Twisted logic

I recently read Anthony Beevor’s excellent ‘Arnhem – the Battle for the Bridges 1944’. It is up to his usual brilliant standards, and well worth a look.

There was one particular section that I found especially interesting:

Outside the perimeter [of the British 1st Airborne Division], the two Dutch boys who went foraging for their paratrooper friends decided to bury one of the crew members of a crashed transport aircraft. As they were digging, they were stopped by two Wehrmacht soldiers who demanded to know what they were doing. When they explained, one of them asked angrily, ‘Why are you burying a murderer? They have bombed our cities and killed our women and children. They don’t deserve to be buried, but to lie in the field and rot’.[i]

Given that Nazi Germany had started the Second World War in Europe by invading their neighbours in all directions, it takes some pretty spectacular mental gymnastics for members of the Wehrmacht to play the victim.

Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris[ii] probably exposed this brazen hypocrisy the best when he declared, ‘The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They have sown the wind, and so they shall reap the whirlwind’.

A similarly twisted logic is often seen when it comes to the Boer War. Just as Germany started the Second World War in Europe some 40 years later, so the Boer republics started the Boer War in 1899 by invading their neighbours in all directions. This inconvenient – and willfully ignored – reality does not stop Kruger’s modern-day cheerleaders from also playing the victim, and – just like the members of the Wehrmacht mentioned by Beevor – pretending that British troops were murderers who killed women and children.

Not only do True Believers completely ignore the fact that it was the Boers who started the war, but they also ignore the reality that the invading Boers looted and pillaged their way through those areas of Natal they snatched before Imperial reinforcements could arrive to stem the tide. The invading Boers bombarded towns, attempted to starve civilians into submission, and went on to partake in the mass murder of non-white Loyalists unlucky enough to fall into their hands… and yet, their modern-day apologists just brush all that under the carpet, and – just like the Wehrmacht soldiers quoted at Arnhem – shamelessly attempt to reinvent the aggressors as the innocent victims of the war.

A note to all latter-day defenders of deeply unpleasant regimes run by self-appointed ‘Master Races’ who started a war by attacking their neighbours: you do not get to pretend your heroes are the victims when their madcap invasions fail, and as soon as the tide turns against their dreams of conquest.


[i] Beevor, Arnhem – the Battle for the Bridges 1944, p.287

[ii] Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Travers Harris, 1st Baronet, GCB, OBE, AFC (1892–1984). Born in England, Harris emigrated to Rhodesia in his teens and served in the Rhodesia Regiment at the start of the Great War. He then returned to Great Britain and joined the Royal Flying Corps – which later became the RAF. Harris ended the war as a Major, and proudly wore a ‘RHODESIA’ shoulder flash on his uniform. He continued to serve in the RAF between the wars, and was an Air Marshall by 1941 when he was given the task of implementing the ‘area bombing’ policy of Germany.

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