Exactly 80 years ago the Nazis burned books on public squares all over Germany. They burned writings by Erich Maria Remarque, Erich Kästner, Sigmund Freud, Kurt Tucholsky, Karl Marx – to name just a few. It was a portent, typical for every dictatorship: First they wanted to eliminate ideas than they grew bolder and wanted to kill all the people behind them.
It was in Sulaymania, Iraq, that I was reminded of the burning piles of books in Germany. A kurdish musician and his girifriend showed me this German PhD-thesis about the “Music of the Sumerians”. Saddam Hussein had banned the book during his rule. But the couple managed to get a copy from Beirut which they cherished alot even though both could not understand a word of it. The book was a token of their heritage and history.
Saddam Hussein had failed, the Nazis had failed. The empire of mind is stronger than the Third Reich ever was or any brutal regime ever will be.
“There must never again be and there will never again be a November 1918 in Germany,” was his first political resolution after a great many political ponderings and speculations. It was the first specific objective the young private politician set himself and incidentally the only one he truly accomplished. There was certainly no November 1918 in the Second World War—neither a timely termination of a lost war nor a revolution. Hitler prevented both.
Let us be clear about what this “never again a November 1918” implied. It implied quite a lot. First of all the determination to make impossible any future revolution in a situation analogous to November 1918. Secondly—since otherwise the first point would be left in the air—the determination to bring about once more a similar situation. And this implied, thirdly, the resumption of the war that was lost or believed to be lost. Fourthly, the war had to be resumed on the basis of a domestic constitution in which there were no potentially revolutionary forces. From here it was not far to the fifth point, the abolition of all Left-wing parties, and indeed why not, while one was about it, of all parties. Since, however, one could not abolish the people behind the Left-wing parties, the workers, they would have to be politically won over to nationalism, and this implied, sixth, that one had to offer them socialism, or at least a kind of socialism, in fact National Socialism. Seventh, their former faith, Marxism, had to be uprooted and that meant—eighth—the physical annihilation of the Marxist politicians and intellectuals who, fortunately, included quite a lot of Jews so that—ninth, and Hitler’s oldest wish—one could also, at the same time, exterminate all the Jews.
Denn wir hatten mal einen, der nicht Schluss machen wollte mit sich, und schwor, lieber werde er uns alle mitnehmen, und schlug die Tür mit einem Donnerschlag hinter sich zu, da wackelte das Haus in allen Fugen. Das haben wir als Sorte gerade noch mal so überlebt. Wenn auch nur aus einem einzigen Grund: Er hatte die richtige Technik noch nicht