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Fallen Soldiers


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About the Author

George L. Mosse is Bascom-Weinstein Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Koebner Professor of History, Emeritus, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His previous books include The Crisis of German Ideology, Nazi Culture, The Nationalization of the Masses, Nationality and Sexuality, and Toward the Final Solution.


This review of the cultural and political impact of World War I complements Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory ( LJ 7/75) by tracing primarily the German experience. Mosse draws less upon literature than Fussell did but explores such sources as war monument and cemetery design and popular cultural items to build his thesis. He holds that the ``Myth of the War Experience,'' largely created by intelligent volunteers, coupled with the ``cult of the Fallen Soldier'' added to the rise in nationalist feelings after the war, leading to the re-ignition of conflict as World War II. The book will most interest scholars and informed readers, but the chapter on trivialization of war will appeal to postcard and toy soldier collectors. A fascinating book. Recommended.--George H. Siehl, Library of Congress

In this absorbing, beautifully written study, the author traces the emergence of the ``myth of the war experience'' with its emphasis on glory rather than horror, showing how societies in the West came to rely on it, especially after the carnage of WW I, to make ``an inherently unpalatable past acceptable.'' Mosse argues that the commemoration of the dead of WW I in Germany, Britain, Italy and the U.S. was analogous to the construction of a national church with its own saints, martyrs and places of worship--a heritage for the next generation to emulate. In popular culture the war was sentimentalized, trivialized and domesticated in an attempt to render it commonplace instead of colossal and frightening. The cult of the fallen soldier declined in WW II and lost most of its appeal in the face of the nuclear threat. In the author's view, the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a monument to the death of the ``myth of the war experience.'' Mosse is an emeritus professor of history affiliated with both Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the University of Wisconsin. Illustrations. (Mar.)

"Mosse analyses well."--W-W-1 Aero "Thought-provoking, insightful....[A] wonderfully different perspective."--Dr. Byron J. Nordstrom, Gustavus Adolphus College "Absorbing, beautifully written"--Publishers Weekly "George Mosse's book is an investigation of...the Myth of the War Experience. It is a very serious and reflective study, combining thoughts on propaganda, on tribalism, on the cult of youth, and on the other things that are necessary for a war atmosphere....Keep this book near you, to be consulted when next you hear some wrinkled politician going on tearfully about 'our boys' not having died in vain..."--Christopher Hitchens, Newsday "Well-argued and absorbing....A lively, scholarly examination of the heroic myths of war"--Booklist "A well-researched original examination of 'reshaping the memory of the world wars'....This is a thorough, honest and important book. It should be widely read, especially in the week before each Remembrance Day."--Day By Day "This review of the cultural and political impact of World War I complements Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory by tracing primarily the German experience....A fascinating book..."--Library Journal "Mosse has skilfully tied together many threads in his far-ranging book. He shows the centrality of the myth to European history over a 200-year period....This is a stong attempt to assess an important international issue. He has convincingly shown the power of myth to shape the destiny of nations."--The Canadian Historical Review "The strength of Mosse's work is the way it uses the iconography of war memorials to explore messages about gender in European political culture....Rich scholarship....We are indebted to Mosse for drawing our attention to the profile of masculinity in war memorials."--Journal of Modern History

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