Kerstin von Lingen's close analysis of the Kesselring case reveals for the first time how a network of veterans, lawyers, and German sympathizers in Britain and America achieved the commutation of Kesselring's death sentence and his eventual releaseâreinforcing German popular conceptions that he had been innocent all along and that the Wehrmacht had fought a "clean war" in Italy. Synthesizing the work of contemporary German and Italian historians with her own exhaustive archival research, she shows that Kesselring bore much greater guilt for civilian deaths than had been proven in courtâand that the war on the southern front had been far from clean.
Von Lingen weaves together strands of the story as diverse as Winston Churchill's ability to mobilize support among British elites, Basil Liddell Hart's need to be recognized as an important military thinker, and the Cold War fears of the "Senators' Circle" in the United States. Through this rich narrative, she shows how international politics shaped the trial's proceedings and outcomeâas well as the memory and meaning of the war for German citizensâand sheds new light on the complex interplay between the combatants' efforts to "master the past" and the threatening state of international relations in the early Cold War.
In analyzing the efforts to clear Kesselring's name, von Lingen shows that the case was about much more than the fate of one convicted individual; it also underscored the pressure to wrap up the war crimes issueâand German guiltâin order to get on with the business of bringing a rearmed Germany into the Western alliance. Kesselring's Last Battle sheds new light on the "politics of memory" by unraveling a twisted thread in postwar history as it shows how historical truth is sometimes sacrificed on the altar of expediency.
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