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Note from the Editor
by Diana Kuprel

Germany invades Poland on Sept. 1
Britain & France declare war on Germany on Sept. 3
Canada declares war on Sept. 10
U.S.S.R. invades Poland on Sept. 17 & Finland in Nov.

Germany invades Norway & Denmark on Apr. 9
On May 10, Germany invades Low Countries
Churchill becomes Prime Minister; gives "blood, toil,
tears, & sweat" speech on May 13
Holland surrenders on May 14
British forces evacuated from Dunkirk, May 26-June 3
Italy declares war on France & Britain
Germans enter Paris on June 14; France surrenders on
June 21; Marshall Pétain signs armistice with Germany
Battle of Britain begins in summer
Japan, Germany, & Italy sign military pact
London Blitz begins

Royal Navy sinks Bismarck on May 27
Germany attacks U.S.S.R. on June 22
RAF bombs Nuremberg
Japanese bomb Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7
U.S. & Britain declare war on Japan on Dec. 8
U.S. garrison on Guam surrenders to Japan on Dec. 10
Germany & Italy declare war on U.S. & vice-versa Hong Kong surrenders to Japan on Dec. 25

Jan. Wannsee Conf. confirms extermination policy
Japan takes Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Java, Rangoon
Cabinet announces mass evacuation of Japanese Canadians under War Measures Act on Feb. 26
German U-boat torpedoes transport ship in
St. Lawrence on May 11
First 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne on May 30
Rommel defeats British at El Adem on June 13
Canadians land at Dieppe on Aug. 19
Americans in Guadalcanal
Battle of Stalingrad begins in Aug.
Extermination of Jews in gas chambers begins

Goebbels proclaims "fanatical will" "for the salvation of Germany and civilization" in Feb.
Japanese driven from Guadalcanal
Hitler orders "scorched earth" policy
Allies in N. Africa put under Eisenhower's command
Warsaw ghetto uprising, Apr. 19-May 16
Allies land in Sicily on July 10, take Palermo on 22nd
Firebombing of Hamburg, July 24-27
Mussolini arrested on July 25
Churchill, Roosevelt, Mackenzie King meet in Quebec
Eisenhower announces Italy's surrender on Sept. 8
Italy declares war on Germany
U.S. forces regain islands in Pacific
In Oct., Himmler tells SS officers: "Most of you will
know what it means to deal with a hundred, or five hundred, or even a thousand corpses. To have endured this and-a few exceptions of human weakness aside-to have remained decent, that has made us tough. This is an unwritten and never to be written page of glory in our history."
Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt hold Teheran Conf. in
Nov.; agree to "work together in war & in peace"
Allied "round-the-clock" bombing of Germany begins

Monte Cassino monastery bombed
Allies capture Rome on May 23
D-Day: Allies land in Normandy on June 6
Russians begin Operation Bagration on June 22
German officers try to assassinate Hitler on July 20
Premier Tojo of Japan resigns
Warsaw uprising begins Aug. 1
Americans recapture Guam
Dumbarton Oaks conference in Washington on UN
De Gaulle enters Paris on Aug. 25
U.S. troops land in Philippines
Red Army occupies Hungary
"Battle of the Bulge" (Ardennes) begins
Pétain imprisoned at Belfort

British offensive begins in Burma
Russians take Warsaw, Cracow, Tilsit, & reach Oder
Yalta Conference between Churchill, Roosevelt, &
Stalin on Feb. 4-10 accords E. Europe to Stalin
RAF annihilates Dresden on Feb. 13/14
Americans enter Manila
Russians reach Berlin
Mussolini killed by Italian partisans
Hitler commits suicide on April 30
Berlin surrenders to Russians on May 2; Germany capitulates on May 7
V.E. Day ends war in Europe on May 8
Russians enter Majdanek on July 23
Eden, Molotov, Smuts, & Stettinius sign UN Charter on June 26
U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima (Aug. 6) & Nagasaki (Aug. 9)
World War II ends on Aug. 14-or Sept. 2


September 1, 1999 marks the 60th Anniversary of the start of World War II. During the six years it took to run its course, the earth was rent, entire peoples "displaced", words for the atrocities committed, invented. But if the unceasing production of books is any indication, ten times that many years has not sufficed to work through the trauma it inflicted on our collective conscience. It is as though, as anthropologist Katherine Verdery suggests, the nameless dead-the millions buried in collective graves and not accorded "proper burial"-return in a succession of spectres that refuse to let us be-in peace (The Political Lives of Dead Bodies, Columbia, 185 pages, US $21.50 cloth).

The books discussed represent the spectrum of disciplines that have contended with the catastrophe: history, science, philosophy, belles lettres, but also film, memoirs, and children's literature. The reviews, interviews, essays, and oral recollections constitute multiple and varied entry points into a subject whose enormity defies comprehension or closure-just as the chronology above can provide only the barest outline of events, and, admittedly, a highly contestable one at that, with different sources putting forth different dates for the end that refused to end.

Some books arrived too late to be entered. One that merits attention is Modris Eksteins' Walking Since Daybreak (Key Porter, 258 pages, $32.95 cloth). Blending family history with the broader historical scene, entangling remote and recent pasts, the scholar casts an uncompromising light on many of the war's overlooked, ignored or silenced aspects.

Another highly recommended book is Timothy Ryback's The Last Survivor: In Search of Martin Zaidenstadt (Pantheon, 196 pages, $32 cloth). The book is ostensibly about the author's quest to confirm the unrecorded identity of a Dachau Jew who claims to have survived the camp, and who presents himself as the unofficial resident tour guide whose mission it is to counter the revisionist version of history the Germans are publicizing. What this exceptional work of reportage accomplishes is to permit those involved to speak on their own behalf and to thereby implicate or redeem themselves; it also defers the act of understanding and judgment to the reader. In the process, Ryback gives us a harsh example of Norman Davies' conclusion: "people remember what they want to remember and forget what they want to forget".

One more noteworthy book is For most of it I have no words: Genocide, Landscape, Memory (Dewi Lewis, no pagination, $82 cloth), a frighteningly beautiful photographic album by Simon Norfolk, with a passionately eloquent essay by Michael Ignatieff. The volume, which opens up as many questions as it answers, looks backwards over this "merciless" century to the multiple sites of extermination-from Rwanda through Dresden and Auschwitz to Namibia-to show how forgetfulness ruthlessly sets in as a result of will, natural decomposition or blowing sand.

I picked up the book at Presentation House Gallery in June. The gallery is one of several Vancouver venues hosting a changing program of exhibitions that examine memories and ideologies of war-the physical concept cleverly fitting for a subject which itself is played out in multiple arenas. World War II was the focus of "Bearing Witness", which featured the stunning work of Roy Kiyooka (photos of wartime newspaper clippings), Nam June Paik (a video document, Guadalcanal Requiem), Barbara Steinman (a violin series), and Hiromi Tsuchida (images from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum). Despite its minimalism, the exhibit proved to be a highly compelling, consciousness-transforming experience. Co-curators Karen Love and Karen Henry explain the artistic method: after World War II, "technology and horror reached what was, for a time at least, critical mass. These experiences cannot be represented except as fragments, icons that serve as memorials in the human psyche." (War Zones runs from April 17 to September 26. A book is in the works.)

In addition to texts on World War II, we feature, in our Great Authors series, Montreal poet Irving Layton, who has a few choice words to say about the war. There are also reviews of a variety of books on Marcel Proust, Marshall McLuhan, Martin Luther, etc., which appear, curiously, to gravitate around themes of conversion, shifting, revolution, endings...


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