Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lee Liberman's Sunday Corner for September: HITLER'S CIRCLE OF EVIL via Netflix

We are looking and looking harder at the most violent, amoral dictatorship in the modern era and there are many new WWII movies to satisfy. Are we all preoccupied with the totalitarian state at the same time for the same reason? Despite much difference between the era of Hitler and our own, some similar strains are worrying today. Hitler’s Reich was a cult of trumped up magic and messianic ideology; 2018 is a personality cult of Trump. Cults are not recipes for governance. The 10-part British-made documentary/docudrama, HITLER'S CIRCLE OF EVIL, now streaming on Netflix, depicts the Hitler saga from the point of view of the players in his inner circle — his cabinet of sycophants. The series has generally been lauded for accuracy; it features interviews with assorted historians and docudrama’d visuals. In the period following WWI, moderate politics wasn’t working; the extremes veered further left and right than our own left and right. In the 1920’s-30’s it was communist/socialist versus heroic/messianic. The democratic Weimar Republic had emerged to replace the Kaiser; it struggled to govern during the depression that followed the 1929 Wall Street crash and the dire reparations the Allies imposed on Germany after WWI. Poverty and misery were gifts to the messianic Hitler movement.

Hitler’s story started with Dietrich Eckart, a playwright and poet of the far right and believer in the occult Thule society, which held that Aryans had become weakened by inferior races and sought a messiah, a “genius superman”. Eckart was a founder of the National Socialist Party, which became the Nazi Party. When Hitler spoke at a meeting, Eckart was amazed; here was ‘THE ONE’. Nazi fervor sprang from a theory of mythic Aryan superiority. Eckart’s famous play (making him rich) based on Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ is the story of Germanic superhero, Gynt, struggling against trolls/Jews. (Note that Anti-Semitism had been part of the world landscape almost from the creation of Christianity, long before the Nazi rise. The Reich weaponized Jews, Communists, Allies using propaganda.) Eckart finds in Hitler the rough stone he can polish, who can take the message to the people. (Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, and Roger Stone chose Trump to do the same.) Eckart and Hitler bonded as teacher-pupil, father-son. Near death in 1923, Eckart is said to have written a friend: “Follow Hitler! He will dance, but it is I who will have called the tune…. Do not mourn for me; I shall have influenced history more than any other German.” Hitler called Eckart the spiritual father of Nazism and dedicated Mein Kampf to him.

Next up is Rudolf Hess, a military man, pilot, loyalist to the Thule Society. Hess met Hitler at early party meetings and was besotted. In prison together after the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler’s first and futile attempt to gain power, Hess counseled Hitler to shun violence and win at the ballot box. Uncredited, he helped Hitler write Mein Kampf in prison and supported him head, heart, and soul (an unrelated source reports they were lovers). Following prison, they suppressed the street thuggery of party member and military colleague, Ernst Röhm, and reshaped the Nazi party to win power through elections, losing cycles before they began to win. (Below, Hess with Hitler.)

Hess’s title was deputy Fuhrer but he wasn’t Machiavellian enough to survive the power machinations of the inner circle. In 1941, to regain his Fuhrer’s love, he flew alone, in secret to Britain to offer a peace deal; his British captors found him paranoid and mentally unstable. He was never again free; his colleagues were condemned to death at Nuremberg. Hess aged in Spandau Prison where he hung himself in 1987 at 93.

 After the Nazi’s had won a governing majority in the Reichstag in 1933, a one-party state began to consolidate and Hitler’s inner circle became like cats in a bag, asserts historian Guy Walters. Backstabbing and jockeying for favor and reward were encouraged. Manipulative Martin Bormann, for instance, morphed from drone to queen bee. Hess’s subordinate, Bormann seized on the seemingly mundane job of renovating Hitler’s Bavarian Alps chalet, wooing Hitler with the creation of what would become a grand second house of state. At the new mountain court, the inner circle, ‘the Berghof set’, would be feted and forced to ‘suck up’ to the boss. Bormann, the ’Brown Eminence’, gained control over Hitler’s finances and the party coffers, becoming gatekeeper and requiring servility by the others; Hess was completely marginalized. Bormann and Goring became mortal enemies; Himmler and Goebbels hated each other and both hated Goring. The ‘morality’ of the party became sophistication on one hand and depravity on the other, as Hitler’s chintz sofas were where they made plans to invade Poland and Russia and ‘purify’ Germany. (Below the renovated Berghof “mountain home”, bombed in 1945, now in ruins.)

Heinrich Himmler was thought weird even by Hitler, though both believed in the occult and ‘blood and soil’ mythology. Racial Germanic myths and symbols became Himmler’s religion. Too young for service in WWI, he craved militarism and soon gained a full portfolio of all internal and external police and security, his efficiency amplified by ruthless subordinate Reinhard Heydrich. They oversaw the extermination camps in which 11-14 million mostly Polish and Soviet citizens were killed. But pursuing his fetish, Himmler used camp slave labor to restore and embellish Wewelsburg Castle, dating from the early 1600’s, which he had acquired as an indoctrination center. It became a Nazi Camelot and the spiritual home of the SS where Himmler reenacted his fantasy of being a pre-Christian Saxon king. He took the forked cross (the swastika), a symbol of the sun throughout antiquity, coopting its beauty and humanity, likely forever. Wewelsburg, dubbed Nazi-land, is said to be an excursion for present day Germans as an object lesson of civil society run amok.

Joseph Goebbels: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. 

Dubbed the ‘Poison Dwarf’, Goebbels was a writer, womanizer, and ground-breaking propagandist. As minister, he controlled the press, including the ‘new media’ of radio and film, and applied commercial advertising to politics, employing slogans and subliminal cues to shape morale and public opinion. Propaganda became the art form under Goebbels that is now practiced cheerfully by our right wing (Stone, Hannity, Carlson, Limbaugh, etc). The external enemies were the Allies who subjugated Germany with reparations; the internal enemies were Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Bolsheviks, and ‘degenerate’ social trends. Below, a poster in the U.S. Holocaust Museum reads: “Behind the enemy powers: the Jew”.

“The fat man ate, drank, and made riotously merry…..” wrote James Holland in World War II Magazine, 2016, about Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe: “Göring’s dandy image made him a persistent figure of ridicule. But Hermann Göring was a colossus in every way: a wily Machiavellian with an outsize IQ, skilled at combining charm, guile, and ruthlessness to get what he wanted…..” Hitler called him “man of steel”. (Cartoon below)

Göring became president of the Reichstag and muscled Hitler’s path to a one-party state. He accumulated oligarchic power and extravagant wealth, but his eye was off the ball — the Luftwaffe was heading into war with capable bombers but ill thought-out, sometimes inhumane deployment of assets. Goring boasted that his fliers would wipe out the Allied retreat from Dunkirk. But the Royal Air Force defended strategically and 338,000 Allied troops escaped. Hubris also misled expectations about the Battle of Britain. British radar and (the first) strategic, coordinated air defense kept the carelessly deployed Luftwaffe at bay (below the Spitfire and Hurricane, British mainstays). That loss led to fighting on two-fronts (European and Soviet) and the Luftwaffe’s slow demise. New jet-powered planes enabled Göring to persuade Hitler that the Luftwaffe could rebound, making him Hitler’s chosen successor to the last few days. But Bormann loathed Göring and convinced Hitler he was a turncoat. Göring was arrested, but soon after, Hitler, Bormann, and the Reich were dead anyway. Himmler took poison after his British capture and Goring took cyanide moments before he was to be hung at Nuremberg.

As defeat closed in on Hitler, he gave the ‘Nero’ order to destroy Germany’s infrastructure. It wasn’t followed, and the rats began to scurry off the ship. A lack of knowledge, rigor, and humanity doomed the Nazi’s; the Allies were in possession of these virtues. In the last year, Hitler deteriorated physically and mentally, swinging from irrational euphoria to out-of-control rage, often hallucinating and delusional. Of all likely disease possibilities put forward by physicians (including tertiary syphilis and Parkinson’s), I like schizoaffective: brief reactive psychoses in a narcissistic personality unable to withstand reality.

The above post is written by our 
monthly correspondent, Lee Liberman

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