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17th January, 2016

Britain is obsessed with the Second World War. 'For a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour,' so wrote Churchill. Well, men have been saying it for the past 70 years and will probably go on saying it for the remaining 930 years.

Still, while Britain is obsessed with WWII, it is by no means a unique obsession. Take yesterday for example. I travel to Bergisch Gladbach, spot a bookshop on the high-street and take a customary browse. Bergish Gladbach: small town, small bookshop. The history section was but a single bookcase. Yet how much of that bookcase was dedicated to the Second World War? At least 60-70%, I'd say.

The recently republished Mein Kampf; a Hitler biography or two; histories of the Holocaust; books about the run up to the war, books about its aftermath; a book about war children, another about the Hitler Youth. For anyone wanting to read about anything even remotely relating to the Second World War, this little bookshop in Bergisch Gladbach has all the bases covered. With just a single book on Bismarck, one book on Waterloo, a handful on the First World War, it seems that the rest of history is being slightly neglected.

Goebbels famously called for a total war. Today Germany suffers from a total obsession. It's not just in the bookshops, but in the newspapers. It’s on the streets, in the pubs and in the supermarkets – it permeates all of society. Not that that is necessarily an unhealthy obsession, but an obsession it is.

Waterloo Bicentenary
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