Part 1 of 2 (Part 2 here)
What was life like during the Third Reich? An accurate picture is fairly difficult to arrive at, given the propaganda saturation persisting generations after the fact. Watching Hollywood movies won’t provide a balanced take, for obvious reasons. Neither will reruns of Hogan’s Heroes on late-night cable TV. War fever tends to fade as time goes on. Throughout the 1970s, I never heard anyone exhorting anyone to “Remember the Maine!” as if the Spanish-American War had ended yesterday, for example.
The Second World War is an exception, however. For one thing, The System’s foundational myth is based on a particular interpretation of this event, along with several subjects adjacent to “the Good War.” Alternative interpretations are therefore treated as heresy.
One rare find presenting an in-depth viewpoint on National Socialist-era Germany is Lothrop Stoddard’s Into The Darkness: Nazi Germany Today (New York: Duell, Sloan, & Pearce, 1940). It’s a surprisingly objective take from an American perspective. Lothrop Stoddard is hardly a stranger to us, though this doesn’t mean he was a fascist. Rather, he was from a time when normal Americans had views that would be considered Dissident Right today. This generation typically differed with fascists in areas like how the government should be constituted and how much power it should have, but largely agreed in terms of basic sensibilities.
In Stoddard’s capacity as a journalist, though, he kept his politics to himself. As he explains: “To do a good job I had to have an open mind; so I did my best to park my private opinions on this side of the ocean. And since my return I’ve tried not to pick them up again.”
This kind of objectivity is very difficult to find these days. So are journalists who aren’t Leftist pukes.
For historical context, the United States had not yet joined the war at the time Stoddard made the trip, but it was on the eve of making a wrong turn. The early globalists had gotten their hooks into the presidential primaries; managed democracy was already in place by then. The most Leftist President to date was in office – although by contemporary standards, he wasn’t all that different from a warmongering Republican neocon with a big stiffie for big government. His wife was a real piece of work, too. Franklin Roosevelt was scheming to involve the US in the “War to Make the World Safe for Democracy,” and readers here won’t have to be reminded of how that opened a giant can of worms.
On that note, pinkos and globalists were worming their way through Washington’s halls of power. In the coming years, they’d ensure that our Soviet buddies not only survived but took over Eastern Europe, bringing about a Cold War that came close to destroying the world. Some of these characters were around to cause tremendous damage to our foreign policy after that as well, at least until Joseph McCarthy took them out to the woodshed. Apart from that, the Social Security system was new, which brought us the Privacy Penetrator Number database keyfield, and the “Great Sedition Trial of 1944” would soon enough demonstrate that the government was willing to abuse its power for politically-motivated reasons.
Nevertheless, when Into The Darkness was first published, most of these messes were far out of sight, and it would be a long time before American citizens would be affected by them, let alone know the whole story about how they came about.
By the time of Stoddard’s journey in late October 1939, the war had already broken out and was in its early stages. The regrettable and long-standing border tensions between Germany and Poland had erupted into open conflict a month prior and had concluded by then. However, Winston Churchill inserted his proboscis into the situation, no doubt on the advice of whoever was covering his gin tab. He made good on his war guarantee — though it didn’t help Poland other than to instill a sense of overconfidence in Poland’s government, which tragically led them into very dark times for the next half century.
Ultimately, it would be two more years before FDR’s provocations got him what he wanted. As for the Soviet Union, their only role at the time had been to take over Poland’s eastern part. The Soviets received no more than empty bluffing from the white knights in the British and French governments who had gone to war with Germany for doing the same thing.
Into The Darkness begins with the author contemplating the rapidly deteriorating international situation. He’s crossing the Atlantic aboard an Italian ocean liner. Among the few passengers:
In both Tourist and Third Class were a number of Germans, mostly women but three of them men of military age. All were obviously nervous. They had taken the gamble that the “Rex” would not be stopped by the English at Gibraltar, Britain’s key to the Mediterranean. In that event, the men knew that a concentration camp would be the end of their venturesome attempt to return to the Fatherland.
A British concentration camp? Say it isn’t so! Later, the ship did get detained at Gibraltar, and the three German men were abducted. This seems remarkably similar to the way the War of 1812 began. Since Italy was a neutral country at that point, it’s unclear by which twist of admiralty law (if any) that Churchill’s lads were permitted to board another country’s ship and shanghai its passengers. Several Italian ships had already been impounded outright at Gibraltar and the sailors on the Rex were quite displeased, considering it a provocation to war.
The ocean liner arrived in Italy, and Stoddard boarded a train, eventually reaching the German border at the Brenner Pass. During the night crossing, the lights on the train were doused. This was his first encounter with the country-wide blackout, a feature of life so pervasive that it inspired the book’s title. (This was a defensive measure, given the threat of British “night pirates” spreading democracy to the civilian population one bomb at a time. Later, the neocons tried to replicate this tactic in the Middle East, but none too successfully.) Even so, the moonlight over the snow-dusted countryside made for an enchanting view. The next day, he reached his destination in Berlin.
Before long, Stoddard applied at the Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda for a permit to act as a foreign correspondent. There are some ground rules: No military espionage or “topics such as sensational rumors obviously tending to discredit the German government and give aid and comfort to its enemies.” (I wonder how William L. Shirer managed to keep his fat yap shut for so long?) Also, interviews with officials had to be cross-checked to avoid misquotations and the like. Non-compliance could have brought a scolding. If sufficiently egregious, it meant revocation of one’s permit, which effectively meant being demoted to a tourist without a press pass. Apart from that, the news got censored, though the leash for foreign correspondents was relatively long, especially for Americans.
The difference between then and now, of course, is that the mainstream media has assumed the Propaganda Ministry’s overseeing functions — and their methods, of course. Monopoly capitalism is super-duper efficient like that! The government has no need even to think about tampering with the mainstream media when they’re ideologically all in bed together. All the story-spiking and other journalistic sausage-making is done entirely at the corporate level. Say it with me: “It’s not repressive if it’s only private business doing it.”
The grand tour
Stoddard was invited on a trip “to observe the ‘Inner Front’; how the peasants and industrial workers were doing their bit to carry on the war.” The accommodations were good, as one might expect from such a tour, but not all his impressions were positive. He considered the ladies to be frumpy; the unadorned look was fashionable, which he discusses elsewhere, too. (Even without this factor, however, he considered northern German women to be plain Janes. Perhaps Stoddard’s alleged Nordicism was indeed overstated.) Moreover:
They exemplified better than anything I had yet seen the fact that National Socialism is not merely a political and economic upheaval but a social revolution as well. To a very large extent it has brought the lower middle class into power.
Interestingly, the oddball radicalinski Wilhelm Reich makes the same observation — in fact, he beats the reader over the head with it — in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. All this recalls one of those Movement debates from so long ago that it was in a print magazine instead of one of those unproductive online kerfuffles. Someone looked down his nose at the Third Reich, calling it a “hypertrophie de la deuxième fonction,” which is a pedantic way of saying it was too militaristic. The rejoinder to that was, “Where were they supposed to get the ‘Brahmins’ from?” At long last, I’ll add to the debate: point taken, but punching right never works.
In the countryside, the tour met for a banquet with a farming community. The following day, they visited a soap factory (no, there weren’t any unusual ingredients), and Stoddard met his first major figure of the trip: Dr. Robert Ley, head of the Labor Front, who was there to deliver a speech. They filled up on the local Rhineland cuisine, which appears not to have changed much in the following decades.
The next chapter discusses attitudes toward the war. Universally, it was regarded by the public as a misfortune. After a string of bloodless diplomatic victories which strengthened the nation and provided territorial integrity, the peace was unexpectedly broken: “In this respect, Germany’s attitude can perhaps best be compared to that of the big winner in a poker game who was just raking in the chips when somebody kicked over the table.”
What may be surprising is that he notes the absence of war fever, ostentatious flag-waving, and big military parades with brass bands. In a totalitarian society, it would’ve been remarkably easy to gin up that kind of thing if the government wanted it. Instead, they wanted the public to know that serious business was afoot. Stoddard even had a chance to chat with Josef Goebbels himself concerning this.
America’s own entry into the war two years later was another matter entirely, eventually giving us such silliness as “Toot-Toot In Der Fuehrer’s Face” and “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips.” On our side, the war fever about the “War to Make the World Safe for Democracy” not only hasn’t died down, but the propaganda gets kookier as time goes on, as we can see from Hollyweird’s recent offerings. Take the first Gulf War: We didn’t have Spongebob Squarepants battling Saddam, but regardless, some of the official rhetoric (such as the idea that we were fighting “another Hitler”) was remarkably cringey. The System owed it to us at least to make the propaganda a bit more sophisticated, since they were setting us up for three decades of spit-in-your-eye wars.
Stoddard then went to Vienna to see General Loehr of the Luftwaffe. After daring initial raids, the Germans quickly achieved air superiority in Poland. Then they were free to bomb railways and troop columns. The next stop for Stoddard was Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, which was nominally independent at the time. There, he interviews President Tiso.
The home front
One chapter discusses the rationing situation in Germany, a subject that comes up nearly from the beginning of the book. The chapter after that describes what a typical shopping trip is like, as well as other domestic matters. Overall, it seems that things were quite a pain; he never quite gets used to this, or the constant nighttime blackouts. Putting things in perspective, though, the Americans would soon be under rationing, too. Britain’s similar experience had a notable cultural impact, inspiring their famous Spam jokes.
Butter, other fats, and meat were in particular short supply. The high starch content caused Stoddard to uncharacteristically gain a dozen pounds in four months. Fabric was tightly rationed, too, and a business suit would consume nearly a year’s allotment. Gasoline for private use was unobtainable at the time. Soap was available in limited quantities. All told, this part of Into The Darkness informed one facet of my science fiction magnum opus, though I jazzed it up a bit:
“Well, somebody had better come along with some supplies, because we just ate all our vitamin fortified crackers.” He complained, “That’s practically all they’ve been feeding us, anyway, and not much of them. We could’ve just joined the British Navy, and they’d give us rum too. I ran out of quarters, so no more soda pop for me. As for that sausage ration, I was really peeved to find out they only give everybody one weenie a month, if they even get supplies. It’s hardly even worth it. . . On that note, it stinks that they only give us one pat of butter a week, because those crackers get pretty dry.”
These shortages led to quite a bit of grousing in real life as well. Still, the Germans were coping with it, since they had been dealing with frequent shortages for the previous four decades. Moreover, they understood that serious business was at hand:
Nearly all Germans have come to feel that they are in for a life-and-death struggle. They believe that defeat in this war would spell something like the destruction of their nationhood.
That turned out to be true. Perhaps disaster could’ve been avoided if more Americans of the time had realized what their President was trying to do behind the scenes, especially had they known that a victory would lead to a long Cold War with their Soviet buddies and also set the stage for deconstructing their country.
As for rural policy, Stoddard quotes from a conversation with Dr. Walther Darré, Minister of Agriculture and Food Supply:
When we came to power in 1933, one of our chief endeavors was to save German agriculture from impending ruin. However, our agricultural program went far beyond mere economic considerations. It was based on the idea that no nation can truly prosper without a sound rural population. It is not enough that the farmers shall be tolerably well-off; they should also be aware of their place in the national life and be able to fulfill it. Here are the three big factors in the problem: First, to assure an ample food supply; second, to safeguard the future by a healthy population increase; third, to develop a distinctive national culture deeply rooted in the soil. This ideal logically implies an aim which goes far beyond what is usually known as an agrarian policy.
Would you believe it? Those evil Nazis! By golly, any civilized country would gradually transfer food production over to a handful of gigantic corporations! Why let the hicks profit from their own property? Instead, they should become worker-units for a monopoly that soaks up their surplus value, driving tractors on land that their grandparents might’ve owned, so that the absentee landlord CEO can rake in the billions from the peasants.
More seriously, Stoddard describes the laws and institutions implementing what we’d consider Third Position agrarian policy. This leads to a tour of Niedersachsen, which I’ll concur is a lovely place. The system of freehold farmers has been in place there for centuries. Apart from that, after meeting a local couple, he describes another program:
This young man and his sturdy little wife were undisguisedly proud of the new home they had just furnished. The furniture, though plain, looked of good quality. They told me that most of it had been paid for out of the 1,000-Mark ($400) loan which the Government will make to any healthy young couple at the time of their marriage. It is to be repaid in small installments, but one-fourth of it is canceled every time a baby is born. So a prolific couple should not have to repay very much.
That’s about $8,000 in 2021 dollars, with $2,000 written off for every child. Say it with me: Those evil Nazis!
Then the tone becomes critical with a discussion about the Labor Front. The unions were disbanded, and they were replaced by it. One might expect that it served as a rubber stamp for government policies, but reading between the lines, it appears that some of their efforts were geared towards tripartism, which featured prominently in Italy. They did fix the terrible unemployment problem that began during the Weimar era. However, wages were stagnant. Elsewhere, Stoddard notes that prices on goods were fixed under the law. I’ll add that these were measures to keep hyperinflation from returning. Germany still controls prices and wages today, and any changes need careful negotiations for approval.
The longer hours necessitated by wartime conditions were unpopular, though Stoddard found it difficult to gauge how much so. He suggests that dissent about it was illegal, though this is odd since he’d just documented widespread complaints about the rationing system. However, on the positive side:
In the first place, the Labor Front promised working-men greater security and self-respect. The employing class under both the Empire and the Weimar Republic tended to be arrogant, hard-handed plutocrats. A Statute which stressed the dignity of labor, set up Courts of Honor, and was run by State Trustees who often cracked down on big industrialists might give the average workingman an emotional glow that partly offset low wages and strict regimentation. This was especially true in the first years of the Nazi regime.
There also was an effort to beautify factories and other workplaces. I suspect that this might have been a Hitler initiative.
Next up for discussion is Kraft durch Freude, a government agency in charge of entertainment and vacations. This seems pretty to have been highly regimented (along with other home front measures, of course), though Stoddard notes that this was a cultural trait, and that it was a popular program.
Other institutions of the Third Reich
The Arbeitsdienst was a national labor service organization for young adults: the guys with the shovels in Triumph of the Will. Interestingly, Obama made a half-hearted attempt to create a similar program, but for some reason he didn’t credit its originators. Still, it did have yet deeper roots:
The Nazis did not invent the idea. It grew up spontaneously during the Weimar Republic, when various organizations established camps for unemployed youths to take them off the streets and put them to useful work, especially in the country on land-reclamation and forest projects. When the full tide of economic depression hit Germany, the Weimar regime tried to co-ordinate these groups into an officially controlled organization. Membership, however, was voluntary. The aim was a temporary one, to cope with an economic emergency.
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 Lothrop Stoddard, Into the Darkness: Nazi Germany Today (New York: Duell, Sloan, & Pearce, 1940).
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