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The Effect of Hollywood on Historical Perspective

Pollsters asked French citizens who contributed the most to the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. The poll was conducted in 1945, then repeated in 1994 and 2004. As you can see in a graphic from Olivier Berruyer, the results changed over time. Of course, most of the people polled in 1994 and 2004 were not around during the war, and what they know was learned in classrooms and movie theaters. The movies aren’t necessarily wrong, but the Hollywood film industry tells stories they know, that are available in a language the industry speaks.

In another graph at the same post, Berruyer shows us that 11 million soldiers of the Soviet Union died in the war, and as least as many civilians, making the USSR the country with the highest casualties of all. China was second, as Chinese civilians bore the brunt of Japanese atrocities. The United States lost 184,000 soldiers in the European theater, and 407,000 when you include the Pacific theater. 

The effectiveness of the USSR in defeating the Nazis is colored by the utter brutality of the Stalinist regime, and clouded by the secrecy of Soviet isolation over the ensuing 50 years. However, the sheer numbers have a tale to tell, and we haven’t been telling it as well as we could. The post at Les-Crises has more graphics on World War II, which are all in French but pretty easy to understand. -via reddit

(Image credit: Olivier Berruyer)


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The Parti Communiste started in the 20's and really took off with the 1936 Front Populaire when they won the election. They represented at the time around 15% of the votes, and were driven by the rise of fascism in Europe. They were also really close to the Komintern.
During the war a lot of resistance movements were communists (from strikes to armed resistance). Those acts of heroism gave them credibility and power. The General de Gaulle took them in the government; Some ideals (social security, official mandatory unions...) were put into place in 1945 (we're still depending on those). At this time, communism was representing progress, and around 25% of the vote.
Then when people got security they lacked (ie became less feisty), and saw the horrors of communism, they drifted towards the Socialist party (its left side has strong socialistic views) and the votes plummeted down, especially after 1989 (and McGiver reruns :) )
So in a way, yes, the Soviet, via the Komintern, influenced the organisation of the society we're living in today.
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Germany was pissed that Japan attacked the US and thus bringing them fully into the war. Germany allied with Japan in the hopes of splitting the British forces between the UK and all their Indian and south Pacific interests. Germany knew that they would need to eventually deal with the US but they first want to finish off the British and be able to increase their naval forces.
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I see no evidence to confirm the dogma that opinions in 1945 were 100% correct. In fact the perspective that history offers should not be underestimated. Certainly, many classified programs are only revealed several decades later. The major US economic support of both the Soviet Union and Britain (long before US entry into the war) was quite instrumental in preventing a runaway Nazi victory. That's the whole reason Germany wanted to declare war on the US, and allied with Japan to get the job done. Little bits of info like that may be better known to French citizens now, than they were immediately after the war...
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Interesting -thanks for that! Do you know offhand how many French identified as Communist before the war? Because now I wonder if the Soviet role in the war influenced those 20%.
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