Month: May 2015

Mistakes were madeMistakes were made

“Few of those forced to account for their actions under Hitler showed remorse or contrition, let alone guilt. With scant exception, they showed themselves, when called to book, incapable of acknowledging their own contribution to the remorseless slide into barbarism during the Nazi era. Alongside the inevitable lies, distortions, and excuses often went, it seems, a psychological block on recognizing responsibility for their actions.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Trails of tearsTrails of tears

“There were still over 65,000 prisoners of numerous nationalities—the majority of them Jewish—in Auschwitz and its numerous subsidiary camps in mid-January 1945, as the Red Army approached. . . . arrangements to evacuate the camps were improvised with great haste. . . . For five days, beginning on 17 January, long columns of emaciated, starving, and frozen prisoners left the camp complex and were driven westwards by SS guards in forced marches of up to 250 kilometres. . . . On 26 January, an SS unit blew up the last of the crematoria in Birkenau. The next day, the SS guards retreated in heavy fighting as Soviet troops liberated the 7,000 exhausted, skeleton-like prisoners they found in the Auschwitz camp-complex. They also found 368,820 men’s suits, 836,244 women’s coats and dresses, 5,525 pairs of women’s shoes, 13,964 carpets, large quantities of children’s clothes, toothbrushes, false teeth, pots and pans, and a vast amount of human hair.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Tied to the tracksTied to the tracks

“There was no way out. The failure of the conspiracy to remove Hitler took away the last opportunity of a negotiated end to the war. For the German people, it ensured the near total destruction of their country. Whatever the varied reactions to the events of 20 July [1944] and their aftermath, ordinary Germans were exposed over the next eight months to the laying waste of their cities in relentless bombing-raids against which there was as good as no defence, to the painful losses of loved ones fighting an obviously futile war against vastly superior enemy forces, to acute privations in the material conditions of their daily lives, and to intensified fear and repression at the hands of a regime that would stop at nothing. The horrors of a war which Germany had inflicted on the rest of Europe were rebounding—if, even now, in far milder form—on to the Reich itself. With internal resistance crushed, and a leadership unable to bring victory, incapable of staving off defeat, and unwilling to attempt to find peace, only total military destruction could bring a release.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Just add waterJust add water

“The myth is the central informing power that gives archetypal significance to the ritual and archetypal narrative to the oracle. Hence the myth is the archetype, though it might be convenient to say myth only when referring to narrative, and archetype when speaking of significance. In the solar cycle of the day, the seasonal cycle of the year, and the organic cycle of human life, there is a single pattern of significance, out of which myth constructs a central narrative around a figure who is partly the sun, partly vegetative fertility and partly a god or archetypal human being.” – Northrop Frye, “The Archetypes of Literature” (emphasis in original)


“An author’s narrative is his linear movement; his meaning is the integrity of his completed form. Similarly an image is not merely a verbal replica of an external object, but any unit of a verbal structure seen as part of a total pattern or rhythm. Even the letters an author spells his words with form part of his imagery.” – Northrop Frye, “The Archetypes of Literature”

Careful with the forcepsCareful with the forceps

“The unity of a work of art, the basis of structural analysis, has not been produced solely by the unconditioned will of the artist, for the artist is only its efficient cause: it has form, and consequently a formal cause. The fact that revision is possible, that the poet makes changes not because he likes them better but because they are better, means that poems, like poets, are born and not made. The poet’s task is to deliver the poem in as uninjured a state as possible, and if the poem is alive, it is equally anxious to be rid of him, and screams to be cut loose from his private memories and associations, his desire for self-expression, and all the other navel-strings and feeding tubes of his ego. – Northrop Frye, “The Archetypes of Literature”

Trapped ratsTrapped rats

“For all the continuing (and in some ways astonishing) reserves of strength of the Führer cult among outright Nazi supporters, Hitler had become for the overwhelming majority of Germans the chief hindrance to the ending of the war. Ordinary people might prefer, as they were reported to be saying, ‘an end with horror’ to ‘a horror without end’. But they had no obvious way of altering their fate. Only those who moved in the corridors of power had any possibility of removing Hitler. Some groups of officers, through conspiratorial links with certain highly-placed civil servants, were plotting precisely that. After a number of abortive attempts, their strike would come in July 1944. It would prove the last chance the Germans themselves had to put an end to the Nazi regime. The bitter rivalries of the subordinate leaders, the absence of any centralized forum (equivalent to the Fascist Grand Council in Italy) from which an internal coup could be launched, the shapelessness of the structures of Nazi rule yet the indispensability of Hitler’s authority to every facet of that rule, and, not least, the fact that the regime’s leaders had burnt their boats with the Dictator in the regime’s genocide and other untold acts of inhumanity, ruled out any further possibility of overthrow. With that, the regime had only its own collective suicide in an inexorably lost war to contemplate. But like a mortally wounded wild beast at bay, it fought with the ferocity and ruthlessness that came from desperation.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Sick and tired and bound over for perditionSick and tired and bound over for perdition

“By 1944, Hitler was a sick man—at times during the year extremely unwell. Cardiograms, the first taken in 1941, had revealed a worsening heart condition. And beyond the chronic stomach and intestinal problems that had increasingly come to plague him, Hitler had since 1942 developed symptoms, becoming more pronounced in 1944, which point with some medical certainty to the onset of Parkinson’s Syndrome. Most notably, an uncontrollable trembling of the left arm, jerking in his left leg, and a shuffling gait, were unmistakable to those who saw him at close quarters. But although the strains of the last phase of the war took their toll on him, there is no convincing evidence that his mental capacity was impaired. Hitler’s rages and violent mood-swings were inbuilt features of his character, their frequency in the final phase of the war a reflection of the stress from the rapidly deteriorating military conditions and his own inability to change them, bringing, as usual, wild lashings at his generals and any others on whom he could lay the blame that properly began at his own door.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Checks and checkmatesChecks and checkmates

“In a modern state, necessarily resting on bureaucracy and dependent upon system and regulated procedure, centring all spheres of power in the hands of one man—whose leadership style was utterly unbureaucratic and whose approach to rule was completely unsystematic, resting as it did on a combination of force and propaganda—could only produce administrative chaos amid a morass of competing authorities. But this same organizational incoherence was the very safeguard of Hitler’s power, since every strand of authority was dependent on him. Changing the ‘system’ without changing its focal point was impossible.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Not anything that could happen hereNot anything that could happen here

“The German people’s bonds with Hitler were dissolving. This was no overnight phenomenon. But Stalingrad was the point at which the signs became unmistakable. . . . The mood was sullenly depressed, anxious about the present, fearful of the future, above all else weary of the war; but not rebellious. . . . [T[houghts of overthrowing the regime could scarcely be entertained. The regime was far too strong, its capacity for repression far too great, its readiness to strike down all opposition far too evident.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

A half-million here, a half-million there — it begins to add upA half-million here, a half-million there — it begins to add up

“If Hitler felt any personal remorse for Stalingrad or human sympathy for the dead of the 6th Army and their relatives, he did not let it show. Those in his closest proximity could detect the signs of nervous strain. He hinted privately at his worry that his health would not stand up to the pressure. His secretaries had to put up with even longer nocturnal monologues as his insomnia developed chronic proportions. The topics were much the same as ever: his youth in Vienna, the ‘time of struggle’, the history of mankind, the nature of the cosmos. There was no relief from the boredom for his secretaries, who by now knew his outpourings on all topics more or less off by heart.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

A rose by any other nameA rose by any other name

“In Munich, a group of students, together with one of their professors, whose idealism and mounting detestation of the criminal inhumanity of the regime had led them the previous year to form the ‘White Rose’ opposition-group, now openly displayed their attack on Hitler. The medical students Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl had formed the initial driving-force, and had soon been joined by Christoph Probst, Sophie Scholl (Hans’s sister), Willi Garf, and Kurt Huber, Professor of Philosophy. . . . All were fired by Christian beliefs and humanistic idealism. The horrors on the eastern front, experienced for a short time at first hand when Graf, Schmorell, and Hans Scholl were called up, converted the lofty idealism into an explicit political message. ‘Fellow Students!’ ran their final manifesto (composed by Professor Huber), distributed in Munich University on 18 February [1943]. ‘The nation is deeply shaken by the destruction of the men of Stalingrad. The genial strategy of the World War corporal has senselessly and irresponsibly driven three hundred and thirty thousand German men to death and ruin. Führer, we thank you!’ It was a highly courageous show of defiance. But it was suicidal. Hans and Sophie Scholl were denounced by a porter at the university (who was subsequently applauded by pro-Nazi students for his action), and quickly arrested by the Gestapo. Christoph Probst was picked up soon afterwards. . . . All three were guillotined. . . . Willi Graf, Kurt Huber, and Alexander Schmorell suffered the same fate some months later.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Having themselves a very little ChristmasHaving themselves a very little Christmas

“For the German people, quite especially for the many German families with loved ones in the 6th Army, Christmas 1942 was a depressing festival. A radio broadcast linking troops on all the fighting fronts, including Stalingrad, brought tears to the eyes of many a family gathered around the Christmas tree back home, as the men at the ‘front on the Volga’ joined their comrades in singing ‘Silent Night’. The listeners at home did not know the link-up was a fake. Nor did they know that 1,280 German soldiers died at Stalingrad on that Christmas Day in 1942. They were, however, aware by then of an ominous fate hanging over the 6th Army. The triumphalist propaganda of September and October, suggesting that victory at Stalingrad was just around the corner, had given way in the weeks following the Soviet counter-offensive to little more than ominous silence. Indications of hard fighting were sufficient, however, to make plain that things were not going to plan. Rumours of the encirclement of the 6th Army—passed on through despairing letters from the soldiers entrapped there—swiftly spread. It soon became evident that the rumours were no less than the truth. As the sombre mood at home deepened by the day, the terrible struggle in the streets of Stalingrad headed towards it inexorable dénouement.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis


“For those in the Führer Headquarters not preoccupied with military planning, life was dull and monotonous. Hitler’s secretaries would go for a daily walk to the next village and back. Otherwise, they whiled away the hours. Chatting, a film in the evenings, and the obligatory gathering each afternoon in the Tea House and late at night again for tea made up the day. ‘Since the tea-party always consists of the same people, there is no stimulation from outside, and nobody experiences anything on a personal level,’ Christa Schroeder wrote to a friend in February 1942, ‘the conversation is often apathetic and tedious, wearying, and irksome. Talk always runs along the same lines.’ Hitler’s monologues— outlining his expansive vision of the world—were reserved for lunch or the twilight hours. At the afternoon tea-gatherings, politics were never discussed. Anything connected with the war was taboo. There was nothing but small-talk. Those present either had no independent views, or kept them to themselves. Hitler’s presence dominated. But it seldom now did much to animate. He was invariably tired, but found it hard to sleep. His insomnia made him reluctant to go to bed. His entourage often wished he would do so. The tedium for those around him seemed at times incessant.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

It’s not poetryIt’s not poetry

“Do not start writing your brief or memo until you have a succinct statement of what the case is about. And you must do this in 50-75 words. If you can’t explain the case in 75 words, you do not understand it very well, and neither will your reader. Too often I have seen cases go all the way to appeal and still the lawyers haven’t figured out what the case is about.” – Judge Mark P. Painter, “Legal Writing 201”

Cashed in, cashed outCashed in, cashed out

“Elser himself was already under arrest at the customs post near Konstanz when the bomb went off. He had been picked up trying to cross the Swiss border illegally. It seemed a routine arrest. Only some hours after the explosion did the border officials begin to realize that the contents of Georg Elser’s pockets, including a postcard of the Bürgerbräukeller, linked him with the assassination attempt on Hitler. On 14 November [1939], Elser confessed. A few days later he gave a full account of his actions, and the motives behind them. He was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and treated, remarkably, as a privileged prisoner. Probably Hitler, who continued to believe that Elser was the front-man of an international conspiracy, intended a post-war show-trial to incriminate the British Secret Service. At the end of 1944 or in early 1945, Elser was brough to Dachau. There was to be no show-trial. With the war as good as lost, Elser had no more value to the regime. Shortly before the Americans liberated Dachau, he was taken out and killed.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Authorizing slaughterAuthorizing slaughter

“It was some time in October [1939] that Hitler had one of his secretaries type, on his own headed notepaper and backdated to 1 September 1939—the day that the war had begun—the single sentence: ‘Reichsleiter Bouhler and Dr med. Brandt are commissioned with the responsibility of extending the authority of specified doctors so that, after critical assessment of their condition, those adjudged incurably ill can be granted mercy-death.’ He took a pen and signed his name below this lapidary, open-ended death-sentence.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

The professional evaluationThe professional evaluation

“With the decision to invade the Soviet Union, confirmed in the directive of 18 December 1940, Hitler had closed off his strategic options. In his anxiety not to concede the initiative in the war, he had shifted the entire focus of the German war effort to the aim of inflicting comprehensive military defeat on the Soviet Union—and obliterating it as a political entity—within a matter of months. He was backed by his military leaders, who, even if some had private reservations, at no point raised serious objections to his proposed course of action. In retrospect, it seems sheer idiocy.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Not like nowadaysNot like nowadays

“Hitler’s combination of bullying and blackmail could not have worked but for the fragility of the post-war European settlement. The Treaty of Versailles was ‘the blackmailer’s lucky find’. It had given Hitler the basis for his rising demands, accelerating drastically in 1938-9. It had provided the platform for ethnic unrest, that Hitler could easily exploit, in the cauldron of central and eastern Europe. Not least, it had left an uneasy guilt-complex in the West, especially in Britain. Hitler might rant and exaggerate; his methods might be repellent; but was there not some truth in what he was claiming? The western governments, though Britain more than France, backed by their war-weary populations, anxious more than all else to do everything possible to avoid a new conflagration, their traditional diplomacy no match for unprecedented techniques of lying and threatening, thought so, and went out of their way to placate Hitler. The blackmailer simply increased his demands, as blackmailers do.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis