But for Wales, Richard?

As you guys know I’ve been reading about von Braun.  Mostly I’ve been reading about Von Braun because I visited Huntsville for TVIW and got curious.  Before that all I’d heard bout him, as a person, was, dropped in a conversation “I figure he was a true psychopath who didn’t care, so long as he got to space.”

After reading four biographies (two for, two against) I regret to tell you that I’m not sure that was true.

I come neither to bury Von Braun not to praise him.  I doubt if he knew, in himself, if he was a villain or a hero.  And I doubt he was a psychopath.  The reason I doubt he was the later is that he didn’t take to a totalitarian regime like a duck to water.  Instead he tried to compromise his soul a little at a time, a vestige of humanity and decency obviously holding him back.

If a man of his intelligence, not to mention charisma, had wanted, he could have been in the “high councils” of the oligarchs, but mostly he seemed to do the minimum necessary to a) not get killed and b) keep the rocket program going.  And before you say the rocket program hurt the allies, he himself admitted “When a country is at war, a man wants his country to win, even if he hates the regime.”  And before you poo poo that, remember that a country is not land or borders. It’s your family, your friends, the places you love.  He also admitted he didn’t feel bad about bombing London because the allies had destroyed Berlin, a city he loved.  All these responses are very human and very normal.  Flawed, painful, morally tarnished, maybe, but human.

I’ll confess my bias up front.  One of the “against” bios (the other just kept repeating “Nazi, so bad.” which is senseless) was specious enough to make me want to come to his defense.  Among other things they quoted his words about milking the golden cow in a context that made it sound like it was about the US.  It wasn’t.  It wasn’t about Hitler’s Germany either.  It was about the Weimar Republic, for whom Von Braun had started the rocket program.

Also, they narrated hearsay about the Americans not treating them well enough “overheard by his driver who didn’t talk about it for 60 years” and then talked to the Nation which might as well be the organ of CPUSA.  I’m here to tell you that criticizing your host country is the first phase of every acculturation/immigration.  I saw it with my fellow exchange students, who were here by choice and who suddenly talked about how much better it was back home.  It’s a group bonding exercise in unstable circumstances.  It means nothing.  (No, I didn’t do it, but I’m fairly weird.)

These things predisposed me to “like” him, but the pro bios were also a little weird.  I find it mendatious to say that the Von Braun attached to Mittelwerk — the labor camp attached to Dachau — must have been his brother.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but suggesting it as an excuse is a little goofy since Magnus Von Braun was also imported to the US.

And the “he was a loving father and a good neighbor” doesn’t cut it either.  Because, you know, here’s the thing, Pratchett had it absolutely right when the torturer has a coffee mug with the saying “World’s Best Dad.”

So on the character of Von Braun I’m going to say “I don’t know” and in fact, I doubt he did.

The thing that none of the bios seem to take into account is the corrupting power of a tyrannical regime.  This applies with boots on to things like Fascism and Communism but it applies to minor tyrannical regimes too, where behavior you consider unethical is required of you in order to get something you want/need.

Dave Freer commented on the Harvey Weinstein case here — Wiles —and said we writers do things like that too, though usually not sexual (and if you met the average writer you know why.)  He is right.  We’ll get back to that later, just keep in mind that like the Hugos are the Oscars for ugly people so is the book business Hollywood for ugly people.  We’re not (usually, though I’ve had attempts, when I was much younger) required to put out, but we betray ourselves and sell our souls in myriad other ways.

Did Von Braun know that people were being worked to death to build his rockets?  Impossible not to.  Look, guys, seriously, I suspect even the uninvolved unconcerned Germans knew about the Holocaust.  Could he/they do anything about it?

What precisely?

The movies make it seem like everyone rises up at once and overturns a dictatorial regime.  That is not the way real revolutions work.  Time and again, we’ve seen that it’s when a regime softens that it’s overturned.  Before that, attempting an overturn is suicide and often death to all your family and friends too.

He’d started building rockets under Weimar.  He’d come to the Nazis attention.  After that, he’d continue building rockets and like it, and do what he had to do to keep himself and his family alive and well.

One of the biographies claims he tried to/got some prominent scientists out of concentration camps to “help” and live with them and eat what they ate in an attempt to save them.  I haven’t tracked this down to verify, though at least one (French) professor claimed after the war that he was offered just such a position, in an attempt to better his lot.  This professor refused because he didn’t want to aid the Nazi war effort.

In the same way Von Braun was arrested (and let out on probation) twice, for saying that rockets built by slave labor would be defective.

On the other hand, when he came to the states, he brought with him people who were unavoidably more guilty than him, obviously so.  And tried to bring others who were too “dirty” to make it here.

Surely that’s proof he was a villain?

No.  It’s proof that he was human.  You hang around with a group of people long enough, you’re going to like some of them despite despising their opinions or actions.  I didn’t feign my liking for a lot of my liberal or even outright communist colleagues and bosses in NYC.  I can see where they went astray, I despise what they do, but I like them as people, and think some of them are salvageable.

And I’m very glad I’m not the ultimate judge of anyone’s soul, not even mine.

All I’m going to say about Von Braun’s character is that until you withstand his temptations and his fear, you don’t know what you’d do.  It’s very easy for people who are free and at no risk of being killed summarily or having their whole family destroyed, to say “I’d stand above it all.”  But very few people do.  I find it helpful that in the New Testament the man who was chosen to lead the church, in the same circumstances denied the man he believed to be the son of G-d not once but three times.  It’s a good demonstration of frail humanity faced with dictatorship and corruption.

You don’t know what you’d do in the circumstances.

I do, and it doesn’t make me proud.

Sure, I came out politically, when I could afford to, when there was indie and Baen.  But before that, I not only swallowed a lot but said ambiguous “supporting” things when the discussion turned to keeping those undesirable libertarians/conservatives and their “hatred” out.  Because otherwise I’d have lost my sole opportunity to make money with the skill it had taken me almost two decades to acquire, and babies needed shoes.

Looking back it feels a lot like the quote from A Man For All Seasons:
It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales, Richard?

And yet people do, for far less important reasons than getting man to space, or even winning a war so that your family estates aren’t plundered (and if you don’t think that matters you don’t understand attachment to the land) and your family sent forth, homeless and destitute.

Almost every writer, unless they’re dyed the deepest red, made the same compromises.  It’s a bad thing, even in that scale.  Like the actresses giving up their dubious virtue for a role, we give up a part of ourselves when we do that.

But when a system is corrupt and oligarchic there is no way to go around.  And so we keep doing it.

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore.  And I had the opportunity to escape.  More or less what Von Braun did.  I’m trying to make good on my second chance, impaired only by stupid health tricks.

But I wouldn’t stand in judgement.  Like the people who escaped the USSR and who were party members, or “little pioneers” or like Pope Benedict being in the Hitler youth, if you stand in judgement of these people, you’ve never experienced even the nano-version of it I and other writers/actors/people in fields where gatekeepers are few and implacable have experienced.

I don’t know if Von Braun sold his soul for a shot at space; I don’t know if he sold it for safety for his family and himself.  I know I sold mine for Wales, metaphorically speaking.  I have no high mountain on which to stand, and my only redeeming realization must be this: that I realized a bad system makes good people bad.

One of the books went on about how evil Von Braun pushed for the Americans to “win” space when the USSR would have done just as well, since it was all for humanity.

Perhaps having experienced the corrupting effects of dictatorship and distorting ideology, he wanted space to be free.  (Yes, I know, he wanted the US to have an orbiting station and bomb any country that misbehaved.  Heinlein modified it and used it in Space Cadet.  It would have gone very badly, particularly if the US gave it over to the UN.  But I can also understand the appeal of the idea for someone who believed in the US.)

People who have sold their souls try to reclaim bits of it in the weirdest ways.

Let that serve as his epitaph.  And our ladder to freedom and redemption for the rest of us.  Do what you can, where and when we can, and may our efforts achieve more than our poor selves can manage.

365 thoughts on “But for Wales, Richard?

    1. I had a professor tell me that the sound of a scientific discovery in progress is not, “Eureka!” It’s, “Huh. That’s weird…”

      1. Found an awesome category in science– “problematica.”

        Cool for two reasons: one, it’s stuff that just doesn’t fit. Two, instead of hammering it until it fits, you just say….”problematica” and get back to work.

  1. One nit: Mittlewerk wasn’t associated with Dachau, that’s the wrong end of Germany. (Dachau is by Munich; visited there several years ago). Looks like it was really Buchenwald.

      1. VERY off-topic in any sane way, I admit… but… in a decent Universe…

        Doesn’t “Bergen-Belsen” sound like it out to be some higher end ski resort or such, rather than a place of horror? This timeline… bug report.. etc.

      2. Camp Dora (rocket factory and arbeit-macht-todt site) is one of the camps that surrounded Buchenwald, near Weimar, quite a ways from Muhich and Dachau.

        The main Dachau connection seems to be that it was the place where the Camp Dora trials and as a detention center for the Dora personnel .

          1. It happens. Three that come to mind in various works I’ve read are the wrong Ohio town name in the list of New Deal Greenbelt towns, the wrong river being crossed by Washington on Christmas, and the wrong river flowing through New Haven, CT.

            1. We have several private and unofficial roads in the area. We live on a private, but official road; most maps list our road, but beyond the easement in the plat map and a county-issued nameplate, we’re on our own.

              One is Wright Way, named by the landowner. Just across the main road is Wrong Way. I don’t plan to get the background story.

  2. I’m very glad I’m not the ultimate judge of anyone’s soul, not even mine.

    Victor Davis Hanson somewhat addressed this yesterday in a comment at the NRO gangblog, The Corner:

    Columbus Day: Melodrama or Tragedy?
    Campuses and Western critics in the last half-century have turned a once risk-taking and heroic Christopher Columbus into an evil emissary of disease and destruction. History is now seen as one-dimensional melodrama in which our contemporary duty is to pick sinners and saints of the past based on our own modern (quite imperfect) perceptions of morality and then judge them worthy of either hagiography or banishment from memory — rather than history as tragedy in which various agendas are often far more complex than just evil versus good.

    1. I’m not in a place where I can look up the link right now, but The Federalist also had an article along the same lines, about replacing Columbus Day with “Indigenous Peoples Day.” The author pointed out that when it came to a day celebrating “murder, genocide, and slavery,” Columbus had nothing on the Indigenous Peoples.

      1. I was intrigued that the first protests over Columbus Day were from the anti-immigration people in the late 1800s-early 1900s who did NOT want an Italian being honored, because too many Southern Europeans were flooding the country and drowning out the Anglo-Saxon race. They wanted Leif Erickson instead.

    2. I’ve got a problem with Columbus, but for what he did in the run up to his voyages, not what came from them. He was essentially a con man. Intelligent people knew that the earth was round and roughly how large it was, but Chris decided that it had to be much smaller so that his voyage would be possible. If it weren’t for the fortuitous placement of an unknown continent in the middle of his path, he would have been tossed overboard and the ships turned back (that’s the only thing saving him from a flat out accusation of being a con man, he did put his neck on the line). My name for the recent holiday is National Better Lucky Than Good Day.

      1. To quote Mr. Heinlein, “Columbus was a dope.”

        He was also proof of the adage that it is better to be lucky than smart.

            1. He did know that things were swept up onto the shores of the Canary Islands that would never have lasted an ocean voyage too far for a ship to sail.

        1. I find it ironic that so many college students protest Columbus. Columbus Day is the perfect holiday for today’s college students. Consider:

          When he left, he didn’t know where he was going.
          When he got there, he didn’t know where he was.
          When he went back, he didn’t know where he had been.
          And he did it all on someone else’s money.

      2. I don’t think they would have made it back if they had turned around a day before they found land, if my memory that they were eating shoe leather at the end.

      3. Had the privilege years back of stepping on board a full scale reproduction of the Nina, Columbus’s flagship. Educational that, I’ve been on bigger bass boats.
        OK, a tad of hyperbole there, but still nothing I would have felt comfortable riding on the open seas in, particularly the Atlantic.

        1. Yeah, years ago my family went to Jamestown and they have a replica ship; I would not have wanted to cross the ocean in that.

          (If you want to make a list, Roanoke Island / The Lost Colony has a replica called the Elizabeth II. It travels sometimes. That’s just down the road a hundred miles or so from Jamestown. Then there’s all the Confederate river boats (rams) like the scale model in Plymouth, NC (two hours west of Manteo on US 64), the full-size CSS Neuse in Kinston, NC (three hours south, get on NC 11 in Greenville), etc.)

          Of course, there’s the North Carolina battleship in Wilmington, NC, a bunch of ships in Charleston, SC—the aircraft carrier Yorktown (II) eg.(never been there, heard about it), the 8th Air Force Museum outside of Savannah, GA, Not sure if there’s anything in Mobile, AL. Then there’s the battleship Texas in Texas. A lot of these could use your financial support to take care of 70, 80 years old or older wood or steel structures in salt or other corrosive environments.)

          Sorry, what were we talking about?

            1. Thanks; wasn’t sure about Mobile.

              There’s LST 325 all the way up in Evansdale, Indiana on the Ohio River.

              And an unmodified WWII submarine in Oklahoma, I think.

            2. The Alabama was not an Iowa class BB. It was built and in the war before the keel for the Iowa was laid.

      4. Might not have been. They’ve found a lot of stuff that seems to indicate he was a crypto-Jew and though his “knowledge” was weird, it had been derived from some mystical writings. I.e. he expected a land here, but not for the right reasons.

        1. There’s also speculation that he heard reports (from fishermen, etc) about a land mass closer to Europe than people thought.

          Of course, there is speculation that he might have heard about the Norse experiences.

          But yes, educated people knew the rough size of Earth and knew that it was further to Asia than he was claiming.

          1. If he was in the ken of prince Henry but not too close… we have correspondence showing they knew there was a continent here (though they might have thought it was only Brazil). He might have muddled it and decided it was India. Stupidity not con manship.

          2. Yes, there’s some anecdotal evidence Basque and/or Breton fishermen had been fishing off the North American coast pre-Columbus.

  3. winning a war so that your family estates aren’t plundered

    The English* famously put a son to either side during uprisings, ensuring that whichever side won, a legitimate heir to the family estate stood with the victors.

    *Or was it the Scots? Been a long time.

    1. The Scots may have done it but I have read about the English noble families doing it.

      1. It wasn’t uncommon all across Europe: a noble might hold land from several overlords, and had feudal obligations to all of them. I think it was one of the Gies Brothers books that showed one noble in that situation. It basically defined that in case two of his overlords were fighting, he could send just troops to one, and lead troops for the one that was higher rank, but if only one called him he had to show up in person for either.

        1. I’m not sure whence I garnered the idea. Likely from some movie loosely based on a book by Sir Walter Stevenson or Robert Louis Scott, such as Ivan Doone or Lorna Ho

          “Yondah lies da castle of my foddah.”

    2. I don’t know if it was a common practice, nor if it was deliberate or they were just a fractious lot, but my husband’s family goes back to Saxony (as in the earliest we have of them is on William the Conqueror’s tax roles.) The family had at least one BRANCH on every side of various English Civil Wars/uprisings/disputes.

      1. The Churchills had one branch that was Puritan and one branch that was Royalist. For a long time, the Royalist branch was so poor that they had to MOVE IN with the Puritan branch! Awkwaaaard….

    3. The South American tradition is said to be one son in the army, one son with the revolution, and one son in the Church, so all your bases are covered.

  4. When I read about the Soviet Union in Heinlein, one of the things that I found most repugnant was the internal controls on travel. Having to show your internal passport to get access to transportation. I knew that could never happen here. When it did happen here, I argued against it, loudly. So did others. We were ignored. Soon enough, I found myself a “good German” — not making waves any more, not arguing with the TSA agents, not protesting, no longer demanding they show me the regulation. Because I had to travel for my business, and I could see if I kept up, I was going to be unable to travel, and it would not make one bit of difference. I could see the culture change, see how business travelers would complain to each other, privately, but meekly submit their papers to the GeheimStatsTransportPolezei and take their shoes off. And every time, to this day, I think of the line in “Judgement at Nuremburg” ‘And if we did know, what could we do?’

    The TSA has been the most profound destroyer of American values in my lifetime, and we let it happen. We didn’t take up arms. We didn’t even vote the bastards out. Perhaps we should have, but they don’t toss us in to the fire all at once — they boil the frog slowly. No one log on the fire is ever sufficient to rouse the population to resist, not even through political action.

    Is that different in degree from what Von Braun had to reconcile himself to? Of course it is. Is it different in kind? I don’t think so. After all, if he protested more loudly, would that have brought the regime down, or even stopped the rocket program? No. Would it have gotten him shot? Yes. So he learned to get along. Just as we are learning to get along.

    I used to study the rise of National Socialism in Germany. I used to wonder how a modern country could sink so far. I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t imagine it ever happening here. And it hasn’t happened here. But I can imagine it now.

    1. Yes. Precisely.
      Now consider that medical students are required to perform an abortion and an euthanasia to graduate in most colleges/states that allow euthanasia, and that Obama did away with the religious objections to get out of it.
      If you say no, the people in charge of health care will all be good Kervokians. If you say yes and go with it, you taint your soul.
      We are on our way to this, and the only thing we can do is fight, fight always, against all encompassing government power. Which could be why I came out of the political closet. Or it could be because I’m crazy. Most days I don’t know that it makes any difference.
      Dan made me stop asking the TSA if they’d seen my fourth amendment rights, because I seemed to have dropped them while going through security. He says the only thing saving me from the special scrutiny is that by the time I said that I was so furious NO ONE not even he could understand my accent.

      1. I have done many things in my life that others think I should take pride in. Want to know one that brings a smile to my face every time I think of it? For the thirtieth or fortieth time in a row, the millimeter-wave body scanner signaled me out for extra screening (the particular brand of socks I wore at the time set the machine off). They asked me for my permission to pat me down. I said “I’m not giving that”. They said “Are you refusing?” I said “No, but I’m not consenting”. They said “If you refuse, you’ll be denied travel”. I said “You have your job. You do it. I’m not refusing. You’re asking for my permission. I’m not giving my permission. If you can pat me down without my permission, go right ahead”. At that point, the supervisor came over, because I was holding up the line, and we ran through the dialog again. She said “have you tried rescreening him?”. They waved me back in to the machine, and waved me back out;I don’t think they even looked at the results, they were simply glad to be rid of me….

        1. If maintaining your job requires airtravel every week, you do what you have to. Fortunately there is prescreening for folks who travel twice a week every week.

      2. My wife, child, and I were once profiled by the TSA flying through Memphis. It was a slow day with only a couple of people in line and light staff. Keep in mind that Memphis may be the world’s busiest airport, but the passenger terminal is just a small afterthought for the cargo hub. They had just instituted the new porno scanners and I had already rehearsed my objections. When we walked up to the TSA security to present our IDs he looked carefully at me, my wife, and little kid… then he turned around to check behind him… looked back at us and said quietly. “Y’all can just go through the airline staff line over there.” Afterwards my wife asked me what just happened and I explained that is what it is like to be profiled by the TSA, for people who don’t look like terrorists. I later realized that he had looked behind him to just make sure his supervisor wasn’t around.

    2. Now I ponder a re-work of a WWII poster, the one with the shadow of a swastika approaching some kids… DON’T LET THAT SHADOW FALL ON THEM! Only now the shadow is cast by the TLA, TSA. Yeah, I don’t *need* to fly commercially… and thus my travel is now by privately-owned surface conveyances. But have some concerns regarding encirclement and bureaucrats… one could even say it’s a bit of a… struggle. Worrisome, that.

    3. “The TSA has been the most profound destroyer of American values in my lifetime, and we let it happen”
      Oh, but it is just an arm of the DHS.
      Department of Homeland Security.
      I remember when this was just a “concept”, we needed it because Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 (for example), and it was a Republican President, and its Director didn’t have any resources.
      And I remember thinking, “Department of Homeland Security”, really, not even trying to hide it.
      Right out in the open: the Fed would have central databases, and all police forces would use the same radios, and the same procedures, and everyone would be safe then.
      This machine is still a baby; go to sleep now, and don’t think too much…

      1. If the concept of different departments of the government being able to communicate their legally obtained information is going to seriously harm the country, we’re already lost.

        Sure it can be abused. Anything government can be abused. Shutting down the government got abused.

        The issue is the abusers, not what they want to use.

        1. the one simple rule on a law is “Would I trust the opposing party to not abuse this?” and if your answer is NO! then it is a stupid law that needs to not happen.Yeah, sure, the argument could be made every law can be abused, but DHS (and hence the TSA) are just made for abuse. Allowing them to go through enables the abusers. DHS went far beyond ability to communicate, and got too far into into easing intervention on even minor “suspicion” on the part of the abusers.

          1. Problem being that rule fails itself– I can very easily imagine someone of even basic intelligence going through and selectively applying it to remove rules that are harder on themselves than on others.

            So, by the rule’s own rule, it cannot be applied.

            It’s not a bad starting point– rather like having a devil’s advocate.

            1. but it takes some stretching for a lot of that, and it gets obvious when folks do that as well, so maybe not a “rule” but a serious guideline, instead. Besides the heavy libertarian in me leans to most of those rules being pointless all to often too. The other side of me is cornfuzed about what to do.

              1. The abuse *is* obvious… so are all the other abuses.

                If the information is allowed out, and someone is willing to see.

                (It really isn’t helped by the number of folks who do what Sarah was yelling about yesterday, and manufacture abuses by hiding relevant information to make a “stronger” case…which means that I never trust them again, not that I think tehre’s surely fire with the smoke they’re blowing)

    4. When I was younger, people used to ask, “How could they [Germans] have let it come to that?”
      For a long time now (a couple of decades, at least) I have replied, “You are they.” Especially to progressive camp followers and those who say such things as “well, we have to catch the bad guys…”.

      1. “well, we have to catch the bad guys…”

        Trump is making the US into a police state AND we must eliminate all private ownership of firearms.

        Tell me how that is going to work out.

    5. And I avoid flying if at ALL possible, anymore. I simply refuse. I had to do it going overseas a year ago, but seldom otherwise.
      I’m deeply offended by the idea that the TSA assumes I’m a criminal/terrorist.

      The day in C Springs (way back at the beginning, before they had the checked bag machines) the little Bonaparte was training a new woman on going through checked luggage was one of my days for pushback. First, they rifled through papers I had in there – I objected, as there was no way anything paper thin could be a real threat in the checked baggage hold. Then, when they simply stuffed my spare electronics (including a hard drive) back in I insisted I be allowed to repack (I had placed them in the center of my clothes). He said they would have to reinspect if I did that. I got very angry about the contempt for me as a passenger and as a citizen.
      When he threatened to withhold my boarding pass, I stopped getting loud, and bent in to him and said, “Oh, I will get home today or tomorrow. The question is whether you’ll have a job by the time I do, and whether there will be a lawsuit for violation of my 4th amendment rights in your mailbox or not.”
      He gave me my boarding pass.

      1. Oh, in the early days, they took my bag to pieces. Took every damn book out of my bag. I fly with quite a bundle. They didn’t find what they were looking for, reran everything, and put it all through X-ray seperately, then let me try to stuff it all back in with a short time for the flight. And yet, not one comment was raised about what I was doing with a copy of “The Physics of Thermonuclear Explosive Devices” by Winterberg, in my bag. I thought of pointing that out, but then thought better of it….

  5. I wouldn’t stand in judgement.

    I understand that Wales is quite lovely, with considerable natural resources and a rich cultural history. A person could do much worse.

    1. Welsh and Irish on my mother’s side of the family. And the Welsh Lewis plaid is a nice blue, green and a trace of yellow.

    2. Welsh accent is nicest sounding of all English speaking peoples, they could charm birds out of trees with their songs.

      I was introduced to Welsh accent one night at Cardiff pub by a lovely woman and I have been bewitched by their voices ever since.

    3. And a quote from a post the other day- My wife’s family is Welsh. Their food is like English food, but minus the flavor.

          1. Borrow a shield from a friendly SCAdian, put shuttle thermal tiles on the face and you’re good to go.

        1. The result of using them is the dragon killing you with his claws not with his flames. 👿

          1. They broke the Chalice from the Palace. The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, the flagon with the dragon contains the brew that is true.

            1. And the Dragon with the Flagon is not to be allowed to get the Keys to the Vehicle.

              (Alas, I can come up with no word for vehicle that rhymes with keys).

  6. It’s hard to judge a man deceased who has no chance to defend himself from his detractors or those that would overly praise them. He was definitely an interesting and driven man by all accounts.

    1. This is a very good point and I know there were detractors during his lifetime. I wonder if anyone reading this knows what HIS reactions were to the detractors.

  7. ” ‘Vonce zhe rockets go up, who care vhere zhey come down?/
    Zhat’s not my department.’ said Werner Von Braun”


      1. People who say “Of course, I won’t submit to the Nazis” haven’t been in the position of “submitting to the Nazis or being killed”. 😦

        It’s always easy to make such statements when you’re life isn’t on the line. 😦

        1. What keeps mankind alive?

          You lot, who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
          Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
          However much you twist, or whatever lies that you tell
          Food is the first thing, morals follow on.

          Wikipedia calls this “It is an agitprop socialist anthem expressing that the comfortable lifestyle enjoyed by the rich is paid for by the suffering of the masses.” But the fact remains that morality is a luxury good, affordable to those who don’t have to make hard choices.

          1. Except that we have the exemplars of the Saints, and men and people like the ten Booms and Bonhoffer, and the folks running the Fox experiment in Siberia.

            I think you have it backwards. Luxury obscures the need for the morality that makes us human by making the hard choices softer.

            1. Third option– it’s not humanly possible.
              We’ve got Himself on our side, though, and He’ll gladly drag us along if we’ll just REACH.

                1. Yes – I would lay long odds that any of those people, if questioned, would confess to any number of failings and assert that their “saintliness” was no act of theirs but rather through His effect.

          2. *eyeballs the lyrics* Looks like a lazy whine about delayed satisfaction, and an attempt to salve over personal failings– yeah, you can get people to do stuff they shouldn’t if you threaten them with starvation. That makes you evil, it doesn’t show morality is false.

            1. The lyrics are by Bertolt Brecht, and thus the Devil’s own lies … which is to say partial truths dressed out in stark clothing. What part of the “soviet agitprop” did you not grasp?

              The verses I sought more accurately expressed the point, but my searching did not turn them up — it turns out my recollection was ever so slightly off, and instead of Brecht I ought have sought for Blitzstein, whose translation of Brecht is the most common presentation of the lyric:

              So learn the simple truth from this our song
              wherever you aspire
              whatever you may do
              first feed the face
              and then talk right and wrong
              For even honest folk
              May act like sinners
              unless they’ve had their customary dinners.

              Which does not say that all honest men will fall if pushed, but rather that you cannot tell who is honest until temptation has been offered. The crux is that people, when safe and secure, often profess to morals they will abandon at the first skipped meal.

              1. Same point, different context: There are two kinds of people, those who brag about what they would d under fire, and those who have been under fire.

        2. Oh, hell, most of the people who loudly assert that they wouldn’t have submitted to the Nazis are the same bunch who regularly claim that if (insert Republican nominee here) wins the Presidency, they’re moving to Canada….and then don’t. They not only would have knuckled under for the Nazis, they would have done it to avoid DISCOMFORT, much less death.

            1. I have met a couple. In fact saw people looking to sign up voters (American expats actually) downtown Toronto in 2012.

            2. IIRC There were News Stories after Trump’s win about some Liberals finding out how hard it would be to immigrant into Canada. 👿

              1. Credit where due: California’s Proglodytes are attempting to emigrate to Canada* and take their state along with them.

                *Not Canada as it actually is, however, but Canada as they imagine it to be.

          1. Give Depp his due, he left for France and came back, deciding it was better here with less car-b-ques and other assorted silliness the French socialist systems invoke

          2. My experience has been that the more people talk about what THEY would do in such circumstances the more likely they are to become kapos. The honest and thoughtful people

            1. Oops. Postus interruptus.

              My experience has been that the more people talk about what THEY would do in such circumstances the more likely they are to become kapos. The honest and thoughtful people admit they do not know how they would behave, but then express how they hope they would act.

              1. Considering my assertions about how bad the Democratic Party is, and that I have not necessarily courageously acted on them, one may conclude that I would not have effectively opposed either the Nazis or the Communists.

                I dunno.

            2. To be honest, had I been in Germany in 1935 as an 18 year old man, I’d more than likely have become an officer in the German military, and probably have bought into the party line of Aryan supremacy and the need to exterminate the unfit and the people declared to be traitors to the Fatherland.

              It’s so easy to condemn them looking back from where we are today; but they didn’t have our advantage of knowing history, or our social values. Which makes what the Communists, the Dems, the Liberals, the Socialists, and the Progressives so distressing. They either didn’t get the memo, or they’re deliberately ignoring it.

              1. Many Christians have this same issue when proudly declaring what they would have been doing (or rather, not doing) on Good Friday.
                I am pretty certain exactly where I would have been in the crowd.
                It’s humbling, and awe-inspiring to know He did it all for me, despite that.

            1. Garth Brooks remarked about performing before 50K fans in a Dublin arena, amazed at how they all sang along on key.

              Proof Evidence that Gators fans are not Irish.

      2. Well, think about it. Was it?

        Not in the least!

        As was pointed out to me by my father when I first heard the song. ^_^

    1. Who would you trust more with sensitive information?

      A. A man who was loyal to his country despite the Nazis running things.
      B. A man who was disloyal to his country because the Nazis ran things.

              1. What does that even mean? I have no friends and family who would side with the Nazis and if I did, they wouldn’t be my friends or family.

            1. Very American – and given the USA is a country founded on ideals, that fits right in. But in Germany in the 1930’s? That country wasn’t founded by a ragtag group of colonists on the ideals written down on a piece of paper. By a ragtag group of Vandals and Huns who migrated away from the periodic droughts in Eurasia and the pressure of fiercer tribes who wanted their grazing land, and their horses, maybe.

              But by the 1930’s, there’d been enough generations that your average German was loyal to Germany, blood and soil, tribe against tribe, race against race. (In this case, we’re going by then-current definitions of “the German race” vs. “the French race.” See the following book for an interesting look at how people defined themselves back then:

              Martial, René. La Race française : le sol, les racines, la souche, la croissance et les greffons (Arabes, Normands, Italiens, Hollandais, etc.) : la greffe interraciale, la trilogie, histoire, psychologie, biologie : la nouveau rejet ou transfusion sanguine ethnique. Paris: Mercure de France, 1934. Print.

              So to be loyal to ideals over your country… is indeed to be disloyal to your country, when country is tribe, not ideals.

              America’s so weird. But awesome!

              1. Goes beyond that though. The reason I want to know his “principles” is that the sort of person who is loyal to principles only, without taking in account friends and family is the sort of person whose principles tend to be red tinged.
                Even in America, do you turn against the country when FDR is in charge? Or when Wilson is? Or when —

                1. Nod.

                  I noticed that he didn’t answer the question.

                  Even somebody who is “Loyal To Ideals” would have a position on “Which Leaders Support The Ideals” and/or “Which Leaders Reject The Ideals”.

                  I’m not sure about Trump and my “American Ideals” but I’m fairly sure about Hillary and my “American Ideals”. IE She was/is interested only in Power for herself.

                  1. Aside from being a nasty collectivist who threw people into concentration camps based on race?

                    1. Oh, but von Braun is perfectly ok. Let me tell you, if he didn’t keep the rocket program going, someone else would have.

                    2. So…. can you point me to where I said that, exactly? I don’t believe I ever actually mentioned von Braun.

                      Ok, though, let’s take your goalpost shift on its own merits: are you *really* sure you want to go down the route of requiring everyone on your side to be a good guy when engaged in an existential war vs the Soviets? Or would you rather lose with honour, and see the world enslaved?

                  2. Not so much, now that he’s dead.

                    Attempting to establish a fascist state in America and extending the Depression beyond 1936, as well as facilitating WWII, OTOH …

                    We needn’t get into his corruption of the Supreme Court nor his establishment of Social Security nor his abuse of federal power as exemplified by the TVA, nor …

                    Apparently, even in the rear view mirror many people cannot recognize the Nazis.

                    1. Don’t forget about race-based concentration camps for citizens…

                      (yes, I am familiar and even somewhat sympathetic to Kratman’s arguments regarding those, but I seriously doubt that there was anything going through the minds of the policymakers other than “Corral all the Japs!”

                    2. “…I seriously doubt that there was anything going through the minds of the policymakers other than “Corral all the Japs!””

                      As with all things of this nature, the simple caricature/stereotype fails to capture the full set of facts surrounding the issue.

                      Yes, there were loyal American citizens who were caught up in the whole mess of the internment camps, but there were also cases of hard-core Japanese Imperial loyalists who were not naturalized Americans as well. Sometimes in the same household…

                      I don’t support many of the ideas behind what went into the internment camps, but I also recognize that there was a huge mess that was avoided by establishing them. Care to postulate what would have happened, had the Japanese-Americans been left spread across the countryside in penny packets, ripe for abuse and then likely to arm up in self-defense? At the least, the whole thing would have been a huge distraction to the war effort, and in the end, not interning the Japanese-Americans might well have been a much more damaging to them and their interests. So long as they were in the camps, there wasn’t much chance that they would be subject to mob violence. As I recall, there were a couple of occasions where the camp guards had to take action against aroused local citizenry who were coming to “…get those Japs…”.

                      On the whole the entire issue of the internment may well have been for the best, much as I hate that idea. Many of us today have no idea how high the blood was running, or what might have happened had the internment not turned into what amounted to protective custody.

                      Right move? Wrong move? It’s all too easy to sit here, some seventy-odd years later and pronounce on the whole thing. I doubt that any of us would find it so simple or clear-cut, were we the ones making the decision at the time and in that entire milieu. I could easily see myself saying yes to internment, just on the grounds of preventing the Japanese-Americans from being victimized by the irate masses. Would that have been the right decision? I don’t know, and since I’m not of that time, and did not make that decision, the only thing I can do is try to learn the lessons from those events.

                      I will say this, though–I am pretty sure that the idea that every decision-maker on this issue made their decisions based on pure, unadulterated racism is both fatuous and wrong. As Michelle Malkin got excoriated for saying, there were sufficient real reasons for what happened that we cannot simply dismiss the whole thing as solely long-ago racism and ethnic hatred.

                    3. Precisely the point that my Aged Mother made many times: her best friend was Japanese-American, the daughter of a plant-nursery owner that my grandfather did business with. Early in January, 1942, Mom’s friend and all of her family were interned at the old Santa Anita Racetrack, later sent to an established camp near Mono Lake. Mom said she overheard so many anti-Japanese comments (especially as the Japanese military overran the Far East and murmurs of atrocities began to seep out) that she was glad her friend was safe in a camp. Because there was no particular centralized ‘Japan Town’ in So-Cal then – they lived pretty scattered out, many in rural areas. Mob vengeance? You bet.

              1. I certainly won’t fight for someone whose political affiliation goes against everything I stand for.

                1. And when the alternative is the world enslaved? FDR was hardly liberty minded – should the young men of the 1940s not gone to war against a worse threat?

                  1. Not wanting to fight for the fucking NAZIS is tantamount to wanting to see the world enslaved?


                    1. ((blinks))

                      Do try and read for comprehension.

                      As FDR was very much anti-liberty, one who is for liberty should, by your argument, not fight at his orders. Not fighting against the Nazis (the worse threat) means the world enslaved.

                    2. FDR isn’t morally equivalent to a regime that killed tens of millions of people and occupied almost all of Europe along with its client states.

                    3. Ah, so you *would* be willing to “fight for someone whose political affiliation goes against everything I stand for”, it just depends on the context and the relative moralities involved. Good to know.

                      So the problem with using someone like von Braun to help win an existential war against the Soviets is…

                    4. The almost short answers. The tone of unearned moral superiority. The refusal to engage with the deeper moral issues, or even to understand what people are saying. The incoherence. THE BOSTON AREA IP.
                      I don’t know if you’re posting from work or a friend’s place, but not today, Clamps, not today.

                    5. What the commies didn’t enslave in western europe is at least offset by what they did elsewhere in the world. The commies also exceeded the Nazis for mass murder. FDR was suspiciously close to the Soviet Union, and may have been as much backing them as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact falling apart.

                      That aside.

                      FDR was a Wilson fanboi.

                      Proof of the massacres that Democrats had carried out of minorities and Republican voters would have been more knowable by the American fighting man than the proof of Nazi atrocities. Do you fight at FDR’s behest, despite knowing that at least one of his elections was stolen for him by white supremacist terrorism?

                    6. I don’t know about “stolen” — but given the Democrats’ pattern of racial vote suppression in the “Solid South” there seems little basis for declaring any national election victory by them as untainted.

                      That said, FDR won 1932’s campaign with 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59.

                    7. And knowing what the average American would have known at that point (that the Germans had conquered a bunch of Europe, and that they were allies to the Japanese who had committed a sneak attack), would you have supported fighting the Nazis at the orders of FDR (whose nastiness was pretty well known by that point)?

                    8. Re: Stolen.

                      If you check through the electoral votes for FDR’s elections, you’ll find one where the margin of victory is provided by Democratic support in the south. Just like Kennedy’s election. Would the Democrats have been able to deliver those votes if Segregation had never occurred? It is a question that is impossible to have a conclusive answer to. FDR had an effective machine, but my prejudices cause me to view the question with a great deal of hostile skepticism.

                  1. Allowing for differences in the concept of nation, yes it is. He had the well grounded opinion that the United States were still states in a voluntary compact.

                    And if this whole line of argument continues, we’re liable to get into something Sarah disapproves of.

                2. No, as I said below, you aren’t fighting for the person or the office, but for the Constitution and the ideals and values it represents. That means that yes, you are going to have to look at the actions of the person and make a judgement on whether those actions violate the Constitution as you understand it. If they do, then it is your duty to not sit quietly by.

            2. This. And there’s also the point that the citizenship/military oath isn’t to uphold the occupant of the office of President, it’s to uphold the Constitution. I am not swearing fealty to a person or office, that’s feudalism, Sarah.

              1. No one told you to swear fealty to a person, Steve. WHERE did I say that?
                I said that its’ understandable even if you disagree with the regime in power, even if it’s objectively horrible, you might fight to keep your family alive. (From baddies on your side or the other.)
                You’re wasting your sympathy. Note he didn’t say WHAT principles. This one is a Stalinist.

                1. Sorry, that was the impression I got when you started listing Presidents. It didn’t seem right.

                  And I agree with you about Kem in general.

          1. I suspect it generally depends on how one defines “Nazis.” They tend to be much more visible in the rear view mirror than through one’s windshield.

            1. I prefer “through the windshield”. Or, at least “on the hood”. They’re just that much harder to hit in reverse (even with a backup camera).

  8. “I didn’t feign my liking for a lot of my liberal or even outright communist colleagues and bosses in NYC. I can see where they went astray, I despise what they do, but I like them as people, and think some of them are salvageable.”

    Thank you for these sentences alone, I needed to read something hopeful like this.

    1. We are not divided into Saints and Sinners, for all are fallen and the only ones so clean as to judge are those who’ve never confronted a challenge and chosen between unattractive options.

    2. In one of his books, H. L. Mencken wrote that he had learned that somebody could be a fine person, a brilliant mind, and a boon companion, and still have a hole in his head.

      He was, I believe, explaining his friendship with a moderately famous Progressive.

      I know and like a number of people who are proselytizing vegetarians, some who are nostalgis about the 1960’s or the Confederacy, amd one or two anti-vaccination faithful.

      You just have to excuse them.

      1. I’m friends with somebody who has fallen prey to 9/11 Trutherism. He tried to convince me with “X engineers think this didn’t happen this way!” and I countered with “My dad (engineer), my brother (rocket scientist), and all of the people I took engineering classes with disagree.”

      2. I had a really interesting conversation with one of the “anti-vaccination” crowd – and realized that they very much had a point. The point they had was that they were against a specific vaccine, whose implementation was about as clean and straightforward as Obamacare’s, and seemed to owe more to the much higher profit and ease of application than to actual efficacy or improvements to the at-risk population.

        His argument was that this particular one-shot was deadlier to the at-risk population than the older three-shot whose application could be spaced based on reaction… and came with a rueful acknowledgement that any argument about a particular vaccine’s implementation or reduction of alternative vaccines was quickly lost in the monkey-point-and-howl of “anti-vaxxer!”

        I acknowledged that the point-and-howl crowd certainly made it much easier for companies to ignore valid criticism, and ostracized parents of at-risk population children. Vaccines don’t cause autism, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely risk free.

        1. I was slightly tempted to reiterate my position by something said over at MHN. I am against some vaccines and for others.

          Vaccines are specific to some disease at some level of efficacy and carry a certain amount of risk of side effects. Diseases likewise do not have uniform rarity and severity.

          Wiping out Polio and Smallpox, I’m perfectly comfortable with those vaccines being administered by force. Even in the case where I’m forced to take it, and die of the side effects. (Autism seems to correlate, at least in some cases, with a hyper fragility to all sorts of environmental factors.)

          J. Random Rare Mild Disease, with dubious efficacy and nasty side effects, but the only guy who makes it has buddies in government? I’m not comfortable with government backing that, much less forcing administration.

          My RL circles tend to consider me pro vaccination.

          1. Or, say, something that is really ONLY passed via sexual activity, so you force little girls (say, 6yo) to get it to be in school, though legally they shouldn’t even be able to contract it until they leave school.

            Then I’m against it. (On principle, no less.)

  9. There are absolutely moral cases that can be made about Mittelwerk and not fighting it tooth and nail once he found out about it. He saw a great evil and allow it to continue rather than do everything to stop it. I will listen to that case from anyone who has travelled to Iraq to join a militia to fight ISIS, who is in prison for sabotaging a PP clinic, or stood against the BLM with the Bundies. I sure as heck wouldn’t listen from people who would excuse forces dangerous servitude to win a war when the Soviets conscript soldiers. (I don’t say the US because they would complain about the US draft reflexively).

    The rest of us make these compromises all the time, unfortunately.

      1. He’s agreeing with you– people who have shown that they’ll pay the price in something more than theory can make the case, everybody else go get bent

  10. Reblogged this on The Chiles Files and commented:
    Sarah Hoyt tries to reconcile competing views on one of the 20th century’s visionaries. Having just recently toured Marshall Spaceflight Center as well, this has been on my mind.
    I’ve always wondered how normal people, just trying to live their lives, perceive a national descent into hell like Nazism or Communism as its happening. How many tiny compromises does one make each day just so it’s possible to see the next?
    I suppose the only cut-and-dried solution would’ve been mass execution of all captured Germans: kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out.
    Good thing we didn’t, likewise a good thing that we picked him up before the Red Army got to him.

    1. “I’ve always wondered how normal people, just trying to live their lives, perceive a national descent into hell like Nazism or Communism as its happening.” The best portrait of this that I’ve seen is the memoir of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany during the wars and who wrote his book to try and answer the question of how his country turned into “a pack of hunting hounds directed against humans.”

      The book is IMO essential reading for anyone interested in this topic and the more general subject of the psychology of totalitarianism. I reviewed it at length here:


      1. It’s called ‘the treaty of Versailles’ That’s how a country descends into what Germany did. Everyone is poor, everyone is starving, and the money is worthless, yet you’re still being punished for a war you didn’t start and the countries around you are treating you like crap.

        WW2 was predicted by a great many people. Because it was the only response possible for the German people.

        1. Actually, the hyperinflation was caused by wildly excessive currency-printing by the German fed-equivalent, the Reichsbank. When a more rational monetary policy was introduced in 1923, along with a new note, the Rentenmark, the currency stabilized.

          There were many things wrong with the Versailles treaty, but it did not force Richard Havenstein of the Reichsbank to elect the monetary policies that he did.


    2. Once knew two guys that were “a team” for the management of a company, sent around to troubleshoot etc.
      They were both WW2 vets.
      Navy men.
      One sailed on a USN sub chaser in the north Atlantic guarding convoys.
      The other was on a German U-boat.
      “Your lucky ve ran out of torpedoes!”
      “We shoulda dropped one more depth charge on you!”
      If asked about it both said basically Our nations were at war and we had jobs we had to do.
      everything else was above their paygrade
      WVB knew a few things up the paygrade levels, but really there was little he could do outside of be imprisoned or executed . . . and with his “probations” one has to wonder how close he came to the terminal of those two outcomes

      1. I remember there was a big to-do in the 90s when they discovered that at WWII reunions, the vets had more in common with the other side than their activist grandkids.

    3. My DH worked briefly as an engineer at an old school electronics firm with a man who had been a German soldier in WWII and later immigrated and became a US citizen. He was a good coworker and seemed a decent man, nothing like a movie German. DH asked him once why he fought for the Nazis and the man answered simply “I was drafted.” What a world of meaning in those 3 words. It really … matured? … our thinking on that time, and gave a greater appreciation for those who did stand up to the point of death.

      1. Again, I thank God for my family….

        My grandfather was a prison guard after the war. It’s not like anybody made a point of it, but there was never any doubt that the Nazis were…people. Yeah, the leadership were BAD people, but the guys fighting….? They were guys who were so desperate to create that they traded a picture of my grandfather’s firstborn, based on a tiny photograph, for paints. (Sent by my grandmother from the states– this was no small sacrifice, and they couldn’t have known it would turn out well, but… Papa was a good man, and he ASKED, so she did….)

        They were just… people.

        1. I worked with a former Nazi soldier. He’d been a Russian POW. He didn’t really talk about the war except to say that immigrating to America was the best decision he’d ever made.

                  1. All bound up in utter pride – the belief in one’s infallible nature.

                    I’m Jewish – we *know* everyone screws up. Fortunately, G-d is generally inclined to be merciful (I dread to think what would happen if He took up his aspect of judgement and focused on me).

            1. Wow. You’re going to take the entire measure of a man’s life based off of something he did as a teenager? Moreover, something that was both expected and required and part of the society he was raised in?

              1. Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature

      2. And if they refused to fight, Oświęcim and Chełmno and Treblinka would be obscure towns in Poland.

        1. As the question was around “should American men have refused to fight for FDR and against Hitler based on FDR’s racism, political thuggery, and collectivist impulses”, your response makes very little sense.

          1. But the initial post was would it be better to be loyal to one’s country despite the Nazis or disloyal because of the Nazis running things.

            1. And you are unable to discern a specific question, which I note you have yet to answer:

              Given FDR’s status as a racist collectivist with a penchant for political thuggery, would you oppose fighting at his orders?

          1. As someone else pointed out – that a demotion (or lack of promotion) would probably be the result – the first ones wouldn’t necessarily be killed. Somewhere along the way, though, a few would have been – when they finally felt the need for an example, pour encourages les autres. Then there would be a lot more obedience.

            People knew that. They’d seen how the NAZIs operated. They knew if the first few weren’t killed, it would eventually come to that. So, the fear makes the eventuality unnecessary.

            If the “entire” nation had stood up (say, some 35%+ of the population) as a block, and said “not only no, but HELL NO!” it might have made a difference. The likelihood becomes higher if the percentage tops, perhaps, 70%.

            Anyone know how hard it is to get 70% of any group to stand up against those with power? At least any group with a population above the very low 4 digits? I don’t think “sheer folly” adequately describes it.

            1. Going on old memories here, in IIRC the book called “Mothers in the Fatherland”: when the Nazis started their euthanizing program for defective children, enough mothers objected that they backed off. May have been early in the regime, before Hitler had established the MO of “kill them all” or they might have just not wanted to antagonize the Women of the Aryan Nation.
              There is strength in numbers, but only if you know the numbers are there.

              1. Strength in numbers?

                Whether or not the numbers are there, if the opponent believes those numbers exist that is all that matters.

                That’s the underlying premise of yard signs, bumper stickers and campaign rallies as well as astroturf demonstrations.

              2. The protests against the euthanasia programs were ineffectual. Now, the protests of German wives of Jewish husbands did manage to save them.

    4. I recommend They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer, who went to Germany after the war (not long after, they were talking about the remilitarization of Germany in light of the Cold War as a contemporary event) and befriended some Nazis in a small town. They ranged from a man justly convicted at Nuremberg of an offense connected to Kristallnacht, to a man who joined to hide a past that could have gotten him in serious trouble.

  11. What Sarah wrote here matches my understanding of WvB the person. As for the Lehrer lyric: please remember that Lehrer was a (mostly) equal opportunity satirist—any target that’s funny will do.

    1. He was also fairly Left for his time, which kinda spoils it for me. The smug assumption that so characterizes the Left of recent years was already there.

      No, of course, they are standing around in bewildered cliques asking “How could Trump win? Nobody I know voted for him!”


      1. Eh. What I’ve been reading doesn’t quite match either our right or left, but the power was on the left, and he needed power to get to space.
        I wasn’t looking for an idol, just to UNDERSTAND.

        1. Sudden thought: There is a declassified OSS psychological profile of Hitler, and there were psychological profiles done of the Nazis after the war to figure out how it happened. There is likely a psychological profile of von Braun somewhere. It might not be available to the public, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t in existence.

          As to the profiles of the Nazis, the people who joined the party, it was released in the 1970s that most were just average folks. Some at the time were disturbed by this.

  12. You may enjoy my related short story, “The Secret Jew,” which will appear in the upcoming edition of The Mensa Bulletin. Von Braun and Mittlewerk Dora figure prominently.

  13. One caveat, based on your earlier post about the lack of judgment after the fall of the Evil Empire. And how no Communist Nuremberg trials poisoned the well.

    I not only think it’s acceptable to stand in judgment, it’s required of us. And to do so I fairly as we may. People need to be clear-eyed about these costs.

    But then, we need to offer mercy, if we have the power to do, to those who acknowledge the debt, because “there but for the Grace of God go I.”

    1. The Nuremberg trials were a mistake. They lost any pretense of moral high ground the moment any Soviet participation was mooted. We should have simply stood any Nazi we were sufficiently annoyed with up against a wall and held target practice. Lesson; pick a fight with the whole world, and unpleasant things happen to you.

      The idea that the ‘International Community’ had or has any significant existence is one we will be fighting for centuries.

        1. Victor’s justice. A captured enemy can be tried by his captor, or not, and killed at his captor’s convenience. Or not.

            1. Actually no It’s the way it was for centuries.
              BUT Fox, if making it legal, the USSR should have been kept out of it. The things they did don’t bear thinking.

              1. I know it was, by and large. *points at middle east* We know it works really, really badly.

                I agree that letting the USSR have a hand in it was a bad idea. Doesn’t mean we toss the baby out with the bathwater and then club ourselves with the tub.

              2. Who would have kept the Russians out? After Yalta and Potsdam?
                After they captured Berlin? When they had how many army fronts (vs. armies) there?
                There was no way to keep them out of Nuremberg short of a new war. None. Best case scenario, they would have simply held their own trials.

                And given what the Germans did to them, I am not sure there was a moral case for keeping them out.
                Yes, I am aware of what they did to German civilians as victors. I also had half my extended family exterminated, so I am biased. Getting back to the “There but for the grace of G-d” theme, and having come from that culture (damn you, Edmond Dantes!), I just can’t force myself to view revenge rapine and worse, while reprehensible, as equal in condemnation to genocide and the rest of what the Germans did. Can I be sure I would have had the strength not to succumb to the “every German must pay” sentiment? I can’t. I would like to think so, but nobody can claim that, unless one has been there and done that.

                There no doubt should have been a Nuremberg style trial for the Soviets in Russia itself (and in the Ukraine, and in Finland, and in the Baltics…), but that ship has sailed a long time ago. Which is a major reason that I don’t believe (and have not believed back in the naively hopeful nineties) that anything decent could come out of Russia in the next 100 years at best. And with Putin finding inspiration in both stalinism and tzarism, make that 200 years.

                1. No, what I referred to was how the trials were run by the soviets. It had more to do with whom they wanted to silence/etc than who was the guiltiest if that makes sense.

                  1. Yes, it does, and I agree.
                    But given how completely Stalin had outplayed the other two, it’s a wonder it wasn’t worse.

                  2. Russians are wery pragmatic peeples. Trials would result in werdikts and sentences most useful to State purposes.

            2. Not saying it’s ideal, but it’s hardly mob rule.

              It comes under “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”

            3. OTOH, it prevents those troops from returning for a rematch, and eternal war is simply the way this Fallen world IS; it needs no recipe.

            4. No eternal war if you get all of them. What’s that deplorable phrase again? “Nits make lice?” Unfortunately, the victors always seem to miss a few who breed up a new conflict in a couple of generations.

        2. IF we had simply shot who we wanted to shoot, we wouldn’t be saddled with the fiction that there ever existed some soi disant Higher Justice to which the Nazis were subject. They started a war. They behaved like beasts. We fought them. We won. End of story.

          Except, we put them on ‘trial’, which leads directly to a bunch of Internationalists wanting to put Pinochet on ‘trial’ for ‘crimes against humanity’….and throwing our hundreds of years of diplomatic usage in the process. Or wanting to ‘try’ George Bush. Or, eventually one presumes, Trump.

          The Trials were a sham. They were a sham even without the participation of the USSR, but that made them worse. And sham trials do not accomplish anything that is morally superior to saying “We won, Bang!”. But they do establish a precedent for further sham trials.

          There is no ‘International Community’ , unless you feel obligated to take into account the political whims of the likes of Syria and the Peoples Republic of China. I don’t.

          1. And that illustrates why they did let the USSR in on it.

            Because it established that the “international community” had to work in unison, with everyone, after winning a war, and STILL have a trial, with evidence which would be preserved.

            Much, much harder to get to the moral equivalency BS.

            1. Because it established that the “international community” had to work in unison
              This sort of progressive silliness (that the whole world somehow has a moral authority that an individual nation does not) started with Wilson, the War To End All Wars, and the League of Nations. It worked, at the moment, for the most part, at Nurnberg (primarily because of just how awful and clearly evil the NAZI regime was). But it certainly did allow the progressive global state baloney to sink its roots deep.

      1. In some ways, I disagree. The trials were a wonderful occasion to show the Nazi leaders not as heroic and committed to the end, but venial, cowardly men.

        Plus, shooting was too good for them. Better they be hung like common criminals.

        1. Some were shot without trial, by the soldiers who liberated the death camps. I don’t think anyone was convicted for that, or should have been.

          1. Apparently the ones they shot weren’t the right guys. The guards had left and these were regular regiments who had come in and were just as horrified as our guys. But yeah, I get it. And these days there would have been punishment and no, there shouldn’t be.

            1. I doubt the guards had volunteered for those staffings, although I recall reading that SS troops were particularly selected for the ob, so maybe. But if you think about it, what’s an Eric to do? Refuse to go as guard and you likely go as inmate. Any troubles, any escapes and you know you will be severely punished, so who is available there for you to take out your anger, to work off your fear? Basic human psychology dictates what happens.

              Explaining a phenomenon is not excusing it, of course. But it should expose the clay feet of those sitting in comfy student dorm rooms denouncing it.

              We will soon see a version of it playing out here in America over Weinsteingate. People who knew about it and held their thoughts to themselves are among the first denouncing Harvey while those whose duty it was to intervene but instead turned a blind eye or even aided and abetted him have to be getting very very nervous. As Jonah Goldberg comments today, “Much of the behavior described in The New Yorker’s article isn’t just disgusting, abusive, and repulsive; it’s criminal. If these allegations are true and provable, then Weinstein surely should go to prison. Moreover, if any staffer knowingly cooperated in assisting Weinstein in raping women, they should go to prison as accessories.”

              We all (imagine we) know how this would play out if the accused exposed perpetrator were Rush Limbaugh or David Koch. It will be interesting watching the scuttling playing out.

              1. Actually refusing to participate in the camps — or the mass shootings — led to no consequences except a slower rate of promotions. Of course, they may not have realized that at the time. (And if the number of refusals had gotten high enough to be trouble, consequences would have changed.)

                1. Weinstein is a major Democratic donor, fundraiser and kingmaker, closely associated with the Clintons. It may just be the hard Leftists trying to kick the merely corrupt technocrats out of the party.

                2. Actually, a couple of things came together here. One, his brother has been trying to take over the company, and may have instigated this to do so. That’s not exactly working out for him, though.

                  Two, Weinstein was part of the Clinton wing of the Democrats, and too many people are trying to get her to go away, and destroying her support network is part of that. One reason we have heard as little as possible from her and Obama is that Weinstein probably knows where several bodies are buried on both of them.

                  1. The brother component does not explain the lifting of the veil of omerta at the Times. Democrat infighting does, however. Internecine warfare on the Left is possibly the most under-reported story in America.

                    We should not forget that the Times is attempting to stand in the vanguard of the Far-Left, having openly acknowledged that in the Age of Trump it no longer abides by traditional journalistic standards.

                3. Are they distracting from something? Or have we just reached the (wannabe) revolutionaries eating their own stage?

                4. I’m leaning toward the theory posed by Thomas Lifson at American Thinker, pursuing a comment by a Rabbi Aryeh Spero: Weinstein had finally (after a number of years working on the idea) to make a film about the Warsaw uprising. Which was something the Left would not allow, because one can’t have films with Jewish heroes these days.

                  October 10, 2017
                  Why did the New York Times go after Harvey Weinstein, one of its own?
                  By Thomas Lifson
                  “My opinion: He was no longer truly one of their own. At the annual Algemeiner Dinner in NYC*, Weinstein openly praised the Israelis and how they are willing to fight. He said he loves Israel…and admires how the Israelis use weapons to protect themselves. He contrasted the Israelis with the misfortune of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto who did not, unfortunately, he said, have guns. Indeed, he announced, as he had a few months previously, that he was in the midst of preparing and making a movie about the Warsaw Ghetto. He loved fighting Jews, he said.

                  Nothing irks and riles the N.Y. Times more than someone who is a proud, vocal supporter of Israel, believes in Jews fighting in their own defense, physically and with guns…especially if that person is a liberal and Democrat. That cannot be allowed! And to boot, equating Israel’s efforts against the Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians with the Warsaw Ghetto. They could never allow that. No way! So they brought him down. They have dossiers on many they don’t use until they need to make an example.

                  According to your blog post, Weinstein said he was temporarily going to stop making movies…in other words, including the Warsaw Ghetto movie. That was the response they wanted, the quid pro quo. And his repentance for abusing women was, get this, to work against the NRA. That’s his mea culpa? But you see, their problem was his position on guns. So that’s the mea culpa. Sexual sins are forgiven if one agrees to work against gun ownership.”

                  Lifson also cites J. J. Gross at The Times of Israel.
                  Why the NY Times is suddenly taking down Harvey Weinstein
                  OCTOBER 7, 2017,

                  “So the question – and it’s a big one – is why did the Gray Lady, that pinnacle of journalistic probity called the New York Times, suddenly find it necessary to violate the conspiracy of silence and share this information on page one only now?

                  Can it be because barely a month ago, Weinstein announced his plan to direct a movie based on Leon Uris’s epic Warsaw Ghetto novel ‘Mila 18’? Can it be because Weinstein, despite his bleeding heart liberalism, despite his having shoveled truckloads of dollars into the Obama coffers, despite his blind obeisance to the Clinton corruption machine, crossed the Israel-hating Time’s red line and declared himself a Zionist and a lover of Israel? Had Weinstein instead come out in support of BDS is there a chance of a snowball in hell that the Times would have taken the liberty of bringing down such a lion of liberalism?

                  Make no mistake, the Times’ decision to destroy Harvey Weinstein is not a harbinger of greater fairness and objectivity. Do not for a moment think that this is some opening salvo in leveling the playing field and declaring what is bad for the conservative goose is equally bad for the liberal gander. No. This is merely the New York Times issuing a powerful warning to anyone of prominence in its tightly controlled liberal corral to be very careful. Because the slightest manifestation of pro-Israel sentiment will result in the unleashing of its bloodhounds. And the editors of the Times will not rest until they have the goods needed to destroy the Zionist culprit no matter how much money he may have given Obama and Clinton.

                  Caveat temptor.”

                  *If I pulled up the right link, that dinner was on September 18, 2017.

                  Note also the date of this post: August 9.

                  Leftist Cleansing Squads operate fast.

                  1. The Warsaw Ghetto, which the Nazis expected to clear in three days, legendarily held out for a month against over two thousand German troops with a mere five guns. The final tally, according to SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, of all weapons taken as booty (many of which likely were taken from slain Nazis) consisted of:
                    7 Polish Rifles
                    1 Russian Rifle
                    1 German Rifle
                    59 pistols of various calibers
                    And several hundred grenades (many hand made) and improvised explosive devices.
                    (per Wiki)

                    With somewhat more weaponry, the Bielski Brother defied the Nazis for two years, built a village in the Belorussian forest, and saved 1,200 Jews.

                    Really good movie, too. Liev Schreiber, Daniel Craig (and Paul Newman in Exodus; who nu Jews had such stunningly blue eyes?)

              2. Which is why Weinstein left for Europe this morning for “sex addiction treatment”. I imagine he and Polanski will be in the same clinic, so they can make Cannes next year.

              3. RES, did you read Kratman and Ringo’s “Watch on the Rhine”? Because that’s a major subplot.

                1. Ayup. In other works, as well. Because it reflects reality.

                  Reality is sad. It invades safe spaces and makes people acknowledge complexity. In Sandersworld reality will not be allowed, nor in Warrenworld, either.

              4. And sometimes you see something, that you have no evidence to support that it happened, so going to someone, or saying something does nothing, except brand you as a troublemaker, a liar, and an outcast unable to ever effect changes.

                Yeah, I’m speaking from personal experience. Let’s just say that some members of the military aren’t honest, upright citizens. Which also makes some of the stories of people being fragged during the Vietnam War both believable, and understandable.

        2. Some were hung. Goring was to be hung, but committed suicide. Of those hung, it took at least one several minutes to strangle to death,

          I don’t have a URL, but once came across a chaplin’s account of those hung. It was very interesting.

            1. ROFLMAO.

              “Imagine your audience to be sitting there naked.”
              “Oh please. I want to be able to give my talk, not to be laughing hysterically at how funny most people look, and not be vomiting in front of the crowd over how disgusting some of them look.”
              The trials and tribulations of a reluctant public speaker.

          1. As it happens, today in the Hebrew calendar is the anniversary of October 16, 1946, when ten convicted Nazis were hanged. The last to be hanged was Julius Streicher, who recognized the parallels between that day and the Biblical tale of the hanging of Haman’s ten sons, and sneered while mounting the gallows that the day was “Purimfest 1946”.

            (Jewish tradition also records a daughter of Haman who killed herself seeing her father’s disgrace. If the claims are true that Hermann Göring, who killed himself in his cell the night before, was a transvestite, it would make the parallels even more eerie. And then there’s the text of the Book of Esther, when she asks “let it be done tomorrow as was done today, and have the ten sons of Haman hanged”, the list of their names [in certain traditions] emphasizes certain letters in a way that seems to allude to the Hebrew year 5707 [1946–1947].)

              1. Considering He made camels, platypus, and human beings; you have to wonder if the Christian and Jewish (and possibly Islamic) God went by the name Coyote in pre-Columbian America.

      2. Although I have found it useful to remind various Progs that claim the military has to follow orders and seize our guns that they killed that defense stone dead at Nuremburg.

        1. Except the fact is, most of the military will do exactly what they are ordered to do, without questioning it. Ignoring for the moment that Private Bradley Manning was a mentally ill young man, he saw a lot of evidence of illegal and unethical behavior by the military and the government, and rightfully recognized that complaining about it through his chain of command, to the Army IG, and even to his Congresscritters and Senators that the report would have been covered up and buried, and quite possibly he would have been too. Which makes his going to Wikileaks about the only viable alternative. Heck, even the Main Stream Media wouldn’t touch it until Wikileaks started sending them copies.

          1. I understand that he leaked documents that got a lot of our overseas assets killed. What wrongdoing on our part did that address?

            If this is true, and I have no reason to think it false*, why should I have any confidence that his leak was narrowly targeted to address wrong doing or that his judgement on what constitutes wrong doing is sound?

            *Well, actually, maybe I have conflated the Manning leaks with the Snowden leaks?

            1. The “debunking” of pointing out he got people killed is in the format of “no intelligence sources were killed” and the original was that one general said he hadn’t heard of an intel source who died.

              The week after his leaks went public, several village leaders died.

  14. Have you read any of his books or technical articles? As a writer yourself perhaps you’d have more insight into him after reading his own works.

      1. I’m sure you are for much of his writings. (Especially children’s stuff like Rocket’s Red Glare. I don’t know if his biographers touched on it but he was very keen to inspire children into aerospace, and was instrumental in starting Space Camp)
        Here is a famous one oriented toward laymen:

        Also, I have a copy of his Prospective Space Developments article from Aeronautics and Astronautics I can send you (or any other Huns interested) that is addressed to other engineers but is quite understandable for a layman.

  15. There are NO Alternate Realities save the ones we subcreate and put on paper. We live not only with our own choices, but with choices going back as far as we can, made by ancestors we have not met.
    It’s spinach, and like Popeye I yam what I yam, and so are those flinging stones … or poo.

  16. when the USSR would have done just as well, since it was all for humanity
    I’ve begun to take “moral equivalence” to mean “you should be beaten with a ruler”.

      1. You’re asking which ruler you get to use to beat them? I would think a Saudi prince would be hard to swing adequately……

  17. Should we wind up in a dictatorship, I’m pretty much doomed. Aspies with no filter tend to be unable to keep from expressing ideas contrary to the Parti Line.

        1. And YOU are a baaaaaaaaaaaaaad man. I was looking at pictures of me at an event recently, and I thought I’d looked attentive and nice, but when I saw the pictures, in one I was rolling my eyes and looking like “Oh, please” Sigh.

          1. “And YOU are a baaaaaaaaaaaaaad man.”

            I shall cherish the accolade, milady, as a badge of honor.

  18. It would have gone very badly, particularly if the US gave it over to the UN.

    Kofi Annan with Nukes.

    Yep, that would go well.

    Of course if the UN had Nukes, the kleptocrats would have been rudely pushed aside, so it would not be Kofi with his finger on the button and his other hand out for baksheesh, it would be UN General Secretary Vlad the Shirtless with his coincidentally Red Army blue-helmets enforcing World Peace. And they would never have let the USSR fall.

  19. I recently read “A Child of Hitler” by Alfons Heck. The kids were all down for Hitler: of course they were, just like our kids were down for Obama, the latest new thing. It was the older adults that weren’t at all sure about abandoning their religious beliefs for the new thing.

  20. Ye olde proverb is that duty makes cowards of us all.

    I know I’ve swallowed hard and accepted things for my wife and kids that I’d have never even considered submitting to back when I was young, single, and idealistic.

    1. “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.”
      Francis Bacon

  21. I am a baaaaad person. Looking at President Trump’s statement on the California wildfires,

    [T]he federal government will stand with people of California and be there with you in this time of terrible tragedy and need

    I can’t wonder how the reaction would be to him saying, “How’s that secession movement working out, huh?”

  22. Whenever people blather about how they could never do anything like that, I always answer with two phrases; “Milgram’s Machine”,and “The Stanford Prison Experiment”.

    A few years ago, there was a special program on PBS about the Holocaust, based around a book about Auschwitz, and the Xth anniversary of its liberation. Between episodes they had interviews with “experts” ( A Rwandan priest, historians, sociologists etc.), One of these was an expert on the Holocaust, a son of survivors, whose name and book I wish I could remember.

    The interviewer asked him some fatuous question like “What lessons should we learn from…?” and he cut the interviewer off right there…

    (Paraphrased) “There is no lesson to be learned, we didn’t learn the lesson. We said “Never again”, yet Rwanda still happened, Cambodia under Pol Pot still happened, Bosnia still happened. Besides, if we say, “At least we learned…” from this, it is, in a small way, justifying it, that at least it had this positive result, in that at least it can serve as a lesson, which is obscene, there is nothing positive about this.”

    “Then what do we tell students today then?”

    “1. TRY not to be a perpetrator.
    2. TRY not to be a bystander.
    3. TRY not to be a victim (in that order).”

    I was chilled by this, because I understood what he meant, that the perpetrators and the victims, and the bystanders, were all ordinary people, caught up in events and “There but for the grace of God…”

    “TRY not to be…..”

    When I was a young Airforce Officer in the R.C.A.F., we had a very good lecture on military ethics. The lecturer explained that, as officers, we were expected to show moral courage. To refuse illegal orders, to report unethical and illegal behavior, not to cover up or assist in a coverup, etc. etc. However, were we to do this, (as was expected of us), we should expect to be vilified, investigated, persecuted, prosecuted, ostracized, our careers ruined…..

    This did not seem fair, and someone said so, the answer they got being that life was not fair…..

    A question came up regarding war crimes, the Nuremberg trials etc. to the effect of the Hobson’s choice a Nazi soldier faced. Refuse the order to participate in the execution (murder) of hostages, and be shot along with them, or follow orders, and be tried and executed for war crimes later.

    The lecturer answered that, again, life was not fair. The choice was a horrible one, BUT IT WAS STILL A CHOICE. YOU had to decide, YOU had to answer to your conscience. That there was no good outcome for you was immaterial, you still had to make the choice, and live (or die) with it. Good deeds are not always rewarded, on the contrary, good deeds are often severely punished. Which was WHY moral courage was so prized, and, unfortunately, so rare.

    Another thing he said which stayed with me; Principles are what you will risk something for. A friendship, your career, your freedom. What you will kill or die for. If you won’t risk or sacrifice, then it is just a whim. Like a beauty pageant contestant wishing for world peace.

    “TRY not to be….”

    I was born in Apartheid South Africa. My dad brought us to Canada, so I went to high school here in Canada, and served in the Canadian military, rather that being conscripted into the Army in South Africa. I expressed to a friend that I wondered who I would have been had I stayed there. Would I have been a different person, an apologist for Apartheid, a casual racist had I finished growing up there? She said, that knowing me as well as she did, that she doubted it. Me, I still wonder….

    “TRY not to be…..”

    1. This illustrates the fallacy of calling Nazis monsters. It is othering them when the truth is we are almost all of us capable of such heinous acts. “Punch a Nazi” becomes “ethical” and ere long everybody looks the Nazi.

      Whenever we are confident of our righteousness, of our virtue, of our immunity to sin, we ought remember Oliver Cromwell’s plea:
      “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

      The human heart beating as it does, ofttimes the easier choice is the wrong one.

      1. “What does being wrong feel like? No, no, not finding out that you were wrong – that’s not being wrong, that’s the horrid shattering feeling of knowing that you were wrong all along. Before that, when you’re wrong, what’s it feel like? It feels good. It feels right, it feels holy, it feels certain, it feels easy. Because you know that you’re doing the right thing, making the right choices, on the right side of history, and that the world agrees with you. Only the losers and the doubters and the crazy fringe disagree!

        And that is why it’s so very, very dangerous to be wrong. And why it’s so hard to stop yourself – because it feels so good, and who wants to feel bad, uncertain, doubting, shaken? When the first signs appear that you might not be right, well, far easier to dismiss them than to confront your own self.”

      1. I think “debunked” is a bit strong, but in principle, you are right. Same for Milgram, some of the data is now considered suspect, but the overall gist is still correct.

        Abu Graib is probably the best example of a real live Stanford Prison Experiment. The military VERY carefully selects and supervises the staff that run S.E.R.E. courses to make sure that they stick to the script and don’t start inhabiting their role too much.

        1. You do realize that the majority of the staff and guards at Abu Ghraib were Reserve/National Guard guys and girls who were… Wait for it… Prison guards in civilian life?

          Think about that, for a second. And, wonder at how they likely treat the American citizens who are given over to them for care as criminal prisoners.

          There was a scandal at Abu Ghraib, but the tip of the iceberg was what made the news, and which was already the subject of an official internal investigation, a 15-6, long before the NYT story came out. The rest of the story should have included a set of leaders who were mostly Affirmative Action Hires, and who didn’t do their damn jobs, as well as a bunch of basically venal corruption and peculation they were doing on the side. Then, there was the little question of “Well, if these guys are prison guards in civilian life… Just what the hell is going on at those prisons, that they had such a low level of professionalism?”.

          Questions that were never asked, nor answered.

          1. Yep! I absolutely recognize that.

            All the more reason to supervise carefully. See Peter Grant’s criticisms of the privatized prison system.

        1. Oh, G-d Zimbardo. He wasn’t so much a psychologist as a complete nut case.
          And no, Abu Graib doesn’t validate that shit. The US armed services aren’t G-d. Psychopaths slip through.
          DID ALL GUARDS BEHAVE THAT WAY? No? Then shut up. And never mention anything related to Zimbardo in front of me again. The man was, really, psychotic and trying to justify his own issues.

        2. Thanks for that! As usual, Social Science has very little science and a lot of “social”.

          1. Welcome! Wish I could find one of the earlier discussions– was the first time I ever heard there were doubts, and there was a LOT more detail, better links, etc.

  23. Von Braun is a particularly interesting figure. I’m not sure hero or villain really fits with him. While his work for the Nazis definitely got people killed (in the building of the V2 as well as those who were targets), it also diverted funds from other projects (like long range bombers) that would have killed more. The V2 was a terrifying weapon to be sure, but it never had the range, payload, or accuracy to be anything more than a glorified artillery shell. In his own unintentional way, Von Braun helped the Nazis lose the war.

    1. The people at that time, who had far more knowledge of the man, his acts and his character made the decision they thought best. It seems to serve little present purpose for us now to judge (or acquit) him, beyond signalling our own virtue (if there be such to be displayed by such signals.)

    2. If someone really wanted to time-machine back and ‘make a difference’ on behalf of the Nazis, they’d do three things: They’d fix the fragmented and schizophrenic industrial and military procurement disaster that the Nazi military services bought weaponry under, they’d make sure Opel built 200,000 military trucks before 1939, and they’d make sure that the Kriegsmarine launched and staffed a thousand modern long range U-boats before 1939.

      Those U-boats would have made short work of England, the trucks would have resolved the ongoing supply disaster that the Wehrmacht operated under throughout the war (the Nazis were still primarily using horse-drawn supply in 1945) and with the Wehrmacht equipped with properly developed and tested equipment instead of the different-tank-of-the-week production that they got, they would have rolled over everyone before the US could get up to speed and into the war.

      The fact the Nazis did not have any of these achievable conditions is one of the best example of divine providence, or competently led Time Patrol, that I can think of.

      1. And look, I lost my main point:

        On the other hand, if someone were to Time Machine back to try and make sure the Nazis lost, they’d basically encourage resources got shoveled off into Von Braun’s, and the Horton Brother’s, and every other resource-sucking science project that captured the attention of one of the Party elite – so basically they would make sure to implement what actually happened.

        1. There are times one starts to suspect Historical Engineering has taken place and that the joke that “The Optimist says we live in the best of all possible worlds and the Pessimist fears this is true.” seems not funny.

      2. Actually, the plan wasn’t geared to a start date before 1943. They just didn’t expect the Allies to roll over so thoroughly.

        1. They just didn’t expect the Allies to roll over so thoroughly.

          Those cunning French bastards!

        2. But even if they’d kept to the plan dates and not kicked things off until 1943, the scattershot German procurement “system” and the absence of any coherent production planning before Speer put something in place in 1942 would have meant many of the problems would have just grown worse, especially with no feedback from combat experience to inform the choices.

          If the Kriegsmarine had deferred all the late 1930s German shipbuilding on major fleet units that were laid down in 1935 (Scahrnhorst, Gneisenau, Bismark, Tirpitz, Graf Zeppelin, etc.) and applied those resources to building the Type VII and Type IX subs that they already had designed and in production, I come up with ~150 more hulls (using the relative costs from here). Against a fleet of 250 ocean going u-boats Britain would have starved – or made a separate peace after the Fall of France. The RN was not afraid of the Kriegsmarine surface fleet – but the WWI u-boats had almost starved the British out of that war, and Churchill was typical in his fear of the u-boat threat.

          And if the Nazis had held off in invading Poland until 1943, the Japanese certainly couldn’t have delayed their Pearl Harbor attack (assuming the US oil and steel embargoes still happened, the Japanese were on the clock in 1941), so by 1943 the US would have been deep into a full-on war in the Pacific when Hitler finally kicked things off. Now that would be an interesting alternative history piece.

      3. Mike, Mike, Mike… In order to “fix” the Nazis, you’d have to turn them into “not-Nazis”, first. And, that would kinda-sorta make the entire exercise a moot point.

        Hitler and his crew of economic wreckers were forced to start WWII when they did–They’d run out of internal sources of capital to loot, in order to keep the fraud going, and it would be useful to think of WWII as simply the end state of what gang experts call a “bust-out”, where a criminal enterprise takes over a legitimate business, and then runs it into the ground in order to loot it. Adam Tooze does an excellent job of of documenting all this in his books, and it’s kind of frightening when you look at things going on during the Obama era like Solyndra, and see the parallels between that and what was going on in Nazi Germany. End-state socialism is never pretty, no matter what the flavor is.

        In short, the Germans could have done none of the things you lay out, and if they had, the internal contradictions in their economy would have killed them and then made war either impossible, or unavoidable. Germany basically mounted a tiger with Nazism, and couldn’t dismount, short of what happened to them in 1945.

        As well, the fragmented nature of the war effort wasn’t an accident; that was Hitler’s “Fuhrerprinzip” in action–Multiple competing entities going after the same mission at the same time, with no attention paid to the fact that the resource base was limited. None of the Germans besides Speer seemed to understand that there were finite resources and manpower available, and that they’d need to rationalize the whole thing to even come close to winning. All the duplication of effort, and general waste? Mind-boggling.

        The really scary thing is, with all their incompetence and idiocy, they came a lot damn closer to winning the game than they ever should have. Givne the resource bases, and rational political decision-making, the war should have been over in ’43. Our lousy leadership on the allied side made that impossible, mostly thanks to Stalin who managed to remove France from the table through his orders to the French Communist Party, and then neatly shooting himself in the foot by sending the resources Hitler needed to initiate Barbarossa. You look at the numbers, and you have to ask yourself, what the hell was Stalin thinking…?

        That’d be an interesting speculation: What if Stalin had been planning to invade a Europe weakened by the Nazis and their general incompetence? Had Hitler not done Barbarossa, what would have happened?

        1. “Wages of Destruction” was excellent. Have you gotten your hands on Tooze’s “Deluge” yet? I hear it’s just as great a feat of scholarship but at the expense of making Wages seem like light reading.

          I am also intrigued by his book on German econometrics…

  24. Growing up, I knew quite a few people from WW2 Germany. I have heard more than a few say that they had no idea at all what was going on in the concentration camps. And honestly, how would they? No TV, no Radio in many cases, and of course what news there was, was all state controlled.
    People were poor in Germany. Very poor. WW1 had left them in utter poverty, so all anyone was interested in was just surviving. Things got better under Hitler, way better, so why rock the boat?

    Few in our military and government (if any) actually knew what was going on in the concentration camps until they captured them. People really didn’t know what was happening there. It was kept secret.

    And again, people were ordered to do things, or else. A lot of civilians really didn’t want to experience the ‘or else’. Did he know about the death camps? I doubt it. Did he know people were dying in the work camps? Probably, but people died in FDR’s concentration camps to, but you don’t hear people railing on about it.

    So it’s kind of hard to make judgements, years later, as to if he was evil or not, when you really can’t point to anything evil or out of the ordinary for the average citizen in his position during the war.

    1. So it’s kind of hard to make judgements, years later, as to if he was evil or not,

      It is extremely easy to make judgments at this late date.

      It is hard to make informed judgments, or intelligent judgments or wise judgments, but that isn’t what people condemning him are trying to do, is it? They are taking advantage of hindsight and lack of threat to display their “virtue” — which is, in its own peculiar way, a condemnation of their own judgment.

      Personally, I do not think my opinion of Herr von Braun’s culpability matters. It certainly does not matter to him.

      1. There were people in my neighborhood who grew up in Nazi Germany and during the war, and while how much they knew as children is a real question with valuable answers, it’s another question how much their parents knew, their local politzei knew, their local plant managers knew, and all the way up to how much senior industrial and scientific leadership like Von Braun knew. At some level they knew; the question is simply where that level is.

        But given the societal guilt hammered into the postwar German psyche by the educational system, and the convenience of “We knew nothing!” as an answer in that postwar world, I’m suspicious that drawing that line at “the people who were in the Hitlerbunker at the end were the ones who knew – the rest of us were shocked, shocked” is somewhat disingenuous.

  25. While ‘Paul from Canada’ makes good points, I think that there are in fact some useful lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. Specifically, what we in Israel call ‘Begin’s law’: If a murderous dictator says he is going to kill you, you should a) believe him and b) act accordingly.

    1. It was the commentator that said that, not me, but fair point. I think his chief complaint was philosophical. He DID want students to learn from it, but saying so in that way, gave it a “use” that he didn’t want to dignify.

      I should point out (rather uncomfortably) that quite a few “lessons” were learned form the Holocaust. Not least was that data from the human tests carried out in concentration camps on hypoxia, DCS, and hypothermia were used as the basis for a lot of later work, the results of which were used to train me as a military pilot about aviation physiology and survival.

        1. What I meant to emphasize (what I meant to say in reply to fan) was not the “no Lessons to be learned” rhetoric, but rather the rather world weary answer of “TRY not to be…”.

          He was an academic expert on Genocide, and, based on his studies, he had obviously concluded that our hierarchical, pack animal psychology meant that a majority WOULD go along with it, regardless. Some out of fear, some out of “peer pressure”, some out of apathy, and that is is very HUMAN to do so.

          That is what chilled me to hear.

          1. Further to what both you and I said, the data WAS USED!. I think what the expert (I wish I could remember his name), was saying, was that, by saying “At least we learned…”, was that by doing so, we, even in the tiniest way, justified what was done.

            “It was obscene and in-human, but at least those men who died of baro-trauma in these illegal and unethical experiments did not die in vain, because the data later saved the lives…”

            In Len Deighton’s novel “Bomber”, one of the characters (a German night fighter pilot) sees a medical report about the concentration camp experiments, and blows the whistle. He explains his reasoning to one of his superiors, who justifies this on the basis of the utility. “You might think differently if YOU are floating in the North Sea after being shot down.” He rejects this line of reasoning. At the end of the book, we learn that he was executed for this.

            1. Further to what both you and I said, the data WAS USED!. I think what the expert (I wish I could remember his name), was saying, was that, by saying “At least we learned…”, was that by doing so, we, even in the tiniest way, justified what was done.

              Then he was wrong.

              This isn’t exactly a new question– although from the way philosophy is basically not taught, not really anybody’s fault they don’t know it– but it has such obvious things as “is it allowable to like someone if they were conceived of rape?” (without that objective evil, they wouldn’t exist; is any positive interaction with them, then justifying rape?) and more complicated stuff like using a life-saving medicine that is made in the corpse of a murder victim, who was killed for the purpose, and it happened long ago, against your will and you take alternatives anytime they are reasonably available.

              There’s a world of difference between doing evil that good may come of it, and bringing good out of evil.

              You can find a metric ton of ink spilled online under “cooperation with evil” — and given how little electrons weigh….

  26. I worked for a defense contractor in the mid-late 80s. One of the old-timers told me about just after WW2 when the company hired one of the “paper clip” guys who I believe was a skilled aerospace engineer. I’m told he was a mix of brilliant engineer and tone-deaf impolitic jerk.

    The German and American cultures were as dissimilar immediately after WW2 as the US culture of the early ’50s is to contemporary US culture. My German teacher had told me that when the US marched into Germany the citizens could not believe the GIs were real soldiers.

    These cultural differences need to be incorporated into judgments about the paper-clip scientists and the bureaucrats who put the paper clips on their files. For instance, in the ’70s I happily read all the Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars stories, but when I revisited them about five years ago, I stopped reading the series when Captain Carter’s son just happens to keep slaves in his household. Slaves? I moved on. In the Edwardian era, this was not a consideration.

  27. ‘World’s Best Dad’
    I remember reading that the man known as Hitler’s Perfect Nazi, who ordered God-knows-how-many people killed in reprisals and such, who truly believed everyone not German was subhuman, was known to his friends and family as kind to animals and wonderful with kids.

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