Click here to buy _Cigar-Box Faust_ by Michael Swanwick
 
The Infinite Matrix
 

Stories Columns Archive FAQ Home
 
 

I C London, I C France  
I C London, I C France

a weekly blog
by Howard Waldrop

like waldrop?
so do we.

make howard prosperous.

send money.

Donate via PayPal:



or via Amazon's Honor System:

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More



Or buy yourself something at Amazon.com.

More options on the Contributions page.

T H A N K S !


In Association with Amazon.com

 

05.09.04

Schicklgrubers on Parade

Tomorrow Belongs to Me.

"Whistle while you work
Hitler is a jerk,
Mussolini has no weenie
So whistle while you work."
        — unofficial WWII version of the song

"Hitler, he only had one ball.
Goering had two but they were small.
Himmler had somethin' sim'lar,
But poor Goebbels
had no balls at all."
        — words to "Colonel Bogey's March"
(which is why they had to whistle it in Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957)


The Nazis are always with us. Not just in our quotidian lives — wasn't "Director of Homeland Security" one of Goering's early titles? ("If the British bomb Berlin, you can call me Buzzard!") — but they will just not leave our imaginations alone, either.

As in: Picasso was walking through the Louvre one day during the Occupation. A Luftwaffe general, standing in front of the Guernica, saw him and asked, "Did you do this?"

"No," said Picasso. "You did."

When the Wehrner von Braun biopic, starring Curt Jurgens, came out in 1960, there were protesters standing directly under the marquees (which said "I Aim at the Stars") with picket signs that said "But Sometimes I Hit London."

Or, as Tom Lehrer said of the Germans, we taught them a lesson in 1918, and they've hardly bothered us since....

From the Monty Python "Joke That Won the War" (Hitler: I have a dog without a nose. 300,000 Storm Troopers at the Nuremberg Rally: How does he smell? Hitler: Terrible!) to the latest skinhead spraypainting an American Indian swastika (left-to-right bend on the crosses, rather than the right-to-left ones on the Official Nazi ones) on some synagogues, you just can't get away from them.

Some say it was the shiny boots. Others say it was the pockets in the uniforms (in the Weimar inflation, and the early part of the Depression, men's pants and shirts were made without pockets to save on time and materials). If you joined after about 1928, you had a place to go at night; you had shirts and pants with pockets; you got to ride around in trucks and beat up Commies, wimps, and Jews the nights before elections. (Much the same reasons many adolescent Americans hung around the YCL in the Depression — "We heard there were women down there with mattresses strapped to their backs!" — either Isaac Asimov or Fred Pohl). You got to go into the equivalent of the CCC — close-order drill with shovels, glider practice, firearms training; three hots and a cot and 10 billion Deutschemarks a month — to get around that pesky Versailles Treaty, so you in effect had 2 million military reservists (not called as such) by 1938.

If you were a teenage brainiac crazy about space travel, you found yourself offered unlimited funds and equipment to develop liquid-fuel rockets for the Wehrmacht — only you had to quit talking about it, as, once again, the Versailles Treaty prohibited Germany from having any long-range artillery, but forgot to limit (or mention) rockets.... They would even later build a factory-city for you, Peenemunde. You could watch spaceships you once dreamed of leave the atmosphere — for a minute or two, anyway, before coming down and ending someone else's dream of living out their lives in peace after the war.

When WWII started, airplanes — which had only been around for 36 years - were flying at 300mph using propellers. A short six years later they were going 600 mph and used rockets or jets for engines.

There would be television-guided tracked explosives the size of dogs, and a manned antiaircraft rocket that took off so fast the pilots blacked out. (The Natter rose vertically 10,000 feet a minute — the craft was radio-controlled from the ground until the pilot regained consciousness, levelled out and fired a cluster of twenty-four antiaircraft rockets — like a big shotgun — at bomber formations; then the pilot bailed out when the ship ran out of fuel. The plane had its own parachute, and was to be refitted and reused again and again. Or that was the plan, anyway.)

They were going to give Hitler Youth two weeks of glider training and then put them into Volksjaegers — the HE 162 People's Fighter, a 500 mph single-engine jet-job, made mostly of wood and tin, armed with two 20mm cannon — and sic them on B-24s, B-17s and Short Stirling bombers.

There were two different plans to bomb NYC — one with a flying-wing jet capable of the bomb run and return flight to Berlin; the other with the Saenger antipodal rocket plane, which left the atmosphere, dropped its bomb load from fifty miles up, then skipped and braked on the edges of the atmosphere and landed on the other side of the world.

In short, the Nazis turned WWII into the first science-fiction war.

There is the argument that everything the Allies did was to keep the Nazis from going Buck Rogers on the world, especially in the early stages of the Manhattan Project — they thought the Germans would get The Bomb first, and that would be that.

What kept that from happening was that the Nazis ran out of time, room, oil and steel long before they ran out of ideas, or the will to fight. They were pounded about halfway back to the Stone Age ("We could bomb more, but it would only make the rubble bounce." — Winston Churchill) by strategic air strikes, night and day, for three and a half years, from three directions.

There are descriptions from the last days of the war of the wonder-weapon jet and rocket planes sitting on the airfields, armed up, ready to fly — except there was no rubber for the landing gear and no fuel for the jet engines. The flight crews watched Allied bombers and fighters coming over in unopposed waves, endless formations. Then the SS men showed up, handed them rifles and helmets, and marched them off to fight alongside the 80- and 12-year-olds, against crack Russian tank columns, manned by pissed-off guys who could smell Berlin on the wind....

And so it went; you could tell the same story a million times over. As Woody Allen had it, Hitler's big trouble was telling distances on maps. "Look! It's only this far from Berlin to Moscow! What's the big holdup?"

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But while it was happening, it didn't seem so funny. They looked at Lubitsch aghast when he made To Be or Not to Be ("So they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt, do they?") with Jack Benny. But as someone said, Lubitsch merely showed the Germans had bad manners, thus you would think they were capable of any atrocity....

And now we move into the heart of the matter: why even though Hitler lost, he Won.

 


I C London, I C France, which may be the Web's most technologically primitive blog, is brought to you through the typing, proofreading, editorial, and coding efforts of Team Waldrop, also known as Mary Kay Kare (proudly reality-based) and L. Blunt Jackson (Seattle, Philadelphia, Tau Ceti), and via the steadfast couriers of the United States Postal Service. Much thanks to all involved!

New: Locus Magazine is offering a special deal on the issue with the superb Heart-of-Waldrop photo and interview. Che'ekidaou'ut.

Howard Waldrop is a legend in his own time. He writes, he fishes, he builds bookcases. He does not have a cellphone, a computer, or an email account.

For someone who is about as wired as an echidna, Howard has a pretty substantial online career. He has had a website since 1997. You can read The Ugly Chickens, The Other Real World, Winter Quarters, D = R x T, and his collaboration with Leigh Kennedy, One Horse Town, on SciFiction. Mary Margaret Roadgrader is available on the excellent Strange Horizons. He has an occasional column, Crimea River, on Electric Story. And now he has a blog. Go figure.

For additional embellishments of the Waldrop legend, see Who Is Howard Waldrop, Anyway? For extravagant lies about Howard, see Alternate Waldrops, on Strange Horizons. Howard's most recent books are Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations and Dream Factories and Radio Pictures. Buy 'em.

home | stories | columns | archive | faq | talk