Tuesday, May 20, 2008


So. I read a lot about military history. Especially WWI and WWII. In a fairly well written if conventional history of the air war of the Great War (seen at left) we find this:

"Jasta 15 reverted to the Fokker D.VII, and it was while flying one of these, on 10 August 1918, that Rudolf Berthold scored his last two victories, bringing his final tally to forty-four. Soon afterwards, in a fight with Sopwith Camels, he was shot down and suffered yet more injuries. He survived them only to be murdered [italics Roxy's] by German Communists in Harburg on 15 December 1919." (page 72)

When military historians refer to soldiers killing each other, they do not usually call it "murder." They may say "killing" or may even refer to the deaths of men as "victories" as we see above. I have no problem with this historico-literary convention. However, by what right, therefor, do we accuse Berthold's killers of "murder"? Is it because they were communists? Is it because they were not lead by official generals sanctioned by a state? Berthold killed men in a war which had no clear cut good guy. It was an absurd and unjust war fought for imperialist interests on all sides. But if the men who did all this killing are not murderers then we must say that Berthold was killed, not murdered, for his death was far more justifiable than the ones he inflicted. Berthold was killed during his support of the reactionary Kapp Putsch of 1920 (Jackson has his date above wrong). He was fighting to support men much like Hitler: in effect Hitler's fanatically bloody Freikorps predecessors (and eventual followers), men who paved the way for him with murder and terror. If killing one of them must be referred to as "murder," then historians should refer to every death in WWI with that same word -- not mere "killing" or "victory."

Jackson, therefor, displays a prejudice common to historians: a prejudice which prefers officially sanctioned violence, even in an unjust war, over violence that is not so sanctioned, however well justifiable. And of course, the communists are always bastards, aren't they?

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