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Archive for the ‘** RESEARCH for A FLOOD OF EVIL’ Category

* Lew’s review of “In Hitler’s Germany” by Bernt Engelmann

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 6, 2016

in Hitler's Germany & AFOE

An excellent source for small details of how people reacted to the organized state terror of the Nazi regime. Some actually resisted, secretly to avoid being sent to concentration camps or killed. Others saw themselves as small cogs in a big machine, the overall objectives of which they supported. Still others denied knowing anything, although that was clearly impossible.

The sections dealing with Kristallknacht are particularly poignant, including the fate of one relatively low-ranking planner, who sent out orders to attack and destroy and murder Jews, and who, subsequent to a brief imprisonment by the Allies after the war, retired on a “fat pension” since he had been promoted to the rank of General in the Waffen-SS.

Six million dead; this Nazi pig retired on a fat pension!

 

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Lew’s review of “The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI” by Georges Passelecq … and some thoughts regarding the bounds of historical fiction

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 2, 2016

hidden & AFOE

In June of 1938, Pope Pius XI asked an American Jesuit priest to prepare a draft of what the Holy Father expected to become a Papal Encyclical denouncing the racial policies and antisemitism of the Nazis. Father LaFarge went to Paris and prepared such a draft, which he brought to Rome in September 1938. What happened next to that draft is not known.

A few months later, in February 1939, Pius XI died and in March 1939 Cardinal Pacelli became Pius XII. The Encyclical was never promulgated and in fact disappeared for decades.

Passelecq managed to obtain the draft and much but not all of the record related to it. Many important facts are likely still buried in Vatican archives, or perhaps destroyed, but what Passelecq obtained is enough for a fascinating story and even more fascinating questions.

Did Pius XI ever see the draft? Was it kept from him, and if so, did Cardinal Pacelli have anything to do with that? Did Pacelli see the draft? Did Pacelli decide to bury it and if so why?

Questions like these can perhaps be answered some day if the Vatican provides all the archives it has. Other questions are more speculative.

Would the Encyclical, if published, have made any difference in the Nazi’s subsequent murder of 6 million Jews? Would the Encyclical have created an anti-Nazi climate where the US might have entered the fight with England sooner? Would the Encyclical have created pressure for Allied bombing of Auschwitz and other murder sites? Would the Encyclical have led to Nazi retaliation against Catholics living in Germany, Poland and elsewhere? Would the Encyclical have encouraged other countries to allow more Jews to get out of Germany before they were murdered?

For me, Passelecq’s book provides much material for one or more possible chapters in Book Two of A FLOOD OF EVIL which I hope to write later this year.

THOUGHTS REGARDING THE BOUNDS OF HISTORICAL FICTION

But what are the appropriate rules for writing historical fiction when some of the facts are known and others are not? My guidelines are these:

(1) if I state an historical fact, get it as right as possible;
(2) if responsible sources disagree on the facts, I am free to choose whichever version I want to portray;
(3) for the fictional parts which go beyond the known facts, they must be plausible with regard both to known events and to the reported personalities and inclinations of the historical characters;
(4) there must be no credible negative facts which make the fiction I am writing impossible to have happened.

Given those guidelines, I feel free to create a work of historical fiction which goes beyond the history and presents a plausible version of what might have happened. “The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI” gives me a huge and powerful canvass on which to create important aspects of my novel.

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* Lew’s review of Days of Sorrow and Pain: Leo Baeck and the Berlin Jews by Leonard Baker

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 27, 2016

days of sorrow - baeck.jpg

Rabbi Leo Baeck was perhaps the most important leader of the Jews of Germany during the Hitler years. A scholar and spiritual leader before Hitler’s rise, Baeck turned down offers to leave Germany and took on the difficult and ultimately frustrating role of coordinating Jewish response to the closing Nazi net. Arrested several times, he survived Theresienstadt and lived his final years in England. Baker has written a marvelous account of Baeck’s long and remarkable life.

Baeck recognized that the scattered organizational structure of German Jewry was not adequate to stand against Nazi antisemitism. He helped create and was the chief spokesman for the Reichsverretung, an organization which supervised welfare problems of German Jews … education … emigration … raised funds … and sought help of Jews abroad. He was a major factor in the escape of many German Jews during the late 1930s when escape was still possible.

In 1935, on Yom Kippur shortly after the passage of the infamous Nuremberg Racial Laws, Baeck wrote a stirring sermon to be read in all synagogues in Germany. In this sermon, Baeck stated … that there was a moment of decision for each individual, the point beyond which he will not bend, the pressure to which he will not succumb, the sacrifice he will not make … that Judaism was the history of the grandeur of the human soul and the dignity of human life … that no matter how weak we are, how oppressed we might be, how abruptly our former friends turn away from us, we cannot be defeated.

Baeck was arrested by the Gestapo, but soon released after pressure from an article in the London Times and protest from a group of Christian ministers in the US. Baker points out that “no German Christian leaders protested the Baeck’s arrest.”

This event, and others in Baeck’s life, will likely play a role in Book Two of my novel A FLOOD OF EVIL.

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* Lew’s review of The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership by Joachim Fest (chapter on Reinhardt Heydrich)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 27, 2016

Fest-Face & Heydrich

Joachim Fest has created fascinating, terrifying portraits of the major figures in the Nazi leadership.

I just read the chapter on Reinhardt Heydrich, described by Fest as … the architect and brain behind the SS state … a man free from humanitarian restraints … with an insatiable greed for power … and unencumbered by either ideologies or emotions.

Heydrich was the man who fashioned the Final Solution to murder all the Jews of Europe. Yet, according to Fest … Heydrich lived under the continual constraint of his own Jewish ancestors … he tried to destroy all the evidence … but was unable to prevent enemies and rivals from obtaining documentary evidence.

Fest states that Heydrich went so far as to change the headstone of his grandmother’s grave so that it said ‘S. Heydrich’ rather than ‘Sarah Heydrich.’

According to Fest … Himmler & Hitler were aware of Heydrich’s Jewish ‘problem’ … they regarded Heydrich as gifted but dangerous … and felt their knowledge of his ancestry would keep him in line … he will obey blindly.

It is important to note that Fest’s views on Heydrich’s Jewish ancestry are not universally accepted by other historians.

Heydrich is introduced briefly in Book One of my soon-to-be-published novel A FLOOD OF EVIL, and it is my intent that he will be a major character in Book Two, which I have begun to research and outline.

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* Lew’s Goodreads review of “The Twisted Road to Aushwitz” by Karl A. Schleunes

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 13, 2016

 

 

Twisted Road + AFOE

This is one of the first books (published in 1970) to put the persecution of Jews by the Nazis into a sequential narrative context, and it is still valuable today even after many other works have added information not available to Schleunes.

The Nazi efforts to achieve the Jew-free Germany demanded by Hitler are described as a series of vicious programs which failed, from 1933 to 1938, to accomplish Hitler’s goal. Boycotts, legislation, emigration and pogroms all caused incredible hardship but still failed to eliminate Jews from Germany or even from the German economy. Finally, after Kristallknacht in November 1938, Hitler turned the Jewish problem over to Goering, Heydrich and Eichmann, which led to Auschwitz.

Schleunes argues that Nazi policy until late 1938 was implemented by various underlings acting without consistent direction from Hitler. From what I have so far read, I think this was true but not a complete analysis. Hitler’s fanatical Jew-hatred never wavered, from the moment he came to public attention in the early 1920s until his last statement before he died in 1945. But Hitler was patient, and his career is marked by a willingness to wait for the right opportunity and to defer action on one priority – ridding Germany of Jews – while focusing on the then-higher priorities of economic recovery and rearmament. When those goals had been achieved, and Germany no longer needed to be concerned with international opinion, Hitler turned to the Jews.

One aspect of the Nazi Jew-hatred that Schleunes does not address is why Hitler hated and feared Jews as he did, and why so many (most?) Germans had no problem accepting that hatred as valid and acquiescing in Hitler’s policies, even to the point of mass murder. Why were Jews hated? Where did Hitler acquire that hatred? Why was persecution of Jews so acceptable to so many Germans? These are issues I am dealing with in the almost completed A FLOOD OF EVIL (1923-1933) and the sequel which is now taking focus.

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* Lew’s comments on I.J. Singer’s “The Family Carnovsky”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 9, 2015

Family Carnovsky & An Untitled Novel

I.J. Singer (the older brother of Isaac Bashevitz Singer) tells the story of three generations of a Jewish family, from Poland to Berlin to New York, from the early 1900s to the 1930s.

German Jews thought they were safe, with careers and sufficient wealth to live comfortably, to work, marry, have children and pray. They assimilated and they had become, as Singer puts it, “Jews in the house and Germans on the street.”

Then came the Nazis and everything was turned upside down.

The scenes describing the impact of the brutal, ignorant Nazi beasts are frightening and difficult to read, but impossible to put aside. In their minds in the German Jews of Singer’s novel were as good as any other German, but in public, in the “streets,” they were not Germans at all, but simply despicable Jews, to be robbed and beaten at will. They had done everything they thought was right and they had succeeded in building satisfying and productive lives, and now they were nothing, barely able to stay alive, with nowhere to turn for help.

I read this as a library copy, but immediately my purchased own, to read again as I write my still untitled story of how Hitler came to power, who supported his rise and why, who stood aside, and my young fictional characters who tried to resist.

***

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* Lew’s comments on Andreas Dorpalen’s “Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 19, 2015

German President Paul von Hindenburg

German President Paul von Hindenburg

Dorpalen provides excellent detail of the role played by President Hindenburg, especially in the months leading up to his appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933.

The resulting image is of an old and tired man, who never liked politics to begin with, who showed no initiative to understand the implications of the choices in front of him, who listened far too uncritically to the recommendations of his equally uniformed friends and son, and who, in the end, was confused and overwhelmed by a blizzard of information all pointing to Hitler as the one person who could lead Germany out of its peril.

After Hitler was appointed, Hindenburg further capitulated by signing everything Hitler put in front of him, including the Enabling Act which transferred all decision-making from the President to the Chancellor, giving Hitler total dictatorial power.

… Hindenburg was no longer capable of prolonged concentration … dozed off during lengthy conferences … could follow short concise reports … became ever more deeply entangled in an intricate web of intrigues that he did not follow … he was bewildered … yet still proud and patriotic

… Papen finally convinced Hindenburg that Hitler’s appointment was the only constitutional solution and that the safeguards he had designed would contain him

… it is doubtful that Hindenburg understood how weak the safeguards were in which Papen put so much trust … including his own ability and inclination to play the role Papen envisioned

… just as Hindenburg had let others take the blame for the defeat of 1918 … so he now disassociated himself from the failures of the Weimar Republic to which he had so greatly contributed … LMW: in effect Hindenburg said to Papen, you wanted Hitler, now you handle the problems

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* Lew’s talk at the Key West Library … 2/24/15

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 24, 2015

 speech #1

I’ll be speaking today about …

  • my novel-in-progress
  • the blending of history & fiction
  • the blending of historical & fictional characters
  • how I keep track of all the research

 TIME FRAME

  • my story begins in 1923 and ends in 1946
  • VOL I – today’s topic … begins with the Munich beer hall putsch in 1923 and ends when Hitler came to power in 1933       
  • VOL II – will cover the years from 1933 to 1946
  • there are going to be two volumes because …
    • after 3 years, I’m still in 1933
    • and already on page 491 

UNDERLYING THEME

Why did Germans – and others – promote, facilitate or simply stand aside and allow Hitler to come to power?

  • There were so many opportunities to stop Hitler before he gained power
  • everybody has an answer, and most are right … but not complete

this novel requires research in many different topics …

  • German & Polish history
  • history of Jews and antisemitism
  • the Catholic Church’s relationship to Hitler
  • the Nazi Party
  • World War II
  • resistance in Germany & Poland
  • the Holocaust
  • Nuremberg War Crimes Trial

and for me, it requires a lot of research

Hitler village

  • books on my research list … 2307
  • books read (in whole or part) … 365
  • # research notes … 15,875
  • for me, the history has to be correct

the major characters in my novel are Berthold Becker & Anna Gorska

  • Berthold Becker … is a German Catholic boy who becomes a Nazi
  • Anna Gorska … a Polish Jewish girl, born in the shtetl where my grandparents lived
  • Anna comes from Ciechanow, where my grandparents lived
    • Pat and I visited Ciechanow
    • the Jewish section no longer exists; all the homes have been demolished
    • all of my family who stayed there were murdered
  •  this monument was constructed from recovered gravestones; the pre-WWII cemetery was also demolished

DSCN8353-Ciechanow cemetery

  •  Anna Gorska’s great uncle in my story is Edel Evantash – who was my grandfather

 grandpop & me

  • Grandpop Evantash worked in a shoe shop in Ciechanow … which we “saw”
  • he left Poland … family legend says he “walked” to London … never mind the English Channel along the way
  • then to America … Camden NJ … sent for my grandmother … became a successful home builder
  • I was fortunate to know him and wish I had asked him many more questions
  • BTW … that’s me in my grandfather’s arms … Nov 1941

one of the major challenges in a historical novel is to link fiction & history

  • what is true? … what is fiction?
  • next are some examples of how truth and fiction are blended in my story

 Dietrich Becker & the beer hall putsch

putsch march - cropped

  • Dietrich Becker is a fictional character … Berthold’s brother
    • Dietrich returns from WWI a bitter man, angry, unemployed … a perfect candidate for Hitler’s rhetoric … he becomes a Nazi and then Hitler’s driver
    • Dietrich marches with Hitler in the ill-fated 1923 beer hall putsch
    • I imagine him in the second row, behind Goering and Hitler
  •  FACTS …
    • after roughly 15 minutes, Hitler & his rag-tag group are fired upon
    • someone falls on Hitler and saves his life
  •  FICTION …
    • I make Dietrich Becker the one who saves Hitler and thus becomes a Nazi martyr
  • IMPORTANCE TO THE STORY …
    • years later, Berthold, who finds Hitler despicable, becomes an unwilling Nazi hero radiating in his dead brother’s light

Marshal Josef Pilsudski 

pilsudski cover

  • Grandpop Evantash …
    • left Ciechanow in 1908 … apparently in a hurry 
    • So I made my grandfather a member of Pilsudski’s train robbing gang …
  • Josef Pilsudski …
    • was a Polish revolutionary in 1908
    • organizing guerrillas to fight the Russians
    • needing money to equip and train his men
    • he decides to rob a train carrying Russian tax money from Poland to Vilnius in Lithuania
  • The Pilsudski-Evantash connection
    • is a critical element in my story, as it many years later allows Anna to build a relationship with Pilsudski, who by then is the “de facto dictator” of Poland.
      • this relationship furthers Anna’s career as a journalist
      • and also allows me to have her learn many things not otherwise easily knowable

Ernst Franz Sedgwick Hanfstaengl … aka “Putzi”

putzi waving

  • Putzi was …
    • born in Munich
    • educated at Harvard, where he was friends with FDR
    • ran his family’s art store on 5th Avenue in NYC
    • returned to Munich and became enamored with Hitler
    • worked with Hitler for well over a decade
      • known as “Hitler’s piano player “
      • Hitler had Putzi install a piano on the train that ran between Berlin and Munich
    • when Hitler turned on him in 1937, Putzi escaped to Switzerland and then London
    • when war was declared, the British arrested him as an enemy alien
    • from prison, he convinced FDR he could be valuable to the American war effort
    • Putzi spent the war years in Washington DC listening to German broadcasts and providing his evaluations to Roosevelt
  • I created a fictional connection between Berthold & Putzi
    •  once Berthold becomes a Nazi hero, he comes to Putzi’s attention
    • for reasons that I won’t disclose today, Berthold works that relationship to get from Putzi an unending stream of information and delicious gossip

 Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber

Faulhaber

  • Putzi is comic relief … now it’s time to get serious
  • Michael von Faulhaber was …
    • the revered archbishop of Munich from 1917 until his death in 1952
    • he wielded enormous influence over the framing of Church politics and also the shaping of public opinion in Bavaria and throughout Germany

 here’s what Faulhaber said in 1932 & 1933 before Hitler became Chancellor…

  •  he forbade Catholic priests to take part in the Nazi movement
  • he spoke scathingly about Nazi methods, radicalism and vulgarity
  • he was so outspoken about Nazi persecution of Jews that he was labeled the “Jewish Cardinal” by Munich university students
  • he called National Socialism a “heresy” that “cannot be brought into harmony with the Christian worldview”
  • Cardinal Faulhaber’s views were shared by an overwhelming majority of German Catholic bishops and Catholic voters

here’s what Faulhaber said a few months later

  •  After the signing of the Concordat between the Nazi regime and the Roman Catholic Church in 1933 Faulhaber sent a note of congratulations to Hitler
    • “What the old parliament and parties did not accomplish in sixty years, your statesmanlike foresight has achieved in six months.”
    • He ended his letter: “May God preserve the Reich Chancellor for our people”

 What happened in between?

  •  Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli is what happened in between, as Faulhaber and the other German bishops were pressured to change their tune about Hitler

Pacelli

  •  Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, has been fiercely criticized for his lack of resistance to Hitler during WWII and the Holocaust.
  • A decade earlier, he played a major role in bring power to Hitler.

Pacelli’s Concordat obsession

  • by January 1933, Cardinal Pacelli had been obsessed for a decade with the desire to negotiate a Concordat with the German state
    •  The Concordat was a treaty between the Vatican and the German Reich, spelling out the rules under which the Catholic Church would operate in Germany
  • Pacelli finally realized that the Catholic Center Party in the German parliament (Reichstag) could never assemble enough votes from the Socialist, Communist, Nazi and Nationalist delegates to pass a Concordat
  •  Hitler, however, if he achieved sufficient dictatorial power, would be able to deliver a Reich Concordat

significant events in 1933

  • on January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg
  • on March 23, 1933, an Enabling Act was passed in the Reichstag, eliminating civil rights in Germany and giving Hitler dictatorial powers
    •  the Catholic Center Party cast its votes for the Enabling Act, which would not have passed without those votes
  • on July 20, 1933, a Reich Concordat was signed between the Vatican and the Third Reich

WAS THERE A DEAL? 

  • did Cardinal Pacelli trade a Reich Concordat for the Enabling Act which gave Hitler dictatorial powers?
  • there is no known documentation to prove that
    • unless documents are still hidden in the Vatican archives
  • but most (not all) historians say … YES
  • I will write my answer over the next several months

 NEW TOPIC  … how do I use 15,875 lines of research notes?

  • remembering is clearly impossible
  • my system for finding what I need involves several large connected spreadsheets

 Research Sources

research sources for Jan 1933 scenes

  • these are the major sources for the scenes for 1 month – Jan 1933 – that I will begin writing tomorrow
    • some are broad histories … Evans, Kershaw, Fest
    • others are tightly focused … Turner’s history of Jan 1933
    • diaries & memoirs … Goebbels … Putzi … what can we believe?
    • archives … TIME, NYT, JTA

a few of the 15,875 lines from the RESEARCH spreadsheet

research notes by author & title-cropped

  • column headings … date … topic … notes … author, book, page
  •  having all this in one spreadsheet allows me to sort (say by date) and to search on any search term
  • so I can find anything I need in a matter of seconds

Scenes for Jan-Apr 1933 (not yet written)

scenes Jan-Apr 1933

  • column headings … Chapter # … Scene # … date … topic … location … characters
  •  the list changes frequently … scenes are added, dropped, and re-sequenced

 research & story line notes for 1 scene

research & S notes for a scene

  • research notes are assembled into scenes where they may provide relevant historical context …
    • sort/search items from RESEARCH spreadsheet
    • copy from RESEARCH spreadsheet to SCENES NOTES spreadsheet
    • story line notes (“S” notes) are my thoughts about what my characters might say and do

January 1933 was a strange and momentous month

 on Jan 1, Hitler’s rise to power was over

  • he had taken an “all or nothing” political gamble
  • and lost
  • the Nazis were fighting among themselves
  • they were broke
  • President Hindenburg had said he would never appoint that “Austrian corporal”
  • Hitler was not going to be Chancellor
  • he was talking about suicide

30 days later, Adolf Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany

I am ready to write the January 1933 scenes …

  •  the story unfolds mainly with Berthold in Germany, which is where the events take place
  •  but also with Anna in Poland where Marshal Pilsudski is the only European leader who seems to understand and fear the threat of Hitler and a rearmed Germany
  •  my challenge is to bring the reader inside these events

the first Jan 1933 scene begins with Putzi taking to Berthold

Putzi had the look on his face he always got when he was about to say something he knew he shouldn’t. But he was bursting to tell someone.

“I was with the Fuhrer at the opera the other day,” he began.

  •  and you are right there, inside the action as it happens

 Now we have a few minutes for Q & A

  • NOTE: feel free to ask your questions here on my author blog

***

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* Lew’s comments on “Willi Münzenberg: A Political Biography” by Babette Gross

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 8, 2015

Willi Munzenberg

Willi Munzenberg

***
Willi Munzenberg was a German Communist who tried to organize resistance to Hitler from outside Germany, after he fled in the face of arrest or execution. He succeeded in offsetting Goebbels’ propaganda regarding who caused the Reichstag fire in Feb 1933 (Goebbels said it was the Communists; Munzenberg said it was the Nazis) and subsequently managed to initiate a number of anti-Nazi events and publications, which unfortunately were not heeded to the extent they should have been. Munzenberg was found dead in a French forest in 1940, presumably (but not proven) a suicide.
 .
Munzenberg’s history provides many potential story lines for the second part of my novel-in-progress. Anna Gorska (my fictional Polish character) is a journalist who might well have interacted with Munzenberg, while Berthold Becker (my fictional German character) might well have been the source for information published under Munzenberg’s auspices.
.
My thanks again to the wonderful Key West Library which, through its Interlibrary Loan program foound me a copy of this book which is not even listed on amazon, and also not on GoodReads until I put it there.
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One fascinating (for me at least) personal coincidence. When Munzenberg fled to Paris in 1933, he first stayed in the Hotel Quai Voltaire, along the Seine opposite the Louvre, which is where my wife and I stayed on our first trip to Paris many years ago.
***

 

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Lew’s comments on “Burning the Reichstag” by Benjamin Hett … research for Lew’s novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 25, 2015

burning the Reichstag + Anna's Challenge

This is a well-documented report of the facts as known and the still officially unresolved question of who lit the fire.

It does seem clear that the man who was found guilty and guillotined was guilty of something, but also that he could not have been the sole perpetrator. Either it was the Nazis who set the fire to justify accelerated violence against the Communists and other political enemies or it was the Communists who set it as the first step in a planned revolution. Since there never was a planned revolution, and since the Nazis did in fact begin arresting people the night of the fire using a list they had prepared before the fire, it seems clear to me the Nazis were culpable.

For my purposes in my novel-in-progress, there are numerous fascinating details that might be incorporated into my story. Here are a few of them …

… the Berlin correspondent for the British Daily Express … one of the first reporters on the scene … tipped off by a source

… Goering & Hitler arrive at the fire while it is still burning … Goering: “This is the beginning of the Communist revolt; they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost!” … Hitler: “There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down. Every Communist official will be shot where he is found. The Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. Everybody in league with the Communists must be arrested. There will no longer be any leniency for Social Democrats either.”

… on the morning after the fire … Hitler secured Hindenburg’s approval for what became known as the Reichstag Fire Decree … put an end to constitutional rights and the rule of law … the “Reichstag Fire Decree” … FIRST PARAGRAPH: suspended civil liberties contained in the Weimar Constitution … legalized imprisonment without trial for anyone the regime deemed a political threat … effectively abolished freedom of speech, of assembly and association, confidentiality of the post and telegraphic communication, and security form warrantless searches … SECOND PARAGRAPH: gave the Reich government the power to remove any state government from office

the fire took place on the night of Feb 27 … on Feb 18 … orders had gone out (from Goering) to all Prussian police … compile lists of leaders of the Communist Party and all related communist organizations … also union leaders … include home addresses and likely hiding places … submit no later than Feb 26

***

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* Lew’s comments on COVERT GERMAN REARMAMENT 1919-1939

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 5, 2015

Covert rearmament + Anna's Challenge

***

A 1984 CIA research publication presents one of the great deceptions of modern times: the interwar German evasion of the disarmament provisions of the Versailles settlement. With intriguing detail the author shows how the military, political and industrial leaders of Germany cleverly, systematically, and effectively evaded armament restrictions and clandestinely rearmed Germany, transforming it in 20 years from the ashes of World War I to a first-rate military power.

Of particular note is that this rearmament began immediately after the German defeat in WWI, long before Hitler became Chancellor in 1933. Part of Hitler’s appeal to the military and major arms producers was his support for what they were already doing. The book is very well footnoted with a superb bibliography.

This opens up a whole new plot line for my German character in my novel-in-progress.

Here are a few excerpts …

… German rearmament was an extraordinary story of evasion, inspection, espionage and counterespionage

… Allied leaders engaged in self-deception … accepted statements that Germany had disarmed … (and later) that Hitler did not seek war

… from 1920 to 1926 … Germans evaded arms inspections by Inter-Allied Control Commission inspectors … demonstrated that successful arms evasion was possible … indicated a failure of will of the Allies to prevent German rearmament

… a strong Germany was seen by some as a European, Christian, capitalistic shield against a barbaric, atheistic and Bolshevik Russia

… businessmen saw opportunities for profit in German rearmament

… Allied leaders engaged in self-deception … accepted statements that Germany had disarmed … that Hitler did not seek war

… (after WWI) … Krupp’s teams of arms designers, engineers and craftsmen were kept together by moving them outside Germany … to Sweden & Netherlands … Fokker Aircraft Works … relocated to the Netherlands … inventories relocated by train (350 carloads, 220 airplanes, 400 engines) … Fokker operated in Holland to evade Versailles controls

… after the Inter-Allied Control Commission left Germany at the beginning of 1927 … Allies were limited to their small intelligence and espionage services

… by early 1934 the secret German air force was operating 44 units from 42 airfields each unit had a civilian cover name

… (in 1934) … naval architects and craftsmen who had been squirreled away in Dutch shipyards returned to Germany … Germany began producing 1 sub per month as well as great guns for battleships

… Hitler placed an order with Krupp for the first 100 tanks to be delivered by March 1934 … 650 more to follow a year later … by Oct 1935 three Panzer divisions had come into existence

… deception now switched from concealing secret rearmament to concelaing weakness … Goering used Ward Price and the London Daily Mail … which published all the disinformation Goering provided to overstate German military preparedness

… (by assisting Franco in the Spanish Civil War) the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht gained nearly 14,000 combat-experienced pilots, air crewmwn, tank men and antiaircraft crew men in 32 months of battle … tested new weapons systems – Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter, Junkers Ju-87 dive-bomber, 88-mm antitank-antiaircraft gun … also new tactics – air-ground support, carpet bombing (Guernica)

… Munich bluff (1938) … 6 hours before the scheduled invasion of Czeckoslovakia … Hitler panicked Chamberlain and Daladier by threatening further mobilization when in fact he had already fully mobilized … the bloodless victory in Czechoslovakia led Hitler’s generals to shelve their secret plan to oust him by coup

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* Lew’s comments on Mommsen’s WEIMAR DEMOCRACY … research for Lew’s novel in progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 5, 2015

Mommsen + Anna's Challenge

***

Mommsen provides outstanding detail, especially about the undermining of the Weimar Republic by those who could have made it work and thus kept Hitler from power.

Democracy is always difficult, and conditions in Germany after WWI made it particularly hard to sustain the compromise and cooperation needed for a democracy to be governed well. The details and the situations are very different, but still there are many frightening parallels to the US today. Consider these excerpts from Mommsen …

… neither (President) Hindenburg nor (Chancellor) Bruning was ever prepared to invite the SPD (Socialists) to join the government … thus precluding a return to parliamentary government

… Strasser failed to recognize that Hitler was determined to avoid clear political positions and sought instead to commit the party (and Germany) to a messianic faith in his own leadership abilities

… those social groups that supported the Nazis were those who felt threatened with a loss of social status … they were not succeeding in middle class careers and were insecure

… Goebbels was intent on portraying Hitler as “our last best hope” … decisive for party cohesion … pounded into public consciousness at every opportunity … Nazi election campaigns were conducted with energy and professionalism

… (by mid 1932) the Nazi Party had exhausted its voter potential … the lack of visible achievements was causing an erosion of support … a growing number of resignations form the party … reduced financial contributions … mounting internal criticism of Hitler’s political course

… Fritz Gerlich and Ingbert Naab, editors of Der gerade Weg, criticized the confusion of the Catholic parties … which failed to take Hitler’s “absolute will to evil” seriously … the Catholic Center Party made it clear that it would not support a presidential cabinet led by Papen

… Hindenburg met with all party leaders except SPD, since Papen categorically refused to deal with SPD

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* Lew’s review of “Hjalmar Schacht: For and Against Hitler” by Edward N. Peterson … research for Lew’s novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 14, 2014

Schacht + Anna's Challenge

***

A well-researched study of a Nazi who was tried at Nuremberg and acquitted.

Schacht first gained prominence as the banker who solved the hyper-inflation problem in Germany in 1923, for which he was appointed President of the Reischbank. He was an important supporter of Hitler in the 1930-32 period before Hitler became Chancellor and was rewarded by an appointment as Minister of Economics after Hitler took power. A clear case can be made that Schacht’s association with Hitler was calculated for the purpose of advancing his own career, power and fame.

Schacht was instrumental in providing the funds for Germany’s rearmament program, including the invention of the notorious MEFO bills (promissory notes based on nothing used to hide the extent of Germany’s rearmament). He fought with Goering over economic policy and lost when Goering’s Four Year Plan – totally devoted to war production at the expense of consumer-friendly policies – was adopted by Hitler.

Schacht became a major participant in several anti-Hitler plots, including the pre-Munich plot in 1938. Subsequently, Schacht publicly antagonized Hitler and was removed from all positions, later to be arrested and sent to a succession of concentration camps.

Liberated from Dachau by the Allies in 1945, Schacht was immediately arrested and brought to trial at Nuremberg, where it was judged that his anti-Hitler activities outweighed his role in preparing the German armed forces for war. The judges apparently believed Schacht when he insisted he thought Hitler was rearming for defensive purposes only.

***

Here is Peterson’s report of a fascinating “might have been”  …

… in 1938, Allen Dulles led the American effort with the German underground (including Schacht) whereby civilians attempted to push the military into anti-Hitler action. *** Was that the policy of the US government at the time? What was FDR’s role in Dulles’ efforts? ***

… Schacht & Gisevius met with General von Witzleben … who commanded troops in the Berlin area …Witzleben had enough power to seize the centralized government and Hitler, and to neutralize Nazi opposition … could have accomplished a coup d’etat … Witzleben formulated the plans after Schacht convinced him of the need for violence to rid Germany of Hitler

… as this planning was ongoing, Hitler’s success with Chamberlain at Munich undermined the planned coup … amidst public rejoicing that territory (Czechoslovakia) had been added without war, both the generals and the nation as a whole came to believe that Hitler knew best how to handle international problems … Hitler had been right and Schacht wrong regarding what the English would do … Schacht lost prestige among the generals.

… the night after the Munich Agreement was signed … Witzleben, Schacht and Gisevius “tossed their plans into the fire” … *** literally? ***

***

After his acquittal at Nuremberg, Schacht founded a private banking house in Düsseldorf. He also advised developing countries on economic development. He died in 1970 at the age of 93.

***

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* Lew’s review of UNVANQUISHED, the biography of Polish leader Josef Pilsudski

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 4, 2014

 

pilsudski + Anna's Challenge

***

A magnificent biography of one of the great, unknown men of the 20th century.

Josef Pilsudski was a legitimate hero from the early 1900s until his death in 1935. He fought the Russians and Germans in the early 1900s, was instrumental in creating the reformed Polish state in 1919, and ran the Polish government from 1926-35.

He became a dictator when the Polish experiment with parliamentary democracy proved as ineffective as the Weimar Republic in neighboring Germany; Hetherington pulls no punches in describing how Pilsudski dealt with his opponents; he arrested some and later released them, executing none.

The finest part of the book for me was the description of how Pilsudski recognized the dangers of Hitler and tried, unlike the rest of Europe, to do something to stop him. He stood up to Hitler over the issue of Danzig, and Hitler blinked. Pilsudski believed that a preemptive strike against Germany in 1933 could prevent what he clearly saw as Hitler’s plans to rearm and attack. Pilsudski was thwarted in his plan by the timidity of the French and the appeasement policy of the British.

Many of the events of 1932-35 will be described in my new novel, involving both my Polish and German characters. I think these events are unknown to most readers and will provide fascinating perspective on those years.

A few notes from the book …

… Pilsudski’s view: France & Britain have different objectives. France wants to contain Germany and expand its own land and power in Europe. Britain wants peace and is willing to appease Germany to gain it.

… in 1933, the Polish Army possessed over 250,000 highly trained and well-equipped soldiers … Germany was limited to the 100,000 allowed by Versailles and had no modern weapons

… Pilsudski dispatched Jerzy Potocki to Paris as an unofficial envoy … spoke with French PM Paul-Boncour to explore the possibility of a Franco-Polish preventive war against Germany … given a suitable pretext … Poland would seize Danzig and key German territories in the east, while France would invade Germany from the west … a disgraced Hitler would be forced to resign … but the French did not respond to this initiative … and Germany did not react to Poland’s Danzig initiatives

… Pilsudski informed French PM Daladier in Feb 1933 … that Germany was rearming and needed to be confronted now rather than after 2-3 years of consolidation of the Hitler regime and intense rearming … in late March, Pilsudski sent a message to Daladier outlining hiw to justify an attack on Germany … stating that the German decree of Feb 22, setting up an auxiliary police force of 50,000 men, was a violation of the Versailles Treaty which the League of Nations had every right to investigate … any inspection would sure to confirm that Germany was rearming beyond the agreed upon limits … thus justifying armed intervention

… the best time to attack Germany was 1933 … Poland’s military capabilities exceeded Germany’s … only 3 of Germany’s 10 divisions were positioned along the polish border, and they were under-supplied … the Polish Army had re-positioned 15 divisions (half of their force) to oppose them, giving the Poles a 5:1 advantage

… Pilsudski knew the Polish Army’s 1933 advantage would not last … he knew the Germans were rapidly rearming (illegally) and had vast industrial capabilities … were sure to re-emerge as a great military power

***

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* Lew’s review of a biography of German socialist Rudolf Hilferding

Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 22, 2014

Hilferding & Anna's Challenge

***

In the course of an excellent biography of an obscure German socialist, Smaldone offers a clear analysis of the failure of the Social Democrats to counteract Hitler’s rise to power. Fighting with each other over Marxist theory, unable to find practical means to implement their principles, without anything approaching a charismatic leader, and afraid to provoke a civil war, the SPD essentially rolled over and gave in. To be fair, the combination of forces against them was, at least from Hilferding’s perspective, overwhelming.

One of the fictional characters in my new novel becomes an SPD delegate to the Reichstag who tries to provoke the SPD into more aggressive action to save German democracy in late 1932.

I may also be able to make use of Hilferding’s exile years in Prague when he wrote many articles trying to alert the world to what Hitler was doing in the years 1934-38 to prepare for war.

The story of Hilferding’s life and eventual suicide in a German cell adds to the sad picture of many basically decent Germans who saw what was happening but were unable to counteract through parliamentary democracy the brutality by which Hitler advanced to power.

This is a story often repeated, and one which perhaps offers a cautionary tale to us in America today as we face the nihilistic behavior of right wing politicians who seem more intent on destroying government than in governing, precisely replicating the objective of Hitler and the Nazis.

***

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* Lew’s review of “Pierre and Luce” by Romain Rolland

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 3, 2014

pierre and luce

***

This is a beautiful story about first love. Not a word is overdone. Feelings are allowed to reach the reader in the most delicate and precious way. Rolland’s words …

  • “Through the portals of his eyes into his heart she entered, she entered all complete; and the door closed. Noises from without fell to nothing. Silence. Peace. She was there.”

  • “She did not look at him. In fact she did not even know as yet of his existence. And yet she was there inside him. He held her image there, speechless, crushed in his arms, and he dared not breathe for fear that his breath might ruffle her.”

  • “both of them were in accord as to a mute resolve not to look into the future”

Rolland’s works held a special place in the hearts of young people in the 1920s and 1930s wanting to love and survive in the midst of the constant threat of war and evil worse than war.

I am planning to have the young German man in my novel-in-progress read “Pierre and Luce” at a time when he is separated from the girl he loves, maybe forever, is confused and conflicted by his life, and is looking for a way to understand and come to peace with his feelings. He won’t find peace but I believe he will find the effort worthwhile.

***

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* Lew’s review of “POPE AND DEVIL – The Vatican’s Archives and the Third Reich” by Professor Hubert Wolf

Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 10, 2014

to see more of Lew’s research for his new novel, click …

 ** RESEARCH for Lew’s NEXT NOVEL

***

Pope and Devil & Untitled Novel

.

POPE AND DEVIL is, of course, research for the novel I am currently writing, set in Germany and Poland during the Nazi years. The role of the Catholic Church in facilitating the rise of Hitler is an important theme in my book. My comments are at the bottom of this post.

Prof. Wolf has done a sterling job of assembling details of the Catholic Church’s attitudes and actions before and during the Nazi era. So far I have focused on the chapter regarding a group called Amici Israel (Friends of Israel), formed in 1926 and disbanded in a humiliating way by Pius XI in 1928.

Amici Israel was initiated by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich (and others) and grew in two years to include 1800 cardinals, bishops and priests. In 1928, they produced a document called Pax super Israel (Peace over Israel) which, among other things, recommended eliminating the pejorative word “perfidious” from the Good Friday liturgy. The Vatican’s most respected liturgical scholar reviewed the recommendations contained in Pax super Israel and gave all of them his approval.

Then … a Cardinal named Merry del Val, the head of the Holy Office of Inquisition, reviewed the document at the request of Pius XI and rendered an excoriating judgment.

Cardinal Merry del Val

Cardinal Merry del Val

 

Cardinal Merry del Val wrote …

*** The entire attitude of this little book is decidedly positive toward the Jews with rather adverse imputations about the Church and its servants. It is as if the bride of Christ stood accused of negligence, or even worse of unjustified aversion toward the people which is called the Chosen.

*** the activities of the “so-called Friends of Israel” must be stopped once and for all

*** the reform of the Good Friday prayer is completely unacceptable and nonsensical, not even a matter for discussion

*** the liturgy aptly (and correctly) expresses “the abhorrence for the rebellion and treachery of the chosen, disloyal and deicidal Jewish people”

*** the Good Friday prayers are not about individual Jews; they are about stiff-necked jewish people burdened with the curse that they as a people (properly) bear for having spilled the blood of the holiest of the holy

Cardinal Merry del Val’s recommendations were adopted …

The Holy Office of the Inquisition then rejected the reform of the Good Friday prayer and all the other Amici Israel recommendations with very little discussion, repeating Merry del Val’s demand that Amici Israel be disbanded.

Pius XI very quietly issued a decree incorporating Merry del Val’s recommendations and dissolving Amici Israel. He later asked his close associate Enrico Rosa, publisher of the more or less official journal of the Catholic Church called Civilta Cattolica, to write a public defense of his actions.

Enrico Rosa wrote …

*** the Church must protect against the appearance of friendship with the Jews, to which Amici Israel has fallen prey

*** the danger emanating from the Jews should never be underestimated

*** Jews have become presumptuous and powerful since their emancipation at the turn of the 19th c

*** Jews have come to dominate large portions of the world’s economic life and to build up their hegemony in many sectors of public life

*** Jews have manipulated all revolutionary activity from the French Revolution of 1789 up to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution

*** Jews are forging plans for world hegemony

.

LMW COMMENT:

THESE WORDS OF CARDINAL MERRY DEL VAL AND ENRICO ROSA, ENDORSED BY POPE PIUS XI, ARE OF COURSE PRECISELY THE SAME JEW-HATING MESSAGE OF HITLER AND THE NAZIS, ADOPTED WITH ENTHUSIASM BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN 1928.

Amici Israel was a huge opportunity for the Catholic Church, upon the recommendation of high-ranking Cardinals and approval by its own foremost liturgical experts, to change the whole tone of antisemitism that had pervaded Catholic liturgy and sermons for centuries. This change, if adopted in 1928, would have sent a message to Germans and others that Hitler’s hysterical Jew-hatred was unacceptable to the Church, and perhaps there is every reason to speculate that Hitler would not have come to power in 1933.

The bishops of Germany, led by Cardinal Faulhaber, were pleading for support in their efforts to hold back the Nazi surge. The Vatican in Rome sent exactly the opposite message: Hitler’s Jew-hatred was fine with them.

In my view, Pius XI deserves to be condemned for this clear act of antisemitism and its awful consequences.

AFTER NOTE … The elimination of the word “perfidious” and all of the other changes recommended by Amici Israel, which had been rejected in 1928, were adopted by the Catholic Church in 1965  in the conclave known as Vatican II.

 

Posted in * A FLOOD OF EVIL ... Lew's novel-in-progress, ** RESEARCH for A FLOOD OF EVIL | 2 Comments »

* Lew’s review of Dragon’s Teeth (part I) by Upton Sinclair … research for “An Untitled Novel”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 24, 2014

 

Dragon's Teeth & Untitled Novel

I have read only that part of Dragon’s Teeth which carries the story to the spring of 1933, which corresponds with the time frame I am currently researching for my new novel. It is a spectacular book, showing through a very involved fictional family the horrors of Hitler achieving power.

I was less interested in Dragon’s Teeth as a novel – although it is a very well and powerfully told story – than I was in the observations the novel’s characters make about Hitler and the Nazis. Since the novel was published in 1942, these come close to being contemporaneous. Here are some of those observations …

… It was an atrocious thing that anybody should be permitted to organize a private army as Hitler had done

… One must admit that Hitler is sincere … so are most lunatics

… If you let the German Republic fall and you get Hitler … how will that help you? … (LMW: yet that is exactly what the other political parties and the Catholic Church did)

… after he became Chancellor, Hitler had total control of propaganda … every statement he made was on the front page of every newspaper … Goering was Prussian Minister of the interior I could say what he wanted over the radio … Goebbels was Minister of Propaganda and Popular enlightenment … Nazi propaganda covered Germany like an explosion … Goebbels could say anything he pleased about his enemies and suppress their replies

… The head of the Berlin fire department had observed gasoline on the floors of the Reichstag … immediately after the fire and announced that the police had carted away a truckload of unburned incendiary materials … immediately after making this announcement he was dismissed from his post

… Hitler wanted two things … to get complete mastery of Germany … to be let alone by the outside world while he was doing it … (LMW: The Catholic Church, in passing the Enabling Act and signing the Concordat) were of inestimable help to Hitler in achieving both objectives)

***

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* Lew’s review of EUROPE’S LAST SUMMER by David Fromkin

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2014

Europe's Last Summer

***

Q: Who Started World War I? … A: Germany!

One of the main props of Hitler’s vitriolic propaganda was to condemn the Allies’ position at Versailles that Germany should be the only nation to pay reparations since it was solely responsible for starting the First World War. Putting aside the problems caused by the reparations, which were substantial and in hindsight bad policy, there remains the issue of who started the war.

Fromkin puts that responsibility squarely on Germany, which encouraged and manipulated the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia into its own war against Russia and France.

*** the internationl conflict in the summer of 1914 consisted of two wars, not one … both were started deliberately, one by the Hapsburg Empire and the other by the German Empire … the decision to launch war – in both cases – was made by a few individuals at the top … both wars were about power, about the relative ranking among the great European powers … both Germany and Austria believed themselves on the way down … each started a war in order to stay where it was

*** it was (Chief of the German General Staff) Helmuth Moltke who wanted war against Russia and France … he artfully substituted his war for support of the Austrian-Serbian war … Moltke represented the Prussian Junker officer caste whose militarization of German life led to the war.

***

Untitled Novel - cover

in my new novel-in-progress … 

I plan to incorporate Fromkin’s controversial but well-documented conclusion (published in 2004) into a discussion one of my fictional characters will have with Marshal Josef Pilsudski of Poland. Pilsudski was involved in the WWI fighting, would probably have known the German generals and staff personnel, and was a brilliant strategist who could well have perceived events as Fromkin later reconstructed. Such is the opportunity offered to the writer of historical fiction to fill in the blanks of history – as long as the known (???) truth allows that it could have happened that way.

***

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* Lew’s review of BYSTANDERS – Conscience and Complicity During the Holocaust

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 6, 2013

WELCOME TO MY AUTHOR BLOG … 

https://lewweinsteinauthorblog.com/welcome_to_my_author_blog/

***

Bystanders - cover

BYSTANDERS – Conscience and Complicity During the Holocaust … by Victoria Barnett

***

This is probably the most thought-provoking book I have yet read in my research for my new novel. By examining the motivation and behavior of bystanders, and including the Catholic and Protestant churches as bystanders, Barnett clearly demonstrates how and why these bystanders were not neutral observers, but were instead complicit in furthering the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis. I will return to this book many times as I write scenes for my German and Polish characters related to these issues.

a few quotes (among so many that could be chosen) …

… The Christian community not only failed to stop the Holocaust … to a horrifying degree it had passively watched and even participated … it had consistently emphasized obedience to the Nazi state, not resistance on behalf of of its victims

… Elie Wiesel: If Christianity hadn’t taught anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jews, the Holocaust would not have happened

… For the victims, indifference and silence of bystanders had the same consequences has the active hatred of perpetrators

… many people thought that even if Jews shouldn’t be killed, they weren’t worth saving

… Christian teachings predisposed Germans to view Jewish suffering with indifference

… In 1941, the International Committee of the Red Cross began to receive reports that Nazi concentration camps were in fact killing factories for hundreds of thousands of European Jews … Red Cross leaders decided that the importance of their organization’s humanitarian role outweighed any possible benefits of taking a public position against Nazi authorities

… The churches supported state policies and carried out state orders … Such cooperation with the Nazi regime encouraged complicity and blocked effective resistance … no opposing voices were heard

… By not protesting Nazi measures against Jews and by allowing church records to be used as proof of racial purity the churches tacitly authorized state violence against the Jews … laying the foundation for death lists and gas chambers to follow

… LEW WEINSTEIN

***

WELCOME TO MY AUTHOR BLOG … 

https://lewweinsteinauthorblog.com/welcome_to_my_author_blog/

***

4 novels + author

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* Lew’s review of The International Jew by Henry Ford … research for my 5th novel

Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 1, 2013

??????????

Henry Ford … bigot

I’m only about 20% into this disgusting series of tirades published in a paper Ford owned. Probably the rest is more of the same. It seems to me that Ford’s loathing and fear of Jews matches that of Hitler, who had a life-size portrait of Ford in his Munich office.

.

Henry Ford was a very successful man.

What drove him to write this? What was he afraid of?

Where in his background or education did this fear come from?

.

Ford wrote 91 articles bashing the Jews in the 1920s, received much criticism at the time, and never changed his position or apologized then. He also got an award from Hitler, I think in 1937.

.

Henry Ford was a disgusting bigot who spread his views widely,

and surely contributed to America’s shameful failure to lift a single finger

to save Jews on their way to the ovens.

He spread the same message in the U.S.

as Hitler did in Germany.

.

Here are some excerpts from what I have read so far.

• (the) International Jew and his satellites (are) the conscious enemies of all that Anglo-Saxons mean by civilization
• The Jew is the world’s enigma. Poor in his masses, he yet controls the world’s finances.
• there are ancient prophecies to the effect that the Jew will return to his own land and from that center rule the world
• The Jews’ enemies were always stripping them of their last ounce of wealth, yet strangely, the Jews recovered very quickly and were soon rich again.
• This distribution of the Jews over Europe and the world, each Jewish community linked in a fellowship of blood, faith and suffering with every other group, made it possible for the Jew to be international in the sense that no other race or group of merchants could be at that time.
• The main source of the sickness of the German national body is charged to be the influence of the Jews
• the German people that the collapse which has come since the armistice, and the revolution from which they are being prevented a recovery, are the result of Jewish intrigue
• The principal Jewish influences which are charged with bringing about the downfall of German order may be named under three heads: (a) the spirit of Bolshevism which masqueraded under the name of German Socialism; (b) Jewish ownership and control of the Press; (c) Jewish control of the food supply and the industrial machinery of the country
• the German people knew that war meant sacrifice and suffering, and like other people they were willing to share the common lot. But they found themselves preyed upon by a class of Jews who had prepared everything to make profit out of the common distress
• Judaism is the most closely organized power on earth, even more than the British Empire. It forms a State whose citizens are unconditionally loyal wherever they may be … Its fleet is the British fleet, which guards from hindrance the progress of all-Jewish world
• we are not talking about merely rich men who have, many of them, gained their riches by serving a System, we are talking about those who Control
• the world will go on thinking of the Jew as a member of a race, a race whose persistence has defeated the utmost efforts made for its extermination

… More to follow if I can force myself to read more.

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* Lew’s review of … The Myth of the Twentieth Century by Alfred Rosenberg

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 30, 2013

Rosenberg & Hitler

This is Rosenberg’s incomprehensible, unreadable and I think mostly unsuccessful attempt to cast Hitler’s hatred in more scholarly form. He ranges pretentiously over a wide variety of topics with no regard for connection, consistency or truth. UTTER GARBAGE. Some examples …

• Greedy for the goods of this world, the Jew moves from city to city, from land to land, and remains where he finds the least resistance to his parasitical business.
• The Jew sought domination and, until 1933, seemed stronger than us.
• Where any kind of wound is torn open in the body of a nation, the Jewish demon always eats itself into the infected part and, as a parasite, it exploits the weak hours of the great nations of this world.
• The emancipation of the Jews followed from the preaching of the insane idea of human equality.
• Every German and non German living in Germany who through word, writing and action makes himself guilty of insulting the German people will, depending upon the gravity of the case, be punished with imprisonment, jail, or death.
• the so called old testament must be abolished once and for all as a book of religion.
• England had conquered south Africa for the Jewish diamond dealers … It had handed over control of all financial transactions to Jewish bankers … It had allowed the opium trade to fall increasingly into Jewish hands.

Rosenberg reveals a fundamental fear of Jews,

based on what I read as a clear sense of his own inferiority,

much like Hitler’s.

In the eyes of Rosenberg (and Hitler), all Jewish accomplishments must be viewed as the result of an evil worldwide conspiracy to take advantage of the good German (Christian) people.

Only by exterminating the Jews like plague bacilli

can the German people flourish.

• The law of the coming Reich will sweep here with an iron broom. It will fulfill the words of Lagarde concerning Jews. He said that one cannot convert plague bacilli, but must render them harmless as quickly as possible.

***

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* Lew’s review of “Those Angry Days” by Lynne Olson … research for my novel-in-progress (tentatively titled … Choosing Hitler: a novel)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 7, 2013

those angry days-cover

An absolutely fantastic read. Olson writes history with the pace and intensity of a novel. Characters (real characters) are exposed bit by bit through their actions to have their strengths (Wendell Willkie) and weaknesses (FDR and Lindbergh) picked open to view.

***

I have always liked FDR but now like him much less.

I have never liked Lindbergh and now dislike him much more.

I never knew about Willkie and now think he was a real political hero,

the likes of which we have rarely seen.

***

Always extremely tentative, FDR refused to lead, to try to convince the American people and thus Congress. He did invent Lend-Lease, but then did nothing to assure any substantial flow of material to the Brits. Without Pearl Harbor, he would likely have allowed Hitler to conquer Britain and where would we be now if that had happened? Even after Pearl Harbor, we were lucky Hitler made a mistake and declared war on us.

FDR’s inability to make a decision is portrayed in a way I have never read before. It makes you want to give him a swift kick. In addition to being a ditherer, he is shown as a mean nasty man. Such disillusionment.

Lindbergh never learned from his experiences, which were many and varied. He never grew beyond the super-hero status he achieved early in his life. He comes across as a thoroughly immature and unlikable man who thought during the 1930s that Hitler and the Nazis were “not so bad,” and who, even after the Holocaust, never recanted. He seems to have been completely indifferent to the plight of the Jews in Germany.

***

Lindbergh equated the Nazis’ wholesale murder of Jews with other war crimes.  

This is absurd. The murder of Jews was not a war crime.

It had nothing to do with the war, in fact, it hurt the German war effort.

For Lindbergh to equate brutal fanatical racist murder with war crimes

shows his ignorance and insensitivity, as well as his antisemitism.

***

He did know how to fly an airplane, but apparently nothing else, including an appreciation of his own limits. If he had emotions, they were never seen. He reminds me of some of our over-paid athletes today, celebrities with nothing to offer when off the field.

Wendell Willkie, FDR’s opponent in the 1940 Presidential election, agreed with FDR to not make certain information into a campaign issue, due to national security considerations. Later, after he had lost the election, he urged all Americans to support the President’s foreign agenda, and later he travelled abroad for FDR during the war to interact with our allies. And he didn’t even like Roosevelt! He died too early, in 1944, at the age of 52.

***

There are many striking parallels between the political events of 1939-41

and our own recent history.

***

The Republican obstructionism then was as bad as it is now. Had it succeeded, the U.S. would have left Hitler to conquer both Britain (likely) and Russia (possible), and maybe even us.

It is clear from Olson’s writing that there was little concern in the U.S. for what Hitler was doing to the Jews, even after Kristallnacht in 1938. Antisemites like Henry Ford, the America First group, and Father Coughlin put out their message of hate virtually unopposed. American Jews were reluctant to push harder than they did, fearing backlash antisemitism here. So Hitler was free to go ahead and murder six million Jews.

In sum, highly recommended. A great pick for our book club opener in December.

***

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* Lew’s review of “Hitler – the Missing Years” by Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 18, 2013

hanfstaengl

Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl was often in Hitler’s company from the early 1920s to the mid 1930s. Harvard educated and a friend (so he says) of FDR, Putzi was Hitler’s link to the foreign press corp. He has much to say about personal moments and matters (eg, Hitler was impotent) but all of this was written after he had escaped what he describes as Hitler’s plan to kill him in 1937. A fascinating but not necessarily reliable witness.

For example, here are Putzi’s observations on the infamous and tragic Geli Raubal … Hitler had moved into a handsome 9 room apartment at 16 Prinz Regentenplatz in one of the most expensive parts of the city … Geli was by then a buxom young woman of 21 … she had made some pretense of starting some course of study at Munich University … She was soon having an affair with Hitler’s driver … And others … Hitler found out about her and she was given a room in his house … She went round went very well dressed at his expense (the Party’s expense) … Much resentment was expressed about these expenditures … Hitler hovered near her looking like an infatuated adolescent … She was an empty headed little slut without either brains or character … She took singing lessons … Hitler had some idea she might develop into a Wagner heroine … She was not an apt pupil … on 9/18/31 she shot herself with Hitler’s revolver … Hitler was in a state of hysteria … Within a few days all the opposition papers carried the news.

For my novel-writing purposes, gossip may be as useful as facts.

Several scenes suggested themselves as I read through Putzi’s memoir.

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” Lew’s review of “My First Seventy-six Years” by Hjalmar Schacht

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 17, 2013

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Hjalmar Schacht was perhaps the most competent person ever in the employ of the Nazis. He was President of the Reichsbank and Economic Minister. In 1938, he fell out with Hitler and was dismissed. Later, he participated in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

When the war ended, Schacht was charged at the War Crimes Trials in Nuremberg, at which he was acquitted.

Schacht’s views on a variety of subjects are of great interest, and his descriptions of conditions at Nuremberg will be of great value to me when I get to that section of my novel-in-progress. I am looking forward to inventing conversations between Schacht and my fictional character Berthold Becker, also a defendant at the same trial, in which Berthold will challenge some of Schacht’s actions and particularly what he says he knew (or didn’t know) about the holocaust.

Schacht’s knowledge of the holocaust …

  • when I received the Bill of Indictment at Nuremberg in 1945 … I learnt for the first time of the monstrous crimes committed against humanity, above all the Jews, by Hitler himself and by his orders.

LMW: I DON’T BELIEVE HIM !!!

Schacht on the Jews …

  • Hitler promised that the laws relating to foreigners should apply to the Jews … that is that Jews should enjoy the same protection accorded to foreigners … (instead) he caused the Jews to be deprived of all rights and treated as outlaws …

  • One of the most insidiously disruptive statements ever made is that religion is a private matter … religion cannot be a private matter … as exemplified in the church it is the foundation of every state and of every national community … a Christian country cannot permit non-Christians to exercise an influence which would admit of their directly the spiritual and moral life of the community along other than Christian lines … Religion is no private affair … It is the foundation stone of the State

  • It seems to me that anti-Semitism is not based on religious factors even on the assertion that Jews crucified the Saviour … rather it is the fact that, owing to his ability … whenever he resides in a non-Jewish community that the Jew endeavors to insinuate himself into the intellectual and cultural leadership of that community … When, as a result, the legal and medical professions show an unusually high percentage of Jews … When most of the theaters, the press, the concerts were under Jewish management … Then this constitutes the incursion of a foreign element into the spirit of the hostess nation … All of the above-mentioned professions exercise a civilizing influence … a nation whose civilization is rooted in Christianity will therefore always be at pains to preserve Christianity as the basis of the civilization … and to discourage foreign elements in its cultural life … So long as the Jews fail to appreciate this fact they will come up against difficulties, as a history of many nations reveals

  • I have always declared myself in favor of limiting Jewish activity to a certain extent in governmental, legal and cultural matters … based on a certain percentage

  • At the 1938 Reichsbank Christmas party for the office boys … I referred to the events of November 9 (Krystallnacht) … the deliberate burning of Jewish synagogues … the destruction and looting of Jewish businesses … and the ill treatment of Jewish citizens … was such a wanton and outrageous undertaking as to make every decent German blush for shame … I hope none among you had any share in these goings on … If any of you did take part I advise you to get out of the Reischbank as quickly as possible … We have no room in the Reichsbank for people who do not respect the life property and convictions of others … Several party “pundits” were present during the speech

Schacht’s dismissal by Hitler followed soon thereafter …

  • I received a message letting me to come to the chancellery punctually at 9 o’clock the following morning (Jan 20) … scarcely had I entered the big drawing room looking out onto the garden of the old Chancellory … when the Fuhrer came in and the following conversation took place … Hitler: I sent for you, Herr Schacht, to hand you the written notice of dismissal from the office of president of the Reichsbank … You don’t fit in to the general National-Socialist scheme of things … You have refused to allow your staff to submit to political scrutiny by the Party … You have criticized and condemned the events of the 9th November to your employees … Finally Hitler said he was too upset to continue this conversation … I replied I can always come back when you have grown calmer …

Why did Schacht advocate for Hitler to be part of the government, and why did Schacht later join that government?

  • I had met Hitler at Goring’s house … subsequently I went to see Bruning … I urged him to include the NS in his cabinet because I believe that only in this way could one capture and chain the tremendous propagandist force that I had observed in Hitler … the NS must be gradually initiated into the practical duties of government … they must not be allowed to remain in opposition … Bruning would have none of my suggestion

  • the Nazi’s “political economists” (Gottfried Feder and Karl Rower) would spell ruin for German economic policy … I felt it my duty to prevent such a disaster … I therefore gave Hitler to understand that if he came into power I would not refuse to collaborate with him

Repression of the German people under the Nazis

  • Once Hitler took power … any possibility of political propaganda among the German people could be completely ruled out … there was no freedom of assembly, no freedom of speech, no freedom of authorship … it was not even possible to engage in conversation and small intimate circles … Every word uttered in the presence of more than one other person was liable to endanger one’s life

 ***

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* Lew’s review of “Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power” by Henry Ashby Turner

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 15, 2013

30 dyas cover

A fascinating, day-to-day, person-by-person review of the 30 days that ended with Hitler being appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Turner’s conclusions in the final chapter pull no punches. He assigns culpability and guilt, making it clear that it was the ignorance, ineptitude, personal grudges, mendacity, and ambition of the characters in power (mainly Hindenburg, Schleicher and Papen) who gave Germany to Hitler and thus Hitler to the world. Those who supported democratic government in Germany simply gave it up without much of a fight, often because they were fighting with each other. It is true, Turner asserts, that Hitler played the weaknesses of the others brilliantly, but he was only playing the cards he was dealt.

***

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* Lew’s review of “Socialist, Anti-Semite, and Jew: German Social Democracy Confronts the Problem of Anti-Semitism, 1918-1933” by Donald L. Niewyk

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 10, 2013

This is an outstanding compilation of the way the German Socialist Party (SPD) defended Jews, many of whom were members of the party, against Nazi attacks. There is a mind-numbing list of particulars, all of which have the ring of truth.

The problem was that this defense was all verbal,

mainly consisting of articles in Socialist newspapers

that nobody but socialists would read.

The SPD was sincere, and they recognized the problem, and their counter-arguments were to the point, but I suspect they convinced nobody who wasn’t already convinced.

What form might action have taken, as opposed to speech?

Perhaps an outreach to voters outside the SPD perimeter? Perhaps an outreach to the Catholic and Lutheran churches who continued to teach their Christian antisemitic message throughout the Hitler years? Perhaps an international appeal, or at least an effort to create greater awareness, in France, England, or the US?

Of course this is all with hindsight, and nobody at that time anticipated the ovens, and as Donna Harsch so clearly articulated in German Social Democracy And The Rise Of Nazism (the last book I read and reviewed here), those kinds of political initiatives were well beyond the capability or even the inclination of anyone in the SPD.

***

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

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 10, 2013

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***

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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* Lew’s review of “Mission to Paris” by Alan Furst

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 4, 2013

***

mission to paris - furst - cover_

***

Another excellent story by Alan Furst, one of my favorite novelists, set mostly in 1938 Paris, with some scenes in Berlin and a few in a Hungarian palace. Furst describes vicious and thorough Nazi political espionage efforts to demoralize France and convince them of the futility of fighting. Needless to say, it worked. When the Nazis invaded, France gave up after 5 weeks.

The story is told around the making of a movie, a plot device Furst has used before, and one which works well here. My only complaint is the wrap-up at the end, which I thought was done too quickly and was not totally convincing.

There was one historical issue I want to read more about. Furst presents the French as knowing the Maginot line was incomplete and that the Germans could easily go around it through Belgium, which they later did. I had read that the French thinking was the forest would stop the German advance in that area. Maybe that was just the public excuse.

***

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* Lew’s review of “Gregor Strasser and the Rise of Nazism” by Peter D. Stachura … research for CHOOSING HITLER, Lew’s novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 25, 2013

Gregor_Strasser

Gregor Strasser

***

Had Gregor Strasser carried through on what he started,

there may have been no Hitler Chancellorship and thus no Holocaust.

Strasser was a loyal follower of Hitler for over a decade, and was responsible for the impressive organizing of the Nazi party structure in Germany’s 35 election districts. In late 1932, the Nazis had suffered reversals in the polls; members were quitting; internal dissension was beginning to boil, especially in the SA; the party was deep in debt. In the face of all this, Strasser grew disillusioned with Hitler’s refusal to enter the government in cooperation with other political parties. Hitler of course wanted total control or nothing.

During negotiations Strasser was carrying out on behalf of the Nazis, he was offered the Deputy Chancellorship on the assumption he would bring enough Nazi Reichstag members with him to be a part of a majority-backed government. Strasser was tempted, but Hitler told him to remove himself from the negotiations.

Strasser, who was not sure how much of the Nazi party he could take with him if he challenged Hitler, chose to resign from his party positions rather than take the chance. Hitler, knowing he had been pushed to the wall, by election results and by internal party issues, gambled and won; 30 days later, he was Chancellor.

Stachura has presented a clear depiction of these events including a reasonable guess of Strasser’s motivations and understanding of his own options. In the end, Stachura suggests, Strasser was too loyal to Hitler, too enamored with the “Fuhrer mystique,” to challenge him.

Strasser’s loyalty did him no good. Eighteen months later Hitler had him murdered, among others, in what became known as the “night of the long knives.”

***

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* Lew’s review of “The Coming of the Third Reich” by Richard Evans … research for CHOOSING HITLER, Lew’s novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 15, 2013

evans - coming of 3rd reich - cover

A brilliantly clear and comprehensive exposition of the complex events of 1930-32 which led to the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933, corresponding exactly to the next chapter(s) I will be writing in my novel-in-progress CHOOSING HITLER.

Evans paints a heartbreaking scenario of the many opportunities

(albeit with hindsight)

whereby Hitler could have been stopped.

These include …

… Nov 1932 vote was a disappointment to NS leaders … they had gathered splinter party votes but had not made inroads into Social Democrat or Centre Party voters … a feeling (among NS leaders) that NS vote may have peaked … Goebbels: “we won’t get to an absolute majority this way … something must happen … the time for (electoral) opposition is over … now deeds!” … Goebbels and Hitler agreed that, if they stuck to a parliamentary route to power, the stagnation of their vote suggested that the situation might start to slip out of their grasp … Hitler’s only open route to power was to get appointed Chancellor

… the unwillingness of the Centre Party (Catholic) and the Social Democrats (socialist) to work together … NS now (Nov 1932) had less seats (196) than the combined two Marxist parties – Communists (100) + Social Democrats (121) = 221 … Centre Party had 70 seats … the Nazis were jubilant at the failure of the Social Democrats and trade unions to respond to the Papen coup … Goebbels wrote in his diary … “They have missed their big chance. It’s never going to come again.”

… the arrogant assumptions by the military and some industrialists that Hitler could be used but also controlled … Schleicher: if Hitler establishes a dictatorship in Germany, the army will be the dictatorship within the dictatorship … Papen: within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeak

… the evident peaking of the Nazi electorate … the NS vote (Nov 1932) fell from 13.7 million to 11.7 … seats fell from 230 to 196 … in local elections held in Thuringia (in Dec 1932) the NS vote plummeted by 40% from the previous July … NS was virtually bankrupt

This is where the Nazis stood on Jan 1 1933.

Yet just 30 days later, Hitler was Chancellor.

What made this turnaround possible was the fact that parliamentary government no longer functioned in Germany. The country was run by Presidential decree, exercised through an appointed Chancellor. Hindenburg, in his 80s and after 7 years as President, was tired and declining. He never considered democratic alternatives. There was no effective leadership from the more moderate parties.

… after 1930 election, Reichstag virtually unmanageable … 107 brown-shirted, uniformed Nazis joined 77 well-organized Communists … raising incessant points of order, chanting, shouting, interrupting, demonstrating their total contempt for the legislature at every juncture … power drained from the Reichstag … every session ended in an uproar … soon came to seem pointless to meet at all … after Sept 1930 only negative majorities were possible .. in Feb 1931, Reichstag adjourned itself for 6 months – did not return until Oct … from July 1932 to Feb 1933, Reichstag convened for 3 days in 6 months

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* Lew’s review of “Hitler and the Collapse of Weimar Germany” … research for CHOOSING HITLER, my novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 8, 2013

Broszat-Hitler & Weimar

A clear, crisp and perhaps the most complete account of the last days of the Weimar Republic. Covers all of the intrigues between Hitler and the leaders of Weimar – Hindenburg, Bruning, Schleicher, and Papen. Shows clearly both the slippery slope that led to totalitarian dictatorship and the series of opportunities to prevent it, lost one by one due to a lack of imagination, an inability to compromise, and an absence of political energy. When opposed to Hitler’s relentless and, it must be admitted, brilliant political propaganda, organization, and maneuvering, the more moderate forces just gave up. Perhaps they under-estimated Hitler’s ability and his evil, or perhaps they just didn’t have it in them to keep fighting, or both.

There are other lessons for us today …

… Chancellor Bruning was convinced Germany’s public finances could only be put in order again if the country went through a long period of utmost parsimony and public expenditure cuts … these programs were not successful … There were demands heard from the German public to address the financial crisis with the help of public works programs and deficit spending policy … these demands were ignored by Weimar, but were later implemented by the Nazis.

LMW: sound familiar? The policies of austerity during economic downturn are just as futile and counter-productive today as they were in 1930s Germany.

… local elections in Thuringia on Dec 4 1932 were catastrophic for the Nazis … lost 15% from previous election … membership cards were being returned … intra-party criticism was mounting … party finances were in a precarious state … there was mounting tension within the Nazi movement.

LMW: the Nazi electoral support may well have peaked. Had Weimar hung on a little longer, it might have survived. But less than two months after that disastrous election loss, Hitler was Chancellor.

***

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* Lew’s review and extracts from “Why Hitler Came Into Power” … research for my novel-in-progress tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 5, 2013

why hitler came into power - cover

This is a fascinating report, drawn from essays written by Nazi members in 1934, in response to a contest organized by a Columbia University professor. The timing is just after Hitler took power and well before his intentions to murder the Jews of Europe were as clear as they later became.

As I enter the phase of my new book where my main German character is “drawn” into the Nazi world, these statements by others who decided to become Nazis are invaluable sources of understanding. One of the challenging aspects of my novel-in-progress [“Choosing Hitler”] is to write in a manner that accurately and honestly shows the enthusiasm of those who were drawn to Hitler when I myself am filled with repulsion and hatred for every aspect of Hitler and those who supported him.

Here are some of the hundreds of notes I have taken from this excellent but little known book …

… the racial doctrine advocated by the NS was equally important to the principle of leadership in underpinning the ideology of the movement … there were three main tenets … one was the belief in the biological superiority of the “Germanic” race … Second was the opinion of that racial purity is the basis of national health and that intermixture of races is the source of all social decay … Third is the claim that the Jews are an inferior race and that their influence on the economic, political, and cultural life of Germany, past and present, is responsible for everything that was and is evil

… The tendency to interpret personal experiences in a fashion that made Jews the culprit … the prevalence of anti-Semitic literature in Germany … the acts of violence perpetrated against Jews … have for their background a tradition which is at least 1000 years old

… The spread of the NS movement depended largely upon adequate promotion … modern advertising psychology was utilized to produce mass effect … the sheer bulk of the propaganda effort was remarkable … the party propaganda covered Germany with a thoroughness that made its doctrines known in almost every home in every city and throughout the countryside

… People who supported Hitler were primarily influenced by the belief that they were backing a winning contender … this confidence was supported by the superiority of the NS organization over that of all other parties … it was better coordinated and disciplined and show greater vitality and driving power … its military aggressive nature appealed to many …

Hitler had a twofold function … he was the chief executive, the planner, and organizer … he also played the role of prophet of the movement … he commanded unquestioned allegiance to his person and through this personal allegiance inspire members with loyalty and devotion to the movement

Hitler’s followers submitted themselves to him willingly and unquestionably … to them he was a prophet whose pronouncements were taken as oracles … he was a hero whom they naïvely trusted to perform the impossible if it were necessary … he was seen as a man of superhuman power with a special star guiding his destiny

… If we won Germany was saved … if we were defeated a gate would open in the East and Moscow’s Red hordes would swarm in and plunge Europe into night and misery

***

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* 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

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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

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* Lew’s reviews … research reading for my new novel CHOOSING HITLER

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 17, 2013

Reviews on this site

(Click to read my review)

***

Weimar Germany by Eric D. Weitz

Good Germans by Hal Marienthal

A History of the German National Railway Volume 2, 1933-1945

Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany

Backing Hitler by Robert Gellately

***

reviews on Goodreads

(click to read my review and others)

***

The Jews and Their Lies    by Martin Luther

The Catholic Church And Nazi Germany

A Thread of Grace 

Rabbis and Wives

Rome’s Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland, 1914-1939

The Family Moskat: A Novel

In the Garden of Beasts

The Good German

The Fox in the Attic

Jean-Christophe: Dawn, Morning, Youth, Revolt  by Romain Rolland

Shadow and Light (Berlin Trilogy, #2)

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Love and War in the Pyrenees: A Story of Courage, Fear and Hope, 1939 – 1944

Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews

Everyday Jews: Scenes from a Vanished Life

When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland

State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda

Night  by Elie Wiesel

The Persecution of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich

Difficult Heritage: Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond

The Jews of East Central Europe Between the World Wars

Poland’s Threatening Other

 Jodendom, Christendom, Germanendom    sermons by Cardinal Faulhaber

 Jews in Independent Poland 1918-1939

The Papacy, the Jews, and the Holocaust

The Catholic Church and Antisemitism … Poland 1933-39

Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918-1939

Mila 18  by Leon Uris

Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland before the Holocaust

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

The Lost Wife

The Earth Is the Lord’s: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe

Poland, 1918-1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic

The Third Reich: A New History

The Kings Depart: The Tragedy of Germany: Versailles and the German Revolution

Pilsudski: A Life for Poland

Hitler

A Suitable Husband

Wallenberg: Missing Hero

Eye of the Needle

Pilsudski’s Coup d’Etat

The Brothers Ashkenazi

The Jews Of Poland Between Two World Wars

Rosa Luxemburg: A Revolutionary for Our Times

Wolf Among Wolves  by Hans Fallada

Munich 1923: The Story of Hitler’s First Grab for Power

All Quiet on the Western Front

Storm of Steel

When Money Dies: The Nightmare Of The Weimar Hyper Inflation

The Statement  by Brian Moore 

The History Of An Obsession: German Judeophobia And The Holocaust

There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok 

From Shtetl To Socialism: Studies From Polin

The Clash of Moral Nations: Cultural Politics in Pilsudski’s Poland, 1926-1935 

Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1)

Address Unknown

Germans and Jews

The Manor

Life is With People: The Culture of the Shtetl 

Children of a Vanished World

Straight into Darkness

***

 

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* Lew’s review of … Weimar Germany by Eric D. Weitz

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2013

the new German woman (1924)

WEIMAR GERMANY by Eric D. Weitz is an excellent overview of major themes

in the Weimar years, connecting some of the dots to the subsequent Nazi takeover

1n 1933. Here are some fascinating (to me at least) items 

that will probably appear in one way or another in my new novel

******

The Threepenny Opera …

was the theatrical sensation of 1928 … the depraved, degenerate exploitative nature of capitalism … everybody lies, everybody cheats … the police are indistinguishable from the criminals … the Nazi’s Volkischer Beobachter called Threepenny Opera a noxious cesspool that the police should simply sweep away

Ideal Marriage …

published in 1926, after which the Dutch physician Theodor Hendrik von Velde conducted a lecture tour of Germany … his book and lectures were wildly successful … especially his explicit descriptions of sexual techniques

the new German woman …

short hair, slender, athletic, erotic … provoked loathing commentary … the notion that women could determine their own lives, might decide not to marry and to have a variety of sex partners, not all of them male, was fundamentally terrifying to traditional Germans, both men and women 

Germans danced as never before …

in hotels and cafes, using radio & phonograph as well as live bands … dances were held in the late afternoon (a startling innovation) and in the evening, when large dance halls were packed 

Catholic and Protestant churches thundered against the sexual revolution …

citing a scandalous number of abortions, rapid increase in venereal disease, premarital sex as the new norm, the “unblemished beginning of marriage” an exception … the social order has weakened and shattered, greatly endangering the protection and dignity of the female sex, and threatening the honor and responsibility that defines the male sex 

the Weimar Republic’s most dangerous antagonists came from the Right …

the army, Protestant & Catholic churches, state bureaucracy, industry, finance, schools & universities … none of them were committed to democracy and Weimar’s “liberal” agenda … these elements of the establishment Right were never coordinated until the Nazis absorbed most of the radical Right (violent, paramilitary, lower-class) in the early 1930s … the establishment elite was then willing to accept the violence and hatreds of the Nazis in order to overthrow the hated Weimar republic … the middle class, longing for order and stability, trusted the elite (including the churches) and formed docilely behind them to collude with Hitler and the Nazis to end Weimar democracy

the Catholic and Protestant churches made the Nazis aceptable …

the language of the radical right (including the Nazis) had many affinities with the anti-Weimar fulminations constantly emanating from the Protestant and Catholic churches … these similarities made the Nazis acceptable in polite society … Hitler’s theme that Germany was engaged in an existential struggle against its Jewish-Marxist enemies sounded much like the rhetoric that churchgoers heard regularly from their pulpits … coming from all sides was the notion of a vast world conspiracy against Germany, all of it the result of the Jew (der Jude)

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* research reading for CHOOSING HITLER … Good Germans by Hal Marienthal

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 30, 2013

Good Germans-cover

***

I have read about 80 pages. It is a poignant, illuminating memoir written as a novel. A powerful description of the early Nazi years (up to 1936) seen mainly through the eyes of a young boy. Marienthal was adopted by a Chicago couple in 1936 and went on to a brilliant academic and film career in the U.S.

There are many insights into what was happening and why; here are two …

… contempt, indignities and malice grew throughout the country, suffocated all hope, distorted everyone’s daily life, stripped away personal identity

… the Nazis had gotten to him … it wasn’t the uniforms or the parades or the trappings of power … what attracted him was the Nazi promise of knowing where one belonged in society … he shared an ethos in common with millions of Germans – he loved conformity, while idiosyncrasy was inimical to his sense of well being

I have put the book aside but will return. For now, it is a few years ahead of my timeline in researching and writing CHOOSING HITLER.

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* research for CHOOSING HITLER … A History of the German National Railway Volume 2, 1933-1945

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 28, 2013

german railway vol 2

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It is likely that no one else would be as excited about this book as I was. I have long had in mind having the major German character in my novel-in-progress (tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER) make his career in the German Railway. 

This book provides incredibly relevant detail for that purpose, including … the educational background he would need … the sequence of positions he might hold … the relationship between the German Railway, the Reichswehr, the SS, and Hitler … the role of the Railway in support of Hitler’s wars … and the role in transporting Jews to the ovens. 

What did railway officials and workers know about the ongoing Holocaust? Plenty. 

What did they care about the Jews being taken to murder? Most of them, not at all.

***

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* research reading for CHOOSING HITLER … Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 28, 2013

Justice Imperiled

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Fascinating detail of the major cases of a Jewish lawyer who fought for justice in Munich during the Weimar years. Max Hirschberg was the premier courtroom lawyer in Munich during the Weimar Republic, representing Munich’s Social Democratic Party in its most important political trials. He also took on numerous cases where the right-leaning criminal justice system had resulted in what he saw as a miscarriage of justice.

Right at the top of Hitler’s list, Hirschberg was arrested by the Nazis in the early morning hours after the Reichstag fire in February 1933. He was held in “protective custody” for over 5 months and then inexplicably released. He fled to Switzerland, then to America, and lived into the 1960s.

The lingering feeling I get from this book is the critical importance to a civilized society of the rule of law, how impossible life must be when this no longer applies, and how much we should appreciate those who fight to maintain it.

I have written about the perversion of the rule of law in my novels A Good Conviction  and Case Closed: … why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax case.

And of course Hirschberg’s cases raise yet again the question of how educated Germans could have failed to see what they were getting with Hitler, or if they knew, why they were willing to make the bargain.

I am thinking of imagining and writing a dinner conversation between Max Hirschberg and Munich’s Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, in 1930, where these issues and questions will be discussed. Faulhaber had been outspoken against antisemitism in the 1920s, became far less so when the position of the Catholic Church became one of accommodation to Hitler in the 1930s, then again adamant in the Church’s successful campaign against Nazi euthanasia in the early 1940s … while never mentioning the mass murder of Jews of which he surely knew. 

I think Faulhaber’s evolving positions are fertile material for my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER.

But … my wife tells me it is not possible that the Cardinal would come to dinner at a private home, especially that of a Jew. I’ll have to find another way.

***

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* Lew’s review (ongoing) of “Backing Hitler” by Robert Gellately … It is getting harder for me to reconcile the horrors of the totalitarian state graphically described by Gellately with his contention that “a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany.”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 12, 2012

In his introduction, Gellately sets the premise that Hitler was well received in 1933 by most Germans who applauded his goals of “restoring the grandeur of the Reich” and “cleaning out undesirable aliens.” He argues that this widespread support for Hitler did not waver substantially until more than a decade later when it was obvious that the war Hitler had sought was clearly lost.

He states that the Nazi regime, while selectively brutal with its chosen enemies, did not create a universal terror for most Germans, and that most Germans supported brutality against people for whom they had little sympathy. He further asserts that a vast array of material regarding the concentration camps was published in the media of the day, and that the German people knew very well what was going on. He does not, at least in the introduction, deal with what the German people knew about the death camps of the 1940s and the mass murder of the Jews.

The most shocking quote so far is from a well-spoken middle class German woman who, looking back, says, “We had wonderful years.” The footnote sources this quote to a book by Alison Owings called Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich.

Now we’ll see what proofs Gellately assembles regarding these premises, which have enormous potential significance to my novel-in-progress.

******

Lew’s comments on Gellately’s Chapter 1 … “Turning Away From Weimar.”

Gellately’s conclusion is that a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany. This is especially damning in light of the evidence Gellately presents. Consider the following, all of which took place during 1933, all of which Germans knew, and despite which they supported Hitler …

… “In less than six months (after Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933) the Nazis undermined the parliamentary system and had begun the destruction of justice by suspending civil and legal rights.”

… the Nazis won more than 80-90% of the vote, after eliminating all opposition parties.

… German police were increasingly empowered to act without restraint, but those who were “good Germans” knew they had nothing to fear.

… the Nazis trashed their opponents without restraint.

… “dead bodies were found in the surrounding forests, and no one dared to know anything about them.”

… “news published about the stream of people sent to concentration camps provided an obvious lesson to any potential opponents”

… “inequality before the law was an essential feature of justice under Hitler’s dictatorship.”

… new laws expanding the meaning of treason and setting up a People’s Court to mete out justice to offenders.”

… Germans accepted that their country would have a secret police.

… “the paramilitary SA, millions-strong, indulged in vigilante acts of violence that totally ignored the law.”

… Jews were systematically turned into outsiders with their legal emancipation reversed.

… Jews were driven from the professions, and “it appears beyond doubt that their expulsion was popular,” at least in part because it created employment opportunities for Christian Germans.

… doctors’ organizations were brought under Nazi control and Jews barred … “there was virtually no opposition to what happened.”

To me, there seems to be a huge disconnect between what the German people knew about Hitler’s approach and their wholehearted support of their new Fuhrer.

What kind of people, understanding what Hitler and his thugs did to those they classified enemies, and how easily and without appeal it was possible to become one of those enemies, and how Hitler had totally co-opted the police, the courts, the press, and the Catholic Church, would still support such a brutal leader?

I guess we must conclude (a) they didn’t care about the people Hitler was persecuting and (b) they didn’t think it would happen to them.

Also, to be fair, 1933 was also almost a decade before the mechanized mass murder of the Jews at Auschwitz and elsewhere, so support of Hitler in 1933, awful as his policies were even then, does not yet mean support for the death camps of the 1940s. Gellately’s views on whether the German people also supported the Holocaust are, I expect, dealt with in subsequent chapters.

******

Lew’s comments on Gellately’s Chapter 2 – Police Justice

It is getting harder for me to reconcile the horrors of the totalitarian state graphically described by Gellately with his contention that “a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany.” For one thing, as the net of repressive and arbitrary police procedures grew ever tighter, how is it possible to know if the German people continued to support Hitler or were terrified not to support him?

A review of “Backing Hitler” by Professor Conan Fischer, cites a prior book by Gellately, “The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945” as demonstrating conclusively “that the much feared and allegedly omnipresent Gestapo in fact relied on widespread public support to function effectively. Denunciations of fellow citizens and relatives by members of the public initiated many Gestapo investigations, even though the whistleblowers understood that those denounced could suffer torture, be consigned to an uncertain fate in a concentration camp, or be executed without due legal process.”

To me this statement, and Gellately’s identical contention in “Backing Hitler,” flies in the face of common sense. In a world where the police can detain anyone in “protective custody” for “public criticism of the government or the Nazi Party, even if the remarks were made in private,” how could any denunciation of one citizen by another be construed as an expression of support for the regime, when it is far more likely to be a desperate effort to prevent one’s own denunciation for failing to denounce a fellow-citizen’s “crime?”

In a chapter where Nazi police are described as adopting a “preventive role, by which they meant arbitrarily arresting people who the police thought might commit a crime,” how is it possible to believe that any German citizen felt secure? How could any German be thought to support such a regime, no matter how much they publicly insisted they did?

These questions lead to other questions …

… Are those Germans who quite appropriately feared for their lives excused from culpability for the actions of a nightmarish government they outwardly professed to support?

… Who had the power and moral authority to combat such a regime from within or from without?

… Who could have acted but didn’t?

… And why does Gellately continue to insist that “a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany?”

I’ll keep reading and looking for evidence that has not yet been provided … all the while trying to figure out how I will present these questions and choices in my new novel.

****** MORE TO COME ******

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