One could build the image of masculinity through the images and themes communicated through Band of Brothers. In many ways, my friends and I are the male products of a litany World War Two films, television programmes, video games and afternoons spent playing with toy machine guns as children. In Britain, the story of World War Two is the great moral story that one learns at a very early age. Afternoons are spent at the Imperial War Museum and war memorials are very often the central features in towns or schools. The most masterful communication of the events on the Western Front are told through Band of Brothers. This HBO/BBC drama features the true story of the Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division as they get parachuted into Normandy and then fight through France, Holland and Austria. In 2021 I rewatched Band of Brothers for the first time since 2010, when the KGS Hockey B-team drove through Wageningen pretending to be the allies liberating the Western front as we watched it on our portable DVD players. Through studying World War Two one is made aware of the strangeness surrounding the conditions for war. Band of Brothers is a story about men who were driven to fight for their lives because of a host of historical factors that took place before they were born. Men that were driven to fight because of an insane man named Adolf Hitler.
It is strange that so much of our images of community, and historical memory and masculinity and adventure are as a consequence of Hitler because Hitler is arguably one of the strangest characters History has ever known. The fanatical megalomaniacal insanity of Hitler is well documented by two of World War Two’s greatest chroniclers. George Orwell wrote of Hitler ‘people who say that Hitler is Antichrist, or alternatively, the Holy Ghost, are nearer an understanding of the truth than the intellectuals who for ten dreadful years have kept it up that he is merely a figure out of comic opera, not worth taking seriously’. Hannah Arendt writes that Hitler once explained to the supreme commanders of the Wehrmacht that he was ‘irreplacable’ and that ‘the destiny of the Reich depends on me alone’. Writing 60 years later Christopher Hitchens provides a perfectly arranged summary asserting that ‘Germany was governed by an ultra-rightist, homicidal, paranoid maniac who had begun by demolishing democracy in Germany itself, who believed that his fellow countrymen were a superior race and who attributed the evils in the world to a Jewish conspiracy’.
It’s bizarre to imagine how much of our present culture stems from a hated lunatic. Without Hitler there would be no statues commemorating Churchill in Parliament Square, Bomber Harris outside St Clements, the Animals outside of Hyde Park and the Blitz opposite the London Eye. There would be no Barbican, there would be no Call of Duty 2 or World At War, no Saving Private Ryan, no Schindler’s List, no Inglorious Bastards, no Fury, no Downfall, no Great Escape, no Reader, no Band of Brothers, no lessons on the Holocaust.
Regardless of how much moral credibility we are to extract from studying Hitler and the Nazi’s the fact of the matter is that they were the directors of 20th century geopolitics, the architects of our European cities, the playmasters of the European theatrics that defined 21st century liberalism and the subject of our cultures most prized pieces of work. Whether we like it or not, we are still living in and as the consequence of Hitler’s imagination.
Today one of the major political consequence of World War Two is that it created the conditions for the CCP to take China from the Western supported Nationalist government. Without delving into the counterfactual fates of the Soviet Union, the British Empire and Fascist Japan, we have a direct correlation between our present state of affairs with China, described by MI5 as Britain’s biggest national security threat, and the actions of a failed artist who took to mass murdering and politics. Therefore, amidst the films, the archetypes, the songs, the statues, the city plans, the CCP and the Coronavirus, the example of Adolf Hitler demonstrates the supreme importance of geopolitics.