"The Germans are savage to a degree almost inconceivable to anyone who has not had actual experience of them, and are a people born to deceit."

It was Lord Vansittart who wrote, but he was quoting not himself but Velleius Paterculus, a 1st-Century Roman historian. He added similar testimony from Tacitus, Seneca, Symmachus, Claudian, Nazarius, Ammianus Marcellinus, Ennodius, Quintilian and Josephus. This battery of authorities punctuates Vansittart's latest book on Germany: Bones of Contention (Knopf; $2.75), which was published in Britain last March and appears in the U.S. this week.

Vansittart's preoccupation with German original sin also turns up in...

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