August 5, 1933 - Article - Old-Time Germany Looks At Hitler, by F. Britten Austin

I sat with my friend - we will call him Major Von Miedhof - at one of the awning-sheltered outside tables of the café doing a maximum business at this hour. A Nazi detachment was passing, S-A - Sturm-Abteilung - men in light khaki shirts and soft khaki, peaked caps, the swastika brassard on their left arms, black knee-tight breeches descending into calf-high military boots, young fellows mostly in their early twenties, marching smartly in exact military precision. The people at the tables, the crowd on the sidewalk, threw up their arms in salute, shouted enthusiastically, "Heil Hitler!" My friend remained entirely calm. He was an ex-artillery officer, about fifty years of age, honest, intelligent, sold, efficient, the kind that had been the backbone of the German armies in the war. Since the peace, he was a partner in an export business. I liked him exceedingly.

The swastika emblem was everywhere. Red flags centered with the black Hakenkreuz on a white circle flew from the flagstaffs of every building, fluttered from the handlebars of almost every bicycle, protruded from the windows of the humblest dwelling...... Everywhere arms shot up the Nazi salute. Everywhere one heard the shout "Heil Hitler!" There was no doubt about the enthusiasm. If there was anything non-Nazi, it was not visible. There was a curious vivifying, almost intoxicating, excitement in the atmosphere. The German people one had believed to be so placid seemed to be possessed with a collective hysteria . Hitler was almost deified.

I wondered what my friend genuinely thought about this phenomenon, which possibly - and even probably - implied an abrupt turn to the kaleidoscope of European history. I asked him.

"My son is a Nazi," he replied, and drank from his mug of beer.

"Ach, so," I countered politely. "But that doesn't tell me what you think of it."

He smiled.

"This is hardly a good place to discuss such matters," he said. "Presently, if you like, we will talk about it. It might be a good thing. Foreigners do not seem to understand it at all. Outside Germany there is a campaign of lies against us."

"You are at least a Nazi sympathizer yourself then?" I queried.

"No, I am not. I am one of the older generation. The Nazi movement is a movement of youth. Until the other day, most of us older people were in violent opposition. We disliked its crudeness. We thought Hitler merely a rabid demagogue. Perhaps, also, we sensed something else. This Nazi youth is dedicated to the making of a new world which is not our world." He shrugged his shoulders. "But, as I said, this is not the place to discuss it. Presently we will talk. Perhaps you will come home and smoke a cigar with me?"

I assented with pleasure.

"Despite the venomously malicious libels circulated about him [Hitler], his private life is genuinely ascetic. He never drinks, never smokes, and eats but sparingly. His movement in the early days was certainly financed by enthusiastic ladies but he himself has never been known to have anything to do with women. He seems to have no personal side at all.

He himself is always abstract, thinking in abstractions. Notoriously, when he meets you he has no conversation. He is a man of the idee fixe and he addresses you as if you were a public meeting. His personal appearance is deprived of dignity by his ridiculous Charlie Chaplin mustache. Yet - and here is the phenomenon - this improbable evangelist from the artisan class with only six companions founded the mighty movement which, for good or ill, has transfigured Germany." (pg. 10)

"And when he makes a speech, he electrifies and fascinates and sways his audience as no other German has swayed an audience. He talks platitudes, and often nonsense. But if the business of an orator is to dominate a crowd, he is undoubtedly the greatest orator of our time. I have heard him. The man, whatever he himself is, is utterly transcended. He is the vehicle of a burning, white-hot idea.

"I speak for people like myself, the people who really made the old-time Germany, and perhaps for some years to come will still be the pivotal class." He paused to emphasize his point.

"Splendid!" I smiled. "You're the very man I want to hear."

He blew a long slow puff of cigar smoke, his eyes half closed. (pg. 11)

"Now here we touch the Jewish question. It is a fact that, from the beginning - at any rate, in Germany - the Socialists and Communists leaders have been Jews. The leaders of the Second International are Jews. Perhaps because they themselves are international, and Socialism and Communism are international movements, Jews have always been prominent in them. Of course, the majority of the Jews are not Socialists. But in the mind of the German people, social revolution and Jews have become almost synonymous." (pg. 62)

"Hitler has given us that chance. When he says that he is going to ‘clean up Germany,' we are with him."

I smiled.

"It seems to me that you are going along with him pretty well all the way," I said.

"No. As I will explain to you presently, there are many things in which people like myself are not with him. But in so far as Hitlerism stands first and above all things for a rebirth of the German national spirit, we agree. Only by such rebirth can Germany emerge from the impotence imposed on her by the Treaty of Versailles. Germany cannot remain forever vanquished, a race of slaves. A new generation has grown up. It demands its equal status in the world. We must have the right to arm on an equality with other nations. The Polish Corridor must be abolished. All the iniquities of the Versailles Treaty must be done away with."

"Exactly as Adolf Hitler says," I remarked. "You seem to be with him in that also."

"Yes. Provided he does not spoil everything by being too headstrong and impatient. Provided he does not talk too much. Even if we get the right to rearm now, we shall not be ready for four or five years. In the first place, we shall have to create an air force. Now, we have none.

"People like myself, of the older generation, while we think that the internationalists influence should be eradicated, do not approve of the wholesale and indiscriminate persecution of the Jews as such. We think it is both cruel and stupid. We think that while some Jews are Communists and Socialists, it is ridiculous to assume that every Jew is an enemy of Germany. We all know many Jews who are nothing of the kind. We think that this 100% Aryanism is nonsense. We know that there is no such thing as a pure European race. We think it is nonsense to brand a man as a Jew and an outcast because one of his grandmothers was a Jewess. In short, we think Hitler has gone too far.

"Not that it matters today whether we like it or not. We are out of this picture. We are the older generation, who thought in terms of compromise, of doing business. The Nazi movement is utterly and completely a youth movement - and youth doesn't compromise. It marches ruthlessly toward its ideals. But make no mistake about it. This is no evanescent mass craze to be replaced by another tomorrow. Nazi-ism is the true face of Germany, sein wahres Gesicht. It is the old, primitively fundamental Germany standing on its feet again, revealing itself defiantly. Remember your Tacitus - the old Teutonic warrior tribes, their men Spartanlike in their contempt for luxury, their women fiercely chaste, worshiping Odin in a mystic glorification of war. Not for nothing is the old pagan swastika the symbol of the Nazis." (pg. 63)

"My generation is afraid of another war. The Nazi generation would march to it with ecstacy. If Germany wins that next war, Hitler will pass into Valhalla with Thor and Odin. If she loses, if Nazidom is a failure, then chaos, anarchy, Communism, the end of all things. That is the great gamble looming up before the German people. But, my friend" - he smiled - "the next time Germany fights, she will win." (pg. 64)

Comments: Just as Adolf Hitler and his associates, for good or bad, transfigured Germany; Franklin Roosevelt and his associates were in the process of transfiguring, for good or bad, the United States during the same time period. It is also a grave error for any people to believe that their country's military might is invincible and to give support to wars that are not for the purposes of self defense, for when a country does this, they make many enemies just as Germany did.

Back to Old Weekly Press Table of Contents