Adam Hochschild Quotes
I think in many ways, the Spanish Civil War was the first battle of World War II. After all, where else in the world at this point did you have Americans in uniform who were being bombed by Nazi planes four years before the U.S. entered World War II? Hitler and Mussolini jumped in on the side of Francisco Franco and his Spanish nationalists, sent them vast amounts of military aid, airplanes, tanks – and Mussolini sent 80,000 ground troops as well – because they wanted a sympathetic ally in power. So I think it really was the opening act of World War II.
And yet the world we live in-its divisions and conflicts, its widening gap between rich and poor, its seemingly inexplicable outbursts of violence-is shaped far less by what we celebrate and mythologize than by the painful events we try to forget. Leopold’s Congo is but one of those silences of history.
Things have gotten openly more extreme in the last few years. I was lecturing in Hungary, whose prime minister, Victor Orban, is an example of this trend. All over Budapest, statues have been replaced, museum exhibits have been redone, to turn ethnic Hungarians, not Jews, into the prime victims of the Germans during World War II. Five years ago, who would have thought this possible?
Many of the principle weapons that the Nazis used during World War II had their first trial in combat in Spain – the Messerschmitt 109 fighter plane for example, the Stuka dive bomber, the 88 millimeter artillery piece, which could be used both for antiaircraft purposes and also shelling on the ground. And American soldiers were the victims of these things in Spain, American volunteers. So this war was really a testing ground for Hitler. And he learned a great deal from it about the strengths and weaknesses of these different weapons.