This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Bunker

(From Dec 2006; Bush was at high tide)

One of the wonders of the Second World War is the fact that the German people continued, even when the war was obviously lost beyond all recovery, to worship at the altar of Adolf Hitler. Apart from Valkyrie (the abortive July 1944 coup against him), marked by a breathtaking incompetence, there was never serious opposition even to the last days of April 1945. By 1944 the leading Nazis were all aware that defeat was inevitable, and many began to make arrangements to disappear, but Hitler himself, and a few acolytes like Goebbels, continued to dream of der Sieg (victory). The last ridiculous action along this line was the "Steiner Offensive" in defence of Berlin, to be launched by an SS general, Felix Steiner, who could not be located and using troops who no longer existed. Not surprisingly, it was underwhelming as a success.
One might say that Hitler was insane - and towards the end he undoubtedly was. But what of his generals? They had advised him against invading the USSR (in a preventive war "against absolute Communist evil") without first defeating Britain, and were ignored. They had watched while he fatally delayed Fall Barbarossa in order to vent his spite on harmless Yugoslavia, and they did nothing about it. They had advised him to pull back from Stalingrad while there was still time, and had heard him scream "Ich bleibe an der Wolga! Where the German soldier sets foot, he remains!" They had advised him (and he had initially agreed) not to attack Kursk in 1943; yet he had listened to a minority of them, and against his own instincts, had thrown his tanks into the operation (Fall Zitadelle)  which was to destroy the Panzer forces beyond recovery. And his generals stayed loyal! The German people saw their neighbourhoods disappear under a rain of Lancaster and B24 bombs, their soldiers vanish into Russia never to return, and they stayed loyal! Some of Hitler's advisers told him to make peace with Stalin or with the Western Allies so as to concentrate on one enemy, and he refused. And they stayed loyal!  He repeatedly assured the country of "miracle weapons" that would bring victory, and these weapons were always too little, too late, and misused at that, and they still stayed loyal. Berlin was a sea of ruins, the Red Army was at the gates, and Hitler and his spaced out group of bizarros (like this guy) were rejoicing at the death of Roosevelt, taking this as a "turning point", an omen of inevitable final victory, or at least of an honourable negotiated peace. Even in the last days he put up favoured incompetents like Himmler as chief of Army Group Vistula, and the generals did not rebel! And the German people, even as the Reich's authority crumbled around their ears, stayed loyal!
How did Hitler do it?
One way was by equating himself with "god". The German soldier's oath went...
Diensteid der Soldaten der Wehrmacht Service oath for soldiers of the armed forces
Ich schwöre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen. I swear by God this sacred oath that I shall render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, supreme commander of the armed forces, and that I shall at all times be ready, as a brave soldier, to give my life for this oath.
So, as we see here, the oath was to Hitler, not to the state, and since Hitler was the Fuehrer of the state, any opposition to Hitler was tantamount to opposition to the state. Also, since it was an oath sworn by "god", obedience to Hitler was ipso facto a religious duty. The civil service had a not dissimilar oath:
Diensteid der öffentlichen Beamten Service oath for public servants
Ich schwöre: Ich werde dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler treu und gehorsam sein, die Gesetze beachten, und meine Amtspflichten gewissenhaft erfüllen, so wahr mir Gott helfe. I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and people, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfil my official duties, so help me God.
All this was allied to a highly intrusive surveillance programme which was justified by the idea that only "enemies of the Fuehrer/ state" had anything to fear from it (these enemies would promptly vanish into torture and the hell of concentration camps, and towards the end of the war included such men as the former Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder). And right from school attempts were made to drill obedience into young minds along with militarism and state orchestrated violence.
Meanwhile the industrialists were kept happy because endless war meant an endless flood of orders to their factories, not to mention an endless flood of Jewish and PoW slave labour. And the media were carefully controlled by means of locking up intransigent reporters and promoting such organs as the Nazi party mouthpiece Volkischer Beobachter ("People's Observer") which trumpeted the idea of a righteous war in defence of Western, specifically Aryan, civilisation against absolute evil.
So the German people were controlled by a mix of indoctrination,  intimidation, the deliberate confusion created between religion and the state, and the state and the government, which was the leader. And the German military, now full of "foreign allies", was controlled by hanging recalcitrant officers and rewarding the rest with worthless strips of metal, Iron Crosses and Knights' Crosses, and the like.
This is why, even when the enforcers of the Nazi order had vanished and Nazism itself collapsed in ruin, the German people remained loyal to Hitler until his hold was finally broken by his own suicide. To the last he went on declaring, to his secretary Traudl Junge, that he had "never wanted this war" while insisting, as always, that the first war had never been lost; the Germans had been "stabbed in the back" and if they lost this war, were "unworthy of his genius".
And - oh - did I mention that Hitler came first to power by an entirely democratic election, where he won votes by playing on peoples' fears (scaremongering, in a word) of the "internal enemy" who was "out to destroy German Kultur"; that he consolidated that power by engineering and playing up a staged incident (the Reichstag Fire) which was used as an excuse to impose rule by decree, suspend civil liberties, and fulfil a preplanned agenda; and that he maintained that support in his early days by dazzling people's eyes with a vision of Empire?
Why am I reprising all this ancient history?
"Imminent danger"..."preventive war against absolute evil"..."western cultural values against Eastern barbarism"..."America attacked"..."extraordinary rendition"..."US Patriot Act"..."traitors"..."operation to recapture Baghdad"..."body counts"..."freedom medals"..."God in the White House"..."strong war leader"..."we're an empire now"..."embedded reporters"..."military industrial complex"..."stabbed in the back in Vietnam"... "no cutting and running"..."stay the course"..."final victory"..."rewarding service with citizenship"..."Zarqawi's/Uday and Qusay Hussein's death is a turning point"...and so on and so on.
Sounds familiar?
Throw in the inability to recognise reality and the rewarding of incompetence, and all you have missing is a Charlie Chaplin moustache. Karl Marx was right again...history does repeat itself, the first time as  tragedy, the second as farce.
So might we hope to have the last days in the Fuehrerbunker repeated as well?

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