Weimar, USA? (3 of 3)
|March 3, 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.
This terrible moral bankruptcy of the opposition leadership . . . made the Nazi victory exceedingly easy . . . The moral inadequacy of the German character . . . shame, cowardice and weakness . . . The terrible moral bankruptcy of American conservatism and traditionalism? The moral inadequacy of the American character? Could it be that what we need is more John Wayne movies?
. . . the Germans collectively and limply collapsed [before Hitler]. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown . . .
. . . the choking, nauseous character of it all . . .
In spite of all our historical and cultural education, how completely helpless we were to deal with something that just did not feature in anything we had learned . . .
. . . confirmed the victory of the enemy forces flooding in from all sides . . .
. . . a revolution not against some constitution or other, but against the basis of human society on earth, a revolution that, if nothing is done, will stop at nothing . . . The secularists, socialists, gay rights people, and feminists want to remake human society. We cannot imagine how far this will go.
One could see the advances that the Nazis had made in just one month . . . override the constitution and remove civil liberties . . . Their true intentions . . . More and more people are beginning to suspect that an American dictatorship is not an impossibility.
Business as usual, but in the air the approaching thunder of events to come . . . “We have been prosperous and free, we always will be prosperous and free, it is our birthright as exceptional Americans.” That attitude was wrong.
. . . being totally at the mercy of events . . . to try and ignore the situation and not allow it to disturb our fun …to think about unpleasant things as little as possible . . . We have all fallen into their hands. They have us now, and they can do with us what they will.
I fear we have no position left to defend. We’re all virtually prisoners now . . .
. . . there was also something threatening in the air. We had fallen too suddenly and too deeply into the impossible for there to be any limits.
There is an unsolved riddle in the history of the creation of the Third Reich….It is the question: ‘What became of the Germans?’ … What happened to that majority? [that voted against Hitler in 1933]. Did they die? Did they disappear from the face of the earth?…How was it possible that there was not the slightest visible reaction from them? What became of the Americans? Too much ice cream, candy, rock-‘n’-roll, and TV idiocy?
. . . the conquering, ravenous state has moved into formerly private spaces in order to clear these also of any resistance or recalcitrance and to subjugate the individual . . . now this nonsense was backed by the full power of the state, by the threat of dismissal for lack of national reliability, loss of livelihood, the concentration camp . . . Does this description of Hitler’s newfound power have anything to do with America today?
The spirit that had reigned there was disappearing bit by bit and leaving hardly a trace. I had a chill feeling of homelessness . . . It depressed me to see the dismal, inglorious collapse and destruction of a world in which I had lived, . . . It dissolved before my eyes, disintegrated and decayed, and I could do nothing about it . . . The world I had lived in dissolved and disappeared …It was as if the ground on which one stood was continually trickling away from under one’s feet, or rather as if the air one breathed was steadily, inexorably being sucked away . . . When the air over a whole country loses all its freshness and perfume and becomes choking and poisonous . . . Goodbye, America? The possibility needs to be considered.
. . . a condition in which one is hopelessly, utterly overwhelmed, accompanied by the shock of having been caught completely off balance. We were in the Nazis’ hands for good or ill. All lines of defense had fallen, any collective resistance had become impossible . . . We were pursued into the farthest corners of our private lives . . . No one could tell where it would end . . .
You had to choose your words with care and conceal your thoughts … an undertow of fear and mistrust . . .
Great numbers of people yielded…conceded defeat … to give up completely once and for all
There is no alternative, so why not join them?
Solidly based institutions like the Prussian justice system had caved in before my eyes . . .
. . . the foundations on which such things could be built or replaced had been washed away. The whole tradition of a state based on the rule of law, to which generations of men like my father had devoted their lives and energies, which had seemed so firm and permanent, had disappeared overnight. It was not just failure . . . it was catastrophe …It seemed as though he were surveying a vast, baleful scene of destruction . . . as if he were surveying a scene of vast desolation . . .
We should not seek comfort in illusions . . . no possibilities and no hope . . . No comfort in illusions – illusions like 1776, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, and Lincoln.