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Ed Driscoll

‘My Father Was a Communist’

September 24th, 2011 - 3:37 pm

And as Jonah Goldberg noted in Liberal Fascism, Nazism was a populist movement — and one designed from its start to appeal to the communists of post-World War I Weimar-era Germany, by yoking socialism and nationalism together:

Hitler is just as straightforward in Mein Kampf. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Nazis’ deliberate exploitation of socialist and communist imagery, rhetoric, and ideas and how this marketing confused both liberals and communists. The most basic example is the Nazi use of the color red, which was firmly associated with Bolshevism and socialism. “We chose red for our posters after particular and careful deliberation…so as to arouse their attention and tempt them to come to our meetings…so that in this way we got a chance of talking to the people.” The Nazi flag—a black swastika inside a white disk in a sea of red—was explicitly aimed at attracting communists. “In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of Aryan man.”

The Nazis borrowed whole sections from the communist playbook. Party members—male and female—were referred to as comrades. Hitler recalls how his appeals to “class-conscious proletarians” who wanted to strike out against the “monarchist, reactionary agitation with the fists of the proletariat” were successful in drawing countless communists to their meetings. Sometimes the communists came with orders to smash up the place. But the Reds often refused to riot on command because they had been won over to the National Socialist cause. In short, the battle between the Nazis and the communists was a case of two dogs fighting for the same bone.

Nazism’s one-nation politics by its very definition appealed to people from all walks of life. Professors, students, and civil servants were all disproportionately supportive of the Nazi cause. But it’s important to get a sense of the kind of person who served as the rank-and-file Nazi, the young, often thuggish true believers who fought in the streets and dedicated themselves to the revolution. Patrick Leigh Fermor, a young Briton traveling in Germany shortly after Hitler came to power, met some of these men in a Rhineland workers’ pub, still wearing their night-shift overalls. One of his new drinking buddies offered to let Fermor crash at his house for the night. When Fermor climbed the ladder to the attic to sleep in a guest bed, he found “a shrine to Hitleriana”:

The walls were covered with flags, photographs, posters, slogans and emblems. His SA uniforms hung neatly ironed on a hanger…When I said that it must be rather claustrophobic with all that stuff on the walls, he laughed and sat down on the bed, and said: “Mensch! You should have seen it last year! You would have laughed! Then it was all red flags, stars, hammers, sickles, pictures of Lenin and Stalin and Workers of the World Unite!…Then, suddenly when Hitler came to power, I understood it was all nonsense and lies. I realized Adolf was the man for me. All of a sudden!” He snapped his fingers in the air. “And here I am!”…Had a lot of people done the same, then? “Millions! I tell you, I was astonished how easily they all changed sides!”

No one should be in retrospect, almost a century later.

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