Thursday, January 13, 2005

The truths of the Second World War 

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the man everyone likes to hate (he makes it so easy), is in trouble again, following comments he made in a recent magazine interview:

"In France, at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders, inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km."
Not particularly inhumane unless you were a French Jew, that is, over 70,000 of whom were put on trains by the French police and sent to German gas chambers. But for a man who once called the Holocaust a "detail" of World War Two history, the French aspect of the Final Solution probably does classify as a mere "blunder" - or maybe not even that, seeing Le Pen has also told the interviewer that "it's not only the European Union and globalisation we have to free our country of. It's also the lies about its history, lies that are protected by exceptional measures" - a clear reference to the French law which criminalises Holocaust denial. I have general freedom of speech problems with all "anti-racism" and "anti-vilification" legislation, but that aside, it doesn't make Le Pen any less of an idiot and a disgrace.

Still, he's is broadly accurate in describing the German occupation of France as "not particularly inhumane" - but only comparatively speaking. The occupation of France, Denmark, Holland and Norway, however painful an experience, was nothing like the occupation of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus or Russia. The main reason lies in the fact that the Nazis felt a sense of Aryan kinship with their Western European neighbors and had plans to incorporate the Nordics, the Anglo-Saxons, and yes, even the French, into their Thousand Year Reich. The Slavs, by contrast, were sub-humans who were to be slowly worked to death. The Jews, of course, faced total elimination on a much quicker time scale.

Which is why,
the human cost of occupation in France was somewhere around 350,000 (including 70,000 French Jews) out of the population of around 40 million, whereas in Poland, death toll stood at between 5.5 and 6 million (including 3 million Polish Jews) out of the pre-war population of 36 million.

Which just goes to show that you can make a historically accurate statement and still be an offensive bastard with an ugly political agenda.


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