"When Menzies was Prime Minister in 1939, the Country Party leader, Earle Page, subjected Menzies to a bitter attack in the house. Page had served on the Western Front as a doctor (his field instruments are on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra). Page told the Parliament that he and his party were no longer prepared to serve in a Menzies government and, with war threatening, he did not believe Menzies had the right attributes to bring about ‘a united national effort’. Page said, based on Menzies’ record, he had no confidence the Prime Minister had what was required: ‘the maximum courage, or loyalty or judgments.’ After numbering what he believed were faults in Menzies’ record, he devoted particular attention to Menzies’ war record. Page is responsible for fostering the falsehood—still widely held to be true—that Menzies resigned his commission. Page continued: I am not questioning the reasons why anyone did not go to war. All I say is that if the right honourable gentleman cannot satisfactorily and publicly explain to a very great body of people in Australia, who did participate in the war, his failure to do so, he will not be able to get that maximum effort out of the people in the event of war. All this was greeted with cries of ‘shame’. Menzies immediately replied and was heard in silence. On the charge of not serving in the war, there was real, if dignified, bitterness in Menzies’ response. He said the charge was not a novelty and represented ‘a stream of mud through which I have waded at every election campaign in which I have participated’. Menzies explained that on the issue of enlistment he had to answer the supremely important question ‘[i]s it my duty to go to the war or is it my duty not to go? The answer to that question is not one that can be made on a public platform.’ Menzies went on to say the question related to ‘a man’s intimate and personal family affairs and in consequence, I, facing these problems of intense difficulty, found myself, for reasons which were and are compelling, unable to join my two brothers in the infantry with the A.I.F’. In the political uproar following the Page attack, two Queensland Country Party MPs, Arthur Fadden and Bernie Corser, disassociated themselves from Page’s speech, saying that henceforth they would sit as independent Country Party members. (It is somewhat ironic that after Menzies resigned as Prime Minister with so many in his party room opposed to him, Fadden became Prime Minister.)"

“Inside the Canberra Press Gallery: Life in the Wedding Cake of Old Parliament House” - Rob Chalmers

"I stayed stretched out like that for a long time. The ground beneath me was scorching now; the fog had evaporated and the grass had turned a deeper shade of green. The sound of an airplane rumbled overhead. I didn’t care. Why bother running for cover? I thought: Bullets may miss people, but no one dodges a bullet. I got up and looked at the carpet of grass. It had been ten years since I had seen such beauty. What miracle had allowed this patch to survive so many bombings? It was an unreal beauty, like a satin ribbon discarded along the shattered, bumpy road of the war."

—  “Novel Without a Name” – Duong Thu Huong

"A telephone suddenly rang (in the German Zossen HQ). One of the Russian soldiers answered it. The caller was evidently a senior German officer asking what was happening. ‘Ivan is here,’ the soldier replied in Russian, and told him to go to hell."

—  “Berlin: The Downfall 1945” – Antony Beevor

Tags: WW2 War

"Between 12 January and mid-February 1945, almost 8.5 million Germans fled their homes in the eastern provinces of the Reich."

—  “Berlin: The Downfall 1945” – Antony Beevor

Tags: War Refugees WW2

"On 1 February 1943, an angry Soviet colonel collared a group of emaciated German prisoners in the rubble of Stalingrad. ‘That’s how Berlin is going to look!’ he yelled, point to the ruined buildings all around. When I read those words some six years ago, I sensed immediately what my next book had to be."

— “Berlin: The Downfall 1945” – Antony Beevor

"

Quoting Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’

‘Forward the Light Brigade!
’ Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldiers knew
Some one had blundered:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

"

— “The God Delusion” - Richard Dawkins

"If Fascism should ever be fully assured of its final triumph, the world will choke in blood. If the day ever dawns when Fascism is without armed enemies, then its executioners will know no restraint: the greatest enemy of Fascism is man."

— “Life and Fate” – Vasily Grossman

"

The people at the hospital had been struck by her calm and the number of questions that she had asked. They hadn’t appreciated her inability to understand something quite obvious – that Tolya was no longer among the living. Her love was so strong that Tolya’s death was unable to affect it: to her, he was still alive.

She was mad, but no one had noticed. Now, at last, she had found Tolya. Her joy was like that of a mother-cat when she finds her dead kitten and licks it all over.

A soul can live in torment for years and years, even decades, as it slowly, stone by stone, builds a mound over a grave; as it moves towards the apprehension of eternal loss and bows down before reality.

"

— “Life and Fate” – Vasily Grossman

"

A letter from Anna Semyonovna to her son, Viktor Shtrum from a Ukrainian Ghetto:

Vitya, I’m certain this letter will reach you, even though I’m now behind the German front line, behind the barbed wire of the Jewish ghetto. I won’t receive your answer, though; I won’t be here to receive it. I want you to know about my last days. Like that, it will be easier for me to die.

Night is a special time in the ghetto, Vitya. You know, my dearest, how I always taught you to tell the truth – a son must always tell the truth to his mother. But then so must a mother tell the truth to her son. Don’t imagine, Vityenka, that your mother’s a strong woman. I’m weak. I’m afraid of pain and I’m terrified to sit down in the dentist’s chair. As a child I was afraid of darkness and thunder. As an old woman I’ve been afraid of illness and loneliness; I’ve been afraid that if I fall ill, I won’t be able to go back to work again; that I’ll become a burden to you and that you’ll make me feel it. I’ve been afraid of the war. Now, Vitya, I’m seized at night by a horror that makes my heart grow numb. I’m about to die. I want to call out to you for help.

When you were a child, you used to run to me for protection. Now, in moments of weakness, I want to hide my head on your knees’ I want you to be strong and wise; I want you to protect and defend me. I’m not always strong in spirit, Vitya – I can be weak too. I often think about suicide, but something holds me back – some weakness, or strength, or irrational hope.

They say that children are our future, but how can one say that of these children? They aren’t going to become musicians, cobblers or tailors. Last night I saw very clearly how this whole noisy world of beared, anxious fathers and querulous grandmothers who bake honey-cakes and goose-necks – this whole world of marriage customs, proverbial sayings and Sabbaths will disappear for ever under the earth. After the war life will begin to stir once again, but we won’t be here, we will have vanished – just as the Aztecs once vanished.

Vityenka, I’m finishing this letter and taking it to the ghetto fence to hand to my friend. It’s not easy to break off. It’s my last conversation with you. Once I send it off, I will have left you for ever and you will never know of my last hours. This is our final parting. What can I say to you in farewell, in eternal farewell? That these last days, as during my whole life, you have been my joy. I’ve remembered you at night, the clothes you wore as a boy, your first books….. I’ve closed my eyes and imagined that you were shielding me, my dearest, from the horror that is approached. And then I’ve remembered what is happening here and felt glad that you were apart from me – and that this terrible fate will pass you by!

Vityenka… This is the last line of your mother’s last letter to you. Live, live, live forever… Mama.

"

— “Life and Fate” – Vasily Grossman

"

During a German artillery attack on the right bank of the Volga during the Battle of Stalingrad:

Suddenly he realised what had happened: the oil-tanks were on fire. Flaming oil was streaming past towards the Volga.

It seemed impossible to escape from the liquid fire. It leaped up, humming and crackling, from the streams of oil that were filling the hollows and craters and rusing down the communication trenches. Saturated with oil, even the clay and stone were beginning to smoke. The oil itself was gushing out in black glossy streams from the tanks that had been riddled by incendiary bullets; it was as though sheets of flame and smoke had been sealed inside these tanks and were now slowly unrolling.

The life that had reigned hundreds of millions of years before, the terrible life of the primeval monsters, had broken out of its deep tombs; howling and roaring, stamping its huge feet, it was devouring everything round about. The fire rose thousands of feet, carrying with it clouds of vaporised oil that exploded into flame only high in the sky. The mass of flame was so vast that the surrounding whirlwind was unable to bring enough oxygen to the burning molecules of hydro-carbon; a black, swaying vault separated the starry sky of autumn from the burning earth. It was terrible to look up and see a black firmament streaming with oil.

The columns of flame and smoke looked at one moment like living beings seized by horror and fury, at another moment like quivering poplars and aspens. Like women with long, streaming hair, the black clouds and red flames joined together in a wild dance.

The blazing oil formed a thin film over the water, hissing, smoking and twisting as it was caught by the current.

"

— “Life and Fate” – Vasily Grossman

"

The turn of events in Belgium was a product of the German theory of terror. Clausewitz had prescribed terror as the proper method to shorten war, his whole theory of war being based on the necessity of making it short, sharp and decisive. He said the civil population must not be exempted from war’s effects but must be made to feel its pressure and be forced by the severest measures to compel their leaders to make peace. As the object of war was to disarm the enemy, he argued reasonably, ‘we must place him in a situation in which continuing the war is more oppressive than surrender’…

Although 1870s proved the corollary of the theory and practise of terror, that it deepens antagonism, stimulates resistance and ends by lengthening war, the Germans remained wedded to it’. As Shaw said, they were a people with a contempt for common sense.

..

On August 23 placards signed by General von Bulow were posted in Liege, announcing that the people of Andenne, a small town on the Meuse near Namur, having attacked his troops in the most ‘traitorous’ manner, ‘with my permission the General commanding these troops has burnt the town to ashes and has had 110 persons shot.’ The people of Liege were being informed so that they would know what fate to expect if they behaved in the same manner as their neighbours.

..
When Bulow’s army took Namur, a city of 32,000, notices were posted announcing that ten hostages were being taken from every street who would be shot if any civilian fired on a German. The taking and killing of hostages was practised as systematically as the requisitioning of food. The further the Germans advanced, the more hostages were arrested….

Through some peculiar failure of the system, the greater the terror the more terror seemed to be necessary.

"

— "The Guns of August 1914" - Barbara Tuchman

"When General de Selliers, the Chief of Staff, rose to explain the strategy of defence to be adopted, his Deputy Chief, Colonel de Ryckel, with whom his relations were, in the words of a colleague, ‘denuded of the amenities’, kept growling between his teeth, ‘il faut piquer dedans, il faut piquer didans [We must hit them where it hurts]."

— "The Guns of August 1914", Barbara Tuchman

"

“Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans,” Bismark had predicted would ignite the next war. The assassination of the Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Serbian nationalists on June 28, 1914, satisfied his condition…

War pressed against every frontier. Suddenly dismayed, governments struggled and twisted to fend it off. It was no use. Agents at frontiers were reporting every cavalry patrol as a development to beat the mobilisation gun. General Staffs, goaded by their relentless timetables, were pounding the table for the signal to move lest their opponents gain an hour’s headstart. Appalled upon the brink, the chiefs of state who would ultimately be responsible for their country’s fate, attempted to back away but the pull of military schedules dragged them forward.

"

"The Guns of August 1914", Barbara Tuchman

"In Whitehall that evening, Sir Edward Grey, standing with a friend at the window as the street lamps below were being lit, made the remark that has since epitomized the hour: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”"

— "The Guns of August 1914", Barbara Tuchman

"The (Russian) officer corps was top-heavy with a superabundance of aged generals whose heaviest intellectual exercise was card-playing and who, to save their court perquisites and prestige, were kept on the active list regardless of activity. Officers were appointed and promoted chiefly through patronage, social or monetary, and although there were among them many brave and able soldiers the system did not tend to bring the best to the top. Their ‘laziness and lack of interest’ in outdoor sports dismayed a British military attaché who, on visiting a frontier garrison near the Afghan border, was appalled to find ‘not a single tennis court’."

"The Guns of August 1914", Barbara Tuchman