[Marxism] Buying off the German people
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 24 07:09:43 MST 2005
(The debate about whether US imperialism buys off its working class through
the super-exploitation of the 3rd World has been on-going on Marxism lists
and PEN-L on the Internet for as long as I can remember. Here's some
interesting new information on another imperialist power that would seem to
suggest that this is exactly what took place.)
Der Spiegel, March 22, 2005
NEW HOLOCAUST BOOK, NEW THEORY
How Germans Fell for the 'Feel-Good' Fuehrer
By Jody K. Biehl in Berlin
Hitler not only fattened his adoring "Volk" with jobs and low taxes, he
also fed his war machine through robbery and murder, says a German
historian in a stunning new book. Far from considering Nazism oppressive,
most Germans thought of it as warm-hearted, asserts Goetz Aly. The book is
generating significant buzz in Germany and it may mark the beginning of a
new level of Holocaust discourse.
A well-respected German historian has a radical new theory to explain a
nagging question: Why did average Germans so heartily support the Nazis and
Third Reich? Hitler, says Goetz Aly, was a "feel good dictator," a leader
who not only made Germans feel important, but also made sure they were well
cared-for by the state.
To do so, he gave them huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that
even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days
of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare,
never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working
class people. He also -- in great contrast to World War I -- particularly
pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the
salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such,
most Germans saw Nazism as a "warm-hearted" protector, says Aly, author of
the new book "Hitler's People's State: Robbery, Racial War and National
Socialism" and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt.
They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich's unsavory, murderous
Financing such home front "happiness" was not simple and Hitler essentially
achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave
laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for
plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.
Once the robberies had begun, a sort of "snowball effect" ensued and in
order to stay afloat, he says Germany had to conquer and pilfer from more
territory and victims. "That's why Hitler couldn't stop and glory
comfortably in his role as victor after France's 1940 surrender." Peace
would have meant the end of his predatory practices and would have spelled
"certain bankruptcy for the Reich."
Instead, Hitler continued on the easy path of self deception, spurring the
war greedily forward. And the German people -- fat with bounty -- kept
quiet about where all the wealth originated, he says. Was it a deplorable
weakness of human nature or insatiable German avarice? It's hard to say,
but imagine if today's beleaguered government of German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder could offer jobs and higher benefits to the masses. "No one would
ask where the money came from and they would directly win the next
election," Aly says.
The Nazis helped themselves to Jewish wealth and used it to feed the war
Likewise, in the 1940s, soldiers on the front were instructed to ravage
conquered lands for raw materials, industrial goods and food for Germans.
Aly cites secret Nazi files showing that from 1941-1943 Germans robbed
enough food and supplies from the Soviet Union to care for 21 million
people. Meanwhile, he insists, Soviet war prisoners were systematically
starved. German soldiers were also encouraged to send care packages home to
their families to boost the morale of their wives and children. In the
first three months of 1943, German soldiers on the Leningrad front sent
more than 3 million packages stuffed with artifacts, art, valuables and
food home, Aly says.
"About 95 percent of the German population benefited financially from the
National Socialist system. The Nazis' unprecedented killing machine
maintained its momentum by robbing from others. ... Millions of people were
killed -- the Jews were gassed, 2 million Soviet war prisoners were starved
to death ... so that the German people could maintain their good mood." By
contrast, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill cajoled his people in
1940, just after France had fallen, to "brace ourselves to our duties" so
that in a thousand years, "men will still say, this was their finest hour."
How to make a criminal regime thrive
The Nazi war plunder had a snowball effect. If Hitler stopped it, the Reich
would have been bankrupt.
Aly's theory is not only fascinating for its brazenness, but also for the
ruckus it is causing in Germany, where lately the trend has been to accept
that Germans, too, suffered under Hitler and under the Allied bombing raids
at the war's end. Aly is now negating much of that suffering, insisting
that every single German benefited from Hitler's culture of killing. The
Feuilleton, or cultural pages, of German newspapers -- which only recently
exploded with coverage of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of
Aushwitz -- have teemed with articles about Aly since the book, "Hitler's
People's State" came out on March 10. In the left-leaning newspaper Die
Tageszeitung, he has even engaged in an open fight with Cambridge economics
historian Adam Tooze who has criticized the mathematical methods he used to
substantiate his theory. Sales, too, are much better than he or his
publisher imagined. "I didn't write the book for the lay person," he says.
"It's crammed full of facts and dry historical and economic data and has
close to 1,000 footnotes." But if people want to read it, he says he won't
complain. It will come out in French this autumn and in English in 2006.
The timing for the book's German release, as his publishers well know,
couldn't be better. Germany will spend the next six weeks hitting dozens of
World War II anniversaries before arriving at memorial celebrations on May
8 and 9 marking 60 years since the war's end. It is also, says Aly, no
coincidence that the work comes close to three generations after Hitler's
"The book could have been written 10 years ago, even 20 years ago," he
says. All of the documents were there. We just weren't open to them.
Personally, I didn't have the questions then."
The documents include reams of complex economic, bank and tax records as
well as thousands of clippings from regional newspaper archives that Aly
spent the past four years scouring. In the book, he uses them to support
his theory that half the war was financed by government credit and that
close to 70 percent of the rest came from plunder. "I am not trying to turn
the history of National Socialism on its head," he insists. "But I think --
despite all the time that has passed -- it is still important to ask the
most fundamental questions, namely how all this happened. What were the
most important elements that allowed this criminal regime to thrive? So
much came out of the German middle class. That is the most troubling aspect
of the history."
Such ground has been broken before. In his 1996 bestseller, "Hitler's
Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust," controversial
Harvard professor Daniel Goldhagen -- an American Jew -- dared to point his
finger at average Germans and insist they not only knew about the Third
Reich atrocities, but in their rabid anti-Semitism were eager
co-conspirators. And for decades, historians have spoken of Hitler's
popular appeal, his ability to head off unemployment and shore up the
nation's shoddy infrastructure. In fact, Germany's famous "Autobahn"
(highway) is sometimes called the "Hitler Bahn" because it was built by the
Nazis. His Napola and Adolf Hitler schools famously cut through social
classes, admitting rich and poor to Nazi indoctrination. Still, until now,
economists have struggled to prove that the plunder from abroad really
drove the war machine.
Perhaps, says Aly, that is partly because German historians weren't ready
to look at what he calls "secondary" questions about the structural and
financial underpinnings of the Nazi war machine. "Writing about them would
have reduced the human scale of the tragedy," he says. Plus, he insists, it
is always "much easier to say it was the fault of a small group of elites,
the power-crazed SS commanders, or even big businesses" than to point to
your own greed. German society has spent decades digesting and "perhaps now
we have reached a new level," he says.
Were Germans liberated from the Nazis, too?
Current politics seems to mirror this sentiment. These days, making use of
an agile word and mind flip, Germans have begun to insist that they -- like
the rest of Europe -- were also liberated on May 8, 1945. They say it marks
the day they and their children were freed from Nazi oppression. Still, in
1945, says Aly, Germans didn't think they were being liberated. "They had
to be liberated from themselves," he says. "That's the problem."
In truth, Germans have made great strides in accepting their guilt and have
even "liberated themselves," enough that it is now politically acceptable
for German politicians to participate in World War II anniversaries in
other countries. In May, Gerhard Schroeder became the first German
chancellor to participate in a D-Day celebration. In January, German
President Horst Koehler bowed his head at Auschwitz in memory of the 1.5
million people killed before the Red Army liberated the camp. Another trip
is planned to Moscow for May celebrations.
Scholarship and even more delicately, German Holocaust sensitivities, too
have progressed in recent years. In January, the first post-war
German-Jewish comedy, "Alles Auf Zucker" (Bet it all on Zucker) was
released and became an immediate box office hit. Before its release, film
and television executives had long held that any productions involving Jews
and Germans meant poison at the box office. Germans are also starting to
talk about their own suffering during the war, particularly during the
relentless Allied bombing of German cities such as Dresden. Aly accepts
such suffering as truthful, saying talking about it shows that Germans have
made advances from the shame-faced decades just after the war when no
German academic could look at the war objectively. The question, he says
is, "how do you relegate that suffering? We were also victims of our own
The important thing, he says is that German perspectives continue to
evolve. He sees his book as an important part of that process. "I think in
10 years, because of this book, our understanding will be very different
than it was less say a year ago," he says. "That's because my book contains
a large number of short descriptions and sketches, and I am quite certain
that the questions I ask will be investigated by my colleagues. That will
definitely give us a lot more information. I notice it already in the echo
from the book. I am getting letters from families who corroborate what I
write. I'm sure more of that will come."
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