Monday, May 21, 2012

Nazi Germany’s Example and the Future of America (Part 2)

In the first part of this essay last Friday, I briefly recounted the history of Nazi Germany’s final years and how Hitler’s government managed to stave off collapse well past the point where the world war became a hopeless quest by marshalling all of the resources still available to the nation. The takeaway is that even though the inevitability of eventual collapse may have been as apparent to any rational observer then as it should be in America today, when it comes to extending the status quo for as long as humanly possible, rationality usually finds itself locked out in the cold.

In part two, I would like to examine what life is like for an average citizen living under a regime that is beginning to see its delusions of grandeur crumbling into dust. Once again, we can look to Hitler’s Germany for clues as to what our own future may well hold. Many people with only a superficial grasp of Nazi Germany’s history seem to have the idea that Hitler simply took power, snapped his fingers, and unleashed the Holocaust. The reality, however, is far more complex. Though life for Germany’s Jews was certainly precarious once Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, their situation in fact only slowly deteriorated and it was not until 1942—more than two years after World War Two began—that the Final Solution became the official policy of the German government. In fact, by the time Reinhard Heydrich called the Wannsee Conference in January of that year, sealing their fate once and for all, the tide of war was already beginning to turn inexorably against the Nazis.

The lesson here is again fairly simple: governments become more repressive during times of national crisis, and that repression increases as the situation becomes more desperate. Looking back at some of the greatest assaults on individual liberties throughout American history—the Alien and Sedition Acts in the late 1790s, the suspension of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, the imprisonment of antiwar protestors during World War I, the Palmer raids during the first wave of Red scares, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the McCarthy hearings early in the Cold War, the Kent State shootings when the Vietnam War had become a hopeless quagmire and waterboarding, rendition, and warrantless wiretapping during the “War” on Terror—shows that they all occurred at a time when America was either actively at war or feared it was about to be attacked.

What is even more illustrative than the Holocaust in the case of Nazi Germany is the repression the regime unleashed against many Aryan Germans once defeat became inevitable. The Nazi regime was built on terror, of course, and many communists, labor unionists, Social Democrats and others deemed “undesirable” were rounded up after Hitler’s ascension to power to be beaten and tortured in the first concentration camps. What is less well remembered is that after the regime had successfully placed its boot heel on the necks of the German populace, many of the concentration camp inmates were released, and by the late 1930s, only a relatively small number of Germans were still suffering “indefinite detention.”

The fact is, if you were a non-Nazi “Good German” during this time—law abiding, able bodied, willing to work and not too vociferous in your complaints about the nation’s leadership—the first seven years or so of Hitler’s rule must have seemed like a glorious time to be alive. Even after Hitler launched the war and chronic shortages of nearly every consumer good became endemic, for awhile you could at least take national pride in the seemingly never ending stream of German military successes. In fact, unless you were one of the unlucky souls slogging it out in the brutal combat of the eastern front, it was only after the defeat at Stalingrad and the appearance of American and Royal Air Force bombers overhead with relentless regularity that your quality of life really began to suffer.

The Nazi leadership was not blind to this importance of morale on the home front. Because one of the key memes used by Hitler during his rise to power was the so-called “stab in the back,” when the “traitors” supposedly turned on Kaiser Wilhelm at the end of World War One, the SS’s intelligence service was forever monitoring the mood of the population, determined to stamp out any such “insurrection” before it had a chance to threaten the regime. By 1944, an ill-advised casual joke told about Der Fuhrer overheard by the wrong person could result in its teller being swiftly bundled off to a concentration camp.

Worse still, by early 1945 when the Russian tanks were already closing in on Berlin, fervent Nazis took to the streets and began summarily hanging anyone they considered to be a “defeatist” or a “deserter.” One might view their actions in light of the looming total defeat as insanity, but they did ensure that the German people continued to at least passively accept the regime right up until the very moment when their own city or town was “liberated” by the Allies.

Just as many Nazis refused to accept the approaching reality that their nation had been totally defeated in war, most Americans today refuse to accept that our “way of life” is not only negotiable but in fact completely unsustainable and already unraveling. From this perspective, it is hard not to hear someone spout the idiotic phrase, “Drill, baby, drill” without thinking of how it in spirit resembles the “Horst Wessel Song.”

While it is hyperbolic to say that America is already an authoritarian regime, it is not too difficult to see where the trends of this past decade are heading. As our economic decline continues we can expect that there will be a corresponding increase in the curtailment of individual liberties. The supreme irony is that as growing energy restraints force the Pentagon to begin dismantling its overseas empire of military bases, political repression will likely be increasing here at home.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should expect to wake up one day and see a squadron of jackboots goose-stepping down your street. When overt repression finally comes to American streets and towns beyond putting down Occupy protests it will more likely be, as we are starting to see already, in the form of electronic monitoring, internal check points and surveillance drones, augmented by a healthy number of informants planted among the citizenry. Don’t be surprised if “hoarding” gets placed on the list of “subversive” activities, which is all the more reason preppers would be well advised to keep their activities as low key as possible.

The most amusing thing about many Americans’ messianic belief in our “exceptionalism” is the idea that this country is somehow different in behavior than any other nation-state or empire in world history despite all of the evidence to the contrary. As the reality of our predicament becomes more and more undeniable in the coming years, we’re about to find out that many of us have merely been “Good Germans” all along and that being so won’t save us from inclusion in the eventual Gotterdammerung.

Bonus: From my You Tube channel - A cool song about domestic spying (yes, really)


  1. I am struck by America's complacency, but the fluoridation of the water and passive threats keeps people just in check enough. Those who would rise up in arms instead post responses like mine indicating faint anger from a system that has treated them like robot cattle... But the nations of the world have agreed to a scheme already for sustainability and it involves China, America, europe, wealth transfer, and preservation of power - control of serfs... See skilled liars who wish to avoid explaining clearly your circumstances on TV every day...

  2. Two congressmen are attempting to insert a provision in the National Defense Authorization act that would allow the Department of Defense to subject the US domestic public to propaganda. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

    Nothing speaks more urgently to the creeping fascism of American politics than the assertion by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the 1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, that forbidding DoD and the State Department from subjecting us to government propaganda “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” And mind you, they want to use our own money to wash our brains!

    Congress Wants the Department of Defense to Propagandize Americans (Juan Cole)

    1. Just goes to show what idiots we have in Congress. American propagada is working just fine without being overt. If it is isn't broke...

  3. Anon
    I agree with everything in your post, but complacency has nothing to do with fluoridation of the drinking water. I grew up drinking that stuff and so did many of my friends and none of us are complacent. Reciprocally, a vast majority of the country that votes "red" come from rural states and live on well water. (currently living in one of those states) Most people there are completely assimilated by the borg without fluoridated water. If you want to place blame I'd blame TV and corrupted school systems.

  4. Pretty weird bringing up fluoridation in the comments about this essay. Huh? Not sure I get the connection, exactly. Sounds like 1960's right-wing paranoia about fluoridation that most of us laugh about now.

    Not Bill, I think this and your other essay drawing similarities between 21st-century US and Nazi Germany are interesting, and well done. Will there be another?

    1. As of now, I haven't come up with any other good parallels. But that doesn't mean something might not spark some inspiration in the future.

      I'm currently reading the newly published biography of Heinrich Himmler. Now THAT was one evil dude.

    2. Bill, this may be some new “fodder” for a part 3:

      Adam Curtis’s 2002 series, The Century Of The Self (

      In Part 1, entitled Happiness Machines, Curtis draws several links between Sigmund Freud, his American Cousin Edward Bernay, and how Bernay’s theories of mass psychology inspired the Nazis (Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda) to use these theories to control the general population, and, the widespread use such ideas in the form of public relations and marketing in the USA, to help "control" the masses with consumerism.

  5. Interesting two-part series Bill. I liked the reference in part 1, to domestic energy supplies and how this limited Nazi Germany’s ability to sustain and maintain it’s expansion. As you pointed out, although the USA imports a lot of oil, it is in a much better position than Germany was ever in, especially if you included nearby oil sources, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, which the USA could bring a lot of political or military pressure on if it wanted to. I don’t think that Germany at the time had any neighbors with significant oil resources, did it?

    For instance, if you just consider domestic product plus these three foreign sources, at present import rates, the USA would have about 4 billion barrels of oil per year to consume (see e.g., Figure 4 That could provide for about 60 percent of the USA’s present oil consumption.

    In a repressive US regime, with marshal law and forced rationing, the federal government, big business and the military could probably get by reasonably well for quite some time at these levels, even if its domestic and neighboring country oil production and export rates were declining