Theme: Germany’s Descent into Naziism

The posts in this third “theme” roundup explore different aspects of the question:  How did one of the world’s most advanced and cultured nations descend so rapidly into a state of utter barbarism, which was eventually curable only by the application of apocalyptic violence?


Book Review: The Road Back.  This neglected novel by Erich Maria Remarque, best known for All Quiet on the Western Front, is a beautifully-written portrayal of the psychological impact of the First World War.

Western Civilization and the First World War.  Cites some thoughts from Sarah Hoyt on the impact of the war, and excerpts a powerful passage from the Remarque book mentioned above.

An Architect of Hyperinflation.  Central banker Rudolf von Havenstein, “der Geldmarshall,”  although a well-meaning public servant, had much to do with the extreme inflation that proved so socially destructive.

Book Review:  Little Man, What Now?  Hans Fallada’s famous novel follows the experiences of a likeable young couple in late-Weimar Germany.  (see also movie review)

Book Review: Wolf Among Wolves.  Also by Fallada, this is an epic novel with many characters and many subplots, set a little earlier in time than Little Man, during the period of the great inflation.

Anti-Semitism, Medieval and Modern.  Suppose you had historical information from the 1300s showing in which German cities pogroms had occurred…and in which German cities pogroms had not occurred.  Would you think this data would be of any use in predicting the levels of anti-Semitic activity in various localities in the 1920s thru 1940s….almost six hundred years later?

Book Review:  Herman the German.  Gerhard Neumann, who would eventually run GE’s jet engine business, writes about growing up in an assimilated German-Jewish family (more stereotypically Prussian than stereotypically Jewish) during the 1920s and 1930s.

Book Review:  Defying Hitler.   Sebastian Haffner’s important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars.

Who would be a Nazi?  Writing in 1941, the American author Dorothy Thompson speculates about which of her acquaintances would and wouldn’t “go Nazi” in a “showdown.”  The original post consisted of  links to the Harpers and to a  Chicago Boyz post by Michael Kennedy  with ensuing discussion.

18 thoughts on “Theme: Germany’s Descent into Naziism”

  1. It has often been remarked that Americans focus more on Nazis than Communists, that we are more concerned about Germany’s descent into Naziism than Russian’s descent into Communism. Some of this may be due to some lefties trying to avoid questioning about their heroes. But there is another reason. The US is culturally much closer to Germany than it is to Russia. English is a Germanic language overlaid by French. Many more Americans have German roots than Russian roots. Midwestern comfort food is basically an import from Germany. The US was much closer to Germany’s levels of education, class stratification, and economic development than it was to Russia’s. When Americans look at Germany, we can more easily say “it could happen here” than when looking at Russia.

  2. Speaking of the 13th Century, I am reading “The Plantagenets” by Dan Jones. Edward III had his own health policy problems-namely the Black Death which killed off about 20% or so of his population. His (joined by the elites of the day) answer was to institute wage/price controls. If those pesky masons and shipwrights kept raising their fees as they died off, how were the elites to afford those shiny new castles and ships?

    His father once kicked the Jews out of England so can we look forward to that from Great Britain?

  3. The Black Death ended serfdom and the Feudal system because it brought a labor shortage. That was mostly in England. France had peasants who did not speak French until the Revolution. Russia had peasants until the First World War and their revolution.

  4. “His father once kicked the Jews out of England so can we look forward to that from Great Britain?”

    He was also allegedly gay and was ultimately assassinated for his disastrous wars in Scotland and the widespread famine that resulted when the Little Ice Age kicked off.

    Some new genetic analysis of Richard III’s remains has revealed that it’s possible Edward III’s heir John of Gaunt was not his true son, which invalidates the Tudor dynasty’s legitimacy.

  5. The queen of Louis XIV once had a black baby. A negro slave who worked in the Queen’s quarters was executed for “scaring her” which caused her to have the black infant. The child was later to become a nun.

    Tales of royalty and their peccadilloes.

  6. “which invalidates the Tudor dynasty’s legitimacy”: who, in heaven’s name, ever thought that Henry Tudor had any but the most tenuous legitimacy anyway? His marriage was designed to bestow legitimacy on his heirs.

  7. ” His marriage was designed to bestow legitimacy on his heirs.”

    Yup. He did very well for a guy who had no claims except winning a battle Elizabeth was the cherry on the top of the sundae (sorry for the pun).

    He seemed to do very well out of it, having been accused of “rapacity” after he died.

  8. Grurray–
    I think the author of the book might disagree with you on Edward II. Although he has been accused of having a gay relationship with Piers Gaveston, it’s probably more likely that that was used as a club against him by his enemies. Gaveston was perhaps the 14th century equivalent of Valerie Jarret. A palace gatekeeper who was despised by many in the Court. Later executed.

    Also Edward II may have been assassinated but there is no real proof of that either. He had been placed under more or less house arrest by the Queen and her lover, Roger Mortimer. He died while “in custody”. No one really knows if by natural means or other. Edward III did execute Mortimer later on however, in part because of the supposed murder.

  9. “Who would be a Nazi?”

    Before I bother with that, whoever had a job with the New Deal that was offered keeping their job. That’s just Human Nature.

    We don’t need to read back to Hitler, just yet. We need to read about Mossagedeh, who this man is…and we may need to look at the Spartacists.

    In fact it would be helpful to look at the Spartacists for any true look at how the Nazi’s came to power.

    One might also consider the actual alternative were the Communists, the KPD which was polling behind the Nazis as the reasonable, moderate and useless in crisis as always Center giving way as usual.

    For some reason any discussion of Hitler always seems to leave out the Communists being the actual likely alternative which meant the Germans were voting against their own genocide, that being already an established constant.

    Perhaps instead of yet more gazing at the Germans, one would ask themselves how in the 21st century one avoids giving the people the Choice of either the Devil that loves them as opposed to the Devil that hates them.

  10. An interesting piece by Chloe Simone Valdary on roots of Nazi anti-Semitism among German philosophers of earlier eras.

    Of course, the piece would have been even more interesting if she had looked at philosophers in other countries as well for comparative purposes.

    I haven’t done extensive research on this, but it’s not at all clear that the tradition of anti-Semitism in Germany was stronger than in various other European countries. Certainly, if someone in the early 1900s had tried to predict where rampant anti-Semiism was likely, they would have been more likely to pick France than to pick Germany.

  11. Vxxc2014…not sure who is leaving out the Communists. Haffner devotes a good part of his book to talking about social disruption after WWI and to comparing the psychology of Communists he knew with that of Nazis he knew. In Remarque’s book, the soldiers returning from the front are set upon and physically attacked by leftist “demonstrators,” which I believe actually did happen.

  12. if someone in the early 1900s had tried to predict where rampant anti-Semiism was likely, they would have been more likely to pick France than to pick Germany.

    It is interesting that The Dreyfus Affair may have begun as a counterespionage gambit by the French.

    Doise proposes in “A Secret well guarded. Military History of the Dreyfus Affair” that Alfred Dreyfus had been used by French counterintelligence to distract German espionage from the French 75’s secret development and furthermore that Major Esterhazy, who once served in military counterintelligence, had played a role in this manipulation. These hypotheses, however, are regarded with skepticism.

    Interesting story. I just learned that Emile Zola died from carbon monoxide produced by a defective chimney.

  13. I am referring to not the psychology of young men but the struggle for power in Germany was coming down to either the Nazi’s or the Communists. The KPD was placing 3d behind the SPD, NSDAP led.

    The KPD – which is the Party that has already killed millions next door and briefly took over part of Germany with the Spartacists – is the other realistic choice.

    So in the early 1930s the Germans are confronted with a choice of Devils, and choose the Devil that loved them as opposed to the one that hated them.

    As we are seeing now Social Democracy isn’t serious in a real crisis, as they saw then. Too busy buying votes and having the State play House.

    Our politicians are like talking dogs in the circus. It is interesting that they exist, no sane person would take anything they say seriously.

    Obama isn’t Hitler, he’s Mossagedeh. What follows is predictable.

  14. von Havenstein wasn’t just instrumental in Germany’s financing its activities in WWI with debt which was a major factor in the Weimar hyperinflation, he also was the author of the “war reparations caused hyperinflation” theory that many German economists hold but practically nobody else does.

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