Page 3, 10th February 1950

10th February 1950
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Page 3, 10th February 1950 — The Spirit of Germany Today
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The Spirit of Germany Today

A MORAL REVOLUTION NEEDED

tion of the Jews, or dismisses it as sheer " propaganda." The majority is still reluctant to admit that such things did exist; or, if they did, then " we did not suspect that they existed."

Some assume a rather defiant attitude and say that " there are murderers in all nations," or that " other people have even worse camps" (meaning the Russians), or ironically point out that " after all, the Russians are no better than Nazis." When one retorts that. after all, the Russians. especially under Communism, were not considered an integral part of Europe and that they were often judged by the Germans as " barbarians" while Germany wanted to keep up a "European" façade, one is greeted with a sulky silence. And the problem is not whether there are murderers in various nations, hut their percentage in the whole population; and it seems that their number in Germany was much above normal. It is also questionable whether the Slate should plan and organise crime and inhumanity.

But again the majority of the Germans does not seem to grasp that truth nor the implications of the actions committed by the Nazis.

Germans' Passivity In articles and books, in songs sung in various music halls, in

speeches and orations which one reads and listens to in Germany, the same attitude seems to be allpervading; a certain passivity, the compliance of a victim to a stronger will. " We were told that democracy was the solution during the Weimar days, . " bewails one of the songs "and then we were told that authority is better than freedom. . . " " and later on we were promised by the occupation Powers bread, freedom and what not, . " This theme runs through thousands of public and private pronouncements. Always the German community is represented as a meek and powerless unit dominated by somebody's will; always the German masses are told by somebody to do this or that, promised enormous profits. led astray, betrayed. and then again pushed around and ordered to do exactly the opposite.

This passivity is truly depressing. There is hardly any dignity in the whining; and a desperate lack of any sense of responsibility characterises all these more or less serious confessions. But they reveal an almost pathological lack of moral courage in a. society which is able to display an enormous amount of physical courage and can stand up to almost unbelievable nervous and physical stress.

This is a truly distressing sight. When listening to many of the conversations in German trains, trams and buses, one is often taken aback by the amount of ignorance displayed; these conversations betray a complete lack of understanding of what has happened and why Germany has been plunged into such a catastrophe. There is a theory that disaster makes people think about moral laws governing the world and encourages the salutary process of questioning their own conscience. There is very little of that process going on in Germany; and again the trouble with Germany is that there are so few courageous people who would like to tell the truth to their nation.

This queer naivete displayed by the Germans, this attitude of " playing the fool," may enrage many observers. I asked one bright French woman who used to live in pre-war Germany and has been staying in post-war Germany some three years or so, about the real background of that irritating " innocence." Is it genuine naivetd or just hypocrisy ? The French girl smiled and said : "You know, when people discard responsibility for too long a time and when they try to profess ignorance about evil things going around, they become stupid. . . cruelly stupid."

The Courageous

The problem of increasing the number of those courageous ones who will be ready to WI the truth to their community, is one of the major problems in post-war Germany.

There were in Nazi Germany courageous people: and the concentration camps were tragic monuments erected to their courage. Germany started experimenting with cruelty and oppression on their own citizens before launching a wholesale campaign on a European scale. German citizens formed the first batch of guinea-pigs subjected to Nazi methods of barbarism; and those dreaded camps have contributed more than any single measure to the annihilation of courage amongst the German population. People who pass judgmtnt on the German nation must not forget that fact; as well as the fact that the stifling and vile atmosphere of a Totalitarian State is corrupting to morals of any kind, and that it can break even the most brave ones.

The tragedy of post-war Germany is that there's hardly any moral

authority left there. Some people pinned their hopes on persons like Pastor Nicmocller; but his influence is almost none. Many people object to him, saying that after all even that presumably courageous pastor did not abstain from offering his services to Hitler as a prospective U-boat Commander. Even in Niemoeller. they say, the call of arms was stronger than the call of the spirit.

The Christian Churches in Germany seem to have missed a truly

historic opportunity. In pre-war Germany there were people—even among the unbelievers — who frankly said that if there ever was an incarnation of Anti-Christ. Hitler was one; that looking at the doings of some Nazis one was bound to believe that Satan and evil are real forces and that they were let loose on earth by that ignominious regime. There was a historic chance for the Churches in Germany to harp on that theme. Some of the German churchmen talked at the end of the war about " an Apocalyptic catastrophe " and about " a Day of Judgment." What a pity that they did not keep Lip that theme ! What a pity that they did not try to move the conscience of their people—attendance in churches of all denominations has been definitely on the increase —and that they did not endeavour to penetrate the dark recesses of the German mind ! What a pity that they preferred to embroider the subject of " our unhappy brethren from the East "; what a pity so many of those churches are being misused for campaigns of that kind instead of being devoted to the process of moral kat'utrsis.

There are some courageous groups today, some of them gathered round papers and magazines (like Frankfurter Hefte) who try to provide that " moral shock " which seems to be an essential preliminary to any change of heart in Germany. " What we need is a moral revolution," I was told by one German and no truer word was ever spoken, Unfortunately there are few signs of such a revolution forthcoming; for there are no moral authorities left. and all-pervading cynicism, a legacy of Dr. Goebbels, still holds the country in its grip.

Gisevius

Nevertheless there are people who insist on demonstrating the true nature of the Nazi regime and exposing the cowardice of the generals who had no courage to call off the senseless slaughter long after they had lost arty faith in victory. Books by such persons as Gisevius are not too popular, as he is suspected of being a clever double-crosser, and the morality of his motives is doubted. Some Germans, and rightly too. point out that actually the Gisevius memoirs are a shocking ex

position of the impotence of the German " resistance ' and especially of the General class; and that the whole book is more damaging to the cause of the " resistance " than a tribute to its heroes.

There are even courageous people in Germany today who repeat the lines written after the firm world war by Erich Kaestner: " wean wir den Krieg gewonnen haetten. . ." and try to show what a calamity victory would have been for the German nation. Unfortunately, they arc not many, those apostles of moral courage.

None of the German arnigrees returned to Germany and decided to settle down there. Thomas Mann will visit Germany for a few days only—and he is rather unpopular, or made unpopular by some clever demagogues who want to discover in that great writer some inclination towards "escapism." an artificial pose, and even—yes—poor German style. The reason for that campaign is obviously the fact that during the war Thomas Mann had the courage to say some bitter words of truth to their countrymen. In his latest book Dr. Faustus Mann undoubtedly painted an allegory of the strife which goes on insole the German mind — a struggle between the daemoniac and the intellectual. He is fully aware of the dual and split nature of the German mind.

Exodus of Eminent Minds Neither did Carl Zuckmeyer. whose two plays: Ten/el': General and the older one, Kapitati von Koepenick — are playing to full houses, intend to stay in Germany. The exodus of eminent minds from Germany has not been stopped: re cently • Prof. Karl Jasper, the illustrious philosopher whose teachings contributed to the making of the fashionable Sartrism, has left Germany and taken up the chair of philosophy in Basel where many years ago Nietzsche, that uncanny prophet of Europe's re-barbarization, was lecturing.

It is a serious loss for Germany that those people, seasoned in battles against tyranny, cannot he won for their war-scared country. BUf obviously those emigres came in the conclusion—shared by many emigres. from other countries in Europe— that changes had occurred in Germany which made their return Mtpossible and that they would never he happy in the moral and cultural atmosphere of their own country. In post-war Germany they would feel outcasts from their own old world, strangers to their own countrymen. Obviously they wanted to avoid this most cruel form of emigration—to feel alien among one's own people.

But new forces are coming to the fore: some writers like Theodor Plivius and Casak are obviously artists of consequence; and the mystical note struck by the tatter might be a beacon pointing to some internal changes in the German mind. There are conditions, favourable for a revival of German arts and literature; and Munich and Dusseldorf are two centres of great cultural activity.

Excellent theatrical performances can be seen in Diisseldorf and some of the staging and directing of Shakespeare by G. Gruendgens in Dusseldorf would do honour to any leading European theatre. Publishing houses are bringing out a good many serious books, but it seems that many of the works dealing with the Nazi period of Germany came either too early or too late; the public is still reluctant to delve into those problems. On the other hand Schacht's volume of memoirs became a comfortable winner and a best-seller; and it seems that the German public was anxious to learn from the lips of the famous " financial wizard " what was wrong with the German plan of conquest.

Schacht seems to have provided the answer: he tries to explain that Germany could have dominated Europe without war, by applying economic and political pressure. He condemns Hitler but he does not condemn dreams of domination. This seems to remain the subconscious wish; for in a recent poll Bismarck was elected by a crushing majority as the " greatest German

statesman." Obviously that blending of brutality, cunning and commanding character appears to the German mind an ideal combination.




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