Monday, May 10, 2004

Hitlers Zweites Buch

Randy McDonald has an interesting post up on Hitler's Second Book, and he also provides an excerpt from an Omar Bartov article in TNR that points out the continuity, even rigidity, in Hitler's thought from the time when he dictated Mein Kampf to Rudolf Hess while in prison, through 1928 when his reborn NSDAP began to enjoy its first glimmers of electoral success, right on to 1939 and his initiation of a completely unnecessary Second World War. Hitler was a flexible tactician, particularly in the years before the adulation of the German Volk had gone completely to his head, but a man of original ideas he certainly was not.

Anyone interested in getting a feel for Hitler's view of himself, his "enemies" and the ideal embodied in his "New Order" could do worse than also taking a look at Hitler's Table Talk, a record of informal conversations he had with various dignitaries of the Third Reich. The conversations span from July 1941 when it seemed the war in Russia was already won, and Hitler was consequently at his most voluble and expansive, to November 1944, by which point all of Hitler's grandiose visions of himself and his place in history seem to have disappeared, leaving behind only the ugly old residue of virulent anti-semitism he'd carried within him from his time as a lowly corporal recovering from the effects of nerve gas in Pasewalk.

Much of what Hitler has to say in the course of the Table Talk is banal in the extreme, and the "Größter Feldherr aller Zeiten" ("Greatest Field Marshall of all Time", or Gröfaz for short) displays a weakness for pseudo-scientific theories, like the "World Ice Theory" that puts to rest any notion that his was in any way a penetrating intellect. What is clear from reading the Table Talk is that Hitler very much thought of himself as an apostle of Reason and Science, a true child of the enlightenment, working against the machinations of obscurantist priests and spoilt princelings who would like nothing better than to keep the ordinary man under the heel and in ignorance. I think many a budding social-engineer who takes pride, in our day, in his contempt for religion, and his (mostly supposed) high esteem for science, would be surprised by just how comfortably Hitler's own views on such matters would fit into his milieu. As someone said of the Randites, repeatedly claiming to worship science and reason, and actually paying obeisance to these two ideas, are not at all the same thing.

It is often said that Hitler had no positive ideas for what his ideal world to come would look like, other than that it would be free of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and others he deemed "racial undesirables", but reading the Table Talk makes clear that this such claims are not rooted in truth. The Führer dreams of setting up an astronomical observatory to impart to men an appreciation of (in his own words) "the greatness of our universe"; he expounds the artistic glories of Florence and Siena; he lays out his vision of the coming land of milk and honey, in which 100,000 acres of the finest soil will be devoted to the cultivation of rubber, gigantic hydro-electric installations will be erected to provide cheap, clean and virtually limitless power, tidal energy will be harnessed to lighten the face of Europe's cities, vast seas of grain will sway golden in the breeze of the Ukraine's black earth, and along the shores of the Volga; a paradise on earth will come into being - just as soon as the hard and brutal (if, most regrettably, necessary) work of "cleansing" the Reich's new conquests of Jews, bolsheviks, "intellectuals" and other assorted troublemakers is completed.

With Hitler, always, right beside the pretty words about Art, Reason, and the European Mission, we see also the brutality, the viciousness, the assertion that cruelty is actually kindness when properly considered, and the insistence that this, that or another people are unfit for nothing more than lives of slavery, merely by virtue of their "inferior" blood - and the Jews, it goes without saying, are the absolute worst of all. A measure of the depth of Hitler's hatred for Jews is that he even manages to find a kind word for lowly negroes, saying at one point

The precept that it's men's duty to love one another is theory - and the Christians are the last to practise it! A negro baby who has the misfortune to die before a missionary gets his clutches on him, goes to Hell! If that were true, one might well lament that sorrowful destiny: to have lived only three years, to burn for all eternity with Lucifer!
while in another discussion he states that
Dirt shows on black people only when missionaries, to teach them modesty, oblige them to put on clothes. In the state of nature, negroes are very clean. To a missionary, the smell of dirt is agreeable. From this point of view, they themselves are the dirtiest swine of all. They have a horror of water.
yet, in all of the 710 pages of recorded discussions in the book, not once does he have the slightest thing positive to say about Jews. Hitler's brand of racism was a most peculiar thing, in as far as it branded Poles and Russians - who tend on the average to fit even more closely than the Germans the "Nordic" ideal he claimed to worship - as untermenschen deserving of extermination through starvation and slave labor, while exalting the martial and artistic qualities of the darker-skinned Italians and Spaniards, and even paying obeisance to the valor the non-white Japanese; even so, no one would claim that Africans occupied anything other than the lowest rung on the Hitlerian chain of being. The natural conclusion one arrives at is that where Der Führer was concerned, Jews simply weren't human beings, even if of an inferior sort.