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Alan Milward

Alan Milward is a professor of history at the European University Institute in Florence.

Little Dog

Alan Milward, 5 January 1989

Last year was the year of commemorative news. The media discovered that the public was old enough to be as interested in events from fifty years ago as it is in today’s news. Of these events the one that took up the most time and space was the Munich agreement of 1938, although it was subsequently driven off the centre pages by Kristallnacht and the Jewish pogroms in Germany. Robert Kee’s book has its origins in his commemorative TV documentary and the book by Robert Shepherd, producer of Channel 4’s A Week in Politics, reads like the script of another documentary. Robert Rothschild was a young Belgian diplomat at the time, far from the centre of things, so his book too is essentially an image of Munich as seen through the media.

The Prisoner of Spandau

Alan Milward, 7 August 1986

In one week in July 1947, Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, walked out of discussions with his British and French counterparts about the American offer of Marshall Aid; Europe was divided, east and west; and the seven surviving major Nazi war criminals who had been tried and condemned by the victorious allies at Nuremberg were moved, the subject of a special four-power agreement, into Spandau Prison in what was to become West Berlin. Guarded turn and turn about by platoons of American, British, French and Russian soldiers and warders, they began to serve out their sentences, a sign that there was still sufficient agreement about the past for neither side to wish to see the division as irrevocable. Always guarded by 58 people, Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, now 92, still lives, the lone prisoner of Spandau. Without Russian agreement the others are not prepared to release him from his life sentence. Whenever this last vestige of four-power control of that great city from which the war was launched has been challenged, no one has had the confidence that the rules could be changed without the final destruction of Europe. Rudolf Hess still remains as a symbol that complete disagreement with the Soviet Union has never been reached and may not be possible. The only occasion on which the Soviet Union seems seriously to have considered releasing him was in 1974 when the Bishop of Berlin suggested that he be replaced by an anti-Fascist museum designed and operated by the same four powers who run the gaol.

Holy Relics

Alan Milward, 3 April 1986

Whose is the second most valuable signature on the American autograph market after that of Abraham Lincoln? Which is the better investment, the penis of Napoleon or the handwriting of Hitler? The answer in both cases is Adolf Hitler. If you can buy them, Nazi memorabilia are your best hedge against inflation. Their value increases by about 20 per cent a year. But they are probably too expensive for you. A standard-issue SS dress dagger is worth at least $1500. A lock of Eva Braun’s hair will cost you $3500. A small watercolour possibly by Hitler will cost you roughly $4500. The 1938 Mercedes which he gave to Eva Braun may cost you $350,000. You can find the trade prices in Der Gauleiter, a magazine published in Arkansas. The annual turnover is estimated at $50 million.

The Nazi Miracle

Alan Milward, 23 January 1986

In the early summer of 1931, as the storm centre of the century’s worst depression roared back towards a Germany where already 4.5 million people were out of work, the Nazi Party for the first time faced the fact that it might be elected to government. ‘Finance capitalism’, which they had been lambasting for 12 years, had got the country into just the mess they had predicted. How to get out of it? In two years two million jobs had been lost. Promising to ‘do something about unemployment’ – to use the stirring language of Her Majesty’s Opposition – was an electoral necessity for all parties. Genuinely doing something about it was a real necessity for Hitler and the Nazis if they were to attain their first goals of getting power and restoring moral confidence to the nation.’

Diary: On Anti-Semitism

Alan Milward, 17 October 1985

With the completion of Suicidal Europe, 1870-1933, Léon Poliakov has brought his history of anti-semitism to the start of the Nazi regime. The whole work has taken him at least fourteen years. Beginning this volume with what looked likely to be the gradually advancing triumph of the enlightened attitudes to Jewry proclaimed by 18th-century philosophy, he has instead had to trace the hostile reactions to Jewish emancipation in the major countries and stands at the end peering forward into the dark abysses of human behaviour in the 1930s. To write as he does without rancour and with a light but biting wit, neatly captured in a good translation, is an intellectual victory in itself. But it is the comprehensive nature of the undertaking, its determination to synthesise all previous work on this complicated subject while also reinterpreting it in the light of the author’s own experience and of what we now know to have been the terrible conclusion, that has made these volumes important. Yet at the end anti-semitism still remains in many ways mysterious.

It can happen here

Alan Milward, 2 May 1985

When in 1975 Lucy Dawidowicz published The War against the Jews she started the swell of one of those waves of intellectual hysteria which betray the yearning for conformity among American historians. The intention of the book was entirely justified and laudable. In her judgment, historians had not given the massacre of the European Jews the importance it deserved as a central event in the history of our century. Her book set off a clamour for ‘holocaust studies’ as a uniquely instructive branch of history, and at the peak of this hysteria some distinguished scholars even began to demand that ‘holocaust studies’ should become a compulsory subject in school and university. The impact of the book was scarcely less than that of Roots, stripping bare the deep concern of the United States with its own ethnic composition. The fact that all this fuss was mainly a fuss about the nature of American society meant that the subsequent contribution of ‘holocaust studies’ to explaining the massacre has been derisory compared to the noise which they generated. The massacre is first and foremost a problem in German history, and in the German Federal Republic the issues raised by Dawidowicz have stimulated an altogether higher level of debate and a controversy of profounder significance for all societies.

Under the Sign of the Interim

Perry Anderson, 4 January 1996

Mathematically, the European Union today represents the largest single unit in the world economy. It has a nominal GNP of about six trillion dollars, compared with five trillion for the US and...

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