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Memories of Hitler & the Third Reich

[1]2,737 words

Editor’s Note:

The following is from Anthony M. Ludovici, Confessions of an Anti-Feminist: The Autobiography of Anthony M. Ludovici, ed. John V. Day, ch. 5, “My Education, Part III.” The book remains unpublished, but we hope to raise funds to finally bring it into print The notes by John V. Day are marked with his initials.

Hitler and the Third Reich

To [the English Mistery] I am also indebted for opportunities I had of becoming acquainted with the leading government personalities and the social conditions of Germany during the Hitler regime, for, had I not through the Mistery become known to the personnel of the German Embassy in London, I should never have enjoyed this unique experience.

The movement certainly attracted the attention of many of the for­eign diplomats in London. Thus I met Signor Grandi, with whom I often had long talks. I cannot say that he impressed me very favorably; nor could I help being astonished to discover that Mussolini’s chief emissary in England could hardly express himself coherently in Eng­lish. Our dinners were also frequently attended by members of the German Embassy staff, as well as by the representatives of many political parties in France, Holland and Sweden, all of whom wished to learn something about our aims and outlook. We were, therefore, not altogether surprised when in the spring of 1936 the so-called Chancel­lor of our society, William Sanderson, received an invitation from the authorities in Germany to come to Berlin as a guest of the Nazi Party. The idea was that he should meet the leading members of the govern­ment and become acquainted with some of the reforms and innovations introduced by the National Socialists since Hitler’s advent to power.

Sanderson accepted the invitation, and as I was the only German-speaking member of the Mistery, and was in other respects the best qualified to be his companion, it was arranged that I should go with him.

We crossed over to the Hook of Holland on the night of 30th April but neither of us was able to enjoy the luxury of our first-class deck cabins, for a dense fog enveloped us soon after we left Harwich and the constant hooting of the ship’s fog signal throughout the journey prevented us from getting a wink of sleep. Owing to the slow pace at which our ship had been forced to travel, moreover, we reached the Hook too late for the boat train to Berlin, and when ultimately we reached the capital, shortly before midnight, instead of being in time for dinner, there was nobody to meet us, and it looked as if our hosts had given up all hope of seeing us that day. We were not too well impressed by this poor reception, especially when some time later we heard that no government official had heard about the heavy mist in the North Sea and the serious delay it had inevitably caused.

We were both famished and exhausted, and it was pelting with rain. However, I managed to find a taxi which drove us to the address I had been given by the embassy staff in London—i.e., at the Englischer Klubb near the Tiergarten [zoo–JVD]—and there we found a rather peeved and perplexed remnant of the company with whom we should have dined that evening, who, having given us up, were on the point of dispersing. We were astonished to hear that at the railway station they had heard nothing about the mist at sea, and that when the boat train had arrived they naturally inferred that we had not traveled on the night of April 30th as arranged. Incredibly bad management! For, even if the railway officials had been remiss in their duty, the party instructed to meet us at the station ought surely to have made exhaustive inquiries which would inevitably have elicited the facts.

They deplored our having missed the special dinner that had been prepared in our honor, ordered a snack supper which we found very welcome, and then drove us to the Hotel Splendide, a most luxurious hotel which was to be our headquarters throughout our stay.

As guests of the Nazi Party, who wished to introduce us to every aspect of the new Germany they were creating, we were not allowed much peace. Having given us a kind and considerate young Foreign Office official as a bear-leader, we were taken to all important meetings and driven round the country to inspect the various camps, training centers and institutions which owed their existence to the new regime. As we had arrived just in time for the First of May celebrations, our first few days were pretty full.

In the course of our stay we were able to hear Hitler speak several times, and were always given such privileged seats at his meetings that we were able to get a close view of him and all his leading colleagues in the government. As Sanderson was partly blind and understood no German, I was compelled to be not only his visual aid but also his interpreter, and this compelled me to attend with particular care to all that was said and to all there was to see.

Of the whole bunch of men around Hitler, Blomberg—the C-in-C of that period—was by far the best and most distinguished-looking. The others—i.e., Goebbels, Himmler, Schirach, Hess, Funk, Ribbentrop and Goering—all struck me as commonplace, if not actually common. I disliked Hess and Ribbentrop, but little Goebbels, with whom I dis­cussed Nietzsche, seemed to me rather attractive and the most intel­li­gent of the lot. At a lunch Ribbentrop gave us at the English Club I tried repeatedly to convince him that the opposition to the Nazi regime, and above all to Hitler’s often high-handed behavior vis-à-vis of neighboring states, was much stronger in England, especially among influential Englishwomen, than he and his colleagues seemed to think; and I pointed out that women of all classes in England were inclined to resent any movement which, like the Nazi regime, was predominantly masculine in spirit. Incidentally, the unanimity with which English­women subsequently backed the war party in England, often against their menfolk’s views, abundantly confirmed my opinion of their atti­tude in 1936.

I had, however, little success with Ribbentrop, who seemed quite unconvinced. Before the luncheon party dispersed, therefore, I button-holed his secretary and begged him to repeat my warning to his chief. But judging from the generally protzig [truculent or arrogant—JVD] attitude of many of the Party officials at that time, I doubt whether even he listened very sympatheti­cally to my appeal. Captain Fitzroy Fyers, as he was then, who happened also to be among the English guests at the 1936 Party Rally and who spent much time with me in Nürnberg, will remember that on the afternoon of the 12th of September, the last day of our stay, I told him that the greatest danger of all in my opinion was precisely this protzigkeit of the leading officials or the Party. It was particularly marked in Himmler, with whom I spent some time that same afternoon together with the Duchess of Brunswick and her charming daughter. I thought him most objectionable, and much as I liked the two ladies I was glad to part company with him.

Later that evening, however, I had the good fortune to come across the two ladies again, for I sat between them at the dinner Himmler gave us at the Police HQ, and I vividly remember something Frederika—the Kaiser’s granddaughter, now Queen of Greece—said to me. We were discussing English schools and she told me that when she was at her English school (North Foreland Lodge, near Basingstoke) after World War I, and the whole school assembled for morning prayers, they often sang the Ancient and Modern hymn which has the same melody as Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles, and, as often as this happened, so she would have to cry. Ultimately, this was brought to the notice of the headmistress, who at once forbade the singing of that hymn as long as Frederika remained a pupil at the school.

My two most pleasant memories of Nazi Germany are my meeting with this young lady and her mother and my visit to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg in the previous May. His Grace was a most charming personal­ity and our talk during the tea he gave Sanderson and me at his house in or near Berlin was one of my most interesting experiences during that first visit to Nazi Germany.

I must have heard Hitler speak in public about a dozen times, but I met him to talk to only once, at the Englischer Hof Hotel in September 1936, where he gave the whole of the English visitors a tea. I was perhaps too much preoccupied in studying his features to do more than exchange a few words about Nietzsche with him, but I had time to have a good look at his hands and to observe his manner in private inter­course. He was extraordinarily self-possessed among us all and very gracious in the attention he paid to every one of his guests in turn. A moment later I heard him arguing animatedly with a man whom I believed to be Ward Price of the Daily Mail [author of I Know These Dictators, London, 1937; revised edition, 1938; and Extra-Special Correspondent, London, 1957—JVD]. But it all ended in a good laugh, so I assumed that the argument had been friendly.

One was easily carried away by the amazing eloquence, sincerity and passion of his public utterances, and no-one who has heard him and who was capable of understanding what he said could fail to appreciate the reason of his irresistible appeal to all classes of the community. Many hostile critics, especially women, have led their English readers to believe that there was something hysterical and even pathological about his oratory and manner in public. But after watching him with particular care during many of his addresses, I saw no sign of anything of the sort. All about me in the audience were retired generals and field officers, professional men of all ages, and dignified sexagenarians who had had distinguished careers as judges, magistrates, university profes­sors, etc., and I refuse to believe that they could have sat there, listen­ing as reverently as they did, often with tears trickling down their cheeks, if they had been aware of any of the contemptible characteris­tics which hostile and bitterly biased English reporters imagined they saw in his public demeanor. Unfortunately, the falsehoods these people fabricated for the consumption of the ignorant newspaper-reader in England were only too readily accepted as facts, and of course enjoyed, by all those who were anxious to disparage the German leader. How distant seemed the days when even a Russian general could punish a subordinate for sneering at Napoleon, and that century BC when a Caesar could praise his enemies!

. . .

One last word about Hitler and I shall not need to discuss him further.

In this intellectually servile and sterile age, when both the high and the low in the land are equally sequacious and subservient, propaganda pays handsomely, whether in commercial advertising or in inculcating upon the population the opinions which the Establishment think it good for us to hold. Now, among these opinions none has been more dili­gently dinned into us than that the German people’s acceptance of Hitler must indicate some morbid and unpleasant flaw in German mentality. And as in modern England it suffices for such a view to be stated only once by some recognized member of the Establishment for it to be immediately taken up and re-echoed by thousands of lesser people, it follows that today one can hardly open a book or listen to a BBC broadcast in which it is not emphatically stated that, in accepting with almost complete unanimity a ‘mental defective’ such as Hitler, the German nation gave proof of its fundamental perversity.

A typical presentation of this view, which can now be found para­phrased in innumerable forms by prominent English people, from Mr Robert Birley, the Head of Eton, to the most ignorant female journalist, is that made by Colin Welch in his review of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, when he asked: ‘Why on earth, for instance, did such a richly gifted people as the Germans prostitute themselves to become the tools of a maniac?’

Now, apart from the fact that the author of this rhetorical outburst, like all those who now obediently toe the Establishment’s line, takes for granted that his readers, who in other contexts would pride them­selves on demanding the evidence, will meekly accept the statement that Hitler was in fact a maniac, can the host of parrots who repeat this rengaine [same old story—JVD] about the German people’s turpitude in accepting Hitler ever have asked themselves what Hitler meant to Germany in the decades following World War I?

The minute minority of Englishmen who happen to be well-informed do not need to be reminded of Germany’s outstanding achievements in scholarship, science, music, philosophy and poetry, or to be told that a nation possessing the record of which she could justly boast in 1914 must necessarily have her pride, her consciousness of high endowments, entitling her to feel a worthy example of what Euro­pean civilization has so far produced. When, therefore, such a nation is humiliated, vilified and degraded as Germany was after World War I, the pain it undergoes is naturally proportionate to the honourable posi­tion it knew itself to have reached in the family of Western peoples. The blow to its self-esteem must have been—could not help having been—staggering.

Let anyone, even outside this minute minority of well-informed Englishmen, imagine what England would have felt had she been similarly humiliated, or merely recall what England did feel after the retreat from Dunkirk, and the whole picture assumes a different aspect.

It was thus to a Germany still suffering acutely from the wounds of such a humiliation that suddenly someone appeared who contrived to restore the country’s self-esteem and helped it to recover its self-respect and sense of worthiness. Naturally, inevitably, the response was one of rapturous gratitude and affection. Even if Hitler had really been the monster the Establishment wished us to believe he was, the enthusiastic response to his appeal would still be comprehensible.

Had not no less a person than Lord Lothian expressed his admira­tion for the conditions introduced by Hitler’s regime? Nor, as we know, was he by any means the only Englishman who felt this way. In the Times of 1st February 1934, speaking of National Socialism, he had written that it has given ‘Germany unity where it was terribly divided; it has produced a stable government, and restored to Germany national self-respect and international standing.’

These are the words of a sincere Liberal. Do they indicate that the charge of lunacy against Hitler and his administration was justified? Besides, we must remember that the German nation’s humiliation after 1918 was not confined to the terms of the Versailles Treaty. There was also the degradation and deep injury inflicted on them by Allied troops, who occupied their country for years after the armistice. As a tourist it was not possible to learn the full magnitude of these injuries, but I remember when I visited friends in Düren in 1922 that the account I was given of the behavior of the French black troops in the town appalled both my wife and myself.

‘The Germans, a proud people,’ says Mr Abel J. Jones, ‘were reduced to such a state of humiliation as to welcome anyone, however unlikely or dangerous, promising to restore their confidence and pride’ [In Search of Truth, 1945, Chapter 3, 2].

The intelligence and understanding, not to mention the charity, revealed in this passage are admittedly quite exceptional in present-day ‘fair-minded’ England, and show a defiance of the Establishment remi­niscent of more creditable eras in British history than that covered by the last thirty years. But the fact that at least one Englishman can have been found to express such a view suggests that, in any case, as recently as 1945 some good sense and psychological insight still existed in the nation.

For what F. L. Lucas so aptly remarks of the Age of Reason applies with even greater force to this age—namely, that it owes ‘some of its most fatal mistakes to bad psychology’ [The Art of Living, 1959, Chapter 1].