From Floyd Dotson '42
I began President Koblik's "European neutrals and the Holocaust" [May '97] with anticipation of enlightenment. I ended without much of that and not a little irritation.
With what appears to be Koblik's major contention I am in total agreement. The situation of the neutrals during the Nazi period was an extremely difficult, often dangerous, one. They need more sympathy and greater understanding than they get. Nor do the print and electronic media make a judicious, well-rounded account easier. After coming home from an evening with Schindler's List, Joe and Mary Doakes are not going to be well disposed toward the Swiss bankers they read about in next mornings newspaper who still hold gold knocked from the teeth of dead Jews.
True enough. What then is the gripe?
First, for all his vaunted sophistication, I find Koblik astonishingly naive. Because we are taught with our mother's milk to see the world through a moral screen, all of us have an ineradicable tendency to read history backwards. And when I say "ineradicable" I mean ineradicable. This is not going to change. Humanity will continue forever to be divided into the good guys and the bad guys. And yes, whole nations will continue to be plastered with the designation rogue. For this reason, pious incantations such as "The general reader needs to exercise sound critical skills and try to keep an open mind" are unadulterated cant. The general reader is in no position to do anything of the kind.
Some of these strictures soon apply in Koblik's own article when we come to the Allies. Obviously he doesn't much like them, and any semblance of the judiciousness we are asked to give the neutrals becomes conspicuously absent.
Take the proceedings at Nuremberg, which are designated "show trials." If we were to be literal about it, "show" as used here is unnecessary. The word could be struck out and "trials" alone would carry the literal meaning. But Koblik doesn't want to be merely literal. He wants to be nasty.
At the end of the article the poor Allies are handed a portentous threat. If you Allies think that you can embarrass the neutrals by recalling such matters as the Swedish trade in ball bearings, then just you wait. Your time is coming! "Far more painful will be the 'exposure' [from as yet, unopened archives] of Allied 'collaboration' with the Nazis."
What are we to make of such a statement? Since "collaboration" is put in quotation marks, perhaps Koblik does not really mean collaboration but only embarrassing dirt. That there is dirt, I have no doubt. But utterly devastating revelation? I cannot believe it. There is plenty of dirt that has long been known and we have survived.
On the other hand, if Koblik has in mind something like real collaboration, then is not the suggestion preposterous on the face of it? The gross historical fact is that the Allies fought the Nazis to unconditional surrender and then hanged a few choice specimens at Nuremberg. What a strange form of collaboration! Imagine the host of Goering being interviewed in hell. Would he not ruefully say, "If I had only known what you guys meant by collaboration, I would have had no part of it!"
A traveler's tale
From Joe Bunnett '42
I write to express delight with the May 1997 issue of Reed magazine. It contains several interesting articles of intellectual substance, on a variety of topics. It's the kind of magazine travelers of intellectual disposition want to buy at airport newsstands.