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Old 16 Aug 02, 18:55
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Was WWII about good vs. evil?

Hello everybody,

I am majoring in general history at Gallaudet University. Since, I love war history, I thought I would post this question, a very challenging question, I hope so.

Was the World War Two about good vs. evil? I don't believe thsi to be true. Germany or Axis powers were not necessarily evil. What I mean is that Hilter is an evil person, and his goons as well. I refuse to condone Holocaust, it is wrong. There's no glory in killing civilians on purpose, it doesn't matter if they're our enemy or not. No, that's not what I mean.

You know how US and Allied powers were always telling us that the war was about perserving democracy against the spread of despotism and communism, all of that stuff, but is any of it true?

We did not go to war with Germany and Japan because they were evil nations. Many countries have tried to conquer other countries in order to expand their own empires or resources, there's nothing unusual about this. Hilter was expanding his own little empire, so were Japanese doing the same thing.

US and Allied powers were not necessarily the "good guys". We did many wrong things, I think the World War Two was just purely a political war in which threatened countries were facing extinction from Germany's armed forces. Had Germany won the war, Hilter would probably announced to the world that he had defeated evil forces which were us! England and France did not go to war because Hilter was an evil person, but rather made a promise to Poland that they would come to aid Poland's defense, and stop Germany's aggressive moves.

I don't think Hilter really expected the war to happen. Germany was not on war footing economically until after 1941, I think. More specifically after the invasion of Russia, I believe. You have to admit that Germany put up a good fight, it took three countries to subdue a single nation, it took more than three years for Allied nations to finally enter Germany's own territorial land. It's a wonder that the war lasted that long!

I could go on, but I decide to give it a break. I am not a revisionist or anything like that. I only desire to view the reasons of World War Two in a different perspective, that's all, not following the usual US and Allied propoganda.

Some more questions, did Germany's own regular armed forces knew about the Holocaust going on? I mean apart from SS divisions, did any regular German army divisions had any part in that tragedy? Were there any power struggles between SS and regular German divisions?

Thanks,
Cheetah772
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Old 16 Aug 02, 19:20
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I don't think the war was directly about 'good vs evil'. However the actions taken by the Axis can be called 'evil' while the actions taken by the Allies could be seen as 'good'.

When you invade several countries, round up millions of civilians with the goal of killing them, and try to eliminate anyone who disagrees with you this is 'evil'.

The British and French didn't declare war because Germany was 'evil'. However they wanted to preserve the status quo which was mostly 'good'. Thus you have 'good' vs 'evil'.
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Old 16 Aug 02, 19:24
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Re: Was WWII about good vs. evil?

Quote:
Originally posted by cheetah772

Some more questions, did Germany's own regular armed forces knew about the Holocaust going on? I mean apart from SS divisions, did any regular German army divisions had any part in that tragedy?
Does it really matter? It's the saddest chapter in Germany history but it could of been expected. Anti-semitism had strong roots in Germany and that something like the Holocaust occured isn't that big of a surprise.
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Last edited by Chuck?; 16 Aug 02 at 19:26..
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Old 16 Aug 02, 23:03
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Post just my bit

If anything was evil, the Japs at the time of WWII were certainly possessed by it. They would slit open the stomachs of pregnant woman, snatch babies and play "Impale the Baby On the Bayonet" and test their swords on live human necks. Not to mention 'Korean comfort women', mass killing of chinese etc. The kind of repeated cruelty they are capable of is unsurpassed.

The Japanese weren't just trying to expand their empire -- they were looking to get rid of the Chinese just as the German nazi were trying to rid the Jews.

How can this be right? or even be justified as 'good' from any point of view?
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Old 17 Aug 02, 15:15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chuck
I don't think the war was directly about 'good vs evil'. However the actions taken by the Axis can be called 'evil' while the actions taken by the Allies could be seen as 'good'.
I don't believe that the actions taken by the Allies were 'good'.

Russia killed and imprisoned most of its own country.
The British and Americans bombed places such as Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin e.t.c.

I know the Germans did exactly the same, yet is it right to take an eye for an eye? The peoples of the German cities probably worked in German factories making arms for the German war machine. Yet for the thousands of children that dies in the attacks, was it 'good' to kil an 'evil' child?

Not only the Allied bombing of German cities, but places like Caen and Monte Cassino stick in my mind.

I believe there are no true 'good' and 'evil' sides in any war.

Only losers all round.

I do agree with the Japanese being some of the most callous and brutal peoples in WW2, however the decision to use the Atomic Bombs at the wars end still wrangles me somewhat.

The reason the Americans gave was sound, 'to avoid our boys from being killed in an attack against a country which would use kamakazi attacks and suicidel tactics.' However, the American GI signed upto fight, or was drafted and expected to fight, out of the thousands who died at Nagasaki and Hiroshima the percentages of Japanese Military were very low (10-15%) whilst the people who worked in the factories e.t.c in the area were a little higher (25-35%). So what about the rest of the cities, the non-combatants who were just trying to live in a world which had gone to hell. To me this is the greatest murder in mankinds history. It saved thousands of American soldiers lives, true. Yet it killed thousands of innocents at the same time.
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Old 17 Aug 02, 16:57
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I don't know that there is ever anything truly "good" about war. In the end what it boils down to is man killing man, and that is never a good thing.

Quote:
Chuck -- I don't think the war was directly about 'good vs evil'. However the actions taken by the Axis can be called 'evil' while the actions taken by the Allies could be seen as 'good'.

When you invade several countries, round up millions of civilians with the goal of killing them, and try to eliminate anyone who disagrees with you this is 'evil'.

The British and French didn't declare war because Germany was 'evil'. However they wanted to preserve the status quo which was mostly 'good'. Thus you have 'good' vs 'evil'.
This may be somewhat of an oversimplification, but it's basically true. This brings up an interesting question. Did Hitler view himself as Evil the way most of the rest of the world did? I don't believe so. There is an old saying that the "greatest harm often comes from the best intentions." Hitler rationalized his actions against the presumption that communism was a world wide threat that had to be dealt with, and that there was a world wide conspiracy of Jews to dominate, undermine and corrupt all the governments of the world. Throw into the mix that he was convinced that there was a clear scientific case for racial superiority, and you have a recipe for disaster.

If you view his leadership decisions based on these presumptions, it puts many of his actions into a clearer context. Now clearly many of these ideas are flawed or completely false, but that's not the point. Hitler rationalized that his actions, however violent they may have been, were necessarry for the common good. This is often the case with tyrants and that's why people have such a difficult time understanding and dealing with them. They don't view the world the way most of the rest of us do, and that makes them unpredictable. Hitler was an exception because he had written a detailed book on what his beliefs and plans were. Part of the problem was that nobody listened to what he was trying to tell us.

Quote:
I could go on, but I decide to give it a break. I am not a revisionist or anything like that. I only desire to view the reasons of World War Two in a different perspective, that's all, not following the usual US and Allied propoganda.

Thanks,
Cheetah772
I agree that all participants perpetrated some highly questionable acts during the course of the war, but let's not reduce every nation to the lowest common denominator. WWII was fought for some very important reasons: land, political ideology, national boundaries, slavery, and racial domination. Human beings simply don't fight over any more important issues. It's a disservice to the people who died in that conflict to say that all the combatants were basically morally equivalent.
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Old 17 Aug 02, 23:21
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At its most basic level I think WWII was a battle of good vs. evil. If you think otherwise, consider the difference of what the world would be like today if the Nazis and Imperial Japanese had been successful. The only thing worse would perhaps be if Stalinist Russia had stayed allied with the Nazi's. Our "ally" Stalin killed enough of his own people to make even Hitler blush.

My only regret (and perhaps the lesson of WW2) is that the West (UK/USA/etc.) turned it's back on the rise of these dictators despite a clear thesis by Hitler (Mein Kampf) and the obviously imperialistic dreams of the Japanese. Only after many years of transgressions and a direct attack on America did we suddenly consider those countries "evil." Clearly parallels can be drawn in today's world.

Nothing in international politics is black and white. It is just when the body count piles up enough do the "good" people want to get involved. The simple fact of the matter is evil/indifference is far more prevelant than "good." I don't see that changing...
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Old 18 Aug 02, 05:10
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Critical analysis teaches us that everything is relative, including 'good' and 'evil'. It all depends on from what point of view you look at it. Nazi Germany definately had bad points (holocaust, waging aggressive war, etc, etc,), Japan had its Nanking massacer etc. but so did the major Allies. We all know about Stalin's Purges, America's slaughter of Native Indians, and British Imperialism/conquering 1/3 of the globe, etc. I would say that most (if not all) world powers, gain their power through dubious means. However, the western Allies, were slowly starting to improve in such matters (at least we would like to think so) at the time of WW2, although the Cold War reversed much of that.

Had the Axis won the war, would we (the proceeding generations) really think that the Allied cause was 'good'? After all, the history books are written by the victors. Generations after an Axis victory would have been indoctrinated into thinking the Allies were 'evil'. On the other hand, are we as the 'victors' also to some extent indoctrinated into thinking the Allies were extra good?

Several years ago, I was watching a very interesting documentary from the 1950s/60s or so about WW2, and at one point they interviewed Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, the infamous head of Bomber Command during the war. The interviewer went on to ask him if he thought his strategy of bombing German civilians was moral. He paused for a moment to ponder the question, and replied (rhetorically) "Is there any moral act in war?"

I have no personal experience with the military or war, but I have read, that the average soldier may enlist for political/ideological reasons, but when it comes down to it, sitting in a cold, muddy foxhole with artillery bursting all around, he fights for only one thing: his buddy sitting next to him. And this appears realtively similar for all combatants, 'good' or 'evil'. In the end, do we not all fight for the same thing: survival? Perhaps it is simply the political bigwigs that try to turn it into a political or ideological battle.

All that being said, I do think that we are better off having destroyed the Axis.
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Old 18 Aug 02, 10:20
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Re:
did Germany's own regular armed forces knew about the Holocaust going on? I mean apart from SS divisions, did any regular German army divisions had any part in that tragedy?

Well I guess some of them must have known what was going on but probably the scale and intensity of the Holocaust was something that was not realized at the time. Of those that did participate many were ‘ just doing a job’ in their own minds anyway. Sad but true, while others no doubt thought that the Jews were getting what they deserved. Even worse!If you want a good account of how attitudes towards mass murder can make people hard and indifferent try ‘ Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.’ Which is about a German police battalion from Hamburg, which was involved in massacres of Jews there.
Some years ago I met an English lady who lived in Germany in WWII and I asked her about this question of knowledge of the murders going on. She assured me that the mass of the people had no idea of any of this and that at the war’s end they were shocked to hear that some thousands of Jews were killed, let alone millions. One has only to see those pictures of German villagers and townsfolk being led through concentration camps to see that they were disgusted and shaken by what they saw. She wrote a book about her experiences, which I am just reading now called ‘ The Past is Myself’.
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Old 18 Aug 02, 11:03
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Quote:
Originally posted by Martin Schenkel
Critical analysis teaches us that everything is relative, including 'good' and 'evil'. It all depends on from what point of view you look at it.


I don't want to sound harsh, but I'm sure Pol Pot, chairman Mao and Saddam Hussein would all agree with that statement. I don't. That is moral relativism at its worst. There is an absolute difference between good and evil. It is necessarry to put these events into proper context in able to form some type of rational judgment of whether they were good or evil. The motivation behind the act plays a big part, but is not in and of itself always complete justification.

For instance, if I kill a man on the street because I want his money and I hate his religion, that is an evil act and is clearly murder. It is evil because the prime motivation is hatred and personal gain. If, however, I kill the same man because he breaks into my home and attempts to harm my family, then that clearly is not murder, nor an evil act in my book. Both were violent acts, but one was motivated by greed and hatred, the other by self defense. These are in no way relative acts. Point of view has little to do with the equation.

Quote:
Had the Axis won the war, would we (the proceeding generations) really think that the Allied cause was 'good'? After all, the history books are written by the victors. Generations after an Axis victory would have been indoctrinated into thinking the Allies were 'evil'. On the other hand, are we as the 'victors' also to some extent indoctrinated into thinking the Allies were extra good?


Perhaps. False propaganda and clever distortion of the facts can do much to alter a people's beliefs. However, a lie is still a lie whether we choose to believe in it or not. The Western Allies didn't start WWII and they weren't motivated by a desire for racial domination, religious hatred, or an overwhelming desire to rule the world. I'm not saying they were perfect, but that does make a big difference. They were forced to use massive firepower and violence to halt the onslaught they were faced with, but that doesn't reduce them to moral equivalents.

Quote:
Several years ago, I was watching a very interesting documentary from the 1950s/60s or so about WW2, and at one point they interviewed Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, the infamous head of Bomber Command during the war. The interviewer went on to ask him if he thought his strategy of bombing German civilians was moral. He paused for a moment to ponder the question, and replied (rhetorically) "Is there any moral act in war?"


This, of course, brings up the issue of the atom bomb in WWII. Its use was destructive, violent, and ushered the world into a whole new era of strategic warfare. Thousands of Japanese civilians were killed or maimed and the carnage was terrible. Having said that, the Japanese people had shown a willingness to suffer nearly any loss, and bear any hardship before they would lay down their desire for imperial domination. The battle of Okinawa revealed just how savage and to what extreme they were willing to take the fight. Had the Western Allies been forced to invade the mainland of Japan, it seems likely that huge land battles would have ensued and nearly all of the country's larger cities would have been obliterated one by one. The death toll from such an invasion would have been high for the attackers, but it would have been nothing short of catastrophic for the Japanese people. Such an invasion would have likely produced 5 to 10 times the casualties that the atom bombs produced. A moral act?

Just my 2 cents worth. Good debate.
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Old 18 Aug 02, 13:00
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alvis_Striker



, however the decision to use the Atomic Bombs at the wars end still wrangles me somewhat.

The reason the Americans gave was sound, 'to avoid our boys from being killed in an attack against a country which would use kamakazi attacks and suicidel tactics.' However, the American GI signed upto fight, or was drafted and expected to fight, out of the thousands who died at Nagasaki and Hiroshima the percentages of Japanese Military were very low (10-15%) whilst the people who worked in the factories e.t.c in the area were a little higher (25-35%). So what about the rest of the cities, the non-combatants who were just trying to live in a world which had gone to hell. To me this is the greatest murder in mankinds history. It saved thousands of American soldiers lives, true. Yet it killed thousands of innocents at the same time.
Lets not forget that prior to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was rampant city bombing in Europe and Japan. In Dresden from from Feb 13-15 the RAF/USAAF caused a firestorm that killed approx 135,000. And Gen LeMay's firebombing of Tokyo 9/10 March killed 100,000 and left another 100,000 homeless, before he was finished in May 56 square miles of Tokyo was reduced to ashes, followed up by firebombing over the next 10 days of March of Kobe, Nagoya, and Osaka. At Hiroshima approx 150,000 and Nagasaki 70-80,000 died. So labeling the atomic missions as "the greatest murder in mankinds history" is a bit off because thousands of innocents had been killed before then. As horrible as it is to say the only difference was the USAAF increased the "efficiency" of the bombings with the atomic bombs.
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Old 18 Aug 02, 17:38
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"You say it is the good cause that hallows even war? I tell you: it is the good war that hallows every cause."
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Old 18 Aug 02, 18:29
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Well, was Germany evil? Hitler was evil, and the whole bunch of freaks that guided Germany at that time. On the other hand, what if Germany had not attacked the USSR? I don't know if Stalin planned to attack Western Europe in 1941, but without doubt, he would have rised to an extreme military power if Germany had not attacked him. The USSR even did after war. It was also one goal of the war to stop communism - an absolutly justified goal in the Cold war and the reason why the US joined wars in Korea & Vietnam...

Where the Western Allies the 'goods'? I don't think so. It was the UK who started terror bombings with the target to kill civilians! They did nearly no harm to industrial production - German industry had the greatest output in 1944!

Well, IMO in a war are no good or bad sides. Who was treated for 650.000 German civilians that were killed by US/UK bombs? Who was treated for the massacre of My Lai in Vietnam?

Germany has done many atrocities, without doubt, but it has paid the price. The war criminals were punished, Germany has lost large parts of its land, the cities were destroyed, many people died.

Were allied war criminals punished? Indeed they rised in the '90s a statue for Airmarshal 'Bomber' Harris, who has ordered the terror bombings.

If we would say that a criminal who has received his punishment is 'washed clean', than is Germany the only country today that is 'good', and the former Allied nations are still evil.
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Old 18 Aug 02, 21:57
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I think that WWII is about as close to a struggle between good and evil as there could be.The allies did commit what today would be considered war crimes,But i think this is a case where if you fight the devil you risk becoming the devil.There was no other alternative to the total war waged,even with their cities in ruins their populations dispossed,and their armies shattered Germany and Imperial Japan continued to fight.The allied powers did not start the war(excluding Russia)They were not the ones who first set into motion the carnage that ensued.With maybe the exception of the US these nations were fighting for their very survival,when you back someone into a corner they are going to react both violently and visciously.The allies did bomb cities and kill hundreds of thousands of civilians,the allies(again with the exception of russia)did not commit wholescale slaughter of peoples,and prisoners of war as policy.They did not espouse the racial superiority that both the germans and japanese did as an excuse to rid the world of undesirables.All countries were in a race to develop the atomic bomb,including the japanese.They were not doing this research as a deterent.It just so happened the US was the first to develop and use the weapon.if the war was one of(i hate this phrase)moral equivalency,just ask yourself this question,would you want to live in a world ruled by Germany and Japan if they had won the war.As a further example look at the way the defeated powers were treated by the western allies after the war compared to those countries that were conquered by the axis.With the increased passing of those who lived through this tragedy it is important that we remember why this war was fought and the reasons behind the tactics used,or else we run the risk of allowing such things to happen again.
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Old 19 Aug 02, 11:48
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Given that we may have recognized the "evil" intentions of the Axis principals, were we obligated to forestall them?

This question is not moot, for the situation is being presented to us again, this time with Iraq.

Is Iraq "evil" and should we do something about it? What? Would the world be better if we had simply assassinated Hitler in 1936? Should we attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein?
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