Tuesday, February 07, 2017

10. Germany's Return from Despair

Chapter 11 today. I've been reading Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. My reviews of the first ten chapters were:
1. 1925 was a year of recovery for Germany. For a while, things were going too well for Hitler to gain traction. He got out of prison in December, 1924. It was a far shorter time than his sentence should have been, but he had sympathetic--or perhaps guilt ridden acquaintances in the Bavarian leadership. They wanted to have nothing to do with him when he got out, though, for his instigation of the coup attempt.

Hitler hoped for a time when the economy might fall out and he might find once again an ear for his fiery rhetoric.

In the meantime, his strategy was, "Be simple, be primitive, be brutal!"

I recognize rhetorical genius here. Complexity loses when you are trying to convince a large group of people. The current president won using simple slogans like "Crooked Hillary," "Lying Ted," and "Lock her up," which he repeated over and over again. Such slogans overwrite detailed arguments or reasoning.

"In propaganda the same thing must be repeated indefatigably" (256).

2. Hitler knew that to gain momentum among the masses, he needed to find an enemy that was a kind of person and an ideological cause. For Hitler, the type of person was the Jew. The cause was communism. Right now in America, it is the Muslim and the liberal (e.g., "elite liberal media"). All Muslims are lumped together as terrorists and anyone who objects to the president's agenda is called a liberal, even though both of these notions are patently false.

Again, Hitler cleverly realized that "By one enemy, if necessary, many can be meant" (257). In other words, the key was the label, not the substance. You throw all your enemies into the title. The key is not whether it is true but whether you can get the labels to stick.

Hitler also recognized that you can't take on every enemy at once. Take the Catholic Church. Hitler saw it as an enemy, but he knew not to take it on at first. Reserve it for later. So the person rising to authoritarian power sometimes allies with a group that he or she then may turn on once in power.

3. There was a wave of authoritarianism and conservatism sweeping Europe in the 20s. Mussolini had taken over in Italy. A dictator took over in Poland. Spain had a dictator. "An ideal was extinguished which had shone for a century; the association of national freedom with the immortal human rights of the American and French revolutions" (271).

Meanwhile Hitler had his work cut out for him. He had "to convince the masses that they were doing badly while actually they were getting along fairly well." It is easy to compare ourselves with where we might be. It is harder to recognize how things could be worse. The grass is always greener on the other side, even though it usually isn't.

4. A couple quotes to end the chapter:
  • Hitler took any statement of fact as a criticism. (251)
  • "Reason can treacherously deceive a man, emotion is sure and never leaves him." Hitler (255).

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