Review of The Origins of the Second World War | Murray N. Rothbard

[From a memo to Mr. Kenneth Templeton at the William Volker Fund, April 18, 1962.]

It is not often that one is privileged to review a book of monumental import, a truly significant “breakthrough” from obscuran­tism to historical knowledge and insight. But such a book is the magnificent work by A.J .P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1961 — now New York: Athenaeum, 1962).

As Taylor points out and explains at the beginn­ing of this book, Revisionism of World War II, in every country of the world, has been virtually non-existent. In the United States Pearl Harbor revisionism has progressed a long way, and built up a successful body of historical literature, so that its opponents have had to beat one retreat after another.

But, in vivid contrast to the situation after World War I, the origins of the ”1939 war in Europe have been a locked door,” and the historical profession, as well as all the general public and official opinion, in all the countries involved, have clung grimly and tenaciously to almost the same views that were held at the height of the­ conflict itself.

While there has been a substantial shift in the wartime view that all Germany is and was forever guilty of war there has been no shift in the wartime view of Hitler and his Administration, and of the supposedly sole guilt which they incurred. The extent of the stifling atmosphere is indicated by the automatic disreputability, the shock, and shame, which any deviation from this propaganda line incurs if expressed verbally or in print.

Any raising of the semblance of a doubt over the official line that (a) Hitler was bent on conquering the world, and (b) the only way to meet the situation was to take a “firm” line and stop him, is to incur the automatic charge of being “pro-Hitler” or “pro-Nazi.” In the same way, the “historical blackout” operates today in the Cold War; any intimation that the Soviet is not solely responsible for the Cold War is met with the charge of being “pro-Communist” or “soft on Communism.”

All this is immeasurably aided by the old propaganda trick of identifying a State’s domestic with its foreign policy; paint a government’s domestic policy as wicked enough (e.g., Hitler, Communism), and the ignorant and the superficial will automatically agree that this wicked government must be guilty, and uniquely guilty, of any wars or threats of war that might arise, and that conversely the “good” United States (or Britain or France) will be uniquely innocent and virtuous.

In the United States, even Pearl Harbor revisionism could only fight its way against heavy and oppressive odds, and its champions could be written off by the Establishment as either “mere journalists” (Morgenstern, Chamberlin) or as former isolationists and opponents of U.S. entry into the war (Barnes, Tansill, et al.) — although this was hardly a disqualification for the most enthusiastic praise lavished on such renegade ex-isolationists as Langer, Commager, et al. And, Pearl Harbor revisionism has faced no difficulties compared to revisionism on Hitler and Germany — for the wartime emotionalism whipped up here and abroad against Japan was as nothing compared to the frenzy whipped up against Germany and against Hitler. Here the blackout war-born propaganda frenzy has been virtually total. Continue reading “Review of The Origins of the Second World War | Murray N. Rothbard”