An elaboration of my elevator pitch about my book, "Impure Manhattan,Auschwitz Antidote", written in the form of a blog post...
It is much much too hard today, with most of our top science and top musical artists coming out of the US, to really accept that before WWII everyone considered that all the best science and the most distinguished (classical) music came from the German culture.
But it was definitely so.
That is why the late 1945 revelations that the wartime rumours about Auschwitz understated its actual horrific intent, were such a particular intellectual shock for those who came of age before WWII.
Note well : I definitely think our generation feels a much greater moral shock about Auschwitz than than did our grandparents' generation, because our underlying moral values are far less aligned with the Nazi doctors than theirs were.
By which I mean to say that most educated middle class people back then agreed with the broad thrust of Eugenics ---- but felt Auschwitz took it all way way too far in its attempts to improve the entire human ecosystem by gassing every last Jewish 'fungus' on Earth.
Rather, their intellectual shock came about because all the previous German cultural and scientific activities seemed to mark Germany as the civilization at the very top of the Tree of Life.
So the revelation that the world's supposedly most civilized nation actually turned out to act the most evil was Modernity's first salutary shock of WWII.
The next salutary intellectual shock for that hubris-ridden generation of Modernity was that their very essence of the ultimate imaginable horror and evil (insert here references to James Joyce & HP Lovecraft & Adolf) , the quivering jelly-like fungus slime, was actually the unlikely hero of the war.
For it was the lowly penicillium, yes another fungus, that literally rose to the moral occasion and produced all of our penicillin when 'the smartest guys in the Universe', the chemists, signally failed to produce any of it.
Thus assailed by these twin wartime intellectual shocks (one from the very top and one from the very bottom) to the way they had always thought Reality was supposed to work, prewar modernity started into writing itself a long long suicide note, with a due date circa 1965 ....