Another booknote from Michael James: On the rise of the nazis

Introduction

On reading Andrew Bolt’s piece on why Germany had to lose the First World War I pressed Michael to provide a booknote on a book that he told me about on the canal between Ellesmere and Chirk. The book provides a unique insight into the propaganda campaign of the Nazis that led to the triumph of Nazi barbarism. The point of Andrew’s argument was that the Germans had to be defeated in WWI to teach them that naked aggression was not going to work the way that it did in the Franko-Prussian war when the Prussian alliance thrashed the French and captured Paris.

Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: A Memoir. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2002.

I’m prepared to bore and annoy my friends a lot by way of badgering them to read books I think important. Defying Hitler is such a book. It goes far towards resolving one of the most troubling mysteries of modern times: how did an advanced, civilised country like Germany allow itself to be seduced so readily by the Nazis into carrying out acts of mass criminality and the devastation of Europe?

Sebastian Haffner died in 1999, a prominent German author and journalist. In the 1930s he was opposed to the Nazis but eventually concluded that he could do nothing to combat the emerging catastrophe. In 1938 he left for Britain with his Jewish girlfriend, who was carrying their child. He wrote the manuscript of Defying Hitler in 1939 but it was his son who eventually published it in its original German in 2000, and then translated it for the English edition.

Its biographical style gives it a special authenticity as it acutely interprets the reactions of his friends, his colleagues and himself to the encroaching Nazification of Germany. A full summary is impossible here but the following points seem especially significant in explaining how it happened.

• German boys attending school during 1914–18 had been taught to treat the Great War, not as a grim necessity to be ended as soon as possible, but as an exciting game. As adults, many of them viewed the build-up to war in the late 1930s with childish enthusiasm.

• The hyperinflation of 1923 was such a shattering and disorienting experience that it impaired the Germans’ grasp of reality and made them susceptible to the thrill of risky adventures.

• Unlike the French and the British, the Germans traditionally did little to cultivate their private, individual lives, but preferred the camaraderie of the collective. This rendered them conformist and docile, and cowardly in the face of injustice.

• The Nazis therefore initially used carefully organised comradeship rather than direct propaganda to prepare the German people for warfare and the victimisation of minorities.

• The Nazis at first used diabolically subtle techniques to isolate the Jews and prepare for their disappearance from Germany. In 1933 they started a ‘debate’ on whether ‘the Jews’ had contributed a ‘fair’ proportion of dead to the German total in the Great War. The rumour quickly followed that that share was suspiciously low. Soon all the talk was of the ‘high’ proportion of Jews in the professions and parts of industry.

• Intimidation was equally subtle at first. People who refused to stand in the street and give the Nazi salute to passing Nazi parades received visits from local Nazi chiefs and advised, with more or less explicit threats, to show more enthusiasm.

• As the intimidation intensified, people became more willing to publicly embrace Nazi ideology in order to hide their fear and humiliation from themselves and others.

At some point most Germans were confronted with a direct moral test, and the great majority failed it. Haffner’s came when he was reading peacefully in a law library. Suddenly Nazi stormtroopers burst in, intent on expelling any Jews. An SA man confronted Haffner and asked him whether he was an ‘Aryan’. Haffner at once replied that he was, and immediately realised he had collaborated with the regime and betrayed his Jewish colleagues. ‘Aryan’ readers of Defying Hitler will ask themselves what they would have done; and the honest ones will admit that, whatever they thought of the Nazis, they would have done the same as Haffner. Perhaps that is all the explanation we need for the Nazi conquest of Germany.

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72 Responses to Another booknote from Michael James: On the rise of the nazis

  1. Poor Old Rafe

    OT a late reply to westie woman, prompted by the boating reference in the Introduction.

    Do you need some sort of boat licence to have a DIY trip or must you have a person on the boat to drive the thing?

    No you don’t. We were fortunate to have an experienced sailor on board who knew how to handle the rudder and he did the tricky docking parts, otherwise beginners can handle the basic steering, even through the narrow gaps under bridges.

  2. Kurt

    Did you just feel that at a time when civilized people are aghast at Israel’s barbarism against the Palestinians, it would be a good time to, ‘mention the war’, so to speak?

    I never thought I would look at Israeli dead (98% soldiers) and Palestinian dead (98% civilian) and think that Hamas were the honorable side in the conflict.

    Israel has completely lost its moral compass. To metion the victims of the holocaust in the context of the current onslaught against a trapped, helpless Palestinian population does them no service whatsoever. It is just crass.

  3. A Lurker

    I read somewhere (very likely on a humorous site) that collectively human intelligence (and perhaps wisdom too) decreases with the bigger the crowd. Thus an individual, standing alone, or with another, or in a small group – will display intellect and rational thought. Whilst the same individual in a big demonstrating crowd will behave much differently, and very likely irrationally.

    The herd aspects of humans should never be underestimated – for in herds the mindset is of the collective – whether it is for good or ill. The Socialists understand this very well – we see the mindset of the collective not only in crowds at demonstrations, but also at sporting events, even getting caught up in the collective of widely promoted TV shows like The Block, MasterChef, Big Brother.

    We all want to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, to fit in, to be comfortable with others – so political ideologies which promote the herd, promote collectivism do well – and normal, rational people who might otherwise not make irrational decisions, or act against their own better natures – get caught up with the herd.

    This mindset is quite obvious on Socialist-media like Facebook or Twitter where the herd mindset enables the mindless ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ of things that otherwise you’d think twice about promoting or supporting.

    So what happened in Nazi Germany is quite understandable – and you see it reflected in ancient and current times.

  4. Poor Old Rafe

    Kurt, you need to realize that the Israelis use their missiles to protect their civilians while Hamas use civilians to protect their missiles.

    If Hamas stopped firing missiles there would be peace. If the Israelis were passive they would be over-run by Hamas and others who are dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

    Your comment is off topic so I invite you to take your comments to a more appropriate thread, unless you are prepared to engage with the question of how criminals like Hamas managed to assume leadership in the Gaza strip. That could connect to the rise of anti-Jewish sentiments in prewar Germany.

  5. incoherent rambler

    It is on my list. I read an essay (quadrant, I think) recently of the role played by the romanticists/enviromentalists in the rise of Adolf .

    • Intimidation was equally subtle at first. People who refused to stand in the street and give the Nazi salute to passing Nazi paradesshow their environment rating received visits from local Nazi chiefs and advised, with more or less explicit threats, to show more enthusiasm.

  6. Yohan

    Quandrant have done a few different articles on this issue lately that has lead to Bolt doing this piece.

    This whole idea, that WW1 really was a battle between good and evil, instead of a useless war between monarchical regimes of Europe, complete with demonization and dehumanization of the entire Germanic race (because they are simply evil warlike Hun’s, listening to Wagner’s ideological operas, who had to be ground into the dust and taught a lesson).

    Take a step back and think about how insane this sounds. Essentially it’s a militarist fantasy to give some sort of intellectual cover for the disastrous blowback of US intervention in WW1, with all the well known consequences that followed. Instead of dealing with reality and admitting we made some mistakes, we can just continue to blame the German psyche for everything (they are cowardly, docile and conformist, they treat war as a game, thus – the Nazi’s would have risen anyway).

  7. Yohan

    It is on my list. I read an essay (quadrant, I think) recently of the role played by the romanticists/enviromentalists in the rise of Adolf .

    Martin Durkin, who did the excellent documentary on Margaret Thatcher recently, write a series of articles on how the Nazi’s were the first green movement, and how the current green movement is almost the same except for the focus on nationalism.

    http://www.martindurkin.com/blogs

  8. Isumbras

    On my list as well. Permit me to mention a similar book that I usually pull out to read once a year..
    Diary of a Man in Despair, by Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen. The diary of a German Aristocrat who moved in interesting circles. He almost survived – alas the Nazis settled the score with him at Dachau in 1945. As the blurb on the back says “A prophetic insight into the psychotic soul of Nazi Germany”

  9. incoherent rambler

    Documents and books from the time are refreshing and important in light of the revisionist historians who play along with the idea that the German people were the victims of their leader, rather than their leader being the product of the people.

  10. Greigoz

    Brutality and the threat of violence is winning again. Unbelievable, and disheartening, parallels to the burgeoning ISIS Caliphate where the populace is given three choices – you’re with us, you convert, or you die. Also, I suspect, to the Palestinians held hostage by Hamas – they dare not voice their fears, and now find themselves strapped to the back of the war horse.

  11. Paul

    “Kurt, you need to realize that the Israelis use their missiles to protect their civilians while Hamas use civilians to protect their missiles.”

    Do you know this to be true or are you just repeating a buzzy mantra the Israelis have put out there for there own self-justification?

  12. JohnA

    Greigoz #1400854, posted on August 1, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Brutality and the threat of violence is winning again.

    That’s because the West has lost its philosophical and moral foundations. We have adopted the pacifist philosophy that tolerance is the highest good, that all fighting is bad, and that love (try “indulgence”) will steer the stars.

    Such a philosophy fails to recognise the existence of evil – both people and actions.

    We are but one generation away from barbarism – again.

  13. Peter

    The denial of the evidence pointing to the “inhumanity” of both German and Hamas/Palestinian culture in favour of wacky conspiracy theories may feel noble, but it is inherently destructive.

    Not only is it dependant on a false view of humanity – the humans don’t do this sort of thing, despite the vast amount of historical evidence that they DO – but it devalues the culture that has produced what Libertarians claim to value; Freedom, Human Rights and the value of the individual.

  14. Token

    I read somewhere (very likely on a humorous site) that collectively human intelligence (and perhaps wisdom too) decreases with the bigger the crowd. Thus an individual, standing alone, or with another, or in a small group – will display intellect and rational thought. Whilst the same individual in a big demonstrating crowd will behave much differently, and very likely irrationally.

    Sounds like the old adage that:

    “A mob has many heads but no brains…”

    Can anyone with law enforcement training explain more as coppers I’ve talked with note addressing this charming element of human nature is a critical part of their training.

  15. Peter

    We need to constantly remind ourselves that Liberty does not arise by accident, nor is it retained by the morally lazy….

    It is utterly dependent on people who will fight to get it and fight to retain it. There has never been a shortage of those who will manipulate, regulate and enslave others for their own purpose.

    One of the pre-requisites for Liberty is a clear-eyed view of both history and human nature. Those who live in the fantasy-world of conspiracy theories convince themselves that oppression s always the fault of some “other”, rather than recognising that the responsibility is always on us. The responsibility to accept the messiness and discomfort of personal responsibility rather than regulation and legalism. The responsibility of doing for ourselves rather than voting in a government that will do it for us.

  16. Token

    • German boys attending school during 1914–18 had been taught to treat the Great War, not as a grim necessity to be ended as soon as possible, but as an exciting game. As adults, many of them viewed the build-up to war in the late 1930s with childish enthusiasm.

    So much of this was part of Bismarck’s project of sowing together Germany using its Protestants and keeping them together by blaming Jews, Catholics & Socialists.

    By 1914 the elites had been educating children along those lines for over 40 years.

  17. will

    How do I know, Kurt? Because Israel is a democracy with a free press, and Gaza is a Hamas fascist state with a controlled media

  18. Matthew

    Lol. The high achievi Jews of Germany did have a disproportionate amount of high positions in government service. The nazi government held to a strict policy of affirmative action, restricting Jews to their percentage of population in government positions.

    The proportion of Jews in official positions was ‘high’ in official positions. If it wasn’t then the nazi affirmative action was to no effect at all.

    There is affirmative action here and in America. I would agree that people in Australia and America have failed the moral test. I would disagree that Germans are uniquely immoral.

  19. johno

    By 1914 the elites had been educating children along those lines for over 40 years.

    Much like our elites have been brainwashing our kids for a long time now on being Green.

  20. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    I certainly am not the only one to note parallels with the ‘environmental’ movement today. Swap ‘Aryan’ for ‘Denier’ and you get some of the flavor. Passive resistance – failure to turn out lights for the big campaign – was met with hostility. Companies and organisations fell over themselves trying to get with the ‘save the planet’ programme, no matter how lunatic, economically destructive, irrelevant or based on patently ridiculous ‘science’ that programme was. And despite considerable backlash from a population weary of this politicized nonsense, the kowtowing to the climatic gods is still going on. This is a good trial-run by the left for a more total manipulation of individuals by turning them (us) into a herd.

    And then there is the horror or ISIS and Hamas. Dangerous times, where freedom is threatened in big and small ways, at home and abroad.

  21. Ant

    Hmm, Germany circa mid-1930s appears to have some parallels with Amerika circa early 21st century?

    1. Indoctrination via educational system: Check.
    2. Hyperinflation: Not yet, but catastrophicly unsustainable indebtedness – Check.
    3. Public humiliation for lapses in political conformity in thought and deed: Check.
    4. Isolation and targetting of political “enemies” (Obama’s word) via state institutions (IRS et al): Check.
    5. Public hero worshipping of party and leader while society and economy collapses around their ears: Check.

  22. Ant

    Hey, ally, where did you go?

  23. Lawrie Ayres

    Having read the article in Quadrant, referred in Andrew Bolt’s column, and this post I was struck by the similar way in which the environmentalists have taken control of the climate debate. Although the mood is swinging away from the death and destruction promised by Al Gore and James Hansen there are still many who feel obliged to support a lie so as to avoid the opprobrium of the believing mob. The press has been a key element in spreading the false science just as it was used by the Nazis even to the extent that the national broadcaster is less a news agent than an agent for spreading climate propaganda.

    The question then is ” were the Germans alone in being susceptible to mass manipulation or is it a fault in the make up of left wing elitists ?” Tell someone they are special often enough and they will start to believe they are infallible. The Germans bought it and so did Michael Mann, Kevin Trenberth and Phil Jones. I don’t think the Germans are alone but it still takes a spruiker to bring the crowd along with him. Unfortunately a great orator can as easily take a nation to despair and the latest example has been Obama’s trashing of the USA.

  24. incoherent rambler

    Gaia uber alles.

  25. Alfonso

    “An SA man confronted Haffner and asked him whether he was an ‘Aryan’. Haffner at once replied that he was, and immediately realised he had collaborated with the regime and betrayed his Jewish colleagues.”

    Poor ‘ol academic Haffner doesn’t get it…..always live to fight another day, son. You did good. Then you ambush them in the dark on their day off.

  26. .Dr.Sir Fred Lenin

    The present day Alliance between the Left and the Islamonfascists reminds me of the Hitler- Stalin Pact just before World War Two,we all know hiw well that ended up. Fools are Destined th Repeat the Mistakes of the Past!

  27. manalive

    The British and French were just as jingoistic as the Germans, they were jealous of their colonies and, for the British, their domination of world trade.
    Both were ruthless in protecting and expanding their interests as the 19th century humanitarian disasters in north, west and South Africa show.
    Prior to WWI anti-Semitism was common to all but the French probably more so, as the Dreyfus affair shows. Hugo Gutmann the officer who recommended Hitler for the Iron Cross First Class was Jewish.
    According to Stefan Lorant the proportion of Jews killed in battle was higher than the proportion in the German population: “… out of Germany’s 80,000 Jewish servicemen, 12,000 gave their lives for the Fatherland, while 35,000 were decorated for valour …”.
    WWI was a bloody disaster which set the tone and direction of the appalling century, I don’t see anything to celebrate.
    Matthew:

    The nazi government held to a strict policy of affirmative action, restricting Jews to their percentage of population in government positions …

    That is absolute nonsense, on April 7 1933 Hitler approved decrees banning Jews from the civil service and law practice. That was quickly followed by laws banning Jews from practically all occupations and shortly after German citizenship.

  28. struth

    You couldn’t get a more compliant docile and dopey population than Australia’s safety shirt wearing drones .

  29. john constantine

    lucky enough, the germans that were driven out of germany for being ‘not quite right’, were better at building nuclear weopons that the germans that went along with the crap.

  30. Toiling Mass

    When I was a kid I learnt that WWI was a horrible, but important war, and the men who went and fought were heroes.

    The the narrative shifted to WWI being a purely economic war where wealthy British wanted to block wealthy Germans from the economic largesse empire would deliver – in this scenario the British were wicked for denying the Germans what they had, and the men who fought were deluded fools – gulls in the service of the wicked wealthy.

    Yup – a Marxist narrative.

    The Crusades came in for similar treatment.

    I eagerly await an economics explanation for Jihad, ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood etc.

    I suspect some people think Israel must be the cause of the current conflict with Hamas because…Israel is wealthy and Palestine is a shit hole.

  31. cohenite

    kurt says:

    I never thought I would look at Israeli dead (98% soldiers) and Palestinian dead (98% civilian) and think that Hamas were the honorable side in the conflict.

    Israel has completely lost its moral compass.

    That is complete bullshit; the data of deaths in Gaza shows that nearly 78% of the victims are men aged between 17-48.

    Like every thing about islam the disproportionate numbers of Palestinian civilian deaths is a lie. The deaths in Gaza are mainly hamas fighters.

    Anyway the whole notion of proportionality is just fucked. War is about winning; winning means having a disproportionate number of your own men and resources not killed or blown up. The luvvies think war should be equal; what a bunch of socialist bullshit.

  32. Jessie

    cohenite at 9.53

    Methodology of counts explained here:
    Hamas’s policy of concealment and deception
    13. In our analysis of the identity of the Palestinians killed, we encountered many difficulties arising from the policy of concealment and deception of Hamas and the government ministries controlled by it (the Health Ministry, the Interior Ministry). In the present conflict, as during previous operations, Hamas and these ministries are again refraining from publishing reliable figures about terrorist operatives killed, with the intention of not harming the image of their “victory.” At the same time, Hamas seeks to increase the number of civilian dead in an effort to disparage Israel and to apply propagandist political and legal pressure on it during the fighting and on the day after. Palestinian human rights organizations based in the Gaza Strip, mainly PCHR and the Al-Mezan Center, which played an important role in conveying false information to the Goldstone Commission, are an integral part of this policy and are preparing for legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel after the operation.

  33. cohenite

    Thanks Jessie; your link gives higher proportion of civilian deaths than the link I provided; your link says:

    Out of the names of 152 individuals who were killed, that were examined by the ITIC, 71 were identified as terror operatives and 81 as non-involved civilians. The percentage of terrorist operatives among all those examined is 46.7%, while the percentage of non-involved citizens is 53.3%. This ratio may vary as the ITIC continues to examine the names of those killed in Operation Protective Edge.

    I assume the link I gave grouped all males of an eligible age into the hamas, non-civilian camp.

  34. manalive

    I

    ntimidation was equally subtle at first. People who refused to stand in the street and give the Nazi salute to passing Nazi parades received visits from local Nazi chiefs and advised, with more or less explicit threats, to show more enthusiasm …

    William Shirer in his diaries of his assignment in the ‘30s in Nazi Germany tells a half-amusing account of how he would duck into the nearest shop at the approach of any uniformed SA or SS in order to avoid having to salute or be beaten up.
    An excellent book on the period is A Social History of the Third Reich by Richard Grunberger; a chapter is devoted to Denunciation, another powerful pressure to conform which could be described as peculiarly German, but it coexisted with a dangerously wicked sense of humour.

  35. cohenite

    Nazis were easy to make fun of; I haven’t seen much humour directed at muslims.

  36. Jessie

    cohenite at 10.26

    The paper linked to looks to a proportion of the deaths investigated thus far. Another article confirms the [young] age group you have posted.

    The site has various papers of interest. Given comments on media distortion and rise of fascism in various movements:

    The New York Times recently provided a platform for an international discourse on the BDS. The BDS (boycott, divestment [of investments] and sanctions against the State of Israel) is a campaign currently being waged to boycott the State of Israel, its institutions, universities, leadership, economy and culture, to withdraw investments and impose sanctions. The BDS campaign was initiated at the First Durban Conference (the so-called “World Conference against Racism”), held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

    The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

  37. Wozzup

    “Nazis were easy to make fun of; I haven’t seen much humour directed at muslims.”

    This is something that is commonplace amongst “small -l” liberals in Australia (I would add same for leftists except the left has no sense of humor – the left is far to “serious” for that). Liberal leaning types love to make fun of Nazis (defeated in 1945), Christians (wont fight back) and the political Right. I see very few comedians stand on the stage and satirize Muslims and islamist groups however. A well developed sense of survival, no doubt.

  38. Pyrmonter

    The extent of support for “German Particularism” both here and in Oddrant is both surprising and a bit disappointing.

    The national socialists were pernicious and manipulative; yet they were far from alone in expressing “national” or “socialist” thought in the period after 1914: this is famously the period in which classical liberalism waned across Europe and much of the rest of the West; in which Australia, for example, “fortified” itself against the “threats” of imports of goods, non-white labour and, to a good measure, capital; of Imperial Preference across the (comparativley liberal) British Empire, and the rise of New Deal statism in the US (and of threats of worse from the likes of Father Coghlin and Governor Long). In varying degrees those intellectual fashions (and political dynamics) were echoed across most of the rest of continental Europe – from the Estado Novo to Smetona’s Lithuania.

    The national socialists rose to power in a country with a fundamentally weak republican constitutional structure, built on foundations laid by social democrats who eschewed the monarchical traditions of the german states, and which, from 1929, faced the sharpest disruption to its economy of any of the major economies. This alone should suffice to explain how a rabble came to government, and, in large measure, how having done so it maintained power, without any need to refer to supposed “national characteristics” of the kind which, if applied in racial or religious terms, would properly attract in these pages condemnation as bigotry.

  39. Token

    The national socialists rose to power in a country with a fundamentally weak republican constitutional structure, built on foundations laid by social democrats who eschewed the monarchical traditions of the german states…

    Yes, the cultural fabric of the German nation was new and very weak. When one reads what Bismarck and his allies did to stitch together the nation you can see many holes which could not be covered over easily.

    Thus, the appeal to a strain of nationalism without control…

  40. Poor ‘ol academic Haffner doesn’t get it…..always live to fight another day, son. You did good. Then you ambush them in the dark on their day off.

    Warfare 101. Fight at the time and location of your choosing.

  41. Chris M

    Today most Germans remain socialistic and desire to be led by their government. Whilst not so happy about paying almost half their income in tax they remain docile and compliant to all state instructions.

    I guess it’s how they have been for a least a century now. The tragedy is Australians have also become thus in just a few short years.

  42. Pyrmonter

    Token – was German “cultural fabric” weaker or stronger than that of, say, Poland, Italy or Yugoslavia?

    There is strong temptation to “read history backward” and over-explain the appalling course of German history 1930-1945 by reference to the causes of social “problems” as precieved by the reader – be that “militarism”, “conformity”, religiosity (or irreligiosity), the sectarian divides (Kulturkampf), or the obeisance of the lutheran churches to the state; “national” chauvinism; or plain, old-fashioned marxist class analysis.

    Closely reviewed, the problem with these “causes” is that they exist to some degree of another in many other European countries, sometimes in greater measure, sometimes lesser, but that none of them is uniquely “German”. Even the “history of Prussian militarism” argument can, at best, be applied to north Germany and not the western, north-western or southern states.

  43. alexis

    Poor ‘ol academic Haffner doesn’t get it…..always live to fight another day, son. You did good. Then you ambush them in the dark on their day off.

    I can hardly blame him. My own son is currently not allowed to wear a skullcap or other distinguishing clothing after a recent violent incident in the next street.

  44. alexis

    restricting Jews to their percentage of population in government positions.

    Your next sentence-

    The proportion of Jews in official positions was ‘high’ in official positions.

    huh?

  45. alexis

    Sorry to post three times in a row but

    Closely reviewed, the problem with these “causes” is that they exist to some degree of another in many other European countries

    What’s the difference between Nazism and the current treatment of Christians in northern Iraq; of Hutus in in Rwanda and Tutsis in what is now the DRC? An industrial state and technology I guess. This sort of thing goes on eternally.

  46. Pyrmonter

    Alexis – which looked more anti-Semitic in 1900: Germany (where leading members of the National Liberals, a long-term party of government were Jewish), or France in the midst of l’Affair Dreyfus?

    Which was more “ethnically liberal” – the French who ethnically “cleansed” Germans from Alsace and Lorraine in 1918/19, or the pre-1914 Germans presiding over a nation with significant Polish, Sorb and (arguably) German-Jewish minorities?

  47. Tim Neilson

    Anyone who thinks that the Germans weren’t responsible for WWI is welcome to explain what possible use the German navy could have had apart from invading Britain.
    The converse isn’t true – the UK’s army was so tiny that the UK’s navy couldn’t be part of a threat against any other nation’s sovereignty.

  48. Pyrmonter

    Tim – what use was the US Navy, the French Navy, the Japanese Navy or the Italian Navy?

    Germany’s Navy was no match for the British – by 1914, Germany had well and truly lost the naval arms race. Germany on the other hand was a trade-dependent nation at risk of blockade, whose population depended on imported food – as was well-demonstrated from 1914. It was also a country with belligerent neighbours both to its east and west. Had Britain not entered the war in 1914 it is fairly plausible to think the Germans could have blockaded Russia while maintaining some trade through its North Sea ports.

    FWIW, I’m not convinced that Germany didn’t start the war. But the frankly tired explanations – militarism, internal class struggle, regurgitation of Fritz Fisher, and of a caricature of “German national character” of the kind being published by Mervyn Bendle in Oddrant suit the prejudices of anglophone (and francophone) readers in ways that make WWI look uncontroversial and inevitable both in origin and outcome when a good part of historical writing for the past century has been concerned to critically analyse and often refute the plausibility of those explanations. They’re really about as plausible as the idea that the Riddle of the Sands influenced British opinion significantly in favour of war.

    I’m surprised that intelligent, intellectually curious people – most Cats – have such an appetite for it.

  49. alexis

    Alexis – which looked more anti-Semitic in 1900: Germany (where leading members of the National Liberals, a long-term party of government were Jewish), or France in the midst of l’Affair Dreyfus?

    Well I don’t think there is really an answer to that one let alone ‘the former’ or ‘the latter’.
    Dreyfus notwithstanding, there were ten generals in the French army around that time and hundreds of officers. The Prussian army had perhaps one or two Jewish officers. Dreyfus was despised amongst the Prussian army.

  50. alexis

    Germany on the other hand was a trade-dependent nation at risk of blockade, whose population depended on imported food – as was well-demonstrated from 1914. It was also a country with belligerent neighbours both to its east and west.

    This is a far more logical explanation to me than race consciousness theories and ideas about Germans not having a private sphere in their lives. It is interesting to compare Germany then (pre-WWI) with China now, a country that is effectively cut off like an island by mountain ranges and has precarious sea access due to the position of its neighbours.

  51. Tim Neilson

    Pyrmonter
    #1401145, posted on August 1, 2014 at 1:27 pm
    Japan found some use for its navy in 1905, which is hardly surprising for an island nation.
    Are you suggesting that the size or the rate of expansion of the navies of any of the USA, France or Italy were cause for alarm to any nation in the early years of the 20th century, particularly having regard to their geography and economies?
    Your point about blockading the Baltic is a valid one. But the German naval expansion program was long on dreadnought class battleships which were about the least suitable ship type of the time for a blockade. You yourself acknowledged that there was a naval arms race – why did Germany need to participate in such an arms race just to be ready to blockade the Baltic?

  52. Pyrmonter

    Tim

    Germany had two obvious maritime interests – both blockading the Baltic and keeping its own North Sea ports accessible. Dreadnoughts were of use in the latter in face of possible French blockade, supposing Germany failed to obtain access to the Belgian ports. Seeking that, of course, had unfortunate, if, at least from this perspective predictable, consequences.

    Let me repeat that I don’t view Germany as a docile victim of others plans; yet I struggle to see the inherent evil in the country that others seem to ready to assume.

  53. thefrollickingmole

    Another book recommendation for pre-war Germany would be “Failure of a mission” written by the English ambassador to Germany up till the start of WW2.

    Great little read, but fairly sad when you consider at a couple of stages Mussolini restrained Hitler from earlier conflict.
    If he hadnt, then its probable Germany would have been defeated in trying to to enforce its earlier attempt at annexing Austria.

    Good little book for some unrestrained character portraits, Goring was apparently the “peacenik” of the Nazis.

  54. David

    Alexis it is unfortunate you no longer allow your son to wear a kippah but I understand your reasoning. I seldom wear one, in fact only on my infrequent visits to a synagogue.

    However I do wear a Magen David [Star of David for non Jewish Cats] and I am not taking it off for any bugger.

    Kol tuv

  55. Diogenes

    I have raised the issue before that Germany was more worried about a properly armed Russia than battleship parity with the UK (the German Fleet was Kaiser Willie’s penis extension – the lack of any real German Naval Strategy at the start of WW1 would back that up assertion) .

    Given that Russia and Germany bordered each other (remember Prussia covered parts of what are today Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine) , the Czar as champion of the Slavs would liked to reclaim what was lost in the last part of the 1st millennium, and Germany feared what ultimately happened in 1918 & 1945 – the loss of its most productive farmland to other nations.

    In 1914 a German Army Corps had more machine guns and artillery than the entire Russian army, but the Russians had huge manpower. Russia was beginning to acquire more artillery and more machine guns. The German High Command expected Russia would reach parity sometime in the early 1920s.

    Germany only invaded France because of the Triple Entente , and was trying to forestall the expected French attack to reclaim Elsass & Lothringen (reclaimed by Germany in 1871 as it had been part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1639 – interestingly the displaced French settled Algeria) if it declared war on Russia. It made the huge mistake of going through Belgium which brought the British in. This latter is the public excuse and the reason for the “barbaric Hun” propaganda that saw the war fought by the Allies as a religious crusade against tyranny and oppression. The Prussians were militaristic, but the German Empire was more like the original US – a federation of independent states and kingdoms (ie Hitler did not serve in the GERMAN Army – rather he served in the BAVARIAN Army) which allowed considerable latitude with local law and custom.

    If anybody has read Frank Furedi’s latest on Spiked, the British were as keen for war as the Germans and saw it as a just as much a religious duty as the Germans did.

  56. Mr Rusty

    Martin Durkin, who did the excellent documentary on Margaret Thatcher recently, write a series of articles on how the Nazi’s were the first green movement, and how the current green movement is almost the same except for the focus on nationalism.

    Gaiaism is to the early 21st century as eugenics was to the early 20th century. Both unscientific, both with similar aims (population reduction, retaining a self-selected elite), both supported by “progressive” politics (Sidney & Beatrice Webb then, the Fabian Society they founded now) and the entertainment industry (HG Wells & GB Shaw then, just about every Hollywood nimrod now). Eugenics was all the talk at dinner parties 100 years ago and today it is climate change.
    It will be interesting to see how it all ends this time round.

  57. Myrrdin Seren

    The point of Andrew’s Merv Bendle’s argument was that the Germans had to be defeated in WWI to teach them that naked aggression was not going to work the way that it did in the Franko (sic)-Prussian war….

    Even if ‘a teaching moment’ was a strategy in itself – the truly remarkable thing is that twenty-odd years after a disastrous war that killed and maimed millions; that must have touched nearly every family in Germany; and with a lack of self-sufficiency in food production and other resources needed by an industrial power – the Germans went at it again. Same result second time around.

    I don’t foresee a third time around in the future on any reasonable timescale.

    The Wehrmacht looks a little different these days

  58. Menai Pete

    Nazism’s growth in popularity in the years leading up to WW2 was essentially a reaction to the threat from bolshevism which communist activists were (violently) attempting to spread throughout Europe (and the world) following WW1.

  59. Mr Rusty

    Yes and no, Menai Pete – the reaction was against the methodology not the ideology;

    “The doctrines which had guided the ruling elements in Germany for the past generation were not opposed to the socialism in Marxism, but to the liberal elements contained in it, its internationalism and its democracy. And as it became increasingly clear that it was just these elements which formed obstacles to the realisation of socialism, the socialists of the left approached more and more to those of the right. It was the union of the anti-capitalist forces of the right and the left, the fusion of radical and conservative socialism, which drove out from Germany everything that was liberal.”
    Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

  60. Alfonso

    “the fusion of radical and conservative socialism’
    A thought I’ve been trying to avoid re Australia.
    Some time it’s going be time to face facts.

  61. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Rafe, you are making the anti-semites squeal!

    Pro-Terrorist Left-wing Troll #1

    Did you just feel that at a time when civilized people are aghast at Israel’s barbarism against the Palestinians, it would be a good time to, ‘mention the war’, so to speak?

    Oh, a pro-terrorist troll. How sweet.

    I never thought I would look at Israeli dead (98% soldiers) and Palestinian dead (98% civilian) and think that Hamas were the honorable side in the conflict.

    Oh, really? Where did these laughably false percentages come from? As others have amply demonstrated above, and as Hamas themselves are telling Italian journalists, more than two-thirds of the arab dead are Hamas terrorists, and we now know that the so-called ‘schoolyard massacre’ was a Hamas rocket dropping short (one of two of the three in that salvo aimed as Ashkelon which dropped short into their own people).

    Under the UN’s own definitions, every rocket fired by Hamas is an individual war-crime.

    But YOU support the terrorists.

    Israel has completely lost its moral compass. To metion the victims of the holocaust in the context of the current onslaught against a trapped, helpless Palestinian population does them no service whatsoever. It is just crass.

    Shorter Kurt: “How dare Jews defend themselves? I want more dead Jews!!”

    You are the one who has lost your moral compass. You are supporting mere savages – head-chopping barbarians – against a civilised westerm liberal democracy.

    Pro-Terrorist Left-wing Troll #2

    “Kurt, you need to realize that the Israelis use their missiles to protect their civilians while Hamas use civilians to protect their missiles.”

    Correct, and directly observable even in the massively biased media reporting we see, let alone ‘pallywood productions’ propaganda

    Do you know this to be true or are you just repeating a buzzy mantra the Israelis have put out there for there own self-justification?

    Hmm. A proscribed terrorist organisation launched unguided inaccurate and primitive rockets against civilian targets, and they can seen to be doing so from next to schools, houses and mosques, they hide weapons inside hospitals, mosques and UN schools. The IDF (which could level the entire Gaza strip in two days bombardment) uses guided weapons which are extremely accurate, leaflet drops to warn the civvies, and even ‘knock on roof’ tactics.

    All of which is directly observable even in the left-wing anti-semitic media.

    Is this enough clues for this genius, do you think?

  62. Tel

    The point of Andrew’s argument was that the Germans had to be defeated in WWI to teach them that naked aggression was not going to work the way that it did in the Franko-Prussian war when the Prussian alliance thrashed the French and captured Paris.

    Unlike that completely other kind of naked aggression… which presumably was OK.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Third_Coalition

  63. Dan

    Wehrmacht looks a little different these days

    I would have thought a long fringe and ponytail would probably be best avoided as a tank driver

  64. Boambee John

    “Anyway the whole notion of proportionality is just fucked.”

    There could be a couple of options for increased “proportionality”.

    First, it could be argued that for each unguided rocket Hamas fires into Israel, a similar unguided rocket could be fired in return. I suspect that this would increase overall Palestinian casualties, and also the proportion of civilians among them, but it would be “proportional”.

    Second, it could be argued that casualties among combatants should be “proportional”. This method was tried in Europe between 1915 (when the mobile phase at the start of the First World War had concluded) until mid 1918, when a new mobile phase commenced. The results could not be said to have been happy.

    In that period, generals on the Allied side (principally Britain and its Empire/Dominion supporters, France, Italy, Belgium, Russia) calculated that if they killed/wounded a German or Austro-Hungarian soldier for each of their own killed or wounded, they would eventually prevail because of their larger populations. Then, it was called “attrition” and widely criticised, these days so-called “peace campaigners” seem to favour it.

    However, as Israel does not have the population advantage, its adoption of such a policy would be a slow form of national suicide, it ain’t gonna happen.

  65. Kurt

    Raf, you missed the point of my post. The point was that everytime Israel goes on a killing spree Israeli supporters bring up the Nazis. Very much on topic.

    Your point about rockets is mute. Hamas havent killed anyone with the firecrackers they send over. In contrast, Israel has used warships, fighter jets, artillery, and tanks firing high explosivess indiscriminately into one of the most densely populated ghettos in the world. You call that defence?

    Im a conserative/liberaterian but for the life of me cant understand why the Palestanians must be slaughtered for Israels defence.

    Why did you bring up nazism at this particular time?

  66. Roger

    At some point most Germans were confronted with a direct moral test, and the great majority failed it.

    Most importantly von Papen and the leadership of the Catholic Centre Party, without whom Hitler would not have been appointed Chancellor nor acquired dictatorial power. Looking for large cultural patterns to explain the rise of Hitler risks overlooking quite definite moments of individual failure which paved his way to power. The Weimar Republic was quite a disparate society in the inter-war years in which Hitler never had majority support (in fact votes for the NSDAP dropped considerably in the second 1932 election) and was despised in many quarters. It was his anti-Communism which the elite sought to exploit as a bulwark, thinking they could control Hitler – a gross underestimation of the man.

  67. old bloke

    In that period, generals on the Allied side (principally Britain and its Empire/Dominion supporters, France, Italy, Belgium, Russia) calculated that if they killed/wounded a German or Austro-Hungarian soldier for each of their own killed or wounded, they would eventually prevail because of their larger populations.

    Not all of the allied generals held that view, Monash clearly held another view. He devised a method of waging war that minimised Allied loses while greatly impacting the enemy which he called “rolling war”. He was without doubt the greatest allied general during that war and the early German success during WWII used his methods which they called “Blitzkrieg”.

    250,000 Australians, mainly his “Diggers”, marched behind his funeral procession in 1931, nowadays their grandchildren picket Max Brenner shops.

  68. Oh come on

    Your point about rockets is mute. Hamas havent killed anyone with the firecrackers they send over.

    I think you mean moot. And you’re wrong – those ‘firecrackers’ have killed at least two civilians in Israel that I know of and they would have killed scores more if Israel shared the callous and barbaric attitude towards the protection of innocent lives that Hamas possesses. Thankfully, Israel is a civilised nation and has created a defensive system called Iron Dome – you may have heard of it – to protect their citizens from Hamas’s rain of fire.

  69. Infidel Tiger

    Im a conserative/liberaterian but for the life of me cant understand why the Palestanians must be slaughtered for Israels defence.

    Well for starters you are obviously lying.

    You call that defence?

    Very effective defence. You know why Israel has never lost a war? Because the very survival of every Israeli depends on it. They have 250,000,000 neighbours who want them extinct. They’ve been pretty darned restrained I reckon.

  70. stackja

    For all of the faults Israel like any democracy has. They hold elections.
    Israelis could vote to surrender but they know that will not work.

  71. David

    Kurt just how do you suggest Israel acts towards a group which has as part of its charter the destruction of Israel and the extermination of its Jewish citizens?

    Proportionality [if there is such a word] would be that Israel wipes HAMAS off the face of the Earth and provides a salutary lesson to others in the region who would seek to emulate that HAMAS doctrine.

    To paraphrase Golda Meir, “the Jews have a secret weapon. We have nowhere else to go”.

    Kol tuv

  72. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Anti-semitic troll #1

    Raf, you missed the point of my post. The point was that everytime Israel goes on a killing spree

    So a liberal western democracy acting within the laws of war is defending itself from terrorists (the very definition of barbaric savages) acting entirely outside the laws of war – yet it is the civilised you condemn with the emotive term ‘killing spree’.
    This clearly illustrates your emotive attachment to the terrorists.
    it also illustrates your bigotry.

    Israeli supporters bring up the Nazis. Very much on topic.

    You imply hat teh Israelis are national Socialists.
    Thank you for making it so plain that you are that lowest of vermin – the anti-semitic racist.
    You have now revealed yourself to be a bigot and anti-semitic racist.

    Your point about rockets is mute. Hamas havent killed anyone with the firecrackers they send over.

    This is a demonstrable lie.
    You have now revealed yourself to be a liar, bigot and anti-semitic racist.

    In contrast, Israel has used warships, fighter jets, artillery, and tanks firing high explosivess indiscriminately into one of the most densely populated ghettos in the world. You call that defence?

    There is not the slightest evidence of any indiscriminate IDF fire (whereas all terrorist rocket fire IS indiscriminate and each such act is a war crime according to the UN) and there is plenty of evidence that IDF fire is highly discriminate.
    You have now revealed yourself to be a hypocritical liar, bigot and anti-semitic racist.

    Im a conserative/liberaterian but for the life of me cant understand why the Palestanians must be slaughtered for Israels defence.
    Hi Alan!
    Far left racists like you use this really, really transparent and extraordinarily stupid tactic all the time, comrade.
    You have now revealed yourself to be a truly stupid hypocritical liar, bigot and anti-semitic racist.

    Why did you bring up nazism at this particular time?

    You are a left-wing Jew-hating socialist hypocrite, racist, bigot and liar.
    The National Socialists were ALSO left-wing Jew-hating hypocrites, socialists, racists, bigots and liars.
    So the comparison is utterly accurate, isn’t it?
    You should be proud of your heritage, kamerad.

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