As the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II approaches this fall, the battle to determine its meaning continues. In Germany, writers such as Günter Grass and Jörg Friedrich have shifted attention from the Nazis’ crimes against Jews and other Europeans to the suffering of German civilians at the hands of the Allies. In Eastern Europe, Poles, Balts, and Russians have battled over claims that Stalin was as responsible as Hitler for causing the war and committing comparable atrocities. In America and Great Britain, writers as ideologically varied as Nicholson Baker, Patrick Buchanan, and Norman Davies have blurred the line between the wartime behavior of the Axis and Allies. George Clooney’s new film The Monuments Men is the latest salvo launched by the defenders of the “good war” against its revisionist critics. The film purports to tell a tale of American heroism in the face of Nazi barbarism, and in certain respects it succeeds. But like both sides in the ongoing debate, it has its blind spots.
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