on the World Today
THE sleepy Federal village of Bonn was rudely jolted out of its beauty sleep on Christmas Day, when two 25-year-olds of the extreme right-wing Reichs Party daubed swastikas and Nazi slogans on the walls of the Jewish synagogue in Cologne. This had promised to be the happiest German Christmas since 1913. A well-fed, well-housed, well-clothed population had just celebrated a comfortable and comforting Christmas Eve. The Berlin Eve had receded into the hazy middle distance. There were fewer unemployed than at any other time in living memory. Industrial production for the year was up by nearly 7 per cent to two and a half times the 1936 figure. Overall industrial orders were up by 22 per cent, export orders by 28 per cent, and Federal Minister of Economics Ludwig Erhard was prophesying the materialist’s millennium.
The Cologne outrage scandalized the West German public, not least because it happened on Christmas Day, for the desecration of the Düsseldorf synagogue eleven months earlier had raised scarcely a ripple of interest. Policy considerations played their part too. It was obvious that the crop of anti-Semitic incidents which followed on Cologne would earn the Federal Republic harsh words abroad. Certainly it was this thought which induced Konrad Adenauer to make the suspect suggestion that the outrages, in other countries as well as Germany, were part of a deep-laid plot. It very quickly became plain that no such plot existed. Yet neither sentiment nor policy was responsible for the immediate human reaction of disgust produced in the average German citizen.
Why did baker’s assistant Arnold Struenk and accountant’s clerk Paul Josef Schoenen deface the Cologne synagogue and the nearby memorial to the German resistance to Hitler? The easy answer was that they were two young buffoons who happened to have criminal records and to have picked up outdated political ideas. But within twelve days anti-Semitic outrages had occurred in thirtyseven different places in West Germany. After another week the number had climbed to more than fifty. The question of motive, then, was an important one.
A part of the answer was supplied by the statements of the twenty-five men and boys who were arrested in West Germany (excluding West Berlin) during the fortnight after the event in Cologne. More than half of those arrested were under twenty years of age; most of the remainder were between twenty and thirty. Some of them asserted that they were drunk when they smeared the buildings with swastikas; others said that they hardly knew what they were doing.
German police interrogations are reasonably tough and can be indefinitely prolonged — there is no law of habeas corpus in Germany. But there was no evidence of dark plots hatched by international fascism or by the East German Communists. What became clear was that the perpetrators of the outrages were frustrated and dissatisfied people.
The lack of ideals
Ideals are sadly lacking in present-day West Germany. How should it be otherwise? Patriotism is no inspiration when one’s country is divided between two world blocs. European union has been robbed of much of its meaning by the economic feud between the Six and the Seven and by the self-centered ness of French policies. What about the defense of the West? It costs a lot of money and still leaves Germany divided. Furthermore, it is remarkable how many Germans, even in the Bundeswehr, resent the presence of foreign troops on German soil.
As for traditional loyalties, these were swept away long ago, in the burning ruins of the Reich chancellery, in the Nuremberg war-crimes courts, in the breakup of the old German Army and the uprooting from their estates of a great part of the landed aristocracy. All that was left was the smugness and dullness of provincial Bonn, with its humdrum routine, its dreary Bundestag debates, and its endless, enervating cocktail parties and official receptions.
It is not surprising that some young Germans have turned elsewhere for inspiration and have turned to the wrong mentors. These fall into three categories: old Nazi literature, new Nazi literature, and the old Nazi elite.
Old Nazi literature, such as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Alfred Rosenberg’s Myth of the Twentieth Century, was well represented in the rooms of men like Struenk and Schoenen and of the many members of radical right-wing groups who had their homes searched by the Berlin police. There was also a recent addition, Hitler’s Table Talk. It is sometimes forgotten that this book, ostensibly published to clarify the Führer’s inmost thoughts, can have bad effects on innately credulous young Germans who receive no proper instruction about the Nazi era either at school or in their homes. These young Germans are in no way enlightened by this searchlight on Hitler’s character; instead, they are immensely impressed by his violent and often trenchant opinions. It is sometimes forgotten, too, that a man who played a major part in the publication of Hitler’s Table talk is a Swiss Nazi living in Lausanne on the placid shores of Lake Geneva.
There is no law against owning a copy of Mein Kampf, and in a sense it is still one of the best sellers to the German reading public. Right-wing groups keep their own printing presses and circulate their own copies or selected extracts from the original. Hitler’s Table Talk circulates freely, and so do the apologias of Von Papen, Admirals Doenitz and Raeder, and the letters of Ribbentrop and Hess.
The new Nazi literature
Next to such a satanic classic as Mein Kampf, the new Nazi literature may at first sight look innocuous. Yet new Nazi publishing houses, like the Druffel-Verlag at Leoni on the shores of the Starnberg lake, the Plesse-Verlag and the Verlagsanstalt in Goettingen, the Abendland-Verlag of Wuppertal, and a score of others, churn out many books which have a common purpose: to extol the Nazi regime and condemn its enemies and successors.
Recent titles have included Hitler, Friend of My Youth; The Third Reich, a “correction” of the accepted facts of the Nazi era; the bitterly antiBritish Old Enemy — What Now?: and a “jolly” biography of that most brutal of Nazi bullies, Hermann Goering. The Druffel-Verlag has on its own published plenty of works by leading Nazis and former members of the SS and new and almost certainly dangerous children’s histories of Bismarck and Frederick the Great.
The work of the new Nazi publishers is supplemented by a score of lending libraries and book clubs. The clubs are an interesting growth, for they organize discussion evenings and seminars and maintain panels of speakers from among the Nazi literary elite who barely managed to keep out of prison. The starkly nationalist ex-soldiers’ Stahlhelm has a book club in Bonn, ex-general of SS Herbert Gille has another at Stemmen, the Waffen SS has the Wiking Ruf library in Hanover, and from Berchtesgaden the Breinlinger Book Club has been telling its members about “the lie that 6 million Jews were ever murdered.”
The third arm of new Nazi literature is comprised of weekly and daily papers. There is the Reichsruf, published by the Reichs Party and probably giving away half of its 25,000 weekly copies. Last autumn it published, in the course of a few weeks, articles accusing the Poles of murdering 50,000 Germans in order to provoke World War II, attacking Dr. Adenauer for “forking out reparations” to the Western allies, absolving the Nazis from any part in the burning of the Reichstag, and commending the Waffen SS for defending the West from “barbarism.”
The Nation Europa asserts that Hitler offered the British people peace but that “German hands which were outstretched were not clasped but were hacked off.” In December this paper declared that Jews and freemasons provoked the war for their own ends and that “German war guilt is the greatest slander of all.”
There is the Soldatenzeitung, which has demanded the replacement of allied troops in Berlin by the Bundeswehr and the withdrawal of every allied soldier from German soil, and which has been banned from circulation among Bundeswehr units by Inspector General Heusinger.
Heinrich Hueter’s New Weltschau recently published this letter: “Dear Herr Hueter. You are giving to us Germans something which no one else has given — belief in the coming great leader, who will not be the menial of Moscow or the mercenary of America, but who will be for Germany!” The writer spoke of “that wonderful springtime of 1933” and of “Hitler, the man for whom German youth died willingly.” He concluded that all that National Socialism did that was wrong was “to liquidate only the minor enemies of our Germany, and to leave the big ones.”
Credulous young Germans sometimes believe this sort of nonsense, but they may require to see the leaders in the flesh. This, indeed, is vouchsafed them, since speakers for the Reichs Party, for the book clubs, and for the right-wing groups include compelling personalities, among them Hans Ulrich Rudel, Germany’s greatest wartime air ace, “Papa” Ramcke, who defended the fortress of Brest with bitter courage, and Kurt “Panzer” Meyer, the most dashing of all SS generals.
Lucifer may often be an attractive fellow, and these men were in their way paladins who won the confidence of their men and their public. They remained loyal to nationalist ideals, and they displayed that most vaunted of all German characteristics, the power to face up to every trial and misfortune.
A closer watch
This is the background to the antiSemitic outbursts in Cologne and fifty other German towns and villages. What the Federal and Laender governments can do about matters remains to be seen. The Ministry of the Interior is preparing a comprehensive standard work on the Nazi era for the schools. Legislation to deal with anti-Semites is being tightened up, and the law courts are urged to implement it. A closer watch will be kept on rightwing organizations. The prosecution of Nazi war criminals will go on until they have all been brought to justice. Private citizens will be encouraged to report on antidemocratic activities, and even take legal action if the opportunity presents itself.
All this is to the good, and the Federal Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Schroeder, may be right in refusing to purge ex-Nazis from posts in which they have worked hard to the public advantage. He is certainly right in ranking the rule of law above purely punitive measures. The banning of papers and political parties seldom pays off; the instruction of the young in the unvarnished truth does. The Federal Government’s internal policies will be judged in relation to their success in doing this.
Naturally, the anti-Semitic issue has overshadowed other recent news from West Germany. But it has helped to point up one vital facet of the German problem as a whole — namely, that persisting internal and external pressures must be faced as long as Germany remains divided.
Only a few days before the action in Cologne, intruders broke into the grounds of the house of Willy Brandt, Lord Mayor of Berlin. A day before that, bombs exploded in a Munich house in which members of a Russian émigré group had been living and working. Munich is the center of anti-Communist work in Germany, A month earlier, the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera died of cyanide poisoning. A week or two before, an attempt was made to murder members of Radio Free Europe, broadcasting to Iron Curtain countries, by mixing atropine crystals in cafeteria saltcellars. What was being plotted against Herr Brandt can be guessed, but the miscreants have never been caught.
It is comforting to know that social insurance payments in West Germany are the highest in Europe, and that Volkswagen will make 750,000 new cars in 1960. But this is only a part of the German picture, perhaps not the truest. The wave of antiSemitism will have served one good purpose if it underlines the pressures imposed on the German people and the need to face them with resolution at home and the sympathy and help of friends abroad.