* a review of Melita Maschmann’s memoir … “Account Rendered: a Dossier on my Former Self”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 14, 2013

hitler youth


FROM THE FLY-LEAF … Melita Maschmann’s memoir (publ 1964) … without self-exculpation or self-pity … she changed from an ordinary 15 year old schoolgirl in 1933 into a high-ranking member of the Nazi elite … blindly dedicated … she remained loyal to National Socialism against all protests of truth and justice … imbued with the latent antisemitism of her parents’ generation … when she saw Jews, Poles and others suffer she switched off her feelings … because to think for oneself or to make moral judgments was immoral in the time of Germany’s need.

BEFORE READING THE BOOK … I am going to hate this woman … but will certainly understand more about the sickness that so many ordinary Germans welcomed and allowed to control their lives.

NOW I HAVE READ THE BOOK … My conclusion is that, despite her protestations to the contrary, Maschmann’s memoir is a self-justifying lie! So must be many (most?) of the claims of Germans that they never knew. Perhaps they didn’t want to know and looked the other way, but that is a very different thing. Nevertheless, Maschmann’s writings provide significant insight into what a young Nazi was thinking, and perhaps why. Here are a few of her reflections …

… we thought the Nazi’s violent antisemitism was a passing phase, a propaganda stunt 

… the fact that I was involved in something greater than myself relieved me of any sense of guilt … I wanted to attach myself to something that was great and fundamental

… Maschmann’s mantra … I would repeat these same verses 10 or 15 times over … “You must believe in Germany as firmly, clearly and truly as you believe in the sun, the moon and the starlight. You must believe in Germany, as if Germany were yourself; and as you believe your soul strives towrd eternity. You must believe in Germany – or your life is but death. And you must fight for Germany until the new dawn comes.” 

… I never allowed any of my experiences to prompt me to come to grips with the so-called “Jewish Question” for myself … my antisemitic attitude seemed to me to be a natural part of my National Socialist outlook … basically the problem did not interest me … LMW: it is thus vital to understand why antisemitism was so natural for Germans. My own view is that it was largely the centuries-long persecution and denigration of Jews by the Catholic and Lutheran churches.

… on Kristallnacht … I forced the memory of it out of my consciousness as quickly as possible … on the night of the broken glass our feelings were not yet hardened to the sight of human suffering as they were later in the war

… as the years went by I grew better at switching off quickly … it was the only way to avoid the onset of doubts about the rightness of what had happened … and serious doubts would have torn away the basis of my existence from under me 

… on the invasion of Poland … I was utterly convinced of our superior moral position

… on the news of ‘Bloody Sunday’ at Bromberg … the German press reported that 60,000 German nationals had been murdered in an appallingly savage manner … my clear recollection was that we had invaded Poland after the news of Bloody Sunday had reached Berlin … in point of fact the events happened in reverse order … but my version, which I held until a few months ago, was much better for easing our political conscience.

… our noble, refined and intellectual German qualities were in danger of being suppressed by the brutality of the primitive Poles

… England had conquered a world empire … France had acquired colony after colony … now at last Germany’s historic hour had come … the dream of her greatness would become a reality in the Reich of our Fuhrer

… there was an irresistible fascination with the words ‘Reich’ and ‘Fuhrer’

… we had no idea there was evidence at Nuremberg that Hitler really had murdered millions of people … and (in 1946) we never thought to ask: what if the American allegations about the concentration camps are true after all?

… many former Nazis still say … how much better it was in Hitler’s day … in those days, they believed in something that roused them from their humble existence


2 Responses to “* a review of Melita Maschmann’s memoir … “Account Rendered: a Dossier on my Former Self””

  1. Ilene Kent said

    Thank you Lew. I have watched Schindler’s List twice in the last three weeks and continue to ask myself – a) how could others not have known and b) how was it so easy for so many to join in the humiliations and beatings. Mind numbing. This fervent ultra “Patriotism” is also disturbing in light of the rise of the right in this country.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      Germany had many legitimate problems, and also a delusional mind-set as to the cause of those problems. The persecution of Jews by the Catholic & Lutheran Churches had established a climate where most Germans viewed “the Jews” as an inferior race, and thus felt no need to pay attention to their persecution and murder. I am coming more and more to feel that this “looking away” – so clearly reported in Maschmann’s memoir – is perhaps the greater sin, of Germans in general and of the bulk of the Catholic & Lutheran hierarchy in particular.

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