Note: An earlier version of this book was printed by the C. C. Nelson Company in 1953. The present edition is an extensive revision of that text.
By The Very Rev. William Ralph Inge, Dean of St. Paul’s1
An early version of this book was first published in England in 1948. A second revised and greatly enlarged version appeared in the United States in 1953. This version was then translated into German and published in Hamburg in 1954; and a second edition was published in Wiesbaden in 1962. The present edition is a major revision of the earlier versions.
I am glad that a new edition of Advance to Barbarism is called for. In this book, first published in England in 1948 under the nom de plume “A. Jurist”, the author, Mr. F. J. P. Veale, said, and said very well, what needed to be said by someone, and, we may add, what in 1948 in most countries nobody would have been allowed to say.
I disliked the Nuremberg Trials for three reasons: First, trials of the vanquished by the victors are never satisfactory and are generally unfair. Secondly, the execution of the political and military leaders of a beaten side by the victors sets a most dangerous precedent. The Germans were certainly guilty of “crimes against humanity”; but war is not a humane business and it would always be possible for the victors in any way to find enough examples of atrocities to justify vindictive punishments. After the next war, if there is one, trials and hangings will follow as a matter of course. We may go further. One of the indictments of the German leaders was not that they waged war inhumanly, but that they made war aggressively. They did; they desired large annexations of territory in the East. But have we not heard of other nations who have acquired extensive empires without consulting the wishes of the inhabitants? Thirdly, one of the judges—Russia—ought certainly to have been in the dock and not on the bench.
The main object of Advance to Barbarism is to call attention to the terrible retrogression of civilized humanity towards the worst cruelties of barbarism. The so-called Wars of Religion were sometimes savage, but in the eighteenth century it was possible to talk of civilized warfare, in which certain humane conventions were observed. Gibbon notices this advance in decent behaviour with complacency. A writer in the eighteenth century might reasonably speak of war as a relic of barbarism which might soon be abolished altogether. The Napoleonic Wars, except the guerilla fighting in Spain, were not fertile in atrocities; the decadence came later.
I comforted myself at one time by thinking that these horrors were confined to three nations, Germany, Spain and Russia. Nothing can be said to extenuate the excesses practised by the Germans. The only fair questions were, who were the culprits? and who ought to be the judges? It is not usual to hang officers for obeying cruel orders. The citizens in a police state in abdicating their rights as men have ceased to admit the duty of obeying conscience. As for Spain, it is high time to resume friendly relations with a noble people. But it must be admitted that there is a strain of cruelty in the Spanish character. In the country of the Inquisition and the bull-ring, civil war was not likely to be gentle. In speaking of Russia, one cannot do better than quote what Amiel, whose perspicacity is never at fault, wrote as early as 1856: “The harsh gifts of late have left their stamp on the race of the Muscovites. A certain sombre obstinacy, a sort of primitive ferocity, a background of savage harshness, which under the sway of circumstances might become implacable and even ruthless, a coldly indomitable force that would rather wreck the world than yield, the indestructible instinct of the barbarian horde still persisting in a half-civilized nation.… What terrible masters would the Russians be if ever they should spread the might of their rule over the southern countries! A polar despotism, a tyranny such as the world has not yet known, silent as the darkness, keen as ice, unfeeling as bronze, a slavery without compensation or relief.”
Perhaps in times to come, not so far distant, it may not be so readily forgotten that this was the enemy against whom the Germans fought.
But are there only three culprits, two of whom may plead some excuse? What of the destruction of Hiroshima by the Americans, of Dresden by the British, when the war was practically over? It is not pleasant to think of these things.
We must not speak too positively of retrogression. There was another side to European humanity before the insanity of nationalism. In dealing with “inferior races” the record was not good. The Irish have not forgotten the Tudors and Oliver Cromwell. Or listen to this horrible extract from the Daily Journal of March 1737: “They write from Antigua that they continued executing the Negroes concerned in the plot to murder all the inhabitants of the island: sixty-nine had been executed, of whom five had been broken on the wheel, six were hung upon gibbets and starved to death, of whom one lived nine nights and eight days and fifty-eight were chained to stakes and burnt.” Or think of the tortures inflicted on the assailant of Louis XV, which were gleefully witnessed by at least one English gentleman. Our ancestors were not all saints.
Some of us hope that now that war has been divested of all romance and chivalry, it may soon go the way of cannibalism and human sacrifice. It is a matter of life or death for civilization.
W. R. INGE
26th March 1951.
By The Rt. Hon. Lord Hankey, P.C., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O.1
In the Introduction of my book, Politics: Trials and Errors, published in 1950, I wrote, “I am indebted for inspiration and suggestion to Advance to Barbarism by F. J. P. Veale who wrote as “A. Jurist”; it displays great knowledge of the military art and profound research into the historical aspects of all that relates to War Crime Trials.”
Advance to Barbarism was first published in England in 1948. It was a noteworthy little book because it dealt for the first time with such then recent innovations as the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations and the trial of prisoners of war by their captors as symptoms of a world-wide development which had begun in 1914.
At the time of its publication this point of view was considered so wilfully perverse that no British newspaper with a national circulation would review this book.
Fortunately, however, this book did not pass unnoticed. Among those who praised it was the Very Rev. William Ralph Inge, formerly Dean of St. Paul’s, who later contributed a Foreword to the revised and greatly enlarged Edition which was published in the United States in 1953. This American edition was translated into Spanish and published in Spain under the title “El Crimen de Nuremberg” in 1954, and later in the same year into German and published in Germany under the title “Der Barbarei entgegen”.
Since the publication of the first edition in 1948 many new facts have come to light and public opinion has changed. Few now maintain that an accuser is a fit person to act as judge of his own charges, in fact many now remember that they were always opposed to the Nuremberg Trials, although they omitted to make public their opinion at the time. The publication of The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany, 1939-45 by H.M. Stationery Office in September 1961 confirmed officially with a wealth of detail the view expressed in this book concerning the character of the air attack on Germany during the Second World War.
I recommend this new edition to the reader.
HANKEY, 7th February 1962
Tardily professional historians have at last begun to realise that the events of the first half of the 20th century have presented them with a problem of unique difficulty.
From the first it was apparent that 1914 was certain to be a memorable date in history because in that year began a war in which a vast number would be doomed to die violent deaths and which would certainly lead to sweeping changes to the map of Europe if only for the worse. For a decade historians limited themselves to investigating the origins of this struggle which they explained to their own satisfaction by attributing it to the chance that Germany was ruled by an emperor who was obsessed by an insane ambition to conquer the world. From patriotic motives, at first to assist the war effort and later to justify the dictated terms of peace, professional historians, many of them men of great eminence and learning, laboured to confirm and endorse the Wicked Kaiser Myth. Once however this had been exposed as an impudent propaganda fiction, they failed to find any generally acceptable explanation for the blind homicidal frenzy which seized the nations of Europe during the period, 1914-1918, and ultimately they became resigned to leaving the problem for solution to the psychologists and psychiatrists. Thus the First World War came to be regarded as a bizarre episode of history, mainly of significance as a grim warning to posterity of the consequences of allowing greed and pugnacity to overcome reason.
The conclusion that the great struggle which broke out in Europe in 1914 resulted from a pathological wave of hysteria which afflicted the most advanced nations of mankind in that year is now held up for admiration as the most remarkable achievement of modern historical research. But this diagnosis was first put forward over thirty years ago by Field-Marshal Lord Allenby who bluntly declared, “The Great War was a lengthy period of general insanity.”2 The view that the beginning of this struggle in 1914 and still more that its continuation after 1916 were essentially the result of an irrational and compulsive urge was accepted as self-evident and undeniable throughout the thirty-nine weekly televised programmes entitled ‘The Great War’ broadcast by the B.B.C. in 1965.
Not until after 1939 when another world war broke out, rendered inevitable by the terms of peace imposed on the vanquished after the First World War, was it realised how profound were the effects which the latter struggle had had on the character, outlook and ethics of the average Western civilized man. Since the times when the Dark Ages had gradually evolved into the Middle Ages, the story of civilization in Europe had been one of slow but steady upward progress. The advance of civilization apart from occasional fluctuations remained continuous until the beginning of the 20th century, by which time it had come to be regarded as an established law of nature that progress was an automatic process of unending duration. As the late Dean Inge observed, belief in Progress became a kind of religion with most educated men. Apart from the steady accumulation of scientific knowledge, arbitrary violence had gradually become controlled by the rule of law, manners had become milder and in warfare primitive savagery had become modified by the tacit adoption at the end of the 17th century of an unwritten code of restrictions and restraints which later codified at the conventions of Geneva and the Hague, became known as the Rules of Civilized Warfare. The fundamental principle of this code was that hostilities should be restricted to the armed and uniformed forces of the combatants, from which followed the corollary that civilians must be left entirely outside the scope of military operations. It was widely believed that war, being an essentially barbarous method of settling international disputes, was bound ultimately to die out. With seemingly full justification the outlook at the beginning of the 20th century was one of unclouded optimism.
As early as 1770, by which time the horrors of the Thirty Years War had become generally forgotten, the Comte de Guibert could express the already prevailing complacency by writing:—
“Today the whole of Europe is civilized. Wars have become less cruel. Save in combat no blood is shed; prisoners are respected; towns are no more destroyed; the countryside is no more ravaged; conquered peoples are only obliged to pay some sort of contributions which are often less than the taxes they pay to their own sovereign.”
In the 19th century this happy state of affairs was taken for granted: no one dreamed that it would shortly come to an abrupt end. To us it seems fantastically unreal, now that prisoners of war are faced with the prospect of being subjected to war-crimes trials at the pleasure of their captors, or of being sent to work indefinitely as slave labour; towns with their inhabitants are obliterated by terror bombing; conquered peoples are uprooted from their homelands and mass-deported abroad; and the property of the vanquished is either appropriated as a matter of course by the victors or systematically destroyed.
The war which broke out in Europe in 1914 seemed at first indistinguishable from the civil wars which previously had periodically devastated that continent. During the struggle, however, quite unforeseen by any one, civilization began a retrograde movement without a parallel in history. While the struggle lasted this retrograde movement was not generally perceived but after the wave of optimism generated by the creation of the League of Nations had faded, the realization dawned that somehow the times had become out of joint. Working below the surface a profound psychological change had been taking place. Many of the men then living in obscurity who in the next decade were to rise to power and fame—for example Yagoda, Stalin’s chief of the G.P.U. during the Great Purge, Heinrich Himmler, the S.S. leader, and Adolf Eichmann, the organiser of systematic genocide—might have been reincarnations of men who had flourished in the times of the Merovingian Kings. Even the outlook of so irreproachable a character as Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard with his then novel recipe for victory—“bomb the enemy civilian population until they surrender”—was nearer akin to that of an Iroquois war chief than to that of a professional European soldier of the 19th century.1
Hardly perceptible for twenty-one years, when hostilities were resumed in 1939 the reversion to primitive practices in warfare soon became headlong until at last all pretence of complying with the Rules of Civilized Warfare was abandoned and both sides tacitly adopted the principle that any act was justifiable if it held out even a remote hope that it might stave off the frightful consequences of defeat.
An explanation is clearly needed to account for the fact that governments composed of educated men, reared in the 19th century and brought up to accept as a matter of course the standards of conduct then accepted by everyone, should have so quickly and easily overcome their natural repugnance and adopted and carried out such enormities as the systematic extermination of a defenceless minority on account of its racial Origin, the mass-deportation of enemy populations numbering millions, and the deliberate slaughter of enemy civilians by terror bombing in order to generate among the survivors a disposition to surrender unconditionally.
It was many years after hostilities had ceased in 1945 before historians realized that this problem existed. In Germany the thinking powers of historians were for long paralysed by the ruthless brainwashing to which they with the rest of their countrymen were subjected in 1945 to force them to accept the propaganda fictions of the victors. In Britain and the United States historians were so preoccupied investigating the crimes against humanity committed by the vanquished that they overlooked the background of concentrated terror bombing against which these crimes had been committed. They failed to realize that genocide and terror bombing were not isolated phenomena but symptoms of the same retrograde movement which had mysteriously overtaken Western civilization.
It is commonly assumed that genocide and terror bombing were accepted respectively by the governments of Germany and Britain without protest or opposition from those they ruled who, it is assumed, were as completely subject to the spirit of the times as their rulers. The facts as now disclosed do not support either assumption but the subject remains uninvestigated.
Taking first the case of Germany, a strict censorship enforced by drastic penalties controlled the publication of news and the expression of opinion. It is impossible to determine the number of those who expressed opposition to the regime as any who so ventured came to an untimely end. One cannot protest effectively in secret and to protest publicly was equivalent to suicide. It is doubtful also whether any specific information was available concerning what was taking place behind barbed wire in the concentration camps, most of which were in remote occupied territory, inaccessible to civilians. It has been contended that it would have been impossible to put to death millions of persons without some facts about it becoming generally known. Estimates of the number of victims vary from ten millions to less than a quarter of a million, and the larger the estimate accepted the stronger this contention becomes. It will always be a subject for regret that the victorious Allies did not put the question beyond dispute by appointing in 1945 a commission composed of impartial judges selected from neutral countries to investigate the facts. The findings of such a body would have been accepted by posterity as final. The Allies however deliberately rejected this obvious course. The findings of the Nuremberg Tribunal are of course worthless: a court which convicted Admiral Dönitz against whom the prosecution had failed to produce even the shadow of a prima facie case was clearly incapable of disposing even of the simplest problem. After the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 another opportunity arose to dispose of this question by an enquiry by an impartial tribunal. Once again this course was emphatically rejected, a fact which in itself is highly significant. It remains therefore impossible to say with confidence whether the German people consented without protest to the departures from civilized standards, by its rulers during the Second World War.
Recently indeed several books have appeared disclosing that throughout the war there was an active underground resistance movement in Germany. Those who participated however seem to have been mainly political rivals of Hitler, jealous of his rise to power and intent on bringing about the downfall of his regime so as to be able to replace it by a regime of their own. His crimes against humanity do not seem to have greatly concerned them.
The situation in Britain was very different. There was no official prohibition on expressions of opinion as such, but persons who ventured to express opinions which the authorities deemed might hamper the war effort were put in prison without a trial or even without a specific complaint against them. With regard to the bombing of the enemy civilian population, everyone knew that civilians in Germany were being slaughtered wholesale but it was believed that this was an unavoidable by-product of an air offensive against military objectives. The comforting reflection was accepted that the German civilian population could at any moment bring its sufferings to an end by surrendering unconditionally.
It would not indeed be correct to say that what was officially termed “the strategic bombing offensive” was carried out to the last day of the war without opposition, protest or misgivings. Questions were asked in Parliament as to the character of this air offensive which were fully reported in the Press with the answers given. Certainly it cannot be said that the Ministers of the Crown upon whom fell the duty of answering these questions, resorted to evasion or equivocation. In accordance with the British tradition they kept a stiff upper lip and gave clear and emphatic replies, without any signs of embarrassment such as might have been expected from them having regard to the fact that as recently as March 1942 Mr. Churchill’s War Cabinet had accepted the plan laid before it by Professor Lindemann by which ‘top priority’ as an objective for air attack was in future to be given to “working-class houses in densely populated residential areas.”
This decision of the War Cabinet was kept a closely guarded secret from the British public for nearly twenty years until it was unobtrusively revealed in 1961 in a little book entitled Science and Government by the physicist and novelist, Sir Charles Snow, in which occurred the following oft-quoted passage which was immediately translated and published in every language in the world:
“Early in 1942 Professor Lindemann, by this time Lord Cherwell and a member of the Cabinet, laid a cabinet paper before the Cabinet on the strategic bombing of Germany. It described in quantitative terms the effect on Germany of a British bombing offensive in the next eighteen months (approximately March 1943–September 1943). The paper laid down a strategic policy. The bombing must be directed essentially against German working-class houses. Middle-class houses have too much space round them and so are bound to waste bombs; factories and “military objectives” had long since been forgotten, except in official bulletins, since they were much too difficult to find and hit. The paper claimed that—given a total concentration of effort on the production and use of aircraft—it would be possible, in all the larger towns of Germany (that is, those with more than 50,000 inhabitants), to destroy 50 per cent of all houses.” (Pages 47-48).
Terror bombing as proposed in the Lindemann Plan was a novelty in warfare rendered possible by the conquest of the air during the first two decades of the 20th century. Genocide, on the other hand, was only the revival of an ancient practice, once probably worldwide, which had long been abandoned in Europe and which barely survived, in company with cannibalism, among the savages of Africa. It has never seriously been contended by anyone that either genocide or terror bombing were in accordance with the moral standards accepted at the time by all civilized peoples.
We do not know what were the thoughts in private of Hitler’s colleagues concerning his “final solution of the Jewish Problem.” Some of them surely must have found it at least disturbing that the Führer should have recourse to a practice which had only recently been stamped out in Africa by European Colonialism as the first step towards introducing civilization into that continent.
We know however that the members of the British War Cabinet who accepted the Lindemann Plan fully realized its enormity because concurrently with its acceptance it was decided that on no account must any inkling of its terms reach the public. The following extracts from the parliamentary reports of Hansard are set out verbatim here immediately after the passage quoted above, not to suggest that British politicians are exceptionally mendacious—politicians whatever their nationality have never been renowned for veracity—but to establish that those responsible for the acceptance of the Lindemann Plan were conscious of a feeling of guilt. They instructed those entrusted with the task of answering questions on the subject to give emphatic and unambiguous denials designed to stifle all further enquiries, as the following passages from Hansard show. Some or indeed most of them may have replied in the innocence of their hearts without personal knowledge of the truth but credulously believing what they were told by their departments.