The "Feel-good Fuehrer"

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pizza
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The "Feel-good Fuehrer"

Post by pizza » Sat Mar 26, 2005 1:45 pm

SPIEGEL ONLINE - March 22, 2005, 03:46 PM
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1 ... 26,00.html

New Holocaust Book, New Theory

How Germans Fell for the 'Feel-Good' Fuehrer

By Jody K. Biehl in Berlin

Hitler not only fattened his adoring "Volk" with jobs and low taxes, he also fed his war machine through robbery and murder, says a German historian in a stunning new book. Far from considering Nazism oppressive, most Germans thought of it as warm-hearted, asserts Goetz Aly. The book is generating significant buzz in Germany and it may mark the beginning of a new level of Holocaust discourse.

Hitler took great care to pamper and coddle his people and they loved him -- and the Nazi regime -- for it.
A well-respected German historian has a radical new theory to explain a nagging question: Why did average Germans so heartily support the Nazis and Third Reich? Hitler, says Goetz Aly, was a "feel good dictator," a leader who not only made Germans feel important, but also made sure they were well cared-for by the state.

To do so, he gave them huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also -- in great contrast to World War I -- particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a "warm-hearted" protector, says Aly, author of the new book "Hitler's People's State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism" and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich's unsavory, murderous side.

Financing such home front "happiness" was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.

Once the robberies had begun, a sort of "snowball effect" ensued and in order to stay afloat, he says Germany had to conquer and pilfer from more territory and victims. "That's why Hitler couldn't stop and glory comfortably in his role as victor after France's 1940 surrender." Peace would have meant the end of his predatory practices and would have spelled "certain bankruptcy for the Reich."

Instead, Hitler continued on the easy path of self deception, spurring the war greedily forward. And the German people -- fat with bounty -- kept quiet about where all the wealth originated, he says. Was it a deplorable weakness of human nature or insatiable German avarice? It's hard to say, but imagine if today's beleaguered government of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could offer jobs and higher benefits to the masses. "No one would ask where the money came from and they would directly win the next election," Aly says.

The Nazis helped themselves to Jewish wealth and used it to feed the war machine.
Likewise, in the 1940s, soldiers on the front were instructed to ravage conquered lands for raw materials, industrial goods and food for Germans. Aly cites secret Nazi files showing that from 1941-1943 Germans robbed enough food and supplies from the Soviet Union to care for 21 million people. Meanwhile, he insists, Soviet war prisoners were systematically starved. German soldiers were also encouraged to send care packages home to their families to boost the morale of their wives and children. In the first three months of 1943, German soldiers on the Leningrad front sent more than 3 million packages stuffed with artifacts, art, valuables and food home, Aly says.

"About 95 percent of the German population benefited financially from the National Socialist system. The Nazis' unprecedented killing machine maintained its momentum by robbing from others. ... Millions of people were killed -- the Jews were gassed, 2 million Soviet war prisoners were starved to death ... so that the German people could maintain their good mood." By contrast, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill cajoled his people in 1940, just after France had fallen, to "brace ourselves to our duties" so that in a thousand years, "men will still say, this was their finest hour."

The Nazi war plunder had a snowball effect. If Hitler stopped it, the Reich would have been bankrupt.
Aly's theory is not only fascinating for its brazenness, but also for the ruckus it is causing in Germany, where lately the trend has been to accept that Germans, too, suffered under Hitler and under the Allied bombing raids at the war's end. Aly is now negating much of that suffering, insisting that every single German benefited from Hitler's culture of killing. The Feuilleton, or cultural pages, of German newspapers -- which only recently exploded with coverage of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz -- have teemed with articles about Aly since the book, "Hitler's People's State" came out on March 10. In the left-leaning newspaper Die Tageszeitung, he has even engaged in an open fight with Cambridge economics historian Adam Tooze who has criticized the mathematical methods he used to substantiate his theory. Sales, too, are much better than he or his publisher imagined. "I didn't write the book for the lay person," he says. "It's crammed full of facts and dry historical and economic data and has close to 1,000 footnotes." But if people want to read it, he says he won't complain. It will come out in French this autumn and in English in 2006.

The timing for the book's German release, as his publishers well know, couldn't be better. Germany will spend the next six weeks hitting dozens of World War II anniversaries before arriving at memorial celebrations on May 8 and 9 marking 60 years since the war's end. It is also, says Aly, no coincidence that the work comes close to three generations after Hitler's suicide.

"The book could have been written 10 years ago, even 20 years ago," he says. All of the documents were there. We just weren't open to them. Personally, I didn't have the questions then."

The documents include reams of complex economic, bank and tax records as well as thousands of clippings from regional newspaper archives that Aly spent the past four years scouring. In the book, he uses them to support his theory that half the war was financed by government credit and that close to 70 percent of the rest came from plunder. "I am not trying to turn the history of National Socialism on its head," he insists. "But I think -- despite all the time that has passed -- it is still important to ask the most fundamental questions, namely how all this happened. What were the most important elements that allowed this criminal regime to thrive? So much came out of the German middle class. That is the most troubling aspect of the history."

Such ground has been broken before. In his 1996 bestseller, "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust," controversial Harvard professor Daniel Goldhagen -- an American Jew -- dared to point his finger at average Germans and insist they not only knew about the Third Reich atrocities, but in their rabid anti-Semitism were eager co-conspirators. And for decades, historians have spoken of Hitler's popular appeal, his ability to head off unemployment and shore up the nation's shoddy infrastructure. In fact, Germany's famous "Autobahn" (highway) is sometimes called the "Hitler Bahn" because it was built by the Nazis. His Napola and Adolf Hitler schools famously cut through social classes, admitting rich and poor to Nazi indoctrination. Still, until now, economists have struggled to prove that the plunder from abroad really drove the war machine.

Perhaps, says Aly, that is partly because German historians weren't ready to look at what he calls "secondary" questions about the structural and financial underpinnings of the Nazi war machine. "Writing about them would have reduced the human scale of the tragedy," he says. Plus, he insists, it is always "much easier to say it was the fault of a small group of elites, the power-crazed SS commanders, or even big businesses" than to point to your own greed. German society has spent decades digesting and "perhaps now we have reached a new level," he says.

Were Germans liberated from the Nazis, too?

Current politics seems to mirror this sentiment. These days, making use of an agile word and mind flip, Germans have begun to insist that they -- like the rest of Europe -- were also liberated on May 8, 1945. They say it marks the day they and their children were freed from Nazi oppression. Still, in 1945, says Aly, Germans didn't think they were being liberated. "They had to be liberated from themselves," he says. "That's the problem."

In truth, Germans have made great strides in accepting their guilt and have even "liberated themselves," enough that it is now politically acceptable for German politicians to participate in World War II anniversaries in other countries. In May, Gerhard Schroeder became the first German chancellor to participate in a D-Day celebration. In January, German President Horst Koehler bowed his head at Auschwitz in memory of the 1.5 million people killed before the Red Army liberated the camp. Another trip is planned to Moscow for May celebrations.

Scholarship and even more delicately, German Holocaust sensitivities, too have progressed in recent years. In January, the first post-war German-Jewish comedy, "Alles Auf Zucker" (Bet it all on Zucker) was released and became an immediate box office hit. Before its release, film and television executives had long held that any productions involving Jews and Germans meant poison at the box office. Germans are also starting to talk about their own suffering during the war, particularly during the relentless Allied bombing of German cities such as Dresden. Aly accepts such suffering as truthful, saying talking about it shows that Germans have made advances from the shame-faced decades just after the war when no German academic could look at the war objectively. The question, he says is, "how do you relegate that suffering? We were also victims of our own aggression."

The important thing, he says is that German perspectives continue to evolve. He sees his book as an important part of that process. "I think in 10 years, because of this book, our understanding will be very different than it was less say a year ago," he says. "That's because my book contains a large number of short descriptions and sketches, and I am quite certain that the questions I ask will be investigated by my colleagues. That will definitely give us a lot more information. I notice it already in the echo from the book. I am getting letters from families who corroborate what I write. I'm sure more of that will come."

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2005

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Mar 26, 2005 2:20 pm

Modern Germans, as noble a people as exist on the face of the Earth, cannot comprehend what happened in their grandparents' generation. It is to them a nightmare and best left to others to decipher. The whole situation gives a new meaning to the famous passage from the Rubayyaat as translated by Fitzgerald:

The moving finger writes, and having writ
Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line;
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Mar 26, 2005 2:51 pm

Of course there was a lot of plunder from the Jews.

A small example: Edith Hahn Beer, a Viennese Jew, writes that after the Anschluss all Austrian Aryans got new radios. Where did they get them? They had just been stolen from the Jews.

But of course there was German suffering during the war, though ordinary Germans weren't automatic targets for death, as were the Jews. I knew one German man whose daughter died of a curable illness during the war because the needed medication was by then only available for soldiers. This man, by the way, had the courage to still associate with Jews in 1939, by which time the society in which he lived, strongly frowned on this.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 26, 2005 3:51 pm

jbuck919 wrote: The whole situation gives a new meaning to the famous passage from the Rubayyaat as translated by Fitzgerald:

The moving finger writes, and having writ
Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line;
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
My favorite.

RE: the main subject, it never crossed my mind that the Nazis did anything else but plunder. Isn't that what Socialism is, in essence? "Let's you and him share!"

Segue:

Anybody heard anything about a Book-TV refusal to have that Jewish historian that went rounds with David Irving on without a "rebuttal" appearance by David Irving? She said when she refused to appear under those circumstances, they told her that they would go ahead and have Irving on without her. That's all I know about it. I can't imagine why that estimable organization would suddenly go PC.
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Post by Ralph » Sat Mar 26, 2005 8:41 pm

Yes, the Irving issue has been reported. I'll try to find an article on it.

This book looks very interesting.

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Post by Ralph » Sat Mar 26, 2005 8:44 pm

The New York Times March 25, 2005 Friday


Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

March 25, 2005 Friday
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Column 4; Editorial Desk; Pg. 16

LENGTH: 205 words

HEADLINE: C-Span's Coverage of a Book About the Holocaust

BODY:



To the Editor:

Re ''C-Span Plan to Cover Talk on Holocaust Is Under Fire'' (news article, March 18 ):

C-Span's statement that it was prevented from covering my new book, ''History on Trial,'' because ''Professor Lipstadt closed her book discussions to our cameras,'' is disingenuous. I told C-Span that I would welcome coverage, but not if my talk was juxtaposed with one by David Irving, a man British courts found to be a Holocaust denier.

C-Span, in the name of ''balance,'' was trying to force me into a debate with a man whose treatment of the history of the Holocaust and Dresden was described by a British judge with these words: ''perverts,'' ''distorts,'' ''misleading,'' ''unjustified,'' ''travesty'' and ''unreal.''

Debating deniers is like debating flat-earth theorists. How can one debate someone, on any topic, who deliberately lies and falsifies history?

I would be delighted to appear on C-Span, but not as part of a debate that is no debate.

I note also that C-Span was prepared, until it was hit with a wave of criticism, to put him on, even if I refused. Where's the balance in that?

Deborah E. Lipstadt
Atlanta, March 20, 2005

The writer is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University.

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Post by Ralph » Sat Mar 26, 2005 8:45 pm

San Antonio Express-News (Texas) March 25, 2005, Friday

Copyright 2005 San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio Express-News (Texas)

March 25, 2005, Friday , METRO

SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. 6B

LENGTH: 327 words

HEADLINE: OUR TURN ; C-SPAN loses its sense of balance and reality ; Elevating propaganda to the same level as history lends legitimacy to the purveyors of hate.



BODY: Balance is a watchword in journalism. In reporting the news, the media's goal is to present competing views of contentious issues. In commenting about the news, editorial pages seek diverse viewpoints.

Sometimes, however, the commitment to achieve balance can conflict with an even greater obligation to report truthfully and keep commentary within the bounds of reasonably established facts.

The recent decision of C-SPAN to counterpose a world-renowned Holocaust historian with an internationally discredited crackpot demonstrates how a blind commitment to balance can lead to a gross distortion of reality.

C-SPAN had planned to broadcast on its "Book TV" program a lecture by Deborah Lipstadt at Harvard University. Lipstadt is a scholar at Emory University and the author of the new book "History on Trial."

The book is an account of the legal proceedings surrounding a previous book, "Denying the Holocaust," in which Lipstadt cited David Irving among revisionists who deny the Holocaust or question its severity.

Irving, who lacks a college degree, sued Lipstadt under British libel laws. He said, "More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz."

The British Royal High Court ruled against Irving. In his verdict, Justice Charles Gray determined Irving had "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence."

Nevertheless, C-SPAN - under the premise of presenting balance - decided to pair Lipstadt's Harvard lecture with one by Irving on March 12 at the Landmark Diner in Atlanta.

Lipstadt declined to participate in C-SPAN's balancing act gone mad. Her lecture will not appear on "Book TV."

Propaganda can no more balance history than lies can balance the truth. C-SPAN's mistaken sense of balance represents an outrageous endorsement of hate-filled drivel.

LOAD-DATE: March 25, 2005

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Mar 27, 2005 4:53 am

Thanks, Ralph. I can't imagine what C-SPAN was thinking.
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