My focus in grad school was on the history of the Third Reich. At the time I was studying this era, the emphasis was mostly on the major personalities, the events, the ideology, the social structures, the economic factors: attempts at systematic, coherent explanations of why the Nazi movement arose and the consequences to Germany and the world of Nazi ideology. Somewhat "hands off," maybe. There was also some interest then in "history from below,"a rather condescending attempt to figure out what the common folk were thinking and doing, and some discussion (though not much) of the role of women in the Nazi state. Psychohistory, attempts to get into the minds of Nazi perpetrators, left the puzzle unsolved as to why an entire country lost its collective mind. I always felt there was something missing, some angle from which to view this multifaceted phenomenon. And then along came Trump.
A few years ago I downloaded a book, In the Garden of Beasts, Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, read a few pages of it and decided it was not worth reading. I couldn't relate to it. It couldn't happen here. It was just personal stuff, impressions of an educated but provincial family, the father an ambassador to Germany and the daughter a "liberated" young woman of those times who wrote about her life and loves*. Mary recommended it--it was a selection of her book club-- and this time, looking at it again, I realized that here was a way of projecting myself into the heart of the mystery. It's a chilling read, because what seemed inconceivable before the election of Trump is now our everyday experience. The details may be different, but it is clear that we are in a transition period, as was Germany in the first few years of the Nazi State, a period which could lead to out and out fascism. I just finished reading this book's account of the Röhm-Putsch, a murderous sneak attack on people who thought they were safe and powerful. Hitler himself led the charge and crowed about his victory over these hapless victims. The public approved, because the SA made them feel unsafe.
Here is Göring, Nazi bigwig, addressing the press after the Röhm-Putsch , in which hundreds had been slaughtered:
Ah, yes, you journalists always like a special headline story: well, here it is. General von Schliecher had plotted against the regime. I ordered his arrest. He was foolish enough to resist. He is dead. Göring walked from the podium.
It took the Nazis several years to reach this level of crassness. Von Schleicher was an important person, a former Chancellor of Germany but simply disposed of like any peasant. How far are we from that now?
More to say when I'm done with the book.
As for me: I will find out more tomorrow about my treatment. The long weekend was quite pleasant, although I'm too weak to do much of anything. Mary and Jim came over and brought Thai food, and we watched a very entertaining New Zealand movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
*She even had an affair with Thomas Wolff, who described her as being all over him like a butterfly!