Good Nazis

I found this very moving, that Germans are so adamant about seeing these men for what they were – heroes.

German political and military leaders commemorated the unsuccessful attempt to kill Adolf Hitler 61 years ago, laying wreaths Wednesday at the former Nazi military headquarters where the plotters were executed.

Military chief of staff Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan and the supreme court president, Hans-Juergen Papier, laid wreaths at the Bendlerblock building, now the Defense Ministry, where the plotters were executed after their plan to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb failed on July 20, 1944.

The executed plotters included Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg and other high-ranking soldiers from the German aristocracy. Two generals were given the chance to take their own lives and one did.

A separate ceremony was held to honor the more than 2,500 Nazi resisters executed between 1933 and 1945 at Ploetzensee, on the outskirts of Berlin. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries praised their efforts.

I lived in Germany for more than a year, and the outspoken loathing of the Nazis I heard expressed by so many young Germans struck me as truly sincere and right from the heart. In the University of Munich there is a monument to the White Rose students — a group of young students who distributed anti-Nazi literature and were murdered by the Nazis. I would stand there and wonder, how was it possible? A lot of Germans wonder the same.

While it was the most shameful period for Germany ever, there were heroes. That they’re remembered like this even today speaks to the miraculous transformation of Germany after the war and the people’s diligence in never sentimentalizing or romanticizing the Nazi monsters (as the Chinese have done with Mao and the Russians with Stalin, who enjoyed a surge in popularity after the USSR’s collapse). May it always stay that way.

The Discussion: 18 Comments

When were you in Germany? Many Germans will now feverishly argue with you that America and Britain were the bad guys in WW2. Things are changing quickly.

July 20, 2005 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

I spent my third year of college there, back in 2002. (Just kidding about the date.)

July 20, 2005 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

German’s love to march.

July 20, 2005 @ 8:35 pm | Comment

They also make devine pastries.

July 20, 2005 @ 8:36 pm | Comment

Why is that argument being made? What is the basis?

July 20, 2005 @ 10:39 pm | Comment

Mao and Stalin were devils. Most Chinese don’t know what exactly they did and thus some of them worship Mao.

Most of Japanese deeply understand what their emperor and his subjects did and still worship them.

Another difference between Mao and Hitler is that Mao standed out of a China that was occupied and torn. Many people would still give him credits even they knew his atrocity towards his own people.

July 21, 2005 @ 2:38 am | Comment

Nazi’s ……….ooooops I mean Germans don’t smile much. Why is that? Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan should face a warcrime’s tribunal just for his name alone.

July 21, 2005 @ 4:09 am | Comment

A littel demystification about Stauffenberg:
Yes Stauffenberg did plot against Hitler and got murdered because of that.
But, he was in no way a democrat or liberal. He was very conservative and in the beginning a wholehearted fowllower of Hitler. His plans for a post-Hiltler Germany were:
1. an autocratic state
2. peace with the west to continue the war against Russia with full force, though he opposed the criminal way this war was run and also the deportation and murdering of the European jews.

So I would say he is not the best example for a resitance fighter. The cause why he is commemorated as such an example is that the german army needed some kind of “good” guy they could take as a role model for their soldiers when it was rebuilt in the 50es and also the fact that there were so few others that could be commemorated as heros who opposed Hiltler.
I think the white rose and Georg Elser are better examples of true fighters angainst the Nazis.

On Matt’s post:
He is right that just recently the discours in Germany is a lot about the German victims. Especially the bombing of Dresden and other German cities and the eviction of millions of Germans form terretories in todays Poland and Tschechia.
This dicourse was left to the right-wingers and Neo-Nazis before and that was not a good thing, because these sufferings are still in the memories of a lot of people, are a part of the war history.
But, to say a lot of todays Germans say that the real criminals were the Americans and British and the Germans only poor victims is not true. You will find a lot of people who think that the bombings were crimes aginst humanity but they likely will also say that first there were the bombings of Rotterdam and Coventry.
The discusssion became broader in recent time giving the whole picture which I think is a good thing as long as you oppose revisionists.
It is, I think, one lesson of t WW II., that if you fight a ruthless and inhuman enemy there is allways the danger that you youself loose some of your moral standarts.
As a judge in Israel said about the fight against terrorism and the use of torture recently, a democratic country will allways have big difficulties to fight terrorists because it has to fight with one hand bound to the back. Otherwise it’s in danger of loosing what it’s fighting for.

July 21, 2005 @ 5:15 am | Comment

Shulan, having read Burleigh’s The Third Reich New History I learned about what an ardent Nazi he was. The key word being was. He was an anit-Semite (who wasn’t) and a real fan. But he did give his life to help rid the world of Adolf Hitler and that gives him hero status. But you are quiet right, he wasn’t an angel and if he hadn’t planted that briefcase he’d have been in villain status for all time.

Your last point is one I wish Bush would learn. Once you resort to the terrorists’ tactics or set the bar at their level (“the killed Nick Berg so torture is okay”) you’ve lost.

July 21, 2005 @ 6:01 am | Comment

Yeah, the Stauffenberg plotters were not exactly heroic in their motives, even if they were in their actions. Most of them had been only too pleased to go along when things were going well for the Reich; it was the obstinacy in the face of obvious defeat that was the final straw. A much more genuinely heroic attempt on Hitler was made by George Elser in, I think, 1939, working entirely on his own.


July 21, 2005 @ 7:26 am | Comment

Another unsung hero was Gerlach (forget his first name) who kept publishing a newspaper condemning Hitler until the Gestapo came to his home during dinner and carted him away. He was never seen again; the Nazis, in their inimitable charm, simply sent his wife her husband’s blood-splattered eyeglasses.

July 21, 2005 @ 7:30 am | Comment

How did it happen? Read “Defying Hitler” by Oliver Pretzel/Sebastian Haffner. He was a liberal minded Berlin lawyer in Berlin in 1933. He describes how his world gradually changed as Hitler came to power. How his liberal friends aquiesced to the steadily increasing tide of intimidation, propaganda and orders. You see the accomodations they made to live with each little increase in nastiness. And by the end of the summer, the transformation was complete and “good” Germans went into what he called internal exile. Most Germans chose to turn a blind eye to the worst excesses of the “national socialists” and enjoyed the improving life in the newly confident and economically strong Germany. Haffner said he felt “his” Germany had been stolen from him. It’s a great book and helps answer how so many liberal Germans adapted during those long years. Haffner couldn’t stand it and left, to go first to Paris and then London.

July 21, 2005 @ 7:53 am | Comment

I just finished Haffner’s book – superb. Even better is Viktor Klemperer’s I Will Bear Witness. I have read the first two of three volumes. It’s like you are right there, day by day, as the noose tightens. Incredible.

July 21, 2005 @ 7:55 am | Comment

Richard, if you liked Klemperer’s diary, then you also might like his:
“Language of the Third Reich” which has just recently been translated into English. It’s a brilliant study of how the Nazis abused and contorted language – and interestingly, the Nazis were influenced considerably by American advertising methods…

July 21, 2005 @ 8:14 am | Comment

Thanks for the tip, Ivan. His memoir was the most agonized book I ever read. When he described how he and his wife had to kill their beloved cat because the Nazi fuckers decreed Jews couldn’t own pets…it was hard not to cry at many points of the book. I’ll check out your recommendation.

July 21, 2005 @ 8:20 am | Comment

Any relationship to Werner Klemperer?

July 21, 2005 @ 8:28 am | Comment

Werner is the son of Victor’s cousin Otto, a renowned conductor. Indeed, Victor’s diaries belong to the best first-hand reports on this dark episode. And Haffner provides the best and most concise analysis you can get. Strongly recommended.

July 21, 2005 @ 3:23 pm | Comment

The anti- American and anti- British sentiment is a confluence of clashing ideas over the EU, Iraq, etc. The WW2 stuff is piling on. My friend is a great lover of Germany, and after a month working there this summer he had enough and wanted to be back in the US.

July 21, 2005 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

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