May 30th, 2007
I found myself taking a long, hard look the other day at the issue of just what kind of books I help into print after finishing layout on the sixth over the last year or so of a string of World War II histories. Interestingly, they were punctuated somewhere in the middle by a page design and layout project, an illustrated children’s storybook.
Four of the seven World War II histories, all of which are—or are to be—published by Stackpole Books, relate details from the German side of things. Not making the case for the Nazis being the white hats during World War II or anything like that, but, rather, narrating the particulars. Seeing the book in print made me look at it as more than just my work.
The first book, Exit Rommel, tells the story of the Desert Fox and his Tunisian campaign. Eagles of the Third Reich chronicles the story of the Nazi struggle for air supremacy during the war. German Order of Battle, Volumes 2 and 3—somehow Volume 1 escaped me—lists and describes all the various battalions and fighter groups of the German military during World War II.
The eye-opener came when I found myself thinking again how Field Marshall Erwin Rommel did not seem to be the monster we know all Nazis to be. I thought again about how Rommel got into trouble pausing the fight in North Africa to allow the Allies to remove their wounded from the field of battle. And how he was forced to commit suicide—as opposed to his other choice, execution—for participating in a failed plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. My recitation of Rommel’s merits were not greeted warmly.
This led me to thinking about whether there were books I should feel obligated to not help toward publication. Is there such an obligation? Is there some equivalent to the example of falsely yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater?
I’m loathe to say someone’s freedom of speech needs to be limited. But I guess I can reasonably draw the line at books that advocate cruelty to children, say, or how to cover up a murder. On the other hand, I probably do not want to include novels that tell such stories on my “Don’t Touch” list.
This whole argument still makes me uneasy as hell.