Sunday, 3 August 2014

Death's Harvest

It's not often that the telegraph's Charles Moore gets a mention on here; poor Charles is generally obliged to churn out column drivel on behalf of the Conservative Party; weak, feeble and pissy stuff not generally worth quoting or recommending. This morning however he's off-piste and on form with a cogent and succinct analysis of Germany a century on from the start of what we call the Great War and they call the Erster Krieg. The photograph below tells the story. It was taken in a small, old town with a factory on the outskirts, a place smaller than Diss but bigger than Lavenham, with a (then) population of about five thousand souls. The one beneath is from Lavenham.

In Germany, the dead of the Great War (outlined) are dwarfed by the victims of the second; in England the position is reversed. Perhaps most poignant on the German memorial - on all German memorials - is the large block of names at the end, with birth years but no death years. These are the German soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviet Union, who died unknown and unrecorded, of disease, starvation, beating and maltreatment, after the war had ended. 

Looking at these dreadful lists of lives unfulfilled, of death's cruel harvest, from just two of the smallest towns in Europe, surely no-one can remain unconvinced of the utter hopeless, pointless stupidity of war. 

Added 9.34
By not wanting to make this post over-long I fear I may not have done justice to this. I leave it to war correspondent Alan Moorehead to provide the words:-
"Five years of watching war have made me personally loathe war, especially the childish wastage of it. But this thing - the brief ennoblement inside himself of the otherwise dreary and materialistic man - kept recurring, again and again, up to the very end, and it refreshed and lighted the whole sordid story.

The point perhaps is a little over-mystical, a little intangible. Yet there it is. Whatever material hardship and monotony lie ahead, the soldier will remember that he made his ultimate gesture, that he did something quite selfless to justify his history, himself and his children. He was, for a moment in time, a complete man. If there was one lesson we learned in France and the other occupied countries it was this: it never pays to capitulate. As long as there are things like Belsen Camp you must go on protesting. You must protest.

We were indignant. We protested. We won. All mankind advances. And this will be a matter of some lasting strength to those who fought. This, in the end, I saw, was the thing I was seeking: the explanation of the war. It was the thought in the mind of the Jugoslav who, knowing he was about to die, wrote to his unborn son:
My child, sleeping now in the dark and gathering strength for the struggle of birth, I wish you well. At present you have no proper shape, and you do not breathe, and you are blind. Yet when your time comes, your time and the time of your mother, whom I deeply love, there will be something in you that will give you power to fight for air and light. Such is your heritage, such is your destiny as a child born of woman - to fight for light and hold on, without knowing why ...

Keep your love of life but throw away your fear of death. Life must be loved or it is lost, but it should never be loved too well.

Keep your heart hungry for new knowledge, keep your hatred of a lie, and keep your power of indignation.

Now I know I must die, and you must be born to stand upon the rubbish-heap of my errors. Forgive me for this; I am ashamed to leave you an untidy, uncomfortable world. But so it must be.

In thought, as a last benediction, I kiss your forehead. Good-night to you, and a good morning and a clear dawn."


DeeDee99 said...

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
And the room was filled with me
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again.

It's never going to happen. Man is an aggressive creature and there will always be people and countries who resort to (or encourage war) to attain their goals n the basis that the ends justify the means.

The UK is one of the offenders and always will be.

Anonymous said...

"The UK is one of the offenders and always will be."

So ... then, we should make sure that we come out on top.

Else; the holocaust, the fate of the Palestinians, the Armenian holocaust await.

Better to be top dog and govern in a relatively benign manner like the US settlement post WW2, than be the losers, like the White Russians or Australian Aboriginals or Congo under the Belgians.

So, yes there is something worth fighting for. The security of your descendent.

Having a say in what they do with it .... is imporant.

G. Tingey said...

Anon, unfortunately, has it correctly.

There will always be nutters, telling plausible lies, for long enough to get control of a nation (or, much worse an ideology/religion) who will then start a war.

The village I regularly visit in Germany, had just under 1000 people in it in 1938.
Now, subtract 500 (women) & subtract those under 16 by 8/5/45 & over 50 by 1/9/39, & how many are left? I would guess between 250 & 320 ...
Death toll in WWII?

Raedwald said...

Agree absolutely that we must always be ready to defend our land and people against the military aggression of others - so yes to nukes, and yes to regaining standing armed forces in line with Haldane's reforms of a century ago.

But how to prevent evil men such as Blair from mis-using this military power?

Anonymous said...

"But how to prevent evil men such as Blair from mis-using this military power?"

Re-establish (or establish, depending how you look at it ) the control of the constituency over the executive.

That might mean canton style referenda.
But it might also imply that having the top spot in a country occupied by someone ( Monarch ) who is restricted as to the power he or she can wield, isn't a bad idea.

Blair, the sooner someone initiates prosecution the better.

Anonymous said...

@the last anonymous.

Canton style referenda.

Spot on.


Nick Drew said...

Your post rises to exalted levels, Mr R

Back down to earth again: "But how to prevent evil men such as Blair ..." - or even just giddy men, like Cameron

now let's recall the Syria vote in Parliament 12 month ago: do we consider that an example of the right way to put a brake on our politicians?