Tuesday, February 14, 2017

11. Security Corps

Joseph Goebbels
The review continues of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. My reviews of the first eleven chapters were:
1. In this chapter we see the team of crazies that surrounded Hitler as they began to come together. We also see how he steadily took control of the National Socialist Party and how he put in place the SS (security corps), his personal bully squads.

The title of the chapter is "Few Flames Burn in Germany," It comes from a quote by one of Hitler's key circle, Joseph Goebbels, who believed that there were only few really great men in Germany, one of which, of course, was himself.

Goebbels was a key player in Hitler's taking power over the National Socialist party. He had actually been the right hand man of Hitler's main opposition in the party, Gregor Strasser. Ironically, Goebbels had a disability, a crippled foot. It is ironic because of the way the Nazis would go on to treat those with disabilities. Goebbels tried to pass off his disability as a result of fighting in the Great War, something that was patently false. When Goebbels switched sides from Strasser to Hitler, that perhaps marked a turning point in Hitler's control over the National Socialist party.

2. It was during the late 1920s that Hitler would retreat to property owned by his half-sister in the southeast of the country, Berechtesgaden. It was also during this time that Hitler wrote his two-volume work, Mein Kampf ("my struggle"). "The keynote of the book is the noisy style which signifies: Be silent, you others, I alone am right; disappear, I am the only one who matters" (283).

"In the whole book hardly a single actual fact is related tangibly and credibly" (284). Here is the fake news from another time. They create "a whole school which falsifies facts and calls the result higher truth." Hitler more or less controlled the party media, another key to his success. Goebbels would write lots of fake news for the paper in the late 20s, made up stories of his own heroism. Jews were often the fabricated enemy in these stories, out to destroy him.

Goebbels would be in charge of propaganda.

3. As he tried to solidify his place in the National Socialist party, Hitler sided with whomever he needed to. While others sided with the grass roots people, Hitler sided with the upper class who were affording him what little funding he had. "We stand for the maintenance of private property," he said when he needed the leaders of capital on his side. And yet at the same time "We are at odds against the old bourgeois world." "The movement against the princes is a Jewish swindle" and yet the Jews were the bankers trying to take over the world.

"Step by step, the party became Hitler's property" (291). And when he had control, "the Nationalist Socialist Party ceased to be a democratic party" (292). Now Hitler would appoint all those down the line and there would be no elections for his leadership. His powers over the party are very substantial and will not be questioned.

4. Interestingly, there were a number in the National Socialist group who were openly homosexual (Hitler's old friend Röhm, Zentner, Heines with the SA, Bäumler). They argued that the superior person was the male who was not distracted by women and referenced Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great, Caesar, and others, along with Plato's Symposium. They would eventually meet a similar fate to the Jews. But for a time they formed a significant subgroup of the National Socialists.

5. Hitler was immensely afraid in this period of doing anything illegal. He didn't want to be kicked out of Germany as an Austrian. He wanted to take over Germany legally now. In 1928, the Nazis had twelve people in parliament, including Hermann Göring, who returned from abroad during a time of amnesty.

Hitler provoked quarrels among his lieutenants. He set up a kind of party court to process accusations within the party. But to outsiders all Nazis were innocent. "If a party member was proved guilty of private immorality, dishonest business conduct, exploitation of employees," the formula was, "Well, what of it?" (302). The party had no time for squabbling over personal morals.

Within the storm troopers, the SA, or perhaps to take their place, Hitler set up the S.S., the security corps. "My honor is loyalty" was their motto, and they had to purchase their own uniforms. "A small band of the best and most determined is far more valuable than a large mass of camp followers" (304).

The SS were "chosen average men in positions of mastery" (308). They were merely "good material." "The good material does not discuss, but only obeys and commands" (309).

6. It is at this point that Heinrich Himmler also joins the scene. He is not brilliant but he is industrious, precise, and thorough. "Himmler is an excellent example of what a task can make of a man. He had a task of the first order to solve, and the task made him" (306). "He is a wire activated by the electric current, connecting important parts." He has a certain frightful detached objectivity. He can bring about the most grisly of horrors because he is merely accomplishing a task in a precise and thorough way.

"It is a quality inherent in a body of men working for a common purpose that great results can be achieved by the men who are not great." Hitler remarked, "the strength of a political party lies, not in having single adherents of outstanding intelligence, but in disciplined obedience."

1 comment:

John Mark said...

I continue to enjoy your review of this book, and the occasional takeaway or application for today. Thanks again.