Fighting Words

My letter below was published in the Washington Post Book World on Sunday, September 2, 2007. Following my letter is the reviewer's own response to my criticism, and then a somewhat-satirical, but-you-get-the-point response to the reviewer describing the review that I think he should have written if he wanted to be fair.

Nancy Pace's letter:

“Andrew Nagorski apparently thinks Giles MacDonogh shouldn't have bothered to dredge up all those nasty facts about the occupation of Germany in After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, because, after all, the Germans had it coming, and Allied cruelties were understandable considering their pain and sacrifices (Book World, “The Squall After The Whirlwind,” Aug. 26).

In fact, while we're at it, why don't we just throw away the entire historical record of suffering by losers of all wars throughout history, because they all deserved what they got? From now on, let's write only one-sided histories glorifying the bloody actions of wars' winners and keep on using history primarily to perpetuate the myth that conflicts have only one side worth listening to. That way, we can have more wars.

Justifying fresh injustices by pointing out past injustices does nothing to end the cycle of violence and retribution. Every war, like every retaliatory “peace,” sows the bloody dragon seeds reaped in future wars. Good historians rightly tell the story of the suffering on both sides of wars and about how all the leaders failed to keep the peace.”

ANDREW NAGORSKI'S REPLY on Sept. 2 (in the Washington Post):

Ms Pace seems to have deliberately misread my review. As I pointed out, this last gruesome chapter of World War II needs to be told. And the efforts of the Poles, Czechs and others to confront such uncomfortable truths should be commended. But historians have an obligation to put the events they chronicle in their proper context and to avoid anything that smacks of moral equivalency between the crimes of the Nazi regime and the revenge exacted by some of the victors.

HERE'S THE ANDREW NAGORSKI BOOK REVIEW I (Nancy Pace) WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE SEEN. (I published this in the comments section below the above Nagorski comment in the Washington Post online, and he probably read it.) I hope it helped….:

Finally. At last. A reputable historian has found not only the courage, but the commitment, perseverence, and moral fortitude to report on “the other side” of WWII, to lift up and look under the few remaining pebbles of undestroyed evidence, and to climb over the huge boulders of resistance strewn for generations by the war's victors in their massive efforts to block such reporting, as victors always do.

To be sure, as a loyal and patriotic supporter of the war's victorious Allied side, I might have preferred to see a little more context about my side's sufferings. However, I can certainly understand why Giles MacDonogh didn't feel it necessary to re-tell that particular story, since hundreds, perhaps thousands of historians have already told it in great and welcome detail—i.e., the desperately tragic story of Allied suffering.

However, I recognize that Mr. MacDonogh's difficult task of researching and reporting on the previously under-reported suffering of the losers was certainly a daunting enough task, one difficult to confine to a single volume, without adding extraneous material beyond “perfunctory nods.” Therefore, MacDonogh's effort is a warmly welcomed addition to the reporting on this war, well-worth his considerable trouble. I hope his noteworthy efforts will be recognized and rewarded, and that he will be widely commended for undertaking this long-neglected task, and for filling in an important part of history's sad record of the suffering of the losers of war everywhere.

(Ps. I, Nancy Pace, am no expert on WWII, nor have I any connection with either above writer. Nor have I read the book in question. I am reacting to what I consider probably unintentioned and unconcious bias in historical writing/reviewing. (I would have retitled the Andrew Nagorski review: “YES, BUT….”) Please. All sides, whether citizens or soldiers–all innocents alike–suffer in all wars, which are generally initiated and sold by short-sighted, inadequately informed, megalomaniacal, greedy leaders unwilling or unable to empathize, communicate, and make difficult (but bloodless) compromises with one another.)

Please see Nagorski's original review at  the Washington Post website:

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