Hitler - The Inverted Saint
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.
In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.
Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.
As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice . . .
And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery.
When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited."
(Source: The Straight Dope - Speech by Adolf Hitler, delivered April 12, 1922, published in "My New Order," and quoted in Freethought Today (April 1990)
Hitler and Nazism are often portrayed as an apocalyptic and seismic break with European history. Yet the truth is that they were the culmination and reification of European (and American) history in the 19th century. Europe's (and the United States') annals of colonialism have prepared it for the range of phenomena associated with the Nazi regime: from industrial-scale murder to racial theories, from slave labour to the forcible annexation of territory.
Germany was a colonial power no different to murderous Belgium or Britain or the United States. What set it apart is that it directed its colonial attentions at the heartland of Europe - rather than at Africa or Asia or Latin and Central America. Both World Wars were colonial wars fought on European soil.
Moreover, Nazi Germany innovated by applying prevailing racial theories (usually reserved to non-whites) to the white race itself. It started with the Jews - a non-controversial proposition - but then expanded them to include "east European" whites, such as the Poles and the Russians.
Still, Hitler was right to have been shocked by the failure of his wager: that the British Empire will side with him against the equally murderous Bolshevik Stalin. Hitler and Stalin were two of a kind: mass murderers, bent on an expansionist-imperialist agenda, promoters of ideologies that placed the state way ahead of individual life and freedoms. It made eminent sense for the Western powers to leverage Germany to get rid of Communism and prevent the rise of a lamentable and vile Stalinist Empire at the very heart of Europe. The peoples of Central and Eastern Europe have paid with four lost decades for the West's erroneous choice of Stalin over Hitler. In hindsight, allowing Hitler and Stalin to decimate each other would have been far preferable.
Even more so since Germany was not alone in its malignant nationalism. The far right in France was as pernicious. Nazism - and Fascism - were world ideologies, adopted enthusiastically in places as diverse as Iraq, Egypt, Norway, Latin America, and Britain. At the end of the 1930's, liberal capitalism, communism, and fascism (and its mutations) were locked in mortal battle of ideologies. Hitler's mistake was to delusionally believe in the affinity between capitalism and Nazism - an affinity enhanced, to his mind, by Germany's corporatism and by the existence of a common enemy: global communism.
Colonialism always had discernible religious overtones and often collaborated with missionary religion. "The White Man's burden" of civilizing the "savages" was widely perceived as ordained by God. The church was the extension of the colonial power's army and trading companies.
It is no wonder that Hitler's Lebensraum colonial movement - Nazism - possessed all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, mythology. Hitler was this religion's ascetic saint. He monastically denied himself earthly pleasures (or so he claimed) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling. Hitler was a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that (Aryan) humanity should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, Hitler became a distorted version of Nietzsche's "superman".
But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral. In this restricted sense, Hitler was a post-modernist and a moral relativist. He projected to the masses an androgynous figure and enhanced it by fostering the adoration of nudity and all things "natural". But what Nazism referred to as "nature" was not natural at all.
It was an aesthetic of decadence and evil (though it was not perceived this way by the Nazis), carefully orchestrated, and artificial. Nazism was about reproduced copies, not about originals. It was about the manipulation of symbols - not about veritable atavism.
In short: Nazism was about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), Nazism demanded the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis was tantamount, in Nazi dramaturgy, to self-annulment. Nazism was nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives were nihilistic. Nazism was conspicuous nihilism - and Hitler served as a role model, annihilating Hitler the Man, only to re-appear as Hitler the stychia.
What was the role of the Jews in all this?
Ironically, the logistical demands posed by the Holocaust coupled with the ever-growing scarcity of intact infrastructure and raw materials have contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany and have shielded other “sub-human” races from the genocidal wrath and plans of the SS. The sacrifice of the Jews saved many lives. Hitler’s obsession with this ancient race abetted the survival of modern Europe.
Nazism posed as a rebellion against the "old ways" - against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the European order. The Nazis borrowed the Leninist vocabulary and assimilated it effectively. Hitler and the Nazis were an adolescent movement, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon a narcissistic (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state. Hitler himself was a malignant narcissist, as Fromm correctly noted.
The Jews constituted a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that was "wrong" with Europe. They were an old nation, they were eerily disembodied (without a territory), they were cosmopolitan, they were part of the establishment, they were "decadent", they were hated on religious and socio-economic grounds (see Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners"), they were different, they were narcissistic (felt and acted as morally superior), they were everywhere, they were defenceless, they were credulous, they were adaptable (and thus could be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They were the perfect hated father figure and parricide was in fashion.
This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.
Note - Exclusionary Ideas of Progress
Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Religious Fundamentalism are as utopian as the classical Idea of Progress, which is most strongly reified by Western science and liberal democracy. All four illiberal ideologies firmly espouse a linear view of history: Man progresses by accumulating knowledge and wealth and by constructing ever-improving polities. Similarly, the classical, all-encompassing, idea of progress is perceived to be a "Law of Nature" with human jurisprudence and institutions as both its manifestations and descriptions. Thus, all ideas of progress are pseudo-scientific.
Still, there are some important distinctions between Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Religious Fundamentalism, on the one hand, and Western liberalism, on the other hand:
All four totalitarian ideologies regard individual tragedies and sacrifices as the inevitable lubricant of the inexorable March Forward of the species. Yet, they redefine "humanity" (who is human) to exclude large groups of people. Communism embraces the Working Class (Proletariat) but not the Bourgeoisie, Nazism promotes one Volk but denigrates and annihilates others, Fascism bows to the Collective but viciously persecutes dissidents, Religious Fundamentalism posits a chasm between believers and infidels.
In these four intolerant ideologies, the exclusion of certain reviled groups of people is both a prerequisite for the operation of the "Natural Law of Progress" and an integral part of its motion forward. The moral and spiritual obligation of "real" Man to future generations is to "unburden" the Law, to make it possible for it to operate smoothly and in optimal conditions, with all hindrances (read: undesirables) removed (read: murdered).
All four ideologies subvert modernity (in other words, Progress itself) by using its products (technology) to exclude and kill "outsiders", all in the name of servicing "real" humanity and bettering its lot.
But liberal democracy has been intermittently guilty of the same sin. The same deranged logic extends to the construction and maintenance of nuclear weapons by countries like the USA, the UK, France, and Israel: they are intended to protect "good" humanity against "bad" people (e.g., Communists during the Cold war, Arabs, or failed states such as Iran). Even global warming is a symptom of such exclusionary thinking: the rich feel that they have the right to tax the "lesser" poor by polluting our common planet and by disproportionately exhausting its resources.
The fact is that, at least since the 1920s, the very existence of Mankind is being recurrently threatened by exclusionary ideas of progress. Even Colonialism, which predated modern ideologies, was inclusive and sought to "improve" the Natives" and "bring them to the White Man's level" by assimilating or incorporating them in the culture and society of the colonial power. This was the celebrated (and then decried) "White Man's Burden". That we no longer accept our common fate and the need to collaborate to improve our lot is nothing short of suicidal.
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