Tuesday 11 September 2007

The Nazis- Why the Fascination?

Turn on the TV on a Sunday afternoon and go trawling through the channels in the vain hope of finding something worth watching, it is a pretty sure thing, you will run into a programme somwhere which has to do with the years 1933-1945.

Sometimes, we can get weary of hearing about this period, yet still the fascination lingers.

What is it?
Why do we dwell on it so much?

Partly, for some, it is just morbid. There will always be a market for books on serial killers and the like, it's a nasty but all too real fact of life.
And the Nazis were serial killers on a gigantic scale.

Which brings us on to why the rest of us stare in fascination.
How did this happen?

Partly, World War II is the creation myth of the modern world; The nineenth century was born early in 1789 and died late in 1914.
The modern world emerged in 1945.
This period, the Inter war period was something different again, so near to us in way of life, it intimidates us, our grandparents were alive then, they had television, radios, telephones, etc.

But they weren't us YET.
They hadn't endured the world changing horrors of the 1939-1945 conflict and the world that followed.
It was a more naive world in 1939.

A world which had learned the lessons of one war, but in which some generally abhorred attitudes today, had survived and were accepted.

We really want to know, just how the Nazis pulled it off.
How did they hold the German people so spellbound?
Because that is very uncomfortable to deal with.

What do we know, that they didn't?
What did they see that, with the benefit of hindsight, is obscured to us.

If it were us, would we have been duped?
Because that, is a very uncomfortable thing to deal with.
There's a whole subculture deals with this by embracing the sicker elements of the Nazi creed and adding a slight tinge of Heavy Metal and Satanism, is if to highlight their evil status.

But here's the hard truth. The Nazis didn't sit around being evil. They actually thought they were the good guys. Deluded, maybe, but sincere.

Even scarier, I think they felt a lot of love.
Only for Germans, true, because pretty much everyone else wasn't worth it.
Twisted love, true.
Destructive love, well, obviously.
But it was their version of it.

The uncomfortable truth many of us find hard to deal with is that millions of Germans voted for this guy, and believed in him, right up to the better end.

I look at my friends, and realise we'd have been the type who would have done. The movement tapped into the right emotions.

Let's look at what it offered- It offered a theory as to why the world was messed up. It was a conspiracy theory, but one of the best of all time, and one which had the added luxury of actually being believed by its leaders, most of the people in Germany, and large sections of the world at large.

The Elders of Zion were seen much as Al Queda are now.
Pure conspiracist fantasy, but we're stupid enough to believe the same rubbish now.

It was scientifically credible. It used science, when it suited it. It's version of Darwin's theory of Evolution, was that Aryan man, was the most evolved race of man. The rest hadn't got so far yet.
So Aryan man must rule, to ensure progress.
This is good news for Aryans, should they get enough guns.
Let's not forget that they used a lot of good science as well.

They were just streets ahead of their time with PR and being forward looking.
First Aeroplane Election campaign- Hitler Over Germany.
First Motorway.
First Rockets.
You'd have been proud- proud to be German, grateful to Hitler.

We'd have cheered as he marched through the Arc de Triomphe.
Because we're human. The emotion would have got to us.

And, if you were lucky enough to be German- of the Aryan type, anyway- It offered a Socialist ethic, it was after all, the National Socialist party.

To really understand how people fell for all this, might I recommend 'Inside the Third Reich', memoirs of one who learned the hard way, Albert Speer.
There's a conscience that must have ached.

So what's the lesson?

Not one we really get, I think.
The result of their efforts weren't evil, just because their ideas on race were objectionable.
The results were evil, because they were destructive.

We defeated these and buried their creed.

We are quieter when it comes to those whose creeds we can't bury and never beat, because how do we explain them?

The Nazis were not an isolated phenomenon, this is the point. We need to understand the dynamics of how it happened.
When people get carried away by slogans and emotions.
When they worship their leaders.

When they get complacent and allow others to think for them.

We find the Nazis fascinating, because we want to know how the trick worked.

Let me tell you, it still does.


Anonymous said...

As somebody who had a massive interest in the Nazi's from the age of 17 - I read anything I could get my hands on about it - I really enjoyed reading this post.
I thought you made solid observations and I feel the same way...what they offered to the German people was not evil on a stick. It was hope, nationalist pride, elitism and as a public speaker, old Adolf was certainly extremely rousing.
Millions of Germans did NOT vote for him however, and millions of Germans were embarrassed and then, rightfully, horrified at what their country stood for and inflicted.

You are right in saying it's an era and a topic that we just can't seem to tire from. There is something fascintating in the question:
how can something be so terribly BAD when it sounds, looks and felt, so absolutely inspiring?

Anonymous said...

Hitler was a great leader...didn't do very good things...but the man was a tremendous public speaker

Anonymous said...

i don't think the topic of genocide in the 20th century and its motivations will ever rest. i also feel there could have been a lot learned from the first genocide of the twentieth century against the armenians by the ottoman empire's young turks. only twenty years later, hitler said "after all, who remembers the armenians?" further massive exterminations could have been prevented or at least minimized from further escalation.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, that I have alot of respect for Hitler. The treaty of Versailles was designed send Germany backwards in a fast developing struggle for political powers.

I say good on him for thumbing his nose at the treaty. Good on him for reducing unemployment the way he did. Good on him for so much other shit that I don't remember right now. In the beginning he was the type of leader that any country would be proud to have. He actually wanted what was best for his country, and would do what was necessary to attain it.

I don't say good on him for his delusions though. That was a complete horror. And I think that's where the fascination lies. How something so good could become so terrible, and on such scale.

Excellent post. I look forward to reading the follow up comments on this one!

Anonymous said...

It is kind of incomprehensible isn't it... I guess we are still trying to figure it out like you say..

Anonymous said...

The fascination is purely down to the fact that although we beat them militarily, ever since 1945 British governments have been taking their ideas and applying them to us.

Britain 2007 is more like Germany 1945 than Britain 1945.

Anonymous said...

It does still work. Especially if you don't teach history properly.

I think the racial basis holds for most wars. We are, as a species, co-operative but that very characteristic is what makes us tribal. Tribalism is what does it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we "buried their creed", more's the pity. They succeeded by appealing to the worst instincts in everyone, in the same way that tabloid newspapers get their sales. And when there's economic trouble, any immigrant community is an easy scapegoat because it is identifiable. I don't think they knew the meaning of love.

Anonymous said...

And it's on the way again.

Anonymous said...

Betty- This is the scary thing, I find watching Nazi party rallies very uncomfortable, the utge to join in the 'sireg heiling', is compelling, imaging how you'd have felt if you were there?

As the sort of person who needs causes, loves the thought a brght new future and is quiet scientific in outlook- I'd have been exactly the sort to have enrolled in September 1930- when the party suddenly became a mass movement after jumping from 12 to 90 odd Reichstag seats.

I doubt I'd have really questioned the small print, had I been twenty.

Worse, studying Blair's intial charisma, even comparing speeches of the two leaders, I think Blair used to watch footage of Hitler.
I'm not joking. I'm pretty sure he did.

Jenny- This is the scary bit about Hitler. He had those qualities which Nietzche referred to as those who had risen above, to become the Superman- Jesus, Mohammed, The Buddha- an extraordinary ability to win people over, to make people follow what they said, and agree.

It is a rare mix of high intellectual intelligence, ability to read people, ruthless and highly developed logic, personal charisma, overwhelming self confidence.

Such a rare combination, that it takes most of the tint few have it, years to realise their power, but when they do- if fate opens a situation for them to flourish in, they change the world.
They MAKE the world listen, because the power of their mind is all conquering.

They are the visionaries.
Bute remember, the visionary may well be right in much of what he says, being highly intelligent he almost certainly is.
But about some of it, it may just be his arrogance.
And some of it may just be because visionaries can be twisted people too.

Raffi- Interesting about Armenia- because it raises an intersting Nazi Paradox.

No one heard about the Armenians- bligger world then, it was far away.
Sure, telgraphs carried the news, it got a column in the Times.

By the thirties, mass communication had meant genocides just didn't go unnoticed.
The whole world watched the Spanish Civil War in the cinema.
At the forefront of this communication revolution, were the Nazis, the first live television broadcast was the Munich Olympics.

So the Nazis made it easier for the world to see their genocide.

Phish- It is extraordinary, yes because let's face it, he turned the most screwed up in Europe into a Superpower- economically and militarily- in five years.

Don't forget though, that Stalin did the same with Russia between 1942 and 1947.

I think we need to get real and admit that Nazidm is not a particularly good idea, but at least seee what it acheived.
After all, it was a system that acheived quite a few successes, so we are right to reject it morally, but analuse oits social dynamics from a systamatic point of view.

We should spend a lot more time than we do, doing the same with Stalin however.
I used to see him as just an ogre, which he was, bit the more I read about him, the more I see a figure beyond that.
I think absolute power is a scary thing fir a man to have, the stress probably turns them into monsters.

Mutley- I think we have got past the first stage- the incomprehension and total rejection, the shock if you like.

Now I think we are slowly moving towards seeing the Nazis as members of the human race again, and trying to see what went wrong in the heads of these guys.
All the main defendants at Nuremburg tested with very high IQs.
It's worth looking at the CVs of some of the leading Nazis- most of them, had exactly the qualities we tend to admire.

Except their values.

Ed- Well spotted. As you may realise, this blog is named on the assumption you make.
But we the people want to lnow how the trick works, so watch the Nazis.
It helps us get to understand party conferences better.

E-K- There is a problem with history, if not interpreted properly.
History is written by the winners.
since the winners are also portrayed as the good guys, it is temting for non-thinking people to passively assume the good guys always win.
So why worry about evil winning?

The thought that evil would then rewrite itself in to history as good, seems to have escaped them.
Look at Elizabeth I.

As far as I can see, she was an evil woman, a scheming manipulator, and one of the most oppressive rulers in this country's history.

But she died in her bed, adfter seeing off the armada.
Nice, friendly, chatty, but dim Charles I was less lucky.

Welshcakes- You hit the point, they didn't know the MEANING of love.
But nor do most of the people who think they are in love.

Love can be a very hateful, destructive force when perverted.

I think Jack straw appealed to our worst instincts when he made those remarks about the hijab.

They all do it it, it bonds people against an imagined foe.

Anonymous said...

Sir James- Yes, it is, very much, I think.
We need to learn, and learn fast, that power cannot be concentrated this way.

We fast need to find ways of separating and devolving power- this sort of stuff is just too dangerous.

The reaso why their ideas are purloined is because so much of the way these guys saw things, was visionary, systematically correct 90% of the time- therefore efficient, but designed to acheive results that would have made life amazing for 70 million and hell- or obliteration- for the rest of us.

Replace 'The German people' with 'The Global Hierarchy' and yes, same results .

Anonymous said...

"The Elders of Zion were seen much as Al Queda are now.
Pure conspiracist fantasy, but we're stupid enough to believe the same rubbish now.

Some, regrettably still think it's fact. Try your average extremist bookshop