I’m wondering if any of you history nerds know of sites where worldbuilding questions can be asked of…well World War II era, not just of WW2 itself, but within the lifetimes of those who went through the war, which means understanding the social context of post-Napoleonic Europe to the end of the war. Or in the Great War speak a place where you can try and understand Mecklesohn by learning about what his childhood milieu would have been like in the 1840s and 50s.
Some of these questions aren’t HARD, but I don’t know where to ask them. Like…did Junkers name their estates? How did middle names work in European society by class, cause so many upper-class people, and Piccasso as per the Epic Rap Battles song, have up to half a dozen middle names? I have a Belorussian character named Ursula, which I THINK sounds eastern slavish enough, the name itself is Greek, but it sounds plausible. Or…both before WWI and in the interbellum, did Europeans only have soccer as popular team sports? What about the people who hated smoking, didn’t drink or didn’t like soccer or all three? How did they get by?
Or how did German regions line up by shit-talking? The unfair stereotypes used to bust the balls rather than genuinely insult. What makes a Russian different than a Belorussian?
Helping to get these details down is important not just in getting details right but establishing genuine sympathy for the people of this era. Cause people in this era get a LOT of hatred, even from me, but I often wonder if there were conditions I’m not aware of. For instance, I’m not sure people had the nuance to understand sometimes you believe or imply horrible things but they don’t reflect your own malevolence. Only with CS Lewis’ Abolition of Man did I hear the term “better than their principles,” and frankly, it was life-changing because I could articulate believe brutal things without acting on it as something other than craven hypocrisy. I needed the term to take it seriously, and I wonder if that’s why there are so little nuance and so much class and racial hatred because the mental tools to sus these things out didn’t exist.
If it were just military questions I could probably find a forum to ask, but this is more sweeping. I don’t want to understand the events, I want to understand the people.
It’s a mixed bag… And you may not get an answer… Or you might get fifty… And they might all be rubbish answers
If it’s German-specific… There’s plentiful German historians around… Most (near-all) of the younger ones will speak at least some English too.
One I know of is Dr Jean Marie Carey, https://germanmodernism.org/ … An art historian, with PhD in… German art history…? And I think German (or Norwegian), but living in NZ… And kind of a polymath… Definitely knows a lot about early 20th century German society! One claim to fame of hers is having tracked down the rightful owners of some works of art plundered by the Nazis… Etc.
OK, how do I find these historians, and is there a protocol for writing to them and saying “I’d like to pick your brain for 90 minutes?”
I tried asking these questions on Reddit, and the answers were not encouraging. I was called a Wehtboo, when I said specifically this Valkerie story was going to have to deal with…less than pleasant parts of the Wehrmacht who would use the death of Hitler and any peace with the Allies to set the military or themselves up as a Burmese style junta, and I was still called a Wehrboo.
Also, other Germans were not happy I wanted to have a lot of LGBT themes in this story because that’s a small insignificant part of the period’s history, even though a lot of the rightwing backlash against the Weimar Republic was catalyzed by the ‘decadence’ of Berlin, which was more or less the most gay-friendly city in Europe and also that…I have a heroic character because Germany is better off for not believing in heroes anymore? Maybe that’s one guy, but he was the one who gave me the most information before being off-put that in my story I was gonna have Valkerie actually succeed. Also, a LOT of Junker hate, the notion there could be anything good about them as a class was heinous…
But it’s Reddit and Reddit leans FAR left outside of The Donald. It’s hard to ask questions when people are offended by your politics, which spoiler alert: Germany ends up a constitutional monarchy version of West Germany but…bigger, and is dominated by the CDU until the Generation of 1968 which is more or less exactly what happened IRL West Germany. I don’t want this to be a political screed, I want to understand the people of these people on their terms, not 2020 terms.
It was taxing and very unpleasant and I’m eager to never repeat the experience.
You can also try askhistorians on reddit.
A very heavily moderated subreddit where quite a few historians are active on.