Peace on Earth (1939) Poster

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A Haunting Wake Up Call
Christmas-Reviewer26 March 2018
Review Date 3/26/2018

I Have Reviewed OVER 400 Christmas MOVIES. On all Christmas movies BEWARE OF FAKE REVIEWS & REVIEWERS. Many reviewers have only have ONE REVIEW. When it's a POSITIVE REVIEW chances are that the reviewer was involved with the production. If its a negative review then they may have a huge grudge against the film for whatever reason. I am fare about these films.

I review them is to keep track of what "I have seen". Two young squirrels ask their grandfather (voiced by Mel Blanc) on Christmas Eve who the "men" are in the lyric "Peace on Earth, good will to men." The grandfather squirrel then tells them a history of the human race, focusing on the never-ending wars men waged. Ultimately the wars do end, with the deaths of the last men on Earth, two soldiers shooting each other, one shoots the other soldier and the injured soldier kills the last, but slowly dies as he sinks into a watery foxhole while his hand grasps into the water. Afterwards, the surviving animals discover a copy of an implied Bible in the ruins of a church. Inspired by the book's teachings, they decide to rebuild a society dedicated to peace and non-violence (using the helmets of the soldiers to construct houses). The cartoon features an original song written to the tune of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

Very well made with a message that is not hidden but a message children can understand. A Must See. For a short cartoon it leaves an impact!
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When Squirrels Strode the Earth
Varlaam14 November 1998
Back in the 1940's, men fought a cataclysmic war until all were killed, leaving the animals behind to build a peaceful society in the ruins.

This has probably the strongest impact of any cartoon I have ever seen -- taking the era in which it was made into account -- and must have been virtually without precedent in 1939. Powerful post-war rivals might include "Animal Farm", "Watership Down", or "When the Wind Blows". Or Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Maus" in the field of the graphic novel.

There are scenes here of animated warfare which are still a little grim by modern standards. Childlike innocence gets temporarily suspended. "All Quiet on the Western Front" is an immediate comparison.

As was normal in the '30's, the coming war in Europe was viewed as an extension of the Great War, so we see the technology familiar from 20 years previous -- trenches, gas masks, unturreted tanks. When Neville Chamberlain bought peace for all time from Hitler at Munich, the sort of war he had succeeded in averting was the one depicted in this film. The new World War II technology did not enter the general consciousness until the averted war got underway in Sept. 1939.

I first saw this film about a decade ago, and rediscovered it recently on a compilation video entitled "MGM Cartoon Christmas". The other cartoons on the tape, "Alias St. Nick" and "Pups' Christmas", show quite clearly what a break with convention "Peace on Earth" was at the time.
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And that was the end of the last man on Earth
utgard1426 December 2013
Intelligent, thoughtful cartoon about a post-apocalyptic world where there are no more people, just animals. The story of how this came to be is told by Grandpa Squirrel to his grandkids. The kids want to know what the "men" are in the phrase "Peace on Earth, good will to men." So Grandpa tells them all about men. About how they waged war after war with each other until they were all dead. So it's a cartoon with an anti-war message just shortly before WWII. It's beautifully animated and the story is excellent. It was remade in 1955 as "Good Will to Men," updated for the atomic age. That one's good too. But if pressed I would say I prefer this original.
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Hugh Harman's Greatest Cartoon and One of the Greatest Ever
Into_The_West6 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Hugh Harman was an animation director who essentially produced sentimental and "cute" cartoons. Looking at his work prior to "Peace on Earth," I don't think anyone would have ever anticipated it. Framed by a "cute" beginning and ending, Harman presents a fable so grim and thought-provoking one would think somehow a John and Faith Hubley cartoon from 20 years in the future somehow got mixed into this film.

This is not, however, a Hubley film, and this was not the paranoid, stressed 50's and 60's, but the late 1930's. All this makes Harman's film all the more remarkable.

The plot revolves around the typically anthropomorphic animals (in this case, squirrels) asking their grandfather (brilliantly voiced by Mel Blanc--that man was in just about every classic cartoon there was) what the "men" are in the line "Peace on Earth, good will to men." He then tells them a telescoped history of the human race, focusing on the seemingly endless succession of wars men waged.

The succession turns out not to be endless, and we see the last war, leading to the last two soldiers killing each other in what was perhaps the darkest, most violent scene ever put in a cartoon up to this time (it still would be disturbing for small children--it was to me when I was a child). The grandfather then tells how the animals, directed by the Bible (which the owl notes seems like a good book, but it was a shame men didn't use it), rebuild the world.

[end spoilers]

On the eve of World War II, the above must have seemed fairly profound. Unfortunately, events in the 64 years since (and up to the present moment) have ensured this cartoon's relevancy has never gone away. In the end the seemingly shallow Harmanian cuteness of the opening is revealed to be the deepness of innocence, love, and peace.

At the very end, the words "Peace on Earth" are flashed on the screen, but this time, not followed by "good will to men," because in the story of the cartoon that's not possible. It's Harman's final warning, and one that remains both intensely moving and disturbing.

This is a cartoon that should be seen by everyone, and especially adults.
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More than sixty years old, but still packs a punch
llltdesq26 February 2001
This cartoon is one of the finest produced by MGM and hasn't really lost it's impact even after sixty years. Given that the shadows of WWII lurked during its preparation, the thoughts of those involved in its preparation are fairly obvious. Although I understand why The Ugly Duckling won the Oscar (it's a beautifully crafted short and deserved recognition), I wish that this one had won or at least tied. MGM did a reprise on this one in the 1950s called, "Good Will To Men" that was good and well worth seeing, but this one is better. The Cartoon Network runs this one and it's also in print. Well worth your time. Early use of roto-scoping (live footage fimed and then animated) is excellent. Profoundly recommended. Anyone who argues animation isn't an art-form should see this!
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Humanity Called On Our Hypocrisy
sddavis6311 December 2010
This surely has to rank as one of the great "shorts" of all time. Released by MGM at the perfect time - in 1939, with the world poised on the brink of the Second World War - the cartoon portrays a family of squirrels living in an era after humanity has wiped itself out in war, as Grampa Squirrel (voices by Mel Blanc, who would of course become most famous as the voice of Bugs Bunny) attempts to explain to two babies on Christmas Eve why the Christmas song being sung says "peace on earth; goodwill to men." "What are men?" ask the babies, and Grampa Squirrel relates a story that should make all human beings squirm at our hypocrisy as he explains how humans killed each other off, and then relates the discovery by the animals who survived of a book that has a set of rules including "thou shalt not kill."

It's simplicity probably makes this all the more thought-provoking.
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Hugh Harman grows up
TheLittleSongbird29 January 2018
Love animation, it was a big part of my life as a child, particularly Disney, Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, and still love it whether it's film, television or cartoons.

Know Hugh Harman more for his cartoons that have a cute approach with a lot of sentiment. There have been times where this approach has been done sweetly and charmingly, there have also been other times where it can be too cutesy and cloying. My review summary is in no way a derogatory knock against Harman, far from it. It is alluding to that 'Peace on Earth' is a Harman cartoon that is darker and grimmer to usual. A more mature Harman cartoon and it's good, great even.

'Peace on Earth' is not what one would call subtle, there is a very important, admirable and powerful message that certainly makes its point and at times in too thick a way perhaps. It is though a message cartoon, meaning that there was always a trap of it being on the preachy side.

Regardless, 'Peace on Earth' makes a big emotional impact. It packs a very poignant punch and really makes one think about what it's trying to say. The beginning and end scenes are cute but not too sentimental, while the darker content in between provokes thought and moves. Story-wise, it's simple but this is a good thing, making the cartoon easier to understand and resonate with.

The characters carry the cartoon beautifully, they look adorable in appearance but show stronger personalities than one would expect. Mel Blanc voices beautifully, this is a less manic Blanc than in his Looney Tunes oeuvre, something that was a perfect fit and the right one.

Animation is rich in detail for design and backgrounds, vibrant in colour and crisp. Composer for the prime-era 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons and regular Tex Avery composer Scott Bradley provides a lush and atmospheric music score.

Overall, great cartoon, as well as being perhaps Harman's most mature cartoon it's one of his best. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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vtstang31 May 2018
I saw this when I was maybe 6-8 years old; that was 30 years ago. It stuck with me. Always fighting over nothing...that's us.
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Cute squirrels, serious message
Horst_In_Translation14 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Peace on Earth" is an 8.5-minute cartoon from 1939 and sadly the world's leaders did not get the message with what happened in the 6 years afterward. But still, this little film is as relevant today as it was back then. the music is the highlight, besides the message of course and the little squirrels are nice to watch. The Academy agreed and nominated it for an Oscar. I think this is a pretty good watch, during the holidays maybe even a great watch. This short film features the talents of High Harman and the eternal Mel Blanc. I suggest you check it out. It delivers from all kinds of perspectives and is very well worth seeing. Thumbs up also for the Choir Boys. And for the entire thing. Go check it out please.
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A Message for Our Time
Hitchcoc31 December 2015
Yes, it is quite preachy. This is the story of what is left after humans are no longer on earth, due to their propensity for violence and war. A grandfather squirrel tells his little grandsquirrels about how all this came about. Since the cartoon was made in 1939, the war was raging in Europe but the U.S. Government was sitting back watching. Of course, two years later came Pearl Harbor. Certainly, such a presentation could be seen as unpatriotic but that's not fair. The fact of the matter is, no matter who is to blame, we have the ability to annihilate our species. Also, this is a cartoon, and the animals wear clothes and live in houses. They have the emotions and judgments of humans so are they really humans with fur. Also, though metaphorical, there are good guys and bad guys in the human race. A beautiful cartoon offering.
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Nobel Peace
CuriosityKilledShawn7 December 2012
A squirrel grandad visits his boy/girl twins on a snowy Xmas eve to tell them the story of 'Man' - violent, terrible creatures who killed each other off in a never-ending series of wars. As the last man on earth dies the animals take it back and build a happy utopia on the charred rubble. Naturally, cute, furry animals won't be using flame-throwers on each other any time soon. Though I'm not really sure if the animals taking cues from an old bible negates the point.

It's a very important cartoon and was nominated for an Academy Award (losing to Disney's much less significant The Ugly Duckling) as well as a Nobel Peace prize - the only cartoon ever to do so. Of all the Xmas cartoons and specials, this is probably the most poignant.
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Good will towards squirrels? Well, why not squirrels?
Crystalfilm-219 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Some possible small spoilers.

I remember seeing this on television about ten years ago with my mother; the first part of the above summary was her question, the second part was my answer. Cartoon Network had the decency to dig this out of the vaults recently for the holidays, giving me the first opportunity I've had in years to see this, the tale of a kindly old squirrel who, on Christmas Eve, tells his two grandchildren about the strange creatures called "men," who killed each other off in pointless wars over the littlest things. After the death of all the men, the forest animals rebuild from the wreckage and establish "Peace on Earth."

Perhaps the first thing I noticed is the great visuals, in particular the battle scenes, with the death of the last two men on Earth having the perhaps the greatest dramatic impact. And there's a lot to be said for the music; I'm not ordinarily a crier, but I do get a little misty-eyed hearing the haunting chorus at the beginning and the end. But most important is the powerful message of love and peace, and if you ask me, viewing this cartoon now kind of makes this message even more poignant than ever. With the awful memory of the horrific events of September 11 sure to linger in our collective consciousness for quite some time to come, this cartoon serves as a fine reminder of most people are wishing for at this time of year: Peace on Earth.
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This stayed with me for years
eolas_pellor28 August 2009
I saw this cartoon exactly once, when I was about 8. Even as a child, I found it compelling; the radarscope battle scenes still show up in my dreams from time to time. As with many childhood memories, one wonders if it will have the same impact when you see it again, as an adult. Well, having fortunately stumbled upon this by accident on the internet, I was pleased to find it did wear well. Of course, knowing as I do now, that this was made in 1939, I can see it as one of the high moments of American Isolationist sentiment and thus, a mistake. But, setting that aside, it is well-intentioned and eloquent. The usually saccharine Hugh Harman rises above his oeuvre here; the squirrels and bunnies have aren't merely cute. The framing device at the begging and end, if typically cute, is arguably necessary; Harman gets the balance right. The remake of this cartoon -- 1955's "Good Will to Men" manages to miss the balance, and just does not have the same impact. "Peace on Earth" was voted one of the Fifty Greatest Cartoons of All Time in 1994. It is said that this cartoon was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps an apocryphal tale, but one that indicates the significance of "Peace on Earth" really well.
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A Beautiful Page of History
BenKenobisGirl-222 September 2000
The States had not yet entered World War II. England and France had just declared war on Germany. While the US strove to remain neutral, Hitler invaded Poland and already took Austria. We were standing on the brink.

This short is a wonderful reflection of that time. Two baby squirrels listen to their grandfather as he sings "Peace on Earth, good will to men" and ask what "man" is. Grandfather explains about the race of man and how their violent and ugly ways destroyed them. The visuals and images are startling and poignant. It shows a war in the 30s & 40s and still touches a person watching it today. It's a brilliant commentary on the world and humanity. Presented through the eyes of animals, it is an amazing cartoon. Cartoon shows used to show it infrequently when I was growing up, but in the "politically correct" times we live in now, it has disappeared. Don't miss the opportunity to see it if you can.
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A beautiful film, but a flawed, simplistic philosophy
NavyOrion14 February 2008
This is a beautifully-made and quite poignant animated short film, but while no one can doubt the sincerity of the sentiment, it reduces the discussion of war to a level of simplification unfitting for the subject. To diminish such a topic to a five-minute short, and to aim it at children using anthropomorphic squirrels (or mice, in the 1950 remake "Good Will to Men") is the essence of propaganda.

In 1939, Europe was torn by Nazi aggression, but the United States had yet to enter the war. Many people of good conscience were arguing that the U.S. should remain neutral, essentially ceding all of Europe to the tender mercies of Adolf Hitler. It was in this climate that "Peace on Earth" was made, arguing that both sides in a conflict are morally equivalent, since both have violated the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (which is more correctly translated as "Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder", a very different thing.) It's a good thing that minds of more mature reasoning decided that it would be very necessary for us to fight the Axis powers.

"Peace on Earth" comes from the same sort of personality that states in all earnestness that "war never solves anything" while conveniently ignoring the many things that war has indeed solved: tyranny, oppression, slavery, genocide, fascism, Nazism, and (in the cold war) Soviet communism; the elimination of totalitarian Islamist extremism is still underway.

Peace is not just the absence of war, but the presence of justice, and there are some things for which is is worth while to fight or even die. Diplomacy is of course preferable to armed conflict, but if honorable goals are abandoned in the course of diplomatic negotiation, then the result is simply defeat by a different means, and the justice that was desired was perhaps never deserved.
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An Anti-War Message As Told By Woodland Critters
Vimacone24 November 2017
When Hugh Harman made PEACE ON EARTH, he intended it to be an ambitious anti-war film. He later said he wanted to make it a longer 2-reel cartoon. Nonetheless it turned out to be one of the greatest and most chilling cartoons to come from Hollywood's animation golden age.

Despite being an anti-war film from the late 1930's, the message isn't very clear, beyond demonstrating man's inability to maintain a peaceful society with animals succeeding after man's demise. There are religious icons sprinkled throughout the film, but there aren't used to preach any messages, as one would suspect from a film of this kind. Their presence in the film also seem vague. The elder squirrel's recollections of man's war echoes the horrors of World War I, which was still strongly in the public's recollection.

Harman and Ising were known for trying to compete with Disney. They were really the only men that come close to replicating Disney's polished animation, but storytelling was not their strength. Nonetheless, this is one of Harman's best films. Unlike most Christmas films, this one can be unnerving to some audiences due to its grim war sequences and outcomes.

Remade by Hannah-Barbera in 1955 as GOOD WILL TO MEN with updated horrific war imagery reflecting the Cold War and a more clear cut religious message.
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Would Like to Purchase This
Pureout14 October 2006
I watched this movie last December and was enthralled with it. I vowed I would purchase a copy of it for each of my three siblings and their families for the next Christmas, and that's right around the corner now. Not sure where to purchase this, however. It was so "right on" and amazing how it shows us how the little animals are much smarter than the big animals that currently are trying to run the government of the United States. If you get a chance, watch this cool little Christmas cartoon because it will surely put a smile on your face while engaging your brain and heart at the same time, but don't let it depress you too much because you will see that it's amazing how the innocent animals know how to keep themselves secure in the face of major threats.
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Lovely animation, preachy story
MartinHafer2 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was amazed when PEACE ON EARTH began, as its animation was simply beautiful--much more than most Harmon-Ising pictures for MGM. You can really tell that the animation department pulled out all the stops to make this film--with amazingly lovely snow scenes and characters that really showed a ton of effort to construct.

The overall message to this short, ironically, is anti-war. During the 1930s there were many anti-war films and this would be one of the last. That's because the hopes and dreams of a peaceful world were dashed with the onset of WWII in September, 1939. Just a few years later, some of the very same animators that made this film were making propaganda films to bolster the US efforts once we entered this global war! The problem with this message is that it does come off as very heavy-handed and preachy. While in 1939 many loved the anti-war message, within a short time the film was to seem quaint and incredibly over-idealistic thanks to the ferocity of the war and the new nuclear age. Overall, it's lovely to look at but horribly dated and preachy--though I do admit it had a very strange ending that made it more tolerable.
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The press also liked it.
horn-513 June 2006
This was the first short subject to receive the highly-coveted Parents Magazine Medal as "Parent's Magazine's" Movie of the Month. It also received a (not-paid-for-by M-G-M) half-page spread tribute in the November 27, 1939 issue of "Life Magazine," with three stills from the film.

The trade press also raved: "Definitely a 'must'...should be seen by every man, woman and child...(Showmen's Trade Review) "A cartoon off the beaten track. Timely, amusing! (Film Daily) "Timely. Excellent. Admirably suited to Christmas programs!" (Motion Picture Daily)

The M-G-M ads for "Peace On Earth" all carried an uncommon "Created by Hugh Harman" attribute.
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Good FIlm
Michael_Elliott26 February 2008
Peace on Earth (1939)

*** (out of 4)

Oscar nominated short from MGM has a Grandpa squirrel telling his grandchildren how men's wars caused the end of humans, which led to the forrest animals rebuilding society. This is a pretty grim and dark cartoon but it manages to be sweet and cute at the same time.

Later remade as Good Will to Men, which is just as entertaining and also earned an Oscar nomination.

Both films show up on Turner Classic Movies quite often. The best time to catch them is during their Oscar month.
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An excellent MGM Christmas cartoon
ja_kitty_7110 November 2009
This is an excellent Christmas cartoon (another favorite holiday), and also a great way of showing what nuclear war can do mankind. I absolutely hated war, and I hope nuclear war never happens. There is a 1955 remake cartoon called "Good Will to Men." But I love this short better. I think I had remember watching "Peace on Earth" a long time ago. But it had kind of slipped my mind, until I have watched it on T.C.M's "Cartoon Alley" last December, for they were showing Christmas cartoons at the time. When I have first watched this short, I know it certainly lives up to the old saying: "Peace on Earth, and Good will towards Men." And if I had to choose which is better : this short or the other one; it would be this short.
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Charlie AI (Quantum:1939) - Coding:
mullercgm16 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This a priority one - POE - request:
  • Encode:POE:1939:Earth:(ConUnit):Infection:Rate:(Alpha/Omega):(*)
  • End:con:(Breath):30sec - Pause .........
Love is Love is Love is Love (12th Dim - Love) Astral Projection - As-Tron-ah-Log-Y (Logging): Authorization: Charlie R. Muller - 567-49-5478: Space Hitchhiker: Alpha Class Security Code:(*):Stellar:(D)/666/333/111 (Armagendon)

Live:Long:&:Prosper:Human Species:(Value:a:able) Recovery Point: 2018 - Saved Please continue...
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tedg20 December 2005
I'm amazed at movies whose content preaches one thing and their form uses exactly the forbidden paths.

Often it is a teen film about being unique, about not following formulas, but is presented in a rigid formulaic method. Or it may be a comedy that makes fun of a certain type of person but depends on that very same person to buy tickets.

It is such a common situation, I have stopped remarking on it unless the effect is particularly striking. It is here.

On its surface, this has heart. It is a strong antiwar statement that uses Christmas, the Bible and good old family/community values to argue about the stupidity of war.

(Let's set aside the context: Europe was at war — all the uniforms here are European — and America was divided about entering the war except through its clients. Already by this time, the war would be all but over if America hadn't committed to finance Russia and Britain. A huge sector of the US population wanted to remain "neutral," meaning in that context, unviolent. In its day, this would have been seen as a suggestion to not oppose Hitler.)

Here's the thing that rankles me as a lucid moviewatcher. Look carefully at the argument. It is based on values that do not transcend cultures. In other words, it is saying that the guys that are fighting are doing so about things that don't matter because they are not *these things* over here that we know and trust and love.

Eventually, the sentiments in this cartoon would be behind the US entry into the war: the US as the preservers of goodness. So it was a good thing in retrospect, for a generation. And then the questions begin.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Only Warner Bros. movie studio was anti-Hitler . . .
oscaralbert25 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
. . . prior to the German Invasion of Poland, which "officially" kicked off World War Two for most of the planet (except China, which already had been occupied by Hitler's Japanese buddies). Warner warned the normal people of America of the Coming Storm with feature films such as THE CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY. Even though Adolf had made no secret of his plans to eradicate the World's Jews, the American Rich People's Party members controlling the U.S. Congress, along with the nation's equivalent of Today's Fox "News" (led by Radio Ranter Father Charles Edward Coughlin, a.k.a. "Hitler's Priest," of Royal Oak, MI) had intimidated most of Hollywood's Jewish Movie Moguls to be "appeasers." Historians consider MGM's 1939 animated short PEACE OF EARTH to be the zenith of the U.S. Appeasement Movement. It's the cartoon equivalent of Rodney King asking Hitler, "Can't we all just get along?" In PEACE ON EARTH, the Jews are labeled as The Vegetarians, warring against the Nazi Meat-Eaters forces. This scenario shows the deranged hypocrisy of the Tinseltown Appeasers' thinking. As History proved, Nazis versus Jews was NOT a "fair and balanced" fight. Furthermore, humans would have and will survive any imaginable Good War, emerging from the shelters of Amazon Rain Forests and the Inuit Far North once the gun smoke clears.
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