By Wilfried Heink-
To this day we have no solid evidence showing if and when Hitler decided on this so-called “Endlösung”, i.e., “The Holocaust”. Many theories have been advanced, one by Gerlach for instance who claims Hitler made his wish known to kill all Jews during a meeting of December 12,1941. Just speculations, of course. Then the ‘meeting of minds’ by Hilberg, all desperate attempts to substantiate something unsustainable.
Just recently I came across an article by Martin Broszat: “Soziale Motivation und Führer-Bindung des Nationalsozialismus (Social motivation and Führer bond/commitment of the NS), published in VfZ, 1970, pp.394-409. Broszat, as is well known, was a ‘functionalist’, thus leaning towards Hilberg.
Born in 1937, it is impossible for me to understand the ‘National Socialism’ phenomenon – for obvious reasons. In fact people who were born earlier, like Broszat (1926-1989), who experienced it all more consciously, are still, in 1970 when this article was published, trying to make sense of it, without jeopardizing their career.
He starts out by stating that research so far was focused on specific segments under NS – the economy, civil service, etc., – but that he will make an effort to shed light on the ‘internal condition and functionality’ of the NS regime, the development of it, its social motivations and how the absolute leadership principle could coincide with NS ideology. In view of the mass support base NS was able to build up, consisting mostly of the middle class, the question arises as to the ideological commitment of the masses to NS vs. the manipulatory effect of NS propaganda. In spite of all efforts, it was impossible for the party to create this mass movement out of thin air. The economic crisis of the time alone was also not the decisive factor, or Marxism would have been successful. NS succeeded because it fulfilled the yearning of the populace for continuity and change at the same time. The inconsistency and outright lies by the NSdAP concerning social issues can not invalidate the significance of the social dynamic, the massive success of the party. The failure to fulfill the promises made re. social programs in 1933 can not negate the societal effect the NSdAP had – and left behind.
It was not only the ‘ragged proletarians’(Lumpenproletariat) that formed the mass basis of the movement, it was the lower middle class, farmers and students. They did not wish for the status quo to continue but if NS ‘mystique’ succeeded during this time of peril it was because of the failure of Marxism to appreciate ‘political reality’. The middle class understood Marxism to mean the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, proletarian equalization, and National Socialists profited from this.
I need to interject here. Broszat underestimates the intelligence of the workers and the middle class, by portraying what they saw in Marxism, Bolshevism more precisely, as a misconception. It was not. Germans were well informed as to what this “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” stood for, i.e., mass murder. Prof. Ernst Nolte quotes from a diary entry by Thomas Mann of May 2,1919, in which Mann asks if European culture can be saved or if this Kyrgyz method of ‘culling and extermination (butchering) will be successful (Der Europäische Bürgerkrieg 1917-1945, Ullstein 1987, p.90).
Back to Herr Broszat. Voting for the NSdAP in 1930-1932 did not necessarily mean support for NS ideology but a rejection of existing conditions, and seeing NS as the only non-Marxist ideology with a chance for success (Prof. Nolte goes into detail on this subject in the above mentioned book). Then there was the desire by famers, nouveau middle class and youth for political representation – the existing system had neglected them. The vagueness of the NS program did not deter them, quite the opposite, they considered it to be flexibility and vitality, and as a chance to have an influence on the finished product. This irrational attitude of faith can surely be dismissed as ‘hysterical confusion’, as irresponsible self-betrayal but this will not negate the social dynamic of the movement. It instead displays the penned-up pressure of social tensions and the Hitler movement addressed the issues by promising to dismantle the old feudal and bureaucratic structures. It was characteristic for NS that it did not portray itself as social-reactionary, not intending to renew the old order but to promise a reinstatement of lost prestige through ‘revolutionary renewal.’
This duality of revolutionary tendencies and at the same time restorative efforts is what made NS attractive. Romantic images and values of the past were restyled to appeal to a young, avant-garde, movement. The fallback to the natural familiar community was transformed into the social ideal of a disciplined and equivalent production society. Instead of subservience the demand was for ‘national fellowship’. The exclusive elite of aristocratic leadership was replaced by the approachable ‘folkish blood-nobility’ of the German Master race. The charismatic Führer with whom one could identify represented the effacement of the distance to nobility. This new configuration reflected the dynamic of this new middle-class. The peculiarity of entrenched class-conscious bourgeois mentality and social morality on the one hand and status-inferiority, social dependence and economic impotence combined to form the ‘extremism of the middle’, with NS as the standard bearer.
The social thrust from which the NSdAP profited was already prevalent in the time of strife (Kampfzeit), resulting in an enormous frenzy of activities, the ability to improvise and the overall energy of the followers. And this explains the extraordinary accomplishments and engagement of broad segments of the population during the Hitler regime. World War I had shown that during a national crisis, resulting in truce between opposites, society can reach the pinnacle of accomplishments. And the Hitler regime was able to make this, what had been exceptional, the norm. The regulating of all social segments resulted in a psychological equalization and shortened the distance between the upper and lower class. And because of the many-facetted activities of the party, the numerous organizations, a new society was created. New possibilities for advancement, regardless of social standing, opened up. Not the revolutionary overthrow of the old social order, but the diminishing influence of the old power brokers weakened the conservative order of old, in the family as well as in school, in administration and the economy, in the fighting forces and universities. Equality and better chances for advancement, as well as the emancipation of up to now apolitical segments of society, was the obvious result of the efforts by the Hitler regime, having many of them believe, in spite of ideological and political oppression, that they were living in an open and free society.
But the regime was not able to lay the foundation for a lasting, rational new order/beginning. Incapable of fulfilling the social promises made to mobilize the masses it was thus forced to direct the focus on distant objectives, on destructive goals, overextending its potentials.
Before continuing to Chapter 2, a few comments: Broszat has to admit that the NS party had massive support, and by tortured reasoning tries to explain it away, make it seem like deception when in fact the support by the classes identified by him was real. To this day people are unable to explain why Germans stuck to Hitler to the bitter end. Broszat points to the power struggles within the party, etc., no doubt true. For instance, Wilfred von Oven, Goebbels’s personal adjutant, quotes the latter complaining that: If the world would only know what our “Führer state” is like in reality. Goebbels then goes on to point to some of the rivalries and the outright incompetence of some (Finale Furioso, Grabert, 1974, p.255). Broszat claims that the party program had been vague, intentionally so, and he might be right. But, taking all of this into consideration, Broszat is unable to explain why National Socialism was very popular.
And now to how the “Endlösung” is supposed to fit into this, according to Broszat. The next, and last, segment is about Hitler’s leadership and NS ideology. Most historians agree that the history of the NSdAP and the Third Reich centers around Hitler. It has been pointed out that National Socialism, in contrast to other ideologies, was not primarily an ideological and program-oriented movement, but a charismatic movement personified by Hitler. The Führer was therefore not the propagator of an idea, the utopian NS Weltanschauung (ideology) became reality through the personality of Hitler. One can therefore restrict any analysis of Third Reich politics to Hitler’s ideology, with fanatical anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism as well as the acquisition of new Lebensraum in the East the only constant issues.
These constants were however not decisive in winning the masses – they played a secondary role. The fight against Marxism and the party state were the points stressed by NS propaganda; anti-Semitism et al could considered to be the arcanum (Broszat’s word) of the Führer-reign not meant to be made public (therefore the secret mass execution of Jews [Broszat]), but not the reason for the success of National Socialism. There are those who stress that the history of the Third Reich was written by Hitler, dictated by his personal ideology. But these analyses are not convincing. Attempting to interpret ‘Hitler’ presents a problem, and those trying to find a solution must consider the question if Hitler was not just the agent of certain interests, but perhaps the representative of antagonistic powers and tendencies – personified by him – doomed to a cataclysmic conclusion.
Portraying that image of resoluteness, Hitler articulated what his listeners wanted to hear, if only subconsciously. He verbalized what they secretly thought and wanted, he reinforced their as yet uncertain longings and prejudices, instilling in them the feeling of being part of a new truth and thus ensured their willingness for selfless participation. Hitler’s rise to power from mediocrity shows that his leadership qualities could only develop in a certain crisis atmosphere and collective psychology. With this exaltation as the background he was able to experience his own neurosis as truth and to make the collective neurosis in the image of his own obsession.
It therefore becomes clear that the individuality of Hitler can not be factored out of National Socialism, but also: that Hitler’s historical possibilities to act were dependent on definite predetermined conditions, much more so than other heads of state. We therefore need to ask why these elements were lodged in the mind of the Hitler and were the only ones consequently realized. He was the one who held the ideology together, meaning that he stood above it and was not bound by specific issues. And that was only possible by identifying irreconcilable enemies that had to be fanatically combatted. Anti-Semitism and Anti-Bolshevism were the negatives that met these conditions, with the acquisition of living space in the east the positive. Anti-Semitism and Anti-Bolshevism mobilized the masses against these alleged conspirators and exploiters, with the living space utopia as the therapeutic image of an autarkic great power. But those objectives (or better action-directions), had little to do with reality and were therefore immune to correction. That is why Hitler was forced to repeatedly refer to them to keep the movement going, especially since more and more of the envisioned concepts proved to be illusive.
The NS movement was, in most cases, only able to cast doubt on the conditions of the existing order, but when trying to address these issues resistance was encountered by the parties who the NS depended on for support. And because of being unable to turn NS ideology into reality, more emphasis was put on the implementation of the negative programs, to demonstrate that at least some of NS ideological concepts were realized. Therefore, to not alienate the conservative partners and other state authorities, measures were taken to combat certain, powerless, minorities: the hereditarily defective, the mentally challenged, antisocial elements and Jews, by passing condemnatory laws. This stereotypical negation was the only issue the “Extremism of the Middle” could agree on from the beginning, by the dismissal of anything ‘strange/different’ and ‘immoral’, and of all ‘unwanted elements’. And because the supporting middle class had no corresponding social interests of their own, they allowed the Führer to act on their behalf. This ‘selection of negative ideologies’ resulted, over time, in the radicalization and perfection of inhumanities. But if the ideology of a new beginning, propagated following the NS coming to power, could not be realized, and the negative aspects were instead concentrated on, then the continued discrimination against the Jews, mentally challenged, antisocial elements, etc., was inevitable. But this could not be an open-ended process; therefore it had to end in the “Endlösung”. And that was the consequence of National Socialism as represented by Hitler.
No evidence exists that the mass murder of Jews, started in 1941/42, had secretly been planned as a distant goal. The up to 1939 forced emigration of Jews, the Madagascar-Plan, were not intended as the physical extermination of the Jews, only the removal of Jews from the German sphere of influence. Concerning Jewish programs one must assume that a radicalization over time took place; this is not to say that the possibility of the liquidation of Jews had not earlier been considered by Hitler and/or some of his followers. But this could only have been a possibility, realized later because of changing conditions. And as Hitler was forced to again and again refer to fall back upon the negative aspects, to placate the movement, the phraseology finally caught up and what had been propagated as ideology, as mobilization of the masses, had to be realized. With this the NS regime arrived at the last absurdity, resulting finally in the destruction of the movement, for with the secret extermination of the Jews, anti-Semitism as a propaganda tool was also buried.
So much for Herr Broszat and again I have to label this as ‘tortured reasoning’. He tries to make a case for the Endlösung, i.e., “The Holocaust” as being a logical consequence of the inability of the NSdAP to bring about real change and Hitler having therefore to rely on the negative, Anti-Semitism, finally resulting in the mass extermination of Jews. In the newest publication another theory is advanced. “Neue Studien zu nationalsozialistischen Massentötungen durch Giftgas”(2011) focusses on the NS euthanasia program, the argument: being that if one happened the other must have.
Twice Broszat refers to the ‘secret’ mass killing of Jews (pp.400, 408); he no doubt had to, because of the scores of Germans still alive who lived through that time and asking, himself perhaps included: Why did I not know anything about this? And since he did not find anything resembling a plan for this alleged mass murder, he had to engage in these mental gymnastics about the “Endlösung” being a logical extension of NS policies. One could almost feel sorry for him, unable to explain, convincingly, how ‘it’ happened but asserting nonetheless that it did. For me there is not a more convincing case against “The Holocaust” than the ‘explanations’ offered by Broszat et al. If real evidence to substantiate what is claimed would exist, it would be submitted instead of these theories. And finally, it is impossible to murder millions of Jews in secret.