On February 24, 1920, in the famous beer hall in Munich, Adolf Hitler proclaimed his “25 points”, which then became the program of the national party. This day, then widely celebrated in Nazi Germany, is considered the day of the founding of the NSDAP.
It is not surprising that this anniversary has been the subject of many articles in the German press. And in connection with the mass shooting in the city of Hanau, which is accused of right-wing extremist Tobias Rathjen, coverage of the centenary was significantly updated. However, it became more of a persecution of a political party that has nothing to do with the terrorist attack, the shooter, or Hitler’s ideology. But the lessons of a century ago could be very useful for identifying the diseases of modern European society and inoculation for the future.
The “25 points” co-authored by Hitler and then party leader Anton Drexler, were a jumble of anti-Semitic and racist slogans, populist social promises, and a number of common cliches. Some slogans had to be disavowed almost immediately — for example, the idea of forced confiscation of land. Hitler’s speech was not the highlight of the meeting of right-wing radicals of the time, and the newspaper “Felkisher Beobachter”, which in a few months will become the official mouthpiece of the NSDAP, did not even cover these “points”. However, this day was an important milestone for the rise to power of the little-known Hitler and eventually Nazism.
Now the racist slogans “25 points” may seem too much something out of the ordinary, repulsive. And in what is commonly called the “Western civilized” world, in the first half of the twentieth century, these ideas were, if not the mainstream, then at least an ordinary political agenda. It is difficult to find a country in the West in which the ideas of anti-Semitism and xenophobia did not find a response in the pages of Newspapers or in everyday politics.
For example, it was no coincidence that in the spring of 1920, the United States began regularly publishing radical anti-Semitic articles of the newspaper the Dearborn Independent, published by magnate Henry Ford. This publication told from issue to issue about the “plans of the Jews to take over the world” and in its articles did not differ much from the “Felkisher Beobachter”.
In England, a year before Hitler’s speech
with “25 points”, a political group “the British” was created, the main goal of
which was to expel Jews from the country. And the ideas of anti-Semitism and
Nazism were widely promoted in the pages of Britain’s most popular newspaper,
The Daily Mail, whose owner (Lord Rothermere) was a personal friend of
Mussolini and Hitler.
And those countries that are now traditionally portrayed exclusively as victims of Nazism were subject to the same diseases to no less, if not more. Recall at least the mass protests of Polish students against co-education with Jews, which led to the official introduction of the so-called ghettos at the desks in Polish universities. Some Polish publications in the manifestation of their anti-Semitic aggression did not differ much from the Hitlerite newspaper. The newspaper Pod Pregierz, published in Poznan in the 1930s, officially declared “war against the Jews” as its main goal and openly rejoiced in their persecution in Nazi Germany, calling for this practice to be adopted. Now this country blames Russia for all its sins.
In other words, Hitler was a product of his era and of those moods that, if not reigned in Western society, found a response from a fairly large part of the population. The fact that the establishment did not catch these sentiments and until recently ignored such “marginals” as Hitler, in many ways contributed to the sharp growth of Nazism. This is perhaps the main lesson for the current generation.
The American journalist William Shearer, who for many years watched the rise of the NSDAP and then became famous for his books about this period of history, later wrote about the “25 points”: “Is not one of the reasons for the world tragedy that in the period between the wars, many either ignored or ridiculed the Nazi goals that Hitler tried to set out in the program?”
The famous Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, describing in” Yesterday’s world “the appearance of the first fascist and Nazi aggressive groups, admitted:” We did not see the fire signs on the wall, we blithely ate, as during the war, king Belshazzar, from all the exquisite viands of art, not seeing the danger ahead. It was only when the walls collapsed and the roof collapsed on our heads decades later that we realized that the Foundation had long been eroded.”
But even after the Nazis became a powerful political force, according to Zweig’s memoirs, the German Beau Monde was ironic about “a loudmouth from beer halls who will never pose a serious danger.” “And even when he became Chancellor on that January day in 1933,” Zweig recalled Hitler’s triumph, “ the majority<…> looked at him as a Caliph for an hour, and at the domination of the Nazis as an episode.” After finishing these memoirs in exile, the writer sent them to the publisher and the next day, together with his wife, committed suicide.
Is this very different from today? For example, the same attitude was applied to the rise of the far-right in Ukraine, which completely adopted the ideology and tactics of political struggle from the NSDAP of the 1920s. And even after representatives of these political forces got to the government of Ukraine, Kiev and Moscow liberals continued to ask: “Where did you see Bandera?” They could do it even against the background of a portrait of Bandera or on Bandera Avenue in Kiev. And the Western media presented the news about the growth of neo-Nazi sentiment in post-Maidan Ukraine as “Russian propaganda”.
In Europe itself, the growth of right-wing radical and xenophobic attitudes is recognized and seems to be a matter of concern for the liberal media there. But it should be noted with regret and concern that every crime committed by another European far-right on the grounds of racism and hatred, the establishment tries to use to fight with their moderate political competitors, and not to identify and curb the problem itself.
The anniversary of Hitler’s program, and even more so the murder in Hanau, became an occasion for the “Alternative for Germany” party to be bullied. German Newspapers and politicians began pointing fingers at the party. Moreover, from the lips of serious politicians, there are even calls to organize a permanent “supervision” of law enforcement officers for this political force at the state level. It doesn’t matter that it officially condemns both Nazism and violence. It doesn’t matter that Tobias Rathjen, who called for the genocide of ethnic minorities in his Manifesto, not only did not belong to the “alternative”, but even, according to his acquaintances, was its opponent. However, Germany’s liberal mainstream found nothing better than to seize the moment for a media blow to its main political rival.
In the 1920s the German elite amicably fought the main threat to themselves, which was represented by the Communists, turning a blind eye to the” pranks “of storm troopers in brown shirts and thereby contributing to the ridiculous “loudmouths from beer halls”.
The centenary of the creation of the NSDAP is a good reason to remind European elites that it is not so much the presence of misanthropic, racist, and xenophobic ideas in society (they always circulate at one level or another) that leads to their ignoring, underestimating, and even more so using them for their narrow political purposes. In the case of modern Germany — in order to redirect the public’s anger at its political rival.