Their Darkest Hour


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Still, it's an important and captivating read. May 27, Michael Flanagan rated it it was amazing Shelves: ww-2 , nazi. This book is fantastic. It allows the reader to see the mind set of the people who committed the atrocities of world war II. Why not excusing their actions it allows an insight into their reasonings behind their actions. This book for me captures the essence of what fascinates me, that being a study of how people act under the extreme pressures of war. A true study into the nature of humans. Dec 02, Squid McFinnigan rated it liked it.

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I was very interested in reading this book, after all, how could anyone understand the horror of those times unless they were there. Mr Rees approached this book in the same way an academic would approach a medical study, which means that this book is most likely a very true representation of what people experienced.

However, this unemotional approach had a down side for me. I was left flat, emotionally, after reading what must have been the most difficult memories for these people to relive. I st I was very interested in reading this book, after all, how could anyone understand the horror of those times unless they were there.

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I still found the book interesting but it could have been so much more. That is the reason for the three stars. Apr 24, Russ rated it liked it. There are some horrors there, but also a couple of people who did what they thought was right, suffered the consequences for the rest of their lives, but would still do the same again. What do you think? What would you have done?

An excellent question and one that keeps being asked throughout this thought-provoking and interesting book. I was twenty-one years old that summer of the fire-bombing. And I really was wanting to get the war over and I wanted to go home.

Darkest Hour review – Gary Oldman is a tremendous Winston Churchill in high-octane drama

And if they told me to go and bomb some cities, I went and bombed cities. What this testimony and more like it show, is how distance and remoteness from victims can sanitise the horror, whilst also paving t 4. What this testimony and more like it show, is how distance and remoteness from victims can sanitise the horror, whilst also paving the way for a greater emotional and psychological detachment, reducing the act of killing, to the simple act of pressing a button or pulling a lever.

This makes it a lot easier to compartmentalise, because you are no longer a killer, but just the guy who pushed the button. The book really brings home the phenomenal power of propaganda, particularly in the case of Imperial Japan, which had the population so brainwashed, aside from the thousands of kamikaze pilots, you had citizens killing themselves, and some killing their own mother, father and sister, in the mistaken belief that if captured by the Americans they would be made to suffer under torture and be killed. It was a lot more complex and nuanced than that, good, bad and everything in between were done by people on all sides of the conflict.

These complaints were raised in relation to two instances involving British forces that Rees talks about. Apparently the Brits were in charge of deporting thousands of soldiers back home.

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They had promised the Cossacks that they would be sent back to their country of origin. There was also a similar case involving the repatriation of Yugoslav people being deceived and sent back to Tito, even though Churchill had said not to. The first-hand accounts are nicely edited and almost every one of them leaves you wanting more, which is testament to Rees. From a one armed, one eyed Belgian holocaust denier to the Japanese soldier who spent 29 years hiding out in the Philippine jungle, refusing to believe the war was over. We get quite an incredible contrast of subjects and survivors.

He never labours a point, and this talent makes for a smooth and enjoyable read. And that went for everything I did In China. It was only afterwards that I really came to feel remorse. It also illustrates just how differently people deal with these situations and how they square their decisions with the rest of their life, when war is over and they go onto lead relatively normal lives with kids and grandchildren of their own.

Retrospective reactions range from staunch denial to idealising and glorifying the period. His skills lie in his restraint and brevity, making for an articulate yet accessible experience. This is an interesting book. A collection of short accounts of people's experiences of World War Two, which shows how people's behaviours were tested and the decisions they made. There are not just the usual accounts of German atrocities. We hear from Soviet men and women, including the terrifying Zanaida Pytkina who was a This is an interesting book. Occasionally we hear a story about genuine courage when someone stands up against the prevailing horror, but mostly these are stories about a failure to do that.

Rees raises two key questions: what would we have done and how can we truly know and what can we do to stop these things happening again, which in the current political climate is an interesting question. The accounts of the British treatment of Cossack and Yugoslavian POWs that we handed back to the Russians and Tito shows that sometimes we don't have the moral high-ground, although Rees rightly points out that whilst there is criticism to be made of the Allied bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan they stopped once the war came to an end.

There was no question that Nazi and Japanese atrocities wouldn't have carried on had they won the war. He also notes how the de-humanising of the enemy makes it much easier to kill them. The Japanese didn't see the Chinese as 'human' and the Germans were taught the same about the Jews.

If you see someone as cattle it is easier to justify their murder. I found the Japanese and Soviet stories most interesting, possibly because I've read less about those sides of things than the Germans and one wearies of elderly Germans talking about how charming the Nazis were, how things were better then and how they couldn't possibly have known what was happening to the Jews. Just pretending that bad things are not happening and only thinking of oneself is rarely a sustainable option.

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Ignoring the 'little' abuses when they begin only makes it harder to stop the bigger abuses that follow. It's why you stand up for the rights of the people who hate and despise everything we stand for or whose behaviour we find repugnant. Once rights are taken away from them, which is an easy sell, it becomes easier for a government to take the rights from the next group and the next group.

Until you find yourself in a Holocaust via a thousand little steps. It's a tough read at some points.


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It's an ugly insight into how thin the veneer of civilisation might actually be, but it illustrates the need to stand up and be counted as early as possible whilst pointing out that until we are truly tested we can never know how we would behave. Overall, this book is a good read.

It has 35 accounts of people who lived through WWII and had to make terrible decisions, albeit by our standards. The different narratives helped me understand why these 35 individuals did the things they did; each of them has logical reasons. As Rees constantly pointed out, what would we really do if we are put in their situations?

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While there are some chapters which left me aghast at their accounts especially the final section on Mass Suicide , there are some Overall, this book is a good read. These chapters were the weakest in the book but fortunately, they form a minority. If Rees could have let his interviewees speak for themselves, then this would have been a much more impactful book.

I was overall frustrated with this book. The author too often took the actual testimony and then endeavored to read the mind of the person who was being interviewed and explain the "real" reason for their actions instead of letting the person speak for themselves. This reading "between the lines" has its place, no doubt, but not after asking for a person's recollections and then attributing what you think are the "real" motives etc.

Seemed to be an agenda lurking in the background. Sep 15, Mark rated it it was amazing. A somewhat sad but very thought provoking book. As well as a collection of fascinating testimonies that give some real and fresh historical insight into WW2, fundamental questions are asked of the human condition, admirably summed up in the postscript. This book examines what happens to man when he is pushed to, and beyond, their capabilities, physically, but also mentally and spiritually. What happens when authority demands of you, in moments of terror, chaos and exhaustion, what any sane person would refuse in an instant?

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Their Darkest Hour Their Darkest Hour
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