Krautophobia

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

A rant by neocon journalist Ralph Peters in the New York Post against the Germans as continuing fans of the Third Reich, whom we should never forgive and whose products we should never buy, provides two lessons. One, the neocon hatred of Germans, like their distaste for Southern whites (the same editorial section featured denunciations of those who view the Confederate flag sympathetically), is both obsessive and overshadowing. Two, their hatreds may be more critical for understanding the neocons’ behavior than even their residual attachments to Leon Trotsky or Leo Strauss. Unlike Trotsky, but like Hitler, neocons construct their worldview and related policies around those they hate. And those whom neocons seem to hate most are Germans and Southerners — and not simply the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. Although the neocons go ballistic about Islamicists and Palestinians, these groups count as the political enemies of the Zionist cause. Unlike Southern whites who treasure their heritage or Germans who refuse to despise themselves, Palestinians are not people on whom neocons vent hatred for the Hell of it.

There is certainly evidence for neocon Teutonophobia, from Joshua Muravchik’s anxiety about Pat Buchanan’s German genes, and Commentary’s attempts to blur distinctions between Imperial and Nazi Germany, to the highly prominent place given on the Post’s editorial page to Peters’s outburst. Note this particular "Post Opinion" bore the title "Canned Kraut" and had above the text an undignified picture of German General Reinhard Guenzel, with the caption "Communism was the Jews’ fault." Apparently Guenzel, a Special Forces Commander, had "expressed a bit too publicly the sort of Jew-hating sentiment that tens of millions of Germans harbor privately." Moreover, "in a letter to a vicious rightwing extremist who sits in the German parliament, the general praised the claim that Jews bear at least as much blame for the bloodshed of the Russian Revolution as the Germans do for the Holocaust."

"Next we’ll hear from Berlin," Peters sneers, "how the Jews planned the Holocaust all along." This incident illustrates how little the Germans have really repented for "the single most tragic loss in human history." Almost all of them retain sympathy for the Final Solution, and even the misnamed German resistance, which they pretend to glorify, was made up of Nazi sympathizers like Count von Stauffenberg, who "never lifted a finger against the Nazi regime until the Red Army closed in on their hereditary land in East Prussia."

It is impossible to reproduce here the malignity or mendacity of Peter’s tirade, which readers should look up directly. His charges are, among other faults, glaringly counterfactual; and it may be useful to refer the reader to my book on the politics of guilt or to Heinz Navratil, Der Kult mit der Schuld for multiple examples of speech and thought-control and of the criminalization of insensitive speech (Volksverhetzung) that have come to shape everyday German life. Arguably the German people today are at least as indoctrinated to hate their country as they once were in the doctrines of Aryan supremacy.

Anti-fascist goon squads vandalize presses that are not sufficiently "anti-nationalist," while the police and local governments, particularly those in the hands of the Socialists, stand by complacently and watch. Contrary to Peters’s assertions, it is the guardians of German repentance who now represent the greatest totalitarian threat in the (misnamed) German republic.

The statements about the German Resistance are not only false but also profoundly indecent. The German Resistance, which failed in July 1944, consisted of predominantly conservative, Catholic anti-Nazis who in many cases, e.g., General Ludwig Beck, the diplomat Adam von Trott zu Solz, and former Leipzig mayor Carl-Friedrich Goerdeler, had opposed the Nazis since the 1930s. The first resistance of the old guard had developed in the thirties but failed to obtain the support of the Western Allies, which viewed any collaboration with these German anti-Nazis as a waste of time. By the time the old Widerstaendler, together with anti-Nazi aristocrats such as Klaus von Stauffenberg, Ewald von Kleist, Ulrich von Hassell, and Helmut James von Moltke, attempted to overthrow the Nazis and assassinate Hitler, they knew that they were working alone.

As the German Jewish refugee historian Hans Rothfels shows in his work on the German Resistance, unlike the other anti-Nazi (including und perhaps especially the Communist) undergrounds, his subjects encountered the contempt and suspicion of the Allies. In any case the Western Allies would do nothing that might compromise their alliance with the Soviets, e.g., by making a separate peace with the successful leaders of the Resistance. Thus the conspirators went to work with the sense that they were probably doomed. Describing such heroic figures, who died grisly deaths at the hands of the Nazis, as Nazi-collaborators, who were worrying about "real estate," is a boorish lie — albeit one worthy of a neocon lout. It was also the established lie of the East German Communists, who presented all opponents of Hitler except for the communists as fascist landowners.

A few other facts may be relevant here. Neither General Guenzel nor the "rightwing extremist sitting in the German parliament" (Peters means the Bundestag but obviously has trouble with foreign words) was engaging in an anti-Jewish libel. They were responding directly or indirectly to guilt-crazed leftists who claimed that the Germans, as a "unique nation of evildoers," had not gone far enough to express loathing for their entire national past. The CDU Deputy, Martin Hohmann, in an address commemorating German reunification, had denied that Germans are collectively and perpetually a Taetervolk, a nation of criminal perpetrators.

Citing the work done by my houseguest last week, Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein, on Jewish Bolshevism, Hohmann pointed out that a high percentage of the Soviet secret police officials as well as Soviet leadership, before Stalin’s purge, had been Jewish. According to Bieberstein, this involvement had greatly intensified the anti-Semitism of interwar European nationalist movements.

Neither Hohmann nor Bieberstein bring up this dossier to incite anti-Jewish feeling; and there is no indication that they deny or try to palliate the evils of the Holocaust. What they do argue is that there is no single outstanding European Taetervolk or any guiltless nation of victims and that, with due respect to Peters, many Eastern European and some German Jews participated in Communist mass murder. This is an indisputable fact that the incessant harping on German (and not merely Nazi) crimes cannot hide. In the case of the German and, more generally, European Left, one also faces the brazen denial that Communist crimes were even committed. Whence the shrill screams coming from the Left against anyone imprudent enough to mention the gulags or the long history of Western European Communists and even Socialists in shielding the Soviets from their justified accusers.

As a reward for his inquiry, von Bieberstein, whose family suffered in the Resistance, is fated to spend his professional life as a librarian rather than as a professorial scholar. Moreover, Hohmann and Guenzel, who were indiscreet enough to tell the truth, have been banished from public life. Although by now the "conservative movement," which is becoming a synonym for neocon lickspittles, may not give a damn about lies and slanders, it may occasionally be good for our souls to point them out. Peters not only distorts the past but also misrepresents Germans fighting to restore an intellectually open society.

November 10, 2003

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author of, most recently, the highly recommended Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

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