Sixty-nine years ago today, the Nazi armies started their surprise invasion of the Soviet Union. I was a boy of fifteen at the time, and my strongest memory of the day was this: I was wondering what the (American) Stalinists would say to THAT ! Well , right on cue and within hours, they changed their front organization “American Peace Mobilization” (which advocated staying out of the war) to the “American People’s Mobilization” (which demanded and full and energetic participation in the war).
Now, sixty-nine years later, a new detail has captured my interest. Hitler’s proclamation to his people on that June 22 (read on the radio by Goebbels — see the video above) contains the following interesting passage:
As early as 1936, according to the testimony of the American General Wood to a committee of the American House of Representatives, Churchill had said that Germany was becoming too strong again, and that it therefore had to be destroyed.
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that there was indeed an “American General Wood” who testified in Washington in 1936. (In that year Stanley Baldwin was prime minister of Britain, who preceded Neville Chamberlain, who preceded Winston Churchill … but let that pass). What relevance would that have to the Nazi invasion of June 1941 ? It seems that Hitler meant to suggest that this statement from the horse’s mouth, as if “by his own admission,” would prove, in and of itself, the evil intentions of the British empire.
Hitler was not in the habit of supplying supporting footnotes to his declarations, so now I can only guess at the grain of truth that may be involved here. (I have not made a thorough search of all the scholarship on Hitler’s statement). In that period there was indeed a retired Brigadier (one-star) General Robert E. Wood of the US Army, later chairman of Sears, Roebuck and, more importantly, a leader of the America First Committee. So I surmise that Wood may have appeared in Washington in 1936 to speak for his isolationist agenda. What he may or may not have known about Winston Churchill at the time would be anyone’s guess. In any case, his testimony would hardly qualify as reasonable evidence concerning Britain’s war aims five years later.
Now fast-forward to 2009. Israel is engaged in battle with Hamas in Gaza, and a New York professor, Rashid Khalidi, finds that another general, this time an Israeli, had some years before spilled the beans about Israel’s “real” war aims. Here again there are words allegedly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak “by his own admission,” etc. As I pointed out at the time, even if an Israeli general had said years before what Khalid attributed to him now, that would hardly have been proof positive of what Israel tried to do in Gaza. As it turned, Khalidi’s alleged quotation was so completely distorted that what he reported was the contrary of what the general had in fact said. The New York Times, which published Khalidi’s statement to begin with, was forced to publish a retraction. (Khalidi himself, however, never retracted and never explained.)
(Click here to see my series of posts on the Khalidi affair, giving all the details)
Now, for those folks who specialize in communication with the dead, can we get Mr. Hitler to retract his reference to “General Wood,” or at least explain ? That is not likely, but no less likely than getting Professor Khalidi to do the right thing.