By Brian Resnick
Based on a reading of Mein Kampf, an Atlantic author imagines what Germany might become should the aspiring dictator “succeed in gaining control of the German government.”
In 1932, Hitler had not yet taken power in Germany. But he was close.
What would happen to Germany if the Nazis were to rule? That was a question that had a surprisingly easy answer. In the March issue of The Atlantic, Nicolas Fairweather wrote “Hitler and Hitlerism: A Man of Destiny.” In it, he analyzed Hitler and his philosophy, as derived from a reading of Mein Kampf, “to foreshadow, from [Hitler’s] own statements, some of the things he would like to accomplish.” Journalists, at times, can be horrible predictors of the future. But in this case, Fairweather’s assessment was a sound alarm. He summarizes Hitler in 10 points:
1. His violent racial nationalism, which springs from his conviction that the Aryan stocks in general, and the Germans in particular, are a chosen people in whose victorious survival the divine purposes are bound up.
2. His violent animosity to Marxian Socialism as in essence opposed to his ideal of a nationally minded people and a racial state. …
3. His violent hatred of the Jews as the racial enemies of all Aryans, the subtle corrupters of pure Aryan states. These parasites, says Hitler, have made Marxian Socialism, which they invented, the principal tool by which they insinuate themselves into healthy, pure blooded, racial states in order to debase simultaneously the national ideals and the national blood. Destroyers of Aryan civilizations, they remain impotent to create a civilization of their own.
4. His concern for social betterment (‘true Socialism’) as a necessary prerequisite to the acceptance of his ideals by the masses.
5. His contempt for the intelligence of the ordinary man and for a democracy based on faith in his development to higher levels.
6. His contempt for parliamentary institutions as the organs of such a democracy, which substitutes for the decision of a competent leader the majority vote of the incompetent. A parliament, moreover, says Hitler, is the natural field of operations for the Jewish Socialist enemy.
7. His insistence on the power of personality and on the entire concentration of authority in the hands of one leader (up to now, himself).
8. His economic nationalism, with its distrust of international capital and its preference for small, locally controlled business organizations. Hitler fears the banks and all newfangled ideas for controlling credit. He objects to stock companies and stresses the value of personal ownership. In short, he believes in the ruthless subordination of economic interests and economic leaders to racial and national considerations.
9. His insistence that Germany must acquire more land in Europe as a vital requirement for national expansion and progress (after the present corruption of the national blood and the national ideals has been stopped).
10. His insistence that France is the archenemy. France, he urges, must be broken before Germany can undertake to conquer land from Russia (the only possible source).
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Fairweather assesses Hitler as a man completely obsessed with the idea of German purity and domination. Hitler ignores “the unwholesome after-effects of a diet of lies” and “is deliberately building upon the weakness of the mass mind.” Fairweather calls the aspiring dictator “a genuine demagogue — honest, no doubt, in believing that what he does is for the general good, but a demagogue just the same.”
In the next month’s issue of Atlantic, Fairweather continued his prognosticationabout a possible Nazi Germany, explaining how Hitler would instill his personal beliefs into the society and government. He foreshadows Hitler’s social engineering program, writing of the looming Third Reich, “The state is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end.” In this essay as well, he includes numbered predictions — in this case, about national pride, racial purity, social sacrifice, the glorification of leaders, and the destruction of anyone perceived as an enemy.
Three years later in the February 1935 issue of The Atlantic, author Barbara Spofford Morgan reported on the early days of the Third Reich after these plans began to be implemented. In a piece titled “Swastika,” she found a country readily adopting Hitler’s ideas, but with a trace of discomfort. “Germany at the moment is full of contradictions,” she writes. “Heads are carried high and the clear blue eyes of young men have a look of burning enthusiasm; at the same time, no one dare speak his mind except in strictest privacy.” The Nazi movement had already transcended politics: “National Socialism is a crusade, a religion, and it is applied as has happened before with brutality, sometimes savagery.”
In the weeks to come, we’ll post more World War II-era archives from The Atlantic.