Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What To Do With Hate—What Germans Did Not Do In The Nazi Era

Hate is a very intense emotion. It means to have a passionate dislike for and a strong aversion to someone or something. Like the majority of people, I hate what Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists of German did to millions of Jews, Gypies, Poles, homosexuals, etc. during the dozen years of their rule. How is it that millions of Aryan Germans could overlook what was happening in their country under the Nazi regime?

Fritz Stern, Five Germanys I Have known, writes about German doctors being early and enthusiastic Nazis. Of one such, a former colleague of his Jewish father, he writes,
Even if the man felt a twinge of shame, he was merely following a pervasive German habit of the time: one chose not to see, one didn't see, one didn't want to know. Zivilcourage—meaning civil courage, an excellent German word but not a German practice—grew ever rarer (p. 97).
A bit later, he writes about Germany of the 1930s,
Germany had an air of uniformed normality: the political opposition had been imprisoned and silenced; economic conditions had improved; every success was pompously celebrated as public triumph (p. 104).
The Pueblo, N.M. Chieften's chief managing editor, Steve Henson, asks "What will it take for us to stop hating?" In his conclusion to a July 18, 2010 post, he writes:
We should not insist, "Our president (Obama), right or wrong." But we should insist on this: "This is our president. We may disagree, we may oppose his policies, but he is our president, and we will respect the office and help the president in efforts to improve our country. And if we disagree with the president and his policies, we will support another candidate of our choice.
For those who prefer to hate, then perhaps it's time to get a reality check and travel the world. Learn how truly wonderful our country is, how fortunate we are to live here.

How no matter to what degree we disagree with our president or other elected officials, their intentions—to serve the people, to improve our way of life—is for the most part noble and deserves our support. Not blind support, but support nonetheless.
Earlier in the article he wrote, "To compare our president—any president; doesn't matter if his name is Reagan, Clinton, Bush or Obama — to Hitler is unpatriotic and hateful."

It seems we face the same dilemma as the Depression era Germans. How does one successfully separate policies from the person? How can you respect the office and yet strongly disagree with what the man in the office is doing? How can you support our president when you do not believe his intentions are noble nor that he wants to serve the people and improve our way of life?

In Nazi Germany most Protestant (read Lutheran) clergy and congregations had long fostered a hatred of Jews. They clamored for an elimination of any acknowledgment of the Judaic origins of Christianity. Ultimately thousands of them compromised their theology and historic Christian teachings. They embraced the Nazi version of the German religion. Only a relatively few pastors in the Confessing Church ever publicly stood against Nazism's substitution of race for religion. Many of these clergy were imprisoned. One notable Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was hanged shortly before the war's end for his part in the conspiracy to kill Hitler.

We Americans must think carefully about this history. It is probably not possible to separate the man from his policies, especially in public life. We know a man by his fruits, his policies. Once again, hatred is an intense emotional response to and a passionate dislike for a person and/or his policies. To suggest that we should—or are even able to—eliminate such feelings is naive. The more important issue is what any of us DO with such emotional energy. In this democracy we still have some power to bring about change, to unseat politicians embracing and promoting what we consider hateful policies. We still have the power to vote in leaders who will change laws and policies we intensely dislike, yes even hate. Because of their inbred passivity and conformity many, many Germans lost that opportunity once National Socialism had thrown out the democratic policies, parties, laws and constitution of the Weimar Republic. Their time to act was gone. Our time still remains.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jewish Citizenship Reversed by Nazis

Nazis had a twisted view of race. The 'race' they despised the most was the Jewish. It was their prime objective to cleanse the world of this despised race and make certain that the rulers of the world were the Aryans. To understand this, one must return to the nineteenth century when restrictions against Jews were somewhat lifted.

In January, 1782, Austrian Emperor Joseph II enacted the Edict of Tolerance. The new law's main objective was to bring the Jewish subjects into the realm's economic life. Jews were granted access to public education, job training and higher education. At the same time "Jewish language and writing" was to be abolished. All books and official documents were to be in German. In 1787 each Jew was to adopt a firm, German surname. No more Hebrew names. All given names were to be "Germanized" as well.

One German state after another followed the Austrian example.  Frederick William of Prussia declared Jews to be "his national subjects and citizens" in an Edict of March 11, 1812. Employment at state offices was, however, forbidden, as was lecturing at universities. Not even all Prussian territories were included in William's Edict.

Because of such new laws many Jews converted to Christianity and married Christians. Conversion granted access to full rights and professions and less discrimination. The majority of the converts were well educated, members of the middle-class. Some of them became famous poets, musicians and socialites. Nevertheless many of the German nobility did not welcome former Jews into their social networks.
Ahnen Passport
Hitler and the National Socialists were well aware that many such conversions had taken place and had been recorded in the churches' books. This was why Germans were all required to prove their Aryan background in their Ahnen Pass, their "passport of ancestors," and prove that at least three generations of ancestors were Aryan on both parents' sides. If a convert was discovered in any record, he was no longer considered Aryan and became subject to the same fate as those who were still openly Jewish.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Hindu-Aryan Myth of Savitri Devi

The whole terrible Nazi experience had many oddities, and Savitri Devi, a relatively unknown woman, is one of them. Born in France in 1905 as Maximiani Portas, the daughter of a Greek father and an English mother. She became a Greek national in 1928. She was attracted to the Greek Orthodox Church and Byzantine culture, but soon became more interested in paganism and pantheism, with strong anti-Semitic prejudices. 
She left for India in 1932 at the age of 27, in search of the roots of the Aryan civilization. Following the lead of people like Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and many other pseudo-scientific teachers, she regarded Hinduism as the only living Aryan heritage in the modern world, superior to all other religions. She adopted the name Savitri Devi and accepted India as her home. Convinced that she could rediscover a living Aryan world only in contemporary India, she championed the cause of Hindu nationalism and a neo-Nazi cult.  She lived and worked in Calcutta and called Hitler her idol. She admired the Brahmins, India's highest caste, whom she saw as a pure race. By the late 1930s she was involved with Hindu nationalist movements like the Hindu Mahasabha

N. Goodrick-Clarke  notes: “For Savitri Devi, Hinduism was the custodian of the Aryan and Vedic heritage down through the centuries, the very essence of India. In her opinion, Hinduism was the sole surviving example of that Indo-European paganism once common to all the Aryan nations” (Hitler's Priestess, p.44).

After the war Devi traveled through a devastated Europe and was a vocal apologist of the Nazis, regardless of the horrendous things they had done. Her early writings were republished by far-right-wing publishers, and she gained new fans in the 1970s as neo-Nazism spread. Devi died in 1982, but her combination of Hindu religion and Nordic racial ideology became "a bridge between neo-Nazism and the New Age" movements

Her numerous writings are available online at the Savitri Devi Archive.

My primary scource for this article is Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism  by N Goodrick-Clarke.

For more on Savitri Devi's continued influence consult Goodrck-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fragility of Freedom and Nazi History

Today I ordered Fritz Stern's book: Five Germany's I Have Known. I look forward to reading it with great interest, especially since Stern and I are both from the same generation. With the help of Amazon's
click to look inside, I came across the following comment from page two of the Introduction:
Decades of study and experience have persuaded me that the German roads to perdition, including National Socialism, were neither accidental or inevitable. National Socialism had deep roots, and yet its growth could have been arrested. I was born into a world on the cusp of avoidable disaster. And I came to realize that no country is immune to the temptations of pseudo-religious movements of repression such as those to which Germany succumbed. The fragility of freedom is the simplest and deepest lesson of my life and work. And when an unvarnished picture of the past, always indispensable, seemed difficult, I recalled Ernst Reuter's great credo of 1913: "The fate of democracy rests on faith in history." 
Do you see why I want to read and even re-read Stern's book? I am concerned about my own country and the roads to perdition we are following. I do not believe we have followed those roads to disaster—yet—but I am aware and want others to be aware of the "fragility of freedom" in our nation.

In future blogs I'd like to follow Stern and others to ponder lessons we can learn from Germany's disastrous march down the roads that led them to declare themselves National Socialists—better known as Nazis.