Why are we so obsessed with World War II? | Keith Lowe | TEDxAthens

Pakalert December 17, 2014 15

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. When we talk about World War II, what are we really remembering, and what are we choosing to forget? This talk looks at some of the hidden motives behind our unhealthy obsession with the war.

Keith Lowe is a British historian and an expert on the Second World War and its consequences. His books include the critically acclaimed Inferno: The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, and the international bestseller Olethros (Savage Continent), which won the 2013 Hessell Tiltman Prize for history. He is a regular speaker on TV and radio, and has lectured all over Europe and America on twentieth century history. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

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  1. Preston Graham February 21, 2017 at 1:04 am - Reply

    we are obsessed with it because it means you may actually be affected by it

  2. Redwan Hasan January 10, 2017 at 5:33 am - Reply

    Do you know why those Germans will never be mentioned? Because if they do so they have to mention other wars they waged in their "colonies" which is pretty much their "slave land" and which they are till to this day very proud of and you know what in WW2 there was provocation but in those other wars they were not, they were simply invading other people although now they cry over why their country is being "taken over" by foreigners. The truth is they love war and they love talking about wars where they were victorious. Do they care about the people, the general people they died? Ofcourse not, they are not even human in their eyes. I'm baffled that you have to even speak about it.

  3. David Mahoney October 31, 2016 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Well said.

  4. MrBabies123 September 21, 2016 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    Perhaps here in Britain we are obsessed with world war 2 because, unlike continental Europe, we never really had a revolution leading to more democratic government and a fairer society afterwards etc?? Have had a look through Keith Lowe's book on the bombing of Hamburg. Was truly dreadful I agree but what really gets to me time and time again (and is implied in this book) is how the bombing campaign against our cities in the UK is so often dismissed as though it was nothing. Maybe this is because we had far fewer deaths resulting from the bombing or what? Because we had our Anderson shelters, the Tube stations etc? Lowe thinks we need to know more about Hamburg and other German cities. Yes. BUT we also need to know more about what happened in the UK. Just one example – I live in Sussex and until this year never knew about the Luftwaffe bombing of Eastbourne where apparently 2,000 died and countless injured. Also have close contacts in Nottingham and only recently have known about the bombing which happened there. I hope Mr Lowe is not being politically correct in his writing. I also read in a book on the war (published in the 20th century) that people in this country were very uncomfortable with the bombing in Germany but because we were having the same sympathies were mixed.

  5. Wilson Yu January 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    This is what I am worrying about. As years goes by and more people who lived through World War 2 died in their old age, people will forget how serious and real World War 2 was; people will still remember it but only in history books and dramatized movies and video games.

  6. Wilson Yu January 14, 2016 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    From what I heard, even when the Allies are fighting with good intentions, they have ulterior motives when WW2 was over:
    The US plans to spread capitalistic marketing and make profit in repairing war-torn countries.
    The Soviet Union tends to spread communism, acquiring new territories, and did became a world-power since Nazi imperialism is out of the picture.
    From Great Britain, I don't know much, I guess they still maintain their imperialism with their colonies.

    There is a slight hypocrisy for the Allies in World War 2:
    Soviet Union was run by a totalitarian dictatorship and Great Britain was also an imperial power.

  7. rohan210781 January 9, 2016 at 2:49 am - Reply

    Without grey areas there are no issues for politicians.. good point covered.. probably the biggest grey point in the whole world war 2 memorials is in auschwitz, the silence is deafening and you feel surrounded by the millions of ghosts who died in those camps..

  8. HanikSheli December 21, 2015 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Those poor poor Germans…

  9. chorgox September 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    you gotta love the guy, talking of the WWII and selective memory and not mention the Red Army in the 20' speech. the irony…

  10. Nonamm Mmamon July 24, 2015 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    " 500,000 Germans, …." regular folk like you and me?  For cooperating with the Nazi regime?  for tattling on their Jewish or homosexual or 'gypsy' neighbors? That's regular folk who didn't deserve what they got?  Bad, bad perspective.  So, by extension, bombing Daesh is, well, there could be some regular folk there, so why don't we set up a memorial?  Mass cooperation with totalitarian regimes is NOT innocent folk.  Innocent folk are the ones who risked their lives to keep members of persecuted groups hidden and fed.  And as many of those as possible ARE memorialized, in a part of Yad Vashem in Israel, and known as Righteous Gentiles. People in Britain who took in Jewish kids on "Kindertransport" – are righteous too.  And so on.  Britain's military is something to be proud of.  But Britain's policy at the time in the Mideast, which was the British Mandate,up until 1947 and collaborated with the Grand Mufti in Jerusalem, was NOTHING to be proud of, refusing entry to fleeing Jews seeking to avoid horrid death.  Millions could have been saved that way at no cost to Britain. THAT"S why we need to keep staying busy with WWII. THREE generations down the line, the trauma is still very much alive in families that experienced that war because they stood up for freedom, or simply because they were not Aryan. There is yet SO much to learn, and SO much to own up to.  Get your perspective reset, fella.  Your view is skew.

  11. Kirk Goodlet July 17, 2015 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Lowe speaks about issues of war and memory as if no historian has ever broached such topics.

  12. Divine Voice March 15, 2015 at 9:04 am - Reply

    This man is questioning WWII and it's usage. He sounds like an evul Nutzi!

  13. MANGO ZOO February 13, 2015 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    Great talk, his book "Savage Continent" is amazing!.

  14. wiremash February 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm - Reply


  15. Phil Christophers January 16, 2015 at 3:56 am - Reply

    possibly a true historian hey it could happen

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