize the fact that some people are more important in the
      Message 49 of 49 , May 13, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        On May 13, 2006, at 8:42, Aija Veldre Beldavs wrote:

        >
        > On Thu, 11 May 2006, Exist List Moderator wrote:
        >
        >> I know this goes off-topic, to an extent, but I think it is also a
        >> chance to reflect on how history is "created" by a number of factors.
        >> History is not a single thing that can be accurately captured. Like
        >> all
        >> human interactions, it is deeply flawed. We know the "truth" only
        >> because we assume our particular sources have all the information
        >> necessary.
        >
        > guess that's why i'm a folklorist/ethnographer who would like for all
        > to
        > have opportunity for voice. in spite of faulty memory and of framing
        > experience in schemas that are put down as fairy tale stereotypes and
        > such, personal experience doesn't lie on the same level as statistics
        > and narratives funded by powerful interest groups.

        While I certainly rely a lot on interviews and lexical analysis for my
        research, I also recognize the fact that "some people are more
        important" in the larger picture of history. This means we need to
        balance our studies of Hitler, Stalin, FDR, and Sir Winston with the
        experiences of soldiers and civilians -- but we must take into account
        the fact Hitler was definitely more influential than some other Germans
        as Stalin was more important than some Russians.

        Maybe "important" is a loaded word, but I don't think the semantics
        matter as much as the basic point -- we study world leaders and major
        events for a reason. They are "praxis" moments that shift cultures and
        even large sections of the globe.

        My point on the individual story causing problems:

        A single story about someone suffering from a disease can cause a
        public reaction that is not relative to the risk. Psychologists have
        long known that too much empathy is as dangerous emotionally as too
        little -- too much empathy is usually a sign of depression, often
        accompanied by compulsive disorders.

        In other words, I cannot know and care about all the suffering in the
        world, or I could not function. I can know there are problems in the
        Sudan and send money to a charity, or even petition my government to
        become involved, but I cannot emotionally deal with every single story
        of rape, torture, and starvation.

        We should record how the bulk of any society exists, which is why pop
        culture is now "standard culture" and studied extensively. We should
        never dismiss the common experience -- but the common are seldom
        responsible for the major shifts in history.

        - C. S. Wyatt
        I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not all
        that I shall be.
        http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
        http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.