Friday, June 02, 2006

MODERN AGE by Paul Johnson

The Twentieth Century and it grave moral decline is examined in this brilliant book. Scholarly and readable, it touches on the personalities of the great figures of the day, and emphasizes how their moral choices created the events around them.


But the horror of the Twentieth Century are unique, monstrous, inhuman. It is like reading about the goings-on of a flock of devils. The anarchy, the pointlessness, the disorganization, the madness that governed the highly-efficient and scientifically run mass-murder machines of the totalitarian states of the 1940's shocks the conscience. Every time I think the bottom depth of depravity is reached, there is something that opened an even lower floor to an ever deeper hell. Mass murder is bad; scientifically-organize ruthless-mass murder is worse; pointless, awkward, and foolish scientifically-organized mass-murder is somehow even worse. The wife of a German Officer, who at a confused railway junction got onto a death train to Auschwitz by mistake, was ordered into the ovens nonetheless so that she could not relate what she had seen. I wonder whether some patriotic Nazi officer, waiting at some train station for his blonde wife, was ever told she was burned alive due to a mishap.

I had no idea that the Japanese high command had no leadership. All of them knew they had no strategy, no long term hope of defeating the USA, but anyone who spoke up a dishonorable or unpatriotic truth would be assassinated. The Army and Navy did not cooperate, and were killing each other's officers. The attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out without any superior officers in the government, being informed.

The Germans had a similar anarchy in their uppermost ranks, with redundant organizations spying on each other, stealing each other's mail, performing assassinations.

Hitler wrote no orders down, kept no records.

Hitler's dying words were that he regretted he had been too benevolent, too soft. If only he had killed more people, he sobbed, his plan would have worked.

Himmler was hiding Jews from Hitler because he wanted slave laborers. As if they were disposable parts of a machine. Auschwitz was turned into a factory for the production of synthetic fuel and rubber, so that the Jews and other non-desirables could be worked to death. Each morning the labor allocation officer picked out the sickly for gassing. The average weight loss from overwork and underfeeding was six to nine pounds of body mass was week, so that the hitherto normally nourished could make up the deficiency out of his own body for up to three months. The corpses in the gas chambers would be piled near the iron doors as the dying had died clawing to get out, and they would have to have the excrement and blood hosed off before the bodies could be hauled away for rendering.

Gold filing were pulled out, hair for mattresses and fat for soap. Yet despite all this gruesome meanness, so characteristic of the totalitarian state, Auschwitz was an economic failure: very little synthetic fuel and no synthetic rubber were ever produced there.

Thank God we smashed these people and their slave state. If only we had the grit and the backbone needed to face their modern counterparts.

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