Just over 90 years ago, as it is so often rather euphemistically perceived, “Hitler came to power”, on 30th of January 1933. Well, Hitler did not simply “come” to power. Nor was there, as it is also called, a “Machtergreifung” – the taking of power.
In fact, between 1932-1933, Hitler’s popularity had started to weaken. His votes declined from 37.3% (July 1932) to 33.1%(November 1932). At no time, did the majority of Germans support Hitler in free elections.
Given Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 and his decline in popularity ten years later, Hitler quickly found another way to get into power. Adolf Hitler was looking towards the conservatives for his Machtergreifung.
In fact, the highly ideological term Machtergreifung rather conveniently camouflages the reality of what occurred 90 years ago. In truth, it was German conservatism that put Hitler into power. Hence, Hitler’s coalition government was plastered with conservatives.
Hitler’s enablers included well-known conservatives like Franz from Papen, Konstantin von Neurath, Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, Alfred Hugenberg, Hjalmar Schacht, Franz Seldte, Paul Freiherr von Eltz-Rübenach, and many others.
Until today, the myth of the Machtergreifung remains important for German conservatism. It allows German conservatism to keep up the ideology of a post-1945 “zero hour” – Die Stunde Null.
This fabricates the mythical fable of a “zero hour” after the downfall (for conservatism) or liberation (for progressives). This so-called “zero hour” marks Nazis’ return to planet Mars where they had descended from on 30th of January 1933. The hallucination pretends two things:
1) there was no Nazism before 1933 and there was no Nazism after 1945; and
2) perhaps more importantly, it pretends that conservatism had nothing to do with Nazism. Many have been made to believe this even until today.
Ninety years ago, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Reich. With the so-called government of “National Salvation” headed by Hitler, the way was clear for a terrorist dictatorship of unparalleled cruelty; for a system of government that was directed against all those who think differently, i.e. democrats, socialist, communists, etc.; against all people of non-Aryan origin, i.e. Jews; against people of different skin color; and worse, Hitler’s Reich demanded the subordination of virtually all life to a barbaric practice of Nazi domination.
At the same time, an extremely nationalist and racist policy of a previously unknown extent was installed. It was directed against all non-Nazi people, especially the Jews, whether old or young, whether man, woman, or child, and whether rich or poor. This included oppression, expulsion, and eventual mass-murder of millions of people, especially in the east and southeast of Europe. To Hitler, these are mere steps on the way to his Great Germanic Empire – to be lasting 1,000 years.
At best, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and other people and ethnicities were supposed to exist as working slaves. Worse, German Nazism unleashed the genocide of European Jews.
Instead of Hitler’s promise of a Thousand Year Reich, after twelve years, the Nazis left behind mountains of corpses. Between 50 and 70 million people were dead. There was a terrible devastation throughout Europe. Having experienced this and having to live with the consequences had been deeply imprinted in the thinking of both the survivors and their descendants.
There must be no endpoint to a critical examination of this worst part of German and European history. Especially because we are – once again – living in terrible times of war and the frightening prospects that have opened up.
The Nazi’s ideology also meant, keep marching until everything falls to pieces. Hitler praised the hallucination of an eternally Germanic being, as well as the mythical front camaraderie. Nazi hallucination reached as far as believing that the world has to belong to Germany.
Despite the myth that the “war broke out”, the reality is that wars never break out – like volcanoes do. Instead, wars – like the Second World War that was unleashed by German fascists – are always planned, prepared, and finally waged with all its bestiality. Hitler’s war was a war of racial annihilation, of conquest, designed for Nazi enrichment – it was akin to colonialist extermination.
In order to be able to achieve its goals, the image of marching men raised in military thinking and action became an overarching norm. Germany’s army marched into war and finally into defeat. The meaningless alternative to final victory (Endsieg) was a total ruin.
Inevitably, many who discuss 1933 also think about 1945 – and even further. It is incredible and incomprehensible at the same time, that today it is possible to march again without hesitation, unreasonably, and inhumanly. Worse, the possible destruction of the whole world has – seemingly –been accepted.
Yet, the war on Ukrainian soil, which has been going on for a year, may even expand. In contrast to the approximately 240 wars since 1945 and the countless violent mass conflicts all over the world, the Russian war against Ukraine is trivialized as a special operation.It has the potential to spread unchecked and may even lead into a new European and perhaps even global war – a nuclear war.
Of course, nobody wants that. Yet, countless examples prove that a constantly escalating dynamic works in wars – relentlessly and seemingly inescapable. This is cranked up by newly developed and produced weapons. And, Albert Einstein correctly judged that the arms industry is, one of the greatest threats to humanity.
So far, it appears as if diplomacy – very unfortunately – has been rather impotent. Worse, German – and many other – media practice war rhetoric. More recently, they have increasingly taken to Russophobia.
Historically, this has rippled through Germany’s past – often with rather devastating effects. It was dished up in the First and in theSecond World Wars as a justifying argument in favor of striving for Lebensraum – the conquering of the land in the East. The territories inhabited by Slavs – almost to the Ural – were to become German.
Still, today we see great Russian ambitions and aspirations. They underlie the current policy of the Kremlin masters. Yet, these also existed in earlier periods. It may well be a consequence of Soviet-style national policy. To pursue politics on this basis and to want to enforce it militarily is to be strongly condemned.
However, it should not be forgotten that Soviet and Russian nationalism has not been and is not a position shared by all Russians. Simultaneously, many Germans are well aware of the very opposite, i.e. German nationalism and Nazism.
Since the famous exhibition of The Crime of the Wehrmacht Exhibition during the nineties, German conservatives can no longer deny that the raid on the Soviet Union was a Nazi war of total extermination.
Incidentally, it is rarely remembered that – already in 1935 – Italy’s Palmiro Togliatti had warned about an impending fascist attack on the Soviet Union. Yet, he was a communist and this was enough for many politicians – and unfortunately historians as well – not to take note of his warnings. Worse, his words were even declared to be wrong. Yet, he was correct. The war of total annihilation came.
Still, the term war of annihilation needs to be explained. Otherwise, the totality of its causes and goals will hardly be understood. A war of annihilation defines the ways and means of warfare. One of the best ways to understand this is by watching, for example, the seminal movie, Come and See.
It also remains essential to understand the racial mania of the Nazis. There was actually a clearly recognizable network of relationships between Germanys’ capitalist economy.
The suppression of these causes might best be called de-economization or de-capitalization. Under both, capitalism is taken out of the equation and out of history. German philosopher Max Horkheimer is still correct when saying,
If you aren’t willing to talk about capitalism,
you had better keep quiet about fascism.
Not to mention that any classification into the continuity of East-colonialist efforts is still avoided by some conservative historians – even though these are recognizable. Much of this is still camouflaged.
Yet, behind this lurk conditioned impulses for war and conquest. They remain hidden. This wasn’t the case in research on fascism and World War II conducted in the former East-Germany. Despite West-German denial, this vital research was done and should be given more consideration.
It involved research on capitalism and imperialism. It went beyond the mere description of battles. It rejected the conservative motto, it was Hitler which was dominant in West-Germany for a very long time. Of course, Hitler played a big role.
But in general, it is true that a depiction of history which attributes everything that has happened only to individual people avoids reality. Incidentally, this also applies to misleading statements such as Putin’s war.
Whatever the attitude to Russia’s war is, it remains rather obvious that the Russian leadership represents the economic, political, and ideological interests of a new and emerging oligarchic business elite in a country that has become a capitalist after 1989.
It might be helpful to look at the history. History shows, for example, that after the two world wars in the first half of the 20th century, large parts of Russia were destroyed. The destruction came in the form of Nazism. It came with Völkisch-racist thinking that had penetrated deeply into the minds of many Germans. One of these aspects touches on the manifestations of enemy images.
This is where general racist-biological claims and pseudo-scientific investigations were combined with fabricated feelings of threat. This served as a demagogic-ideological crypto-justification for a war. There was a nationalistic-arrogant pride blinded by anger, prejudices, stereotypes, and racism. Together, they evoked hatred for the enemy.
Unfortunately, this continues to exist even today. There are – again – very significant attempts to bound people by fate to the naturalness of capitalism, inevitable inequality, and instinctive greed. In this way, even the greatest absurdities and pathologies of capitalist societies can be explained to the ignorant.
Much of these fits to an increasing de-economization in the explanation of today’s realities. At the same time, there is an intensifying mystification of money and markets.
De-capitalization is taking place in corporate media and elsewhere. More precisely, these are ideological campaigns in favor of the capitalist’s economic and the social and legal system that stabilizes capitalism.
However, the remembrance of fascism and war must not conceal political failures. We know about the egoism of Germany’s political parties during the 1930s which unnecessarily and senselessly fragmented our forces.
Social Democratic and communist organizations failed to create a common countermovement against Nazism. Meanwhile, conservative, nationalist, and fascist forces were directed primarily against both – the communist party (KPD) and the social-democratic SPD. Germany’s reactionary forces run under the unifying slogan of exterminate Marxism.
1933 was a time of a relative equilibrium between the German workers’ parties. However, this had also led both parties to – rather euphorically – overestimate their own strength. As a consequence, there was also an underestimation of the Nazis.
All this was clear to none other than one of our greatest pacifists and Nobel Prize winner: Carl von Ossietzky. He strongly advocated for a round table to fight Nazism. His call went unanswered.
As it is well known, German workers’ parties rejected the idea of a meaningful and strengthening of coming together. Perhaps this is what is needed again. Yet almost all political parties in today’s Germany operate on the basis of a capitalist economy and are fully integrated into capitalism’s legal regulations and its supportive media apparatus.
Yet, we are not dealing with other Nazi-style fascism today. The right-wing, of course, does not dare to openly profess to Hitler’s fascism. Still, fascism as an ideology remains worth fighting against. More importantly, one should remember that the Nazis were coddled by national conservative circles as a welcoming partner in their fight against organized labor.
Instead of the painful confrontation with fascism, today we face neoliberal capitalism. For this fight, cooperation is urgently needed – in the sense of Ossietzky’s demand.
There needs to be a round table to fight the global pathologies of neoliberal capitalism, – its global environmental destruction, rising poverty, and, inequality. Perhaps this is one of the legacies of Hitler’s rise to power 90 years ago – divided we fall.