The first World War was a conflict that in many ways redefined the world. The aspects that were particularly shocking and unnerving was the violence and the inhumanity of the battles. One of the images associated with the war was the use of chlorine gas by the Germans. The firsthand description of the first gas attack by Anthony R. Hossack reveals the horror of the soldiers (Hossack par. 12).
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The sight of choking suffocating soldiers was horrifying, and the pain unbearable, but especially shocking was the fact that the German soldiers were astonished by the power of weaponry they’ve unleashed and did not make use of the attacks until later in the course. This confirms Strayer’s theme of the war as setting the new technological level of warfare that was unprecedented to the point where the human psyche refused to comprehend it.
The efficiency and ruthlessness of the Germans were promptly used by their enemies for the propaganda. A good example of such usage is the British poster Once a German – Always a German! (“Once a German – Always a German!”) According to Strayer, since the beginning of the war, Germans were depicted as monstrous, distorted figures in all the media. As their actions became more and more shocking, they themselves strengthened this image.
This source is particularly interesting because the British themselves commonly exhibited the same inhumane and violent traits, as did everyone else during this war or, as a matter of fact, during all previous wars. All of the countries, Germany included, quickly became unproductive early in the war and needed the support of the civilians and new recruits. Thus, it was only natural that the art form with such a straightforward message became predominant in the culture. It helps us understand how the human mind eagerly divides the world into “good” and “bad,” while seeing the picture from the enemy’s eyes is far more difficult.
The Holocaust remains one of the most incomprehensible endeavors undertaken by humanity. To adequately grasp the historical shock experienced by the contemporaries, two different sources are advised. The first is the excerpt from Hitler’s speech on the importance of the Nuremberg Laws (“Hitler on the Nuremberg Laws” par. 1). It is astonishing to see how distancing, official, and almost bureaucratic it sounds – almost as if a part of some fictional dystopia rather than something of the real world. Still, it is important to comprehend that at some moment in history, there existed a political force that treated human beings this way.
The second document, or, rather, a set of documents to form a complete picture, is the set of photographs from the Dachau concentration camp (“Holocaust Crimes Photographs: Nazi Medical Experiments”). The visage of human beings diminished to mere shadows of their former selves accompanied by the well-dressed aristocratic-looking bespectacled doctors would seem almost impossible if shown to a first-world resident for the first time. This unbelievable yet undeniable inhumanity is what sets these documents apart as important for the understanding of the events. It is easy to overlook the human tragedy behind statistics, such as the number of casualties. But once we see individuals behind that event, history quickly gains color.
The site I would recommend is The Holocaust History Project (“The Holocaust History Project”). It is preferable to other resources for two reasons. First, it maintains scientific integrity whenever new materials are posted: the secondary essays are checked for consistency and accuracy. Second, it specifically targets the issue of Holocaust denial by offering a critique of most of the popular claims and documents trying to downplay the issue. Nowadays, when it is easy to get entangled in falsified information, a reliable source is especially valuable.
Hitler on the Nuremberg Laws, n.d. Web.
Hossack, Anthony. The First Gas Attack, n.d. Web.
Once a German – Always a German!, n.d. JPEG file. Web.
The Holocaust History Project, n.d. Web.