Propaganda photo of the Volkssturm. This civilian militia appears
to be well armed, but in fact borrowed their weapons from a regular
army unit and had to give them back after the parade. The Volkssturm
received castoff uniforms or no uniforms at all. The most appropriate
uniform would have been a big bulls-eye on their chest
I’m in the process of researching one of my upcoming novels, Volkssturm, about the German civilian militia formed in October 1944. The Volkssturm called up all able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 who weren’t already in uniform. It also brought in some women. Most of these people weren’t particularly fit, or had been working in essential jobs such as armament factories and had been made redundant due to chronic shortage of material and Allied bombing. Even those who remained in essential jobs often served in local Volkssturm units charged with protecting their home area. The idea was to launch “total war” against the Allied invaders and save the homeland from devastation. We all know how well that worked out.
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The recent attack by a white supremacist on a black church in Charleston reminded everyone that radical Muslims aren’t the only terrorists out there. In fact, an FBI report studying terrorism in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005 shows there were more attacks by far-right groups than Muslim groups, even in the most recent years of that period. A study of terror attacks in the European Union reveals that less than two percent were religiously motivated. Most were either by separatist or far-right organizations.
So what motivates radical right-wing terror groups? What’s their equivalent of ISIS beheading videos? While there is a large body of white supremacist videos and literature, the undisputed classic is The Turner Diaries.
This novel, written in 1978 by white supremacist activist William Luther Pierce under the pen name Andrew MacDonald, tells of a race war in the 1990s in which a group of whites called The Order overthrow the Zionist-controlled U.S. government and kill all Jews and racial minorities. The book became famous because a scene depicting the blowing up of an FBI building was eerily similar to the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh. Later investigation showed he had been inspired by the book, as had a short-lived racist group called The Order that committed a string of robberies and killed a Jewish radio personality. Several other white supremacist criminals have also been inspired by the novel.
While it’s not proven that the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, had read the book, it’s so well-known in the circles in which he circulated he surely must have heard of it. Curious, I decided to track it down.
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Most mainstream readers who were familiar with the phrase “pulp fiction” prior to Quentin Tarantino’s critically and commercially acclaimed film associated it with hard-boiled detective fiction. While this association only captured part of the eclectic spectrum of genres represented in pulp magazines in the first half of the last century, it must be noted that the documented evolution of the western gunfighter into the hardboiled detective hero was crucial to the proliferation of twentieth century popular culture.
Dashiell Hammett’s seminal hardboiled thriller Red Harvest could just as easily have been transferred from a mining town to a western setting. This flexibility is what allowed the story to be adapted so effectively decades after the fact by Akira Kurosawa as Yojimbo and by Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars with equally trendsetting results.
Most people today best understand the ethos of pulp fiction from the 1981 blockbuster hit Raiders of the Lost Ark. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg perfectly encapsulated the archetypal pulp hero in the form of Indiana Jones, an original character who revived the cheap thrills and spills of pulp magazines and Saturday matinee serials and transformed them into box office gold.
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