Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 9.24.18
Just Outside Washington


How did this happen?

As I've previously mentioned, I went to high school in Wiesbaden, Germany, arriving there in June 1948. The devastation was horrendous; piles of rubble where large apartments had been, smelled of the dead in the summer heat, and there were millions of Displaced Persons (DPs) in camps. This experience generated the question that I have studied all my life: How did these really smart, cultured and accomplished people go off the deep end and create this mess?

One of the people who have contributed to my study is Timothy Snyder, an American author and historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and the Holocaust. He is a Professor of History at Yale University, a Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Snyder speaks and writes French, German, Polish, and Ukrainian and can read Czech, Slovak, Russian, and Belarusian.

The first book of Snyder's that I read was Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin< (2010) which he details the killing that took place in Central Europe, mainly Ukraine. Snyder and others (Madelaine Albright in her book Fascism: A Warning, for one) familiar with the Nazi era have raised the concern that the authorities takeover of government that happened in Germany could happen in the U.S. The second book of Snyder's that I read was his outline of things a citizen of a democracy can do to prevent authoritarianism; On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Feb 28, 2017).

The third book of Snyder's that I read was The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (Apr 3, 2018) in which he documents Russian interference in the political processes in Europe and in the U.S. This book is 400 pages with extensive footnotes. An easier way to access what Timothy Snyder has to say is through is short on-line talks. The first link is to a 13-minute talk about one aspect of the interference. The second link is to a Yale lecture on European history, which is one hour long.