The Monster and the Lamb

One man joined the Nazis because he hungered for power; another, because he thought he was strong enough to prevent the worst from happening. He wasn’t.

In the days of Hitler Germany’s collapse, a short item on an inside page of the New York Times caught my eye. It ran somewhat as follows:

Reinhold Hensch, one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, committed suicide when captured by American troops in the cellar of a bombed-out house in Frankfurt. Hensch, who was deputy head of the Nazi SS with the rank of lieutenant general, commanded the infamous annihilation troops and was in charge of the extermination campaign against Jews and other “enemies of the Nazi state,” of killing off the mentally and physically defective in Germany, and of stamping out resistance movements in occupied countries. He was so cruel, ferocious, and bloodthirsty that he was known as “The Monster” {Das Ungeheuer) even to his own men.

It was the first time since I left Germany in the winter of 1933 that I had heard or seen Hensch’s name. But I had thought of him often. For I spent my last evening in Germany in the company of the “Monster.”

A year earlier, in the spring of 1932, I had realized that I was not going to stay in Germany with the Nazis in power. An old friend had come to visit me in Frankfurt, where I then lived. We spent the evening together talking out our fears for the future. And then suddenly I heard myself saying, “One thing I do know, Berthold: if the Nazis come to power I shall not stay in Germany.” I had not, I think, given conscious thought to the decision till then. But the moment I heard myself say this, I knew that I had made up my mind. And I also knew that I had become convinced in my heart that the Nazis would come into power.

I had arrived in Germany in 1927, after graduating from the gymnasium in my native Austria. I was at first a trainee-clerk in an export firm in Hamburg; then, fifteen months later, I moved to Frankfurt as a securities analyst in an old merchant bank which had become the European branch of a Wall Street brokerage firm. That job came to an end in the autumn of 1929 with the New York Stock Exchange crash, and I was hired as a financial writer on the Frankfurter General Anzeiger, an afternoon paper, somewhat similar to the Washington Star or the Detroit Free Press both in circulation and in editorial policy. Two years later, as a senior editor, I was put in charge of foreign and economic news. And since the paperdid not believe in overstaffing—there were altogether only fourteen or fifteen writers, reporters, and editors to turn out a forty-eightor sixty-four-page paper every weekday and Saturday—I also wrote three or four editorials a week and ran the women’s page for almost a year while the regular women’s editor was sick.

In addition to my jobs, I enrolled in law school at Hamburg and then at Frankfurt. By 1931 I had my doctorate in international and public law. Even before that I had been teaching in the law faculty as a substitute for the elderly and ailing professor of international law who had become a good friend. And though still in my early twenties, I was in line to be appointed Dozent (lecturer) at the university—the first and biggest step up the German academic ladder.

I had also begun to write outside of my newspaper job. Two unbearably learned econometric papers—one on the commodity markets and one on the New York Stock Exchange—were written while I was still at the bank, in 1929. They were both as wrong as they could possibly be. The premises were “self-evident,” the mathematics impeccable, and the conclusions asinine, something even now by no means unknown in econometrics. But the papers were published in a prestigious economic quarterly. My doctoral thesis came out as a book. And I wrote a fair number of magazine articles on economic and financial topics, not one of which, fortunately, is still available.

My realization that I would leave the country upon Hitler’s coming to power did not, of course, stop my work. I did hope against hope after all, it was not entirely wishful thinking in 1932 to believe that the Nazi wave was cresting; the Nazi vote actually did fall with every successive election. And so I continued to work on the paper, teach international law and international affairs, and write for magazines. I even began to look around for another job, for I had outgrown the Frankfurter General Anzeiger. I almost immediately got an offer from the leading paper in Cologne to take charge of foreign affairs, including politics, economics, literature, and culture. And I was assured that with this appointment I could easily get a lectureship at Cologne University or at the neighboring university of Bonn.

But at the same time I began to prepare for leaving. I kept the offer from Cologne alive, but I did not act on it. I dragged my feet on the lectureship even though the international-law professor urged it on me. I was officially a graduate assistant; in this capacity I ran many of the meetings of the international-law seminar and substituted for the professor in teaching his classes. But a Dozent, while unpaid, has a university appointment and automatically becomes a German citizen, which I was not; and I had no intention of becoming Hitler’s subject.

I also decided to make sure that I could not waver and stay. The day after my evening with my friend Berthold I began to write a book which would make it impossible for the Nazis to have anything to do with me and equally impossible for me to have anything to do with them. It was a short book, hardly more than a pamphlet. Its subject was Friedrich Julius Stahl, a prominent Prussian politician and conservative parliamentarian of the period before Bismarck, the advocate of freedom under the law, and the leader of the philosophical reaction against Hegel as well as Hegel’s successor as professor of philosophy at Berlin. And Stahl was a Jew! A monograph on Stahl that in the name of conservatism and patriotism put him forth as the exemplar and preceptor of the turbulence of the 1930s was a frontal attack on Nazism.

It took me but a few weeks to write the monograph. I sent it off to Mohr in Tubingen, Germany’s bestknown publisher in political science and political history. Mohr accepted the little book and scheduled it to come out at the earliest possible date, in April 1933, as the key issue—Number 100 in its famous series on law and government. Clearly the people at Mohr, whom I had never met, felt the way I did. Later, when the book was published, it was understood by the Nazis exactly as I had intended; it was immediately banned and publicly burned.

I was thus ready to leave when Hitler, already losing popular support precipitously, was maneuvered into power on January 30, 1933, by a cabal of nationalists and generals who were contemptuous of the plebeian Nazis and confident of their ability to control these upstarts, but who were also alarmed by the strong resurgence of the Republican and Democratic parties in the most recent election. I knew that Hitler’s backers deluded themselves, though I probably underestimated the speed with which the Nazis would get rid of the Junkers and old-line Prussian officers who put them into power. And from the beginning I had few illusions as to what the Nazis were up to. I knew that my foreign passport would not protect me for very long and that sooner or later I would be kicked out or jailed. And I was determined to leave at my own discretion.

Yet I dawdled. One reason I gave to myself was that I had to wait for the page proofs of my book on Stahl, promised for just about that time. I feared—perhaps not entirely without cause—that my leaving the country might give the publisher the pretext for scuttling what had clearly become a risky project. But I also gave in to my bent for postponing the inevitable.

What made me decide to leave right away, several weeks after Hitler had come to power, was the first Nazi-led faculty meeting at the university. Frankfurt was the first university the Nazis tackled, precisely because it was the most self-confidently liberal of major German universities, with a faculty that prided itself on its allegiance to scholarship, freedom of conscience, and democracy. The Nazis therefore knew that control of Frankfurt University would mean control of German academia. And so did everyone at the university.

Above all, Frankfurt had a science faculty distinguished both by its scholarship and by its liberal convictions; and outstanding among the Frankfurt scientists was a biochemist-physiologist of Nobel-prize caliber and impeccable liberal credentials. When the appointment of a Nazi commissar for Frankfurt was announced (around February 25 of that year) and every teacher and graduate assistant at the university was summoned to a faculty meeting to hear this new master, everybody knew that a trial of strength was at hand. I had never before attended a faculty meeting, but I did attend this one.

The new Nazi commissar wasted no time on the amenities. He immediately announced that Jews would be forbidden to enter university premises and would be dismissed without salary on March 1 5; this was something no one had thought possible despite the Nazis’ loud anti-Semitism. Then he launched into a tirade of abuse, filth, and four-letter words such as had been heard rarely even in the barracks and never before in academia. He pointed his finger at one department chairman after another and said, “You either do what I tell you or we’ll put you into a concentration camp.” There was silence when he finished; everybody waited for the distinguished biochemist-physiologist. The great liberal got up, cleared his throat, and said, “Very interesting, Mr. Commissar, and in some respects very illuminating; but one point I didn’t get too clearly. Will there be more money for research in physiology?”

The meeting broke up shortly thereafter with the commissar assuring the scholars that indeed there would be plenty of money for “racially pure science.” A few of the professors had the courage to walk out with their Jewish colleagues, but most kept a safe distance from these men who only a few hours earlier had been their close friends. I went out sick unto death—and I knew that I was going to leave Germany within forty-eight hours.

When I got home, there, thank God, were the page proofs of my Stahl book. And so I went to the office—I had taken special leave that morning to attend the faculty meeting— announced my resignation, said goodbye to my colleagues, and returned home to read the proofs. It was about ten at night and I was drained. I decided to go to bed and to start packing early in the morning for the train trip from Frankfurt to Vienna the following day. But my doorbell rang. Outside stood somebody in the uniform of the Hitler storm troops. My heart missed a beat, but then I recognized Hensch, a fellow editor at the Frankfurter General Anzeiger, who had not been at the office when I was there earlier in the day. “I heard that you had resigned,” he said. “I happened to pass by. And I did want to take leave—may I come in?”

Hensch was not a particular friend. Indeed, he was somew hat of an outsider at the office. He covered local politics—city hall—and while important, the assignment was not of interest to most of us, who did not expect to spend the rest of our days in Frankfurt. He was not an especially brilliant journalist and he was suspected of taking and giving political favors. He was of middle height, with small, close-set eyes and cropped hair already beginning to gray although he was not yet thirty. He came from local craftsman stock—his father was a stonemason, I believe. There were only two things noteworthy about him. He had a lovely girlfriend, Elise Goldstein, a commercial artist who did a lot of work for the paper—an outgoing, lively, effervescent young woman whom all of us thought most attractive. She and Hensch lived together and were going to be married; we had all attended their engagement party a year or so earlier. And Hensch, as everyone on the staff knew, held membership cards in both the Communist and the Nazi parties—both, of course, considered subversive and out-of-bounds for a reporter on a nonpartisan paper. When Hensch was challenged on this he always said, “I have to get the news from them to know what goes on in city hall, and they only talk to members of their own gang.”

“I have spent most of the day,” he told me, “in a meeting of the Nazi leadership, in which I have been appointed adviser on the press to the new Nazi commissar for Frankfurt and the representative of the party at the General Anzeiger. I then called a meeting of the editors to tell them that I am in charge. That’s how I learned that you had resigned earlier. I thought I’d come by to ask you to reconsider, I hope you do— we need you. Of course I have relieved the publisher; the biggest paper in Frankfurt cannot have a Jewish publisher. I shan’t keep the editor in chief very long. He is a leftist and is married to a Jewish wife, who is moreover the sister of a socialist deputy. And there would thus be a great opportunity for someone like you, for I won’t be able to edit the paper myself. I’ll be too busy supervising the press in the entire Frankfurt area.”

I said that I was flattered but was sure it wouldn’t work. Hensch said, “I thought that you’d say that. But Drucker, do sleep on it and let me know if you change your mind.” He made as if to go, but sat down again and remained silent for five or ten minutes. Then he resumed. “If you go abroad, may I tell Elise where she can reach you? Of course, I had to break off when Hitler came to power. I moved out of the apartment we had together, back to my parents—but I have paid the rent on the apartment until the end of March. I told Elise that she had better get out of Germany as fast as possible. But she doesn’t know anyone abroad. May I have your address so that she can get in touch with you when she leaves?” I agreed and he wrote down my parents’ address in Vienna.

Again he lapsed into silence; then he burst out: “My God, how I envy you. I only wish I could leave, but I can’t. I get scared when I hear all that talk in the Nazi party inner councils—and I do sit in now, you know. There are madmen there who talk about killing the Jews and about going to war and about jailing and killing anyone who holds a dissenting opinion and questions the Führer’s word. It’s all insane, but it frightens me. I know you said to me a year ago that the Nazis believed these things and that I had better take them seriously. But I thought that it was the usual campaign rhetoric and didn’t mean a thing. And I still think so. Now that they are in power they’ll have to learn that one can’t do such things. After all, this is the twentieth century. And my parents think so too, and so does Elise. But you can’t imagine the things some of the higher-ups say to us when no one from the outside is listening.”

I assured Hensch that I did not have to imagine these things; Hitler had written them out in great detail in his book, Mein Kampj, for anyone to read. And then I asked, “If you feel that way, why don’t you leave? You aren’t thirty yet and have no family that depends on you. You have a decent degree in economics and won’t have any trouble finding work.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” he said. “You know languages. You’ve been abroad. Do you realize that I have never been away from Frankfurt, and never even been to Berlin? And I have no connections—my father is a craftsman.”

At that I got angry. “Look, Hensch, that’s nonsense; who the hell cares who your father is? The father of the editor in chief was a prison guard someplace in East Prussia; Arne’s father is a coal miner; Becker grew up as the child of an elementary-school teacher; Bilz comes from a family of poor vintners with a small, stony plot on the Rhine. All right, none of us would ever have been invited to a court ball by the Hohenzollerns or have gotten a commission in one of their Guards. But otherwise, what difference can it possibly make?”

“You just don’t understand, Drucker,” he came back heatedly, “you never did. I am not clever, I know that. I have been on the paper longer than you or Arne or Becker—you three are the senior editors and I still have the city hall beat on which I started. I know I can’t write. No one invites me to their homes. Even Elise’s father —a dentist—thought his daughter was too good for me. Don’t you understand that I want power and money and to be somebody? That’s why I joined the Nazis four or five years ago when they first started rolling. And now I have a party membership card with a very low number and I am going to be somebody! The clever and well-born and well-connected people will be too fastidious, or not flexible enough, or not willing to do the dirty work. That’s when I’ll come into my own. Mark my word, you’ll hear about me now.”And with this he stormed out of the room and down the stairs. But before he slammed the door, he turned once more and shouted, “And don’t forget, you promised to help Elise.”

I bolted the front door, which I had never done before in the three years I lived in the apartment. And suddenly I had a vision of things to come, of the bloody and horrible and mean bestiality that was descending on the world. There and then I beheld as in a dream what was later to become my first major book. The End of Economic Man. I felt an almost irresistible urge to sit down and start typing. But I repressed it and started packing instead. I was on the train to Vienna by the following noon.

I never heard from Elise. And I did not hear from or about the “Monster” until twelve years later, when I read of his end in the ruins of what had been his parents’ house.

It was only a month later, in early April 1933, that I met the “Lamb.” After a few weeks in Vienna I went to London, where I knew no one except Count Albert Montgelas, a German journalist who was the London correspondent of the Ullstein publishing firm of Berlin. Montgelas, scion of a Bavarian Whig family, had been in England for many years and was one of the most highly respected foreign correspondents there. I had been in contact with him for some time. On his last trip back to his head office in Berlin he had stopped over in Frankfurt for a few hours and we had found each other congenial despite the difference in ages—Montgelas being in his late thirties, whereas I was only twenty-three. I sent him a note from Vienna before leaving for London, and to my surprise received a telegram from him saying, “Come as soon as you possibly can; I need you.”

I found Montgelas packing. He too had resigned when the Nazis moved in, despite urgings by the new Nazi-appointed publisher to stay on. He was only waiting for his replacement. “I wired you to hurry up,” he said, “because I am expecting Paul Schaeffer within a day or two. He is due in from New York on the next fast boat. He has been offered the editorship of the Berliner Tageblatt and is inclined to accept it. But I made him stop over here and give it a final thought. It would be a tragedy if Paul took the offer. You have just come out of Germany. Maybe you can tell Paul what hell he is letting himself in for.”

The Berliner Tageblatt had for almost half a century occupied a role in Germany and the German-speaking countries similar to that of the New York Times in America or the London Times in England: not the biggest, but the best and most visible daily paper. Founded in 1885, when Bismarck was still German chancellor and the old Emperor William I was still on the throne, the paper had for all these years been run by its founder-editor, Theodore Wolff, a man renowned for his integrity and his independence alike. Wolff was getting old, and in the early 1920s he began grooming a successor—Paul Schaeffer, an extraordinarily incisive political writer and analyst. But before handing the reins over to Schaeffer, Wolff sent him to America as correspondent of the Berliner Tageblatt, in 1929 or 1930.

Schaeffer decided that the most interesting man in the United States was the new governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He got to know Roosevelt well and was invited to accompany him on his campaign trips in 1932. His dispatches from the campaign were so good that they were not only reprinted in major European papers but widely syndicated in the American press. When Roosevelt was elected, Schaeffer moved to Washington to be close to what he anticipated would become an important administration under a President who had become a personal friend and who looked upon Schaeffer as his channel to European public opinion.

Wolff had intended, as everyone in the small world of European journalism knew, to step down in 1935, the fiftieth year of his editorship and the eightieth year of his life. But Wolff was a Jew; and so the Nazis threw him out two years ahead of schedule and asked Schaeffer to take over the vacant position. Schaeffer stayed long enough in the United States to cover Roosevelt’s inauguration. Then, in late March or early April, he sailed, and upon Montgelas’s urgings stopped for a few days in London before making a final commitment.

Schaeffer, it turned out, did not need me to tell him what was going on in Germany. He knew much better than I did, and had no illusions. He had access, it seemed, both to the internal dispatches of the New York Times’s European correspondents and to the dispatches of the state department in Washington. “It’s precisely because this is such a horror,” he said, “that I have to accept the job. I am the only man who can prevent the worst. The Nazis will need me and will need the Berliner Tageblatt. They’ll need loans from New York and London, trade with the West, understanding, and a hearing. And they’ll .need someone like me who knows the West, who knows whom to talk to, and who is listened to. They’ll need me because not one of them knows anything about the outside world. They are all knownothing illiterates. They will have to listen to me when I tell them that this or that of their barbarous policies will get them into trouble and that they have to pay attention to public opinion in the Anglo-Saxon countries. They will have to accept the restraints on their actions and their rhetoric which I know they need in order to enjoy a minimum of respect and acceptance. They know that they depend on me and that the Americans will look to me. I had a long talk before I left with the Chicago historian whom President Roosevelt has just appointed as his ambassador in Berlin. He assured me that he’d use me as his channel to the German foreign office and the Nazi hierarchy—and even the stupidest Nazi will have to respect and accept that.”

“But, Paul,” said Montgelas, “aren’t you afraid that the Nazis will just use you to give them a front of respectability and to bamboozle the outside world? They haven’t shown much concern for world opinion so far.”

Schaeffer was indignant: “I wasn’t exactly born yesterday—I am a seasoned newspaperman. If they try to manipulate me I’ll up and leave, and that would hurt them and discredit them so completely that they couldn’t take that risk.”

“Are you sure, Paul,” said Montgelas, “that you won’t take that job because it’s always been your ambition to be editor of the Tageblatt?”

“I knew you’d ask,” said Schaeffer, “and I can assure you, you are wrong. Indeed, let me tell the two of you in confidence that my wife and I liked it so well in America that we had decided to stay there and not go back. Then I received and accepted this offer.” He pulled out a letter from Henry Luce on Time stationery in which Luce offered him a job as chief European correspondent, located in London, for Time magazine, for Fortune, and for a new picture magazine about to be launched, the future Life. “Luce would have paid me twice as much,” said Schaeffer, “as the Tageblatt does, and he hinted that I would be in line for the top job at Time in a few years. My wife begged me to take the job—she hates the idea of going back. But I feel I have a duty. I owe it to Theodore Wolff to continue his life’s work; the old man was like a father to me when he gave me my first job upon my return from the trenches after the Great War. I owe it to the Tageblatt to make sure that it is not going to be prostituted and destroyed by the savages. I owe it to the country to prevent these Nazi beasts from doing their worst. I don’t look forward to Berlin under the Nazis, but I know that no one else can have the influence for good I can have because no one else is quite as badly needed as I’ll be when I take the job.”

When Schaeffer arrived in Berlin a few days later, he was received with great fanfare. Titles and money and honors were heaped on him; and the Nazis pointed to his being named editor in chief of the Berliner Tageblatt as proof that all the stories about their treatment of the press that had appeared in foreign papers were dirty Jewish lies. And they immediately began to use him. He was granted interviews by Nazi bigwigs who solemnly assured him that they were not themselves anti-Semitic and, indeed, had good personal friends who were Jewish, and these interviews promptly appeared in the Tageblalt under Schaeffer’s by-line. Whenever news of Nazi repression or Nazi atrocities filtered out, Schaeffer was dispatched to the foreign embassies in Berlin or to a meeting with foreign correspondents to assure them that these were “isolated excesses” that w’ouid not be allowed to recur. Whenever news of German rearmament appeared, it was again Schaeffer who wrote articles quoting “high-placed sources” on Hitler’s intense desire for peace, and so on. For these services he was occasionally thrown little goodies. He was allowed to keep on two elderly Jewish editors as rewrite men on the financial page or as proofreaders—but only for two months. Or he was allowed to write a short editorial criticizing proposed taxes on oleomargarine or on movie tickets. And when after two years the Berliner Tageblatt and Schaeffer had outlived their usefulness, both were liquidated and disappeared without a trace.

In her book on Eichmann, the Nazi mass-murderer, the late German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt spoke of “the banality of evil.” This is a most unfortunate phrase. Evil is never banal; evildoers often are. Miss Arendt let herself be trapped by the romantic illusion of the “great sinner.” But there are a great many lagos, petty men of great evil; there are very few Lady Macbeths. Evil works through the Hensches and the Schaeffers precisely because evil is monstrous and men are petty.

Popular usage is more nearly right than Miss Arendt was, when it calls Satan “Prince of Darkness.” The Lord’s Prayer knows how small man is and how weak, when it asks the Lord not to lead us into temptation but to deliver us from evil. And because evil is never banal and men so often are, men must not treat with evil on any terms—for the terms are always the terms of evil and never those of man. Man becomes the instrument of evil when, like the Hensches, he thinks to harness evil to his ambition, and he becomes the instrument of evil when, like the Schaeffers, he joins with evil to prevent worse.

I have often wondered which of these two did, in the end, do more harm, the “Monster” or the “Lamb,” and which is worse, Hensch’s sin of the lust for power or Schaeffer’s sin of pride. But maybe the greatest sin is neither of these two ancient ones; the greatest sin may be the new, the twentieth-century sin of indifference, the sin of the distinguished biochemist-physiologist who neither kills nor lies but refuses to bear witness when, in the words of the old gospel hymn, “they crucify my Lord.” □