Weimar Germany’s Shadow Creep on Main Street
FlaglerLive | January 28, 2010
By Philip A. Farrugio
January 30th was the 77th anniversary of the hand-over of power to Adolph Hitler by Germany’s Weimar Republic. When one studies the history of the German Nazi movement, the facts speak volumes — about the times then, and about the risks today. As with most major revolutionary changes in both governance and mass consciousness, it is economics and the manipulations of public opinion that matter.
In early 1920s Weimar Germany, it was the severe inflation due to the Versailles Diktat (Germans to this day seldom refer to it as a treaty) that accelerated the rise of the Nazis. Hungry, tuberculosis infested and jobless Germans listened more and more to Communists and Nazis. Each of these extremist groups correctly focused on the reparations Germany had to pay the victors of World War One, including the loss of a great deal of its resource-rich territory such as the industrial Ruhr Valley.
When one’s belly is empty, and one’s family is sick , and jobs are scarce, one may seek a) blame, and b) salvation. Both the Communists and the Nazis blamed the Allies and the superrich for the plight of the masses.
The Nazis, of course, horrifically and disgracefully, pointed to “world Jewry” as the major culprit. Another crucial difference between the two factions was that the Nazis were highly nationalistic, while many German Communists, to a great extent, wanted to extend the Russian Soviet movement into Germany. This did not sit well with many common folk in Germany, as they (like citizens of most countries) had deep nationalistic tendencies. Of course, the Conservatives and the Social Democrats, the two leading parties in Germany, feared Communism more than this National Socialism , as Hitler’s party called itself.
By 1928, economically speaking, things were actually getting better for most ordinary Germans. This was due mostly to American bank loans Germany used to pay off English and French reparations (at what future cost?) .
In the 1928 elections, the Nazi party received less than 5 percent of the vote. When the hungry are fed, illnesses treated and joblessness drops, the masses refuse to listen to a Hitler, however eloquent his speeches may be. The economic cycle once again swung downward with the 1929 Wall Street crash that reverberated throughout Europe. American banks called in those loans. Germany simply could not fully repay. Five major German banks failed. Germany was once again in crisis.
Reenter Hitler and his party. They won almost one third of the seats in the following election to the Reichstag, the German parliament. The blame game on “world Jewry,” coupled with the terrible economic depression, enticed many simple, decent Germans into the spider’s web of Nazism. Hitler the populist demagogue promised jobs, food and most important, retaliation against those who raped Germany’s treasury, land and resources. The rest is, as they say, history.
Hitler was shrewd enough to play upon underlining realities that faced most Germans during the 1920s and early 30s. He blasted capitalists who lived off the backs of the German workers. He saw through the scam of British, French, and American bankers and industrialists who profited from the reparations of the Diktat.
The Versailles Diktat was too harsh. The Allies knew they were condemning Germany to economic ruin. The land-grab of productive German land by the Allies was too extreme. Occupation by French troops in the Ruhr was, as with any form of occupation, fodder for extremists within Germany. What greater propaganda than to have black French troops occupying a homogenous white German region? Goebbels must have licked his lips at that.
To entice Germans to follow him, Hitler chose to go the scapegoat route. The Jews! What better way to cement his rhetoric than to single out a minority that had been scapegoats for centuries throughout the world? How so many apparently good and decent Germans could fall for such perverse disinformation and outright lying is beyond belief. Yet, it happened. Hitler was explicit that, once in power, the Nazi Party would destroy all the others. Yet, even in January 1933, when German President Paul von Hindenburg was pressured into naming Hitler Chancellor, the other major parties (not the Communists, who fought the Nazis for 10 years) acquiesced and thought that they could control Hitler.
Sinclair Lewis published a great novel, It Can’t Happen Here, in 1935. Get it and read it. When the next economic crash comes (as it most likely will) in the next few years, a newer more refined Neo-Nazi movement could gather steam. When the streets are full of jobless, hungry, hopeless citizens, and less than miles away other folks are living in lush, gated communities, and when governments, bought and paid for by the inhabitants behind those security gates, fail to initiate real change, demagogues and their scapegoats can’t be far off.
Philip A. Farruggio is a Port Orange-based free-lance columnist, environmental products sales rep, and political activist. Since the 2000 election, he has had over 110 columns posted on many sites: Afterdowningstreet.org, counterpunch.org, opednews.com, dissidentvoice.org and others. Philip can be reached on the street corners of his town, where he stands in peaceful protest each week, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.