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Another academic paper, this one covering a more spiritual topic via a historical lens, as with the previous paper I’ve added some images to keep your attention between the long bits with the words. I also added a little music to this one, Two Steps from Hell seemed like an appropriate band for this particular paper, enjoy.

A Cultural Comparison of Dante’s “Inferno” and the Islamic Hell

Exploring the fires of what we call “hell” as a cultural concept is to explore written human history itself, religious or otherwise. From the very start of organized and recorded religion there has been the concept of the underworld, reward for those who do well, and punishment for those who do evil. There are very few cultures that escape this pattern, very few faiths without a concept of the underworld as a place of punishment for those who have broken that faith or sinned against that same faith.

Zoroastrianism is one of the first faiths to emerge out of the murky prehistory in the Fertile Crescent and one of the first major religions in human history, coming to its full rise along with the Persian Empire. Zoroastrianism was one of the first faiths that described it’s after life as having a place for the wicked to be punished. Various Zoroastrian texts show that in many cases punishments were set to fit the crime and that the Zoroastrian hell was described as a dark place of smoke and fire, these concepts and many more central tenants of Zoroastrianism appear to have influenced many faiths throughout the age so it’s positions on hell are an important starting point when trying to understand influence in later faiths.

The Egyptians were of particular note with the judgment of Anubis rendering all men equal before him, weighing their souls and if they were found to be impure ending their after lives by feeding them to the ravenous creature Ammit, the devourer. If their souls balanced the scale, showing them to have led a good life however they were free to proceed in to the afterlife continuing forward. Here the underworld was a good place, more a heaven then a hell, and the reward for evil was utter oblivion. (1)

Of further interest to any one studying the culture of hell is the Greco-Roman Hades, here we begin to see the start of the western hell in full swing with its clearly defined places and layers as well as its three general destinations for souls to be sent too. The Fields of Asphodel are first and most common, this is a place not for heroes or evil men but for every one in between. Elysium was the land of the blessed or blameless heroes; those who had done many great things in life were richly rewarded in the afterlife. Finally Tartarus was what we think of modernly as “hell” a place of eternal judgment and punishment for those who had sinned grievously in life. (1)

The cultural roots and patterns of the past are important things to consider as we move in to our contemplation of the modern western view of hell as characterized by Dante Alighieri “Divine Comedy” specifically the portion known as “The Inferno”. Many individuals would probably challenge me on my use of the Divine Comedy of being representative of the western view of hell, especially those with very strong religious convictions and a strong working knowledge of their faith. I do not mean to say that the Divine Comedy is the equivalent of these religious works or that it has supplanted these faith views but rather that it is a cultural phenomenon. I believe that if you ask the average western man or woman on the street to describe hell their own mental imagery of hell would be from the Inferno. The classic architecture of nine levels of burning torment and justice for the wicked that have fallen in with evil during their lives. These sinners are separated by various grades and levels of wickedness, such as lust, gluttony, violence and the other six primary divisions of Dante’s hell. Ruled over by the lord of the fallen himself, whom Virgil refers to as “The ruler of the woeful realm”, (2) with his demonic servants to torture the damned for all eternity.

There’s already significant cultural blending in Dante’s Inferno, the river Styx making a reappearance as the point at which souls must cross in to hell from the realm of purgatory which many think of as “Level 0” of hell. The place those who have neither earned their way in to heaven nor have fallen to the depths of hell remain there, those who have fallen are carried across the Styx by another traditional figure of hell, The boatman Chiron. Further on in hell the great three headed dog Cerberus also waits. This Greco-Roman influence in the inferno is also witnessed in the very concept of hell as a place ruled by a dark master a concept of the god Hades. Another Greco-Roman theme evident in the inferno is the concept of “punishment fitting the crime” in many famous Grecian myths those cast in to Tartarus are condemned to punishments for all eternity that will forever remind them of their crimes, gluttons are forever starving reaching for fruit that is just out of their grasp or trying to reach water that is just out of reach.

This “eye for an eye” style of punishment is a central theme in the inferno with each layer of hell being reserved for a specific kind of crime to mete out specific punishments for those crimes. Violence is for example is separated in to “Violence towards others” wherein those convicted of the “general” crime boil in a river of blood for all eternity (2), while others who went above and beyond the call of duty in their pursuit of the sin, mass murderers, warriors who slaughtered for their own pleasure instead of defending others, that like receive still more grievous punishment as the scope of their sin increases.

This view of hell and Satan differ greatly from the traditional Christian model of hell. Which is described much more generally as a place of “eternal fire” what is certain however that despite Satan’s role as “the adversary” he is not the ruler, the jailor or master of hell. Rather Satan and his fallen are prisoners, the worst of the worst the world has to offer, forever denied redemption and the Almighty’s love. Satan’s role traditionally speaking is a quick witted, devious, and highly intelligent foe that delights in dragging down the creation God has labored on. He is not however, a powerful ruler of his own realm, for he is still very weak compared to God and can only use his cunning to effect the weak minded or faithless who might stray from the path God has laid out for them.

It’s truly hard to lock down a traditional view of the individual referred to as Satan from a Christian or Judaic view point as his (Satan’s) role changes so much throughout the Bible. With expanded thinking from various holy men only serving to muddle the water even further. It’s easy to see why a popular work of fiction with a religious basis like Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost would capture the public imagination and provide a more lasting impact then scholarly papers on the same subject much for the same reason many historic events are more commonly remembered via the Hollywood version of events instead of what actually happened.

Islamic hell is referred to as “Jahannam” and is also depicted similarly to Dante’s hell in that it is a fiery pit filled with pain and torture. “Jannah” or “Paradise” is also split in two levels, as hell is split according to the foulness of your sins, so is heaven split in two sections base on the virtues with which you lead your life. Instead of being ruled by Satan and his fallen, Islamic hell is controlled by the angel Maalik and his Zabaniyah, the angels who guard hell and punish those sentenced there for eternity. The major sins in Islamic hell to which the most horrible punishments are meted out are suicide, the sin of polytheism, and heresy. Islam is divided along the standard Sunni/Shia lines when it comes to the punishment of non-believers, as well as the punishments handed out for Muslims who fail in their faith during life. “The one who is not performing his prayer intentionally is truly an unbeliever” is a quote attributed to the Prophet and is generally taken to mean that if you’re just going through the motions of faith you may as well not even practice at all. These individuals will be judged by Allah during the “Qiyamat” or “Final Judgment” according to their individual circumstances. “Allah may choose make the punishment of hell temporary if Allah Wills it according to Allah’s Wisdom and Knowledge” Verse 6:128, The Quran. This seems to indicate that Allah will potentially show mercy to those individuals who were not believers but still lived good lives.

Right off the bat the comparisons between Islamic hell and Dante’s hell are very easy to identify, the layered structure, divided by crime, like a very organized series of modern cell blocks. Flames and darkness, eternal punishment and torment characterize both these after lives for the damned also share the bottom of hell being a frozen tormented place called Zamhareer in Islam and is of course Dante’s 9th circle of hell. Hawiyah is the lowest portion of the Islamic hell and is still a frozen pit. Islam and Dante condemn the similar types of sinners to these darkest reaches of the pit. With the 9th circle of hell being reserved for various types of traitor, with the greatest traitor at all, Satan who committed personal treachery against God in the middle. Similarly the lowest reaches of Islamic hell condemn hypocrites both spiritual and otherwise to the depths.

Both of these differ from the generally accepted view of Christian hell, However it would be extremely difficult to properly compare and contrast the Christian version of hell with either of these due to the varied nature and descriptions of hell between varying factions of Christianity. There is no one single, Christian hell or view of hell and is thus impossible for me to truly give a concise comparison here that will be truly accurate to my own satisfaction. I will however offer a simplified and brief comparison for the sake of completeness.

The primary similarities are the torment and fire shared between the three, there is no place of frozen hell described in any Christian teaching that I have learned of, further Christianity differs from both Islam and Dante’s works by being generally described as a single hell as opposed to the layered versions of Dante and Islam. Christian hell agrees with Dante with hell generally being cast as the realm of Satan; if not quite to the extent Dante describes it. Islam maintains its angelic prison masters as described previously. Again these are very general definitions for the Christian hell and a very basic comparison to continue to illustrate the differences between Dante and Christianity.

There are many strong similarities between the Islamic vision of hell and Dante’s Inferno. It was first suggested that there was an Islamic Influence in Dante’s writing by Professor Miguel Asin Palacios in a scholarly paper in 1919 (5). While the period Dante was writing in did have lines of learning flowing from Europe to Islamic centers of power I do not believe that Dante was directly influenced by Islamic teachings in the construction of his Inferno. The debate on the subject matter has been going back and forth for what’s coming up on a 100 years, literally since the paper by Professor Palacios was published.

My conclusions on the matter are drawn from the descriptions of Islam and Islamic figures described in the Inferno.

“He eyed me, with his hands laid his breast bare,
And cried, “Now mark how I do rip me: lo!

        30

How is Mohammed mangled: before me
Walks Ali weeping, from the chin his face
Cleft to the forelock; and the others all,
Whom here thou seest, while they lived, did sow
Scandal and schism, and therefore thus are rent

-Canto XXVII, 29-35 (1)

This described both Mohammed and his faithful disciple Ali, both extremely important figures in Islam as “sowers of discord” confined to the 9th circle of hell. Further Dante, described the City of Dis in Canto VIII saying that it contained many mosques and that they were all wreathed in flames. This placement of important Muslim religious figures and religious structures deep amongst the sinners of hell shows what I think to be a deep seated contempt for Islam. The fifth and sixth Crusades both occurred during Dante’s lifetime and there was certainly a very strong dislike of Islam prevalent amongst Europeans at that time. This leads me to conclude that if Dante was influenced by Islam in the creation of The Divine Comedy, then it was most likely very indirect.

As we view the evolution and changes of religious belief we find that our understanding of the past and religious traditions of historical faiths are critical in understanding the role that history plays in the shaping of modern faiths. Both the decedents of those original faiths such as Zoroastrianism or Islam that exist directly today and other newer faiths that contain links to the faiths of the past display a strong influence of history shaping the religious structures and patterns of today.

Bibliography

  1. Gardiner, Eileen. “Hell Online.” Hell Online. Ithaca Press, 03 AUG 2009. Web. 23 Mar 2011. <http://www.hell-on-line.org/index.html&gt;.
  2. (Alighieri), Dante. The divine comedy. 1985. Print.
  3. 1. The Koran, Islamic, 632–656 CE.
  4. Personal Interview names redacted for privacy
  5. Palacios, Miguel Asin. La Escatología musulmana en la Divina Comedia (“Islamic Eschatology in the Divine Comedy”), . Spain: 1919. Print.

Notes:

1. I would like to take extra time to take Redacted for sharing his years of learning and wisdom in Islam with me and helping me to more completely understand the part of his faith covered in this paper, as well as a more complete understanding of Islam in general. His guidance on many of the subjects in this paper were what made it possible to write and for me to understand instead of just blinding guessing from random Koranic readings, Google searches and bothering librarians.

2. Citation 5 is merely referencing the work that first outlined the possibility that Dante had been influenced by Islam in creating his version of hell; I did not actually acquire or research this work.

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This is the a research paper written for one of my college courses, due to it’s academic nature it is presented with full citations and a bibliography, exactly as it was turned in, because this is the internet and the denizens therein are a distract-able lot I did add a bunch of pictures to keep everyone’s attention in between the long boring bits with the words 😉 this is the first of two academic papers I’ll be publishing on this site, because A. ready made material and B. I’m particularly proud of both documents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -Amp

The act of dehumanization is defined by Miriam Webster as “to deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit”. More fluidly in its applied state, dehumanization is the act of a country reducing their enemy to a status of less than human both in the eyes of their soldiers and their citizenry. (1) It has been a facet of warfare since we first evolved social groups. (2)“They are foul pagans!” “Look at the tone of their skin!” “They do X, Y and Z like filthy barbarians!” Those three sentences in one form or another have been at the heart of dehumanization from the very start finding the little lines that separate, making the foe seem brutal and alien, classifying them as “the other”.
As an academic I first became aware of the process of dehumanization as I studied and learned about the Second World War. I was bitten by the bug early and the study of that particular era of history remains my abiding passion. Even as a boy and young man I was taken aback by the sheer amount of negative backlash I received when I expressed interest in the German side of the war. To my mind the German Soldiers were merely men, soldiers like I wanted to be, fighting for their country. As I read further in to their stories, books like “Soldat” by Siegfried Knappe and other biographies and collections of information, I found the vast majority of the German Wermacht to be utterly honorable warriors by even modern civilized standards.

That the Third Reich was inherently an evil entity is not in discussion, especially embodied by the SS, the main instrument of many of the Nazi party. Having said this where does the hatred and spite for the common German Soldat (Soldier, also the equivalent rank of “Private”) come from? In the words of Oberst (Colonel) Hans Ulrich Rudel “Can’t you see? I never fought for a political party, only for Germany”.

"Slap a Jap"

The Second World War is filled with powerful examples of dehumanization on all sides of the conflicts with the Soviet propaganda machine depicting Germans as “ravening beasts” (4). Other examples hit far closer to home with US propaganda depicting the famously buck tooth and near sighted “japs”. Even before the war a lot of attention was given to the Japanese treatment of the Chinese with actions that were declared to be beyond the pale of civilized warfare. (5)

That is the start of dehumanization, of making an enemy something “else”. They are cast as purely evil, lower in the eyes of your civilization and in the harshest light possible. The psychology behind it all is that it will allow soldiers to kill easier, and it will lend more support from the civilian population. Indeed in many interviews and quotes from the Second World War and the wars following it such as Vietnam, the distance created by dehumanization is what allowed many troops to continue fighting the enemy, to safely process what they were inflicting and what was being inflicted upon them.

One point of note for dehumanization from the Soldier’s perspective during both World Wars is that for the most part veterans of both sides will say that they respected their enemy after the fact and that they fought with honor. While this is much more common during World War Two in the European theater of war as opposed to the Pacific, this can be ascribed to conduct on the battlefield and conduct towards POWs through out the conflict. Where the majority of the Wermacht conducted themselves by “civilized” rules of warfare and tended to treat allied POWs fairly well. The Japanese were following in their own standards of warfare and their own dehumanization propaganda which built the Japanese up as a superior race over inferiors and regarded captured and defeated enemies as honor-less dogs and treated these unfortunate captives accordingly.

The Japanese conduct of war was much more brutal over all during the war both against US forces and during the invasion of China earlier in the conflict. As an example of some of their methods, Japanese troops were taught to cry out “Corpsman! Corpsman!” in English if they were wounded and left on the battlefield and to kill the responding US medic with a grenade or other weapon upon his arrival. This and other tactics lead to an entrenching of the dehumanization propaganda spread by the United States that the enemy was “uncivilized” and “barbaric”.

Anti Jew WW2 Propaganda

To the politician dehumanization can be used for civil tasks as well. Back in the old American South, African Americans were reduced to the level of livestock or furniture, dehumanization working culturally to make the South’s “peculiar institution” acceptable and normal to the local populace, and the wider population of the United States at large before the country started dividing over the issue. Even after the American Civil War it took numerous decades to reverse the generations of dehumanization that resulted in massive prejudice against African Americans in the US. Similarly dehumanization was a powerful tool in Adolf Hitler’s Germany with massive amounts of propaganda aimed against the Jews was well as other so-called undesirables such as homosexuals, gypsies and the mentally infirm. This was mixed in with a strong nationalist message and many people willingly went along with what Hitler was selling especially in the financially and spiritually broken Germany after the First World War.

Modern dehumanization doesn’t exist on the same scale that it did in previous wars. Even as recently as the Vietnam war, the US propaganda machine has for all intents and purposes been shut down and replaced with twenty four hour news services such as CNN. Concepts such as “tolerance” and “political correctness” have all but ended outright dehumanization in the propaganda sense of our enemies. It does still exist but it is in a more direct format, broadcasts depicting beheadings and other brutal acts by the Insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken the place of the “Slap a Jap” posters of yesteryear and the culture of both nations is under constant scathing fire for things such as women’s rights, and other forms of religious and social oppression. This has much the same effect as depicting them as beneath the wise, far more progressive Americans but it does it in a manner that is more acceptable and palatable to the times.

Inside the Armed Forces things have also changed to be more reflective of the times, instead of showing propaganda films and cartoons that dehumanize the foe to make the GI, Marine or Sailor more likely to engage the enemy in a lethal manner, the service branches give cultural sensitivity briefings and offer computer based classes and study units based on the nations and regions that units are deploying to and encourage or order service members to learn from them. All official dehumanization of a specific foe is completely forbidden, and the distribution of material in that vein could easily result in a court martial or other serious form of punishment.

Standard anti-german propaganda, note the over exaggerated features and characteristics

The dehumanization has instead gone underground to the smoke pits and after hours chats in the barracks, especially amongst the enlisted troops. Slang terms such as “hadji” and “raghead” are in common use for troops of all races and racial slurs and jokes against the enemy are extremely common. Mixed with stories of combat and the enemy’s behavior during it, and reports of the latest murder of civilians by suicide bombing, or the torture and beheading of a fellow serviceman is more then enough to keep the process of dehumanization alive and well, if underground.

To really investigate the modern scope of what I’ll refer to as propaganda or social dehumanization without leaning on my own experiences in the military I conducted a series of interviews with fellow servicemen of all ranks and grades, some with combat experience others without and got a “snap shot” of the general condition of dehumanization in today’s armed forces.* All of the responding individuals reported dehumanization of enemy forces as common place, but none of it official in any format. The one officer interviewed pointed out that referring to the enemy forces as “Taliban”, “insurgents”, “targets”, “hadji” and so forth are actually also a method of dehumanization by separating the enemy from terms like “people” or “person”. (6)

The majority of dehumanization took the form of jokes and banter as previously stated mostly focusing on real world aspects of native behavior that is found distasteful to western sensibilities and morality such as what one respondent called “the dreaded left hand of hadji” a reference to the native version of toilet paper. Similarly incidents such as snipers on a night post catching a native performing an act of beastiality with a donkey has been blown up, exaggerated and turned in to legend that it’s common practice, whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter at this point. These people are animals and barbarians just look at these things they do!(6)

Enemy combat tactics were also derided in disgusted tones by all respondents, even those who had not seen combat. All of them saying they had absolutely no respect for the enemy in the slightest because of their cowardly hit and run tactics, their treatment of prisoners and their willingness to hide behind women and children to avoid return fire from allied forces. The officer responding in particular with his higher grasp of the tactical picture pointed out that the only advantages enemy forces in his AO had were their ability to hide amongst the civilian population and the political hamstringing allied forces faced from back home.(6)

This same officer however volunteered more information on the subject of respect and an honorable opponent saying “Just because a force is enemy is no reason for me to lose respect for them. For example, the Waffen SS fought for the worst regime ever, in my opinion. Still, they fought with honor and earned respect, for the most part. At least on the Western Front against the US/UK/Canada.” This sentiment was much the same across the numerous interviews I conducted. The social dehumanization of the Germans by the Allies was brutal and comprehensive, but after the fact the German’s battlefield conduct, treatment of POWs and so forth was such that the allied troops respected their German counterparts perhaps derailing the dehumanization process. The Germans were given this reputation for brutality but instead proved to be honorable combatants leading to the thought process, “if they act like that they really can’t be that bad”.

This dehumanization process continued in later wars, such as during the Vietnam war, with both the Viet Cong and the NVA being targeted. Both groups were perceived as cowards, hit and run fighters more akin to murderers then proper soldiers. Both groups engaged in the mutilation and torture of allied forces, and hide amongst civilian populations. All of these groups “lived down” to their dehumanization propaganda reputations and cementing the view point that they were “less then human”.

So far in this discussion of the process and function of dehumanization we haven’t really touched on the focus of what dehumanization is aimed at, allowing a functioning normal human being to kill easily and with minimal moral difficulty. Killing other humans is not something that comes naturally to people. Even for men and women raised around firearms who have been hunting for years the skill to successfully kill someone is there but the heart and intent are for the most part not.

Consider the average person who can take a human life in modern American society, there are people who have dehumanized through conditioning to be able to kill such as a gang member who grew up in that environment and lifestyle where killing was normalized and even encouraged. A soldier or a police officer who has been conditioned to be able to shoot and kill also falls in this category albeit through a very different process. Removing that type of individual we have crimes of rage and passion, these are very dissimilar from the soldier’s task or the conditioned criminal, with a crime of passion it’s all on chemicals, many people don’t actually go forth with the thought of killing someone according to the interviews after the fact.

There is only one category of person who has the ability to kill others of their species with out concern, we call these people sociopaths. They have a variety of critical mental illnesses that result in them dehumanizing everything and everyone, there is no emotion to the act of killing, no more then a normal human being does washing their hands. Thankfully these individuals are few and far between and this level of dehumanization is the last thing one would want in a soldier. That’s the point where soldiers lose their sense of who the enemy is and civilians go from people to be defended to just more targets.

The warrior and the conditioned criminal for the most part must do their killing in cold blood, going forth with the intent to kill. Situations can arise to change that, the wounding of a close friend or comrade for example but for the most part the soldier must go about his business as a competent professional in the arts of warfare, this detached coolness is literally the difference between life and death in many cases. Which returns us to that same dehumanization of the enemy, the soldier cannot be worried about if the man shooting at him has a wife or child, he is merely the enemy and must be eliminated so the soldier may be himself preserved and the mission accomplished.

WW1 I believe but still applicable

Even in an environment with high dehumanization of the enemy like in WW2 that doesn’t mean the soldiers in question are conditioned to killing the enemy. After World War 2 Brigadier General S.L.A Marshall discovered that in the European theater of operations that individual riflemen only took shots against exposed enemy soldiers 15-20% of the time. (7) Firing rates increased when ordered to by a superior or when firing from a crew served/key weapons system like a machine gun or flamethrower but for the individual combatant they appeared to be unable or willing to kill. This research was correlated by numerous other studies of foreign armed forces and by FBI studies of firing rates amongst Law Enforcement Officers. (7)

The US military and indeed armed forces world wide responded by introducing conditioning techniques to their marksmanship programs. This condition exists to this day, when Marines learn rifle marksmanship the basic target at the 200 yard line for the known distance course of fire is a standard bulls eye, but all the other targets are human silhouettes, as are all the targets provided during combat marksmanship training, where coaches also provided pinpoint instruction on these same human silhouettes on where to aim for chest, head and “mobility” (the hips and pelvis) shots. LtCol Grossman in his article “On Killing II” that the Army system where silhouette reactive targets are used, that is targets that fall down when you hit them are actually a perfect model of what is called “operant” psychological conditioning. (7)

This new method of conditioning lead to increased firing rates in Korea and even higher in Vietnam, Other countries such as England has similar results in their own conflicts. (12) Considering the methods for conditioning are still being used by the US armed forces today to condition and prepare troops for combat, I’d say the effectiveness of the methodology and the psychology behind it can’t be questioned as far as an increase of combat efficiency is concerned.

The psychology of dehumanization is therefore a dual edged sword, conditioning dehumanization or the process of conditioning a human being by training, to kill is necessary to allow soldiers to perform their duties properly in the field, thus increasing their own survival rates as well as the success rate of their missions. That same conditioning opens up the door to dehumanization of ALL human beings. Similarly with the earlier style of propaganda/social dehumanization which has now moved in to the barracks and work spaces of the military, while it can provide amusement and make it easier on the mind of a soldier to do battle with a particular enemy when it’s an enemy the soldier cannot respect at the very least as a fellow soldier it opens up the door to truly seeing the enemy as subhuman animals which could potentially lead to human rights abuses such as the Abu Ghraib scandal.

The challenge presented by the problem of dehumanization in the armed forces is a daunting task for any one to consider and as a veteran it’s my personal opinion that it’s not going away any time soon, instead of trying to “cure” dehumanization. But as Col Grossman says in one of his papers “…conditioning which overrides such a powerful, innate resistance (not taking human life) has enormous potential for psychological backlash.” (7) It’s strongly possible that the conditioning that has been running full steam from Vietnam on is one of the roots of the massive increase in PTSD cases among combat veterans since the 1970s. Which leaves us a bit of a catch 22, the conditioned dehumanization is vital to ensure the success and survival of the soldier but it is also contributing to psychological damage further down the road.

Dehumanization in both the social form and the conditioned form are fundamental parts of current military culture and military training. We need to more directly asses and study the effects of these processes to ensure the mental health and well being of members of the armed services which will allow them to accomplish their missions over seas and and abroad more effectively.

*To preserve the anonymity of the interviewees, several of whom remain on active duty, mixed with the sensitive nature of this subject, all names are being kept confidential. All references to specific locations have been scrubbed for operational security purposes. The author of this blog will not divulge personal information, reveal sources or release any of the original transcripts of aforementioned interviews in an unscrubbed format. Any release of any format of these interviews will be extremely limited in nature and at the author’s sole discretion.

Bibliography

1. Spencer, Dustie. “Dehumanization and Demonization of the Enemy.” dustiespencer. Dec2007. Web. 30 Jul 2011. <http://sites.google.com/site/dustiespencer/dehumanization- and-demonization-of-the-enemy>.

2. Tigerhawk, . “On dehumanizing the enemy in war and the nature of victory.” Tigerhawk. Blogspot, 16JUL2007. Web. 30 Jul 2011. <http://tigerhawk.blogspot.com/2007/05/on-dehumanizing-enemy-in-war-and-nature.html&gt;.

3. Maiese, Michelle. “Dehumanization.” Beyond Intractability. Beyond Intractability , Jul 2003. Web. 28 Jul 2011. <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/dehumanization/&gt;.

4. Beevor, Anthony. The Fall of Berlin, p. 199

5. “WW2 Dehumanizing the Enemy (Clip).” EVTV1.com. Web. 28 Jul 2011. <http://www.evtv1.com/player.aspx?itemnum=5622&gt;.

6. Names Redacted, . Personal Interviews by <Redacted>. 28/29 JUL 2011. Private Collection. 28 Jul 2011.

7. Grossman, David. “On Killing II: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill.” Killology.com David Grossman, n.d. Web. 28 Jul 2011. <http://www.killology.com/article_onkilling.htm>

The following poem is included purely to please the author’s own aesthetic sense and should not be considered a formal part of the paper. It was written by the author during the research process of this paper.

Soldat:

He was a German soldier

a boy of 18 years

drafted in the name of Deutchland

to stave off growing fears

He fought with courage and honor

now they spit and call him swine

what justice is this really?

the young soldat wants to know

He was fighting for his country

not some master race

that’s when they throw the pictures

in to his horrified face

bodies burnt and blackened

men who look like death but alive

pain and suffering

that none should have to survive

So now the German soldat

honor shattered and alone

realizes he will never go home

cast out and forsaken

This German soldat’s cry

I fought with honor

for my people

not to murder make

the devastation in his eyes

lends a man’s soul to shake

fighting for your country

does not evil make

So remember the German soldat

not with hate or loathing or fear

they were not the monsters

who fed on the murdered’s tears

Instead give them the dignity

the respect and honor due

a fellow warrior and opponent

who fought and battled true

I’ve taken up a new hobby and joined a historical reenactment/living history group. Now I’m feeling some resistence from you already dear readers because you’re probably looking at the image of the strapping young german fellow with “Fallschirmjäger” underneath him and might realise I might not exactly be playing what we would refer to as “a good guy”. There’s plenty of reasons for that, the first of which is that if everyone dressed up as a GI it’d be really boring at events because there wouldn’t be any opposition. It’s not hard to take a hill without any one on it.

The other reasons are that in the end the average soldier in the German armed forces during WW2 was not a Nazi, they did not march out for Adolf Hitler any more than US soldiers and Marines fought for Harry Truman. They were soldiers fighting for their homes, their country and most of all in the manner of all soldiers every where, fighting for the men next to them. These men fought with honor and valor on all fronts and their stories deserve to remembered and told, as a historian this is universal truth. History is to be preserved, all history, not just the parts we feel comfortable with or don’t mess with our gross blanket views of how we’d like to see the past or how hollywood would like to show us through their camera lenses.

This isn’t about ideology or politics, I am not and have never been a member of the Neo-Nazi movement nor do I have any desire to be, thus this disclaimer is being added to the website for people who are too thick to figure it out and need things spelled out.

Important Disclaimer! – This is a non-political web page dealing with the history, equipment, life and campaigns of the World War II German soldier (Fallschirmjäger, etc) and World War II reenacting. This website contains historical information as well as reenacting and living history information. This information includes reenactment photos, historical information covering operations, equipment and photos of World War II soldiers from both sides in action. The information is catalogued and presented to preserve a clear-eyed view of military history and present to the public an accurate representation of a World War II German unit. We do not tolerate or condone any form of racism, radical or extremist activities, or persons with supremacist, fascist or racist political motives or beliefs and we do not support nor glorify the reprehensible policies of the Nazi Party. We do not tolerate, support, or condone any activities of any neo-nazi party organizations, any extremist, anti-immigrant or antisemitic organizations.

Clear? wonderful let’s move on and talk about the Fallschirmjäger. The Fallschirmjäger were the German airborne (that is to say paratrooper) forces for the 2nd World War, under the command of the Luftwaffe, they operated as skirmisher and commandos when in their airborne role but were later shifted to purely infantry units as the war continued on and after some serious casualties. So despite the shift away from jumping and the loss of jump training the Fallschirmjäger name was retained until the end up the war.

They were regarded as an elite German infantry unit and had some of the very latest and greatest in regards to weapons and other equipment.

“The Parachutist’s Ten Commandments.”

1. You are the elite of the German Army. For you, combat shall be fulfillment. You shall seek it out and train yourself to stand any test.

2. Cultivate true comradeship, for together with your comrades you will triumph or die.

3. Be shy of speech and incorruptible. Men act, women chatter; chatter will bring you to the grave.

4. Calm and caution, vigor and determination, valor and a fanatical offensive spirit will make you superior in attack.

5. In facing the foe, ammunition is the most precious thing. He who shoots uselessly, merely to reassure himself, is a man without guts. He is a weakling and does not deserve the title of parachutist.

6. Never surrender. Your honor lies in Victory or Death.

7. Only with good weapons can you have success. So look after them on the principle—First my weapons, then myself.

8. You must grasp the full meaning of an operation so that, should your leader fall by the way, you can carry it out with coolness and caution.

9. Fight chivalrously against an honest foe; armed irregulars deserve no quarter.

10. With your eyes open, keyed up to top pitch, agile as a greyhound, tough as leather, hard as Krupp steel, you will be the embodiment of a German warrior.

For more on the Fallschirmjäger check out this living history website that specializes in Fallschirmjäger impressions.

Second Impression: 101st Airborne 

I was going to try to go Marine but there’s an unsurprising absence of Marine living history outfits so I’m forming up with the opposite number of the Fallschirmjäger and running around a little with out local outfit of the screaming eagles.

This is the second of the two impressions both because the Fallschirmjäger unit is understrength and because the total cost of an Airborne kit would be about $1200 with the cheap M-1 Garands I can get through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. A Kar 98 Mauser is still only about $200 so cost wise that a lot more effective just to start even if uniform costs are the same.

 Eventually however I will develop a full kit for both outfits and play bothsides as the case and my mood may warrant. For example if we go to an event with an especially strong Allied presence I’ll wear the one to help bolster the opfor, but if the unit goes to an event with a strong Axis presence I can get my Allied paratrooper boots out and get to work. 

Quote of the post:

“Shiny, let’s be bad guys”

                                     -Jayne Cobb