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Post More from Hemingway on Mussolini
Created by John Eipper on 06/16/15 11:13 AM

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More from Hemingway on Mussolini (Paul Levine, Denmark, 06/16/15 11:13 am)

What began as a comparison between Hemingway and Mussolini has devolved into a discussion of duels and reading upside down.

I don't know about Il Duce's courage, but I do remember the old joke about the Italian army always marching with their hands up.

Now about Hemingway on Il Duce: he thought he was a bluff and a bully but did not comment on his aesthetic or journalistic style. Here is another excerpt from an article that Hemingway published in Esquire, September 1935:

"Italy is a country of patriots and whenever things are going badly at home, business bad, oppression and taxation too great, Mussolini has only to rattle the saber against a foreign country to make his patriots forget their dissatisfaction at home in their flaming zeal to be at the throats of the enemy. By the same system, early in his rule, when his personal popularity waned and the opposition was strengthened, an attempted assassination of the Duce would be arranged which would put the populace in such a frenzy of hysterical love for their nearly lost leader that they would stand for anything and patriotically vote the utmost repressive measures against the opposition.

"Mussolini plays on their admirable patriotic hysteria as a violinist on his instrument but when France and Jugo-Slavia were the possible enemy he could never really give them the full Paganini because he did not want war with those countries; only the threat of war. He still remembers Caporetto, where Italy lost 320,00 men in killed, wounded and missing, of which amount 265,000 were missing, although he had trained a generation of young Italians who believe Italy to be an invincible military power.

"Now he is setting out to make war on a feudal country, whose soldiers fight barefooted and with the formations of the desert and the middle ages; he plans to use planes against people who have none and machine guns, flame projectors, gas, and modern artillery against bows and arrows, spears, and native cavalry armed with carbines. Certainly the stage is as nearly set as it ever can be for an Italian victory and such a victory as will keep Italians' minds off things at home for a long time. The only flaw is that Abyssinia has a small nucleus of trained, well-armed troops."

JE comments:  Our Italian colleagues won't appreciate the army joke.  Wasn't the same one made about the French army too?

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  • Jokes About Italian Army; Danes in WWII (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/17/15 12:23 PM)
    With reference to the 16 June post of Paul Levine, as expected by JE I did not appreciate the army joke and the old antifascist propaganda of Hemingway. I could write pages and pages to refute them, but in my life I have heard worst things.  For example, that I should have been grateful to the Allies because they liberated me and gave me democracy. That was really an insult.

    Therefore I will not try to find silly jokes about the soldiers of Denmark. In fact, during WWII, even if it is true that they let the Germans occupy their country practically without firing a shot, later well motivated by Nazism, the same soldiers that seemed so cowardly on 9 April 1940 fought very well in the Waffen SS divisions Freikorps Denmark, Nordland and Wiking. Considering the high number of Danish SS in reference to the small population and placing on top of that the collaboration of the old Danish government, which remained in power even after 9 April 1940, it can even be said that Denmark was a loyal friend of Hitler. Of course all changed in May 1945 and the Danish too became the poor victims of the Third Reich and of the mad criminal.

    JE comments:  Touché?  Note, however, that both Italy and Denmark had a comparatively admirable record of protecting their Jewish citizens from Hitler.

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    • Danes in WWII (Paul Levine, Denmark 06/19/15 3:06 AM)
      In Eugenio Battaglia's wounding remarks about Denmark (19 June), I suspect is his mistaken assumption that I am Danish.

      Alas, I am only a pitiful American who happens to live in Hellerup and admire the Danish common-sense society.

      As for what Eugenio describes as the "old antifascist propaganda of Hemingway," he was describing the impending Italian invasion of Ethiopia.  Spears against planes, as he described it. (Hemingway didn't know that the Italians would use poison gas as well.)

      In his defense of his old friend Il Duce, does Battaglia also condone the invasion and its appalling massacres?

      I appreciate John E's attempts to smooth over the debate by noting that "both Italy and Denmark had a comparatively

      admirable record of protecting their Jewish citizens from Hitler." Not quite. Already in 1938 Il Duce's regime

      passed anti-Semitic legislation, including removal of Jews from government jobs, including teachers; dismissal

      of Jews from the army and the mass media; a ban on marriage between Jews and non-Jews; and the

      incarceration of Jews of foreign nationality. Of course, things would get worse when the Germans took over.

      Nothing of the kind happened in Denmark. Instead, the local population cooperated in helping endangered

      Danish Jews to escape to Sweden in a mass exodus in 1943. One of the few bright lights in dark times.

      JE comments:  Our 2012 discussion of the WWII exodus of Denmark's Jewish citizens came to the attention of Prof. Leo Goldberger, who as a young man escaped to Sweden in 1943.  We now know Leo as one of our esteemed WAIS colleagues.  Here's the link:


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    • Danes in WWII (Leo Goldberger, USA 06/21/15 3:26 PM)
      Eugenio Battaglia's characterizations on Denmark during WWII (17 June) have some egregious generalizations that clearly call for some corrections:

      It is wrong to suggest that the Danes who volunteered for the Waffen SS regiments comprised a significant number: they were just 6000 in a population of 4 million--hardly a major percentage, actually less than 1%!

      It is true that only minor skirmishes took place against the invaders--largely at the border in South Jutland. The Danish soldiers were mostly young, inexperienced recruits serving their mandatory military service who actually did their very best in the few hours before they were ordered to cease fire. The invasion killed 16 and left 23 wounded in a "battle" that pitted 40,000 Germans on the ground and simultaneously by sea and air--against some 4,000 in the Danish military services. Recall, too, that Denmark had in good faith signed an anti-aggression pact with Germany in 1939--just a year before the invasion on Aoril 9th, 1940--within which it insisted on Denmark's neutrality. Hence the Danes were totally unprepared for war! To suggest that the Danish recruits as compared to SS volunteers were cut from the same cloth is patently absurd. The Danish Waffen SS were predominantly drawn from the Danish Nazi party---which itself (with some 20,000 members) occupied a rather marginal place in Danish politics, winning only 2% of the last parliamentary vote held in early 1943.

      It is also wrong to cite the end of the war in 1945 as a major turning point in Denmark's view of itself as having been victimized by the Germans. In fact, the significant point was August 29, 1943, when the so-called " policy of negotiations" was finally abandoned in the wake of the the mass resignation of the Danish government. It signaled the beginning of the German occupation in earnest and with it the German retaliatory plans for the roundup of the Danish Jews and the increasingly significant role of the growing active resistance movement that characterized the last year and a half of the occupation.

      To suggest that Denmark could be said to have been a loyal friend of Hitler's is a gross misreading of Denmark's political history.

      A more accurate interpretation of Danish history during the war years would have to show much more understanding of the multi-faceted considerations that led to 1. the "policy of negotiations" as initially embraced by the politicians (and which was largely responsible for serving as a shield against the imposition of the so-called Nuremberg Laws in Denmark); 2. the gradual emergence of the resistance movement that took up the sword against the Germans; and 3. the relatively minor faction of Nazi collaborators, whether Nazi sympathizers, Waffen SS volunteers, informers or other financial profiteers.

      JE comments:  A most informative post from Leo Goldberger.  So glad to hear from him on this longest day of the year.  (Any other day would be great, too!)

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