NEW BOOKS. Spring 2016.

 

The 250 selections that I have made of books to be published between January 2016 and May 2016 are a reminder of the strength of American publishing. It is doing well its job of publishing noteworthy books.

My selections have been made by browsing through publishers’ spring catalogs. I estimates that I looked through at least 200 seasonal catalogues and considered 8,880 titles. Once sent to buyers in book stores around the country, these catalogs are now electronically available on ‘Edelweiss; Above the Tree Line’, without which I could never have accomplished this huge task.

My selections for this season are arranged under the following categories:

Politics. Economics. ♦ American Studies. ♦ American History. ♦ Twentieth-Century Conflicts. ♦ European History. Asian. ♦ Ireland, A Centenary. ♦ Cities. Places. ♦ Art. Architecture. Photography. ♦ Performing Arts. ♦ Nature. ♦ Science. Medicine. ♦ Religion. ♦ Florida. Regional.

Most of the titles selected are intended for the general reader. They are books that I would like to read (assuming infinite time). In the interest of balance, I have included titles with alternative views. I plead guilty, however, to a left bias. Perhaps to a fault, I read books by authors with whom I would tend to agree.

Many categories are not covered in my selection. My list is all non-fiction. But there are, as well, non-fiction categories that I don’t include: self-help and inspirational titles, parenting, life-style, food preparation, house decorating, others. Most memoirs I skip; I consider them to be ‘fictional’ in character, often of their troubled lives, and not included. Biographies, however, are included and are scattered amongst several categories. I tend not to include books that cost more than $45.00 (hardbacks) and $25.00 (paper). I have included paper editions of some books that were previously published in hardback.

I am dubious of books that have a title like “Something is Wrong and How to Fix It.” Their claim to know how to fix things seems presumptuous. The “something wrong” seems to have been formulated to warrant the author’s particular prescription.

Passions of mine include South Asia (my academic field, once upon a time), European history, American studies, and the World Wars. The centenary of U.S. entry into the Great War is approaching; there are interesting titles dealing with the war and its aftermath. World War II ended seventy years ago. I find both wars fascinating, though not particularly, military history.

I much admire the university presses. This season Yale University Press and Oxford University Press were the two that published the most titles on my New Books list.  Princeton University Press, University of Chicago Press, Harvard University Press, New York University Press, and University of Kansas Press, had interesting lists. And of course, there are good titles from the University of Florida Press. Sadly hardbacks from university presses are expensive, so I have included those titles when published in paper editions, usually within a year or so after the initial hardback edition. 

Random House continues to publish many good titles under various imprints. Hachette had a good list this year. But the “conglomerates” publish proportionally fewer of the kind of titles that I find interesting. Medium & small presses: Bloomsbury Press out of New York, London, Sydney, and New Delhi was the most impressive this season.  W.W. Norton and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, two medium-sized houses, should be mentioned. They straddle the trade-textbook line – as did Goerings Book Store. There are titles from many, many small presses but few with more than two or three titles included in my list.

Hats off to the Alachua County Library District. It is amazing how many of my list of New and Recent Books it has. I frequently have to wait my turn, so they are being read by its patrons.

 

When Paris Went Dark; The City of Light Under German Occupation

When Paris Went Dark; The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940 to 1944 by Ronald Rosbottom. Little, Brown & Company, 2014

The picture on the jacket of Ronald Rosbottom’s When Paris Went Dark shows a street, nearly abandoned. This was Paris under the German occupation. Rosbottom has included in his account the many atrocities committed by the Germans during those four long years. But he has also chosen to get beyond that story to describe a capital city that survived war, occupation, Allied bombing, and liberation. And if one looked around Europe at the end of World War II, Paris is the exception to the immense destruction of cities, and particularly capital cities.

The Wehrmacht invaded France in May of 1940 and six weeks later, France surrendered. The country became divided between occupied and unoccupied zones (until November 1942), both under the Vichy regime, so named because it was this small spa town to which Maréchal Phillipe Pétain had moved the French government.

Shortly after the occupation began, Adolf Hitler made his famous tour of Paris. He had a special regard for Paris; he thought it a model for European cities in the new world of Pax Germania. He hoped also to convince the French –and the British – that life during the German occupation would be tolerable for Parisians. And the German occupation force set to work to make it so – except for Jews, Communists, and anyone resisting the occupation authorities. While few Parisians openly welcomed German soldiers and Nazi bigwigs, many in the French army, the Roman Catholic Church, industrialists, and the conservative right welcomed the opportunity to deal with the French left.

Rosbottom tells with sympathy what it was like for young German soldiers endeavoring to enjoy their Paris but also not to offend. (The Wehrmacht put out Paris, Der Deutsche Wegleiter: ParisThe German Guide to Paris). These young soldiers had to deal with Parisians who pretended not to understand their German or their school-boy French

There needed, however, to be a “service sector” to deal with off-duty needs and particularly their entertainment. These Parisians – merchants, café owners, waiters, laundresses, others – did interact with the Germans. Were they collaborators?

The author has made use of diaries of those years by Parisians famous and otherwise. From them one gets the feeling of life being narrowed, confined to one’s neighborhood, to one’s apartment, to one room, usually the kitchen as keeping warm became a problem. Paris was dark, but also quiet; few pedestrians, fewer private automobiles. The city-wide night-time curfew was a cramped nightlife.

Parisians, particularly women, spent hours in queues to obtain food and other necessities. The queues were not generally opportunities for sociability; one could never be sure of what might be overheard and reported to the Paris police. The Gestapo and the Schutzstoffel (SS) generally had the co-operation of the city police.

There is an interesting account of the role of the apartment concierge, usually a woman. One had to be cautious; she knew about your comings and goings. She could act as a custodian of an apartment whose owners had fled. Or she could be the agent for its looting.

The German authorities started rounding up Jews soon after their occupation had begun. At first they targeted foreign Jews – Germans, Dutch, Belgians, and Eastern Europeans. Was this an effort to control immigration and the ‘terrorists’ amongst them? By the time of the Grand Rafle in July 1942, French Jews had become the target.

There is controversy about the effectiveness of the French resistance though a recognition of its importance as a morale booster during the Occupation. This was the golden age of the mimeograph and the underground tract. German officials and Vichy administrators were assassinated, but that provoked reprisals.

Ronald Rosbottom calls the liberation of Paris “a whodunit.” The American military leadership was determined to push rapidly to the Rhine frontier; Paris was not important to American strategy. But Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, was determined to liberate the city and with French army units. He wished not to allow the French resistance to claim this for themselves.

The commander of German forces in Paris, Dietrich von Choffitz, was, on the other hand, determined to avoid both an urban uprising as had happened in Warsaw or his forces being surrounded. He arranged for a brief truce that allowed Germans to make an orderly withdrawal. That accomplished, Von Choffitz surrendered the city on 25 August 1944. He has been given credit for having saved Paris from destruction at Hitler’s orders. His avoidance of a street-by-street retreat also saved both the lives of German soldiers and their equipment, later used against American and British forces in the Battle of the Bulge.

As a lad of six, I remember seeing newsreels of French women who had “played around” with the Germans having their heads shaved. Most male collaborators and many Vichy officials were summarily shot or hanged by the partisans. Scores were settled, many of them having nothing to do with collaboration. This was not a glorious end to the long, difficult four years when Parisians had shown both bravery and good judgment.

 

Ravensbrück; Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women

Ravensbrück; Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm. Doubleday, 2016 paper.

Ravensbrück is a history (Sarah Helm calls it a biography.) of this concentration camp for women in the Mecklenburg region fifty miles due north of Berlin. The book is also a compendium of information that many will find useful, as I did. I had a good friend, Maguy (Katz) McCullough, who spent almost a year in the Ravensbrück camp. Her story blends into Helm’s camp chronology. See my essay in three parts, “Maguy (Katz) McCullough, In Memoriam.”  www.goerings.com

 

The title of Helm’s book should read “Heinrich Himmler’s Concentration Camp for Women.” Its location and purpose were determined by Himmler’s authority as Reichsfürher and head of the SS (Schutzstaffel). Ravensbrück was part of his ‘empire’ within the Third Reich.  He had an estate near the camp, where he had installed his mistress and hence made periodic visits to the camp.  He was the quintessential micro-manager, making decisions about such minutia as the number of strokes of the whip for various offenses.

 

The prison was built primarily to house German female opponents of the National Socialists and to relieve overcrowded local jails. But the camp and its sub-camps kept receiving new groups of women who weren’t politicos: Jehovah Witnesses, Jews, habitual criminals, and a-socials (prostitutes, homeless women, and the “work-shy”). Ravensbrück and its satellite camps had a top population of 45,000, well above capacity. The higher administration was primarily drawn from the SS and changed frequently. The women guards were from neighboring villages. They had had no training; they generally despised those they oversaw, and frequently beat them out of their frustration.

 

The inmates were expected to work in order to live. Many of them worked in an adjoining factory that made military uniforms or at Siemens, an electronics company that made components for weapons. Payments for the work of these women were made directly to the SS, not to the workers. Hence they were ‘slaves’ and their labor, ‘slave labor.’

 

Helm argues that the killing that went on in Ravensbrück was not primarily the result of any ideological position. Hanna Arendt’s famous phrase “the banality of evil” that results from ordinary people following orders without much thought about their actions best explains the murdering that went on at Ravensbrück. Yet how can one fit into any scheme of private morality the story Helm tells of some guard beating to death with a hammer an inmate who could not get up when commanded to do so?. Or the story of twelve Polish Catholic nuns who, for reasons unknown, ended up at Ravensbrück in its last few weeks and were shot, some through their eyes?

 

Helm spends much time detailing the camp’s organization. In addition to the staff, there were prisoners called blockovas (elsewhere kapos) who supervised the day-to-day operations. Their volunteering made it less likely that they would be selected for one or another horrible fate and because they received perks. Some blockovas were brutal, like their masters. Some tried to be ameliorative.

 

Much has been made of the medical experiments performed on prisoners at Ravensbrück and other camps. They resulted in much suffering. Fortunately the numbers were small and the deaths few.

 

My friend was Parisian and had been arrested for her participation in the French Resistance. Fortunately for Maguy, her arrest was late in the German occupation, sometime after D-Day when German occupation forces decided to ship female prisoners off to Ravensbrück. They were ill-prepared for camp life; shocked at what the encountered upon arrival. Fortunately they only had to survive one Ravensbrück winter.

 

Most of the French inmates were liberated in April 1945, the result of an agreement between Himmler and a member of the Swedish royal family, Count Folke Bernadotte, acting on behalf of the Swedish Red Cross. Initially mostly Danish and Norwegian women were liberated, transported to the Danish border on especially marked white buses and then by rail through Denmark and ferry to Sweden. Himmler eventually opened the rescue to all nationalities. The Ravensbrück rescue is the largest in World War II.

 

Himmler approved the rescue as part of his screwy idea of convincing the British and Americans to join him in a ‘post-Hitlerite Germany’ in opposing the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe. Our General Eisenhower would have none of this and other such schemes by Nazi big-wigs who were hoping to avoid the hangman’s knot.

 

Eisenhower’s other decision that impacted the fate of the prisoners at Ravensbrück was that they should “stay-put,” awaiting the arrival of Allied forces and prepare themselves for an orderly repatriation after the German surrender. Meanwhile the sick were getting bullets in the head, and the Ravensbrück gas chambers were operating to tidy up the camp for its liberation.

 

Himmler hid these arrangements from Hitler. Hitler had ordered that the releases from Ravensbrück and other camps cease and all remaining inmates shot or gassed. Or marched to camps deeper inside Germany. The result was those deadly marches in the last few days of the war. But Maguy Katz was safe in Sweden.

 

 

 

Between Giants; The Battle for the Baltics in World War II

Between Giants; The Battle for the Baltics in World War II by Prit Buttar. Osprey Publishing, 2015, paper.

There have been few accounts of the warfare between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that took place in the Baltic States during World War II. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania lost 20% of their population during the War, next only to Poland in civilian losses. Moreover, while we generally mark the end of WWII with the German surrender in May 1945, fighting in the Baltic States continued sporadically until 1949. The Baltics only regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Osprey Publishing is best known for its military histories, and this is a detailed account of battles. Fortunately Prit Buttar has also included the interesting diplomatic history of the war years. He begins with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany in August 1939 and the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries that followed in 1940-1941. He then describes the German occupation after Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 which precipitated the “Baltic holocaust.” Despite that horrendous German occupation, there was official and popular collaboration with the Germans during the Russian offensive in the Baltics in 1944.

There will probably always be differences of opinion amongst historians about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and particularly the secret protocol dividing up Poland and the Baltic States between the two giants.  What were Josef Stalin’s motives for the “non-aggression pact” with Nazi Germany? What precipitated his abrupt occupation of the Baltic States and the disastrous Winter War with Finland?

Buttar agrees with the present-day consensus that Stalin was taken aback by the rapidity of the German conquest of France and the Low Countries. A preemptive occupation of the region would thwart a German invasion through the Baltic countries that would threaten Leningrad and the Russian naval presence in the Baltic Sea. The Soviet dictator was right to be concerned about the rise of Baltic nationalist sentiments, particularly in Lithuania, and uncertain about which giant the Lithuanian nationalists would join.

The Russian Occupation employed mostly Russian-speaking Baltics and “too many” Baltic Jews. The Soviets reopened employment opportunities closed to Jews by the Baltic nationalists, and consequently Jews were viewed by the Balts as pro-Soviet, pro-Bolshevik. Nazi Germany’s racial policies, Buttar contends, found willing ears amongst the nationalists and the substantial numbers of Baltic Germans.

As war raged elsewhere, the Baltic countries saw little fighting between the German occupation after Barbarossa in June 1941 and Russia’s Operation Bagration in June 1944. Buttar has described Bagration in great detail as it unfolded on the Baltic front and particularly Russian efforts to encircle and isolate the German Army Group North in Latvia’s vast, swampy Courland Peninsula.

There was general agreement amongst the Wehrmacht leadership that the consolidation of German army units and the abandonment of Courland made military sense. But Hitler would not allow it. Courland, he argued, would be a launching pad for the recovery of lands lost to the Russians!

Even had Hitler approved, Buttar suggests that the evacuation of the German Army Group North and its equipment would have been a difficult maneuver. And any military evacuation would have been further complicated by the Baltic German refugees. German naval and air superiority had disappeared, leaving all German rescue vessels at risk.

In February 1945 Berlin dispatched 5000 replacements, mostly boys and old men, on a transport ship to support Army Group North in Courland. It was sunk by a Russian submarine; 2000 were rescued but 3000 drowned.

The Russians might have allowed Hitler his Courland bridgehead and swept on to the German homeland. But Stalin was now thinking about a post-war settlement. The argument for restoring the three Baltic States to Soviet dominance would have been weakened had the Russian Army not controlled this large chunk of Latvian territory.

Buttar adds some interesting details to the diplomacy surrounding the German surrender in May 1945. Admiral Karl von Dönitz, designed by Hitler as his successor, asked for a ceasefire in the West; Germany would continue to resist the Russian Army in the East. A major goal in this prolonging of the war in the East, Buttar contends, was to allow German soldiers and civilians to escape from the Baltic States and Poland. General Dwight Eisenhower, in his famous decision, said there would be no separate truce.

One can sympathize with the hard choices confronting the Balts in the War’s last years. Most were certain that they wanted nothing to do with the Russians. That drove many Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians to join the ‘forest brothers,’ who continued to harass Russian occupiers into 1949. Thus the uncertain date for the end of World War II in the Baltic States.

This widespread support of the German occupiers in 1944-1945 still haunts the now independent countries. How to memorialize the millions killed in the War who had made ‘bad choices’? A visit to Chicago’s Balzsekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture confirms that dilemma.

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist; Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the end of WWII by Jack El-Hai. Public Affairs, 2013.

The title of Jack El-Hai’s book is misleading. It begins with Douglas Kelley’s work on the International War Crimes Tribunal at the end of World War II, but the final portion of the book is about Kelley’s life as a psychiatrist after his leaving the army in 1946 and Herman Göring’s suicide that same year. During the war years Kelley had been the chief psychiatrist in the European theater where he had developed treatments for what was called “battle neurosis,” better known as “shell-shock.” He and his colleagues were able to help soldiers return to active duty. Unable to use talk therapy because of the time involved, their results were achieved with the use of drug therapy.

At the end of the War, Kelley applied for and got the assignment to examine the twenty-two National Socialist bigwigs about to be tried by the Tribunal. Kelley’s job as the examining psychiatrist was to see that the defendants were in sufficient mental health to stand trial, complicated by the fact that the prosecution would not allow any insanity peas. All defendants were determined by Kelley to be sane, they were tried, and found guilty. Their sentences varied from years in prison to execution by hanging.

Kelley was intrigued by the idea of the “criminal mind.” These men were criminals, for sure, but were they criminally insane? Were there personality traits common to all twenty-two top Nazis? Douglas Kelley’s involvement – and Jack El-Hai’s book – ends part-way through the first round of trials. Ultimately there were around 200 National Socialist officials tried at Nuremberg by subsequent tribunals and an additional 1600 by military courts.

Kelley had extensive interviews with all twenty-two, including Hermann Göring. The interviews were also part of a suicide watch. The commandant of the prison where the twenty-two were kept, Burton Andrus, was determined not to let suicide cheat the gallows. None of the defendants were allowed family visits because Andrus worried about their smuggling in the where-with-all to comment suicide.

Andrus was also unwilling to allow the prisoners to take drugs that might relieve some of the stress they were under but that might also be addictive. This was a particular problem for Göring who had battled addiction for much of his life. He was currently addicted to a synthetic drug called paracodene. It was a harmless suppressant, but in the last year of the war, he had consumed 160 pills a day.

A psychiatrist working in the 1940s, Kelley was enamored with the new Rorschach inkblot test, and so all twenty-two were given the test. (They were also given intelligence tests, and Göring had one of the highest IQs in a not very intelligent crowd – if you trust the results of IQ tests.) The Rorschach results did not reveal anything like a common deviant personality. The traits they had in common could be found widely in the general population – weak ethics, and patriotic zeal. Most had devoted considerable energy to their war work; they were workaholics! More insidious, they were focused on the goals of their labor, rather than troubling themselves about the morality of the means to those ends.

Adolf Hitler had already committed suicide as had Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbels. It was easy for the defendants to claim that their dead bosses were responsible for the sins of the Nazi regime. They, the ‘lieutenant class’, were merely following orders.

However, Jack El-Hai – following Douglas Kelley – raises questions about the attribution of guilt for the atrocities committed during World War II. Perhaps there is some truth in the argument that the German leadership did not know about the extent of the killing perpetrated by their subordinates, and that the sins of the Nazi regime must be borne by the many.

Recently two books have suggested a broad participation by Germans in the killing of Jews and Poles during the war: Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners; Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust and more recently Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men; Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland suggest that the killing involved the energy and enthusiasm of thousands of Germans, civilians and military.

Like most G.I.s, Kelley was anxious to return home to civilian life. He got a successful book out of his experience at the trial, Twenty-two Cells in Nuremberg, published in 1947 and reprinted in 1961. He had a moderately successful academic career. Later in his life he also had problems with addiction. He committed suicide in front of his family by taking a potassium cyanide pill, a duplication of the route taken by Hermann Göring and other Nazis.

 

The Race for Paradise; An Islamic History of the Crusades

The Race for Paradise; An Islamic History of the Crusades by Paul M. Cobb. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Paul Cobb’s account of the clash between Moslems and Franks in the medieval world argues that there is an alternative way of looking at the crusaders. Rather than Christian holy warriors, Moslem sources portray these Franks as fanatical, unkempt, intolerant, and untutored. They are barbarians who are disrupting life on the fringes of the more civilized Moslem lands.

The Franks were intent on liberating the cities and lands in Palestine associated with the life of Jesus of Nazareth. At the same time they were also extending Christendom into the Baltic region and the British Isles and aiding Christian forces in Iberia (Arabic, Al-Andalus). The Normans, a branch of the Germanic Franks, invaded Moslem Sicily, and, for a brief period, they were a threat to North Africa. Cobb, however, denies that this was a clash of civilizations, à la Samuel Huntington.  Christians and Moslems, he points out, also joined with each other to fight mutual opponents, Moslem and/or Christian.

Neither the Islamic states nor the Franks had a navy. But the Italian cities, particularly Venice and Genoa, did and had long functioned as middlemen in the Mediterranean trade in luxury goods from Asia. While the first wave of Frankish crusader-warriors reached Palestine on foot, later armies were transported and their military operations provisioned primarily by Genoese shipping. This dependence upon Italian shipping allowed the Italians to influence which cities would become crusading targets.

One of Cobb’s themes is that it was the persistence of Moslem anarchy that allowed Frankish opportunity. This instability was partly the result of growing differences between Shi’i and Sunni. It was also the consequence of the rise and decline of Islamic warriors and unsettled rules for succession. Some historians have argued that the Frankish challenge resulted in the establishment of a more permanent state system in the Near East and North Africa. Cobb is uncertain about which is cause and which effect.

Cobb doesn’t insist on assigning numbers to the several periods of Frankish activity in the Near East. The Moslems looked upon the armed warfare in Syria and Palestine to “protect” Christian pilgrimage as the latest episode of a much longer history of the Frankish assault on Islam. Sacred to three religions (Judaism included), Jerusalem and other sites in Palestine should be open, Moslems contended, to all pilgrims. Besides pilgrimage was a profitable business.

While there are similarities, Cobb does not equate jihad with the Christian crusading effort. Jihad is an inner struggle of the faithful to acquire holiness that involved different obligations in different situations. In Dar-al-Islam (abode of Islam) the Moslem faith was recognized as the dominant religious practice; other religions were tolerated. Within the Dar al-Harb, (abode of war). the faithful jihadi was obliged to purify the land, offering to the non-Moslem the option of conversion. Should that be rejected, the Moslem warrior was obliged to rid the land of the heathen.

Short of armed conflict, Islamic law also allowed for the possibility of negotiation. Christian and Jewish communities, with the payment of special taxes, could live peacefully under the reign of an emir and supply him with administrators. Though literate and skilled, they did not pose a threat to the emir as did Moslems recruited from within the power structure.

Constantinople was the center of Greek Christianity as Rome was Latin Christianity. In 1095 Pope Urban II issued a call for western lords to provide armed assistance to the Greek Christians. Constantinople was threatened by the Seljuks, a Turkish tribe that had established a vast empire centered on Persia and extending into Anatolia and Palestine. The response was overwhelming. The “people’s crusade,” led by Frankish lords, began its trek to the Holy Land.

Those lords who volunteered and their retainers were promised indulgences, which, with the blessing of the Church, reduced the length of punishment for one’s sins. The Papacy had no army nor sufficient resources to finance the armed pilgrims; the lords who volunteered were ‘self-financed.’ Their wealth in the eleventh century was still primarily landed wealth. They could raise the cash necessary for their armed pilgrimage by borrowing from wealthy monasteries and churches, mortgaging their lands as collateral. Urban II urged religious establishments to make loans at favorable terms to those volunteering.

Cobb argues that the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean was dramatically altered by the expansion of the Ottomans (Osmani Turks) in the early fourteenth century. The Ottomans conquered Constantinople and made it their capital. From there they dominated much of the Balkans, Egypt, and the Near East. The rise of the Ottoman Empire gradually reduced the anarchy within Islam, and thus the opportunity for the expansion of Western Christendom into the Eastern Mediterranean, according to Cobb.

Paul Cobb’s The Race for Paradise; An Islamic History of the Crusades  was required reading for a class on the Holy Wars taught by Professor Nina Caputo, UF, a specialist in Medieval and Early Modern Europe.

 

 

The Pope and Mussolini

The Pope and Mussolini; The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David Kertzer. Random House, 2014.

In 1922, Achille Ratti was elected Pope and became Pius XI. That same year Benito Mussolini led a mob of Italian fascist in a “march on Rome.” Whereupon King Emanuel lll asked Mussolini, il Duce, to form a government. David Kertzer has chronicled the complicated diplomacy between the Papacy and Mussolini’s regime. This ‘dance around Italian political power’ occurred in the shadow of the National Socialists triumph in Germany.

Kertzer concludes that Pius played a crucial role in the making of Mussolini’s dictatorship and then in helping him stay in power. Pius also understood that, in the interests of the Holy Church, he needed to reign in the leftish political activity of the Catholic priesthood. In exchange for that support, Mussolini agreed to the restoration of privileges which the Papacy and the Catholic Church had lost in the revolutionary activities surrounding the unification of Italy in 1870.

Prior to his election to the Papacy, Ratti had taken a diplomatic post in Poland. There, according to Kertzer, he picked up a mild dose of anti-Semitism – or perhaps better said, his Polish experienced buttressed the anti-Semitism long a part of Church teaching. In Poland he apparently also nurtured his strong dislike of Bolshevism. The threat which Soviet Communism poised to Europe including his Italy became a life-long obsession.

Ratti, now back in Italy and Pope, had initial apprehensions about Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. Many of the membership were thugs, and took it upon themselves to club to death il Duce’s political rivals, including the leadership of the Catholic Popular Party. Pius also recognized the growing fascist dictatorship that Mussolini was building.

Much of the negotiations between Pope and Dictator were carried on through the office of the Papal Secretary of State. It mattered who held this office, always a priest of course, but also somewhat independent of the Papacy. Kertzer believes that the Pope’s dismissal of Pietro Gasparri and his replacement by Eugenio Pacelli was a significant move. Pacelli had been the Papal nuncio to Germany and was in favor of a settlement with the National Socialists to end their assault on the Roman Church in Germany.

One of the more important moments in this always evolving relationship between the Papacy and the Italian State was the Lateran Accords of February 1929. Not a religious person, il Duce understood that many Italians were. Open conflict with the Pope was not in the best interests of his broad program of social and political reform.

According to Kertzer the Accords put the Catholic Church in the pro-fascist camp. In exchange for security from interference with Catholic institutions, the Pope agreed to silence Mussolini’s critics within the Church. That included clerical opposition to Mussolini’s Abyssinian conquest in 1932 and later his invasion of neighboring Albania. Pius opposed both wars, but generally the Papal staff either talked him into moderation or in some cases edited the Pope’s written statements before their publication. The Italian public loved these wars. Were they not the beginning of a new Roman Empire?

One of the favors that Pius asked of Mussolini was that he temper Adolf Hitler’s racial policies and dismiss Joseph Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg! Pius had signed a “concordat” with the National Socialists soon after Hitler became Chancellor, but had been unable to protect German clergy from being sent to the new concentration camp at Dachau.

Pius was also hoping that Mussolini could convince Hitler to change his mind about the Nazi definition of what constituted a Jew. The Nuremberg Laws did not recognize the conversion of a Jew to Catholicism as changing anything. Pius argued that with conversion, Jews becoming good Catholics – should make them safe from German racial policies.

Again the Papacy and the German and Austrian Catholic clergy remained silent for the most part with Anschluss, Hitler’s occupation of Austria. The crisis over Czechoslovakia? Mussolini claimed it was his proposal for the Czechoslovaks to give up their Sudeten border areas. He came back from Munich claiming that he had ‘brought peace in their time,’ taking credit for Hitler’s willingness to come to some accord. His boast was about as hollow as Neville Chamberlain’s similar claim.

It is interesting that Kertzer believes Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938 marks a turning point in racist policy in both countries. Pius Xl’s health was declining and also his resistance to racism. Mussolini had negotiated a treaty with Hitler creating the Berlin-Rome Axis two years previously, tying the Italian future to German foreign policy. Matters were set for an unmitigated disaster for Italy and for all of Europe.

Kertzer ends his narrative with Pius’s death in 1939. Mussolini is thrown out of office in July 1943 and dies ignominiously in ’45 while attempting flight to Switzerland. It might have been better to have continued the story at least through 1943 and il Duce’s exit. Particularly since Pius XII who succeeded Pius Xl in 1939, continued the Vatican’s accommodation to Mussolini, Italian fascism, and the German-Italian alliance.

 

 

Lens of War; Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War

Lens of War; Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War by J. Matthew Gallman & Gary Gallagher, editors. University of Georgia Press, 2015.

The Civil War was well documented by commercial photographers. They invited the leadership of the War into their studios to have portraits made. They also carried their photographic equipment to the fields of battle and into military camps. Several dozen historians of the Civil War were asked by the editors to pick their favorite photograph and write an essay on what the picture tells us about that deadly conflict.

Much has been said about Abraham Lincoln’s visits to Mathew Brady’s and Alexander Gardner’s studios in Washington to have his picture taken. Appropriately Lens of War begins with a portrait taken by Gardner the day before Lincoln was to make a “short contribution” to the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery. There is some speculation by the essayist that Lincoln may have been thinking about a portrait to illustrate his few, but well-chosen words.

Lincoln may also have had in mind the Gardner portrait being used for a carte de visite. These were popular photographic reproductions mounted on a cardboard measuring 4 x 2½ inches. They were traded amongst friends and left as calling cards. Celebrity photographs, including President Lincoln’s, were much valued. But ordinary soldiers of the Civil War era also stood in lines to obtain a carte de visite of themselves in uniform to mail home.

This was before the age of the photographic smile. Back in the 1860s, you were supposed to look yourself. You were allowed to frown, even scowl, as appropriate to the situation. And there would be few occasions for a smile amongst these often grim circumstances.

One of the photographic portraits is of William Tecumseh Sherman. His “march to the sea” is often compared to what in the twentieth-century is called ‘total war.’ He looks a bit crazed in this photograph. The accompanying essay reveals that Sherman suffered a mental breakdown in the winter of 1861.

Photographers documented the totality of warfare. The most common subject was death, often dead bodies in various stages of decomposition.

One of the photographs is of a dying horse, and we are reminded that armies moved by animal power, mule and horse-drawn wagons. There was an enormous amount of matériel to be transported; warfare in the 1860s involved a vast supply structure. Horses were overworked, badly tended, and not given enough forage or water. The Union armies needed 2.3 million new horses each year of the war.

Several portraits of generals have them dressed in uniforms of cavalry officers. The famous picture of Robert E. Lee on his horse, Traveler, is included in this volume. But unlike draft animals, cavalry mounts played a small role in the major battles of the War.

A photo of three prisoners of war captured by Union forces at the Gettysburg battle suggests that they were not Lee’s finest. The essayist calls attention to their shoes which looked to be in good shape, not having been subject to several years of marching. They may have been stragglers or deserters. They would soon be put in jeopardy of their lives. By 1863 the prisoner exchange was breaking down. The results were over-crowded, prisoner-of-war camps and death from neglect and disease. The tragedy is well-documented at the Andersonville prison site in Georgia.

Most of the photographs are ‘staged’ in one way or another. Photographers looking for a compelling image, moved rifles around, even repositioned bodies. With no Photoshop, details had to be considered before the photograph was taken. In some cases there are included a sequence of images that attest to this moving around of the “décor” of the battlefield.

Several photographs document the large numbers of black refugees flooding into Union lines. Many were leaving plantation homes threatened by invading armies. But many were opting to “liberate” themselves and their families. By 1864 perhaps 400,000 slaves had walked away from the cotton fields where they had labored for a life-time. The essayist argues that this flood of refugees, having made their own personal decisions, forced the Union to grapple with the issue of slavery; hence the Emancipation Proclamation.

The last photo in Lens of War was of the Grand Review, victorious Union troops marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in May of 1865. It was a momentous occasion; at that point the Union army was the world’s greatest. Most of the marchers were from the Midwest and having won the war, were anxious to get home. The guns were silent but their futures uncertain.

It would be illuminating to have had photographs that documented Confederate soldiers returning to their often devastated homes. But the Confederacy was not nearly as well documented visually. Later, and often much later, statues were the common means of envisioning “the lost cause” and commemorating its Civil War. We are presently tucking away these statues.