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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Could WWII Have Been Averted?
Created by John Eipper on 02/06/13 1:44 AM

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Could WWII Have Been Averted? (Angel Vinas, Belgium, 02/06/13 1:44 am)

With apologies to Istvan Simon (5 February), William Shirer was a journalist. His book was written when a lot of things we now know were unknown then. We now know, for example, that there was not the remotest chance that France would have dared to rise in arms against Rhenania's remilitarization. We now know that His Majesty's Government was aghast at the idea. We now know that HMG believed that Hitler was a major bastion of anti-Communism. That the Deuxieme Bureau and the General Staff in France hopelessly inflated the danger of both Communism and Hitlerism. Moreover, in 1936 it was not so obvious that Hitler was bent upon building a new empire to the detriment of France or the UK.

Should I remind WAISers of the fate of the only country where Fascism was being opposed by the force of arms? Just after the military rebellion broke out in Spain, the man in possession of all British security secrets, Sir Maurice Hankey, secretary to the Cabinet, was wondering whether the best way to go for the UK was to approach Italy and Germany to contain the pestilential danger of communism in France and Spain! Needless to say Hitler and Mussolini had given a lesson on how to checkmate working-class aspirations and channel them into building a new and strong "national" State.

What is surprising is that the same HMG was at that time in possession of a lot of Comintern plans, and thus perfectly aware of the minuscule danger of Communism in the UK. For good measure, MI5 had long infiltrated an agent into the Communist Party who was to become the personal and confidential secretary of Harry Pollit, the communist leader. If you go by the tabloids of the time, and even by the dense pages of the Hansard, you would never believe that.

JE comments:  For us New Worlders, the Hansard is the printed transcript of the UK Parliamentary debates.  I think I knew this at one time, but had un-remembered it.


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  • Guderian on the German Occupation of the Rhineland (Istvan Simon, USA 02/07/13 4:12 AM)
    When reading up on the topic of whether WWII could have been averted by standing up to Hitler in the mid-1930s, I came across this quote from Tim Ashby's illustrious relative, the German general Guderian:

    Heinz Guderian, a German general interviewed by French officers after the Second World War, claimed: "If you French had intervened in the Rhineland in 1936 we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen."


    Hitler himself said:


    "The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance."


    I note that in my WAIS post of 5 February I had used the "tails between our legs" metaphor, but at the time I was not aware that I was actually quoting Hitler on the subject.

    JE comments:  An interesting quote; I hope Tim Ashby will add his thoughts here.  I assume Guderian was speaking after the close of WWII, which explains the "Hitler would have fallen" part.  What evidence do we have that standing up to Hitler in 1936 or '38 would have lead to his political downfall, and not just taught him the lesson that he should spend few more years re-arming, say until the mid-1940s?  (This was the point raised by Tor Guimaraes a few days ago.)
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    • Guderian and Wehrmacht Culpability (Timothy Ashby, Spain 02/08/13 8:04 AM)
      I thank Istvan Simon for bringing up General Guderian in his post of 7 February.

      Immediately after the War, Guderian and other senior officers spent many months being interrogated by the US Army Historical Division. Guderian shared prison quarters with two other general officers, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (another great Panzer commander and one of Guderian's very few friends in the Wehrmacht) and Generalfeldmarschal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. I believe that these three officers were quartered together because the Allies knew them to be "dissidents" (my term) within the Wehrmacht high command. The quarters were bugged by the US Seventh Army Interrogation Center and conversations recorded. One of these transcripts, a discussion about National Socialism, is particularly interesting in light of our WAIS discussion:



      Geyr: "Any objective observer will admit that National Socialism raised the social status of the worker, and in some respects even his standard of living as long as that was possible."


      L (Leeb): "This is one of the great achievements of National Socialism. The excesses of National Socialism were in the first and final analysis due to the (warped) personality of the FUEHRER [capitals in the original script]."


      GUD (Guderian): "The fundamental principles were fine."



      L: "That is true."



      These men were not referring to Nazi persecution of Jews (none were known to be anti-Semites), but to what they saw as the necessary rehabilitation of the German economy and the restoration of German pride.



      After the war Der schnelle Heinz was often invited to attend meetings of Allied veterans' groups, where he analyzed past battles with his old foes. During the early 1950s he was active in advising on the redevelopment of the Bundeswehr (his son--who had been a Wehrmacht Panzer officer--became a general in the new West German army). The remark quoted by Istvan Simon may have been made during one of these meetings, as Guderian was probably the only German general who respected Charles de Gaulle, whose work on maneuver warfare he had read before the War and personally translated into German to be shared with fellow officers. (Guderian was fluent in both English and French).



      A personal (family) note about Guderian: Some historians have criticized him for a remark recorded at Hitler's Midday Situation Conference on September 1, 1944--"I'm all for racial purity." Having met--and had long conversations with--two of Guderian's officers in 1980 (one was a staff officer), I am aware from their warm memories of him that Der schnelle Heinz had a dry (distinctly un-Prussian in my opinion) sense of humor that went over the heads of most of his contemporaries. I think this remark was a quip, given that Guderian was the target of a whispering campaign by his enemies in the Wehrmacht and Nazi Party, who claimed that he was of Armenian descent because of his unusual name and therefore not "racially pure" (actually the name derived from "Guderjan" [Guter Jan]), which means "Good Jan").



      Given Guderian's constant battles with his own superiors, including Hitler, I think the following quote is brilliant: "Der Kampf gegen die eigenen Oberen macht manchmal mehr Arbeit als gegen die Franzosen" (It is sometimes tougher to fight my superiors than the French).


      Returning briefly to our discussion about Wehrmacht culpability in war crimes, a couple of final biographical notes about Guderian's post-war roommates seem appropriate:



      Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb was openly anti-Nazi during his military career and was involved in putting down the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler despised him but needed good generals, so he tolerated von Leeb for awhile. Before the Battle of France, von Leeb was the only German general to oppose the offensive through the (neutral) low countries on moral grounds. He wrote: "The whole world will turn against Germany, which for the second time within 25 years, assaults neutral Belgium! Germany, whose government solemnly vouched for and promised the preservation of and respect for this neutrality only a few weeks ago." When von Leeb failed to capture Leningrad quickly in the winter of 1941-42, Hitler impatiently commented, "Leeb is in a second childhood; he can't grasp and carry out my plan for the speedy capture of Leningrad. He fusses over his plan of assuming the defensive in the northwestern sector and wants a drive in the center on Moscow. He's obviously senile, he's lost his nerve, and like a true Catholic he wants to pray but not fight." When von Leeb heard of this comment, he asked Hitler to relieve him of his command, and it was announced that he had stepped down for health reasons (similar to Guderian's dismissal three years later).



      Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg, who commanded Panzer Group West during the Normandy Invasion, was previously a military attaché, serving in Brussels, the Hague and London between 1933 and 1937. He was in London at the time of the Rhineland crisis, from where he sent messages back to Berlin warning the German government not to underestimate the British. He was also bold enough to warn about the dangers of Hitler's adventurous foreign policy, earning an official rebuke and Hitler's long-term distrust. After D-Day, Hitler proclaimed Geyr to be a defeatist, and he was relieved of his command.


      JE comments:  WAISers will remember that Tim Ashby is a distant relative of General Guderian:  Tim's great-great grandmother was the General's great aunt:


      http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=74636&objectTypeId=66266&topicId=165



      It's funny:  I always assumed Guderian was an Armenian name!  I worked for years in a building named after an illustrious Armenian (Alex Manoogian, inventor of the single-handle "Delta" faucet), so anybody named X-ian is Armenian in my book.  Until today:  I thank Tim for setting the record straight.



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      • Is Guderian an Armenian Name? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 02/09/13 5:22 AM)
        When commenting Tim Ashby's post of 8 February, JE wrote:

        "I always assumed Guderian was an Armenian name! I worked for years in a building named after an illustrious Armenian (Alex Manoogian, inventor of the single-handle 'Delta' faucet), so anybody named X-ian is Armenian in my book. Until today: I thank Tim for setting the record straight."


        I'm betting that Heinz Guderian was descended from Armenians. Guderian/Gederian/Giderian/Guderyan etc. is a fairly common Armenian surname (Armenian is written with its own very ancient alphabet, so any given Armenian name might have a lot of variations in Latin letters, especially in cases where, like the case of Armenians from Poland, as are the likely ancestors of Heinz Guderian, the name came through Russian first.)


        "Guter Jan" does not seem like a plausible German origin of the name to me; for one thing I don't think this "d"/"t"/"th" substitution is characteristic of the Eastern forms of German. It would be an exceptionally odd coincidence that a very unusual German name like this, formed in a unique way, would coincidentally resemble a common Armenian surname. I don't buy it.


        Heinz Guderian was born in what is now Chelmno, Poland, near the geographical center of present-day Poland. Guderian's father was born in Wielka Klonia not far away, and Guderian wrote in his memoirs that as far as he knew, all of his ancestors were landowners and lawyers from West and East Prussia. There has been a significant Armenian community in Poland for many centuries. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenians_in_Poland . It is true that the Teutonic Knights who conquered the region (episodically) and established a German presence in this geography did not mix very much with the local populations, but it was not unheard of. This area of West Prussia was more under Polish (and therefore often Russian) control than under German control, over the four or five centuries previous to Guderian's birth. As time went on, the German landowners and nobles did intermarry sometimes with Polish landowners and nobility of similar social status. Armenians in Poland were quite often landowners and there were a number of Polish-Armenian noble families. Whether there were any Guderians or Gederians among them I have not been able to determine, but I bet the data is available somewhere. Here is a whole history of the Polish-Armenian noble familes: http://www.wbc.poznan.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=72812&from=publication . But it is in Polish, which I can't read.


        I'm guessing that "Guderian" really is an Armenian name; that the "Guter Jan" story was invented later for Aryan credibility.


        JE comments: When Aldona wakes up, I'll pester her for a reading of the above. I'm puzzled that by the confusing race ideology of the Nazi era, an Armenian name would carry a stigma: aren't the Armenians more "Caucasian" than anyone, except perhaps for the Georgians?


        Another question:  did the Nazis use "Caucasian" as a race term, together with the vaguely Indo-Iranian "Aryan"?  According to Wikipedia, the notion of a "Caucasian race" originated in Germany, around 1800.

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        • Is Guderian an Armenian Name? (Timothy Ashby, Spain 02/10/13 3:50 AM)
          I tend to agree with Cameron Sawyer (9 February) that the Guderian surname is probably of Armenian origin (some genealogists have suggested this as well).



          The Third Reich enlisted Armenians (mainly Red Army POWs) as a foreign unit of the Wehrmacht during World War II (the Armenische Legion or 812th Armenian Battalion), and Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for Occupied Territories, officially declared that Armenians were Indo-European, or Aryans, and thus subject to conscription. However, there is no doubt that Hitler and other senior Nazis considered Armenians to be "Non-Aryans" and therefore racially "impure." Hitler said "In spite of all declarations from Rosenberg and the military, I don't trust the Armenians either" (Dallin, Alexander [1981]. German Rule in Russia: 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp. 229, 251).



          This bolsters my theory that Guderian was highly sensitive to his family background. How he managed to survive amidst the inner Nazi circles given this factor as well as his insubordination is a historical mystery.



          By the way, among anecdotes related to me by his former officers, they said that Guderian was a "soldier's soldier" who enjoyed being in the field, and could drive a tank and operate a cannon or machine gun as well as any man in the Panzerkorps. He was also fond of quips--the officers I met repeated Nicht Kleckern sondern Klotzen! ("Don't do things by half") with smiles. (I didn't really get this, but apparently the old Panzer soldaten loved it!) So, I think Guderian was exercising a bit of very risky sarcasm in the "racial purity" conference with Hitler.



          Here is what his friend General Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg said about Guderian after he died of congestive heart failure in 1954: "Sixty per cent of what the German Panzer Forces became was due to him. Ambitious, brave, a heart for his soldiers, who liked and trusted him; rash as a man, quick in decisions, strict with officers, real personality, therefore many enemies. Blunt, even to Hitler. As a trainer--good; thorough; progressive. If you suggested revolutionary ideas, he would in 95 per cent of cases say 'Yes,' at once."

          JE comments: Guderian's maverick personality, tactical genius and popularity among his troops remind me of that great Confederate cavalry general, Nathan Bedford Forrest. (Though I was hoping to be the first to make the connection, scroll down to "Trotsky" [?] at the following link: http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/archive/index.php/t-116245.html )  Forrest was self-taught and semi-literate, though, and my understanding of Guderian is that he was from a patrician background.  Still, imagine what Forrest would have achieved in command of a Panzer division.



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          • Compare Guderian to Nathan Bedford Forrest? Don't (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 02/10/13 9:28 AM)
            Ah, don't compare the elegant and dashing Guderian with Nathan Bedford Forrest! [This is what I did at the conclusion of Tim Ashby's post of 10 February--JE.]



            Forrest was one of our great military geniuses, there is no doubt, but by all accounts, as a person, he was a nasty piece of work. In contrast to the refined and aristocratic Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals, Forrest was rough and uneducated, and was a slave trader by profession. His cruelty and bloodthirstiness are legendary. He is notorious for the Fort Pillow massacre, and for advertisements he placed raising troops for his regiment, calling for men with good horses who would like to "have some fun and kill some Yankees"; reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's revolting Inglorious Basterds.

            Although there is some historical controversy about it, he is generally considered (in Tennessee, at least) to have founded the Ku Klux Klan. His cruelty extended to his own troops, who feared and hated him. He was, however, the greatest military mind of the war, probably. But don't compare him to Guderian!


            JE comments:  I vaguely recall from a Forrest biography read years ago that the General agreed to serve as head of the KKK with the understanding it was a Confederate mutual benefit and "pride" organization, but resigned when the Klan's racist policies became evident.  Be that as it may, that Forrest was a slave merchant prior to the Civil War is widely known.  Interestingly, even slaveholders looked on the traders with contempt.


            I'll let Tim Ashby, whose relatives fought in both conflicts, be the judge here:  should we draw any parallels between Generals Guderian and Forrest?




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  • Mussolini on "Checkmating Working-Class Aspirations"; from Eugenio Battaglia (John Eipper, USA 02/07/13 4:32 AM)
    Eugenio Battaglia sent me this response to Angel Viñas's post of 6 February:

    I wonder what Angel means by "[checkmating] working-class aspirations," because in Italy the Social State was founded for the benefit of all Italians, and it was possible to survive the Great Depression fairly well. I wish to remind WAISers that FDR sent two members of his government to Italy to get suggestions for the New Deal.


    The Italian Government under Mussolini granted the following to the working class:


    Insurance against invalidity and accidents in the workplace, insurance against professional illnesses and unemployment, Social Security, special assistance to mothers and children, special vacations at the seashore or the mountains for all children, the Carta del Lavoro--the "Work Paper" of 1927, which granted rights to the workers, including a 40-hour week, additional premium wage for a nonworking wife and children, houses for the poor, special entertainment for after work, etc. In January 1944 with the Socializzazione, work was put at the center of the production, as in the Board of Directors the representatives of capital were in the same number as the representatives of the workers, with all profits divided among investors, workers and a compensation fund.


    By the way, now the Social State is in the process of being dismantled.


    JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia's note raises two questions that might take this discussion in interesting new directions.  1)  How deep was FDR's admiration for Mussolini's policies in the early years of his (FDR's) administration, say in 1933-'35?  I note that this was the time when aviator Italo Balbo was captivating the world with his transoceanic flights, which even got a street in Chicago named after him.  In short, was there a short-lived Mussolini "fad" in the Depression-era US?  And was this enthusiasm limited primarily to Italian-Americans?  And here's my question 2)  How widespread is Mussolini nostalgia in Italy today?  I'm sensing a hint of it from Eugenio Battaglia.  Are Italy's current fiscal woes adding fuel to this "revival"? 


    In the US we remember first and foremost the deportation of Italy's Jewish population during the RSI (Salò Republic), which precludes any reappraisal of Mussolini's possible good points.  Among Spaniards, Mussolini can only be remembered as the midwife who delivered them Franco--a legacy that long outlived Il Duce himself.

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    • Mussolini and "Checkmating Working-Class Aspirations" (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/07/13 6:37 AM)
      I thank Eugenio Battaglia for his comments of 7 February. Eugenio raises questions which would lead us to discuss the social significance of the Mussolini regime. For that matter, also the social achievements in Nazi Germany and in Franco Spain. All this leads to the meaning of Fascism.

      I do not think that there is much enthusiasm in the relevant historical literature to consider Fascism as a precursor of the Welfare State. One doesn't need to be Marxist-oriented to realise that one of the features of Fascism was the integration of the working class into the National State. What for? For creating a solid block able to surmount class struggles and redirect national energies to a war of conquest.


      JE comments: Fascism's attempt to eliminate class struggle, if I read Angel Viñas correctly, is/was not for the good of the masses but for the "good" of national ambition. Nigel Jones (next in line) has also sent his thoughts on Mussolini's legacy.


      Didn't Mussolini's regime also invent the limited-access highway?  (Not exactly:  Wikipedia informs us that the first Autostrade were conceived prior to 1922.)  Last summer I drove a good deal on Poland's spanking-new "Autostradas."  I'm curious why they've adopted the Italian word.  Socialist Poland assembled and sold Fiats as their "national" cars.  So perhaps there's a strong link in the Polish consciousness between Italy and all things automotive.



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    • Mussolini and His Early Admirers (Nigel Jones, UK 02/07/13 6:51 AM)
      Mussolini was certainly widely praised in Europe during the first decade of his rule, not least by Winston Churchill, of all people, who said, in his inimitable way, that if he had been an Italian "I would have donned the black shirt in your [Mussolini's] struggle against the bestial appetites of Leninism." Also, undeniably, the corporatist element in Fascism was fashionable--and Keynesian/New Deal economics have an awful lot in common with it.

      The Fascist dictator was admired for in general disciplining and dragooning the notoriously un-disciplined and anarchic Italians. The current phrase was "he made the trains run on time"--which indeed he did. Another Mussolini achievement was his defeat of the Mafia--the only Italian ruler to have done so. (In retaliation the Cosa Nostra helped the Allied invasion and occupation of Sicily in 1943, which opened the way for them to restore their control of the island.)


      Fascist violence was always implicit in the movement's theory, and indeed in its actions: the notorious feeding of castor oil to humiliate its opponents (I heard of one victim of this practice who bottled his oiled excrement and fed it back to the Fascist militant concerned when the tables were turned in 1945); the trashing of opposition offices, HQs and clubs, the beating up and indeed murder of political rivals--most notoriously the Socialist deputy Matteotti and the Rosselli brothers in France.


      All this was largely overlooked by the outside world until Mussolini made the fatal step of allying with Hitler. Although the ideology of Fascism and Nazism was similar, as were the trappings of the two movements, the biggest difference between the two was Fascism's lack of Nazism's central racist ideology (except when applied to the Africans of Abyssinia).


      Jews were unharmed in Italy until Mussolini was pressured by the Nazis to introduce racial legislation late in the war.


      It is indeed fascinating to see how the balance swung in what the historian FW Deakin memorably termed "the brutal friendship" between the two dictators. At the beginning Mussolini was definitely the senior partner. Hitler had always admired him, and his 1923 abortive Beer Hall putsch in Munich was specifically modeled on Mussolini's March on Rome 11 months earlier. After Hitler came to power, he was in visible awe of the Duce at their first meeting in Venice in 1934. Later that year, as has already been remarked, Mussolini moved Italian troops to the Brenner pass to deter Hitler from invading Austria after Austrian Nazis had murdered the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss in an abortive putsch. Embarrassingly Dollfuss's family were Mussolini's guests at the time of his assassination.


      Thenceforth, the balance of the relationship swung steadily in Hitler's favour, until, by the time of the Salò Republic, Mussolini was nothing more than a sawdust puppet in German hands who owed his life, his liberty (after his dramatic rescue from a mountaintop hotel by German commandos) and his return to a semblance of power entirely to Hitler, who continued to admire his old friend to the end. Mussolini did not return the compliment.

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      • Mussolini and His Early Admirers (Roy Domenico, USA 02/07/13 9:41 AM)
        A few points on the recent Mussolini discussion. The Fascists certainly made a number of innovations in the creation of Italy's welfare state. Before Unification most of what passed for welfare was in the hands of the Catholic Church. The founders of the new Kingdom scrapped most of that in favor of their pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap liberal visions. Mussolini "corrected" this in the 1920s and 1930s--it might be said for his own purposes. We also need to remember Mussolini's roots as a Socialist--he was one of the Party leaders before 1914--and that his pre-Fascist ideas (and those of the first few years of the movement from 1919 until the early 1920s) resurfaced, as Eugenio Battaglia pointed out, in the "Socialization" measures of the Salò regime.

        Much has been made of Mussolini returning to his roots at Salò and the "Social Republic"-issued propaganda which played up the fact that the dusty old (and treasonous) monarchy had been thrown into the garbage can--only to be propped up in the south by the Anglo-Americans. Salò even recalled its "Mazzinian" roots in a series of postage stamps--one of the more outrageous whoppers in the Duce's bag of tricks. It should also be remembered that those measures were utterly sabotaged by the Nazis and by the working class, which refused to cooperate. The Allies considered the measures to be "social bombs" that the Duce was planting before his inevitable defeat (he had few illusions of victory by 1944).


        Regarding Mussolini's reputation before Hitler--he certainly enjoyed a lot of prestige in Britain and in America and, yes, FDR sent one of his brain-trusters, Rexford Tugwell, to investigate fascism, although nothing really became of it. An excellent book on America's and American Liberals' fascination with the Duce is John Patrick Diggins's Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America. The Wall Street Journal famously published a poetic paean to him on their editorial page in, I think, 1923 and the US ambassador Washburn Child was instrumental in publishing his autobiography in America. Child even claimed some credit in Mussolini's March on Rome! If they can find it, WAISers might also enjoy looking at the classic July 1934 issue of Henry Luce's Fortune magazine which was fawningly dedicated to the Regime.


        JE comments:  I'm learning a lot from this conversation.  Perhaps Roy Domenico could give us an idea of Mussolini's image among Italian-Americans pre-1939?  I suppose there were Italian-Americans of monarchist leanings, who opposed him from the beginning.


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      • Mussolini: Thoughts from Luciano Dondero (John Eipper, USA 02/07/13 1:43 PM)
        I heard recently from an Italian reader of WAIS who lives in the Canary Islands. Luciano Dondero has given me permission to publish his note:

        Benito Mussolini was for the a good part of his early life a revolutionary socialist, leader of the left-wing of the PSI (Italian Socialist Party).


        In 1901, when an anarchist killed the King of Italy, Mussolini quipped: "Regicide is an occupational disease for monarchs!"


        In 1912, when Italy went to war against Turkey to capture Libya and a bunch of Greek islands (then under Turkish rule), BM led the struggle against those who wanted to support the Italian state (like Bissolati).


        His authority as a leftist--even though he was never a Marxist--was so great that the people who were to found the Communist party (PCI) in 1921 (like Bordiga and Gramsci and Togliatti) were to a great extent from the youth wing of the PSI, and had been earlier followers of BM.


        Mussolini was in charge of the PSI newspaper "L'Avanti!" (Forward!) for several years, as he was a quite talented journalist.


        Italy by 1914 was still in an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but did not join the war on the side of the Central Powers.


        At that point, Mussolini, apparently receiving some funds from the French, launched a new newspaper called "Il Popolo d'Italia," which started agitating for Italy's entry in the coming war on the side of the Entente (France, Great Britain, Russia) against its former(?) allies. This happened a year later.


        In 1919 BM created the first "fascist" organisation.


        The "fasci" are that bunch of wooden sticks with an ax on top, which had been a symbol of the Roman empire, but were resuscitated by the French revolution, and are to this day used to identify some kind of statehood (or police force) in several countries. In Italy the fascia become the symbol of Mussolini's movement, and are today forbidden in any kind of representation.


        Mussolini also took from the Italian labour movement the word "camerata" (like the French camarade, the Spanish camarada and the English comrade) to identify the members of his own movement and party. A similar thing happened in Germany, by the way, so that Italian and German are the two languages were you cannot identify a leftist by using the word used in most of the rest of the world. (I happen to know this, as I used to be a leftist years ago, and for quite some time I did lot of translations at international left-wing gatherings, and that word was always a sticky issue...).


        JE asked me off-Forum why some members of the PSI, like Mussolini, turned to the Fascists, while others moved to the PCI. I don't have a ready-made explanation, but as a start I suppose one should explore the issue of nationalism--Austria had held Trento, the lands across the Adriatic Sea (Dalmatia, and so on). Eugenio Battaglia was born in Zara (Zader in Croatia today), and he might actually have lots of interesting things to say about this.


        JE comments: I asked Luciano Dondero to introduce himself, and he sent this reply:


        I was born in 1950 in a Communist family and I spent a good deal of my life being an active revolutionary Trotskyist (well, mostly writing and selling newspapers with flamboyant headlines...) roaming around several European countries.


        My father, Dario, had been deported to Germany (in early 1944, I think), because he had initially refused to serve in the RSI army. And he came back a year later in an American uniform, as he had joined the US army somewhere in Czechoslovakia, while the Third Reich was crumbling down. His stories were very interesting, told at night when we were kids, filled with fear and hope.


        My mum, Teresa, had spent that interminable time waiting for him under Allied bombings, and taking refuge in underground bunkers, which also occasionally housed Italian and German military. And she told me of a German submariner from Hamburg who fell in love with her, and wanted for her to marry him and go to Germany. Thus I might have been born a German!


        (This may have some relevance to the WAIS debate about the Wehrmacht.)


        Anyway, I have a strong interest in historical matters, as well as in science (evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, astronomy and space exploration), and I have come to the sad realization that my existence was somewhat wasted in the pursuit of something irrational--I no longer think that Marxism provides a valid explanation for mankind's journey from our apes/hominid ancestors until the present day, nor for the ins and outs of civilization. And I have no particular interest in current politics (besides thinking that it was good that the Americans re-elected their president).


        I came across WAIS while doing some research for a blog I started recently (http://losiento.sosblogs.com/ ) which is meant to understand and convey to Italian-speakers some of the reality of Spain and more widely of the Spanish-language world. While I intend to avoid going into much politics, inevitably a bit of it will creep in.


        I have found WAIS discussions wide and open and intriguing.


        I currently live in the Canary Islands, on Fuerteventura (La Oliva), as even the Ligurian coast was not warm enough for me, in wintertime. (Not to mention the feeling of disgust I had for all the antics of Berlusconi!)


        JE comments: Great to hear from you, Luciano! Best of luck with your new blog.  "Lo siento" (I feel it, but also I'm sorry) is a very cool name for a website.  Here's the link again:


        http://losiento.sosblogs.com/


        Could you put in a good word for WAIS, too, Luciano?




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        • Canary Islands and WWII (Robert Whealey, USA 02/09/13 3:34 PM)
          I thank Luciano Dondero for his fascinating note of 7 February. His early history of Mussolini 1901 to 1922 squares with my understanding of his evolution.

          Apparently Luciano Dondero has only recently become interested in the history of Spain and the Spanish language. I presume he will spend time studying the Spanish Civil War. It could be an embarrassing story for this generation of Italians. In this respect, French scholars would also like to change the subject.



          I hope Luciano will look at my book Hitler and Spain, where he will see a map of the Canary Islands including Fuerteventura. In 1937 Hermann Goring sent his own "fishing expedition" to that island, apparently to acquire an intelligence base, over the objections of Admiral Canaris, the German Navy and Hitler's conservative Ambassador von Stohrer.


          I should add that a German national, probably a veteran of World War I, was living in Fuerteventura before 1936. His name was Gustav Winter. Winter survived the war in a remote mansion. I met a young Spanish historian in the late 1960s from the Canary Islands who tried to visit him. No such luck.


          JE comments: Winter found a beautiful place to winter!


          There must have been a lot of naval intrigue in the Canaries during WWII. I'm sure Robert Whealey addresses this topic in his Hitler and Spain. Allow me an naive question: were German U-boats permitted to dock/resupply in the Canaries?

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          • Canary Islands and WWII; Luciano Dondero Responds (John Eipper, USA 02/10/13 5:31 AM)
            Our reader on the beautiful island of Fuerteventura, Luciano Dondero, sent this response to Robert Whealey (9 February):

            I thank Robert Whealey for recommending his book Hitler and Spain, and although this topic is not really a recent interest of mine, I have no qualms about admitting that Robert is right that I will have to go on studying the Spanish Civil War--considering that my previous sources of knowledge were mostly Ernest Hemingway, Felix Morrow, George Orwell, Hugh Thomas, and above all, Leon Trotsky.


            There is a novel written by Spanish writer Lucía Etxebarria, El contenido del silencio (Planeta, Barcelona, 2011), which sheds some light on the connections between Fuerteventura and Nazi Germany. She writes fiction, but this is based on some published materials, like Orígenes de la propiedad del suelo en la península de Jandía by Juan Pedro Martín Luzardo, Ayuntamiento de Pájara (FV, 2003), and the chapter "Apuntes históricos sobre Cofete" by Rosario Cerdeña in the book Homenaje a Francisco Navarro Artiles, Academia Canaria de la Lengua, 2004.


            If you think this is worth a more detailed info, I suppose I could translate a couple of pages from Etxebarria's book for reference.


            The gist of it is that before WWII, the Germans had plans to use Fuerteventura, but they did not materialize--probably this is linked to Hitler's complicated relationship with Franco, and his change of mind over invading the Canary Islands and the Azores.


            But mainly Etxebarria goes into the Islas Afortunadas becoming a safe haven for former Nazis after the war--which divulges a bit of the story. I won't spoil it here, though...


            The Gustav Winter house still exists in the south of the island, in a place called Cofete, and can be visited these days, as the old man died several years ago.


            Considering the interaction that Franco had with the Canaries, I think it's significant that in the Northern town of Corralejo on Fuerteventura there was an Avenida Francisco Franco until 1994. In various maps we can see it listed as "Main Street" or "Avenida Principal," and that's a typical Spanish ruse or codename to avoid the unspeakable. Like in Barcelona, where the long avenue cutting across the city was forever called "La diagonal" so as not to use its official name of "Avenida Generalisimo Franco."


            As for JE's question: "were German U-boats permitted to dock/resupply in the Canaries?"


            Well, one of the "secret stories" about the Winter house in Cofete, FV claims that it was a secret U-boat base. I should think that the Western islands were better suited, though, for such an endeavour, especially Hierro. Now, if what the German movie about the U-boats (Das Boot, 1981) is truthful, it should not have been too complex for the Third Reich to have neutral-flag ships moving in and out of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria or Santa Cruz de Tenerife to resupply U-boats.


            This interaction is apparently a much-speculated about issue here. For some examples see:





            https://cienciamisterio.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/%C2%BFhitler-estuvo-en-canarias/





            http://www.taringa.net/posts/info/13097041/Espias-nazis-en-Tenerife.html




            and "Nazis en Canarias": http://angulo13.com/angulo13_alfonsoferrer2.htm



            There is also a book by Jaime Rubio titled Submarinos y arqueología nazi en Canarias.


            I'd also like to cite an interview with a historian of the Canaries:




            http://www.laprovincia.es/dominical/2010/06/06/armada-espanola-llevo-tripulaciones-submarinas-nazis-torpedos-canarias/305883.html



            Here's a quote from Professor Juan José Díaz Benítez:


            Entonces, sobre el suministro de submarinos, ¿en qué quedó realmente?


            --Bueno, en 1940 se realiza toda una serie de intentos de abastecimiento de submarinos nazis en puertos de la Península sin éxito, porque los comandantes de marina no lo permitieron, aduciendo que no tienen autorización. Ni en Vigo, Ferrol o Cádiz. Sin embargo, en febrero de 1941 el ministro español de Marina autoriza al comandante naval de la Luz a realizar seis abastecimientos a submarinos nazis, tanto de combustibles como de víveres y torpedos. Se sabe ahora que los segundos llegan al Puerto de La Luz procedentes de la Península, como algunas tripulaciones, en buques de la Armada Española [teóricamente gozaban de neutralidad y no debían ser interceptados por la Armada británica, que tenía el control del pasillo Estrecho-Canarias]. De todos es sabida la repatriación de la tripulación del U-167, submarino oceánico alemán hundido y que alcanzó la playa de Las Burras. Como hubo mucho transporte español de Canarias a La Península de tripulaciones de submarinos nazis hundidos en el Atlántico Sur que llegaban a las Islas como polizones en buques trigueros. Y de Madrid salían en avión a Berlín.


            JE comments:  Thank you, Luciano Dondero, for filling in the blanks.  According to Prof. Díaz Benítez, the German U-Boat contact with the Canaries was minimal, beyond the repatriation of rescued crewmembers.  There was one instance of re-supply in 1941, however--did the Allies ever get wind of this?  Franco was very crafty at playing both sides of WWII, and must have been aware that any open support of the U-Boats would have met with the full wrath of the British Navy.

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            • Canary Islands and WWII (Robert Whealey, USA 02/10/13 2:49 PM)
              I have no evidence of German submarines coming to the Canaries.  [This is apparently not the case; see David Pike, below--JE.] The British Navy watched for submarines in the waters off the islands. The key to the Canary Islands strategic base is the fact that in 1931 Juan March, Spain's richest man, created his own oil company CEPSA. The crude oil was supplied by Texaco to Franco's armies 1936-1941. There may also have been a little "hot oil" supplied by Cárdenas government in Mexico from 1938 to 1940. PEMEX was in a long battle with the Shell Standard cartel over nationalization.



              Texas crude and crude from Latin America was sold to CEPSA. The German submarines were supplied by black market on the high seas by the OKM's tanker service. See my index Ettapendienst (Supply Service). Admiral Canaris organized a global system of oil deliveries. There are many Ettapendienst records that I had no time to use for my book on Spain.



              There may be a second volume here for some future researcher, "Spain's Oil Diplomacy 1936-1941." When the US declared war in 1941 the Caribbean oil fields were closed down for Franco and Nationalist Spain.

              JE comments: I'm puzzled that Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas would sell oil to Franco, so soon after he actively supported the Republic. Do I understand Robert Whealey correctly that Cárdenas was supplying Franco as early as 1938?


              Yes, Oil Diplomacy is an excellent lens to view world history since around 1910. There must be several books on the topic that need to be written.

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              • Canary Islands and WWII (David Pike, France 02/11/13 6:56 AM)
                Robert Whealey wrote, a trifle grandly, "I have no evidence of German submarines coming to the Canaries [during WWII]" (10 February). There is evidence, which is available in Freiburg-im-Breisgau (Bund.-Mil., Seekriegsleitung, RM7/844).

                The report from Admiral Kurt Fricke gives precise figures of the amount of fuel oil, lubricating oil and food supplies available at Las Palmas sufficient for one U-boat Type U-45 for six weeks, with re-supplies available on request to Berlin. "Supplies to U-boats are to be carried out in every case inside the harbor, alongside the German supply ship and during the night, sailing submerged if necessary, in order that the operation, both in docking and putting to sea, passes unobserved."


                JE comments: This is very interesting; I suspected as much.  And the "cloak of darkness" approach would seem to line up with Franco's playbook:  in the World War, always hedge your bets.



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    • Mussolini Nostalgia: Comment from Eugenio Battaglia (John Eipper, USA 02/08/13 2:16 AM)
      On 7 February, I asked Eugenio Battaglia for his thoughts on Mussolini "nostalgia" in today's Italy. Eugenio sent this response:

      Be sure, in spite of all Italy's troubles, that Mussolini nostalgia among the Italians is extremely limited. Unfortunately, a few young fellows are fascinated by some silly exterior attitudes of Imperial Fascism which are absolutely obsolete, while a handful of Italians are fascinated by the social (non-racist) fascist theories. Lastly, there is another handful which would like, for a historical appraisal, to separate the good from the bad and the truth from the propaganda.



      For instance, I believe that the Jewish situation in Italy from 1922 to 1945 has been completely misunderstood by the overwhelming impact of the Holocaust in Germany and elsewhere. The Jewish writer Leon Poliakov wrote about a "protective screen for the Jews where the Italians troops arrived." Also, during the RSI in which, officially, the Jews were considered "citizens of an enemy country," there was some protection. In fact the infamous deportation of the Roman Jewish Community was performed by the Germans when the RSI was not yet completely organized in late September-early October 1943. Here's one episode of note: the lover of Pavolini, secretary of the Republican Fascist Party and Chief of the Armed Forces of the Party, had a Jewish lover, the actress Duranti. He was very independent from the Germans, and probably in retaliation the SS arrested the lady. Promptly Pavolini sent in his Brigate Nere [Black Brigades], and with the threat of firing on the SS, liberated her.


      However the total of the Jews deported by the Germans from the territory of the RSI was 6807, of whom 5791 died, while the other 35,000 Jews in Italy managed, one way or another, to survive, some also in the under ceiling of the Government Palace of Milan (!).


      PS: Previously it was indicated that the total of deported Jews was 7495, of whom 551 were children.


      JE comments:  Wikipedia's entry on the Holocaust reports that some 8000 Jewish Italians perished in the Holocaust.  This is a slightly higher figure than the numbers Eugenio Battaglia gives, although he specifically states that the 6807 number is the number of deportees from the RSI.

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