Monday, January 7, 2019

Robert Lyman's "Under a Darkening Sky"

Robert Lyman is the author of numerous books, including Among the Headhunters and The Real X-Men. Widely regarded as one of Britain's most talented historians, he is a former officer in the British Army and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He lives in Berkshire, England.

Lyman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Under a Darkening Sky: The American Experience in Nazi Europe: 1939-1941, and reported the following:
The book sets out to record the views of expatriate Americans in Europe in the period leading up to Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States in December 1941. An amazing 30,000 Americans were known to be in Europe at this point, 5,000 in France, from a high point in the 1930s when there were 30,000 in France alone. It starts in fact with letters, diaries, newspaper articles and books published as early as 1933. I wrote the book as an exercise in discovery, not knowing what I would find in terms of American observer’s attitudes to the increasing power and influence of the Nazi party in Germany, or of the outworking of Nazi policies in Germany – and further afield – as the decade progressed. While it’s true that I focused on published views, which itself is somewhat self-selecting, I found that the overwhelming majority of voices loudly expressed their fears for the safety of Germany, and of the free world with a stridency and alarm not heard from within a Europe desperate to appease Hitler in a misguided attempt to prevent another war. Page 99 finds us in Berlin on the day that France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, in response to the illegal invasion of Poland three days before. William Russell, a consular clerk in the US embassy, attempted to understand how millions of Germans were willing to believe Nazi propaganda. He concluded that apathy had much to do with it. I write:
One Sunday he asked a German friend—no Nazi, a member of an old aristocratic family—for the reason behind the Nazi hold on the German people. The man thought carefully before he replied. “Four percent of the people are for Adolf Hitler,” he said quietly. “Six percent of the people are against him, and the other ninety percent don’t care one way or the other.” Germany was en route to destruction because of the 4 percent who had voted for repression and the 90 percent who had foolishly abdicated from playing any sort of role in the political process. The self-immolation of a nation that had begun on January 30, 1933, and which was to last for twelve and a half hellish years, was the result of the carelessness of an entire nation.
This pretty much sums up the entire book!
Visit Robert Lyman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue