YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 26, 2009

Hitler and the “Jewish” mind, Part One

Durer, Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513-14)

This is an introduction to a series of posts on Hitler’s encounter with the restless, skeptical “Jewish” mind: The first posting includes footnotes inside the text: not only are the footnotes the bulk of this blog, they are crucial to seeing that famous intellectuals have perpetuated the notion that Hitler had contempt for the masses. It is my contention that this is a distortion of Hitler’s views. Rather, he saw the Jews and other “Social Democrats” as the big liars, while he was ever the knightly good father, sent to save the masses from their own demonic “objectivity craze.”  (This will be demonstrated in later parts of this title. If you want a copy of the essay in one fell swoop, footnotes at the bottom of the page, write to me at clarespark@verizon.net.  I have reformatted the Hitler series with an index here: https://clarespark.com/2010/08/14/index-to-blogs-on-hitlers-view-of-the-jewish-mind-2/. It is much more user friendly, especially since the footnotes are now endnotes and less distracting–unlike the blog you are about to read. Please use the newer one or the footnotes will drive you nuts.)

[New post starts here:] While reflecting upon Hitler’s publications (along with the productions of other “moderate men”), I have seen an incoherence and anxiety 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.

[footnote:  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 his rhetoric often echoed 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 Werner Sombart that it was “the Jewish spirit” that created economic determinism, that is, the domination of money and the market as Parsons argued in 1928. [end footnote]

Racialist 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 anticapitalist brakes, industrial societies are science-driven, hence retain their capacities to promote the wandering imagination to the point of global solidarity, a solidarity in the pursuit of health and happiness, if not equality of condition.
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 narrow conceptions of Order) 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.” [footnote:] 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.

Lord Alan 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. Besides Murray and Mosse, their ranks include Hannah Arendt, T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Georg Lukács, and Joachim Fest.

[footnote:] 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.”

[fn, cont.] 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).”

[fn. cont.] See also 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, p.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.

[fn.cont.] 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.

[fn. cont.]  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.

[fn.cont.] 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.

[fn.cont.] For other works 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).

[fn.cont.] 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.)

[fn.cont.] 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 Max 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. [end footnote]

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–
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 class fears and class resentments.

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