Magazine article Newsweek

'Nobody Could Foresee the Horrors'

Magazine article Newsweek

'Nobody Could Foresee the Horrors'

Article excerpt

WORLD WAR II

Franklin D. Roosevelt was speechless. It was Dec. 7, 1941, and word had just reached him that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor-sinking much of America's Pacific Fleet. FDR sat still for 18 minutes. Then he-and his nation-swung into action. World War II hadbegun earlier, in September 1939, with Hitler's invasion of Poland; the Third Reich marched across Europe until only Britain held fast. The Japanese assault brought America into war against both Hitler and Hirohito. It would be the bloodiest conflict ever: 100 million men bore arms, and 30 million civilians, many of them European Jews, would die before Berlin fell in May 1945 and, in August of that year, the United States would drop two atomic bombs on Japan-ending the war and changing the world.

BERLIN, 1938: The son of a senior diplomat of the Third Reich, Richard von Weizsacker served in the German Army during the war. He went on to become president of Germany from 1984 to 1994. Unofficially, he has acted as the country's moral arbiter on the trickiest issues stemming from its Nazi past.

In 1933, my family moved to Switzerland, where my father was the German ambassador. I went to school there, and afterwards I started studying in Britain and France. So my first personal look at Nazi Germany was only at the age of 17, when I had to come back in order to start my military service.

I saw Kristallnacht myself in November 1938, here in the middleof Berlin. …

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