Weimar, USA? (2 of 3)
|February 18, 2013||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Raimund Pretzel, who wrote under the pen name of Sebastian Haffner, was a boy in World War I and young man in Nazi Germany. He later managed to get out of the Reich and make a home for himself in England. His memoir is about his personal struggles to survive spiritually and psychologically in Nazi Germany. As I read his book Defying Hitler: A Memoir I noticed many parallels between the collapse of German democracy and America today. After quotes from the memoir my own comments are in italics. Given the obviousness of the parallels, they may be superfluous.
The strange befuddlement and numbness of his [Hitler’s] opponents, who could not cope with his behavior … unable to see that it was hell personified that challenged them … the bafflement of his tamers, who always realized just too late exactly what it was he was up to – namely, when he capped it with something even more outrageous and monstrous; then also the hypnotic trance into which his public fell, succumbing with less and less resistance to the glamour of depravity and the ecstasy of evil. How easily the forces of traditionalism and conservatism in America have been outwitted.. . .
he [Hitler] promised everything to everybody, which naturally brought him a vast, loose army of followers and voters from among the ignorant, the disappointed, and the dispossessed . . . his true disciples, the kernel of the Nazi Party . . . their resentful dimness and their innate hatred of life . . .
‘We’, however [opponents of Hitler], had no alternative party, no banner to carry, no programme and no battle cry. Whom could we follow? … the Social Democrats, beaten even before the battle had started . . . Those were the forces in play. The game dragged on . . . a passive waiting for the inevitable . . . Who are the people who want to restore America? Where are their leaders? What is their program?
The confusion of the forces opposed to it [the Nazi dictatorship] and their hopeless adherence to the rules of the game which the enemy daily infringes . . . The rule of law is fine as long as everyone agrees to play by the rules.
The mindset of appeasement was also apparent . . . American conservatives have gone from defeat to defeat and even now are incapable of taking a strong stand.
What was no longer to be found was pleasure in life, amiability, fun, understanding, goodwill, generosity, and a sense of humor … The air in Germany had rapidly become suffocating . . . The good old days are gone forever, the old America is lost and will not return.
The Republic was liquidated, the constitution suspended … We really were only a hair’s breadth from the end. All that stood between Hitler and power was the luck of a few aristocratic political gamblers. All serious obstacles had been removed; there was no constitution anymore, no legal guarantees, no republic, nothing . . . What does our constitution mean now?
My spiritual preparation for what was ahead was almost entirely inadequate . . . I smelled a warning whiff of what was about to confront me . . . Are you spiritually ready, Christians?
Our thinking is usually constrained by a certain civilization in our outlook, in which the basics are unquestioned – and so implicit that they are almost forgotten . . . the discussion always respected certain Christian, humanistic, civilized principles as axiomatic . . . and when people reject those principles, despise them, and actively fight against them?
They expected things to take the humane forms usual in a civilized nation, would have been shocked at what would result . . . People who are accustomed to “the American way” cannot imagine how bad things can conceivably get here in the good old USA.
That the Nazis were enemies, my enemies and the enemies of all I held dear, was crystal clear to me from the outset. What was not at all clear to me, was what terrible enemies they would turn out to be. I was inclined not to take them very seriously – a common attitude among their inexperienced opponents, which helped them a lot, and still helps them.
The calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theatre.
Hitler’s opponents in Germany at that time suffered from a compulsive urge to offer him everything he wanted . . . their patience knew no bounds . . .
icy horror . . . it was so bizarre, so incredible . . .
Perhaps it was just because we were all so certain that they could not do so – and relied on that with far too much confidence.
a flagrant breach of the constitution (Reichstag dissolved) . . . The Nazis no longer felt any restraint . . . They could behave as raucously and wildly as they wished …
a new jittery tension, a new intolerance and heated readiness to hate, which began to infect private political discussions
The Nazis had achieved an unassailable position of power: through terror, celebration and rhetoric, treachery and finally a collective breakdown
A nightmarish reversal of normal circumstances: robbers and murderers acting as the police force, enjoying the full panoply of state power, their victims treated as criminals
The cowardly treachery of all party and organizational leaders . . . a great nation …fell into ignominy without a fight. The betrayal was complete, extending from Left to Right. The collapse of democracy in America – is it possible? Or are we guaranteed our liberties forever, until the end of time?