Tag Archives: harvard university press

The War Within


The War Within –
Diaries From The Siege Of Leningrad
By Alexis Peri
Harvard University Press – £23.95

Surely, the only instance one can akin to the methodically mortifying siege of Leningrad – in recent times at least – is Sarajevo.

Having initially been besieged by the forces of the Yugoslav People’s Army on 5 April 1992, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to lie in siege before the very eyes of the world might I add, by the Army of Republika Srpska until 29 February 1996. A total of 1,425 days; which, in the big scheme of things (such as radio, television and media) still baffles me to this very day.

How could a modern, cosmopolitan European city – a mere hour and a half away from Paris by plane – have been allowed to suffer, day after day after day, to the appalling degree that it did?

Did the world not learn anything from Leningrad blockade?

An epic disaster, which the historian, John Barber, has since described as ”the greatest demographic catastrophe ever experienced by one city in the history of mankind.”

A blockade of humanity, that already on page four of this altogether groundbreaking study, The War Within – Diaries From The Siege Of Leningrad, paints a picture of the most harrowing persuasion: ”The Leningrad blockade was one of the most horrific events of world War II. The city was a centrepiece of a 1,127-day battle and an 872 day siege. That siege, which lasted from September 1941 to January 1944, was one of the lengthiest and deadliest of the modern era. All told, the battle for Leningrad took between 1.6 and 2 million Soviet lives, including roughly 800,000 civilians or 40 percent of the city’s pre-war population. This staggering death toll is about equal to the total number of American military who died in all wars between 1776 and 1975 […]. Most civilians died of starvation, but tens of thousands perished from enemy fire and disease.”

Other than making for rather depressing reading, what is interesting in the above is some of the terminology of language used; where authoress, Alexis Peri, declines to describe the Leningrad blockade as one of the most horrific battles of World War II, but rather, one of the most horrific events. A terminology, which to all historical intents and academic purposes, is fundamentally spot on.

The Siege of Leningrad was indeed an event.
An event, that like the Holocaust, was so profoundly cruel and calculated, if not utterly sadistic, it continues to remain almost impossible to fathom.
If not the actual manifestation of the catastrophe itself, then that of the behaviour it allowed.

A psychological quality upon which Peri shines a great deal of literary light throughout. For instance, in chapter four (‘Family Life and Strife’), she captures perfectly, the self-confessed trauma of the schoolboy, Iura Riabinkin:

”Two days ago I was sent out to get sweets. It was bad enough that instead of sweets I bought sweetened cocoa (counting on Ira not wanting to eat it and so increasing my share), but also that I helped myself to half of the total amount – a miserable 600 grams that is supposed to last us for the whole ten days – and invented a story about how three packets of cocoa had been snatched from my hands. I acted out the whole comedy at home with tears in my eyes, and I gave Mother my word of honour as a Pioneer that I have not taken a single packet of cocoa for myself… and later on, watching with a hardened heart mother’s tears and distress at being deprived of something sweet, I ate the cocoa surreptitiously.

[…]I have slid down into the abyss called depravity, where the voice of conscience is totally silent, where there is dishonesty and disgrace. I am an unworthy son to my mother and an unworthy brother to my sister. I am an egoist, a person who, in a moment of adversity. forgets all about his nearest and dearest […]. I am a ruined person. Life is over for me. The prospect that lies ahead of me is not life.”

Could you ever imagine writing such words?
Let alone writing such words for others to read in a diary?

As the authoress of Lenin Lives!, Nina Tumarkin has since stated, these 252 pages (excluding Notes, Selected Bibliography, Acknowledgements, Illustration Credits and Index) are: ”Vivid, true, and magnificently crafted. Peri has peeled away layer after layer of the human record to its core – physical, mental, spiritual.”

Indeed she has.
What’s more, as mentioned earlier, The War Within is a groundbreaking study. The sort of which, questions the very nature of human nature. It inadvertently asks how we might behave under similar circumstances.

Luckily, we haven’t, and hopefully never will be in a position to find out.

Apart from gazing at the collection of black and white, poignant photographs herein, the closest any of us will ever get (is again, luckily), reading this exceedingly nuanced, majestic and very important book – wherein Alexis Peri has without doubt, fulfilled a literary quest of the most revelatory, regal design.

Simply brilliant.

David Marx


The Taming Of Free Speech


The Taming Of Free Speech –
America’s Civil Liberties Compromise
By Laura Weinrib
Harvard University Press – £33.95

When civil liberty becomes wholly compartmentalised and chartered as if a cheap and convenient package holiday, one ought to intrinsically know that dark clouds will eventually emerge.
Not by chance.
Not as if deemed there were ever a choice.
Not unless one were to contend with the recent hurdy-gurdy drone of contemptuous, spurious, US inflicted denial thereof. In other words, the bonhomie of Washington’s brazen eradication from that of its own written constitution.

So roll over Thomas Jefferson and tell Donald Trump the news: read this book. Read it at your peril.

Indeed, embrace The Taming Of Free Speech – America’s Civil Liberties Compromise for all it’s worth; as within its eight chapters, authoress Laura Weinrib subliminally invites America’s current administration, to grapple with the gauntlet of its own, high-octane induced folly. The triggered trajectory of which, all but the most inflammatory assistance of the President’s (current) Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon; continues to openly condone America’s roller-coaster of ride of complicit division. The constitutionally decided upon mandate, or so we’re told, whereby nationalism – that all permissive illness inherited from only God knows where – is now allowed to run amok with all the unqualified persistence that only rabid blind faith entails.

Presumably, Kellyanne Conway, ye unleashed Rottweiler of America’s buzzing news networks, would wholeheartedly disagree; but then she probably hasn’t yet gotten round to reading: ”the story of how the radical vision of civil liberties was born and how, very quickly it transformed.” Of how ”at its centre is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which framed popular and judicial understandings of civil liberties during the interwar period and after.”

It’s hard to imagine Conway and her ilk even having heard of ACLU and that which it represents; all the more reason these 328 pages (excluding Abbreviations, Notes, Acknowledgements and Index) are to be nurtured as if a mode of historical, behavioural instruction: ”[…] historians have long recognized the central role of anti-Red repression in the early annals of free speech, and they have underscored the labour leanings of early civil liberties advocates. Yet most have treated such connections as incidental to, even incongruous with, the underlying civil liberties project. With the modern First Amendment as their benchmark, they have regarded the radicalism of the civil liberties leadership as an impetus for attacking sedition laws or a precursor to a principled speech-protective position: a galvanizing source of outrage over viewpoint discrimination and selective enforcement, but ultimately a bias to be expunged, not an independent motivating vision. Perhaps as a consequence, the dominant literature on the interwar ascendance of expressive freedom has not adequately explained why or how the modern understanding of civil liberties triumphed.”

The key word here being ‘triumphed,’ which partially explains why if nothing else, this book is capable of packing a mighty elongated punch, right into the face of Trump’s very own misconceived trump-card. Namely that of free speech itself – from whoever, from wherever – will not prevail.
Suffice to say, he’s wrong.
And in time, all those myopic, perhaps horribly misguided rust-belt voters with a penchant for the easy way out, will realise as much.

So too, hopefully, will the President’s prime Brexit compadres, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and to a lesser degree, Theresa May herself.
All of three of whom are at the moment, embarrassingly vying for the big man’s attention.
As if the current cull of Rule, Britannia, weren’t enough.
As if a menagerie of Britain’s lionised lambs ever had it in them to actually know any better.
As if unconditionally led into the epoch of the country’s own disparaging, pending slaughter – ever ”more dreadful from each foreign stroke.” A lullaby of sorts, which, unbeknown to all but the most wizened electorate of sanctified democracy minus free speech, has now been unduly lulled unto a vicious knee-jerk reaction of vainglorious, hateful countenance.

To which many have already pronounced: let the vengeance commence, despite the fact that in: ”in the early decades of the twentieth century, business leaders condemned civil liberties as masks for subversive activity, while labour sympathizers denounced the courts as shills for industrial interests […]. As self-proclaimed partisans in the class war, the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union promoted a bold vision of free speech that encompassed unrestricted picketing and boycotts. Over time, however, they subdued their rhetoric to attract adherents and prevail in court […]. Conversely, conservatives eager to insulate industry from government regulation pivoted to embrace civil liberties, despite their radical roots. The resulting transformation in constitutional jurisprudence – often understood as a triumph for the Left – was in fact a calculated bargain.”

A bargain, surely worth it’s weight within the fine parameters of free- speech-actuated gold?

With such chapter headings as ‘Freedom of Speech in Class War Time,’ ‘The Citadel of Civil Liberty,’ ‘The Right of Agitation,’ ‘Old Left, New Rights,’ ‘The Civil Liberties Consensus’ and ‘Free Speech of Fair Labour,’ The Taming Of Free Speech – America’s Civil Liberties Compromise is an overtly bold and authoritative account of the history of free speech in America. Its assimilation thereof, might in some quarters be considered a little too dense, perhaps a little too dry for its own good; but given Weinrib’s acute account of what is clearly a complex subject, this is by the by.

As Mark Tushnet of Harvard Law School substantiates: ”Weinrib’s important reconstruction of the history of our notions of free expression shows how an idea first offered on behalf of labour radicals became transformed into a general account of why all dissent from the conventional should be protected.”

All in all, a major contribution to civil liberties; especially right now – in 2017.

David Marx

From The War On Poverty to the War on Crime


From The War On Poverty to the War on Crime – The Making of Mass Incarceration in America
By Elizabeth Hinton
Harvard University Press – £22.95

One cannot help but wonder how America’s new president, Donald of Trump Towers, would react to this book. A thought, to which all intents and perpetual purposes of incarceration, is a mode of impossible and inexorable practice, set in place some fifty years ago by President Lyndon Johnson.

Known as the ”War on Crime,” lest it be said that prison cells, unlawful arrest and law enforcement agencies have, for said time period, functioned as the ”central engine of American inequality.” Inequality, being the key word here, as one need look no further than what is happening in the United States right now. In 2017.

A country where one in every thirty-one adults is under some form of penal control, including one in eleven African American men.

It does indeed make one wonder how the supposed land of the free can boast of being the world’s largest prison system; especially when one takes into account that it has more wealth, more oil, more cars, more food-stocks, indeed, more of everything than anywhere else in the world.

Including more guns. And THEREIN lies the fundamental answer to a problem that is clearly out of control.

Out of control, because many would also agree with regards the trajectorial caveat, that America has more than its fair share of stupid people – many of whom buy the guns. Yet, perhaps more importantly still: the country is inundated with greed.

More greed than anywhere you care to name. Not to mention division, whereby most white people automatically receive a far, far bigger share of the pie when compared to their African American compatriots. So it’s hardly surprising the country has more people locked up than any other nation; less surprising still that there are more African Americans in jail than any other racial group. A social breakdown upon which From The War On Poverty to the War on Crime – The Making of Mass Incarceration in America sheds an abundance of clear and refreshing light.

For instance, in the chapter ‘The War On Black Poverty,’ Elizabeth Hinton writes: ”Declining job prospects for African Americans during the second half of the twentieth century exacerbated segregation and poverty in the neighbourhoods where displaced southern agricultural workers congregated. As 2 million white residents left cities for suburban areas, 1.5 million black Americans migrated to industrial centres in the North and West, joined by Latinos and white Appalachians, and moved into the neighbourhoods previously occupied by European immigrants and their children. By the early 1960s, 31 percent of African Americans lived in twelve northern cities, their living conditions characterized by the isolation, marginalization, and exclusion that stemmed from segregation.”

Segregation: a social stasis that throughout these nine chapters, is comprehensively addressed time again as being the most fundamental problem in American society today.
As well as yesterday.
A problem it would seem, that has, and continues to be shamefully exacerbated by society at large and Washington’s domestic policy: ”Under Richard Nixon and his successors, welfare programmes fell by the wayside while investment in policing and punishment expanded. Anticipating future crime, policymakers urged states to build new prisons and introduced law enforcement measures into urban schools and public housing, turning neighbourhoods into targets of police surveillance.

By the 1980s, crime control and incarceration dominated national responses to poverty and inequality. The initiatives of that decade were less a sharp departure than the full realisation of the punitive transformation of urban policy implemented by Republicans and Democrats alike since the 1960s.”

These 340 pages (excluding comprehensive Notes, Acknowledgements and Index), alert us to a problem that has been going on for far too long. So long in fact, it may well end up destroying America. Although it does seem as if Donald Trump is already doing quite well on that score – without any outside assistance whatsoever.

As author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South, Matthew Lassiter has said, this is: ”an outstanding book – clear, compelling, and essential. Hinton excavates the deep roots of police militarisation, surveillance of minority communities, and the punitive shift in urban policy. Her argument that liberals were key architects of the war on crime is a necessary and even urgent corrective to conventional thinking about mass incarceration.”

So take note Messrs. Trump and Pence, and add this very fine book to your ever increasing stack of necessary, bedtime reading.

David Marx

Before Auschwitz


Before Auschwitz –
Jewish Prisoners In The Prewar Concentration Camps
By Kim Wunschmann
Harvard University Press – £33.95

So tomorrow, January 20th, we have President (elect) Donald Trump to look forward to.

He, whose parents were members of America’s Klu Klux Klan organisation, will enter what has to be the most powerful office in the world. An ever increasing, wayward world might I add, in which tyrants and terrorists, deprivation and division, continue to make headlines; while those who kneel at the alter of hedge-fund hypocrisy, continue to succeed in keeping it that way.

It’s as if the populace of the so-called intelligent species, has learnt absolutely nothing.

Nic that is, other than:
a) wholeheartedly know how to turn away when someone else is in need (as in the cold, blooded murder of the MP, Jo Cox – who, as she lay on the ground being to stabbed to death, hordes of people did absolutely nothing because they far were too busy filming her murder on their mobile phones)
b) wholeheartedly embrace the dictum: what’s in it for me?

Just two exceedingly valid reasons why people need to at least be made aware of January 27th, Holocaust Memorial Day, to comprehend an iota of where blatant ignorance can lead. In a word, Trump., in anther word., ISIS., in another (chilling yet infamous) word, Auschwitz.

The world would indeed be wise to take note of Before Auschwitz – Jewish Prisoners In The Prewar Concentration Camps, which pioneers the formulaic and prerequisite ideological stance of nationally condoned suffering, barbarity and murder.

The book’s six chapters, Introduction and Conclusion, compellingly unearths the little-known origins of the concentration camp system in the years leading up to the Second World War, and reveals the instrumental role of these extralegal detention centres in the development of Nazi policies towards Jews (and its eventual plans to create a racially pure Third Reich): ”First of all, a historical study of the imprisonment of Jews before 1939 demands an understanding of the period in its own right. The concentration camps of the pre-war era were different from the wartime camps. They had different forms and different functions. Simply to place them into a seemingly linear development of Nazi anti-Jewish policy […] would miss the particularity of the pre-war period. The development that ultimately culminated in genocide on an unprecedented scale was neither preordained nor the direct result of a single man’s long-standing fantasies. Karl Schleunes’s concept of ”the twisted road to Auschwitz” is more apposite, helping us to grasp a process of gradual development in response to outside influences and internal power rivalries, a process that, at each stage, might have pointed to a different destination.”

A different destination indeed, which, from the relative comfort of hindsight, is all too easy say, come to terms with, and ultimately assimilate. But these 235 pages (not including Appendix: SS Ranks and U.S. Army Equivalents, Abbreviations, Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgements and Index) really ought to shunt hindsight unto the Rose Garden of The White House – for all the world’s media to witness on a regular basis.

If not the Oval Office itself, although, knowing Trump, he’d probably deny the fact that The Holocaust ever took place.

In investigating more than a dozen camps, from Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen to less familiar sites, authoress Kim Wunschmann uncovers a process of terror designed to identify and isolate German Jews, primarily from 1933 to 1939. During this period, shocking accounts of camp life filtered through to the German population, sending the preposterous message that Jews were different from true Germans: they were portrayed as dangerous to associate with and fair game for barbaric acts of intimidation and violence.

The latter of which is rather like Brexit’s reaction to non-Englanders, only on a far bigger, far more criminal level. But hey, it’s still early days.
And tomorrow we have Trump, to look forward to.

As Robert Gellately, author of Stalin’s Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War has written, Before Auschwitz is ”an impressive, well-written study of a little-known chapter in the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Wunschmann has carried out prodigious archival research, unearthing all kinds of interesting and troubling material, particularly on the fate of Jewish citizens who were sent to the camps without trial and held without rights in what the police euphemistically called ‘protective custody.’ Her book will certainly find a wide readership.”

Here’s hoping it will, because it’s outwardly brave, memorably brazen and overtly bodacious.

David Marx

The Great Convergence


The Great Convergence –
Information Technology and the New Globalization
By Richard Baldwin
Belknap Harvard University Press – £22.95

”Despite the best efforts of the smartest humans, no one has found a way to know the future. This ineluctable fact has caused many thinkers to shy away from making predictions. As the Confucian poet Lao Tzu put it: ”Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.”

But this is wrong headed. We have a duty to think hard about what may be so as to better prepare society for the changes that may come. As Henri Poincare wrote in The Foundations of Science, ”It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.” Following his wise words […]., my guess is that the changes will be radical and disruptive.”

                                                                                        (‘Looking Ahead’)

If the corrosive events of the last week in America are anything to go by, economist Richard Baldwin is absolutely, stunningly (yet unfortunately) correct. That said, this book does endeavour to change the way we think about globalization – rather than the future of humanity.

To be sure, other than having taken a colossal leap forward in the early 1800s (when steam power and a period of global peace lowered the costs of moving goods); it ought to perhaps be emphasised that globalization underwent a revolutionary change in communication technology during the 1990s. The result of which fundamentally altered globalization forever, which Baldwin – both commendably and logically – tackles head-on throughout The Great Convergence – Information Technology and the New Globalization.

A book, that so far as a road-map for readers is concerned, is augmented with a helpful array of charts and graphs, and has also been written in five prime parts: ‘The Long History of Globalization in Short,’ ‘Extending the Globalization Narrative,’ ‘Understanding Globalization’s Changes,’ ‘Why It Matters’ and ‘Looking Ahead’ (quoted above).

Indeed, these 301 pages (excluding Notes, Acknowledgements and Index) should, as Jeffrey G. Williamson of Harvard University describes it: ”change the way we think about globalization. There have been two big globalization booms over the past two centuries. The first caused divergence between rich and poor nations while the second, since the 1970s, has caused convergence. With elegance, economist Richard Baldwin tells us why.”

It’s understandable as to why Williamson should think this; Baldwin is after all, Professor of International Economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and Director of the Centre for Economics Policy Research (CEPR) in London.

So in all, it’s hard to disagree with almost anything that’s written herein.
What is important or at stake however, is essentially coming to terms with the validity of the book’s dense, yet economically idiosyncratic information. Simply because it is technological change and fragmentation that (now) stands at the vanguard of globalization. The ultimate impact of which is more sudden and selective.

And, dare I say it, more unpredictable and uncontrollable; although the history of initial/factual globalization is far more predictable. The following of which, will no doubt be much to the chagrin of the recently elected white supremacist, soon to be American President, Donald Trump: ”Modern humans appeared about 200 millennia ago in Africa. As the population rose and fell, the search for additional food expanded and contracted humanity’s geographic range. For seventy-five millennia or so, this consumption-moving-to-production happened only in Africa.”

Suck on that Trump….

David Marx

Battle For Bed-Stuy


Battle For Bed-Stuy –
The Long War on Poverty in New York City
By Michael Woodsworth
Harvard University Press – £27.95

We must maintain our commitment to act, to dare, to try again. The plight of the cities, the physical decay and human despair that pervades them, is the great internal problem of the American nation, the challenge which must be met.

                                                                                            Robert F. Kennedy, 1966

What I particularly like about this book is it’s considered, yet ultimately down-to-earth approach on a grossly unnecessary subject matter, many might consider heartbreaking and inflammatory at best.

Indeed, as the United States self-implodes beneath a seemingly unstoppable torrent of racism, division, myopic stupidity and hatred, it could well be argued from afar, that much of the populace cannot, or will not, appreciate just how much is at stake in next week’s Presidential Election.

As the ultimate wretch, Donald Trump – who Robert de Niro has described as a ”punk” and Richard Branson as ”vindictive in the extreme” – continues to placate a menagerie of yahoos with his vile and spurious rhetoric of fundamentalist bollocks; it becomes increasingly hard to remember (let alone act upon) that of the opening sentiment quoted above. Although Battle For Bed-Stuy – The Long War on Poverty in New York City is a most worthy testament to that of the Kennedy era.

Moreover, that brothers John and Robert were both conveniently murdered by way of a lunatic with a firearm, acts as something of a current-day template for what’s happening amid so many of America’s inner-cities. Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Brooklyn neighbourhood upon which this fine book is essentially based, being a prime example.

An area which houses 400,000 predominantly black, poor residents, it is often derided as America’s largest ghetto; which, for all intents and investigative purposes, these eight chapters do much to bring to our attention. As already mentioned, Michael Woodsworth (who teaches history at Bard High School Early College in Queens) has approached this book with a most approachable and open manner.

From the very outset, he intersperses the socio-political with humanistic values: ”Elsie Richardson stood shivering on a windy street corner in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant district, one of the poorest places in New York City. A gray midwinter sky hung low above her head; beneath her feet, a thin layer of wet snow concealed crumbling sidewalks. Richardson was a mother of three who spent her days working as a school secretary and packed her nights and weekends with community organizing and committee meetings. The next few hours would define her career as an activist – but the main thing on her mind was the cold […] When Elsie was ten and her family was living in East Harlem, her father lost his job working in a tie factory; days later, the family saw everything they owned disappear in a tenement fire that killed five people. It was 1932 – the depths of the Great Depression. They’d seen the fire coming, suspecting the landlord might burn the building down to collect an insurance payout. Elsie’s father had even placed a ladder by the back window of their third-floor apartment, just in case. The ladder saved Elsie and her three siblings. But they reached safety too late for their father to scramble up and salvage his last paycheck, which sat neatly folded in the pocket of his work pants, waiting to be cashed. Elsie desperately held onto is legs, afraid he would try to clamber back into the blaze. Then the air filled with the screams of children – Elsie’s neighbours – burning to death. For the rest of her days, that indelible memory would inspire Richardson’s activism.”

Such reading, only highlights both the shame and the travesty with which so much of American society, or Western society in general, still operates and unfortunately conducts itself. Whether it’s the Great Depression or the scandalous banking crisis of 2009, the fact that scumbag landlords are still burning down buildings (quite often with tenants inside) to pocket an insurance payout, or simple, endemic racism. The latter of which has also been on the increase in the United Kingdom thanks to Brexit.

Gritty and earthy, factual yet never dull, Battle For Bed-Stuy makes for powerful and at times, poignant reading; although I can’t imagine it’ll be on Trump’s bedside table.

David Marx

Justifying Genocide


Justifying Genocide –
Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler
By Stefan Ihrig
Harvard University Press – £25.95

In this book’s third chapter (‘The Triumph of German Anti-Armenianism’) under the sub-heading ‘The Cure That Kills,’ Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Stefan Ihrig contends: ”In the Turkish Empire there is a word that has a dangerous sound, a word like powder and explosive fuse…Whenever the sick man calls for a doctor, the latter prescribes ”reforms.” The sick man senses that he cannot stomach the medicine. He says, ”Yes, doctor!,” but then pours the Occidental drops into the Bosporus.”

Sound familiar?

Given that ”Turkey’s parliament has informed the Council of Europe of its intention to partially withdraw from the European convention on human rights in the aftermath of last weekend’s failed coup attempt” (The Guardian – 22 July 2016), this altogether brittle, but in a way, brilliant book, couldn’t have come at a better time.

Although when approached from a slightly different angle, many might contend that it should also come as no surprise that there’s such a large influx of Turkish people living throughout much of today’s Germany. And has been ever since the nineteen-fifties. Berlin especially, where I myself spent the best part of three years living in an area called Wedding, formerly known as Red Wedding (due to the countless street battles which took place during the twenties – between predominantly Communist and other revolutionary factions). To this day, the up-and-coming area remains one of the city’s quintessential Turkish hot-spots, where it has to be said, relations are more than amicable and accepted to say the least.

There again, there is an inherent, historical linearity between Germany and Turkey, which Justifying Genocide – Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler more than testifies: ”Yet another excellent book by Stefan Ihrig about the uncanny German-Turkish connection. The story of the Armenian Genocide and its reception in post-World War I Germany thus becomes a German, not a Turkish or Armenian, story about racism and the road taken by Germany toward the Holocaust” (Moshe Zimmermann, Hebrew University of Jerusalem).

Indeed, this eye-opening, rather revelatory book, is the first comprehensive study of its kind – wherein author Ihrig, highlights how most Germans were more prone to view Armenians through a prism of racial inequality rather than that of a clear-cut religious tonality. Hence Armenians at the time, oft referred to as ‘the Jews of the Orient.’

Excluding Notes and Index, these 371 pages do much to illuminate a well analysed, albeit perplexing period in German-Turkish relations, where, before the First World War, may Germans ”sympathized with the Ottomons’ long-standing repression of the Armenians and would go on to defend vigorously the Turks’ wartime program of extermination.”

To be sure, after the war, in what Ihrig terms ”the great genocide debate,” German nationalists first denied and then ultimately justified genocide in rather flippant, if not fraught, grandiose terminology.

Such is touched upon throughout this most readable of books, which, apart from being cloyingly compelling, is altogether resolute in it’s devout need to truly tell it as it must have surely been: ”Anyone who is familiar with the circumstances knows sufficiently well that it is the agents of the Triple Entente, especially those of Russia and England, who are using any opportunity to stir up the Armenians to rebellion against the imperial government. These incessant machinations have intensified since the outbreak of hostilities between the Ottomon Empire and the above mentioned governments… In light of these facts, it was the duty of the imperial government to use all the means in its legal powers to suppress the revolution. The imperial government thus saw itself forced to seek the military suppression on the one hand, and on the other to arrest revolutionary Armenians (Chapter Eight – ‘What Germany Could Have Known’).

Again, sound familiar?

Does the above not have varying echoes of the current-day ”machinations” of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government?

And does not history simply insist on repeating itself – again and again and again and again?

For just a smidgen of confirmation, most definitely read this book.

David Marx