How Convincing Do You Find Meineckes Explanation

How Convincing Do You Find Meinecke?s Explanation For The Rise Of National Socialism? Essay, Research Paper

As a

historian, I appreciate the absurdity of the rise of Nazism, however I have

found Meinecke?s explanation of the rise of Nazism, given its date of

publication, to be not so much a disclaimer on behalf of the German people, as

others have found it to be, but almost an attempt at academic vindication of

the Anglo-American post-war view of Germany, often supported by uncheckable

sources. ??????????? Before

assessing the book?s contents, it is important to note certain noteworthy

events surrounding the book?s publication that require attention.? Meinecke?s book was produced in 1946 and

published with the aid of Edward Y. Hartshore, an American working in the

reconstruction of the German university system.? Given the nature of the time, and the means by which Meinecke

found a publisher, one would expect a stance on Nazism that would be helpful to

the American occupation.? What appear to

be numerous anglicisms do appear throughout the volume, possibly suggesting

that Meinecke had been priming himself on English texts (the use of the present

participle in ?grundstuerzende Revolution? is not a common German

usage?).? Meinecke, soon to accept the

rectorship of the Free University of Berlin, an institute founded with the

blessing of General Clay himself, would certainly have quite an incentive for

inobjectivity as the foremost western scholar on the Cold War?s front line. ??????????? The

introduction to the book also provides an important insight into Meinecke?s

life during the period.? Meinecke says

that he was ?durch ein Augenleiden behindert? and had to rely ?fast

auf mein Gedaechtnis.?? He notes

that the book should not only be read as the product of a handicapped author

but as just one part of the picture, and that the book was not only answering

the questions it posed itself, but also acting as a medium for recording

phrases, quotes and sayings of prominent persons of the era which might

otherwise be lost.? The desire to use

certain of these sources might have also shaped his argument to some

extent.? Meinecke ends his introduction

with a wish that his book might help the rebuilding process and that the new

Germany could be ?spiritually purer.??

This moralising is just one of a series of reasons to be sceptical about

the book?s contents, as it suggests that Meinecke is attempting to tell the

Nazi story as a ?cautionary tale? and not as a pure history.Meinecke

starts by identifying the two great movements of the nineteenth century

asnationalism (which became imperialism) and socialism.? Nationalism was the product of an end to the

way of life ?aimed solely at the advancement and enrichment of one?s own

individuality? and was bourgeois in nature. The nationalist movements were born

of the liberal movements that succeeded in securing the liberties of so many

nations by the means of constitutions or democracies.? Meinecke notes that during the Revolution of 1848, the needs of

the revolting faction were not so much liberty, as power, as their liberties

had apparently already been secured. Meanwhile, the

masses created by industrialisation pushed for socialism so as to ?safeguard

fully their standard of living.? Meinecke sees ?the two great waves of the

nineteenth century? [as having] a wholly peculiar character in Germany? where

they developed ?fighting qualities which, when at the historic moment arrived

for their intermingling were to be fatal.??

??????????? Meinecke

sees the vying between these powers as the first phases in the degeneration of

the German middle classes.? The

hardening of nationalism that lead to the preponderance of such groups as the

Pan-Germans, and a widened divide between the socialists and nationalists

(which, in turn led to Naumann?s national socialist movement).? The combat of the ideologies, as it later

would in Weimar, led to a spiritual and cultural renaissance, second only to

the Goethezeit.? At the same

time, however, amoral nihilist nationalism which viewed a nation as not only

superior, but in demand of superior scales of morality and humanity would set

the stage for the hypocrisy of the Nazi state. ??????????? This

analysis would seem to be an over-complication of the emergence of the

Pan-German movements.? In an era when

ethnic groups were still classed as different species, and when it was believed

races carried moral and cognitive characteristics, it is unsurprising that a

number of pseudo-scientific eugenic theories about who the greatest and

aboriginal race were (the Aryans) were produced.? Given the number of German cultural icons in the era, the

emergence of the German economic and military power,? Germany?s cultural force it is not surprising that many papers

concluding a German superiority were produced with ?scientific? backing. ??????????? The

nineteenth century Germans can be forgiven for making rash assumptions about

the nature race in an age of ignorance in an attempt at scientific

endeavour.? Meinecke, however, feels the

need to exonerate the German people of the Holocaust, which he does by

attributing German anti-Semitism not to Nazism but to a ?general trend.?? This dehumanisation of German society is a

theme of Meinecke?s book, as he notes that causality is more complicated than

simple events leading to one another, and that a sweep of events can be as important

as an individual person or action.? This

view of the movement of history with semi-static figures diverting its flow

diminishes personal responsibility and was probably a tactful way of

documenting the rise of Nazism in Germany immediately after the war, although

it lacks precision and the scientific cut that most historians pride themselves

on.??????????? According

to Meinecke?s account, at the outbreak of the First World War, the fragmented

German people were united behind the Kaiserreich and social, economic

and political divides were momentarily dissolved in a flurry of Germanist

hope.?? However, Meinecke writes, ?as

early as 1915, one could perceive that the August synthesis would not

last.?? The demands of the worker for

?full equality of legal rights now that he had shown in the fight for the

Fatherland that his contribution was as valuable as that of any other citizen?

were at odds with the burgerliche Mittelstand, and soon the country?s

fragile social truce fell apart.? In the

autumn of 1917, the democratic parties formed the ?People?s League? whilst the

?Fatherland Party? was formed to oppose their progressive stance, and were able

to more forcefully act upon the weak Imperial government.? The influence of the Pan-Germans over the

Fatherland Party was almost absolute, and their refusal to bow down to

?inferior? peoples apparently prevented a peace accord being reached

earlier.? Meinecke asks the reader ?can

one doubt any longer that the Pan-Germans and the Fatherland party are an exact

prelude to Hitler?s rise to power?? ??????????? That

the German people were swept along by euphoria is beyond doubt.? The famous pictures of the crowds, including

Hitler, at the Odeonsplatz and Marienplatz in Munich are celebrated icons of

war, and the rejoicing Bavarians were the most unPrussian element in German

society. However, that the country was united and behind the war effort is

dubious.? The precepts of socialism did

not change.? The socialist groupings

were as anti-imperialist as they had been before.? Although they would not condemn a war with such popular support,

especially one marketed as being in ?self-defence? by the Imperial Government,

they would have been tactful in their disdain for the war.? The influence of the Pan-Germans was more

evident in the Ludendorff?s role.?

Ludendorff, the most celebrated of the Beerhall Putschers, was one of

the two generals who, by 1918 had control over the civil authorities and were

essentially running a Prussian Army autocracy across Germany.? The role of the Kaiser, and thus, the Fatherland

Party, had been minimalised by the two Field Marshals who held the balance of

power.? The Fatherland Party was, at

best, a sideline interest group.? Their

failure to attract sufficient support to survive in the Weimar Republic is

perhaps indicative of their interest. Meinecke

perceives the next phase in the rise of Nazism as the Dolchstosslegende.? The growth of the belief in the military

failure?s causation by revolution on the home front was widespread on the

right.? The blaming of the People?s

League, who went on to form the parties of the Weimar Republic, for the defeat,

which descended to the murder of Rathenau in 1922 as payment for his signature

on the Treaty of Versailles, would mean that the conservative upper middle

class and the aristocracy were sworn to destroy the Republic by whatever means

were necessary.? Meinecke notes that a

friend, Siegfried v. Kardoff, once said that ?the Weimar Constitution was

destroyed over the card table.?? He

notes that the Jewish community was ?too greedy? in their lifestyles and that

the inevitable jealousy, spurred by the Pan-Germans, led to a strong

anti-Semitic tendency. The post-war

world?s first revolution occurred in 1922, when Mussolini ?marched on Rome? and

seized power, and Meinecke says that it was in a way that the German people

wished to emulate. Wishing to mobilise the little Reichswehr and the Freikorps

against the Republic, the conservative right knew that, excluding the

commander in chief himself, General v. Seeckt, the Reichswehr was still a

Wilhelmine construction with Wilhelmine leanings and was still dominated by

Prussian militarism.My greatest

difficulty with any single aspect of Meinecke?s explanation comes in the

chapter ?Homo Sapiens and Homo Faber.??

His explanation of the degeneration of the Weimar Germans into Nazi

Germans is explained away in a series of occasionally unsupported and deeply

subjective generalisations.? The

relationship between the rational and the irrational seems to be an

over-complication of the concept of emotive motivation as opposed to

logical-rational motivation, of which people, individually and as a society,

need a healthy balance. The next

section of the chapter, however seems to be unsupported conjecture at

best.? Quoting a mysterious ?observer,?

Meinecke claims that an intense aclassical education can lead to radicalism

later in life when the person matures into political awareness, due to a lack

of understanding. This means that the burgeoning class of engineers and

technicians created by the industrialisation process was a potential time-bomb.? Evidently using ?Mein Kampf? as his source

about Hitler?s time in Vienna, Meinecke, who admittedly lacked the resources of

the late twentieth century about the era, used Hitler as an example of someone

lacking classical education who had worked in an intensive manner.? Hitler had, at the least, initially a

classical education and the fact that he never worked on a construction site,

let alone made political theories based on his experiences in one. The (Marxist?)

idea that mankind?s fundamental state has only ever been changed by

industrialisation is expressed in a new way in Meinecke?s text.? He claims that technology had catalysed the

formation of this explosive new class.?

The idea that industrial Germany had a new class of disciplined and

eager people whose concentration had been honed by mundane and repetitive jobs,

and yet whose cognitive ability could easily be sparked and harnessed by

?fashionable? ideas seems a little too far a generalisation.The next phase

in Meinecke?s assessment of the rise of the Nazis comes again to the Prussian

militarism.? He paraphrases Voltaire?s

maxim that ?most states keep an army yet in Prussia, the army keeps a

state.?? Prussia?s army had gone from a

?Grande Armee? style state-dominating force under Friedrich Wilhelm I, to a

militia supplemented elite, then back to an elite medium that had dominated

continental politics for 40 years upto the First World War.? The ever-adapting Prussian army held only a

few principles dear.? The Teutonic

subservience to one?s lord and the willingness to sacrifice one?s life for

another?s goal made the Prussian mindset, whatever form the Prussians assumed

on the field.? This narrow-mindedness

was blamed for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.? Claiming that a homo faber obsessed with railway tracks

and guns and overlooked the political consequences of the invasion of Belgium

drew up the plan, Meinecke stretches the distinction between the ?professional

man? and the ?renaissance man? even further. This

rationality and unemotiveness of this mindset saw Hitler as a potential channel

not only for reversal of the Dolchstosslegende but also as a source of

energy and power for a German risorgimento.?

The prosecution of young officers at Ulm is proof of the susceptibility

of this social class to Hitlerian propaganda. Although the

inclusion of the homo faber principle is still contentious for me, the

idea of Hitler appealing to the German army is quite plausible, and one I would

support.? I do not agree that the army

was important as it held the balance of power in the Republic. As Meinecke

says, the President absorbed as much from the army as the army took from him,

and a lack of army support was one of the issues that unseated Bruening. Meinecke goes

on to briefly map the power of the appeal of Nazism to the German youth and war

veterans.? Again, the Dolchstosslegende

but also the promise of ?Arbeit und Brot? attracted the youth.? Allegedly, Hitler came to power through a

?dazzled? youth movement which built the SA and SS into a powerful force to

rival the Reichswehr.? On the collapse

of the Grand Coalition, and of the Bruning Coalition, Hindenburg hearkened to

the calls of the Army, and sent for the man he had once described as a

?Jumped-up Bohemian Corporal? to become Chancellor.? I believe that the power of the SA and SS was overemphasised in

Meinecke?s account and that Hitler did not come to power ?through? the SA and

SS, but, by 1933, in spite of it. Meinecke goes

on to state that he and colleagues (including Groener) were discussing the

?flood? of Nazism, and its rise.? The

claims that Groener would not be able to stop it are of interest.? Although the near-blind professor admitted

that he was unable to read his notes, this seems a highly unlikely thing for

Groener to say.? In the words of Karl

Dietrich Bracher, ?the history of National Socialism was the history of its

fatal underestimation.?? Had anyone in

the Cabinet of Barons or the Grand Coalition suspected that the Nazis were a

dominant and growing force, then it seems unlikely that von Papen would have

claimed that he would appoint Hitler and ?push him so hard into a corner that

he?ll squeak.?? That Kurt von Schleicher

wished to crush Nazism is also highly unlikely.? The man who attempted to use the Strasser bloc of the party as a

separate bloc would surely not have tried to destroy it. Meinecke

continues his summary of the rise of Nazism by questioning the role of

Bismarck?s legacy of Machiavellianism.?

Although acknowledging the Empire as an achievement of ?historic

greatness? and acknowledging it as a ?precious memory,? Meinecke claims that

the empire ceded too much to the militarist instincts of its founder and that

Bismarck?s use of the militarist instinct was all that people identified as his

gift to Germany but that his real legacy was noteworthy for his shrewd and

circumspect manipulation of the Prussian instinct.? Indeed, the pro-Bismarck Meinecke passes over the Kulturkampf hurriedly

as he rushes to exonerate the greatest of the German statesmen.? Although I would agree that Bismarck was a

great statesman and that his legacy was of militarism, I would not say that it

was a unique legacy, but one that he was himself left by the eighteenth century

kings of Prussia.? I would also reckon

that the Prussian militarism is overstated by Meinecke.In chapter

eight Meinecke clarifies his theories about chance and general tendencies.? Meinecke expresses the rather vague, if

accurate, view that general tendency, trends and patterns can be interfered

with by individuals, but that sometimes individuals are swept along with the

tide of history.? Meinecke notes

Hitler?s prescribed aims as being the reversal of Versailles, a solution to the

Jewish question and an end to the depression.?

The power of these three ideas (and the spectre of communism) in appealing

to the electorate, is powerful indeed, although the anti-Semitic aspect should

probably not rank with the other three factors in its provenance.? The chance that Hitler was given these axes

to grind and a demagogic power so intense brought him electoral power. Meinecke notes

other instances of chance working for Hitler.?

The election of Hugenberg to the leadership of the DNVP in June 1930 was

won by chance as some opponents of his were not there to cast their votes ?

votes which would have lost Hugenberg the election.? The election allowed the formation of the National Opposition (to

the Young Plan) and then the formal Harzburg Front of October 1931.? This gave Hitler a majority in parliament in

1933, but had Hugenberg?s opponents turned up so much could have been

different. Hitler?s

appointment is another ?chance? in Meinecke?s eyes.? The ?un-needed? appointment which followed no trend or pattern

was the result, in Meinecke?s eyes, of von Hindenburg?s weakness.? His inability to deal with his son, Schleicher,

Muller, Papen and Bruning is hardly a weakness so much as a lack of

strength.? Meinecke notes the successes

in reversing Versailles, in rebuilding the economy, in securing allied support

for an increased military, in setting up rival youth groups to the Hitler Youth

and in the elections of November 1932 which were much reduced on their previous

standing.? The general trend (despite

the result of the elections in Lippe-Detmold) was against the Nazis, and Meinecke

is probably right in agreeing with Julius Strasser who believed that Hitler had

?missed the boat? in January 1933 and that the Nazis were on the way to

obscurity like the DDP before them..Meinecke

attributes the final trigger of the Deutsche Katastrophe to Hindenberg?s

weak character and his inability to stand up for the Weimar Republic, as have

so many other historians.? This is a

conclusion which I accept.? However, the

growth of the homo faber class, the primacy of militarism, the end of

the reasonable human nature and the view that Nazism was not a specifically

?German? event, yet was apparently born of German characteristics in Germany

and nowhere else I do not accept.


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