Talk:John Wheeler-Bennett

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The exchanges of 2007[edit]

Through most of the information here is accurate, it is presented in a strongly moralistic tone that condemns Wheeler-Bennett for his views about the German opposition. Moreover, I strongly doubt that Wheeler-Bennett took “pleasure” as this page puts over Strauffenberg's execution in 1944, let alone in 1964 when he wrote the revised edition of The Nemesis of Power. Moreover, some of the charges here, such as that Wheeler-Bennett sought to falsify the historical record are rather slanderous at best, and require endnotes. Moroever, the charge that more people died in the period between July 1944-May 1945, and if only the July 20 Plot had succceded, these deaths would not have occured, is besides containing some dubious counter-factual assumpations (e.g the German Army was fanatically anti-Nazi, and the only reason why the July 20 putsch failed was because of lack of British support), implys that the deaths of millions of people were single-handly caused by Wheeler-Bennett's negative views towards the German opposition-quite an indictment! This page needs to present a summary of Wheeler-Bennett's views, not a condemnation. --A.S. Brown 19:29, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

Agreed.--Mcattell 17:28, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
- "Pleasure" does appear to be an accurate description of Wheeler-Bennett's written reaction in his 25 July 1944 Foreign Office memo, but "satisfaction" may be a less emotional way of describing his emotions.
- Casualty figures in the Second World War are notoriously difficult to accurately estimate. I, at least, cannot quickly find on Google a source that either confirms or refutes the article's statement that "more people were killed in the Second World War in the months after the failure of the July 20 Plot than had been killed in the years beforehand." But Emeritus Professor Gordon A. Craig of Stanford University, for example, states here http://www.iht.com/articles/1994/07/20/edgord.php that most deaths in concentration camps took place after September 1944. He suggests that the July 20 Plot offered the possibility that the conspirators "could have stopped the killing in the camps and saved millions of lives," whilst noting that this may not have happened. Like Professor Craig, the article does imply that the July 20 Plot might have saved lives. That does seem a reasonable comment to set Wheeler-Bennett's views in their historical context. (However, the article does not state - unlike A.S. Brown's presentation of it - that these deaths "would not" have happened.) But it should be noted that, whether or not the article's implication is correct, Wheeler-Bennett would not have known this when he wrote the memo described by his colleague as "a vitriolic little paper."
- The article - very properly as it is not about the July 20 Plot - does not speculate further about what might have been and does not assume that "the German Army was fanatically anti-Nazi, and the only reason why the July 20 putsch failed was because of lack of British support)." Nor does the article state or imply "that the deaths of millions of people were single-handly [sic] caused by Wheeler-Bennett's negative views towards the German opposition." It is hard to see why A.S. Brown criticises the article for statements and assumptions it does not make.
- Perhaps A.S. Brown should re-read the article and consider once again whether the criticisms made of it are justified? The article does contain sources which do reveal Wheeler-Bennett as open to valid criticism, whilst also noting that he was in his time influential. WikiUser9957 11:25, 1 August 2007 (UTC)
- The respected German historian Joachim Fest states in his 1994 book "Staatsstreich. Der lange Weg zum 20. Juli" that about 2.8 million Germans were killed from 1 September 1939 to 20 July 1944, and that about 4.8 million Germans were killed in the 10 months from 21 July 1944 until the beginning of May 1944. To put it another way, Fest notes that an average of 1,588 German people were every day killed before the July 20 Plot, and an average of 16,641 German people were every day killed after the plot. As Fest underlines, these figures do not take into account the millions of non-Germans killed in the Second World War. Given this and Professor Gordon A. Craig's statement that most concentration camp victims were killed after the July 20 Plot, criticism of the article on Wheeler-Bennett for points it does not make about the increased numbers of deaths after 20 July 1944 is unjustified. A successful plot might indeed have have led to those killings not taking place, even if this is, as Professor Craig points out, not certain. So it is reasonable for the article to note the greater number of deaths after 20 July 1944, within the historical context of Wheeler-Bennett's support of murders by the Gestapo and the SS of those who took part in the July 20 Plot. As the article notes, his views on this were not shared by everyone within the British Foreign Office of the time. WikiUser9957 09:54, 2 August 2007 (UTC)
In regards to your highly unkind words and your vicious personal attack on me so highly characteristic of the German apologists , WikiUser9957, I would like to point out several things. First thing, you have taken off the neutrality tag that I attached to this article, which I think indicates that you are perfectly comfortable with the way this article currently condemns its subject. Before making any further edits, you may want to read the guidelines about neutrality. The opposition's claims here that this page is neutral is very outrageous, especially given some of the language here. Please execuse the vulgar crudeness here and for lowering the general tone, but this page makes it sound like that Wheeler-Bennett went out and masturbated when he heard of the failure of July 20th putsch by talking of his taking "pleasure" in its failure. A page that starts off with the remark about Wheeler-Bennett’s “most tragic flaws ” as a man is hardly neutral. Now, through it is true, that Wheeler-Bennett’s statements in 1933 about Hitler make cringle-worthy reading today, if we are going to refer to that as one of Wheeler-Bennett’s “tragic flaws ”, that you make want to consider that virtually every single one of the people involved in the July Bomb Plot welcomed the end of the Weimar Republic and were enthusiastic supporters of the Third Reich in its early years. And since most of these people were Army officers and bureaucrats, these people actually served Hitler, and helped to built his war machine, which surely must rankly more highly on the moral scale then Wheeler-Bennett’s naïve and misguided views that he held in 1933 (by 1934, Wheeler-Bennett had already changed his mind about the Third Reich, which is a decade or so earlier then most of the July plotters). You make to consider General Ludwig Beck's statement in 1930 at the court-martial of two German officers who were Nazi Party members, where he all but endorsed the Nazis, Carl Goerdeler’s 1934 statement that Hitler was an “enlightened dictator”, and that Claus von Stauffenberg’s statements in 1933 welcoming the Third Reich as the best thing that ever happened to Germany. So by the rights, all of the pages on those individuals ought to be rewritten to speak of their “tragic flaws” in supporting the Nazis. But somehow, I don’t see you rushing off to correct those pages. Surely, the fact that as Chief of the General Staff, General Beck worked very hard to build Hitler's war machine ought to count more against him then Wheeler-Bennett's statements? And your statement that the article makes it clear that not all of Wheeler-Bennett’s Foreign Office colleagues reflects the fact that you share the idealized view of the men of July 20th, and agree with the grossly condemnatory, and hardly neutral tone this article takes towards its subject.
And if you really want to start talking about historical context, please note that if Hitler had not come to power, then there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust to stop in 1944. And since as Wheeler-Bennett correctly pointed out, almost every one of the July Bomb leaders had worked to end the Weimar Republic and bring in the Nazis: Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. All these gentlemen didn’t like the Weimar Republic, and thought they were would be better off under the Nazis. They got their wish, and then and only then did belatedly discover what they had wished was not as wonderful as they thought it was going to be. Therefore, if the world was in a mess in 1944, then through their actions in the 1930s, they were in part responsible for causing that mess. Benjamin Franklin once said a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and one wishes that these people have been thinking of his saying when they decided to throw their lot with the Nazis in the 1930s. I rather suspect that this is the real reason why this article is so slated against its subject. Wheeler-Bennett was one of the few who in the 1950s was prepared to challenge the great German self-exonerating myth that the leaders of the July putsch were the most noble and greatest Germans, that they held broad popular support, and that the ideas of the men of July 20th were the inspiration for the Federal Republic. Wheeler-Bennett was one of the few historians to note that these people had been supporters and allies of the Nazis, and they were not aiming for a restoration of democracy. And for that, he deserves praise, not condemnation. But because you would rather prefer the myths and legends of the 1950s where the men of July 20th are the purest heroes, you are not interested in that sort of history. You talk about the men of July 20th being “murdered” by the SS, but these same men cheered when the concentration camps where set up in 1933 and were overjoyed with the end of democracy, toasted Hitler for Night of the Long Knives in 1934, praised him for the aggression against Poland in 1939, and for the most part, were completely happy with the Holocaust (more about that in a moment). When the Nazi state liquated them, it was merely giving them the same treatment that they had in earlier times had been so happy to see being given out to others (.i.e Jews, Gypsies, etc).
No, the article does not make those statements, but it does something even more invidious, it implies them. My remark about the German Army being fanatically anti-Nazi was a bit of sarcasm that apparently went right over your head, WikiUser9957. But on a more serious note, the page notes that Wheeler-Bennett wrote that the vast majority of the German Army leadership supported the Nazi regime as they felt it was the best regime for Germany (which is true by the way). The end of the page says Wheeler-Bennett’s interpretation “influenced some British historians”. The oblivious implication here is that Wheeler-Bennett’s interpretation of the German Army basically sympathetic and supportive of the Third Reich is a view held only by a few British historians, and rejected by everybody else. In actual fact, the majority of historians now criticize Wheeler-Bennett for being too sympathetic to the German Army, and in fact, the pioneering work of Omer Bartov has established beyond a shadow of doubt that the German Army was a bastion of anti-Semitism long before Hitler came to power, that the overwhelming majority of German Army leadership supported the Nazi regime, and in the occupied areas of Russia and Serbia, that the German Army played an enthusiastic and enormous role in the Holocaust. If your really interested in what the Germany Army was really like, consider reading Bartov's 1985 book The Eastern Front, 1941-1945: German Troops and the Barbarization of Warfare. As a result of Bartov's work, in a 2005 reprint of The Nemesis of Power , Richard Overy in the introduction says that everything Wheeler-Bennett said about the German Army being highly complicit in National Socialism is correct, but that Wheeler-Bennett was way too soft on the Wehrmacht (personally, I would agree with Overy). And if you read the article more carefully, you will see in remarks about Wheeler-Bennett doing a “political somersault”, and about allegedly suppressing the “moral” motivations behind the July putsch, it is clearly implied that he caused in some vague way, the failure of the July putsch must be credited to him. What the subtext of this page says is that Wheeler-Bennett worked first to cause the failure of July 20th, and then gloated over that failure, and then proceeded to use his powers as a historian to systematically and unfairly blackened the reputation of the men of July 20th. A very nice way of silencing those who take a more critical approach to July 20th then the self-serving German line about what great heroes these men are were.
Now, turning to the claim about more deaths caused after July 20, 1944 then before. No, the reason why this unreferenced and dubious historical statement in this page is to imply that Wheeler-Bennett was in some way responsible for all these millions of deaths. Your rather tortuous attempt to justify including that statement rests on several historical inaccuracies. First thing, your poor knowledge of the subject is shown by your confusion about concentration and death camps. Concentration camps were camps for Germans who in some way were displeasing to the Nazi regime (political opponents, homosexuals, etc). Through there was much suffering and an abysmally high death rate (at least 50% by 1939), they did not exist for the purpose of exterminating their inmates. That task fell to the death camps, which were death factories that existed for no other purpose then for the annihilation of the people within. The very fact that you can’t even appreciate the differences between concentration and death camps testifies to your lack of knowledge on the subject. Turning to your claim about “A successful plot might indeed have led to those killings not taking place”, I think you are assuming that the new leaders of Germany would have called off the Holocaust. To rebut your nonsensical theory, I will simply cite some of the statements made by the plot leaders to the Gestapo after they were arrested:
Johannes Popitz “As somebody who was very familiar with conditions in the System period [i.e. Weimar], my view of the Jewish question was that the Jews ought to disappear from the life of the state and the economy. However, as far as the methods were concened, I repeatedly advocated a somewhat more gradual approach, particularly in light of diplomatic considerations” (Noakes, Jeremy Nazism, Volume 4, University of Exeter Press, 1998 pages 632-633). Translation: killing Jews is OK, but we need to be less public about it because it hurts our image abroad.
Count Alexander von Stauffenberg “took the view that the Jewish question should have been dealt with in a less extreme manner because then it would have produced less disturbance among the population” (Noakes, Jeremy Nazism, Volume 4, University of Exeter Press, 1998 page 633).Translation: killing Jews is OK, but the way we go about it is upsetting the public.
Count Berthold von Stauffenberg stated “He and his brother had basically approved of the racial principle of National Socialism, but considered it to be exaggerated and excessive” (Ibid). Translation: we are with you in hating Jews, but think that you are going just a little too far with the genocide thing.
Claus von Stauffenberg's’s brother went to say that World War II was wrong because “The racial idea has been grossly betrayed in this war in that the best German blood is being irrevocably sacrificed, while simultaneously Germany is populated by millions of foreign workers, who certainly cannot be described as of high racial quality” (Ibid). I think this statement speaks for itself.
Almost every single one of the July putsch leaders had been a supporter of National Socialism in the early to mid 1930s (and in some cases until the early 1940s), and quite a few of them had blood on their hands. You want to consider the career of the Berlin police chief, Count Wolf von Helldorf, a long-time SA man and a “professional bully” noted for his cruelty towards the Jews of Berlin, who was one of the men of July 20th. And how about General Eduard Wagner, who did much to facilitate the Einsatzgruppen massacres in occupied Soviet Union. What about General Erich Hoepner, a man who so passionately applied the so-called “Commissar Order” in 1941? Let’s also consider General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, the Military Governor of France who signed the death warrant for thousands of French Resistance fighters, and who played a key role in helping to arrange for the deportations of French Jews to the death camps. And finally, let’s consider Arthur Nebe, who was one of the Einsatzgruppen commanders, a man with blood of hundreds of thousands of Jews on his hands. Now, given the background of these men, if even the July putsch had succeeded, it would had made no difference to the Jews being murdered in the Holocaust because the leaders of the July putsch were just as much nasty anti-Semitics as the Nazis. For further confirmation of this, you may want to check out Christoph Dippler's article "The German Resistance and the Jews", which can be found on pages 51–93 of Yad Vashem Studies, Volume 16, 1984. And nor would the war had ended. The political programmes of the July putsch leaders made it very clear that they expected the war to end with a Greater Germany with the Germans keeping all of their conquests in Eastern Europe. Without even considering the Allied demand for unconditional surrender, the imperialistic war aims of the July putsch leaders for Eastern Europe would had put an end to any hope of peace, so the war would had gone on, regardless of who was running Germany. The Allies planned to have the war end with Germany losing territory, whereas the leaders of the July putsch expected the war to end with Germany gaining territory. Just right there, these incompatible aims would have kept the war going, so enough of this nonsense about how many people died after July 20, 1944 vs. how many before. The success of the July putsch would have saved nobody's lives.
Now, given that Wheeler-Bennett knew a great many of the July putsch leaders before the war, what I think he meant in "a vitriolic little paper" is that A) that almost every one of these people had been supporters of the Nazis and B) that they had blood on their hands, so good riddance to bad rubbish. Indeed, when you look at the way that how most of the officers involved in July putsch had cheered when they saw Einsatzgruppen massacring Russian Jews in 1941-42, it is not difficult to come to the same conclusion that Wheeler-Bennett did in 1944, namely that was happening was that one gang of blood-strained Nazi losers was being liquidated by another gang of blood-strained Nazi losers. Personally, I think it is absolutely disgusting on your part, WikiUser9957 that you regard men like Helldorf and Nebe as great German heroes, and condemn those like Wheeler-Bennett who merely point that these men were just simply blood-strained Nazi losers who were only jumping ship when it was clear that Germany was losing the war. Personally, I rather sympathize with the poor luckless Jewish men, women and children were shot down without mercy by Nebe’s men, whom you seemed to think is some sort of a hero.----A.S. Brown (talk) 04:07, 3 August 2007(UTC)

POV dispute[edit]

I posted a tag here about four years ago, which was taken off by WikiUser9957 without any effort made to address the concerns here. The page presents Wheeler-Bennett as a totally discredited historian and claims that he engaged in unscholarly conduct. These claims have been on this page since August of 2006, and so far nothing has done to support them by citing a proper source. Perhaps it is a time to remove these statements? --A.S. Brown (talk) 03:11, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Suppressing evidence claim[edit]

I removed the claims that he used his role as archivist to suppress evidence. It was there for 4 years, and is too serious to keep without a source. Superm401 - Talk 15:51, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

Thank you, Superm401, there is much that is wrong here with these page. Thank you for improving it.--A.S. Brown (talk) 00:58, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

Obvious bias[edit]

It should be obvious to the editor who makes decisions about the content in an article like this that the principal author is far from objective. Wheeler-Bennett was a highly intelligent historian with a mind of great complexity who lived through the events described in much of his writings and wrote about them eloquently and with masterful detail and documentation. He does not deserve to be described with such simplistic and sometimes condemnatory categorical words and phrases as "conservative", "despite his lack of university education and status as a self-proclaimed amateur historian", "pro-American", "a follower of the Great Man schood of history", "right wing outlook" and so forth. In addition there are undocumented assertions that Mr. Wheeler-Bennett attempted to obstruct access to official records by persons whose interpretations of history were different than his own - a claim implying him to be guilty of gross intellectual dishonesty; this should be removed also from this page absent clear, objective proof. As for the comment about his "vitriolic little paper" this seems to be documented but obviously is selected from many other unreferenced views about the author's opinion and the selection is intended to support a one-sided interpretation. I am not sure it is possible to create a fully knowledgable and truly objective summary of the complex and far from unitary motivations and conseuences of the resistance to Hitler within the German Army, but it is at least possible to greatly improve this Wiki article by elimination of the multiple evidences of its political biases and limit the summary to actual facts about the life and writings of John Wheeler-Bennett. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jschulman555 (talkcontribs) 19:09, 2 September 2012 (UTC)