Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Quote for Day: "People Voted for Hitler as They Voted for Putin and Trump, Because They Didn't Want to Give up Their Own Privileges"

PRRI, "Despite Chaos and Controversy, Trump Favorability Stable Throughout 2019," 26 Feb. 2020

In her book Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019), Susan Neiman cites German philosopher Bettina Stangneth, author of Eichmann Before Jerusalem (NY: Knopf, 2014; German edition, 2011):

She's [i.e., Bettina Stangneth] not convinced that Germans have faced the worst fact about the Nazi period: not the ignorant masses, but the educated elites were the driving forces behind the regime …. 
People voted for Hitler as they voted for Putin and Trump, because they didn't want to give up their own privileges. This isn't a matter of ignorance. They understand exactly the price of enlightenment: that the equality of humankind means the equality of humankind, and not only after I've secured my own comfort.

I read this testimony, and I think of Friedrich Percyval Reck-Malleczewen writing repeatedly (e.g., p. 192) in his Diary of a Man in Despair, trans. Paul Rubens (NY: Macmillan, 1970), that Hitler's strength in Germany lay not among the working classes, who often resisted the Nazi regime in the ways available to them to resist, but among educated elites, among the affluent.

And I think of  Joachim Fest writing the following in his book about growing up in a Catholic family in Germany during the Nazi period, Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood, trans. Martin Chalmers (NY: Other Press, 2012):

On another occasion he [Fest's father] spoke of the main error that he and his friends had fallen victim to, because they had believed all too unreservedly in reason, in Goethe, Kant, Mozart, and the whole tradition which came from that. Until 1932 he had always trusted that this tradition was proof enough, that a primitive gangster like Hitler could never achieve power in Germany. But he hadn’t had a clue. One of the most shocking things for him had been to realize that it was completely unpredictable how a neighbor, colleague, or even a friend might behave when it came to moral decisions (pp. 359-360). 

And I think of these passages (pp. 174, 176) in Charles Marsh's biography of Dietrich Bonhöffer, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (NY: Knopf, 2014):

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