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Dec 2004 Journal

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Gott moves in mysterious ways

Recently the New Statesman's critic Richard Gott lauded Professor Overton's The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, while objecting to a number of other books comparing the two tyrants. He wrote: 'Somewhere, in the ever-popular "parallel lives" genre, a study of Franklin D Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler surely must exist. One put the Japanese in concentration camps, the other locked up the Jews. One took control over America's traditional sphere in Latin America, while the other moved decisively into Germany's obvious heartland in eastern Europe. So how come these startling parallels have been largely ignored by historians and publishers?'

I assume that Gott penned these lines with satiric intent, but a scintilla of nagging doubt remains. Some iconoclasts have a passion for tearing down hero figures from their pedestals. The vandalising three years ago of the Churchill statue in Parliament Square proved that to some on the anarchist left the greatest Briton ever was simply an imperialist. Never mind that he helped rid the world of Hitler, 'they say', he opposed Indian independence and ordered soldiers to fire on striking miners.

If Churchill presents a target for character assassination, his co-architect of victory over Nazism, the abovementioned Roosevelt, positively invites attack. Do I hear you ask why this should be so? The answer is simple: it's the nationality, stupid! FDR was American. It is a handicap not even a President Kerry - who incidentally, in classic immigration fashion, had a grandfather named Kohn - would have been able to escape for long. In the eyes of the bien-pensant left, America's place is in the wrong.
Richard Grunberger

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