28 February 2013

On Hitler, the Nazis, and the question of genocide

On Hitler, the Nazis, and the question of genocide

(This is my way of understanding it. I may be wrong here and there about facts, but if these errors do not really matter for my understanding, I would like to avoid a discussion of these irrelevant errors, or more simply, I do not intend to participate in it.)

With the Jews, the Nazis and even Hitler were not genocidal from the beginning. The 'Jewish problem or disease (including bolshevism)' of German society were one of the two obsessions of Hitler, the other was about the menace to Germany coming from the Russians, with whom he was much more openly genocidal, and whom he wanted to either exterminate or push out of Europe in order to create Lebensraum for Germany and get to the Caspian oil resources. (I'm summarising what I think Rudolf Augstein worked out quite convincingly over his career as a journalist-historian.) If Hitler could have passed on the 'Jewish disease' to the rival powers of Germany, he would have preferred that. But they didn't let him.

When the Nazis became genocidal with the Jews, they didn't do so openly, far from it. They were criminals, and in their heart they knew it. So they covered up their crimes from the outset, what else would you expect criminals to do? And that's why we will never completely find out about how it really went: this is like an unbelievable detective story nobody will ever elucidate. And the German Jews were Germans, not really different, and therefore as much affected by the pneumopathology as the Germans. Which would explain why they didn't know how to defend themselves any better than the other Germans against the ideological and political (democratic) derailment, that started much earlier than in 1933.

The question "how ordinary Germans allowed things to reach the point where genocide was normal", in my view is an ambigous question. For one, genocide was never normal, and certainly not in the sense that ordinary Germans found it normal. So in a way they were always right when they said "wir haben es nicht gewusst", if 'wissen' is understood as "we knew that an (open) genocide against the Jews was being committed and we all knowingly made up our mind to find that normal". When you understand the question as "how the spiritual and thereby enabled political derailment in which ordinary Germans participated led to a point where this genocide became at all possible" on the other hand, the question makes a lot of sense, I think. But it becomes then a very complex question that is much more about understanding pneumopathology and politics than about historical facts of the nazi-period.

Methodological individualism: ordinary Germans were people with their individual horizon and understanding of the world they were living in. On this blog of all places we are very conscious of the disorientation caused by the MSNM in particular and public discourse in general. It was very much the same at that time. I also asked my mother about what they heard on the radio. Goebbels, she answered, announcing: "Ab heute wird zurückgeschossen!" That was in 1939, and she was 10 then, but she remembered it first hand. Germany was under attack! Again! After Versailles and all that injustice it had already had to swallow! How do you want ordinary Germans to see through all that, especially as some of it (Versailles) was not altogether wrong?

Did you ever read Max Weber's memo after he resigned in complete disappointment: "Bemerkungen zum Bericht der Kommission der alliierten und assoziierten Regierungen über die Verantwortlichkeit der Urheber des Krieges"? J.M. Keynes's "The Consequences of the Peace" also contains that disappointment, but in a more forward looking way. And Max Weber may have been somewhat volatile in his early years, but he was no criminal. He actually was very sensitive to the 'pneumopathology', but unable to figure it out theoretically. And that intellectual and practical helplessness broke him as a man. It makes me cry, right now, while writing this down, when I think of him! If he had had Voegelin to learn from, and had become President of the Weimar Republic, there would have been a chance of an attempt to try a different history for Germany. But that's dreaming, isn't it?

I have other such dreams, about Ludwig Bamberger and Otto von Bismarck, after 1870. Ludwig Bamberger was Jewish, and had married into the von Bischoffsheim family to become a banker (Paribas). He was a classical liberal who understood economics and capitalism, and who admired Bismarck for very good reasons after German unification. But he didn't see it either, just as Max Weber later couldn't see it. The chance they had with Bismarck, instead of fighting his so-called anti-democratic authoritarianism in order to get to the executive power, to take him on his word and to use the legislative power they had to keep the executive power in its place. In that dream, Bismarck would have understood and cooperated from his side of the executive power. Bismarck somewhere expresses the idea that objectively he thinks of himself as a republican. But he disliked theoretical speculation in politics, and as long as there was no true liberal on the other side of the legislative power to make him a proposal, he wasn't going to investigate it any further. In that dream Germany would have become the first lawful democracy in Europe. The first anti-political and truly civil polity. And in that same dream we would now live in a completely different Europe, with government capturing no more that 5% of national income, and not 50%. And in a world without a single Jewish Holocaust memorial.

These are speculative dreams, I know. The kind of speculative dreams you start to develop once you've understood Frank Van Dun's theory of natural law and Eric Voegelin's idea of pneumopathology. If the disorder of the human world comes from the disorder of the human spirit, why not dream of an ordered world in accordance with the order of the human spirit you find in yourself? And in my speculative mood, I would think that that dream is not all that different from a very particular (!) idea some at least have had in the past of the catholic church.

No comments:

Post a Comment