‘The first of the two essays (of Percy Ernst‘s book titled, “Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader“) in the book, “The Anatomy of a Dictator,” is based primarily on the record of Hitler’s own self revealing statements made during and after meals at his headquarters on the Russian Front from July 1941 through July 1942 (6). This essay had succeeded in bringing out the shadows and contrasts of Hitler’s extraordinary personality (9). Beyond the revelations of the book, Adolf Hitler, in the minds of many persons today has been termed a maniac, a demon, darkness, hell, and history’s worst atheist, etc. This labelling (which are not all true) comes at a time when a lot of us try to make sense of the horrors in Germany, the role of the Vatican, and of Protestants, etc. in the wake of World War II.
Because of the German susceptibility to authoritarianism, some authors like Daniel Jonah, Telford Taylor and Percy Schramm among others, in telling the truth about the Third Reich, hope to urgently immunize people intellectually with as much knowledge as possible of the most terrible regime ever.
The Churches, Antisemitism and Hitler
(Pope Pius XII had signed the concordat…)
Long before Hitler came to power in Germany, National Socialism was strong in the Universities, with support not only among a large number of the students but also religious faculty members. It was the Catholic Center Party which provided Hitler the votes in the Reichstag that were essential for the passage of the “Enabling Act” granting him dictatorial powers in March 1933. The Vatican, with the Concordat later that year, was the first foreign power to conclude a major treaty with the new and still rather widely distrusted Nazi regime. Because of the Papacy’s great moral prestige both in Germany and abroad, the Concordat was, of course, exceedingly valuable to Hitler (10).
Hilter who was in his early youth an altar boy and a singer in the choir said sadly in November 1941, “today no one who is convenient with scientific research can take the teaching of the church seriously any more.” At the same time, he acknowledged that the problem could not be solved simply by the stroke of a pen. The church would have to “rot away like a gangrenous limb” (cf. 46). Basically his view of the church was rooted in the unsophisticated polemicism of the nineteenth century, which in turn had it’s origins in a vulgarised liberalism derived from the popularization of the enlightment (47).
Nonetheless, before the outbreak of the WW II, the German monk and reformation leader, Martin Luther in his (65, 000 words) anti-Semitic treatise titled, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” had argued that Jewish synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes burned, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection, and “these poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He also seems to advocate their murder, writing “[W]e are at fault in not slaying them” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Jews_and_Their_Lies).
There were many people before Hitler and during his own lifetime who did not like the Jews, or who hated them or who even despised them, but no one has ever surpassed him in the extent to which he allowed anti-Semitism to grow into so intensive a mania that it completely shattered the faculty of reason (5). This anti-Semitic mania often prevented Hitler from analysing a situation objectively in order to decide on a rational course of action. To this extent Hitler was almost like the medieval person who sensed the presence of the devil everywhere. This mania led to his revenging himself on the millions of Jews who fell into his hands in Germany (50).
Darwinism, Antisemitism and Hitler
Apart from basing his ideas on Gregor Mendel’s laws of heredity, Hitler’s other touchstone was Charles Darwin, whose teaching he applied in the vulgarised form in which, by the end of the nineteenth century, it had become common knowledge. What this amounted to was “social Darwinism”: Darwin’s biological insight cited as the rationalizing for a theory of government and statecraft which attempted to justify the power politics of the strong against the weak (cf. P. E. Schramm, “Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader,” Jaico publishing house, 2006, pg 85).
Before Hitler’s practicalized albeit cruelly, Darwin’s socialism, the German people through her revolution sought to reconstitute and reshape the European social landscape according to its racial biological principles, by killing millions of people deemed, according to its racial fantasies, dangerous or expendable, and thereby to increase the proportion of the “superior races” (Daniel, 458).
The German people, the Holocaust and the Nazi Revolution
The study of the Holocaust and its perpetrators assigns to their beliefs paramount importance. Its conclusion being that the eliminationist anti-Semitic German political culture, the genesis of which must be and is explicable historically, was the prime mover of both the Nazi leadership and ordinary Germans in the persecution and extermination of the Jews, and therefore was the Holocaust’s principal cause. This is clear because Germany, during the Nazi period was inhabited by people animated by beliefs about Jews that made them willing to become consenting mass executioners (Schramm, 45 – 6).
The Nazi German revolution, like all revolutions, had two fundamental related thrusts: a destructive enterprise, which was a thoroughgoing revolt against civilization, and a constructive enterprise, which was a singular attempt to make a new man, a new body social, and a new Nazified order in Europe and beyond (cf. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, ” Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust,” USA: Mark Stein Studios, 1996, pg 456).
These political views had given birth to Hitler’s obsession and denouncement of communism and capitalism. Of note too are the events following the Great Depression of 1929 – where American banks withdrew their loans from Germany. This singular act had infuriated the German people in the aftermath of an election which Hitler had lost to Von Hindenburg . However, Hitler had taken advantage of the people’s anger, offerein them convenient scapegoats. His speeches, which expoited people’s fear had also seen a growth in percentage (3% – 18%) in 2 years of the Nazi Party. Hitler – an extraordinary demogogue with Germany’s highest decorations, with an excellent combat record, a man of uncommon discipline – played on the sensitivities of the masses, with breath taking virtuosity, mesmerizing listeners with his infectious conviction that he could not fail (Percy, 9).
In 1932, after the Nazis emerged as the largest political party in Germany with nearly fourteen million votes to their credit, he was appointed as Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Hitler was considered the undisputed dictator of the Third Reich and by the beginning of August 1934, and after the death of von Hindenburg, he had all the powers of the state in his hands (cf.https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/adolf-hitler-8.php).
In the article titled “The Mind of Adolf Hitler,” published as the introduction to an English translation of Hitler’s table conversations, Hitler’s Secret Conversations, 1941- 1944 (NY, 1953), The Oxford professor (H. R. Trevor–Roper) writes of Hitler’s mind as being “like some huge barbarian monolith, the expressing of giant strength and savage genius, surrounded by a festering heap of refuse…”
To further concretize this German eliminationism, the event of January 25, 1944, comes to mind. Himmler, in the midst of three hundred Generals and Staff officers gathered in Posen, spoke openly as someone does before an approving crowd. Indeed, when Himmler announced that German was wiping the Jews off the face of the earth, the military leaders broke into applause. The applause was not scattered; it was well-nigh unanimous. A dissenting General looked about him to see how many in the audience abstained from applauding. He counted five (Daniel, 430).
Hence, it suffices to say that, “be decent, moderate, spiritual, ethical anti-Semites, eliminate the Jews, but do not slaughter them” was the spoken or unspoken maxim that informed nearly all of the relatively few German objection to the countrymen’s systematic slaughter of the Jew.
In fact the bishop of Linz, Johannes Maria Gfoellner, in a pastoral letter circulated in 1933, exhorted the Nazis thus: “If National Socialism…wants to incorporate only this spiritual and ethical form of antisemitism into its program, there is nothing to stop it” (Quoted in Friedrich Heer, “God‘s First Love,” Worcester: Trinity Press, 1967, p. 272).
Towards a conclusion
In the conclusive analysis therefore, being ordinary in the Germany that gave itself to Nazism was to have been a member of an extraordinary, lethal political culture (cf Daniel, 456). This perspective was quite as much appealing to Steven Fry who was asked the question during an interview, “If Hitler wasn’t born, can we suppose that the world would be better, same or worst?” To this he responded by asserting that “if Hitler hadn’t been born as at the time of the Great Depression or the World War, certainly the political culture, and horror of Germany would have still given birth to him; another who also hated the Jews would have been born” (paraphrased), and then no one today would be talking about Hitler.
It is now clear to assert that one should embrace the indisputable fact that although innocent their intentions, the German people, resoundingly endorsed Hitler’s Third Reich – a totalitarian regime without effective provision for separation of powers or even for registering the dissent of the governed. They (Germans) did this indirectly through through their representatives in the Reichstag and then directly through Plebiscites ( Schramm, 13).
Hitler himself was never ignorant of this, for he had written:
“To truly ‘learn’ history means to open your eyes and discover the forces that cause historical events to happen. The art of reading and of learning, means remembering the important parts and forgettimg the unimportant…My professor, Dr. Leopold Pötsch of the Linz school,… not only illuminated the past by the light of the present, but he taught me to dra conclusions for the present from the past. More than anyone else, he gave us an understanding of the current problems (Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf,” 1924, pg. 12).
One can now see that Hitler was ipso facto, not just a lover of history but also a careful leader who had paid attention to the concerns of the German people at the time. To further understand the fuel to which Hitler’s passion to eliminate the Jews was ignited, one ought to herein pay attention to the political philosophy of the time too (and this is what the author intends) – afterall, Hitler could have been anyone; Hitler could be nonetheless summarized as the perfect creation of Germany’s paradise and a deadly devil to the Jews – the devil in paradise!
Author: David Francis E.
My name is David Francis and the nature of my engagements include:
Philosophy (University of Jos, Nigeria); Researcher (St. Albert’s Institute, Fayit-Fadan, Kaduna, Nigeria); Editor (Sapientia African Leadership Formation Programme, e. V Address: Badenstedter Street, 99 30453, Hannover, Germany); Literature (S. E. M. S. Nassarawa State, Nigeria); Former Associate Editor, “Periscope Magazine,” Abuja and Columnist, “Seekers Delight Magazine,” Kaduna.
I simply try to question the ‘happy darkness’ by encouraging more hands to minimize ignorance. Just a dose of knowledge, is enough in training the mind, to conform to nothing except truth. Let’s ride this train together!
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