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Whispers From a Dark Past

by geezer in Paris Mon May 9th, 2011 at 06:57:30 AM EST

This one's for Miguel.
It's in response to a good conversation about the growing German control over what passes for economic policy in the EU, and my point that the psychological component in the German word view, that strong strain of patriarchal authoritarianism relates to the policy and to that old and feared, deep-seated need to dominate. Europe needs to remember this.

It's a memory fragment that grew in clarity as I wrote it.


It is the late spring of 1993, and my idea for a birthday present is to take Ivonne to the launching point for one of the most famous international cable cars in Europe, Chanonix/Aoste, and ride it from Chamonix, France, across the vast snowfields of Mount Blanc to the Valley d'Aosta in Italy. Ivonne once spoke fairly good Italian, and had been saying she would like to open the box it has rested in for many years and see how much remains usable. It seems like a good gift to me, and not impossibly expensive. We  are already in France, and with our Eurail pass in hand,  the cost of transport was low. We go.

Valle d'Aosta is a district in the Lombardy region of Italy. It's biggest town, Aosta, is only two hours by local bus from Torino. It's the valley of the river Dora Baltea, whose source is under the slopes of Monte Bianco ( Mont Blanc). The most ancient pass through the Western Alps, Great St. Bernard Pass, connects the Valley with Switzerland. The cable car traverses a part of this pass.

When we get there we find an ice storm has coated the cable so thickly with hard water that the whole system has shut down. What to do? Wait.

As we burn cash away in our cute but pricey room, another day passes without any melting. We decide to take the famed train, the Mt Blanc express, to Torino and see what we can see. It's an incredible trip. We traverse a route so wildly rugged it's hard to imagine how it could have been built.

When we get to Torino we do what we often do. We look at the wall map in the train station and ask ourselves, "how much longer can we stand to be on a train and still enjoy it? How much time do we have?". Then we draw a mental circle around our present location that includes all the places we can reach. Then we pick a destination from somewhere in that circle. Preferably somewhere totally unknown or strongly interesting to us. Our choice is a town called "Monteroso al Mare", on the coast of the Ligurian sea.

When we get there, it's after ten, and our boy is asleep on his feet. Half-carrying him, we trudge through the town to find a hotel that's open that late, and would take us. Tired to the bone, doubting the workability of our plan, we finally find one.

It's a B-movie set, a vast crumbling artifact of a building from some architectural period that prized giant Vagnerian kitsch. But the lighted sign says it's open. And, in spite of it's huge size, it's a two star. Wow. Our speed.

A vast wrought-iron gate in a columned stone arch, with small entry  gate in a corner. It's not locked, so we  push the gate open and trudge up the oval drive to the columned portico and into the lobby.   Far away across a polished marble floor is a huge desk. Two hefty women busy themselves with arcane tasks, and make it a point to not notice us. We make our passage to the desk, and wait. Nothing. I watch as their eyes track all around us, as if our spot on the field of vision is a forbidden zone, and I know it will be tough. But the more than half-full key board is proof of the availability of rooms.

"I'd like a room for three for tonight, please"

"Sorry. No rooms."

I have a bad habit of taking people's word as good, even when there is ample evidence that they are lying through their teeth. I fear getting on someone's case, then discovering that it's I who am wrong, and making a fool of myself, and doing an injustice as well. Or perhaps I'm just easily intimidated. But Ivonne and I  talk it over, watching as only a handful of people come and reclaim their room keys from the board, and the hour approaches midnight.

So in a burst of courage, I go back and lean across the desk, and say, "Look, please." in a fairly loud voice. Startled, they looked where I pointed. " "That over there is a six-year-old child who needs rest badly, and your key board shows that you have many rooms empty. What's the problem?" Long silence, exchange of glances. Then the very tall blonde lady says, in perfect English, "One night only. And you'll have to take two rooms."

We lug our packs to our two rooms, which are huge, quite nice for a two-star, and go back down to find something to eat. Sounds of clinking glasses are audible on the ground floor, and a waiter whizzes by with a plate that smells incredibly good. We know that in Italy people often eat quite late.

"We'd like to eat. Can you direct us to the dining room?"

"Sorry. It's closed" Without even raising her eyes.

That's too much even for wimpy me, and I lose it. I shout at them. I became, once again, just another loud American, but at least they looked up. "First, you would deny even a place to sleep to a tired child, never mind us, and now it's the same with food. Just what is wrong with you people? What is this- a hotel or a private club?" Another pregnant pause, looks exchanged. Finally the Teutonic Amazon says to the other, "Put them in the small room next to the kitchen. Soup, bread perhaps." In German.
Little tendrils wiggle through my brain, whispering, "B-movie. More than meets the eye here", and the smaller one leads us off. Obvious pecking order.

Another waiter, or perhaps the same one, cruises by with deserts on a huge tray, and Adrian perks up.

In a closed room just off the main hall, we eat, finally. Shaking with hunger and fatigue, we don't ask questions. The cold potato-onion soup is very good. We are also served cold shnitzel, good brown bread and water. No menu, no choice. Take it or leave it.

Adrian perks up enough to go exploring, perhaps in search of the dessert tray, and comes back and says, "Dad, you gotta see this!
Adrian is six going on twelve and a voracious reader.

I get up and walk to the door of our room, just as three waiters emerged from the banquet room at the end of the hall. They are bussing tables. As they make their exit, laden but graceful, one can see past them. A huge room, many people, with the walls covered with Nazi memorabilia- flags,  ceremonial swords  heraldic plaques, and huge framed photos. One stands out.

In the place of greatest honor, his face looks out over the assembled heads once again. That familiar piercing (some would now say demented) gaze is accentuated by the black and white print, rendered sepia by age.  The little mustache was unmistakable. Then the doors closed.

We slink off to bed. In the morning we pack quickly and are at the huge desk early, anxious to escape the oppressive atmosphere of failed empire. But we found our credit card to be unacceptable, and Adrian and I were not permitted to leave the lobby until Ivonne had journeyed out to find an auto-teller to get cash.

Since that time we have been alert to signs of the vestiges of the Third Reich. Still-twitching pieces of the evil creature that cost so many lives. The elite did not all disappear. Nor, I suspect, did their dreams of power. Those dreams emerge from a deep, long-lived place in the German culture, the German psyche that demands control, victory in the field of dominance. An endlessly denied but easily apparent narrative that sees dominance as merely a recognition of innate superiority.
We look for their gathering places, their chalets and chateaus, and we do occasionally find them. We have been chased and threatened by their security for simply taking photographs, and we seem to learn nothing more than that they exist, so we avoid them now. But we are aware of them, and we wonder.

I do not forget how quickly and easily the German intelligence and security apparatus found common ground with the Americans after V-E day, and well before Nuremberg. I understand from personal experience some of the longer-term reasons for that ready comfort zone. And that German-US rapport continues.

The Union sought, on one level, to neutralize the potential for a resurgence of German dominant drives by enmeshing her in a web of economic and political ties too strong to break.
Could it be that what has actually happened is that a sufficient number of strings pass through the German fist to allow domination without a shot being fired?

If so, ---how convenient for the both of them.

Display:
I began this as a story in
 our new website,
 but I got up in the middle of the night and re-wrote it to reflect things learned and ideas that emerged after our conversation about policy failure in the EU, and then
Transition Town Totnes,
 a far more cheerful sign.

Just so it's not lost, here's a link to another wonderful sign of hope,
Marinaleda.
Read and enjoy.

If they had a canal there, We'd be on our way. Someone ought to go. Just to see if it's real.
(Nudge, nudge- your cue, Mr. "M")

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 07:16:14 AM EST
Oh I'm quite sure these people still lurk. After all, most military organisations have their reunions; I know that the WWII German Afrika corps and British 8th Army organisations are nowadays practically joined at the hip. You'd have to be hopelessly naive to imagine that the SS are too ashamed to have their own reunions, and not just in Paraguay.

And should they wish to go somewhere nice and sunny, why not a "friendly" country ? And you don't get friendlier than an old ally, with whom you probably forged bonds of comradeship and shared philosophy (where do the Liga Nord get their support ?).

But do they have power ? Can they influence policy ? Yes and no. Yes in that these people have always been "connected" and America needed Germany to be run by somebody. Once the figureheads had had their showtrial germany was officially exonerated, they were the good guys, all that bad stuff was nothing to do with them. They were allies now, so forgive and forget.

But no in that they do not want a fourth reich. Do german bankers want to run the continent ? Of course, but all bankers want to be in control. The guys in the Bank of England and the French equivalent are probably grinding their teeth in jealousy that they can't set the rules for the impoverishment and plundering of europe.

Just as the guys in chicago and Wall st want to impoverish and plunder the world. It doesn't make them nazis but it certainly makes them dangerous. Only a fool would let them loose on the ...oh wait

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 11:52:12 AM EST
If you're discussing attitudes remaining, perhaps under new disguises, then your comment can be taken at face value, though i'm not certain that't enough to buy your thesis.

But if you're really talking about "these people," i might remind you that a 16-year old emergency conscript at the end of the war would be 82 this month. and most of his surviving comrades would be mid-80's to mid-90's. Commanders perhaps older. Thus not particularly dangerous. Nor even particularly present.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 03:58:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was something of a two-part answer.

the function of the hotel was the "face value" bit, I should imagine they struggle for custom from the well connected who, as you point out, are largely dying away. And the new generation of Hitler venerators are too ignorant and working class to have the money to appreciate the finery of such a boutique establishment.

the second part dealt with the next generation, and possibly the third who were the beneficiaries of the SS generation's connections, have taken the attitudes and the necessary masks for operating amongst modern elites. they have seen german economic success through industry, seen it come to dominate european finance and see that as their natural environment.

However, I concede that the assimilation of the ossies has brought a different set of cultural values into modern germany that are more aligned with authoritarians. After all, what else was a E Germany but a dictatorship where such personality types fought it out in the most brutal Darwinianism. They're eating the old westerners for breakfast

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:11:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also remember that the hotel story took place in 1993.

i don't buy your second premise, except of course there will be some SS children and grandchildren who fit the profile in a country as large as here.

But most Germans i've met fit a wide enough profile as to be indistinguishable from the profile of any other place in the west. Though Yurpeens have several distinct cultural advantages over their USian counterparts. But that's not under discussion here.

Most Germans buy into the attempt at making civilization more sustainable, no matter their political stripe. And they bury stereotyping better.

And i don't buy the premise on the "Ossies." If anything causes a difference, it's that there isn't enough money or jobs in the east. And places like Leipzig or Dresden are havens of progressive thought and art, even if not so much political power.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:25:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh yeah, and the Ossies don't eat the westerners for breakfast, no way, no kinda day.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:26:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know where anyone could have gotten that idea from, other than Merkel grew up in the East.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:30:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mathematicians shouldn't build a theory on one data point, especially if the data point is barely relevant to Merkel's success. she was the protegé of the western chancellor who shepherded reunification, no?

if the ossies were eating wessies for breakfast, we'd find a predominant number of them in positions of power, at the Bundesbank, for example.

Merkel is an ossie, and Helen's point is crap. So?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 06:38:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, we're in agreement.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 01:46:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some 'EU = Fourth Reich" comments doing the rounds on the conspiracy boards (...it was all planned that way, y' see) so I'm wary of ascribing too much credibility to this argument. It matches very neatly anglo nationalistic sentiments about how the EU is essentially pro-fascist and anti-sovereignty.

It may (arguably) pro-fascist and anti-sovereignty economically, but I've yet to be convinced that it's a deliberate aim of - say - the European Parliament.

The Nazis weren't primarily financiers - although they were sponsored by same. They were primarily propagandists and manipulators.

We do know, however, that aside from well-known Nazi assimilation operations like Project Paperclip there were other CIA-Nazi links that remain murky at best.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:53:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Haven't encountered those arguments, as I apparently don't read the right "conspiracy theory" blogs. The diary, as I said, stemmed from a conversation Miguel and I had about the drift toward (now a solid movement toward) German control in the EU.
As well, the old story about the Nazi resort hotel has always needed a good airing out.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:10:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
93 is 18 years ago. Loads of SS still alive then.

And we're not discussing the bulk of the population here, we're talking about elites who are character and outlook-wise, culturally very different. And not even the pols, who are nowadays simply the paid agents of the elites, but the people who exist in the large marbled buildings who may be seen but rarely identified.

That's who this is about. It's like many Brits are nice people (-ish), but there are people at the top who are not very nice. There were people in the UK who, right up to the outbreak of WWII were very much in favour of Herr Hitler and felt that Britain could do with a touch of his reforms. They were well-connected then and their offspring remain well connected, they even own a prominent newspaper which has consistently promoted socially conservative viewpoints since the 30s. And they run things here too.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 05:45:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And we're not discussing the bulk of the population here, we're talking about elites who are character and outlook-wise, culturally very different. And not even the pols, who are nowadays simply the paid agents of the elites, but the people who exist in the large marbled buildings who may be seen but rarely identified.

That's who this is about. It's like many Brits are nice people (-ish), but there are people at the top who are not very nice. There were people in the UK who, right up to the outbreak of WWII were very much in favour of Herr Hitler and felt that Britain could do with a touch of his reforms.

Exactly.
In the US the Hearst newspaper chain sang the praises of Hitler right up to pear harbor.

The German culture was, like the American one, steeped in dominance dreams and self-deceptive justifications for same.
America remains in the same bloody teapot today. Under the brass plaques and apparent progressivism, ---does Germany?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:16:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
despots are manifested in easily swayed, groupthink-habituated populations.

the same social genepool that creates unthinking loyalty to the 'patria' or state, can work in a positive direction when channeled into civic pride, social cohesion, and collaborative citizenry.

education is thus the linchpin of democracy, without history's hindsight we become condemned to repeat these obvious evolutionary dead-end roads.

our intellects thrive on complexity, when configured for curiosity. configured badly, they seek the familiar, simplistic port-in-a-storm refuge of nationalism-uber-alles and such monkey business...

critical thinking can be allied with vivid imagination, it just doesn't happen very often.

global vision can merrily unite with local activism, but the potency of that combo is not lost on our DL's.

until we connect the top (political elites) with the bottom (grassroots), we keep trying to make right merge with left instead, ignoring the vertical axis.

the latter, (L/R), is pure distraction, for vying for centrism makes politics bloodless, while still a killer sport... what matters is throwing off the present class yokes, and subbing with new concepts of excellence and distinction based on reality. for this we need to understand how economics is woven agenda, the warp to politics' woof....literally!

how we get there from here needs to be re-invented every day, as the whole game of human life-as-we-know-it is teetering on the verge of unviability. inventing new flavours of ice cream to sell in hell is not a business model...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 07:04:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For a long time after the formation of the EU, Germans seemed to crave normalisation and acceptance more than anything and were keen to be good citizens of the EU, downplaying nationalism and being happy to be the largest net contributors, grateful of the acceptance and respectability that EU membership conferred.  Then something changed.  

Perhaps it was always going to change as the wartime generation died off and the new status quo came to be taken for granted by the younger generation. But even then, liberalism, progressivism, environmentalism, multi-culturalism and pan Europeanism seemed to dominate in the younger generation.

However in more recent years the old guard seem to reasserting control.  Perhaps it was victory in the Cold war. Perhaps Re-unification reignited dreams of a greater Germany.  I don't know.  I have been back only briefly and rarely. But since Merkel has come to power - and perhaps because of an unreconstructed east German authoritarianism - all the old German insensitivities to and arrogance towards other peoples seems to be reasserting itself.

I'd love to read more from Germans writing on this site, but the flakiness of Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Cameron and (perhaps Zapatero) seems to have allowed Germany to reassert old dreams of dominance.  And they seem to be enjoying it.  Nazism it is not, but neither is it the pan Europeanism or community of nations dreamed of by the more idealistic EU project proponents.

Or is the ET ethos not attractive to significant German participation?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 05:32:46 PM EST
all i can say is doing business in germany now gives me the creeps. maybe it's just bavaria, which is where i've been mostly, but ...
by rootless2 on Mon May 9th, 2011 at 05:40:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Elaborate, please. I have some of the same feelings.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:37:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it may just be me - I find that seeing the train to Dachau in the munich subway is disconcerting. But a perfectly nice young guy who has been involved in some projects with us before, was trying to get me to invest (and I'm no investor) in a business plan in which we would have taken all the risks explained to me that he knew that jews like me were very tight with money.   And the italian waiter in the restaurant who when asked how he liked being in Munchen said "my grandmother warned me to get out before I get a tatoo like she got and I'm thinking it will be soon". And I walked by the Synagogue which looks like a tomb. Hard not to get creepy feelings in Germany, but somehow more recently.
 
by rootless2 on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 10:05:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't comment much regarding München, but in the various places i've been i haven't been aware of post Nazi bigotry.

OTOH, i've experienced all manner of bigotry against cultures or races everywhere i've been, like against Asians or Hispanics in Frisco, or against natives in Lima or Merida, or against Turks in Remscheid, , or against straight people in Woodstock, or against Scheiss HSV in Bremen.

I can't deny there aren't pockets of spooky bigotry remaining in "Schland," or just about anywhere for that matter. But every street i walk on here in Bremen has little brass sidewalk plaques embedded, noting where Jews were taken from the houses here. (and i think with the names?)

so there's got to be bigoted exceptions, but my general feeling is Germany has made a huge effort to get past the past. Despite der Bild. And the synagogue in Berlin is lit up at night.

PS. HSV is reputedly a football club originating in the nearby city of Hamburg, though you couldn't convince me. Though to be fair, they got far more points than Bremen this year.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:15:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the synagogue in Berlin is lit up at night

And has a plaque honouring the German policeman who called the fire brigade on Kristallnacht.

But as far as Munich is concerned, the Jewish community is something else. When I lived in Munich, I though of joining, but they insisted on proof that I was Jewish, such as my mother's Ketubah, to be approved by the Rabbi. This, despite the fact that the conversation was in Hebrew, and I didn't have anything more to do with them. I gather that this doesn't happen elsewhere in Germany.

As for rootless2 finding a S-Bahn station called Dachau disconcerting, imagine what I felt when seeing a German bus with DAH plates while walking early in the morning from Jersey City to Hoboken....

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:55:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting. And -yes, I can imagine that plate wouyld be pretty chilling.

The problem of the paradox of the rather hermetic Jewish culture, with it's frequent intellectual richness and openness, and the predictable result of resentment at it's closed success, remains.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:21:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I've thought about this lot, Frank.
Background:
Sociologists in the US were, for a long time, not supposed to make value judgments about cultures or societies unless the mainstream consensus places them in the "fair game" category. They still do, but at a cost, personally or professionally- if they make themselves unacceptable in the world of the apologists and enablers, then they gotta go whole hog in the left or right fringes of the discipline. Which makes them proselytizers instead of researchers.
Teach and shut up, or go rogue.

So there are precious few real successful efforts to define, from the professional middle, what is (or what's not) a healthy society. Mills, Maslow, Studs Turkle, Upton Sinclair, Steinbeck, Chomsky, - there are some heroes out there, but they are largely invisible in the MSM today. They stand out just enough to provide a target, as the exceptions who prove the rule. The many younger critics of today may perhaps represent a resurgence of real debate, but must throw rocks mostly from the vantage of the small presses, or the net. And ---the German horse left the barn a long time ago.

 A good illustration is the mainstream coverage of the Bin Laden murder. Descending into murderous, lawless barbarism and then having the president celebrate it nationwide on television is a striking change, even for the empire, and this goes unremarked in the mainstream press.

The German elite was too--similar, too much like the Americans. So they got a pass, easy visas and places to --- re-create. Which they did.

Had there been a couple decades of real apolitical, toady-free analysis of the roots of the Reich, it would have been apparent early on that the German patriarchal, authoritarian cast of mind produced an elite that is strikingly successful at passing along predatory ideology as well as political power, from generation to generation.

 So is the US.

So the discussion of what happened to the power players behind the Third Reich is as thin as the discussion of what is happening to the players in The Quiet Coup put together by Cheney, Rumsfeld et al.

Rumsfeld resigned, moved down the hall to a different office. Then he disappeared.

Sure he did.

This is my suspicion.
The elite supporters of the third Reich were there all along, hanging out at places like the hotel at Monterroso al Mare, and keeping their head down till the smoke cleared from their holocaust, and their own burning culture.
Hanging out, and cultivating contacts.
The EU was bravely conceived but poorly constituted. A gamble was taken- a bet made- that economic integration would be a sufficient tool to neuter the German drive to dominate. While assuming the prophets of neoliberal globalization were their friends.
So--how did all that work out?
Now that the structure based in Brussels is clearly weak, unable to take decisive action when action is called for, the old guard are emerging, in the person of the sons and daughters of the Krupp empire, I. G. Farben, etc., to pick up the threads of power.
They have their clowns, their toadies. Berlusconi, Sarko, and in the US, Obama, et al do spring to mind.

The historical similarities are striking.

Shades of Toynbee.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 04:36:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Quiet Coup was before my time on ET but reads well and I would love to read an update now.  I have long thought that a sense of War guilt led to a lot of liberalisation (in a good sense) of the old authoritarian attitudes in West Germany, but that this did not extend to East Germany which retained shades of the old Prussian and Russian authoritarianism and indifference to the suffering of others. Now, with Germany re-unified, that eastern authoritarianism is beginning to become more dominant.

I would also be interested in your views on the extent to which old German and eastern European authoritarianism influenced quasi fascism in the USA - particularly in the southern and rural heartlands of the GOP.  When I see GOP conservatives and neo-cons in action, I see shades of a reborn Third Reich. or should we call it the Fourth?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 09:50:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A complex question, and the short answer is that, in my opinion, there was, and remains a deep influence. Let me pause to answer some other questions, and come back to this if the diary shows some further life- it's off the rec list, so may just die.
I missed a day in hatching it, so--- there it goes.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:32:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Had there been a couple decades of real apolitical, toady-free analysis of the roots of the Reich, it would have been apparent early on that the German patriarchal, authoritarian cast of mind produced an elite that is strikingly successful at passing along predatory ideology as well as political power, from generation to generation.

There was some insightful analysis, both before and after WW II. The first was Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism, originally published in German in 1933, summary from wiki:

The question at the heart of Reich's book was this: Why did the masses turn to authoritarianism which is clearly against their interests?[3] Reich set out to analyze "the economic and ideological structure of German society between 1928 and 1933" in this book.[4] In it, he calls communism "red fascism" and groups it in the same category as Nazism, and this leads to him being kicked out of the Communist Party.

Reich argued that the reason Nazism was chosen over fascism was sexual repression. As a child, members of the proletariat had learned from his or her parents to suppress sexual desire. Hence, in the adult, rebellious and sexual impulses caused anxiety. Fear of revolt, as well as fear of sexuality, were thus "anchored" in the character of the masses. This influenced the irrationality of the people, Reich would argue.

This clearly wouldn't do, so Reich was effectively banished into the Universal Orgone Ether, which he had hypothesized. The Murder of Christ was equally offensive. Erich Frome, writing from Mexico City, re-presented and extended Reich's analysis of fascism in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, but both works are tainted by the disrepute into which psychoanalysis fell in the '70s and '80s.

I am very glad for the brain science and the psychological insights it has provided, not least because it makes the use of psychological insights scientifically respectable. But I refuse to believe that no good understanding of human psychology was possible from the hermeneutics based earlier approaches and I still find value in some of the insights. But that is just me. But I don't expect ANY university or even foundation originated grants to study such questions from a current perspective. Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians is the closest we have, and he gives it away in PDF form.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 01:07:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Asia Times - Paul Bigioni - The real threat of fascism

As contradictory as it may seem, fascist dictatorship was made possible because of the flawed notion of freedom which held sway during the era of laissez-faire capitalism in the early twentieth century. It was the liberals of that era that clamored for unfettered personal and economic freedom, no matter what the cost to society. Such untrammeled freedom is not suitable to civilized humans. It is the freedom of the jungle. In other words, the strong have more of it than the weak. It is a notion of freedom which is inherently violent, because it is enjoyed at the expense of others. Such a notion of freedom legitimizes each and every increase in the wealth and power of those who are already powerful, regardless of the misery that will be suffered by others as a result. The use of the state to limit such "freedom" was denounced by the laissez-faire liberals of the early twentieth century. The use of the state to protect such "freedom" was fascism. Just as monopoly is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.


keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 02:54:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What he describes as "freedom" has an older name: liberty or liberties, as they applied to the nobility. I have argued in other areas that the arc from the renaissance to the modern era has been first to limit the liberties of the nobility so as to create a space for business, which depends on predictable behavior governed by contract law vs. class based decisions which, from a business point of view, seem capricious. The principle was secured in 1688, but the practical applications took until the middle of the 19th century to secure. The result was a largely market based society. This was quickly converted into a financial capital based economy, substantially completed by the 20th century. As the financiers have gained effective control over the media and the levers of government they have begun to exercise that control to their own advantage and changed, ignored, bent or broken any rules that might have impeded them. We have now come full circle, back to the position where a new elite, significantly based on inherited wealth, can again exercise the liberty that their position affords them.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:13:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. In fact, one wonders how the bombing, of say, Dresden can be evaluated in light of the Allies' apparent strategy to leave Germany's industry and manufacturing capacity alone. Not all of it, but much of it. Whereas other countries experienced complete devastation.
by Upstate NY on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 06:38:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh ? Much of the early bombing campaign during WWII was all about wrecking the productive capacity of german industry. If Harris could have found all of it, he'd have bombed all of it. But it was only by the end of the war that the RAF could reliably find a city at night, let alone bomb a factory.

However, following the first Allied "successes" on the Ruhr, the nazis were extremely effective in scattering their industry across the country, which meant that less of it could be effectively targeted by era's technology. So, the bombing focus changed to area bombing (aka collective punishment) on the basis that cities were economically productive for the reich even if they weren't industrial or munitions centres. In this they were conforming to Sherman's doctrine of destroying the economic basis of the enemy's ability to wage war.

However by the time of Dresden, much of what remained Germany's western productive capacity was already in Allied hands. There wasn't much left to bomb and Dresden was on the list. There were also the claims that a german army was due to use the railway connections through the town to attack approaching Russian armies.

Whatever the reasons, Dresden was destroyed for reasons that barely made sense at the time and look worse as time passes. Was it a crime ? Possibly/probably; but that is war. The doctrine of armies is always the same; until your enemy surrenders you attack and attack. Any suggestions of pulling your blow would only encourage their resistance. The lawyers on the winning side decide at the time who can be blamed on the losing side, while historians have the luxury of hindsight to determine and revise "verifiable" truths.

My parents lived through the war and I'd consider them both typical in their attitudes of feeling that Dresden was regrettable but after 5 years of war and a continent in ruins they wanted the nazis destroyed. Utterly. Bomb every last building until Hitler surrendered. and, as somebody who did not live through it, I cannot answer that lived-experience.

My Dad served in the RAF. My mother was evacuated to S Wales, but returned to the East end during the latter part of the The Blitz. Her family was relocated on several occasions after their home was destroyed. She had a V1 fly over her head at 50' (15m) and a V2 exploded within 300' (90m) of her. On VE (Victory in Europe day) she says that her overwhelming feeling was that she was going to live. Up until then she had literally taken every day, every hour as stolen. Now she had a future that wouldn't be marked by sirens and bombs and missiles and sudden death raining from the sky. And anything that had been done by the Allies to bring her to that moment was perfectly fine with her. Then and forever more.

And nobody, nobody who has not lived through such things has the right to argue with her. Now or forever.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 06:58:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was only making the point that Germany had a lot of industrial capacity immediately after the war. In fact, the aid it was given helped ramp up manufacturing fairly quickly. Other countries languished, as their aid was in the form of military needs.
by Upstate NY on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 09:07:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the victorious Allies did cart off a lot of what remained. The Mechanical Engineering Lab at Oklahoma State in 1961 was substantially furnished with "liberated" German equipment.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 10:27:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that both germany and Japan benefitted in the post-war period from not being allowed to divert productive capacity into restoring their arms industries.

It gave them incredible advantages compared to the  european allies who may have won the war, but lost the peace due to excessive efforts restoring the war machines they now only needed for the vainglory of their politicians.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 10:33:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Allies' apparent strategy to leave Germany's industry and manufacturing capacity alone.

I'd be interested in a reference- I was unaware of such a strategy. If you can substantiate this, it might open some doors for me that I've long wondered about.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:31:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Every now and again, you rise to real heights, ARG.
To me, creating a valuable paragraph or two is not at all making a semantic tangle of concepts and jargon that will impress the peers at the conference in July-, but expressing a process or a concept in a simple, brief way- a way as clear as  a glass of water.

I was just this morning trying to articulate that very circular process you describe so well to my 13-year old daughter this morning, and I gave it up as too big a bite for someone her age, even though it seems pretty straightforward to me. Or perhaps I just did it poorly.

Nicely done.

As for historical inquiry, I'm sure there has been some good work looking into the psychological roots of the Nazi phenomenon--- but apply the above criteria to those investigations, and it's clear that if the point was to generally illuminate the relationship between patriarchal authoritarianism and wars of dominance, it all has failed.
The old guard, the old elite are dead or dying.
The old guard lives on, in their children.
The existence of brass plaques on the buildings is nice, but reveals no insight into the culture's heart.

To see evil, and name it, is not to understand from whence it came.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:22:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Than you for providing the opportunity for the comment. Occasionally......my muse appears?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 14th, 2011 at 06:28:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
the arc from the renaissance to the modern era has been first to limit the liberties of the nobility

the irony is way too rich.

the only thing bigger than business and the glittering baubles of its prize mechanisms is concern for the environment, which is being monetised in both good and bad ways.

the advocates point to successful marriages like Jerome's work and say 'see, capitalism works!'

the detractors point to greenwashing and military buildup in the arctic...

if business ambition is what gets most people jumping out of bed in the morning filled with motivation to better their lot, then i guess it makes sense, in a lewis carroll sort of way, to try and harness that energy to better humanity's lot too.

it's a dubious foundation, imo, but better than business aligned with resource plunder, which has been a huge moneymaker for so long it has become a given that it will continue for ever.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 07:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would also recommend Walter Abish's fiction, How German Is It, as a great novel on precisely the topic of how a big nation confronts (and thereby erases) the past, all the while building a new national ethos from scratch.

Recently, I reread the book and did some preliminary research into it. I realized that very little has been written in English about German nation-building after the war that referenced much else than global trade and economics. Yet we have ethnographic and postcolonialist studies about nation-formation and identity-formation all over the globe. We seem to have missed that Germany has been engaged in precisely such a project for a long long time.

by Upstate NY on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 11:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Equally interesting would be the different experiences in East and West Germany for 45 years and how that played out since 1989. I don't know if there are significant factors there, but many Germans seem to feel that "they played their part" by paying taxes and subsidies, regardless of the actual status of economic development in the former East Germany. One might hope that they would consider that West Germany was the recipient of significant post war aid that was not received by East Germany or the rest of Germany's former Central European hinterland. One could hope for more enlightened leaders and a more generous attitude, but...

Another factor is that the aid given just after the war and through the 50s was given during a different climate of opinion, one that was not dominated by Neo-liberalism and NCE. The rest of Central Europe was not so lucky.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 03:28:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So --
Sum it.
--IS there significant understanding of the psychological roots of the third Reich, on the part of the Germans of today? And if so,

--Does this broad streak of authoritarian, patriarchal social coloration still represent the same threat that it has in the past?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:27:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know enough about contemporary Germany to say one way or the other.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 14th, 2011 at 06:30:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I had time to take advantage of your and ARGeezer's suggested reading list- I'd very much like to re-read Reich and Fromm, and your fiction. But I hardly have time to care for this diary. New careers at 69 are tough- some days the brain moves glacially, with the ease of a sled on ashes- but I do get there, still. Just takes longer- and, as the poet said,

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
 Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
 The Bird of Time has but a little way
 To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.

Khayam/Fitzgerald

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:57:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Altemeyer's wonderful work has been done by someone who is willing to swim upstream in a fast-flowing river of academically conventional thought. I need to buy his latest book on sexuality.
Maslow's "Motivation and Personality" was the knell of doom for his career, and got him branded as a dewey-eyed, unscientific romantic. Still, valuable insights for me.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:40:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For a long time after the formation of the EU, Germans seemed to crave normalisation and acceptance more than anything and were keen to be good citizens of the EU, downplaying nationalism and being happy to be the largest net contributors, grateful of the acceptance and respectability that EU membership conferred.  Then something changed.  
See marco's diary Plus de bonnes poires en Allemagne (April 13th, 2010). Also Habermas: Europe Is Doomed (probably not) by afew on May 3rd, 2010.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 05:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  I seem to me missing lots of good diaries on ET.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 09:41:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Late to dinner.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:41:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will the ghost of Georges Clemenceau now appear!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:20:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know whether the darker strands of the national psyche are rising again. I see several trends here:

Isolationism: the sense that our own problems are so overwhelming leaves us with less appetite to participate in solving other people's problems. In an NYT article about the German economic resurgence they quoted a woman who had the notion of "We wanna be like Switzerland. Wealthy, independent." And of course she wanted the old currency back. I don't see how independent/neutral you can be with nine direct neighbors. But keep dreaming...

De-Solidarization: Germany like some other social democracies has seen an extended period of cut-cut-cut. The barrage of doomerish media fire didn't leave Germans 'unscarred' and less polarized. 'Why should we bail out the Greeks? What is their contribution to solving the problem? We're fighting over the table scraps and now we have to spend vast amounts on those lazy, corrupt Mediterraneans?!'

Bouncing back: after a dearth of good economic news in the past 15-20 years, Germans weren't really alarmed by the financial crisis ('We are in crisis? Old news!) and are surprised to see themselves on top now. 'We must have done something right - surprising as it is.' That's a very German trait that brooding inwardness, frequently coupled with depression but bouncing back to pride and sometimes arrogance. 'Aha! In the end, we did know better! We're showing those Anglo-Saxon capitalists how to run an economy - and the rest of the EU too!'

That's a start. Maybe I will think of more.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 05:39:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A correction (late night thinking is not my forte).
Isolationism: "the sense that our own problems are so overwhelming" belongs more to De-Solidarization. Isolationism springs from the belief that 'we could do so well without the shackles of the rest of the world.' You can see that phenomenon playing out between West Germany and East Germany: 'When are we gonna stop transferring billions to that depopulating area every year?', and between states/Länder regarding the Länderfinanzausgleich (tax revenue transfer between wealthier and poorer states). Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are especially keen on getting out. The new Green-Red coalition (!) in BW wants to sue before the constitutional court.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 05:54:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps these Germans should consider the condition of Germany after the Treaty of Versailles, which had just the effect of isolating Germany from her Central European hinterland and market. Of course that was not the only bit of economic wrecking done at Versailles, but it was bad enough by itself and one of the goals of French diplomacy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 12:25:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Dily Briefing: Inching slowly, very slowly towards a deal on Greece
Thomas Hanke asks for "a little more Bismarck for Europe"

Writing in Handelsblatt columnist Thomas Hanke argues that there is slowly a consensus emerging in Europe on how to deal with the Greek crisis and what to lessons to draw from the experience. He detects a growing realization that Euro bonds are part of the answer. Also the question of European solidarity is put on the table now. There is a search for the sort of financial federalism that is appropriate for Europe. But Hanke argues all across Europe people are looking for more from Germany that just money. They want political leadership. "A little more Bismarck would help", he writes.



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 11th, 2011 at 05:04:09 AM EST
Interesting that the neocon, PNAC- based meme was (and is) so similar- that all across the world people were looking for leadership from the US, and would welcome American Hegemony as a needful thing.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:02:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"A little more Bismarck would help", he writes.

No Kaiser, no Bismark.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 14th, 2011 at 08:00:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German grandchildren of Nazis delve into past


Rainer Hoess was 12 years old when he found out his grandfather was one of the worst mass murderers in history.

The gardener at his boarding school, an Auschwitz survivor, beat him black and blue after hearing he was the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the death camp synonymous with the Holocaust.

"He beat me, because he projected on me all the horror he went through," Rainer Hoess said, with a shrug and a helpless smile. "Once a Hoess, always a Hoess. Whether you're the grandfather or the grandson -- guilty is guilty."
....
Germans have for decades confronted the Nazi era head-on, paying billions in compensation, meticulously teaching Third Reich history in school, and building memorials to victims. The conviction Thursday in Munich of retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk on charges he was a guard at the Sobibor Nazi death camp drives home how the Holocaust is still very much at the forefront of the German psyche.
....
"The Nazis -- the first generation -- were too ashamed to talk about the crimes they committed and covered everything up. The second generation often had trouble personally confronting their Nazi parents. So now it is up to the grandchildren to lift the curses off their families," said Bode.
...
These days Rainer Hoess lectures schoolchildren about the Nazi era and anti-Semitism. A few months ago, he visited Auschwitz for the first time and met a group of Israeli students.

That day was "probably the most difficult and intense day in my life," Hoess said, but it was also liberating because he realized that the third generation of Jews after the Holocaust did not hold him responsible. One Israeli girl even gave him a little shell with a blue Star of David painted on it, which he now wears around his neck on a black leather necklace at all times.

This article is about as good a short documentation of current Germany as i've found.  Highly apropos to this discussion. Of course, these stories are about the grandchildren of the worst of the worst. Likely quite different for the grandchildren of the millions of small cogs.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun May 15th, 2011 at 06:39:25 AM EST
But the problem is to even identify most of those who do not repudiate the acts of their fore-bearers, let alone to estimate their proper proportion of the population.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 15th, 2011 at 12:26:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A (fictional, I think) film appropo to this subject, and which I quite enjoyed, was called "The Nasty Girl" [Das schreckliche Mädchen] and was about a schoolgirl who did some research and wrote about her community's involvement in the Holocaust. It was a 1990 East German film.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher
by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Mon May 16th, 2011 at 11:19:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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