Friday, 24 March 2017

George Orwell - "Notes on Nationalism"

These days everyone is talking about Nationalism. Whether it's Scottish Nationalism, Donald Trump's Nationalism, or European nationalism, nationalism seems to be everywhere around us. That has reminded me of this brilliant essay by George Orwell, who lived at a time when, whatever problems we have today, nationalism was a much more powerful and dangerous force. In it he skilfully dissects why nationalism is a problem, as a mental approach and emotional contagion. He makes various points often mistaken in our contemporary approach, about the difference between nationalism and patriotism, about the universal risk of nationalism, that 'nationalism' can apply to entities other than nations (in the strict sense), that one can have 'negative nationalism' as much as positive, and that the struggle against nationalism is an individual moral, spiritual, intellectual and linguistic struggle as well as a matter of political choice. It is also a brilliant piece of history, giving one a sense, at least from one perspective, of what it felt like to be facing out into the world as an Englishman in 1945.

Orwell's 'nationalism', in its generalised sense, bears a close relation to what a generalised notion of 'racism' would look like, if we used the term to also cover analogous stereotyping fallacies such as sexism, anti-semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, homophobia, etc, etc. This is particularly in his formulation given in the first underlined sentence below. However, he then focuses on his second formulation given immediately after, which has a very different emphasis, and so I think more work is needed to complete an analogous identification of the form of ur-racism, such as people mean when they say Islamophobic attacks are racist, and which would unite a range of similar possible moral and intellectual stereotyping fallacies the way Orwell's 'nationalism' does in its overlapping area.  I hope to return to this in my own thought soon.

Finally, if you do accept Orwell's analysis then it becomes clear that in 2017 almost all our current, British, large-scale political arguments involve nationalism on both sides, generally the more, the more virulent the argument and fundamental the issue, as agreed rational facts dissolve into basic value and tribal commitments. Needless to say the Scottish Independence debate involves enough nationalism to drown us all in, though largely among its fiercer partisans, the majority of ordinary voters, inoculated by their comparative lack of interest in politics, whether formally nationalist or unionist, are probably still largely free of it. The EU question has also clearly become a nationalist issue for both sides, the more rabid Remainers seem to have developed this rapidly, largely since the referendum was called, joining the longer-term, more obvious nationalism of the Ukippy variety. There seems to be something about defeat, or being in the minority that promotes foaming at the mouth. The rise and fall of nationalisms is also obvious from Orwell's essay. Some of the types of nationalism he describes have basically vanished, others are still very much with us, and we could probably add modern types that have emerged since his essay was originally written. But enough from me, on to Orwell's own words.

Somewhere or other Byron makes use of the French word longeur, and remarks in passing that
though in England we happen not to have the word, we have the thing in considerable profusion. In the same way, there is a habit of mind which is now so widespread that it affects our thinking on nearly every subject, but which has not yet been given a name. As the nearest existing equivalent I have chosen the word ‘nationalism’, but it will be seen in a moment that I am not using it in quite the ordinary sense, if only because the emotion I am speaking about does not always attach itself to what is called a nation — that is, a single race or a geographical area. It can attach itself to a church or a class, or it may work in a merely negative sense, against something or other and without the need for any positive object of loyalty.
By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’(1). But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
So long as it is applied merely to the more notorious and identifiable nationalist movements in Germany, Japan, and other countries, all this is obvious enough. Confronted with a phenomenon like Nazism, which we can observe from the outside, nearly all of us would say much the same things about it. But here I must repeat what I said above, that I am only using the word ‘nationalism’ for lack of a better. Nationalism, in the extended sense in which I am using the word, includes such movements and tendencies as Communism, political Catholicism, Zionism, Antisemitism, Trotskyism and Pacifism. It does not necessarily mean loyalty to a government or a country, still less to one's own country, and it is not even strictly necessary that the units in which it deals should actually exist. To name a few obvious examples, Jewry, Islam, Christendom, the Proletariat and the White Race are all of them objects of passionate nationalistic feeling: but their existence can be seriously questioned, and there is no definition of any one of them that would be universally accepted.
It is also worth emphasising once again that nationalist feeling can be purely negative. There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the U.S.S.R. without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit. When one grasps the implications of this, the nature of what I mean by nationalism becomes a good deal clearer. A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.
Now that I have given this lengthy definition, I think it will be admitted that the habit of mind I am talking about is widespread among the English intelligentsia, and more widespread there than among the mass of the people. For those who feel deeply about contemporary politics, certain topics have become so infected by considerations of prestige that a genuinely rational approach to them is almost impossible. Out of the hundreds of examples that one might choose, take this question: Which of the three great allies, the U.S.S.R., Britain and the USA, has contributed most to the defeat of Germany? In theory, it should be possible to give a reasoned and perhaps even a conclusive answer to this question. In practice, however, the necessary calculations cannot be made, because anyone likely to bother his head about such a question would inevitably see it in terms of competitive prestige. He would therefore start by deciding in favour of Russia, Britain or America as the case might be, and only after this would begin searching for arguments that seemed to support his case. And there are whole strings of kindred questions to which you can only get an honest answer from someone who is indifferent to the whole subject involved, and whose opinion on it is probably worthless in any case. Hence, partly, the remarkable failure in our time of political and military prediction. It is curious to reflect that out of al the ‘experts’ of all the schools, there was not a single one who was able to foresee so likely an event as the Russo-German Pact of 1939(2). And when news of the Pact broke, the most wildly divergent explanations were of it were given, and predictions were made which were falsified almost immediately, being based in nearly every case not on a study of probabilities but on a desire to make the U.S.S.R. seem good or bad, strong or weak. Political or military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties(3). And aesthetic judgements, especially literary judgements, are often corrupted in the same way as political ones. It would be difficult for an Indian Nationalist to enjoy reading Kipling or for a Conservative to see merit in Mayakovsky, and there is always a temptation to claim that any book whose tendency one disagrees with must be a bad book from a literary point of view. People of strongly nationalistic outlook often perform this sleight of hand without being conscious of dishonesty.
In England, if one simply considers the number of people involved, it is probable that the dominant form of nationalism is old-fashioned British jingoism. It is certain that this is still widespread, and much more so than most observers would have believed a dozen years ago. However, in this essay I am concerned chiefly with the reactions of the intelligentsia, among whom jingoism and even patriotism of the old kind are almost dead, though they now seem to be reviving among a minority. Among the intelligentsia, it hardly needs saying that the dominant form of nationalism is Communism — using this word in a very loose sense, to include not merely Communist Party members, but ‘fellow travellers’ and russophiles generally. A Communist, for my purpose here, is one who looks upon the U.S.S.R. as his Fatherland and feels it his duty t justify Russian policy and advance Russian interests at all costs. Obviously such people abound in England today, and their direct and indirect influence is very great. But many other forms of nationalism also flourish, and it is by noticing the points of resemblance between different and even seemingly opposed currents of thought that one can best get the matter into perspective.
Ten or twenty years ago, the form of nationalism most closely corresponding to Communism today was political Catholicism. Its most outstanding exponent — though he was perhaps an extreme case rather than a typical one — was G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton was a writer of considerable talent who whose to suppress both his sensibilities and his intellectual honesty in the cause of Roman Catholic propaganda. During the last twenty years or so of his life, his entire output was in reality an endless repetition of the same thing, under its laboured cleverness as simple and boring as ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians.’ Every book that he wrote, every scrap of dialogue, had to demonstrate beyond the possibility of mistake the superiority of the Catholic over the Protestant or the pagan. But Chesterton was not content to think of this superiority as merely intellectual or spiritual: it had to be translated into terms of national prestige and military power, which entailed an ignorant idealisation of the Latin countries, especially France. Chesterton had not lived long in France, and his picture of it — as a land of Catholic peasants incessantly singing the Marseillaise over glasses of red wine — had about as much relation to reality as Chu Chin Chow has to everyday life in Baghdad. And with this went not only an enormous overestimation of French military power (both before and after 1914-18 he maintained that France, by itself, was stronger than Germany), but a silly and vulgar glorification of the actual process of war. Chesterton's battle poems, such as Lepanto or The Ballad of Saint Barbara, make The Charge of the Light Brigade read like a pacifist tract: they are perhaps the most tawdry bits of bombast to be found in our language. The interesting thing is that had the romantic rubbish which he habitually wrote about France and the French army been written by somebody else about Britain and the British army, he would have been the first to jeer. In home politics he was a Little Englander, a true hater of jingoism and imperialism, and according to his lights a true friend of democracy. Yet when he looked outwards into the international field, he could forsake his principles without even noticing he was doing so. Thus, his almost mystical belief in the virtues of democracy did not prevent him from admiring Mussolini. Mussolini had destroyed the representative government and the freedom of the press for which Chesterton had struggled so hard at home, but Mussolini was an Italian and had made Italy strong, and that settled the matter. Nor did Chesterton ever find a word to say about imperialism and the conquest of coloured races when they were practised by Italians or Frenchmen. His hold on reality, his literary taste, and even to some extent his moral sense, were dislocated as soon as his nationalistic loyalties were involved.
Obviously there are considerable resemblances between political Catholicism, as exemplified by Chesterton, and Communism. So there are between either of these and for instance Scottish nationalism, Zionism, Antisemitism or Trotskyism. It would be an oversimplification to say that all forms of nationalism are the same, even in their mental atmosphere, but there are certain rules that hold good in all cases. The following are the principal characteristics of nationalist thought:
Obsession. As nearly as possible, no nationalist ever thinks, talks, or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit. It is difficult if not impossible for any nationalist to conceal his allegiance. The smallest slur upon his own unit, or any implied praise of a rival organization, fills him with uneasiness which he can relieve only by making some sharp retort. If the chosen unit is an actual country, such as Ireland or India, he will generally claim superiority for it not only in military power and political virtue, but in art, literature, sport, structure of the language, the physical beauty of the inhabitants, and perhaps even in climate, scenery and cooking. He will show great sensitiveness about such things as the correct display of flags, relative size of headlines and the order in which different countries are named(4). Nomenclature plays a very important part in nationalist thought. Countries which have won their independence or gone through a nationalist revolution usually change their names, and any country or other unit round which strong feelings revolve is likely to have several names, each of them carrying a different implication. The two sides of the Spanish Civil War had between them nine or ten names expressing different degrees of love and hatred. Some of these names (e. g. ‘Patriots’ for Franco-supporters, or ‘Loyalists’ for Government-supporters) were frankly question-begging, and there was no single one of the which the two rival factions could have agreed to use. All nationalists consider it a duty to spread their own language to the detriment of rival languages, and among English-speakers this struggle reappears in subtler forms as a struggle between dialects. Anglophobe-Americans will refuse to use a slang phrase if they know it to be of British origin, and the conflict between Latinizers and Germanizers often has nationalists motives behind it. Scottish nationalists insist on the superiority of Lowland Scots, and socialists whose nationalism takes the form of class hatred tirade against the B.B.C. accent and even the often gives the impression of being tinged by belief in symphatetic magic — a belief which probably comes out in the widespread custom of burning political enemies in effigy, or using pictures of them as targets in shooting galleries.
Instability. The intensity with which they are held does not prevent nationalist loyalties from being transferable. To begin with, as I have pointed out already, they can be and often are fastened up on some foreign country. One quite commonly finds that great national leaders, or the founders of nationalist movements, do not even belong to the country they have glorified. Sometimes they are outright foreigners, or more often they come from peripheral areas where nationality is doubtful. Examples are Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, de Valera, Disraeli, Poincare, Beaverbrook. The Pan-German movement was in part the creation of an Englishman, Houston Chamberlain. For the past fifty or a hundred years, transferred nationalism has been a common phenomenon among literary intellectuals. With Lafcadio Hearne the transference was to Japan, with Carlyle and many others of his time to Germany, and in our own age it is usually to Russia. But the peculiarly interesting fact is that re-transference is also possible. A country or other unit which has been worshipped for years may suddenly become detestable, and some other object of affection may take its place with almost no interval. In the first version of H. G. Wells's Outline of History, and others of his writings about that time, one finds the United States praised almost as extravagantly as Russia is praised by Communists today: yet within a few years this uncritical admiration had turned into hostility. The bigoted Communist who changes in a space of weeks, or even days, into an equally bigoted Trotskyist is a common spectacle. In continental Europe Fascist movements were largely recruited from among Communists, and the opposite process may well happen within the next few years. What remains constant in the nationalist is his state of mind: the object of his feelings is changeable, and may be imaginary.
But for an intellectual, transference has an important function which I have already mentioned shortly in connection with Chesterton. It makes it possible for him to be much more nationalistic — more vulgar, more silly, more malignant, more dishonest — that he could ever be on behalf of his native country, or any unit of which he had real knowledge. When one sees the slavish or boastful rubbish that is written about Stalin, the Red Army, etc. by fairly intelligent and sensitive people, one realises that this is only possible because some kind of dislocation has taken place. In societies such as ours, it is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel a very deep attachment to his own country. Public opinion — that is, the section of public opinion of which he as an intellectual is aware — will not allow him to do so. Most of the people surrounding him are sceptical and disaffected, and he may adopt the same attitude from imitativeness or sheer cowardice: in that case he will have abandoned the form of nationalism that lies nearest to hand without getting any closer to a genuinely internationalist outlook. He still feels the need for a Fatherland, and it is natural to look for one somewhere abroad. Having found it, he can wallow unrestrainedly in exactly those emotions from which he believes that he has emancipated himself. God, the King, the Empire, the Union Jack — all the overthrown idols can reappear under different names, and because they are not recognised for what they are they can be worshipped with a good conscience. Transferred nationalism, like the use of scapegoats, is a way of attaining salvation without altering one's conduct.
Indifference to Reality. All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. The Liberal News Chronicle published, as an example of shocking barbarity, photographs of Russians hanged by the Germans, and then a year or two later published with warm approval almost exactly similar photographs of Germans hanged by the Russians(5). It is the same with historical events. History is thought of largely in nationalist terms, and such things as the Inquisition, the tortures of the Star Chamber, the exploits of the English buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was given to sinking Spanish prisoners alive), the Reign of Terror, the heroes of the Mutiny blowing hundreds of Indians from the guns, or Cromwell's soldiers slashing Irishwomen's faces with razors, become morally neutral or even meritorious when it is felt that they were done in the ‘right’ cause. If one looks back over the past quarter of a century, one finds that there was hardly a single year when atrocity stories were not being reported from some part of the world; and yet in not one single case were these atrocities — in Spain, Russia, China, Hungary, Mexico, Amritsar, Smyrna — believed in and disapproved of by the English intelligentsia as a whole. Whether such deeds were reprehensible, or even whether they happened, was always decided according to political predilection.
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness. In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one's own mind.
Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should — in which, for example, the Spanish Armada was a success or the Russian Revolution was crushed in 1918 — and he will transfer fragments of this world to the history books whenever possible. Much of the propagandist writing of our time amounts to plain forgery. Material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored so as to change their meaning. Events which it is felt ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied(6). In 1927 Chiang Kai Shek boiled hundreds of Communists alive, and yet within ten years he had become one of the heroes of the Left. The re-alignment of world politics had brought him into the anti-Fascist camp, and so it was felt that the boiling of the Communists ‘didn't count’, or perhaps had not happened. The primary aim of propaganda is, of course, to influence contemporary opinion, but those who rewrite history do probably believe with part of their minds that they are actually thrusting facts into the past. When one considers the elaborate forgeries that have been committed in order to show that Trotsky did not play a valuable part in the Russian civil war, it is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.
Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events. For example, it is impossible to calculate within millions, perhaps even tens of millions, the number of deaths caused by the present war. The calamities that are constantly being reported — battles, massacres, famines, revolutions — tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. What were the rights and wrongs of the Warsaw rising of August 1944? Is it true about the German gas ovens in Poland? Who was really to blame for the Bengal famine? Probably the truth is discoverable, but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in almost any newspaper that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or failing to form an opinion. The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied. Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.

I have examined as best as I can the mental habits which are common to all forms of nationalism. The next thing is to classify those forms, but obviously this cannot be done comprehensively. Nationalism is an enormous subject. The world is tormented by innumerable delusions and hatreds which cut across one another in an extremely complex way, and some of the most sinister of them have not yet impinged on the European consciousness. In this essay I am concerned with nationalism as it occurs among the English intelligentsia. In them, much more than in ordinary English people, it is unmixed with patriotism and therefore can be studied pure. Below are listed the varieties of nationalism now flourishing among English intellectuals, with such comments as seem to be needed. It is convenient to use three headings, Positive, Transferred, and Negative, though some varieties will fit into more than one category:

Positive Nationalism

(i) Neo-toryism. Exemplified by such people as Lord Elton, A. P. Herbert, G. M. Young, Professor Pickthorn, by the literature of the Tory Reform Committee, and by such magazines as the New English Review and the Nineteenth Century and After. The real motive force of neo-Toryism, giving it its nationalistic character and differentiating it from ordinary Conservatism, is the desire not to recognise that British power and influence have declined. Even those who are realistic enough to see that Britain's military position is not what it was, tend to claim that ‘English ideas’ (usually left undefined) must dominate the world. All neo-Tories are anti-Russian, but sometimes the main emphasis is anti-American. The significant thing is that this school of thought seems to be gaining ground among youngish intellectuals, sometimes ex-Communists, who have passed through the usual process of disillusionment and become disillusioned with that. The anglophobe who suddenly becomes violently pro-British is a fairly common figure. Writers who illustrate this tendency are F. A. Voigt, Malcolm Muggeridge, Evelyn Waugh, Hugh Kingsmill, and a psychologically similar development can be observed in T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and various of their followers.
(ii) Celtic Nationalism. Welsh, Irish and Scottish nationalism have points of difference but are alike in their anti-English orientation. Members of all three movements have opposed the war while continuing to describe themselves as pro-Russian, and the lunatic fringe has even contrived to be simultaneously pro-Russian and pro-Nazi. But Celtic nationalism is not the same thing as anglophobia. Its motive force is a belief in the past and future greatness of the Celtic peoples, and it has a strong tinge of racialism. The Celt is supposed to be spiritually superior to the Saxon — simpler, more creative, less vulgar, less snobbish, etc. — but the usual power hunger is there under the surface. One symptom of it is the delusion that Eire, Scotland or even Wales could preserve its independence unaided and owes nothing to British protection. Among writers, good examples of this school of thought are Hugh McDiarmid and Sean O'Casey. No modern Irish writer, even of the stature of Yeats or Joyce, is completely free from traces of nationalism.
(iii) Zionism. This the unusual characteristics of a nationalist movement, but the American variant of it seems to be more violent and malignant than the British. I classify it under Direct and not Transferred nationalism because it flourishes almost exclusively among the Jews themselves. In England, for several rather incongruous reasons, the intelligentsia are mostly pro-Jew on the Palestine issue, but they do not feel strongly about it. All English people of goodwill are also pro-Jew in the sense of disapproving of Nazi persecution. But any actual nationalistic loyalty, or belief in the innate superiority of Jews, is hardly to be found among Gentiles.

Transferred Nationalism

(i) Communism.
(ii) Political Catholicism.
(iii) Colour Feeling. The old-style contemptuous attitude towards ‘natives’ has been much weakened in England, and various pseudo-scientific theories emphasising the superiority of the white race have been abandoned(7). Among the intelligentsia, colour feeling only occurs in the transposed form, that is, as a belief in the innate superiority of the coloured races. This is now increasingly common among English intellectuals, probably resulting more often from masochism and sexual frustration than from contact with the Oriental and Negro nationalist movements. Even among those who do not feel strongly on the colour question, snobbery and imitation have a powerful influence. Almost any English intellectual would be scandalised by the claim that the white races are superior to the coloured, whereas the opposite claim would seem to him unexceptionable even if he disagreed with it. Nationalistic attachment to the coloured races is usually mixed up with the belief that their sex lives are superior, and there is a large underground mythology about the sexual prowess of Negroes.
(iv) Class Feeling. Among upper-class and middle-class intellectuals, only in the transposed form — i. e. as a belief in the superiority of the proletariat. Here again, inside the intelligentsia, the pressure of public opinion is overwhelming. Nationalistic loyalty towards the proletariat, and most vicious theoretical hatred of the bourgeoisie, can and often do co-exist with ordinary snobbishness in everyday life.
(v) Pacifism. The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to the taking of life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China. It is not claimed, again, that the Indians should abjure violence in their struggle against the British. Pacifist literature abounds with equivocal remarks which, if they mean anything, appear to mean that statesmen of the type of Hitler are preferable to those of the type of Churchill, and that violence is perhaps excusable if it is violent enough. After the fall of France, the French pacifists, faced by a real choice which their English colleagues have not had to make, mostly went over to the Nazis, and in England there appears to have been some small overlap of membership between the Peace Pledge Union and the Blackshirts. Pacifist writers have written in praise of Carlyle, one of the intellectual fathers of Fascism. All in all it is difficult not to feel that pacifism, as it appears among a section of the intelligentsia, is secretly inspired by an admiration for power and successful cruelty. The mistake was made of pinning this emotion to Hitler, but it could easily be retransfered.

Negative Nationalism

(i) Anglophobia. Within the intelligentsia, a derisive and mildly hostile attitude towards Britain is more or less compulsory, but it is an unfaked emotion in many cases. During the war it was manifested in the defeatism of the intelligentsia, which persisted long after it had become clear that the Axis powers could not win. Many people were undisguisedly pleased when Singapore fell ore when the British were driven out of Greece, and there was a remarkable unwillingness to believe in good news, e.g. el Alamein, or the number of German planes shot down in the Battle of Britain. English left-wing intellectuals did not, of course, actually want the Germans or Japanese to win the war, but many of them could not help getting a certain kick out of seeing their own country humiliated, and wanted to feel that the final victory would be due to Russia, or perhaps America, and not to Britain. In foreign politics many intellectuals follow the principle that any faction backed by Britain must be in the wrong. As a result, ‘enlightened’ opinion is quite largely a mirror-image of Conservative policy. Anglophobia is always liable to reversal, hence that fairly common spectacle, the pacifist of one war who is a bellicist in the next.
(ii) Anti-Semitism. There is little evidence about this at present, because the Nazi persecutions have made it necessary for any thinking person to side with the Jews against their oppressors. Anyone educated enough to have heard the word ‘antisemitism’ claims as a matter of course to be free of it, and anti-Jewish remarks are carefully eliminated from all classes of literature. Actually antisemitism appears to be widespread, even among intellectuals, and the general conspiracy of silence probably helps exacerbate it. People of Left opinions are not immune to it, and their attitude is sometimes affected by the fact that Trotskyists and Anarchists tend to be Jews. But antisemitism comes more naturally to people of Conservative tendency, who suspect Jews of weakening national morale and diluting the national culture. Neo-Tories and political Catholics are always liable to succumb to antisemitism, at least intermittently.
(iii) Trotskyism. This word is used so loosely as to include Anarchists, democratic Socialists and even Liberals. I use it here to mean a doctrinaire Marxist whose main motive is hostility to the Stalin regime. Trotskyism can be better studied in obscure pamphlets or in papers like the Socialist Appeal than in the works of Trotsky himself, who was by no means a man of one idea. Although in some places, for instance in the United States, Trotskyism is able to attract a fairly large number of adherents and develop into an organised movement with a petty fuerher of its own, its inspiration is essentially negative. The Trotskyist is against Stalin just as the Communist is for him, and, like the majority of Communists, he wants not so much to alter the external world as to feel that the battle for prestige is going in his own favour. In each case there is the same obsessive fixation on a single subject, the same inability to form a genuinely rational opinion based on probabilities. The fact that Trotskyists are everywhere a persecuted minority, and that the accusation usually made against them, i. e. of collaborating with the Fascists, is obviously false, creates an impression that Trotskyism is intellectually and morally superior to Communism; but it is doubtful whether there is much difference. The most typical Trotskyists, in any case, are ex-Communists, and no one arrives at Trotskyism except via one of the left-wing movements. No Communist, unless tethered to his party by years of habit, is secure against a sudden lapse into Trotskyism. The opposite process does not seem to happen equally often, though there is no clear reason why it should not.

In the classification I have attempted above, it will seem that I have often exaggerated, oversimplified, made unwarranted assumptions and have left out of account the existence of ordinarily decent motives. This was inevitable, because in this essay I am trying to isolate and identify tendencies which exist in all our minds and pervert our thinking, without necessarily occurring in a pure state or operating continuously. It is important at this point to correct the over-simplified picture which I have been obliged to make. To begin with, one has no right to assume that everyone, or even every intellectual, is infected by nationalism. Secondly, nationalism can be intermittent and limited. An intelligent man may half-succumb to a belief which he knows to be absurd, and he may keep it out of his mind for long periods, only reverting to it in moments of anger or sentimentality, or when he is certain that no important issues are involved. Thirdly, a nationalistic creed may be adopted in good faith from non-nationalistic motives. Fourthly, several kinds of nationalism, even kinds that cancel out, can co-exist in the same person.
All the way through I have said, ‘the nationalist does this’ or ‘the nationalist does that’, using for purposes of illustration the extreme, barely sane type of nationalist who has no neutral areas in his mind and no interest in anything except the struggle for power. Actually such people are fairly common, but they are not worth the powder and shot. In real life Lord Elton, D. N. Pritt, Lady Houston, Ezra Pound, Lord Vanisttart, Father Coughlin and all the rest of their dreary tribe have to be fought against, but their intellectual deficiencies hardly need pointing out. Monomania is not interesting, and the fact that no nationalist of the more bigoted kind can write a book which still seems worth reading after a lapse of years has a certain deodorising effect. But when one has admitted that nationalism has not triumphed everywhere, that there are still peoples whose judgements are not at the mercy of their desires, the fact does remain that the pressing problems — India, Poland, Palestine, the Spanish civil war, the Moscow trials, the American Negroes, the Russo-German Pact or what have you — cannot be, or at least never are, discussed upon a reasonable level. The Eltons and Pritts and Coughlins, each of them simply an enormous mouth bellowing the same lie over and over again, are obviously extreme cases, but we deceive ourselves if we do not realise that we can all resemble them in unguarded moments. Let a certain note be struck, let this or that corn be trodden on — and it may be corn whose very existence has been unsuspected hitherto — and the most fair-minded and sweet-tempered person may suddenly be transformed into a vicious partisan, anxious only to ‘score’ over his adversary and indifferent as to how many lies he tells or how many logical errors he commits in doing so. When Lloyd George, who was an opponent of the Boer War, announced in the House of Commons that the British communiques, if one added them together, claimed the killing of more Boers than the whole Boer nation contained, it is recorded that Arthur Balfour rose to his feet and shouted ‘Cad!’ Very few people are proof against lapses of this type. The Negro snubbed by a white woman, the Englishman who hears England ignorantly criticised by an American, the Catholic apologist reminded of the Spanish Armada, will all react in much the same way. One prod to the nerve of nationalism, and the intellectual decencies can vanish, the past can be altered, and the plainest facts can be denied.
If one harbours anywhere in one's mind a nationalistic loyalty or hatred, certain facts, although in a sense known to be true, are inadmissible. Here are just a few examples. I list below five types of nationalist, and against each I append a fact which it is impossible for that type of nationalist to accept, even in his secret thoughts:
BRITISH TORY: Britain will come out of this war with reduced power and prestige.
COMMUNIST: If she had not been aided by Britain and America, Russia would have been defeated by Germany.
IRISH NATIONALIST: Eire can only remain independent because of British protection.
TROTSKYIST: The Stalin regime is accepted by the Russian masses.
PACIFIST: Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.
All of these facts are grossly obvious if one's emotions do not happen to be involved: but to the kind of person named in each case they are also intolerable, and so they have to be denied, and false theories constructed upon their denial. I come back to the astonishing failure of military prediction in the present war. It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool. When Hitler invaded Russia, the officials of the MOI issued ‘as background’ a warning that Russia might be expected to collapse in six weeks. On the other hand the Communists regarded every phase of the war as a Russian victory, even when the Russians were driven back almost to the Caspian Sea and had lost several million prisoners. There is no need to multiply instances. The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also. There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one knows that it is exactly the same crime as one has condemned in some other case, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified — still one cannot feel that it is wrong. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function.
The reason for the rise and spread of nationalism is far too big a question to be raised here. It is enough to say that, in the forms in which it appears among English intellectuals, it is a distorted reflection of the frightful battles actually happening in the external world, and that its worst follies have been made possible by the breakdown of patriotism and religious belief. If one follows up this train of thought, one is in danger of being led into a species of Conservatism, or into political quietism. It can be plausibly argued, for instance — it is even possibly true — that patriotism is an inoculation against nationalism, that monarchy is a guard against dictatorship, and that organised religion is a guard against superstition. Or again, it can be argued that no unbiased outlook is possible, that all creeds and causes involve the same lies, follies, and barbarities; and this is often advanced as a reason for keeping out of politics altogether. I do not accept this argument, if only because in the modern world no one describable as an intellectual can keep out of politics in the sense of not caring about them. I think one must engage in politics — using the word in a wide sense — and that one must have preferences: that is, one must recognise that some causes are objectively better than others, even if they are advanced by equally bad means. As for the nationalistic loves and hatreds that I have spoken of, they are part of the make-up of most of us, whether we like it or not. Whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe that it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one's own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority towards the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of those feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognise that you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. The emotional urges which are inescapable, and are perhaps even necessary to political action, should be able to exist side by side with an acceptance of reality. But this, I repeat, needs a moral effort, and contemporary English literature, so far as it is alive at all to the major issues of our time, shows how few of us are prepared to make it.
1) Nations, and even vaguer entities such as Catholic Church or the proleteriat, are commonly thought of as individuals and often referred to as ‘she’. Patently absurd remarks such as ‘Germany is naturally treacherous’ are to be found in any newspaper one opens and reckless generalization about national character (‘The Spaniard is a natural aristocrat’ or ‘Every Englishman is a hypocrite’) are uttered by almost everyone. Intermittently these generalizations are seen to be unfounded, but the habit of making them persists, and people of professedly international outlook, e.g., Tolstoy or Bernard Shaw, are often guilty of them. [back]
2) A few writers of conservative tendency, such as Peter Drucker, foretold an agreement between Germany and Russia, but they expected an actual alliance or amalgamation which would be permanent. No Marxist or other left-wing writer, of whatever colour, came anywhere near foretelling the Pact. [back]
3) The military commentators of the popular press can mostly be classified as pro-Russian or anti-Russianm pro-blimp or anti-blimp. Such errors as believing the Mrginot Line impregnable, or predicting that Russia would conquer Germany in three months, have failed to shake their reputation, because they were always saying what their own particular audience wanted to hear. The two military critics most favoured by the intelligentsia are Captain Liddell Hart and Major-General Fuller, the first of whom teachs that the defence is stronger that the attack, and the second that the attack is stronger that the defence. This contradiction has not prevented both of them from being accepted as authorities by the sme public. The secret reason for their vogue in left-wing circles is that both of them are at odds with the War Office. [back]
4) Certain Americans have expressed dissatisfaction because ‘Anglo-American’ is the form of combination for these two words. It has been proposed to submite ‘Americo-British’.[back]
5) The News Chronicle advised its readers to visit the news film at which the entire execution could be witnessed, with close-ups. The Star published with seeming approval photographs of nearly naked female collaborationists being baited by the Paris mob. These photographs had a marked resemblance to the Nazi photographs of Jews being baited by the Berlin mob. [back]
6) En example is the Russo-German Pact, which is being effaced as quickly as possible from public memory. A Russian correspondent informs me that mention of the Pact is already being omitted from Russian year-books which table recent political events. [back]
7) A good example is the sunstroke superstition. Until recently it was believed that the white races were much more liable to sunstroke that the coloured, and that a white man could not safely walk about in tropical sunshine without a pith helmet. There was no evidence whatever for this theory, but it served the purpose of accentuating the difference between ‘natives’ and Europeans. During the war the theory was quietly dropped and whole armies manoeuvred in the tropics without pith helmets. So long as the sunstroke superstition survived, English doctors in India appear to have believed in it as firmly as laymen. [back]
George Orwell: ‘Notes on Nationalism’
First published: Polemic. — GB, London. — May 1945.
— ‘England Your England and Other Essays’. — 1953.
Text copied with thanks from 
© 1999-2015

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Stories of Resistance to the Holocaust

Between 1939 and 1945 the Nazi German state murdered 5.5 - 6 million Jews in occupied Europe, as well as another five million gentiles by the same methods of mass gassing, extermination through labour, starvation and mass shooting. This was itself only part of the 30-40 million killed in the European section of the 2nd World War. But the Jews of Europe were never entirely alone in their struggle, and many Jews themselves resisted by any means possible. In the darkest night the light sometimes shines out the brightest and in every country and corner of Europe there were individuals and organisations who risked their lives to save Jews: a veritable army of resistance, both violent and peaceful. In the worst period of human history these people in turn produced some of humanity's most noble heroism.

It can somehow seem wrong to talk too much about resistance to the Holocaust, as though doing so could give the impression that the Holocaust 'wasn't so bad after all'. But it is also wrong to just say that resistance failed because millions still died. It saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and those people who were involved 'succeeded' in saving all they could. But this resistance was horribly outnumbered and outgunned, facing political and military power they could not match either militarily or peacefully, and divided and scattered thinly over an entire continent.

Resistance took many forms, both Jewish and Gentile, collective and individual. It ranged from individuals, to organisations, to towns, and even whole countries. It defies easy categorisation, due to the sheer breadth of experiences that made up the genocide. The Holocaust is unique in global genocides in terms of the sheer diversity of the area and people it destroyed, united only by all being of Jewish ancestry. It affected European countries from France to Russia, and Greece to Norway. Its victims differed in language, nationality, appearance, skin colour, social integration, economic development, and religion. It destroyed poor, isolated, religious communities in scattered, rural, Ukrainian villages, and integrated, secularised, wealthy individuals living in Dutch cities. It killed followers of Orthodox and Reform Judaism, Christians, and secular, non-religious people. Victims were stripped from every European community and equally the scattered resistance came from every circumstance and corner of Europe.

Yad Vashem, the official Israeli museum for the Holocaust operates a program to recognise 'Righteous Among the Nations', non-Jews who risked their lives during the War to save Jewish lives. They have so far officially recognised over 26,100 people after submission of applications and evidence, from 51 countries. This number is obviously less than the true number, even of those who directly risked their lives, but nobody can accurately say by how much. Certainly many times this must have been involved in rescuing, sheltering, protesting, or just remaining silent about hidden Jews at grave risk of Nazi reprisal, and whilst constantly overcoming the shortages, poverty and want that was the constant condition for all citizens in many occupied countries. And many heroes were caught and killed during the war, with no-one then left to testify to their resistance later.

Every Holocaust Memorial Day I feel the stories of those who risked everything to save lives should be better known. Oskar Schindler, is perhaps the only name of a rescuer that will be immediately familiar to most people and yet he was one of, at least, tens of thousands. For years I've been put off by the sheer complexity of trying. Even to give a thin, representative sample of stories would take many pages, and anything else risks giving an inaccurate picture. But I think it better to write something, however feeble, and hope it encourages someone to investigate further themselves. So in this article I give a few examples of cases of bravery from both whole countries, towns and villages, and much smaller, more individual stories taken from Poland, the country with the highest number of Righteous Among the Nations. These examples are deliberately random and fragmentary, even so this makes for a rather long post. I implore you to read further on your own, and explore the links on Wikipedia, or the wonderful website for Yad Vashem itself. I finish with some brief thoughts on estimating the total number who contributed to rescue.

Amidst the general darkness some whole countries saved almost all their Jews. Bulgaria was a Nazi ally, but when the Germans demanded Bulgaria deport its Jewish population to occupied Poland a campaign by the Orthodox Church, leading writers and intellectuals and the Royal Family forced the government to refuse the order. Bishop Kiril of Plovdiv reportedly stood on the tracks in front of the transport train in Plovdiv to stop it from starting the journey to the concentration camps. Bulgaria was lucky in that it was small and distant, and so unlike Hungary or Romania, attempts to refuse the deportation of their Jews were not met with immediate occupation by German troops. All Bulgaria's 50,000 Jewish citizens survived.  Even this victory was not simple though, because although Bulgaria protected all the Jews within Bulgaria itself, it did allow the deportation of foreign Jews from areas of Yugoslavia and Greece occupied by its soldiers, from which thousands were killed.

In Denmark more than 90% of the small Jewish population, around 8,000 people, was successfully spirited away to neutral Sweden by the Danish resistance. After the Germans threatened deportations the Resistance, with the collusion of some in the government, organised to move thousands through a series of hiding places to distant north-east fishing ports, and then across the sea to safety in Sweden. The Nazis occupied Denmark in 1940 without firing a short, in theory to 'protect' it from Allied aggression. The result was the Danish government was left largely intact rather than being replaced by Nazi or collaborationist fascist officials, and this, combined with the strong sense of shared national identity, and the deep historical integration of the Jewish community into Danish society, encouraged the successful effort to save them.

Albania was the only country in occupied Europe to end the war with more Jews than it started. From some 300 before the war there were around 1800 Jews in the country by the war's end. Jews in Albania were protected by the fact the country fell under Italian rather than German occupation until late 1943, and that the Albanian and Yugoslav partisans liberated much of the area by late 1944. Meanwhile many hundreds were hidden in remote mountain villages under strict local customs of hospitality dating back centuries. Still around 500 Jews in Albania proper and Albanian dominated Kosovo were captured by the Germans and killed.

In other countries scattered across Europe whole towns and islands rallied to refuse Nazi demands for the deportation of Jewish citizens. In France the protestant town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon worked as one, under the leadership of its local church minister, to shelter and protect over a thousand Jews. They were housed in homes throughout the town, fed, and hidden in the forests nearby whenever German soldiers came searching.  Local people continued to protest the persecution of the Jews in open defiance of the authorities, once handing a petition opposing the deportations directly to a Vichy minister. Townspeople were arrested and murdered in the concentration camps, including the Church Minister's cousin, Daniel Trocmé, and his children.

In the Netherlands the small village of Nieuwlande came together to agree that every house and family would hide at least one Jew, binding the whole population of the village to a common effort and reducing the risk of any traitor giving them away. Arnold Douwes, the son of the village's Reformed Church pastor worked tirelessly through the war years, encouraging villagers to hide Jews on the run from the Nazis and support them with food, official documents and money, as far as they possibly could, saving around three hundred lives.

In Greece, the island of Zakynthos, refused to hand over its Jews for deportation. In 1944 Mayor Loukas Karrer was ordered at gunpoint to hand over a list of Jews residing on the island. The list, presented to the Germans by the island's Bishop Chrysostomos, contained only two names: the Mayor and the Bishop. The Bishop told the Germans, “Here are your Jews. If you choose to deport the Jews of Zakynthos, you must also take me, and I will share their fate.” Meanwhile all the Jews of the island were safely hidden in mountain villages. The Germans backed down and not one of the 275 Jews living on the island were lost. After the war in 1953 the island was struck by a terrible earthquake that destroyed almost every structure. The first boat to arrive with aid was from Israel, with a message that read, “The Jews of Zakynthos have never forgotten their Mayor or their beloved Bishop and what they did for us.”

Poland has the highest number of recognised 'Righteous Gentiles'. Over 6,600 gentile Poles have received this award from Yad Vashem for risking their lives to save Jews. Poland was the country occupied longest by the Nazis, with the largest Jewish population, and both the most ferocious implementation of the Holocaust and the harshest regime of occupation for gentile Poles. Three million Polish Jews and three million gentile Poles were killed during the war, and the punishment for offering any aid to Jews, even selling food or giving a lift in a vehicle, was the immediate death of the rescuer and their entire family. Nonetheless 50,000-100,000 Polish Jews were aided by gentiles and it is estimated that each person received help in one form or another from at least several people, if not many more. Władysław Szpilman, Polish musician and author of The Pianist, on which the film of the same title was based, identified no fewer than 30 Poles who helped him survive the War.

Zegota was a branch of the Polish underground government dedicated to helping Jews. A joint
enterprise of Catholic activists and Jewish organisations, it provided money, food and hiding places to more than nine thousand Jews hiding with gentile Poles. Irene Sandler headed the Zegota children's section responsible for smuggling Jewish children out of the ghetto and placing them with families, orphanages and Catholic convents. Facing the most extreme danger her group of 30 volunteers physically smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto however they could, in ambulances, prams, packages and suitcases. She buried jars with the children's information in the hope they could be reconnected with their families after the war. In 1943 she was even arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death, but luckily escaped and continued her work. After the war she was arrested again by the Communists along with many members of Zegota, imprisoned, interrogated and tortured but eventually released.

Rescuing people involved huge personal ingeuity, quick thinking and sacrifice. Eugeniusz Lazowski was a medical doctor who saved thousands by generating a fake typhus epidemic in eight villages. He discovered that injecting someone with dead typhus bacteria would generate a positive typhus result on a test without harming the person. He injected enough people to persuade the Germans to quarantine an 'infected' area covering several towns rather than risk a widespread typhus outbreak, thus saving several thousand people from being deported to the death camps. Irena Gut was a nurse, she was employed a housekeeper for a German Major and hid twelve Jews in the basement of the house, where every day they emerged to help her clean the place. After several months she was discovered by the Major but struck an agreement to become his mistress for the rest of the War in return for his silence, thus saving the twelve lives. Jan Zabinski was the director of Warsaw's Zoo before the War. All the animals had been killed during and shortly after the Nazi bombardment and occupation of Warsaw so the Zoo with its grounds was deserted. Taking advantage of this with the help of his wife Antonina he temporarily hid hundreds of Jews in abandoned animal cages, supplying them with food and money, before Zegota could smuggle them to more permanent hiding places. He also hid two dozen people through the War within the grounds of his own house in the Zoo.

In outlying towns and villages it was sometimes possible to hide whole families on farms and estates. Franciszek and Magdalena Banasiewicz constructed a bunker underneath the farm where they lived where they eventually gathered and hid fifteen people for over three years. Once one of their rescuees was caught by the Germans, but they managed to bribe the guard to release him and he escaped back to hide on the farm. Many others hid Jews in a similar way, but this was astonishingly dangerous. In a nearby village to the Banasiewicz's a farmer called Kurpiel was caught sheltering 27 Jews and killed with his entire family and all their fugitives. In another nearby town over 500 Poles were killed, in that town alone during the war, for attempting to help the Jewish population.

I could go on for days. To even try to discuss this topic without mentioning the heroism and tragic end of Witold Pilecki, one of my personal heroes, seems dishonourable, but this article is long enough already. My final question, of how many people were involved with resistance across Europe is a difficult one. As I said, Yad Vashem credits over 26,000 people as proven Righteous Gentiles, those who directly risked their lives to save Jews. It recognises that this is a dramatic under-estimate though. Even within this list, for example, the hundreds of people involved in the Danish resistance are listed as one entry, as per their own request. In Poland over 50,000 Jews were saved, and estimates suggest each would've been helped by multiple people during the course of the war, but there are only 6,600 recognised Righteous.

700 of Poland's Righteous Gentiles were killed during the war for their efforts, but many estimates put the total number of Poles killed for aiding Jews at many thousands. Italy, for example, has only 700 Righteous recorded by Yad Vashem, but in Rome alone over 4,500 Jews were hidden almost overnight when deportation was threatened in 1943, largely in Church buildings and institutions, and tens of thousands more were protected around Italy. Obviously each recognised Righteous did not hide dozens of Jews, entirely alone. The true figure of rescuers must be many times higher. Other groups are not eligible for Righteous Gentile status, because although they campaigned against the Holocaust they did not directly aid specific Jews, but were involved, for example, in a general strike in Amsterdam against the treatment of Jews, or in reading out a joint declaration in every church in that same city protesting the treatment of Jews.

A true reckoning cannot be accurately calculated or even estimated without a huge further amount of painstaking historical work.  But I think it highly likely that at least a hundred thousand people met the tight criteria laid down by Yad Vashem. And many times that number, hundreds of thousands at least, were directly involved in hiding, feeding, transporting, or otherwise assisting Jews, and in actively protesting the Holocaust under the threat of deadly reprisal and amidst all the other dangers of the War. If anything these guesses are still conservative, across Europe the number of people in the second category could easily pass over a million. Their example deserves to be remembered for its own sake, but also to remind us that even in the darkest times opposition to evil is possible in very many ways.        

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Populations of Middle Earth - The Earliest History of the Elves

I have an occasional series of posts that try to work out population estimates for periods of Tolkien's Middle Earth. I have the distant ambition of this one day turning into a complete set of population estimates stretching, as far as possible, from the Awakening of the Elves, up until the Lord of the Rings. Posts in this series discussing the Elves of Beleriand can be found here, or the populations of Gondor and Rohan here. The rest can be found by clicking the Tolkien tab at the top of this site.

One era I don't intend to estimate personally is the earliest history of the Elves, stemming from their awakening in Cuivienen until the Noldor's return to Middle Earth at the rising of the Sun and Moon. This is because I fully agree with Michael Martinez's estimates for that period given in this article of his from 2002 called:

Elves by the Numbers

And so there doesn't seem much point repeating (and basically plagarising) his estimates. He excellently covers the difficulties with producing estimates such as the status of the Imin, Tata, and Enel myth from Quendi and Eldar, the problem of the number of generations, etc.

The most important points are that he calculates that 144 Elves awoke at Cuivienen, and these had multiplied into 18,000 Elves by the time of the Great Journey, which broke down into "1780 Vanyar, about 3560 Noldor, and about 5850 Teleri"  who were the original Eldar.

I also think his final estimate that around 100,000 Noldor would've arrived in Beleriand at the first rising of the Sun can be reconciled with my estimate that the Noldor would've numbered around 300,000 just before the terrible 4th Battle, the Dagor Bragollach. 

If we assume that half the Noldor population were in their child-bearing period, and had a generation of children every 100 years of the Sun, we get a population multiplier of about 1.25 per century. This means that by about Year 100 FA the Noldor would've numbered about 120,000, in Year 200 - 170,000, in Year 300 - 200,000 and in Year 400 - 250,000 and by Year 450 we get somewhere in the region of my 300,000. When we include Sindar this gives a total Elvish population in Beleriand of slightly over 1 million.

This is admittedly not very precise or rigorous, but it's about as good as we can do with the very limited information we have, and brings us nicely to the start of my estimates that will hopefully, eventually span the First, Second and Third ages of the Sun, to as great a degree detail as possible.     

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Populations of Middle Earth - How many fought at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears?

The Battle of Unnumbered Tears, or Nirneath Arnoediad, was the climactic and most detailed battle of Tolkien's First Age of Middle Earth, that saw the hopes of Elves, Men and Dwarves go down in flame and death against the might of the armies and monsters of the Dark Lord Morgoth. It contains some of the most evocative images of Tolkien's First Age. Probably my favourite is Fingon's great cry of hope when his brother Turgon came unlooked for with ten thousand more Eldarin warriors - "'Utulie'n aure! Aiya Eldalie ar Atanatari, utulie'n aure! The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!" But how many warriors fought in the battle overall? And how many enemies did they face.

Giving good estimates for the Union of Maedhros is particularly difficult because the armies facing Morgoth's hordes included contingents from almost every community in Beleriand including Noldor Elves, Sindar Elves, Men and Dwarves. This article uses my detailed estimates worked out in my previous articles on the populations of Beleriand to derive estimates for the numbers at the battle. Our window into this is the ancient and often repeated figure that "the army of Turgon issued forth from Gondolin, ten thousand strong" to the battle. This was the crucial starting point I used to calculate the Elvish populations of Beleriand, particularly the Noldor, with some confidence. Calculations for the population of Edain come from extrapolations from the information Tolkien gives in Peoples of Middle Earth on the initial numbers that entered Beleriand, and I am also pretty confident of these.

We can estimate the numbers of soldiers in each contingent by comparing their population to Gondolin's, and in some cases, adjusting for losses taken before the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, particularly in the Dagor Bragollach. Other clues come from the degree to which each realm seems to have committed to the Battle. After the defeat Hithlum was basically depopulated but the Falas, for example, and Brethil continued to exist and operate, so we can presume they committed a smaller proportion of their pre-existing population to the battle since there were more people left afterwards. To take account of the heavy losses taken in the Dagor Bragollach I estimate that the armed strength of the Elves and Men of Hithlum, and of Estolad, and the Elves following the Sons of Feanor, was reduced by 1/3 to 2/5th compared to its height just before the Dagor Bragollach. The Elves of the Falas, the Men of Brethil and the Dwarves of Belegost, on the other hand, were removed from the immediate impact of the 4th Battle so wouldn't have taken losses on the same scale.

The population of Gondolin originated with 1/3 of Fingolfin's people and "a greater host of Sindar". The population of Hithlum came from the other 2/3 of Fingolfin's people, the Sindar who lived around Mithrim and other Sindar who were inspired to join the Noldor in their brave struggle. Thus it seems that Fingolfin and later Fingon in Hithlum must've initially had a larger population than Gondolin to draw from but not many times larger. On the other hand Hithlum had lost many of its warriors in the years from 455-472 FA in the assaults of Morgoth, but again in the other direction it seems to have committed a higher proportion of its people to the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Gondolin carried on after the battle without too great a devastation, whereas Hithlum was almost depopulated and its remaining people left defenceless. These combined would suggest that the Elves of Hithlum should've numbered more than Turgon's host but not dramatically more, perhaps 15-20 thousand strong.

In my previous article I estimated a population of the Falas of around 70,000 elves spread between the two havens and the surrounding lands, based on two sizeable towns with a surrounding population nearby. Cirdan's people were mostly mariners not soldiers, and the Falas carried on resisting Morgoth after the battle despite losing almost all the soldiers it sent to join Fingon's host. From this we can presume it too committed a much lower proportion of its population. It seems to have been a much more secondary contingent to the main host of Elves and Men, of both Hithlum and Gondolin, so I estimate a force of around 5,000 Falathrim Elves.

The Men of Hithlum suffered a similar level of devastation in the battle to the elves of Hithlum. Hador's folk were the largest tribe of the Edain and had been bolstered by taking in refugees from Beor's folk. On the other hand they had also suffered heavy losses in the Dagor Bragollach and the years since. I estimated Hador's folk would've numbered around 70,000 before the fourth battle, of whom around 20,000 would've been Men of fighting age, but many of their warriors had already been lost. By the Unnumbered Tears I reckon they would've been able to contribute about another 10,000 warriors to Fingon's Host. The Haladin were many fewer than the house of Hador and their own heavy losses had a much less devastating effect than those of Hador's folk. From this I estimate a much smaller contingent of perhaps 4,000 men. Including, finally, "a small company" from Nargothrond of perhaps a couple of hundred Elves, this puts Fingon's western host at about 33,000 Elves and Men in total, to which Turgon added another 10,000 Eldarin warriors.

In the East I think Maedhros' Host would've looked relatively similar in scale. After the disaster of the Bragollach the individual Lordships of the seven sons were shattered, as well as presumably the community of Men in Estolad. What remained were Maedhros and Maglor with forces of Elves and Men rallied on Himring, while Caranthir and Amrod gathered the rest of the surviving eastern forces around Amon Ereb to the south. Working from my previous estimates for the following of the Sons of Feanor and the Men of Estolad and reducing it by 40% to account for heavy losses suggests a mixed population of Men and Elves of around 100,000 remaining scattered across the East. This is the Noldor following Feanor's Sons, the Sindar of North-East, and the Men of Estolad. Adjusting for women, children and the elderly (among Men) I'd suggest that Himring and Amon Ereb could raise around another 20,000 warriors for the Unnumbered Tears.

To these must be added the Easterlings and the Dwarves of Belegost. The Dwarves of Belegost contributed a powerful force, but this was not their war, and I think they would have sent an expeditionary army of seasoned and equipped warriors, rather than a muster of their whole strength. The army of the Dwarves is also not referred to in terms that suggest it was the same scale as the main hosts of Elves of Fingon or Maedhros or even Turgon. As such I'd estimate a Dwarven contingent of about 5,000 under their King Azaghal. The Easterlings, I think, have to be considered to be similar in size to the houses of the Edain at that point. This would mean they come over the mountains in much larger numbers than the Edain did, but obviously had no time to multiply naturally. If we assume the combined peoples of Bor and Ulfang were together of similar size to the House of Hador, then we can deduce that they together would've contributed somewhat more than 10,000 men, perhaps several thousand in each house.

These admittedly vague considerations would suggest an overall force for the Host of Maedhros of more than 35,000 Elves, Men and Dwarves. This, added to Fingon's Host of around 33,000 Elves and Men, and Turgon's Host of 10,000 Elves would suggest the Union of Maedhros combined would've numbered around 80,000 troops at the start,  most of whom would die over the next 3 days of Battle. This would put the total Host of the Free Peoples at about the same size as the British-Allied Army at the Battle of Waterloo, and gives some sense of scale. The Battle was also  large in scale geographically, fought across a distance of 50 miles of the plain over three days, from the Gates of Angband to the Fens of Serech, and involving a considerable degree of manoeuvre by the different hosts.

But what about their opponents?

The Silmarillion describes three hosts of Morgoth that took part in the battle. The first 'Diversionary' host, the second 'Main' host and the 'Last' host released against Maedhros. We have no concrete numbers, apart from the statement that, after Maedhros' host was scattered and Glaurang driven back to Angband, the remnant of the western host of "Fingon and Turgon were assailed by a tide of foes thrice greater than all the force that was left to them". We can only compare the hosts of Morgoth by the effect they had on the Good armies. The initial host numbered perhaps around 50,000-60,000, enough to seem a threat to Fingon but not enough to defeat him. The Main host was presumably much larger, probably more than a hundred thousand orcs. The final host was seemingly smaller again, but contained a greater mix of Morgoth's most devastating creatures reserved until the end - Balrogs, Dragons and Wolfriders. This force was perhaps another 60,000, and finally, further strength of evil Easterlings hidden in the hills descended on Maedhros as well, maybe as many as 20,000. That would put Morgoth's total force at well over 200,000 and possibly considerably higher. A quarter of a million, or even up towards 300,000, would be a sensible figure for the total of Morgoth's forces engaged at one point or another.

Casualties were huge, the losses of Morgoth's orcs and creatures were enormous, perhaps in the region of 150,000, but tens of thousands remained and had the victory. The losses of the Elves, Men and Dwarves were terrible. Almost all of Fingon's host, and most of Maedhros' and Turgon's were destroyed. Of all the armies Turgon's host and the Dwarves of Belegost probably suffered the lighter casualties, but still severe. Perhaps at most ten thousand of each of the eastern and western armies survived, suggesting there were over 60,000 dead across three days among the Eldar, Edain and Naugrim, a slaughter on the scale of the Battle of Waterloo or the opening days of the Somme.  Tolkien describes what happened afterwards to the bodies of the fallen:

"By the command of Morgoth the Orcs with great labour gathered all the bodies of those who had fallen in the great battle, and all their harness and weapons, and piled them in a great mound in the midst of Anfauglith; and it was like a hill that could be seen from afar. Haudh-en-Ndengin the Elves named it, the Hill of Slain, and Haudh-enNirnaeth, the Hill of Tears. But grass came there and grew again long and green upon that hill, alone in all the desert that Morgoth made; and no creature of Morgoth trod thereafter upon the earth beneath which the swords of the Eldar and the Edain crumbled into rust."

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Populations of Middle Earth - The Isle of Numenor (through the 2nd Age)

The population of Numenor was derived from the Three tribes of the Edain that dwelt in Beleriand before Morgoth overran the continent after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears in 472 FA. These were the Beorians, Hadorians and the Haladin, to whom can be added the somewhat separate Druedain who lived among the Haladin, and presumably survivors of the people of Bor, the Easterlings who remained faithful at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. In my article on the populations of Beleriand at their height around 450 FA, just before the Dagor Bragollach, I estimated that the Edain numbered around 150,000 at their greatest, divided between the three tribes and a mixed group who remained in Estolad. In the century between this point and Morgoth's destruction their population certainly declined catastrophically through battle losses and their lands being overrun by Morgoth's minions. But a remnant of the Hadorians and Beorians survived as thralls in Dor-Lomin, and some of the Haladin clung on in Brethil, as well as presumably some who fled to the Isle of Balar or the southern forests with the last free Elves. These peoples never accepted Morgoth and when the Valar came in power the surviving Edain alone of the remaining peoples of Beleriand joined their armies and fought against Morgoth's hordes.

If we assume the Edain population declined by about 80% during this period, that leaves a mixed population of around 30,000 remaining at the time of liberation by the Valar and the raising of Numenor, including a tiny community of Druedain. These formed the initial population of Numenor after its raising in 32 of the Second Age. In HoME 12 'The Peoples of Middle Earth' Tolkien states that the first fleet of refugees lead by Elros numbered about 200 ships carrying "between five thousand or at the most ten thousand" people, but also that there was a smaller steady migration of people over the next 50 years. From this we can be reasonably confident that most if not all of the 30,000ish survivors eventually made their way to Numenor.

Numenor's history spanned about 3300 years from its founding and while we can't exactly state its population at specific points we can identify likely trends. Numenorean history hinges around the falling of 'the Shadow' on Numenor: the turning of its people away from loving loyalty towards the Valar and Eru to bitterness towards the Valar and thirsting to escape death. Tolkien repeatedly stated that in this latter period Numenoreans had fewer and fewer children as they focused on preserving themselves from death and brooding on their ancestors, though in the Akallabeth he also states that even before the Shadow they had few children. It seemed characteristic of Tolkien's culturally higher peoples that many chose not to marry in order to pursue arts and crafts, and this may also explain the slow increase of Numenor's population, despite the fact they didn't suffer from disease until after Sauron came to Numenor in 3260 SA.

Numenor's population growth would be affected by the long-life the Numenoreans enjoyed compared to other men. Numenoreans were granted a life three times that of other men, or about 200 years (apart from the Royal Family -The House of Elros- who lived even longer). It makes sense to assume this affected childbirth and I think a length of 50-100 years between generation is reasonable. Tolkien explicitly states (in the Unfinished Tales) that Numenoreans didn't grow much more slowly than other men i.e. at 30 years old they didn't resemble a normal 10 year old, it's just they endured longer as mature adults before old-age set in. We know that there were 25 generations of Kings but we would expect more generations of ordinary citizens than the Royal Family. For my purposes here I assume there were almost twice as many generations of ordinary Numenoreans, reflecting that Elros' House lived twice as long (until the Shadow deepened). This gives about 45 generations.

Numenor's history can be roughly divided into the following periods. Firstly, from 32-600 the period of isolation from Numenor's foundation to re-establishing contact with Middle Earth. Then from 600-1600, the early years of Numenorean contact and settlement on the mainland. From 1600-2020, Numenor goes to war against Sauron and begins building greater settlements or colonies along the shores of Middle Earth. 2020-2900, the Shadow falls on Numenor, the Numenoreans begin to exact tribute from the men of Middle Earth, conquer territory and build a great Empire. 2900-3320, the Shadow deepens on Numenor leading to the eventual confrontation with Sauron, the disastrous assault on Aman itself, and the complete Downfall of Numenor forever.

Estimating Numenor's population presents a very different challenge to my other posts because those were static estimates, screenshots of what the population was at a specific point in time, whereas here we need to estimate Numenor's population dynamically by working out how it grew over 3000 years. It's good Tolkien introduced reasons why Numenor's population growth was comparatively slow because otherwise the huge length of time it existed, over 3000 years, should've produced an astonishingly high population that doesn't seem to fit with the descriptions of its society. We know the starting population, around 30,000 people at Numenor's founding, and then in theory the population at each point is just a simple exponential function of the growth rate, or the average child-birth per woman. However over 45 generations our assumption for Numenorean childbirth rates massively effects the overall population figures we get, particularly at the end.

We have some information to calibrate these with as well after our starting figure. In 600-800 when Numenor first began to make contact again with Middle Earth it was still relatively sparsely populated, as recounted in the tale of 'Aldarian and Erendis', with even large areas of the central mostly inhabited only by sheep. Centuries later in 1700 Numenor's decisive intervention in the 'War of Sauron and the Elves' seems to suggest a much more developed and powerful state. This intensifies over the following centuries as Numenor seems capable of not just exploring across the world but colonising and conquering huge areas of Middle Earth, particularly to the South and East of the lands familiar from LOTR. Presumably by this period Numenor was increasingly crowded and this encouraged the kind of massive emigration familiar from European societies in the industrial 19th and early 20th Centuries. By the time Sauron arrived in the 33rd Century Numenor seems a rather grim and over-developed place, though retaining a certain icy beauty, with violence and strife increasingly breaking out, presumably partly driven by the difficulty of accommodating so many people within its area, though certainly encouraged by Sauron. We can combine these vague images with our knowledge of Numenor's area of 168,000 square miles, twice the size of Britain, and between Germany and France in area, to provide a check on our simple exponential growth model.

For the early period of Numenorean history I estimate an average childbirth rate of 2.4 children per woman. This is obviously just an average, and takes into account Tolkien's statements about Numenoreans having relatively few children, and also that quite a few women would've chosen not to marry at all. For ease I assume this reflects the number of children each woman had that survived into adulthood and bore children, on average, rather than strictly the birth-rate. Numenor was a land without disease or war (for a long time) but Tolkien implies elsewhere child-birth was still painful and potentially deadly, though presumably in proportions more like our modern world than the middle ages.

This model suggests that by 600 SA 8ish generations would've passed and the Numenorean population would be about 130,000. By 800-900 when 'Aldarion and Erendis' is set there would've been around 250,000 people. At this stage we can assume large parts of Numenor outside the central regions would still be basically uninhabited. By the time of Tar-Minastir's great armanent that decisively turned the tide of the 'War of Sauron and the Elves' around 1600-1700 this model gives a now much greater population of around 2.5-3 million people. The difference from Aldarion's time is dramatic, as would be expected over a thousand years. Whereas in 850 it was considered a great voyage for Numenor to send a few ships to Lindon, now Tar-Minastir sends a great fleet and army of, probably, many thousands of soldiers and sailors on scores of ships. Moving further forward we reach the time of Tar-Atanamir the Great, about 2100 SA, the King under whom the Shadow first fell, and Numenor reached "the zenith of its bliss, if not yet of its power". At this point the population reaches about 7 million.

From this time the Numenoreans increasingly establish colonies along the coasts of Middle Earth that grow steadily until they form virtual kingdoms of their own, conquering surrounding territory and including populations of Numenorean colonists and the native men of those areas. These come into continual confrontation with Sauron dominion over most of the inner lands of Middle Earth south and east of Mordor and absorb the excess population as Numenor became more crowded as the centuries pass. My calculations can only give the total Numenorean population descended from the original settlers, and so include both the population of Numenor proper, and the descendant population in the colonies. This whole period can be compared to the rapid imperalist colonisation of the 18th through 20th centuries in our real world. We also have the division in Numenorean society between the King's Men (anti-Valar, Elves) and the Faithful (Pro-Valar, Elves). We are told most people were King's Men, and the Faithful were concentrated in the west where the Eldar visited from Tol Eressa. Both groups steadily emigrated from Numenor, but the Faithful came to the North-West, the lands of LOTR, to Pelargir, and Eriador where Gil-Galad, High-King of the Eldar, held back the influence of Sauron. The King's Men sailed away to the Numenorean colonies and empire in the un-mapped lands of the South and East of Middle Earth that "left many rumours in the legends of Men", but apart from Umbar were anonymous.

I assume around 80% of Numenoreans were King's Men, and about 20% Faithful, though the proportion of Faithful in Numenor itself certainly declined steadily as the divide deepened, persecution grew, and many were driven to emigrate to the Elven lands of the North West, leaving more King's Men on Numenor itself. By the time of Elendil's departure from Numenor we are told he gathered all that remained of the Faithful he could on nine great ships, implying the rest were almost all gone. During this period of the Shadow, covering about a thousand years after Tar-Atanamir, I assume the average population increase over the whole period slowed to only slightly above the replacement rate (for maths purposes I use an average birthrate of 2.05 per woman). This also represents increasing losses in warfare in Middle Earth as well, where it is implied there was continual conflict with Sauron's forces. Still this proportion is enough that by 2500 SA it predicts a population of some 10 million people, mostly on Numenor but also in its colonies, of which about 2 million would've been the Faithful, and by 3000 SA the population has increased again considerably to 15 million.

At this stage the proportion of the Numenorean population that lived outside Numenor would be steadily rising as Numenor itself grew more crowded driving emigration, and natural population increase occurred in the colonies themselves. We have no way of determining exactly what proportion of the Numenorean population dwelt abroad but I think give Tolkien's tendency to discuss the Numenoreans as though they were an aristocracy among wilder men in Middle Earth, it's reasonable to assume even at a late stage it formed a minority of the population. I think it reasonable to suggest that by year 3000 perhaps 5 million Numenoreans were living in kingdoms and colonies scattered across Middle Earth. These would not all be 'pure Numenoreans', many would be of only partial Numenorean blood as over the centuries Numenoreans married men and women of Middle Earth.

From this point around 3000 SA the shadow continued to deepen on Numenor until, after Sauron was brought to the island, civil strife broke out, disease began to plague Numenor and the Faithful were violently persecuted, leading up to the final cataclysmic destruction of Numenor itself. The Faithful increasingly shrank in number as some fell away and others fled to the areas of the North-West that would later form Arnor and Gondor. I assume over this period population growth in Numenor slowed further falling to a complete halt in the period after Sauron's arrival. This suggests a 'final' Numenorean population of around 18 million shortly before the Downfall. We can perhaps sensibly estimate that in this final period there were around 12 million people on Numenor itself and around 6 million spread through its colonies. I think we can justify a continuing assumption that around 25% of the colony population would be Faithful on the basis that while many would've fallen away under persecution, the same persecution would encourage a higher proportion of Faithful to emigrate.

This suggests that in Numenor's final days there were around 1-2 million Faithful of Numenorean and partial descent in the lands around Eriador, Pelargir and the Anduin. There would also have been some 4 million Black Numenoreans spread across Middle Earth, as well as 12 million on Numenor itself, by the end basically entirely Kings Men. According to the Akallabeth at the Downfall Elendil gathered almost all the remaining Faithful who would depart onto this nine ships. We can assume these were enormous vessels, among Numenor's great ships at the height of its power, more like modern Cruise Ships than tiny medieval galleys. But still along with a great store of goods we can't imagine more than around a thousand people fitted on each ship. This means around 9 thousand Dunedain arrived with Elendil, but these figures show they joined a population of Numenorean descent many times larger already in Middle Earth. These people accepted Elendil's right to rule because with the loss of his father, the last Lord of Andunie, he was the hereditary leader of their people, and presumably the most senior surviving descendant of Elros.

These figures are purely illustrative but I think they are in the right ball park, which is as close as we can hope to get. The 1-2 million Faithful of Eriador and Gondor can be compared with my calculation that at the time of LOTR at the end of the 3rd age the population of Gondor was around 2 million, and that of Rohan around 500 thousand. There would've been probably equivalently sized populations (or even more) of native men in Eriador and Gondor as well. These provided the populations of early Gondor and Arnor and the manpower that created the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, that according to Elrond was, with the Elves and others, the greatest host in the history of the 2nd and 3rd Ages of Middle Earth. It also brings into stark clarity the sheer scale of the loss of the Downfall, especially if we assume there were also large losses in the cities of the King's Men spread across the shores of Middle Earth. The result would've been like the destruction of Pompei magnified a thousand times over, combined with the greatest Tsunami the world has ever seen.

A brief word in defence of these estimates. In order to disagree dramatically your first option is that Numenorean fertility was only barely above (but conveniently not below) the replacement rate even before the Shadow and even in the colonies on Middle Earth, such that the population barely increased at all from generation to generation. But this gives ridiculously low population figures for the time of Aldarion and Erendis and even Tar-Minastir.  Or you assume fertility must've been higher, but that produces humungous population figures over the extremely long time-frames Tolkien described Numenor as existing, in a blessed land without disease or contraception to control the population.

Nonetheless, I would love to hear your thoughts on these estimates and any suggestions for improving them. They are naturally rough, for we have only the thinnest actual information to go on, but I think they are the best that can be done.