Tuesday, March 28, 2017

15. Putting on a Show

Chapter sixteen of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer focuses on Hitler's pretense to follow the constitution as he wound his way into the system. My reviews of the earlier chapters were:
1. Hitler "never won the confidence of the popular majority--never as long as there were free elections in Germany" (411). But soon enough he would do away with those. Then it wouldn't matter whether the majority of people liked him or not. There would be no more elections to vote him out once he got his foot in the door.

Hitler had the loyalty of the "most determined tenth of the nation" (402), and that was enough.

"Hitler wormed his way into the state system... just by playing the good boy." The leaders who let him do so knew he wasn't good. Many of them detested him. Hitler was often laughed at as a joke by others. Many thought he wasn't quite right in the head.

But they thought they could use him. He held a certain sway over the violent discontent of German society, the murderous bands of the dispossessed and unemployed. Hitler promised to follow the constitution and not to do away with it. Hitler's associates--men like Röhm--convinced others that "Hitler was more harmless than he looked, and not quite right in the head" (411). "Hitler, with all his eccentricities, was not really so bad" (409).

But you can't play with fire and not get burnt.

2. "The Nazis began to undermine and to destroy the state from the inside" (396). Hitler would become "a destroyer of democracy through democracy" (406). He would "perpetuate the paralysis of democracy" (407).

Hitler said he did not plan to institute a bloody tyranny. "Dictatorship was only the 'natural reverse side of democracy... in the event that the forces in this parliament cannot agree; but it must be limited to emergency'" (395). But once he declared the emergency, Hitler would never give democracy back.

They began to collect state secrets on everyone, spying on everyone. They used bullying tactics to squash moderating forces. When the movie, All Quiet on the Western Front came to Germany, Goebbels released mice and snakes in theaters until the movie was cancelled. The movie depicted the horror and misery of war at a time when the Nazis wanted to foment a lust for war.

They spoke contradiction to curry favor with whomever they needed to curry favor at the moment, "the double talk of propaganda" (400). if they needed the state on their side, they would tell the state they were going to stop their rabble supporters. But they built on the restlessness of the rabble. If you had four or five people, they could add an SA leader and have a squad. Six squads built to a troop. Two or three troops made a storm. Two or three thousand people in a storm made a standard, then a brigade, then a superior group.

The idea was that the future war would not be waged with a massive army, but with a mass of little groups of brigands like this that could strike on a moment's notice. "The future will bring small, highly efficient armies which are suited to carrying out quick and decisive operations" (399).

3. The spirit of the time was authoritarianism and dictatorship. Among democracies, there was a sense that the epoch was hiding from its doom. "A meaning had to be given to a world that had grown meaningless" (390). If it could be done by no other way, then it would be done by force.

Many were without work. The coal miners wanted their death traps reopened because "it was better to live in constant fear of death than to suffer the constant hunger of their families" (392).

Promise whatever you need to get the support you need at the time. Then you won't need support once you're in charge.

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