But why Hitler? How did he enter our rather closed society as an archetype? Where does the need to write about it even come from?
As children, we always wanted to be “our guys” when playing war, and those who were picked by draw to be “Germans” were reluctant to play because they were sentenced to death in advance. Later, as we grew older, this reluctance turned into a secret interest. The interest was heightened by the German soldiers parading in perfect order, in an extremely neat manner as seen in the war films and in the chronicles of the 1930s, their shiny and even sexy image—how could all these magnificent, flawless marches, military parades, patriotic speeches delivered with the ultimate exaltation, these ceremonies held with great loftiness and enthusiasm ultimately amount to nothing but a lie? How could millions of people follow this lie? How could a society like Germans, the people who had enriched world culture with exceptional achievements, burn books? And how could the Führer, who stood at the top of this pyramid and was greeted with the words “Heil Hitler!”, become the compass for millions, the object of fantasies for German women who were quite closed in sexual matters at that time?
The war resulted in the country as big as three or four Azerbaijans being left with almost no Prussia, the region that had been at the center of the formation of the unified Germany, as well as losing for good the historical territories of Silesia and Alsace. Millions of Germans were forcibly expelled from Sudetenland in the summer 1945. The capital of Silesia at the time—Breslau (now Wrocław), the capital of Prussia—the ancient Königsberg, now called Kaliningrad, Gdansk, once called Danzig, Memel, now Klaipeda, Stettin that became Szczecin, even Strasbourg, where the European Parliament is located, the court’s ban on the first two verses of the former German national anthem, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” (“Germany above all”), the mass rape of millions of German women in the summer of 1945… The latter has left a deep mark on German society, and it became the subject of discussion and was put on film only over 60 years later. Anonyma – Eine Frau in Berlin (Anonymous – Woman in Berlin, 2008), directed by Max Färberböck, tells the story of the plight of German women during the mass rapes committed by Soviet soldiers in Berlin in April and May 1945.
Germany had never lived through a worse nightmare. Feeling exceptionally humiliated by the bitter consequences of World War I, the society found a way out by voting for Hitler and his supporters. This was the main difference between Hitler and Stalin—unlike the Communist leader, he came to power as a result of legitimate elections. This makes the German society a hundred times more responsible for what came next…
In fact, after World War II, Germany was supposed to be wiped off the world political map altogether, but the major rifts between the allies turned into political intrigues. Churchill mentioning at the Potsdam Conference the future of Germany, “if it even will have any future”, saying that there should be no country with this name, that the territory should be fairly divided, and Stalin’s chuckled response to that: “Germany will have a future”, made these intrigues a reality.
In any case, the Nuremberg trials formalized Germany’s political castration. Although the Federal Republic of Germany, founded in 1949, later achieved many economic miracles and great cultural domination, and even the unification of the two Germanies in 1990, it has not yet been able to translate these merits into the global political influence. Germany has no right to speak out in the world, and Berlin still speaks through Paris or Brussels. Otherwise, the response would be very banal: “Has Hitler come back?” This was the gist of what Berlusconi (look who’s talking!) said to Angela Merkel in the European Parliament. These are the very bitter consequences of hypnosis.
Is National Socialism a German invention? Hypnosis or sin?
National Socialism, in fact, cannot be called a purely German invention. The idea of (racial) social engineering has long been festering in Europe, and if we look for a reference, we can go back to the time before Thomas More’s Utopia. In the nineteenth century, these ideas matured, and the ideas of human evolution, of subjugation of the forces of nature, and technical progress required the total mobilization of society. In the twentieth century, these ideas began to materialize, and World War I served as the catalyst. In 1922, Mussolini, the “restorer of the Roman Empire,” came to power in Italy, where fascism flourished as the official system. After that, this model spread to almost all of Europe.
Undoubtedly, this system, whose quintessence is German National Socialism, was established in all continental European countries, with the exception of France, Switzerland and some others: dictatorships of Piłsudski in Poland, Antonescu in Romania, Horthy in Hungary, Mannerheim in Finland, Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal, Metaxas in Greece and Zogu in Albania. Dictatorships in these countries—a synthesis of nationalism and appeals to lower social strata and people in general, tailored to some national aspects—were models of the Italian regime first and then of the German one as the highest stage. Those models were adequate to National Socialism, and their dictators even had titles reminiscent of “Führer”, such as Antonescu’s title of “Conducător” (not to be confused with “Conductor”), and the Norwegian Vidkun Quisling’s title was almost an exact copy—”Fører”.
It is safe to say that this model deeply influenced not only continental Europe, but also Latin America at that time. Even the regimes established in the 1950s in the post-war Arab countries liberated from colonialism can be cited as examples. By the way, during the war, this influence even reached the Soviet Union. Much has been written about the interaction of the two totalitarian regimes based on two different doctrines. Only the first year of the Soviet-German war can be called ideological. Seeing that ideological propaganda had no effect on the German proletariat fighting for Hitler with all their heart, the Soviet leadership switched to nationalist propaganda in 1942. All propaganda materials started imitating Nazi ones in form and content, Pravda published the famous article “Kill the German!” by the leading Soviet writer and public figure Ilya Ehrenburg, and as a logical conclusion of these processes, the Comintern was dissolved in 1943.
This means that although National Socialism reached its peak as the Third Reich, it was not a purely German invention, but the principle of a state model that was repeated in different variations in the 1930s, mainly in continental Europe. It was German pedantry and diligence that played an exceptional role in this stigma sticking to Germans.
The rule of the National Socialist regime, which lasted only 12 years, has left an indelible mark on human history. The problem is in the cultural phenomenology of the problem—it is usually wrong to compare the Holocaust to the mass extermination of the Tutsi by the Hutu tribes in Africa, or to the massacres of Armenians and Azerbaijanis in our country. If the latter events were a manifestation of savagery, then National Socialism was, on the contrary, a product of civilization, where there was nothing as elemental as the massacres in Africa or in the Caucasus—everything was carried out consciously and systematically, based on cultural and philosophical dogmas.
One of the most common doctrines is that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, whose way of thinking and ideas greatly influenced the whole of the twentieth century and who lived a very tragic life, was the predecessor of German fascism. However, any researcher embarking upon this subject will come across non-Germans—racist philosophers and sociologists, Frenchman Arthur de Gobineau and Englishman Houston S. Chamberlain.
The two main concepts that brought Nietzsche popularity of a lifetime were “death of God” and “the coming of the overman (Ubermensch)”. The statement “God is dead” outlined in his works Der Antichrist. Fluch auf das Christenthum (The Antichrist: Curse on Christianity) and Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) was in fact the final stage of the emergence of European civilization, philosophical discourse in the 19th century. With this thesis, extrahuman absolute objectivism disappeared from the European philosophical discourse, and the phenomenon of humanity and human culture became the absolute centerpiece of the world. With the “death of God”, the fundamental orientation was lost, and man, left alone in space, had to define himself in an existential sense. The acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution at that time was in fact a denial of man’s divine nature: if we are descended from apes, then our animal nature and passions have a positive meaning, and the Abrahamic religions demanding that they be limited, forced, practically violated, is a manifestation of a disease, not health. When Nietzsche’s rejection of Christianity removed all its dogmas, a natural-philosophical tendency emerged and the law of natural selection in the animal kingdom was revived. The absolute dominance of consciousness did not lose its legitimacy here—on the contrary, consciousness is our most powerful weapon, and with this powerful weapon, the vacant place of the “dead God” must be taken by the new man, the overman (Übermensch), the highest stage of anthropocentric thinking.
Thus, the twentieth century with its secular and strongly anthropocentric postulates became the Nietzschean century. The Nazis and Hitler in particular were inspired by many of Nietzsche’s ideas, the main line of which was the virtual pantheism of the political system. The renunciation of Christianity could not be direct, because the people were not yet spiritually ready for it, but an SS member had to formally renounce this religion and take shelter under the wing of the ancient German god Wodan, and adopt the “Blut und Boden” (“Blood and Soil”) philosophy. The Nazis’ vulgar interpretation of the “that which is falling should also be pushed” principle of the law of natural selection, born out of natural philosophy, as the ghetto and extermination camps finally justified this criminal ideology.
However, it would not be right to simplify the Übermensch phenomenon of a sick philosopher with a tragic fate, who practically turned his whole life into a philosophy, and equate it to Nazism. The fact that this philosopher, who spent his life dealing with the ontological problems of human existence, called Germans pigs (in Der Antichrist) also shows that his position was very far from simple nationalism in general.
A few years ago, I came across a very detailed treatise on National Socialism. It was Viktor Klemperer’s diary, Lingua Tertii Imperii: Sprache des Dritten Reiches (The Language of the Third Reich). This work is worth a thorough reading in order to understand the essence of National Socialism.
Victor Klemperer was a German professor of Jewish descent. This man, who had a great reputation as a writer and linguist throughout Europe, was sentenced to hard labor at factories during the Nazi era, when it was forbidden to even keep books at home. He was able to avoid deportation only because his wife was German. Women whose husbands were Jewish were not separated from their spouses—there was such a rule at the time (it did not work the other way around). As a result, the professor, who had devoted his entire life to science, lost his position at the university, his science and even his library in his old age and was sentenced to hard physical labor as an unskilled factory worker. But even in this predicament, he did not lose his face as a scientist. The old professor would return home on foot (Jews were virtually forbidden to use public transport) after 12-15 hours of hard labor every day, analyze the interesting time he was living in and commit it to history as best he could. No matter how tired he was, he wrote his observations in his diary every day with German pedantry and intellectual stubbornness, deeply analyzing Nazism and its roots in terms of his specialty, i.e., language. It is so very touching that this old man, who as a Jew lost the right to access the libraries, ploughed his already weakened memory for various quotations while writing his work (secretly, at home) and left for the reader indispensable notes of the “I cannot give you the exact quotation in my current situation, but you can make sure of it by opening this or that part of this or that book” kind. Personally, I was moved by the scientific perseverance of this man, who studied his executioners and oppressors under a microscope like disease-causing microbes, with true German pedantry and a researcher’s neutrality, as well as by his true love for and devotion to German culture.
In this work, the professor thinks a lot about the phenomenon of National Socialism, in particular as a linguist, keeping record, as a true scientist, of the transformation of the language around him—mainly propaganda speeches on the radio. He carefully studies the manner and intonations in which the news reports are read, how the German language changes not only in official speeches, but also in factory workers’ conversations, the writing style and vocabulary of the articles and advertisements in the newspapers he can get his hands on. Isolated from the rest of society, the professor also notices the Christianity renouncement trends, as the reports on the deaths of “Aryans” (Germans in Nazi-speak) feature death runes instead of crosses, while births are marked with the life rune—the death rune upturned. Goebbels called this war, actually started by Hitler and called World War II by the whole world, the “Jewish War.” According to this propaganda, the insidious Jews, wishing to destroy the Aryans, wanted to besiege and annihilate the healthy master race (doesn’t this remind you of anything?).
Both another master race (the British) who were in their (the Jews’) service and the backward races (Russians and other peoples of the USSR) were used in order to achieve this goal. These ideas were depicted in 1938 in the film Der evige Jude (The Eternal Jew), made at the insistence of Goebbels by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda he headed.
In his diary, Klemperer demonstrates the mechanism of totalitarian language and gives the linguistic phenomenon revealed as a result of his detailed analysis a Latin name—”Lingua Tertii Imperii”. It was a language phenomenon virtually created by the social formation, beaten and tattered between the wheels of a totalitarian society and shaped into the required format. Because Nazism, like other totalitarian models, is completely closed to humor and comedy, there are often ridiculous and paradoxical social situations, which Klemperer calls the “subjective innocence” of the Nazis.
Analyzing the anatomy of National Socialism, the professor concludes that it was not artificially brought into this society, but that its precursor was nineteenth-century German Romanticism. According to Klemperer, the concept of “Entgrenzung” (“blurring of boundaries”) plays a key role here for romantic Germans. This concept reveals the essence of the romantic German and states that in all his romantic pursuits—be it artistic creation, vital activity, spirituality, passion or crime—all boundaries are transcended. In the end, according to the professor, this romantic “Entgrenzung” was the starting point of great beauty, as well as all disasters.
The name of this genius composer still lives in the shadow of Nazism. No matter how abstract the accusation of “Hitler’s and the Nazis’ favorite composer” (Beethoven could easily be accused of the same), the overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) was performed in extermination camps, ostensibly to inspire prisoners, and his essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Judaism in Music”) can hardly be forgotten in the near future. In fact, the latter does not have any scientific value, and many biographers note that this essay was written for speculative and populist purposes. The latter was indeed characteristic of the composer. Nietzsche, who had been friends with him for many years and called himself his student, withdrew from him because of these qualities of his, or rather, “separated from the teacher because of his rejection of common ideals.” Nietzsche, who witnessed the ruthless flogging of a horse by a coachman in the center of Turin, ran to the horse in shock, threw his arms around its neck, and never spoke of it, who spent the last 11 years of his life in a mental hospital, cried simply seeing Wagner’s photograph as he remembered something.
Wagner, on the other hand, was an iron-willed man who would cross all lines to give his ideas life, even if these lines were morally uncrossable. This is the source of conflict in his work throughout his life. Everyone who considers themselves a genius must go through Raskolnikov’s dilemma, wondering “whether I am a trembling creature or whether I have the right”.
Our society is not ready for this character at all—an artist who sacrifices themselves for their creative work, for their art is seen as a fool. Gara Garayev suffering a brain hemorrhage due to internal creative upheaval or Ashraf Muradov essentially being mental ill is perhaps an indication of stupidity in the eyes of many. The most profound person in our society is undoubtedly someone with great material success.
Had Wagner lived in the 1930s, there is no doubt that he would have joined the Nazis. This is not just about ideology—he always had to be where he would be successful, as evidenced by the fact that his daughter-in-law Winifred Wagner was at the top of the Nazi elite. If Wagner, the unmatched genius in the world history of the world, did not have Hesse’s or Furtwängler’s conscience, it was because of his immorality, not amorality. While the composer, who spent his life trying to perpetuate his music, made many “ladders of corpses” in this way, fate did a number on him after his death—this time his greatness was used by the Nazis as needed and interpreted in accordance with their ideology. The music of the great composer, the central character of his tetralogy—the knight Siegfried, who fought against the dark forces, Fafner, gave the image of a ready-made romantic hero to the Nazis, many of whom saw themselves as Siegfried. They were wrong about only one thing—the phenomenon of foresight in ingenious works of art. Wagner’s tetralogy ends with the death of the protagonist and the twilight of the Gods, which was supposed to be the death of the creator of this work as well…
But no one could do with Wagner’s music what ten-ton bombers could do to tidy German cities built over thousands of years. The stigma attached to the composer’s name in the post-war period and the bans on his music in many countries had no effect in the end. It turned out that humanity cannot do without Wagner’s music. Even the Israeli music community, after several attempts to boo and boycott the hateful composer in Israel (which could only be achieved by the will of Jewish conductors), finally began talks with Katharina Wagner, who now manages the composer’s legacy, in 2009. The serious consequences of Nazism are still being overcome today.
Although Vasily Grossman wrote Life and Fate in the 1950s, the novel was later banned and was not published in the USSR until 1980, many years after the writer’s death, and many critics at the time regarded it as the War and Peace of the twentieth century. Undoubtedly, the novel comparing the two totalitarian systems, the death camps in Europe and the Gulag, could not have been deemed acceptable by the official Soviet propaganda. The dialogue between the old Communist Mostovskoy, one of the protagonists captured by the Germans and taken to the concentration camp, and SS-Sturmbannführer Liss, the camp commandant, is quite typical in this regard. During the same conversation, the commandant tells the Communist that the two totalitarian systems were mirror images of each other: “Our hands are like yours. They love great work and they’re not afraid of dirt… Teacher, you will continue to teach us and continue to learn from us. We shall think together.”
In this work, the formula that characterizes Hitler is masterly presented as the socio-mental ladder of the National Socialist society given in the form of Sturmbannführer Liss’s ideas.
According to him, the first, lowest stratum of society was made up by the “soldiers of the Party”—those who were loyal to National Socialism, slogans, quotations from Hitler’s and Goebbels’s speeches read in the newspapers and heard on the radio, and were willing to die for these ideals.
The second stratum was the petty bourgeoisie, Unteroffizieren—they also believed in Nazism, they wanted it to be established, they wanted world domination, but they were not in a hurry to die for it… don’t blame them, life is a sweet thing.
The third stratum—the elite, the upper class, the “high brass”—as the highest and most aristocratic class, of course, did not believe in anything, looked at the world with cynicism, did not care about anything and did not think of dying for anything at all. They did not go far beyond the general line, simply obeying the orders of the supreme political leadership, although they often did not like it.
Hitler alone was the fourth stratum—he was as cynical as his elite, using ideology, especially racism and anti-Semitism, as a purely political tool. However, unlike this hedonistic elite, despite his deep insidiousness, he would not only fanatically die for these ideas, but would easily drag the entire nation along with him. Liss saw such a fanatical belief only in the lowest strata of society, and such cynicism and deceit only in the elites. The high priest, the creator of the magic wand that could easily subdue millions, the Führer fanatically believed in the simplest dogmas.
Thus, Hitler acted as a living embodiment of irrational forces, and this specter hypnotized and subdued all other strata of the totalitarian society.
* * *
In December 2010, the German army entered Alsace for joint military exercises with the permission of France. Thus, it became possible to put a logical end to the tragedy of 1945, exactly 65 years later. Former rivals conducted joint exercises within the European Union in the (cursed) land, for which they competed for almost a thousand years. The special strategic partnership between Germany and France was proved successfully once again.
But Germany’s pre-war prestige cannot be restored anyway, and the undeniable dominance of the German language and culture in all of Central Europe, the Balkans, and Scandinavia is a thing of the pre-war past. Führer’s hypnosis cost Germans dearly.