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06.08.04

Schicklgrubers on Parade

4. If you could see her through my eyes ...

 

You could hate Hitler in that first year of the war, but, like the 1950s New York Yankees in baseball, you could admire the efficient way the Third Reich sewed up Europe, parts of Africa, and the Balkans in less than twelve months.

Most people would say fine, he's just doing what the Kaiser wanted to do a couple of decades before; things will be tough for a while, but neutral American tourists can now go from France to Turkey on the same visa ...

Since Goering told him he could bomb Britain into submission, Hitler turned his eyes toward the Soviet Union.

As the Governor of California would say, "Big Mistake!"

And then there were those pesky Jews ...

Eichmann: We had taken away all their rights. They were using up resources the German people could use. We tried to give them away, but nobody would take them. So we had to kill them.

The first three sentences are true, the fourth isn't. Under the laws of the time, it was argued, it was the only path left open to the bureaucrats of the SS, hence the Wannsee Conference, hence the death camps. That's where the Nuremberg Defense - I was only following orders! - came from, to become the punchline of jokes for years.

For the first time in history, death became a problem in logistics. Modern technology solved some of it - so many trains a day, so much Zyklon B and Tabun, so many bodies per hour; the ovens could handle so many cubic feet of flesh per day ...

In the last days of the war, decisions had to be made: use the trains going west to bring back soldiers from the Eastern Front for a last stand inside Germany, or continue sending them east to the camps. They chose the latter.

"World War Two was fought to keep my grandmother from being turned into a bar of soap." - Barney, in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.

In "Winter Quarters" I had a performance artist do "Hitler the Magnificent" - a magic act. He cuts a map of Poland in half with a ripsaw. There are three people sitting in chairs: a young woman, a man playing a violin, an old man in his eighties. Hitler the Magnificent covers them with his cape, says "Gesundheit!," takes the cape away: the woman's been turned into a wisp of smoke, the violinist into a tattooed lampshade, the old man into a bar of soap. It's magic, don't you see?

And this is in a story about mammoths, folks.

You can't get away from the guy.

You never read stories and novels about Mussolini winning WWII, or what happened to the Second Roman Empire afterwards. Stuff about the alternate-world Japanese (Coppel's Operation Downfall; David Westheimer's Lighter Than a Feather; Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Lucky Strike"; Jake Saunders' "Back to the Stone Age") are about either the US invasion of the Home Islands (the first two) when there was no atomic bomb; or how its dropping was averted (Robinson); or of a continually ravaged, bombed, and blockaded Japan ten years on, where bombing runs - carried out by Third World contract nations using surplus American bombers - are a tourist industry - there's been no air defense since early in 1946 ... (Saunders).

We hated the Japanese for Pearl Harbor, but they weren't the main enemy, as of a day later. Hitler had to be stopped first; the whole Manhattan Project wasn't for a bomb to drop on Japan, it was to beat Hitler to it and give him a taste of his own medicine. The war in Europe ended about two months before the Alamogordo test.

Pity, you say?

I can envision another alternate-world novel.

The Morgenthau Plan was drawn up early in WWII. It was to turn Germany, after the war, back into an agrarian and mining nation. All heavy industry, all manufacturing would be done in other countries. Germany was to be stripped of armaments, machinery, all but the most primitive means of transport and production (a nation of Amish ...).

For the first time, a nation was to be mandated back to a pre-industrial state and economy. Germany would be there to supply foodstuffs and raw materials for the rest of the world, a protectorate of the still-to-be-formed United Nations.

The Realpolitik of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European community bloc ("From Stettin in the Baltic, to Trieste on the Adriatic ..." - Winston Churchill) kept it from being put into place - the decision to let the Russians (who suffered 20 million dead in the Great Patriotic War) take Berlin, leading to a divided Germany, kept the Morgenthau Plan in the cooler.

I see a novel with a young German protag. It starts in August during the wheat harvest, and there are scenes of peasant joy, right out of Breughel, as the laden wagons head for the granaries. Beer and wine flow like the Elbe; the German earth is a paradise right out of Lafferty's "Interurban Queen" ...

There's a noise in the sky and everyone looks up, especially the great-granddads who were once in the Luftwaffe, as a prop-driven WHO plane flies over, on its way to land near the village hall so the doctors and nurses can give everyone their tetanus booster shots ...

At some point in the book, the young guy will find some Nazi relics - a Tiger tank, an old ME 262 jet hidden away - and like Mr. Tagomi will get a glimpse into the world where Hitler Won. Or where Germany lost but is now an economic world power, the pawn of Cold War giant nations ...

Or the one where it still has a Kaiser. Or t he one where there was no Hitler, and now socialist and commmunist nations extend from China to France ...

Or the one where ...

The Nazis are always with us - slim, blond, and strong.

As slim as Goering; as blond as Hitler; as strong as Goebbels.

 


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!

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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.

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