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Reporting the war: Perspectives on the enemy

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  1. Introduction
  2. The characterization of Germans
  3. Ernie Pyle's impressions
  4. The German Luftwaffe
  5. Compositions of Fighting Ships
  6. The needs of Allied propaganda
  7. Analysis of Grossman's writings
  8. Aftermath of the war
  9. Ancient Rome's description
  10. Conclusion
  11. Works cited

War correspondents' writings on the Second World War offer a contemporary perspective to the fighting, the events, and the experience of individuals engaged in the 1939-1945 conflict. From the Front, wire dispatches, radio broadcast, photography, and film recordings returned to educate the populace on news of the War as a means of rallying support for the Allied effort. Since the end of the War, positive reflections on ?the enemy' and the German people continue to find representations in popular media as a source of controversy. Not only has ?war guilt' presented itself to survivors and subsequent generations of Germans, but public tribute or memory for the sacrifice and the contribution of veterans and deceased soldiers during the Second World War is impolitic. As such, negative images of ?the enemy' continues to classify depictions of the Axis powers to this day. For instance, Prince Harry's attire as a Nazi at a fancy dress party provoked international outrage when it was published in the British tabloids in 2005. Concomitantly, the positive Hollywood portrayal of Tom Cruise as Schutzstaffel officer Oberst Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie (2008) was solely due to his orchestration of the 20 July, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The essay will explore the characterization of Germans as ?the enemy' in selected Second World War literature?that is, as a people somehow monstrous, inhumane, or ?to blame' for the hostilities. From this prejudicial bias, personal and collective justification was provided for the deaths of German soldiers and civilians during and after the war. As ?they deserved it,' it was not wrong or unjust to want them dead. Moreover, in these readings, Germans find themselves at the periphery of the narrative, as objects as opposed to subjects, never truly passing beyond the limits of ?Other.'

[...] The enemy is something ever-present, but not necessarily physically. As if a shadow, or a haunting image in the mind's memory, they are a force which does not necessarily materialize as a solid substance. This is in direct opposition to Charles Rawlings text Fighting Ships. Detailing the attack on a Canadian convoy by German submarines, or U-Boats, Rawlings narrative is an eye-witness report of the HMCS Skeena and her efforts to repel the ?Wolf Pack.? Unlike Pyne's comment that a sort of mutual respect exists between aeroplane pilots, Rawlings expresses nothing but outright loathing and anger toward the German enemy. [...]


[...] The enemy in Fighting Ships is therefore fundamentally faceless; he is an absent, unseen menace lurking beneath the surging waves of the Atlantic. Would another medium focus the experience of the enemy in a more humane fashion? Shapiro's Camera Commandos details Canadian photojournalists during the Allied landing of D-Day and the infantry engagement across France and Western Europe. Armed with the lens of a movie or still camera, these men captured battlefield footage to be sent directly back from the Front. [...]


[...] Grossman's writings do not singularly focus on the experience of German soldiers in Stalingrad, instead occupying themselves with the ?heroes' of the Soviet army. The gruesome details of the street-fighting are highlighted and explained, and the commonplace loss of life is a main and everyday feature. Grossman comments, soldier who'd spent three days here considered himself an old-timer. Here, people only lived for one [155]. When detailing this brutish existence, Grossman follows the activity of Russian snipers in their selection of German targets?shooting them when they paused to eat, walk for water, or whenever an indiscriminate chance presented itself. [...]

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