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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.)

'a scholarly book. Paul Fussell, Times Literary Supplement
'important and useful study.' George Clare, Jewish Chronicle
'George L. Mosse ... has largely devoted his career to plumbing, with impressive learning, the cesspools of the imbecilic and the cruel in the Third Reich. It is a scholarly book.' Times Literary Supplement

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