* Lew’s review of “German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism” by Donna Harsch

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 10, 2013



The failure of SPD to effectively oppose the Nazis is even more heart-wrenching

in light of Harsch’ conclusion that …

the Nazi dictatorship in 1933 was only one of several possible outcomes

of the Weimar crisis.

Excellent insights, clearly written … tells a powerful story of opportunities missed … how difficult it is for serious, reasonable people to merge their multiple views to confront a focused and brilliantly opportunistic maniac who consults with no one and murders those who disagree with him.

One strange omission … there is no mention of Jews, who I believe were very active in SPD, and no mention of SPD’s concern (if they had any) for Hitler’s attitude and promises regarding Jews, should he come to power. On this topic, I am next reading Donald Niewyk’s “Socialist, Anti-Semite, and Jew.”

Consider … in 1928 … SPD was at its peak, with 30% of the vote while the Nazis received less than 3% … SPD, with 937,000 party members, held power in the state of Prussia, with 2/3 of the German population. Five years later, Hitler was Chancellor and the SPD had been totally demolished and made illegal.

How did this happen?

Harsch focuses on the inability and unwillingness of SPD

to recognize what was happening

and adjust to prevent it.

Among her conclusions …

… ideological blinders hampered the ability of SPD to comprehend NS … they thus failed to exploit their political leverage when they had it

… the fragmentation of German society and political parties facilitated the rise of the NS “one people, one Reich, one leader” ideology

… SPD never produced a charismatic leader who could have broken the fetters that bound SPD

… SPD struggled to change but could never bring itself to make reasonable compromises with other non-radical parties who also opposed Hitler.

… like a protagonist in a tragedy … SPD was thus unable to save itself, Germany or Europe from disaster



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