Mr. Hitler, one of a small, select group of abused children I love to hate, eventually came to believe it was the Jews, not his violent, enraged, authoritarian father, who had fucked him up. Hitler blamed the Jews for betraying the glorious German army in November of 1918, the army that was never defeated on the battlefield but only by the “stab in the back”, Jews wielding their fiendish powers to force a victorious, superior army to surrender to their inferiors under humiliating terms. There are klansmen who feel the same way about the end of the Civil War– that it was the goddamned Negroes… somehow… to blame, for all the horrific shit that followed the unjust loss in the South’s heroic war for control of their homeland, their genteel way of life. Horrific shit that irrationally angry, out of control Blacks are still trying to blame the damn Whites for, according to the Klan. These fanatical bigots blame the Blacks for forcing the bigots to intimidate and lynch them so they don’t run amok. Animals! Violent revenge is the only answer, scream those who dream only of violent revenge.
One of Hitler’s more perceptive followers, it may have been the club-footed Poisonous Dwarf, master of the casting couch Dr. Josef Goebbels, commented that if the Nazis were victorious they would be seen by future generations as all-time great statesmen, while if they lost the war they started they’d be regarded as history’s greatest criminals. A smart way to put it, I think. The third possibility never occurred to the fanatical fuck: we can lose the war, and be regarded as history’s most despicable criminals, and win the peace by influencing the next hundred years of history in profound ways unimaginable now as I execute my children, our dog, my wife and prepare to shoot myself in the mouth following the Fuhrer’s final divinely inspired (or mad — it is not our place to question) order.
After the war, many prominent Nazis were secretly recruited by our country’s new secret intelligence agency, now heading into a long Cold War, for their expertise in dealing with Communists. These Nazis exerted a certain influence in their adopted country, on the ruthless calculations of the organizations they worked in, but it is more the working methods pioneered by the Nazis in their own country that I am thinking of.
I will get back to the many common daily experiences in our modern world that are proofs of how profoundly the lessons of the pioneering Nazi media machine have influenced all sorts of commercial, corporate, political and military behaviors that affect all of us every day. I will argue, for example, that corporate customer service, where you almost never get to speak to the supervisor who can actually do something for you, owes a lot to the Nazi model. In that model the expendable individual is an afterthought, unless he’s privileged, in which case, you know, he must be helped. It is the corporate imperative, the needs of the leader, that must always be served. How these common corporate policies translate into increasing rage, powerlessness, dehumanization, a hopeless willingness to blow everything up, even if it means authoritarianism, is worth having a look at. I’ll return to this main point in part two.
I am listening to a spirited reading of Hannah Arendt’s contemporaneous account of Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, published in 1963. The reader, Wanda McCaddon, reads it wonderfully. It feels like I am hearing the voice of the author herself, who is also a gifted and expressive reader of her own work. It is hard to stop listening, it is endlessly fascinating, I love it. I am falling hard for Ms. Arendt (1906-1975), who, quite apparently, didn’t give a rat’s ass who she offended in her quest for the deeper truths of Eichmann’s show trial.
She shot from the hip, she was hip, she was brilliant, arch and sincere by turns, deeply read in the historical matters she discussed (a native German speaker she devoured primary sources — including the 3,500 page transcript of Eichmann’s pre-trail interviews, in German, and understood every word and nuance Eichmann and the Court, three German-Jewish judges, exchanged), she wrote beautifully, saying clearly whatever was on her mind, managing to offend everybody, and clearly seemed fine with that.
One example: in passing she notes that the anti-Semitic Eichmann had been required to read, and been impressed by, Zionist icon Theodore Herzl’s manifesto Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”), the only book the mediocre, uncurious Eichmann had ever read, according to Arendt. Google refers to the book as a pamphlet, which is even better.
She gives some credence to Eichmann’s claim that the “Final Solution” (kill all of them, especially the babies, the ghastly method arrived at and set forth at the top secret Wannsee Conference, once the previous solutions proved insufficient) was possibly not his preferred way of dealing with the Thousand Year Reich’s intractable Jewish problem. Eichmann was personally very squeamish, had never killed anyone himself, couldn’t watch gassings or shootings when invited to by death camp commandants, and hated the idea of mass murder, or so he insisted (Arendt seems to back him up on all but the last of these– he clearly had no problem with mass murder, whatever distaste to the contrary he might have expressed as his life hung in the balance).
The Nazi official initially tasked with getting all Jews to emigrate out of Germany, Eichmann spent a long time formulating various emigration plans. His basic plan was to get all of the Jews out of Germany, out of German controlled territories, and send them to a Nazi-controlled Jewish State. Madagascar was one place the Nazis considered, just send 4-5 million fucking Jews there and let them fight it out with the 4 million fucking Africans already living there, all overseen by impartial Nazi overlords.
Zionists were understandably outraged by Arendt’s tart suggestion (an ironic aside, clearly) that Eichmann had been, for all intents and purposes, a pragmatic Zionist. She had other unflattering things to say about Zionist leaders, some of whom made pragmatic deals with the Nazis during the war. These leaders, naturally, preferred less conversation about those pragmatic deals. Much of what people excoriated Arendt for (many of her most vocal detractors had apparently never read her book) related to how cooly she seemed to approach the horrendous history she brilliantly outlined, how she used phrases like “grotesque silliness” to refer to some of Eichmann’s more asinine pronouncements, including the stream of cliches he spouted as the noose was placed on his neck. Her book was not published in Israel, in Hebrew, until 35 years after it’s publication in the U.S.
I can’t resist an Arendt-tinged thought: Eichmann’s dream of a Nazi-controlled Jewish state… hmmm… tempting to opine about how, in an odd way, his dream may have come perversely true, at least as shown by the current state’s defense of its most controversial policies, policies that involve the indiscriminate murder of civilians and maintaining concentration camp conditions for many of the millions under their occupation.
What makes a Nazi type is blind obedience to power, a willingness to do whatever is required to show loyalty to your superiors, to advance the infallible leader’s program, and your own career. The Nazis had a word for it, fuhrerprinzip*, the absolute duty to obey the orders of your supreme leader, orders that are always wise, just and beyond question. If you are in the party inner circle, the SS, for example, you swear a blood oath of personal loyalty to the leader, loyalty to the death. No national, moral or personal consideration is of higher value than serving your master with unwavering loyalty. In fact, you’ve expressly agreed to die before putting anything above the Fuhrer’s commands.
There were, obviously, great rewards for those who climbed the Nazi hierarchy, distinguished themselves by their fanatical devotion to the Fuhrer. There was not even a need for a highly enough placed Nazi to make any hard sacrifice of beloved things, even if those things were expressly forbidden by Nazi policy. Hermann Goring, a bloated morphine addict, had a large collection of plundered, incredibly valuable “degenerate art,” art works explicitly banned from Germany. Vice is fine, if you’re cool, and in a powerful enough post. Fucking Eichmann had a Jewish mistress in Vienna, although “rassenschande” (“race disgrace”, an anti-miscegenation law like the ones here in the USA for decades) was a serious crime under Hitler. Just because Nazi policy was at one point to execute homosexuals as degenerates doesn’t mean a high enough ranking Nazi with a taste for boys couldn’t have as many handsome, fit, willing young men as he could requisition. It just had to be done discreetly. The rules are always flexible at the top, in any hierarchy, particularly in a corrupt one. The higher you go the fewer consequences you face, except, perhaps, if you lose the war and face trial for war crimes. God, how much does that suck?
One looks in vain for a rational “ideology” in any totalitarian state. The role of the citizen in an authoritarian regime is not to understand the changing whims of her superiors, or the ostensible reasons for them, in fact, the real reasons are rarely, if ever, revealed to citizens. The citizen’s only duty is obedience to authority and for that reason commands are put in the simplest, most compelling terms. The choice is obedience or severe punishment, often death.
The roster of top Nazis, people with the arbitrary power of life and death over everybody under their authority, is a Who’s Who of disturbingly mediocre and often disturbingly disturbed individuals. Don’t look for consistency, or a coherent worldview in the Third Reich, outside of power and blind ambition. Look for ambitious, morally flexible people twisted by a charismatic sociopath’s shabby revenge fantasy, thirstily chasing their dream of power and a chance to be a major player on the stage of world history. How many followers would Mr. Hitler, the world’s most photographed man in his day, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938, a mega-celebrity in the pre-television age, eventually a super-villain to rival any, have had on Twitter? I shudder to think.
Speaking of unwavering consistency in one’s iron-clad beliefs, we learn from Arendt that Hitler himself, history’s most virulent and prolifically mass murdering anti-Semite, had literally something like four hundred Jews (356, actually) he personally spared, for one reason or another. I thought about this for a long time before coming to the obvious answer. The reason Hitler exempted hundreds of Jews from his death sentence was the same reason he killed millions of other Jews– because he was insane.
Eichmann, when he was read into the “Final Solution” at the Wannsee Conference, where he acted as secretary, taking the minutes of the secret meeting (which were, of course, destroyed) became officially designated a “bearer of secrets.” This designation meant he had to strictly abide by strict Language Regulations, use only the Nazi sanctioned euphemistic language to refer to the secret mass-murder, words like sonderbehandlung (special treatment) instead of “expedited trip to the death camp,” mild phrases like “resettlement in the east” (Auschwitz). Lying this way was required of all “secrets bearers” and everybody else.
The Nazis were cynical masters of euphemism, they seemed to get a kick out of it, a kind of Nazi puckishness at work. This Nazi tic has been widely imitated by many of today’s leaders and industries, who speak reassuringly out of their asses while committing unspeakable secret evils. Here in the USA the proposed Clear Skies Act , is as good an example as that famous Nazi sign over Auschwitz, Arbeit Macht Frei (work liberates). Goldman-Sachs, major players in, and beneficiaries of, the massive systemic financial frauds of a decade ago, are sponsors of the great Terry Gross’s Fresh Air. The Koch Brothers, now sponsors of the NY Yankees broadcasts, tout their commitment to a level playing field for the permanent underclass.
The Nazis were famous for the audacity of their lies. Why tell the truth when a lie can immediately galvanize a nation, if it is told over and over and anyone who contradicts it can be given special treatment, or resettled in the east? The “Big Lie” was a technique pioneered by Reichsminister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, lady’s man Dr. Josef Goebbels. You repeat the most inflammatory lie you can think of, the one that will cause maximum fear and rage against the enemy, over and over. The bigger the better, say it over and over in the mass media, hammer it every day, many times a day. If people don’t actually believe it, the constant repetition of the lie wears down their ability to actively disbelieve it after enough repetitions. The only thing that is needed for the Big Lie to become the practical truth is to silence all other voices when you broadcast the lie.
The Nazi state immediately Nazified one profession after another (gleichshaltung — “coordination”) and took complete control over the mass media. Every newspaper article, magazine piece, radio broadcast and newsreel was prepared and supervised by Nazis. Every news source told the same story. Truthfulness and lying in the mass media become irrelevant if there is no way for a citizen to hear an opposing view or verify as fact anything claimed on the state run mass media. Dictators appreciate the flexibility that kind of control of public opinion affords.
Tell an audacious lie, a shocking lie. Your hated opponent is planning a vast betrayal! Here is the fake proof, look! Here is one of the conspirator’s full confession, with pictures of the guilty looking malefactor. Dress some German political prisoners in Polish uniforms, shoot them at the German-Polish border et, voila, casus belli for invading Poland! Doesn’t matter what the lie is, as long as it makes your followers’ blood boil, prepares them for the just, merciless retaliation of the State that will be done in their names. Things like children being plucked from their mother’s arms, thrown on the ground as the wailing mother is shot…. nobody needs to know about something like that. You know? Cattle cars crammed full of doomed “enemies of the State” continuously running to massive death factories in the East, merely lies told by those who hate our Nazi freedom.
The first thing a dictator must do is destroy the credibility of his enemies. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? Sheesh. The mass murder of the fucking Jews? Really? Are you kidding me? Who would do something like that? Fucking Jew propaganda, don’t fall for it, son. You know what they’re like, how treacherous they are. They’ll stop at nothing to seduce or rape all our women, our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our wives, dig up the corpses of our grandmothers, rape them, these fucking people…. obsessed with corrupting our DNA, you know what they’re like! Why would you believe them when your Fuhrer is standing right here, telling you what you already know, that they’re fucking liars?
Can I get a nice “Heil Hitler!” mein friends?
(to be continued)
[*] The Führerprinzip [ˈfyːʀɐpʀɪnˌtsiːp] (German for “leader principle”) prescribed the fundamental basis of political authority in the governmental structures of the Third Reich.
 The beautifully named law Dubya Bush proposed would have allowed industrial polluters to spew toxins in the air if the cost of not doing so would be prohibitively expensive to the polluters:
Environmentalists were already worried about a 2003 EPA rule that weakens the “New Source Review” provision (1977) of the Clean Air Act. This means that when industrial facilities make upgrades to plants that increase air pollution, even by hundreds of thousands of tons, if the improvements cost less than 20% of the replacement value of the “process units,” the plant doesn’t have to install modern pollution controls. According to one study, the failure to install modern pollution controls at 51 plants (involved in enforcement cases) is responsible for 5,000 to 9,000 premature deaths and 80,000 to 120,000 asthma attacks every year.