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tv   Michael Korda Alone  CSPAN  December 16, 2017 10:00am-11:02am EST

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books are available behind the register and she will be signing up here. .. good evening everyone with another wonderful full house it is always a thrill to welcome you all to our spectacular robert h smith auditorium just like to ask how many people are members i
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don't have my glasses on you can could just shout. i saw the blurry hands like almost everyone is a member. we think you all for your membership. if you are not a member i always say pick up a brochure to see all of the wonderful exhibitions and programs we had coming up. if there are one or two people here that are not members please pick up a brochure. tonight's program along is part of the bernard schwartz distinguished speakers series which is the heart of our public programs and as always i like to thank mr. schwartz for all of his wonderful support which has enabled us i could barely finish my sentence because you applauded right away.
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he has done is so much for us. we are so thrilled. i would like to recognize and think our executive committee chair all of the chairman's council members with us this evening for all of their wonderful support as well. let's give them a big hand also. the program tonight well last an lessen our include a q&a session and you should have received a card with the pencil if not our staff members will be coming up and down the aisles taking to a your card to write your question on and then later on in the program we will collect it. our speaker will be happy to answer them. his book alone will be an art museum store.
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please join him after the program for a book signing. we are thrilled to welcome him back to new york historical society mister corder is editor of simon and schuster. where he began his career as an assistant editor over nearly five decades he has worked with a wide range of authors including presidents carter reagan, nixon and last but not least among the many laurence olivier. which he could do a whole program on that. he is the author of several books including his latest. it's why they are all here tonight.
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please join me in welcoming the wonderful michael korda. good evening. i was on a make sure i'm not the one with cell phone rings.
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i'm with the proceeds of film that i find myself constantly looking up at the screen expecting that something is going to happen there. but nothing is. i'm sure you're wondering as i do. at three in the afternoon on a weekday in red hook new york a small town between present valley into brighton effect. instead it was packed i was lucky to have arrived earlier than i have intended.
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by the time it started every seat was taken right down to the front row. there was not a sound from the audience during the picture. no popcorn crackling. the audience was totally absorbed. when it ended to my astonishment the whole audience rose to their feet to applaud many with tears streaming down their face. over a british military calamity that took place in 1940. in red hook i said to myself why a small part of me also ask silently where the hell were you when we needed you in may 1940. but that is unfair. it was a young audience but hardly anybody except for
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myself had been alive in 1940. they would be foolish to blame america for not entering the war. nearly a year and half later. forcing america into a war given a chance to stay out of that war would not have taken it. the british had not been eager in 1939 still less the french. after all it was only 21 years since we had defeated germany and what was until 1939 so-called the great war. casualties that today sword beyond our imagination.
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on the first day of the first battle of the sun. over 1 million french wart were dead. a war that cost a worldwide total of over 45 million lives. the need to repeat the whole thing again later. this time with more powerful weapons. the glorified war in germany. more sobering still and have taken a combined effort of france in the united kingdom and russia the united states
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belgium, italy and japan to defeat germany last time around in 1914 and 1918. and even then only the finish of margins nobody in france or the united kingdom the catastrophic. over a quarter million men back to a strip of beach 12 miles long. how, why did it happen. through june 4, 1940 in just over three weeks hitler one of the great victory dreamed up
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up against france and lost the war. the phony war for everyone but the pole into a lesser degree had dragged on from september 3, 1939 to may 10, 1940 even by a coup on the part of the german army or politicians. as a have been in 1914 and 1918.
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the chief prop of the allies it wasn't boredom. nearly half a million men including a substantial contingent of the royal air force sat idle grumbling in france over 3 million frenchmen guarding the french frontier. almost a third of them and are behind the water which a have been built in the 1930s. at a cost of nearly 3 billion. the british expeditionary force or as it was called and still is represented the bulk of britain's regulars the irreplaceable professional soldiers will be needed very slowly indeed is a constantly
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complained. two years in uniform. intended to produce a mass army big enough to defeat or better yet the church german aggression. it's never a good idea. a defensive strategy. a large army. they were all eager to get home i'm prompting you lose
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whatever edge it possesses. in the spring of 1940. devoted it's time to making this up as comfortable as possible. with the application and what it would be in the united states and an occasional visit for members of the royal family and politicians. they contemplated the present day assumptions but they were relegated to instincts for support even though the then unknown have published a
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controversial book in 1934. it still have a thousand copies in france. but it sewed many times that number in germany where it was read aloud and became the bible and officers. as for antitank weapons. they had been adopted in 1897 with its flat trajectory. when it fired the open site.
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although the french army had more than 4500 of the beloved they were used for conventional ports instead. this is a misleading picture. it had been in 1914. not in france. in the german army in 1940. what of the german army had however was a strategy for using it. the ubiquitous dive bomber in for the use of radio to
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coordinate combined air and armor and infantry attacks. it was a state of mind intended to prevent a repetition of the static warfare on the western front. it was further hampered as they head in 1914. by the determination to respect that. unless and until the germans violated it. by the commitment of the french army to the elaborate system of defense as weeks turned into months and began to seem to see to many that hitler would never attack and of course it became the aim of french and british policy not to provoke it to attack. it was limited to dropping propaganda when it was
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suggested to the british secretary of state for air it was then thought to maintain that. in the negative saying that as a private property the next thing you will be asking me so much for the aggressive food in britain. on may 10 all of that came to an abrupt end i debate in the house of comments on may 9 over the conduct in the campaign in norway led to the unexpected resignation of the prime minister chamberlain on may night.
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with the power of prime minister. most of the conservative party in the king would have preferred to the rogue elephant as the new private secretary called him. churchill's long political career had been marked by tremendous ups and downs he was widely disgusted by his own party and by the royal family had been wrong but a whole range of things including the gold standard. the strength of the french army from 1933 on he was right
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about the ron that the one and only thing that mattered. he had been in favor of arming him. which few people in or out of the government believed or wanted to hear. have has been the only voice of alarm poor people he remarked. i can give them nothing but
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disaster. he left the car where he was still in tears. in fact he would give them only 24 days later the most astonishing good news that cut up and surrounded. the sudden surrender of belgium on the retreat of the france french army in the right had bore its way to dunkirk. they've been they had been buried back to britain. cap didn't buy captained by their own owner and
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astonishing grand total of 30 three and 36,000266 men. enough to preserve the core of the british regular army in fact this one was. hitler with the british army within his grasp and allowed the enemy to escape. it was his first and biggest mistake of the war.
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the failure to pursue the army in the same speech they were being returned to their regiments. to be read clothes and rearmed. even though large cracks of your many of them had fallen into the grip of the gestapo. we shall not flag or fail. we should go on to the end and we should fight in ferrets. we should fight with growing confidence and growing in strength in the air. we should defend our island. whatever the cost may be.
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we should fight on the landing ground in the fields and in the streets we should fight in the hills. we should never surrender. and even if which i do not for a moment believe this island or a large part of it was starving. would carry on the struggle until in god's good time the new world. with all its power and mites. steps forward with the litigation of the old. after he finished that broadcast once he was shirt. when they reach the beaches we should tip them over the head
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with the beer bottles. the french had nearly given rear weary shrug. the attitude was that it was the quickest route to the nearest channel port. but by contrast they experienced an astonishing and sharp rise in morale. that was increased by the energy and self-confidence of the new prime minister who not only on -- warned of the battle ahead but seemed to look forward to them.
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his spirit was one of resignation they not only had overflowing out a tray of orders. by land, may by see in my air. but more far-reaching strategic goals. the officer of the father's old regiment. recorded a brief conversation about how he intended to fight the war. he was hacking away i did as i
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was told. he half turned to me and said and i think i see my way through. i was astounded and said do you mean that we can avoid defeat. or beat the best shirts of course i mean we can beat them. i don't see how you can do it. by this time he have sponged his face and turned around he said to me with great intensity.
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that was a year and half away. and would seem even more remote possibility. until the japanese bombed pearl harbor. the intensity and his grasp of what was needed. unable to defeat the germans in north africa. until the find of history. and by churchill with president roosevelt finally brought the united states into the war.
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december 1939. it was churchill who courted roosevelt. it was the president who swiftly dominated the relationship. but as a quote. it's very much at the center of this book. and there is much that we can learn from it. he said famously and it is
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better in that part of his nature in his strategy and his thinking is seldom remembered. his wise advice to pursue negotiations and diplomacy's so long as there's still hope remains true speaking to the school boys. never never never nothing great or small large or petty never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense never yielded to force.
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in the balance between these two wise statements the whole art of statesmanship in character. of governing which saved britain in 1940 when she was alone they would still have to market the leadership the month of may 1940. it was a huge turning point. the british army was rescued. winston churchill assumed power asserting his full authority. making it clear on june 18, 1940. that hitler would have to
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break in that island the island or lose the war. the fact which was not lost on hitler. or fdr. and gave the british now that they were alone at last a curious and surreal kind of confidence best expressed in the letter to his mother the day france surrendered. now that they have no allies at all. he spoke to the whole nation. perhaps thinking of brexit. it still does.
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>> that of course is a question i had not expected and it's to answer. might uncle alexander meant his first movie when he was 14 and never stopped making movies until his death in 1966. i think that there are quarter movies, many of them, but there is a big difference between the
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movies my uncle, alex, produced in those he produced and directed and even bigger and more important group of movies, which had that country about the three brothers. that is to say they were produced by-- by my brother-- uncle alex and my father did the art direction, so that's a smaller slice of the pie than the whole pie and i like to think the movies on which all three brothers worked as the ones out of which i would pick my favorite. allowing for my fondness for the third man, which is produced by it might uncle alex of my father did the art direction, but my other uncle had nothing to do with it at all that i am enormously admiring of things to come in which all three brothers
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were involved and which is an amazing futuristic film and has an enormous range of extraordinary performances by great actors. i am always delighted to see the private life which dates from 1933 to the year in which i was born because all three brothers worked on and my mother was in it, so i feel that's a particularly familiar picture and if i had to pick the all time movie of theirs which i would most like to see again, i think it would probably be either the one which my father won an oscar 19404 "jungle book" which was directed by my: produced by my other uncle and art directed by my father.
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having said that i don't spend a lot of my time viewing the films of my family because that seems a strange thing to do. but, every once in a while i will pull out one and it generally speaking astonished by how much i like and how much and particularly by the sense of humor that runs through the scripts because my uncle alex had a sense of humor and i like to see that reflected in films and my uncle, shrewd use of camera and cutting switches extraordinary, films he made by himself are about extraordinary, the four feathers, drone, sound
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of the river, sahara and most important of all private love of country in which gave sydney fortier his first role in the films. so, i can't see them without in some way seen something of the three brothers reflected. what do i think was the most significant battle of world war ii? well, i suppose the logical answer to that is stalingrad and possibly a culmination of stalingrad and that the largest
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land battle and largest tank battle in the history of the second world war. between those two battles, it became clear that germany was going to lose the war. on the other hand, i think the most significant moments of the second world war was june 5, 1944 when eisenhower made his final decision that the invasion would take place despite the weather on june 6. i think that's that remains to me perhaps the most courageous decision of the war and the one that came the nearest to failure had rommel not gone home for his
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wife's birthday and had he been presence near the beach of normandy and hitler been willing to release to him the divisions that were kept in reserve, the invasion might have been-- the war would then have taken on a very different casting would have gone much longer. so, i would have to say that while my reason tells me that the most important battle was a stalingrad my heart tells me the most important battle was the invasion in 1944. what effect did churchill scholarship and eloquence have on his leadership capacity? well, i think that eloquence and scholarships have an enormous effect on every able politician
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in every culture in every language. [applause]. the ability to synthesize and sum up and to tell us frankly what we are facing and going to face is what we want from any major political figure and certain political figures have managed to deliver on that's, fdr is one of them. i have always thought that bill clinton's ability to give a good and sensible and smart speech is almost reliable among living american presidents and these qualities have been lacking in
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british leadership and maybe lacking an american leadership, but i think they are important. scholarship is also important because frankly those to repeat nevertheless a true cliché and those who do not study the past and learn from it are condemned to repeat it. we know that. yet, stubbornly and strangely america produces one president after the other who is unable to look backwards and understand what happened in the war and those who think that life might be better in the middle east had someone read keith lawrence seven wisdom before plunging into warfare would probably feel with me that it helps if they presidents at least knows what
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happened previously instead of then at least some possibility might not repeat it. but, not much. don't you think the producer of the film dunkirk was remiss in not providing more historical context i.e. referring to the germans as the quote enemy on quote. leaving aside a natural function of my own age is which i always think of the enemy is the germans. [laughter] once when i was a young man in the british army of the rind as it was then called i attended a full scale briefing on nato maneuvers that was given by them
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then commanding general of the british army of the rind whose name i have forgotten. it will probably come back to me and they pulled out a great map pointer and he was demonstrating what our side would do and what their side would do and how would we react and what would we do and i must say he was shakespearean in his view of what this maneuver would demonstrate and what the battle would be like if it ever took place, but whenever he pushed his pointer towards where the russian attack could be expected to take place he would say and whatever you do, jerry will attack here. [laughter] >> one of his 8-foot pole on his sleeve and say i'm sorry, the rescues. throughout his speech he kept saying that even if you hit back there jerry will reinforce--
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sorry, russ. for certain generations, i cannot speak for french americans, belgians or dutch, but enemies always addressing ray with that helmets. i think dunkirk is not only the best film-- war film i have ever seen, but is also a difference in breakthrough kind of war film in that it shows the events through the eyes of the four people who never meet each other and don't know that the-- that the others even exist through the eyes of the naval officer, see books-- single name barrel officer are not beach at dunkirk
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and the eyes of a middle-aged man with his son and sons best friend attempting to steer the family boats to dunkirk to pick up troops off the beach. that's all we see. they tell us at the beginning of the film just that there are hundreds of thousands that a bit on the beach and that's it with one line and then we see them. after that i found it refreshing that the movie does not grind to a halt with scenes of officers looking at maps and saying jerry is here, we are here, german armored divisions are there. you see what people saw, what these four people saw and from that you get an impression of the whole events. i like that. i'm not saying it's the only way to make a war movie or the right way to make a war movie necessarily, but i found that
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that captured for me what the event was like in a way that nothing else could without ever descending into becoming eight docudrama or having users say, well, somehow we need to show lieutenant generals or howard alexander. why? you see what's happening as those who were there and i found it was refreshing in a different way of making a war film. i'm not sure it worked for every battle, but i think it worked for it dunkirk. it is said that hitler admired the british empire. does this admiration next line like he did next what-- invade britain when invasion was best? there are two answers to that question. one is yes, it admire the
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british empire in the sense of admiring them as an into worrying almost two centuries long exercise in power. on not sure how much he understood about the british empire, but i think he properly did honestly admire and did also think that the british would come to their senses and in that's he was ruthlessly reinforced by his foreign minister whose understanding of britain's condition by britain's own experience as the german ambassador to the court of st. james who would be presented to the king gave the king a nazi salutes and allowed how hitler
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much too startling king george the sixth and who later complained bitterly that the king had not replied to the nazi salute with one of his own, so the advice on the british mind was not to be taken seriously since he was of the upper-class people and back stair conservative politicians that wanted to make deals with germany anyway and were more afraid of stalin and hitler and hitler thereby developed the opinion-- that can't be my phone -- it is. [laughter] that's supposed to be off.
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he thereby developed a mistaken opinion that the british would not fight and that had tremendous effects on his troops because chamberlain has always been regarded as craven, the man with a tightly rolled on barela, but he was not. he was a forceful, strong, smart and a very powerful and unforgiving politician. you would have to try to imagine a middle class version of lyndon johnson to get a quick character of neville chamberlain and turned that over in your mind. and he gave way over czechoslovakia because he thought it was right to give way
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over czechoslovakia and because he knew no one in britain was prepared to go to war 1938 to save to kosovar care. in advisedly one that had happened and chamberlain became a world-class hero the "new york times" lavished praise on him for saving us all for more 1938, he gave an unconscious guarantee to poland to protect them if they were attacked by germany even though it was already at her-- bs that polling was the next on his list. and hitler was convinced that chamberlain would never go to war if he attacked poland that. he said once in between
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discussions in 1938, political discussions in munich chamberlain attempted to make small talk with hitler by talking to him about dry fly fishing, a major interest of neville chamberlain's and not something about which hitler knew anything or cared and he came back from that meeting saying i know these people. they are spineless worms, worms in his mind because of the natural connotation with fishing and he probably never got the difference between dry fly fishing and fishing with a worm, but he was wrong about chamberlain and. he was even more disturbed because lord halifax when he first met hitler in 1937 as british foreign minister arriving in berlin at hitler's
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is going to say headboard, but it's not it's his official residence, got out of the car and assumed that the furor was a valet and started to hand his hat and overcoat to hitler and only with great difficulty was it finally explained to lord howe faxed that was the furor. [laughter] hitler, therefore convinced himself because all politicians are good at convincing themselves as well as other people that the british would not attack if he attacked poland and he was also for the defense, but the defense did not want to attack in fact, but
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chamberlain's-- chamberlain's view was different. he gave a promise to the polls and made a promise to the checks that was a french concern it in watch they were eager to run out of and they did and we along-- chamberlain had given not a promised just, but a written document saying great britain would go to war if paul and was attacked and when poland was attacked however eager chamberlain might be to discuss it, to negotiate with it he went to war and i think that was probably the first great deception for hitler. he'd always assumed that would-- that was one thing that would happen and he woke up to find that germany was now at war with france and great britain just as it had been in 1914. and with results in the end
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which turned out to be the same. as for the invasion, nothing in any documents would convince anyone that hitler took seriously for liberation of great britain. he was willing to prepare for it he was willing to have people discuss it. it's notable that although he had a passion for standing and moving things around on maps and behaving in general as if he were a general rental-- rather than the leader of this country, he never took any interest in the plan for the invasion of great britain and i think for the reason he thought it was unlikely to happen. he was willing to go halfway, the entire battle of britain was an attempt to prod the british by bombing them into the position they would ask for terms of peace rather than an attempt to prepare britain for
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invasion by the germans and the freak hitler assembled rather reluctantly and slowly for invading britain was not one in which that consisted-- [inaudible] which the world may be should have able to take care of and would have taken care of i suspect. he believed that the british would come to their senses, that they would get rid of churchill, that lord halifax or group of people like lord halifax would ask for terms of peace and that peace could be made pieces the british would keep their fleet and empire that mattered even more and he was wrong. once the battle of britain had failed by october 1940, the whole notion of invading england
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if it had entirely taken seriously-- the british however took it seriously and it is one of the main goals that provoked the bright flame of resistance in britain in the summer of 1940 was the belief much encouraged by churchill that it can any moment germans would land and that was true churchill because if there was one thing that would unite everyone in england whatever they thought of churchill, whatever political party and whether they were of the left door of the right and whatever cloth they belong to you could guarantee they would be united if the germans put one soldier on the beach at dover. nothing would be more guaranteed to provide unity in england than a german invasion except
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possibly a french invasion. [laughter] headed churchill know that heather was a menace before anyone else. who on earth would not of imagined a menace? i think other people's eyes were clouded by the desire for peace, the desire not to have to refight the first world war, understandable desire. by the very strong feeling among the middle-class and upper-class
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in all countries including the united states that stalin possibly was a much worse man and hitler and communism more is more dangerous than fascism, but anyone who followed events in the occupation and assumption of german rearmament, the creation -- anyone following those events and looking at hitler with common sense in the cold light of day would have recognized he was a dangerous man indeed and a very clever one we probably don't help our understanding by looking retroactively added because the holocaust, for example had not yet been occurred and was not at that point realistically
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threatened except to those who-- [inaudible] >> so we tend to exaggerate the demonic qualities of hitler which appeared more sharply in 40 and 41 and reach their full fire and 42, 43 and 44 with the holocaust got into full gear, but seeing he was a menace as opposed to someone intent upon mass murder on a rival scale is something that everyone should have been able to foresee had it not been for a passionate desire not to reach the obvious conclusion. he was a menace to peace, to europe, to the world that we would have to fight him and
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didn't want to bite the first world war over again and the answer was a resounding no most of all and most lovely of all for the united states, which was the one country that we would have needed to confront the germans on an equal basis, so yeah, we have answered enough questions. [applause]. >> michael, thank you this is my speech. thank you for joining us. of this is the film we are going to do. we want to remind everyone that michael will be signing copies in our museum store of his book, "alone" and we want to thank you again for a great talk.
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let's give him another great hand. [applause]. so, if you are interested in more of michael korda in the film he mentioned "things to come" we will be presented it as part of our classic film series friday december 1, when michael will come join us and speak about a film that great britain in 1936 took the message that they should build a bomb shelters well before they were bombed. that is in his book, also. so, the film had a great influence on great britain as hitler was taking over. michael korda will be with us. the book "things too," was by hg wells and that's one of his favorite offers-- authors.
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she will be with us. ron simon who often does wonderful films will be with us and i will moderate. i don't know who is going to be doing most of the talking that tonight, but you ought to come to find out, so thank you again and good night. .. you can watch any program you see here online


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