Posts Tagged ‘Resistance’

Germany, the Rise of the Nazis and the Commemoration of the

March 30, 2016

Terror Topography

I think yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world, or at least, Europe gathers to remember Hitler’s extermination of the Jews in the hope that the commemoration of this most appalling of atrocities will never be repeated. There was a piece about on the radio today, in which one woman pointed out that Hitler felt he could go ahead with it with impunity because the Allies in the First World War had made no move to prevent or protest against the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks. Hitler himself asked, ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ And so the world remembers the Holocaust in order to prevent it ever recurring.

I’ve blogged a lot about Nazi crimes and atrocities in eastern Europe in the past few days. As I said, I’m not trying to stir up resentment against the Germans, but to show how authoritarian Britain and the other countries are going as our constitutional freedoms are sacrificed in the interests of national security and the surveillance state. I’ve also blogged about the Nazi persecution and mass-murder of the Slav peoples of eastern Europe, particularly because Fascism and the Far Right is also growing over there. No-one with any self-respect should have anything to do with any Fascist or Nazi party, and especially not the Slav peoples, such as Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Belorussians, Ukrainians and Russians. After the Nazis had conquered their countries, the Nazis intended to deport them from an area extending from part of Poland into the Ukraine and Russia. 30 million Slavs were to be slaughtered, and the rest were to work as slave labourers cultivating agricultural produce for their German masters. About seven million people were rounded up to work as slave labourers in Germany, while another seven were forced to work for the occupying Nazis in their countries. Himmler compared the process to the Western European occupation and colonisation of Africa. He declared that eastern Europe ‘was our Africa, and the Slavs are our negroes’.

I don’t believe that the rise of the Nazis was inevitable, or that it was the natural culmination of German history. Indeed, in the 19th century there was less anti-Semitism in Germany than in France or England, and some of the pseudo-scientific elements of Nazism – the perverted racial theory and eugenics, were part of the general intellectual climate in the West at the time. The Nazis boasted that they had invented nothing. They based their own eugenics legislation on contemporary American laws intended to prevent the biologically unfit from breeding, while their 19th century predecessors in the various anti-Semitic organisations also based their demands for legislation separating Jews and gentiles on American laws governing Chinese immigrant workers.

Nor did all Germans quietly acquiesce as the Nazis seized power. In the last democratic elections held before the Nazi seizure of power, the Nazis themselves only won 44% of the vote. They only gained a bare majority through their alliance with the Nationalists, who only polled 8%. And this was after a campaign of intimidation throughout Germany and the banning of the German Communist Party, the KPD. The mainstream German Socialist party, the SPD, continued to resist the Nazis until the very end. They only lost a single seat, and ended up with 120 in the German parliament. The Catholic Centre Party, another of the major pillars of the Weimar coalition governments, actually increased the number of seats they held by three to 73. In the end, however, it was only the SPD, which voted against the Enabling Act. Otto Wels read out the SPD’s gave the party’s farewells to the previous era of Human Rights and humanity and gave its good wishes to political prisoners and the enemies of the regime, who even then were being rounded up and put in the camps. The address’ conclusion ran:

At this historic hour, we German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and Socialism. No Enabling Law can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible. You yourself have declared your commitment to Socialism. The Socialist Law [of 1878] did not succeed in destroying Social Democracy. From this new persecution too German Social Democracy can draw new strength. We send greetings to the persecuted and oppressed. We greet our friends in the Reich. their steadfastness and loyalty deserve admiration. The courage with which they maintain their convictions and their unbroken confidence guarantee a brighter future.

There have been problems after the War with the persistence of Neo-Nazi groups, like the National Democratic Party and the German Republican Party. There has also been the injustice that many Nazis did escape and were not prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. And one of the complaints by some foreign writers was that the collective guilt about the Nazi past made many Germans unwilling to discuss it with their children, leaving some unprepared when they encountered it and its legacy.

On the other hand, the Germans have enacted legislation to protect democracy against the rise of totalitarianism. Under the terms of the Basic Law, the Grundgesetz, the only parties and political movements which are permitted are those which recognise the basic principles of democracy. And it has been invoked to ban neo-Nazi movements, most notably in the 1970s when it was used to outlaw the National Democrats. And there have been exhibitions and books discussing the Third Reich, its rule through fear and intimidation, and commemorating its victims.

One such is the book at the top of the page, Topographie des Terrors: Gestapo, SS und Reichssicherheitshauptamt auf dem >>Prinz-Albrecht-Gelaende<< Eine Dokumentation, ‘Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office at the >>Prinz-Albrech-Site<< A Documentation (Berlin: Verlag Wilmuth Arenhoevel 1988)'. This was published as part of an exhibition following negotiations about the redevelopment of the site and the commemoration of its past as the headquarters of the Nazi security organisations in 1979/80. Mike brought my copy of the book back with him when he went there with his old college.

The book has the following chapters:

Introduction.
1. Headquarters of the SS State: Addresses and Institutions.
2. History of that party of the City and the Building.
2.1 A quite district on the City’s Edge (1732-1880)
2.2 The Quarter’s Career.
2.3 Departure and Crisis

3. Institutions of Terror
3.1. The Reichsfuhrer of the SS and his Reich
3.2. Seizure of Power and Early Terror
3.3 The Secret State Police
3.4 The Reichfuhrer-SS’ Security Service
3.5 Reich Security’s Main Office
3.6 ‘House Prison’ and Political Prisoners (1933-39)
3.7 ‘Protection’.
3.8. Concentration Camps.

4. Persecution, Annihilation, Resistance
4.1 The Fate of the German Jews 1933-38.
4.2 The Fate of the German Jews 1939-45
4.3 The Fate of the Gypsies.
4.4. Nazi Rule in Europe – Poland
4.5 Nazi Rule in Europe – the Soviet Union
4.6 Nazi Rule in Europe – Other Countries
4.7 Political Resistance and ‘House Prison’ (193945)

5. From Destruction to Rediscovery
5.1 Bombs and Rubble
5.2 The First Year after the War.
5.3 History Made Invisible.
5.4 The Return of the Repressed.

6. Appendix
6.1 Bibliography
6.2. Abbreviations
6.3 Lists of Texts
6.4 Lists of Illustrations
6.5 Register of Names.

Among the illustrations are the following pictures of the Reich’s atrocities.

Concentration Camp Labour

Forced labour at Neugamme Concentration Camp

Roll Call Sachsenhausen

Roll-call at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Deportation of Gypsies

Gypsies being deported.

Kaunas Pogrom

Pogrom initiated by members of Einsatzgruppe A in Kaunas/ Kowno.

In addition to the well-known opponents of the regime, many ordinary Germans also risked their lives to rescue the Jews. Some 5,000 Jews survived in Berlin after being hidden by gentile friends and neighbours. One Jewish woman left this memoir of how she was hidden by a Germany lawyer.

I was constantly sent for by the Gestapo. In 1942 these interrogation sessions became even more threatening and therefore went underground. In the middle of May 1942 I went to Silesia and stayed in several places without officially registering myself. I lived in Breslau, Gleiwitz, Hindenburg, in the countryside and Spahlitz (in the district of Oels). It was here that I remained hidden for months at the house of a German lawyer … (Later after I was arrested this brave amn had another Jewish woman hidden in his house)…

(Wiener Library, Eye Witness Accounts, PIIc, no. 153. In D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) p. 95.

The horrors of the Third Reich need to be remembered, but so too does the heroism of the people, who did their level best to stop, and at least save those they could from its barbarism.

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If Only You Could Do This To The Bedroom Tax

March 16, 2014

saint-simon pic

The 19th century French Utopian Socialist, Claude-Henri Saint-Simon, admired the way the English were so devoted to their rights as free citizens, that they had no fear of resisting corrupt and domineering government officials. As an example of this attitude, he describes the way the English purchaser of the Hotel de Noialles firmly resisted the attempts of the French authorities to confiscate it. It was during Napoleon’s reign, and emigres were not allowed to hold property in France. However, the English proprietor stated that he was quite within his rights, and would continue to hold it, armed and barricaded by himself and his servants if necessary, until the government had passed legislation saying that he couldn’t. Saint-Simon describes the situation thus:

In France everyone says that the laws alone should be obeyed, but no one thinks of putting up the slightest resistance to the most insignificant representative of authority who has committed an illegal act. We have not yet acquired that spirit of independence which is characteristic of the English. To us, independence is simply a principle; to the English it is action and they carry it wherever they go; in every country they are ready to resist anything which does not emanate from the law. Among many examples which can be cited of this, we are content to recount the following anecdote which took place in France very recently:

An Englishman’s Home is his Castle, even in Napoleon’s France

‘Shortly after 20 March, an Englishman bought the Hotel de Noailles. When Bonaparte came to power, because the Englishman had only paid a deposit, the administration began to put into effect the imperial decree concerning the possession of emigres and to eject the buyer.

‘On receiving the order to vacate the premises, which was brought to him by a bailiff, the Englishman replied only that this was his home, that the civil act which gave him the right of ownership could only be annulled by another civil act; this was the law.

‘The next day another bailiff presented himself and received the same reply as the first, ending with these words:

‘”Say to those who sent you that I will not leave here except by virtue of a court hearing; that I demand a court hearing. They say that you are free in France; I shall soon know if you are. I shall do what in the same circumstances I would do in England: the home of a citizen is inviolable; my house will be barricaded, my people armed and we shall fire upon anyone who approaches, as you have done, Sir, to commit violence against me in the name of any authority which is not based upon law.

‘And, in fact, the house was barricade, the doors barred, the servants armed. The incident became known; it was brought before the Conseil d’Etat. The Englishman was left in peace in his house.

‘What Frenchman would have dared to show such resolution?’

Ghitza Ionescu, The Political Thought of Saint-Simon (Oxford: OUP 1976) 113, n.1.

The bedroom tax similarly has no, or very little, legal basis. There never was a subsidy in Housing Benefit to people in homes with more than one room, as the Tories have claimed when formulating the cut. Similarly, many of the people, who have been hit with the Bedroom Tax, including those who have died of starvation or taken their own lives as a result, have been found to be exempt under the law. Some authorities have nevertheless stated that they will continue to administer the tax, however. Unfortunately, the tax is administered through cutting the Housing Benefit, rather than collecting it from the person affected, so you can’t barricade yourself in the property with a group of stalwart friends, family or servants. And the situation also seems to have changed, so that it is the French, who resist corrupt and domineering authority following the traditions of the Revolution rather than the English. I am not recommending the use of violence or force here. I just would like there to be a bit more awareness over this side of la Manche of our rights, and that there was a way of mobilising more people against the Bedroom Tax and the other wretched welfare reforms, so that you could physically defend their victims from them as intolerable violations of our rights as freeborn Brits.