Category Archives: Hitler, Adolf

‘Resistance’ is absurd, also dangerous

It is not necessary to be an unqualified admirer of Donald Trump, writes Dalrymple,

to know that comparisons of him with Adolf Hitler, which are not infrequent, are absurd.

It ascribes to him a degree of importance that he does not have.

You could only compare Mr Trump to Hitler if you had absolutely no faith in the American political system, and if you thought every last provision in the Constitution for restraints on power had been vitiated.

The word ‘resistance’, says Dalrymple,

is likewise absurd, but also dangerous. One opposes politicians, but one resists dictators. If the word ‘resistance’ is used for opposition to Mr Trump, then the impression is given, and presumably is intended to be given, that he is a dictator: and against a dictator, actions may justifiably be taken that are not justified against an ordinary politician.

The habit of using the word ‘resistance’ to mean opposition to policies that you don’t like

can become entrenched and will not remain confined to one’s own faction alone. Resistance sanctions violence, and so a society can tear itself apart without having experienced anything remotely to justify, or even explain, it.

Dr. Theodore on Prof. Dr. med. Theodor

Der Reichsspritzenmeister

Dalrymple reminds us that Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, Theodor Morell,

kept a secret diary in which he recorded his master’s manifold symptoms and his unconventional treatment of them.

Morell, Dalrymple points out, was known sarcastically as the Chief Reich Injection Officer or the Reich Master of Injections. His methods are thought by many

to have hastened Hitler’s physical deterioration. Once in US captivity, Morell himself claimed to have applied such treatment precisely for that end; but then he would, wouldn’t he?

A bust of Adolf Hitler made of butter

I can’t believe it’s butter!

Such an artefact, if no one had done it before, would be original, writes Dalrymple.

Doubtless an art critic could be found

who would say that the sculptor’s use of this transient medium, which melts if not kept in a cool place, enables him powerfully to express the transient nature of tyranny and despotism.

But of course,

the fact that no one has done it before does not make it worthwhile.

Corbusians versus the cockroaches

Dalrymple writes that Le Corbusier’s

casual but vicious totalitarianism, his inhumanity, his rage against humans, is evident. He felt the affection and concern for humans that most people feel for cockroaches.

Like Hitler, Le Corbusier

wanted to be an artist, and, as with Hitler, the world would have been a better place if he had achieved his ambition — one could have avoided his productions. The buildings that he and myriad acolytes have built scour the retina of the viewer.

The Corbusians are original in nothing but the new outrages they commit

A single Corbusian building

can devastate a landscape or destroy an ancient townscape, with a finality quite without appeal.

As for Le Corbusier’s city planning,

it was of a childish inhumanity and rank amateurism that would have been mildly amusing had it remained theoretical.

Dalrymple’s æsthetic detestation of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret

Le Corbusier, Dalrymple points out, was

  • personally unpleasant
  • a plagiarist
  • a liar
  • a cheat
  • a thief

His ideas were

gimcrack at best, and often far worse than merely bad.

A criminally bad architect

To commission a building from Le Corbusier

was to tie a ball and chain around one’s ankle, committing to Sisyphean bills for maintenance, as well as to a dishonest estimate of what the building would cost to build. He was technically ignorant and incompetent, laughably so. His roofs leaked, his materials deteriorated. He never grasped elementary principles of engineering.

A house by Le Corbusier

was not so much a machine for living in (one of his fatuous dicta) as a machine for generating costs and for moving out of. In the name of functionality, Le Corbusier built what did not work; in the name of mass production, everything he used had to be individually fashioned.

Having no human qualities himself,

and lacking all imagination, he did not even understand that shade in a hot climate was desirable, indeed essential.

Foulest of the fascist architects

Le Corbusier’s writing is

exhortatory and often ungrammatical, full of non-sequiturs and dubious assertions. He raves rather than argues; everything is written in an imperious take-it-or-leave-it mode.

Le Corbusier’s pronouncements, and the belief in them,

led to the construction of a thousand urban hells, worse in some ways than traditional slums because they were designed to eliminate spontaneous human contact. He hated the street, because it was messy, unofficial and unofficiated. He hated it as an obsessively houseproud woman hates dust.

Despite his horrible failings, Le Corbusier exerts

an unaccountable hold over architects and intellectuals. In France (but not only in France), to criticise him is to put oneself beyond the pale, and careers have been obstructed if not ruined by doing so. He seems to have a grip over minds, and those who are attracted to him are attracted also to totalitarian methods of keeping control over opinion. While hundreds of fawning books have been published about him, only a relative handful have taken a critical stance, and even those that provide ample evidence of his manifold defects and crimes refrain from drawing the obvious conclusion.

Reductio ad Hitlerum

The comparisons of Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler are, writes Dalrymple,

coming thick and fast.

People are far from reluctant

to compare others with Hitler in a non-metaphorical way, or to espy full-blown Nazism on the faintest of analogies.

There is, Dalrymple notes,

a vast and extensive literature to help Americans (and others) to know ‘what it was like to be Jewish in the time of Hitler’, much of it of sufficient quality to supply the imagination; and if really we can ‘start to imagine’ it after ten days of Trump, this would be testimony either to our ignorance or to our lack of imagination, or both—the very ignorance or lack of imagination that allows us to make such outrageously far-fetched comparisons in the first place.

How the German intellectuals adored Hitler!

Carl Schmitt (right)

Dalrymple writes:

The penetrating clear-sightedness and benevolence towards humanity that intellectuals often claim for themselves by comparison with the benightedness of the rest of the population is at least sometimes—and maybe often or always—self-serving and mythical. The fact that the most educated part of a modern society supports such-and-such a policy is no evidence that it is right.

It was harder, he points out,

for non-German intellectuals to admire Hitler than Stalin because of the nature of Hitler’s ideas: claiming the inherent and ineradicable superiority of one’s own race and nation in everything from time immemorial is not the best way to attract foreign adherents.

Martin Heidegger

Nevertheless,

many German intellectuals, notoriously Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, rallied to Hitler, and few actively opposed him.

How far their support was motivated by fear or opportunism is impossible to say, but

years of study and intellection did not protect them from gross misjudgment.

Even before Hitler attained power,

support for him was greater among university students and the professoriat than in the nation as a whole.

 

How we loved him!

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-21-44-30The relationship between man and dog, writes Dalrymple,

has interested me since the death of my own dog. How I (or rather we, my wife and I) loved him! We were never bored by, with or in his company. We had to control ourselves when people came to visit, in case they should see our extravagant love for him. ‘Remember,’ we would say to each other, ‘we have to pretend for a time that he is only a dog. We can make it up to him afterwards.’ We were ashamed, in case people thought we were psychological cases or emotional cripples, that we loved our dog so.

Dalrymple and his wife

were not alone in our shame, of course; speaking confidentially, almost all people with dogs will confess to it. They too have to behave sometimes as if their dogs were mere animals. And how many people have I met who have said, after the death of a dog, that they could never have another because they could not tolerate the grief again!

Gen. Hitler and Mr. Wilson Church-hill

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General Hitler holds a Press conference at the German National Hall in October 1913

Arriving in Onitsha, Dalrymple heads for the market. In the stationery, school textbook and chapbook section, he leafs through a pamphlet entitled The Complete Story and Trial of Adolf Hitler.

On its pink cover is a faded picture of an angry-looking Hitler in Lederhose sitting on a garden wall, with the caption: ‘This is the picture of Adolf Hitler, the strong man who believed in action and retaliation.

The pamphlet is in the form of a play,

which the author recommends for use in schools.

The opening scene takes place at

the ‘German National Hall‘, where ‘General‘ Hitler gives a Press conference. ‘Fellow countrymen and women,‘ he says, ‘I, General Hitler, have decided to call this important meeting today being October 1913 just to explain to you the recent events hanging about.

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German Lady: British envoy’s son beat her savagely, then failed to issue a letter of apology, claiming he had acted in self-defence

General Hitler

then complains that a German aëroplane was forced by British agents to land in Liberia.

The general also complains that

the elder son of the British ambassador to Germany ‘mercilessly beat a German Lady‘ without even a letter of apology.

The reporters ask General Hitler

about Germany’s military strength.

Herr General answers:

Germany have Army, Navy and Air force of over 100,000,000 strong men and over 50,000,000 Police men and in addition to all this, all German citizens are trained to serve as soldiers‘.

In the next scene,

the British leader ‘Mr Wilson Church-hill‘ admits that the ambassador’s son hit the German Lady, but says it was in self-defence.

The climax of the play is Hitler’s trial for war crimes.

Dalrymple gives the pamplet to his driver, to seek his opinion.

‘This was a bold man,’ he said, after reading that Hitler murdered 6m Jews because Jewish civilians killed 10 Germans and nearly poisoned three others.

Later, Dalrymple picks up a copy of the National Concord newspaper, and comes across an article headed Hitler in Passing.

One sometimes prays,‘ writes the author, ‘for a Hitler here, who would make black people start seeing themselves as being a race for once superior to any other, who would zoom to all America, Russia and South Africa military installations where all cruise missiles would be turned into specie of rats that carries Lassa Fever. The point is, there is a fearful underestimation of ourselves this way.

This is the picture of Adolf Hitler

This is the picture of General Hitler

British agents forced a German aircraft to land in Liberia

British agents forced a German aircraft to land in Liberia

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National Concord: it is perhaps worth the risk of acute viral haemorrhagic fever as we work to turn cruise missiles into mere rodents

Germany's armed forces number about 100m men

Germany’s armed forces number about 100m men

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A few of Germany’s 50m policemen

The bazaar at Onitsha

The bazaar at Onitsha

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Mr Wilson Church-hill

Mr Wilson Church-hill

All German citizens are trained to serve as soldiers

All German citizens are trained to serve as soldiers

General Hitler in the dock at his trial for war crimes in Nuremberg

General Hitler in the dock at his trial for war crimes in Nuremberg

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One sometimes prays for an African Hitler

One sometimes prays for an African Hitler

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Specie of rats

Specie of rats

The will forgone, the self dissolved

Hitler, writes Dalrymple, was offered this kind of abjection:

Like any girl, I’d like to touch him, wherever one went with him there was always a seismic shift, space and time changed.

These are words, says Dalrymple,

of natural, or at least willing, slaves who seek to dissolve their selves and forgo their will for that of some other person.

Zweig’s descent from bliss to torment

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.25.31The main themes of the writings of Stefan Zweig are, Dalrymple explains,

  • the part that passion plays in human life. The need for control and the need for expression are in constant tension; any attempt to resolve the contradictions of our existence by dogmatic reference to a simple doctrine (and, compared with life, all doctrines are simple) will end in monomania and barbarism.
  • the destruction of civilisation by political dogma, exemplified by the wars that destroyed Zweig’s world and led him to suicide.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.27.32Having grown up in a world

where it was possible to live happily as so free an agent, Zweig found himself plunged into a world where it became impossible, where men had to organize to resist evil so that any freedom at all might be enjoyed.

In such a world,

Zweig’s refusal to commit to any collective institution or endeavour appeared feeble and parasitic.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.28.44Early in life,

by cultivating the acquaintance of prostitutes, pimps, and others on the margins of society, he learned about the lower depths, from whose ugly reality his status as a child of the haute bourgeoisie had sheltered him.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.31.29War

smashed the old world that Zweig so esteemed.

He saw the storm clouds gathering over his native Austria earlier than many. But other German exiles criticized him for being insufficiently vociferous in denouncing the Nazis.

Hitler in Vienna

The messenger of misery comes to Vienna

It is true that he joined no anti-Nazi groups and hardly raised his voice against the Nazi horror. As a free man, he did not want the Nazis to be able to dictate his mode of expression—even if it were in opposition to them. The insufficiency of this fastidiousness at such a conjuncture needs little emphasis.

But Zweig felt

that strident denunciation would grant the Nazis a victory of sorts. And—like many intellectuals who overestimate the importance that the intellect plays in history and in life—Zweig viewed the Nazis as beneath contempt. Their doctrine and world outlook being so obviously ridiculous and morally odious, why waste time refuting them?

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.39.37The nearest he came to denouncing the Nazis

was in one of his brilliant historical studies, published in 1936: The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin.

Of course, it was not so easy to dismiss the Nazis.

The contempt of a fastidious aesthete would not defeat them: far sterner measures were necessary. But Zweig, born in the pre-ideological age, did not want to live in a world where the only alternative to one ideology was what he thought would be a counter-ideology.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.54.57Dalrymple doubts that the modern world would have pleased Zweig.

The shrillness of our ideological debates, the emotional shallowness, the vulgarity of our culture, would have appalled him.

To read Zweig

is to learn what, through stupidity and evil, we progressively lost in the twentieth century.