YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 16, 2014

Hitler and the Big Lie, corrected

["Romantically" "Jewish"] Hitler encounters the restless, skeptical, switching ‘Jewish’ mind

 pinocchionose While reflecting upon Hitler’s publications (along with the productions of other “moderate men”), I have seen an incoherence and madness which, however affected by family history, seems primarily structured by class position; my synthesis supplements the work of those historians who have stressed counter-Enlightenment as the centerpiece of Nazi ideology.[1] Racial thinking, I argue, is not about some ahistoric group superiority per se, ever present and perhaps inevitable, as the functionalists who write our school curricula would have it, but about corporatism/organicism: Tribal or feudal social relations are upheld or applied to halt developing societies; such localisms are undermined by concepts of international species-unity, by capitalism supposed to be moving leftward.  In spite of ultra-conservative or hippie brakes, industrial societies are science-driven, hence retain their capacities to promote the wandering imagination to the point of global solidarity.

     My particular interest in Hitler’s Jewish problem stems from study of the moderate men, led by Henry A. Murray, who have revived/not revived “the forgotten” Herman Melville (1819-1891) after 1919.  I inferred that double-binds specific to modernity (the demand for both truth and conservative Order, independence and loyalty) structure ‘liberal’ socializing institutions, that Melville pointed this out most powerfully and unambiguously in Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), and possibly for that reason Melville, tracer of lost persons, both fascinated and upset many readers who then either continued to puzzle over him, or distorted his positions or rendered him persona non grata  in American letters.  Hitler’s revealing table talk,” taken with the passages on propaganda in Mein Kampf, bear out my thesis: There are analogies between readers hostile/attracted to Ahab’s/Melville’s modernism and Hitler’s extremely anxious response to bold, expressive critical thought above all, his own and his father’s.  Some key Melville readers and Hitler alike simultaneously try to hold the center/flee to the margins.  They are not alone in their spaced-out confusion.

[A Pennsylvania educator, 1949:]  “This wonderful something which we call life comes to the teacher in its most plastic, pliable state and condition.  The teacher’s mind, will, and conviction mold the plastic mind of the pupils.  It is clearly evident that the teacher’s position is important in the social and cultural relations of the group…Nervous activities must be normal to enjoy one’s work.  Then the teacher speaks in a well modulated voice and not in shrill or harsh tones which disturb the orderly procedure of the class room.

A good, careful preparation for one’s work is the chief source of confidence.  One knows what he is going to do.  He knows his material.  Confidence utilized in the right way helps him to be positive and constructive in his teaching.  He will help to have all sides of a question discussed and try to arrive at a definite decision as far as possible.  It might be remembered that an opinion expressed does not constitute the teaching of social studies.  The result to be achieved must be definite and not probable.”  [2]

Lord Bullock (1991, 164) and his predecessors in the aristocratic Hermann Rauschning historiographical tendency in Hitler studies have constructed an extremist, a cynical demagogue descended from Marat and Robespierre.  Strangely, this Hitler is a paranoid merged with narcissistic masses worshipping the Goddess of Reason/themselves, yet at the same time, the detached puppeteer gloating over the credulity/cynicism of “mob society” swallowing the Big Lie; this curious character is now a cliché in American high and popular culture.[3]  Besides Murray and Mosse, their ranks include Hannah Arendt, T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Georg Lukács, and Joachim Fest.  I have seen nothing in Hitler’s published writings, however, to support such a view; on the contrary, it is almost always “the Jew” who manipulates the helpless; Hitler defines himself as the good teacher-saviour defeating Social Democratic/Jewish “artistry in lying.”  As a representative of European high culture and (conservative) Enlightenment, Hitler loathes Weimar mass culture (also Jewish); if he must carefully craft his messages for the masses, it is in response to the imperative of mass psychology (not to be equated with individual psychology, cf. LeBon and Freud) and for their own good.  Moreover, inexact translations of some small but key words in Mein Kampf have made it more difficult to spot Hitler’s consistent obsessive need for clear boundaries between categories, images, and feelings.  Similarly, typing Hitler (the brute) hides the particular psychodynamics (the switch) that seem to lead him to despair/purging/more switches.

Hitler’s construction of  the Jew cannot be attributed solely to family trauma and individual psychology, the authoritarian family ahistorically conceived, but was probably a function of the historically specific hopelessness of a declining class, the small producer competing with more efficient rivals.  Charting his class position would reveal collapse and quagmire.  If Hitler was a psychopath then neither his craziness nor his elusiveness is unique to himself or the Germans; therein lies the true horror and the lesson for ourselves as “progressive,” “moderate,” “public interest” intellectuals similarly positioned in middle-management, and decrying both the “insane” hard-hearted bourgeoisie and Marxist labor unions, both wings needlessly inciting class hatred.  In the section that follows I quote passages from the knightly Hitler’s writing that suggest a pattern of blended phobia, hysteria, paranoia, and time-tested conservative reform.

[Hitler:] “These men [his fellow construction workers in Vienna] rejected everything: the nation as an invention of the “capitalistic” (how often I was forced to hear this single word!) classes; the fatherland as an instrument of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the working class; the authority of the law as a means for oppressing the proletariat; the school as an institution for breeding slaves and slaveholders; religion as a means for stultifying the people and making them easier to exploit; morality as a symptom of stupid, sheep-like patience, etc.  There was absolutely nothing which was not drawn through the mud of a terrifying depth. (Mein Kampf, Chapter 2, 40, Manheim transl.).

…Millions of workers were surely inwardly hostile to the Social Democratic Party at first, but their resistance was overcome by the manner, often quite insane, in which the bourgeois parties opposed any demand of a social nature.  The simply hidebound obstruction of all attempts to improve working conditions, of safety devices on machines, of prevention of child labor and of protection for women at least during the months when she carries the future comrade of the people beneath her heart–all this helped to drive the masses into the nets of Social Democracy, which gratefully seized upon every case of similar contemptible sentiments.  Our political citizenry, our bourgeoisie, can never make good such past sins.  For by resisting all attempts to cure social ills, it sowed hatred, and apparently justified the claim of the deadly enemies of the whole people that the Social Democratic party alone represented the interests of the working people (56-57).”

[Hitler:] [A standard for good trade unions:] If union activity envisages and attains the goal of improving the position of a class that belongs to the pillars of the nation, its effect not only is not hostile to state or fatherland, but is “national” in the truest sense of the word.  It is helping after all, to lay the social groundwork without which no generally national education is thinkable.  It deserves the highest credit for destroying social cancers by attacking both intellectual and physical bacilli, and thus contributing to the general health of the body of the people (57).

…Our present struggle is merely a continuation, on the international level, of the struggle we waged on the national level.  Let everyone, in his own field, take care to do his best, with the knowledge that on every occasion we were pushing the best of us forward; that’s how a people surpasses itself and surpasses others.  Nothing can happen to us if we remain faithful to these principles, but one must know how to advance, step by step, how to reconnoitre the ground and remove, one after another, the obstacles one finds there.

If one neglected to appeal to the masses, one’s choice would be rather too confined to intellectuals.  We would lack brute strength.  Brute strength consists of the peasant and worker, for the insecurity of their daily life keeps them close to the state of nature.  Give them brains into the bargain, and you turn them into incomparable men of action.

Above all, we must not allow our élite to become an exclusive society.

The son of an official, at the fifth or sixth generation, is doomed to become a lawyer…So what kind of role can a nation play when it’s governed by people of that sort–people who weigh and analyse everything? One couldn’t make history with people like that…The bourgeois with whom we flirted at the time of our struggle were simply aesthetes. (Table Talk, Nov. 1-2, 1941, 108).

[Hitler:] It was a fundamental error to discuss guilt from the standpoint that Germany could not be made solely responsible for the outbreak of the catastrophe; the right way was to load the guilt solely upon the enemy, even if this had not corresponded to the actual situation, which in this case it really did.  What was the result of this half-measure?  The great masses of a people do not consist of diplomats or even of teachers of international law, in fact not even of people capable of a reasoned judgment; they are human beings, wavering, inclined to doubt and uncertainty.  The moment their own propaganda concedes so much as the faintest glimmer of justice to the other side, the seeds for doubt of their own cause have been sown.  The masses are in no position to tell where the enemy’s misdeeds end and their own begin.  In such cases they become uncertain and suspicious, particularly if the enemy is not guilty of the same foolishness, but puts the guilt lock, stock and barrel upon his adversary.  What’s more natural than for one’s own people at last to believe the hostile propaganda, more concerted and single-minded [geschlossener, einheitlicher] as it is, rather than one’s own.  This is most easily proved to be true with a people who suffers from the objectivity craze [deutsche Objektivitätsfimmel] as severely as the Germans do!  For here everyone will strive to do no injustice to the enemy, even at the risk of accusing, nay destroying, his own people and State.  The masses never become conscious that it is not thus intended in high quarters.  The overwhelming majority of the people is so feminine in tendency and attitude that emotion and feelings [gefühlsmassige Empfindung] rather than sober consideration determine its thought and action.

But this feeling is not complicated; it is simple and firm [einfach und geschlossen].  There are not many shadings [Differenzierungen], but a positive or a negative, love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, but never half this or half that, or partly, etc.

All these things English propaganda in particular realized–and took account of with positive genius.  Here were no half-measures which might have raised doubts. (Mein Kampf, Part One, Chapter 6, “War Propaganda”).

[Clare:] The Ludwig Lore translation of these passages misleadingly renders einfach as “simple,” geschlossen as “firm,” gefühlsmassige Empfindung as “emotion and feelings.”  Other translations add the theme of coherence, but neither singleness nor closure.[4]

Although these last paragraphs are usually excerpted (briefly) by rival propagandists to prove that Hitler preached the necessity for the constantly reiterated Big Lie directed on behalf of his own power lust and against the interests of the masses, there is no support for such a reading; indeed he would have been crazy to have made such a statement in a book heavily promoted during the Third Reich and intended to win over farmers, workers, and small businessmen to the Nazi program.  Rather, to evade “the objectivity craze” (Stackpole ed. 1939) or “the mania for objectivity” of “the German people” (Houghton Mifflin, 1939), Hitler copies the British by stressing the necessity for simple/single, clear, conclusive propaganda images to match the single intuitive emotion (gefühlsmassige Empfindung) of the masses that determines their thoughts and actions (Diese Empfindung aber ist nicht kompliziert, sondern sehr einfach und geschlossen).  Hitler is not only protecting the people from the indecision that leads to defeat, he nervously seeks and roots himself in one monocausal, internally consistent historical explanation/image with no moral mix-up, no refusal of closure, no “frightful daubs.”  Unlike “Hitler”–the lover of Romantic fogs and mists/ruins and rubble of the long Marxist night transmitted by the moderates–Hitler is a neo-classical morning man like themselves.  Weighing and analysing everything, however, immobilizes him; close to “nature”–the idealized rustic or small-town family, the good labor union–his capacity for effective action (briefly?) returns.

Later chapters of Mein Kampf bear out my argument (see MK Part Two, Chapters 6 and 11).  Sentences from Chapter 6 are frequently taken out of context to confirm Hitler’s cynicism, irrationalism, protean character, and power-hunger; i.e., Hitler is read as an archetypal Jew.  But in Hitler’s text, mass suggestion is deployed solely to build community, to fortify the isolated, meek individual in his adherence to a new, more historically truthful idea, to help the worker switch more comfortably away from the ruin of Marxist internationalism/war guilt which, thanks to Jewish orators/agitators, has captured the irrational, emotionally resistant portion of his psyche: the heart.  Crucially, the focus of Hitler’s discussion of propaganda is the question of the war guilt or innocence of the German people, a matter obviously intertwined with Hitler’s inhibitions about criticism of authority within the family, but also a genuine confusion given the secrecy and duplicity of the ruling class of Germany.[5] There is a tortuous line from doubt to parricide, a pattern possibly related to his father Alois’ cosmopolitanism, perceived by Hitler as contradicting “pronounced national sentiments” and described without apparent rancor:

[Hitler:] …he had arrived at more or less cosmopolitan views, which, despite his pronounced national sentiments, not only remained intact, but also affected me to some extent. [M.K., 51, Manheim trans.].

[Clare:] Calm will switch to hysteria for the tension between cosmopolitanism and nationalism is loaded for Hitler, though apparently invisible to some Freudians.[6]  Compare several parallel passages from Mein Kampf (publ. 1925-1927) and the Secret Book (written 1928).  Here is an increasingly vertiginous Hitler at wits end.

Hitler wants his antisemitism to be understood as rational: grounded in fact, in study and personal experience.  At first he was a cosmopolitan like his father, opposed to “organized hostility” against the Jews.  But in Vienna, Hitler meets an “apparition” (an orthodox Jew with black caftan and black hair locks), becomes disillusioned with the Jewish “world press,” and feels the need to separate Germans from liberal Jews and liberal Jews from Zionists.  Now he will unmask the hidden Jewishness (Zionism) of the liberal Jew, then the secret Jewish control of both white slavery and Social Democracy.

[Hitler, from “Learning and Suffering in Vienna”:] “If one knows this people, the veil of misconception about aim and meaning of the party fall from his eyes, and the ape-like meaning of Marxism rises grinning from the fog and mist of social talk (62).”  Personal contact has brought demystification; Hitler switches from confusion to clarity and (temporary) peace: “When I recognized the Jew as the leader of Social Democracy, the scales began to fall from my eyes.  With this a long spiritual struggle came to an end (MK, 70).” No sooner has he seen the light when suddenly Hitler switches to a topic not set up in the immediately preceding paragraphs, moving in and out of hypnotic confusion:

“Even in daily contact with my fellow-workmen I was struck by the extraordinary chameleon power by which they took several attitudes toward a single question, often within a few days, sometimes even within a few hours.  I could scarcely understand how people who, taken singly, still held reasonable views could suddenly lose them the moment they came under the spell of the masses.  Often it was enough to drive one to despair.  I would argue for hours, and finally believe that this time at last I had broken the ice or cleared away some piece of nonsense, and would be feeling heartily glad of my success; and then I would be grieved to find that I had to begin all over again.  It had all been futile.  The madness of their opinions seemed always to swing back again like a perpetual pendulum.

I could understand everything; that they were dissatisfied with their lot, cursed Fate, which often dealt them such hard knocks; hated the business men, who seemed to them the heartless tools of this Fate; railed against government offices, which in their eyes had no feeling for the workers’ situation [they, the workers, are scapegoating? C.S.]; that they demonstrated against food prices, and marched through the streets in support of their demands–all this one could still understand without referring to reason.  But what I could not understand was the boundless hatred they felt for their own people, the way they despised its grandeur, defiled its history, and dragged great men in the gutter.

This struggle against their own kind, their own nest, their own homeland, was as senseless as it was incomprehensible.  It was unnatural.

They could be temporarily cured of this vice, but only for days, for weeks at most.  If later one met a supposed convert, he had fallen back into his old self.  His unnatural tendencies would have him again in their grip. (MK, Ludwig Lore translation, 1939, 70).”

Persistently, Hitler tries to disabuse his “own little circle” of their “Marxist madness”: “The more disputes I had with them, the better acquainted I became with their dialectics.  First they would count on the stupidity of their adversaries, and then, if there was no way out, they pretended stupidity themselves.  If all else failed, then they claimed they did not understand correctly, or being challenged, instantly jumped to another subject [!], and talked truisms; but if these were agreed to they at once applied them to entirely different matters, and then in turn, being caught again, they would dodge and have no exact knowledge.  No matter where you seized one of these apostles, your hand grasped slimy ooze, [7] which poured in separate streams through the fingers, only to unite again the next moment…I was often simply paralyzed.  One did not know which to admire more–their fluency or their artistry in lying…(72). “

Next, Hitler has another (?) odd idea of what constitutes a logical opposition; he seems to be oscillating between class collaboration and antimodernism; once again the theme of the vulnerable small producer dependent on fluctuations in money interest and prices enters his rhetoric: “On the one hand it was the duty of every thinking person to force his way into the front ranks of the accursed movement, thus perhaps to prevent it from going to extremes; on the other hand, however, the actual creators of this national disease must have been true devils.  Only in the brain of a monster–not of a human being–could the plan take shape for an organization the eventual result of whose activity must be the collapse of human civilization and the desolation of the world (73).”

“The ultimate expression of this general valuation is the historical, cultural image of a people, which reflects the sum of all the radiations of its blood value or of the race values united in it.

Blood mixing and lowering of the race are not seldom introduced through a so-called predilection for things foreign, which in reality is an underestimation of one’s own cultural values as against alien peoples.  Once a people no longer appreciates the cultural expression of its own spiritual life conditioned through its blood, or even begins to feel ashamed of it, in order to turn to alien expressions of life, it renounces the strength which lies in the harmony of its blood and the cultural life which has sprung from it. It becomes torn apart, unsure in its judgment of the world picture and its expressions, loses the perception and the feeling for its own purposes, and in place of this sinks into a confusion of international ideas, conceptions, and the cultural hodge-podge springing from them. Then the Jew can make his entry in any form and this master of international poisoning and race corruption will not rest until he has thoroughly uprooted and thereby corrupted such a people. The end is then the loss of a definite unitary race value and as a result, the final decline. [Hitler’s Secret Book,1928, 28-29].”

[Clare:] Is Hitler re-experiencing the suspended contradiction which did, in imagination, shatter the “intact” father? Is father the hypercritical devil whose excesses, treachery and ambiguity empty the world of meaning, demanding obedience without a clear set of rules? Had the desire to escape such confusion turned the adolescent boy into a murderer?  These passages may take our understanding of Hitler’s psyche beyond the suggestions of Erich Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, Adorno and Horkheimer, and other Freudians that Hitler, with other authoritarian personalities, possesses a sadistic-anal social character, is constantly callous and overarmored, is torn between defiance and submission, and perceives Jews as sexual aggressors and castrating fathers.

Such psychoanalytic explanations are too abstract and ahistoric, unrooted in Hitler’s subjective experience of his life, his self-understanding.  By following his psychodynamics as Hitler himself defined them, we glimpsed a man with no boundaries and terrified that he may lose his balance: open the door even a crack to the German craze for objectivity and Hitler (unlike Bartleby the Scrivener) literally does not know where he is standing, where he begins and others leave off, who is a Jew and who is not.  There is no “I” there, no safe prospect, no cognition, no “bourgeois subjectivity,” therefore no observing ego, no possibility of a relatively complete history, no sublimity. [8]

When Hitler says “they” to whom is he referring?  Workers, Jewish whoremasters, Social Democratic pamphleteers and the masses have run together like “slimy ooze.”  Is this an image of the dissolution of his class seeping through the crystal clean facade, a quicksand so powerfully dragging him to hell that Hitler, even armed with “exact knowledge” and “racial value,” may not enter the movement to moderate it?  Like any gentle chivalrous knight he steels himself only to destroy the monster; in this mood he is turning away from class collaboration and its intolerable suspension of cosmopolitanism and nationalism.  If the Jew perishes, Hitler saves himself from father, and father from himself: thus he has reconstructed the lovely family with no double-binds; is this the flight to romantic authoritarianism that some of “the children” of democratic pluralism have taken since the 1960s?  Obviously, Hitler’s panic in the Gorgon face of ambiguity could have been transferred to the perception of interpenetration of categories and points of view expressed in cubism and other forms of aesthetic modernism (Hinz: “problematic or unfinished work”) proscribed by the Nazis. From Mein Kampf to the Table Talk, then, Hitler constantly returns to the theme of his painful confusion when asked to understand modern (abstract, constantly revised, internally contradictory) analyses of society; indeed he will directly associate to talk of exterminating or otherwise removing the Jews. [9]

Misleading and wrong

Misleading and wrong

NOTES.


[1] See Bernard Semmel, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social Imperial Thought 1895-1914 (Harvard U.P., 1960): 41.  The social imperialists adopted Darwinism, but made tribes and races the competing units; Karl Pearson held that race or national feeling were stronger factors shaping conduct than market forces.  Also, see Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler’s World View (Harvard U.P. Paperback, 1981, orig. publ. 1975); Hans Staudinger, The Inner Nazi: A Critical Analysis of Mein Kampf (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State U.P., 1981).  Hitler was of course not supporting laissez-faire industrial capitalism favored by Social Darwinists, rather the reactionary utopian agrarianism one would expect from a member of the declining petit-bourgeoisie; parallel movements can be discerned in the English Distributists of the early twentieth century, American Southern Agrarians of the 1930s and in the more nostalgic sectors of the New Left, especially in those who have repressed the anti-Semitic side of populism; intellectual mentors of this tendency include William Blake, the Christian Socialists, William Morris, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, Aldous Huxley, and Lewis Mumford.  See Meyer Schapiro, review of Mumford’s The Culture of Cities, “Looking Forward to Looking Backward,” Partisan Review (June 1938), 12-24, for analysis of Mumford’s reactionary organicism; John L. Thomas, Alternative America (Harvard, 1983). These radicals would probably agree with Sombart that it was “the Jewish spirit” that created economic determinism, that is, the domination of money and the market as Parson argued in 1928, quoted above.

  [2] Charles William Heathcote, “The Teacher of Social Studies: A Reappraisal,” The Social Studies, Vol.40 (1949): 67,68.  The author was “Head, Department of Social Studies, State Teachers College, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

  [3] See T. W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, and Paul W. Massing, “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” Antisemitism: A Social Disease, ed. Ernst Simmel with a Preface by Gordon Allport (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1946): 132: “…it is a deceptive idea, that the so-called common people have an unfailing flair for the genuine and sincere, and disparage fake.  Hitler was liked, not in spite of his cheap antics, but just because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning.  They are observed as such, and appreciated….The sentimentality of the common people is by no means primitive, unreflecting emotion.  On the contrary, it is pretense, a fictitious, shabby imitation of real feeling often self-conscious and slightly contemptuous of itself.  This fictitiousness is the life element of the fascist propagandist performances.”  See also Hannah Arendt, “The Concentration Camps,” Partisan Review, July 1948, 745: “Hitler circulated millions of copies of his book in which he stated that to be successful, a lie must be enormous–which did not prevent people from believing him….”  This claim, the center of her irrationalist argument, is not footnoted; in any case, she implies that Hitler was boasting about his own successful lying in attaining the support of the German people (and which I challenge in this essay).  Arendt argues that Nazis were philistines, relativists/nihilists, not pseudo-aristocrats defending “individuality” in terms similar to her own (for Arendt: “the uniqueness shaped in equal parts by nature, will, and destiny,” 758).  Note the refusal of former critical tools: “An insight into the nature of totalitarian rule, directed by our fear of the concentration camp, might serve to devaluate all outmoded political shadings from right to left and, beside and above them, to introduce the most essential political criterion of our time: Will it lead to totalitarian rule or will it not? (747).”

See Georg Lukács, The Destruction of Reason (London: The Merlin Press, 1980): 721-726 for the claim that Hitler learned his demagogical techniques from American advertising (imperialist Americans were the new Nazis in 1950s Stalinist propaganda). Citing Rauschning as his source, Lukács wrote, “In their speeches and writing, the fascist leaders poured out with a nauseating show of emotion their national and social demagogie, whose public second names were honour, loyalty, faith and sacrifice, etc. But when they came together in private, they spoke with the most cynical, knowing smiles of their own messages and manifestoes” (721).  It was of course English wartime propaganda that Hitler credited in Mein Kampf and he disavowed manipulativeness, see below; Cf. Jim Fyrth, Britain, Fascism, and the Popular Front (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1985): 10: “…fascism posed as a form of socialism and its anti-capitalist rhetoric was directed at the working class and lower-middle class.” The Tory/Stalinist characterization of Americans as the new Nazis persists in anti-imperialist movements today; see for instance, Alexander Cockburn’s ill-timed insinuation in The Nation, 8/17-24/92, 163 that Jews (in the persons of Edward Alexander and the Jews who publish him) selfishly and callously minimize the suffering of other oppressed groups (American Indians and Southern slaves) by resisting [ahistoric] attempts to equate “the Holocaust” with other forms of mass death.  Cf. The New Masses during the 1930s which defended the revolutionary bourgeoisie and its development of the productive forces in the same progressive America that would be treated as a country of Bad Jews after the war.

Also see Joachim Fest, Hitler (Harcourt Brace, 1973): Fest presents a bouquet of diagnoses in “the manic simple-mindedness with which he traced all the anxieties he had ever felt back to a single source.” (101-102); “[Hitler learned everything from Marxism and its idea of the vanguard.]  He also went much further than his model.  In his nature there was an infantile fondness for the grand, surpassing gesture, a craving to impress.  He dreamed of superlatives and was bent on having the most radical ideology, just as later he was bent on having the biggest building or the heaviest tank.” (126) i.e., both Marxism and Hitler are crazy.

Although E. Jäckel criticized the Hermann Rauschning tendency, such arguments appeared before Rauschning’s book.  See for instance, George Sylvester Viereck, 1923 (his self-published journal, with the “explosive” Hitler as Byron, vagina dentata, Jewish intellectual, and Gorgon); also Johannes Steel, Hitler as Frankenstein, with a preface by Harold Laski (London: Wishart, 1933): 7.  Describing Mein Kampf: “Eight hundred pages full of curses against Pacifists, Jews, Marxists, Internationalists, and Capitalists without a single productive idea.  His political faith as proclaimed in this book is, that everybody is wrong and only he is right.  A curious book…in which he never speaks about himself, his family, his life, or even his program for the future, but only about generalities.  Metaphysical theories on the necessity of the purification of the German race, of which he is not a member, and in addition to that, nothing but hate and again hate…. (7).  At the end of his speech he registered a child-like happy self-satisfaction” (9).  Hitler is drawn as a Henry Ford-type, not a corporatist liberal: “[Henry Ford] like himself, was a bourgeois, did not like Jews, Socialists, Communists or Revolutionaries, or government interference with private business.” (33).  On Jew-hatred, Steel writes of  “black-haired Jews who seemed to have such an easy life, just trading, arguing and talking and yet getting on and on more rapidly than he, or anyone around him” (3).  The Hitler-Robespierre-syndicalist connection was explicit in Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Our Battle (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1938): 68 ff, 77.

On 7/17/92 Los Angeles public television broadcast a British film, Führer: Seduction of a Nation, advised by Lord Bullock, which carried these themes, depicting Hitler as an inflamed narcissist, “a face from the crowd” taking in the masses with a line that “sounded democratic”; the grandiose Hitler was too close to his mother, the father was described as “authoritarian” and perhaps half-Jewish.

For other works by conservatives that promulgate the Big Lie theory of Nazi propaganda/Nazi narcissism see the Fireside Discussion Group of The Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith, Hitler’s Communism Unmasked (Chicago, 1938); Louis W. Bondy, Racketeers of Hatred: Julius Streicher and the Jew-Baiters International (London: Newman Wolsey, 1946); Adolf Leschnitzer, The Magic Background of Modern Anti-Semitism (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1956): 142-143; Stanley G. Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition (Madison: U.of Wisconsin Press, 1980): 7.  In his typology of social movements, Payne describes Nazi style and organization as “Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects”; David Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 44-45; Ian Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986): 3, 147, 259-62; Martin Broszat, “A Plea for the Historicization of National Socialism,” Reworking the Past, ed. Peter Baldwin, op.cit., the (populist) Nazis [not Plato et al] invented the idea of the Big Lie! (84).

A somewhat differing impression of Nazi propaganda is carried in Leonard W. Doob, “Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda,” Public Opinion Quarterly, vol.14 (Fall 1950): 419-442.  Doob believes Goebbels defended the “truth” of his propaganda, but “credibility” was sought in the spirit of Machiavellian expediency, not morality.  But, according to Richard Crossman (British M.P.), this was (also?) the Allies’ position!  See his “Supplementary Essay” to Daniel Lerner, Sykewar (N.Y.: George Stewart, 1949): 334-335.  For Crossman, the “arch propagandist” Goebbels was sincerely deluded in his Big Lie (then described as necessarily duplicitous): “Where the Germans differed from us was not in their means, but in their ends.  The Nazis really believed that the Germans were a Herrenvolk, with the right to dominate the world; that democracy was an expression of decaying capitalism, and civil liberty a relic of a decadent bourgeois civilization; that the Soviet Union was simply a Mongolian despotism, and Communism a disease; that the Slavs were natural slaves and the Jews vermin, fit only for extirpation.  The real lie of which Goebbels was guilty was the attempt to conceal from the rest of Europe the implications of his Herrenvolk idea…. (334)  Earlier, he claimed that Nazis “took over and vastly refined Bolshevik techniques of mass persuasion (323).”  (Compare Hitler’s admiration in Mein Kampf of British war propaganda for its clarity regarding guilt and innocence; in the Crossman essay, he states that the same propaganda was solely dedicated to urging the Germans to overthrow the Kaiser and establish democracy.)

In Doob’s account, Goebbels himself did not evolve criteria for measuring the effectiveness of differing media, so tried everything to catch his fish.  As often happens, mind-managers have less confidence in their tactics than their critics.  But see Weinreich, “The Jew As A Demon” (Hitler’s Professors, 1946) for evidence of hypocrisy among Goebbels’ disciples.  In my essay, I make no further claim than the absence of Hitler’s bragging about manipulating the masses (against their interests) in either Mein Kampf or Table Talk.

  [4] See for instance Hideya Kumata and Wilbur Schramm, “Propaganda Theory of the German Nazis,” Psychological Warfare Casebook, 1958, p. 49.  The authors translate the sentence as “This sentiment, however, is not complicated but very simple and complete.”  The “Nazi socialists” oppose “objectivity” (48).  The article was originally prepared for the USIA by the University of Illinois, Urbana, Jan. 1955, and part of Four Working Papers on Propaganda Theory. (It would have been more correct to say that all propagandists desire closure and hence oppose ambiguity and mixed-messages.)  A few pages later, the authors quote Goebbels as he established the Propaganda Ministry, “…Monopoly control of all media of mass communication within the movement’s zone of influence must be accomplished.  These include music, art, theater, architecture, books, tourist trade, fairs, exhibitions and schools, as well as the usual channels.  If possible, however, control of communications will be exercised in such a way as not to give an impression of direct manipulation (52).” See Ernest K. Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-1945 (Michigan State University Press, 1965): 26. Bramsted accurately transmits Hitler’s notion of simplicity but ignores the point about the general German craze for objectivity, maintaining that Hitler looked down upon the masses. “As we have seen, it was the success of Allied propaganda which made Hitler realize that propaganda had to be primitive and to be attuned to the very limited understanding of the masses. It had to be confined to a few points and to be carried out with persistency. Hitler was convinced that the Allies had looked at the masses with the same contempt that he himself felt for them. In Mein Kampf Hitler made made much of the subjective character of the people, who, he declared, are “so feminine in their nature and attitude that their activities and thought are motivated less by sober consideration than by feeling and sentiment.” Their sentiment was uncomplicated, and very simple. It did not allow for differentiation; it was positive or negative, based on love and hatred, it only knew right or wrong, truth or lie, but no shades, no ability to see two sides of a question. English propaganda had “understood and considered all this in the most ingenious manner.” From these observations Hitler arrived at a basic tenet of all propaganda, “it has to confine itself to little and to repeat this eternally.” (He cites pp. 240, 237, 238, 239 of the 1939 translation.)

     I am not arguing that the Nazis were not advocating the most rigid control of culture to propagate their ideology; rather that they would never have boasted about a Big Lie, and moreover, they believed in the correctness and goodness of their Weltanschauung as they skillfully mobilized the Germans for war and sacrifice.  I have written this essay to alert liberals that what has passed for “the Left” bears a striking resemblance to the racialist thinking of the Third Reich; that they have a common origin in German Romanticism, and that this lineage must not be discounted in reassessments of  policy choices.

[5]See Fritz Fischer on German war aims, quoted above.  Fischer had access to archives not opened until after the war;  he has shown that the German people had no evidence to contradict the apparent responsibility of  Russia, France and England in starting the war.  His revisionist account has been neglected by the Left.

 [6] This sentence was absent in Saul Friedländer, Nazis et l’antisémitisme, 1971; also in his Introduction to Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: UC Press, 1984): 3.  Fleming is describing the debate regarding the exact period when Hitler became antisemitic.  He quotes (but does not footnote)  Mein Kampf, Chapter 2: “It is difficult if not impossible for me to say today when the word ‘Jew’ first gave me pause for serious reflection.  I cannot recall ever having even heard the word in my father’s house while he was still alive.  I believe that the old gentleman would have regarded as entirely backward a particular emphasis given to this word….At school I found no reason to question the picture I received from home, either [what picture?!!]….It was not until I was fourteen or fifteen that I came across the word ‘Jew’ more frequently, possibly in connection with political discussions.”  This lapse of course supports the author’s thesis that Hitler was a frustrated artist losing himself in Wagner, hewing to racial theories that placed Jews “at the bottom end of the scale,” the “anti-race” representing “worthless life (8).”  Cf. California high-school curriculum quoted above in The Material Body.  In this context, “anti-race” could mean pollutant to pure races, not cosmopolitanism as hostile to the politics of national identity.

See also Rudolf Binion, HitlerAmong the Germans (N.Y.: Elsevier, 1976). Binion obliterates the father’s opposition to Hitler’s artistic ambitions and blames mother: “The Oedipal-minded will ask where Hitler’s father came into his politics.  The answer is: in a by-motive. His pampering at the breast left him especially vulnerable to the classic moment of untruth when, in coming to fear castration by the father, a boy will remember his weaning, construed as a warning.  Little Adolf saw his father, then, as the culprit behind his weaning–as liable for the mother’s breast having been removed.  Bloch (the Jewish doctor who treated Klara Hitler’s breast cancer) threw back to the father once the mother had committed herself to his close care and to the castrating father when he ordered the mother’s breast removed, especially as the mother too was thereby castrated after a fashion…”  But Hitler’s style is both Jewish and American:  “Now for the touchiest riddle left.  Hitler’s image of “the Jew” was a self-image over and beyond its distorted reference to Bloch in 1907.  More exactly, one part of it was a self-reflection and he aped the other part…He styled himself like a Jewish prophet…[Hitler took the theme of racism and extermination from] the American heritage–by way of cowboys-and-Indian stories in the first instance.”

The absence of the theme of filial criticism as parricide in the psychoanalytic scholarship on Hitler is not noted by Wolfgang Benz, “Warding Off The Past,” op.cit., even though he describes the outrage in Germany following an attempt by Niklas Frank “to engage in memory work in public, merciless toward both his own person and his father, Hitler’s infamous governor-general in occupied Poland….” (211).  This incident confirms my impression that “the Jews” represent the critical spirit (objectivity) that spares no one in the search for an accurate history.  It is curious and disturbing that the late Tim Mason, an historical materialist, claiming that there was no immediate revolutionary threat after 1930, found theories of the authoritarian family unhelpful in his attempt to grasp Nazi brutality;  see “Open Questions on Nazism,” op.cit., 209.

 [7] In other editions translated as “slimy jelly” (Houghton Mifflin, 1939, ed. John Chamberlain, et al); and “jelly-like slime” (Houghton Mifflin, 1943, 1971, ed. Ralph Manheim).

[8] Cf. E. Jäckel’s very different observation of Hitler’s “panic fear of changing his mind.” This is not the same as being caught in double-binds and switched no matter what he does. Some call the double bind “Catch 22”.

 [9] It need not be the Jew, it may be a modern woman who switches Hitler into panic.  See Table Talk entry for Feb.5, 1942 on Baroness Abegg, in Dietrich Eckart’s opinion, “the most intelligent he’d ever known”: “I’d have been willing to accept the intelligence if it hadn’t been accompanied by the most spiteful tongue imaginable.  The woman was a real scorpion.  She was as blonde as flax, with blue eyes and excessively long canine teeth, like an Englishwoman.  I admit she was remarkably intelligent…She had travelled a lot, all over the world.  She was always in one or other of two extreme states.  The first kept her at home in a state of almost complete collapse.  She would sprawl on her veranda, like a run-down battery, whilst everybody around her was kept busy attending to her.  The second state was one of incredible petulance–she’d fly into a rage, sweep out like a whirlwind, climb up somewhere and come rushing torrentially down again.”  See his earlier remarks against feminism in a speech to the National Socialist Women’s Organization, Sept. 1934: “…It is not true, as Jewish intellectuals assert, that respect depends on the overlapping of spheres of activities of the sexes; this respect [Nazi] demands that neither sex should try to do that which belongs to the sphere of the other.  It lies in the last resort in the fact that each knows that the other is doing everything necessary to maintain the whole community….” quoted Documents on Nazis, 1919-1945, introduced and edited Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham (London: Jonathan Cape): 364.

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3 Comments »

  1. I have your book “Hunting Captain Ahab” and have been reading your blog. I like your analysis and am interested in reading more for a more in depth understanding of precisely what it is you are trying to articulate.

    Comment by Robert Guthrie — January 18, 2014 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

    • In order to defend autodidacts and other independent readers of texts, I try to read very closely and to fully contextualize the author at hand. If there is something you don’t understand, ask a question.

      Comment by clarelspark — January 18, 2014 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

  2. […] http://clarespark.com/2014/01/16/hitler-and-the-big-lie-corrected/ (a reformatted blog combining parts one and two, with footnotes at end) […]

    Pingback by Index to blogs on Hitler’s view of the “Jewish” mind | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 16, 2014 @ 11:39 pm | Reply


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