Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Thoughts About a Training Film For American Soldiers (1946)

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It is interesting to watch training films that are shown to American military personnel serving in combat zones. I found this orientation film that was made for American soldiers serving in Germany at the end of World War Two. The film conveys clearly the sense that there was smoldering resentment among the defeated Germans. It counseled caution to American soldiers against even the most benign and appealing opportunities for fraternisation, for personal friendships with Germans. Indeed, even in the late 1940's, well after 1945, there were instances of terror and sabotage against allied troops.

The most interesting point that is made repeatedly in the film is that people and regimes are a product of their history. The events of World War Two and the rise of the Third Reich had their roots in German character and historical events that long preceded the outbreak of the war and the Holocaust.

It would be interesting to see such a film made about Iraq. Much like the allies discovered at the end of the war, toppling a tyrant is far easier than changing hearts, minds and political culture. In both countries, there was a gap in perception between occupying forces and the country being occupied. Even today in Germany and in Japan there is a revision of how the defeated countries view their past. Helmut Kohl served notice of this when he coaxed President Reagan into visiting a Nazi cemetery at Bitburg. And the Japanese have likewise signalled their return to some aspects of entrenched thinking by erecting shrines in which homage is paid to Japanese war criminals. They have refused to take responsibility for the Rape of Nanking and the establishment of military brothels with women kidnapped in countries under their occupation.

Although we have enjoyed almost seventy years of peace since the end of World War Two, the shift in historical narrative in the defeated Axis countries reinforces the idea that change in political culture is a slow process even after a military conquest. We are fortunate that such documentary relics as exemplified by this film remain to instruct us. I am grateful to You Tube that through them I am able to present this training film. Sphere: Related Content

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