Today I have a miscellaneous collection of links, anyone of which could merit a story of its own.
I’m one of those people who has 2-3 or 4-6 books going at the same time. So much to read, so little time. You book people get it. Anyway, John Keegan‘s The First World War is one I’ve dabbling in since September of last year. I’m weak in the period, especially the European side of things so I often go to British and German news organizations to see what they report on, World War wise. Link #1 is from the English version of Der Speigel and it features pictures of rock wall carvings made by French soldiers in the First World War. Trench warfare required that soldiers of all sides dig deeper and finding rock caves to protect them from artillery bombardments would be a great find. So over the years of a static front these particular French soldiers carved all sorts of things into the rock walls of their shelters. The pictures capture what the average soldier thinks about in times of war, friends, family, faith, patriotism and in this case red wine!
I have a keen interest in British history, although I confess to many gaps of understanding when it comes to keep track of royals. The so-called Napoleonic period is of particular interest and I’m decidedly pro-British which causes a bit of awkwardness when it comes to the War of 1812. Yeah, I want the Brits to smash “Boney” but on the other hand stop impressing our citizens into your Navy!
Anyway, the British Army (and Navy for that matter) were the finest in the world in 1815 when The Battle of Waterloo was fought. The army was never all that large compared to the other major European powers but it was very well-trained. The line infantry or “red coat” was probably the dominate infantryman from the time of Seven Years War to roughly WW1 (red coats were down away with in the 1880′s) and at Waterloo it was the red coat along with Dutch-Belgian and Prussian allies that once and for all defeated Napoleon.
Link #2 is from the British Mail Online and it details the finding of the skeleton of a red coat who fell at Waterloo. Thus far they figure the man was around 20 years of age and from what they’ve found thus far appears to have been from a line infantry regiment. They hope they can find which regiment and thus find out the young man’s name. It’s a bit sad if you think about it. The lad never came home, his mates knew he was dead, but forgot where so the lad’s family would just know he fell somewhere at Waterloo.
This link is from the Chronicle Review and it discusses the European Atrocity You Never Heard of. It has to do with the forcible deportation of Germans who lived in Czechoslovakia and Poland (and other countries) after the German surrender in May of 1945. Before both World Wars the borders of various European countries were fluid and the people who lived in one country often had the ethnicity of another country. For example, ancestors of mine on my mother’s side were Polish, yet they lived in German Pomerania or East Prussia. This was quite common as borders shifted according to what country now controlled what.
As a result Germans and Austrians could be found in most of the European countries, Czechoslovakia and Poland having rather large populations. Following WW2 these now hated ethnic minorities were kicked out as emotion ran high given the brutal occupation of those countries by the Nazis. And when I say brutal that is what I mean. We are all familiar with the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
So, some believed, including the victorious Americans, British and Russians that the Germans and Austrians getting kicked out was only right and they were getting what was coming to them. The problem was a rather significant amount of atrocities perpetrated on the expelled people. This snippet from the article gives you a sense of proportion of what I’m talking about:
Between 1945 and 1950, Europe witnessed the largest episode of forced migration, and perhaps the single greatest movement of population, in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians—the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16—were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland. (Chronicle Review)
Personally, I think the story illustrates the fact that ethnicity has nothing to do with the ability to inflict an atrocity. Left unchecked by decent authority every ethnicity is capable of the very worst of crimes. My faith would call this “total depravity.” It doesn’t mean that every man commits the evil he is capable of; it just means we’re all capable of every kind of evil. And that should be sobering.