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Inside Nazi Germany: An American Intellectual Finds Order, Reason, Humanity

  • October 18, 2020

How was Hitler’s Reich viewed before the propaganda set in?


Into the Darkness, Lothrop Stoddard, Noontide Press, 2000, 311 pp.

Today it is impossible to dissent openly from racial orthodoxy without sooner or later being called a “Nazi.” Despite (or perhaps because of) the stupidity of doing so, egalitarians are quick to equate with Hitler anyone who endorses American racial views that antedate Hitler by centuries. Most liberals are not so silly as to call Lincoln a Nazi, but if he were to rise from the grave and restate his views from the debates with Douglas that is just one of many things they would call him.

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The idea of a racial nation was National Socialism’s point of departure, but from the outset it was a comprehensive theory of applied government designed to funnel the energies of every German into collective goals. It was similar to Communism in this respect, and similar also in the sweeping institutional changes it imposed. In its historical period, however, racial policy was not the most striking aspect of Nazism. In the 1930s, the view that race was an essential element of the nation was no more foreign to Americans than to Germans—indeed, no more foreign than it is to virtually every non-white living today. It was hardly the distinctive characteristic of the regime.

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What was distinctive? What, in fact, did racially aware Americans of the period — people whose ideas would, today, be called “Nazi”—think of the Third Reich? We have a fascinating answer in Into the Darkness, the last book by one of the most influential American champions of racial consciousness, Lothrop Stoddard.

Stoddard wrote this book—recently reissued as a trade paperback—after spending four months in Germany as a reporter during the “phony war” of 1939-40. A Harvard Ph.D. and foreign affairs specialist, Stoddard was particularly keen on understanding how war and Nazism had changed everyday life in Germany, and his account has a frank, contemporaneous quality untouched by the acrimony that became common after the United States went to war.

Many of Stoddard’s strongest impressions were colored as much by war as by the politics of the new regime. The title, for example, does not refer to a nation plunging into barbarism but to the rigorous blackout all Germans maintained against the possibility of night bombardment by the British. Darkness was, in fact, Stoddard’s first experience of Germany. Even the train by which he entered from Italy had to douse its lights at the border, and passengers crept about by the light of tiny blue bulbs. Stoddard couldn’t see the slightest glimmer from his train window, not even as he glided through Munich: “Passing through this great darkened city, the sense of unnatural silence and emptiness became positively oppressive.”

In Berlin, where he spent most of his four months, headlights of cars were heavily hooded, making it impossible to drive at night at speeds greater than a crawl. Pedestrians carried pocket flashlights to see where they were going, but were forbidden to shine them upwards to read street signs, since even a flashlight might catch the eye of a British bombardier. Stoddard hated the blackout, complaining that it had a “depressing, almost paralyzing effect. It must be lived to be understood.”

Another war-time measure Stoddard described in detail was the rationing regimen according to which everything including food and clothing was doled out with typically German efficiency. The government issued everyone—including travelers—monthly food coupons that had to be exchanged even for a restaurant meal. Coupons restricted quantity, not quality, so the rich ate better than the poor but not more. Stoddard found that when wealthy friends invited him to restaurants and paid for his meals, he still had to turn over coupons to the waiters because not even the rich had coupons to spare. Clothing and other goods were rationed the same way, in a system designed to “assure to the poorest German the basic necessities of life, while the richest cannot get much more than his share.”

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Article source: https://russia-insider.com/en/history/inside-nazi-germany-american-intellectual-finds-order-reason-humanity/ri26829

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